A Shipley officer wrote home about his experience of regaining a captured town.To describe the things I have seen and become cognisant of during the last few days would fill half a dozen letters. The papers I have just received contain references about the experiences of war correspondents on entering a reconquered town and had I not seen what I have seen these last two days I should have thought it a huge piece of exaggeration.The place we are in now had only been evacoutaed a couple of days when we arrived and the civilians are still almost wild with joy.Three weeks ago every household was told to evacuate the town within twelve hours and make their way to a spot some miles eastward.As soon as they left and in some cases in sight of the owners, furniture and pianos were hacked to pieces by axes, windows were smashed in and bedding was torn to bits and strewn about the floor by the Germans.Retreating enemyProbably only the articles considered of sufficient value to remove were spared and, of course, the poor returned refugees now find all that they valued has gone East with the retreating enemy while articles not easily taken away have almost invariably been rendered useless.In my present billet half the furniture and carpets are missing, all bedding has been cut open and piano strings cut, upholstery ripped from the chairs, not a single window is intact and of valuable crockery and china ornaments only a few cracked plates and broken figures remain.
There can be no doubt that all this has been done according to orders for not a house remains unpillaged and devoid of wholesale destruction. Every place where Germans have been billetted can easily be distinguished by the filth and excreta which litter the house and its environs.The present-day Hun must be a difficult problem to psychologists for at a time when he is beaten and impoverished militarily, when every piece of war material should be of heightened value, the last few days before his evaccuation are not spent in removing huge dumps of every kind of material he requires to carry on the struggle but in petty pilfering and organised destruction which must keep aflame French hate for decades.Pinched white facesHouseholders are trickling back to their shelters – they cannot be called homes now – bringing with them the few things they took away in their forced expulsion. Old men and women and children toiling along with bundles large enough to overtax their strength but all with a happy smile on their pinched white faces and a cheery word for every Tommy they meet.In some cases luck has come their way and a wheelbarrow has been found while occasionally two or three families have banded together and are pulling a ricketty cart with ropes, no horses being available of course.
To every English officer they pass, every male from kiddies of six to bent old men of eighty raise their hats as a token of respect for the liberating army and the other sex wave flags and convey the impression that they would like it to be more but for the dignity of the Sam Browne.Even after four years of war I doubt if the people of England know what war really means. They groan at war expenditure and at a penny or so increase in the price of jam or the overcrowding of a railway carriage; throw up their hands and moan ‘Ah, this terrible war.’For four years these people here have lived in a state of semi starvation have not been allowed to travel at all and under the ever growing insolence of the German soldiery, have scarcely been able to call their lives their own.Here are some of the facts I culled from a half-hour chat with a chief magistrate:Every day all of them fit to dig, old men, women and children alike, were marched to within three miles of the front line, there to dig trenches.Any of their property whether of military use or not, desired by any officer was simply requisitioned.Their wine was early confiscated and each year as soon as vegetables grown in their gardens were fit for food, along came the army authorities and forbade them to eat them under threat of penalty of anything over 1000 marks.Latterly it was not an infrequent occurrence for a private soldier to walk into a house while the family were eating their scanty meal and say ‘I requisition this loaf’ and then walk out again munching that or anything else he could lay hands on.Unexploded bombThe head policeman arested one of thse Bosche thieves and handed him over to the military authorities. For his pains he was himself arrested and confined in a dark cell for fourteen days with a bread and water diet.This morning a bent old woman, deeming me the town mayor, came along to report an unexploded bomb in her home. Before he left the Hun had blown up a safe containing the old couple’s life savings and then left a booby trap to kill them on their return.The canting pacifists who throw up their eyes to the heavens at the idea of a war of revenge should be brought out here. Then, whenever it came, peace would find Germany beaten to a frazzle and probably a slice of its territory subjected to a similar treatment meted out to the French.
Addressing the annual meeting of the Shipley Guild of Health, Rev Richard Whincup, M.C., vicar of Heaton, former vicar of Windhill and a former front-line chaplain to the West Yorkshire Regt, said that however much men were pensioned there would also exist a need for a Guild of Help on the high ground of service.Some people complained that men who came back from the colours did not at first take kindly their old mode of living. He was not surprised.When he had been out two years and returned home it was painful to get back to the old routine work of the parish.Drill was the ruleFor the men it was still harder than in his case. Their initiative was lost. In their military life drill was the rule. They were led here and there – to church, to the bath, to the gymnasium. It was all drill.No wonder the men lost their initiative. With many of these boys of 18 to 23 there was no real progress while at the front and on their return they would need guidance though not in any ‘bossy’ sort of fashion.In that respect the Guild of Help could be of real help as the Guild stood for high ideals.
Returning men will need help
Thoughts on entering a liberated town
Temporary Lieut James Margerison, son of the late Mr Joseph Margerison and of Mrs Margerison of Chestnut Grove, Calverley, and grandson of the late Dr Parkinson, has been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry under the following circumstances:When the situation was critical he maintained his guns in advanced positions in the south-east corner of the village. From here several casualties were inflicted on the enemy and only a few were able to enter the village.Great tactical skillDespite intense and concentrated shell and machine gun fire, Lieut Margerison reconnoitred and selected positions with great tactical skill, showing supreme contempt for personal danger.During this difficult period he forwarded lucid and full reports on the situation, giving much valuable and important information when it was urgently needed. Throughout the operation he gave a find display of courage, determination and cheerfulness and both by his leading and example maintained the high moral of his section.
Courage and skill rewarded
Mrs Stockdale of 33 Alexandra Road, Shipley has had all her four sons with the colours and in the last few days she has been informed that the surviving twin-son, Pioneer Harry Stockdale, is in hospital at Cairo with malarial fever.The other twin, David, who was with the Bradford Pals, fell in action in July 1916. Another son, Jack, wo enlisted at the outbreak of war, is now with the colours in Wales while Walter, her eldest son, has received his discharge.
Family at war
Scholar in hospital
Mr and Mrs George Hall of 11 Clifton Place, Bradford Road, Shipley, have been informed that the elder of their two sons, Pte George Hall, Duke of Wellington’s Regt, aged 20, is in the Boscombe Military Hospital with gas poisoning.He enlisted in September 1914 at the age of 16 and after being in various training camps in this country, he was drafted out in April 1917.Prior to enlistment he was an apprentice with Shipley Fan Co, Valley Road, Shipley.
Sec Lieut E D Fleming, Royal Garrison Artillery, elder son of Mr William Fleming of Idle, is in hospital overseas with dysentery.He enlisted from the Bradford Grammar School where he gained an exhibition to Jesus College, Cambridge and was captain of the Champion House in 1916.
Second time wounded
Pte N W Brooksbank, Duke of Wellington’s Regt, of 60 Thompson Street, Shipley, has been wounded in the left arm and shoulder and is in hospital at Stoke-on-Trent. This is the second time he has been wounded.
Killed in action after only six weeks at the front
C E Clutterbuck, DLI, aged 27, whose wife lives at 23 Cross Church Street, Windhill has been killed in action. He joined up in May of this year and had been at the front six weeks.He was employed at the Canal Ironworks, Shipley, and was connected with the Windhill Parish Church.
AB William White of 8 Hope View, Carr Lane, Windhill, and Pte Willie Mortimer of 50 Barrett Street, Shipley.