Saturday 13 September 2014

The 1st Bedfords at the River Aisne

A pom-pom on an anti-aircraft mounting

Sunday 13th September 1914: The adjutant of the 1st Battalion tells us that the Germans are holding the line of the River Aisne in force and that all day an artillery duel between the two sides has been going on. Some heavy shells fell near the battalion which was forced to move back somewhat. This evening it is anticipated that the 15th Brigade may try to cross the river at Jury. The battalion lost one man to shellfire during the day.

Our contact with the battalion is feeling better and praises the work of our gunners both the field batteries manning guns of smaller calibre and the heavy batteries. He has a curiosity to report: “A Pom Pom arrived and placed itself quite close to us and prepared for action. Some of us went off to look at it and discovered a lonely looking Gunner Subaltern in charge.  He told us that it was a Pom Pom mounted and fitted for Anti-Aircraft defence. He said that it was the first of its kind out of England and that when he arrived in France no one knew anything or seemed to care anything about him!”[1]

He went on: “We made up for the disinterest taken in him and thoroughly examined his weapon and asked him how he knew which aeroplane was Allied and which German. He told us that he had a Flying Corps specialist with him who knew the various makes and could distinguish between them. Suddenly an aeroplane sailed over head flying pretty high and his expert shouted in his excitement that it was a German. The gun team got very excited and the gun opened fire and loosed off about 150 rounds at it while we watched with our glasses. We soon saw that it had the French mark on it and the “expert” had to agree that it was French so the gun stopped firing! The gunner was quite disappointed but said that he had observed some bursts through its wings!”

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/2/7

[1] A pom-pom was a piece of ordinance named after the noise it made. The early pom poms were, more correctly, 37mm Nordenfelt-Maxim Guns or QF 1 pounder (QF for quick firing and one pound being the weight of the projectile)

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