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Quorn Soldier's Experiences 1916

Loughborough Monitor - 6th April 1916

(passed by censor)

A Quorn soldier, writing home to his mother a few days ago, says:- "Since you last heard from me we have made a long move, and heaven knows to what we belong now?. When we said good-bye to our brigade we also said it to our major, who came out with us. He is now Lieutenant-Colonel, and the Colonel is a Brigadier-General. The latter sent a letter to our Captain to be read to us, and from what he said they think we have done well. We worked hard enough anyway; thirteen months almost and only three days out of action, with the exception of the last few days, when we were on the move.

Let me tell you what has happened since leaving. We set off in the morning. It was snowing hard, bitterly cold, but thawing as it fell. Everyone was cold, wet and miserable. It was clear by four o'clock, but there was a white covering of snow on the ground, and consequently we showed up very plainly on the ridges to anyone observing from the enemy's lines. The column was about 200 yards long, so made quite a target. We were going steadily along, taking no notice of anything, when suddenly we heard the wiz of a small shell, followed by others. They dropped about 100 yards to the right of us, and we knew they were ranging. The Quartermaster was in charge, and he halted the column at once, and gave the order to turn back. Of course that made a mess of things, but we went back a quarter of a mile. Meanwhile they kept getting nearer, but luckily just far enough away. Then we halted when back and set off again after half an hour, our gun team leading the column, and just as we got to the spot where we had turned, they put an eight inch shrapnel right over us. Luck must have been on our side as no one was hit, and the order was given to trot, and we didn't half let them go.

All the time the column was passing, the enemy were putting over their big black shells, and we had only four horses hit. How on earth we managed to escape so luckily is a marvel to me. A column of Field Artillery was following behind us, and they had 12 men knocked over. We got to the Battery without any more trouble, and then the Huns started 'strafing' the ruins of the village, but never got within 50 yards of us. We got going by nine in the evening. It began to freeze, and by midnight the roads in places were like glass. Up and down the hills we went, and it was a big job to keep your feet. About one in the morning we reached a hill that proved our master. It was now freezing hard, and the last meal we had was at noon the previous day. I found a pile of stones on the roadside and sat down for a rest, but wasn't long before I fell asleep, and soon the whole of the team was asleep on the pile of stones.

After an hour we had to rouse ourselves and help the other teams, by which time it was beginning to get light. In a small village, about 7 am we found a house where they sold us coffee and cake, and it was about the most delicious drink I ever had. We watered and fed the horses and off we set again.

......About 9 we landed at our first halting place, a small village nestling in a deep hollow between high hills with a fast running stream through it and an old-fashioned flour mill worked by it. We billeted in a big barn at the mill and stayed for three days. It snowed daily. We belonged to no one, but had our pay, and made friends with an old dame who kept the inn, where we went for a warm when not on duty. Everyone was sorry to leave the village, but we had to go sometime ......

Our next resting-place was reached in the afternoon. This village was nearer the firing line, and the burial ground had many small crosses marking the last resting-place on earth of French and German soldiers. I walked through to have a look at them. It was a sad sight, and in almost every village we passed through after this there was a piece of land fenced off and dotted with these small crosses.

In our new billet, which has a holey roof, you keep your heads under blankets on account of the rats, which have no fear, and during the night these rodents have competitions and races over our bodies. You can feel them running over you all night, and as I am writing they are fighting amongst themselves under the straw which is on the brushwood where they hang out. I believe there is a nest under my bed as there is a terrible lot of squeaking during the night.

When we get to our position we are in full view of the Huns. We can see a village, a heap of bricks and shell-holes, for on the slopes some of the fiercest fighting of the war has taken place. We can see dozens and dozens of bodies, French and German, but mostly the latter. Some are partly buried, and here and there you see a leg or arm sticking out. It is an awful scene, and it is said that 40,000 lives were lost around here ...

Thank goodness, we are all right now; the weather has gone mad. Yesterday and the day before were as near like July as it is possible. The sun was blazing hot and the sky cloudless and blue; today it is just right, not too hot nor too cold. The extreme almost doubled us up - it was too sudden."

 Submitted on: 2009-12-05
 Submitted by: Kathryn Paterson
 Artefact ID: 709
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page

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