4th Sep 1915. With General Botha in German West Africa

WITH GENERAL BOTHA IN GERMAN WEST AFRICA.

EXPERIENCES OF A RUGBY RECRUIT.

Petty Officer E R Gilling, of the Armoured Car Division of the Royal Naval Air Service, has just been on a visit to his home in Dunchurch Road, Rugby, after trying experiences with General Botha’s victorious force in German West Africa. Previous to enlisting, Petty-Officer Gilling drove Dr Hoskyn’s motor-car, but he found travelling across the veldt in West Africa very different from motoring on roads in the vicinity of Rugby. In fact, it was very difficult indeed to take a heavy armoured car across tracks without a firm foundation, and the constant trouble was the sinking of the wheels into the loose and arid sand.

Several armoured cars assisted General Botha in his task of “ rounding up ” the enemy, which he eventually did so cleverly and with such gratifying results. One of the biggest fights in the campaign was at Trekkopjie, where the Germans made a stand, but soon gave way before the shrapnel poured into their ranks from machine guns mounted on the armoured cars. Petty-Officer Gilling took part in this engagement. Many of the Germans made good their escape from this place, where they had been brought to bay, by using the railway ; but when General Botha had matured his plans and made his final coup, the disposition of his forces was such that the enemy were completely surrounded and surrended in preference to putting up a useless fight.

Petty-Officer Gilling says one of the greatest problems that had to be solved by General Botha and his staff was how to supply his troops with water. In retreating the Germans had poisoned what few wells existed, so that the water had to be conveyed long distances. “ We went a week at the finish on a biscuit and a pint of water a day,” he said, “ so we had to go through it out there.”

Small parties went out en route in search of the precious liquid, and in a country dotted over with kopjies, very similar in appearance, this was not without its risks, as one party who lost their way discovered. Three days later they were found in an exhausted condition, and quite unable to stand after their very unenviable experience.

German prisoners mistook the armoured cars for water carts, and, signifying that they were thirsty, pointed towards the cars in the hopes of getting their needs supplied from that direction.

The newly-acquired territory, Petty-Officer Gilling says, is rich in diamonds and minerals, but the country is so barren that it is difficult to induce people to live at any distance from the towns.

“ IN LIGHTER VEIN.”

RUGBY PRINTER’S EXPERIENCE.

The indomitable spirit which animates our troops, and enables them to see the humorous side of even such a terrible thing as the war, is illustrated by the following letter, written on August 14th, by Lce-Corpl D Esplin, 8th Seaforth Highlanders, a former employee of Messrs Frost & Sons :—

“ Since being out here we have been in action twice without any casualties. The last place we were in was a bit lively I can tell you, still we case-hardened our skins and went about the business with the determination of ‘ get out—or get under.’

“ Our ‘friends’ across the way are constantly shelling us, and I reckon I am an expert now on high explosives, their uses—and abuses. Besides these ‘ errands of mercy,’ as we have nicknamed them, a few extra spices to our pudding are the snipers, who are at large in the empty houses and disused pits. The village or small town where we are is devoid of civilians entirely, so that snipers find plenty of scope for changing their lodgings, without paying the rent, so to speak. When we send search parties to locate them the birds have flown. Still one had his wings clipped and now he is in a warmer climate. Another fellow was caught cutting telephone wires, and as we are so kindly disposed and full of pity and sympathy we sent him to catch the other chap up. Up to the present nothing has come through to confirm whether they have joined each other or not, but we are holding the line and expect to be rung up any minute.

“ Yet another spice to our pie was the explosion of a couple of shells into our ‘ cookers ’ in a railway cutting at the bottom of the road. One fell into our orderly room, and blew the roof half off, whilst one piece went through the bed end of the floor and another went clean-through the middle of the table at which were seated the C.O, Adjutant and Major, while the clerical staff occupied the other room. Another shell exploded in the machine-gun parties’ billet, boring two holes in one canteen and breaking another. The only fault was, it needlessly delayed a fellow who, at the time of the entry of the uninvited guest, was having his hair cut.”

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Mr A J Dukes, son of Mr A J Dukes, Sheep Street, Rugby, has been gazetted as second-lieutenant in the 3/6th Battalion the Welsh Regiment (T.F), to date from July 29th, and will shortly be leaving to take up his duties at Swansea.

Trooper M Molsher, of the Household Cavalry Brigade, son of Mr H Molsher, the steward of the Rugby Conservative Club, has recently proceeded to the front, and in a letter to his old schoolmaster, says :—“ We are billeted in a village ‘ somewhere in France,’ about twenty miles behind the firing-line, and have not been into action yet. Life here is all right, very healthy and plenty of good food. It seemed strange indeed, when we first arrived here, much different from English life. The little bit of French we learnt in school comes in useful out here.

Arnold Hands, elder son of Mr F E Hands, Sheep Street, Rugby, has been gazetted second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. For six months (from September to March last) he was serving with the Honourable Artillery Company in France, but was invalided home, and has since spent 26 weeks in hospital. He is fit and well again now, and will leave Rugby for the headquarters of the regiment on Monday next.

On Monday Messrs A Frost & Sons, printers, Warwick Street, issued the fourth number of their war brochure, “ With the Colours,” dealing with matters of interest affecting the men in their employ who have joined the ranks. The number is of exceptional interest, and contains several cleverly conceived and well-executed cartoons, letters from the front, and memoirs of Sergt Roberts and Rifleman Redfearn, who have fallen since the journal was last issued. A useful feature is the list of employees serving, with their present address, date of enlistment, etc.

Corpl C H Wood, 1st R.W.R, who before enlisting was employed as a printer by Messrs Frost & Sons, was recently selected by his captain to assist in some difficult reconnoitring work. He was fortunate enough to discover an enemy sap near to an old French trench that ran into our trenches. It was a very important discovery, and for his good work Wood was promoted to corporal and also recommended in the captain’s report. If the enemy sap had not been discovered in time the Germans could easily have taken our front line trench near its junction with the old French trench. Wood, unfortunately, was wounded with shrapnel next day.

Of the 28 employees of Messrs Frost & Sons who have enlisted, three have been promoted to the rank of sergeant, two corporals, and four lance-corporals. Rifleman S Price was wounded in both legs on August 1st, An explosive bullet entered his left thigh and exploded inside, part of the bullet going through and entering his right leg. The main nerve in the left log was severed, but he was operated on in Le Treport hospital and the nerve joined up again. He hasn’t got any use in the left leg yet, but the doctor says it will come all right. It will, however, be a long time before he is able to walk. The right leg is doing well and will soon be healed up. Rifleman Price was wounded while his battalion was being relieved, at night, after going through some very severe fighting without a scratch, and speaking of this fighting he says, “ We went through the mill. The Germans used liquid fire against us, and lots of our poor chaps were burnt up. It cost the Germans some lives as well as us. I got through the attack all right, but was shot while we were being relieved.”

HILLMORTON SOLDIER REPORTED MISSING.

Rifleman W Wadsworth, of the K.R.R, whose home is at Hillmorton, was recently reported killed in action “ somewhere in France,” on July 30th. On Wednesday, however, his wife received information from the Record Office, Winchester, to the effect that he has been posted as missing. Previous to being called up he had served four years with the 2nd Royal Warwicks and six on the reserve, making ten years in all.

 

RUGBY SWIMMER AT THE FRONT.

Pte Osmond Wootton, 2nd Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, a member of the Rugby Swimming and Life Saving Society, in a letter to his parents refers to some aquatic sports which took place in the canal near La Basse, in which he participated. He says :—“ We had just done 16 days in the trenches, and our brigade went back for an eight-day rest, and while at rest our Commanding Officer got the best men to swim. We had our battalion sports first, and the winners had to swim in the Brigade sports on the following day. I went in the 60 yards race, and came in first in my heat, second in the semi-final, and third in the final, so I had five francs for third prize. Being third, I had to enter for the Brigade sports. Instead of the 60 yards we had a relay race. We were third, but did not get a prize. Our battalion also won the plunge.” The writer goes on to say that on the Thursday they were attacked by the German bombers, and suffered a number of casualties. He adds : ” We had to hold a mine crater at all costs. It was a sight to see the German dead in front of the crater in the morning They had double the casualties that we had. Our platoon was congratulated by the C.O for holding the position.”

GOOD WORK BY RUGBY ENGINEERS.

Sapper C Walton, R.E (son of Mr E Walton, 81 Claremont Road, Rugby), who, as we reported recently, had a narrow, escape from death at the front, his life being saved by a wallet and pocket-book which he was carrying diverting a bullet, is visiting his home on short sick leave. Sapper Walton states that after visiting Armentieres, Houplines, Chaucey La Tour, D’Anzers, Burbre, and La Touquet, his company was sent on to Festubert. They were taken to the fire trenches, which were here 70 yards distant from the Germans, and ordered to remain there until it was dark enough to erect barbed wire between the British and German lines. Shortly after eight o’clock the party, which, in addition to Sapper Walton, included the following other Rugby men : Sappers A and L Snook, F Wormleighton (since killed), and Higgins (“ Bluestone ”), climbed over the parapet and commenced to erect the wire 35 yards in front of the British line. The early operations were carried out to the accompaniment of German snipers’ fire, and after a few minutes the Company sustained their first casualty (wounded), and twenty minutes afterwards Sapper A Snook and another man were wounded. When the party erected the post to which the wire was to be attached they were greeted with a withering German fire, all manner of weapons being used, and after this had been kept up for about twenty minutes, they were ordered back to their trenches to stand by till the firing ceased. When about three yards from their trench, Sapper Walton was struck by a ricochetting bullet in the left breast just above the heart. He had to remain near the parapet of the trench for some time, and was afterwards taken in. Here, however, his ills had not ceased, for while his wound was being dressed a fall of earth occurred in the trench and he was buried up to his hips, sustaining further injuries, from which he has not yet recovered, Sapper L Snook and Sapper Higgins were complimented by the officer for the excellent work they accomplished on this occasion.

NO MAN NEED APPLY EXCEPT FOR A UNIFORM.

A local member of a company of Royal Engineers, which includes a number of Rugby men, writes from “ somewhere in France ” :-

“ I have had over six weeks of it now and do not mind the life at all, but, all the same, give me “ Merrie England.” One only wants to come to France to know that we are at war, and France as well. Every place we come to is awfully dirty, but you can account for that when you see the women doing all the work in the fields. They load up the wagons with corn, take them back and make the ricks. One would think the motto out here is : “ No men need apply, except for a uniform,” because since I have landed I have not seen a fellow who looked fit outside a uniform. I am a night bird now, as most of our work has to be done at night, so we parade at 7.30 p.m, and usually return at 2 a.m, have breakfast, and go to sleep. We are billeted in some farm buildings, and the people here go about as usual. There is a little establishment about 30 yards away where a shell has gone through the roof, but we still get a drink underneath, and there are people living in houses half blown away. We get a few shells this way. One day last week we sat and watched them burst after passing over our heads. The writer adds that so far none of the Rugby men in the Company have been injured, and says : We get some German aeroplanes over, but we have got plenty of anti-aircraft guns in the neighbourhood, so they get a warm reception. My word ! Our guns are giving them beans to-day. I get the Rugby Advertiser every week, and it does for several of us.”

CHEERING GOOD NEWS IN THE TRENCHES.

Bugler Bert Wilkins, of the Rifle Brigade, who was employed at the B.T.H Works, and enlisted from Rugby, in a letter to a friend, written on August 24th, says :—

“ I am again in the trenches and at present quite well. Last night we received the news of German warships being sunk, and some of our Brigade, to celebrate it, printed it on a flag and stuck it above the trenches for the Germans to see ; and we cheered for all we were worth. But the Germans didn’t. No ! They set a machine-gun on it. But it still remains.”

WOUNDED AT THE DARDANELLES.

Pte Harry Dunkley, of the 9th Warwicks, son of Mr and Mrs T Dunkley, of 44 Abbey Street, Rugby, has been wounded at the Dardanelles. He went out with the 13th Division, that relieved for a time the famous 29th Division in the trenches at Gallipoli. In a recent letter home he states he was wounded on the morning of August 10th, but not seriously, a bullet penetrating his left arm. The bullet, he says, went up his arm for about eight inches, before it came out, “ I expect it will be a month or a six weeks’ job,” he adds, and proceeds : “ The fighting was terrible then. We were with the Australians at a new landing ; at the time I was hit the Turks were pushing us off a hill.”

Allusion is made in the letter to Joe Turner, whose home is in Kimberley Road, and who, we understand, had to be left behind at Alexandria, overcome by the heat. Joe was then “ as thin as a rake ” and “ not fit to walk.”

For five days and nights Pte Dunkley and those with him got no sleep. “ We were continually moving and fighting in different places. All that we had was biscuit and water, and no prospects of anything else.

As a boy, Harry Dunkley attended Murray School. Subsequently he obtained employment at the B.T.H Works and enlisted during Bank Holiday week last year. He achieved some local notoriety as a boxer, and won two cups in competitions. His friends in Rugby will wish him a quick recovery from the effects of his wound.

RUGBY SOLDIER DISABLED.

Mr T Dunkley, of Abbey Street, received a further letter yesterday (Friday) morning from his son Harry, who, as reported in another column, has been wounded at the front. Pte Dunkley now states that the injury to his arm was more serious than he at first thought. He has undergone an operation, and will never get the proper use of the arm again, so that he will not be able to do any more fighting. He asks his parents not to take it too much to heart, and says he expects to be returning home in the course of a few weeks.

NEWTON SOLDIER KILLED IN ACTION.

News has been received at Newton that Pte A Justice, of the 5th Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, has been killed in action, the sad news being conveyed to the parents in a letter from the Captain of his Company, who says:—” He was killed instantly by a shell at the beginning of the fighting at Hooge, and did not suffer at all. Being a man of a recent draft, I did not know Pte Justice very well ; but I am sure he would have proved a gallant soldier of his King and country, as he was starting in the right direction.” Pte Justice, who was 19 years of age, joined the Army early in September, 1914, and was sent to France on the 6th of June.

Captain Lionel G 0 Townsend, South Staffordshire Regiment, 7th Battalion (killed in action), was the only son of Mr Oliver C Townsend and Mrs Townsend, Lawnside, Hagley, Worcestershire, who formerly carried on the manufacture of fireproof slabs at New Bilton, Rugby. He was a fully trained electrical engineer, and not very long ago was in charge of one of the Corporation stations at Dundee. When the war broke out he was given a commission in the 7th South Staffordshire Regiment, and by the time his regiment came to embark as a part of the British Mediterranean Force he had attained promotion to the rank of captain.

RESCUED FROM THE “ ROYAL EDWARD.”

RUGBY MAN A SURVIVOR.

Good news has been received by Mrs Rowse, of 8 Stephen Street, Rugby, respecting the fate of her husband, Pte Ernest Frank Rowse, of the Army Service Corps, who was on board the Royal Edward. In a letter from him, received on Friday last week, came the inteligence that he was “ right and safe.” “ I shall have something to tell you when I come back,” he continues, and, after referring to the scarcity of tobacco and other personal matters, he remarks bravely : “ We have started this job, and we will see it through.”

An official intimation that Pte Rowse is one of the survivors was received by Mrs Rowse on Saturday morning.

RECRUITING BETTER AT RUGBY.

Recruiting has shown a considerable improvement at Rugby during the past week, fourteen men having been accepted. Their names are :— A Fortnum, W E E Healey, W Horn, B Barnes, A Morris, and T Rogers, R.F.A ; J E Ogburn, P Humphreys, J Baker, and H Newton, R.W.R ; W Jeffery, R.G.A ; F W Ward, Austin Wilcox, and A Heydon, 220th Fortress Company, R.E.

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