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Battle, Capture & Escape

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Battle, Capture & Escape
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Author(s): George Pearson
Date Published: 2009/01
Page Count: 152
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-599-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-600-7

Battlefield to breakout and bid for freedom

When Corporal Edwards’ regiment—Princess Patricia's Regiment—went into the line in France during the Great War nothing could prepare its men for the overwhelming assaults they would experience from the attacking German forces. After an heroic struggle followed by hand-to-hand fighting his battalion was overrun and all but annihilated. Edwards and a few of his surviving comrades were spared and taken into captivity. Then followed the long journey to the Fatherland and incarceration behind the wire of a P.O.W camp. But Edwards was not prepared to languish as a prisoner for long. He began to plan escapes. Several were unsuccessful, but eventually he began a bid for freedom which would take him across Europe in a desperate attempt to reach Allied lines. Epic adventure, indeed.

George Easton was firing with me at the gray mass of the oncoming horde. “My rifle’s jammed!” he cried.<br>
“Take mine.” And I stooped to get one from a casualty underfoot. But a moment later, as I fired from the parapet, my bayonet was broken off by a German bullet. I shouted wildly to Cosh to toss me one from near by.<br>
Just then the main body of the Germans swarmed into the end of the trench.<br>
Of this Lord Beaverbrook says: “At this moment the Germans made their third and last attack. It was arrested by rifle fire, although some individuals penetrated into the fire trench on the right. At this point all the Princess Patricias had been killed, so that this part of the trench was actually tenantless. Those who established a footing were few in number, and they were gradually dislodged; and so the third and last attack was routed as successfully as those which had preceded it.”<br>
His conclusion that we had all been killed was justifiable even though, fortunately for me, it was an erroneous one. So I am glad for other motives than those of mere courtesy to be able here to set him right.<br>
Bugler Lee shouted to me: “I’m shot through the leg.” A couple of us seized him, planning to go down to where the communication trench had once been. But he stopped us, saying: “It’s no good, boys. It’s a dead end! They’re killing us.”<br>
Cosh swore. “Don’t give up, kid! We’ll beat the——yet!” A German standing a few yards away raised his rifle and blew his head off. Young Brown broke down at this—they had just done in his wounded pal: “Oh, look! Look what they’ve done to Davie,” and fell to weeping. And with that another put the muzzle of his rifle against the boy’s head and pulled the trigger.<br>
Young Cox from Winnipeg put his hands above his head at the order. His captor placed the muzzle of his rifle squarely against the palm and blew it off. There remained only a bloody and broken mass dangling from the wrist.<br>
I saw a man who had come up in the draft with me on the 4th, rolling around in the death agony, tossing his head loosely about in the wild pain of it, his pallid face a white mark in the muck underfoot. A burly German reached the spot and without hesitation plunged his saw-edged bayonet through the throat.<br>
Close by another wounded man was struggling feebly under a pile of earth, his legs projecting so that only the convulsive heaving of the loose earth indicated that a man was dying underneath. Another German observed that too, and shoved his bayonet through the mud and held it savagely there until all was quiet.<br>
This I did not see, but another did and told me of it afterward. Sergeant Phillpots had been shot through the jaw so that he went to his knees as a bullock does at the slaughtering. He supported himself waveringly by his hands. The blood poured from him so that he was all but fainting with the loss of it.<br>
A big German stood over him.<br>
Phillpots looked up: “Play the game! Play the game!” he muttered weakly.<br>
The German coolly put a round through his head.<br>
I was still without a bayonet, and seeing these things, said to Easton: “We’d better beat it.”<br>
He swore again. “Yes, they’re murdering us. No use stopping here. Come on!”<br>
And just then he, too, dropped. I thought him dead. There was no use in my stopping to share his fate or worse. It was now every man for himself. At a later date we met in England.<br>
The other half of the regiment lay in support two hundred yards away in Bellewaarde Wood and in front of the château and lake of that name, where my draft had lain on the fourth. I made a dash for it. What with the mud and the many shell holes, the going was bad. I was indistinctly aware of a great deal of promiscuous shooting at me, but most distinctly of one German who shot at me about ten times in as many yards and from quite close range. I saw I could not make it. I flung myself into a Johnson hole, and as soon as I had caught my breath, scrambled out again and raced for the trench I had just left. I was by this time unarmed, having flung my rifle away to further my flight, notwithstanding which another German shot at me as I went toward him.