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Battle of the Dunes, July 1917


Hugh Pattenden
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It's extraordinarily good of you to post John's grandfather's military record details here, Steve - I hope he'll see your post.  I just assume people have already looked!  Also that Mark's able to point to parallel cases going from the Rifle Brigade to 2/KRRC.

I see he's another man registered at Limburg after the battle on 10 July 1917, I suppose they all were initially.  It confused me greatly at first in J T Hardcastle's case until Doug explained that this didn't mean they were necessarily there physically.

 

Liz

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16 hours ago, Stebie9173 said:

Michael Joseph Ryan

  • Son of Amy Ryan, 21 Lowder Street, Wapping
  • Of 15 Trench Street, Wapping in 1919
  • Of 16 Trench Street, Wapping in 1921
  • Married to Sarah Matilda Jones at St Mary’s and St Michaels’ on 31 July 1904
  • 6 children born at Wapping between 1904 and 1915
     

Steve.

 

That's probably TENCH STREET, WAPPING:

http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/sidebyside.cfm#zoom=17&lat=51.5044&lon=-0.0606&layers=176&right=BingHyb

 

The map in the link shows BIRD STREET as the western side of Wapping Recreation Ground.  Bird Street was renamed as a continuation of TENCH STREET in 1912 making Tench Street form the N and W sides of the square.  Since it looks like only the western part contains housing, he probably lived in the former Bird Street.

 

LOWDER STREET, WAPPING has now been re-developed, but it was 50m to the E of Wapping Recreation Ground and is clearly seen in the link above.

 

The church of St Mary and St Michael is probably the large Roman Catholic church on the corner of Commercial Road and Lukin Street about 1 mile to the NNE of Tench Street:

http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/sidebyside.cfm#zoom=19&lat=51.5138&lon=-0.0520&layers=163&right=BingHyb

 

HTH

Mark

 

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   Hi Steve thanks so much for that info , i had snippets of those details and your input was just what i am after . I Worked out where he was when awol over christmas 1914/15 my uncle was born the following sept . I Will post his diary entry's covering the lead up to the 10th july , and his time as a pow . I know he was at Ypres 18/ 5/15 untill 12/1/16  Arras 18/1/16 to 17/5/16 and the somme 30/7/16 to 10/1/17  will the battalion diaries have more detailed accounts of his company's movements and how can i get a copy? thanks again for your help.

                                                                                                         

                                                                                            

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Hello folks,

 
I have over the last couple of weeks been trying to find out more about my grandfather Thomas Knight who fought in WW1. My searching has brought me to your thread!
 
My late mother always told me that her dad/my grandfather would never talk about the war. She did know he was a POW, and my uncle told me, my grandfather once mentioned how nice the German people were when he worked on the local farms close to the POW camp.
 
That was all we had to go on until recently. My uncle moved into a nursing home, and my cousin, while clearing the attic found a local news paper clipping with a picture of my grandfather that said: 'Private Thomas Knight, A.203015, A. Co., 2nd Platoon., King's Royal Rifle Corps, missing July 10th 1917.' attached.
There was also a postcard sent from him, from Lager Lechfeld to his parents in Aberdeen, stating he was "in the best of health". How good his health was at that time we don't know, but any son would write that to worried parents at home. It couldn't have been too bad if he was working on those farms mentioned above. 
So over the last couple of weeks, with this information I have found his ICRC/POW card, which lead me to Neiuport as place of capture, then to the Battle of the Dunes. I downloaded his medical records, but it's very difficult to make out what they mean.
I'd love to know when he signed up.
 
Johnjoeflatley, I noticed your grandfather Michael Joseph Ryan service number was only 3 digits different from my grandfather, A.203015 - A.203018. I wonder if they fought side by side? They were certainly at Lager Lechfeld at the same time.
 
Any information that could lead me to more information of my grandfather's service would be most grateful.
 
Many thanks
Michael Caird
 
Thomas Knight.jpg
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Thomas Knight's KRRC A/203015 service number indicates he was also transferred into the KRRC from the Rifle Brigade, and, indeed, he is wearing the RB cap badge above.

 

His transfer will likely have been as part of the same block of men "grabbed" from the Infantry Base Depot to replenish 2/KRRC.

 

He is likely to have been an early Kitchener volunteer into the Rifle Brigade.  The British War Medal should confirm his original RB battalion and our resident RB expert may be able to give an enlistment date using that.

 

Cheers,

Mark

 

Edited by MBrockway
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Michael,

 

Thomas Knight was Rifle Brigade S/12058, no medal card for RB and his medal card has a KRRC reference for the medal roll. Went overseas after 1/1/16 so Marks theory about a base grab is quite likely, not uncommon. No battalion for the RB. 

 

Andy

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Yep.  After a long conflab with Andy, it's clear that Knight was not an early Kitchener volunteer, but probably enlisted March to May 1915, but the usual caveats apply.

 

His MIC points to M/101B/16 page 2048 in the BWM&VM medal roll, which, as Andy has stated, is one of the KRRC pages.  That page shows Knight was previously S/12058 and in 7th Rifle Brigade.

 

Since he did not land in France till 1916 or later, he clearly was not one of 7/RB's original establishment.

 

Andy and I think Knight is highly likely to have been posted to 7/RB in a replenishment draft, but then switched to 2/KRRC in an IBD "base grab".  As we have mentioned passim, this was not unusual with the two sister rifle regiments.

 

Andy and I also discussed Michael Ryan (see a few posts earlier).  Steve's excellent detail on his service (post #199) shows he landed in France on 19 May 1915, which is in line with 7/RB, but that he was not attached to 2/KRRC until 25 July 1915, and not formally transferred until 08 Sep 1915.  That might suggest he was NOT one of these IBD "Base grabs".  Given his extensive military service with the RB from 1895 and his voluntary re-enlistment in the Section D Reserve, coupled with his age of 37 years, we speculate he could have remained at the IBD on Base or training duties for some time after his battalion went up the line.  Such a seasoned Regular could well have been useful there.

 

To be combed out of 7/RB when 7/RB had only just reached the Front seems peculiar to us.

 

Steve: is there anything in what you have seen to support Ryan's transfer to 2/KRRC taking place at the IBD?

 

Mark

 

 

 

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Gentlemen, thank you so much for your input!

 

Please note the typo in my original post. I download his medal records, not medical..it was late. :-)

I've attached (sorry I didn't do it last night) a pdf of these medal records. I really am a novice for reading these type of documents, so please excuse my ignorance.

WO 372-11-200859.pdf

 

On the top right card, it reads 'Qualifying date 24/8/14'

 

Card center right 'Qualifying date 7/11/14' 

 

And the card that is very interesting bottom right 'Date of Discharge 31/7/16' - 'Date of Enlistment 30/11/08'. 'Action taken M/85'?

I can't make out what it says top right under 'Cause of discharge'. This card is different from the other five cards?

 

Thanks again

Michael

 

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17 minutes ago, michaelcaird said:

Gentlemen, thank you so much for your input!

 

Please note the typo in my original post. I download his medal records, not medical..it was late. :-)

I've attached (sorry I didn't do it last night) a pdf of these medal records. I really am a novice for reading these type of documents, so please excuse my ignorance.

WO 372-11-200859.pdf

 

On the top right card, it reads 'Qualifying date 24/8/14'

 

Card center right 'Qualifying date 7/11/14' 

 

And the card that is very interesting bottom right 'Date of Discharge 31/7/16' - 'Date of Enlistment 30/11/08'. 'Action taken M/85'?

I can't make out what it says top right under 'Cause of discharge'. This card is different from the other five cards?

 

Thanks again

Michael

 

Michael,

Medal Index Card downloads from the National Archive come as six cards per sheet arranged 2x3.

 

Only the card in the bottom left corner is your grandfather Thomas Knight.  The other five cards are different men entirely.

 

Here's the colour version available free on Ancestry ...

 

30850_A000914-01252.jpg

 

Unlike the National Archive downloads, Ancestry also shows the back of the medal index card, but in your case this contains no additional information.

 

The "Date of Entry therein" box was used to determine if the soldier qualified for the 1914 or 1914-15 Star medals.  When it is blank, this simply means he arrived in theatre on or after 01 Jan 1916.

 

The cross with dots tells the medal engraver what is to be inscribed on the rim of the medal.  In Knight's case it is his RB details.

 

The M/101B/16 Page 2084 is the medal roll reference, which points to this document here (cropped to show Knight and Ryan) ...

41629_611411_5677-00288.jpg

 

HTH

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by MBrockway
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Hello Mark,

 

That explains all six cards then! 

Thank you for attaching those 2 attachments.

I looked at the Ancestry website, but they look for a monthly fee. Do you have the link for the Ancestry site where I can view for free please?

That said, you may have downloaded all that I need already.

 

Thanks again!

Michael

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Try this:

http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=1262&o_iid=60894&o_lid=60894&o_sch=Web+Property

 

You might still need to set up a user name etc., but searching the British medal index cards is free.

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Hi michael, I'm sure our granddads must have crossed paths as their are too many co-indents for them not to have done so.

 

Liz, I am now posting exerts from the diaries covering the days leading up to the 10th of July and his time as a POW.

 

We had made our way to where the unfortunate men lay.  Some of the poor fellows were injured seriously, others slightly, and the poor men that were dead, we could do nothing for only to let them lie in a disused dug-out until night came; when they could be buried as decent as could be under the circumstances.  The slightly wounded were bandaged and told they were to proceed to battalion head-quarters.  The serious cases were carried on a stretcher, and how we got to head-quarters, I cannot suggest.  It was truly remarkable that we and the stretcher cases did not stop some shrapnel as the shelling at the time was most severe.  Arrived at the dressing station where we asked the doctor for more men for to help us in getting the wounded away.  In about an hour, all were safe at head-quarters.

 

 

In the afternoon, about 10 men:  machine gunners and bombers, were on their way to relieve their comrades who were in a detached post about 50 yards from the front line, the shelling having ceased a little.  They had only proceeded a few yards when the enemy opened again with moinnewafers and shrapnel, putting out of action all of the men with the officer, a youngster Hon Mr Bouchier by name, only escaping.  He at once came for me and my companion, and he directed us to where the men were hit.  The trenches by this time were levelled, and by jumping over barbed wire, ducking when we heard a moinnewafer coming and a great deal of luck besides, we at last reached the spot where the poor lads had crawled to.  Most of them were by this time beyond help, but I, my comrade and the young officer succeeded in getting them into a dug-out and wired for the doctor.  He came but had several narrow escapes in doing so.  He said that all were serious cases and it would be madness to attempt to get them to head-quarters by daylight as the Germans by now had seen all our movements.

 

 

By night, mostly all of these unfortunate lads died, and we were engaged half of the night removing their bodies to head-quarters.  The young officer mentioned was about the bravest man I ever saw, and in spite of all the shelling, he was up and down the front line doing his duty like a hero, giving encouragement to one and all.

 

 

The 3rd day was the same as its predecessors and in the night we were relieved by B bay, then we proceeded to the reserve trenches.  At night it was nothing but hard work building up trenches which had been levelled in the day, and there was hardly an hours rest for anybody.

 

 

On the night of 9th July 1917, it came through that we should make a bombing raid.  A few hours before this came off, our trench mortar batteries opened fire for about a quarter of an hour.  As soon as they had finished, the enemy retaliated with his heavy batteries, putting out of action all or mostly all the men of the batteries.  At 11 o’clock we started our bombardment as a preliminary to the bombing raid.  At 11.30 the selected men (Rhodesians), leapt from our trenches on their way to the enemies lines.  They returned half an hour later carrying with them a German soldier, very badly wounded.  He expired in our lines and no information could be got from him as he was delirious before he died.  The general information gained was that the enemy had vacated his front line at night, leaving only a few men there to do duty.

 

 

Our casualties were slight and the commanding officer Lt-Col Abadie said that the raid was a success.  The enemy shelled for about an hour and everything became calm.  I was engaged until 3 o’clock in the morning in removing the dead bodies of the ill-fated trench mortar batteries to head-quarters, and then went to my dug-out thoroughly worn out as I had hardly a wink of sleep for 2 or 3 nights.

 

 

I slept until 7 a.m and was awakened by shelling such as I have not experienced before.  The dug-out was shaking like a man with the ague. The signallers were called to mend the wires, as all communications with the front line and to brigade head-quarters had been severed.  It was terrible work for the signallers, some being killed and wounded in attempting to do this.

 

 

The shelling became so furious that it meant death to any man who ventured from cover.  9 o’clock came, and still no communication could be gained.  About this time, the dug-out I was in, which also contained 1 platoon and Bay head-quarters, was thrust in by a shell exploding near the entrance.  We deemed it advisable to make our way to a tunnel the Australians and our divisional miners were constructing.  We all had to look sharp as we had 50 or 60 yards of open ground to traverse before we reached it.

 

 

For as soon as the last man, an officer of my Bay, had entered the tunnel, several shells exploded near the entrance whence we came, wounding the officer slightly and partially blocking it up.  All of the men had lost arms and munitions, being buried in the debris of the dug-out where we had been forced to quit.

 

 

By 11 o’clock the shelling had become furious and the entrance to the tunnel where we had entered was blocked up.  We shovelled and dug but to no advantage.  The harder we worked, the more sand poured upon us.  We made our way to another entrance and that nearly had the same fate, there being a hole large enough for a man to crawl through.  By hard work we managed to keep this entrance open, if we had not, we should have all been suffocated by the gases.

 

 

At last the Germans found this other and last exit, and shells burst these with the result that sand came pouring into the tunnel like rain.  When the dust cleared, we could discern that there was still a small aperture left. We decided that it was best to make a dash for it and find some other shelter whilst we had the opportunity, or choose the other alternative of being buried alive.  There were about 20 of us here and I think 16 or 17 reached a large dug-out about 50 yards away, and the other 3 must have been blown to atoms whilst making the attempt.

 

 

It was now about 1 o’clock after midday and there had not been a lull in the severe shelling which had started about 7o’clock in the morning.  All that could be heard from our artillery was one single battery of light guns from the other side of the river.  We were living in hope that our heavies would reply, and when this did not come, I came to the conclusion that all communications had been cut and that the Pontoon bridge, and on which we depended on to get reserves up to us, had been blown in.  If that was so, then we were an Island without any means of help, and all we could do was to fight for our lives did the Germans attempt to take us, but how could that happen when we 17 in that dug-out had not an arm between us?  We indeed were in an awful predicament.

 

 

The 3 young officers of my company saw this and two of them made an attempt to try to get to battalion head-quarters and report how we were situated to the commanding officer saying they would return immediately.  I suppose they must have met their death in doing so as I never saw them again.

 

 

There were now 12 men and 2 officers remaining.  One was the Hon Bouchier of my bay, and the other a young officer of the Lancs, who came in the trenches on the previous night with a few men to take over as we should have been relieved by that regiment on the night of the 10th of July.We were in danger of having this dug-out severed the same as the tunnel we had quitted.  By dirt of hard work shovelling, we managed to keep a small opening.  The shells fell thick and fast around the dug-out and not one came on the top, if it had, we should have been no more.

 

 

The men remained silent, all their thoughts no doubt were centred on the awful predicament we were in between life and death, and one never knew one moment from the other, if it would be our last.  I had given up all hopes of getting out of that place alive.  I prayed more that day than I have in any other in my life that I should be spared for the sake of my wife and 6 little children.  I was not afraid to meet my end and this was not the only tight corner I had been in.  I have experienced the same at Ypres (Tbooge) in 1915, when my brigade had liquid fire hurled against them, and also on the Somme in 1916; but for heavy and continuous bombardment, this was the worst, lasted the longest and not a man amongst the 12 of us with a rifle to defend us.  It is a sorry plight to be in on an occasion such as this.  I was praying that our heavies would open, but all in vain.

 

 

About 4 o’clock in the afternoon the shelling ceased.  I could hear the noise of machinery, of some aeroplanes, and I could hear machine guns firing.  I naturally came to the conclusion that our planes were reconnoitring over the German lines to find the position of the German artillery. The enemy had stopped their bombardment so that their positions should not be observed.  This lull lasted about 15 minutes and one or two of our men crawled out to see what was doing.  They very quickly returned with the news that they had seen some Germans.

 

 

The bombardment started again, but a little milder.  It only lasted about 20 minutes and all was silent except the sound of aeroplanes and machine gun fire.  I heard somebody call outside our dug-out, and thinking it was one of our men come to us with orders, I shouted out a reply.  As soon as I did so, about 5 or 6 bombs were thrown through the small opening left which made the dug-out dark and I could not discern anybody.  I could hear some of our men cry out, but it was impossible to see if anyone was wounded.  The smell of these bombs was awful, I think they were called stink bombs, and the place felt so suffocating.  Some more were thrown in and the young officer asked the men to keep quiet, which they did.  Nothing more occurred, but it was an established fact that the Germans had caught us like rats in a trap and not hearing anymore more noise, had departed thinking that we were all dead.

 

 

After half an hour we could see one and other and that all were safe.  Mr Bouchier decided it was best to get out of this and see how we were situated.  He went first and I and my companion, young Cooper, followed.  I was for making my way to battalion head-quarters.  I stood up outside the dug-out glad to get a breath of air as it had been stifling in the hole we had just left.  The first sight that met my eyes were 5 or 6 German soldiers lying dead outside our dug-out and on looking to the left, saw Mr Bouchier lying in a shell hole with his hands propped under his chin and several German soldiers with their rifles at the present, ready to fire.  They were shouting out something which I could not comprehend and I came to the conclusion that they meant us to surrender.  What else could we do? All that I and my companion had was our medical haversacks and Mr Bouchier was un-armed.  I called to this young officer to come along.  He must have been dazed or did not hear.  I saw a flash and the poor boy officer rolled over dying as brave a death as any I have seen, defying the Germans to the last.

 

 

After this had occurred, 3 or 4 German soldiers came up to me and my companion with rifles levelled at our heads.  They pointed their fingers in the direction of the German lines as if to say that if we did not go then death was our only alternative.  We obeyed and could see several batches of men in khaki making the same track as we were.  German dead were strewn over in what were once our trenches.  You could see that our lads had put up a stout resistance but had failed.  Not a semblance of a trench remained, as far as I could see, nothing but shell holes: the effects of that awful day’s bombardment.

 

 

I felt sick and dizzy by the time I reached the German front line.  I could see that there was a great number of my regiment with me and some of the stretcher bearers who had been at head-quarters.  I looked for my old chum Nobby Clarke and could not find him, and on speaking to some of the bearers I heard the sad news that he with 5 or 6 more had been buried alive, the dressing station he was in having been levelled by a shell.  My grief was great on hearing this, as I and Nobby had been good pals in France and Belgium for 26 months.  We served in the Rifle Brigade together, and both of us were transferred to the Kings Royal Rifles at the same time, and it was like losing a brother.  Several other good lads I had known had also met a similar fate as my good comrade.

 

 

We were escorted for an hour or so through the German communication trenches until we came to a road which was called Westende.  We stopped at a dressing station, and those that were wounded had their wounds dressed.  I had a slight wound in the head and did not notice it until my companion said my head was bleeding.  I had it dressed, how it was done I did not know, all that I knew was my head ached terribly and the thoughts of being a prisoner of war fairly played on my nerves.  I saw our medical and other officers were prisoners the same as us, and they looked as if they felt the position acutely.

 

 

About 8 o’clock, after much walking, we arrived at a large shed in the docks at Westende and we were told we could sleep there that night.  The place was open, the windows having been broken, and we had to lie on the cold stones that night. Not 1 in 20 had an overcoat, and most of the boys passed the night away talking of the unhappy events of that day.  I heard that the lads put up a game fight and made the enemy pay dearly for their victory.  Most of our officers had been killed including the Commanding Officer.  They had died fighting.  The Northampton’s on our right fared as bad as we did, and there were a sprinkling of Jocks of The Black Watch North Lancashire, and Australians who were engaged in tunnelling.

 

 

I heard that the Pontoon Bridge had been smashed from some men, who had attempted when they found their position no longer serviceable, to try and escape.  Several had tried to swim across but were killed by rifle and machine gun fire.  That bridge, if it had stood, would have been the means of our salvation as there were 2 or 3 regiments in reserve on the other side of the river.  I heard that several rockets had been sent up when the Commanding Officer found no communication could be obtained, but was evidently not observed.  Somebody was to blame as in such a position some tunnels should have been constructed under the water as a reserve should the Pontoon Bridge be rendered useless.  There may have been one without my knowledge but I never heard anyone speak of one.  If, as I say, there was none, then the French and Belgium troops who occupied this sector since 1914 had erred in not making some, as common sense would tell you that a position such as this was a matter of impossibility in holding where there was no means of fetching up reserves in case of attack.  At any rate, we were the victims of somebody’s blunder and instead of being relieved on that fateful 10th of July by our own men; we had the dissatisfaction of seeing the Germans do so.  There ended the 10th of July, the worst day as ever I remembered, a day on which the 2nd brigade 1st division will always remember as the day of sacrifice.

 

 

I afterwards learnt that our heavy artillery had orders only to fire on a certain date fixed so that their position should not be known to the enemy.  At a great disadvantage we had done our best, and for one day we were deserted by our artillery and aeroplanes, the things most needed in warfare such as this.  The Germans had had a day all to themselves, and from what I afterwards learnt from a German marine, who formed one of our escorts, was, that they knew that we were to attack on a certain date and had taken advantage, and took the liberty of fore-stalling that by being there first.

 

 

On the morning of the 11th July, we were formed up about 4 a.m.  Four hundred were marched to Ostend and the others to Bruges.  I was with the latter party.  After marching about 14 kilometres, we stopped at a large building and received our first meal consisting of some black bread and coffee substitute with no sugar or milk.  This was the first food I had tasted since the evening of the 9th July.  The bread was sour and the coffee just as bad, but being so hungry it came as a God send.

 

 

After a few hours rest on the flag stones, we were formed up again, marine and military being our escort.  We had to march about 10 or 12 kilometres. After performing half this journey we halted for half an hour beside a canal on the right of which were some houses inhabited by Belgians.  Seeing we were British, they fetched us some bread and water which was the best the poor people could give, but the escort would not allow us to converse with them.  We shook hands with them before leaving, and thanked them by means of deaf and dumb alphabet, and then struggled onto Bruges and were billeted in a large building there.  It may have been a town hall. We were put in rooms, and wood shavings were put on the floor for us to sleep on.  We then received a basin of barley soup which strengthened us considerably, most of us feeling weak and worn over the hardships and trials we had undergone.

 

 

After a good nights rest we were paraded and marched through the streets of Bruges.  The civilians, mostly Belgians, turned out to see us.  You could see they sympathised with us.  Some attempted to give us food and money but were ridden down by the mounted men who formed our escorts.  We were photographed by military nearly every 100 yards we took, and I thought we were of some great consequence in being thus photographed. 

 

 

At last we arrived at a great structure facing the market square.  We proceeded inside, had our shrapnel helmets taken from us and given a cap each in exchange, which was thrown at us, with the result, that a man having a large head in most cases received a size too small, and those with a small head getting one size too large for him.  When surveying one another after it was finished, there was plenty of smiling at the ridiculous appearance we presented.  We then filed out on the market square where thousands of civilians congregated, and they had to smile also, for I must confess, we all looked guys in these caps.  To show them we were not dismayed we sang ‘Are we Downhearted’ which was drowned out by cheering and ‘The Song of Hate’ or ‘The Watch on the Rhine’.  I was beginning to think this was a circus and we were the clowns.  I was pleased that the band did play as our sentries were so absorbed in the music that they failed to notice several of the civilians giving us food, money and cigarettes.  I was fortunate getting 2 marks, 2 slices of bread and 10 cigarettes, giving in return my cap and badge for a souvenir.  When the band had finished we continued on our way.  -------Missing text------.

 

 

All the worldly processions of the lads were exhausted and socks were darned.  Some were unwound and made into balls of wool and sold to the Jerry’s, for the Germans only wore feet-wraps and were very glad to buy socks.  One other fellow named Fox, I had seen on several occasions make a ball of paper, wind the wool around it in order to make it look large.  He obtained 2 or 3 marks for it until the game was found out and the Germans who had thus been swindled swore vengeance on Fox and had to follow some other calling.  The fellows of this stamp were called the scroungers, and were always to be seen with a can tied to their back, prowling about seeking something in the way of food which the German soldiers were noted to throw on the refuse heap.

 

 

At night, before retiring to rest, you could hear the lads in spite of hunger, singing ‘when you’re a long way from home’ and other well known ditties just to spite the Germans and let them know our spirits had not deserted us. One or two of the Jerry sentries would take compassion and throw into the room 1 or 2 cigarettes and there would en-sue such a scramble that he was a very lucky man who had obtained procession of one without having a black eye or had been severely handled.  The mid-day meal was another scramble in which the scroungers scored successfully.  The men filed around the baths which contained the soup by successive rooms.  When all was served, the surplus was charged for by the hungry throng, with the result that the man who was lucky to obtain a second helping, in trying to force his way out of the crowd generally managed to spill half the soup over the other unfortunates who abused him un-mercifully.

 

 

Every night we used to travel to Gent a distance of about 30 kilometres for a bath.  On our way to the station the Belgians threw bread, apples, pears and money and there ensued another rush, but, the civilians were instantly ridden down by the soldiers who formed our escort and put under arrest.  On arrival in Gent, another squadron of mounted soldiers formed our escort through the streets, and woe betide anyone who tried to throw us anything or get near us to speak, as they were treated in the same manner as the civil in Dendermonde.  The people seemed in terror of the soldiers, and to liven their spirits we sang ‘The Marseillaise’ and other songs, but were made to keep silence by the military. Of all prisoners taken by the Germans I think I can safely say that we were about the worst fed of any, and it was remarkable after 10 weeks of intense hunger to see so many of them still alive.  We were walking skeletons and could scarcely walk.  The Officer in charge wanted us to do physical drill, but this we objected to on account of our weak state.  There were two of these parades, but had to be discontinued as several men fainted and had to be carried to hospital. There were several of our men who received wounds on the day of our capture at Nieuport, who would not go to hospital.  As they had no bandages to bind their wounds except paper ones, a few contracted septic poisoning in consequence.    

 

 

When the wagon containing bread came into the gates, which was about twice a week, the lads swarmed around it like bees, but the sentries soon made them disperse before they could get a chance to steal one.  In spite of all their vigilance I have seen the famous Nobby steal some and divide them with his half starved comrades.   There was a fellow of the K.R.R, who had sold everything he possessed, even to his Khaki suit, boots, braces and cap.  For his coat he received 2 marks and a German tunic, his trouser he disposed of to a French soldier and received 10 biscuits and a pair of red trousers, to a Russian he sold his boots and received in exchange a few biscuits and a pair of wooden shoes.  It was laughable to see this fellow strutting about with his mixture of clothes.  He looked like one of a comic opera boy, but he did not mind us making ridicule of him.  He was clever enough never to go hungry, and you could always see his jaws going to work, and he always had a smoke whilst the others who were smiling at his appearance, had none.

 

 

We kept on continually complaining to the Officer about our hunger and the only answer we could get from him was that England’s Navy was starving Germany and he could not help us.  We asked to go out to work in order to obtain a little more to eat but he said we could not do so.  After 5 or 6 weeks of this terrible state of affairs, 50 or 60 men, used to parade of a morning, were marched to a Belgian relief soup kitchen for to peel potatoes and vegetables for soup for the Belgian civil.  We conversed with the people and they told us that all the soup ingredients with meat and flour came from England and America and complained bitterly about the German treatment.  The people were very kind to us throwing us bread and apples.  Even the school children threw us their ration of bread, which they received at school; I may add that the lads filled up every space in their clothing with potatoes, carrots and onions.  Before leaving the Belgians gave us tea and bread which was, I must say, the best meal I have ever enjoyed being so long hungry I suppose accounted for that.

 

 

At night in the rooms the lads got together the wood shavings which was their bed, they made a fire and had a thorough blow out of baked spuds.  The room I was in was facing the room where the sentries slept and ate.  When we made our fire we smoked them out and they came into our room coughing and cursing with bayonets fixed and said that if we did not out the fire they would stick some of us which put an end to the potato all hot game.  Some were lucky and got them cooked and those that were more unfortunate had to be content and eat the Murphy’s in their raw state.  At last after 9 or 10 weeks of utter misery and hunger, we were told to pack up as we were leaving Belgium for Germany, which news gave us great joy for no matter where we went we could not be treated worse than we were here.

 

 

We left one morning in September accompanied by numerous sentries.  We were put in trucks and proceeded on our way to Lager Dülmen.  When passing Brussels the civil threw us bread, apples and other food and tried in a faint manner to show their appreciation of an English soldier, but you could see that they were thoroughly cowed down by the German military.  We journeyed for 48 hours before reaching Dülmen. On the second night a curious incident occurred in the truck I was in.  We were all sleeping, or trying to sleep, when I was suddenly aroused by a sentry who was in a great passion and who levelled his bayonet at me.  I thought the man had gone mad.  He searched where I was lying and went all round the compartment to my comrade in the same manner.  I could not for the world, understand why he should do this until he made me understand that someone had stolen a loaf from his pack.  He never found it and I afterwards learnt that the man who had stole it and ate it was the hero with the red trousers and wooden shoes.

 

 

At last we reached Dülmen and were consigned in the cages of the prisoner’s camp.  We received cards which were to be sent to the military authorities in England and were told we could write a card to our nearest relative if we had the money to purchase them.  All of us were stony, but we found some English prisoners who were waiting to be sent to England, as invalids, and they provided us with enough money to buy cards.  The food here was little or no better than the hell we had just left but the other prisoners French, Belgian and English behaved decent towards us giving us biscuits and what they had spare.  The Russians were just the reverse.  You had to part with some article of clothing and boots before you received anything from them.  Day after day you could see funeral parties escorting some poor mother’s son to the grave, most of them being French and Russian prisoners who had been working in Germany. After about 10 days stay here we left for Lichfield, where we were treated a little better as we received more bread and better soup.  On the second day of our arrival here, the French and British prisoners seeing how ill we all looked, contributed all the food they had sent them, and got permission from the Officer to fetch it to us, also some tobacco and money.  This generous act brought all the blessings imaginable from the lips of my half starved comrades and many will not forget this little act of kindness from brothers in adversity.  There was singing and merriment amongst us that day that if anyone who did not know what had happened would have thought the war was over.  At night we visited the Frenchmen’s room, also the Serbian’s, and I must say that everywhere we were treated as brothers.  We did not stop long here, our stay not exceeding 3 days.  Those having bad clothes or shoes had them changed or repaired.  I had my boots taken from me and given an old pair of Germans, also my tunic, and had a blue soldiers one in return.  I think in this uniform I looked like a London Shoe-Black  but appearances did not matter to me as long as I knew I was going out to work, I was going to obtain a little better food than I had been receiving since I was taken prisoner.

 

 

Several men were detailed to certain districts of Bavaria, every district under a Commando or Officer.  There were 15 of us detailed for Pfronten, a village situated at the foot of the TyrolMountains.  I was taken to a butcher by name ‘Munchenbach’.  After having a good meal of sausages and bread I returned to rest feeling a much better man than I had felt for a long time. 

 

 

In the morning I was roused about 5a.m.  I had to assist in cleaning the cows, wheeling out dung: which operation lasted about 1 hour, and after that breakfast came which consisted of coffee and potatoes.  It is a curious custom that they have in Bayern at meal times.  In the morning a frying pan is put on the table and all the family eat from it, and if you are not quick with the spoon you are unlucky in getting not enough to eat.  I was a bit shy and slow when I first came amongst these people, but in a few days I took good care I had my share.  After breakfast I worked until dinner time sawing and chopping wood.  After dinner I assisted in the slaughter house.  I could not for the life of me understand the people when they wanted me to do something, but they had to make motions to give me some idea and for about a month I was like a dumb man until I learnt a little of the language.  I cannot say I liked this place as the man was always growling and he put a boy over me, 15 years of age.  I understood all the work I had to do, but this boy was continually finding faults and telling me that England was no good, which got on my nerves. The repetition of this went on day after day, until I lost my temper and caught him and threw him into the hog tub.  When he came out he showed fight, and I gently put him in the cow refuse.  He complained to the master and he did a bit of growling but I only laughed at him.  At any rate, this quietened the lad for a few weeks after which he started again.  I bore his jeering like an hero, never answering him and all the time I was in awful agony with my ankle which was swelled the size of three caused by the Germans boots, and for nearly two months walked bare footed in the snow, so you can imagine how I felt.  The master at last took pity on me and gave me a pair of shoes which irritated the youngster considerably.  He started mocking me the way I limped and called me an English swine which name I could not bare to hear.  I put him in the hog tub and kept him there until the master came on the scene.  He said I should have to leave which delighted me considerably.

 

 

On Sunday all the English prisoners used to journey to a fellow prisoner who used to work at a beer house, where we used to have on or two glasses of beer and talk about home and the war.  The governor of the house was very kind in allowing us there as the dress we wore was not fit for a tramp.  We looked pitiful objects I can assure you.

 

 

For six months we hoped and longed for a food parcel and clothing parcel until at last in January I received a comfort parcel containing a towel, jersey, two pairs of socks and a comb.  I did not receive a food parcel until 3 weeks afterwards.  My comrades were lucky and received several before I had received one, and only for the food they gave me I should have been in very bad health.

 

 

At last I was removed from the butchers and was sent to work for an old man named Ludwig Stich.  His family consisted of a daughter who had an illegitimate son, and 2 sons, one a soldier in Romania and the other had been on the West front and were invalided with nerve shock.  Everything went well for about a month until the old man 75 years pf age started growling.  He was so the whole of the day to everybody and when at meals you could fancy this family was charged with electricity so quick did they eat the food, if I can describe it as such.  I found out it was no good eating in the old English style, if you did you went hungry and as I had had enough of that, I did the same as them.  The shell shock son was the worst type of human pig I ever saw.  If anything remained in the dish he would lick it out whilst the poor half starved dog, ‘Prinz’ by name, would look up at him so pathetically as if to say he robbed him.  I was very glad to have had my parcels from England coming otherwise I should have had many hungry days here.  When they were having their water soup, I used to have a nice tin of the soldiers much despised Maconochie rations, or a tin of Billy and biscuits which was a most substantial meal.  These people made soup of anything and when meat came on the scene; you would feel alarmed as it only occurred once a month.  I stuck at Silers for nine months which was about the worst time I have ever experienced.  One day I made up my mind to strike and I was put under arrest for two days on water diet only.  I thought that I was being removed to work for another man but I was mistaken and taken back to Silers.

 

 

I intended to wait my time and do as little work as I possibly could in order that he should get tired of me, but this never came off.  In January 1918, his son Franz came home on furlough from Romania for 14 days.  I was awakened about 2 o’clock in the morning in order to see his heroic soldier and what he had brought home.  He had a box containing 40 or 50lbs of haricot beans, one or two loaves of black bread and an enormous meat bone which the shell shocked Theodore, the other son, was gnawing like a dog that had nothing to eat for a month.  He walked around the cow stall and inspected the cows and made a visit to the horse stall like a general.  I think this inspection lasted an hour and I was pleased when it was over as I had enough of cows. 

 

 

The next day, some villagers came to see him and to one and all he showed the beans as if they were precious stones.  At any rate for the fourteen day he was home we had nothing else but bean soup.  When he left I was not sorry as he was another master to order me about.  About 2 months later he returned again and he brought me a packet of Romanian cigarettes.  About 2 days before he was to return again, he by accident or otherwise put his ankle out.  He was sent to hospital and continually on leave.  He had eighty days in the nine months I was there.  I shall never forget the days of March 1918.

 

 

When the Germans had made their big offensive, old Siler, who had been to a village called Fronten Reid, came back with the news that Germany had annihilated the British and French armies in the West Front, and he told me that the war was over and they would be in Paris in a week. I told him that they would never reach there in twenty years, but I added there are a great many Germans in Paris, and he seemed surprised, but when I said that they were prisoners of war, he looked daggers at me.  When the fortnight elapsed, I asked him whether they had reached Paris yet.  But he replied that they would do so, but when our troops started their offensive his manner changed, and when I used to show him on the map where our troops had pushed the Germans back, he could make no reply. Only the U boats had nearly sunk all our ships.  At the time I had received four parcels of food from my regimental base committee, so I decided to show him what they contained so as to enlighten him upon the power of the British Navy.  I showed him some dates which came from Mesopotamia, salmon and tea came over from our colonies and asked him how we obtained such luxuries and how did they reach England if we had no ships.  I also asked him why Germany could not obtain articles such as these, but he could not reply.  At any rate when he was having his substitute of coffee and black bread, I was having white bread and something more substantial than his potatoes and krout.  Our food parcels began to arrive regularly and every Sunday we used to walk to the Prosten’s House to get them, a distance of 4 kilometres, and when we passed through the village named Briceith, the whole of the inhabitants would turn out to see the Englanders with their parcels.  We used to tap them and say that England had no ships and no food.  They could see otherwise and it became the general conversation in the district what good food we had.  When our clothes came form home we began to look respectable, and people who used to pass us by with a sneer, began to salute.  They would always admire our boots which could not be brought in Germany for 200 Marks.  We began to look so tidy and decent that some of the masters complained that we were dressed better than them, even at work, as the clothing they wore in the fields was all patched.  The clothing some wore would disgrace a scarecrow. I asked them why they did not buy others but the same old reply was that everything was too dear since the war, and so it was a suit of clothes which could be brought in England for 25 /- costing 200 Marks.

 

 

When summer came it was nothing but hard work mowing and carting it from 4 in the morning until 8 or 9 o’clock at night, for the magnificent sum of 3d per day.  There was no hour for meal times for as soon as you had eaten it was work, and when finished you soon wanted to retire for the night and what with the cursing and swearing of old Siler I can assure you I felt happy.  At last when all the hard work was done I decided, come what may, that I would not stop long with him. I spoke to the poster and he said that he would put me with another man so I told the old devil that I was going to leave.  After this the whole family had a growl at me, but I only laughed at them.  The day before I was removed, I was chopping wood and by accident broke an axe handle.  I put it aside whilst I went out with the cows to graze, when I returned old Siler was in an awful rage.  He put up his fists, he cursed and swore at me but I only smiled.  His vulgar son Theodore seeing me laugh said I was vulgar and began waving his hands about like a windmill as most of the Germans do when in a rage.  The other son Franz stood in a fighting attitude and the daughter had her say. When I came to realise what all this was about and I found it was the broken axe handle which was the cause of the mischief, I asked what was the cost of the damage and I was told 1 mark which I threw at the old shylock, he gave it to me back shouting and raving all the time.  I also told them that although there was 5 of them I could hold my even with the lot of them and told Siler that he may be my master but England was Germanys master every time.  When they saw I was as stubborn as them they tried soft-soaping me but that would not answer.

The next day I was removed and was pleased to get away from about the filthiest family in the Fronten district.

 

 

I was taken to Pfronten Reid to a man named Josef Murz.  He was just the opposite of the old devil I had just left.  He was smiling and joking and the work I had to do was not very hard and I could take my time.  He had 2 sons both soldiers, one, Josef, had spent the whole of his time on all of the fronts.  The other was prisoner of war in Paris.  At first the wife was a bit sulky and inclined to be all true to the Prussian ideas, but after a few arguments with her, I think she was a wee bit socialistic.  At the time, everything was going in our favour on all the fronts.  A fellow comrade of my regiment named Victor Jackson had got well in with a student from Augsburg. He used (by some means or other) to get the English edition of The Times and send them to Victor and on Sundays we use to spend a few hours reading some truth, which was the first bit of English literature we had seen since we were taken prisoners.  We could plainly see that the war would not last much longer, and in November, when Ludendorff and the Kaiser packed up and a socialist government was in power, I could plainly see that Germany was done for and when I heard the glad news that Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria had finished, I knew that Germany on her own could not last a week.

 

 

At last came the joyful news that Germany wanted an armistice and Bavaria was in fear of an Italian invasion.  As the place that I was in was about 5 kilometres from the Austrian front.  Day after day, trainloads of German soldiers began to arrive to try and check the Italians if they did come.  The Bavarians wanted a peace on their own and told the Prussians so.  In a few days the king abdicated and Bavaria declared a Republic.  For months before all these happenings occurred, you could judge by what the public said, that they were sick and tired of Prussian rule, and I must give credit to where it is due, the Bavarians treated us very well indeed considering we were prisoners of war, and the only one of them I hated was my old master Siler and his family.  With Josef Murz, I was treated as a brother rather than an enemy.  I am only waiting for the time to come, to see that blessed place Blighty once again.

 

 

When the truce came in November, it was remarkable how nice and courteous the civil and also the military were.  They would salute and stop and speak to you in the street and always about the one topic, the sudden ending of the war and what a swindle it was.  Quite a changed some, now they are on the losing side, but they were all pleased that the Kaiser had abdicated and that they were getting a Republican country.  I told some soldiers that they ought to bless England for freeing them from the yoke of Prussianism and they agreed with what I said.  All the Bavarian soldiers, as soon as they heard of Bayern asking for peace, immediately tore the Prussian badge from their caps and threw them away.  From every lip could be heard the denunciation of the Prussian.  I think they were more hated then the French or English.

 

 

The time seemed a century after we heard the news of the armistice, and there were rumours that we were to be sent to Lager Lichfield and from there be despatched to England, but weeks sped on and nothing definite could be obtained as to what date we were going to leave.  We received no parcels during that time which made us feel miserable, as if we had one or two of them, we would be sure of a good old English Woodbine which would shake off the melancholies.  Cigarettes costing from 30 to 32 pfennigs each or equivalent to 2d and 2½d and if you squandered money in this way it would mean 2 days with a smoke, and the remainder with none at all as the payment you received per week was only 2 marks 10 pfennigs and on this magnificent sum we had no alternative but to be economical.

 

 

We used to meet of a Sunday in the beer house at Briceith and discuss and grumble about the way we were being treated.  We decided to strike and proceed to Lichfield on our own, but the snow coming delayed us as it was of no use travelling 40 miles in snowy weather, and another thing we had to consider was the food question, for if you had plenty of money, that would have been no use as you could not buy bread without the markers or tickets and once we had left our employer we should get no more food.  We had enough experience of hunger at Dendermonde and we deemed it advisable to wait and see and remain where we were, living on potato soup and black bread, which was better than nothing.  I managed to pass the weary nights perusing ‘East Lynne’ which my comrade Jackson had lent me and which I found exceedingly interesting, but when this was finished, the thoughts of home always haunted me and wondered how long more we were to be detained here.  The weather here was extremely cold especially at this time of the year and I was afraid that we would be detained here until the snow came.  If that was so, we should stand a very poor chance of leaving, as in December last year we had snow 3 or 4 feet thick, and we were engaged in digging along the rail road to clear the rails for the trains which were unable to reach here on account of the line being blocked up.  That was a most disagreeable occupation and we were like blancmanges not having sufficient clothing to shelter us from the cold.  Even the inhabitants are wrapped up like an Eskimo at this time of the year, and to see the sledges being drawn by horses you would imagine it were Lapland not Deutschland.  In the summer it is splendid.  I mean as a tourist and not as a prisoner of war. We are too busily engaged at hard work for to study the Natural beauty of the place, but the mountainous scenery, the cows grazing on the mountainsides and the sweet notes of birds singing appeal to all, even a poor war prisoner.  There are plenty of visitors here in the summer, mostly from Berlin and the big cities, I suppose on the look-out for food which was very hard to get in the crowded cities but could be obtained here for those with plenty of money. Everything is remarkably dear; boots costing from 70 to 80 marks a pair, which could be bought in England for 5 or 6 schillings, clothes at enormous prices, soap 5 or 6 marks a lb,  everything costing 20 or 30 times more than before the war which shows plainly the result of the blockade. A wagon or two of cabbage came to the station now and again to be sold, and you could see nothing else but carts and barrows dashing at full speed in order to buy a few hundred pounds of this for to be made into Krout for the winter, 100lbs costing 9 or 10 marks as nothing can be had in the winter.  One article we were never short of was wood, as all the inhabitants had a liberal allowance made to them each year in the shape if Fir trees which were cut from the mountains.  When all the harvesting work was done and carted home sawed and chopped ready for the winter, each inhabitant had also an allowance of peat which was cut in May or June and left to dry in the sun till September or October and was then taken home.  The occupation of the small farmer during the winter months, when the snow was thick and no outside work could be done, was tub making, which when finished were carted by one man of the village (each one of the inhabitants taking a turn), to nearest railway station to be forwarded to some of the large cities where they fetched a reasonably good price.  The woman-folk passed the time in mending and patching clothing, spinning wool to be made into socks etc.  The clothes these people wore would shame a scarecrow, when at work they were nothing else but one mass of patches.

Where I was employed at, one man visitor used to come when work was finished to have a chat with my master and his wife, on several occasions I used to join in the conversation and this particular person had a knack of always saying something uncomplimentary about England.  One night he kept at the old uncomplimentary remarks and I thought after surveying him I would make him look rather ridiculous.  There were 3 or 4 German soldiers present so I asked him to stand up.  He did so.  I pointed to his patched trousers and coat and his boots, sadly in need of repair.  I asked him why he being worth so much money, did not buy others.  He replied that it was all owing to the war that things wear so dear.  I then exhibited the patchwork to the soldiers remarking that he would make a good scarecrow.  He said he did not understand me and on my rising and giving him an imitation of a crow and scarecrow, the soldiers laughed for about an hour after, but this was the means of shutting his mouth, for that evening and on several other occasions, made him look small amongst his fellow men, and that ever afterwards he was always civil to me.

 

 

I was very well known in the district I was working, even the children on their way to school, when I was working in the field, used to congregate round me as they did most prisoners of war, we being I suppose, curiosities, and ask us, as all children do, about everything their little brains could think of.  I must say it passed many a cheerful half hour chatting with them and used, at times, give one a biscuit or two as the poor little devils, they had never seen any since the war stared and they were indeed very thankful.  When working at Silers, He had a noble hound named Prinz, but he, like my self, never got much to eat. When I received my food parcel and biscuits, and when meal time came and he saw me about to ascend the stairs, he knew what I was after and used to follow me, and I gave him some biscuits.  At meal times if able, he used to lay his head on my lap as if to say ‘don’t forget me’, and I never did when the poster came to tell us to go to his house to fetch our parcels.

 

Look forward to hearing your comments on the above.

Thank you,

John 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Johnjoeflatley
made mistake with name
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Quote

I have experienced the same at Ypres (Hooge) in 1915, when my brigade had liquid fire hurled against them

 

John,

This refers to the Liquid Fire attack against 14th (Light) Division at Hooge on 30 July 1915, which inter alia saw the first Kitchener VC and the death of  Lt. Gilbert Walter Lyttelton TALBOT, 7/RB - in remembrance of whom Talbot House and ToC H were founded.

 

See here for a great deal of detail on this action and the subsequent counter-attacks: 14th (Light) Division - Hooge Liquid Fire attack & later actions

 

and the early posts in this topic give 7/RB's disposition in ZOUAVE WOOD for 14th (Light) Division's counter-attack against the Hooge crater:

7th Rifle Brigade

 

Clearly Rfn Ryan was present there with 7/RB in 41st Brigade.

 

Mark

 

 

 

 

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The young officer "Bouchier" he mentions is actually 2/Lt Arthur Guy BOUCHER, A Coy, 2/KRRC, aged 19 years.

 

His CWGC entry: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1640541/BOUCHER, ARTHUR GUY

 

His obituary from the KRRC Chronicle:

"2nd LIEUT. GUY BOUCHER

  The only son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur S. Boucher, of Sharpcliffe Hall, North Stafford, was educated at Winchester, and was gazetted on November 22nd, 1916, to the Special Reserve, joining the 6th Battalion the following month.

  He left for France in February 1917, and served with the 2nd Battalion.  He was reported missing on July 10th, 1917, in the German attack on Nieuport, and has since been reported to have been killed on that date.  Aged 19 years."

[Source: KRRC Chronicle 1917 pp.292-3]

 

As a Wykehamist, he will certainly have good coverage in the Winchester Roll of Honour if you want to contact Dick Flory.

Edited by MBrockway
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That really is a remarkable record of his experiences. And he certainly went through a lot. When is the book/film out? :D

 

 

Nobby Clarke is presumably:

 

Name:    Harry Millington Clarke
Birth Place:    Battersea, Surrey
Residence:    Tooting, Surrey
Death Date:    10 Jul 1917
Death Place:    France and Flanders
Enlistment Place:    London
Rank:    Rifleman
Regiment:    King's Royal Rifle Corps
Battalion:    2nd Battalion
Regimental Number:    A/203014
Type of Casualty:    Died of wounds
Theatre of War:    Western European Theatre
Comments:    Formerly B/745, Rifle Brig.

 

 

Steve.

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More on Guy Boucher from Butler's detailed account of the Action in the 1917 KRRC Chronicle:

"Boucher was shot through the head emerging from a trench.  He had recently left Winchester, where he had had a distinguished career and was head of the school.  He was not originally intended for a military life and had only joined the Battalion a few days previously.  Boucher was hardly nineteen, and looked still younger.  But even in those few days he had shown a power of command which ensured him the confidence of his men and gave promise of higher things had he been spared."

[Source: KRRC Chronicle 1917, p.21]

 

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I have checked the 17 Dec 1915 Nominal Roll for 7th Rifle Brigade for some of these 2/KRRC men transferred in from the sister regiment.

 

B/745 Rfn Harry CLARKE was in B Coy, 7/RB.

 

B/60 Rfn Michael RYAN was in A Coy, 7/RB.

 

Their B prefix service numbers strongly suggest both men had pre-war service as RB Regulars and were returning Reservists.  Steve has already demonstrated this is true for Rfn Ryan.

 

We have already noted that S/12058 Rfn Thomas KNIGHT went out later than 1915, so unsurprisingly he is absent from the 17 Dec 1915 7/RB roll.

 

Mark

 

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John

Thank you very much for posting this fascinating account.  I think my chap J T Hardcastle must have been at Bruges with your grandfather.  He wasn't listed as dying of wounds by the Germans when he died at Deinze on 6 August, but of a sickness, but as he'd been badly at wounded at Flers the year before, and clearly the POWs were going hungry, I suppose his resistance was low.

And he's even got a brief mention of Abadie; I feel a bit proprietary about him because I did a small book about him and his family.  Your grandfather's account is a terrific addition to the various points of view on this whole debacle, as well as his later experiences of course.

Liz.

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I note that he says that he and his companion Cooper were captured with "only their medical haversacks" - this would suggest that they were part of the stretcher bearers section of the battalion. The context of the first paragraph also suggests that they were going out and bringing wounded men back on stretchers. If so, then they were not necessarily with "A" Company at the time of their capture or even in general during action.

 

Steve.

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I am fascinated with the content and the amount of info you are all able to add to my research. I hope my grandfathers account of his time as a POW is of interest  to Michael. I imagine his grandfathers experience and route to Litchfield was the same.

 

 

Steve - also to confirm that he was a stretcher bearer. I am led to believe that each platoon had riflemen designated to the task of taking a stretcher with them when going into action as well as carrying a rifle. was that the case?.

 

Mark - I recall my aunt telling me about ToC h and my grandfathers writings of his time at Hooge, but unfortunately the pages from the diary covering that period are tattered and unreadable. I am still trying to fill in the missing information for this period. 

 

Thank you all. 

 

John

Edited by Johnjoeflatley
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I think it is a fascinating account.

 

Interesting how they saw the end of the war as a "swindle" I presume this is referring to the beginning of the "German army never beaten in the field myth" I  thought it was more of a 1920s-30s idea encouraged by the Nazi party.

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4 hours ago, Johnjoeflatley said:

Mark - I recall my aunt telling me about ToC h and my grandfathers writings of his time at Hooge, but unfortunately the pages from the diary covering that period are tattered and unreadable. I am still trying to fill in the missing information for this period. 

 

Thank you all. 

 

John

Andy Pay and I would be extremely interested in anything you can give us from your grandfather's account of the Hooge Liquid Fire attack.

 

Further first-hand testimony of that important action would be extremely valuable to our researches.

 

Cheers,

Mark

 

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19 hours ago, MBrockway said:

Andy Pay and I would be extremely interested in anything you can give us from your grandfather's account of the Hooge Liquid Fire attack.

 

Further first-hand testimony of that important action would be extremely valuable to our researches.

 

Cheers,

Mark

 

                Hi mark i can only give you second hand information that came from my aunt who had the chance to read what was left of the diary covering the attack when she was young and indeed had spoken to him about his experience,  She had said that the Germans had constructed pipework, which they had placed in front of the British lines , and they were taken completely by surprise he was horrified at the injuries he witnessed as they moved the wounded to the dressing station and of all the things he had seen prior and indeed afterwards, this seemed to have left a vivid scar on him . Its no wonder so many survivors found it hard to talk much about their ordeals .                                                                                                 How could the Germans have laid the pipework undetected, if in fact there was pipework, could she have got that wrong?                                                                   

Sorry i cant be more help , there are huge gaps in what is left of the diaries and that is why i am trying to follow his movements ,i never realised it would be so intriguing and frustrating, but enjoying every second.

Edited by Johnjoeflatley
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They did indeed lay pipework.  Most of the flamethrowers used were the large fixed installations capable of projecting large quantities of burning fuel into the British trenches either side of the Hooge Crater.  The portable backpack-style units were only used in the southern sections of the British-held trenches .. and with considerably less impact.

 

If you have a look at the Liquid Fire topic and follow the links to the other topics there, you will find a lot of detail on what would surely have been one of the other defining experiences of your grandfather's life.

 

:poppy:

 

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