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Remembered Today:

Did Tommy Know Where He Was?


HarryBettsMCDCM
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We often see requests posted seeking details as to where Grandad or Great Uncle was on such and such a date,I wonder when reading these if Tommy Atkins & his peers ever knew exactly where he was apart from "In France,Gallipoli,Africa",etc;& if there is evidence that they did,I often think that to the Bloke in the Trenches one piece of Flanders mud was very similar to another & provided he was @ times fed & dry he didnt care that much where he was...

discuss. :rolleyes:

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I doubt it, HB. Whenever they took us out in the country (in Germany) we hadn`t a clue where we were and nobody ever showed us a map. One assumes the signposts would have been removed as here in WW2. Perhaps why you so often read that "the orficer got us lost"? Phil B

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I am sure that they knew where they were when in the Ypres salient!

Jon

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I think that there are plenty of references in men's memoirs to indicate that the average infantryman didn't always know where he was going but the same memoirs give plenty of evidence to suggest that the soldiers usually knew where they were when they got there:

- soldiers mention returning to villages which had been to before, and whose names they knew

- railway-stations had signboards with their names

- villages had name-boards

- many road-junctions had signposts or boards showing the way to local villages

- prior to an attack, men were shown models of the area to be attacked, with all the main features named

I agree that when holding trenches it would have been very difficult to know precisely where one was, rather like driving through winding country roads at night. You get to a main road and get your bearings, but have no idea where you have been.

Tom

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Guest KevinEndon

Tommy at Gommecourt is a book of a ww1 soldier in the North Staffs Regiments who recalls in vivid details the towns and villages he marched to and from whilst on the front, if anyone is thinking of buying this book I wont spoil the story but Tommy finds himself in Germany and still recalls the names of villages and towns in Germany. Therefore I feel that every Tommy Atkins knew exactly where they were in the sense of a near by town or village but whilst on the front line the names given to the trenches were taken as the true locations.

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If you posted a map of the northern end of the Western Front and asked members to mark where the front line crossed the border between Belgium and France, I wonder how many would get it right - and I'm sure there must have been at least as much uncertainty at the time. The unit I'm researching spent the whole war on the Belgian coast, but I've lost count of the number of sources, then and since, that refer to them as being 'in France'.

As for knowing where he was in terms of "What's the name of that village on the horizon", I doubt whether Tommy would have cared very much, so long as he wasn't required to attack it and it didn't start shooting at him.

Mick

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This is a quote from the 8th Royal Scots.

Estaires( April 1915)

"------.It moved back to its old billet at Outersteen towards the end of the month.It was at this village that the Battalion came first in contact with the peasants,and the welcome received on their return was a testimony of how the the "Soldats Ecossais"were beloved.When the Battalion passed this village in the days to follow,it brought back happy memories,many stories,and a feeling of home.The Cadre passed it on their way home,but,to their deep regret,found that the village had been utterly destroyed during the enemy's offensive in the spring of 1918."

Whether the Soldiers could find it on a Map is open to debate but the Village did mean something to them.

George

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From various diaries I have, they knew their location. Especially if around Hill 60, Hooge etc.

Have a look at the various diaries on www.ypressalient.co.uk - under the index and war diaries.

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