School History

Midsummer 1916

Volume X Midsummer 1916 No. 59


War Notes

(The following items have been picked up from conversations with the various Old Edwardians who call when on leave, or from the many letters we have received)

From Mesopotamia
We had a big attack yesterday, and succeeded in driving the Turks out of their Orah position.  We attacked at dawn, and though we were only down to go forward three lines of trenches, we actually went on miles beyond.  We again attacked at night and took another position, driving the Turks out with bayonet and bomb - my first experience of bayonet charges.  Our casualties were fairly heavy - three officers killed, nine wounded, and one missing - but I was lucky for once.  Expect we shall relieve Kut very quickly now.  I am now in charge of my company, and hope to keep going well for some time.  Our artillery was fine, and backed us up awfully well.  We went from dawn, April 5th, to 1am, April 6th, fighting all the time.

I was hit about five in the morning on the 9th.  We had captured the Hannah position by an attack at dawn, on the 5th, till we came up against their next position at Falahiyeh.  Here we came under a very hot machine gun fire, and couldn't get up to them; so we had to dig in, or, rather scratch out a cover with entrenching tools.  A night attack was decided on, and though arranged at very short notice, came off splendidly.  Incidentally, we captured the machine gun in perfect order.  The Turks were caught rather on the hop in the evening, for they left no end of stuff behind.  Well, after fighting from the previous night all day till midnight, we were relieved. I got hit in fighting for the Sunnai-Yat positions.  When I left another bayonet charge at dawn was arranged. When I was knocked over I crawled back to cover, where I got my field dressing put on.  I took some morphia and got to sleep for a bit.  Then a couple of stretcher-bearers carried me back a long way to an advanced dressing station; then I was put on a motor ambulance; then on a boat, and now I am on my back in hospital at Bazra.

I have a hole in my left hip and another in the small of my back, about an inch to the left of my spine.  No bones broken, and although I am still in bed, I'm going to try to hop round on a crutch later on today.  Both wounds healing well; though, of course, my back is very stiff.

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From Salonika
You would be amused if you could have a peep out here now.  I am sitting in a large marquee, at present used as an Officers' Mess, and it is surrounded by a hoard of bell tents.  All are coated liberally with a filthy, dark-coloured slime, collected from goodness knows where, and we are pretty nearly hidden under a crowd of bushes and trees.  Nothing doing in the fighting line, mostly working parties and digging.  The weather is the usual treacherous sort - hot and sunny one day, and then a terrific downpour on the next.  Two days ago it continued in torrents for 24 hours.  Result - Officers washed out of their tents; took refuge in the marquee, which only got nine inches of water at the worst time, then, thank goodness, something went lower down, and the river abandoned its painstaking effort to drown us.

This place is pretty enough for anybody.  The bay is a wide one, which takes a terrific swell in bad weather.  Vegetation goes down almost to the sea, and there are high hills covered with evergreen oak, and giant heather - not forgetting our dear friend of the thorny branches, whose name I don't know.  A frog, about the size of a hedgehog, has just wandered through the tent in leisurely fashion, and the whole country seems to creep, crawl, and croak.  I saw a couple of glorious golden eagles from the top of one of the hills.

I thought our men had lost their stamina, through tedious and unenergetic trench work, but as they manage to climb 1,100 feet with rifle and heaps of ammunition and all equipment, they don't do too badly by any means for exercise.
I am a grenade officer.  Another is Lieut. Alan Cambell, son of Mrs Patrick.  You may have seen his name in a list of officers for the Croix de Guerre.  He got that in the evacuation.  Out here everything is absolutely stagnant.  There seems no doubt that Russia's efforts are producing an excellent effect on the Balkans.  Wonder where we shall go next!  The Anson Battalion first went to Dunkirk, then to Antwerp, then to Egypt, and helped to line the Canal; then to Helles, then to Anzac, then here.  How many clasps some of us will get goodness only knows.

The men out here are the cheeriest under the worst conditions that it has ever been my good fortune to come across.

Any amount of football out here.  Our Battalion team is great.  Representatives from Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers, and other equally well-known teams.  We won the R.N.S. Cup and the Army Corps Cup on the Peninsula, and since we have licked a team at Stavros that was unbeaten in France, and here we have been beating ships' teams.

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Somewhere in France
Although I have been out here for three months I have had no experience of front-line trenches.  My nearest was in the support lines.  It was a little village which had been shelled to pieces; in fact, the Bosch has almost a daily "hate" at the show.  He was having a go when I was there, but his shooting was bad.  The day I went up to the lines my unit came out of the trenches for a rest.  Resting does not mean you lie in bed and smoke.  Our resting has consisted of being pitched about from village to village, building railways, and now training hard.

About a month ago K of K inspected us.  It was quite unexpected; in fact, we had only half-an-hour's notice, and we merely stopped our work and lined up on the road.  He was very pleased with us, and said all kinds of nice things to the C.O.

Two days ago "Duggy" Haig and all his attendant luminaries suddenly dropped down upon us.  We lined up and he had a look at us.  I had quite a good squint at the C.-in-C. (a small, capable-looking chap), because he passed within an inch of my nose, and stopped two yards away to speak to my Company Commander.  I was also in luck's way, because General Rawlinson and a Lieut-General (I forget his name-he is the chief of "Duggy's" Staff) stopped and spoke to me.  Naturally, the topic was my extreme length.  General Rawlinson said that there were not may people he had to look up to, but that he certainly had to me.  His final observation was: "I am quite jealous of you, you know".  They didn't show any signs of giving me a G.H.Q. job on the strength of it!

We have had some '"tray bon" (as the men spell it) games of cricket.  The ground, alas is a trifle small, and the pitch of uncertain temperament, but these trifles merely add to the fun.

Next week we are holding a Battalion Boxing Night.  It will be a proper rough house.  I fancy that is why the C.O. insisted upon me acting as one of the judges.

Life out here is exactly as Ian Hay describes it in the "First 100,000", except that his description of a "Whizz Bang" is wrong.

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An Old Edwardian writes: -
I hope the Cadet Corps is going strong.  If the chaps get "fed oop" with squad drill, tell them that our fellows have to do it every day for one hour before breakfast, and these are men who have spent ten months in the trenches, and seven of those months were spent continuously in the hottest part of the British line.  That may, perhaps, help your "Infantry of the line" to appreciate what value is attached by us to Squad Drill.

An Anzac, who is also an Old Edwardian, after being in the thick of the fighting in various parts of the world, is now in France.  They are a source of great annoyance to the Germans.  He had to visit the front trenches recently, and to his astonishment found only the officer in them.  He asked him where the boys were.  He was told that they had got tired of sitting in the trenches, so they had gone off on their own.  The German trenches were quite close, and there seemed considerable uproar going on.  Later on they returned in great glee with helmets and various other trophies.  They had been through three lines of trenches and had hardly a casualty.

Commander H.G. Muir R.D., R.N.R., of the H.M.S. Sarnia, has been awarded the D.S.O. and C.B. for meritorious service in the Dardanelles.  He obtained his extra master's ticket at the early age of 23 and joined the British India Company, with whom he served twenty years.  At the outbreak of war he took up naval duties, serving in the North Sea before his appointment to the Sarnia as Lieut.-Commander.

Cadet Corps

Steady progress has been maintained, and the Corps is rapidly becoming efficient.  A gratifying increase in numbers has taken place.  We now have three officers and 130 Cadets.  In addition to several route marches, very successful field days were held on two occasions. In the New Forest the attacking force under Sergt. Drew was successful in "capturing" the defenders' stronghold - a hill near Lyndhurst.