Wednesday, 8 April 2015

"Nearly As Large As Clifton Pond"

All Saints Parochial School Clifton, c.1866 [Z50/30/42]

Thursday 8th April 1915: Mr. William Norris, the schoolmaster at Clifton, has received a letter from one of his former pupils describing his experiences under fire. Private Joseph Henry Cooper[1] writes:

“We are now getting fine weather and the trenches are drier and more comfortable than they were when I first experienced what war was like two months ago. There are many different kinds of guns used on both sides, and I think the Germans waste more ammunition than we do. German shells are known to English Tommies by the whistle they make in their travels. We call some of them “Wicked Willies”, others “Jack Johnsons”, but those with the loudest whistle we call “Coal Boxes”, and when one of these bursts in the ground it makes a hole nearly as large as Clifton Pond. We generally get two or three of these for breakfast, but when the “White Man’s Hope” answers them they soon become silent. We receive cigarettes and tobacco, which are sent out by kind persons in various parts of the Mother Country and the Colonies, and I can assure you they are thankfully received and much appreciated. We are all very pleased to receive letters, and you may guess how down-hearted one seems if he is drawn blank when the post arrives”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 9th April 1915

[1] Joseph Henry Cooper was the son of John Henry and Charlotte Cooper of Clifton. Born in the village in 1896, the 1911 census records him as a farm labourer. His entry in The National Roll of the Great War, 1914-1918 reads: “He was serving at the outbreak of war, and in November of the same year was drafted to the Western Front, where he took part in the Battles of Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, St. Quentin and Hill 60, where he was wounded. He was invalided home, and after a period in hospital was discharged as medically unfit for further service in May 1916.” He served with the 5th (reserve) battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment and transferred to the 2nd battalion with which he went on active service. Joseph Cooper died in 1964. 

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