WEEKEND WEB: From the hell of Passchendaele

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We look back to the Lincs Free Press 100 years ago, during the First World War.

A former member of the Free Press staff was a soldier on the Western Front. He wrote a letter to his former colleagues, received in 1917, about his experience in the Battle of Passchendaele . (Continued from last week...)

‘The view was toward the enemy lines. Shells were bursting in all directions, but I was told this was a quiet day! I wondered what a lively one would be like. Debris lay all around and there was one sight I shall never forget.

‘In a shell hole, from which the water had drained, lay two forms locked together. It was a British Tommy and a Hun. Some time before there had been a bayonet charge. The Tommy had been successful with his bayonet, which was right through the enemy, who, in a last convulsive effort, had caught the man in khaki by the throat. At that moment, a shell had come and with it, peace to both.

‘As the time for the last effort approached, the gunfire gradually intensified and at last I was privileged to hear and see the famous drum-fire and barrage.

‘Our guns were seemingly gathering up strength for the fresh onslaught, then, as if one firing lever was pulled, the whole line burst out into an awful hell of noise and smoke.

‘Beside and around me, hundreds of tongues of flame were darting and quivering sprouting from land which moments before seemed barren. The acrid smell of cordite drifted about, then came the solemn boom-boom-boom of the heavier guns way back.

‘And so the barrage moved forward, first one battery then another. How thankful we were that our work had been done, though for hours we never knew the exact result.

‘Such was the perfection of organisation that night, when our task was finished, another took our place.’

Spaldonian has served with honour in France

Col Bertram J Walker, of the Royal SussexPioneers, a director of Messrs Soames & Co Ltd, is well known in the Spalding district.

He joined as a captain in 1914 and made exceptional progress. He went to France in 1915 and has twice been wounded. He was appointed Colonel and put in charge of his regiment in April 1917.