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LETTERS FROM THE FRONT, Issue 15694, 7 January 1915
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
A London bus driver named Da-vies relates his experiences ; ho declares that he has seen more in one month than he could hove imagined in a year:—l am one of the fortunate ones. I-was always told I would never be killed, and T begin to think I was born under a lucky star. I have been engaged in driving motor waggons to and from the men lying in the trenches fighting our battle on the Aisne. Certainly I have seen very little of the fighting, but the roar of the big guns has been my companion night and day. 1. had not been on tho job four clays before- I lost my first waggon, which 1 named tho "London, Croydon, and Purley Growler." On my second journey to the, tield of operations we were ambushed by a body of Germans who pounced out of "a wood, but not one got back to toll the tale. It was a perfect eye-opener for mo and a nerve-tester-, 1 can tell you. We. were just congratulating ourselves when crash went a shell on to the bonnet. How I escaped I don't know. My growler was no good. She was a complete wreck. After transferring the load to another lorry we abandoned her and got away, but not before several of our fellows were winged. You have read of the treachery of the Germans, and thought perhaps some of the reports wore exaggerated. They are bad enough for anything. That's my 'opinion of what J have actually witnessed. We were returning empty the other night just as it was getting dusk, when the sergeant of the escort spied some Germans. We halted and took cover under a belt of trees. We- soon found out that these "dirty dogs" wanted to surrender. There was a nice bunch of them, including an officer. Our fellows were dubious until they threw their rifles down and held up their hands as they approached us. The cad of an officer handed his revolver to our officer, and, speaking go<">d English, en .id : '"I part with it to a noble and generous foe." The. next second he whipped out another revolver from bis left-hand pocket and fired, wounding a poor old fanner Some of the other treacherous dogs tried on tho same game, and then there was rifle, fires from behind a haystack. Only two of them got away. Tho officer was riddled. hi his pockets were a number of letters, which were taken possession of by our officer. I. was told this dirty dog of a German was the son of a- well-known high official in Berlin. Wo left their dead bodies to be buried the following morning, but during the night this part oi' the country was overrun with Germans. The oificer's body was taken away, and I .suppose when it was found that we. had taken possession of his papers the German newspapers would scream ■ about the English robbing the dead. —How the Indians Work.— Private Charles Orchard, of tile City of London Regiment, witnessed at Armeutieres tho fighting methods of the Sikhs, whom ho thus describes : '" In the night tho Germans made a stealthy advance; to our trenches. We let them eomo along until they were nearly on top of us, and then the .Sikhs slipped out on their flank. They made terrible work with the bayonet, and the enemy were practically annihilated without a shut having been fired.'' Another story told by Private Orchard relates to the capture of a German convoy by tho Gurkhas. The exploit took place in the dead of one nijrht at a spot not very many miles distant from Armeritieros. The convoy, containing rations and ammunition, was stationary at the time, and was guarded by about 20 sentries. " With knives between their teeth the little brown fellows crawled right under the. very shadows of the convoy, and before the German sentries had time to realise what was about to happen, tho Gurkhas pounced upon them iike. tigers, and killed every man jack of them. The Gurkhas then settled down comfortably in charge of the convoy, but they had not long to wait before a strong party of Germans came on the scene, and were amazed to discover how matters stood. They immediately set to attack the Gurkhas, who slashed out to right and left with their deadly knives, and when the unequal combat was at its height timely British reinforcements arrived. About a hundred Germans were killed on tho spot, and 200 more were taken prisoners." Orchard was wounded in tho jaw while attempting to bring down a sniper, but the latter was accounted for by Orchard's mate. —He Hied to Save Others.— A splendid story of a dying sergeant's heroism was narrated by Private f). ]•'. Gilmour, of the Sea forth Highlander.--., at Dundee:—"lt was on the- Aisne. We had had a hard day. Our casualties were greater than I care to tell. I was with a fatigue party collecting the. wounded and burying the dead. Wo came on a sergeant of artillery and about 20 wounded men. The sergeant was nearest, and T signed to my mates to take him first. He waved us away. ' I can wait. Get the others first. They're much worse.' That was what he said. We persisted. He. got angry. ; I'm your superior in rank, and if you disobey I'll report you for insubordination.' That settled it, mi we started on the others. We got the !,i.-t awav. and came back for the sergeant. He was stone dead. la «-. bo had "neeu bleeding to death. He must have known that when he made u.-: iittr-ud to the others. Had be been taken at tirst his life would have been saved." —''Scallywag''' and Hero.— At the end of a life which had not been above reproach a British soldier proved himself a hero. The story of his d-»,-i.ln was told by a. bandsman" of tho North Lancashire?, who said: "'there was a man of the Fusilier Brigade who was as great a se.imp as they make 'em. He. ran away from his wife and two children si id 'listed. Just before lie was ordered off to France he was about- to be dismissed in disgrace, but lie went with the rest. We came on him just ai'ter one of our fiendish, fights' around Ypres. He. had been in the thick of it the night hemic and had escaped without a scratch, but in the retirement he came on a chum who was in danger of being left out there all night. He helped his churn towards our lines, but. halfway through was caught by a, stray bullet, and both lay down to wi.il for morning and death. The chum v. us dead and the. scamp wan sinking :;;st when we came on them. His last thought.; were of the deserted wife and children i 'Tell them I'm sorry in a. way,' was ins | J last message. 'Anyhow, .I'll be more use to them dead, lor they'll get a. pension, and they would have got nothing if I'd lived.' We felt, as we buried him that even a scamp may have his good points." —"Knocking Against Death Every - where."— "The night I was hit," writes one ol the Gloucestcrs to his parents, " wc had been engaged for three days in succession repelling attacks on our line, and we were driving them in front of us after being reinforced. We had fought from early morning that day, and the last position -held by the enemy was around a big farmhouse. All the outbuildings had been occupied by the Germans, and ritit) tiro was spitting out from every window. The walls were loophoied, and tho tires around the plaeo were occupied by sharpshooters, wiio Kept peppering us wherevei we showed ourselves. Wo were knocking against death wherever we turned, and our losses were heavy indeed. We kept marching on through the pitiless rain of bullets,, and our artiliery kept up a furious bombardment on tho buildings occupied by the Germans. We reached a low wall leading towards the main buildings. The Germans were lined behind it, and they were supported oy the murderous lire from the concealed ritlemon in the houses, on treetops, and by machine guns at every turn. It was as dangerous to go back as to go forward, and w-e made a dash for the wall. They met us with a terrible volley that tore into us like a steam roller crushing stones. Few of us knew what we were doing, but we got on to the wall, and dashed over at last. On the other side we came to close grips with the enemy. There was no quarter thought of. We hacked and slashed at each other, and all the time the fire from tho rifles and machine guns never slackened. It was kept up on both sides alike, and the Germans must have hit as many of their own men as they did of ours, for when two men are indulging in bayonet fighting .iou caoi't lu certain which you are going
to hit. I got knocked out by a. bayonet thrust, and all I know is that the enemy were beaten off." —Those "Cultured" Murderers. — As thev made that charge which will live in history the London Scottish were raging with fury, for they had seen the Germans deliberately bayonet their wounded (including Captain Angus M'Nab, of New Zealand), and a wild yell came from their throats as they sprang upon tho enemy whom they then regarded as murderers. One of the London Scottish, now lying in a Lotidon hospital, said that in the first wild moments of the charge against great odds the solid bodies of I German troops proved impenetrable. By sheer mass they drove back the fighting Scots, and the rifle firing at close quarters caused many casualties in the kilted regiment. The first charge, whilst, it wrought much havoc in the ranks of the enemy, left him unbroken, and the largo German column swept hack tho Scottish for some distance. Many wounded London Scots lay in the path of the enemy, and at this stage of the struggle there were perpetrated deeds which the wounded man related with fierce indignation. The Germans relentlessly bayoneted the wounded men who lay out of action. The London Scottish, as they steadied for the second rush, saw tho enemy methodically and with merciless purpose seek out the wounded men and bayonet, them. The rage which was surging in the Territorials a.3 they burst into the second charge j found expression less in the vengeful yell | of the Scots than in the terrible execution which their bayonets did amongst those men whom they now regarded as murderers. To the great satisfaction of the attackers tho Germans stood up to the j rush, using their rifles, but hardly ever] using the bayonet in the melee. ! The instinct to get in with the steel | has not come to the German yet. They fire as often as they can ; no aim at all; just low down, and anywhere. We couldn't shift them at first, so many were they. Hut the raging "Scot-ties" were busy writing—" London Scottish—their mark " on the brides who can only use their bayonets on men lying alone and wounded. There was bayoneting in the mix-up, all right; it was we who! did it, and the account isn't squared j yet. It will be found that most of our fellows went down to bullet wounds. To say that tho Germans charged with j the bayonet is inaccurate. When we j got them moving our follows fought like veritable fiends, and I reckon that little bit of the German army paid something on account for a lot of vile murderers. • —Those Magnificent Scots. j In a letter which an officer of the Loudon Scottish sent home, further details are given of the glorious work done by the London Scottish in Flanders. The letter, which is dated November 4, contains the following : " We knew very little of what we were doing at the time, but apparently we saved a very critical situation. We suffered most casualties in the. night fighting, especially in the bayonet work. In the early morning only a small proportion answered tho roll. Many more, however, have since turned up. There are a certain number of men absent on duties and' transport, so tho regiment at the front now numbers about 500. The missing officers are all wounded, except two whom wc cannot account for. -—— is one of these two. There, are many tales of men who actually shot with their own rifles as many as 20 or 30 Germans, ami even more, not to mention what, they may have 'browned' in the, dark. One. man in my company settled six Germans with his bayonet. These tales sound wild talk, but I ca-n vouch that such things were frequent occurrences. Tho coolness with which our men dealt, with the situation was marvellous. _ When it came, to the hand-to-hand fighting the physique of our regiment naturally told heavily in our favor. The men were magnificent, and behaved just a.s if it was a parade in Hyde Park until we came out of action at about nine in the morning. We then saw the effects of the light. The men were so exhausted that they could hardly bo urged to get out of range, of shell fire. However, we are all getting right again now, and are still resting. We are not likely to go into action again for some, time, and probably not into such a hot corner. The whole army seems to have heard of our performance, and we have received yet another congratulatory letter, ft runs'as follows : Hear Colonel,—l venture to ask yon to convey to your regiment, my deepest gratitude and admiration for the wav they performed on October 31 and through the following night. No troops in the world could have carried out their orders better, and while deploring the losses you have suffered, I nm hesitatingly "affirm that the Allied Armies in ("ranee owe to the London Scottish, a place of high honor amongst their heroes.—(Signed) 0. E. Bingham. Well, it is all over now, and the peace and quiet here is delightful. There is not so much for you to fear now-, the greatest trial is past."
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT, Issue 15694, 7 January 1915
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