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Forgotten Voices of the Great War

Welcome to the Hondón Valley Branch of The Royal British Legion

Forgotten Voices of the Great War

  A Tribute to All those Men and Women who Died so that we may live in Peace

The Following extracts were read during the Remembrance Service by

Lt Col Peter Lodge MBE
Peter Broadbent
Neil Pavitt

 

1914

Private Godfrey Buxton

Royal Army Medical Corps.

I’d had one year up at Cambridge and then volunteered for the Army.  We were quite clear that Germany would be defeated by the 7th October when we go back to Cambridge.

 

Captain Philip Neame VC

15th Field Company, Royal Engineers

I was stationed at Gibraltar when war was declared and we officers there were afraid that the war would be over quickly and that we should miss it because we were not part of the BEF.  We were all keen soldiers and if there was a war in which the British Army was taking part, we were all only too anxious to be at the Front.

 

 

1915

First Battle of Ypres

Trooper Stanley Down

North Somerset Yeomanry

On the night of the 12th May we arrived in our trenches as the first thin streaks of dawn lit the sky, I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning.  The first shell landed not many yards from where I was standing and the whole earth seemed to tremble at that moment.  Sandbags, rifles and equipment went up into the air and a terrific shower of earth came down on us.  After that, the bombardment began in real earnest.  Every three minutes – or possibly every minute, one couldn’t tell, the shells kept coming and the noise was terrific.

The bombardment went on from dawn to around midday before there was any cessation at all.  By that time the trenches were just a quagmire and the earthworks and barbed wire had been blown to pieces long since.  The result was that practically the whole of the front line around the town of Ypres was a series of holes in which men crouched waiting for the end.

 

 

 

1916

The Somme

Rev. John Duffield

Chaplain, Lancashire Battalion

One night I was in the line – I was helping the medical officer in his job and doing my own at the same time – when two men came in.  The first was one of our men and the other was a German and they were both wounded.  Our man said to the doctor, “Here’s a job I made for you doctor, and he made this one for me”  What could you do with men like that?  They were grand.

 

Corporal William Skipp

We had a sniper’s post, which was just a sheet of metal 2 inches high and a foot wide – just a hole big enough to put a rifle through.  Well we had two boys who were orphans, they had been brought up together, joined up together and had been all the way through together.  They were standing in the trenches and one said, “What’s this George, have a look through here” and he had no sooner approached it than he went down with a bullet through his forehead.  Now his friend was so flabbergasted he too had a look, and less than 2 minutes later he was down in the trench with his friend.

1917

Passchendaele

Corporal Clifford Lane

1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment

We were so thirsty that we actually drank water out of shell-holes and God knows what a shell-hole contains.  It could hold anything – very often parts of a human body.  But we were so thirsty we drank it cold without boiling it because you couldn’t get a fire very often.

 

Sgt.Major Richard Tobin

Hood Battalion, R.N. Division

There was no chance of being wounded and getting a Blighty one at Passchendaele.  You could either get through or die because if you were wounded and slipped off the duckboards, you just sank out of sight in the mud.  At each side (of the duckboards) was a sea of mud and if you stumbled you would go in up to the waist and literally every pool was full of decomposed bodies of humans and mules.  There was no front line, just a series of posts scraped in the mud.  When shells started dropping you ran to the left or to the right to get some cover but if you were on the duckboards you couldn’t run anywhere.  You just had to face it and go on.

 

 

Battle of Menin Road Ridge

Private Harry Patch

Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

The shelling was bad.  You could here the big shells coming although if you could hear them, that was all right, they’d gone over.  You never heard the whizz-bangs coming, they were just there.  And you never heard the shell or bullet that hit you.  Of course, whizz-bangs were shrapnel and that was worse than a bullet.  A bullet wound was clean, shrapnel would tear you to pieces.  It was a whizz-bang that killed my three friends and wounded me, it was just bad luck.  They had those four magazines over their shoulders, fully loaded.  That’s why they all got blown to pieces.

 

1918

“Backs to the wall.  Every man will stand and fight and fall.  No more retreating”  (Message to the Army from Field Marshal Haig)

Armistice

11th November 1918

Marine Hubert Trotman

Royal Marine Light Infantry

We were still fighting hard and losing men.  We knew nothing of the proposed Armistice, we didn’t know until a quarter to ten on that day.  As we advanced on the village of Guiry a runner came up and told us that the Armistice would be signed at 11 o’clock that day, the 11th of November.  That was the first we knew of it.

We were lined up on a railway bank nearby, the same railway bank that the Manchesters had lined up on in 1914.  They had fought at the battle of Mons in August that year.  Some of us went down to a wood in a little valley and found the skeletons of some of the Manchesters still lying there.  Lying there with their boots on, very still, no helmets, no rusty rifles or equipment, just their boots.

 

Corporal Reginald Haine

1st Battalion, Hon. Artillery Company

It wasn’t like London, where they all got drunk of course.  No, it wasn’t like that, it was all very quiet.  You were so dazed you just didn’t realise that you could stand up straight and not be shot.

 

 

Sgt. Major Richard Tobin

Hood Battalion, RN Division

The Armistice came, the day we dreamed of.  The guns stopped, the fighting stopped.  Four years of noise and bangs ended in silence.  The killings had stopped.

We were stunned.  I had been out since 1914.  I should have been happy.  I was sad.  I thought of the slaughter, the hardships, the waste and all the friends I had lost.

 

They shall grow not old

As we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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