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Desmond7's Blog

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Ch 58

Hartley slipped out of the saddle and walked around the side of the stationary vehicle. "Having a spot of trouble?" he asked. "Damn!" cursed the VAD, as her head struck the underside of the bonnet. She appraised the dapper young officer who had startled her. "Oh sorry," she said. "Forgive the language, you just took me by surprise there." Hartley apologised and joined her by the engine compartment. "Can’t say I know much about these things," said Hartley. "I say, aren’t you a

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Ch 57

As Hartley cantered away, Willie McCallion looked around desperately. His eyes fixed on an Army Service Corps motorbike. "Me and you Lonnie," he called, running for the bike. "And bring that bloody camera with you." Lonergan chased after his mate, catching him just as he was straddling the machine. "Catch yourself on Will," he pleaded. "You can’t just pinch this thing!" The engine roared into life and McCallion gunned the throttle. A belch of black smoke was expelled from the exhaust

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Ch 56

Account sourced from the war diary of the 7th (s) bn. The Royal Mudshire Rifles. Various dates September 1917. Battalion was notified of transfer to the Somme sector. Transport and support units were prepared for embussing with the rifle platoons and associated units to follow. Recently arrived drafts were given an introduction to the firing line in relays during the final days before departure. A 12 hour pass was granted to A, B and C coys. on 5th September which was appreciated by all.

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Announcement Title

Unless someone can better 'In a jam with Hartley', I'm all for giving the comedy title to Jim 'Not arf Pop Pickers' Clay.

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Ch 55

"It's simple really," said Bob, smugly. "Your man Hesketh was right about it being shorthand. It's just the words back to front .. no great code mystery. The good lady used to teach pitman, only took her a few moments to work out what was going on." I expressed my undying gratitude and promised Bob a bottle of Johnny Walker for Christmas. "Hold on son," he replied. "If we've translated this right - and I reckon we have - this guy Morgan was up to his neck in some very dodgy goings-on. It

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Ch 54

Bob Coulson had spent his life teaching higher mathematics. I had spent most of mine trying to avoid doing sums. In fact, me teacher had once belted me around the ear for drawing what he described as 'stick soldiers' on the edge of my maths book when I should have been doing fractions ... and stuff. But Bob had a sideline. He was well into his World War II, and not the common or garden stuff either. The bold Bob was, to put it mildly, a code-breaking fanatic. Bletchley Park and SoE never held

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Ch 53

When the 'please call' reply zoomed into my in-box, I was off like a shot. He who dares wins, I said to myself, in a bad impression of Del Boy. "Please do come in," said Andrew Hesketh, corporate services manager .. well that's what it said on the door. Funny, I'd expected a Dickensian joint full of dusty books and punters in tweed jackets. How wrong can you be. Hesketh sported a goatie beard, two earrings and an unidentifiable piece of shrapnel in his hooter. I shook his hand. "I hav

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Ch 52

Something about the letters I'd read from Andy Hollinger was ringing bells. I pulled them out of my file, stuck the kettle on and settled down at the kitchen table. Outside, the rain pelted down and the kids next door were playing Franz Ferdinand at top volume. I mean IMPERIAL measures of decibels. I rose, shut the window and scooped a couple of instant coffee measures into the super-sized Spiderman mug which some clampit had bought me the Christmas before. It served its purpose well and I

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Ch 51

Morgan's pipe was a semi-permanent extension to his face. It bobbed up and down comically as he addressed Willie McCallion at the wagon lines the next day. "Well, did you get it?" asked Morgan. Willie glanced around him and from under his greatcoat produced the silver case. "Me, Lonergan and a couple of blokes from my brother's section jumped 'em last night. The Welsh bloke with the Jock name .. Dai Macallister and his chum, fella called Shaymen. I told 'em the yarn and they agreed to h

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Ch 50

Hartley felt the rush of wind in his face and then he was submerged in darkness as a filthy smelling tarpaulin was thrown over his head. He had just offered O'Brien a cigarette when the incident occurred. Meandering back to billets after a good, if unexciting, meal and several bottles of wine, the two officers had been laughing and joking in the manner of men who knew the luxury of leisure time might be very fleeting indeed in a war which gobbled up the officer class at an ogre like rate

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Ch 49

"One thing about Hartley you have to remember," said Tom Morgan. "He's been trying to live up to his father since he was a boy. He wasn't doing a very good job of it until this bloody mess started but now they tell me he's got the MC and three pips." Morgan spat into the darkness again and patted his pockets. "Any baccy?" he growled at McCallion. "Naw, just fags," said Willie. "Give us a gasper then," ordered Morgan. McCallion watched as he broke up the proffered woodbine and jammed

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Ch 48

SOURCE: "At Messines with the Muddies" an unpublished personal memoir by Captain William O'Brien MC (by kind permission of his estate). "In the aftermath of our attacks at Langemarck, I had been appointed to the temporary rank of Major, which reflected the casualty rate within the battalion. Similarly, young John Hartley was given his captaincy which went very well with his recent award of the Military Cross. "I must say we spent a most enjoyable evening behind the lines celebrating our goo

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Ch 47

"Glad to be back with us, I'm sure?" smiled Captain O'Brien, when Hartley reported back to the battalion. "Of course, Sir. Too much of that rich living is bad for the soul," retorted Hartley. "Much rather be over here doing my bit against the bally hun." O'Brien guffawed and slapped the young officer on the back: "Still a sarcastic sod, I see. Well, I wonder how flippant you will be about this young fella?" Hartley accepted the signal flimsy and read the short message in the flicker

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Ch 46

"Right you lot, you're back in the line tomorrow evening so get your kit cleaned up and grab some shut-eye," ordered Colour Nulty. He appraised the reduced ranks of the platoon. The men were filthy, unshaven and lice ridden. Bloody Ypres they called it. Muddy. bloody, stinking Ypres, thought the NCO. Think of an adjective for misery and just put the name of this f..king town at the end of it. "Fall out," he ordered. The men dispersed to their billets, which consisted of the remains of

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Ch 45

Andy Lonergan carved a thick slice of bread from the loaf and, with his bayonet, held it close to the glowing holes on the brazier. "Don't go down that road Will," he told McCallion, staring at the piece of bread. There had been extra rations for the past couple of days. A lot of boys wouldn't need there allocation now. Willie McCallion flicked the butt of his cigarette into the glowing mass. "Andy, you and I know that a bleedin' Irish bloke don't come looking for a Muddie just for the

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Ch 44

OK. So it was all conjecture. But from what I'd gleaned from interviews, archives and sheer good luck, I was fairly certain that's how things had panned out. It wasn't going to convince an Old Bailey jury but, then again, I ain't no Columbo. Bert falls in love. The girl gets it in the neck. Bert fingers Hartley for the dirty deed. Bert dies. Willie McCallion makes a fortune. I still had to figure how that worked out ... Billy Swinton had an uneasy feeling about William McCallion.

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Ch 43

RICHARD Langley-Baston removed his steel helmet and peered through the observation portal in the sniper shield. Anxiously, he scanned what he could see of the tormented ground in front of his position. Behind him, Sergeant Paul Reed ran a hand over his stubbled jaw and massaged his neck. "I've been watching for 20 minutes Sir," he told the officer. "Your eyes are just getting used to the dark when Gerry bangs up another flare. If anyone on that patrol is still alive they'll be on their way

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Ch 42

The sudden glare of light brought momentary blindness to the stranded soldiers. A German flare descended, swinging slowly on its silken chute, casting weird shadows on an already alien landscape. Seconds later, rifle grenades began to explode around their imperfect hiding place. It was a battle of nerves. An inexperienced soldier might break and run as the explosions came inexorably closer to them. Those who did lose their nerve, more often than not, were cut down by the machine gunners an

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Ch 41

McCallion felt the cold from the damp ground seep into his bones. During his snail like crawl through the cess pit of no-man's land his thoughts had been firmly fixed on the officer who was just a few yards ahead of him. He could barely see Hartley in the all embracing darkness. Ever since Andy Hollinger had innocently told him of Hartley's decision to collect the repaired clothing for himself, his suspicions about the officer had grown. All the little pieces of a nightmarish jigsaw wer

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Ch 40 interval

Mud, Blood and Memoirs. Competition now open for :- 1. Serious title (me being pompous) 2. Forum pi ss take (me pulling legs) 3. Funniest title (to give me a laff like) Anyway, the author wishes to acknowledge the help and encouragement of all you lovely people out there who have kept me tracing the trail of the McCallion family secret. I reckon I am about 75% of the way there. But that could all change, depending on me mood. To John Hartley - thanks for being a good sport and there's

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Ch 39

SOURCE: War Diary of the 7th (s) bn. R Mud Rif. 11th August 1917. Orders were received from Bde. for a four man observation patrol in sector V.II This was to be a silent patrol of one officer and three men. Contact with the enemy was to be avoided. Lt. Col. Beard assigned 2nd Lt. J. Hartley and three ORs for the task. Colour Sergeant Nulty crouched against the side of the trench as another German shell screamed overhead. Seconds later he was showered with dirt as the Jack Johnson explod

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Ch 38

For me, the collection of servants' letters was a god-send. Bernie McIlwaine didn't post on the forum often, but when he did, you just knew his stuff would be worth reading. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that the thorny subject of officer/servant relations had also been the subject of one of his essays in 'Chasing Armageddon', a fantastic collection of writing by some of the best academics on the subject of World War One. Once I sent him a PM, it didn't take long before Bern

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Ch 37

Source: Letter dated ? May, 1917, from Rfn. Andrew Hollinger 7/4988 7th (s) bn. R. Mud RIF. With permission of the Libble Archives, University of Bermondsey. The author is grateful to the archivist, Prof. Bernard McIlwaine, for permission to draw on this letter for the purposes of this publication. Those wishing to delve further into the relationship between officers and servants in the British Army 1914-18 should see:- “My Bloke’s a gent” a collection of personal writings from the Western

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Ch 36

Bert McCallion watched as a smiling Rifleman Andy Hollinger emerged from the officers’ dug-out carrying a Hessian sack. “Alright Bert?” smiled the good natured Hollinger as he squeezed past McCallion. “Sticking it, Andy mate, just sticking it. What you got there then,” McCallion jerked his thumb at the lump in the sandbag. Hollinger held up the sack like an angler offering a prize catch for judgement. “My bloke just got himself a hamper from Fortnums, didn’t he. Mr. Hartley slipped m

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