Friday 1 December 1916
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Lieut Noddle’s graphic account was included in a letter home. Midnight saw a battalion of shadowy forms, separated into several parties, being led across a bleak moor, seemingly a construction of nothing else but old trenches and a network of deep shell holes. Each half minute was accompanied by its attendant drawn-out whirr ending in a huge bang and spattering of stones and mud. Though the Boche did not know it and was only shelling haphazardly, the battle had commenced. Slowly the hasty excavations were approached and then came a sudden halt. The digging party had not completed their work in time and for over an hour while they made a huge effort to complete it, it was necessary for us to lie out in the open, taking advantage of what shell holes there were. Aeroplane Dawn was just breaking when we occupied three assembly trenches and there we were to remain until the middle of the afternoon – unseen we vainly hoped – until the charge was timed to take place. The trenches were so narrow that one could not lie along the bottom without a huge squeeze but we lived to thank their lack of width and even to wish they were narrower still. After we had lain there for five hours, a German aeroplane ventured up – a rare occurrence in these regions – and stayed up for two or three minutes. Three minutes too long, however, for it was long enough to reveal our position. Then Hell was unloosed. All the heavy howitzers, light field guns and long distance trench mortars concentrated their death-dealing powers on our unlucky battalion and later, to make matters worse, the position was enfiladed with shrapnel.
There was nothing for it but to lie down and stick it. During the first half hour it was just one continual wonderment, when shall I be hit? But after that, one was satiated with fear and the strain decreased. Indeed, such a coolness descended upon the men that half of them actually slept. Half an hour of my time was spent writing a letter in my note book and then I too dozed, only to be wakened by an extraordinary salvo from the Boche heavies At least half a dozen times I was almost buried in debris. Twice I was hit with fragments of shell, once on the steel helmet and once by a wicked chunk which did no more harm than to tear a hole in my trousers. Communication was only possible by officers jumping out of the trench and rushing along the parapets, risking being hit by shells, machine gun bullets and snipers. Towards the zero hour of the attack, it was necessary to do this in order to synchronise our watches with artillery time and in this little trip a hundred and fifty yards along the line, I had the closest shave I have had so far. Four of us were comparing notes in a portion of the trench in which also were seven tommies. A shrapnel shell burst above and only three remained untouched, six being killed outright. No Man’s Lane Then came our innings. What we had suffered was repaid a hundred fold by our artillery. Dead on the second our officers were over the top, followed a second later by their men. Our journey across that five hundred yards of “No Man’s Land” was an experience that not one survivor will forget. The ground shook, there was one prolonged roar, and ahead, over every square foot of ground, were darts of flame, venomously demolishing
strong German trenches and demoralising their grey-clad inhabitants. Bayonets Our line swept on! With bayonets and eyes facing straight ahead, it was scarcely noticeable what was happening five yards to right or left. No German could stick the sight of this slow, determined advance. He climbed out of his trench, wavered and then, preferring death behind to what was advancing on him, he turned and ran, only to be swept down like corn by our barrage, which lifted as we advanced. It was a huge strafe in which we walloped the Germans to a frazzle. Bairnsfather’s drawing (above), We Attack At Dawn, gives a portrayal but the last picture does not apply to me save for the grin. I got a machine gun in place of the helmet. I cannot fully realise that of the officers who went over and struck I am by marvellous luck the only one unwounded and that after seven counter attacks until we were reinforced many hours later.
The Shipley Times & Express had already reported that Sec Lieut Frank Noddle, who lived at 14 Hall Royd, Shipley, had been awarded the Military Cross but now they had a lot more detail, including a description of the action written by Lieut Noddle. He had joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in October 1916, after completing his BSc degree at King’s College, London. The citation published in the London Gazette read: ‘On _____ 1916, near _______, conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Bombing Officer. When two lines of German trenches had been
captured, he collected a few of our bombers and a few Canadian Bombers and bombed 400 yards down the trench to our left, capturing a machine gun and eventually blocking the left the flank. ‘He then organised the defence of the captured trench, repulsing seven or eight counter attacks. ‘After five hours he was reinforced by a party of ten men and eventually relieved an hour later. ‘His courage, determination and resource were most invaluable and saved what might have been a most critical situation.’
Shipley hero tells his story of the Somme
“Dead on the second our officers were over the top, followed a second later by their men. Our journey across that five hundred yards of ‘No Man’s Land’ was an experience that not one survivor will forget. “The ground shook, there was one prolonged roar, and ahead, over every square foot of ground, were darts of flame, venomously demolishing strong German trenches and demoralising their grey-clad inhabitants.”
Addressing Baildon District Council, the chairman, Cllr W E Rhodes, said: It might not be generally known that Pte W E Nutt, the son of Mr and Mrs John Nutt of Northgate, Baildon, had won the Military Medal for rescuing wounded soldiers under heavy fire and also for carrying messages for 24 hours under heavy shell fire. He wished on behalf of the Council to offer its congratulations to Pte Nutt. The soldier named had been promoted to Lance Corporal since having been decorated. Blundering supposition They were proud that he had displayed such heroism and were desirous that he should know his deeds had been recognised and honoured. They trusted that he would safely return to wear with justifiable pride the decoration he had obtained. Many prominent Germans looked upon Englishmen before the war as a money grabbing, non-patriotic and decadent race. They know better now and it was such men as L Cpl Nutt and others he could name who had helped to dispel that blundering supposition.
Baildon Council tribute to Military Medal winner
Gunner Herbert Cooper, 18, younger son of Mr and Mrs Harry Cooper of 1 Katherine Street, Saltaire, has been killed in action in Salonica He joined the forces on the 8th April 1915 and went to France in July of the same year. After a stay there of four months he went to the near East. Before entering the army he was serving an apprenticeship to a Bradford architect.
Trainee architect KIA
Missing on the Somme
Pte W Thornton of the West Yorkshire Regt and of 140 Highfield Road, Idle, has been reported as missing since September 3rd. Prior to enlisting he was employed in the Street and Drainage Department of the Bradford Corporation.
Sgt Mark Bell of 27 Baildon Road, Woodbottom, who some time ago was awarded the D.C.M has received from the teaching staff and scholars at the Saville Green Council School, Leeds, which he attended as a boy, a gift in the form of a handsome gold signet ring. In a letter accompanying the present, which is intended as a small esteem of appreciation of Sgt Bell’s conspicuous bravery, the headmaster, Mr E Rowe, writes: “My scholars, staff and myself hope you will long live to wear this gift and that like Aladdin’s wonderful ring it will at least conjure up at any time dear old Saville Green School and pleasant memories with it.”
School acknowledges old boy’s feats
L Cpl Arthur Pringle, West Yorks Regt, who was formerly a clerk in the collector’s department of Shipley District Council Office, is in hospital at Woolton, near Liverpool, suffering from “trench feet”. L Cpl Pringle joined the forces early after the outbreak of war and before he reached his nineteenth year.
Council clerk in hospital
Medal for bombing and taking prisoners
Pte W S Wharram of the West Yorkshire Regt, who has gained the Distinguished Conduct Medal, is not yet 21 years of age. He is the son of the late Mr and Mrs Mathias Wharram of Burgh, Lincolnshire and before the war resided with his uncle and aunt, Mr and Mrs William Brown of 23 Victoria Park Shipley. Pte Wharram is stated to have won the decoration for having bombed down an enemy trench and assisted in the capture over 100 prisoners.
Bravery in gas attack
L Cpl G H Hodgson, West Yorks Regt, and son of the late Mr J Hodgson of Shipley, has been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in a gas attack.
Pte Sam Jeffrey, Bradford Pals, son of Mr and Mrs Henry Jeffrey of 14 Constance Street, Saltaire has obtained the Certificate of Merit for gallantry and devotion to duty. He described the incident that happened on 13 November in a letter home: “I and a number of stretcher bearers were fastened in a deep dug- out with six wounded men and we had to dig ourselves out. “We carried two of the wounded who had broken legs to a place of safety. It was very hot work at the time. I consider myself lucky to come out without a scratch.” Before joining the army he was employed as a gardener by Mr Hockley of Nab Wood and previous to that had worked for a considerable time at the Saltaire Mills. He is 36 years of age.
Digging out comrades
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