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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

13th November 1914

These pages include reports from the local press in Lancaster and district from November 1914.

Soldiers Stories

Letters from Officers of the Royal Lancasters

Mrs G L Hibbert, Caton, has received the following letters from officers of her husband’s old regiment, the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment, at the front, acknowledging the comforts she has sent, and wishes to take this opportunity of thanking all those who so kindly contributed to them. Mrs Hibbert feels sure the letters will be of interest to many. They were written on the same leaf of pocket book:-

29th October 1914
Dear Mrs Hibbert,
On behalf of the other officers, as well as for myself, I write to thank you very much indeed for so kindly sending out the nice comforts in the way of shirts, socks, pants, etc to help make up our kits which were burnt. There are but six of us, of the original number, remaining, so the articles you sent were more than enough, and we passed on some of them to our less fortunate brother officers who have since joined. The cigarettes were given to the men. Our men have behaved splendidly, and I am sure that if General Hibbert had been with us he would have been proud of them. The other day we went into action, delivering a frontal attack – successfully – on a strong German position, and the men behaved just as if they were on an Aldershot field day. No hanging back, full of keenness, with only one aim, to get the Germans on the run, and kill as many of them as possible in doing so. We succeeded. No time for more.
Yours sincerely,
George Wilson.

Dear Mrs Hibbert
Very many thanks for all the things. I am sorry to say most of the original officers who lost their kits, have gone, but the things are very welcome to the rest.
Yours very sincerely,
H P Creagh-Osborne.

Of the six officers referred to in the above letter only three now remain unwounded.

Letter from a Royal Lancaster Private

Mrs C J Colecliffe, of Ashton Road, Morecambe, received on the 5th inst. the following postcards from her son, Private George Colecliffe, of the 1st King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. The first postcard, dated 2nd October, Gefangenen Lager, Dobertiz, Germany, is as follows;-
“This is the first chance I have had of writing for a long time, and I do hope you have not been worrying too much about me, as I am all right. I happened to stop a bullet with my leg on 26th August, and got another through the cap, and have been in the care of Germany ever since. Nearly all our wounded were taken by the Germans, but I am glad to say we are taking no harm, and we are all quite well. The wound is all right, and am longing for the boat. Don’t write about war affairs. Fondest love to all.”

The second postcard is written from the same place, and dated 6 October:-
“Here I am quite well and happy, and glad to say my wound is quite better, and feel as well as I ever did. We are taking no harm whatever, although the only thing we are short of is money, tobacco, and letters, which I have not had since leaving England. I shall be glad if you could send me some tobacco and a good long letter. I expect there is a lot of letters in the regiment for me. Well, I hope you are not worrying too much about me, as I am all right, and hoping for peace and a happy Christmas at Morecambe.”

White Flag Treachery; German Brutality

The following letter has been received by Mr Davis, of Lancaster, from his son, Sergeant John Davis, of the Royal Lancasters:-

28th October 1914
My dear dad, I am going to write you a fairly decent letter. This is my third attempt at it; the previous ones have been interrupted by the Germans. They either started “shelling” us or we had to move to some other position. There is much that I can tell you, but it is rather difficult on account of the Censor. I am very well and in good spirits. Our position is very favourable indeed. The enemy in front of us have suffered heavy losses lately, and we have splendid news of the Russians. We are all in good spirits, and there is very little sickness amongst us. I am writing this in the trenches, partly buried under the ground. Above me I can hear the big shells travelling on their way, also an airship on reconnaissance duty. I had three days in the trenches a little while ago. We were under artillery fire all the time, not to mention the worry the “snipers” caused us. Behind the trenches was a farm which the Germans shells set alight. After the roof and walls had fallen our chaps used to run across to the debris to boil water for tea etc on the white hot tiles and bricks. The Germans then started sending an odd shell across just as a reminder. The brewing of tea (“drumming up” as we call it) did not stop, however. At night we sneak out of the trenches and dig others, or fix up barbed wire entanglements in front of our own. I had two nights digging; the first night it rained all the time, and, of course, we had to stay in our wet clothes. They dried on us, but we are a hardy lot, and took no harm. Since that affair at Le Cateau, I have been in a few more engagements. On each occasion the regiment bore a good share of the fighting, and it has now earned a splendid reputation. The Lancashire Fusiliers and ourselves have been particularly mentioned to the commander of the 3rd Army. That itself is no little thing. I cannot tell you the names of places or dates, but will try to narrate a little of what we have done, leaving those out. One day we got orders to attack the enemy, who were in a position around a village. We started off, and eventually came under artillery fire. We then opened out, and the fun commenced. When we got near the village we found the enemy in trenches, loopholed houses etc. They took some shifting, but had to give way. One party of them showed the white flag, and when the men who saw it showed themselves they opened fire on them with a maxim. We take no notice of white flags now – once bit, twice shy. We were complimented for our share in that little bit. The people in that place were very glad to see us. In no place that I have been in yet have I heard a good word regarding the Germans. They certainly have assaulted many ladies. In one place I stayed a night, the husband told us that he had been tied up whilst the women folk were assaulted. As far as possible when we halt anywhere we are accommodated in barns, workshops, etc and generally get one day in the week out of the trenches as rest. Now I’ve left off my story, so had best start again. After the attack I have just told you of we chased the Germans a few miles, and took up a position ready to meet them again. They also took up a position, and after some time attacked us. The people on our left had to give way to them, and they left our right in a very queer position. We stuck to our places until we were ordered to retire. We fell back a few hundred yards, and eventually drove them right back again. They left over 400 dead behind, so must have suffered heavily. I had a couple of days “sniping” from the roofs of two houses. I think I managed to “bag” at least one of them, but no one can tell the results of his shooting. You see, someone hundreds of yards away may fire at the same man at the same time you fire. I wish I dare go into details, then I could tell you something really exciting. I had one near squeak the other day. The last day I was “sniping” I took a chair round the far side of the house from the Germans, and had a sit down, chat, and a smoke. A shell dropped just in front of me, broke some of the wall alongside me; something hit my shin, but did not even mark me. It wounded one man. There were two or three of us together at the time. It made me jump, but did not make us shift our position. Now I think that is all that I can tell you. I expect to be home for Christmas. I do not see how the Germans are going to last much longer. Now good-bye for the present.

Local War Items

The Matron of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary has received from Mrs Lamport, Meadowside, blankets for the soldiers’ beds.

Private J Wilson, 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, who was reported missing, has written to his wife in Beswick, Manchester, stating he is a prisoner of war in Germany.

Mrs R Pond, of 34 Denmark Street, Lancaster, has received a field service postcard from her son Private B Pond, of the Royal Lancaster Regiment, in which he says he has been wounded, and is in hospital at Rouen. The lines on the postcard “I am going on well,” and “hope to be discharged soon” are not crossed out, so it may be taken that that is the information the writer wishes to convey. The postcard is dated 2nd November.

The President of the French Republic has bestowed the decoration “Medaille Militaire” on a large number of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Expeditionary Force, in recognition of their gallantry during the operations between 21st August and 30th, including 4649 Sergeant major E Dakin of the 1st Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment. Dakin was mentioned in Sir John French’s despatch along with Corporal Wright and several officers of the regiment.

Thanks for “Comforts”
Colonel Duffin, the officer commanding the depot of the Royal Lancasters, has received the following letter:-
2nd November 1914
“The parcel of blankets, shirts, vest, mufflers etc, sent through you to my address from the residents of Lancaster for the men of the 1st Battalion arrived yesterday, and have been distributed to the men, who greatly appreciate the articles. Will you please convey to the residents of Lancaster, by means of the local papers or otherwise, the men’s sincere thanks for the gifts. The health of the men is good, their spirits excellent, and their behaviour under fire and in very trying circumstances is splendid.
Yours faithfully
G Watson, Captain
Quartermaster King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

A Lancashire Sergeant’s Experience

A supplement of the London Gazette was published on Wednesday, showing that the King had approved of many officers being appointed Companies of the Distinguished Service Order, in recognition of services with the Expeditionary Force. His Majesty has also approved of the grant of the medal for distinguished service on the field to Sergeant Howard, 1st Royal Lancaster Regiment, who at Meterin, on the 13th October, when within 200 yards of the enemy in the open, finding that twelve men of his platoon were not firing, though he shouted to them to carry on, crawled across at great risk to make them do so, but found the twelve dead.

Lancastrian Buried in France

“England has lost a brave a soldier as ever lived.” So says Company Quartermaster Sergeant G Knowles, of D Company, 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, in announcing to Mrs Norris, at 12 Abbey Terrace, Scotforth, the death on 13th October, of her husband, Lance Corporal R Norris. Quartermaster Sergeant Knowles whose wife lives at 14 Blades Street, Lancaster, tells Mrs Norris that the contents of a broken parcel which arrived for him after his death were distributed among his comrades. In extending the sympathy of the company to her, he says Corporal Norris’s death was instantaneous. He was shot through the forehead, and is buried at Meitran, France. Corporal Norris was in the Liverpool police when he received the call to rejoin his regiment in the early days of August. His widow is now living with her mother in Abbey Terrace.

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