Sunday, 19 October 2014

October 1914 - The Portent

The Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs “Roll of Honour”

The SMRC “Roll of Honour” will contain the names of all members of clubs affiliated to the Society who, at this time of national emergency, have patriotically responded to their country’s call and have joined or rejoined some branch of His Majesty’s forces. Octobers Roll of Honour includes an entry for Crawley. The names listed are: Cook, A.E., Goring, A., Winterton, Earl., Caffyn, L.J., White, E.W., Garrott, H., Wilson, G.S., Stanford, S. F., Drager, D. G.

Of those nine men, two of them, Garrott and Goring, would not come home.

Meanwhile the local newspaper columns carry the news of:

TWO SONS AT THE FRONT – Mrs Constable, of East Park, has two of her sons at the war, namely Bert and Charlie, the former in the RAMC and the latter in the Royal Engineers. Both had recently written home, and are, happily, quite well, Charlie, in the course of an interesting epistle, says: “I have been in charge of a pontoon bridge over the river today, so I have had leisure. I have been washing clothes, boiling them in a biscuit tin, and got them fairly clean.” Bert is on an ambulance train, and he says: “In the earlier part of the war I had shells burst within 20 or 30 odd yards and then escaped without a scratch. Once my chum and I had a chap on the stretcher struck by a piece of shell while we were carrying him; that is near enough if you like.”

There are two subsequent letters from Bert in which he reports:

“We have just come from where the big fight is going on, and we saw a German airship being shelled, but they didn’t hit it, worse luck. The Germans are still holding their position, but by the way our boys are going on something will have to shift soon. The noise of the big guns is deafening, and they keep it up all day without a break.”

Writing on the 9th inst. Bert says:

“Just a hurried line to let you know I am well, and that I have been promoted to Lance Corporal. I thought you would be pleased to hear it. We have made a move at last, and we are very busy. I find I have plenty to do now, especially when we are loaded. I have to be responsible for 3 carriages; that means about 50 or 60 patients. I have to see that they are all attended to and get their food, and kept clean, and lots of other little things, but still it makes the time pass much quicker, especially with a few shells to liven things up as well.”

Also recorded this month is the news of the districts first fatality:-

AN IFIELD MANS DEATH AT THE WAR.- With much regret we record the death of Mr Francis Franks, third son of Mrs Franks and the late Mr William Franks, of Ifield village. He was a Lance Corporal in the Durham Light Infantry, and was seriously wounded in a recent engagement. He received the best possible treatment in a hospital in Paris, but succumbed to gangrene on Thursday October 8th and his funeral took place on the following day with military honours. The deceased soldier was 24 years of age. In a communication with his mother the Matron at the Paris Hospital refers to the brave way he fought for his country and to the brave manner in which he bore his suffering. This is the family’s great consolation. He was buried in the City of Paris Cemetery, Bagneux.

Today October 19th marks the centenary of the first day of the huge battle that would come to be known in history as First Ypres, a conflict that would see the virtual destruction of the British Army.

We can only imagine how much  more demanding Bert Constable’s work would become over the next shocking four weeks.

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