Friday, 25 September 2009

Corporal Bill Howell, 8th Londons - Loos 1915

25th September 2009 marks the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Loos. I met a number of men who fought at Loos, and Bill Howell of the 8th (City of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) was in the thick of the fighting on this day in 1915. This is an extract from an interview I conducted with Bill in the 1980s.

“After four days’ bombardment, the first lot went over; The Shiny 7th. That’s the 7th Londons and they were known as The Shiny 7th because they all wore brass buttons. They went over and they took this trench in front of them and they seemed to me to have got it very light because I only saw one bloke on the wire. We were laying in support and we were the next to go over. Well, The 7th captured theirs pretty cheap and so did we. I think it was a soft battle for us.”

“We had a creeping barrage, light shelling with the shells going over just in front of you. You had to let the artillery know how far you’d got and we had our haversacks painted yellow so they could see and there was a bloke with a disc, similar to those used to see children over the road with. As you go over and you go down you’re supposed to stick it in the ground so the artillery can raise their sights. The bloke who did this was always at the side of me and I said to him, “Blimey George, can’t you go with somebody else for a change?” I knew that would attract all the snipers in the world and it did. He got one through the neck and I got hit as well.. Something hit the rock in front of me and all up my forehead and in my hair were bits of cartridge casing, little bits of brass. I thought, I’ve only got a hundred yards to go, I may as well stick it.”

“We were on the right flank, The Double Crassier was our flank. We got in there and they expected a counter attack from a German bombing squad. The REs come up and put a bit of wire in front of us and me and two other snipers had to go up on top of this Double Crassier. They had like a little narrow gauge railway line where they put the trucks with the muck in and it made lovely cover. I made myself a little hole, lay down there and waited to pick off any Germans although I never saw any at all. What I did see was a panorama of the whole battlefield. The night before we’d been up with the cylinders of gas and now I could see the Seaforths advancing behind it.”

See also today's entry for WW1 Remembrance.


Anil P said...

Such uncertainity and fear must have prevailed then. Yours is an excellent effort to document parts of history that might otherwise be lost.

Paul Nixon said...

Well thanks Anil; I'm just glad that I took the chance to interview the men all those years ago.