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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

25th September 1914

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

Royal Lancaster Man’s Diary

A diary of his experiences in the war has been kept by a private in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment and forwarded to the Daily Dispatch. In the action of 25th August his first duty was on outposts. Equipped with a pair of binoculars, he was posted in a tree to keep a sharp look-out for the enemy. He first saw a column of smoke rise from the village on his front, which the enemy was occupying. This he reported, and also a later column of smoke. Then they commenced to dig trenches. The diary proceeds:- “We had got about three feet deep, and had started pulling up the vegetation from behind us and planting it in the soft soil in front of our trenches, so that the enemy could not see us, when a well-directed lyddite shell showed that we had been observed. We at once ceased to dig and took cover. The shell burst about twenty to thirty yards in our rear, doing no damage, but causing a sickening smell. A second shell burst about 50 yards in front of the trench, and the third one that greeted us – well, I’m pleased to say that I was low down in my trench; but my platoon commander had the nearest squeak of his life.”
Orders came to leave the trenches, and they started off on a night march, their clothing soaked with the heavy rain. “I simply slept as I walked,” he says. “I was absolutely fagged out, and was feeling the cold severely, as I had only a thin cotton shirt on instead of a flannel one, which was in my pack. I was frequently walking in my sleep. I knew it, because I would rub my nose and the man’s pack in front of me, and then I would get my heels trodden on. The men were halted, and were preparing for breakfast, when hell itself seemed to be turned loose. The guns of four German army corps were turned on us. They swept from right to left, mowing down those who were standing and plugging those who were lying down in front. One could feel the vibration as the bullets found a billet. I seemed to have fallen down with a cluster of others, and whilst those who were in front of me and the man who fell on the top of me received wounds, I managed to steer clear for a while. This did not last long. At the first lull of the Maxim fire our men coolly reached for their equipment and rifles, and began to retire. I got rid of the man who was on top of me, and then I too got my equipment and rifle and made an attempt to move off. I had not moved my body, but simply raised my head about four inches off the ground, when a bullet hit my hat, tore it from my head, breaking the chin strap round my neck. I thought that I was hit in the throat, and put my hand there to find the damage. You may guess I thanked the Lord for small mercies. I had learned a lesson, so I started to wriggle off the sky-line on my stomach, with equipment slung on one arm and rifle on the other. So I managed to gain the road, which presented a scene of havoc.

“A terrible fire was being poured on this road, on which our transport was drawn up. Everything was turned turtle. A grey motor was lying across the road, with a water filter cart, weighing some two tons, reclining on the motor. Horses were simply torn to pieces, as well as men. This obstacle we crossed and formed up under my colonel, who, I am sorry to say, was killed later on, as was also the captain of my company. We mustered behind a little hill and proceeded to have a pennyworth at the Germans, and as out artillery came along to see what the trouble was, you may guess that they got it hot. Their trick of French uniforms and English khaki overcoats did not wash, but the Lancashire brigade had need to wash their bayonets ere the day was out. I am sorry to say I was counted out a bit too soon for the charge but one has the satisfaction of knowing we did our best against big odds.”

A Reminder of Home

A Burnley man who served in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment at the front has been invalided home. His “trophies” include a German infantry man’s helmet of the 9th Regiment and other relics. After he fell out he had charge of a party of German prisoners of war, many of whom were thankful to escape. The Germans, he said, did not mind surrendering to the English, but they would not surrender to the French. The French people, he states, treated the English soldiers like gods. “If we had been Kings of England,” he said “they could not have done more for us. I was never in a grander country. The Regiment marched 110 in three and a half days, and many were so footsore that they preferred to walk without shoes. The thing that got us most was to see women and children trudging along homeless at all hours of the night and day, sometimes with a bassinette. It made us think of home and those we had left.”

Ingleton Man wounded at Mons

Private T Metcalfe, of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, who is lying wounded in the French military hospital at Denain Nord, has written two interesting letters to his wife. He writes enthusiastically of their reception by the French peasants, who treated them like little gods. He was wounded about four weeks ago in three places in the fighting which took place about Mons, and he has to undergo an operation for a bullet wound in the knee. He says his regiment was roughly handled by the Germans, and for far as he knows only ten men and two officers escaped without injury. His chum, Jack Cartwright, with whom he enlisted, and with whom he went out in the Expeditionary Force, was killed and he looks upon himself as being one of the lucky ones in spite of his wounds. As his name has never appeared in the list of casualties, he thinks that he has been accounted amongst the missing. The hospital where he is lying is, at the time of writing, guarded by German troops, and he thinks he is looked upon as a prisoner of war. In a second letter received this week he says he has undergone his operation, but the doctors have been unable to extract the bullet, which is embedded in the bone. A peculiar thing is that he has not heard a word from England since he left during the first week in August, although his wife has written letters and sent him parcels regularly three times every week.

Local War Items

Mr T I S Hall, Tower Wood, Windermere, son of Colonel R Inglis Hall, has enlisted in the 5th Royal Fusiliers (City of London), and is at present undergoing three months training at the Shorncliffe Camp. Mr G C C Marriott (Reigate) son in law of Colonel Hall, is serving with the 7th East Surrey Regiment.

Second Lieutenant Guy Hamilton, elder son of Dr Hamilton, and late sergeant cadet in the Officers’ Training Corps, has been appointed to the 6th (Service) Battalion of the King’s Own Regiment on Salisbury Plain.

The four motor buses belonging to the Lancaster and District Tramways Company, and at least a dozen other motor passenger and goods vehicles from Lancaster and district have been “commandeered” this week by the military authorities.

Thanks for Gifts of Clothing

Colonel Duffin (Bowerham Barracks) wishes again to thank all those who have sent presents of clothing etc to the depot at Lancaster for the recruits of the King’s Own, and regrets that it is impossible to thank each personally. If an addressed postcard were enclosed in each bundle every endeavour would be made to forward it, so that the donor should know that the things had been received and issued to those who needed them most.

The Infirmary Beds

Colonel Coupland VD, has offered to lend and equip as many extra beds as may be required at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for the use of sick and wounded soldiers. The offer includes the loan of bedsteads and the provision of mattresses, pillows, and blankets. Mrs W Croft Helme has this week promised eighteen pillows for the soldiers’ beds already promised. Miss Leeming, Greaves House, nightingale and bandages.

King’s Own Officer’s Terrible Experiences

An officer of the King’s Own, who arrived in a London Hospital yesterday, relates a stirring story of British bravery and German harshness. During the fighting of a fortnight or more ago he was wounded and removed to hospital, and when he recovered he found that in the same building were four men of the regiment. Together they determined to rejoin their comrades, who had moved away with the rest of the army. On the way they met a party of Germans, whom they hoped to capture, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. The Germans fired upon them but failed to register a hit, and the gallant five sought refuge in a farmhouse. Here they were discovered by the enemy, who blew up the building and killed the four men. The officer was rendered unconscious by a huge beam falling upon him and pinning him to the ground, and when he regained consciousness he asked a German officer who was standing near by to have it removed. Although the Britisher was suffering agony the German only laughed sneeringly at him, and place a soldier as sentry over him. In this position he remained for three days without food or drink and at the end of that time, the Germans having left, was found by our own men, who at once removed him to hospital. The extent of his injuries, beyond torn muscles of the back and an injured knee, is not known.

Territorial Reserves Still Wanted

There are still vacancies for 200 men in the Territorial reserve battalion of the Royal Lancasters. Efforts are being made to induce men to recruit, but very little success has so far attended them. It is pointed out that many eligible young men have preferred service with the Civic Guard, and that others are yet wandering aimlessly about the streets and making no attempt to shoulder their responsibilities. The men who have already joined the battalion are having “the time of their lives.” Health giving exercise is making new men of them, as a visit to the Drill Hall at meal time abundantly shows. On Sunday there was a church parade at Quernmore, and the Vicar, Rev A T Warne, read the young men of Quernmore a somewhat severe lesson on their want of patriotism. He said only one man in the dale had enlisted. Early morning drills and route marches have been the order during the week. Yesterday a 22 miles march to Pilling and back was made. During the week a recreation committee has been formed, with Captain Keen, acting OC, as president, Captain Seward, adjutant, vice-president, and Acting Sergeant G Yeoman, secretary. The first concert will be held this evening. A recreation club has also been formed, with 2nd Lieutenant Wolfendale as secretary.

The Wagon Works Prison

Colonel Cholmondeley, who has had charge of the Wagon works prison since its establishment, left this week for Shrewsbury, where he will take command of a similar prison there.
Major Hatton has also left this week, it is understood to take charge of a German prisoners’ prison at Devizes.
Colonel Cholmondeley is succeeded at Lancaster by Colonel Ansley; and Major Hatton by Major Wilbraham, of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
It is likely that members of the local National Reserve will next week relieve a certain part of the detachment of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, now acting as armed guard at the Wagon Works. The National Reservists will be in charge of Lieutenant W Tilly, jun, who was formerly in the local artillery.
The Welsh Fusiliers will go back to Wrexham. The men are being got into “fit” conditions by runs and walks for about five miles before breakfast each morning. the “bathing parade” is a popular feature – half of the men attending each day at the Corporation baths under a subaltern.
It is believed that by the establishment of places of internment for German prisoners at the Isle of Man and other places, several men who are now interned in Lancaster will be transferred, so as to secure better classification.

Bowerham Barracks Record

Two hundred and seventy recruits for the Kitchener army were despatched from Bowerham Barracks on Sunday evening amid scenes of enthusiasm. They included seven Carnforth men, among them James Ripley, relieving officer to the Lancaster Board of Guardians; Jason Wood, a Wesleyan local preacher and postal employee; and other well known men in the district. Charles Williams, a motorman in the employ of the Tramways Committee of the Lancaster Corporation, also went. The men had no clothing or equipment. About 80 men left on Monday to join the 3rd Battalion.
Since the mobilisation was received in the first week of August, between 6,000 and 7,000 men have been sent away from the depot. In the first four days over 1,100 reservists were equipped and sent away, the greatest number dealt with on one day being over 900. Three full battalions of the Kitchener army have been sent out, and orders have been received to fit out another 2,000 men. Over 50 reservists from Canada and the Colonies have rejoined the Colours. A largely augmented staff has been working night and day to cope with the pressure, and although the raising of the physical standard has caused a lull, recruits are still coming in. There are at present about 150 men in barracks.

Open Air Recruiting Meeting

On Wednesday night a recruiting meeting was held in Market Square. The Mayor (Mr Briggs) presided over a large gathering. The Civic Guard paraded, and they marched to the square in smart military fashion. His Worship was supported by Captain Seward, Captain Keen, and other local officers of the 5th Battalion (including one or two who have recently been granted commissions), and Chief Constable Harriss.

The Mayor said Lancaster had done very well in the way of providing recruits, but he thought the town could do better. The reserve battalion of the 5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment was 200 men short for home defence, and he would like to see that number come forward this week.

Captain Keen said the war could only be carried to a successful issue by large supplies of men and money being available. Money could be compulsorily obtained, but the country desired men to be provided voluntarily. Captain Seward and himself had had the great duty laid upon them of raising 1,000 men; they had got 700 or 800 of excellent spirit and physique; and he wanted the men of Lancaster to help them to raise the remaining 200. “Will you do it,” asked Captain Keen. There was no response, and the speaker put the question with great emphasis, and received a gratifying affirmative reply from various parts of the square. The 5th Battalion, said Captain Keen, could not go to the front until the home defence battalion was formed.
Captain Seward said he asked for 200 men a week or two ago, and they came forward in two days. He had inspected them that day, and their message to the young men of Lancaster was that they must provide the extra 200 men required for home defence; and that Lancaster should be ashamed of itself it if did not provide them quickly.

Chief Constable Harriss said he never thought he should become a recruiting sergeant, because he was a man of peace and detested war. He confessed, however, that he had become absolutely converted from a man of peace to a man of war by the events of the last few weeks. He was not a Lancaster man, but he had been here twelve years, and was proud of the old town and what it had done. The Civic Guard, of which he had the honour to be commander, had provided 100 men for the line and Territorial Forces. He was afraid because things had been running smoothly, and people had not bee deprived of luxuries, to say nothing of necessities, that we had lost sight of the fact that there was still a possibility of the invasion of these shores. The loss of three cruisers meant a weakening of the country’s first line of defence, and the possibility of invasion was real. To prevent such invasion men should be ready, by previous training. He had looked upon the articles in newspapers as “scare” articles, but he now took off his hat to those who had warned them in months and years past. He had been mistaken, and he acknowledged it, but it was no use crying over past mistakes. They should make up their minds to rectify mistakes. “Let’s have the 200 men needed,” concluded the Chief Constable, amid applause, “and let’s have them before the end of the week.”

The National Anthem was sung with spirit and patriotism, and the Chief Constable called the Civic Guard to “Attention” “Right turn, dismiss,” was the final order, and Captain Seward took up the words neatly. “Visitors,” he called out “left turn, quick march to the drill hall!” The crowd cheered, and some young men accompanied the officers to the recruiting station.

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