Sunday, 22 March 2015

Charlie's Letter Home from the Front

Prvt. Charlie Dumsday, of Crawley, sends us a letter from the Front, dated 12th inst. After referring to his passage over, Prvt. Dumsday says: “We marched to a rest camp in Rouen, which we left in the following morning, for the station, and where we entrained and travelled, via Amines, to Valenciennes. We then marched through Baray to Mons, where we found the British troops in action. Our ambulance and bearers left us to collect the wounded, the remainder of us having to retire. We found the dressing station just cooking dinner. We were expecting a good meal, when, just as it was served up, the order came for us to retire, as the Germans were upon us, so we were done out of our dinner. You may be sure there were very nasty remarks made about the Germans for that.

We retired again through Baray and saw a German Taube brought down, after a good deal of maxim and rifle fire at it. We still had to retire, marching day and night. We wondered why we were doing so at all, but the infantry could tell a tale, as they lost heavily, according to the reports we heard; but after the stragglers had been collected the losses were not so heavy as had first been the story. We halted for the night, but at dawn the next morning the Germans were on us again and we had to march off pretty quickly. Heavy firing was going on behind us. We saw a fight in the air that day, when one of our aviators brought down a Taube. The German Taube machine has curved back wings and looked exactly like a hawk after a swallow, but never really got above it. We heard a shot and the Taube staggered and glided down, when the wounded aviator was captured. It was a wonderful sight and looked like to great birds.

We marched on all day and about 4pm heard heavy firing and saw shrapnel. We thought it was a small cavalry action, but it soon developed into something worse, for the cavalry began to come in. We were very near the end of the column which had just passed through. We rattled along and afterwards had a meal and slept the night on the pavement. It was only an hours sleep, but the pavement was hard – like a feather bed, I don’t think.

Next morning we were told the Germans were on us again. Their high explosive shells make a fearful noise, one cannot imagine what it is like, but their bark is worse than their bite, I think. I am quite well and all the boys with me. I am hoping to see some Crawley boys before long. We have a few prisoners at times and they say ‘why don’t you give up? You know you are beat.’ That is what they think, but I don’t. We’ve got a few men this side yet and some more coming up. I am sorry I can’t say no more about the war; I don’t dare. The north of France is very cold yet. Well, I want to thank the ladies of Crawley for their parcel. It was indeed very nice of you. We all had a taste – the best cake out here yet from Crawley. So I must say goodbye to all at Crawley for this time. Hope to be home soon.”

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