Account of Somme action in letter to Spalding

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A first-hand account of action in the final stages of the Battle of the Somme was recorded in this newspaper 100 years ago.

A letter written on November 20, 1916 – two days after the close of the battle – was sent to Capt Atkin of Spalding from his son-in-law, Pte Arthur Lambert.

In it he gives a vivid description of “a gallant charge on the Somme” and of how he helped to capture 40 German prisoners.

Pte Lambert, who had worked as a linotype operator before joining up, said he had experienced “some very narrow shaves and also some very thrilling experiences” and had thought his end had come.

His regiment had taken up position on Sunday night, their movements shielded by foggy weather, and lay in shell holes awaiting the order to advance.

He said: “You can imagine the suspense of such a waiting. We were under fire all the time, but had no casualties – most miraculous.”

The order finally came to advance, covered by artillery fire.

He said: “What an awful din it was, for hundreds of shells were bursting just in front of us, and the noise was punctuated by the whizz of machine gun bullets.”

The first German trench they came to had no occupants and the men started consolidating their position in case of counter-attacks.

Pte Lambert continued: “I was one of five who captured about 40 Germans, including an officer. They had sought refuge in a dug-out and we had to bomb them out, six of them being wounded as a result. I can assure you they were quite willing to surrender. I have two souvenirs as a result of the attack.

“The only scratch I got was from a piece of shrapnel which cut through my putties and trousers and took the skin off my legs. I think I was very lucky.”