An interview with a few of the men during their reunion visit to Amiens 1986
(with occasional prompts in italics)
At Abbeville Cemetery
Many of us can, sort of, hang around to see who was killed on that
particular day, you know. And I think you sort of dived into the woods, or any cover
you could find, and you didn’t realise until you came over here....
I knew a chap - he’s in Canada now - Freddie Vaughan. He was 21 on 18th May! ’Cause, we went back to the train to get a birthday cake his mother had sent him!
At St Roch Station, Amiens
Where was the train actually stopped?
Well, we ran across there, so it must have been near enough opposite where that fencing was. It was on the bend. It was on the main line.
We never knew anything. We were told we were on our way to Abbeville.... I reckon the train must have been well up through the other side of that R platform there.
On the bend?
Yes. On the bend. I reckon, through this middle here, because.... I was wounded and I crawled out and I’m sure there was a quarry thing up there, which I’ve heard was a sand thing and I reckon those flats were built on where I....
That’s right. There used to be a factory.
....that’s right, yes. I scrambled up that bank and I laid there and was picked up - by the French, I suppose - taken into the local hospital; laid on the floor in there - packed corridors nearly all night - and then we were taken out in ambulances in the morning. We was loaded in the ambulances - on the floor and everything else! But, I reckon that’s where the spot was.... right through the.... more or less on the straight line there, just the other side of that R.
I didn’t go that way. I went down, over the bank there.
You went the other way?
Yes. Over the end, there was a sort of a little wood there. A little wood and there was one or two - I can remember it plain as anything - there was one or two tombstones there and we stayed there for quite a while and then we came out and I don’t know how we got up to the top there - I’m still trying to puzzle that out!
How many were you in that group?
Not very many. Only about half a dozen of us. But, A Company, that I was in - there were 105 or 109 or something that left to come up here and, out of that Company, I know that only 5 of us got back to England. All the rest were either taken prisoner or....
Well, D Company was pretty badly shot up weren’t they? ’Cause that’s why they put the memorial, wasn’t it?
....and then I walked all the way from here to Rouen. And that boy, Ernie Brown, was with us there - I pushed him the best part of the way in a wheelbarrow! A wooden wheelbarrow! Me and a boy called Ward. And then, when we got to Rouen, they put us on a train there and we went right down as far as Brest. And they said “Well, there’s no boats here. You’ve got to go up to the north coast - up ’round Dunkirk way”. When I got up there, they said, “Well, there’s a boat out there...if you can get on it...you can go back!” And I thought to myself, “Well I can’t flipping well swim!” And it was a sort of a paddle steamer. Anyway, they formed a sort of chain and took us out to this boat. I remember, I got on to it eventually and I hadn’t no sooner got on it than the old thing pulled away. So, I thought to myself, “Christ!, I just about made that!”
The old paddle steamer used to come out from Newhaven. Do you remember it? It was a Red Cross ship, wasn’t it?.... Well, it all happened so quick. The train was in the station and we was bombed to hell, and....
I heard the officers’ coach had got a direct hit. We couldn’t have been far from it! I was lucky really. I got back down through France and home - was taken out of St. Nazaire - on a stretcher! I had a nasty old smack in the leg.
How did you get down there then with that?
As I was saying. Must have took us to a local hospital or something here and then, before daybreak, we was evacuated out of there and taken to somewhere down the coast - a little place called [Laboul?]. From Laboul, I was taken to Vernon. I was at Vernon about 10 days....
So they took you out then on the 19th?
Yes, somehow or other. I got to [Laboul?] somehow or other and I was laying right near the seaside. You could look out the window and see the seafront and the palm trees. Well then, after that, I was taken to Vernon - on the Seine. I was there about 10 days...
I can remember that chap standing over there with a Bren gun... That chap called Glover ... He stood over there with a Bren gun in his hand and fired up at the old...
Did he hit anything?
(JM Tiquet pointing out lower part of bridge at end of St. Roch station) That is original 1940. Look, there are still shrapnel marks from the war. I don’t know whether they are from 1940 or afterwards, when the English came... Over there, there are many marks from the war.
That is the original bank where Doc. Mannington had all the wounded. I was sent through the train - he gave me instructions to go through the train back to front - give them a quick first aid and send them to him. The stretcher-bearers took them over... the bank here...
That would be over by the wall, would it?
Yes. That would be over by the wall now. It was an old sandbank. I was actually on the train and they came a second time and I was at the front end of the train by that time... They went and bombed the back end of it! Strange enough, one of the wounded was one of my schoolmates... with some REs who were attached to us as we moved up the line. Wasn’t in the Sussex. They attached two trucks of REs to us and one of them was wounded... a schoolmate of mine. Of course, all those - when he got back to Brighton - and he said, “Oh Tony never got out of that. He was on that train again when it was bombed. He never came out alive!” Of course, anybody who met me in Brighton -... open-mouthed (said) “Palmer told us you was killed!”
So you were helping out with the wounded over there?
No. I was on the train, sending them over there. And they were all evacuated to the hospital and I had to go and treat the wounded in the woods. They had run there through shock. Some had shrapnel in; some had broken ribs, where the blast had thrown them on the rails. I was two days and nights treating them in there until I was actually captured. Because, I never stopped. There was ’A’ Company; ’B’ Company... you can imagine... the whole Battalion! What was left of the whole Battalion gathered themselves together and I spent all my time... glass! - some of the Officers had glass from the shattered windows - in their head... and... others had shrapnel... and the fear - numb with fear! It was a big woods. I think it was a bit lower down - probably where those trees are now, I would imagine. Because, they evacuated the whole Battalion away from the railway into these woods. We stayed the first night and then a Lysander came over - a Jerry Lysander! - and some silly twit fired at it! And, of course, our C.O. gave him a right rollicking!... They had found out we was there then! So, anyway, they moved us all from there, up on to this bank above the... up on the Poix road.
Up to the chateau...?
Up to the chateau - on the Poix road. He moves us up on to this bank... They came and blew the woods to pieces, didn’t they!... I reckon they only just missed us!
Just got out of their way, didn’t we?
Yes... Amazing really - when you think about it! We didn’t go far over that side (downhill), did we?
No... We were supposed to have pulled up for lunch, you see. For dinner. They got their cooking down in the back carriages... trucks... cattle trucks they were. We were pulling in there for lunch... just as the train stopped... they were going up over the top. We still haven’t got our dinner yet!!
When they had a second go, we was underneath the trucks like that, weren’t we?
There was an ammunition train beside us... that was sparking off at the same time! You can imagine the chaos that was going on!
We were lying underneath it. I was wedged behind the wheels. Bloody soon got out of there!!! ...and there was about 3 or 4 trains on the sidings, wasn’t there?... Goods trains. There were two trucks of Engineers were hooked on to ours. We stopped through the night... because we left the camp about midnight, didn’t we? Midnight was the first shout. I think, the time we got to the train about 2 o’clock. When we came up in the morning, they stopped and hooked on two carriages... They just said “Oh, we’re taking some REs up with us, to make our number up.”
6th Battalion detoured ’round here, didn’t they?
They got stopped, yes.
We was in their place!
Yes. We was up in their place!
Oh yes. 6th Battalion were behind us, in the other train. They saw us getting bombed!... It was all through a delay of theirs... getting some trucks... loading the vehicles on to theirs. Somebody made a cock-up... a bit late! So, of course, we came up in front... It was such a chaotic... Nobody expected it!... None of us had ever heard a big explosion before... Nothing bigger than a .303 rifle!
All you heard was the whirr of these aeroplanes... Stukas, wasn’t they?
Stukas came over us. But we didn’t know that!... We didn’t know anything... and then, when we got on the Amiens/Poix road, we said, “Oh, there’s only some cardboard tanks broken through... They haven’t got any real tanks... Only got cardboard tanks!” I don’t suppose the boys would have stayed there if you had said there was some tanks coming through! With a rifle and 50 rounds?!!... No way!!!
So you left at midnight from Rouen?
We left the camp... St. Saens (Rosay) it was... It was about 20 miles from Rouen, wasn’t it? Yes. 20 miles.
Then you travelled through the night...
Yes. We travelled through the night.
...picked up the trucks...
We got on to the cattle trucks.
... You picked up the REs... In the morning?
Yes. Two were hooked on to us.
...and then you carried on up to here for mid-day?
Then that would have been what time, when you were bombed then?
It must have been lunch time... 12 o’clock... between 12 and 1.
Some of the blokes were dozing, you know, where we hadn’t had any kip, weren’t they?
Yes. I remember distinctly, this cattle truck, with the thing open and the legs dangling over the side.
Yes. That’s right... dangling over the side.
Beautiful day... lovely and warm... broken cloud. And the first thing I said, “Ah, hooray, we’ve got some planes!”... We’d never seen one of our planes, you see. And they were going through the gaps, you see. And then, all of a sudden...“Christ! There’s two coming down!”... Then one of them said, “...there’s one... two... three sticks behind it.”... They’d already let go! And I said, “Get down! They’re Germans... we’re being bombed!!!” And all of us that laid face down in that truck were safe. But, Sergeant Allan ... He was standing up and saying, “...they’re going to get me!... they’re going to get me!”... And, of course, they machine-gunned after they’d bombed... They cut him right in two! Amazing! But nobody else in our truck was actually touched.
They’d got very great notices on those trucks... 8 HORSES OR 22 MEN.
It was all so quick... so sudden... That’s why there was no time to collect numbers... You was just getting on with your job... you know... the wounded... And nobody else knew where anybody else was either. You know, when the Jerries did come in...
Three trains came up after us and they were waiting for them!...
Waiting for us!!!
...as each train came up... two trains came up... they cleared the station... the trains were coming up then and there was no planes up there.
Yes. Just waiting!
The Buff came up after that. The Guards came up after that. And they just came up to as far as us and then just... the way back. No planes waiting for them! But the other three that came up behind us... different intervals... probably 2 hours; 1 hour... As they pulled in... the same as us!!! As they pulled in... TCHWOY!!! (bombed)
So what was on the other trains then? The other two that came
in behind you.
There were some Guardsmen on one.
The 6th Battalion was on the one train, wasn’t they behind us?
No... They went back... We’re not sure what they were, because we were so concerned with our own lot!
Never forget it, you know. Only seems like yesterday. Every time you come here, it brings it right home to you!
It was the second day the others came up and they sent them down there!!!
So that would be on the 19th?
19th. That’s right!
I can distinctly remember, when we were wandering about from the trucks... there was, like, telegraph wires about... and, if you looked up, there was blokes’ arms hanging off them...
All the bits and pieces of them. Shocking! ...there was bits of blokes... However, we stuck it, I... We was only 20... 21... I do not know... Too bloody scared, I expect!!! Thinking of looking after ourselves.
I treated the wounded all that night and all the next day. It was in the woods... There was about three had fractured ribs. The blast had thrown them across the rails, as they were running away from the trucks. And there was no end of shrapnel cases in there... Dickie Lord ... I’d left him looking after that chap sitting beside a tree, who was crying like a little baby... shell shock! There’s nothing you can do for that! Nothing at all!
I’ll never forget the engine. I’ve never seen an engine, that size, blown like it was... right over!
Not on it’s side... 45 degrees!!!
Incredible! The first salvo hit the engine and the Officers’ coach, which was... They were sat in the front, in a special coach. And it blew that engine... it must have... what... 50 yards was it?... More or less... Right to one side it blew it!
Doc. Mannington ... he always remembers the engine, cocked at an angle of 45 degrees... pissing out with water!!!
I remember looking up the line before we went over into the wood and, then, in the morning, when we came out of the wood to march up the road, up on to the top road, where the chateau was... The Amiens/Poix road. ...as we all came out of the wood, there was a war memorial... There was a big war memorial... white war memorial, which was just round the corner... there... and, as you came out of the wood... here’s the station here and... this view of the station... that’s it! So the wood must have been along this way, somewhere close to the... near to the station.
Yes... It was on the right hand side. It wasn’t all that far from the station. It wasn’t far from the station.
No... When we came out of the woods in the morning... they bombed the woods overnight and we were laying in the woods. We came out of the woods in the morning and passed the station. And the station lay down here on the right. So I think the woods must have been... sort of a copse area. It wasn’t very big.
When we came out of the woods on the Sunday morning, we lined up and the station was here; that memorial was there and we marched that way and went up on the Amiens/Poix road.
So you actually marched up the road then?
We walked up the road, up to the top... We were all just one big group that was in the woods and we all marched up there. On the Sunday... And, when we got up to the top, there was old Colonel Gethen up there, and we went down, past the chateau. Because, half way down that road to the village, there was an old Dutch barn and they set that up as a cookhouse in there. And, on the Monday when the Jerry broke through, we were all down there in that Dutch barn having mid-day meal and a Spitfire flew over and everybody ran out, waving to it like this. And it turned out to be a captured Spitfire that was a spotter plane - this is the story I’ve heard, anyway - And, about half an hour later of course, they started opening up with mortars across... and we all had to make a dash for it... And all the French troops on the Sunday night were coming back... going back that way towards... on the Amiens/Poix road.
And the old Colonel - I can see him now - he got out there. He got two blokes with rifles and he got his pistol out... and he was standing in the middle of the road, like that... pointing his revolver and the other two with the two guns, trying to stop the French troops - telling them to get back and fight!!! He was a real ‘blood and thunder’! And then, on the Sunday morning... we were up there, where I was stationed. The last thing I saw of Amiens... was looking down in the valley... seeing the Cathedral; and the bells were ringing - they had obviously got a service on... and the old bombers came over and they blew hell out of it! The last I saw of the Cathedral from up there, was all smoke and dust from that, coming up round it. When they bombed it - and that was on the Sunday. And, of course, all the French refugees and that going back. I remember one old lady - she’d got a little boy - only a youngster - and he’d been hit with stuff and that... Of course, we patched him up and she had a pushchair there and we put him in the pushchair and, you know, she was all over us for doing his leg up and that... I don’t know whether they ever got anywhere...
At the chateau
...and that road along there is the same as what it was when we were
here. (pointing across the field to a school) But there was a farm up
there... and I remember seeing the old Jerry tanks and infantry come out of the back
I can remember seeing them come round that corner at the end and that’s when I went! Bloody things!!!
There was an Officer, running up and down this bank with a revolver - “Anybody that runs away - I’ll shoot!”...
I remember that!
....As soon as he saw them come round the end... They was on motor bikes, with machine guns in front as well. He said, “Every man for himself!”, and he was the first one... How the hell we ever got out of it, I do not know!
I was down in a big hollow down there... There was a little bungalow down there that they used for a Red Cross place.
Someone said, “No. The nearest Germans are 50 miles away!”
Yes. That was on the Sunday afternoon!
We pulled up out of that wood about dinner-time-ish.
That’s right. Yes.
Was it Sunday afternoon when they stopped that old Froggy tank?... An old Froggy tank they confiscated, didn’t they?
Yes. That’s right. I remember going along that way and seeing the signpost - some miles up - with ‘Dunkirk’ that way and ‘Paris’ the other way... And I looked at other blokes...
Those hay covers... I was shaving in there when the bullets... Our RSM came charging down... “It’s the Boche! It’s the Boche!” he says, “Get out of there!” So I said to him, “Well, where’s HQ?” And he said, “Up the top of the road.” And, of course, up there, I was all on my ’tod... And Captain Cook was up there... A little aid post. It was the only type of cover we had. So... they started bringing the wounded and that’s when Arthur Lovell walked in. And you can imagine - 20 year old - never seen an arm off or a leg off or things like that, you know - blown to bits! And Arthur walked in and he said, “Can I help you? I was with St. John’s Ambulance.” And I said, “Thank the Lord!” Nobody else had a clue!! ...in there. I mean... you’re taught first aid. You’re not taught... blokes cut to ribbons... blokes lost their arms... blokes lost their legs... all that jazz!!... I think it was the first shave I’d had since we was bombed! It was on the 20th. The first... respite, where you could look after yourself now.
Now. After we all assembled... got all together. We all marched up this road and... HQ Company stayed down there and all the other...
Yes. This is the road we all came up. This road. I remember it as if it were yesterday. All of us coming up this road.
I see what happened. You came up there, but I came up here - over the hill. We was all in the woods. Then we came along to the field. And then, they must have moved off up the way, to come up to here and I must have been shaving half way down that hill there... I didn’t come up this way at all!
This is half way down to the railway embankment. The twin line - the Rouen line - comes right past the bottom here and it’s all banked out. Do you remember where the train stopped? The train stopped - was held up - and we got out and picked flowers on the side of the bank. And then he moved off that way, up into the marshalling yard, when the ‘All Clear’ went. Well, that’s the Rouen line there, just down below you... And there’s a lower road - twisting, winding road with flint walls - coming up that way as well. So that’s the road Frank’s on about, I reckon - the lower road... That’s where they were.
I reckon that’s part of the foundations of the old chateau ’cause the tower of the chateau was near enough on the road... and then it went back and, you see, you’ve got this long drive of trees, which could have been a driveway of some kind. It isn’t often, you get a straight avenue like that... and this is the area of the chateau, definitely!
We came from Rouen... and we were held up, in a cutting. And we were getting out - picking flowers on the side - and the train stayed there for about a quarter of an hour - and then, the train started to move - we got back on the train again - and he went... straight out, through into the marshalling yard and, as we went out into the marshalling yard, so they came down.
We were over on the other side of the road and a shell come and hit the top off the tower! I can remember that! It had one of those towers that went up like that... rounded. And it was all, sort of flint... real beautiful old place! And they took it over as Headquarters - HQ - and they were firing mortars from over that way and we were stuck up against the bank, over the road there. And one of them come over like that and it hit the top of that chateau...
...chaps came down from... and we had a cafe, down in the village there, which we set up as a dressing station. I don’t somehow think that cafe is there now, because it was on the left-hand side and I looked for it last year. The big old house is on the right, but...
You say they set up the HQ in the chateau?
Yes. The chateau was here.
They were using that as a first aid post, weren’t they?
No. No. They might have had a first aid post there, but the chateau was Regimental Headquarters.
Somebody else was saying they were using the summer house or some sort of bungalow place, down the way a bit.
No. We had a... I’ll tell you where it was! Because... I was a stretcher-bearer then. I was the Medical Officer’s batman and I had all the medical gear. I had a whacking great medical pack on and... it isn’t here, because we’re too close to the chateau. A little bit further down... So, a bit further down there, just before you come into the village, there used to be, like, a little cafe on the corner. But of course, they’ve built that sodding great motorway through there now, so I’m wondering if they’ve knocked it down... or whether it was down a wee bit further. But it was just before you went through, into the village because, when we had orders to get out of it, we came out of the cafe, which was on that side, and we took all the wounded down, through the village, round the corner... And there’s a village green round there. And this Captain from the Queens’ - he’d got an ambulance - field ambulance - round there. We piled them all on there and that’s how I got out of it, because I had to go with them, see. And we drove like the clappers, right the way through the night, up to Le Havre I think. And they took them off from there... - those that were wounded. And I was sent down to Le Mans, because I’d got a bit of shrapnel - only a small piece. And I reckon it’d be round about there somewhere, but there used to be a pathway, went up between the fields.
Of course, they’ve flattened this all out now, you see. And there was a pathway, went up between the fields, where the old Colonel was hammering away. And he threatened me... He chucked a rifle at me and I’d got the old Red Cross armband and wasn’t allowed to carry arms, you see - stretcher-bearers weren’t. And I’d got the medical pack on my back and I was laying up there and all this banging and crashing coming over. And he came tearing down and he got his revolver out and he said - he’d got a rifle in his hand he’d obviously picked up from somewhere - threw it at me... like that... And he said, “What are you doing here?” And I told him... you know. And he says, “Right... Take that rifle!” And I said, “Sorry, I’m not allowed to!” So he said, “If you don’t take it, I’ll shoot you!” And he pointed with his revolver at me and I thought, well, knowing him...
Who was this?
Colonel... Colonel Gethen. So anyway, I followed him up the path and he stopped me about half way up and he went off, across the fields there. Of course, they were all firing across that way... with rifles and that and, in the end, an Officer from the Queens’ came back down this way and he saw me there, with this pack on and asked me what I was doing and I said the Colonel ordered me up there. So he said, “Well, leave that rifle there and get down in the village,” he said. “First cafe on the left.” And he says, “Set it up as a dressing centre...!”
That was who?
It was an Officer from the Queens’ Regiment. I never knew his name. But that was the one - he was a Lieutenant... So... I didn’t need any more second telling, so I went straight away down there and there were two more stretcher-bearers there and we kicked the door in and there was water on the stove... kettles boiling and everything - where they’d just got out, see. And it was a cafe and you’d got bottles of brandy and all sorts of stuff there. So we swept the shelves of that lot... got the kettles of hot water and that took down in the basement... set up a first aid dressing station down there and they were bringing the blokes down from all up this area... And we were there... a good hour and this Queens’ bod came down again and said, “I’ve got hold of an ambulance,” he says, “Everybody get out! Everybody down into the village,” he said, “by the green!”
We walked down, through a big, open grass area and piled everyone on there. Then we got to Neufchatel - about 8 o’clock at night, I suppose - and, the back wheel of the ambulance - they’d had an air raid there, during the afternoon, and there was a bomb crater, right by the side of the old crossing gates. And we was driving like the clappers through there... All of a sudden!... BANG!!!... He caught the blooming bomb crater and he tipped over, like that! All the bods were screaming and shouting in there! Anyway, they pulled everybody out and they took us down to a convent... with all these nuns and that there.
They took us in - all the bods in - and gave us wine and bread and cheese. And, honestly... the noise, here in the afternoon. It was, well... you know... you can’t explain it... I mean... they were shelling over with mortars... and the tanks were coming through as well, lobbing shells over and... it was absolute bedlam!!! And then, to go into this convent at night... And it was as still as the grave in there! And, anyway, they got some local French bods and they managed to get the truck out of this crater. They called us all back again and we all got in and we drove right up to Le Havre. We were in a big dressing station there and I got sent down to Le Mans - to a field hospital there. And they done the old... got the old shrapnel out. And then, after that... I was there for about a week. And then, after that, I was sent down to an area where the rest of the bods that had got out, all met up there... And then, they bunged us on the train and we started coming up towards Cherbourg and the train got turned round and we went back. Back to St. Nazaire and come out that way. Oh yes, this is a lot of memories here!
That bank has sunk about 2 foot... easy! It was nearer about that height! It was like that all the way up. An avenue of trees... Of course, that’s gone now, because the road’s been widened. And, near where that little opening is there, the chateau was just built at the back, over there... another one. HQ was here - that’s where Gethen was, with Cruttenden. And that’s where we made a regimental aid post.
So there were two buildings then?
Oh yes. There was two buildings - one this side of the road and there was one over there.
I see. And the chateau was the one with the tower, was it?
The chateau was... Well, I didn’t know much about that, because I just bypassed that one and came straight across the road here, to this one. Gethen wasn’t in at that time. Somebody told us later on and said, “Oh Gethen’s in the chateau across the road and made that Battalion HQ. Headquarters.” And he was there with Cruttenden.
All I can remember, is coming back across that road and going down in there... This Officer said, “Every man for himself!”
Well, I got... back to the chateau and that’s where I was captured... There with the wounded... refused to leave them and... heavy revolver. And it was Sergeant... He says, “You can’t do anything about that, son...” Because I wasn’t going to leave them, you see. I mean, I was stupid, because... we’re splattered in blood with... dressing the blokes’ wounds and stopping the blood and that. And I was captured on the way back, I was... hadn’t even got an overcoat... no rations... no nothing! The blokes were very good, you know. They shared what they’d got, on the march, and things like that. But, what could you do? You had nothing else. You couldn’t go back and get it - they’d have shot you! But, I was alright until I was captured, and that was a frightening experience then. All the time you were busy, you didn’t think anything about it. As soon as you had nothing to do... then you... “Oh my God, what’s happened?!!” - you know. Terrible feeling it was! And then they came and emptied your pockets...
Do you remember that Belgian tank coming up the road?... That was
before the Jerries came up.
When he saw the Jerries, he turned and shot off. And of course, they were left...
He did. Precisely! He stopped there, by the road, and we thought, “That’s good... got a bit of armour here boys!” Soon as he saw the Jerry...
Out front, and right over the top, was a farm.
That’s right. There was no buildings, as such. The farmyard, but none of those buildings were there... a right lot of old mortars came over... we were firing our 5 rounds from our revolvers at them... silly buggers we were... at the tanks!!!
That Sergeant Pritchard ... he was killed just across that road he was lying there... I saw him with my own eyes... him and Sergeant Morford and Joe Cohen ... by where that gap was... where the chateau was... and they were just to the left of that... Oh, not 100 yards to the left of that... he was recognisable. He’s definitely one, because I said, I walked right past him after we was captured! He was lying beside Sergeant Pritchard and, I shall never forget it! They was both burned black! They’d got an ammunition lorry and they got a direct hit from a mortar. It caught fire and they were both *lying outside the lorry.* Black! *Charred black they were!*
* Please note - some may find these images distressing!
What were they doing at the time? Were they driving it away,
No. They’d been to fetch for something. One of the Companies must have been deployed right and one of them deployed left. I don’t know which... The C.O. had done that... but whichever Company Sergeant Pritchard was in - which I’d know by the photographs. They’d been deployed to the right and he’d been to fetch ammunition... got it... and, as they came over this open field of course, the Jerries... and hit it... direct hit with mortar!
In fact, the Americans... They wrote an article in the Readers Digest. The American Red Cross that came down. They said it was ’like a elephant, trampling through a field of mice!’... With the armour that the Germans had!... Somebody showed me when I got back home... About 1941 Reader’s Digest, I think it was then. And there was an article, from these American Red Cross that came and picked up the dead and that... the wounded afterwards... that hadn’t been discovered. You see, if they fell in corn, they were an awful job to find... One of those fields was a field of corn and there was a lot of them in there... As far as I know, I say a lot of them. I know Captain Cook was one, because he told me... And he laid there for 2 days before he was found! And he lost his arm. And he’d gone out... 5 minutes after he’d been in that Regimental Aid Post with me! He told me when I went to see him - I’ve been to see him a couple of times - and he said, “It was only 5 minutes after I left you, Tony,” he said, “and I hadn’t the strength to get back to you.” He said, “To crawl back to the Regimental Aid Post.” He said, “You... were all in there.” And then of course, he eventually passed out and, apparently, it was 2 days. He came to, 2 days later, and somebody found him. He didn’t even know what day it was, you know... It must have been terrible thing for them, because... I suppose they felt responsible for us and there was nothing they could do about it!
Do you know Mayhead?
Yes, I remember him - a little fair-haired chap.
Mayhead. That’s one of ours, wasn’t it?
Oh, Mayhead. Yes.
That’s one of our band that!
Yes. He’s one of the band boys.
Mayhead ... bugler in the band. He used to play a trumpet in the Salvation Army and he played his bugle like a trumpet. Do you remember?
At the Bridge
The next morning, on the Monday, after we got settled down up here,
I came back down here with about 4 or 5 other blokes. We got a load of ammunition
Do you remember the Belgian Army, when they came through on bikes?
Oh, they were shocking old sods, they were! You’ve seen nothing like it! They were going the wrong way and all! As fast as they could... away from Jerry!
That Monday morning, Burrough and a platoon of us... we went into Amiens. Yes! We saw the Germans in there, with the tanks. We came back and they said, “No... They weren’t Germans. They were Frenchmen!”
We laid up there. Somewhere over there. Somewhere down this way and somewhere over there, there was 3 churches. They went on fire. Three churches... and we were pinned in between them... And then, the Germans started. They came in... We laid over here on our own - ‘A’ Company. I was a prisoner of war before the Battalion came in. We laid out there - the Germans made us lay out there - and we watched the rest of the Battalion come into action.
Yes. Old Gethen told me himself, when I was over there, that he sent out the ‘A’ Company on a deployment, he said, and never saw them again! And, of course, that’s the day when we were cut up. Because, they were sent into the front. Right into the front of Germans! In front of any of us! So... ‘C’ and ‘D’ must have been deployed up there... I’m trying to... the words that he told me... He put ‘C’ on the left and ‘B’ on the right and ‘A’ out on a recce.