4th Dec 1915. Interesting Letter from an Old Murrayian

INTERESTING LETTER FROM AN OLD MURRAYIAN.

AN INSPIRING PICTURE FOR SLACKERS.

The following letter has been received by a young lady in Rugby, whose brother, an Old Murrayian, is at the front :—

“ I am in a dug-out about 15 feet under the ground, and the only illumination available is a novel one. It is a piece of rag dipped in vaseline ; but tomorrow our fresh supply of candles arrive, so I shall look forward to a ‘ bright ‘ future. I will try and describe to you what my vision of the scenery is like. To do that I shall have to gain a point of prominence ; but there are plenty of them here—namely, brickstacks—as at present my home is in the trenches which are situated in the brickfields. This district has figured in General French’s despatches a good many times, and has been the scene of some severe fighting. Evidence of this is still scattered around. It is noted for being a hot quarter, and it lives up to its name. The first thing you notice is the maze of trenches as far as the eye can reach. Some of them were demolished, and others intact, having stood the brunt of it all. The intervening ground between the firing lines, called “ No Man’s Land,” is completely ploughed up by the enormous number of shells that have burst there. One would think it impossible to get through the barbed wire entanglements. Certainly now they are intact, but you should see them after the high explosive shells have played their part and blown them to bits, and the case is altered. The chasm that one can just discern is a blown-up mine crater, and whichever side holds these craters, makes strong efforts to retain them. This is where bomb throwers shine, as parties are organised at night to try and capture them. It is very dangerous work, as there is generally a maxim gun in the crater. In the distance one can see ruined chateaux and buildings, which have tasted the power of a “ Jack Johnson,” also the coal mines (called ‘ Fosses ‘ here), which mark the vicinity of some desperate fighting. These brickstacks are the delight of the sniper, as concealment is so easy, and such a commanding view can be obtained of the surrounding country. Eleven are in our possession, and two are in the hands of the Huns, so we have a great advantage over them. The stacks, being so conspicuous, get their full share of shells, and one is very lucky if, when looking from them, he does not get a greeting of shrapnel. This is the place where Mick O’Leary won his V.C, when the Guards captured the trenches from the Huns. There are plenty of graves which contain dead Germans ; also broken rifles and equipment which once belonged to them lying about. It gets very cold at night, but we have plenty of clothes. We had a bit of sun this morning. It was the signal for the aeroplanes to make their appearance, and what a reception they had from the anti-aircraft guns. We have had a good bombardment, and I think the Huns sent over everything that Krupps manufacture. . . .“ As we pass down the road to —-, we pass several graveyards, with hundreds of wooden crosses. What an inspiring picture to place before the slackers at home. One lives and learns, and I would not exchange positions with anyone in England at the present moment. With all the hardships, everything is so jolly, and when the war is over I hope to be able to take you all for a nice trip round here and act as your guide, because I pride myself upon knowing a little bit of France now from Ypres to Arras.”

In another letter to his old schoolmaster, Mr W T Coles Hodges, F.E.I.S, the same writer, after describing the scenery near where he is stationed, says:—

“ The intervening ground between the firing trenches, called ‘ No Man’s Land,’ is dotted with dead bodies, and here friend and foe lie side by side. The rain makes everything so miserable and muddy, and it is a picture to see the men come out of the trenches, covered with mud, and knowing what it is to be strangers to a wash for a couple of days ; but still one can always bet upon having an accompaniment on the mouth organ to march with.” The writer describes the cemeteries on the La Basse-Bethune Road, and says: “ Each contains many trim little crosses, and in some cases evergreens and flowers have been planted among the graves by comrades who cherish the memory of a chum so much. Large crosses are generally erected when a considerable body of men belonging to the regiment get killed. For instance, there is one here which has the following inscription : ‘ To a platoon of Guards,’and as a platoon is from 50 to 60 strong, this goes to show what severe fighting has taken place in this vicinity. Sometimes I come across an old school chum, and then the conversation generally drifts to what is a memory to me, and a very pleasant one at that—our schooldays at Murray Road School.

NARROW ESCAPE OF AN OLD MURRAYIAN.

Pte Horace Anderson, of the 2nd Warwicks, son of Mr W Anderson, 102 Winfield Street, Rugby, is in hospital at Torquay with a shattered thumb and slight wound in the side. He was also gassed, and for a time he was in a critical condition. His mother has been to Torquay to see him, and he gave her a Testament which he was carrying in his breast pocket at the time he was acting as bomb carrier at the battle of Loos. A bullet had struck the Testament, smashing away a portion of one corner, but the missile was evidently diverted by contact with the book, otherwise it would have passed through, or dangerously near, his heart. His cap also had a bullet-hole, which entered just over the right temple, passed along the side, and out at the back, so that he evidently had two very narrow escapes from direct rifle fire ; and after being gassed he was lying in the trenches for come hours.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

The third son (William Harry) of Mr Chas Packwood, of, Warwick Street, Rugby, has joined the 2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry). Mr Packwood now has three sons serving with the Colours.

A LUCKY BATTALION.

Driver Philip Strongitharm, of the 25th Battalion R.F.A. has this week been on leave to his home at 8 Fasy Lane, New Bilton. after about 16 months at the front. The battalion to which he belongs has seen a lot of fighting, having been at the war since August last year, but they have come through so far with comparatively few casualties amongst the men. The loss of horses has been rather serious, and in the engagement at Ypres, when taking part in the withdrawing of guns from an untenable position, Driver Strongitharm had three horses shot under him in quick succession. He has had a number of hairbreadth escapes, but has not sustained the slightest injury, and appears none the worse for his spell of active service. Like so many others who have had personal knowledge of the actual fighting in France, he believes that the German resistance is weakening and that circumstances will in time compel them to evacuate Belgium, though they have got such a firm footing in the country that it will not be an easy matter now to expel them.

TEN DAYS’ LEAVE.

Sapper T Lord, of the Royal Engineers, whose home is at 28 Bennett Street, came to Rugby on Tuesday for 10 days’ leave, after being for a while at Leicester Hospital. He was wounded in the thigh, and retains the bullet as a souvenir. He has also undergone an operation for varicose veins, so may not be fit for work in the trenches for some time. When he leaves Rugby next week he has to report himself at Newark.

Sapper T Lord was attached to the 15th Scottish (New Army) Division, which played such a distinguished part in the advance at Loos, and when Lieut Johnson of that company gained the Victoria Cross for rallying the Scottish detachment at a critical moment at Hill 70. Most of the other officers in his company were either killed or wounded. On the Thursday following the advance, Sapper Lord, with a party of ten men, under Corporal Overill, of the B.T.H, were burying the dead between the old lines, when the enemy threw over a couple of shrapnel shells, a bullet from one of which wounded Sapper Lord in the thigh. Corporal Overill also sustained a slight scalp wound. While Sapper Lord was on a hospital barge on the canal at Bethune, a German aeroplane bombed the railway station, and during the unwelcome visitor’s stay our informant says he spent the most uncomfortable minutes of any he experienced in France, Sapper Lord was conveyed to England in the Hospital ship Anglia, which has since been sunk in the channel, and is full of praise for the excellent treatment which the wounded receive from the R A.M.C, the Red Cross, and Hospital workers generally.

ANOTHER RUGBY MAN AWARDED THE D.C.M.

Amongst those who have recently been awarded the D.C.M is Bombardier J R Handyside, D Battery, 71st Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He received the distinction for conspicuous gallantry from the 26th September to the 14th October, 1915, during which time his battery was in the open and constantly under a very heavy fire. He frequently volunteered to mend telephone wires under heavy fire, thereby successfully maintaining communications. Bombardier Handyside had been previously brought to notice for coolness and bravery on the 25th September near Loos, when he repeatedly volunteered to repair wires under very heavy fire, although he was suffering from the effect of gas fumes at the time.

Bombr Handyside hails from Newcastle, but when war broke out he was working at Messrs Willans & Robinson’s, and lodged at the house of Mrs Hayward, 43 Lodge Road. Rugby. He enlisted as a gunner on September 3rd, 1914, and has now been promoted to the rank of Corporal. In addition to the D.C.M he has been awarded the French Medal Militaire.

RUGBY MAGISTERIAL,

SATURDAY.—Before T Hunter, Esq.

AN ABSENTEE.—James Crosier, 27 Newbold Road, Rugby, of the 3rd Lancashire Fusiliers, pleaded guilty to being an absentee from his regiment.—Supt Clarke stated that he had received a communication from the commanding officer of the Battalion, asking him to arrest defendant.—Remanded to await the arrival of an escort.

COVENTRY MUNITIONS TRIBUNAL

MONDAY.

LOST IN A FIELD.—Walter Crofts, a Rugby crane driver, explained that during a night walk he got lost in a field, encountered some barbed wire, and tore his hand. This was in answer to a summons by Willans and Robinson, Ltd., Rugby, alleging that he absented himself without leave.

“ Were you practising for the front ?” asked the Chairman, “ No, I was walking with my brother,” he replied. He explained other losses of time by stating that he attended a wedding on one occasion, and at another time he had his jaw fractured by a man in the shop. The Chairman said defendant seemed to find a good deal of trouble, and should be a little more careful at week-ends. He would be fined 15s.

A WORKER’S PROTEST.—That he refused to do work he was engaged upon, and stood by his bench for four and a half hours, were the complaints against Leonard J Hopkins, 99 Victoria Street, New Bilton, by the B.T.H, Coventry. His reply was that he went to enlist, and after that was put on assembling instead of his proper job as a driller. He could not earn a living, and stood idle as a protest. He was fined 2s 6d.

CHURCH LAWFORD.

THE WHITE FEATHER.—Some little stir has been caused during the last week in this village. It would seem that quite recently a young man residing in the village was the recipient of a white feather, which came to him through the post, and of course made him very angry. Being a Territorial, he at once wrote a long letter to his commanding officer expressing his willingness and readiness to fight for his country, etc, and also accusing a tradesman’s wife (whose son has been in the trenches for twelve months) in the village of sending the obnoxious article and of insulting him in various ways. As a result of this letter, the lady in question has had a visit from the local police officer on the subject, and as she and her family are, absolutely and entirely innocent of the charges made against them, they in their turn are highly indignant, and are making inquiries which may possibly result in an action for slander.

BOOKS & PERIODICALS WANTED FOR SOLDIERS & SAILORS.

SINGLE COPIES GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED AT THE POST OFFICE.

As is now generally known, there has been for some months past a scheme in operation under which magazines and books which have been given by the public for the use of soldiers and sailors, have been forwarded by the Post Office to the men free of charge.

The scheme so far has proved a great success, but with the growth of the Army the demand for literature has increased, and the Agencies recognized by the War Office and Admiralty for the distribution of literature have to face a demand to satisfy which a supply of over 100,000 items every week is required from the Post Office.

At present only about half that amount is being sent, owing to a recent falling off in the supplies handed in by the public.

It is possible that it is not known to everyone who may have books or magazines for which they have no further use that by merely handing them in loose at any Post Office, they will be at once forwarded to the distributing centre in London.

This is a good work in which almost everyone can participate with the pleasant thought that, at little or no cost or trouble, every article so given will afford much pleasure to many of the soldiers and sailors who are sacrificing so much for the nation and the common cause.

It is difficult, of course, to make this fact fully known, so that anyone will be doing a good service by merely talking about the matter to their friends.

Throughout the Rugby district during the Christmas season there will no doubt be a very large number of magazines and light literature purchased, to be lightly thrown aside when read. These are the books the soldiers and sailors are eager to get, to help them to lighten the monotonous periods of their present kind of life, so that it is earnestly hoped every person who becomes acquainted with this scheme will do all he or she can to assist.

If you have only one book or magazine you can spare, hand it in at any Post Office in the town or country district just as it is. The Post Office will tie the articles in bundles and despatch them without delay.

WHAT AN ENEMY NEWSPAPER THE SAYS OF US.

“ We see that the Englishman—unlike the good business man he is so persistently deemed—upon noting that his Eastern ally is being slowly but surely driven back, will, instead of making the best of it, do his utmost to settle down for a three year war, or four year war, working with bull dog tenacity to crush his enemy in the end. When the end will be is no concern, of his. He began the business. He will see it through. In this strange phase of the English character there is enormous strength. We may be sure that if all the belligerents are beaten into insensibility, he will still hammer away with bleeding fists, tired and exhausted. England, in her persistence, will never stop, even if she knows that the longer the war lasts the more she will bleed—even if she knows that all possible gains at the finish will not make good half of what she has lost. . . .

“ Those Germans who look forward to an early peace in this world with longing hearts must turn their eyes on England hopelessly, for as long as the sun of peace is not rising in the isles to the west of us, there is no hope of peace. And England, secure in her citadel, behind the bulwark of her fleet, can go on and on and on.”— AZ EST, (Budapest) “ Sphere.”

GRAMOPHONE NOT GONE ASTRAY.

In the Advertiser of November 20 we inserted a paragraph under the heading “ Gramophone Gone Astray,” asking for the name and address of the person who left a letter at our Office purporting to be sent from the boys at the front with reference to a gramophone which had been sent out to them. There was no response to that invitation, but Miss M Evans, of James Street, Rugby, who collected subscriptions and sent out an instrument of this kind about a month ago has received a letter from a member of E Company, stating that it came duly to hand. It sustained some damage in transit, but was put in order again, and has since been used by each platoon of C Company (in which E Company is now merged) in turn, when off duty, and, he adds, “ I can assure you many happy hours have already been passed away with it.” Each platoon can use it as often as possible, but those in the firing line do not have it, because that is impossible.

RUGBY TOWN V.A.D. AUXILIARY WAR HOSPITAL.

The Hospital is now almost completely furnished and is expected to be opened on Wednesday, the 8th December.

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