My father, William Cedric Poole, (born 16 October 1899 - died February 1985) joined the army to fight in the First World War in November 1917. He was not alone. His friends from Leominster, Herefordshire, also joined, but I have to add that they were not prepared for what was to come. He joined The Devonshires and did a short training.
In the letter from King George V, sent to prisoners of war, returned to this country at the end of the war, they were described as "brave" but Dad said: "We were not brave at all but we had no choice. We either did what we were told or we knew we would be shot by men from our own country."
They had to climb a ladder from the trenches and run, (but I can tell you no more than this). He told me they were "mowed down as if a giant lawn mower went over them all". The dead and injured lay on the field and German soldiers were shooting those who were still alive. A German soldier came up to him with his gun. Dad shut his eyes and prayed, and the next thing he knew this German soldier helped him up and put him into the German ambulance saying: "I can't kill you. You remind me of my kid brother". My father often used to say: "I would love to meet this man and thank him for saving my life. From there he went to a German hospital where he was cared for and then on to Crossen on the Oder prisoner of war camp, on the German/Polish border.
Years later, when he lived with us and was 85 years of age, my daughter had an essay to do for her GCSE, and she had to write a letter home as if she was a prisoner of war in the First World War. "What do I know of this?" she asked. I reminded her that her Granddad was living with us and he had been a prisoner of war. We fetched the tape recorder and asked him to put the words onto a tape so that we could always keep them and understand fully what it was like for him as he had never really told us.
Here is the recording that we made, and it was just before he died, for he died a short time after this recording (old age).
PHOTOGRAPHS AND DOCUMENTS WHICH I HOPE YOU WILL FIND INTERESTING, ADDITIONAL MATERIAL CAN BE FOUND
- 1918 - soldier in The Devonshires
Paid one shilling (5p) a day as a soldier fighting in World War I in 1918