208 Machine Gun Company: Photographs from Henry Williamson's archive
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.
Identified on the reverse by HW as McLane and McConnel
(2nd Lieut. A. P. McClane and 2nd Lieut. McConnel, or McConnell)
|Second Lieutenant William F. Horsley|
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.'
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.'
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):
|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':