William George Brixton
Contributed by: Ninety Years of Remembrance, on 2008-11-01
|First Name||William George|
|Year of Birth||Unknown|
|Year of Death||Unknown|
|Regiment||Somerset Light Infantry|
|Place of Wartime Residence||Redbridge, Hampshire|
William George's Story
In 1918 William G. Brixton served with the 6th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (43rd Brigade, 14th Light Division). On 21st March of that year the Germans mounted one last great push on the Western Front along the Somme in an attempt to finish the war before the Americans arrived. This push was known as Operation Michael, and it was on this day that William Brixton was captured. He wrote the following account on the back of a letter from his mother, six months after he was captured.
One German levelled his rifle at me to shoot
March 21st 1918 At 4.30am I was awakened in my dugout by a tremendous bombardment of our lines. Officer gave orders to stand to. Between 4.30 and 8am a barrage was kept up continually on trench bordering our dugout, which, however, was not hit. Gas was sent over and the mist with their smoke barrage made it impossible to see more than a few yards. At about 8am our Corporal went out to investigate the effect of German bombardment as the walls communicating us with Battn. H.Q. had been blown up in the bombardment. Corporal returned in a few minutes having observed a number of Germans through the mist. Nothing to do but attempt to get back to Battn. H.Q. (Officer and four men including myself). It was impossible to walk along the trenches as they had been blown in, so had to double across the top. We hadn't gone more than about 20 yards when we stumbled across a party of about 30 Germans. We opened fire but because we were outnumbered made for nearest shell hole. Bill Ellis and myself escaped and remained in shell hole about 2 hours until I noticed another party of about 12 Jerries making directly for us. We fired a few rounds each before they were on top of us. My mate was hit in the stomach so I threw down my rifle and equipment. One German levelled his rifle at me to shoot but it was knocked up, before he pulled the trigger, by another German. (I thought it was a 'goner'). I was taken back so far to the German lines where I came across a lot more of our chaps who had been taken prisoner. I found that my section was all alright bar the Sgt. killed at Battn. HQ.., the Corporal aforementioned wounded in 5 places and Bill Ellis. I don't know what became of him - the Germans would not let me bandage his wound. I expect he died in the shell hole. Sentry took us to the nearest field ambulance from which the unwounded prisoners had to carry wounded to a village several miles away. Got there about 5pm. Slept in the open that night. No food that day.
March 22nd, Remained same village. No food - slept in open that night. Terribly cold.
March 23rd, Received first meal at 1pm since being captured - 1 slice of black bread and jam. All for that day. Terribly cold that night sleeping in open. Raining. No overcoats.
March 24th, March away in batches of about 100 to different villages. My batch went Mesieres-sur-Oise, billeted in church which was alive with lice. Next day commenced work (building light railway). This job lasted 3 weeks, 12 hours per day on 1 slice of bread and half a pint of soup water. After finishing on the railway for the day we frequently had to put another 2 to 3 hours unloading railway trucks. Railway job completed, we marched to Flavy-le-Martel, 23 Kilos. I commenced work there next day, more heavy work heaving railway and frequently under our own shells. Very poor food - one slice of bread and one pint of watery soup per day. I began to get terribly thin and weak, in fact it was starvation for all of us.
Text published by the BBC with permission from the soldier's relatives and the Imperial War Museum.