NO CAUSE TO GRUMBLE.
Pte J Richardson, of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, writing from the front on December 9th to his sister, says :—“ You saw it in the paper about the Coldstreams being praised up, but you can take it from me it was hard-earned, and not without losing some good lads over it. . . . We are about making a general advance right into Germany, so I expect by that we shall lose a few. Still, I know the lads will meet it with a good heart . . . We can’t grumble out here ; we get plenty of tobacco and clothes—as much as you can expect. Those who talk about it being cold on the moots just want to have a night in the trenches. The bombs and the ‘ Jack Johnsons ‘ keep you ‘ warm.’ I hope you will enjoy yourselves together at Christmas. Don’t bother about me ; I shall be all right. It would only disappoint me if I thought you were sitting worrying about me. If you send me anything, send me some cake or plum pudding, and some writing paper, as I have more tobacco now than I could smoke in a month. It is ‘ get out and get under ‘ all right here. You can hear them singing in the air—the fifth of November—a long time before they reach you ; but that is what we have to watch up above, dropping the little bomb down. You must remember me to all the ‘ boys,’ and tell them to be quick and give us a hand, or else there won’t be any left for them.”
THE WARWICKSHIRE R.H.A IN ACTION.
The Warwickshire R.H.A, whose headquarters are at Warwick, went to France about six weeks ago, and after doing patrol and other work on lines of communication, eventually reached the firing line. They have been in action, and letters from gunners in the Battery state that they were successful in doing a good deal of damage to the enemy’s trenches. The Germans turned two heavy batteries upon them, and the “ Black Marias ” dropped all round the Battery, till at last the order was given to retire and leave the guns for the time being. The men retreated to a village a short distance to the rear while a heavy battery of 4.7-inch guns pumped shells into the enemy, and eventually silenced their batteries sufficiently to enable the Warwickshire men to return to their guns and man-handle them into a safer position. It was an absolute marvel how they managed to get out without being smashed up and without any casualties.
CLIFTON SOLDIER KILLED WHILE WRITING HOME.
As we briefly announced last week, Pte W J Hutt (7698) Northamptonshire Regiment, of Church Lane, Clifton, was killed at the front on November 5th. Although early this week no official intimation had been received by his wife, to whom he had only been married a short time, there is no doubt that the news is true. From particulars furnished by a friend of his, and the four men who assisted in his burial, and who have returned home wounded, it appears that the unfortunate young man was killed near Ypres while writing a letter home. He was with his regiment in the trenches for five weeks in the Battle of the Aisne, during which time they made almost imperceptible progress. Their losses in this battle were very heavy. In one week Private Hutt went through five bayonet charges, and escaped without a scratch. Previous to being called up he was employed in the Winding Department at the B.T.H.. He would have been 26 years of age next month.
RUGBY SOLDIER’S EXPERIENCES.
Pte J Lickorish, of the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, has written a lengthy letter home, in which he recounts a number of interesting experiences. Referring to their first taste of modem warfare, he says :— “ We hastily entrenched, but had to evacuate them, as the German guns were getting terribly close. We retired behind a farm in open formation, the — Regiment leading the way, and our regiment following. It was here I saw the first horrors of war. The Germans got the range on the farm, and dropped shells all round it, killing and wounding several men. As we lay waiting for the next move a shell burst directly in front of me, and the time fuse went “ plonk ” into the earth about a yard in front of me. At first I thought it was a piece of dirt, as I could see it coming, and my pal reached out for it, but soon dropped it ; it was so hot. I have got it as a souvenir. Our captain, who was afterwards taken prisoner, behaved splendidly here, and it was a treat to watch him walking about, laughing and chatting to us, while we were under shell fire. By-and-bye a battery of ours dashed up, and so diverted the shell fire from us, and we were able to retire again in safety : but about half-a-mile to our right we could see the deadly shrapnel following our troops up with hellish persistency, but with few casualties on account of the open formation. We kept this up until nightfall. Up to this we had not sighted the enemy, but behind us was one consistent rifle fire, which showed that our troops were giving the Germans some of their own medicine. . . . We could see the — Regiment piling arms. All of a sudden a whole nest of German machine guns opened fire on them, and in less than five minutes the greater part of the battalion was either killed or wounded. We could see it all, but could not help them. Transport and all was lost. That morning, and for several days afterwards, we had to live without rations as best we could. In a graphic account of an artillery duel, and relating how 2,000 Uhlans who charged the British guns were repulsed, the writer says : “ Our guns were greatly outnumbered, and gradually gun after gun of the battery was put out of action, and the gunners killed of wounded. We were forced to retire again and again and leave the guns, which we took back off the Germans the next day. Those brave gunners sang and whistled during the whole time.” The writer refers to the retirement of the Germans, and says : “ Here we could see where they had left their trade mark behind them-guns, ammunition, two aeroplanes ; in fact, nearly everything military, and thousands of empty wine bottles. They had also smashed the village and shops, and had left numbers of their dead and civilians lying about. Occasionally we scooped up numbers of prisoners. . . . A German aeroplane dropped two bombs close to us, and killed a woman and two children, causing a great panic among the people. British and French aeroplanes fought the German in mid-air and brought him down.” Describing a sanguinary fight, in which both sides lost heavily and the gallant major of his regiment was killed, the writer says : “ It was here that the Germans hoisted the white flag, and shot our men down. Can you wonder after this that we used our bayonets mercilessly ? The Germans have behaved rotten in this war so far. . . . In one place he says 1,200 German shells were fired over their trench in 24 hours, nine-tenths of which failed to explode, being very old ammunition, and this goes to prove, he adds, that the German supplies are running short.”
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY AT THE FRONT.
The squadron of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, to which Q.M.S Goodman, of Flecknoe, belongs, has for some time past been on active service at the front. The men have taken their turn in the firing line, and find the conditions in the trenches bitterly cold. One member of the squadron has had his feet frost-bitten ; but the yeomen write cheerful letters to friends, although for obvious reasons the exact locality in which they are serving with the Expeditionary Force is not disclosed.
Another trooper in the regiment writes:—“ Well, we are absolutely right among it. The Northamptonshire Yeomanry are taking their turns just as infantry in the trenches, doing three days and three nights—72 hours in all—six days’ rest before going in again. However, before we went to the trenches we did a lot of patrolling and scouting on our horses. and it was then that I found the benefit of being able to ride, which I learnt to do when following the hounds in Old England, In fact, it’s just like hunting ; only no hounds, but bullets instead. Quite half our Yeomanry are fellows who hunt, and whenever we meet another troop the first thing that happens is the giving of the ‘ View Hallo,’ so you, can rest assured that we are in high hopes of seeing the fox as well as hearing the ‘ View Hallo’ next season. Only you must keep the thing going while we are away, as you see it does good in more then one one way. Many a soldier has got a good horse out here and able to get over this country who would not be able to do so had his horse not been schooled in the hunting field, so whatever you do you must keep it going ; if you don’t,there will be no fellows to join another Yeomanry.”
E Wiggins, son of Mr Wiggins, Rugby, a member of the Northants Yeomanry, writes under date December 13th :— We returned from the trenches on Thursday last. We went in on the previous Monday. I will not describe it. All I can say is, I am thankful to have returned safely to our billet. We had our first christening under fire, and were up to our knees in mud and water most of the time. We had one casualty and some narrow escapes. The fighting went on all the night, and we were digging and making up the trenches in the daytime. We were along with an infantry regiment, and real good chaps, too, who would do anything for us. They had been in action several times. . . . and gave us some useful tips, the chief being, as the ‘ Scotties’ say, ‘ To keep your head below the bone.’ The Germans made a charge on our left, but were repulsed with loss. They charged shoulder to shoulder in hundreds. You have only to keep your head and blaze away, and bowl them over right and left. They are forced to charge, poor beggars ; and all those who retire are shot by their own officers. The Germans are very much afraid of the Gurkhas, who steel up their trenches armed only with their ‘kuris’ (long knives), and do them in. We left our horses at the farm in charge of our No. 3’s. We ride in sections of 6, and the third looks after the horses while we are away. They do not do any fighting, as we ride only within two miles of the firing line, and they bring our horses back to the billet. . . . I am pleased to say we have a good billet in a big loft, and all sleep like tops. It is a terrible job getting on and off our top coats, which get plastered from top to bottom. It is a rough lot out here, but I hope to get back soon.”
THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE TRENCHES.
GRAPHIC STORY BY A RUGBEIAN.
“ We always manage to enjoy ourselves, and I never get depressed,” wrote a Rugby tradesman’s son, serving at the front with the Honourable Artillery Company, in a letter just received by his parents. This remark followed a description of three days and three nights in the trenches during a drenching rain, and under very trying conditions. “ I am off again to the trenches,” he wrote light-heartedly. “ The strain of war has been too much for a lot of our fellows, but the physique of the H.A.C is recognised as being quite as good as that of any regiment.
“ At, present I am billeted in a barn at a farmhouse. This is the best barn we have been in up to the present ; it is rainproof and not so draughty. You should have seen me in this barn, sitting on an up-turned tub having my hair-cut with a pair of nail scissors by our drummer-boy ! We are like schoolboys when the mail comes in. If General French could see us, he would say, ‘ The morale of the troops is excellent.’
“ I have just returned from three days and three nights in the trenches. Fortunately, there was only one killed out of the Company, but two officers had to be taken away ill, and several men are queer to-day as the result of the trying time we have had.”
The march to the trenches in the early morning through a turnip field, with mud over the shoe-tops and rifle fire in progress, was next described.
“ At one place we had to cross an old trench and I tried to jump it. Instead of clearing it I fell in and sank over my knees in mud and water. I scrambled up the bank and through a hedge, just in time to see our bugler disappear in another trench. I helped him out, and we presently reached our trenches in safety, although the fellow immediately behind me had a bullet through his cap.”
WITHIN FIFTY YARDS OF THE ENEMY.
The mud in the trenches was awful, but, fortunately, the part I was in was drier, being covered over with old doors and straw. We were only fifty yards from the Germans, and you can tell we had to keep a sharp look out. We had half an hour on guard and one hour off. The first day we had plum pudding for dinner and afterwards cigars supplied by the officers and the chocolate father sent. . . . It rained all night, and, in spite of our covering, the rain came through. At about 9.0 o’clock in the morning there was a very furious rifle fire, so we all jumped up and opened fire, thinking the Germans were attacking, and expecting every minute to see them rushing through the fog not 20 yards away. We kept up a terrific fire for a short time and then ceased. We were told afterwards it was an attack. When the fog cleared some of our fellows played the Germans at their own game of sniping and killed four of them.”
Orders came for the Company to spend another 24 hours in the trenches. About 20ft of the trench in which the writer was situated fell in, and he spent most of the third day on his back repairing it. There being no other food supply for the third day, the men had to draw upon their emergency rations-consisting of “ bully ” beef, biscuits, Oxo, etc.
“ We felt it was rather risky drinking the water,” he went on, “ as dozens of dead Frenchmen were lying all about. I fell over one on my way back in the darkness, and it was a gruesome sight. Whilst we were repairing the trench we came across a dead body. I don’t know whether it was a Frenchman or a German—the body was so decomposed. On the third day the Germans fired on our No 4 Section, and the Company drew their fire and apparently created a panic in the German lines. We were glad when the relief came, and it was a tiring march over the fields to the village. One fellow tumbled into a stream, for me to pick him out, and Turner, a ‘ Prudential ‘ man, collapsed. I carried his rifle and helped to get him to the village, where we were given some tea and had a good night’s rest.
“ It was very fatiguing—three days and nights without lying down and without proper sleep. However, I am quite well and happy, but very tired. . . . Chocolate is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. I don’t know what I should have done if I had not had what father sent to me. At present we are pulling crackers. We always manage to enjoy ourselves, and I never get depressed. We don’t mind if the mud is over our boot tops. We thank goodness it to not over our knees ; and if a sniper shoots at us in the trench, we have a competition as to who can be the first to ‘spot’ him. Our officer says we all have wonderful hearts. At present I am cook. I have to get supper ready for two fellows who will be back late, and cook bacon for forty in the morning.” In conclusion the correspondent put in a good word for his officer, whom he describes as “ a Jolly good sport, and as cool as a cucumber under fire, so you need not worry about our losing heart.”