We was dead keen

First time I went into a major attack it were a little different, because it were in spring of 1916 that I were first shipped out here to France from my first posting which had been Egypt. And we was taking part in a big push that Summer around the River Somme. Now we was gonna attack a village called Serre. Now that was very heavily defended, in front of it, it had German trenches. Very well built they are, you know, reinforced by concrete and all sorts. In front of that they had barbed wire. Nasty is the wire. So you think to yourself how on earth is a load of fellas charging across gonna get through it? Well, they said to us that beforehand they’d be a week long barrage which would blow the German trenches apart, soften them up for us and split the wire, so we’d be able to get through, take the trenches, move on and take the village. So we was prepared and we was dead keen.

You know at this time of course we had faith in the Generals, that they knew what they was doing. Soon changed our mind on the 1st of July though. I mean we got in the line as I said before and we was waiting to go over and we weren’t going over first, we was going over in support of the Accrington and Sheffield Pals in front of us. So we could hear them going and we could hear the Germans replying, hear that terrible sound of the German machine gun. But still we was ready and waiting for our turn. Eventually it came: up and over. Now they told us that we weren’t going to charge across, we were going to go across like so, with our arms at port and we were going to march across, because they was expecting there to be no resistance on the other side. But as we got out of the trenches they hit us with absolutely everything.

I saw fellas without arms, without heads, without legs. Some fellas didn’t even make it out of the trench. I saw one fella in front of me literally cut in two by a shell. I should have been dead as well you see cos it didn’t go off properly, but still just split that bloke apart. But we had to keep on going. They told us not to wait for the wounded, they would be dealt with later. Keep going, take your objective. So we did. We advanced in waves on the German line. As we got close to where their barbed wire was, we could see it had not been broken at all. Someone had made a mess up somewhere, but we was all paying the price. The barbed wire instead was just covered with bodies of our lads. Piled high being blown about by machine guns just like washing on a line. Were terrible thing to see. We tried getting through gaps in the wire that we could see but the Germans had covered them. There was no way through. Fire was just too intense. In the end I chucked myself into a shell hole and threw my guts up at the sight of what I’d seen. It were a complete disaster!