Wednesday 17 September 2014

Lieutenant Downes’ Experiences at the Front

Aspley House in 1961 [Z53/3a/1]

Thursday 17th September 1914: We have had the following letter from Lieutenant Villiers Chernocke Downes of Aspley House, serving with the 1st Bedfords. He writes as follows: “We arrived in North East France, where we remained from 19th to 23rd August and took part in the Battle of Mons. We had to retire, but held the enemy in check for the whole day at le Cateau. We were in the firing line on each occasion and had thrilling experiences. I found it far less nerve trying than I expected. At Mons I was in a very hot corner for a few minutes, being shelled by shrapnel at close range, about 400 yards, with the German Infantry. Four men were killed around me and I got a bullet through my hat. That will make a fine trophy. Our Division[1] has since had no fighting, but have marched 20 miles per day. We are very fit in consequence. We are generously treated by the inhabitants who give to us freely of their best”.

Our other source with the battalion writes that the miller at Montgard is no better company than yesterday: “The old miller is still very disagreeable although we tried to help him with his milling which he had been ordered by the Requisitioning people to get a move on with as fast as possible”.

“While we were digging latrines in the farmyard, we dug up near the manure heap a jar containing all sorts of valuables which we presented to him. He, however, seemed more bored than pleased to get them back as he had, of course, buried them for safety”.

[1] 5th Division.

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