Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Luton Soldiers Write Home

Troops boarding train at Bedford 1914 [Z1306/12/5/38]

Thursday 1st April 1915: A Luton man, Acting Bombardier A. A. Harris of 2nd Lincoln Battery, 1st North Midland Division, has written describing his arrival in France:
It was a fine journey over, living on biscuits and bully beef which does not look very tempting when every moment you expect to find your heart in your mouth, this being the first long journey most of us had ever taken by boat, but after all there was not much illness, the sea taking a liking to us. We arrived at our destination in the early morn and proceeded to a rest camp, where we were treated A1, being served out with fine warm coats and body belts, the gift of the women of England – a most acceptable gift, too. We also took our first lesson in “Parle vous Francais”. Leaving the camp we proceeded up country, being two days entrained in horse boxes. This seems a strange way of travelling, but it is fine; we being able to lay down and sleep, where with the ordinary carriages it would mean our sitting upright and not getting much rest.
The experiences of those already serving in the Front Line give some idea of what may await Bombadier Harris. Private R Watson of King’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards writing to his brother Mr. C. Watson of William Street, Luton tells him he has had some “near shaves”:
You are right in what you said about our having a very warm time of it, and losing a good lot of men, but I got through without a scratch. I consider myself a lucky man, as I had three bullets put through my pack and one right below my belt: it hit the piece of brass on my water-bottle strap and cut through my great coat and jacket … We did not do any charging, but had to advance in daylight and had a cross-fire on us almost all the first day and had a good mile and a half of ground to get over.
Bombadier C. H. Clarke of the 56th Battery, Royal Field Artillery has described in a letter to his sister Mrs A. Coles of High Street, Toddington some of the difficulties facing the infantry:
It is a nasty job for them to try and gain trenches when they have to scramble through barbed wire, with which the ground is covered. It takes a big gun to shift it, and while they are trying their utmost to overcome barbed wire entanglements they are met with a storm of bullets from the enemy’s machine guns. It is awful work, but the boys stick it and die like men. Some experience a more difficult task than others. One of the boys was telling me how his mate was fixed in the barbed wire, with two wounds in his legs, and he dare not flinch an inch, only hang there and make believe he was dead, until it got dark and then, bit by bit, he loosed himself and crawled back into his own trenches.
 Source: Luton News, 25th March 1915

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