What Royston Did …

Accounts of Royston people from the Great War

Alex Everett

image alex everett

Lance Corporal, 8th Battalion, Leicester Regiment

“On Thursday May 2nd 1917, the 8th and 9th Battalions were ordered to attack the lines about 4 o’clock in the morning. The Germans retreated from their first line to their supports. We lost the biggest part of our men and were then held up and surrounded. We held on for about 6 hours and at the finish there were only 92 prisoners taken and about 5 or 6 got back. That was all that remained of the two battalions. Fritz bombed us clean out.

“All the prisoners were searched and the first things they took were our first aid field dressings and left us nothing. The Germans had only paper bandages so they were glad to get ours. They refused to give our wounded any assistance or even a drink. We had to carry our wounded and were marched up to a village which we reached in about 3 hours. I do not remember the name of the village. We were put in a church for about 3 hours and then they marched us on to Donai. The wounded were given no attention and we had nothing to eat until Saturday, only what the French civilians gave us.

“We were afterwards taken to Fort Lille where we remained for about 8 days. There we got a 3lb loaf of black bread between 11 of us and a little so called soup which we had to eat from our steel helmets. From there we were taken to Epinoy and put in huts. We lay on the floor with no blankets. We were put to work on a railway dump from 5.30 am to 3 pm. 

“On 11th June we were marched to Bouchain about 15 kilometres from Cambrai. There we were pretty badly off for food. We have eaten cats and dogs, stinging nettles, potato peelings and so on but that is nothing. I don’t want to talk about it. We were very badly off for clothes and had no boots.

“We were put to work on an ammunition dump and were bombed by English aeroplanes and Lance Corporal Brown, a Newfoundlander, was killed. We got no letters or parcels from home as during all this time our address was given as Friedricksfield but we were never there.

“On 2nd November we were sent to Schniedemuhl in German Poland. We were there only about 5 days with one loaf between 7 of us and a little soup. We had only wooden shoes and were set to cut down trees in 2 to 3 feet of snow. We slept on a small wooden hut in our clothes and we had no blankets; we did have a bit of a fire or we should have been dead. We were each served out with one 3lb loaf a week and a few boiled potatoes.

“Early in March we returned to Schiedemuhl and were then sent to Tremeesen about 18 kilometres from the Russian border were we were employed by a German Polish farmer and there we got on well for food. We had the best they were able to give us. Our first parcels from home did not arrive until February.

“As soon as we heard the Armistice was signed we left our horses and came away on our own. About 60 of our men died from influenza at Schiedemuhl. It need to cost us about 250 marks to properly bury our comrades. They would have been just thrown into a hole had we not done this for them. Where did we get the money? Once we got our rations of German bread and sold it to the Russians. We were then receiving our parcels regularly from from. Germany was fairly starved at any rate wherever I have been and the people were always wanting to buy the content of our parcels.

“We sailed from Danzig and reached Leith on Wednesday 18th December then we were sent to Rippon and came home on December 20th.”