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War Stories: World War I

War Stories published under this topic are as follows:

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World War I Somewhere in France Dear Mother; Just a line to let you know that I am still alive and well, hoping that this will find you in good health. Well mother, I told you last time about wining the Military Medal. Since then I have been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Not so bad for a Foxbrook lad, what do you think? Why don't you write oftener? I must have written five letters and no answer. Well, I must close, hoping to hear from you soon, love to all George.
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World War I September 20, 1916 Dear-, In answer to your kind letter dated Aug. 27th. I was very pleased to hear you are keeping well through these war times. I came to this Hospital about a month ago and it is a far better place than Camberwell. It seems to take a long time for my wound to heal up and as I still have to walk around with a tube in it. I won't be sorry when it does. The doctor here thinks there is still a piece of something in there yet. Very deep down, and as they can't trace it he won't take a chance of operating. When it does get better I expect to be sent back to France, by the way they are sending some of the poor fellows back. Some are not really better yet. I had a letter from Harry a few days ago and he says he is quite well. Yes, I am very much alive and I sure did think my time had come when I was buried for twenty minutes or more, for it seemed like hours. I am pleased the boys are keeping well and I hope they have good luck too. It must make your mother feel a lot better when she hears from them often. I hope she is well, also the rest of the family. We are getting some cold, windy weather here now. I hope you are getting it good out in St. Marys. How are things there now? They are not very good in London at present-everything is so dear. It is over two years since I was in St. Marys. My! how the time flies. I go home two or three times a week as it takes half an hour to get there. My Brother George is still out in France and was quite well the last I heard. I think this is all, so will close with best wishes to all. Your Friend Billy Serg't W. Hobson, Military Hospital, Brondesbury, N. W., England September 20, 1916
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World War I September 22, 1916 Dear Mrs. Evans:- I am writing to offer you my sympathy over the loss of your son. I was his Colonel for six months and I think he mentioned me in one of his letters to home. As you know, he became our Medical Officer in January and I had grown very fond of him. He was excellent company and always kept us amused with his wit. In fact, we all liked him. I was ill once or twice while he was with us and I cannot tell you how kind he was and how well he looked after me and made me feel comfortable. I would have written before but it was only today that I became acquainted with you address for I was invalided home sick on the 5th of August, a few days before your son was killed. As soon as I heard I wrote out to France for your address but as the battalion as been so much in action lately, no one had time to write. He came to see me off in the ambulance and his last promise to me was that he would come and see me at my home when next on leave, but alas that cannot be. My thoughts have often been with his people, so far away, and please convey my sincerest sympathy to all those he loved and by whom he was loved. Yours Sincerely EUSTACE HARRISON Denhall, Ness, Cheshire, England September 22, 1916
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World War I Dear Captain Gunyon: Replying to your first series of questions, concerning the 76th. Brigade of Royal Field Artillery: The 76th Brigade was supporting the Canadian Infantry which was holding the line in front of Vimy. The brigade consisted of four batteries of 18 pounders (field guns) and one battery of 4.5 inch Howitzers. The cover of the guns, while poor was, I suppose, as good as that usually occupied by field guns in position only a few days, and the quarters of the gun crews were in cellars near the guns, but the shells thrown at us were eight inch, and armour piercing. At least the artillery men said that they were armour piercing, and after viewing the effects of their explosions I was in no position to argue with them. After several dugouts had been blown in, some of the uninjured personnel set to work digging out the injured while the bombardment was in progress and it was this rescue work which was carried out under scanty or no cover. The bombardment lasted from 1 p.m. until 10 p.m., with a few periods of lull, and was apparently counter battery work on the part of the enemy. Our guns were not in action. As you surmise, the gun crews had taken refuge in cellars, not anticipating a bombardment of such intensity with heavy stuff. Gas shells and high explosion were intermingled. My work consisted in dressing the wounded, checking hemorrhage, giving a hypo of morphine when necessary and seeing that the injured were evacuated to the rear. The gas used that day was the deadly sweetish smelling phosgene. It was my first experience with gas in warfare and I wore a mask part of the time and instructed the men to do so whenever there was a dangerous concentration. You ask about my own reaction: It was of course very disconcerting to endeavor to dress wounded while shells were showering debris about[,] and the possibility of being in the next few seconds in the same plight as the terribly wounded men I was dressing, occurred to me every now and then. The whole thing seemed rather unreal, particularly when it occurred to me, busy as I was, that the killing was being done deliberately and systematically. I felt particularly sorry for the young artillery men, (and many of them were about 19) who were being subjected to the ordeal. I remember one man who had a ghastly wound which would obviously prove fatal in a short time, pleading with me, amidst the turmoil of the explosions, to shoot him. I heard that same request several times later while serving with the infantry. Every soldier who has seen action since knows that it requires the highest type of stamina and bravery for troops to lie in a trench and take a heavy shelling without being demoralized and panic stricken, therefore I shall always remember the orderly rescue work carried on by the officers and men of the artillery in the face of the concentrated shelling that occurred that afternoon. You ask about the work of the artillery officers. They very bravely and ably directed the men in the work of rescue and tried to keep gun crews intact as nearly as possible, in order to fire at any time, should orders to do so, be received. During the trench tours in front of Lens, I usually had a deserted gun pit or cellar communicating with the support trench as a dressing station. The actions about the G[um] Crossin and La Coulotte, though attended by heavy casualties, were more in the nature of raids or diverting attacks, than holding attacks, therefore, I did not accompany the attacking parties. During a trench tour I stuck close to the dressing station if the enemy was active, in order to look after the injured, if things were quiet I visited the different headquarters of the platoons and companies holding the line. Going into the line was sometimes the most disagreeable part of the tour, because of the darkness, danger of getting lost, the mud, and the shelling of the roads just behind the line. The Passchendaele Campaign was carried on in a sea of mud. I have never seen a drearier sight than the salient in front of Ypres--churned up mud with mucky shell holes and never a tree as far as the eye could reach. It was necessary to march single file on duck walk because of the mud for a distance of five or six miles when going in for a tour. We were machine- gunned and bombed from the air and subjected to a terrific shelling on the way in and nothing like a real trench system was possible, the line being held by a series of posts in shell holes. My dressing station was located beside a concrete "pill box", an old German strong point. Captain Dunlap, medical officer of the 102nd Battalion, who was later killed, shared the dressing station with me. I had never met Dunlap before and when he appeared at our rendevous, with four days growth of black beard on his face, a torn tunic and string like remnants of puttees, he looked so much like a stage hobo that I burst out laughing in his face. He was a fine chap and we became good friends. The stretcher bearers had a very difficult time. The whole area was subjected to continuous shelling by the enemy. The pill box afforded shelter on one side for the dressing station and sheets of camouflage and canvas formed the roof. When no wounded were coming in Dunlap and I would crawl into the pill box for greater security. We kept no enlisted personnel with us as there was literally no place where they could stand without sinking to their knees in mud and the number of wounded men was not so great but that the two medical officers could do all that could be done. When we were relieved by the medical officer of the English unit that took over[;] Dunlap, and I, with Captain A.A. Gray, adjutant of the 75th, started back towards Ypres, over the duckwalk. The different platoons of our battalion had trickled back as they were relieved. The two way duckwalk was, as usual, shelled heavily. We were passing the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders coming when a shell got a direct hit among them about 200 feet ahead of us. Their dead and wounded, lying in grotesque attitudes, were being cleared away by their comrades with feverish haste as we dog trotted past the smoking shell hole. We did not stop because their own medical unit was on the job, they had plenty of help and each unit was supposed to take care of its own casualties. Regarding the citation for the Military Cross: "The open ground" mentioned consisted of the wheat fields and other flat unwooded ground through which we passed between Beaucourt and Le Quesnel on the immediate left of the Amiens-Roye road. As we advanced we were frequently under direct observation by enemy balloons directing artillery fire. When one shell landed half a dozen others were pretty sure to land in a very short time within a radius of 50 yards or so of where the first one did, consequently when the first few caused casualties they had to be attended in a shower of debris caused by the explosion of succeeding shells. It was necessary to pass through the streets of Le Quesnel several times during the barrage in order to find the wounded who were scattered throughout the town. I supervised their collection, during lulls in the shelling in a cellar I used as a dressing station. The platoons furnished stretcher bearers. My medical section, consisting of a sergeant, corporal and two privates were with me part of the time, or were in the dressing station when I was out, or they themselves were engaged in looking for wounded. As the 4th C.M.R. and tanks pushed through the village the shelling again became intense. The Germans were about 240 yds. outside the village. As Corporal Adnitt, and Private Marigold and myself were attending to some wounded in a d[inur]y near a street corner that was being heavily shelled, a company of the 4th C.M.R. went by. As the hind of the company reached the street corner about a hundred feet away a shell landed in their midst. About six men went down. As they were going into an attack they could not stop to take care of their wounded. Adnitt, Marigold and I ran to them. The Company Commander lay on his face with the back of his head sheared off. I recall that he had the rank and name of "Captain MacDonald" written on some of his equipment. Three other men were killed and lay beside him. The Company Sergeant Major had his leg blown off just above the knee and several men had less severe injuries. We put hurried dressings on the wounded and got them off the corner, which was a very hot spot, into shelter as quickly as possible. One of the men who had been killed was evidently carrying phosphorous smoke bombs. These set his clothing on fire. We tried to extinguish the fire, but his clothing and body seemed shot through with the phosphorous and it was impossible to put it out. The nature of his wound made it evident that he had been instantly killed and as shells were falling about at a lively rate, we left him. Later in the day when the enemy had been pushed back and things had quieted down I saw his body again. He was almost incinerated. I dressed very few enemy wounded in Le Quesnel, as they had evidently been able to evacuate them before we took the village. A day or so later we came across a temporary tent hospital of the Germans full of wounded. These my men and I dressed until they could be evacuated as a matter of ordinary humanity. I might add that they were very grateful. I am attaching a very rough sketch of the Sept. 2nd attack. The Germans did not use very much gas that day in our sector. I do not think they used the bayonet much either, though I was not in a position to know. I kept no copy of the notes that I sent you and do not know what details concerning Sept 2nd. I gave to you. My medical detail and I worked along the crest attending to the wounded when the battalion was held up short of its objective. The rifle, machine gun and artillery fire was intense. We got to the wounded by crawling or running in a stooping position and when the fire became too hot flattened out on the ground like limpets on a rock. My Sergeant, Harry Munnell received the D.C.M. and my Corporal, George Adnitt received the M.S.M. for work done that day. I cannot speak too highly of their gallantry and devotion to duty. Concerning Capt. Dunlop (who by the way, is to be distinguished from Capt. Dunlap the M.O. of the 102nd Battalion previously mentioned): He was first hit in the abdomen by a rifle bullet, as he led his company over the crest. He had advanced in the face of a [wither]ing fire, swinging his walk- ing stick nonchalantly. There wasn't much chance for conversation as I dressed him but he did ask if we were having many casualties. Twenty or thirty minutes later when I was near him again he told me that he had been hit in the thigh as he lay there. We put him in a shell hole. His first wound being in the abdomen it was advisable to get him back to the C.C.S. for opera- tion as soon as possible, so Sergeant Munnell and I stopped three or four German prisoners to press them into service as stretcher bearers. An enemy field gun about a mile away, ahead and to our right, began firing at us and the first or second shell landed among us, or so it seemed to me, I was knocked into the shell hole with one of the Germans on top of me; Munnell was knocked to the ground, a wounded man who was lying near had his ear nearly taken off and the other two Germans, wounded and shrieking, ran toward our lines. As I struggled out from under the German, he was groaning and crying, and I spoke to him sharply to get him to remove his weight from me. Dunlop said "He's badly hit Doc. Look at his face." I looked, and the face was gray. At the same time I saw a wound in his thigh with the blood spurting from a severed femoral. As I put a tourniquet above the wound he moved a little and I saw that the whole side of his chest was torn out. He expired in less than a minute. Meanwhile the field gun continued to fire at us, about every 10 or 15 seconds, I should say, landing its shells usually within 15 or 30 yards. As the four of us, Munnell, Dunlop, another wounded man and myself lay in the shell hole the din was terrific, with machine gun and rifle fire ahead, our low flying planes swooping to within 50 feet of the ground and firing at the enemy and shell explosions all about. Someone remarked that it was no place to sit and read the paper and another observed that there would be an awful mess if Fritz ever got a direct hit on our shell hole. In a short time the enemy fell back and the fire abated, and we were able to get Dunlop and the other casualties scattered along the crest, back a couple of hundred yards or so, to a trench in which we were collecting our wounded. You ask regarding the circumstances under which aid was rendered to the Sergeant mentioned in the V.C. citation: He was Sergeant McCullogh of the bat- talion scouts. As I recall it, at the time mentioned I was lying on the ground near our colonel, who was of course directing the attack, the adjutant, McCullogh and several others. The firing just ahead had subsided to desultory machine gun and rifle fire and McCullogh was dispatched by the Colonel, to find out I believe, what progress was being made by the right flank. Things were quieter and it seemed that the enemy was falling back. He stooped and ran forward and to the right about 200 feet, when there was a single shot fol- lowed by a burst of machine gun fire, and he fell. The enemy was, I estimate 100 to 300 yards ahead in the sunken road. I ran to him and dressed his wound, which was a dangerous one through the pelvis. I do not recall our con- versation and do not remember if he was placed in a shell hole. With slight undulations in the terrain one was sometime fairly well [protected] if one lay very flat on the ground. I lay beside him for 5 or 10 minutes, then crawled away and went about my other duties. We got him back a short time later. I am attaching an extract from "a History of the 75th Battalion", which describes briefly the battalion movements from Sept. 2 till the Armistice. As there stated, I was on leave during the action of September 27th to October 4th when our casualties were terrific. I did not want to go on leave at this time as I was endeavoring to get my leave postponed until I could get off at the same time as my brother, who was a lieutenant in the infantry of the American Rainbow Division. It was just as well, probably, that my leave came through when it did. In compiling these notes I have dwelt rather lightly upon my experiences from a purely medical standpoint. You have a copy of an address which I delivered dealing to some extent with this phase of my service. Like most regimental medical officers I was at great pains in endeavoring to be just to the men in assigning them duty or in sending [them] into the line if they professed to be sick or disabled. I was never wounded. On Sept 2 1918 I was knocked to my knees when a machine gun, or rifle bullet, deeply scored my steel helmet. In November 1917 as we were going up to Passchendaele a fragment of shell from a high velocity gun knocked me down as we were marching past the Cloth Hall in Ypres and the back of my rain coat and tunic were torn out, but I sustained no injury other than a severe contusion. You ask concerning my motives for joining the Canadian army: They were rather mixed. In the first place, I was in great sympathy with the Allied cause, secondly I am chiefly of English descent: my great grandfather served under Lord Nelson and lost an eye in the battle of Trafalgar and my paternal grandfather came to the U.S. from England in the 1840's and was Captain and adjutant on a New York regiment during the Civil War. The third factor was the desire for surgical experience and adventure which I felt war service would afford. Please do not quote me in your narrative. I feel sure that I can rely upon you to give no highly colored version of events I have related. Concerning my reference to the Encyclopedia Brittanica which you state that you were unable to trace: The reference is to pages 952 to 959 in Volume III of "The Three New Supplementary Volumes, Constituting with the Volumes of the Latest Standard Edition the Thirteenth Edition". Copyright 1926. You will find in those pages a very accurate and detailed account of the actions of Aug 8th and Sept. 2 1918. There are also two very good maps.
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World War I "Tomorrow we shall march on Paris!" Thus we expressed ourselves to the commander of the Third Battalion of the French line Infantry Regiment No. 2, which, driven to the Marne by our briskly attacking grenadiers, was forced to surrender, 800 men strong, on the evening of May 30th.
Note: by Kurt Hesse, fighting grenadier regiment No. 5, 36th Infantry Division  8794 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I Hut 11, Frensham Military Hosp., Nr. Farnham, Surrey, England September 15, 1916 Dear Lallie:- You will see by the above address that I am back again in England and in hospital. But am thankful to say I have no open wounds. Just a severely sprained back and my nerves are badly shaken up. I was buried in the trenches, and you may be sure I thought my last moment had come. My chum next to me was killed - instantly killed. Something seemed to tell me the day before that I was going to get it. I have been in the hospital two weeks now, counting the time I was in the Australian Hospital before I came to England. Yesterday was the first time I was out of bed for an hour or two. I am to shaky to walk yet, but am getting along nicely. On Wednesday who should visit me but Johnnie. I was so pleased to see him. He is near us at Whitley. We are 31 miles past London-rather a long way from home. I told dear Ettie not to come so far, as I may soon be moved to a Canadian hospital. The doctor in France also saw my toe, and he said I should not have been passed. One overlaps the other, the same as Johnnie got his discharge for. The doctor there was going to operate on them, but they won't allow him to. So I do not think I will have to go back to France. We were in the same place as Harold got his arm off. It was awful. Perhaps you read the report in the paper-the bombardment of Sunday the 3rd. I thank God he spared me to dear Ettie. This morning I had a letter from Harold, also one from Johnnie. Harold writes very good indeed with his left hand, and he is getting along fine, waiting for his new arm. Now Lallie, I hope you are quite well, and I think you had better come back to England and be with us all here. You know there is always a home waiting here for you with dear Ettie and I. Well, I have no news. When you write to me send it to Ettie and she will forward it on to me, unless I am home by then. Remember me to Mrs. Booty, also, Mrs. Northgraves when you see them. Take every care of your dear self. Heaps of love. God bless you. Your Loving Brother Fred
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World War I 6th May, 1916, signed the enlistment papers after having been previously rejected in 1915. 20th June, left Byron Bay by train to Lismore for the medical examination. This time, Dr Bignell passed me, without even examining me, because he could see that I was eager to enlist and men were badly needed.
Note: by Private Verdi George Schwinghammer  18523 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I September, 18, 1916 Dear Mother:- I suppose you have received my card by now saying I was wounded, I just got a piece of shrapnel in the chest, am doing fine. Expect to be out of the Hospital soon. We were all in the reserve trench when a shell burst and hit ten of us. There was only one badly hurt and he will be in the Hospital for a couple of months. I will send the piece that hit me home so as you can see it. Well Mother, this is all for now so will close. With love to all I remain Your Loving son, Bill
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World War I Somewhere in France, July 23, 1918
Dear Father and Mother:
I have just finished sewing on my first service stripe, the meaning of which, as you probably know, is six months in foreign service. That number "23" still clings to the Twenty-third Engineers, and is a regular epoch marker.
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World War I Our cavalry brigade arrived in Peronne in November 1917, after a long trek up from billets. We had had a fairly easy time during the summer of that year. For a few months we had been dismounted and had been up at Vimy Ridge doing all sorts of work: digging reserve trenches, reinforcing communication trenches and digging new ones - in fact, doing real navvy work, which, on the whole, was enjoyable, as far as anything could be enjoyable in France during the War. The weather was good, rations were plentiful, though the water had a wicked taste.
Note: by Private Chris Knight, 6th Dragoon Guards, Carabineers  12533 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I In the early hours of the morning of March 22nd, 1918, our own front-line troops retired through us. At the time we were occupying a shallow trench forming the support line before Marcoing, in the Cambrai salient, and a little later we also withdrew. Our first halt was on the slope of a hill. We could not see the attackers, but their artillery plastered the hillside with shrapnel, and we were not sorry to get orders to move again.
Note: by Private R. G. Bultitude, 1st Battalion Artists Rifles   7578 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I

December 25, 1917: In this book I shall try to tell the important things which happen while I am in the U. S. Army today is Christmas I have had good time have received lots of presents mostly eatables saw a good wild west show would have liked to have been at home today well I suppose that is all except one thing if anything should happen to me please mail this book to mrs Ola Cruzan 1120 Tenny Ave Kansas City Kansas or to Miss Faye M Butler 54 East 32nd St Kansas City Missouri United States of America

Edgar

Note: by Bugler Benjamin Edgar Cruzan, Battery F, 341st Field Artillery, 89th Division, 3rd Army AEF  11331 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I In April 1918 I volunteered to go to France in response to the urgent call for more surgeons. For twenty years I had been in general practice in a suburb, and did a fair amount of surgery among patients and at the local hospitals. I had also had some war experience as one of the surgeons at the British Red Cross Hospital, Netley, in the first six months of the War, but I had no experience of cases fresh from the battlefield, and the surgical technique which had recently been adopted in dealing with them.
Note: by Captain John A. Hayward  13236 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I Friday, December 14, 1917
Grand Hotel, Paris, France
Got up at 9 a.m. Went to see if my kodak pictures were finished. They were not. Tried to find the Spad factory until late in afternoon. Did not find it. Every place I was told it was turned out to be the wrong place. Will try again some other day. I have been bitterly disappointed so many times at the Embassy that I dreaded to go there and ask for mail.
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World War I It was Thursday evening, April 22nd, 1915. In a meadow off the Poperinghe-Ypres road, the men of the Queen Victoria Rifles were taking their ease. We had just fought our first big action in the fight for Hill 60. We had had a gruelling time, and had left many of our comrades on its slopes. We survivors were utterly spent and weary; but we felt in good heart, for only an hour ago we had been personally congratulated by Sir John French, also the Army Commander, General Smith-Dorrien.
Note: by Anthony R. Hossack, Queen Victoria Rifles  7335 Reads  Printer-friendly page

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