Saturday 24 January 2015

News from the East Anglian Royal Engineers

Stagsden High Street about 1915 [Z50/107/21]

Sunday 24th January 1915: Sapper H. Reginald Barcock(1) of the East Anglian Royal Engineers (son of Mr Herbert Barcock of 1 The Grove, Bedford) tells us: “We are sleeping in a big barn, horses one end and we the other. Of course we never undress now, it’s too cold. It’s been snowing here all the day, so you can guess what sort of a state we are in. Talk about mud, it’s up to our puttees. People could only imagine what it’s like if they saw a company as they came out of the trenches, absolutely plastered with mud and some poor beggars can hardly walk. We are with a lot of crack regiments, or what are left of them – the Coldstreams, the Grenadiers and lots of others(2), but they look different now. We had five chaps wounded in the trenches where we work, by shells. They are all in hospitals. I thought I’d got one the other day. Four of us were working in a house making frames for the trenches, and one came buzzing over and burst about fifty yards away. Then came another and I said to my pal “Look out! This devil’s got us”. Then there was a bang and it burst just over the road – twenty yards away. We crouched by the wall; it wounded two chaps. Then we had the order to clear out, which never took us long, I can tell you. Another came and burst on the road and smashed one of the tool carts, but luckily there were no horses in it. It’s been pretty quiet today, thank goodness!”

“We went out one night last week, all night working, the other side of the trenches. That’s the time to hear bullets pinging about. It’s the snipers that pick you off at night. Every now and then our people shoot up a rocket to see who’s about. Then you have to lay flat down and not move until its gone out, or you would soon be put out of action. No one got hurt that night”.

Sapper C. Pratley of the same unit, nephew of Mrs Churchill of Clarendon-street, Bedford told us: “Our Section is billeted in an old thatched cottage and I and twelve others sleep in the loft. We have made ourselves very comfortable considering the place, and have got a bucket with a fine fire and are quite merry with a mouth-organ and singing”.

Driver Leslie Haffenden, a driver with the company told us of the death of Sapper George Daniel Linger today. He was the son of Albert John and Alice Linger of High Street, Stagsden(3). “We are having a hot time and today a sad gloom is thrown over the entire company. Sapper Linger was laid low by a German bullet. It was like this: two sections fell in at six last night and marched off to do some work under cover of darkness near the enemy’s lines. A bullet was fired and yet another decent British lad had laid down his life for the common cause. We have had some narrow escapes before, what with shell-bursting near where our sappers are working, but we have only had some fellows wounded. One is now back in England. We are billeted in a village the size of Elstow sleeping in barns, lofts etc. and are about one and a half miles off the British artillery behind the trenches. We get rum in our tea now and again and it warms you up and resists the cold weather attacks on your chest. It is all rot what these “pump puritans” write to the papers about rum in soldiers’ tea, saying it encourages drinking. Let them come out here and try a spell in the trenches and they will be soon convinced”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 29th January 1915

(1) Sadly he died on 2nd February 1915 and is buried in Béthune Town Cemetery.
(2) 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards and 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards were part of 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division along with 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. The 1st/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (a Territorial Army unit) joined the brigade in November 1914 and called themselves the Herts Guards! Other units in 2nd Division were: 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry; 2nd Battalion and 1st/9th, Highland Light Infantry; 1st Battalion (King’s) Liverpool Regiment; 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment; 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment and 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

(3) He is buried in le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l’Avoué.

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