Christmas 1914, part 2

Extract from Christmas, 1914 Part 2

In the Trenches

The Headmaster has received the following letter from Mr. C. C. Thompson who is serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

On Active Service,

November 24th, 1914

Dear Mr. Clendon,

I am in a billet at present along with my battalion, resting behind the firing line.  We have been relieved and are taking advantage of our week’s rest to pull the battalion back together again after the arduous work and the lasses we have had.  It is called a rest but in reality it is hard training.

Well, I expect you would like to hear something personal, I first went into the trenches one night, it is only at night that one can get to them.  You will see why when I tell you that the distance of my trench from the Huns varied from 50 to 80 yards.

On the way up bullets whizzed past us.  In one place, about 300 yards from the Germans, I could see the bullets cutting off things in front of me.  But the most exciting part was when we arrived on a road parallel to the trenches and only 100 to 150 yards from the Germans.  The bullets fairly whizzed by and looking to my left were the spurts of fire of the Germans’ rifles.

Suddenly the guide with whom I was walking fell down hit.  I at once put my men in a communication trench at the side of the road, incidentally up to their knees in water, which the unfortunate guide ought to have put us in before.  I then carried the guide into the trench getting two bullets through the tail of my great coat.  Another man found two bullets in his ration bag.  It was pretty hot, men who have been out all the time had never been under worse rifle fire, luckily there was no shrapnel.  I spent two days and nights in that trench never sleeping a wink the whole time for the Germans were so near that I anticipated a rush any minute.  It snowed while we were there – the cold being something appalling.  I felt it very much the first night, for I was wet up to the knees getting in and we had no fires until next day.  You can have little idea how cold it is in a clay pit with a very muddy bottom.  The men stick it marvellously well and grumble very little.  All one could do was to snipe at the Germans, and this was of necessity limited almost entirely to the night.  It was death to show one’s head above the parapet in the day time for more than one second.  Of course once can look through a slit in an iron plate and fire through it.  I only had one man killed, shot through the head.  We got out quite safely with no casualties, a rather luck Proceeding.

Letter to the Editors

Dear Sirs,
In such unparalleled circumstances as those of the present moment, it is a matter of great satisfaction to the old School that so so many of her former scholars have answered their country’s call.  I venture to suggest that recognition of their patriotism should assume a material and permanent form, and one in which future generations of Handsworth Grammar School boys could take an honest and justifiable pride.  I propose that a brass tablet, inscribed with the names and regiments of those who are serving with H.M. Forces during this war, be erected in that hall of many memories the Big School.  Other schools and colleges of this country have taken up some such scheme and I trust that H. G. S. will not be backward in the matter.

Hoping that this suggestion will meet with the approval of the ‘powers that be.’
I remain,
Yours faithfully,
T.L. Fletcher