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Berichtdoor Tandorini » 16 dec 2011, 19:34

ADDENDUM (written in 1977)

Lost Days in England

After final (embarkation) leave and inoculation I was at Wrest Park, Silsoe, Beds. from 5th to 11th April 1917. Wrest Park was a large English country seat which had belonged to Lord Lucas. He seems to have been a very fine chap, for after he was killed in the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, a long poem was written about him by Maurice Baring ("In Memorium A. H." - Auberon Herbert, Captain Lord Lucas).

The house, of which the army occupied one wing, was in extensive grounds, with many magnificent trees, statues, monuments, a horse-shoe shaped lake and a swimming pool surrounded by high yew hedges.

At Wrest Park reinforcement drafts for R.E. Signals of the British Expeditionary Force were assembled. The men and most of the officers were under canvas. I was in the house for most of the time. The weather was frightful - constant showers of rain, sleet and snow, and the ground in the camp area was ankle-deep in mud and slush when we left to entrain at Flitwick.

We were in an Embarkation Rest Camp at Southampton, in very comfortable huts, for the night of 12/13 April, and on the 13th we marched through Southampton and embarked on the Clyde turbine steamer "Duchess of Argyll". But just as we were beginning to settle in, there was a German submarine scare in the channel and we were ordered off again. On returning to the camp we found that the mens' and officers' quarters previously occupied had been assigned to others. We had to draw tents, blankets etc from the Q. M. Stores and pitch tents (in the dark, as far as I remember). The officers slept at the Gt. Western Hotel.

In due course (on 15 April) we got away on the "Duchess of Argyll", having been issued with rations (for 2 days, I think) in bulk (simply dumped on the deck) with no implements or containers to divide them and to contain them if separated. (Bread, butter, jam, cheese, tea, sugar and probably bacon and quot;bullybeef"). The voyage was by night. We spent most of the night dividing things up as best as we could among groups of the men. It was, fortunately, a calm night. Had it been rough, or with heavy rain or snow, we could not have distributed the rations. We thought that, after two years of war, the army could have arranged things rather more efficiently!

There were no signs of submarines, and we landed at Le Havre without incident on the morning of 16th April.

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