Monday, 13 April 2015

Let's not forget the poignant pleas of desperate mothers

Exhausted Anzac troops take a rest at Gallipoli
The First World War Centenary, which made such an impact last summer, is beginning to stir again in readiness for the 100th anniversary of the Battle for Gallipoli. This ill-fated Allied campaign was launched in the Mediterranean on 25 April 1915, but ended in humiliating defeat just nine months later.

It is still commemorated with reverence, however, and nowhere more so than in Australia and New Zealand where the anniversary is known as Anzac Day (after the abbreviation given to the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). In 1915 both countries were cutting their teeth as new nations and, according to one historian, 'Gallipoli was the crucible from which the Anzac legend was forged'.

The fighting on the rocky peninsula of Gallipoli was ferocious and the Turkish enemy proved tough and dogged. Disease also thrived in the stultifying heat and claimed huge numbers of lives. Descriptions of the horror of battle are plentiful, with many gruesome accounts sent home to families, like this one written by Australian Private Henry Wright:

'We saw a poor chap staggering towards us ... A machine gun had made a horrible sight of him. The bullets entering his mouth, cutting away the bottom teeth then passing through his neck breaking the collarbone and making a nasty gash in his shoulder. He could not speak but wrote down on a piece of paper that he was not downhearted and that he was satisfied when he saw our boys had taken the position.'

Susan Butters and son Les
How unimaginably awful it must have been for the recipients of such letters, especially for families who lived on the other side of the world. While researching my book Letters from the Trenches, many Australians got in touch with me to share correspondence that reflected just how helpless those in the Southern Hemisphere felt during the Great War - particularly mothers. Many were not well educated, but they wrote polite and poignant letters to army officials in Melbourne begging to know what had become of their sons.

Below is one written by Mrs Susan Butters, of Lismore, Victoria, whose two sons, Les and Jack, both fought in the war. Les had been taken ill in Egypt, and would eventually died of dysentery in 1918, just after the Armistice had been signed. Jack Butters had been captured in France and was being held prisoner in Germany. Desperate to find out what had happened to them, Susan wrote this letter to the Melbourne Records Office in October 1917:

Dear Sir, I wish to trouble you once again to answer me a question: can Australian Prisoners of War in Germany still receive letters from their relations in Australia and their letters be forwarded from them to Australia. I noticed a paragraph in the ‘Age’ [an Australian newspaper] about a week ago where all mail through Switzerland to Germany was to be stopped ... Could you also inform me if there has been any further word come through concerning my other son who was reported ill in Egypt ... we are very anxious about him. If any other bad news should have the misfortune to have come through concerning either of my boy’s [sic] ...would you be kind enough to forward it c/o The Church of England Clergy or to Dr Paton Lismore, Victoria, as I have had a few shocks already, and urgent wires and telegrams are handed here to me as ordinary letters. Sorry for troubling you so much. 

Jack Butters (third left) pictured in German prison camp
This year, when we remember those who lost their lives at Gallipoli, let's also spare a thought for the mothers (and fathers) who had no choice but to wait at home, dreading the arrival of bad news with no idea what had become of their sons. You can read more of their moving correspondence in Letters from the Trenches.


Copyright © 2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth, Ken Wright & Helen Lang

Thursday, 2 April 2015

'We're tired of being crumped in the trenches day and night'

In some ways the spring of 1915 was not dissimilar to ours today - at least in Britain. The Meteorological Office's report for April told the same old story: 'During the first ten days of the month the weather was unsettled and the wind blew with considerable force at times.' Easter Sunday fell fairly early that year too, on 4th April. And then, as now, newspapers were always on the lookout for fresh ways to present long-running stories. With this in mind, the Sunday Post (right) had lined up some new ideas for its coverage of the Great War, which were revealed to readers on Easter Day 1915:

'For next week's issue you will be interested to know further new features are in store, arrangements having been made with more popular writers of the day to contribute to its columns. In addition to all the very latest news from the seats of war, our military and naval correspondents will again present their illuminating comments on the progress of the war. Then, you will get a splendid up-to-date Map of the Near East. This Map gives a clear outline of the scenes of war-like operations in that part of the world including the Dardanelles, Bosphorous, Smyrna, and the Aegean Sea. It will enable you to follow with thorough understanding the movements of the Allied Fleets in the great enterprise in which they are at present engaged.

'There will be another deeply interesting article on the subject of 'Germany from Within'. These articles supply that information which is now eagerly sought by the British public. Cartoons will again be a feature. A selection is made from all the best caricatures of the war published throughout the world. A Special Article of absorbing interest will be contributed by Constance Elizabeth Maud. It is entitled 'Our French Friends' and illustrates a phase of the war upon which, in the past, little light has been thrown.'

Newspapers like The Post endeavoured to entertain as well as inform, with interesting and colourful items that readers could follow while tucking into toast and marmalade at the breakfast table. But everything would change when the post thumped down on the front door mat, for letters from the Front told a rather less glossy tale. Soldiers like Private Philip Luxton, of Abertillery in South Wales, were tired of living cooped up in trench dugouts. He wrote about boredom, exhaustion, fear, discomfort; he yearned for tasty food, and to be able to take off his boots that were stiff with mud. And he longed to know for sure that he would see his wife and two young daughters again...

2 April 1915 (Good Friday)

'You said on your last letter for me to look out for a parcel of cakes. I can promise you I will do that for it will be a rare treat to have some cakes, for even bread and butter is a luxury here among we soldiers.
Dear Wife, this is my eighth day for me not to have my boots and socks off my feet and I cannot tell you when I will have them off and I tell you we are all beginning to feel the effects of tiredness for it is very tiring being crumped [sic] in the trenches day and night. Now I must close having no more to say at present.'

A scene from the Western Front: 'We are all beginning to
feel the effects of tiredness,' wrote Private Luxton
5 April 1915 (Easter Monday)

'Just a line in answer to your parcel of cakes and ham I received on Easter Monday morning so I had cakes for breakfast and I am going to have ham for tea and I know I will enjoy it. Dear Wife, I had the pleasure to take off my boots last night for we have come out of the trenches at last after eleven days and nights and I can tell you we were very thankful to get anywhere for a rest but they have not took us very far, but they intend to take [us] further away in two days time. Dear Wife, I should like it if you could see me now for you would never forget we are like rabbits buried in holes in the ground. Me and Fry is in one by ourselves for they will only hold 2 or 3 men and we must not come out from there in day light for fear of being shelled ... Dear Wife we had a very busy time on Easter Saturday morning at 4 o'clock and I am glad to tell you I came out of that scrummage [a reference to his pre-war days as a rugby coach ] safe and sound thank God, but cheer [up] and I am sure we will meet again for my spirits are very well considering the time we are having. Now I must close for I feel like having a rest, from your loving Husband Phil.'

Private Luxton, who served with the Welsh Regiment, was killed in action in October 1915.


Copyright ©1915 Jacqueline Wadsworth / Anne Holland



Thursday, 26 March 2015

'We dry our clothes by sitting in the sun whenever possible'

Maggie, in the white, with her family in 1900.
The letters her cousin, Fred, sent her from France
made clear the harshness of trench life
It's sometimes easy to forget that life in the trenches wasn't one relentless round of combat. There were often relatively 'quiet' times too, although things were rarely restful, and this is made clear in a letter written by Lance Corporal Fred Silvester to his cousin Maggie in Wallasey. Fred, who came from Herne Hill in London, had worked as a shipowner's clerk before the war and enlisted with the 1st Surrey Rifles in September 1914. Within a year he found himself on the Western Front.

When he wrote the following letter in August 1915 there was a lull in the fighting, but Fred still had plenty to contend with, including stomach problems, arrogant young new recruits, and miserable weather conditions.

4th August, 1915

'Dear Maggie,

'The parcel came last Saturday morning + many thanks indeed for both letter and parcel. The latter, you see, took eleven days to reach me. Everything was in good condition except the sausages, + those I had to throw away, because they had turned a bit green.

'I am pleased to see you are all keeping well, + hope this will continue. As for myself, I have had stomach trouble the last two or three days + have had to go to the hospital for treatment, where I am at the present moment. It is nothing serious, but I just needed a little doctoring + hope to be discharged in a day or two. This saught [sort] of thing is not to be wondered at out here when we have lived on nothing else for the last 4½ months on bully beef, biscuits, stew, potatoes, bread, jam, bacon + tea, + slept in damp clothes, in damp chalky dug-outs, nature must rebel against this sometime or other.

'Since writing you last we have had a heavy time of it going into the trenches for eight, ten + twelve days at a stretch + this has meant not only the usual firing line routine, but heavy working with the pick + shovel, day + night giving the fellows about four to five hours sleep a day + sometimes not that. When we have been relieved + going back for a few days rest we have still had to send out working parties every night to work with the engineers 8pm. until 2.30am, so you see we have not had a proper rest even out of the trenches.

'There is nothing very exciting to tell you as our part of the line has been quiet although I have seen some very fierce French + German artillery duels on our right. It is quite a common sight to see our aeroplanes going over the German lines + being heavily shelled, but I have never seen one brought down yet. Of course we get visits from the German aeroplanes + they are shelled by us + our airmen are soon after them, so they are soon hussled [hustled] out of it, but sometimes they get through. 

Although things have been quiet as regards rifle fire the Germans generally put over one or two light high explosives such as rifle grenades + trench mortars + once this was due to some of the new fellows of the new battalions exposing themselves over the parapet + making a target. When they first come out here they cannot realise the danger although it is a bit quiet. One of them made the remark that he had seen more excitement in a public house on a Saturday night, but he will change his views when he has to take part in an advance.

'The weather has been very trying. We had very heavy storms + the rain collects in the trenches to a depth of anything up to 2½ feet. Last Friday we had a heavy storm + we were wading up to our knees in water. This makes more work to bale it all out + then after that to clear the mud away. There is one good thing + that is the sun came out the next day + we were able to dry our clothes by sitting in the sun when possible. After all this our division is out at last + right back away from the firing line for a long rest + during our rest we hope to get some leave to come home for a few days + also have a few concerts. Well Maggie I have been rambling on + now must conclude but before doing so will say that I will endeavour to come to see you all at your new home when this affair is over. Thanking you once more for that parcel + trusting you are still well.

'Yours sincerely, Fred

'PS Yes, Ted [his brother] is out here but where I do not know. He is nowhere near me. I wish he was.'

Fred was killed in action, aged 25, the following year during the German assault at Vimy Ridge. His brother survived the war. You can read more from the letters of Lance Corporal Fred Silvester in my book 'Letters from the Trenches'.

Copyright © 2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth / Adrian Lea

Friday, 6 March 2015

'Pitiable plight' of Belgian refugees who fled brutal invasion

Belgians were driven out of their homes by the
advancing German army
When we look back at women during the First World War, it's usually the nurses, the munitionettes, or the land girls whose praises we sing. So I thought I'd mark International Women's Day (Sunday, 8 March) by paying tribute to a section of society who rarely get a mention - the ordinary women who stayed at home to look after their families and quietly help the war effort in whatever way they could.

One such was Maude Boucher, a mother of four from Bristol who worked tirelessly for good causes throughout the war and encouraged her daughters to do the same. From the very start, her home was a hive of industry as 'comforts' for the troops were knitted and sewn, and good deeds were planned for those in need.

Unfortunately no photograph of Maude survives, but her compassion is clear in the scrapbook / journal she kept between 1914 and 1919, which is now held by Bristol Record Office. It comprises 21volumes, which were invaluable when I was writing my books 'Letters from the Trenches' and 'Bristol in the Great War' (see book tabs above for more details).

Below is an extract from Maude's journal that describes the sympathy she felt for the Belgian refugees who fled the brutal German invasion of their country in 1914 and found safety abroad. Official records estimate that around 250,000 Belgians took refuge in Britain; nearly all returned home when the conflict was over.

Maude Boucher's journal, September 1914

'The poor Belgium people who had been turned out of their homes, or whose homes had been destroyed, were beginning to come to England in the early part of September, in very large numbers. Some had lost practically everything they had and were in a pitiable plight, and some had had the most terrible experiences. Everyone felt so sorry for them, and that they would do all they could. Charlie [Maude's husband, who ran a pharmacy business] came home one day and asked me to see if I could find some clothes for very tiny children, so I searched and found a few things which were sent off at once to Folkestone.

'We were asked at first if we would give a home to one or two refugees in our own homes, but later several people offered the loan of houses, and it was considered preferable that they should live together in these houses rather than be distributed about amongst different  families where perhaps they would feel very strange and if they could not speak English, very lonely ... The upkeep of these various houses was met very often by the congregations of various churches and chapels and later on, the inhabitants of different villages undertook to look after a  party, or family, of refugees.

'The first party of refugees arrived in Bristol at the end of September. People on the route from the station were asked to hang out Belgian flags, and there were hundreds of people lining the streets who cheered and waved to them as they passed along in order to give them a good welcome.

Belgian refugees settle in at Yate, north of Bristol
(Courtesy of Yate Heritage Trust)
'The Belgians seemed very grateful for all that was being done for them, and so pleased to get into houses again after all their wanderings and having been homeless for so long. Many of the first arrivals were of the peasant class and most of the women wore large shawls and no hats, and were generally standing at the gates and doors of their homes.

'The family which came later on to Tyndall’s Park [where Maude and her family lived] were of the better class but had been obliged to leave their homes and had buried most of their possessions and treasures somewhere in Belgium. (That is as the story goes.) They had been able to bring practically nothing with them and as their family consisted of from ten to fifteen children in number, they were very glad of such a comfortable home as was provided for them, and for all the help they got.'

Copyright © 2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth

Friday, 27 February 2015

'School blown to the ground, little hats and coats all over the place'

Private Philip Luxton
One hundred years ago, Philip Luxton, a devoted husband and father of two, had just arrived in France with the Second Battalion, the Welsh Regiment. He came from the mining town of Abertillery, South Wales, and wrote regularly to his family, discussing the sort of thing that concerned all volunteer soldiers: food, weather, letters that had or hadn't arrived from home, and the need for cigarettes. He also described some of destruction he had already witnessed, and how Sunday - a day of rest at home - was just like any other day at the Front.

Private Luxton's story - and that of his wife, Hannah - is told in my book 'Letters from the Trenches' (click the the tab at the top of the page for more details). Below are some extracts from his letters; more will appear on my blog in April.

22 February 1915

Dear Hannah [his wife], just a few lines to let you know I am allright and I hope you and the children are enjoying good health. ...Fancy doing a long route march on a Sunday, fancy what they would say in old England. We are having plenty of good food here that's one good thing. I have wrote to father so I hope he will answer my lettre and send me some fags, for they are most needed.

3 March 1915

I suppose you are thinking of me but no more than what I am of you. I am having a bit of a tent life at last. There is 12 of our chaps in a tent that is as big as our Henry had. I have never seen more soldiers in my life than what is here at the present time, there are thousands of all sorts here, Indians and all , but I am enjoying splendid health here but it is hard life I assure you but I can put up with it.

6 March 1915

Dear Wife, just a line to let you know that I am allright and in the best of health and I hope you and the children are the same. It is turned a fortnight now since I landed in this country and I have not heard a word from you yet, but it is my fault for I have not been giving you the right address, but  if you will address your letter as I have put it down on this letter I am sure it will find me, even if I gets shifted from here...I wish you would sent me out this week's Gazette for I heard one of the riders was killed in our pit.

22 March 1915

Dear Wife, you can tell the children I have seen a school as big as theirs blown all to the ground and it seems they had to leave it all in a hurry for they left their little coats and hats all over the place. The Germans did not leave one single house standing for they are all blown to the ground. I went through a public house and there was the beer barrels in the cellar, but the beer out here is not worth drinking, on pint of our beer is worth a barrel of this out here.

23 March

I was reading on the Gazette a few letters from some Abertillery boys at the front and the one that tickled me most was the one sent by Mr Stewart's son, it says about his plucky action, for I can tell you it is a [sic] action we have all got to do for we can't get to trenches without shot and shell whizzing over you so he have only done is [sic] duty which lies with us all. Dear Wife this Easter will find me in a far different place to last, but let us hope we will be together again in the following Easter. Now I must close having no more to say at present. So I must wish good night and God bless to you all.

From your loving husband Phil

(Copyright © 2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth / Anne Holland)


Saturday, 21 February 2015

A tribute to Britain's original Great War soldiers


Chatting over past times: me with Claire, left, and Andy
It took more than two years to research and write my book Letters from the Trenches, and during that time I not only learned a huge amount about the First World War, I also met many kind people who shared their families' WW1 letters and diaries with me.

Most got in touch after reading my appeal for letters in magazines and newspapers, including Claire Stewart and Andy Goodenough who read about my project in the Bristol Post. They are the grandchildren of one of my book's more prominent characters, Sergeant George Fairclough, of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, and it was therefore a real pleasure to meet up with them for lunch recently at Thornbury Castle (no less!) - especially as Andy was on a trip from his home in South Africa.

A very good time was had by all, as you can see from the post-lunch photo above, and it was fascinating to chat to Claire and Andy about their grandfather. He served with the original British Expeditionary Force, regular soldiers who were fighting and dying long before the volunteers of Kitchener's Army had set foot in France. George Fairclough's letters and diary tell an unusual and dramatic tale which you can read in Letters from the Trenches (for book details see the tab at the top of the page). He also features in an article I have written for Warfare, Pen and Sword Books' online magazine, which you can read here: The Action-Packed Diary of a WW1 Cavalryman.

While on the subject of the British Expeditionary Force, below is poignant a letter written by another of the so-called 'old contemptibles', Corporal Saddler Ernest Pollikett, who served with the 10th (Prince of Wales Own) Royal Hussars. He was writing to his sister-in-law from France almost 100 years ago exactly, when the weather was atrocious and troops were doing their best to maintain morale.

6th March 1915
B.E.Force, France

Dear Emily,

Ernest Pollikett
I am well and in the best of health and not at all downhearted as we are not in the habit of getting downhearted as it takes something to get British troops dishearted [sic] I can tell you, especially if one has been through it all together. The weather over here has been and still [is] very bad, water and mud everywhere, we shall appreciate some fine weather when it comes to get this big job over. I think [it] will take a long time yet to come. What a blessing it will be when it is all over and the world at peace again.

I cannot tell you anything particular as all letters are censored but no doubt you will be glad to know I am all right at present and I am very thankful to you for your parcel and its contents.  You may be sure it was quite appreciated over here under the circumstances we find ourselves, we all share round to our chums what we have sent to us, but surely you must have denied and deprived yourselves of much to send it me being as living is so dear in England at present. Things are very very dear in France and not so good as in good old England, in fact some places you cannot get anything, but of course we get our rations and plenty of it, not like it was in S Africa [Pollikett served in the Boer War] when sometimes we nearly went starving.

I am glad you have heard from Louie [his wife], I thank God she was protected when the bomb was dropped [this is probably a reference to a raid by Zeppelin airships]. I know the soldier very well whose house it destroyed, I was only talking to him the other day before I left for the front.

But how we all long for that day to come when peace shall be proclaimed and come back to dear old England and to civil life again, but I am afraid that day is a long way off yet and we all need to pray that God in his own good time will bring this terrible crisis to an early close, and I can tell you there are men over here who never prayed in their lives before pray now. O what a difference when men have to face death nearly every day, it makes some think and some quite the reverse. I pray that God if it is his will I will be spared to see my dear Louie and dear children [the couple had two] once again, not as if I am a coward, not at all, but we all want to see our loved ones once again. But is all the difference if one is a Christian, he or she is not afraid to die where others are. I am sorry to say I know quite a number who have gone under, some real good fellows.

God bless you and remain yours sincerely,  Ern

***

Tragically, Ernest, who is thought to have belonged to the Salvation Army, was killed at Ypres two months after this letter was written. 'The only story we have is that after a shell attack he went out to collect the wounded, but another shell fell close by wounding him,' explained Ernest's great-niece Liz Moore. 'More soldiers came out to collect the wounded, but Ernest told them to collect others who were in a worse state than he was. Before the soldiers could return, another shell killed him.' Ernest is buried at Boesinghe in Belgium. An extract from his letter features in Letters from the Trenches.


(Copyright ©  2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth / Liz Moore)

Saturday, 14 February 2015

'Fancy seeing us galloping over the trenches picking off Germans'

The surroundings of this place is very pretty,' wrote Jim Swasbrick from  Salisbury Plain (above, with
Stonehenge in the background) where he was based at army camp in 1916

Jim Swasbrick
Continued from the previous post...

After months stuck in Egypt when he was desperate to join the fighting, Australian Jim Swasbrick finally made it to Europe in the summer of 1916, writing letters from army camp at Salisbury Plain (where he was joined by his brother Dave) and then from France. Jim's story had begun in such high spirits: 'I will bring a piece of the Kaiser home for you to have a look at,' he wrote to his sister shortly after enlisting in 1914, but sadly there was no happy ending. He was was killed at the First Battle of Bullecourt, France, in 1917. Jim is one of several Australian soldiers whose stories and lively correspondence you can read in my book Letters from the Trenches. More details about the book can be found by clicking the tab at the top of the page. But for now, let me hand you back to Jim...


Park House Camp,
Salisbury, England
21 June 1916                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
My Dear Sister
Just a few lines to let you no [sic] Dave and l arrived safely in England, we had a good trip over and it is a very nise [sic] camp that we are in. It has been very cold hear [sic] this last few day but we have nice huts to live in so we don’t notice it so much, the surroundings of this place is very pretty, it is hard to discribe [sic] so l will send you some photos of it and you will see for yourself what it is like.

We are going to have a holiday and we are going to make the best of it as we are amongst the Germans hear, so one don’t no how long he is going to last as they are fighting very hard, but it is only in vain, they are beat and will soon give in. The Russians are running them down wholesale...so it's a good sign that they are tiring out.

Dave is keeping well, he and his mate is cooking for our squadron, and they are dishing us up...roast meat, mashed potatoes for dinner every day, sausage meat and bacon for breakfast, so you see we are not doing bad...Hoping you are all well as it leaves me the same.



9th Lancers cap badge
England, mid-1916
(only one page surviving)

The badge that you can see on this paper is the nineth [sic], Lancers badge [9th Queen's Royal Lancers], that is the regerment [sic] that we are attached to. They are a fine lot of boys to be with, you can fancy seeing us galloping over the trenches picking germans off on the point of them, it aught [sic] to be good sport...Remember me to all at home, poor old Dave get very home sick at times.



Tidworth, England
17 August 1916

Dear Maggie, Just a few lines trusting that you are keeping well, as Dave and l are in the best of health at presant [sic]. I sent a cable to you seven weeks ago [asking] for thirty pound and as l have got no reply I don’t no what to make of it. If you did not get the cable let me no by return mail and l will stir some of these heads up or l will get my money back. If you haven't sent the money before you get this letter would you kindly cable it without delay as it miserable been hear without any money. I hope you won't dissapoint [sic] me in delaying sending it along. I haven’t received a letter from any of you for four month now so l don’t no what the divel [sic] is going wrong. Dave had a letter from you a few days ago, you said that you sent some hankerchiefs [sic] to him and I, but they have not got hear yet...Well l will close for this time, remember me to all.


Some Where in France
10 December 1916

My Dear Sister
Just a few lines in answer to your ever welcome letter that l received today. I was very pleased to hear that you are all in good health as it found us both the same...You might think it hard not hearing from us but it is no fault of ours. The heads would not allow any letter to be sent away. All we could send was a field card and Dave sent some to all of you. We only come out of the trenches two days ago and this has been the first chance of writing a letter and the mail closes today so one don’t get much of a chance to write many letters. This mail l have got quite a lot to write. l got nine letters last night, it was the most letters l got in one lot since l've been over hear.

Well Maggie, we had nine days in the trenches and come up save  [sic] and sound. It was very cold and damp. Dave took the shell fire very well for the first time but he did not seem to realise where he was for a while...The first evening we went up to the front line Dave must stand on top of the parapet and have a look around not thinking of what he was doing. I looked around and saw him and l did roar him up for it and he has been careful since.

Well Maggie l received the pair of socks that you sent for me and they where what l wanted. I got the letter that you sent the hanckrieff  [sic] in, but there was no hanckrieff in it. Daves was missing too. Well l will draw this to a close for this time as Dave is waiting for the pad to write some. Give my love to all at home tell them l am alright. Ta Tar with fondest love. Wishing you a merry xmas and Happy New Year


***

That is the final letter of Jim's that still survives. The Swasbrick brothers remained together on the Western Front until 11 April 1917 when both took part in the Battle of Bullecourt. 'Their unit lay in snow before going over the top at 4am. It was murderous. Although some men managed to find their way into the German trenches they were driven back by a counter-attack later that day,' said Richard Crispin, Dave Swasbrick's grandson. Red Cross reports record Jim being hit by a machine gun on the barbed wire and after the battle he was posted missing then, later, killed in action. His body was never identified but his name is remembered on the wall at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

Dave was wounded but returned to his unit and survived the war. He married a girl from London in 1919 - Richard's grandmother - and they moved out to Australia. 'What a shock it must have been for her, from inner London to the back blocks of Australia, no electricity or running water, and bringing up nine kids!' said Richard. 'I remember her fondly as a lively and happy old lady. I was too young then to ask her the questions I would like to ask now.'

(Copyright ©  2015 Jacqueline Wadsworth / Richard Crispin)