My husband and I are quite unusual as we both had fathers who fought in the First World War and both had us, their children, late in their lives.
16 October) and was captured at, what he calls, the 2nd Battle of the Somme, 27th May 1918. In fact we've discovered that it was the Battle of the Aisne which was on that day. He was shot and became a GermanPOW until the end of the war. He subsequently joined the GWR in 1919 eventually becoming a Railway Signalman a job he held until retirement in 1968.
He was working for Lucas, enlisted in 1917 and was involved in the 2nd battle of the Somme in May 1918. He caught a bullet wound in the left leg and shrapnel in the right knee and taken as a prisoner of war. He was sent first to a hospital camp in Germany, which he said was quite primitive, and then to a convalescent POW camp in Crossen on Oder on the Polish border. Crossen on Oder is now in Poland and has been renamed Krosno Ordzanskie.
His reconstructed story is as follows: He was enlisted 16 November 1917 just a month after his 18th birthday in the Devonshire Regiment. After partial training at Rollestone near Amesbury (53rd YS*), Norwich (51st & 52nd YS) and Taverham near Norwich (A Company 51st Graduated Battalion) he embarked for active service on 26 April 1918. He was attached to 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment. His first Active Service Pay Book payment entry is 8th May 1918.
* YS =Young Soldier
Whilst the War Diary entry for the 27th on is very brief, the account given in '2nd Devonshires at Bois Des Buttes' extract gives a vivid account of the vicious fighting during the period 27th to 31st May. Also the raw 18 year old additions to battalion strength are also commented on. He was, as he says, under fire on the 27th of May and research has revealed that he took part in the fierce Bois de Buttes battle part of the Battle of the Aisne, was captured and spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. His Active Service Pay Book reveals that sadly all the officers that signed off his Pay Book payment entries ( J Milner, S H Cox and J A Fergusson) either died or were reported missing in the action.
'What has happened to me, as you haven't heard from me for some time, but I am a prisoner of war in Germany. I was wounded in the Battle of the Somme on the 27th of May 1918. I had a bullet wound in my left leg and a shrapnel wound in my right knee. I am in hospital at the present time, it's rather, a little bit primitive but still I'm out of the war, I'm in Germany and perhaps you could get the Red Cross to send me a food parcel.
I am going on all right and feeling fairly well and comfortable. The bullet wound went just above my ankle and the shrapnel wound was just above the knee, so that is the extent of my injuries at present. We are in Germany down by the Rhine.
We were in a very heavy battle and a very heavy barrage when I got my wounds but luckily one of the Germans saw me to the ambulance train. I was put on the train and taken straight away in the train to Germany and then we were put straight into hospital.
It is a very big camp and there are a lot of prisoners here and several badly wounded people but I'm very lucky my wounds are not too severe and I am hoping to be able to get about in time. It will take a bit of time for the wounds to knit and luckily I'm able to take my food, sit up and do what is required for myself etc. We get our own orderlies, they are medical orderlies and they come round to attend to our wounds and see to our needs etc.
Since my last letter I have moved to a convalescent camp in Crossen on the Oder in Poland and I am able to get about and walk about and my legs seem to be going on all right and I am able to walk and get round. We go down the town, they take us down the town round the shops and that so altogether things are not too bad. I am sending you a photo, which was taken by one of the Germans, a Mr Muller who has got his studio here and I've gone down and helped him with the printing of the photos. Altogether things are not too bad and we've got a canteen and a library and we have concerts and play football, I don't play because of my leg but some of them do. There is a quite an atmosphere of friendliness in the camp and everyone seems to be on pretty good terms with one another.'