1st May 1915. News from the Trenches

RECREATIONS BEHIND THE FIRING LINE.

Letters from members at the 7th Warwickshire Territorial Battalion continue to arrive. One of them says : “ We are having a good time out here, plenty of work, and also a lot of time for amusements. After our last four days in the trenches we arranged a couple of football matches, one between C Company and the Howitzer Battery, which ended in a draw 3—3. The second game between Coventry and Rugby men of C Company ended in Coventry’s favour. Near our billet is a large pond and it is interesting to see out fellows, indifferent to the German shells, fishing for carp. The country-side looks very beautiful in spite of the ruined homesteads, and farmers carry on as usual. We are now back in the trenches and yesterday the Germans shelled a village 200 yards from us, paying special attention to the church, which is practically in ruins. Our gunners soon silenced them, and we have had a quiet day to-day.

A private writes to his wife :—“ We are all happy and enjoying ourselves. I would like you to see us in our little dug-out, we are like gypsies. We do enjoy our meals, though bullets and shells are flying over our heads all the time. We are getting so used to them that we do not take the least bit of notice. The most dangerous work we have to undertake is going to and from the trenches, for no matter how quiet you are the Germans spot you, up goes one of their star shells, and a Maxim gun is trained on you immediately. Then it is a case of laying low till they have finished.

A corporal writes “ I should like some of our friends to have seen us when we were going to the trenches, as we were like the donkeys in Spain, loaded with provisions, and we are looking well now, as we haven’t had a wash or shave for some days, and are feeling a bit ‘grimy.’ We can’t help it, as we can’t get water for washing, but I suppose we have got to put up with it far a while.”

FOOTBALL BEHIND THE TRENCHES.

A Rugby Sergeant tells us that on April 19th an exciting football match took place between teams picked from Rugby men (of the late E Company, now C Company) and Coventry men. After a well-contested game, the Rugby men came out winners 2—0. When it is known that the losers had such well-known players as “ Chummy ” Lombard, “ To and From ” Read, “ Cast Iron ” Loake, etc, etc, it will be seen what a good performance was put up by the winners. “ Bleb ” Hill scored the first goal after fifteen minutes’ play. Then “ Knobby ” Clarke scored just before the interval, but was ruled off-side by the referee. Immediately before the call of time Baker scored. Iliff (the Dunchurch pet) was in the thick of the fray all through the match.

 

Pte L Stewart, of the Advertiser staff, who is with the 7th Warwickshire Territorial Battalion at the front, writes under date of April 26th :—We are situated the same as when last I wrote. The 7th have had another spell in the trenches, without any casualty whatever. They came out of the trenches Saturday night, but Sunday morning found them in the best of health and spirits, and seemingly none the worse for their experiences. They had several narrow shaves from shells—in fact, they had marvellous luck-but a miss is as good as a mile. The weather is really grand, we live practically an open-air life, and early to bed, early to rise, is our motto. I shall be opening the office at six in the morning when I get back, unless a bed makes me revert to the old habits. Time slips by here—every day seems alike ; but I never forget what Friday (publishing day) is with you—all so busy as of old. Sergt Dodson is attached to the Army Ordnance Store just across the road. He was soon over here to get a squint at the old “ R A.” Another private writes:—I will give you a few details of what we have to do. First of all we get here at night and relieve the other regiment who have done their four days. Night sentries are posted and their duties are to warn for any approach of the enemy, who is not very far in front of us. They do two hours on and four off, but that four off is not for rest by any means for we all have to work hard during the night, re-building shelled trenches and improving same. Then there is a party to go and fetch water, about 10 or 12 of us. This has to be fetched from a dilapidated farmhouse about 1 ½ miles away, and we are walking on open the whole of the way, so you see this is a very risky job. We are up all the night and have to stand to at 3.30 a.m for an hour in case of attack, which I am thankful to say has not yet happened. We always have bacon for breakfast and plenty of tea ; we bring a little fresh meat and bread with us. The four days we had out of the trenches were a bit rough, for although we had a little rest in the day time, we were out every night from about 7.30 to 3 a.m making and repairing trenches right in front of the German lines, which is a very much more dangerous position than in our own trenches, for we are not under any cover and the bullets whiz past our ears. Oh ! for a bed. When we go out on Saturday we get billeted in a little better place, for we then have eight days’ rest which will be very acceptable. The Germans are firing at us all day long, and my word they can shoot ; we hardly dare show our caps above the trench else all is over, but I think we have them beaten as regards artillery fire, for we keep shelling their guns and position on and off all day. It is rather a nerve shaking job this night sentry, for one is responsible for the safety of all the regiment and you cannot see many yards in front of you, so before you could say knife the enemy would have cut the wire entanglements and be on you if you did not keep up a good look out.

NEWS OF THE RUGBY HOWITZERS.

Mr C J Packwood, of St Matthew Street, Rugby, has recently received a letter from his son, Driver C W Packwood, of the Rugby Howitzer Battery, now in France. He describes the place at which the battery is stationed as “ very slow.” The men living in the vicinity appear to be indolent, the women and dogs doing the bulk of the work. Driver Packwood states that the members of the battery are in excellent health, and they are always thankful to receive letters and parcels from friends at home.

In a letter dated April 25th, which arrived on Thursday, Driver Packwood says:—“ At the present time I am on observation duty. There is an officer and three men, myself included. We are right up in the front trenches with the Infantry, We watch the effects of our shells and report on same, being connected with the Battery by field telephone. The German trenches are only 200 yards away. We can see them in the trenches quite plainly. We have got quite familiar with their snipers. One we call Fritz, another Ginger, and another Peter. Fritz shot one of the infantry clean through the head last night. He is a crack shot. The scenes round here are really wonderful, and are a sight worth seeing. There is not a house standing-they all are absolutely blown to bits. Yesterday I went for about two miles along the first line infantry trenches, and observed the German trenches through a periscope. This letter I am sending by the man who brings our rations. He is just coming, so I must close now.

 

THE KING AND THE WARWICKSHIRE YEOMANRY.

The Warwickshire Yeomanry, which left Avonmouth for foreign service three weeks ago, before they left received the following telegram from the King :—

“ I am glad to hear that the 2nd Midland Division is about to leave for the front, and much regret not to have been able to inspect the troops. I feel confident, after these months of training at home, the division, wherever employed, will give a good account of itself. Please assure all ranks that they will constantly be in my thoughts and prayers, and convey to them my best wishes for success.”

The horses belonging to the regiment, which were on board the Wayfarer when it was torpedoed, have now been taken over by the authorities and distributed, so it is understood, among other regiments. The Warwickshire Yeomanry have thus been deprived of mounts to which they had become very closely attached, and the loss will be keenly felt by the men. The men from the Wayfarer who were fortunate to escape will join their regiment at the earliest possible moment.

About 160 men were detailed off for duty on the Wayfarer, and had charge of about 1,000 horses and mules. On leaving port the officers were informed of the presence of two enemy submarines, and were warned to keep a close watch. They failed to escape the danger.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

The 1st Warwickshire Yeomanry Reserve Regiment left Warwick on Monday for Cirencester Park

It has transpired that in all five men from Warwickshire were killed by the explosion on the Wayfarer. Three horses were drowned.

Harold M Over, son of Mr Samuel Over, and grandson of the late Major S Over, has been gazetted second-lieutenant in the 20th Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, He has been Musketry Instructor to D Company of this Battalion, in which position he has shown exceptional ability.

Pte W Gardner, 3rd Coldstream Guards, an ex-police-constable from this neighbourhood, writes he is now in England wounded, lying at Longshawe Lodge, Derbyshire (lent by the Duke of Rutland for British). He was wounded in the head, back, and right knee at the Battle of Le Bassee, where the Coldstreams and the Irish Guards made their famous charge. He was in hospital in France for a time, and then was sent to hospital in Sheffield, and from thence to the convalescent home.

Driver Johnson, of the Army Transport Section, who was wounded at Ypres on December 18th, and is still in hospital, spent last week-end at his home, 20 West Leyes, Rugby. Driver Johnson was wounded in the right hand, but his horse laid on him for 24 hours before he was found, and as a result of this he has lost all power in his left aide. Although the medical authorities are sanguine that he will in time regain the use of his injured limbs, they all agree that a considerable time will elapse before he does so—probably 12 months. Driver Johnson, who was one of the earliest to enlist from Rugby, was before the war employed by Messrs Willans & Robinson as a driller.

THE RUGBY FORTRESS COMPANY OF ROYAL ENGINEERS.

PARTICULARS ABOUT THE NEW UNIT.

The decision of the Urban District Council to raise a Rugby Fortress Company of the Royal Engineers, as reported in our last issue, has met with general approval in the town, and the hope it expressed on all hands that the number of men necessary to complete the unit will be speedily obtained, so that the name of Rugby may be associated with another company at the front. In addition to commissioned officers and sergeants, only 94 men are required for the company, vis: Corporal (mounted), 1 ; lance-corporal (mounted), 1 ; shoeing and carriage smith, 1 ; drivers (including batmen), 15 ; blacksmiths, 9 ; bricklayers, 12 ; plasterer, 1 ; slater, 1 ; carpenters (including joiners), 20 ; clerks, 2 ; draughtsman (architectural), 1 ; electricians (field), 2 ; engine drivers (field), 3 ; fitters and turners, 4 ; harness maker, 1 ; masons, 7 ; platelayers, 2 ; plumbers (including gas fitters), 3 ; surveyor, 1 ; wheelwrights, 2 ; miscellaneous, 5.

The company must be raised on a regular basis, and the enlistment must be for three years or the duration of the war, and must be carried out at a regular recruiting office. The age for enlistment is between 19 and 38 years.

The pay of all ranks will be at the some rate as that prescribed for the Royal Engineers ; and the company, when raised, will have to be clothed, housed (by the hire of buildings or billeting only), and fed at rates approved by and to be paid for by the War Office. It is stated that the company will remain at Rugby during the initial training ; and that men, if they so desire, may be billeted in their homes. In this connection the War Office point out that unmarried soldiers necessarily living at their own homes, and not messed by their units, will draw a consolidated allowance of 2s per day. If living at home and messed by their units, they will draw a lodging allowance of 9d per day.

The expense of raising the company will for the most part, it is hoped, be provided in the town. The War Office points out that money expended by municipalities, communities, and individuals authorised to raise local units on advertisements, posters, concerts, bands, and similar items in connection with recruiting has in many cases been found by local funds, but that where this is not the case the Army Council are prepared to refund expenditure actually incurred in this direction up to a maximum of 2s for each recruit raised. In addition to these expenses, there will, doubtless, be other items which will have to be met by a local fund ; but, according to Mr J J McKinnell, to whom belongs the honour of initiating the idea of raising a local company, the total sum required should not exceed £50. Rugby has responded so liberally to all patriotic appeals during the last few months that we are sure that the promoters of the company will not find their activities crippled through lack of funds.

The Army Council will allow the sum of £8 15s for the equipment of each dismounted man, and £9 15s for each mounted man, but these sums are believed to be rather below the actual cost of equipment, and any balance will thus have to he made up out of local funds. It is hoped to commence recruiting at the Park Road Drill Hall on Monday next.

RECRUITING AT RUGBY.

The following have been attested at the Park Road Drill Hall during the past week —Royal Warwickshire Regiment, T Morriss ; A.S.C, H J Merrick ; R.E, J W foster and G Clarke ; Bedfords, H Seaton, H Pegg, P Cleaver, and A W Leeson ; Reserve Signal Co, R.E, A J Brasher ; Rugby Fortress Co, R.E, T H Hands, J Wise, and E G Smith.

RUGBY POST OFFICE STAFF AND THE WAR.

Quite a number of the men from the Rugby Post Office staff have joined the colours, and those remaining are working at high pressure. Amongst those who have recently enlisted in the Royal Engineers, where their duties will consist mainly of telegraph work, are : Messrs J T Healey, A Miller, R J Sheldon, A E Goldfinch, and A J Brasher. The latter left Rugby on Monday, and another member of the staff (Mr G D Tennant) expects to take his departure next week. To cope with the situation, a number of postmen are now doing indoor work, and other vacancies are being filled by women and girls, female labour being almost entirely used in the instrument-room.

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