Saturday, 22 April 2017

Leighton Buzzard Soldier Describes German Retreat at Arras

Dudley Street, Leighton Buzzard 1908 [Z1130/72/70]

Sunday 22nd April 1917: Over the past couple of weeks a great battle has been taking place around Arras. The British attack has succeeded in pushing back the Germans, though whether this will prove to be a breakthrough that will end the deadlock at the Front remains to be seen. Mr and Mrs. G. A. Hull of Dudley Street, Leighton Buzzard, have received an exciting account of the German retreat from their son, Trooper Arthur Hull.
“The past week has been the most exciting time of my life. Last Saturday we were out on a field scheme when suddenly a dispatch rider came along with the order to return to camp at once and move off in marching order up the line, as the Germans were retreating. How excited we all were to think that after two years we were going in. We have been after the Germans ever since. Where the German trenches had been our artillery had wrought terrible havoc. It is absolutely indescribable; everything was battered to atoms … After scouring the country round for miles we came across the Huns and got a few shots from and at them, and my troop took our one and only prisoner so far. We have been on the go ever since, scouting the country to find Fritz, and I reckon in a straight line he must have retreated a good twenty miles on this front. … In one town my own troop were in advance, and were the first Allied soldiers seen for two and a half years. I shall never forget the scene as long as I live. The people were almost mad and the tears of joy streamed down their cheeks. They clutched at our arms as we rode in, and when we dismounted the girls and women absolutely hung round our necks, smothered us with kisses, and held up their kiddies to be kissed.
 We had to wait at this place until the Engineers came up and threw a bridge across the Somme, and then on we went. We have been doing about fifteen hours in the saddle daily, and have had very little sleep. Several nights have been spent in the fields on outpost duty, and two or three nights we have had a few hours’ sleep anywhere we could get. I saw a terrific fight a few days ago between four planes, and one French plane came down. One day four Bosch planes rained machine gun fire on us like water, but their aim was not good enough when we scattered … Our great difficulty is to get water. The Huns destroyed or poisoned every well they saw, and some have had to go back for water every morning. We are all very tired and shall not be sorry to be relieved. We are waiting for the artillery and infantry to come up. I haven’t had my clothes off or had a wash or a shave since we started, so you can guess we are handsome creatures.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 17th April 1917

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