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King & Country - WWI Sources

 

WW1 Poems featured in ‘King & Country’

   

‘And you Helen’ - Edward Thomas d. 1917

And you Helen, what would I give you?

So many things I would give you

Had I an infinite great store

Offered me and I stood before

To choose.

I would give you youth,

All kinds of loveliness and truth,

A clear eye as good as mine,

Lands, waters, flowers, wine,

As many children as your heart

Might wish for, a far better art

Than mine can be, all  you have lost

Upon the travelling waters tossed,

Or given to me.  If I could choose

Freely in that great treasure house

Anything from any shelf,

I would give you back yourself,

And power to discriminate

What you want and want it not too late,

Many fair days free from care

And heart to enjoy both foul and fair,

And myself, too, if I could find

Where it lay hidden, and it proved kind.

 

Violets from Plug Street Wood’ - Roland Leighton d. 1915

Violets from Plug Street Wood,

Sweet, I send you oversea.

(It is strange they should be blue,

Blue, when his soaked blood was red.

For they grew around his head;

It is strange they should be blue.)

 

Violets from Plug Street Wood-

Think what they have meant to me-

Life and Hope and Love and You

(And you did not see them grow

Where his mangled body lay,

Hiding horror from the day;

Sweetest, it was better so.)

 

Violets from oversea,

To your dear, far, forgetting land

These I send in memory,

Knowing You will understand.

 

‘No-one cares less than I' - Edward Thomas d. 1917

No-one cares less than I,

Nobody knows but God,

Whether I am destined to lie

Under a foreign clod.

Were the words I made to the bugle call in the morning.

But laughing, storming, scorning,

Only the bugles know

What the bugles say in the morning

And they do not care, when they blow

The call that I heard and made words to early this morning.

 

 

The Sunshine on the long white road’ - Roland Leighton d. 1915

The sunshine on the long white road

That ribboned down the hill

The velvet clematis that clung

Around your window sill

Are waiting for you still

Again the shadowed pool shall break

In dimples round your feet

And when the thrush sings in your wood

Unknowing you may meet

Another stranger, Sweet.

 

Again the shadowed pool shall break

In dimples round your feet

And when the thrush sings in your wood

Unknowing you may meet

Another stranger, Sweet

And if he is not quite so old

As the boy you used to know

And less proud, too, and worthier,

You may not let him go –

(And daisies are truer than passion-flowers)

It will be better so.

 

 

Poems by Members of Royal Sussex Regiment

 

Listen to the wraiths of morning in Flanders fields of grey,

Can you hear the Royal Sussex who came and went away

And linger still in graves unknown amidst the furrow and the thorn

But never flinched, duty done, these sons of Sussex bred and born

 

Anon

 

Dreams of home and you

 

Now the restless day is ending and the shadows around me fall.

Homewards, where is enshrined my all

And I think about you often.

Fearing not what luck may bring

If the home I’m guarding’s guarded and You’re right. That’s everything.

 

Signed Wander

 

Pte Ernest George Richardson. Sent on a postcard home.

 

 

Royal Sussex Regiment

 

Raised 23 battalions for WW1, all of which saw action in every theatre, inc Russia 1919

 

Lost 6800 men in the war.  Forces War Records website says lost 7096 while Royal Sussex website says more than 7400.

4 VCs awarded

 

St Georges Chapel, Chichester Cathedral was made into memorial for RSR fallen, with all of their names

 

2nd Battalion given title ‘The Iron Regiment’ by German POWs after 1st battle of Ypres.  Battles included: 1st battle of Ypres 1914; Battle of Aubers Bridge 1915; Battle of Loos 1915; The Somme 1916 (inc Highwood); Lost 1723 officers and men by 1918; Sgt Harry Wells VC

 

30 June 1916 – ‘The Day Sussex Died’ – Battle of the Boar’s Head at Richebourg-l’Avoue.  12th and 13th battalions went over the top after bombardment of German trenches.  11th Battalion involved also.  Lost 17 officers and 349 men, inc 12 sets of brothers, of whom 3 were from one family (further details below in section on this battle).  Further 1000 wounded / prisoners.  This was just a diversion, one day before The Somme

 

Breakdown of losses per battalion at www.royalsussex.org.uk/RSLHG_main_index.html

 

Southdown Battalions

 

11th, 12th, 13th, 14th Royal Sussex Regiment

 

Known as Lowther’s Lambs after local MP / Commander

 

Recruitment started 9 September 1914.  Had 1100 men in 2 days

 

Sailed to France 4 March 1916

 

12 March 1916 – First Casualty – Private David Thomas Dunk from Bexhill, killed by a sniper.

 

At Somme, Passchendaele

 

There is a good list of names for 11th-14th battalions at www.royalsussex-southdown.co.uk/battalions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WW1 Commemorative Window at Brighton Unitarian Church (containing names of those who died in the Great War)

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters from Soldiers of Royal Sussex Regiment

 

Letter One

 

Nov 13 1915

 

Dear Ettie,

 

I got your letter and papers yesterday Nov 12 and they came in just right.  I was in my dugout when they came and was very pleased you are all well as I am at present.  We came out for rest last night and it was a rough journey  thunder storm came and I have never seen it rain so hard it fell down the  trenches we left are half full up with water and we have been wet through all the time we have been here.  We go in again on Monday 17 so we shan’t have time to dry our clothes for there is nowhere to dry them here unless we get a fire day which I don’t suppose we shall.  It rains day and night here.  We are in hutts [sic] here and not much comfort bare floor and one blanket and  wet throughout and the mud here is awfull [sic].  

 

We got in about 2 o’clock this morning (Sat) they gave us a small glass of wine and for breakfast buiscuits [sic] and cheese and one small loaf between 12 men so you see they don’t overfeed us.  We spend our money on bread and candles and coffee and we don’t know how we should get on still we keep living.  I should like to have some of those people that put photos in the papers, out here with us for a week, it would open their eyes a bit I think up to your knees in mud and water buiscuits and cheese to eat, bacon sometimes if you can make a fire without making a smokes.  If you do, the Germans send a shell over to see how you are getting on.  It would do them good I think.  

 

A lot of our men went to hospital from frozen feet this time.  I don’t know how it will be a bit later.   And how clear the name of my chum was.  H. Strudwick his name was in the Argus you sent me.  They have not got half the list yet.  He was killed Sept 25th in the big advance and I never missed him untill [sic] the next morning.  And now dear I think this is all this time. Hoping you will write soon, from your loving Husband Percy xxxxxxxxxxxx

 

P.S. kiss the kiddies for me.  I will let you know if I want anythink.  I should like the Argus now and again but not the other papers as there is plenty of daily papers but no local one.  Good night and god bless you dear.

 

Happy Dreams

 

 

Letter Two

 

December 4th  [1915]

 

Dear Ettie,

 

At last I am answering your letter and hope you are well.  I got the photos safely and think they [sic] very good.  You have come out fine and you look very saucy I must say.  I wish I was with you and I would show you what I mean.  Well dear, I don’t suppose I shall be home for Christmas.  We shall be lucky if we get home at all.  

 

We are back here for a few days rest, as they call it, but it is harder than the trenches.  The only thing we miss is the big guns roaring and the shells dropping around and there is [sic] snipers here so we can sleep in peace.  

 

They shelled our last billet, a barn.  We were all asleep when the first one came.  It just missed the barn and fell in the field at the back but I thought the old barn was going over.  Nearly all the chaps ran downstairs but I thought we were just as likely to get hit outside as in.  So I turned my back to the shells and waited for them to come over.  I thought every one was going to hit us but they all missed us.  They hit a mule team and killed 8 men and some of the mules.  We passed them the next morning going to the trenches.  They were mixed up a bit.  My mate died last week in hospital.  Hard luck for his wife.  

Harry Strudwick that you were asking about was the chap that came over one Sunday from Shoreham with me.  The first one killed of our lot and now dear I hope you are getting on alright and glad that the boy is better.  We had a very long march to get here, but the French people are much nicer than the Belgians.

 

Well dear I think this is all this time so now close with fondest love and kisses from your loving Husband Percy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

P.S. remember me to all the folks I know.  There has been a air raid in the next village to us about 2 miles away.  30 killed and injured so it is still a bit lively.

 

Good night and god bless you dear

 

P W

 

P.S.S. today one of our chaps got 5 years penal servitude for sleeping at his post in the trenches.

 

 

Letter Three

 

9th Royal Sussex Regt

B E F

France

March 6th 1916

 

Dear Mrs Whitehouse,

 

I am so sorry I have not been able to write to you before but I have been unwell – I am your husband’s platoon commander and I want to write to you to offer my sympathy in your heavy loss – Your husband at the time of his death was placed in a bombing post situated at one of the craters [?] which the huns blew up on the 14th inst.  A shell was dropped in the midst of his party, one of whom was wounded – the rest I fear killed – This war is awful and these terrible catastrophies [sic] make us wish all the more the whole affair was over.

 

Your husband was attached to the Battalion bombers – so I was not so very close to him – but I feel I have lost in him one of my best men.  He was always so willing and cheery and whenever there was anything doing – he was always there.  

 

I daresay you have heard from a great friend of his Pte. Warren.  They were always inseparable – The whole Batt had a bad time – we lost many men and officers – at this time we can hardly realize what has happened.  It is so little we can do in these matters – I only offer my sincerest sympathy and may god give you strength to bear this heavy loss – Your husband has made the supreme sacrifice – his life – and he has died a hero - no man can do more for his country than that.

 

My dear Mrs Whitehouse may you be given the strength to get through this month [?] – The sympathy of all C Company’s officers and men.

 

Yours very sincerely,

 

JJ Banham Lt.

 

 

Letter Four

 

- FRAGMENT -

 

May 14th [1916]

 

Dear Madam

 

I was relieved to get a letter from you as I thought my letter had miscarried.  I have seen the man that was wounded at the time your husband was killed, and he said death was instantaneous as the shell burst directly on your husband.  He had your photo on him at the time of his death I know, as he always carried it in his pray [sic] book and was very proud of it, but of course nothing could be found as he was blown to pieces, and nothing could be found of him or his equipment.  

 

It is all very sad and shocking to you I know, but I promised him I would tell you all if ever he did go under, and he promised to do the same for me.  He often said that if he was to get killed he wished it to be sudden and no suffering, and I am glad to say he got his wish in this respect, although I would rather anything had happened than to have lost him, my best pal.  I know he had some souvenirs he picked up at various places in his valise, and his own property that was not on him at his death should have been sent to you.  

 

We always leave our valises behind when we go the trenches [sic] and only carry up there what is absolutely necessary.  No doubt his valise is still in the quartermaster’s stores, but there is so many [sic] get killed and wounded and sent to hospital, that they cannot search all valises at once to send personal property home, and only small things found on the body by the stretcher bearers are sent at once, and of course nothing could be found of him.

 

I should like to call and see you if ever I get out of this alive.  I have had my leave a month ago, and I can tell you I was glad to get away for a few days.

Sergeant Barton, who wrote to you, has been wounded, but not serious, but I don’t suppose we shall see him back here again.  There are very few of the old ninth left now, I have been very lucky myself as they have hit me twice but …. [end]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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