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Private Vernon Francis Magee

7492 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment

Pte Vernon MageeSon of Mr David and Mrs Amelia Magee
Husband of Lily or Sarah (M1911)

Aged 28 years

Died 9th May 1915

Commemorated on Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France
Panel 28 to 30

Born at Northampton All Saints and enlisted at Rushden.
Rushden Echo, 18th September 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Soldiers in Action

  Private Magee, of Wellingborough-road, Rushden, in the 1st Northants, was injured in the retirement of the British forces at a battle about three weeks ago.  There was a hasty scramble for safety and Private Magee, in leaping over a wall, dislocated his knee-cap and had to be picked up by the Ambulance.  He was conveyed to a French hospital and from there to the London Hospital.  Fortunately the injury was not severe, and Private Magee is now able to walk.  He has been in the Army for ten years.

Rushden Echo, 25th September 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Soldier’s Experiences - Interview With Private Magee

“Throwing Away Human Life” - “No Tipperary!”

  “It was a very near thing for us, with the Germans within 30 yards and nothing for it but to ‘hop it’ through a deadly fire,” said Private Magee as he told a representative of the “Rushden Echo” how he got hurt recently at the war.

  “We could here the Germans ‘magging’ as they came hounding after us. Four of my comrades went down before my eyes. I stuck at the machine gun, mowing down the enemy’s cavalry until I was afraid I had stayed too long. A mate of mine got shot twice; I felt very sorry for him but it would have been madness to hang behind for him – the Germans were taking no prisoners.

  “It was a village fight, and the enemy succeeded at length in raiding the place. Attempts to repulse them were kept up to the very last moment, and it takes a bit of courage to stand your ground when you can see great hulking fellows bearing down on you like a human tornado. At these moments everyone knows it is useless waiting for the officer in command to day ‘Do this’ or ‘Go there.’  Dealing death to the last, we go helter-skelter for the nearest place of safety.  That is how I injured my knee.  I found myself in a garden surrounded with a low wall, in leaping which I came a ‘cropper’ on the opposite side as the ground was so much lower.  My right knee was dislocated and there was nothing for it but to join the French soldiers.  They carried me on a gun carriage and advised me to go to St. Quentin to have a few days’ rest.  So I should have done but the Germans allowed us no opportunity.”

  “What was the nature of the country in which you fought?” asked our representative.

  “Just like this,” replied Private Magee, “or rather

Like Yelden Open Fields

That is likely to make a difference in the duration of the war.  In the South African war there were hills everywhere, but where I was fighting there was very little opportunity for getting in cover.

  “But there is no doubt that our heavy artillery and rapid firers absolutely flabbergasted the Germans.  One thing very noticeable in this war is the utter disregard for human life, not only amongst the Germans but the French, too.  Firing might be going on, but the little Frenchies would sit laughing and joking as if they were at a picnic, whereas an Englishman, laying more value on life, would naturally seek the protection of the nearest boulder or wall.  There is no lack of courage in that, either, as the English are the most scientific fighters of the Allies.

  “What about the song ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’? Do the soldiers go into battle singing that?” our representative asked.

  Private Magee gave a short, significant laugh.  “There is not much ‘Tipperary’ when you have the enemy’s firing to silence while minding you don’t get silenced yourself! It is true that the song is heard when a regiment is marching but at no other time.

  “While there is the bitterest of feeling on the part of the French towards the Germans, both French and Belgians treated us like pals.  As we marched through some of the villages, people would come out to give us loaves, drink, and even money.  I had several francs put into my hand, and as for beer and cider – they brought it out in buckets!  They would give an English soldier almost anything.  But as for their treatment of the Germans, once they got them into their power – well, the less said the better.  I can tell you the French would soon ‘do them in.’

  “The hatred is quite as evident on the part of the Germans.  I heard of two German officers being captured and brought in by a neighbouring regiment of mine.  The officers, although disarmed, wanted to settle differences with their captors by means of fisticuffs.  However, I don’t believe half the tales about the horrible deeds of the Germans towards our men or towards women and children.  I saw nothing of it myself, and I think it is greatly exaggerated.

  “I should very much like to be at Berlin when the Russians enter.  It may be a ‘lifer’ for the first few.  You see the Germans are very of

‘House Fighting’

That is, as an invading army marches into the town or village, the Germans will skulk into the bedrooms commanding a view of the street and fire down on the men, who have little chance of replying.  They are in comparative safety and can see without being seen.  The only way to deal with them is to blow the buildings to the ground, which is neither a quick nor an easy task for a marching army to do.

  “I am anxious to get back and have another go at them,” said Private Magee, adding that he was returning almost immediately to the front.

  In reply to another query he said he had not done much fighting by night. He gave an interesting account of the manner in which the Britishers “kid the enemy on” and draw them into traps; of how the guns are got into action and other things which we are unable to publish owing to their strategical significance 

  Private Magee expressed the opinion that the Allies, by hanging together, were absolutely certain of ultimate victory, but it would not be easily won when the Germans got into their own territory. While he emphasised the fact of the really reckless bravery of French soldiers, he pointed out that the tactical skill of the English seemed unequalled on the field. With others, he does not under-estimate the fighting power of the Prussian Army, but adds that they are big, awe-inspiring men who think nothing of rushing pell mell into certain death when they have the command to do so.

  Asked if he felt anything of his knee trouble, Private Magee said he was afraid he would never be able to march so well in the future; a soldier often had to march as much as 30 miles a day for several days, and that would soon find the weak places in a man’s physique.

The Wellingborough News Friday 2 October 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier's Letters from the Front

Private Magee has returned home to Rushden from the front, where he has seen service. He injured his knee when dealing with a rush by the Germans in a "village fight". He was with a machine gun, and the Germans came at them. He stopped with the gun to the last moment, "mowing down the enemy's cavalry" until he was afraid he had stayed too long. Four of his comrades went down beside him, and a mate got shot twice. He was sorry for his wounded mate, but "it would be madness to hang behind for him, the Germans were taking no prisoners." At last it got too hot, and off they had to go for safety. He dropped over a garden wall, and found it much deeper the other side, and so dislocated his right knee. The French soldiers put him in a gun carriage and got him away safely.

The Rushden Echo Friday 4 June 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier Missing - News Wanted of Pte VF Magee - 'Well Loved by His Comrades'

Mrs V F Magee, of 158, Wellingborough-road, Rushden, is feeling a great deal of anxiety in regard to her husband, Pte V F Magee, 7492, D Company, 1st Northants, who has been unofficially reported missing since the battle of May 9th. Mrs Magee used to receive letters or field cards from her husband four or five times a week, and now, in addition to not having heard from her husband for practically a month, she has had one of her own letters returned marked "Wounded. Present location uncertain."

Mrs Magee wrote to a comrade of her husband's at the front and has received the following reply: — "I received your letter dated May 21st, asking for any news regarding your husband. I have made every enquiry possible but without definite result. We all fear that the worst has happened, but hope for the best. If the worst has happened, we all ask you to accept our heartfelt sympathy, and you have one consolation in knowing that he has died a soldier's death and was well loved by his comrades. If news should reach you of his whereabouts I hope that you will let me know, as I will immediately inform you if any news reaches us regarding him. In the meantime you must try and bear up with a good heart until something official should reach you." Mrs Magee will be grateful to any of her husband's comrades who can send her any further news concerning him.

Evening Telegraph, Saturday 5th June 1915, transcribed by John Collins.

News Wanted of a Rushden Soldier

It is feared by Mrs. V. F. Magee, of Wellingborough-road, Rushden, that some serious misfortune has befallen her husband, Pte. V. F. Magee, of “D” Company, 1st Northants Regt. Since the great battle of May 9th she has received no news from her husband, who before that date used to write regularly, and one of her letters has been returned marked “Wounded.” Mrs. Magee wrote to one of her husband’s comrades asking for news and received the reply that the men feared the worst had happened. Any news of Pte. Magee will be gratefully received by his wife.

The Rushden Echo Friday 2 July 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier Killed - Official Intimation of the Death of Pte F Magee - The Fatal May 9th

Mrs Magee, of 158 Wellingborough-road, Rushden received an official intimation of the death of her husband, Pte Frank Magee, 7492, 1st Northamptons. He was killed in action on May 9th. Accompanying the official information was a letter from Lord Kitchener expressing the true sympathy of the King and Queen with Mrs Magee in her sorrow. Deceased, who was 29 years of age, had served seven years with the Colours and three years as a reservist. Before enlisting he was engaged in the shoe trade and worked at the factory of Mr B Ladds, Moor-road. Last August, on the outbreak of war, he was called up as a reservist and went straight to the front. In a retreat he was injured by getting over a stone wall and his keen cap was dislocated, whereupon he was invalided home. The accident happened on Sept. 4th, and he was home during Rushden Feast Week, being at the time interviewed by a representative of the "Rushden Echo". He returned to the front on Nov. 11th, and was then in the trenches practically the whole time up to his death. He leaves a widow and two small children - one 3 years of age and the other 15 months.

Pte Magee wrote to his wife on May 7th to say he expected to go for a good rest and this letter she received on May 10th. He was not to have the rest, however. On May 8th he wrote again as follows:-

"Just a few more lines, hoping to find you and the children in good health, as it leaves me the same at present, but to tell you the truth, I can't tell you how long it shall keep like it, as we are about to start on the biggest battle which has ever been known, and worse luck, my regiment is in it, and we are leading. It will be done about the time you get this letter. I shall try my best to get through it, but if I don't you will have you make the best of it, as it can't be helped if I go under. I wish to God I had not to go in this one, as we shall be lucky if we get over the shock. I shan't mind getting wounded if I don't get killed, as getting killed isn't any joke, is it? But, in case anything happens to me I have got a chap to send and let you know, so you will soon know, as I shall send and let you know myself if I get out safely, which I hope to God I shall for the sake of you and the poor little children. I should love to get home to see them, as you say what nice ones they are getting to be. I often look at the photo and I am always thinking about them. Poor little dears. We start fighting on Sunday morning, so when you get this it will be all over. In case I get hurt they will bring me straight to England - that is the place I want to get to once more. I haven't always got time to write, and when I get a few minutes you know we have to try and get a sleep and you never know when we are to be called out. It is Saturday the time I am sending you this, and we go into the firing line tonight." Mrs Magee received this letter on May 11th, by which time her husband had met his fate.

Pte Starmer (Rushden), who was in the same regiment, and is now at Huntingdon, wounded in the head, has just been to Rushden for a day. He was with Pte Magee when the latter was killed.

Rushden Echo, July 9 1915, transcribed by Clive Wood

Returned To Die - Rushden Soldier Killed at Aubers Ridge

The sad news comes to hand that Private Vernon Francis McGee, a Rushden soldier of 'B' Company, 1st Northants, was killed at the battle of Aubers Ridge on May 9th. Pte McGee was 28 years of age and lived at the time of mobilisation at Wellingborough-road, Rushden. He leaves a wife and two children, and used to work for Mr B Ladds Shoe Manufacturer, Rushden, having completed seven years soldiering, Pte McGee was wounded in the battle of Mons and returned to the front in October.

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