Spalding soldier writes of storm killing men

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It was not just bullets that were killing our sons at the front a hundred years ago.

Private A B Crabtree, of Spalding, writing from the 15th Stationary Hospital where he was receiving treatment for a septic foot, spoke about the “great storm which a month ago passed over the Gallipoli Peninsula”

After being attended to at a field hospital, Pte Crabtree was stretchered to the Casualty Clearing Station.

He wrote: “It commenced raining on the way, and it turned out to be the beginning of a terrible storm which continued a day and a night.

“Then there was sleet, and afterwards it froze hard. You may have some idea of the terrible severity of the storm from the fact that the trenches were flooded, and I heard of some men being drowned.

“After the cruel frost, no end were frost-bitten, and many, I am afraid, died from the cold, fetching rations or crawling to the hospital.

“How fortunate I was to be out of it.”

Pte Crabtree reports that he lay on a stretcher for six days before being put on a boat headed for the 15th Stationary Hospital.

His letter gives us a glimpse of conditions at the hospital and a hint at its whereabouts, because the name of the place was censored. He says the tents were “fine ones, and all appears to be quite up to the mark, being so far away from civilisation. There is a canteen where things can be got for us occasionally, though they are pretty costly, and chocolate costs 2½d, a penny bar.”

From that hospital he was moved to another hospital, at the 24th Casualty Clearing Station – where Pte Crabtree reported that chocolate was not so dear.

From there, Pte Crabtree was discharged to a convalescent depot, and was expected to re-join his regiment.