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SUBURBAN HEROES.

TALE OF "LONDON PRIDE."

A BOMTiER'S SACRIFICE

[By Philip Gibbs, special corres-

pondent of the "Daily Chronicle."]

1 had not seen much of London men since Loos until yesterday, when 1 went to see how they had been getting on during months which have dragged so slowly on that the Great Push of last September seems like an ancient tale.

Nothing much hac happened since September to those London battalions who helped to break the German line and then dug in and "organised" and held their ground under infernal shell fire. They had <n rest for a time after that adventure, which thinned their ranks, and then "went in" again, holding a nasty part of the line where the enemy's bombardment is always heavy. There were not many incidents to report about them. It was just the same old business of trench warfare, with what is known technically as the "inevitable wast- 1

age. That is to say they lived in the furnace fires which test the supreme courage of men day after day, night after night. Well, they looked almost untouched by nervous strain when I saw some of them yesterday. land their spirit is as good as ever it has been, judging from the ■jokes that passed from one to another. They introduced me to several experts among them — the chief sniper, the bomb enthusiast, the barbcd-wii-j eater, the missionary of No Man's Land —and seemed to find something extremely humorous in those various kinds of work. Lewisham to Loos. And indeed it was curious, when one comes to think of it. Because IS months ago these young men wore black coats and white collars, and travelled from Streatham Hill or Lewisham or other quiet suburbs by morningtrains to Westminster. Without o-uessing for a moment that this tittle life of theirs was but the prelude to a frightful melodrama of blood and death, they pushed through the swing doors into Government offices, and did a few hours of leisurely and futile work about elementary schools and Board of Trade returns, and had games of dominoes on teashop tables, and discussed books and plays and the ideas of human progress and the suffragette problem and the Territorial system, till suddenly everything broke, and England called upon her men of fighting age, and there happened—this?

I asked them questions which one does not put as a rule to private soldiers, who would be puzzled by them.

"Do you think fellows of your kind—men who have done clerical work—can stick it out as well as mechanics, and agricultural labourers, and men of outdoor life not requiring much head work?"

"It looks like it," said one of •them, simply. "The Londoners did all right at Loos. 'On the whole our nerves arc steady enough under bombarbment, though we don't like it any better than other people. Pride helps. London pride."

That Avas a good phrase—-"Lon-don pride." It is this which helps men who. were not really made for fighting—highly strungmen, fellows sensitive to the ugly things of war, young clerks with literary ideas and ambitions. Cricketer's Last "Over." There are many well-to-do men in the ranks. The other day, for instance, a private soldier, acting as orderly, waited upon an officer who had been his solicitor and had been glad to get his legal business. In some of the battalions University men march shoulder to shoulder with actors, music-hall singers, commercial travellers and shop assistants. All the types of London life are here in the ranks, and it is "London pride" that makes them good fighting men, quick to learn and cool in action. I

There was a little affair in December which showed the spirit of the men. A bomb was dropped in our own trench just as it was about to explode. It would have killed a number of men had not one of these Londoners—named Drewitt—made the sacrifice of his own life. He flung- himself over the bomb and saved his comrades.

Another London man named Nash—a lance-corporal, I believe —Stood out above the German trench flinging his.grenades with the utmost gallantry. He was a fine cricketer, and did not throw his bombs in the orthodox way, but with the over-arm swing of a fast bowler. So now he played his last game as though he was practising at the nets, and kept the enemy back until they lobbed one of their own bombs at him and struck him on the head.

The fight was one of those wild scrimmages which take place in most of these small attacks when the enemy's trenches run close to ours in a maze of earthworks. Some of the Londoners scrambled by mistake into the communication trench and found to their surprise, that it was an open way into the enemy's line. They were caught under machine gun fire, it seems, . . . The whole incident did not matter very much—except for those who mourn for the dead. The place itself no longer exists. It has been blown up by the mines. All that is worth remembering of this a flair is the very fine courage of London men who were new to the business, but went through with it with the grim spirit of old soldiers.

The London Territorials are as fine as any troops in Flanders in the opinion of those who know.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AMBPA19160505.2.16

Bibliographic details

SUBURBAN HEROES., Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, Volume LXXV, Issue 3542, 5 May 1916

Word Count
892

SUBURBAN HEROES. Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, Volume LXXV, Issue 3542, 5 May 1916

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