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Hearts & Dragons

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Hearts & Dragons
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Author(s): Charles R. M. F. Crutwell
Date Published: 2007/12
Page Count: 180
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-362-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-361-7

A British regiment in two campaigns during the Great War

This is the story of a territorial regiment-the 4th Royal Berkshire Regiment-during the First World War. Its title makes reference to its famous Welsh dragon cap badge and its regimental patch-a blue heart. Although it is a unit account, its author ,who served with the regiment, wrote much of its content from first hand experience so it also has the immediacy and detail only an eyewitness can bring to his writing. This is a riveting account of a regiment's ordeal in France as the Berkshire men fought in the trenches, made and endured raids and took part in the attacks that became infamous in the history of the war on the Western Front. We find them at 'Plugstreet' at Hebuterne, at Artois, Pozieres and finally at the Third Battle of Ypres. In the final phase of the war the regiment was transferred to the Italian Front where it experienced the marked contrast of mountain warfare. This book contains a comprehensive list of the regiment's casualties and an hour roll making it invaluable for both those interested in military history and for genealogists alike.

Meanwhile the fire on either flank covered both front line and support, rendering lateral communication impossible. Thus B Company was isolated, and the enemy infantry immediately entered. Post No. 7 opposed their entry, but was overpowered—none of the nine men who composed it were ever seen again, but the ground about was afterwards found littered with exploded and unexploded German bombs, showing that they had fought a good fight. The Germans then divided into two parties with separate tasks. One party worked along Jones Street towards the right, some moving in the trench, some along the parados. They destroyed the left post in Jones Street, but were eventually checked by Lance-Corpl. Cooke with his Lewis Gun team, which, reflecting the coolness of its commander, kept up a steady rifle fire when the gun jammed. The Huns then retired and left Jones Street at the point of entry, after fulfilling what was presumably their job of protecting their comrades from attack in the rear. For the other party, working along the fire trench, attacked Posts 6-2 inclusive from the rear. These posts were in sore straits. Their defences had been blown to pieces, their rifles damaged, broken or buried, and their bombs scattered; they had themselves been shaken or buried and were left defenceless. The story of a survivor from Post 2, who escaped, will serve as an example. As they endeavoured to extricate themselves and their weapons from the wrecked post, Germans appeared behind them and ordered them in English to mount the parapet or they would be shot. Private Chapman at once tackled an officer with his fists and, shot by the latter’s revolver, died most bravely. Four men were taken, and one alone escaped. However, 12 survivors in all reached Post 1, which remained intact and resisted stoutly. Here Lieut. Ward, who was on duty, took charge, and reorganised the 12, only to find that some were wounded, and that the rifles of the remainder were useless. Accordingly he withdrew towards Nairne, and was fortunate to get them back safely, for at one point four Germans peered into the trench, which was a very deep one, close to the party, but made off when Ward loosed his revolver at them. Meanwhile, No. 1 Post, under Sergt. Holloway, a brave soldier from Abingdon, facing both to front and rear, drove back all the enemy who approached them with rifle and bombs, and effectively staved off their progress towards Nairne, where the position was secured by a post of 13th West Yorks (31st Division) which was promptly moved to the left in answer to Lieut. Ward’s request. The support platoon was organised for defence in Caber by Lieut. Field, who remained with his men though seriously wounded. Here he was found by Lieut. Gathorne-Hardy, who, with his usual contempt for danger, had volunteered to go up from Company Headquarters to re-establish connection, which had been broken within five minutes of the commencement of the bombardment.<br>
While B Company was being attacked, fire was still directed with violence on the front line of the left Company, and continued until 1.40 a.m., when it also lifted on to the support and reserve areas. The damage here had been mainly confined to Posts 1-3, where all the men had been killed or buried; at Post 1 five men were saved by the systematic and collected courage of Private Appleby (4749), who dug them out one after the other. At Post 3, Captain Boyle and Sergt. Pitman dug out Lance-Corpl. Sargeant and the other men, being disturbed during the operation by the appearance of a German on the parapet, whom they shot and wounded. Lance-Corpl. Sargeant was no sooner extricated than he collected bombs, and returned to his post only to find two wounded comrades being hauled off by a party of Germans. They received his bombs into their midst and ran back into the darkness behind Chasseur Hedge, where their supports were waiting. Meanwhile, Posts 4 and 5 remained intact and full of fight. Singing in the intervals between firing:<br>
Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,<br>
And smile, smile, smile. . . .<br>
they held off the enemy, who could be dimly seen filing through their wire and forming up outside in three lines, distinguished by white armlets.
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