Spalding soldier’s capture and rescue in 1915

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Among the dreadful lists of casualties of war was a stirring tale of adventure by one Spalding soldier in 1915.

It involved Pte J Rate, who lived to tell the tale of his capture by the Germans and subsequent rescue by his own comrades.

Pte Rate, of Spalding Common, was attached to the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment but was in a military hospital in London with a fever when he wrote to the Free Press. The chaplain there was Rev W Disney, former curate of Spalding.

Pte Rate explained he was in the role of messenger between his officer-in-charge and the Queen’s regiment about 20 or 30 yards away.

His platoon had started to “dig themselves in and make head cover” in a trench when Pte Rate decided he would take a look around.

He writes: “All of a sudden came a rush of the enemy, carrying their rifles against their right hips, but not firing a shot. They kept very quiet and I started to fire at them and stuck to my ground till it was too late. When getting out of the ditch to retire they got hold of me and threw my rifle away. I knew it was no use trying to get away... so I kept quiet and put my hands up and they took me to be a Frenchman for it was very dark.”

He received a hiding and a blackened eye before being forced to advance with his captors, at one point coming under fire from “our people”.

They went to a farmhouse where Pte Rate’s kit bag was searched – he was most upset that they took his Woodbines from his sister.

With day-break came the sound of English voices and a crashing noise.

Pte Rate said: “We kept very quiet in the cellar while our men searched the rooms upstairs and captured between 70 and 80 prisoners.”

When the cellar door was opened the first thing he did was to “shake hands with the first Englishman I saw”.