Posted 30 June 2012 - 03:17 AM
I am very fortunate to have memoirs from my grandad's service. I believe he was part of the 15th or 16th Cheshire Regiment due to his height. His name was William Elias Morrison, born February 3, 1898, and I will be researching additional information on him. I have his medals, which have his service number around the edge. I need to get that. Here is the information I have. It was written when he was in his late 70s and early 80s, in letters to me, so some of his facts may be mis-remembered, but it is a remarkable story. I hope it is not too long and of interest to people here. I have the story told in his own words, digitally preserved.
On Wednesday, I reported for service with Cheshire Regiment at Birkenhead. After my training, I was placed in the band as battalion bugler which I was right through the first world war.
Continued (parts of stories have been repeated), August 1914.
War was declared on German, 4th August bank holiday. It was expected only to last six months, but was still on at Xmas and lasted 4 1/2 years.
At outbreak of war, I was working with my dad and had made pals with a lad named Johnson. Early in January 1915, one Monday, we took half day off and went to join the navy. We both passed tests and doctor, but when they got to know our ages, we had to get our Dads to sign a form. My dad put it on the fire, but my pal's dad signed his, which was his death warrant, as he went down with the destroyer Hampshire, with Lord Kitchener. Not to be done on the Friday, I went to the Army office and joined (Bob's Own) Lord Roberts Bantams Cheshire Regiment, which I was with from January 1915 until 1919 when I was invalided out of the war with gas.
1915 was spent training more or less until one night the commanding officer came and told me to sound or blow the alarm to Arms at twelve o'clock at night and at the time we was in the Indian Barracks, Salisbury Plain. We handed in our Indian kit and were on the Monas Queen for France.
Well, we landed at Le Havre, stayed the night in tents at Havre Fleurs then entertained in cattle trucks for four hours. I travelled with the Commanding Officer's party as I was C.O.'s Bugler and no one was allowed to leave train until I sounded it on the bugle. Now this is the start of my service in France. Next will be going up into the line.
I carried the silver bugle until it was stolen when I was gassed I sounded the charge on it in the front line in France.
We did our training on Salisbury Plain, then one night at midnight I had orders to sound the alarm to arms. At 9 o'clock the next morning, we were on our way to France. That was December 1915. We were held up at Southhampton for German subs in channel. When the word came, we left England on a four and 1/2 hour voyage down channel to Le Havre. It was dark when we got there so disembarked when it was light. We had to march up a steep hill to spend the night in transit camp at Havre Fleurs. There we handed our pith helmets in and our tropical clothing as we were going to the Far East, which was canceled, and we were given other clothing for trenches and that is the beginning of our tour of France and Belgium.
During the first war the British solder's boy was it a day of which he was compelled to allot sixpence a day to his wife or parents towards the small allowance from the government. For this we went through fire mail and gunfire for the preservation of the homeland to help France and Belgium against the Kaisers German Army.
To carry on from Givenchy and Festubert we went along the La Bassee front. We started at Lavantee which was very quiet, hardly any gun fire, then we went to Richberg in the same front here we were lucky we had the Bavarians against us. The German Regiment did not want to fight. They put up posters, "we don't want war, nor do you. If you don't fire, we won't fire," so we had a good two weeks.
Next we went in the line at Amentieres for what was left of it. There was a few aviatians in the place behind the line. These would do their best to help us and when we went back, they treated us well, giving us hot coffee with rum in it as it was full winter and this was the place that the song "Mademoiselle from Amentieres, Parley Vous" came from.
Next we moved up to Nueve Chapelle, here it was more lively. We had a mock attack three minutes heavy artillery, three minutes light, three minutes trench mortar and rifle grenades then three minutes fire. Well this ended with the Germans getting the wind up they thought we were attacking and came out of the trenches to meet us. When we let go with all we had, that was the end of that. Jerry fell back so we took their trenches over
After this action, we came out of time for a rest and fell back to a town called Baileil. This place had not been hit by Jerry so we had it easy for a month.
Then we went up to Belgium and went into the front lines at Arras. The line here was like a horse shoe, we were in the toe of it we could see the French guns firing on the left and on the right side of the horseshoe, the Canadians and Aussies were in the line there was only one way out of the horseshoe for us. After fourteen days here we were to be released, but it was on the fortieth night that the Royal Scots took over from us as the division that should have taken over was still in England and was known as the lost division, John Bulls Division. We spent three weeks with the Gurkhas and Bengal Lancers at a place called Hazelbrouck.
From there we all moved to the Somme, ready for the attack on the first of July 1916, we were in Blightswood, the others were in Happy Valley waiting for the word to go forward. We were the third line of infantry to attack we had the Gurkhas and support of the Lancers when we attacked we went through what was termed Death Valley. You could not see the Gurkhas, they went along in front of trenches. You did not know they were there only from the rustles now and again.
We advanced through Devil's Wood then to through Trones Wood and when we got in front of Trones wood, there was Canadian, Scottish and German standing with their bayonets facing each other petrified by gas.
Well, this was nearing my first term of the Somme. We were facing the Germans fortifications at Guillemont when Sergeant Major Barker asked me to go help the stretcher bearers to dress the wounded in no-man's land while the stretcher bearers brought them in I had been put there for hours. When I was told to go in, I went back and the S.M. said set here, I have been there all the time so is ok, he was making a drink of tea. The date was 12th July, 1916. That cup of tea I never got because as I sat there I was wounded with gunshot from a shell. They took me down the hill and I was lying on side of road on stretcher for several hours waiting my turn for ambulance. Now you know why I always remember the twelve of July, Orangeman's (?) day. I was taken to field hospital, got treatment and was placed on train for boat, but we were diverted going to action in channel.
I went to hospital Rouen where I was operated on and they took the shrapnel out of my knee within a few weeks I was sent to train at Etaples on a stick. In the first days on the Somme we were listing a thousand men a day
wounded and killed. It was a thing that has never happened before the guns were wheel to wheel. There was a lot of men with shell shock. Well, after a few weeks, I was sent back to battalion, still on a stick. When the doctor saw me he said "Who sent you back like that?" He just put another label on me and sent me back until I was fit for line.
After a while, I went back to the front. The battalion was in Posherdale with the Canadians. This is where we attacked the ridge supported by tanks and this is where the tanks got their motto (through the mud, through the blood to the green hills beyond) After this we went into Vimy Ridge where we had it rough. This brought up to Xmas 1916 where we were in the trenches at Mossiny. It was a bad winter, plenty of snow. We were issued each sheepskin coast to keep us warm and gloves on tape to go round your neck. It was hard that we got an old phonograph with records. Being Xmas the officer told Jim Whitely, me, and Tom Delaney to go with him in no mans land with the gramphone for a bit of sport. We went at midnight and the last record jerry did not like he opened fire on us and the officer was badly wounded. Jim Whitely went in for stretcher. Tom and I stayed with him. I dressed him and put tournique on his leg then when Jim came back, we put him on stretcher and took him in. The stretcher bearers took over and for that episode, Jim got the military medal. Tom and I got nothing.
We came out of there and went to school camp by Poperinge for our Xmas dinner and rest before going into the Ypres sector. We are now going to 1917.
At this time, those at home were working all out on munitions and comforts for us lads at the front. Your nan was working at the British American Tobacco camp making cigs which we had an allowance of twenty a week free.
Back to school camp, this was in Belgium and as I have already said, it was very cold, plenty of snow. We were billeted to some old tin huts with a stove in the middle with nothing to burn so we went out and cut a few trees down but we were fired on by a froggy with a shot gun. Lucky none of us was hit. We got the wood and put it under the boards of the hut. Next day an officer came round with the French farmer looking for his trees, but went back empty handed.
From here we moved to Elverdinghe behind Nieuport Bains, which is opposite Ostend. It was while here that Jerry dropped a bomb on Brigade headquarters which was a chattico (?) the rules were if enemy planes overhead the guard would blow one blast on whistle and I had to blow lights out on bugle. It did seem funny as the brigade headquarters was blazing and I had to sound fire alarm.
By the way, the bugle I carried was a silver one presented to me in England. I sounded the charge on it at Neuve Chapelle, but it was stolen in 1918 when I was gassed. After we left for Dirty Bucket Corner on our way to up to take the trench over from the Belgians when we got there was no one in the line, but Jerry and Belgians were each side of river washing and talking to each other. We got orders to open fire on them. They soon came back.
It was pretty quiet here and after a month we came out then started the retreat in 1917. We went to Theaval, then in July 1917 I was told to pack up for base. I was taken by lorry to advance post from there entrained for Callais. This was it, I was on my way home on ten days leave after two years in the trenches. We stayed overnight at rest camp. Next morning, we were on the boat for England and what a welcome we got at Dover. There was tea, chocs, in fact anything we wanted as it was a leave boat from France. I sent word to my good friend, your nan, that I would be home at a certain time and I surprised my mum when I walked in as I had not let her know when I would get home. I was having my tea with a curler in my quiff when your nan came and after my dad came home, we went down to see her mum and dad, your great nan and grandad, and what a fuss they made of me. Anybody could tell I was on leave for each years service in France and the gold wound stripe under the service stripe on my right arm. Every where I went, people were wishing me well. Of course, I had a lot of visiting to do. My dad said they wanted to see me at the works, so I had to set a day for going there anyway. They made a fuss of me and my mates dad said they were all proud of me and wished me lots of luck when I went back to the trenches.
The next eight days we, your nan and I, had a good time together, but all too short as I had to go back when we were getting to use to each other after all the leave taking I was on my way back to the front then after going into a few quiet places in the front line in 1918, we went into Ypres. This proved to be my last time on the trenches as it was here that I got the mustard gas that made me blind for three months and was taken home to England. This was, the end of the war for me, it was during this time, between leaving trenches that my bugle was stolen.