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Wymington - Soldiers Notes - WWI
Notes from the Newspapers
In date order

Rushden Echo, 1st January 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

Pte J S Smith (New Wymington), 1st Northants Regt., writing home from the hospital at Havre, says: “I have been wounded but am quite well again, and have been put on duty in one of the wards. I have smoked newspaper and dry tea leaves since I came out here, so it is nice to smoke a ‘Woodbine’ again.”

Rushden Echo, 22nd January 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

Germans Ten to One, Yet Beaten by the English
Startling Experiences of a Wymington Steelback - German Trenches Full of Dead and Wounded
Ears Bleeding from the Noise of Firing - Pte Elsdown’s Miraculous Escape from Death
For pessimists who stay at home and wonder why the war is such a slow process and why “nothing is being done,” there is something to be gained from a conversation with Private Augustus Elsdown, a Wymington Steelback, who has pluckily fought the Germans at tremendous odds and is still a continued optimist.

Interviewed this week by a “Rushden Echo” representative, he drew a very vivid word picture of what things are like within 50 yards of ferocious Germans.

Private Elsdown“As soon as I got into the trenches,” he said, “which was about three months ago, the terrible noise of the shells and the firing of the innumerable rifles began to play on my nerves and affect my hearing. But that is a thing we get used to in a day or two. Many chaps are seen to have blood pouring down from their ears as a result of their ear drums being injured. They get better in a few days and seem none the worse for it. For a short time you are trembling more or less all the time, as there is no such thing as rest or sleep. The rest we are supposed to get is not that absolute self-abandon that is suggested here by the word ‘rest.’ We are often under shell fire all the time, so are not free from danger.

“At Ypres the Germans are losing their lives by the hundred. The reports of the unsuccessful attempts to gain ground do not give much idea of what takes place. I remember once we were given the order to be prepared, as the Germans were going to try to take our position. It is said that there were 300,000 of them and we were only 30,000 strong. On each side of me were machine gunners and, to understand the effect of their work, you would have to see it. Germans come rushing on in one complete wall, adn, as they do so the maxims are turned from side to side. You can see the Germans throw up their arms and go down line after line. Leaping over their comrades’ dead bodies, others from behind meet with exactly the same fate. Still they come on in their mad fury, determined, if possible, to gain their end by sheer force of numbers.

“Eventually the ground is one stream of blood, with men;s bodies or parts of bodies in heaps, or scattered round about. One of the chief causes of the cutting up of the Germans as they come on like this is the French artillery. Every minute or so you see a shrapnel shell go ‘swish’ and make a clear cut right through the lines of Germans, and occasionally a big shell falls amongst them, cutting up men past recognition. Of the 300,000 in this engagement, I don’t suppose that more than 150 Germans escaped, although our own casualties were less than 20. This will show at what tremendous cost any gains by the Germans are effected. Given equal numbers with us the Germans stand little chance, and even when they are ten to one they have to be driven in by their officers shooting from behind, and at Ypres they would always rather give themselves up than fight. We could tell when they were being forced in by shots from behind, and could sometimes see the officers doing this. But there is a limit to the endurance even of the German who, to be forced to fight, has to be threatened with a revolver. When we have sufficiently thinned them to make a bayonet charge advisable we are soon after them, and it is a case of running after them, because we can never meet them in these charges. They run like March hares, and drop their rifles as they go squealing away. My word, they can run. They are big, ugly fellows, but they know how to show a clean pair of heels.

“When I was in these charges, I always went for the man who had thrown his rifle away. At Ypres I caught four or five like that, and one didn’t half grunt as I struck him. I think I ended his career. Of course, this is how trenches have to be gained if they are gained at all. But the first chaps to enter trenches are not always in an enviable place. Germans usually prepare to retreat by mining the trenches. It is not unusual to see the occupants of a whole trench, many yards in length, go sky high as soon as they get into it. But we do exactly the same with them when we get the information through that a charge is to be made, and the experiment is worth trying.. We once discovered, buried in the ground at Ypres, enough tinned food to last the Germans who had that position, for three years. So evidently they did [the next two lines of text are unreadable] better supplied with food at Ypres than we were at La Fassee.

“During an artillery duel, we saw a ‘Jack Johnson’ strike a French shrapnel shell in the air. There was a tremendous explosion as they collided. Our own and the French artillery are always effective in emptying the enemy’s trenches. When once the gunners get the range of the German trenches it is a matter of only a few minutes before they are either emptied or the occupants killed.

“Once when we went to rake up trenches so gained we had to come back again, as the dead and wounded absolutely filled up the space dug out so that there was no more room. Trenches are sometimes made uninhabitable by the use of hand-grenades, which are implements that can be thrown by hand for a long distance. They are long hollow rods of iron, weighted at one end with a hollow iron ball. Into this hollow is placed a quantity of gunpowder, old iron scraps, nails, etc., and the explosion of one in a trench will kill several men at once. These are used by both sides.

“The German snipers must be given credit for their clever methods. You are not safe from their attacks, whether from the front or behind. They are even known to get behind our trenches and fire on us. To give you an idea of their sharp shooting, I saw a pal raise his hat above the level of the ground for an instant. Like a flash about a dozen bullets flew into or near it. And we are often compelled to keep in trenches for a week at a time, even though we are up to our knees in water, with ice on the surface. This water was all colours, from a dark red to green or black, and, although we were often thirsty, the only way to get water fit to drink was by spreading out an oilskin cloth to catch rain water.

“My escape from death, when I got wounded, was miraculous. The shell that struck me, blowing the upper of boot away, killed men on each side of me. In fact, an officer on my left was completely smashed and was blown past me in pieces. Soon after that I received a bullet wound almost in the same place as the shell wound. The first was a poisonous wound, and the whole of my leg and part of my body was turned green. I had to lie on the field for several hours, and, finally, two kindly Indians carried me to the field ambulance.”

Pte Elsdown says that the opinion of the majority of the men at the front is that the war will end in the early summer. People spoke as if there were not enough soldiers at the front or we had not enough with which to back them up. He says that conscription is most unlikely, since recruits and volunteers are coming forward so well.

Pte Elsdown told our representative that German shells had been found dated 1890, which showed that some old stuff had been requisitioned. Fortunately, however, not many of these shells would explode.

Rushden Echo, 29th January 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

Bullet Through The Body and Out at The Back
Wymington Steelback’s Experiences – Some Sensational Escapes
Enough Men and Guns to Drive the Germans Back - When the Road Becomes Passable
“You do not think there is any fear of the Germans winning then?”
Pte Horace Coley
Pte Horace Coley

Private Coley, a Wymington Steelback, who has been wounded at the front, had been relating his views and experiences of the war to a representative of the “Rushden Echo”. He laughed to scorn the idea of anything of that kind.

“There is only one thing we are waiting for in order to settle the war once and for all in favour of the Allies, and that is an alteration in the conditions of transport. As soon as the roads are once more passable, we have men enough and guns enough to drive the Germans right back into their own country. But as things are now, it would be madness to try to do more than hold our own. The fields are quagmires and the roads are little better than a series of mud pools that are quite unsafe for artillery or heavy vehicles to pass over; and as for men passing along them,. The time taken to do so would allow the Germans to cut our men up. So evidently there is everything to be gained by waiting for the time when the roads and fields will be dry and hard. Talk about bayonet charges—the Germans will never hold their ground in front of them then! Another thing that makes it worth-while waiting: the Germans are wasting hundreds of pounds worth of shells which are every day absolutely thrown away, to no purpose.”

“But aren’t we losing temporarily as many men by frost-bite and rheumatism as by bullets and shell fire?” asked our representative.

“That is so: in fact, there are more that have to return home on account of influenza, rheumatism, and frost-bite than from wounds. And the worst to suffer are the chaps who have come from India or Egypt, where they have been used to a very hot climate. It seems to me that men from England need not mind going out there during the winter. I felt grand all the time i was there. That is, of course, as regards health. There are things that happen there that do not take place at home, sweet home! It is not nice to see your own pals shot down in front of your eyes.

“When we first got out there we were ordered into a trench which was little better than a pond, or brook. Half-a-dozen of us got down into the water and mud in order to be out of sight. Before very long all except myself were plunked! A friend of mine who was standing close to me happened to raise his head. At the same moment a bullet from a German sniper smashed his skull! But even with such terrible things happening every day, it would not do to allow fear to get the upper hand of you. I believe fear is almost unknown by out men—and there are none like the British for being trustworthy fighters.

“I have had some very narrow escapes myself sometimes. Once, a shrapnel shell burst within five yards of me. It covered me with mud and cut a hole in my pal’s coat, but fortunately did nothing worse. Then bullets have whizzed past my ears within a few inches. The German snipers are the cleverest dare-devils you can imagine. They walk about sometimes in civilian clothes, and, it is said, in khaki also.

They will get the range of our port holes and keep it by means of an iron bar upon which they rest the rifle. There is no need to take aim then. All they have to do is wait for the first sign of movement and then pull the trigger. In that case off goes part of the unlucky man’s head. We were sometimes within 75 yards of the German trenches, but although I have been as near as that, I did not do any firing from that distance.

“Most of the fighting is at night. One of the most exciting times we had was when we were told that 40,000 Germans were trying to get across our front to relieve one of their weak spots. We were ordered to fire away like the—all night. And we did! Our artillery blazed away for all they were worth, and the rifles never really stopped firing. I know I used over 120 rounds that night. We made it so hot for the Germans that, as we afterwards learned, we were successful in keeping them back from reinforcing their other party.

“One night, however, I was out of the trench, going to fetch some rations. A bullet struck me just at the side of my heart, went right through my body, and came out at the back. Down I went and had to lie there for half an hour, bleeding all the time. Even when two stretcher bearers came and carried me away, we were under continual fire. For three days and nights I was delirious with pain, which was aggravated by the injections with which the wound was treated. However, I passed the danger point, and am now hoping to get well.”

Rushden Echo, 21st May 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

News of Rushden Man Wanted by His Parents
Wymington Soldier Wounded
Mr and Mrs Wilson, of 168, Cromwell-road, Rushden, are anxious for news concerning their son, Pte Reg Wilson, of the 1st Northants, who it is feared, was wounded in the great battle of Aubers Ridge on Sunday, May 9. A postcard was sent to Pte Wilson by a friend and it has been returned marked “Unable to trace, wounded.”

Pte Harry West (Wymington), of the same regiment, who himself is wounded and is in hospital, has written to say that Pte Wilson was wounded almost as soon as he went into action. Pte West gave his pal a drink of water and was then compelled to leave him.

Mr and Mrs Wilson, who are naturally worried concerning their son, would be grateful for any details concerning him.

Pte H West Rushden Echo, 28th May 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

Wymington Man Wounded – Injuries at Aubers Ridge
News has been received by Mr and Mrs G Linnell, of Rushden, that Pte H West (Wymington), of the 1st Northants Regt., was wounded by shrapnel in the left wrist, shoulder, and leg, at the battle of Aubers Ridge on May 9th.

The wounds, though severe, are not dangerous in character, we are please to state. Pte West is now in the Great Northern Hospital at [Lincoln], and he was visited by Mr and Mrs G Linnell and his sister Mrs Whiting of Rushden, on Wednesday. They found him in excellent spirits, and progressing as favourably as can be expected.

Rushden Echo, 4th June 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

Germans Murder the Wounded - Sticking Bayonets Through Injured Men
Wymington Soldier’s Narrow Escape – “Thought My Time Was Up”
Pte. Albert Fuller (New Wymington), of D Company, 2nd Northants, has sent an interesting letter to his mother, in which he described how narrowly he escaped death. Pte. Fuller is brother of the late Sergt. H. Fuller, of the 2nd Bedfords, whose death at the front has just been officially confirmed. Pte. Fuller writes:

“I have just been through hell. We went for the Germans on Sunday at 6a.m., and we know that we did. I was five yards in front of their trenches from 6a.m. to 11p.m. Then I made a duck and got back safely. They were firing at us all the time, but the nearest they got was one through my hat. I never thought I should get out of it alive. Out of my section there was me and another got back. The others all got killed or wounded. There are not many left out of the regiment. I think it was the longest day I have ever known. I thought of you at dinner time. I was having shells, bullets, and bombs for mine. The Germans came out at night and stuck their bayonets through our wounded, and they killed one three yards from me and I thought I was the next, but I got up and ran the fastest I have ever run in my life. I don’t want to have another go like that. I thought my time was up. We have got a worse job here than a good many people think, but I hope it won’t last much longer, but we shall never have a worse go than that; it was murder, but we got our own back for a few of our poor chaps. I shall never forget coming back, to see our dead littering the ground.”

The Rushden Echo Friday 25th August 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Patriotic Wymington Family – Six Brothers in the Colours

The late First-Class Stoker Harry Whiting, of Rushden, brother in law of the Wests was drowned at sea. Mr Jonathan West, a well-known resident of Wymington, has ten sons. Seven of them are of military age, and six of these are serving King and country. The seventh, the only married son, is a railway porter at St Helens, and the railway company are keeping him back, otherwise he also would have been with the colours. Mr West has only one daughter, Mrs Harry Whiting, the widow of First-class Stoker Whiting, who went down in submarine D5, during the early days of the war. Mr West's other three sons are under military age. We publish the photographs of the six brothers who are serving with the colours...

The Rushden Echo, 4th May 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

Prisoner of War—Mr Phillip Fuller, of Wymington, has now received official news that his son, 27049 Pte. P F Fuller, of the Bedfordshire Regt., is a prisoner of war at Limburg, Germany. He had been previously reported missing since Feb. 11th this year. Pte Fuller enlisted in March 1916. Wounded in action, he had been invalided home, and had only returned to the front about seven weeks when he was reported missing. Before enlisting he worked for the Coxton Shoe Co., Rushden.

Rushden Echo Friday 15th June 1917, transcribed by Susan Manton

Wymington Man in Hospital - Private E.W. Lilley
A former Rushden Railway Employee
Mr. W.C. Lilley, of Wymington, has received a field-card dated June 9th from his son, Pte. E. W. Lilley, of the Australian Contingent, to say that he has been wounded and admitted into hospital. This is all the information his father had received up to yesterday and he is anxiously awaiting further news.

The wounded soldier was in Australia at the outbreak of war and enlisted in the Colonial forces two years last May. He went to France about twelve months ago, and was in Egypt previously. Last November he spent a few days leave with his father at Wymington.

He went to Australia in the June prior to the outbreak of war and before emigrating was in the employment of the Midland Railway company.

Rushden Echo, 13th July 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

New Wymington Man in Hospital
Lance-Corporal G. W. Furness – Injured by Shell Explosion
A few weeks ago we published the news that Lance-Corpl. G. W. Furness, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, son of Mr. and Mrs. G. Furness, of New Wymington, had been buried and badly bruised by the explosion of a shell, which at the same time killed three others. Lance-Corpl. Furness was the only one to escape alive, and his parents have now received a field-card to say that he has been admitted into hospital in France.

Rushden Echo, 20th July 1917

Private Horace Church – The Big Push – Buried but not Dead
Mrs. William Church, of New Wymington, has received letters from her youngest son, Pte. Horace Church, of the Royal Fusiliers, to say that he had been buried by a shell explosion, but that he had got out alright. He writes:-

“It was only the One above that saved me, and I think I shall get through all right now. Cheer uo, I don’t mind as long as I am doing my bit for you and my wife and children. God save you till I return.!

In another letter, Pte. Church writes: “The people at Tilshead have got the yarn that I have had my leg blown off, but of course, I haven’t, or I should not be here.

Writing to his niece, Miss Phyliis Mason he says: “You can tell the teachers I was in that big advance just against that big mine. We were in the trenches for 28 days, and it was very hard fighting, too, but I was lucky to come through. It was through me praying to God to save me to get back to my dear wife and children, and I hope you don’t forget to say your prayers.”

Rushden Echo, 27th July 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

Prisoner of WarPrivate Percy Fuller, writing to his mother, Mrs. Fuller, of new Estate, Wymington, says he is a prisoner of war in Germany.

Rushden Echo, 24th August 1917, transcribed by Peter Brown

Wymington Soldier Wounded - Gunner J. E. Dickerson - Injured in the Leg

Mr. J. Dickerson, of Wymington, who is a postman at Rushden, has received news that his son, Gunner J. E. Dickerson, of the Machine Gun Corps, has been wounded in the leg and is now in hospital at Leicester.

Gunner Dickerson joined the Colours in November 1915, enlisting in the Duke of Bedford's Own, but he was subsequently transferred to the M.G.C. He has-served 15 months on the Western front, and was expecting to get his first leave when he got wounded. He-was, we understand, the only one left of his section.

Rushden Echo, Friday 28th September 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rifleman J E Ladds, of Rushden, who was wounded on September 20th, as reported in this issue, says in a letter home, that he met Horace Church, of Wymington at the clearing station, and adds that the soldier in question was also wounded on September 20th.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 17th May 1918, transcribed by Kay Collins

Prisoner of War—Mrs John Coley, of New Wymington, has received news from her son, Signaller Reginald Coley, K.R.R., whom we have previously reported missing, that he is a prisoner of war in Germany and is well. He says that the whole battalion were taken prisoners.

prisoners of war

F. Esch. Ludwigslust


Pte. R. Coley


Pte. C. E. Hutchison East Yorks


Pte. T. Keene



Pte. L. Martin



Pte. H. Hurst



R.A.O. A Pryde



Pte. W. Houston

7th Northants


Sgt. E. ---




Pte. D. Holmes



Rfn. H. Jeffrey

8th K.R.R.C.


Pte. J. Kearney



Rfn. E. Jones

9th K.R.R.C.


A.B.  R. Piper



Rfn. L. C. Bennet

1st North Staffs


Pte A. Ince

2nd South Staffs

Photo brought home by Reg Coley and inscribed with the names:

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