21st Aug 1915. Gas, Boiling Oil & Tar

GAS, BOILING OIL, & TAR.

Rifleman A Pitham, of the Rifle Brigade, writing to his wife in Rugby under date August 2nd says :-

“ I have no doubt you will think something has happened to me. I am very lucky to be alive, as we have lost nearly all our battalion. It was like hell where we were. We got in the trenches at one o’clock in the morning, and at three we had a surprise attack in which the Germans used gas, boiling-oil and tar. They quickly wiped out a company of ours, and then it was every man for himself. They captured a line, of our trenches, and we had orders that we were to re-take them in the afternoon. Before that they tried to rush us again, but we were ready for them this time. They came on us in masses, and we must have killed thousands, as it was impossible to miss, and what with the rifle and artillery fire it was awful. The charge started at three o’clock, but not one man reached the Germans, and out of my platoon, only four got back. I cannot describe it all, as my mind is not settled down yet. We were without food and water for 60 hours, and when we were coming out of the trenches we were shelled again, and lost more men. I fetched three snipers down, and my ” bag” must have been a dozen or two. I will tell you more when I write again, as I feel too [?] to do anything. We are in a camp at present and all of us are suffering from nerves. We were up against the Prussian Guards again for the third time. All of them are over 6ft high, and they are just as good as us for fighting. They never run away. I received your most welcome letter and parcel the day I came out of the trenches, and you bet I enjoyed the contents. I am hoping to see you all soon.”

WITH THE 8th ROYAL WARWICKS.

The subjoined extracts are taken from a letter written by a member of the 8th Battalion R.W.R to Mr W J Torrance, of Warwick Street, Rugby :-

“We first went into the trenches with the 1st Battalion near — ; but we were only there for a short time, and nothing much happened. We then marched to — the only town we have been in since landing here. From there we marched to the trenches opposite — here the Germans are now on the top of a ridge, and we are at the bottom, so we had a large number of casualties from rifle fire, because we could be seen as soon as we left the trenches. We were there eleven weeks, and were working night and day nearly all the while. . . . It was digging, digging, digging. . . . We had no big attack against us, except on the flanks, and these we managed to beat back, and the only Germans who came into our trenches came in as prisoners. One poor fellow (he was brave, no doubt) tried to lead a party of bomb throwers in, but he had at least seven bayonets in him, so he didn’t get very far. When the Hill 60 job came off we were on the right flank of the Hill, and did not take part in the main attack. We were responsible for a feint attack on the right to prevent the Germans bringing their artillery up. . . . When the mines under the Hill were exploded they shook the earth for miles around, and broke windows four and six miles away. After that little lot we moved back to our old trenches. In all we lost 260 men in our first nine weeks, so we considered ourselves very lucky, although even that total sounds, and is, awful enough. The writer mentions that they then proceeded to another part of the front, and continues : “ We were in the trenches four days and four in the reserve. We lost quite a lot of men considering what we had to do : we were just holding the line, in some parts 25 yards from the Germans, and we lost over 30 men in the four days. Once again we marched – General says his men can march anywhere ; and, by Jove ! we have to. . . . It was wet nearly all the time, so you can imagine it was not over-comfortable.”

“ E ” COMPANY IN THE TRENCHES

DEAR SIR,—The following may be of interest to our friends at Rugby who don’t hear too much of the old “ E ” Company in France :—

We started for the trenches last Saturday about 4-30 p.m with full pack, arriving there about 11 p.m, the last hour of which we were up to our knees at times in mud and water. Things went fairly well till Monday afternoon, when a sharp storm made everything very greasy, but at 8.30 we had a thunderstorm—the worst I have ever seen in my life, or wish to see again. It lasted about one and a-half hours, and we were quickly over shoe-top in water and in places up to the knees. The boards over the drain holes in the trench bottom were floating about on the water, and we very often found ourselves in the hole up to our waists. But it was not very cold, and the fun commenced next morning at 3.30 a.m, when we started to bale the water out of the trench. Some of the men, with their trousers rolled up to their knees, with a small bucket and spade, reminded us of the children at the seaside. But those uncivilised people called Germans were also very busy in the same way, and we could see them throwing water over the top of their trench. This lasted till about 6 a.m, by which time we had got all the water out. The men were in the most cheerful spirits, and I don’t think I have ever seen them more so since we landed in France. Then came breakfast—the meal we look for most of all, as it is cooked and brought up to us by another company. As soon as that is finished we get to sleep—all who can—but these are the wettest trenches we have been in for some time. Some trenches are fine places, where you can cook your own food and have it when you like. We saw in the paper some of the old “ E ” Company had a good time at Stoneleigh Park, and we should very much like to have been with them, as some of us have had some jolly times over there. But we are here to do our bit for dear Old England, and hope we shall get back to have more prize shoots yet and keep up the good name we have always held. From

ONE OF THE OLD “ E ” COMPANY,

NOW “ C ” COMPANY.

August 14th, 1915.

RUGBY FORTRESS COMPANY OF ROYAL ENGINEERS.

The Rugby Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, continues to make good progress, and the men are looking forward with eagerness to the time when they will be called upon to play their part in the great world war. Under the able instruction of Compy-Sergt-Major Handley, the men have practically mastered their infantry drill ; and arms having been received from headquarters, they are now receiving instruction in musketry.

A large quantity of tools and stores was recently received from the Ordnance Department, and these, with the spars, castings, &c, lent by local firms, have enabled the Company to make considerable progress in what is, after all in their case, the most important part of their training-engineering work. The field adjoining the Howitzer Battery Drill Hall now presents the appearance of a miniature battlefield, and earth-works of all descriptions have been thrown up. These consist of dug-outs, gun pits, fire trenches with traverses, zig-zag fire trenches (both constructed with the idea of preventing enfilading fire), second line trenches, communication trenches, and saps. The whole work has been very skilfully carried out by the Company, under the supervision of Sergt-Major Blackler and Sergt Jacobs, and that such excellent results have been obtained after so short a training is proof of the excellent material of which the Company is composed. A visit to the ground is quite an education, and anyone who avails himself of the opportunity of looking round the works will gain an insight into the way in which the great war is being waged, such as it would be almost impossible to obtain otherwise than by enlisting and going to see for oneself.

TOBACCO AND CIGARETTES FOR FRIENDS AT THE FRONT.

THE BEST WAY TO SUPPLY THEM.

DEAR SIR,—A committee has recently been formed in Rugby to enable those wishing to send tobacco and cigarettes to our soldiers at the front and (in co-operation with the Prisoner of War Fund) to British prisoners of war in Germany, to do so at a cost much below the retail price, and carriage free.

The scheme, which is similar to that adopted widely elsewhere, is as follows :—Anyone wishing to send a parcel of tobacco, or cigarettes, or both, to a friend at the front, or to a prisoner of war, goes to one of those tobacconists here who have agreed to work the scheme, and gives the order, the name and address of the friend, also her or her own name (if wished) and pays the necessary amount. The information and cash is then forwarded by the receiver of the order to the wholesale firm, and this, firm at once despatches the parcel free and out of bond (thus saving the tobacco duty), the result being that about three times as much can be sent for the same money as if it had been bought in the usual way. I may add that while tobacco and cigarettes appear to be greatly wanted at the Dardanelles and in prisoners of war camps in Germany, our soldiers in France are said to be amply supplied.

In conclusion, I may say that the committee is a representative one, as will be seen from the list of names appended, and it is at their request, and as chairman of the committee that I now write to give the above information to your readers.

Those tobacconists in the town who are kindly falling in with the scheme—or already working it—will exhibit posters in their windows to say so.—I am, Yours faithfully,

A E DONKIN.

Names of Committee :—Miss M Cook, Mrs Kempson, Mrs C Nickalls, and Messrs Aviss, D E Danby, C J Elkington, G H Gauntley, A Hand, J Hand, W H Linnell, J Scrivener, the Rev D E Shorto, H Tarbox, A White, and M E Wratislaw.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Q.M.S Painter, of the Rugby Howitzer Battery, has this week been home for a few days’ leave from the front.

W Patchett, employed by Messrs Frost & Son, has joined the Warwickshire Yeomanry, and left Rugby for the headquarters at Warwick on Tuesday.

Sergt J Somers, of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was billeted in Corbet Street during the time the regiment was at Rugby, has won the V.C. for distinguished conduct at the Dardanelles.

7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment : Lieut H N Smith to be temporary captain, Second-Lieut A G Pirie to be temporary lieutenant, said L B O’Hara to be second-lieutenant.

Amongst Rugby soldiers connected with the B T.H Works who have been home on leave this week were : Farrier Stokes of the Rugby Howitzer Battery, and Sergt Whitehouse, of the Rifle Brigade.

The parents of Rifleman J H Sims, 8th King’s Royal Rifles, have received official intimation that he was killed in action on July 30th. Before enlisting he was apprenticed in the Winding Department at the B.T.H.

Corporal N Edyvean-Walker, who since September last has been serving with the 19th (Service) Royal Fusiliers, has been gazetted to be temporary second-lieutenant in the same regiment to date from 1st July last.

Mr Eric Harraden Glover, son of Mr Frank Glover, of Marton, has been nominated for a commission in the 220th Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, at Rugby, and in command of Caps Kempson, formerly a master of Rugby School. Mr Glover is himself an Old Rugbeian, and has just completed his course of training at Faraday House as an electrical engineer.

Lance-Corpl Howard, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, after having several very narrow escapes, was killed in action on August 6th. He wrote to his mother, who lives in Sun Street, Rugby, on August 5th, telling her about the lucky way in which he had escaped, but on the following day he met his end. He enlisted a week or two after war was declared. Two of his brothers are in the service—one in France and the other under orders to go.

Mr Joseph Hewson, mason, Harrington, Cumberland, would be greatly obliged to any officers or soldiers recently returned from the Dardanelles, or to friends of those still at the front there, who could give him, or Mr A Bird, 11 Claremont Road, Rugby, way information respecting his son, Jonathan Hewson, corporal, 1st Border Regiment, who has been missing since the 9th of May. He is believed to have been engaged in the trenches after disembarking, and the only information to hand is that he is missing.

CAPTAIN COATES UNWELL.

Capt G H D Coates, who at the time he received his commission was manager at Lloyds Bank, Rugby, and president of the Rugby Chamber of Trade, we regret to learn is unwell in a hospital at Cairo. A rumour has been circulated to the effect that Capt Coates has been wounded, but this is not true.

AN UNFOUNDED RUMOUR.

During the past week or two a rumour has been circulated to the effect that Rifleman J Lewis, of the 7th King’s Royal Rifles, whose home is at 72 Oxford Street, Rugby, had been killed. We are glad to be able to state that this is without foundation. Rifleman Lewis is at the base in France, and in a short communication received by his wife this week he states that he is quite well.

WOUNDED RUGBY SOLDIER.

Pte Harold George Skinner, whose father and sister live at 35 Lodge Road, Rugby, has been home this week suffering from a contused back, caused by being buried beneath sand bags, which were dislodged by the explosion of a German mine. He is in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and was one of those who enlisted from the B.T.H Works. He is still far from fit, but was due to return to headquarters on Thursday.

MR H S SALTER’S SON RECEIVES A COMMISSION.

Mr Harry Salter, eldest son of Mr H S Salter, of Lawford Road, Rugby, has been gazetted second-lieutenant in the 3rd Leicestershire Regiment—a reserve force just being formed. On August 10th last year Mr Salter, jun, enlisted in the 4th Leicestershire Regiment, and went to the front in February, and whilst at the war he was made a lance-corporal. He received his commission on August 7th, and proceeded to headquarters at Leicester on Thursday after spending a few days at home.

HOME FROM SOUTH AFRICA.

Mr Harold Loverock, second son of Mr Lewis Loverock, “ Greylands,” Hillmorton Road, has recently returned home from South Africa. He was in the Natal Light Horse, a part of General Botha’s Army, and before the surrender of German South-West Africa fell for a short time into the hands of the enemy. There were about 70 prisoners taken, but after a few hours the Colonial troops commenced to shell the enemy’s position, and the prisoners of war were advised to run for their lives, which they did. The majority escaped unhurt, but unfortunately there were a number of casualties amongst them. Mr Harold Loverock is now endeavouring to secure a commission in some branch of H.M Army.

CASUALTIES AMONGST “ OLD BOYS ” OF ST MATTHEW’S, RUGBY.

The old scholars of St Matthew’s, Boys’ School have suffered badly in recent engagements. Corporal G S Rowbottom, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who, as recorded on page 2 of this issue, succumbed to wounds last week, making the sixth old St Matthew’s boy to give his life in his country’s service. Lce-Corpl A Ashworth, Pte A Blundy, and Pte R J Skinner, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and Sapper E R Ladbrooke, of the Royal Engineers, have been wounded. Pte H Favell, of the Coldstream Guards, is suffering from shock from a huge shell which exploded near him and buried him, but he was, fortunately, rescued by his comrades.

A COINCIDENCE.

Mr F Evans, Abbey Street, Rugby, has received some interesting notes from his son Lance-Corpl S R H Evans, of the 15th Hussars. He mentions as a coincidence that his unit has been billeted in the Old Chateau in which its progenitor was billeted at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. He went out with the first lot, and has been there some time. He was in the retirement from Mons, and had some very narrow escapes. On one occasion a piece of shrapnel lodged in his tobacco-box, and in another affair a bullet passed through his water-bottle. He and others were once chased ten miles by Germans, and had to make a forced march of 25 miles altogether to re-join their unit.

NARROW ESCAPE OF A RUGBY OFFICER.

Details came to hand last week-end of the unfortunate affair at Jhansi, Calcutta, when two fanatical Sowars of the 8th Cavalry ran amok, and killed Major Gale and Lieut Courtenay, of the 8th Cavalry Corps, Capt Cooper, of the 5th West Kent Regiment, and a bombardier. After shooting Major Gale in the back and killing Lieut Courtenay with their swords, the murderers made off towards the officers’ mess, apparently with the intention of killing Col Chaplin, who is a son of Mrs Chaplin, Bilton Road, Rugby. A Sikh galloped off to the mess to warn Col Chaplin, and when the two sowars arrived he was standing in the porch in front of the mess. He called upon the two men to throw down then arms, and while he was remonstrating with them one of them, without warning, raised his rifle and deliberately fired at the Colonel, missing him by a few inches only. Col Chaplin and the Indian officers present were unable to offer armed resistance, as up to that time no one had been able to procure a rifle and ammunition. The murderers then went towards the Artillery lines, where they wounded Capt Hudson, killed a bombardier, and wounded a sergeant ; and finally brought down Capt Cooper with a shot in the back, killing him instantly. By this time Col Chaplin and Capt Kay had procured rifles and ammunition, and simultaneously a number of the men appeared with their rifles and opened fire on the murderers, who were both shot dead. The crime was due to sheer fanaticism.

RECRUITING AT RUGBY.

The following have enlisted at Rugby Drill Hall during the past week :- Royal Warwickshire Regiment, W Dale and A Healey ; Royal Field Artillery, R Rainbow ; Seaforth Highlanders, J McNeil ; Royal Welsh Fusiliers, A S Kirby ; Rugby Fortress Company, J Gabriel.

DR HOSKYN LEAVES RUGBY FOR ACTIVE SERVICE.

On Wednesday morning Dr Hoskyn left Rugby by an early train for Aldershot, prior to taking up duties at the front. He is the divisional surgeon of the St John Ambulance Brigade, and the members assembled in full force on the platform to give him a hearty send off. Dr Hoskyn was quite taken by surprise at this expression of good will, and in a few words to the men he counselled them to keep the work going during the winter, and announced his intention of resuming his duties in connection with the brigade when he returned from the war.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.

A WELCOME PAPER.

DEAR SIR,—I take the greatest of pleasure in writing you these few lines. I have just received your most welcome paper, dated August 3rd. I have it sent out to me regularly every week, and I can assure you it enables us to pass many dull hours away. I think this is all I have to say now. Wishing the old paper the best of luck, I will now have an enjoyable evening reading the latest local news.—I remain, Your most faithful reader,

R L S HEALEY, Pte.,

9th Field Bakery.

(of 5 Abbey Street Rugby).

 

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