Henry Williamson and the First World War

 

 

 

The Last One Hundred Days of the War

 

 

 

August 8, 2018 marked the centenary of the opening day of the Battle of Amiens, the first action of the 100-day offensive that brought an end the stalemate of trench warfare and ultimately led to the end of the Great War. It is a battle that is now almost forgotten, overshadowed by the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele, names now synonymous with the carnage of the Western Front.

 

In 1928, ten years after the beginning of this momentous battle, Henry Williamson was asked by the Daily Express to write a series of articles to mark 'the principal events of the last hundred days of the war'. Williamson's name had news appeal in 1928: Tarka the Otter has been published the year before to critical acclaim, and just two months previously, in June 1928, he had been awarded the Hawthornden Prize.

 

Nine articles were published, but there were also three that for some reason remained unpublished. They make remarkable reading, and are given an immediacy that is effective even now, for Williamson, unusually, wrote them in the style of reportage.

 

To mark the centenary, the Henry Williamson Society is making these all articles available on the anniversary of their date.The first (unpublished) article is dated August 8, 1918, and the corrected typescript is shown below.

 

The first published article, 'The Last 100 Days', headed August 11, 1918, was printed on August 11, 1928 and can be read here from August 11, 2018. 

 

Dates of the the complete articles are:

 

August 8, 1918: 'The Last Hundred Days of the War' (unpublished typescript)

 

August 11, 1918: 'The Last 100 Days' (Daily Express, August 11, 1928)

 

August 18, 1918: 'With the 4th Army' (Daily Express, August 18, 1928)

 

August 21, 1918: 'The Last Hundred Days' (unpublished manuscript)

 

August 23, 1918: 'Tanks in Action' (Daily Express, August 23, 1928)

 

August 27, 1918: 'Last Hundred Days' (unpublished manuscript)

 

September 1, 1918: 'So why fight on?' (Daily Express, September 1, 1928)

 

September 26, 1918: 'Breaking through . . .' (Daily Express, September 26, 1928)

 

September 29, 1918: 'We break through the Line' (Daily Express, September 29, 1928)

 

October 27, 1918: 'Towards the armistice' (Daily Express, October 27, 1928)

 

October 31, 1918: 'Sick of the war . . .'(Daily Express, October 31, 1928)

 

November 4, 1918: 'There is talk of peace . . .' (Daily Express, November 3, 1928)

 

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August 8, 1918:

 

 

100days August8a

 

100days August8b

 

 

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August 11, 1918:

 

 

100days August11

 

 

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August 18, 1918:

 

100days August18

 

 

This is the first (and only surviving) page of the draft manuscript for the above article (they were numbered by HW in sequence, so that this is the third written although the second to be published):

 

 

100days August18MS

 

 

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August 21, 1918:

 

This article remained unpublished, though, like the first, it is not known why. HW's handwriting not being the easiest to read, the manuscript below is followed by two transcripts: the first shows the crossings out, while the second is an easier-to-read revised text.

 

 

100days August21a

 

100days August21b

 

 

Transcript:

 

4th article

 

The Last Hundred Days

 

21 August, 1918.

 

Today the 3rd Army has planned to launch an attack to the north of the Ancre with the object of getting within striking distance of the main enemy defensive position which is to be assaulted in two days time.

 

From eight o’clock onwards until the previous night until 2 a.m. this morning, the troops infantry have been assembling on the tape-lines, the tanks waiting at their jumping-off points, the guns gunners working out the “lifts”of the barrage, the airplanes testing engines and machine guns ‒ for the attack on the enemy position along the twenty odd miles of the Albert‒Arras railway.

 

At 4.55 a.m. hours the sky above the chill white ground mist bubbled and roared with light, troops the infantry rose up & moved slowly forward at the arranged rate of 100 yards every th 3 minutes, and the tanks began to churn their way forward into the enemy barrage counter-barrage and hissing criss-cross fire of hundreds of machine guns. The mist hid everything within from sight outside three or four yards, for until nearly 11 hours (i.e. 11 a.m.).

 

The front line was taken so easily that it was realised the enemy reserves were being kept for strong counter-attacks behind a lightly-held outpost line. The field enemy guns were scanty, too: obviously they had been withdrawn.

 

Very suddenly, at 11 hours, the mist lifted thinned & vanished, revealing to our men the Arras‒Albert railway line. It proved to have been prepared as the enemy’s main defence, being commanded at point-blank range by the many field-guns; & all places that tanks could cross – where the line lay level, neither embanked

 

[MS p. 2]

 

nor laid in a cutting in the chalk – were not only carefully registered, but were blocked with by concrete and anti-tank stockades made of the well-known Hindenburg-line pattern ‒ a lengths of rail emb set close together & rising diagonally out of huge concrete blocks.

 

Immediately At once whirlwinds of fire & earth centred about the tanks, & within a few minutes thirty seven tanks were burst smashed & on fire in flames. Aeroplane But if the German gunners could at last see the tanks, the British ’planes could see the gunners, & dive at them with bomb & machine-gun fire.

 

The fight continued d lasted until the afternoon, when many of the tanks’ crews became unconscious and memory-losing in the great heat; which caused and in others the ammunition to swelled & jammed in the guns, sometimes exploding. Steering wheels were unbearably burned the hands, & were unholdable. owing to

 

By nightfall the line of the railway was gained all almost entirely, with several villages & 2000 prisoners; and preparations for the main attack of on 23rd were being sped across hastened all roads & tracks were thick with preparation men and mules & engines for the main assault in two days time.

 

 

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Revised transcript:

 

4th article

 

The Last Hundred Days

 

21 August, 1918.

 

From eight o’clock onwards the previous night until 2 a.m. this morning, the infantry have been assembling on the tape-lines, the tanks waiting at their jumping-off points, the gunners working out the “lifts”of the barrage, the airplanes testing engines and machine guns ‒ for the attack on the enemy position along the twenty odd miles of the Albert‒Arras railway.

 

At 4.55 hours the sky above the chill white ground mist bubbled and roared with light, the infantry rose up & moved slowly forward at the arranged rate of 100 yards every 3 minutes, and the tanks began to churn their way forward into the enemy counter-barrage and hissing criss-cross fire of hundreds of machine guns. The mist hid everything from sight outside three or four yards, until nearly 11 hours (i.e. 11 a.m.).

 

The front line was taken so easily that it was realised the enemy reserves were being kept for strong counter-attacks behind a lightly-held outpost line. The enemy guns were scanty, too: obviously they had been withdrawn.

 

Very suddenly, at 11 hours, the mist thinned & vanished, revealing to our men the Arras‒Albert railway line. It proved to have been prepared as the enemy’s main defence, being commanded at point-blank range by many field-guns; & all places that tanks could cross – where the line lay level, neither embanked

 

[MS p. 2]

 

nor laid in a cutting in the chalk – were not only carefully registered, but were blocked by anti-tank stockades of the well-known Hindenburg-line pattern ‒ lengths of rail set close together & rising diagonally out of huge concrete blocks.

 

At once whirlwinds of fire & earth centred about the tanks, & within a few minutes thirty seven tanks were smashed & in flames. But if the German gunners could at last see the tanks, the British ’planes could see the gunners, & dive at them with bomb & machine-gun fire.

 

The fight lasted until the afternoon, when many of the tanks’ crews became unconscious and memory-losing in the great heat; and in others the ammunition swelled & jammed in the guns, sometimes exploding. Steering wheels burned the hands, & were unholdable.

 

By nightfall the line of the railway was gained almost entirely, with several villages & 2000 prisoners; and all roads & tracks were thick with men and mules & engines for the main assault in two days time.

 

 

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 August 23, 1918:

 

 

 100days August23

 

 

This is the first (and only surviving) page of the manuscript for the above article:

 

 

100days August23 MS

 

 

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August 27, 1918

 

This article too was unpublished, though, like the other two, it is not known why. Only the first page of the heavily revised manuscript survives. HW's handwriting not being the easiest to read, the page below is followed by two transcripts: the first shows the crossings out, while the second is an easier-to-read revised text.

 

 

100days August27 MS

 

 

Transcript:

 

6th article  

 

Last Hundred Days

 

27 August 1918

 

Tonight the Germans continue their withdrawal to fa Today the German Army Group shaken commanded by Von Boehm, shaken by cease[less] Allied attacks continue their withdrawal from their old battlefields of the Somme giving up, under the ceaseless British & French Allied attacks, ground which down south, on the old 1916 battlefields – land which, two years ago, was behind heaved up and raked over, again & again known as the “Blood Bath of the Somme” – [.] At night the eastern sky battlefields are strangely quiet at night The night is strangely quiet: only the occasional crack of a sniper’s intermittent pop of a sentry’s rifle, and the stuttering bursts of machine gun fire in the wilderness. There is no regular line of flares soaring up, to drift down slowly, spreading a pallid greenish wavering light as they fall; there are no gun flashes on below the horizon, no chromatic whining of & buzzing of heavy shells. Jerry is ‘pulling out’, leaving rearguards in the among the long grass & the rusty wire to fire move up and down and fire [crossed out word not decipherable, possibly ‘rifles’] from many points, to give the impression that his trenches are fully held.

 

The rose col ruddy glow eastern sky is lit a glow with ruddy in the direction of Bapaume and Peronne is lit up with a the ruddy glow which is seen to of burning dumps. Sometimes the glow a tawny stain spreads to the zenith, to sink as to hang seeming to hang and tremble in the sky before sinking down, & rising again. Twenty, thirty, forty seconds afterwards come the dull rumbles of shells exploding miles away. The enemy is going far, falling back on the general line Quéant – east of Bapaume Bois de Havrincourt (Old “Mossy Face Wood” of the old Flying Corps, owing to its resemblance, from the air, to the ace of spades) – east of Peronne – Hav …

 

 

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Revised transcript:

 

6th article 

 

Last Hundred Days

 

27 August 1918

 

Today the German Army Group commanded by Von Boehm, shaken by cease[less] Allied attacks continue their withdrawal down south, on the old 1916 battlefields – land which, two years ago, was known as the “Blood Bath of the Somme” – [.] The night is strangely quiet: only the intermittent pop of a sentry’s rifle, and stuttering bursts of machine gun fire in the wilderness. There is no regular line of flares soaring up, to drift down slowly, spreading a pallid greenish wavering light as they fall; there are no gun flashes below the horizon, no chromatic whining & buzzing of heavy shells. Jerry is ‘pulling out’, leaving rearguards among the long grass & the rusty wire to move up and down and fire [crossed out word not decipherable, possibly ‘rifles’] from many points, to give the impression that his trenches are fully held.

 

The eastern sky in the direction of Bapaume and Peronne is lit up with the ruddy glow of burning dumps. Sometimes a tawny stain spreads to the zenith, seeming to hang and tremble in the sky before sinking down, & rising again. Twenty, thirty, forty seconds afterwards come the dull rumbles of shells exploding miles away. The enemy is going far, falling back on the general line Quéant–Bois de Havrincourt (“Mossy Face Wood” of the old Flying Corps, owing to its resemblance, from the air, to the ace of spades) – east of Peronne – Hav …

 

 

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September 1, 1918

 

 

100Days September1

 

 

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September 26, 1918:

 

 

100days September26

 

 

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September 29, 1918:

 

 

100days September29

 

 

 

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October 27, 1918:

 

 

100days October27

 

 

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October 31, 1918:

 

 

100days October31

 

 

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November 4, 1918: 

 

 

100days November4

 

 

 

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'REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF A FIELD MARSHAL'

 

 

fm cont front    

The background

 

The essay as printed in Contemporary Review

 

Appendix:

 

Programme for the film preview of Oh! What a Lovely War

 

HW’s revised typescript review of Oh! What a Lovely War

 

 

Published in Contemporary Review, Vol. 218, No. 1265, June 1971, pp 303-313

Editor: Rosalind Wade (wife of Dr William Kean Seymour, who nominated HW for the Royal Society of Literature in 1954. The two men met through the West Country Writers Association.)

 

 

 

 

 

The background:

 

 

This important essay on Field Marshal Earl Douglas Haig had a somewhat convoluted history. (Indeed, it has its origins by default in the First World War.) A short introductory passage about FM Earl Haig will put things into context.

 

Douglas Haig was born in Edinburgh in June 1861 to parents whose business was Haig & Haig Whisky Distillers. Haig was educated at Clifton College and Brasenose (Oxford University). He went on to Sandhurst (1884), passing out at the head of the merit list. In 1885, aged 24, he was commissioned into the 7th Hussars, and in due course saw active service in the Sudan in 1898, and the South African War, 1899–1902, with a subsequent rapid advancement in rank. He was appointed Commander, I Corps, British Expeditionary Force, in August 1914, Commander of the First Army at the end of December 1914 and, with the demotion of Field Marshal Sir John French, made Commander-in-Chief on 19 December 1915. After the war ended he returned home and was Commander Home Forces until that was abolished in 1920.

 

In recognition of his war service for the nation, he was created Earl Haig of Bemersyde in October 1919, with the subsidiary title of Viscount Dawyck.

 

Greatly concerned about the plight of ex-soldiers, in June 1921 Haig became the founder of the British Legion and devoted the rest of his life to its service. While working in London he died from a heart attack on 29 January 1928, aged 66 (not, as HW states in his essay, 58).

 

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding Haig's leadership in the First World War – the Great War, as it was then called – with strongly held views both for and against. I think it has to be said that the man did the best he could in the circumstances in which he found himself – often with little support and even downright chicanery from those in Government. However, that does not concern this entry other than that, after some very early criticism of the 'Generals', HW came to understand the complexities of their work and was a strong champion of Haig himself.

 

Haig's son, George Alexander (1918–2009), only ten years old when his father died, became the second Earl of Bemersyde. He was an artist by profession, painting landscapes and nature. He served in the army in the Second World War and, after capture, was one of those imprisoned at Colditz. In the 1960s he and his family had a holiday cottage at the foot of the cliff at Pickwell, just below HW's Field at Ox's Cross, directly above Black Rock. The two men became friends, and there are several letters from Haig in HW's archive (now at Exeter University). As he always signed himself 'Dawyck' (the subsidiary title), I shall refer to him as Dawyck Haig to differentiate him from his father.

 

As a creative artist Dawyck appreciated HW for his creative literary work. In about 1993, he and I were in touch through a mutual friend, and he stated that he had read the Flax of Dream novels and Tarka while at Stowe (a public school), and that they had eased his homesickness for his beloved River Tweed (the Bemersyde estate is on the Tweed). This letter reinforces the thesis of HW as Romantic and the root of HW's creative imagination. Dawyck writes: ‘The mood of Romanticism was very much part of those early 1930 days and part of the ethos of 1914–18 under whose shadow I grew up.' Dawyck very much appreciated HW's championship of his father at a time when so many others criticised him. He also stated that he found HW a man of immense charm and kindness, and that he always enjoyed every moment he spent with him. He very kindly made copies of HW's letters to himself for the HW archive.

 

There is mention in HW's diary in the mid-1960s of having tea with the Haig family at Pickwell, and of inviting them back to Ox's Cross for tea. HW mentions Dawyck's young family, and various cousins who also holidayed there, as delightful. Dawyck's son Alexander, the present third Earl, was born in 1961, so was only six or seven years old at the time.

 

In September 1968 Dawyck Haig invited HW to Bemersyde to attend the unveiling of a memorial to his father: a 5.9 German howitzer presented originally to FM Earl Haig by the Army Council in recognition of the British capture of the Hindenburg Line in 1918. Now restored, the unveiling – on the 50th anniversary – was at the Infantry Depot at the Glencorse Barracks in Edinburgh.

 

 

fm 2 gun

 

 

HW travelled to Scotland by train on 28 September and was met by Dawyck and young Alexander, and was made very welcome at Bemersyde for the weekend. HW thoroughly enjoyed the visit, particularly being an 'old soldier'. On his return HW sent Dawyck a pair of sixteenth century fire-dogs from his hut as a thank-you. In his 1993 letter to me Dawyck said they were still used daily, even in mid-summer, in the drawing room fireplace: a lovely sharing of the warmth of 'ancient sunlight'.

 

At the end of March 1969 HW attended a preview of the film Oh! What a Lovely War as the press representative of the Daily Express for whom he had been asked to write a review for its general release the following week. Given a film programme when he arrived, HW scribbled notes of his reactions to the film on the back of it while watching (see Appendix for a reproduction of the programme, together with HW's notes).

 

 

fm prog1 small

 

 

Although there is no mention of it, the film was based on the stage musical of the same name produced by Joan Littlewood and her partner Gerry Raffles in March 1963 at Stratford East (London) Theatre Royal. That there is no public credit to that on the programme is rather shocking. The Littlewood version was dressed in costume of the Pierrot character from the Commedia D'el Arte style, but with war-time tin-hats, and had no actual killing (Joan Littlewood was against that); it was meant as a burlesque. Joan took her story line from The Long Long Trail by Charles Chilton and Alan Clark's The Donkeys. The actual title is from the First World War song Oh! It's a Lovely War by J. P. Long and Maurice Scott.

 

It is also noticeable that Len Deighton's name does not appear on the film credit list, although (as can be seen from HW's own contact with him – see below) it was his company that backed the film and he wrote the script – and was originally the producer. At some point there was evidently a major row and Deighton refused to have his name included on the credit list (though apparently he later regretted that!).

 

HW had had some contact with Len Deighton the previous year, and had told him that he could use information from his war volumes for background information and authentic scenes. HW noted Len Deighton's Brighton film office and personal phone numbers at the end of May 1968: at which time, when staying with us near Chichester (50 miles from Brighton), he went over to Brighton to watch the filming. Unfortunately he did not record any details about this in his diary, which tended to be about his emotional problems at this time. On his return, it was evident that his foray to the filming had not been very successful, and in the light of the above information about Deighton one can understand why. Apart from those tensions the film crew would have been very busy, and not really have had time to give HW any attention.

 

After the press preview the film was given major and favourable prominence in that weekend's Observer Colour Supplement (30 March 1969):

 

 

fm 4 observer

 

 

The cover is a still from a version of the final sequence, which ends in a helicopter shot which slowly pans out to reveal thousands of war graves. It is regarded as one of the most memorable moments of the film. According to Richard Attenborough, 16,000 white crosses had to be hammered into individually dug holes due to the hardness of the soil. In fact the shot of John Mills as Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig standing by the crosses was not used in the final cut; instead the sequence features, as a much more effective and poignant contrast, the women and girls of the archetypal Smith family in white summer dresses on the grass, their menfolk all dead in the war. It is interesting to note that at the press preview of the film it was the John Mills sequence that was shown, as the final paragraph from HW's essay, subsequently deleted at the proof stage, illustrates:

 

 

fm 5 finalpara

 

 

A few days after the preview HW (back in Devon) recorded in his diary:

 

Easter Sunday, 6 April 1969: I've been writing & recasting an article ordered by the Daily Express – my reactions to a film (which I saw in a preview at a Wardour St. theatre) Oh! What a Lovely War. It must go off today, it is wanted for next Tuesday's issue.

 

There would have been no post the following day being Easter Monday and a Bank Holiday so one can sense the panic in HW's diary entry:

 

Tuesday, 8 April 1969: My article on Oh! What a Lovely War – written 4 times, taken to Barnstaple station & sent off on 8.55 train to Paddington … I telephoned Alan Smith of Features to this effect. They want it for tomorrow's paper … At 3 pm I telephoned. It had arrived.

 

Later 'Features' telephoned that it was being withheld for Derek Marks [the Editor] to read. Later, at 7 pm, I telephoned & was told not being used.

 

The heavily revised typescript of HW’s review is in the Appendix. (Of course, a ‘clean’ copy would have been sent to the Express.)

 

Wednesday, 9 April 1969: Felt depressed that I'd failed to write a good essay on Lovely War. The D.E. today has a good & balanced review of the film – much superior to my own verbose extravaganza.

 

 

fm 6 printed review

 

 

The real problem was that HW's piece included too much about his own experience of the war, and was not really a review of the film itself. HW (as an old soldier who had taken part in the events portrayed, and as a supporter of FM Earl Haig) was somewhat incensed by the attitude portrayed, which came across in his review: so it may be that Derek Marks was worried about possible repercussions from advertisers against the newspaper. Certainly the lateness of the review’s arrival would also have been a contributory factor, as there would have been no time for the newspaper to ask for revisions, even if they had wanted them. HW asked for his typescript to be sent back: the accompanying letter was courteous – but formal rather than friendly.

 

 

fm 7 refusal

 

 

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There is then a gap of several months before the next item in this mini-saga. We move to the beginning of 1970. On 5 January HW received the following telegram, which he pasted into his appointments diary:

 

 

fm 8 telegram

 

 

This had evidently been discussed previously: an introduction to be written by HW for a proposed book of Earl Haig's post-war speeches to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the British Legion (in June 1971). HW noted:

 

. . . a telegram from Dawyck Haig – will I meet [etc] & discuss the book on F.M. Haig. I'm supposed to introduce with 10-14,000 words - “all facts” says D.

 

He sent back a 'telegraph' to Dawyck agreeing to meet him in London on 24 January.

 

Then on 9 January HW noted: ‘I am to meet Dawyck Haig at 4.40 pm Charing X for Tunbridge Wells on Sat. 24 January to stay with Lord Cornwallis at Ashurst Park, Tunbridge Wells.’

 

At this time HW also had the proposed film The Vanishing Hedgerows already on his mind, ongoing articles for the Daily Express (a series of nature articles that was later collected in Days of Wonder, ed. John Gregory, HWS, 1987; e-book 2013), and was emotionally embroiled with 'Anna' ‒ Annabel Cash (his letters to her are held in the HWS Archive at Exeter University): all of which was preventing him from writing his latest book The Scandaroon. He was also revising The Gold Falcon (on which I was helping) for a proposed new edition to be published by Macdonald.

 

On 21 January 1970 Annabel Cash wrote to say she was actually in love with a young man of her own age. This came of course as a huge blow. On 22 HW travelled to London, and handed over the revised Gold Falcon to Macdonald. The next day he met with David Cobham discussing the early stages of The Vanishing Hedgerows film.

 

On the morning of the 24 January (Saturday) he met up accidentally with his friend Maurice Renshaw and 'his lovely' daughter Pixie, and Mary Hewitt and 'two beautiful girls' (one a writer with secretarial skills – HW was instantly interested!). The group had lunch together then, in due course, as planned, HW met up with Dawyck Haig and a priest (who was to edit the speeches etc.), who button-holed him with 'words, words, words, about the Haig speeches booklet'.

 

Met at Wells by chauffeur in Rover motor-car, & driven to Ashurst Park. Met Col. – who was 1st A.D.C. to Haig (F.M.). Drinks & confab in a little room with Col. Ld. Cornwallis, descendant of various soldiers & sailors in history.

 

Dined at Hever Castle, met charming chap Gavin Astor, son of Ld. Astor & husband of Lady Astor (daughter of F.M. Earl Haig). Splendid party. I played the part of 'hero' (?) of 1914-18.

 

Gavin Astor excellent man. Also his son, ex-3 years with Lifeguards. Back to Ashurst at 10.35 pm. Bed & whisky. I wonder where I am going. But have taken my place with these delightful people. . . . Strange to see one's rags – shirt, vest, dressing gown, all laid out for one.

 

(The discerning reader will note just a hint of nervousness there: HW was feeling out of his depth and worried about the impression he was making – shades of Newmarket in 1915!)

 

Discussion continued the following day, but HW reveals he was confused and frustrated by the others telling him their own ideas about what he, HW, should write, noting that Lord Cornwallis

 

is very good: he as a post-war ADC to Haig, writes a brief fore-word. The original idea was a 3/- booklet of 150 pp to be printed in Scotland & paid for by Dawyck (£800).

 

How distributed, I asked. From this, a book to be published by Macdonald arose, my piece to be 12-15000 words.

 

Undoubtedly the 'Macdonald' idea stemmed from HW, who was in constant touch with his publishers (currently The Gale of the World, The Scandaroon and the projected revised Gold Falcon); indeed he had visited two days previously! But all the discussion depressed him and he went to bed at 10.30 pm:

 

appalled by work ahead – I felt I'd fail – the Haig thing & The Vanishing Hedgerows etc.

 

Before he left, he was given a copy of the planned outline for the book:

 

 

fm 9 officialnotes

 

fm 9a officialnotes

 

 

HW returned to London Monday morning and, having been to Macdonald with the new proposal, travelled on back to Devon later in the week. In the file is a copy of a letter written by Dawyck Haig to Macdonald, dated 6 February 1970, basically suggesting that they publish the proposed book on his father; however it is a rambling six pages long and becomes increasingly unclear. Nevertheless, it does set out the plan. This is the first page of his letter, a carbon copy of which Dawyck sent to HW:

 

 

fm 10 letter Dawyck

 

 

Haig then goes into detail about how he envisages the book: that he has already approached an Edinburgh printer and would wish them to be given the job with breakdown of their costs, £974. Further that he, together with Dr Sawyer, editor as above, has asked Mr Henry Williamson to write about 10,000 words, and that HW had suggested approaching Macdonald and has already made a preliminary approach which has been accepted. All of which totally was unnecessarily long-winded! He goes on to give various suggestions for variations on the content of the book, and how he could distribute it via the British Legion and other ex-service organisations. He explains that he wants all profits to go to ex-service organisations, and points out both HW and Dr Sawyer (the priest editor) will give their services for free; and that Lord Cornwallis (explaining his connection as ADC to Earl Haig etc. at length) has written 'a very suitable and charming Foreword'. Haig plans to include a photograph of his father – and after further polite phrases signs himself formally: ‘Haig (Earl Haig of Bemersyde)’. It is, unfortunately, not a letter that would impress a busy publisher.

 

The carbon copy letter was included in a letter from Dawyck Haig to HW dated 7 February 1970, thanking HW for his (no doubt 'thank-you') letter and stating:

 

It's good of you to waste your time & talent on me. I began a speech last week in H. of Lords (on pollution) “Henry W'son has described the birth of a river as “the faint cry of a River new-born” . . .

 

[And then continues:] I think my father Never let up after the War, as well he might after his war-time ordeal but continued to march on working continually on behalf of the survivors & the dependants of those who fell. That is the Main Point of the Book.

 

He then gives some salient points on his father's life (for HW's guidance in writing the proposed introduction):

 

. . . Childhood spent in Fife – youngest son of a large family – with a very close relationship with his mother ('The Heraldic Heiress of the ancient family of ―— [unreadable] & Dawyck').

 

This all continues for ten pages in rather scrawling hand that is difficult to read; he ends by writing round the edges of the page that his father was:

 

a man of principles which were correct after careful thinking out. He was a mixture between abstract thinking and man of action.

 

He was a warm kind human father, very much a simple countryman – loved cutting trees & making a garden.

 

HW noted in his diary on 10 February that he had received the letter but he is disturbed about having to write to 'toe the Dawyck line'. After this he goes to London for the writing of the Vanishing Hedgerows treatment – where he was given a

 

large foolscap envelope with heavy data re Pollution, Conservation etc for the Film Treatment of “The Vanished Hedgerows”.

 

I was appalled; Haig and Hedgerows. Frantic, fearful, morbid. I simply can’t work for such Officialese Data Govt Department Prose.

 

On 12 March he recorded: 'Soon I'll be at end of Hedgerow & free to begin the Haig portrait.'

 

But the following day, 13 March:

 

Quite a shock by post today. Dawyck Haig writes a long, dashed-off letter with some astounding news. He has, unknown to me, been in contact with Macgibbon of Macdonald & Co, & fixed up that I do not write the proposed appreciation of Haig, but it will be done by John Terraine, biographer of Haig; and I am OUT. . . . [John Terraine, 1921–2003), a well-known military historian] After the usual courtesies, he comes to the point:

 

"I am afraid you will be very cross with me when I say that I have decided to ask John Terraine to carry out this task. He has been involved in my father's work for many years & knows the whole thing from A to Z. He has the advantage of being somewhat younger & therefore of not having any emotional involvement in the 1st War & therefore is acceptable as a non-partisan on 1st war matters."

 

The explanation continues in like manner. HW notes that he returned the copies of FM Earl Haig's speeches and had included a copy of the First World War series with his Christmas Truce article in it – so Dawyck would see that he could be objective! (This article appeared in Purnell’s weekly magazine History of the First World War, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1970, and is collected in Indian Summer Notebook, ed. John Gregory, HWS 2001; e-book 2013.)

 

Then, on 8 June, HW received a short typed and formal letter from Dawyck:

 

As you were kind enough to help over the proposed book about my father's speeches . . .

 

and enclosing a copy of his letter to the Secretary of the British Legion, which reveals that basically Macdonald (on the advice of John Terraine) has said that the book would not serve the purpose for which it was intended, and so it is being abandoned; 'but hoping something can be salvaged'perhaps an appropriate newspaper article to mark the occasion in due course.

 

That idea must have stayed in HW's mind, and we now see an example of his loyalty and tenacity. Unfortunately there is a hiatus in information but, in effect, we find in January 1971 that HW has decided to rewrite his Oh! What a Lovely War essay and, incorporating his ideas formed for the aborted Haig introduction, transform it into an essay on Field Marshal Haig. The following 'Notes' possibly belong at this point:

 

 

fm 11 HW Haig notes

 

 

His appointments diary for 8 January 1971 records: 'Writing Oh What a lovely War for Contemporary Review'; and, on 11 January: 'Finished 4th rewriting of Oh War. It is good.' This is the first page:

 

 

fm 12 HW ts

 

 

Main diary, 11 January: . . .At the moment I'm revising my (unprinted) remarks on Oh, What a lovely War, which the Express decided not to publish when the film opened, to success, in London. I shall have over 4000 words I think & wonder if this will be too long for The Contemporary Review, now edited by Bill Kean Seymour's wife, Rosalind Wade, novelist. Title: – Reflections on the Brighton Rubbish Dump.

 

These are the first and last pages of the draft:

 

 

fm 13 rev ts

 

fm 13a rev ts

 

 

On the reverse of this last page HW has written a further note regarding Haig:

 

 

fm 13b rev ts

 

 

The first page of another revised and tidier version:

 

 

fm 13c tidier version

 

 

On 12 January he was still revising it as he read it to his friends the M'Kinnels 'in their wee house, before the fire, in Appledore.' The next day he posted it off to a new typist living near Shaftesbury (a struggling writer friend of his daughter Margaret, who lived in same village).

 

14 January: I decided today – I write this in the hut at Ox's Cross at dimmit light – 5.55 pm – by the embered fire – to give a better title

 

REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF A FIELD MARSHAL

 

 

fm 14 final version

 

 

The typescript is now 30 pages long.

 

On the 25 January HW travelled to stay with his daughter Margaret.

 

The TSS of 'Reflections on the death of a Field Marshal' was brought to the house by Mrs. Tom Eastwood. Magnificently typed!

 

At dinner with guests: 'I read my Reflections, & they liked it.’

 

HW continued on to London, and on 28 January handed over the typescript to Rosalind Wade:

 

in hall of Nat Lib Club [National Liberal Club] . . . I had intended to offer Reflections to a wider medium, Sunday Times or The Times, but had ½ promised to Rosalind Wade, & did so. . . .

 

(On the same page are: ‘Notes for Pigeon book, ‒ Vanishing Hedgerows, ‒ New Forest Child’: HW constantly moving on to the next project.)

 

However it is evident from the following letter, dated 19 February 1971, that he also offered the essay to the editor of the British Legion Journal. There is a copy of the January 1971 issue in the archive from which he would have got the necessary details.

 

 

fm 15 British Legion

 

 

But they turned it down:

 

 

fm 17 BL letter

 

 

The letter being addressed to HW at the National Liberal Club, he would not have received it when he wrote to Rosalind Wade as below. However, looking at the content and lay-out of the British Legion magazine, it is clear that HW's essay would not have been suitable: far too long and detailed. All the items in the magazine are 'officially' short and to the point, most reporting the various meetings of groups all around the country and news of old soldiers.

 

24 February 1971: Telephoned Rosalind Wade.

 

a) I have recast the Reflections on Death of F.M. & will send the revised copy as soon as possible: or take to London on Monday 1 March.

 

b) The British Legion Mag. will run article in July 1971 issue.

 

c) Please return the typescript of Reflections which you have.

 

d) I would like about 200 booklets printed out at my cost.

 

On 30 May 1971 HW was at Spode House on Cannock Chase at a meeting of the Aylesford Review group.

 

I read, at 5–5.30 pm, Reflections on the Death of a Field Marshal – to appear on 1 June in the Constituted Review [sic] . . . I don't recall whether or not I wrote in this journal that the British Legion bigwigs decided not to publish Reflections in the British Legion Magazine – apparently Dawyck Haig was for it but his oldest sister Alexandria dead against it.

 

(This reminds him of his own sister Kathy.)

 

In a letter from Rosalind Wade dated 30 May she states that their printer cannot undertake the printing of the proposed 200 offprint booklets of the essay, but offers alternative suggestions. HW noted on this: 'Replied 6 June 1971. Don't bother further.' One presumes he had decided not to proceed.

 

There is one last small detail to record which makes a very pleasant ending to this section. On 25 February 1972 HW visited Hartland Abbey, on the north coast of Devon, to visit the 'Parish Priest' about a reading he is to give during the Hartland Festival that August. At this point he plans to read the Francis Thompson essay on

 

Shelley, conjoined to my early experiences of reading F.T.'s poems in Flanders in 1917, which appeared in a limited £3/3/- booklet some years ago.

 

However at the actual event on 1 August 1972 HW, accompanied by his son Robert and Margot Renshaw ('Melissa' of the Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight), instead read ‘Reflections on the Death of a Field Marshal’:

 

It was a pleasant occasion: the parish priest (late Commander R.N.) Lockyer is a recent & valued friend of mine. The audience was about 70% young people: the attention was 'rivetted': and the applause sincere – I enjoyed reading the essay: the fact that I wrote it was negligible: it was the Context that mattered: & it was true. Haig was an apt & balanced Commander-in-chief - & the disparaging verdicts of big people like the late Basil Liddell-Hart & the merchant entertainment types like the director of “Oh What a Lovely War”, were likewise unfactual.

 

The event was reported in the North Devon Journal:

 

 

fm 17 NDJ cutting

 

 

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The essay:

 

 

fm cont cover

 

 

 

fm article1

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fm article10

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A reproduction of the corrected proof copy of the above essay was printed in HWSJ 34, September 1998.

 

 

*************************

 

 

 

Go to Appendix:

 

Programme for the film preview of Oh! What a Lovely War

 

HW’s revised typescript review of Oh! What a Lovely War

 

 

 

 

Back to 'A Life's Work'

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade

 

 

 

The Daniel brothers

 

London Rifle Brigade

 

 

 

lrb daniel bros
(Photograph courtesy of Tom Daniel)

 

 

This studio portrait would have taken in August 1914, shortly after enrolling. Left to right: Alfred Austen, Harold Henry and Herbert William.

 

The Daniel brothers were the sons of Herbert and Clara Matilda Daniel, of 21 Vanbrugh Hill, Blackheath. Their low enrolment numbers are due to the London Rifle Brigade's numbering system, which went from 1 (in 1859) to 9999 (Henry Williamson's enrolment number was 9689); and then started again from 1.

 

 

 

lrb daniel alfred austen     

Alfred Austen Daniel

 

Private, No. 35, H Company, London Rifle Brigade, 5th Battalion, City of London Regiment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour: A biographical record of all members of His Majesty's naval and military forces who have fallen in the war* gives this biography:

 

 

lrb daniel alfred austen2

 

 

Alfred Austen is buried in London Rifle Brigade Cemetery near Ploegsteert in Belgium (his grave is III A 3). Probate was granted on 15 May 1915, his effects being valued at £307 18s 3d. He is remembered on the war memorial at Haberdashers’ Aske’s school, New Cross. The photograph below of his grave was taken in 1915 by his brother (probably Herbert); it is more than likely that the two surviving brothers helped to make the cross and its inscription.

 

 

lrb daniel aa grave

 

 

 

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lrb daniel harold cropped     

Harold Henry Daniel

 

Private, No. 28, G Company, London Rifle Brigade, 5th Battalion, City of London Regiment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harold was born in 1896, the youngest of the three brothers. He went to school at Christ's Hospital in Horsham, unlike his two brothers, who both attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s. He enrolled in the LRB with his brothers on 6 August 1914 and placed in G Company, despite being underage. He served with the battalion until he was sent back to England in 1915, as it was discovered that he was too young. He thought that he had been ratted on by his brother Bert to keep him safe. Subsequently it has been discovered it was a policy decision to send all identified underage troops back until they were old enough to enlist. He was given a white feather in the Strand. He eventually joined 13 (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (with his brother Bert), and was wounded on the Somme.

 

After the war Harold worked with the Westminster Bank, and was Manager of their Wimbledon branch before taking early retirement to nurse his wife. Always a kind man, he was a very devout Christian who converted to Catholicism. He apparently was responsible for raising the funds for the building of St Anne's Catholic Church Hall in Banstead, and was friend and advisor to many, as also shown by the comments in the book signed by customers of his bank on his retirement. He never mentioned his experiences in the First World War, but often suffered from pain in his leg, the result of the injuries he had sustained during the Somme offensive in 1916. Harold died at Folkestone, Kent, in 1958.

 

 

*************************

 

 

lrb daniel herbert crop     

Herbert William Daniel

 

Private, No. 19, G Company, London Rifle Brigade, 5th Battalion, City of London Regiment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbert, the eldest of the three, was born on 7 March 1893. A bank clerk, he enrolled in the LRB with his brothers on 6 August 1914 and, like Harold, placed in G Company. He spent the first winter in the trenches as a corporal, and witnessed the Christmas Truce. He was in the line for the first German gas attacks of 1915. He was seriously wounded during this period and his younger brother Alfred Austen killed. Bert and his brother Harold were commissioned in 13 (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. In October 1917 he was wounded again, and awarded the Military Cross. The citation reads:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was responsible for getting up ammunition and supplies to the front line and carried out his duties under very heavy shell fire. When a dump was heavily shelled, and many casualties were caused, he was responsible by his coolness and example, for getting all the supplies forward to the troops in the line.

 

Place and dates: East of Ypres, 27 September to 7 October 1917.

 

(In 2015 the Daniel family visited Flanders for the 100th anniversary of Alfred Austen's death, and also visited the site of this action. The original orders for the brigade and battalion dictated that one officer and a number of men were to be detached to bring up ammunition and supplies to the battalion once they reached their first objectives. These orders also revealed the exact locations of the dump that was shelled and the battalion headquarters to which the supplies had to be taken. The family was therefore able to retrace the exact steps that Bert would have taken. He was more proud of this medal than the subsequent bar to his MC, so the citation seems to have been a bit of an understatement!)

 

Bert was later again wounded. In 1918, by then an acting captain, he was awarded a bar to his MC, the citation reading:

 

For conspicuous gallantry during the operations on October 8th, 1918, at Hurtebise Farm. The advance of his company was held up by heavy rifle and machine gun fire, the officers and N.C.O.s in the leading wave having been killed or wounded, and the front line somewhat shaken. He at once took over the leading wave, reorganised and led it forward to its final objective. Unaided by the artillery fire he advanced 800 yards and captured Hurtebise Farm with some hundred prisoners and ten machine guns. Throughout the operation he showed marked courage and able leadership.

 

(In 2015 Bert's grandson Tom visited Hurtebise Farm, and was able, following the original orders recovered from Imperial War Museum archives and a trench map of the area from that time, to walk the route of the attack; he was welcomed by the farmer, who showed him the German blockhouse that had held up the attack before it was overrun. He also told Tom that it had been visited a few years earlier by the descendants of another man in the attack, who turned out to be the Company Sergeant Major of the company that Bert was leading; in that same action CSM Edmonds, MM and Bar, was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal. A hundred years later their two families are now in contact . . .)

 

This photograph of Bert was taken in late 1918, so at about the time of this action:

 

 

lrb daniel bert small

 

 

Bert was then wounded a third time, and mentioned in Dispatches. By the time of the Armistice Bert was again with the 13th Battalion as a company commander, with the rank of Captain.

 

After demobilization Bert returned to work in the City, but in 1920 rejoined the Royal Fusiliers as a regular officer, joining the 1st Battalion, then in Killarney, Ireland (at the time of the Irish Troubles), and later going to India with the battalion advance party. Apart from one tour at the regimental depot at Hounslow in the late 1920s Bert stayed with the 1st Battalion in India until posted to the 2nd Battalion at Pembroke Dock in 1935. When that battalion went to France in 1939 he was second in command, until becoming seriously ill early in 1940 and being invalided home. A partial recovery led to his appointment as second in command of the 8th Battalion.

 

Unfortunately Bert again became ill and was employed in administrative posts for the remainder of the war. In 1945 and 1946 he ran a rehabilitation centre for officers near Edinburgh, and many young officers expressed their gratitude then for his understanding, advice and practical assistance. He retired from active service in 1947, but became heavily involved with the Home Guard between 1949 and 1952, when he commanded a home guard battalion of the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment. He became seriously ill again as a result of his wartime injuries, but made an almost complete recovery to live in full retirement thereafter.

 

At the time of his death in 1985 he was thought to be the last surviving Royal Fusiliers officer to hold the Mons Star, therefore being entitled to be called an 'Old Contemptible'. He married Moira and had three children:  Patricia, Constance (Blue) and John, who in his turn became a Fusilier. In due course John's son (and Bert's grandson), named after Austen, continued the family tradition and was also for a while a Rifleman, having been commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets.

 

 

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Pilgrimage to London Rifle Brigade positions in and around Ploegsteert Wood

 

February 2015; and Afterword

 

by

 

Tom Daniel

 

Alfred Austen died before he married or could have children. For the 100th anniversary of his untimely death a party of the children and grandchildren of his brothers and sisters returned to Ypres and Ploegsteert to commemorate him. The party included another generation of three Daniel brothers and their children. Research made it possible to visit the precise LRB positions of the Christmas Truce and the line of trench that Austen’s company held when he was shot and received his fatal wound. As they walked the route from the trenches, through the dressing station to the LRB cemetery, a good many family memories were shared – including that of Bert having been called to be with Austen as he lay wounded and dying.  

 

Whilst there will be exceptions, it was British Army policy for other ranks to join different regiments once they were commissioned in order to free them from the complications of leading men with whom they had recently shared the same rank. Austen’s brothers were sent to join the Royal Fusiliers. They appear a number of times in Guy Chapman’s excellent history A Passionate Prodigality (1933). Interestingly, Chapman starts a chapter with a quote from The Pilgrim’s Progress – coincidental or otherwise to HW’s The Patriot’s Progress.  For Christmas Day 1917 Harold (by now the Signals Officer, and nicknamed Dozy) must have been party to the fact that a listening set was being used in their line to hear the Germans talk of the Spring Offensive – what a different atmosphere from Christmas 1914. Towards the end of the war Chapman (by then Adjutant) writes that 'since March 1st [1918] we had lost over 40 officers and well over a thousand men'. By October he states that 'P.E. is gone, so are both the Daniels, Dozy and Danny, all wounded. We are now only a shredded rag.'  Bert (Danny) was patched up and back with the battalion when, after the Armistice, Chapman writes: 'an influenza epidemic fell upon us'. 

 

Bert, Austen and Harold were in the trenches in November 1914 and, despite being wounded several times between them, as well as gassed, the surviving brothers were still fighting on the Western Front at the end of 1918. What is amazing is that they were not only infantry, but infantry officers (with the low survival rates often quoted); apart from their short commissioning course, they had stayed fighting at the Front when jobs back at the depot or on the staff might have been open to them. Their descendants have often wondered whether they were fighting so long and hard for their fallen brother Austen . . .

 

On Sunday, 25 January, the family that Austen had never met gathered in the London Rifle Brigade Cemetery in Ploegsteert Wood; the London Rifle Brigade collect was read, a service held and a bugler sounded either side of a 3-minute silence over Austen Daniel’s grave, where he still lies amongst his LRB family and brothers in arms . . .

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning 

We will remember them.

 

*************************

 

 

(Our thanks to Tom Daniel, Herbert's grandson, for his invaluable help in compiling this page.)

 

 

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*Melville Amadeus Henry Douglas Heddle de La Caillemotte de Massue de Ruvignés, 9th Marquis of Ruvigny and 15th of Raineval (25 April 1868–6 October 1921) was a British genealogist and author, who was twice president of the Legitimist Jacobite League of Great Britain and Ireland. His Roll of Honour lists the biographies of over 26,000 casualties of the Great War. Casualties include men (both officers and other ranks) from the British Army, Navy, and Air Force. Seven thousand of the biographies include photographs. This Roll of Honour was originally compiled in 5 volumes; the amount of information available for each entry varies according to sources used. At the very least, the man’s regiment, and place and date of death are generally provided. However, if the family of a casualty provided further background and additional details, then this information is included in the biography as well, sometimes resulting in very detailed biographies. While the date range of the collection covers from the beginning of the war to well after its end in 1918, the majority of the entries are of casualties who died in the earlier years.

 

 

 

Back to Henry Williamson and the London Rifle Brigade

 

 

 

 

Back to 'Reflections on the Death of a Field Marshal' main page

 

 

 

Programme for the film preview of Oh! What a Lovely War

 

HW’s revised typescript review of Oh! What a Lovely War

 

 

 

 

Programme for the film preview of Oh! What a Lovely War:

 

 

HW was given this programme when he attended the press preview of the film; no doubt it would also have been distributed at the première a little later. The film went on general release on 10 April 1969. The programme consists of a landscape sheet divided into three panels, the end panels being folded inwards. The middle panel on the reverse therefore formed the back of the programme, and was left blank. It was on this that, while watching the film in the flickering gloom of the darkened auditorium, HW hastily scrawled some untidy notes. Understandably, this old soldier of the line was irritated by the film's historical inaccuracies, and this accordingly made it difficult for him to view its qualities and artistic merit impartially (as examples: 'Klaxon motor horns (1914) came in in 1924'; '1914 entanglements only 5 strands wire; here 1914 is a year ahead'; 'No gunfire Xmas Day, No snow').

 

 

fm prog1

 

fm prog2

 

fm prog3

 

fm prog4

 

fm prog5

 

fm prog6

 

 

 

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HW’s revised typescript review of Oh! What a Lovely War:

 

 

The Daily Express was sent a re-typed 'clean' copy, of course, but this heavily revised typescript draft may be indicative of how HW struggled with writing his review - note his rueful comment in red in the left margin: 'My first article ever rejected by the D. Express after ordering 1000 words'. HW's first article appeared in the Daily Express in January 1921, and the paper had been a staunch supporter of his work ever since.

 

 

fm hw rev1

 

fm hw rev2

 

fm hw rev3

 

fm hw rev4

 

fm hw rev5

 

 

 

This is a carbon copy of the first page of the re-typed 'clean' version (with still more amendments):

 

 

fm hw rev6 clean1

 

 

*************************

 

 

 

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Back to 'Henry Williamson and 208 Machine Gun Company, 1916‒1917'

 

Back to 'Henry Williamson and the First World War'

 

 

 

208 Machine Gun Company

 

Photographs from Henry Williamson's archive

 

 

 

One of HW's photograph albums in the Literary Archive contains several photographs of the officers and men of 208 Machine Gun Company, taken while in France.

 

 

LL 1917 McClare  McConnell

Identified on the reverse by HW as McLane and McConnel

(2nd Lieut. A. P. McClane and 2nd Lieut. McConnel, or McConnell)

 

 

LL 1917 2Lt Horseley
Second Lieutenant William F. Horsley

 

 

LL 1917 2Lt CF Wright

Second Lieutenant C. F. Wright

On the reverse HW has written 'Bright of No. 7. It was a true story.'

 

 

Regarding HW's caption above, in 1957 he wrote, as a note added into his 1917 Army Correspondence Book in red ink: '. . . Wright, a farmer and stout fellow, whose manner was a bit gauche . . . was a good officer. This was after a newspaper scandal, in which Wright's farmer brothers, in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, tarred and feathered one of their wive's lovers, at night, and left him to die, for all they cared, in a field. I met 2/Lt Wright again in Norfolk in 1937, and I must say, he was a grim, rather abrupt little man.'

 

 

LL 208MGC Beaumont Hamel March1917

HW on the left with Lieutenant Tremlett, DSO, with the wreckage of a British plane at Beaumont Hamel

in March 1917. Note the thigh waders worn by HW, indicative of the atrocious conditions.

On Wednesday, 23 May 1917, HW wrote in his diary:

'Poor old Tremlett killed last night. Awarded the D.S.O. same morning.'

 

 

LL 208MGC Gomiecourt April1917

On the reverse HW has written: 'British plane crashed Gomiecourt April 1917. I am on left.'

The plane is a B.E.2c, identifiable both by its serial number and distinctive rudder. The B.E.2c was

a two-seat reconnaissance or artillery-observation biplane, with a maximum speed of 72 mph

at 10,000 ft. Obsolescent as a front-line aeroplane by this date, it would have been relatively easy

prey for German fighters, which were so superior at this period of the war that April 1917 became

known as Bloody April, due to the number of British planes that were shot down.

 

 

 

Officers and men of 208 Machine Gun Company; the guns are Vickers .303 inch machine guns, with a rate of fire of between 450 and 600 bullets a minute (for further information see the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association website):

 

 

LL 208MGCa

 

 

LL 208MGC April1917
On the left and right are Second Lieutenants McClane and McConnel; middle figure unknown

 

 

 

The following four photographs are on a single page in HW's album, titled '208 M.G. Coy. May '17 at ERVILLERS':

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers1 April1917

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers2 April1917

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers3 April1917

 

 

LL 208MGC Ervillers4 April1917

 

 

 

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