Major Chip Burrows.
My Grandfather fought in World War One and survived. This is his biography. Having read it and visited some of the sites he fought at, I shall never describe any incident in my life as a nightmare.
Back in the sixties when my brother and I were dragged down to Surrey for a day with Grandpa B, it was tedious to put it mildly. How we sniggered as he raised a pint glass to his lips and spilt some because his hands shaked so violently. We were under 10 and had no idea, obviously, of what Gallipoli, The Somme and Paschendale were. Only reading this 20 years later did I get an insight into my Grangfather's life.
It would be utterly nonsensical to suggest that these jottings and reminiscences have the slightest literary merit or any interest whatsoever, except perhaps to my grandchildren who may inquire into the early life of Grandpa Burrows. It is anticipated that they will inherit that pride of family which was handed down to me through my dear father from my Grandpa Burrows who died on 6th June 1898.
I was born in Nottingham on 23rd February 1893 the 7th child of William and Annie Burrows. My father, largely due to his own industry, was comfortably established in life at the time of my birth. He was 45 years of age and after many years as manager of Allen's Printing Works, commenced business upon his own account just before I was born. I have no doubt it was a risk, justified by the needs of a large and growing family, but he had many friends and by hard work soon founded what proved to be a successful business capable of feeding 9 mouths and providing his children with all which they could reasonably desire. His business was not carried on without anxiety and I have a vivid recollection of invitations to the bank manager to dine with my parents preparatory to an application for an overdraft to finance the purchase of new and costly machinery, for the purpose of competing with large printing companies in the work of illustrated catalogues and the like.
In those closing years of the last century there was far more and lavish entertainment in the home than was possible later. My parents gave several large dinner parties each winter, inviting the same circle of friends year after year and being just as regularly invited to their houses. These parties were tremendously formal and exceedingly expensive, but they suited the period and seemed to be enjoyable. There was music and singing in the drawing room after dinner, sometimes by professionals but usually by members of the family and guests and they went home as they had come, in their carriages at 10.30pm. Waiters were engaged to assist the maids as regards food so far as I was concerned, (a little shrimp in bed upstairs), the piece de resistance was a big iced pudding sent up by the catering company because we could not cook one at home. I always remember the flurry on the day of a party and the hairdresser coming and doing my mothers and sisters hair for the occasion.
My father was a prominent Conservative and in common with other prominent Conservatives felt bound to put up our member, who for many years was Edward Bond, whenever he came down to the constituency for a night or two. This was always the occasion for a political dinner party and as he was a bachelor, usually for men only. Being a bachelor, there was always a good deal of chaff amongst my sisters and their friends with regards to his marriage intentions, but he died, as he had lived, a bachelor, at an advanced age. He was great in stature if not in ability and I remember once to my mothers consternation, he sat down in the drawing room on a valuable Chippendale chair, leaned back and broke off the back and toppled over. Life for my dear mother was not all dinner parties; she had a hard life bringing up 7 children, often with little help and for many years with little money (there is 20 years between my sister Gertrude and me who was born when my mother was 18). After my birth, she was so delicate for some time that my second sister, Kate, left school at the age of 17, breaking off what might have been a brilliant career , to help bring me up. No doubt for this reason I formed the greatest affection for her which continued to the moment of her death in 1930 and I still miss her today in 1945 more than I can say.
Mine was a very happy childhood and I suppose, as the baby of a big family, I was terribly spoilt. It was said that I was the image of my father, (though he had a beard), hence the nickname ‘Chip’, as in chip off the old block, which has stuck to me ever since. They say I was a very fat baby, lazy to walk and frequently my wicker perambulator broke under my weight. Now at 52, I am a level 6ft and turn the scale at only 8 stone 7lbs, despite a real fondness for milk and Guinness.
My father was very much the master in his own house and though we were all very fond of him, the girls were apparently his favourites and I was frequently removed from table at the midday meal for some petty to do, like not eating up my food and made to stay in the telephone cupboard. We were early subscribers to the telephone, then in its infancy. My mother kept her cake tins in the telephone cupboard, so I did not starve! If I held my father in some awe when a youngster, he was positively afraid of his father. He was a policeman and retired as deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire Constabulary. He lived to be 89 at West Bridgeford. He suffered in his latter days from gout which did nothing to assist his fiery temper. We used to go and visit him and it amused me at a tender age, to see my father who was a heavy cigar smoker, leave a half smoked cigar in a gardiniere at Grandpa’s front door, because Grandpa did not approve of smoking. My father was then a man of 50 and a big noise to all except Grandpappa. All his grown up life, my father had been a leading freemason in the town and was master of two lodges, Newstead and Devere. He held office in the provincial grand lodge and attained grand lodge honours. This activity kept him out a good deal in the evening in winter. I always had the opinion that my mothers view to all this masonry upon which he spent a good deal of money as well as time, was a) that charity begins at home, thought I cannot imagine that we ever went short of anything by reason of it and b) that apart from the benevolent aspect, he got a good deal of enjoyment out of the wining and dining, which deprived us of his company, at his stag parties.
When in 1920, I followed his example, I created some amusement in my mother lodge by taking with me his aprons and regalia in case they might prove useful, but I was a lukewarm mason and have not been to lodge for many years. Though in my own defence I must record that I joined a lawyers lodge from which I could not possibly have hoped to derive any financial advantage.
If you have read thus far, you will want to know something of our holidays. The weekend habit had not entered the minds of ordinary middle class people, but a month by the sea every summer was no less than a routine matter. We always had apartments at a place on the Lincolnshire coast, mainly because it was our nearest seaside and went to the same rooms year after year at Sutton on Sea or Mablethorpe. We went as a family happily exchanging the comfort of home for the acute discomfort of apartments. e.g. lamps downstairs and a candle to light us to bed, instead of our new electric light or gas, no bathroom and a toilet at the bottom of the garden. My brothers used to drive down in a pony and tub taking 3 days to cover 80 miles with a dog following. One of my earliest recollections at 3 1/2 years is of feeling sick on the train journey and Kate putting me straight to bed on arrival before I had seen the sea and administering a dose of Gregory’s Powder which I promptly threw up over the clean sheets. The landlady was annoyed but dear Kate defended me like a tigress. As seaside bungalow building developed and golf courses sprang up, we transferred our affection to Seacroft, the southern end of Skegness and took a house there each year 2 . This involved catering, but Kate who never did anything of the sort at home, took this on to relieve my mother and always did us very well indeed, especially as we were often large numbers at very short notice.
This is my great grandfather, his wife and two of their daughters. Philis is the youngest. Photo taken on the steps of the house in Skegness, that still exists today, largely unchanged.
My father did not play golf but he was a keen photographer and I have the happiest recollection of pottering with him on these holidays. He also enjoyed a bathe until he was about 60. He was an expert in photography, having an up to date studio run by two charming Irishmen in connection with his works. These Irishmen, Paddy and Dick, were continually arguing. The former coming from County Cork and latter from the north. But they were both good fellows and made me fond of my camera, and of course I got my plates and paper for nothing and if I wanted it, the developing and printing was done for me.
This family group is shot in the garden of the holiday home in Skegness with the golf club in the background. All of it is much the same now (1998). My Grandfather is seated in hat.
In about 1900, my father experimented as an amateur with colour photography making, of course, his own plates and obtained some excellent results. We had coloured magic lantern slides of our family medals, a bowl of roses and other pretty pictures. In these days of colour film, I often think he might have made a fortune out of it. Especially as, at that time, he was very friendly with (to his cost poor chap!) and a distant relative of Ernest Jack Hooley, the celebrated company promoter, who eventually floated himself into gaol! My parents believed in having a holiday on their own and I can well imagine that they enjoyed the freedom from business and domestic worries and the peace which is impossible to obtain in a house full of children. My father particularly used to enjoy steamship cruises before they became so popular. They attended the coronation of the King of Norway at Trondheim who had recently married an English Princess. On another occasion Kate accompanied him on a Mediterranean cruise and was horrified that he, a keen lover of animals, had actually enjoyed a bull fight in Spain. Upon this cruise in midsummer, he had his beard shaved and thought it made him look younger but he had begun to sag at the throat and my mother thought the very reverse and ordered him to grow it again. We entirely agreed with her.
One year, I got quite excited because he booked births for five of us, including myself, upon a Mediterranean cruise on a Super Orient liner but my mother wisely stepped in and insisted on his cancelling the booking as an unnecessary extravagance. He was inclined to be extravagant but he certainly was generous and ever mindful of the needs of others, otherwise he would have died better off, but we would not have had him otherwise.
My father was above average as a shot and it was the only sport he indulged in during my boyhood and that in the winter months. He usually shared a shoot with two or three friends in the south of the county close to the border of Leicestershire. He had an uncle, Edward Shaw, a farmer at Keyworth of whom he was very fond and my father used to take me to visit the Shaws whenever he wanted to spend a day in the country. Aunt Shaw had a brusque manner of speech but a heart of gold. She continued to wear lace caps long after the custom died out. Keyworth was 7 miles away and we used to drive over. Our route was through narrow marsh, the worst slum in Nottingham and I was very frightened driving back through the dark. The streets were crowded with rowdy drunken dishevelled men and women shouting and swearing and children almost naked with no shoes and stockings who screamed epithets at us and on occasions threw stones and bottles. A condition of affairs which mercifully could not occur today, since conditions for the poor have been so much improved.
It was at Great Uncle Edwards that I learnt to ride a horse and to shoot. He had a son, Harry who ran the farm and was a magnificent figure of a man about 6’6” and very handsome. He served for many years in the South Notts Hussars Yeomanry and was one of the contingent to form the guard of honour at Queen Victoria's funeral and other state pageants in London. He was a wonderful horseman and his father always kept two good weight carrying hunters for his military duties. Twice in a season the Quorn hunt, for many years under Captain Forrester N.F.H. met at the farm prior to drawing Bunny Wood and it was always a delight to the old uncle and to me as I was invited for a days’ hunting.
For over 50 years the old man had been a tenant of Abel Smith the banker. I dare say he made money during the 1914-18 war (what farmer did not) and was persuaded to buy the farm. Immediately afterwards, agriculture became depressed due to the government policy and the grand old man who had sunk all his savings into the farm, died of a broken heart but at a great age. My father preceded him by some 4 or 5 years.
Keyworth provided Nottinghamshire with many count cricketers and several of the old ones used to come out shooting with us as beaters just for the sport, a good hefty lunch and a couple of rabbits.
Talking of the Queens funeral reminds me how her death on 22nd January 1901 cast the whole nation into the deepest grief and mourning. I was only 8 years old but I had my work cut out to try and comfort my weeping mother and sisters when the news was announced. She was greatly loved by all during a reign of 64 years. Her funeral was a great occasion, many Kings and Princes being in the procession. My mother and Gertrude took me up to London for the day to see it from a window in the city. It was my first visit to the big city and very thrilling. Our train back was at about 9pm and we spent some time riding on the top of buses (horse drawn of course), to show me the sights and the lights. The journey back, 125 miles, would take about 4 hours and it was suggested that I should settle down for a sleep. I did not want to be selfish as all 3 of us were tired and I was suspicious of two, no doubt respectable, strangers in the carriage with us. Accordingly, I consented to an arrangement whereby I should sleep for the first hour and then be awaked and mount guard, while Mother and Gertrude slept. Imagine my shame when they woke me up at Nottingham!
If your interest has been maintained in this story, you will wonder what was done about my education. And it will, perhaps, be convenient here to say a few words about my schooling from start to finish and be done with it - going onto incidents during that period at random as they come to me. As the reader will have gathered, these jottings follow no plan or order of date.
At the age of 4, my parents sent me to a Dames school in the neighbourhood. It was kept by two elderly spinsters. The Misses Aggie and Lizzie Wyllie. We were boys and girls doing 1st lessons and were very happy together. The house smelt rather stuffy and the toilet arrangements were primitive and unsanitary compared with the plumbing at home. We then lived at Magdala House , a large house in its own grounds with an ancient Walnut tree, said to have been in Sherwood Forest in Robin Hoods day, a field adjoining and a tennis court made of cinders. The walnut tree was prolific standing in the centre of the lawn. In the Autumn when the nuts were falling, young hooligans came in with baskets and were chased away by my father and brothers. It was hollow and I could play in the trunk until my father had it filled with cement to make the tree safe from falling.
This is Magdala house taken by my Great Grandfather in about 1910, I guess. It looks very similar today, but is divided into two flats.
At Miss Wyllie’s I seemed to be the object of some bullying on my way to and from school both from my schoolmates and street cads, but I dare say it did me no harm. Jack Turner and Leslie and Frank Halford were my playmates and I often hear of them after 45 years. We were in and out of each others houses, and all went on to the same prep school. Mr Hoffmans. Jack lived in a much bigger house than we did. When his father died, he was about 7 years old and came to stay with us for a few days until after the funeral. When my mother tucked him up in bed in our double spare room - a very large apartment for a tiny boy, he amused her by saying “I did not know people could live in such small houses!”. He became a soldier and covered himself in glory in the 1914-18 war but was chair-borne in Whitehall throughout the recent struggle being, of course, over 50. I got in touch with him in 1916 upon finding his gas mask on the battlefield and restoring it to him in person.
Leslie went on to Felstead and I should have joined him there but my parents thought we were best separated and I think they were wise. He played cricket and hockey for his county and did well in the first Great War. Afterwards, things went rather awry for him. Frank, who was not very bright at school has been for some years one of our leading aircraft designers and is said to be a very rich man! It is said that he was so valuable in the recent war that he slept in a caravan in a tunnel whenever an enemy air raid was to be expected. If so I am sure he did so under orders and under protest.
In 1901 I had grown out of the Dames school and was sent as a day boy to Hoffmanns in the park . He had over 50 boys from 8-14 many of whom are today well known personalities. He was a remarkable man, of mixed blood, educated at Heidelburg where his father had been a professor. He was tall and handsome after the style of Kaiser Wilhelm but his loyalty was unquestionably to Britain. His wife, Kate, was a dear sole and Irish and they had 2 children of about my own age - Jack and Gretchen who were educated and brought up with us. Both were typically english children and inherited their parents good looks. Jack went into the navy via H.M.S. Conway training ship for cadets. ‘Hoffy’ as we called him, was a great ladies man which I am afraid led him into all kinds of extravagances so that he was always broke. He was a tremendous acquisition at a dinner party having a fund of good stories for the smoke room and the drawing room, and if broken english was required, he was a wonderful mimic. A favourite of ours was Tom Clare's telephone monologue ‘has you done?’ On one occasion, when I was caught smoking, he consulted my mother at a dinner party as to the most suitable punishment, with the result that for a week I was sent to bed at 7 o’clock with bread and milk - a supper I used to detest. As may readily be imagined with a cosmopolitan, ‘Hoffy's’ pupils, with a few exceptions, were fluent French and German scholars. He specialised in coaching for the training ships of the royal navy, accordingly, many of my school mates served in the navy and several perished in the 1914-18 war. He used to take a party of us for a fortnight in the summer holidays to one of the French or Belgium seaside resorts and only French was spoken. At dinner we spoke French and German alternate weeks at table. Admiral Bernard Drew was a schoolmate of mine. In those days entry as a Midshipman, or ‘Snottie’, into the navy was by interview with the Lords of the Admiralty. When it came to my turn to go up at the age of 12 there were six of us including Brian Clough, Bubbles Cooper, Georgie Hicking and me. Clough, a poor parsons son, youngest of 13 children had never seen the sea . ‘Hoffy’ himself took us to London and gave us a wonderful time including a visit to the navy exhibition at Earls Court the night before our ordeal. We all wore our Eton suits and top hats for the occasion.
We were interviewed one at a time by a table full of old gentlemen with Lord Selborne in the chair. He was First Lord of the Admiralty and as one had to have influence, my father had got the Duke of Portland and Lord Henry Bentinck to speak to him on my behalf beforehand. The interview, though long, was enjoyable. I had to read an anecdote and explain the joke. Translate a short French story. Point out Scandinavia on a blank map of the World. Describe how to make a top hat and (that defeated me), spell ‘miscellaneous’. In the end I inquired ‘have I passed?’ and was told that a letter would be sent to my father. To my eternal sorrow, none of us passed. There were 700 candidates for 72 cadetships and those were the first to go to Osborne House, the late Queen Victoria’s residence in the Isle of Wight, which had been turned into a training college. There is no ‘second shot’, but Bubbles Cooper, whose father was a prominent Catholic presented himself next time and was successful. After a distinguished career and a DSO at the Battle of Jutland he was ‘axed’ as a lieut. Commander, became a land agent in 1920 and died shortly afterwards. Clough became a parson and was killed in the war. George Hicking joined the Navy as a seaman in 1914 and was drowned in the Battle of Jutland on the same day as his young brother, Frank, was killed in France. Their eldest brother, Harold, also at ‘Hoffie’s’ with us rejoined the Army in 1939 as a private and he and I served together in the 2nd World War.
11th July 2009. I have been in email correspondence with Terry Hollywood who has drawn my attention to a possible error in Grandpa B’s tale:
Terry says: I have been researching WWI and came across what I believe to be a factual error related to the story of Major Chip Burrows.
I mention this to you only in the quest for understanding and in no way demeaning the outstanding story therein. I have a small hope that you may know some of the descendents of those involved which could help settle all questions.
"George Hicking joined the Navy as a seaman in 1914 and was drowned in the Battle of Jutland on the same day as his young brother, Frank, was killed in France."
According to the CWG, George Hicking and his brother Frances were both infantry officers killed on the same day at the Somme. I am researching the 6th Service Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment in which George apparently served.
If you have any idea or knowledge about this riddle I would greatly appreciate the information.
I posted a link to your Grandfather’s story on the Great War Forum which can be found here: 1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=128057&hl=
Terry Hollywood aka: footsore private
Following my bitter disappointment I stayed for some years at ‘Hoffie’s’ as a border and worked hard, receiving every encouragement from him and from his loyal assistant, Teddy Edwards, who was a mathematician and a real old ‘Mr Chips’.
About this time on 4th June 1902 my sister Pem (Penelope), was married to Harry Smith. Both were tall and good looking and good tennis players. It was a slap-up wedding at our home, Magdala House. I had a new Eton suit and a new silk hat for the occasion, but unfortunately developed German Measles a few days beforehand. I remember Pem looking beautiful and my other sisters and Harry’s only sister were bridesmaids, but even if I could describe the frocks it would be out of place in this biography. I do remember there were lashings of strawberries at 7/6 a pound and I watched the reception from a bedroom window. A place was left vacant in the wedding group and when I was better, I was photographed sitting down and the picture was superimposed in the family group.
I shall always remember with gratitude how sweet to me was my brother Fred, though 15 years older. We shared a bedroom and he always took my part in any trouble I was in. I used to whisper C.T.B.E. which meant ‘come to bed early’ as I tried to keep awake until he came to bed and if successful, crept into his bed. He was the most unselfish of big brothers and used sometimes to take me to the First House of the Music Hall. It was always a thrilling show, and not the least of the thrills for me was to come away with my clothes smelling of smoke - the ventilation was wretched in those days. I just remember going to ‘The Crown and Cushion’, a pub where there was a Chairman and variety turns on a little stage where High Pavement and Low Pavement meet. It was very free and easy.
On Sunday afternoons Fred used to invite his half dozen cronies and they had tea in the breakfast room. Will Perry used to bring his lovely collie dog. I was admitted and usually recited my newest piece of poetry, being given sixpence (a tizzy) at the end of it. What a little nuisance I was! Of these pals, Perry is the only survivor, he was born at St Quentin in the thick of the 1870 war in a dugout. The pals for several years chartered a houseboat on the Trent at Beeston from May to September. It was the ‘Decima’ - a fine boat, the only one with bedsteads instead of bunks. They all worked in Nottingham in the day time and took it in turns to be host for the week. In the saloon was a pianola piano, a great novelty in those days and the ‘man’, Solloway was an excellent cook and fond of me, the only child who ever came aboard. We had great fun and I learnt to row and to enjoy river bathing. The other boys used to invite their girlfriends, but when it was Fred’s turn, he usually entertained the family to some jolly picnics and I sometimes spent the night on board.
I think these are the pals and the chap in the middle is a brother of my Grandfather.
Working for my father, he earned very little and worked hard. It is a mistake for a son to work for his father. Had Fred gone elsewhere he would undoubtedly have done well for himself, but we should have been the poorer.
The boys had a good holiday one winter in Egypt. I believe it was Fred’s 21st birthday present besides the traditional gold watch and chain. I remember his postcards to me and a picture of them all on camels at the Sphinx. Some of his friends were pioneer motorists and he had some jolly weekends with them when to get to Skegness 80 miles away was full of adventure. These trips were all recorded by his camera. My brother Willie, older than Fred, was a pioneer motor cyclist in the 90’s and experimented with Cripps, Airey, Mitchell and other men who have made fortunes out of the internal combustion engine, but he had no gift for concentration and made nothing of the opportunity. He was disappointed that my parents discouraged him from going to South Africa in the Boer War 1899-1902 and usually seemed to be at loggerheads with my father who had set him up in more than one business. It was a mistake for him to be his own boss. He ran away to be married in London in 1900 to a charming girl whose means were adequate for their needs. To his credit, let it be said, that though over 40 years old he joined up on the outbreak of war in 1914 and drove a lorry in the A.S.C. continually in France to the end suffering happily great hardship.
I remember one severe winter about 1902, when we had sledging, as we called tobogganing, for a long period down Ratcliffe Road, a severe hill near where we lived. My brothers had made two solid sledges and I enjoyed the sport despite the danger. The track attracted a great many roughs and I picked up some bad language. One very mild expletive, I tried on my mother, without in the least knowing what I meant “Oh! Go to blazes!” She was thunderstruck and told my father, who gave me a good slippering when he came home. The same year, on Christmas Day, I gave my family a fright. We had had a wonderful party, presents had been distributed at the breakfast table and I suppose I had been eating incessantly throughout the day without going out of doors. At bedtime, I developed a frightening bumping around my heart, which I had never experienced before. I was put on a coach and Dr Snell was sent for. I realised it was serious as he was an old man who came in a Brougham and we never sent for him at night. However, he pronounced it as palpitation of the heart due to overeating. Whenever I have felt it since, it has been through over-smoking and I have not been so worried as I was on that occasion.
My Grandfather, being the youngest, was always acting the fool!
Among her many activities, Amateur Theatrical and otherwise, my sister, Kate, was very fond of French. My sister, Molly, was at school in Paris and was desperately homesick the whole of the time. Kate went over on more than one occasion expressly to take her out. She took me with her in 1904 I think in the summer for a fortnight and showed me all the sights of the Gay City; another year, she and I had a jolly holiday in Brittany. We both delighted in sightseeing, bathing and airing our French, and we both curiously enough had an affection for the French. We were brought up by my father to have a profound hate and mistrust of the Germans and looking back, how right he was. If he ever saw in the house anything ‘made in Germany’, he went off the deep end. His main grievance, was that under our governments policy of free trade, the Germans were dumping their goods into this country with the resulting grave unemployment and soup kitchens for our people every winter. In Nottingham we suffered especially, from the import of cheap German lace from Plauen. Young Germans used to come over to learn the trade and copy the designs for lace curtains etc. A propos of this inborn hate, I never had the slightest desire to go for a cheap holiday to Germany, a very beautiful country between wars, when the cost was so attractive to the English. When dear Kate died in 1930, her last words to me were “don’t let Phyllis (Pem’s daughter), marry a German”. At 39 years of age, Phyllis has not married anybody.
In 1907, upon the advice of Mr Hoffman, my parents decided to send me to boarding school and Woodbridge School was chosen for the purpose. It is one of the lesser public schools but it had recently had a new headmaster, Reverend Walter Madeley, who was said to be a brilliant man and I already knew one boy there, Leslie Shutes, who was getting on well. As I have said, Felsted was barred to me as Leslie Halford who always got me into trouble, was there. My father and mother took me to see the school, which is beautifully situated in the ancient market town of that name, on the bank of the River Deben. We stayed at Felixstowe, about 10 miles away, by the seaside. Like so many of our big public schools, Woodbridge had been founded in Queen Elizabeth’s day by Thomas Seckford, a rich city merchant, as a fee-paying school for the boys of the town, then a prosperous centre of the wool trade. The school was well endowed with funds derived from properties in the city of London.
We were not impressed by the headmaster in whose house I was to be boarded. He snapped at me “Do you play games my boy?” to which I naively replied, “I play golf Sir”. “Well you will play football and cricket here”, he whipped back at me. He was quite right to object to a young puppy playing golf, but need not have been so rude about it. When the time came for me to sit for the entrance examination, I was in bed with measles. It was arranged, however, that I should do the papers, with a master sitting in the bedroom to see that I did not use a crib. The papers were stored and posted to Woodbridge. For this purpose though, I had been kept in a darkened room, the blinds were pulled up. Certain scholarships were awarded on the results of this examination and it so happened that I was awarded one of £25 a year on my papers. As soon as I recovered, I went out to Bullwell Forest to play golf and lost half a dozen golf balls. I found to my dismay, that I was hitting the ball further than I could see it. On the way home, I consulted and optician, who gloomily forecast that I was going blind. But my mother soon took me to an oculist who was not so pessimistic, but my sight never recovered and there is no doubt that it was irreparable damage caused by the measles of which I had a bad attack. Woodbridge was a typical school of its day - very hard and rough but I’m bound to say I enjoyed it and never made a fuss about ‘going back’. Several of us, or rather our parents, used to pay 13/4 a term for ‘extra commons’ which was a boiled egg for breakfast on alternate days, otherwise it was bread and margarine. We all took heavy tuck boxes full of eatables. Pocket money was sixpence a week with an additional threepence reward if in the opinion of the form master a boy had taken a high place in his form in the preceding week. This reward was greatly coveted and was an encouragement to industry. There were the usual bullies and I came in for my share though I was not a little boy, being 14 years old when I entered the school. We were subjected to ordeal by fire standing with back close to a hot fire till it burnt ones behind and being tossed in a blanket in a dormitory. To those boys who snored a soap pill was administered through the open mouth, with the desired result.
My bosom friend with whom I shared a study was Eric Keighley a boy of my own age who came from Leamington Spa. He had been removed from Felsted. His elder brother, Geoffrey, was at Woodbridge too. He was tall and good looking, my mother fell for him but I shall always say, he got me into most of my troubles at that school. I must be very weak minded. It was Leslie Halford at the other school, never myself! Eric was a great horseman and whenever we had any money and spare time, we would hire a couple of tradesman's horses on a Sunday afternoon and go for a ride. He was a lazy boy but drew well. I remember the year Signovinitta won The Oaks. He drew a picture of her in the latrines and was caned for it. He and I were usually ‘gated’ early in the term i.e. forbidden to go outside the grounds for the rest of the term for some trivial offence, like going into the village without an exeat - a written permit.
On one occasion, Eric and I were carrying in a box four flagons of port from the village. When stopped by a master and asked what the box contained, we said it was a lamp for our study. He opened the parcel and the result was, we were caned, gated and the drink (1 shilling a bottle and twopence deposit on each bottle), was confiscated. Our canings, (6 strokes on the bare behind), more often than not were for smoking in the latrines, which were separated from the house by a covered way so the smell of smoke was not easily detected.
I started off in the classical 5th form and remained in it throughout my school life. Thanks to my prep school, I was always top in French without working and carried off the French prize each year. Years afterwards, I met Mr Slocombe, (old Slocky), the Frenchmaster. He remembered me at once and reminded me I was the only boy in the form who knew, ‘Sur l’Imperiale’ on the top (of a bus). We had bars at all windows, up and downstairs in the schoolhouse. Boys used to unscrew some which yielded to a screwdriver at night and roam about the countryside, getting back by climbing up a drainpipe with the aid of knotted sheets. On one occasion, I joined them but it ended in a thrashing. It was the night of the Woodbridge Flower Show, which we had attended as usual in the afternoon, but there was to be dancing on the lawn to the music of a military band. I made a date to be there with the postmasters daughter and duly kept it, but a master, Mr Wood, known as ‘the tapeworm’ was there too and detected me. I was sent back to await his return to his study! The others had a jolly time and escaped notice. Perhaps they were sitting out!
During my time at Woodbridge I became friendly with two young ladies of different calibre from the village girls, and was fortunate in keeping up the friendship for some years. Nora Halliday was a young widow living in a cottage at Lily Langry’s racing stables at Hawketon. I had met her at the de Saones and she invited me to go to tea with her whenever I was free. It was a joy to have a good tea nicely served and I was grateful to her for her refining influence. In 1916 she heard that I was posted ‘missing’ and wrote the sweetest letter to my mother. The posting was premature (I had been asleep in a shell hole for 12 hours after a sticky engagement) and I had to get my name erased from the School Roll of Honour.
The other was Peggy Beech, pretty sister of two day boys Mervyn and Guy, the children of Howard Beech, Rector of Great Bealings. She used to come with her father and watch our games and we boys were like flies round a honey pot. Occasionally her mother invited me to tea at the Rectory. She had a young sister, Marjorie, who in those days was rather a nuisance. I used to go to early Communion at her father’s church, hoping to be asked for breakfast afterwards. Peggy went to Tree’s school and eventually made quite a name on the stage. I saw her many times in many plays in many towns until she married Sir John Fortescue, the King’s Librarian at Windsor, a man old enough to be her father. The marriage was a complete success. During the 1914-18 war John Fortescue wrote the Official History of the war and said his remuneration for the work was less than 1/- a day- the pay of a private soldier. Peggy opened a dress shop at their house in Hampstead to keep things going. They retired to the South of France where he died and their life there is told in her book ‘Perfume of Provence’ 6. The present King specially invited her to come to London for his Coronation which she did in 1912.
Our great outing for the year to Woodbridge was on Whit in Monday. The whole school went to Felixstowe in pair-horse brakes. We had a bathe in the sea, two real good meals in a hall and home in the evening, singing all the way. On one occasion at the end of summer term I went home via steamer from Felixstowe to London. It was a little cheaper so we had a few shillings to spend and it made a jolly trip.
Needless to say every public house in the district was out of bounds and had orders not to serve us but most of us kept a bowler hat at school to put on before entering an Inn. On Sundays we wore speckled straw hats throughout the year with a red white and black band. Sixth form boys wore a white straw hat with a narrower band of the same colours. I never got into any school eleven but latterly was sometimes scorer for the 1st cricket team and enjoyed the away matches at Norwich, Yarmouth etc. I was good at gym and in my last year was reserve man in the Gym V1 which competed at Aldershot.
We had a Cadet Corps, changed in 1908 to Officers’ Training Corps. As membership exempted one from work, most of us joined it and I am bound to say when in 1914 I was granted a Commission in the Army, I found the training to be of the greatest value. I remember on my return home from summer camp in my new uniform, my sisters one by one dressed up in it and were each photographed by my father. Some of those snaps are still in existence. Mr. Gledhill, the junior science master was our energetic Captain. I liked him immensely and he married while at school and was given the Junior House. I knew no science whatever, so he allowed me to read a novel in his classes “so long as I kept quiet”. It is I think a great pity that prep. schools do no science and boys who go late to a public school and are put in a high form, are only fit for Form 1 in Chemistry and Physics. I have since met Gledhill at Old Boys’ Dinners, he is now a successful engineer and his pretty wife died in 1948, leaving him with a grown up daughter.
I am still in touch with two of my Woodbridge school masters - Guy Chantry, an accountant, director of many companies in the Midlands, who has entertained me on his yacht; and Douglas Geard a member of the financial house of Lazard Brothers. They have both far overtaken me in the race for riches. Eric Keighley rescued a suicide girl from a river when about 40, I read of it and got in touch with him, being present at his wedding at the Tower of London. He was handsome and carefree as ever, had done many jobs, including huntsman, in the Colonies. Distinguished himself with the Indian Cavalry in the 1st World War. One never knows, I may run into him tomorrow. With a passion for horses, he’ll be doing something in that line.
One amusing hoax at Woodbridge sticks in my memory. It was the last day of term and Keighley and I read on the house notice board an order, undated, but signed by the Head, that a Service would be held in the Parish Church at 6.30pm. After buying our tobacco and cigarettes for the journey on the morrow, we presented ourselves at the Church. There were 100 boys but no Priest. Eventually, somebody went for the Rector who came and said he would be glad to give us a service but had not been asked to do so. He had only just begun when the Head came stamping up the centre aisle crying “Stop, back to school everybody”. It appeared that an Irish boy, Henry Morgan, had saved an old notice and posted it up on the board as a joke. He was kept back for a week after the end of term. It was a good joke, but Morgan was the last man I should have thought would have played it as he was without humour and indeed his normal activity was lending money at a high rate of interest
While Mr Madeley was a brilliant teacher and the school in his time achieved many successes he was not a good example to the boys. For instance, when taking Confirmation Class he would be studying the “Financial Times”. He gave up soon after I left school and became an Army crammer in London. He thought all boys were “limbs of Satan” and consequently nobody had a good word for him. His wife was a pleasant woman, but kept aloof from the boys.
While at O.T.C. camp at Tidworth in July 1909 my father telegraphed to inquire whether I would like to be articled to Mr J.A.H. Green, a solicitor friend of ours who had recently been appointed Town Clerk of Nottingham. Having nothing else in view for a career, I accepted by wire without a moment’s hesitation. Though in the last 35 years I have often regretted my hasty decision, I cannot claim that I would have done any better in another walk of life. My father certainly did the best he could for me. Installed in a spacious Committee Room at Nottingham Guildhall, I soon found that the Town Clerk, my principal, was far too busy to instruct an articled clerk and with Abel, another articled clerk, I frittered away a good deal of time, finding the police department and the fire brigade whose headquarters were both in the building, the most interesting. Writing in those days a fair copper plate hand, I was given “Cases to Counsel” and opinions to copy into a big book but did not understand one word of what I wrote.
On one occasion I went out for a few hours either to bathe in the Trent or to play golf and left a note on my blotter "Back in 10 minutes". As luck would have it, my principal came into my room and wrote below my message "From what time?"
Abel and I started the Old Age Pensions Act in the City of Nottingham in 1910. This involved taking particulars of registering thousands of poor persons over 70 years of age. For this we were rewarded with a box of 100 cigarettes, very good ones value 5/- with which we were delighted. Being with the Town Clerk we got a day's paid employment as presiding officer at every election. Parliamentary, Municipal, County
Council and Board of Guardians. With the fee for counting the votes we earned £3.13.6d. which was riches beyond the dreams of avarice. It was a long day from 8 a.m. to midnight and in bad weather there was often difficulty in getting by horse drawn cab from the polling place to the place for counting votes - and elections usually took place in frosty or foggy weather. In this way I had accumulated about £10 in 1910, and with Abel went up to London at my own expense to attend the funeral of King Edward V11. We slept in a bathroom at the Hotel Great Central and early in the morning were able to get seats on the roof of a house in Praed Street for 2 guineas each where we had an excellent view of the procession. I remember particularly, in the cortege, the King's rough haired terrier "Caesar" and his charger, with boots reversed on the saddle. And the Kaiser on a white horse riding with the new King George V.
About this time I spent some exciting and amusing evenings with 2 friends in the Nottingham Police detective force. Thomas and Wright, I went with them to raid a
spiritualistic seance and expose a medium covered in a white by lighting magnesium ribbon. He was sent to 2 years imprisonment. We rounded up suspected pickpockets at the Goose Fair and got in free to all the side shows. We also went in free to the 2 local music halls every week. Thomas died at an early age and Wright married a daughter of Charlie Hibbert, the well known bookie and was able to retire to live in Skegness. He died of T.B. poor chap at about 45 years of age.
In 1911 Mr. Green my principal went back into private practice and I went with him. He was a Conservative, his father-in-law was a Liberal alderman and there were many
Socialists on the Council. Being a sensitive man he was continually embarrassed and the consensus of opinion was that he was "too straight to be a Town Clerk". He gave up a salary of £1250 a year to earn about £1000, but was a happier man. He was soon appointed Clerk to the newly appointed National Health Insurance Committee for the County and I assisted him in this work. I got out the first register of doctors and chemist. There were so many mistakes in it, due to the atrocious writing of the doctors and chemists, that it had to be reprinted. The only time he was really annoyed with me as the wasted printing cost over £50. He also had Sir Jesse Boot and Boots the Chemists as his clients. I made the codicil to Sir Jesse Boot's will whereby he declared he was domiciled in Jersey and on his death a vast sum was saved in death duties. So great was the outcry that the executors, paid a large sum to the Inland Revenue as conscience money, after an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill.
During these years in Nottingham I kept in touch with "Hoffie" my prep. school master and often spent my evenings at his house. I was very fond of his daughter, Gretchen,
and on her deathbed Mrs. Hoffmann expressed a hope that she and I would "make a match of it". However, Gretchen went to live with an aunt in Berlin, and at an early age married a tennis player and went with him to live in Chile or Peru. Mrs. Hoffmann had a nurse for some time in her illness and the nurse married Teddy Edwards the senior assistant master.
Together they ran the school for some years at Nottingham and Radcliffe-on-Trent till Teddy died - I fear from over smoking. He was one of the best. Hoffie, on his uppers, met a wealthy widow, a Mrs.Gosnell at Bournemouth. She had been a nurse and they were soon married. She had the doubtful pleasure of keeping him till the end of his days and they settled in Bournemouth. On the outbreak of war in 1914 she persuaded him to change his name and he took the name of Mellor, his first wife's maiden name. He was very averse from changing his name as everyone knew him to be a loyal subject of the King, with a son, who did not change his name,
in the Royal Navy.
In 1912 it appeared that I would have difficulty in passing the Law Society's Intermediate examination, notwithstanding my attendance for classes at Nottingham University and a coach for bookkeeping, accordingly I came to London for 6 months to Gibson and Weldon the well known "crammers". The examination in those days was extremely difficult, or rather the "plough" was heavy in order not to over crowd the profession. I took rooms in Tavistock Place and subsequently at Ardmay Hotel, Bloomsbury. My brother Fred used to come up to Town on business every Thursday and we went for lunch at Frascati's, he handing over £3 for my board and pocket money. I regret to say I did not work very hard - there seemed always to be counter-attractions in the way of the fair sex among my fellow lodgers - an Italian widow who was alone in the world, an American pianist studying under Leschesitsky, and a Canadian girl of my own age and of similar joie de vivre. But the crammers got me through. I always admired a fellow student named Halsall from Southport. He read in spasms of 3 hours
twice a day. One hour sitting down, one hour standing and the last hour kneeling. On Saturday afternoons he played rugger for Richmond in the winter and rowed for a London Rowing Club in summer. He passed with 1st Class Honours.
In 1913 my articles were transferred to Hubert William Jelf of Taylor, Neme and Jelf of 12 Norfolk Street, Strand, in order that I might gain London experience. I went to
live in Charlwood Street, Victoria on my own in order to avoid distraction. Jelf was a gay young bachelor who had rowed in the Cambridge boat and a son of the King's Bench judge. His clients were mostly Gaiety Girls and he did not take life at all seriously, living with his mother at Wimbledon. Mr. Alan Taylor, the senior partner, took me in hand and often invited me for weekends to his house in Ingatestone. He had a charming wife and 2 babies, Alan and Gwendy. The latter is my baby's godmother. Here again there was no incentive to hard work. There were two other articled clerks, Reggie Wilson of Salisbury and Hughes from Cheshire, and not much work to be done by 3 irresponsible boys, who were not exactly looking for work. We used to wear silk hats and morning coats - came late to the office, took ample time for lunch and left early having spent the day ragging and teasing the clerks. We had
no typists or even typewriters in the office, therefore no female staff.
Just before the outbreak of war, 3rd august 1914 we three decided to join the Inns of Court O.T.C. because they had a good club room and provided an excellent lunch including a pint of beer for 1/6. Accordingly we got into this excellent Corps on the ground floor before it filled up. In the evenings we used to go to a German cafe the Gambrinis, part of Oddeninos in Regent Street. The bar was excellent for Munich or Pilsen served in steins. I shall never forget being there in uniform of a British Tommy on the night of 4th August. The German reservists in London had been called back and were having a great party, parading up and down the hall with flags, banners and pictures of the Kaiser. The waiters were all Germans and the one serving my table was so rude to me. I remember ordering 3 litres and gave him a "cart wheel" - a 5/- piece in exact payment with no tip. This caused quite a scene. My companions were 2 young Americans. They were in London making a good living by showing old established manufacturers how to effect economies. For instance they suggested some improvement in Bryant and May's match factory. They persuaded the Wolseley motor car to catch and use again petrol used for cleaning cars. Next day I had to lend these boys £5 each as the Banks were closed for a moratorium. Next night the old Gambrinis was decorated with flags of the Allies and selling Amsterdam Lager to an entirely different clientele - "Deutchland, Deutchland UNTER Allies".
The first 2 months of the war I spent training hard in Lincolns Inn and Temple Gardens, Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common. Every night I felt fit to drop, but we were made very fit in the process of drilling and destroying the grass wherever we trained. Before uniform was issued we paraded in our top hats out of devilment (were we not the Devil's Own?) My landlord in Victoria would not hear of taking rent for my room from the outbreak of war till I left London and stored my kit throughout the war. What a patriot. We had free tickets on bus, train and tube and free entrance to all theatres and music halls - but then our pay was only 1/- a day less stoppages. Young Rufus Isaacs in my section of C company (now Lord Reading) was made a Lance Corporal. We all thought this was got through influence as he could not stand properly to attention, but his father was Lord Chief Justice. H.W.Willinck (Minister of Reconstruction 1940-45) was also a private in my section. One of the famous Pollocks was an excellent platoon sergeant. I remember one night marching to Wimbledon. I had bought a pair of socks and put them on in the shop. I was so tired I slept on the march for some time and was lame when we arrived. I discovered a small card of darning wool sewn on the sole of one sock which was the cause of the trouble. I was then 21 1/2 and as fit as a flea. Most of the members of the corps were a good deal older, but we all went through a gruelling time under a Regtl.Sergt.Major of the Irish Guards and Captain Rainsford Hannay of the Queens. The Colonel was E.H.L.Errington of the Ecclesiastical Bar. He was getting on in years but commanded the Corps. throughout the War. After a time we moved to Berkhamsted Park under canvas - 14 of us in a tent - heels to the pole. What a crush and how unpleasant. One evening I went with some pals to the "Local" for a whisky before turning in as it was a chilly night and we had only one blanket apiece. We had just been served with our drinks in the lounge when some officers came down the stairs and one said to us "Get to Hell out of this, don't you know this is a Mess?" He was followed by the Major, the 2nd in command of that Battalion of the 8th Fusiliers, a noble Lord, who was a client of my office and recognised me. He was most affable, allowed us to stay and bought us another drink. Well he might, because my office used of pay him 4/- a day from his mother, who could not trust him with 28/- a week all at once. I had often lent him 5/- and always was repaid. He used to write testimonials for toothpaste tobacco and on House of Lords note paper, poor chap.
Members of the Corps were leaving us daily, getting commissions as they were considered to be efficient. My turn came towards the end of September 1914 when with a London Jew named Spielman I was sent up to Oldham to report to 10th Manchester Regt. We joined a parade in the drill hall. It was a Territorial battalion and the members were not bound to serve overseas. At the moment of our arrival the Colonel, an elderly local doctor, was addressing the men on this subject and said somewhat tactlessly "All those who won't volunteer for the front, turn your faces to the wall" Many were married men with families who wanted a little time and some persuasion to make up their minds. Consequently, nearly half the battalion turned about. The Colonel seemed to resent the posting of 2 young officers who were not from Lancashire to his unit and he ordered Spielman and me to march these men away. We were segregated for a few days while I was sent to Southport to arrange billets, then Spielman and I took them to train at Southport which is a delightful town, while the unit stayed in "moicky Owdham". I knew Southport pretty well and quartered the men in houses in Prince of Wales Terrace, the best residential road in the place - selecting the most comfortable house for a H.Q. The men proved to be a splendid lot on the whole. There were no other troops in the town and we all had a happy time training on the beach with a daily route march and a daily bathing parade. I was soon able to report 100% volunteers for the Front and the rest of the battalion eventually moved to Southport, but not before I had been posted to 9th Lincolns at Grimsby. There had been an error at the War House and I ought never to have had a Terrier commission and was sent to Kitchener's Army.
During this time my father was in failing health, I dashed home once or twice to see him. He was amused and also very pleased that I had joined up, but the course of the war, the retreat from Mons worried him, he was worn out and died peacefully on 13th October 1914, to the lasting sorrow of his beloved family, aged 66 1/2 but an old man. My dear Mother and sister Kate had nursed him with the utmost devotion, without which he must have died some years previously.
For some time my brother Fred had carried on the printing business with marked ability, but the war had very considerably reduced the supply of paper and very soon the shortage of labour was felt. My brother Willie joined the A.S.C. on the outbreak of war although 40 years of age, and drove a lorry in France throughout the war. Fred was a fireman and special constable in Nottingham. They said they could rely upon him for a quick turn out at a night fire as he was always to be found at the club. He was not, however, content to serve in a part- time capacity although over call up age. I tried to convince him that he was the sole support of a widowed mother and begged him not to join up at least so long as I was alive, but he made arrangements with Kate to manage the business and joined the RGA. After a very short period of training he went to join a 12" battery in France. I believe he was happy he would make the best of anything. His companions were hefty fellows and he became a signaller. Having never carried a parcel, I doubt whether he could have lifted a shell. He was urged by de la Rue to take a commission and run the Army Printing works at the Base but refused "to leave the boys". He was wounded in the thigh. After a long time in hospital he died of peritonitis (not from his wound) in Nottingham General Hospital on 7 December 1918. after a neglected appendicitis. So passed a real patriot and the best of brothers at the age of 40 years. After all these years he is ever in our thoughts.
To revert to my own experiences in the War (it is difficult to write an autobiography without the eternal "I" cropping up), I soon got in with some splendid fellows in the Lincolns and we moved to Lincoln Barracks for serious training. Gareth Thatcher, coming over with Canadians he 2 pips (the Cannucks didn't start with one) and being older than the rest, was senior subaltern, and very wise he was too in dealing with raw young officers from every walk of life. He had a hard war with the 1st Battalion in France and was badly wounded. I have kept in close touch with him and he is godfather to my boy, John. After the war he went into his family business and makes much paint at Bristol. A.W.Hadrill was another "not so young" officer. He was a lawyer in Bombay. He married with us and we saw a good deal of his charming little wife. He was posted to Munster Fusiliers 29th Division and was killed in Gallipoli soon after he landed. Hicks, son of the Bishop of Lincoln, was a bright lad. He also went to 29th Division and was wounded. He was nursed by a foreigner in Egypt, married her and "went over to Rome" 7 to his papa's great annoyance. Papa was a rabid teetotaller, I well remember going t.o the palace the first Christmas of the war with Thatcher and Hadrill. Knowing it would be a dry party we had a few drinks at the White Hart beforehand. After a few round or parlour games we adjourned to Ned Hicks den and made a terrific night of
it. How deceitful such strictly brought up children often become!
One day a very young officer joined us named Winckley. He was only 16 and had run away from school to join up. His father, an ex-Army chaplain, held a living near Lincoln. Winckley had "cooked" his age and was a very young 16. We older subalterns did our best to shield him from late nights and temptations of all sorts. I remember he had bought his kit at Gamages thereby saving a few shillings on his uniform allowance but it looked terribly shoddy. Particularly he could never keep his puttees from coming unwound. The Grimsby fisher girls used to pass rude remarks about poor little "Twinkles". I remember one (referring to his legs) call out "Cor I could show you a better pair myself!" Winckley was a signal officer in the war, covered himself with glory, swimming a river with a wire under him and won the M.C. He stayed on between wars and is now a full Colonel in the Royal Corps of Signals in India. His father, on retirement went to live at Leamington Spa when I met him occasionally (the son I mean) and gave him some advice upon marrying on a Captain's pay.
I must not weary the patient reader with my training in England. It was hard and tough. My pay as a 2nd Lieut. was 5/3 a day, and my mess bill was 7/6 a day so I was glad of a little help from home until I went battle fighting.
The great day came in August 1915 I was detailed to take 2 officers, 2nd Lieuts. Playle and Potter, to Dover to pick up a draft of 250 Royal Fusiliers and Dublin Fusiliers and take them to 29th Division which had just taken part in a landing at Gallipoli and reinforcements were urgently required. As usual, in time of dire emergency, we kicked our heels for a week or ten days at Duke of York's School awaiting orders. Potter had recently married and got his wife down to Dover. Playle's father was spending a golfing holiday at Deal. We put up at Hotel Burlington and I spent my days, after reporting at 9 a.m. daily, at Folkestone. One night I heard a commotion in the next bedroom. Potter's, and found a guard hammering on the door alleging that a chink of light was showing from the room out to sea. Next day Potter, a bald middle aged school- master, was, hauled before the Governor of Dover Castle. He said "You can do what you like with me as I am off to Gallipoli tomorrow." He was severely reprimanded.
The next day our orders came to entrain at 10 p.m. The draft (drunk to a man) paraded at 8 p.m. and we marched off with 2 military police to each section of fours. I marched at the head preceded by the Fusiliers band. Half way to the railway station we were overtaken by the depot adjutant on horseback -who abused me for the shocking march discipline. Arrived at the station the gates were closed and we were not allowed on to the platform for half an hour. . Accordingly I ordered "Pile arms". Before you could say Jack Robinson, a barrel organ and it seemed all the loose women in Dover arrived and you never saw such a shambles. They were dancing, fighting and larking in the street - the M.P.s had disappeared back to barracks and we 3 young officers were powerless to stop them, till I bribed the organ grinder to go home. Eventually we got into a special train for an unknown destination. It was not easy to entrain as most of the draft had to be thrown into the carriages. At dawn the train stopped at Exeter, where the Mayoress and a band of ladies were on the platform to dispense tea and sandwiches. Few of the draft partook of any refreshment but I thanked the ladies on behalf of the few to whom a cup of tea was a godsend at 5 a.m. In due course the train pulled into Plymouth where we were met, detrained and marched up the hill to St. Budeux camp. I at once had the roll called and found we had 5 more than we were supposed to have. They were stowaways and I had them sent back to Dover under escort. AS we expected to sail in a big Atlantic Transport Line, a super cattle boat ‘SS Minneapolis", that night I confined the draft to camp. However at a roll call in the afternoon 50% were missing and in the evening we went aboard with many absentees. As soon as the gangways were removed I paraded the draft. There were about 1000 troops aboard and I found we had every man on the roll plus two stowaways who wanted to come to Gailipoli, so there was no alternative to adding their names to the acquittance roll. The ship was so crowded that exercise for the other ranks was impossible though the officers had ample accommodation and every comfort. We had a muster every morning for the captain's rounds. One day after passing Gibraltar, one of the draft was missing from parade and not in his hammock. There was some evidence that he was morose and had been very seasick. One man stated he had been seen lying on deck at the stern. Another man recollected he had heard a "plop" as of a body falling into the sea. I was horrified, and went straight to the Captain who was reassuring and told me not to worry as the man was to die shortly in any case. He authorised a search of the ship which the Troop Officer carried out with me, quivering with anxiety, at his heels. At last he visited the sick bay and there we found the missing man who had been very seasick and gone straight to the ship's medical orderly on the previous day. For the rest of the trip the Captain teased me for my anxiety - but I was very young to soldiering and had never lost a man before.
At Mudros we transhipped to a small steamer and sailed up to a point off Sulva Bay at night. It was eerie to see shells bursting into the sea around us and to see and hear the sparks of war along the peninsula. We had our last solid meal for many months in this little ship. While I was collecting my draft I undid my belt and left it on deck for a few minutes, only to find on my return that the field glasses had been stolen from their case. They were a very good pair of Ross's lent to me and engraved “F.W.Perry, Nottingham".
Having disposed of my draft I was put ashore in a horse boat, with shrapnel roof, driven by crude oil motor. Shells, were bursting in the sea around us and it was suffocating with the lid down. The only man in the boat I knew was a red headed boy named Flynn, our light weight boxing champion at Lichfield. We were landed at a crazy wooden stage at Lala Baba, a flat part of Suvia Bay about midnight. We walked about 1 mile inland in pitch darkness without meeting a soul. There was continuous shelling and rifle fire from what we took to be the enemy and we were decidedly nervous. Realising the futility of wandering about like lost sheep we sheltered in a kind of bunker till daybreak.
As soon as it was light we found a tin of bully beef and being hungry we opened it and consumed the contents with feeling of guilt lest it belonged to someone. It was semi-liquid but evidently wholesome. Little did we know that bully was lying about everywhere. Soon a party of men passed us going up the line. Each had a brassard with the initials "S.B." on it. We had not met this in England and came to the conclusion that "S.B." stood for Suvia Bay. We were soon to appreciate the noble and selfless work done by RAMC stretcher bearers.
We discovered the Turks were within a mile of the beach and our line was from 100-400 yards nearer to the beach. I had been ordered to report to 9th Sherwood Foresters and Flynn to 6th Lincolnshire Regt., so we joined our respective units. 33rd Brigade had been so cut up that Lincolns and Borders formed our battalion of about 400 and South Staffordshire Regt. and Foresters another. They were a motley crew having had no rest since the landing on 6th August, having fought 6th-9th August to gain a foothold and 21st August to try to advance as far as the high ground Karakol Dagh on the left, and the tiny village of Anafarta Sidir and Chocolate Hill on the right, from all of which we had been driven back. I was put with Lt. Wilkinson and energetic young officer from Nottingham to command 2 companies on the extreme left down to the sea. The C.O. was a Major Duck, a bloodthirsty Regular with red hair, freckles and a foul mouth. The adjutant was an international soccer player, Capt. Scothern. He afterwards got a Brigade and is now a schoolmaster in Redditch. He was a fatalist, as strong as a horse and a very good friend to me throughout the campaign.
With no literary bent it is difficult for me to describe the conditions under which we lived and fought on the Peninsula. The heat was terrific and the shortage of water was acute. It all had to be brought by sea in petrol cans - 4 gallon containers, and was carried up at night by fatigue parties. As there were no stoppers much was spilt on the way by sick men stumbling over rocky paths. There were no proper trenches and our picks were all bent and blunted. The Turks had better trenches being commanded by German engineers under (?) Gen. von der Golz. Kemal Pasha, later the first President of Turkey and re named Ataturk, commanded the Turkish infantry opposite us.
The ration was only 1/2 pint of tea twice a day and many of us had to shave in one mug of water. We lay "doggo" by day and worked and patrolled through the night. The flies were a constant pest and those of us who had a piece of netting to cover our faces by day were lucky. The Quartermaster at Dover had presented me with a very nice mosquito net, which was a boon. If you can imagine the strain of never being beyond the range of rifle fire day in and day out! Every day we had killed and wounded. The Turks were wonderful snipers and took toll of every act of careless head showing. We had to bury our dead at night where they had fallen and mumbled a few words of the burial service over them and endeavoured to write a line of praise and comfort to the man's relatives. There was no laughter, only gambling and swearing, and it was all pretty grim - there seemed no hope for the future. We were hopelessly outnumbered, and with one determined attack we felt we should be pushed into the sea. Reinforcements were few, and the older men stuck it better than the young ones. Almost everybody was emaciated with dysentery caused through the flies and wretched rations of bully and hard biscuit. The issue cigarettes and tobacco were often spoilt through contact with salt water, and mails were most irregular through U-boat sinking en route in the Mediterranean. The weight of metal hurtling through the air was not so devastating as in France (we wore sun helmets), but conditions were infinitely more trying - and there was no leave to look forward to.
I well remember we used to man an advanced post by night at Green Hill, fortifying it with sandbags. Several times the Turks went there by day and emptied and removed our sandbags, so it was decided to man it continuously on a 24 hour tour of duty. I started with 20 men on 13th October 1915. It was a very hot day and we lay low. The migration of wild geese to the south took place, it was a remarkable sight. For a time the sky was black with them and we brought several down with our rifle fire. About midnight we were surprised by a Turkish patrol coming up to our wire which was very flimsy. We all opened fire and beat them off but not before two of my men in a panic, ran away. I fired at them with my revolver having shouted at them to stop and hit one in the thigh. The other got back to our lines and reported in a frenzy that my party had been scuppered. A party of 50 was sent out to avenge the loss and the officer was amazed to find us in the post having sustained only one or two casualties. We made bombs out of jam tins, stones and gunpowder and a detonator and threw them with little effect at the Turk. Eventually a big wooden catapult made by Gamages was supplied which increased the range and efficiency. These home made bombs were effective when thrown into the sea. They stunned any fish in the neighbourhood and a bathing party was able to collect them. This practice was stopped by the Corps Commander before long. Soon after Mills bombs had been delivered to us I met Flynn with a shattered arm staggering to the beach. He had been demonstrating the Mills and held it too long. He was delighted to be going off with a wound, which kept him out of it for six months. By a wicked mistake he was reported killed, and his mother had a memorial service for him at Grays, Essex. These careless mistakes must have caused infinite unnecessary grief at home. I myself was reported Missing in France and my name appeared on the Woodbridge School War Memorial till I had it erased, and I have only recently heard that I am among the Inns of Court missing.
The Turks on the high ground could see our every movement - the German flying corps (Taubes) greatly outnumbered our obsolete RNAS machines based on the Aegean islands. They had heavy artillery on the Asiatic shore whereas our only artillery support came from the battleships lying off Lemnos and Imbros. The shooting was erratic and communications tardy. In October the 10th Irish division left us to go to Salonika and we felt like a forgotten army gazing to the West for help and seeing only Mount Athos and the Bulgarian coast to the N.N.
In November (Lord Byng, then Sir Julian Byng being Corps Commander) Lord Kitchener came out and very soon ordered preparations to be made for an evacuation leaving nothing behind to fall into enemy hands. The first to leave was the Indian mule transport which had been such a help over that mile of scrub. Then our cookers, so that we had no more hot food. This coincided with a sudden cold spell, predicted by the meteorological experts not to come till the following February. We were frozen, everywhere was white with snow. The Australians were jubilant, many of them having never seen snow before. Many men suffered agonies of frost bite and we cursed the salvage of our cookers. I remember Capt. Bill Ruston (R.N.Devon Hussars) attached Lincolns had a bottle of brandy with which he saved the lives of many men. We ran in small circles to keep warm. Then followed the floods, a perfect deluge of rain and it was easy to see how those nullahs came to be formed. Those on the high ground came off best - the torrent bore down bodies unearthed, mules and heaps of equipment. The Turks suffered even more than ourselves as they had by then built concrete trenches which became swimming baths, drowning many men. For days not a shot was fired from either side. It was quite evident that both sides were sick and tired to death of the war, or to use a modern expression "thoroughly browned off". I was now back with the Lincolns at my own urgent request. The flood left me with an attack of jaundice and I went to hospital. This consisted of a niche in the rock in the support nullah covered with a tarpaulin and there were three stretchers raised on oil drums. Here I had my first drink for 5 months - a Guinness - medical comforts - and hated it. After a few days the doctor was ordered to evacuate the post, and I was Returned to Unit. On that day an officer was required to evacuate the sick of the Division, those who were too weak to walk far; and being more or less hors de combat, I was detailed for the job, to the envy of my companions as we knew I should get away safely a day or two before the great
retreat. We all assembled at a rendezvous prepared to shuffle down to the beach, when to our bitter disappointment the order was cancelled and some 250 men had to go back as there was no boat available. Far from being one of the first to leave, I was then ordered as a fairly senior Captain (with the exception of my dear old friend Frank Cannell, the 6th Lincolns adjutant I had been out there longer than almost any man) to command the 33rd Brigade rearguard consisting of about 50 men, and to stay behind on 19th December 1915 for 24 hours after the others had left Suvia Bay. Booby traps had been laid by the RE between the line and the shore. Our local RE were in charge of Lt.M.Z.de Ferranti, now the well known electrical engineer, and exceedingly capable officer and a charming companion. The Corps Commander inspected my party, said the ‘eyes of Europe’ were upon us and wished us luck, before he left. It was a deathly quiet day and fine. My party fired their rifles constantly to make believe there were 1000 troops in my mile of line. It was an interminable day. It seemed as though the Turks must, from their position on the high ground, have seen signs of our departure and would swoop down upon us at dusk. I had kept back a 2 gallon jar of rum in order to administer a tot to the garrison, and went to its hiding place at dusk. Lo and behold, it was on it's side and empty! The reason was not far to find for nearby in a cubby hole I found my two trusted sergeants dead to the world. The strain had been too much for them. No need to put them under arrest but I ordered when the time came for every man to run to the boat which was waiting at the jetty, those two rotters should be left behind to fall into the hands of the Turks, Needless to say, six stalwarts brought them down on stretchers and as soon as they opened their eyes, they were put under arrest. From a horse boat (called a beetle) we embarked upon the biggest ship I had ever seen; a captured Norddeutscher liner "Kaiser Wilhelm der este" and we assumed we were bound for England. I went to the saloon which was gutted and found a sleepy steward. Handing him my one and only 10/- note, given to me 5 months previously and overprinted in Turkish "good for --— piastres", I called for a whisky and soda and some food. Looking round I could see she was not a troopship and was empty at that, and my spirits fell especially when the steward came back with a mug of cocoa and a piece of cold plum pudding from the galley.
By now it was daylight, we could hear our booby traps exploding and saw hordes of Turks pouring through our lines and across the salt lake. Very soon was run up on our flag staff at Lala Baba not the Turkish flag but the German Eagle. How typical of the
After half an hour's steaming we were disembarked at the island of Imbros, 15 miles away, where we spent a comfortless Christmas and 2 months, with the constant rumour of having to go back to the peninsula. The evacuation was effected without the loss of a single man or animal, whatever may be said of this disastrous campaign (Cape Helles sector was evacuated in the first week of January 1916) it held up a huge Turkish Army from pressing our Russian ally, kept the enemy out of the Mediterranean with capital ships and kept Greece on our side. Sir lan Hamilton the C-in-C in my opinion too old for the job, in his despatch unkindly blamed the green troops of Kitchener's army for the failure of the expedition, but it is a fact that on 6th August there were only 4000 Turks in 6 miles when the Suvia landing was made, by the time he issued orders on the 9th August the enemy had been reinforced to 40,000 from Constantinople, ninety miles away, It should have been obvious after the surprise landing had failed to gain its objective, that there was no use keeping 40,000 men there to die largely of disease, based on Egypt, 700 miles away by sea. The C-in-C staff were quartered in a fine ship Aragon off Lemnos, and from first to last I never saw a staff officer on the Peninsula.
I once went aboard the "Aragon" with a dispatch, was kept half an hour outside a cabin door and was not offered a drink or a sandwich before I left. Whenever we went aboard a tramp steamer to collect stores, the skipper invariably offered us a drink and a bite and a welcome cup for "char" for the fatigue party.
While we were rotting on this almost uninhabited Greek island, with nothing extra except a few dried figs from the peasants, the Australians had been transported to Egypt, paid all back pay (7/-.a day for a private, against I/- for Tommy Atkins) and soon proceeded to shoot up and burn down Cairo and Alexandria in their exuberance of spirits. With the result that when llth Division arrived early in March per S.S "Tunisian" and other small troopers, all hotels were out of bounds, even to officers below the rank of Lieut. Colonel. We were marched to a tented camp in the desert outside Alexandria at Sidi Bishr where we stayed for about a month enjoying a little town life in the evenings and a varied diet of oranges dates and 'eggs-y-cook' - hard boiled bantam eggs sold by Arab children. From there we moved to Ballah on the Asiatic side of the Suez canal between ' El Kantara and Ismailia where the Turks had made an abortive crossing earlier in the war.
Luckily someone took these photos of my Grandfather on the Greek Island. Probably now a top tourist destination.
Apart from the intense heat, 120 degrees in the shade, and frequent sandstorms, this was a pleasant spot. We were here issued with horses and mules, and posted one company at a time at a hillock 5 miles out in the desert which was called "Bally- bunion" for one week outpost duty. We enjoyed bathing in the filthy water of the canal and watching the ships go by. There was a pontoon bridge to be operated by which we could get to a Yeomanry brigade (Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire) on the other bank and also to the railway. Once a day the Cairo to Port Said train stopped at Ballah and one had time to climb aboard and drink a bottle of iced beer from the dining car.
Grandfather on extreme right.
After 30 years many trifling incidents come to mind which occurred during this pleasant interlude. I remember an eagle swooped down upon our tiny cookhouse at Ballybunion and flew off with half a side of bacon. We had chameleons on ropes in the tents to catch the flies with their tongues. We used occasionally to ride farther out into the desert with our Yeoman friends and one day they brought in for interrogation a native girl found alone and said to be walking from Palestine to Cairo.
Only once was there any excitement. A party of Turks attacked a Yeomanry regiment on our left one night. The boys dashed out from dinner and it was said the Turks got to their mess tent and stole their plate. We bought a curious boat with a sail from an outgoing unit intending to sail up and down the Canal. Although there were several Grimsby fishermen in the battalion, none of them could make the boat sail in such narrow waters and we had to content ourselves with a "whip behind" from steamers passing from Suez to Port Said and vice versa.
It was about this time that 1 met my wife. She had been nursing Australians in Cairo having come from Down Under for this purpose with her mother and sister. Our 2nd in command, Major Elkington wounded in the foot on 6th August had met her in hospital. He and I spent a weekend leave in Cairo and she accepted his invitation to dinner at Shepheard's Hotel. I subsequently went to Port Said to see her off to England and proposed to her on the breakwater under the statue to de Lesseps8 . Soon after this the Division moved to France to be in time for the Battle of the Somme which began 1st July 1916. After a week at Marseilles we made our way be easy stages to the Arras sector, and were soon in the thick of it - a very much more intensive war than we had been used to with Johnny Turk. The officers were at once sent up the line for instructions. It was my first experience of tin hat, respirator and artillery barrage.
I was attached to a battalion of KSLI, to a company of a Capt. Bulmer, one of the cider family, there were cases of it in the Company Mess. He was killed very shortly after I
arrived, his subaltern was wounded and I found myself commanding the company almost before I had met any of them. I was to learn that life was like that at times in France. In a battle the loss of junior officers was tremendous and the wastage was quite appalling. The subaltern was not taught how to take care of himself, and countless lives were lost in foolhardiness.
Coming from the Turks who were marvellous rifle shots, I think we had the greatest respect for enemy snipers, and knew the folly of showing a head above the parapet of the trench in daytime if the enemy was within 200 yards. I cannot attempt to describe the horrors of that summer and autumn. My first experience with the battalion was at Ronville a suburb of Arras, the trenches wound in and out of houses and gardens. My company HQ was in what had been a dentist's house, badly damaged by shell fire, and of course, no glass in the windows. We dug potatoes and vegetables from the garden and picked apples and pears. Despite rigid censorship I remember writing home on the dentist's note paper. Their clothing and a child's toys were about the house. Yet so numerous were the rats that I slept with 4 candles by my head and feet to keep them from my body. The shelling and the rats I never got used to and at times they made me hysterical. We spent months of 7 days in the line and 7 days in support not far behind. At the end of September we moved to Ovillers. There was nothing to mark this devastated village of heaps of brick and rubble except a notice board. Here or hereabouts tanks had first been used in July to surprise the Bosche, but proved a failure as they mostly stuck in the mud and made a target.
My company in a trench called Constance full of dead Huns was ordered to capture a trench called Zollem, part of a big German strong point called the ‘Wunderwerke’. I was rather dreading it as I knew it was strongly held. It was 200 yards in front downhill. Fortunately just before Zero hour the enemy attacked us in force and by the time we had beaten them off, it was too late for our show. Unfortunately my capable subaltern, Stockfield, was killed and David Akenhead, son of a Canon of Lincoln, was badly wounded. A few days later in dreadfully wet weather I went into an old German dugout and fell asleep for about 8 hours. I was posted as 'Missing' and that caused a good deal of stir and far reaching effects. The news got home and even on my school and Inns of Court War Memorials, as I discovered to my horror after the War. About the end of September my Company was again given an important objective to capture Stuff Redoubt in front of Thiepval by bombing. The men were in fine fettle and despite strong opposition and many casualties, we did it in a day and took many prisoners. For this effort of "C" Company, 6th Lincolnshire Regt., I was awarded the Military Cross, but I hope I made it clear at a subsequent party when we came to visit that I hold it as nominee of the Company. The operation enabled the advance to the village to proceed, as the Huns had relied upon the defence of the redoubt to hold out. After that, being one of the oldest soldiers I got my first 7 days leave home after being 15 months abroad.
It soon passed. I was much feted, and the joy of sleeping in sheets and being really clean is indescribable. I suppose every man in the trenches for any length of time was verminous most of the time, which was a revolting condition for most of us. The winter we spent in the mud on both sides of the Ancre with the falling Virgin of Albert Cathedral usually in view - a miserable time with raids now and again for identification purposes in the ruins of Beaucourt and Beaumont-Hamel. I had one Company HQ lighted by German acetylene gas, the entrance of course, faced the enemy and was "stove" in by a big shell, before we had long been there. Before we could dig ourselves out, the air was suffocating and we were black as niggers from the soot of the gas.
To my great joy I was detailed after Christmas to go to Aldershot on a 3 months Senior Officers Course to fit me to command a battalion. The night before I was to leave I was hit in the right hand by a piece of shrapnel. So anxious was I not to miss the course that I did not go to hospital, but got the Doctor to clean it up and stayed at his aid post till daybreak when I got on my pony and rode as quick as I could to railhead. While in England I missed some rigourous weather but not much fighting, and on my return was promoted to Major and sent as 2nd in command to West Yorkshire Regt. in the division to replace a casualty. Soon after that I was transferred to 5th Dorsetshire Regt. to serve under Col.C.C.Hannay and spent with them 2 years, which were as happy as years in that terrible war could be. The men were charming, solid and dependable, so much more pleasant than townsmen I found, and the officers copied the very high standard of efficiency and behaviour set by our beloved Colonel. The battalion was run with the utmost good feeling and mutual respect of officers and other ranks. Capt.C.H.James, R.North Devon Hussars, was a tireless and delightful adjutant whom I counted as my best friend till the day of his death in 1941. The Quartermaster, Capt.V.T.A. Haydon, whom I had known in Turkey, was a marvel of efficiency and cheerfulness. He is now retired and lives at Dorchester. R.S.M. Wells M.C. was a model soldier, a magnificent example of courage and correctness to all who served with or under him. I was younger than the company commanders but they made my work easy and pleasant for me. Col.Hannay, though over 50 and suffering from a wound in the leg at the Suvia landing, never imposed upon a younger man and temporary officer. A brilliant soldier, he was outspoken and accordingly not persona grata with the General Staff. Though a strict disciplinarian, he deplored needless loss of life and said as much at many a conference. I have seen him in tears after an abortive operation.
In an attack on Mouquet Farm which was unsuccessful, he lost 400 men. At a conference later, the l8th Corps Commander, Sir Ivor said "You'll stay there till you have taken it" backed up by Hubert Gough, 5th Army Commander. Eventually the farm (a heap of rubble) was captured by a brigade from a mere handful of Huns, mostly machine gunners. There was always ill-feeling it seemed between the regimental commander and the Higher Command except in Gen.Plumer's 2nd Army. This brings me to the battle of Messines in Belgium - the most successful battle of the war, due very largely to Gen.Plumer's masterly staff work. We marched up a few days previously and lay by a broken windmill behind Wyschete village. As soon as we entered the 2nd Army we were called on by Major Gen.A.Chichester and Capt. Alexander(now Lord Alexander) of Irish Guards, and were asked what we wanted. Coming as we did from a long spell with Gough's 5th Army it seemed like a dream to be treated as friends. Gen. Chichester had served in the Dorsets and stayed to lunch with us. As if by magic a completed change of clothing arrived for every man in the division. To open the battle, the Wyschete Ridge which had been mined, was blown up. It provided the biggest bang of the war and was heard in England. We were only a few yards away and it was witnessed by King George and Sir Douglas Haig from the mill. Next day His Majesty was slightly wounded by shrapnel on the Ridge. The Dorsets role was to take the yellow line on the second day - all the objectives were captured at the appointed times and we, the Dorset HQ, installed ourselves in a wonderful Bosche General's HQ - a dugout called Torcken Farm. Capt. Ritson was killed, leading 'A' Company. Having settled down, it was glorious weather, I went to see how my friends the Lincolns had fared. I found George Gater, who got a D.S.O. out of it, with a broken nose but refused to go down, and our dear Doctor Toby Frere, with the battalion from the start at Grantham, had been killed while attending to wounded Germans out in front. Poor Toby, he was a great lad with the courage of a lion, and such a happy companion throughout. One of the few to call me "Cyclops" - because I wore an eyeglass. I was always sure of a welcome whenever I visited the Lincolns so long as he and Frank Cannell were with them.
All good things come to an end and after a week or so, but not before we had seen a swallow above our heads at the dugout hatch her eggs, we pulled out of 2nd Army and General Hannay went on leave. I was riding at the head of the battalion just before dawn when I saw a little party at a cross roads. I recognised dear old Plumer. His ADC stopped me and took me to the General, who said "I want to thank you for what you have done for my Army". I just had the presence of mind to reply that it had been a joy to serve under him, and we were sorry to be leaving 2nd Army. I called the battalion to attention and raised three hearty cheers for the General. Every man felt it was a wonderful gesture of a wonderful general whom unfortunately we never saw again. His name lives as the greatest commander of the war and a very gallant gentleman.
My brother Fred had joined up although he did not have to, being the sole supporter of my widowed mother, but after being in the Nottingham Fire Brigade at night for 2 years; useful because he never went to bed till late anyway. He was sickened by the apathy of young men to join and their appeals to tribunals against military service. I thought I had made a pact with him only to join up if anything happened to me, but he broke it and joined the EGA. Humping 8 inch shells - he who had never carried home a parcel! I mention it here as his baptism by fire was in the battle of Messines after a very short training in England. His friend de la Rue was running an army printing works at the Base and wanted Fred to join him. I wrote to his C.O. and begged him to do so but, typically of him, Fred said he ‘wouldn't leave the boys’. I was never able to meet him in France but sent one or two parcels from the EF Canteen. He was to have money from home but Kate always gave his letters containing money to somebody else to post and he invariably stole the money - a very shabby trick.
In November 1917 we were in the line and I was in command while Col.Hannay was at home on a month's "war weary" leave. I contracted sciatica in the back and had to lie in my dugout. We had had a very wet spell and everywhere was damp, so the complaint got gradually worse. I was due to go on leave as soon as my Colonel reported back and had arranged to be married on 8th December. My bride unfortunately had to make all the arrangements and up to the night before the wedding she did not know whether I would be coming. Such a cripple was I that I was allowed to bring my servant, Pte. Hunt of the 6th Lincolns, a Cockney and an old soldier (later a London bus conductor on No.9 route). He carried me to the Hotel Folkestone in Boulogne where we slept 6 in a room at a fabulous price, and next day we crossed over. I duly reported arrival in the evening and Hunt and I spent the night in a Turkish bath to see what that would do. The bath attendant worked painful miracles until next day I was able, with difficulty, to kneel at the altar rail at St. Luke's Church Redcliffe Square S.W.5. My wife's family turned up in force, and my Mother and Kate made the journey from Nottingham. I was due to return to France on Christmas Day, but a kindly soul in the War Office, at my request, extended my leave by 48 hours. After a few days of austerity food in the Burlington at Bournemouth, we moved to the Metropole at Brighton where they did not bother about rationing. Most of the clientele being of the Chosen Race demand ‘the best and plenty of it’ even in wartime.
I returned to France to find the Dorsets in a village behind Ypres, Burbure. We had been in that vicinity for some months having taken part in both attacks at Paschendale Ridge and captured the village of Poechappelle. Headquarters was in a farmhouse, and the owner was still there. When this happened we tried very hard not to get in the way, and we did not mix much with the occupiers. To my surprise Col.Hannay had become very friendly with the old farmer and his wife. They played picquet every evening and the Colonel, who it transpired, was a very good player, was teaching them to improve their play. So unlike him to be fraternising with the native's, but they were a sweet old couple.
About this time I was hauled before my Brigadier twice on trivial charges. I had been reported in England for being in Oxford Street at 8.30 one morning without gloves. I had popped out to buy cigarettes and ran into an officious Canadian APM, who detained me for some time and the complaint followed me to the front. The second occasion was for riding in Ypres without having my horse's gas mask on his nose. She could not bear to wear the thing so I usually did not carry it. She would have bolted if she had had to put it on properly.
Early in the New Year Col.Hannay got a brigade (he should have had it years before, but as I have said, he was out of favour) and I took over the Battalion. We moved to the Halbuch sector with Portuguese troops on our left flank. The Hun lines were in front of Roulers, where they had heavy guns mounted on a tramway. We went into trenches which were a marvel of mining engineering, miles of tunnels dug in damp chalk and lighted by electricity, and ventilated by electric fans. They were very safe but terribly unhealthy and shattering to one's morale when it was necessary to come above ground. When in support we were in the cellars of Vermelles brewery. All the time we were subjected to a good deal of gas shelling and shelling from the heavy guns. Here we saw, for the first time, American troops. The U.S.A. had just entered the war and gas engineers were busy bringing up cylinders into our lines to release if the wind ever veered to a favourable quarter. One night I was visiting my friends the Lincolns, when Denny, the transport officer, a wild Irishman always in trouble and just returned from leave, appeared at the HQ in white tie and tails to report the arrival of the rations. Denny had come over in 1914 with the Canadian Seaforths as a private. On one occasion in 1916 I was going into the Tete de Boeuf, the hotel at Abbeville to join a party, which was to include Denny, when a private of the Canadian Seaforths at the entrance gave me an extra smart salute. I looked at him and who should it be but Denny! He had carried his kilt for 2 years, but a transport officer can always travel with ample luggage.
To return to the Hulbuch Road; early in March 1914 the Huns made a desperate bid to capture the Channel ports and win the war. They met with some success on the Somme, and decimated Gough's 5th Army so that Labour Corps and canteen orderlies were fighting. The whole line was lit up, but it was clear that there was no concentrated attack in front of us. We did not feel too happy at having "Britain's oldest Ally" on our flank. Their officers were Royalists and the men were Republicans. Their officers lived well and the men were badly done by and there had been mutinies. One morning at dawn we saw the Germans coming over in strength on our left. I ordered "Jimmy" to send up the SOS. One of the rockets backfired and seriously burnt poor Jimmy in the foot, but he refused to leave his post.
The Portuguese were dressed in field grey too and wore steel helmets very similar to the Boche. Our allies came running helter skelter pursued by the Huns and a good many were shot in the melee. Fortunately the 51st Division were in reserve and by the afternoon a Scottish brigade came up and bridged the gap, and our Allies were not again put in the line. Here we lost one excellent padre, Capt.Kaye from Birmingham, a friend of Sir Oliver Lodge's family. He had been with us for some months and endeared himself to all ranks. His voluntary church parades were always well attended and we all admired his courage and cheerfulness. He was blown to pieces by a heavy shell at the top of the steps at Vermelles brewery. It was a real death trap at times. The same shell killed our pigeons whose cage hung at the top of the dugout steps. I was inside shaving. My nerves not being in very good shape, I was terrified by the explosion. My spectacles and my wife's photograph were blown through a grating and picked up some distance away.
While we were in the Brewery a Col.Worthington, a rather senior Territorial officer of Manchester Regt. who had been at Gallipoli with 42nd Div. came to 11th Div. He had been in England for 2 years and was fresh, and he was sent to take over the 5th Dorsets from me. I was bitterly disappointed and I venture to say that the men were too. He was full of ‘good ideas’, which we had not the time or inclination to adopt. He did not even realise he was dealing with a very experienced unit, but a very tired one, and his text book ideas could not be practised when we were within, at farthest, a mile of the enemy. We had been subjected to a good deal of gas shelling and our respirators were no longer lOO% efficient, and there were no refills.
One night we were seated at a long table at dinner, about 8 of us and a new U.S. doctor. The mess waiter, Cockwell, who in happier days an ex-butler keeping a boarding house in Bath, served the soup and coming to me with tears streaming into the soup whispered confidentially into my ear "Excuse me. Sir, I think there is gas about". We put on our masks and went out to see what was happening. There was a continual plop-plop of gas shells all round us, and so it went on through the night. By daybreak half the battalion, about 200 men, were found to be gassed, and I joined them, coughing my heart up and trying to be sick. The Doctor labelled us all N.Y.D. cough. The battalion was relieved and we were all got off to a C.C.S.and put to bed. I remember a beastly padre there coming to my bedside, looking at my ticket and saying scornfully: "N.Y.D. cough. Why there are men dying all around you!" I could have wept for shame as the tent was full of groaning men, and several groaned their last during that night. From there by comfortable hospital train to hospital at Le Treport, near Dieppe. En route I made friends with a Col. St.Clair Erskine. There were 2 hospitals, a big General Hospital in a huge hotel and a very select V.A.D. hospital run by Lady Murray, the wife of the Edinburgh publisher, at the golf clubhouse. Col.Erskine was booked to go there and insisted upon my going with him. I was indeed fortunate, for it was very comfortable and informal compared with the rigours of the General Hospital.
A major who wrote the bridge articles in Sporting and Dramatic nom de plume ‘Bas’, was a patient and soon got some bridge going. Asquith, the ex-Prime Minister was staying as Lady Murray's guest as his son was a patient on the danger list, having had a leg off. ‘Squithy’ was very pleasant to all, but a broken old man. We had lovely food and drinks, and were surrounded by pretty V.A.D.s with a sprinkling of Q.A. sisters, and being very young and tactless, I committed the indiscretion of writing to tell my wife how happy I was.
All good things come to an end, and I was sent to Rouen for a medical board and graded C3 with a spot on my left lung and sent to England. That was the end of my active service. It was a keen disappointment because by then, July 1916, the tide had turned and the Hun was on the run, and I should have loved to be in at the kill with 5th Dorsets. Instead of which after a period in hospital at Netley (my wife found herself a billet in the village) I was sent as 2nd in command of a Cadet Battalion at Larkhill on the Plain, and was kept there after the Armistice to wind it up.
My dear brother Fred had been wounded in the thigh at Bailleui in Belgium, saving his guns from the German lightning advance in March 1918. He developed peritonitis from a neglected appendicitis in a V.A.D. hospital at Nottingham, was rushed to the General Hospital and died there on 7th December 1918. We felt, and still feel, very bitter as he should not have died. He was laid to rest after a military funeral on 10th December. The sweetest of men whom I shall miss as long as I live.
Two small incidents which have given me very great pleasure have been overlooked in this narrative. I was summoned to Buckingham Palace early in 1917 to receive the M.C. from H.M. King George V, who made some very flattering remarks about the incident. The Military Cross being at that time a new decoration.
The other was on the occasion of my marriage, my brother officers presented me with a handsome silver tray suitably inscribed.
My Grandmother. A Globetrotting girl in her day who flew back from Cairo on Imperial Airways in the 1930's! They sat on wicker chairs in the aircaraft, arranged as one would in a lounge, not in rows, as now.
As soon as I was demobilised we took a tiny cottage at Frogmore, near St.Albans, and I had to settle down to study for my Law Final. I had been prepared to sit for it when war broke out 5 years earlier. It was very pleasant in the summer of 1919 to be near my old friends the Hadfields, who were very kind to us and we watched their 3 girls grow up. The examiners were kind to ex-service men and after 6 months ‘cramming’ I became, at lorag last, a solicitor. The Government of the day under Lloyd George prattled a lot about ‘work for all’ and ‘Homes fit for heroes to live in’, but after much tramping up and down the country I found nobody seemed to want a solicitor and nobody had an empty house. Having served in the war was a distinct handicap. In desperation I took a job in the City as assistant solicitor at the princely salary of £50 a year. Street sweepers were then earning £3 a week. My season ticket was 10/- a week, so I very soon decided to accept a post in Singapore at $500 a month - £500 a year.
Lazy days in Singapore with a fellow who looks remarkably like Hitler! (It isn't)
We sailed in a tiny Blue Funnel ship ‘Gorgon’ of 2500 tons, and spent Xmas 1919 at Perim 10 , one only stop, to coal. It was a wrench to say good-bye to my family. My mother was getting on in years and did not expect to see me again, but on the other hand, I saw no prospect in England, countless young men were emigrating, and it was very pleasant to be leaving the austerity food conditions and rising taxation. We found Malaya a beautiful country, but we had not been there many days before we realised that the cost of living there had soared to a staggering level, and the people untouched by the war or conscription were living in pre-war luxury, and £500 a year went nowhere. The lawyers were the big noise in Singapore and we were required to live in great style. The Army people were treated with scant respect, and their officers' wives often worked in offices to make ends meet - an unheard of thing for a white woman to work in the East. My wife's best friend of many years standing was married to an Australian, the Champion European tennis player, but as he held a major position in the Cable Company and was afterwards a stockbroker. He was not eligible to come to the Singapore Club, and we were scarcely allowed to know them although they were charming people, and offered us prompt and frequent hospitality. Women expected champagne at tiffin and had dozens of servants. We found this all very sick making. We stayed for a while as P.G.s with a partner in my firm, and then as my wife was expecting a baby (Penelope, born 26th June 1920) we moved to Raffles Hotel www.raffleshotel.com , where the bill far exceeded my salary. Rubber was 12/6 a pound (now in 1947 1/2 a pound) the price of tin was high and everybody was speculating madly. Singapore is a city of slumps and booms, and there are many ‘poor whites’ who cannot raise the fare to return home. We did not want to find ourselves in that plight and accordingly decided that the prospects were not bright, and we would return home. My wife contracted malaria and this assisted us to make up our minds.
A cable home announcing Penelope's birth was not received, and when I cable home my intention to return, my mother assumed that mother and child had perished. We brought back with us a Chinese Amah (Nanny) much to my mother's silent consternation. I remarked that my mother was wearing no jewellery except a solid gold brooch. Upon inquiry was informed that as a Chinese nurse was coming into the household, the jewellery has been sent to the Bank! Very soon however Mother and Amah (who spoke no English) were the best of friends until she returned to China.
Playing in the garden in Leamington Spa with Penny and one of the Blenkinsop boys.
Within a month of getting home I joined Maxwell Blenkinsop a solicitor in Warwick, who was also under sheriff of the County. We lived first at Barford then in Leamington, and our partnership subsisted for I7 years. During which time we had Rosemary, John and Jane (My Mum). I like to think that the children had a happy childhood in those ‘between wars’ years. For many years they had a devoted Nanny Margaret . The two younger ones were "her children", but they are all very fond of her to this day. She was, however, a disciplinarian - she had to be having 4 spirited children in her care, but she was generous to a fault and utterly selfless where the children were concerned.
In 1940 she left to take charge of a wartime day nursery, and after the war married and lives happily with her old flame, Len, ‘the egg man’- ex Royal Navy Stoker.
Sometime in the 1970's. A reunion of the few Galipolli survivors still living. Grandpa is standing, back left.
These were very, very, tough guys.
Copyright words and photos Toby Savage