Friday 17 November 1916
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In his monthly letter to the parishioners of Windhill, the Rev R Whincup gave a vivid picture of life on the Somme. People here are settling down in earnest for another arduous winter campaign. As far as physical comfort is concerned, those of us who happen to be with the regiment in the forward area do not appear to be in for a time of great luxury, to say the least of it. Last autumn and winter the British Army in France and Belgium was very stationary and for those who were not continually in the trenches it was possible to get hold of a moderately comfortable billet. Things are somewhat different now, both owing to the much greater congestion of troops and the gradual advance into territory previously held by the Germans. But despite all untoward circumstances it is astonishing how expeditious human beings can be in providing for themselves more or less comfortable quarters when necessity demands it, even in the most strange and uncongenial surroundings. Consequently those at home may rest assured that we shall all make the best of things and probably not fare quite so badly as some people might be inclined to imagine. No billets Certainly it is not very exhilarating to arrive at a wayside village at about 2 o’clock on a cold, wet autumn night after so many hours marching and to be told that this is the destination for the next twelve hours, but that there are absolutely no billets and the open fields alone remain in the way of accommodation. Things are not generally as bad as this but this is the state of things at times.
During the recent great offensive very many of our gallant soldiers had to stand all night through in the open trenches, at times in the soaking rain, waiting for the moment of attack next morning, there being no dug outs or any protection of any kind. This must be a truly wretched experience but one which is quite unavoidable at times in modern warfare. When the ambulance which is connected with the regiment amongst which I work moved up the line for the great offensive, for the first few nights there were no tents or billets of any description so we had to do the best we could. After a time the weather broke very badly. It was a strange experience to feel the rain pouring down during the night and yet after a while sleep came, sound, deep sleep, which evidently the rain was incapable of disturbing. One of the chief difficulties out here is getting clothes dried. In the trenches this difficult is almost insuperable while tent life, especially on the sodden damp ground, is scarcely conducive to dry clothing. In summer the sun is a great power in soon putting things right again but as the days grow shorter, the difficulties greatly increase in this respect. It is certainly a hardening experience for those who can stand it. You will have read of the fall of some of the German fortresses. Judging by the awful noise of the bombardments and positive ‘bedlam of racket’ which
at times has  gone on for days and nights together, it is not at all surprising that the fortress opposite where we were did indeed fall, the wonder being that there was anything at all left to fall. Ill omen A great many German wounded and many prisoners came through the advanced aid post where I was after the fall of this strong fortress. Some of them were terrified out of their wits. I don’t know what they took me for in my chaplain’s uniform, possibly a bird of ill omen. At any rate I was greeted with a most obsequious and propitiatory sweep towards the ground which I tried to return with a becoming military salute, a feat at which I scarcely excel. The battalion with which I am specially connected had a bad time of it on one occasion last month (September). We had many casualties and several officers and men are reported missing. I am afraid that the relatives of these missing soldiers must be having a very anxious time; and it is not possible to relieve their anxiety at present or else we would gladly do so. The word missing may mean so many things and we cannot get any definite news, although all kinds of efforts have been made. Bombardment The terrific bombardment of these last months have been most nerve- wracking at times and how the gunners endure it in their constant close proximity to the guns I can’t imagine. I hope to be able to come home on leave sometime in November but it is very uncertain because there seems to be a great difficulty in obtaining leave at present both owing to the continued British offensive and the large number of officers and men who are on the waiting list for leave and who no doubt deserve it far more than I do
“After a time the weather broke very badly. It was a strange experience to feel the rain pouring down during the night and yet after a while sleep came, sound, deep sleep, which evidently the rain was incapable of disturbing.”
Settling in for an arduous winter on the Somme
Gunner Arthur Driver (right), Royal Field Artillery, of Victoria Avenue, Shipley, has been awarded the Military Medal. He is the eldest son of Mr William Driver, a former member of Keighley Corporation. Gunner Driver was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in January of this year. He is 21 years of age and enlisted at the outbreak of war. He was formerly with the London City and Midland Bank at Otley. He has been at the front since April of last year and was slightly wounded during a gas attack in December last. Lieut T R Ibbetson, Royal Field Artillery, a winner of the Military Cross, is the younger son of Mr J Ibbetson of Moorhead, Shipley. Lieut Ibbetson was educated at the Salts Schools. Before the war he was learning the spinning trade. Sgt Frank E Fairbank, of the West Yorkshires, has received the Military Medal. He is the youngest of three soldier brothers, sons of Mr and Mrs B D Fairbank of Shipley and formerly of Manningham. Pte Victor Alred, 4 Chestnut Grove, Bolton Woods, of the 2nd Bradford Pals, has been awarded the Certificate of Merit for gallant conduct and devotion to duty at all times and especially on the night of 14th October, during a gas and tear shell bombardment when he made his way to the commanding officer’s dug-out to warn him of the danger. He was formerly employed by Mr E Moss, fish, fruit and game salesman, Saltaire.
Local soldiers’ courage recognised
This week’s edition carried reports of several ‘khaki weddings’. A khaki wedding of interest to the people of this district took place last weekend at the Hanover United Methodist Church, Burnley. The contracting parties were Sapper J A Vale, Royal Engineers, only son of Mr Fred Vale of Regent Street, Thackley, and Miss Mary Kay, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs James Kay of Burnley. The bridegroom joined the army immediately after the outbreak of the war and for eighteen months he has been in France where he has had many exciting experiences. Before enlisting he was closely associated with the Parish Church Sunday School and for 16 years was a chorister at the parish church. He was also a member of the Trinity Harriers and of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society, an organisation which flourished during the curacy of the Rev J J Beagley. He came home on ten days’ leave and returned to his military duties on Monday evening. When Sapper Vale was passing through a village on his way from the front, the Germans started shelling the road on which he was travelling. One shell appeared as if it would drop dangerously near him so he dived into a dug out close at hand. There to his surprise, he came across Pte John Mitchell of the Machine Gun Section, whose home is at Brackendale, Thackley. Much interest centred on the wedding which took place at the Baildon Moravian Church on Friday of Sec Lieut Ernest Holmes, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, Norwood Green, Bradford, and Miss Mary Gwendolene Anderson, second daughter of Mr and Mrs A H Anderson, Ivy Lea, Baildon (pictured). The marriage took place on Saturday at the Baptist Chapel, Idle, of Pte Charlie Suttle, youngest son of the late Mr Samuel Suttle, and Miss Annie Bell, youngest daughter of the late Mr Benjamin Bell and of Mrs Bell, Cavendish Road. The bride, who was given away by her brother, Gunner A E Bell, New Zealand Field Artillery, was attired in a grey costume and wore hat to correspond. She was attended as bridesmaids by Miss May Bell (sister) and Miss Alice Bell, daughter of Mr Geo Bell (niece). The elder bridesmaid was attired in cream tussore, whilst the younger was dressed in pink silk. The best man was Mr Albert Suttle, brother of the bridegroom. The bride is a worker in connection with the Baptist Church and Sunday School as also was the bridegroom for some years and there was a large gathering to witness the ceremony. A reception was held at the residence of the mother of the bride and later in the day the newly married couple left for Morecambe where the honeymoon is being spent.
Groom meets pal under fire on way to wedding
Sec Lieut Francis Blackwell (pictured), son of Mr John Blackwell of Shipley, who was not long ago awarded the military cross, is now staying at a convalescent home at Osborne, Isle of Wight, and is expected home shortly. After being wounded he was an inmate of the military hospital at Le Treport, France. Previous to joining the army, Sec Lieut Blackwell was in a bank at Doncaster.
Recovering on Isle of Wight
The members of the local Silver Prize Band attended the service at Clayton Parish Church on Sunday morning as a tribute to Pte Alfred Haywood who was killed in action on October 19th. Pte Haywood, who was 19 years of age, had been a member of the band for six years. On Sunday the band marched to the Parish Church playing the Dead March. The preacher was the Rev H Woodward.
Bandsmen’s tribute
Second brother killed
Mrs Nutter of 29 Manor Lane, Shipley, has received intimation that her husband, Pte Joseph Nutter, of the Canadian Mounted Rifles, has been killed in action in France. Pte Nutter, who was a joiner by trade, went to Canada about ten years ago and he joined the forces on the 1st September last year. He leaves a widow and one son. His brother, Pte Charles Nutter, has also been killed in action. Mrs Nutter has received the following letter from General Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence for Canada: “Will you kindly accept my sincere sympathy and condolences on the death of that worthy citizen and heroic soldier, your husband, Pte Joseph Nutter. “While on cannot too deeply mourn the loss of such a brave comrade, there is a consolation knowing that he did his duty fearlessly and well and gave his life for the cause of liberty and the upbuilding of the Empire.”
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