16th Oct 1915. A Romance of the Battlefield

A ROMANCE OF THE BATTLEFIELD

WEDDING OF A RUGBY SOLDIER.

The sequel to a romantic meeting of an English soldier with a French lady behind the firing-line in France was provided at Holy Trinity Church on Monday, when Sapper Charles Batty, R.E, son of Mr T B Batty, 82 Grosvenor Road, was married to Mdlle Gabrielle Louise Vermeersch, of Armentieres, Nord, France. The ceremony was performed by the Rev C M Blagden, Rector, in the presence of a large congregation. Miss Violet Batty, sister of the bridegroom was the bridesmaid. A reception was held after the ceremony at the house of the bridegroom, and the Rector and a number, of friends were present.

The meeting between the happy couple was of a somewhat romantic nature. The occupants of a humble dwelling at Erquinghem sur la lys, near d’Armentieres, were aroused at 10 p.m one evening in January last by a knock at the door. The father of the lady of the house immediately went to the door, and seeing a man in uniform, standing there, exclaimed in anguish that their visitor was a German. Pte Batty, the visitor in question, however, assured him that he was an Englishman, and asked for a cup of coffee. He was immediately invited inside, and at the entreaty of the lady of the house gladly accepted an invitation to remain there for the night. During the course of the evening he met the hostess’s sister, Gabrielle, who smilingly informed our representative that his subsequent visits became very frequent. The town where this lady dwelt was bombarded by the Germans on several occasions, and in June last, at Sapper Batty’s request, Mdlle Vermeersch agreed to come to England for safety, and await such time as he should be able to obtain leave to come over to marry her. Arrangements Were made for the wedding to take place seven weeks ago, but Sapper Batty was unable to obtain leave, and the wedding was accordingly postponed. On Thursday in last week, however, he arrived at his home, and the wedding took place by special license on Monday, the bridegroom returning to the front on Wednesday.

Sapper Batty, who possesses a number of interesting trophies, obtained on the field of battle, has been in the army for nine years. He originally enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and spent several years in England. His regiment returned to England in March, 1914, and on the outbreak of war he was drafted to the front, and a short time ago he obtained a transfer to the Royal Engineers’ telegraphic section. He has been in 10 engagements, including the recent offensive.

THE WARWICKSHIRE YEOMANRY AT BURNT HILL.

Corpl Jack Fortnam, of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, who was wounded in the charge at Hill 60, Suvla Bay, and is now in hospital at Netley, writes:-

“ We were all cosy in our little dug-outs, basking in the sun, some writing, some watching our navy barely half-mile away sending shells to the Turks, in exchange for their heavy artillery shells. Everyone seemed greatly amused, and in the best of spirits, taking but little notice of the shells and shrapnel, that occasionally fell amongst our boys. About three o’clock in the afternoon, we had rumours going round that we were going to move. Later on we found the rumour was official. We had our rum issue, and extra rations, ready to fall in at 7 o’clock. It was now getting dark. We moved off along zigzag paths, stumbling over rocks and small bushes, and, making a right-hand wheel around Sulva Bay till we reached Lala Baba, our reserve position, about 2 p.m. Our orders were then to get a little sleep till morning. We were all pleased when morning came. We were nearly perished with cold, but soon got fit again when the sun came out. Making tea was out of the question, so we breakfasted on bully and biscuits, and a limited supply of water. At 2.10 p.m a terrible bombardment began from our battleships, and artillery, which kept up the fire until four o’clock, sending their shells immediately over our heads. The ground fairly shook. Hundreds of shells were sent up to greet the Turks. It must have been absolute death for them in their trenches. No wonder it took the name of “Burnt Hill.” This hill had a fine main fighting position, and caused a great deal of trouble to the V-shape new landing of troops and transport. About four o’clock we had to fall in. We moved off in extended order. On our right were the Gloucester and Worcester Yeomanrys, followed by the Bucks, Berks, and Dorset.

As soon as we come in sight across the open country, on the right of Salt Lake, the enemy opened a deadly shell fire, with shrapnel and explosive shells. One could see nothing but shells bursting around them. We lost many of our boys wounded with shrapnel, and it was quite marvellous to find any alive, as the shells set fire to the small bushes and dry grass where they had fallen, but our stretcher-bearers did fine work there. Onward we pressed, steadily, but firm, as if on parade, taking cover behind Chocolate Hill, where we rested a while and called the roll. Up till now, I had lost half my section of ten—Lce-Corpl Coleman, Lce-Corpl Baulman, Lce-Corpl Wormall, Tpr Luggar, and Tpr Hayward. One shell falling against me knocked over six of the troop, but I was lucky enough in only losing the heel of my boot.

A division of infantry on our right had made a rush for Hill 70, but owing to the enemy’s guns at a short range they had to retire with heavy losses. By this time it was getting dusk. Our division of yeomanry then had orders to move forward, along the northern slope, until we came to advanced trenches. Here we had a check for a few minutes. Then came the order to advance, and every man, alert and eager as one body, charged fearlessly up the hill. Here my officer, Lieut Yorke, was wounded, but on we went straight into the jaws of the enemy’s machine-guns and rifles, losing many boys, but never wavering ; nothing could stop them, finally the top was reached, when the yell wept up that Hill 70 had been taken. This was where I was wounded. It was now quite dark, and I found it a difficult job dragging myself back to a dressing station, only to find that and other stations massed with wounded and lit up by the fires, that burned furiously for miles. I decided to march on, eventually reaching the beach, a distance of four miles, for dressing, at 5 a.m. It was a most awful night, with guns and thousands of rifles keeping up an incessant roar, and groans and cries from the wounded. Since then I find it was advisable for our boys to retire, on account of the enemy’s severe enfilading fire from a northern hill. The country will be proud of the charge by England’s gallant yeomanry.

THE BRITISH ADVANCE.

GRAPHICALLY DESCRIBED BY A RUGBY SOLDIER.

Corpl Herbert Reynolds, of the Rifle Brigade, son of Mr T Reynolds, of Dunchurch Road, Rugby, in a letter to Mr J W Faulkner, captain of the 2nd Rugby Company of the Boys’ Brigade—in which the writer was formerly Colour-Sergeant—gives a realistic account of the recent capture of German trenches by the British. He says :—

“ On Friday night we went into the assembly trenches, 100 yards behind the fire trench, and lay there all the night. It rained hard all night, so it was a bit uncomfortable crawling around in the mud. At about four o’clock the ‘ fun ’ started. We had to keep our heads pretty low to escape the shells. At six o’clock it really began, The earth trembled and shook, and up went a mine and half of the enemy trench ! My word, it did shift some earth ! Immediately the bombardment started. It was hell itself—one continual burst of high explosives and shrapnel. Then we threw out a smoke screen, and the “ Scotties ” and the Indians charged, capturing the trenches easily. Next our turn came to go over. We lined the fire trench and watched our Captain for the order. He jumped up, waved his stick, ‘Come on,’ he said, and as one man we got over the parapet to face a perfect hell of rifle, machine-gun, and shrapnel fire. At the foot of our barbed wire we lay down in extended order and waited for the next advance. Up and on again ! Down again ! The fire is terrible and we must advance by short 15 yards rushes. The German trench is about 300 yards distant. When we get within about 30 yards we crawl, and then finish up with a rush, and into the trench.

“It is in the hands of our troops, but all the time we are subjected to a terrible enfilade fire. We held the trench for about eight hours, but we could not get our bombs across, so had to give ground before their bombing from the flanks. Men were being blown to pieces, and we were powerless. We hung on to the last and then got the order to retire. You cannot possibly imagine what the shell fire was like, but, believe me, when once you’ve seen in it, well, you are not keen to go again for a bit. The return journey was worse than the outward one, and how I came back whole I don’t know. Just outside the enemy’s trench a piece of shell caught me in the back and ripped a hole in my trousers and pants. It knocked me flying, but it only bruised me a bit. We came back all right though, and lined the support trenches. Then it rained in torrents and we got wet through to the skin. When the news came that we were to go out that night, you can bet we were thankful. The communication trench was knee-deep in water, but we did not mind that so long as every sight of that terrible scene of carnage was left behind.”

LETTERS FROM OLD MURRAYIANS.

Mr W T Coles Hodges, F.E.I.S, headmaster of the Murray School, has received the following letters from old scholars :-

Sapper Alf Brett, R.E., writes :-“ I take this opportunity of a lull in the fighting to describe how things are progressing out here. Of late the fighting has been very heavy. The general offensive was commenced with a vengeance. Previous to September 25th the bombardments were numerous, increasing in severity as the days rolled on. Our guns literally raised a sheet of flame over the German trenches. Shells of various calibre were hurled at their trenches, until in places one could hardly discern their front line. At night it was a glorious spectacle, to see shells bursting, throwing out a brilliant white light, mingled with the star lights, the latter being used for observation purposes. The German losses must have been enormous, and how human beings could live through such a hell of fire is a mystery. Luckily the Germans did not retaliate to a great extent on our trenches. They seem to have a great love for shelling towns and villages. Every place in our neighbourhood is absolutely destroyed ; fine buildings and churches charted and in ruins. Only a short time ago was looking over the remains of a church ; statues of our Lord were lying about in pieces, even a lead coffin from a vault had been hurled into the middle of the church. The roof had fallen in, half of the tower was gone, and one wall had collapsed. Until you actually see such things you cannot realize what a state the country is in. But they are getting full reward for this now. Since the offensive started everyone has been very busy. . . . In the five months I have been out here I have seen a good deal of fighting, although not actually fighting myself. My duty as a telegraphist plays a most essential part in any operation, and very often it brings one into great danger. To sit in a dug-out operating with shells bursting all round you, and expecting one at any minute, to knock the roof in is not a pleasant, position. If one could retaliate, a little satisfaction would be gained. . . . . Although it is a rough and ready life with plenty to do, we can find time for a game of footer or cricket, and we have had a number of exciting games of football. Unfortunately, no one cares for Rugger, the general opinion being that it is far too rough. At headquarters we have a comfortable time. Our dwellings consist of a bivouac built up with sandbags, which serves as dining-room, bedroom, and smoke-room. You can bet we make them as comfortable as circumstances permit. Fights in the air are now a daily occurrence. Our airmen never seem happy unless they are endeavouring to bring down a German Taube, although exposed to the fire of anti-aircraft guns. I have had the pleasure of seeing one German ’plane crash to the ground. . . . I wish all the boys would don the khaki quickly and help their comrades to terminate this business, with Germany crushed and crumpled.

Armr-Staff Sergt H Clarke, A.O.C, attached 7th Kings Shropshire L.I, writes :-“ It is nearly six months since I left the Warwicks to transfer to the Ordnance Corps, and my work now is to look after all the rifles, machine guns, range-finders, and anything in the mechanical line belonging to the battalion. It suits me down to the ground. I don’t think you could beat the team that won the shield without having a point scored against them a few years ago for fighting men, and I hope you still have a team of fellows who will turn tut like they have done, and ready to play the game on a different field to the “ Rec.” The weather out here is getting very cold ; we don’t mind the cold at all, it’s the rain that is the trouble. Things are very funny out here if one has a sense of humour. The best part of all is to hear our chaps trying their French on the people out here. The food is extra so far, and looks like keeping so. The men will fight anything and anybody so long as they have good food.”

Rifleman L Griffith, 7th K.R.R Corps, has also written to Mr Hodges, and states that the Rugby boys remaining in the Battalion are quite well. He adds : I am glad to see that the Old Murray Boys have responded well to the call. The Old Boys have not disgraced the school’s name.

FIVE SONS IN THE ARMY.

Mr and Mrs. Charles Robinson, of Catthorpe, have received the King’s congratulations on the patriotic spirit which has prompted their five sons to give their services at the present time to the Army.

  1. Gunner Arthur Robinson, Garrison Artillery.
  2. Driver Alfred Robinson, A.S.C.; in France.
  3. Gunner Owen Robinson, R.F.A.
  4. Trooper Sidney Robinson, Derbyshire Yeomanry; at Dardanelles.
  5. Driver Percy Robinson, A.S.C.; in France.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Temporary Second-Lieutenant W G Muriel has been promoted temporary lieutenant.

Two collective letters from the Market Place Wesleyan Sunday School have been sent to the soldiers in the trenches who were formerly connected with the school.

The War Office has notified that Pte W G Attenburgh, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who previous to enlistment was assistant to Mr Trillo, Station Road, Rugby, was killed in the great advance on September 25th. He was a native of Hinckley, and was 26 years of age, and was much respected by Mr Trillo’s patrons.

LIEUT DUNN MISSING.

Second-Lieut R I Dunn, Royal Engineers, son of Mr W Dunn, of Kings Newnham, has been missing since September 25th. He was last seen in the front trench, in company of two officers of the Cameron Regiment.

OLD ST MATTHEW’S BOY WOUNDED.

The Old Boys of St Matthew’s School serving with the Colours are reported to have been wounded : Corpl Frank Jarvis, of the 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and Pte Arthur Coles, of the Sherwood Foresters.

Capt and Adjutant A H A Vann, 12th Yorkshires, the Cambridge University hockey player, who recently received the D.S.O, is officially reported to be suffering from gas poisoning and missing. Before the war, Captain Vann was engaged as an assistant master at Mr C G Mallam’s School, at Dunchurch. At that time he played fairly regularly for the Rugby Hockey Club, and also assisted Warwickshire on several occasions. He was also quite a good cricketer.

LATE BOOKING CLERK RECEIVES A COMMISSION.

Corporal Leo Tompkins, of the Northamptonshire Regiment, who was formerly a booking clerk at the L & N.-W. Railway Station at Rugby, has just received a commission as second lieutenant in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Whilst with the Northamptons, he saw a good deal of service in the Ypres district last winter, and was wounded in four places, but is now convalescent.

MR C MARRIOTT LOSES ANOTHER SON.

Mr Charles Marriott, J.P, of Cotesbach Hall, has received information that his son, Second Lieut Digby Marriott, was killed in action recently in France. The sad news was brought by Pte Phillips, who came home on leave on Wednesday. This is the second son Mr Marriott has lost in the war within a few months.

A CLIFTON PATROL LEADER KILLED.

News reached Mr J Lintern, of Clifton, from the War Office, on Wednesday last of the death of his son, Bugler Wilfred Lintern, of the 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade, who fell in action on September 25th, at the great advance. Deceased was employed before he enlisted as a turner at the B.T.H Works, and was a Patrol-Leader of the Clifton Court Scouts.

A STRANGE MISTAKE.

Mr and Mrs E Sleath, of Manor Farm Cottages, Clifton, on Tuesday received official intimation from the Record Office that their son, Rifleman Richard William Sleath, was killed in action on September 25th. This is evidently a mistake, because since that date Mrs Sleath has heard three times from her son, the last letter being written on October 10th ; but the family have been rendered very anxious, inasmuch as another son. Rifleman Fredk Walter Sleath, of the same battalion, has not been heard of since the advance ; although his brother, who is reported killed, has written to say that he has heard that he was wounded in the leg during the charge, would be sent to England. In view of the fact that nothing more has been heard, the family have been forced to the conclusion that there is simply a mistake in the name and number, and that it is Frederick who has been killed. The two brothers enlisted in the 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade, on September 7th, 1914, with Rifleman Lintern, whose death we record this week.

[note: CWGC records the death of Frederick Walter Sleath on 25th Sep 1915]

Lance-Cpl Arthur H Hunt, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, whose parents live at 172 Cambridge Street, Rugby, was wounded in the thigh and knee during the great charge at Loos. He is now in hospital at Lincoln, going on satisfactorily. Lance-Corpl Hunt, before enlistment, was employed at the B T H, and was a playing member of the Park Albion Football Club.

LONG LAWFORD.

WOUNDED IN ACTION.—The following men from this village are reported to be wounded :— Pte G Loydall, E Cox, and G Adams.

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