5th Dec 1914. News From The Front

Mr John Wicks, Long Itchington, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who signs himself “One of the Kaiser’s contemptible little army,” in a letter from the front to a friend, says :-“We are doing fairly well here for food, but the worst of it is we can’t get much sleep. It is like being in hell at times. When “ Jack Johnson’s ” are flying about it is like a big thunderstorm with vivid lightning. . . . It is shameful the way they (the Germans) treat some of the people here in the villages. We found one man, woman, and daughters tied up outside a house naked. It makes you feel mad with them.”

LETTER FROM LIEUT C HART.

Many Rugby people who have attended hospital fetes will remember with pleasure Staff-Sergt-Major Hart, who was in charge of the Lancers, whose displays were such a popular features of the holiday. Since the war Staff-Sergt-Major Hart has been promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. He has also been mentioned in dispatches. Mr C J Newman, secretary to the Children’s Ward Committee, received the following brief but characteristic letter from him a few days ago :-

“ DEAR MR NEWMAN,-Thanks ever so much for you kind and welcome letter. I am afraid we shall be unable to give you a display in Rugby for some time to come, but if you could make a pilgrimage out here there is no doubt you would see some much more interesting items than those performed by us at your fete. Nevertheless, I hope the time is not too for distant when some of us will have the pleasure of participating in much more peaceful pastimes than are at present available. We haven’t fared too badly. A few of the Rugby performers helped to pay the price of this war, but our heaviest losses are amongst the officers. We do very well indeed in the way of food, clothing, etc, which is a great blessing. I thank you very much for offer of cigarettes, which I will be very grateful for. I also thank you for congratulations, and I trust we shall meet again soon, when all is peaceful. Remember me to all old friends.-I remain, Yours sincerely, C Hart.”

EXTRACTS FROM A BILTON ARTILLERY-MANS DIARY.

Sergt Woolgar, of the 51st Battery, R.F.A, paid a flying visit to his wife (formerly Miss Rainbow), at Old Bilton last week, he having been granted five days’ leave of absence. Sergt Woolgar has been at the front from the commencement of the war, and participated in the Retreat from Mons, the Battle of of the Aisne, and the recent heavy fighting round Ypres, and naturally he has some exciting experiences to recount. Despite the fact that he has been in several hot corners and had more than one narrow escape, he has so far received no injury. A week or so ago his battery suffered severely, and they were withdrawn from the firing line and sent to a rest camp to refit, he being the lucky man from his battery to be allowed leave of absence. He returned to the front last Saturday. While he was at the front Sergt Woolgar kept a diary, which contains a number of interesting incidents, several of which we reproduce :—

August 23rd.—Ordered up to the assistance of the —–, who were at Mons. The Germans, dressed as civilians, shot down the —– (171 out of 1,126) from the windows. They had civilians in front of them waving handkerchiefs. Hard pushed at about 6.0 p.m, and went straight into action and entrenched. . . . The German scouts were very near to us on the night of 22nd 23rd August as near as 2½ miles, and we saw the village, which they had burnt, smouldering and in ruins, and the homeless villagers, as we went into action. . . . Very heartrending to see the little children and sick women being assisted along the road.

September 14th.—Marched at 7.0 a.m, and immediately went into action at —–. A terrible action ; our troops were simply mown down. Saw hundreds of German prisoners, and the village was full of dead and dying [Mention is made under this date of several British regiments which lost severely owing to the German abuse of the white flag.]

October 21st.-Moved off at 3.30 p.m as advance guard, and marched to the village of —–, where we came into action against the enemy. Fired l28 rounds per gun, and saw all the village on fire. We had rather a lively time. A Company of —– was properly wiped out in taking a large mill and building. Remained in action all day-22nd October. Up at day-break and started firing. Later on my gun was ordered “percussion,” and fired at 2,200 yards at a windmill, which was being used by the enemy as an observing station. Anyhow, we succeeded in hitting it eight times and smashed it up. . . Was congratulated on the good firing of my gun, and saw the mill in flames.

October 29th.-Revielle at 5.0 a.m, and opened fire to support infantry attack. About 8.30 a.m had a very close shave, a “ Black Maria ” burst under my wagon limber, and blew it up, setting fire to the ammunition, etc. In fact it got so warm that we had to leave our guns for a time.

November 1st.-Opened fire about 10 a.m, but got a very hot reception. In return was absolutely bombarded by the enemy’s big guns for about two hours.

November 2nd.-Had a narrow squeak in the night ; shelled all night. Had to move bed three times.

November 20th.-To-day was a very bad day for us. We were shelled all day, and had 17 killed and 19 wounded.

Some idea of the conditions under which the fighting has been conducted is contained in the following entry under October 18th :- Went straight to the guns for the fifth day in succession. Got clothes dry this morning. As yesterday it simply poured in torrents all day; no shelter. We were simply drowned rats and smothered in mud and gun grease. Stayed in action until dark then bivouacked. Had a night attack about 1.30, which was repulsed. Raining hard; wet through again.

HOME FROM THE WAR.

Rifleman Ernest Shaw, of the 1st King’s Royal Rifles, who was wounded in the fighting near Ypres, returned to his home at 6 Union Street, Rugby, early on Monday morning, after spending three weeks in a hospital at Belfast. As we reported in a previous issue, he was wounded in the cheek, the bullet penetrating just below the eye and passing out at the back of the neck, so that he really had a very narrow escape from death. Rifleman Shaw went out to the front at the commencement of the war, and had seen a fair amount of active service before he received his wound. He was in the open at the time he received a bullet coming from the direction of a house 200 yards away, from which Germans had been expelled, though obviously some of their marksmen had returned. The rifle fire became so persistent that the Englishmen deemed it expedient to retire from the locality. The sight of Pte Shaw’s right eye has been so affected by the wound that he cannot see distinctly with it, and although he is due to report himself at the depot on the 12th inst, he does not expect that he will ever be again fit for service at the front.

B.T.H MAN’S EXPERIENCES.

Pte H R Lee, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, an employee of the B.T.H, has written from the front to his wife, and states :—We are just finishing our three days’ rest, after having five weeks in the trenches, in all that snow and rain. We have had to sleep and lie down in three inches of water, besides having to stand up in it all day long. One day, while we were in the trenches, I was boiling three fowls, and the Germans were sending “ Jack Johnson’s ” all round us, but they could not hit us. We took cover, but did not mean to miss having the fowls, so I and my two mates had a good dinner after all. The Germans are a dirty cowardly lot. Last week they shelled a town and set it on fire and killed 200 poor innocent women and children. How would English people got on if it was them. They (the Germans) run like mad when they see our bayonets. It is that that frightens them. I            have had one on my bayonet, and hope to have more before long. I don’t think it will last much longer.—Pte Lee mentioned that some cigarettes which his wife sent to him were spoilt through not being put in a tin, and added : “ I received a parcel from Miss —–, (a Rugby Lady) containing a pair of mitts, a bottle of meat lozenges, a tin of vaseline and four bars of chocolate.”

MADE COMFORTABLE AT THE FRONT.

Private W H Tidey, a shoeing-smith attached to the 5th Division, Army Corps in the Field, writing to Mr Hipwell at the Portland Cement Works, New Bilton, says :-“ Although the weather is horribly rotten out here, under no circumstances is one of us allowed to be uncomfortable. I am sure we find it more a pleasure to soldier under our officers. They all “muck in” with the rest. If any man gets into trouble out here, it is entirely his own fault. . . . As you say, things are going on fairly well, but we all hope that the Germans will see their folly in keeping up such a struggle. . . . I haven’t much time to write, for there’s plenty do out here in my line, especially since the snow and frost came, but the cold is better by far than the mud and slush we have bean staggering through lately.

 

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