Friday 20 October 1916
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An officer residing in Hall Royd, Shipley, almost certainly Frank Noddle, writes from the front to his brother. If Milton had lived in the 20th century and had been a solider in this Division, his description of Hell in Paradise Lost would have been much more lurid and descriptive, but possibly had he been a German under our bombardment he would have made a better job of it still. To have been in the Front line on this portion of the Front is an education in itself and in my own opinion it is a wonder that half the combatants are not driven mad, the strain is so terrific. Shell fire I reckon that a man who comes through it though will be a better man, for a man who steels himself to cross the open under terrific shell fire several times a day really shows more courage than the paladins of old who knew what they had to face because everything was visible, whereas there is no staving off the effect of a German heavy shell which is not seen until it bursts… I have a kind of theory that a shell swept land where there is not an inch of ground untouched, inculcates a type of fatalism which carries with it a certain amount of contempt for danger and hardens one against the sight of violent death.
For instance, only a few days ago a shell burst in the middle of a platoon in my company. One was killed and several badly wounded and yet the first sentence I heard spoken in the vicinity was a string of violent oaths, succeeded by a laugh and a joke. Now it may appear that the man was callous. I think otherwise for I know the man was moved very much at the two of his close chums being badly hit, but the spirit of the place ruled his spontaneous outburst. Well, enough of this psychological theorising as it sounds morbid and too philosophical for a would-be soldier. Yesterday was a continuous lark. In the morning I went wandering round the village behind, where not one stone stands on another and there discovered two huge dug outs full of high explosive and rifle grenades. Rather sudden and heavy shelling compelled me to do a hurried skiddadle to a more comfortable spot where, strange to say, were thousands of German cartridges and some overcoats and respirators – more souvenirs. In the afternoon the battalion looped
over and collared a German trench five hundred yards in front. The few Germans left when the men got across made themselves invisible with the dust their heels kicked up. My sergeant waggled his revolver about so effectively that four Bosche in the danger zone absolutely wept with fear and in the evening we had one of the funniest episodes of the war in questioning them with a mixture of French, German and English. Beautiful watch Evidently they had been stuffed up with a yarn that the English kill their prisoners and they were frightfully bucked when they were treated to a drink and a good square meal. My sergeant has a beautiful watch as the result of this affair and another bomber today presented me with a lovely helmet he had obtained by some means which I am not too inquisitive about. It is a fact I can vouch for though that the original owner of the watch was so overjoyed at being captured by human being that he absolutely pressed the watch on my sergeant. And tonight we shall be relieved – probably one of the happiest times in the life of every man jack of us for the man who is not joyous about leaving the absolute front line of this uncomfortable spot, ought to live in it for the rest of his life.
I have a kind of theory that a shell swept land where there is not an inch of ground untouched, inculcates a type of fatalism which carries with it a certain amount of contempt for danger and hardens one against the sight of violent death.
Walshaw Glover (above) from Alexandra Terrace Greengates, who before the war had been a journalist on the Shipley Times & Express, wrote from the trenches: Our battalion has been engaged in the ‘Big Push,’ There can be no harm in saying that since the Somme fighting takes place over a big area of ground. I have had the extreme pleasure of seeing the Boche run. That was only last Saturday when he ran so hard that I really thought that he would never stop running. I had a real exhilarating experience that day and the result of the battalion’s little effort you will find if you take the trouble to read the British account in the papers of the 9th inst. By the way, the Boche account is funny reading. Over the lid Anyhow, we won from 500 to 1,000 yards of ground on our front. That means, of course, that we went ‘over the lid’ as the Tommies have a habit of saying. I must admit that I felt nervy during the hour previous to going over. Our watches were all set to Brigade time and then at the given signal over we went. Here is the wonderful part of the story: there was no hurry about the business for we were given just two minute to take our first objective – a Boche trench to our front, 200 yards away. We did not run or double, we just walked at a parade step – left, right, left, right etc. Meanwhile, our barrage of shell fire played vigorously on the Boche trench and the poor Germans could not do anything until that terrible fire lifted. By that time many of them had been wiped out but a few were left and they pelted us with machine gun and rifle bullets. A few if us went down Naturally a few of us went down but we got the trench all right. Then we had 20 minutes rest, after which on we went to the next objective. We took the next objective with little opposition and then covered by our fire we dug in. What a night presented itself! We overlooked a big broad valley rich with foliage of all kinds and altogether different from the barrenness and desolation behind. But the best of all we saw 1,000 yards away hundreds of Boches running away for dear life, chased by our artillery and bombs from our daring aeroplanes. It would have cheered your heart to see it. I am honestly convinced that if it had been on the programme we could have advanced for miles. In fact got through to Berlin. Oh yes, I am convinced now that the Boche is beaten.
Fighting on the Somme described by men who were there
Arthur Victor Skevington, KOYLI, killed in action on Sept 25th, was the youngest son of the late Mr Arthur Skevington and Mrs Skevington of Hamilton Cottage, Apperley Bridge. Educated at Giggleswick School, he afterwards joined the Leeds University Officer Training Corps, received his commission in October 1915, and had been at the Front two and a half months. He was 19 years of age. A fellow officer writes: “He was leading his men with the utmost gallantry when he fell, shot through the head. His death was instantaneous.” His brother, Harold R Skevington is also in the KOYLI is at present home on sick leave. In his tribute to the deceased officer, the Rev W H Power, Vicar of Greengates, says “By the death of Second Lieutenant Skevington the church at Greengates has received a great blow. “He was a lad of charming personality, a worthy specimen of the men that our public schools turn out. His last thought would have been to start a quarrel, yet when the call came that his country is in danger he nobly responded. “It only seems like yesterday that I wished him God speed on the vicarage steps. We had hoped that the son of a worthy father and worthy mother would be spared to carry on the good works which his father did and his mother continues to do. “It is not to be but we earnestly trust that God in his Paradise will give him higher duties.”
Shot while leading his men gallantly
The grandest sight at the Front
Pte John Stamp, of Eccleshill, who has been home on leave after having been wounded in eleven places by shrapnel at the front said it was his impression we were now well on the top of the Germans and though they were still a stubborn lot to deal with, they must know they were a beaten race. For the great work of Lloyd George had done for our forces he deserve a monument in gold in his honour. Saw a tank go into action Just before he was wounded he saw a “tank” go into action. The advent of the new weapon of destruction was a big surprise for the Germans but he thought it was quite as great a surprise for the British Tommy. The grandest sight at the front was not an aerial duel or the explosion of a huge mine or the sight  of a big haul of German prisoners; it was the light of pleasure which shone on the face of a Tommy when he receive a parcel from his folks at home. Over the top four times It was not what the parcel contained that made him glad to receive it but the sympathy and affection that prompted the gift which he appreciated most of all. Pte Stamp had been over the top four times and his experience showed that in close fighting the Germans were no match for the British.
A cablegram was received yesterday by Mrs D Grimshaw, 183 New Lane, Greengates, as follows: “Willie killed October first. Let sister know. Marshall.” The sad intelligence relates to Pte Willie Marshall, formerly of Thackley, who emigrated to Canada some years ago and there married. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Canadians and came to Liverpool in May 1915 and was sent out to France in the following month. He leaves a widow and two little boys to mourn his loss. Pte Arthur Bather, Canadian Infantry, fourth son of Mr and Mrs Tom Bather of 1 Adelaide Street, Woodbottom, Baildon, recently died of wounds at the 15th General Hospital, Boulogne. Previous to the war he was an employee of Messrs Parkinson & Sons, Shipley. He has two brothers in the army, Gunner Edward Bather and Pte Nat Bather. News was received in the town on Tuesday of the death in action of Rifleman Alfred Witts of the Post Office Rifles and second son of Mr Tom Wilson Witts, formerly teacher at the Shipley Central Schools and now surveyor to the Royston (Herts) District Council. Rifleman Witts was only 19 years of age and joined the army last March proceeding to France about four months ago. He was a nephew of Mr John William Witts of Bingley Road, Saltaire and of Mr and Mrs Ezra Garth of 81 Carr Lane, Windhill. Pte Willie Holdsworth, West Yorks, of 132 Moorside Road, Eccleshill, has had the misfortune to lose his left leg as the result of a severe wound. He and another comrade were orderlies to an officer of the regiment and as they advanced abreast with the officer in the centre, a shell burst in front of them, killing the officer, badly wounding the other orderly in the right leg as well as Holdsworth.
“Willie killed October 1st Let sister know”
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