Monday, 4 January 2016

More Details of the Yeomanry in France

Tuesday 4th January 1916: A trooper of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry has been telling us about his time in France: “The first two days after we left here we were in billets. We had to do fatigues from about 3.30 to 11 each afternoon and evening. Then on the third day we marched off, and my platoon was one of those to go direct to the front line. When we got there we were told that if we left the Germans alone they wouldn’t molest us, but we didn’t. All day the only thing we had to do was to keep watch through the periscope and improve the trench – and eat. Two of us were on for an hour together, and then we had two hours off – one of which was supposed to be of work and one of rest. The first night we spent largely potting at supposed Germans. There was a sniper opposite me and we tried to get him. We were firing at the flashes and so was he. I don’t know how near to him I got but I do know that he sent several bullets whistling by my head. It got rather exciting As long as they kept to rifle fire we didn’t mind, for nothing but a chance shot could have hit, although it was a light night. But they started sending rifle grenades and trench mortars, and they aren’t so pleasant. We had a rifle grenade apparatus in my trench and the Germans were trying to hit it, so for some time we were the centre of attraction. I think they actually put three in our trench and several on the parapet but by some stroke of great good luck no one was hit, though the trench suffered. On the second day there was a good deal of shell fire and though the Germans don’t generally shell the front line they got very near it then. Also our own guns started and dropped a dozen or so shells within a few yards of us. Our second night was quieter, for there was a working party about and we didn’t fire for fear of drawing too much German fire onto them. It is a curious thing that although we didn’t have a man touched in our squadron in four days that working party had at least two killed and one badly wounded in three or four hours(1). All the time we were there we only had three casualties, I believe, and they were not dangerous. They were in other squadrons, too. We have a reputation as a lucky Regiment and are living up to it”.

“After two days in the front line we were moved back to the reserve some 100 yards or so back. There we had no actual fighting to do, we missed the rifle grenades and so on but we got we got shell fire, and hot, too at times. We also had to do fatigues – fetch rations from outside the trenches, and so on. It was there that I happened on the most exciting piece of work I’ve yet had to do. In front of our trenches we have saps. One of these sapheads is 30 yards from the German trenches – others are nearer – but I’m concerned with this one – and the Germans also have a sap coming to within 13 yards of it. The ground in front was unprotected and several of us had to put barbed wire round. We couldn’t fix it up outside so we had to put the wire on frames and then roll them over the side of the sap and afterwards creep over, put them in position and join them up. It was a bit exciting. Once I was out alone and I thought I was under the cover of the saphead. I was half sitting up and cussing our own men who kept sending up flares and shooting in our direction. I was called back and then I learn that so far from being under cover the German saphead was round that side, 13 yards away and there was a sniper there. I guess he wasn’t on the look-out, but he was a few minutes later for he nearly got one of my men who had his head over the parapet. I’m perfectly fit - more so than before I went in, I think, and after the good night’s rest, ready for nearly anything”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 4th February 1916

(1) Not men of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry

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