|Son of Mr Harry and Mrs Annie Dickens
Aged 22 years
Died 15th September 1916
Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial
Pier & Face 7D & 8D.
|Born at Rushden, enlisted at Coventry. Clicker by trade.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 16 April 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Always Merry and Bright - Rushden Soldier's Coming of Age in the Trenches - Germans 'Keep Us Alive' - 'Just what We Want' - 'It is Quite a Holiday'
Pte F A Dickens (Rushden), of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, son of Mr and Mrs Harry Dickens of Rushden, enlisted in September last, and proceeding to the front in March, is now doing his bit for his King and country. He fought in the battle of Neuve Chapelle, and in letters to his parents gives some interesting particulars of his experiences.
He writes:- "Just to remind you that I shall be spending my 21st birthday in the trenches. I didn't think I should be here twelve months ago, but there you are, I am here and I must make the best of it. We had it a bit rough last night. We were only 60 yards from the Germans, and the bullets came buzzing just over the top of us. 'Plunk' they go. Talk about sport, we kept plunking the Germans back, and they kept singing and playing instruments, rattling tin cans, etc, so you can be sure they 'keep us alive', and that's just what we want them to do! Ah well! Such is life. I am happy enough here."
Pte Dickens' mother sent him a good parcel for his 21st birthday, which was on April 9th.
In another letter home he says:- "There is plenty of sport here, you can't be downhearted. I had a good laugh when I got to France. Our chaps were trying to talk French. You ought to have heard them. Talk about laugh! I thoroughly enjoy it here. I have never enjoyed myself so much in my life. It's quite a holiday."
Later he writes:- "I am glad to say that I have come out of the trenches all right this shift, although I had it a bit rough, I was plastered with mud from head to foot. I can tell you I looked a picture, but we were all 'merry and bright'. We have had a lot of wet here last week, but I think it is clearing up a bit better now. We are looking forward for the summer to come, as it will be more convenient for us. I expect we shall start to 'buzz' a bit then. I have sent a letter to the "Rushden Echo" office."
In still another letter Private Dickens says:- "I have had another experience of the trenches, but I must say that nearly all the time it was raining, but that didn't make much difference. I was in the front firing line for 24 hours, about 300 or 400 yards from the German trenches, and then in the reserve trench for another 24 hours. We have 48 hours in and 48 hours out, so it isn't so bad. I saw a few dead Germans hanging on some barbed wire entanglements. It was a bit quiet during the daytime but they make up for it at night and just at the break of day. The bullets don't half buzz just over the top of the trench. I felt a bit nervous for a start but I soon got out of that. To hear the shells whistling through the air is great. Talk about war time! I saw our fellows fetch a German aeroplane down two days ago. It's a bit exciting here, I can tell you, for a start, but I shall get broken in before it ends. I have had a little experience at filling trenches in that the Germans had made and which our chaps had captured. We have to do that at night, though while we were doing it the bullets were whistling all around us, and the Germans kept shooting flash lights up that lit all over the field, but when we heard their shells coming we had to drop down flat. Talk about sport! You can't be downhearted to hear what bits they say. Talk about laugh!"
Private Dickens says in another letter that he hopes to have a good 'flare up' when he returns.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 23 April 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Breezy Letters to Rushden - Private FA Dickens Has Two Bullets Near His Head - British and Germans in the Trenches - Signal to Each Other's Shooting - Birds Whistling in the Firing Line
Pte FA Dickens (Rushden), of the Coldstream Guards, in further letters from the front to his parents at Rushden, says:-
"I got the parcel all right and I was very pleased with it, but I never got it on my birthday as I happened to be in the trenches, but I got it when I came out. I hardly know how to thank you for it, but I hope to come back safe and sound so that I can repay you. So Archie sings 'Tell 'em to wait till father comes,' does he? That is what I shall have to sing across to the Germans as we were in the advance firing line last time out, only about 40 yards away from the Germans.
"We don't half hear some sport. We had the firing a bit rapid during the day. Every time we fired the Germans would signal right back what it was with a spade, but the were nearly all wash-outs. We didn't half laugh, and we signalled back what then- were, all wash-outs, but there were a few that got wounded hi the night. To see them bringing them by on stretchers it makes you feel a bit wild - well, it does me. I don't half plunk some of them when I am on the go. Of course, we are only 24 hours in the firing line, and 24 hours in the reserve trench, but 24 hours is long enough. I am glad to say I take it all in good sport.
"I hope the war will soon be over, but I don't think it will be this year, but they say all things are for the best. They find us plenty of tobacco here. I have got about 1lb by me, but I don't think I shall ever smoke it all. I must tell you, I thoroughly enjoy a smoke out here, but I did very little of it at Windsor, but, of course, we must do something to pass time away. I didn't think that I should ever rough it so much in my young days like this, but we must all take it in good part. When it's wet here, we are eating mud nearly. I bet you would not know me if you saw me when I come out of the trench in wet weather. We have to march about six miles from the trench to our billet to have 48 hours' rest We don't sleep in the trenches much during the 48 hours we are in, but we make up for it when we get out. They all look well and healthy and hard as nails.
"Some of the old soldiers ain't half 'nuts,' you can't help laughing at the saying they have. They don't care a ! ! ! ! (really, Fred! Editor "RE") for nothing or nobody. They pinch hens from houses and cook them in the trenches. "We don't spend much money here, but we do see life. It's a rough life, but they give up plenty of grub. "I saw one of our engineers get his head blown off. They were just coming back from putting barbed wire up. It was an open air meeting this morning and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The next time we go in the place where the piano is, so we shall be all right. When we are marching away from the trenches some of them are playing mouth organs and singing."
Under date April 14th he writes:-
"I am still all right and in the best of health. We are enjoying ourselves all right. We are in an old farmhouse, and got a fire going. We have found a mascot for the regiment. When we got to this farmhouse there were about five cows chained up which had been burned to death by shells, so as it just left their heads in the chains. You can guess it looked a picture. Then we came to a kennel with a nice dog in it and we are keeping that for a mascot, and it's a nice one too, it followed us about all over the show.
"You would not think that there is a war on, although we are only about 300 or 400 yards from the lines. We can hear the shells burst, it's true, but we're so used to them we do not take the slightest notice of them."
In a letter dated April 16th in which were enclosed to German bullets, Pte Dickens says:-
"So dad is thinking of joining the Special Police. Tell him I wish him success. I hope he won't get taking too many stripes for a start. While I was back at the billet the other day in some old houses with the tiles blown off by the high explosive shells, I happened to be on guard, and guarding the road during the hours of midnight in which rapid fire was taking place, the billet being not more than 2000 yards away from the firing line. There happened to be a stray shot or two coming over now and then, and while I stood up against a wall chipped with bullets, there happened to be two come buzzing up and stuck in the wall, one each side of me. I am enclosing the two German bullets for a souvenir, but I am glad they stuck in wall instead of in me. You can guess I soon moved my position! While I am writing this the sun is shining beautifully and the birds are whistling. The firing is very slack. I might hear a shot now and then, but you wouldn't think there was a war on at different times.
"About two hours ago a German aeroplane came over, which caused a little excitement for a short time, but these incidents occur often. Just lately out fellows have advanced, and we had to go filling in the German trenches that we had captured, so things are beginning to look a little brighter. I saw some Germans from our trench, and tell Archie [Pte Dickens's little brother] that I told them to wait till father comes. We are having six days in the trenches and then we are going to have a rest in a village close by".
|The Rushden Echo Friday 21 May 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Rushden Solder Meets Another Rushdenite Through the 'Rushden Echo'
Private F A Dickens (Rushden), of the Coldstream Guards, writes:- "Just a line from the trenches. Many thanks for the "Rushden Echo" weekly, in which it seems a pleasure to read some news from the dear Homeland. Things seem a bit quiet at present but probably they might liven up in a day or so. I met Private through the "Rushden Echo" and was pleased to accept his hand, being the only townsman in the Brigade."
|The Rushden Echo Friday 28 May 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Shifting 'Little Willies' - By Asphyxiation - Rushden Soldier Tells of Progress
Counteracting the Gas - German Surrendering in Mobs
Pte F Dickens, of the Coldstream Guards, has sent further interesting letters from the front to his parents, Mr and Mrs H Dickens, of Rushden.
He writes: "We have had it a bit cushy this last day or so, but I expect we shall have to make up for it when we do make another start. I am glad to say I am still all right and I got your letter with the camphor in, and that one with the disinfectant powder. I have tried the camphor round my neck and I think it has made those little Willies shift, as I haven't felt them much since. We were in the reserve billet last night and we got called out during the early morning so you can bet we are having a lively time, I don't mean our mob only, but the others as well. We have been bombarding steady this last day or so and we have had attacks every night in which we have made a big success. I think I am a lucky chap; although I haven't seen so much as some, I have seen quite enough. I shall be glad when it is over but I don't think it will be over for another good 12 months, but let's hope it is. I went to an open-air service yesterday (Sunday) and they had a prayer for the loved ones at home, I enjoyed it very much. We had a night out in the orchard last night. I curled up under a bush and slept quite easy. I was having breakfast by 3 a.m. I must tell you some of the latest telegrams that have come in. We have captured several rows of trenches and the Germans are surrendering in mobs of 50 and 60 and we have taken a road which has cut their line and things are still going strong. I hope they will remain so.
"I was very pleased when I got the parcel and the contents were very good. I enjoyed some of them while I was in the firing line, and it seemed to pass the time away much brighter, as it reminded me of the dear home land, and the dear old friends I have left at home. That old saying is a true one 'There are no friends like old friends', and I am living in hope of getting back to them, as I don't think it will be long now. I thought my letter very nicely reproduced in the "Rushden Echo". Please thank the editor for the paper and tell him I knew some of the photos, and I thought their letter very interesting. I had a look down the casualty list and I see that regiment still holds the head of it. They lost most in the big battle at Mons. I feel very sorry for the widows, children and parents that they have left behind. We had 5 days billets at - and on Sunday afternoon there was a sermon by the Bishop of Cantoon and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it was interesting. It seemed a bit funny having sermons on active service but I think it will be the making of a good many who have led a rough life, let's hope it is. There have been a few of our chaps knocked over this week and I was very pleased to see that they respect them a little. They have made a small cemetery in which they have buried them. Tell Lou (his sister-in-law) that I am waiting for the time to come when I can stick one for her on the end of my bayonet."
In a later letter Pte Dickens says: "We are having some lovely weather here now, the summer is near. It seems lovely to hear the birds whistling, and see the trees in bloom. It reminds me of the country lanes at home. The war can't stop the beautiful silence of nature, can it? but I shall be glad when it is over as you can have too much of a thing, can't you? We have just been relieved from the trenches again and we have had a lively time, as usual." Later he writes: "I have had the pleasure of having one swim in France already, but bathing is prohibited now, so I can't see that I shall have another one just yet, anyhow. The trench we are in is only about 100 yards from the Germans, and we can hear men singing and talking, but they don't give us much chance to have a pop at mem. I wish they would just to make it a little more exciting."
Under date May 3rd, he writes: "I should be pleased if you would send me three or four squares of camphor as there are some disagreeable smells out here at different times and I thinks the camphor might prevent any disease. I am still all right at present, but I must say that I have been very lucky since I have been out here. I expect you read about the Germans using gas. I haven't seen any signs of it as yet, but we have been served out with nose bags, and we have got to dip them in a kind of solution which will make the gas harmless, but I don't think the gas will be any good to the Germans when we get on the move. I have just heard that our chaps have advanced five kilometres and taken 1,500 prisoners, and are still on the move, so things are beginning to look a little brighter and I hope they will remain so."
On May 10th Pte Dickens wrote: "We have had it a bit exciting this last day or so, but I expect they will be a bit quiet after this lot. We have had some of their gas, but owing to the wind being wrong way it didn't take any effect. We don't take any notice of trifles like that now, we are getting quiet used to it. I was glad to hear that they had made some loafers enlist, as it is just that sort that reap the benefit in peace times. Fancy the beer being 6d a pint. My word! I hope it's a bit cheaper after the war or else I shan't be able to have any more quiet nights with you. I expect by now that you have heard of our great victories. We had a few Jack Johnsons over just before our bombardment started and I am enclosing one of the shrapnel bullets, which their shells are filled with. I should think when they burst they cover the ground for about 100 yards outwards and fifty yards forward, so you can bet they give the earth a good shaking. Don't let trifles trouble you. Rum tiddle um tum pum pum, always merry and bright, doing well on biscuits and bully. They will have a job to get through where we are. We are now in the trenches till further orders. As for myself I would rather choose them, than some of the billets we have been in, but all's well that ends well."
In another letter he writes: "I have received the "Rushden Echo" again, from which I have read some interesting news. I am sending one of the German explosives bullets for you which ... [few lines too feint to read]. I have just eaten a good breakfast, two eggs and bacon, but I should have enjoyed it better it if I had had some bread, but they went down all right with biscuits. I can tell you that it was quite a change, but we don't starve our here. We have not come out to starve but fight."
In a letter dated May 21st he writes: "Our chaps made a charge the other day and I had to go and help bury the dead, so you can bet I saw some awful sights, but I am getting used to that now. I am sending 15 rounds of German ammunition and clips, and I found a German helmet, but it would cost too much to send, so I'm sending the top of it. I am still all right and having a rest after 16 days of hard work."
|The Rushden Echo Friday 25 June 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Just Like Hell on Earth - Rushden Soldier's Thrilling Story - Deafness Caused by the Noise of Bombardment - A Concert Near the Firing Line - Rabbits in the Trenches - Don't Mind the Firing
Pte F A Dickens (Rushden), of the Coldstream Guards, has sent further interesting news to is parents from the front. He writes:-
"When I wrote last I was in billet. We were supposed to be on a month's rest, but owing to the Germans using gas and breaking the lines we got called out, and I am in the thick of it again, but I am glad to say I have managed to get through so far. Every day there are heavy bombardments either on the right or left of us. We had our share last week. Talk about a bombardment - it was just like hell upon earth. I shall never think that there is a hell any more after that. You can't realise what it was like. We put cotton wool in our ears, and that didn't seem to make any difference. I feel a little deaf now, so you get a little idea.
"We have been in reserve this last two nights and days. There is a wood close by and we have been in there in the day and slept in a field at nights, about half-a-mile from the firing line, but it doesn't trouble us where we sleep; we are glad to get down to it for three or four hours.
"We had a bit of a concert in this field last night. There is one of our sergeants plays a banjo, and it went off all right. Of course I had to give them a song. We have had some before and I was one of the leading turns of the night once and they nearly always look for one from me now, but as long as you make them laugh that's all they trouble. "We are having some lovely weather out here now, but it gets cursed a bit while we're marching, but we get over that. There is talk about the war being over by this month or next, but you wouldn't think so if you were here. We are all the time changing positions so that the Germans don't know what mob is in front of them. They have stopped that shouting across to them now. If they start shouting we have got to throw a bomb in return. We are waiting for them to try their gas on us. We have got a patent headgear for it, and I think the 'Coalies' will surprise them a bit. We are the only regiment that haven't lost a trench yet [The Steelbacks hold the same splendid record-Editor, RE] but it has cost us something holding them." In a later letter he writes: -
"We are tormented to death with flies out here. As soon as the sun gets out they are out and there are few mosquitoes, too. Some of our fellows have been bitten by them and they don't half leave a mark. We have been shifting about a lot just lately. Where we are now things are very quiet, there is a chance for a sleep in the daytime without getting disturbed by the shells like we have been. I have been digging this last two nights, so I have had a fancy that I have been on night work. I am sending you a flower I got. It was growing down the communication trench in some wheat and barley. The fields are covered with it; it is about three feet high. Well, we have had to cut some off in front of the trench so that we could see what was going on. We have an outpost go out in it last night and they crept along in it without being seen, so you can give a little idea.
"I have seen several rabbits amongst it, they don't trouble about the fire like we do. The sun is shining lovely just now and I sit in my shirt sleeves writing this, so you can bet we are doing well. The French on our right are going strong as ever, bombarding day and night, so you can bet there is something shifting. I shall be glad when this gaff is over so that I can enjoy a good drop of beer. Oh! oh! oh! when I think of it, it makes my mouth water. We can't get any out here any good, it's just like water coloured." In yet another letter under date June 16th he says:-
"I must tell you that we are going to keep the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Coldstreams. They have started the bombardment, well, in fact they are at it all the time. I am still all right and enjoying the best of health at present. The only fault I can find is that I feel so tired out in this country, and they don't give us much time on our own, you can bet. We don't get too much sleep anyway, especially when the say 'stand to' about 2 a.m. till 4 a.m., and then we see about getting a bit of breakfast. We were digging two nights ago, and they slipped the searchlight on us. We do get some experience out here though. We get so that we don't care a ! ! ! ! for anything. We are having some lovely weather out here again after the wet, very hot. There will be plenty of souvenirs after a bit, my word, what a game. There is corn growing all over the place and it's about three or four feet high. Some of our chaps had to go cutting it the other night in front of the trench. I think it is our turn tonight, we shall be well away. I often think of the times when I used to promenade the streets in a 'civy' suit. I wish I had got one on now anyway, but I look at all things on the bright side. I don't let much worry me, and it's a good job I don't or else I should have been dead by now. We went out digging a gap in front of the firing line last night, and we had just got head cover when they turned the maxim on us. Oh my, didn't we duck our heads in the hole that we had dug, but luckily there was no one hurt. Zip, zip they go.
"The French advanced on the 14th all along the line. They are good lads. We were fighting side by side last week. Some of them can speak English all right. They are lads, too. Is there much hay making this year?"
|Rushden Echo, Friday July 9 1915 transcribed Sue Manton
Rushden Soldier still busy - Pte. Fred Dickens - Thinks Conscription is Coming
Bread and “Posy” as Rations - Is it Really Shakespeare?
Pte. F.A. Dickens (Rushden), of the Coldstream Guards, writing under date June 28th to his mother says:
“I am a bit middling at present. I had a shell burst close to me the other day and it upset me a bit, but I am a lot better now.”
Under the date July 3rd he writes:
“I think they will have conscription soon, and so they ought. Those that are shirking it there and living on the fat of the land while we are out here, putting up with a bit of bread and ‘posy’ (jam, Ed. R.E.) and you can bet they keep up with plenty to do all the while, but still the boys take it with a good heart, and seem to laugh it off the best we can, still looking forward to the time when this lot is over and then we shall be smiling. When I have written this I am going to enjoy one of your smokes. Good Health.
“Four little whiffs, four little jiffs
I was firing at the Allemands like mad.
Then over came a whiz, bang
And made us duck our kiss pang,
And we were lying on the parapet bottom trench.
“Well I am all right so far as that is concerned but I must say that I don’t feel the same fellow as I did but I shall soon get over it after I get back out of this country: the climate doesn’t seem to suit me very well. It is warm here all the time. We are going for a swim today to some baths close to the billet. We went the other day and it was all right too. I was on a bathing picket, four of us. We were the selected party in case anybody couldn’t swim. You ought to see us strolling about the place in costumes ready to pitch in at any minute, I loved it. We had a little game at polo while some of the officers were watching us and they were laughing and enjoying it as much as we were. We are for the trenches again on Monday, I hear, but we have done it before and can do it again. It’s a very hot position we have just left but I don’t know if we are going back to the same place or not.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 6 August 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Rushden Soldier at the Front Appreciates Home News A Tribute to Rushden
Pte FA Dickens (Rushden), Machine Gun section, Coldstream Guards, now with the British Expeditionary Force, sends
us the following interesting letter:-
Dear Sir, -I feel it is my duty to drop you a line to thank you for the "Rushden Echo" that I receive weekly. I must mention, too, that some of my comrades who are also from the Midlands earnestly look forward for the mail on the day on which your useful paper usually arrives. Of course, I expect you quite realise the difference of being out here and being at home, for one can't very well nip out of the trenches to get your favourite paper. I was so pleased to learn from it that such large numbers of the local lads have responded to the call of the King and Country in the hour of need, but rather regret to read through your columns that so many of my "Townies" have sacrificed men's lives for the noble cause, especially in the Northants Regiment.
I am sorry to see you are having it a bit rough as regards the weather, especially just before the harvest and fruit season. I must say that we have had it a bit rough out here just lately, and it's not much like the summers that France is credited with having.
We are at present in billets a few miles (or in France, kilometres) from the firing line, having a few days' rest, which I can assure you have been well earned.
I see by your paper that all the soldiers have left Rushden. I expect the place seems practically deserted now with such a large number leaving. I expect they are just about beginning to miss them at the places where they were billeted.
There is no doubt whatever but that they will find a vast difference in the billets at Rushden from those provided for them at the front. There doesn't seem to be a great change in our respective positions lately, and I should think that the proposition of Mr Lloyd George of a bombardment lasting forty days and nights, successfully carried out, would result in a move being made either one way or the other. While I sit writing these few lines, the shadows of eve are rapidly falling. Wishing you and your paper every success, I remain, yours, etc. Pte F A Dickens.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 31 December 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Soldier Unhurt - After Many Experiences at the Front
How Gurkhas Catch German Spies - 'Either Intact or in Pieces'
Buried Bodies Ploughed up by German Shells
German Soldiers Driven Forward By Officers with Revolvers
It has been our privilege on many occasions to publish in our columns interesting and breezy letters sent home from the front by Pte. Fred Dickens of the Coldstream Guards, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Dickens, of Hayway, Rushden. Pte Dickens has been at the Western front since February last, and has just spent his first seven days’ leave at home.
Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he said:-
“I landed in France about the middle of February, just in time to see the finish of the Neuve Chapelle battle. I arrived in the evening, and on the next evening found myself in the trenches. I got my first experience of being under fire as we were going up, and it was pretty warm as regards shelling, and several of our chaps got knocked out. Shells were bursting all round us as we advanced.
“About three days afterwards we made an attack in the Brickfields near Olveuchy, and here we were much troubled with snipers, but a lot of these troublesome chaps were accounted for by the Gurkhas. If these chaps spot a sniper during the day they have brought him in by the evening, either intact or in pieces.
“Things were a bit quiet after this for about two months, and we were jogging along in the old way, in and out of the trenches, until we shifted towards Festufurt, where we were given the unpleasant job of burying the dead after a big attack.
“Whilst we were doing this ‘Jack Johnsons’ were flying about in great number, and in many cases we had just got a body decently buried when it was ploughed up again by a German shell. We went back after this for a nice long rest, and whilst resting we were formed into a Guard Division, comprising the 1st Irish, 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd and 3rd Coldstreams. After that we were continually on the move, relieving various brigades. We may be at one part of the line one week, and the next week perhaps two days’ march from our previous position.
“Our next position was at the point near Vermilles, and here we relieved another brigade. On October 12th our brigade attacked the enemy with the bayonet, and succeeded in taking Hill 70. At the same time the troops on our right advanced against Loos and succeeded in capturing two lines of enemy trenches. My battalion, ‘The Old Third Ribs,’ were between Hill 70 and Hulluch, and we held this position and did good work whilst there. Any ground we have captured from Germans we have always held, and we stuck to the new position until October 16th when we again got it very hot, as the Germans gave us six hours continuous bombardment. The shells seemed to be coming from all directions, from the front, each side, and even from behind us. Lots of my battalion got put out, and directly after the bombardment the Germans attack us, advancing in about four big masses. Our artillery, however, played havoc in their ranks, banging shells into them, and making them scatter a bit. At the same time our boys were pouring a hot fire into the Germans from rifles and machine guns. I myself was working one of the latter, which did great execution. However, the enemy managed to get into a section of an old communication trench on our left, and it was against them that we sent out a big bombing party, led by Sergt. Brooks, who was awarded a V.C. for his fine work. Six of his men also got the D.C.M.
“For half an hour they and the Germans were engaged in hand to hand scrap, slinging bombs at one another, and finally the Germans were driven out and compelled to retire.
“About five minutes afterwards the Germans delivered a counter attack, if you could call it such, as they were driven forward by their officers, who were behind them with revolvers. There is no doubt about their being driven, as we have seen it done. However, we also succeeded in repulsing this attack, with heavy losses to the enemy, and not many of them got back to their trenches.
“Sergt. Brooks and his men, with bandoliers full of bombs, followed the enemy up as they retired, and gave them ‘bell tinker.’ They succeeded in driving the Germans out of one of their mine craters, and it is still in our possession. After this things quietened down and nothing but rifle fire transpired. Late in the evening we were relieved and sent back for a few days’ rest.
“In our present position we are quite close to the Germans, as at some places their trenches are only about fifty yards from ours. Bombing parties of both sides, up sap heads, are busy day and night.
“When I got warned for leaving I was in the trenches, and it came as a pleasant surprise. After I left the trenches I remained at a village about six kilometres from the firing line, until the following evening, when I left for England. I arrived in Rushden by the last train on Monday evening, December 6th, and I was met at the station by two of my brothers, whom I had advised that I was on my way home. It made them laugh to see me in marching order, with pack and rifle, looking in such a funny condition as regards my clothes, which were plastered in mud from head to foot.
“I have had a fine time at home, and it has been a pleasure to meet lots of my old friends again. I feel all right in my health, but I don’t feel the same man as I did before I went out. However, I consider myself very lucky to be alive, as my mates have been knocked down on either side of me, and I have escaped. I have had very many close shaves, but particulars of many of them you have already published in the “Rushden Echo,” in my letters, so I need not recount them again, I have brought souvenirs home with me, in the shape of a bomb, the top of a German helmet, and several other curiosities I have picked up on the battle field.
“I am pleased to receive the “Rushden Echo” every week, and my mates look forward to it as much as I do. I wish the Editor and his staff every success possible, and also the paper. I am glad to see the Rushden men answering their country’s call in its hour of need, and when I get back I shall be able to cheer my mates up with what I have seen of the chaps rolling up in hundreds to the recruiting stations. Our chaps are happiest when they are charging with the bayonet. You can look on either side of you and see a smile on the chaps faces. I have several times met ‘Curly’ Wilson, of Wellingborough-road, Rushden, out there. He is well known in Rushden as a sprinter, and he is in our 2nd Battalion. When last I saw him he was in the pink.”
|The Rushden Echo Friday 10 November 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Rushden Soldier Missing - Private FA Dickens of the Coldstream Guards
Mr and Mrs Harry Dickens, of 18, Hayway, Rushden, Northants, have received official news that their son, 12568, Pte F A Dickens, Coldstream Guards, has been missing from his regiment since Sept 15th, the Battle of Guinchy. The last letter his parents received from him was on Sept. 19th, and this was written a day before the battle.
Pte Dickens enlisted a month after the outbreak of war, and went to France in March, 1915. Up to the date on which he was reported missing he had come through practically unscathed, although he had had many narrow escapes, as recounted in letters of his published in the "Rushden Echo".
Prior to enlistment he was employed by the Coventry Town Council as tram conductor. At one time he was a member of the Rushden Town Male Choir. His parents will be grateful to any of his comrades who can send them any further information concerning their son.
Mr and Mrs Dickens have another son at the front - Pte Walter Dickens, KRR. He has been at the front about two months, and when he received news that his brother was missing he proceeded to the Coldstream headquarters to obtain information, but his brother's comrades could give no further news. They said how much they missed Pte F A Dickens.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 8 December 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Rushden Soldier Missing Pte Fred Dickens - 'News Wanted'
Pte Fred A Dickens, 12568, Coldstream Guards, son of Mr and Mrs H Dickens of 18 Hayway, Rushden Northants, has been missing from his regiment since Sept. 10th, 1916, as reported in the "Rushden Echo" at the time. His parents will be grateful to any of his comrades whom can send them any further information as to his fate or whereabouts or as to where he was last seen. He failed to answered to roll call after the battle of Guinchy.
[repeated on the 15, 22, 29 December, 5, 12, 19 and 26 January]