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Memories of 8 Glosters 1918

by J.E.L. Baynes (aged 86) 1985

"I joined up in the Civil Service Rifles at Somerset House, London, as I was born in North London. We were sent to France in due course on April 13th 1918 and stationed at Etaples. We were then split up to battalions who had been badly depleted and some of us went to the Warwicks and some to the Glosters. When the Sgt issued me 2 badges, I asked him what the little one was for. I shall always remember the look he gave me and in no uncertain
terms he let me have it. Well, after all, I was only 18 and came straight from an office and my military knowledge was practically nil. I soon learnt to be proud of that little Back Badge. We were the 8th Battalion 19th Division (Butterfly), which you see on my uniform in my photo. I was in a Lewis gun section and I clearly remember the chap that actually carried the gun and fired it, he picked up the gun to his shoulder and pulled the trigger to a Jerry plane that came over the trench low. Well, of course, the recoil on these guns firing rapid was tremendous. Back he went flat on his back with the gun on top of him. He was lucky he didn't break his shoulder, but he had bad bruising and a thorough ticking off from his officer and sergeant. After several battles on different fronts we eventually finished up down south on the La Basse Canal area. When Jerry pushed us back within 75 miles of Paris, I got a small dose of gas and reported with others to the first dressing station. The doctor said we would have to return to the battalion as we were so short of men.... Many acts of bravery were performed in the war, but one I recall took place in my trench. No man's land was very narrow between us and when dawn came a man was laying between us moaning badly and wounded. Our Corporal was an old soldier and tough and when he spoke three words two of them were cuss words. Well, he climbed out of the trench and walked upright out to this wounded man. We were waiting for the shot to drop him but the enemy could see what he was doing and not a shot was fired. He bent down and got the chap on his shoulder and walked back to the trench. The poor fellow was dead when he got back. I am sorry to say that the corporal did not get a medal or mention.....

Well, we kept on advancing first in front and then a battalion went through and we kept overlapping, and on Armastice Day we were front line and halted and then waves of troops went through us and by afternoon we were Army Corps reseve. Mons, I understand, was in front of us but after a while we started to return. Armistice Day was one of the most saddest because the day before the battalion in front of us got caught in machine-gun fire from a church belfry. Jerry left these nests to delay our pushing forward. About 20 men lay much as they had fallen, including one officer. I bent down to take possession of his effects to hand in and in his wallet was a photo of his wife and children. I don't mind admitting that I cried, to think they had died on the last but one day."