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Two Men - One Memorial


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To C.R.N. Routh.

1st R.B.

mAY 31, 1916.

I'm glad that you had a jolly visit to Shrewsbury. I've been in some beautiful places this early summer, but all of the most beautiful have only reminded me of what I missed.

I've just seen Buxton on his way back. It is a beautiful night and the trees talking quietly to one another, just as they do in the middle of the Common on evenings in June. And nothing to show a War, except an occasional boom and a flickering Very light.

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To H.E.E. Howson.

1st R.B.

June 2, 1916.

Last evening we had a dinner to celebrate my centenary of joing the Regiment (21st May really), and out C.Q.M.S. got me quite a decent fiddle from another C.S.M., and at midnight. (That isn't a full stop really. The paper people put it there.) I was playing 'con molto sentimento' to the Transport officer, in the haering of all his horses.

I suppose that those wild roses will be apt to be coming out on those lanes near Upper Edgebold, and that there have been blue-bells in Lyth Wood.

If any Men have come across good reading lately, I should be very grateful for means of sharing it. And, please, a 1/- copy of the Path would be awfully acceptable. I've had to scrap my Browning and other books, because of lightenening my kit.

I was out on a fatigue party yesterday, and it was June the First and there were glancing grasses.

I have just 1 at 'L'attaque', after two hours struggle and some deception, against a fellow in this Company, who has been beating me rather often and is rather good.

Oh Lord, I wish I was there.

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To R.A. Knox.

1st R.B.

june 2, 1916.

I am less depressed than I was, (a) on general grounds, because there is a hutch of tame rabbits in the farmship in which I am living. By the way, have you got your copy of the illustrated catalogue of Academy Pictures for 1916? That is very important. As far as I can see, there are no elands this year; but there are the usual panthers.

I wonder if you have got a lot of my old IV. now? Perhaps some Man will send me a School List.

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To His Sister.

1st R.B.

June 8, 1916.

I wish I could just have one evening with you all, to give you the real local colour of all this life; the old woman leading in the cows the horns, the two tired horses which hang their heads out of the stable windows and kick the doors to be fed or let out or whatever it is they want, the noise a shell makes, and all that.

It is only just over two months since I came out the second time. Serious faults in this country-side are the lack of hedges and the comparitive scarcity of wild roses. I gave a most successful dinner to celebrate my regimental birthday, and champagne was procured, and I played the violin till a late hour.

It must be very, very good at T. Bay (1), looking up towards 'the Roof of Wales', with the clouds messing about it. Well, cheers, everybody. I am awfully fit.

(1) Tre-Arddur Bay

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To E.H.L. Southwell

1st R.B.

jUNE 9, 1916.

No. 1 Statement.

Oh Man! Yes, indeed.

June.

How Splendid of you.

No. 2 Statement.

It is, by the way, very right that you should have sent that glancing grass, because, just about June 6 (the date of yours), I said to myself, 'I must write and tell the Man that there are glancing grasses and that is June'. And you replied to my thought.

Man.

No. 3 Statement.

At the same time, Man, I want a letter from you. Did you get my last, written in some depression (since cleared away) ?

Do write (it's your turn, you know), if you can. We are a little farther away from you than we were. In billets, working-parties at night, etc. A dirty kind of life.

Love from

A Man.

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To A.E. Kitchin.

Whit-Sunday, June 11, 1916.

I am reviving my interest again in the European problem. Do you know, I believe that, if we win, the best solution will be almost the status quo, because it would only be ther status quo materially, not soiritually. For the Germans would not be humiliated, and the large better element among them (I don't believe it doesn't exist) would probably 'rapproche' with the good elements among the Allies, and that would be the basis for a European understanding and a determination on all our parts to behave better in the future, seeing how little the War would have brought to all of us. The greatest victory that could be won in this War would be, not the particular gain of one or a few nations, but the tragic realisation by all nations that nobody has gained anything; statement! As for 'The War after the War', and Mr. Hughes, and all that disastrous sort of idea - what are we to do about it?

We are still behind the line, but only a short distance away, sleeping and eating in daylight and working in the dark, and generally just get out of the bullet zone as dawn arrives, and the moon and the stars and the star-shells get faint. I have been chiefly engaged in clearing out an old dis-used trench, all overgrown with grass and marked by shell-holes of some old battle of a year ago, I should think; full of old refuse pits and wet spider's webs, and generally rather a creepy, unpleasant place. One expects to see the ghosts of French soldiers as one turns the corner. But the star-shells of the Bosches, 200 yards in front, keep one to realities.

I am longing for more news from Shrewsbury.

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To H. St. L.B. Moss.

1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade - France.

Whit-Sunday, June 11, 1916.

This is, I am rather ashamed to think, an answer to your excellent letter, written to me on March 24, when you were staying with the Huntinfords near Faringdon. Did I know it, you said? I do - a wonderful country. It is a good country, that (June 24) And it was something like that that I thought of when I lay down last night,and under the tent flap looked at a wonderful sky in the North-West, and thought of all the dear things and people that are under it.

We had rather an impressive Church Parade Service this morning. I always find Church Pararde a very moving affair. At the same time it seems awfully odd, reconciling all this with Christianity as a weapon. For while the Church out here, to all appearances, makes an appeal to the individual soul, yet it is felt by all to be an item in the training, and everything is made 'appropriate'; all the most warlike similes of St. Paul are made to apply, and 'Fight the good Fight' is of a certainty this Fight against the Bosches, and little else.

June 25. Indeed the most tragic thing about war is that one has to make a new morality, compatible with it, and to alter all standards of right and wrong. And it is a great thing to have instituted the Conscientious Objector. Never mind whether he is of the sincere kind or not. We have, by that clause in the Act, recognised that the individual conscience is supreme. If shirkers have taken shelter ubder it, I don't worry about them very much.

This morning I have been reading some remarkable poems by C.H. Sorley, who was at the King's Choir School when I was up there, and afterwards at Marlborough, and was killed last Autumn. You ought to see them, published by the Cambridge University Press.

Well, I must stop, because (1) you won't be able to read what I have written already, (2) the post goes rather soon, (3) I don't know what I should write about further.

Active Service makes me full of ideas, but incapable of expression.

Have you been writing anything, prose or verse, lately? Do carry out the 'Shrewsbury Epic' idea, which you once suggested. The hunger for Shrewsbury this June is almost intolerable.

Now I must say good-bye.

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To J.O. Whitfield.

1st R.B.

June 15, 1916.

There is very little to write about. All this news is so hideous from our own personal points of view, but thank Heaven, with it all, we seem to be nearer to victory.

Well, Man, I sometimes think of you at 4.0 on Sundays, and there are 'glancing grasses' here, to remind me of Franklin's fields in June.

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To His Sisters and Brothers.

1st R.B.

June 27, 1916.

It's possible that mails will be interrupted a bit in the future. So, if you do not hear from me, I want you not to be unnecessarily anxious about me. There is nothing I can tell you, except that I am happy and very fit. The weather is fresh and the wind in the west, and it is beautiful weather, except for camping. For every now and then comes a heavy downpour. But there is much in the freshness of this brushwood patch, where we are bivouacked, to remind me of the hill at the back of the Chapel House (1), and the Mere Cottage garden, and of your own dear selves. Meanwhile, not far away, a heavy bombardment is going on.

(1) At Capel Curig.

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To C.A. Alington.

June 27, 1916.

I have had a good deal of news of the best places lately. Good news of the glorious Malvern Match, of the Corps Inspection, but also of Leslie Woodroffe's death. I could never have thought that they would send him out again. He was so very much a part of the place, and is still. Do you think that we all continue to have our part in the place after death, even when not remembered? I am very jealous of mine; and though I know such an article of faith is called animism or some such horrible name, yet I cling to the idea of becoming, after death, more completely a part of Shrewsbury than when I was an unworthy, active member of the community; not by what I have done there, but by how much I loved it.

It is inevitable, just at present, that we should think such things, and impossible, at present, for me to express them legibly or intelligibly. I expect Leslie Woodroffe thought something of the same sort, but I expect also that he met death easily; for I think he trained himself to self-sacrifice.

Oh! I meant to say that there are five officers in this Company, and three of us are quoting The Wrong Box pretty frequently, much to the annoyance of the other two.

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To E.H.L. Southwell.

1st R.B.

June 27.

Oh Man, I can't write now. I am too like a coach before the Bumping Races or Challenge Oars.

So, Man, good luck.

Our New House and Shrewsbury are immortal, which is a great comfort.

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To H.E. Howson.

1st R.B.

June 29, 1916.

There is a big attack coming off very shortly, and we are in it. And there is just a minute to scribble a line to you, with my love and greeting. We hope it will be a success, though it will be a difficult business, I am sure. Our job will be to take the front system of trenches in this area.

Man, I can't write a letter. There is much to think, but nothing to say, really.

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To His Family and Friends.

1st R.B.

June 29, 1916 (1)

I dare say this will not reach you, but I have asked a friend to send it for me when censorship does not apply any longer. We are taking part in the big attack, and I go up to the trenches this afternoon and shall not be able to write again between now and the beginning of it. All hope that this attack will bring us a little nearer the end of the War. There is little doubt that it will be a difficult business, but we hope for success after the bombardment that is going on. Our business is to take the front system of German trenches in the area we are in.

And now, I just want to say to you all, that, if I don't come through it, you must all be quite cheerful about it. I am quite happy about it, though of course I can't deny that I am very keen to come home again. I look at all this from a very personal point of view, almost a selfish point of view. It seems to me that, if I die in this action, it gives me a great, simple chance of making up for a lot of selfishnesses in the past. And when I want to reconcile myself to the idea of not coming back again, I just think of all those selfish mistakes I've made, and am almost glad of the opportunity to put them right. That's mt view on it. It is not priggish - I hope it doesn't sound like that.

It is also a great comfort to think of you all going on, living the same happy lives that we have led together, and of the new generation coming into it all.

I can't write more. My dearest love to you all.

I am very fit.

(1) Two days before he was killed.

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OK time to once again let everyone know where the 1st Rifle Brigade were from when M.G.W. joined the Battalion on 18-2-16 until the first day of the Somme.

Feb 8th:- The Battalion moved for one night to Varennes and from there to Gezaincourt where they stayed training and cleaning up until the 17th, when 'A' Company marched to billets in Canaples and 'B' Company to Longuevillette, 'C' and 'I' Companies and Headquarters staying at Gezaincourt.

Feb 24th:- Received sudden orders for the Battalion less 'A' Company at Canaples to move out of Gezaincourt to make room for the 42nd Brigade. Marched to billets in Invergny.

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6th March:- Marched to Sus-St.-Leger and stayed there training hard until the 20th when the brigade relieved the 112th brigade of the 37th Division in Fonquevillers to Monchy au Bois sector and we marched to reserve billets in Pommier.

24th March:- We relieved the Somerset L.I. in the Hannescamps sector. This new sector was good and fairly quiet. The 2nd Be. Royal Irish Rifles were on our right and the 1st Bn. Royal Warwick (10th Brigade) on our left; 1st Bn. Somerset L.I. in support and the East Lancashire in reserve.

30th March:- Relieved by Somerset L.I. and went into close support in Hannescamps and Fonquevillers. Major W.L.V. Prescott-Westcar ordered to take command of the 10th Battalion. From this time until 2nd May passed unevebtfully. When not in the line, we were alternately in close support or in reserve in Pommier.

2nd May:- Relieved by the 11th Warwickshire's of the 112th Brigade, 37th Division, and went for one night to Pommier.

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3rd May:- Marched to billets in Halloy. The Division was then transferred to the VIIIth Corps of the VIth Army.

6th May:- Moved to billets in Beaumetz and Prouville and trained vigorously until the 15th, when we moved to Manchy and Le Festel, returning to Beaunetz on the 21st and going to Amplier on the 22nd, and to Beaussart on the 23rd. Here we stayed until June 11th when we marched to Mailly-Maillet and there worked on the preparation of the Battalion assembly area until 22nd when we returned to Beaussart.

24th June:- Our preliminary bombardments increased daily in intensity. At 10 p.m. on the 26th we moved to bivouacs on the Forceville-Mailly road.

27th June:- Battalion addressed by the Divisional Commander.

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29th June

'A' and 'B' Companies moved into assembly trenches. On night 29-30 two attempts th enter the enemy's trenches were made by parties under the command of 2nd Lieutenants F.W. Kirkland and R.A. Patterson, but failed owing to uncut wire. By the morning of the 30th the assembly of the Battalion in its p[ositions was completed. The battle was first ordered to begin on 29 June but was afterwards postponed until 1st July. The Battalion assembled in part of our trenches in which lay the road angle formed by the Serr-Mailly-Maillet road and the road known as Watling Street which ran north-west from Beaumont-Hamel to this road. The trenches in which 'I' Company assembled on the right of the south of the Battalion front lay just west of the crest of Redan Ridge.

'A' Company (White's) was on its left and formed the centre, whilst the left of 'B' Company, which formed the left or north of the front rested on the Serre road. 'C' Company, in close support, assembled immediately in rear of 'I' Company. The 4th Division was one of the Divisions of the VIIIth Corps which was the most northerly Coprs involved in the Battle of The Somme, and was entrusted with the difficult task of breaking through and capturing the enormously strong enemy positions about Serre, which not only had the advantage of higher ground but had been prepared for months with every sort of defence, both trenches and wire, known to the German. Our preliminary bombardment, was at that stage of the war thought terrific but, as was afterwards shown, was not sufficient to outweigh the natural advantages and remarkable defences of the enemy's position. The general direction of the attack was east, and the 11th Infantry Brigade reinforced by the 6th and 8th Battalion of the Warwickshire Regiment, was allotted as objective the system of trenches immediately north of Beaumont-Hamel as far as the Serre road; an advance of a front of about one mile to a depth of about one mile, including an extremely strong redoubt known as Ridge Redoubt. In order of battle the 1st Bn. Rifle Brigade formed the centre of the first wave of the Brigade, with the 1st Bn. East Lancashire on its right andd the 8th Bn. Warwickshire on its left, the remaining three Battalions, the 1st Bn. Hants, 1st Bn. Somerset L.I. and the 6th Bn. Warwickshire, formed the second wave which was to pass through at the first objective and carry out the assault and capture of the second objective. This attack was planned minutely and all details of equipment, communication, both on the ground and with aeroplanes, etc., carefully thought out and arranged.

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1st July:-

The Battle of The Somme began and at zero we attacked. At first the advance behind the barrage appeared to go quite well, but when the first wave was within a few yards of the enemy's front line, a hail of rifle and machine gun fire opened up on them from the enemys front line and from defences on the Redan Ridge and about Serre, which owing to the rising of the ground also commanded No Man's Land. So heavy was this fire that only a few of our men succeeded in reaching the enemy's wire, and the Somerset L.I. who advanced to reinforce them were unable to reach them owing to the fire which they met as they left our line. One small party of the right ('I') Company succeeded in getting into the enemy's front line but was unable to hold out as it could not get in touch with either flank. The first wave of the left ('B') Company took part of the German front line and bombed it's way to the south where, however, such strong resistance was met that, as they had failed to get into touch with anyone, they ceased to advance, and established a block. This action, however, enabled the supporting ('C') Company and some of the Shropshire L.I. to enter the enemy's front line on their left and to capture the second German line on the Serre - Beaumont-Hamel road and also the third German line. Here, as the attack on their right failed, they could not get touch and so established blocks on either flank. This point ('B' Company front) proved the line of least resistance and drew in some of the second and third waves from the south ('A' Company) and some of the 8th Bn. Warwickshire from the north, and soon the lines captured became filled with men. This little isolated force was later reinforced by some men of the 10th and 12th Brigade's and managed to hold on till about 4.30 p.m. although both its flanks were in the air. Our Battalion bombers displayed great skill and courage at the block on the right flank, and it was maily due to this that the composite force succeeded in maintaining its position as long as it did. Ours and the other Lewis-gunners also did magnificent work but were one by one knocked out, and slowly our supply of bombs failed and the Germans guns began to get the range of our positions. At about 4.30 p.m. the Germans managed to establish themselves in some trenches near our right block, and as we had practically no bombs left, they had no difficulty in dislodging our bombers. The position then became desperate, and tohough some of our men stayed and died in that trench, most were forced back to the second enemy line. This, we only succeeded in holding for quarter of an hour, and in the end we fell back to the German first line, and here a force consisting of ourselves, some of the 2nd Bn. Seaforth, 1st Bn. Somerset L.I. and Warwickshire of the 48th Division, held out all night until relieved on the morning of the 2nd by the 1st Bn. Royal Irish Fusiliers

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During the evening of the 1st and all through the night this little force drove off repeated bombing attacks down the communication trenches from both the south and the north-east. The enemy however, made no counter-attack across the open. The system of attack was on a front of three companies, with six platoons in the first wave in line, three platoons, Lewis gunners and bombing squads in the second wave, and three platoons in line in third wave; 100 yards between waves. The attack failed partly only, as its intention was to keep the enemy anxious and prevent reinforcements being sent to the more important front south of the Ancre, as well as to effect the actual penetration of his line (the troops actually penetrated to the third line), and the first of these objects was without doubt accomplished by the tenacity and courage of the troops. The losses suffered by the Battalion were very severe and included the C.O.

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E.H.L. SOUTHWELL

July to September 1916.

Though he had been anxious about White for ten days, it was not until July 13 that Southwell heard the news that he was missing. For another fortnight he was in the same part of the line as before, and then, on the 27th, the Battalion left Sombrin, and was at rest behind the line at the beginning of August. For the last three weeks of the month they entered 'the land of the Push', and were engaged in holding on to captured trenches, though they took no part in any organised attack. On September 1 Southwell speaks of the Battalion as back at rest not far from Abbeville; and during this period he was made 'O.C. Entertainments', and organised football for the men.

His Company Commander was away on leave, but returned on September 10. On the 15th the Battalion returned to the line, and took part in a big attack. Southwell was well in advance of his men, when a sniper hit him, near Delville Wood. He was killed instantaneously.

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These are letters wriiten about him.

From one who knew him intimately throughout his life:-

'His "philosophy of life" was very real, and profound in its depth. It was characteristically empirical, and not traditional, in its method. He worked it out for himself. Never would he move a step farther than he could see, in his search after truth. It was always, I believe, theistic. Long before the end it became definetely and deliberately Christian. Both the Chaplains at the Front wrote to say he never missed a Church Parade or Celebration of Holy Communion, unless his military duties made his presence impossible. One of the Chaplains adds that he did this largely for the sake of others, and not merely for his own sake. The same Chaplain states that it was by his influence that his servant was brought to Confirmation. 'Whatever were the fundamental principles of his pilosophy of life, one thing was certain; he had caught, as if by intuition, visions which "we are striving all our life to find".

' His love of Nature was pathetic in its intensity. It was God's world to him. Whenever he went toa new district, he used to explore the locality and "interpret" it in relation (by way of comparison or contrast) to familiar places at home. He drank it all in with his whole soul as a Revelation of life.

'Akin to his love of Nature was his devotion to two forms of art, music and architecture: with regard to the latter, his description of any new billet was always by reference to "the most wonderful Cathedral in France", or "the picturesque little village Church". This form of art, like that of music seemed to be part of his reilgious life.

'His unflinching devotion to duty was another marked feature of his character. When once he had made up his mind what it was his duty to do, he did it at whatever cost to himself as well as to others. It was often obvious that, if any such decision hurt others, it hurt him much more.

'His devotion to others was possibly the most marked trait in his life. He loved them (albeit with a discriminating love) as his own soul, and was delighted, in his simple-minded way, when he saw their hearts' response to his appeal.

'Finally, there was his exquisite simplicity. He remained "a child" in temper and spirit to the very end. Of him it could be truly said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile".'

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From an Officer of his Company:-

'While he was with us, he was always cheerful, and a great factor in the happiness of the Battalion. As well, he was a very efficient soldier, and showed great keeness. I really think that he liked soldiering; at any rate, I know he was very happy while he was with us.'

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