1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Reginald Butt Butt

Contributed by: James Clifford Butt, on 2008-11-05

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Rank
First Name Reginald Butt
Surname Butt
Year of Birth 1897
Year of Death 1970
Regiment Field Ambulance
Place of Wartime Residence Sandown, Isle of Wight

Reginald Butt's Story

My father volunteered for the army on 4th September, 1914 aged 16. After active service on Gallipoli and the Somme, he was serving as a stretcher bearer with the 26th (Wessex) Field Ambulance attached to the 8th Division at Ypres in August 1917.

in memory of my father - Reginald James Brookes Butt, 1st/8th Hampshire regiment, later RAMC

On the night of 4th/5th August, my father was detailed to go from the reserve area where he was on rest to the Menin Road to pick-up casualties from the Front Line. At around midnight, he and five other bearers went out into no man's land to find the wounded and bring them back. The fighting had been around the Ypres-Roullers railway to the north of Birr Cross Roads and the stretcher team were making their way along a railway embankment when German field artillery started to open fire with "whizz bang" high velocity shells. The team had just picked-up a casualty and were making their way back with the stretcher on the shoulders of four of them, including my father, due to the appalling mud and filth. The first shell wailed and exploded with a terrific crash and made my father flinch and nearly drop the stretcher. This was followed by a second shell which he said seemed to fall farther away but he seemed to lose his footing, letting go of the stretcher and sliding down the embankment into a shell hole full of water. It was only when very lights went up that he realised he had been hit, as he saw a dark cloud pumping up through the water. He felt his legs and realised with stark horror that a shell fragment had ripped through his left thigh severing the femoral artery and creating a massive exit wound. He applied pressure to his femoral pressure point as best he could and cried for help. The lead bearer came down to the lip of the shell hole and told him to be calm and that they would come back for him, having at that moment no adequate means of applying a tournequet to the wound.

He thought his end had come but they did come back and after using part of a rifle to apply a tournequet got him back to the Front Line trenches. From there he was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station at Lissenjhoek and eventually back to England. He was still only 19 years of age.

He said he owed his life to the railway embankment and the bravery of his fellow stretcher bearers. Without such a visible landmark in an otherwise featureless battlefield he would surely like so many others have perished with no known grave.

The War Diary for the 26th FA, simply records on the night of 4th/5th August "one OR to CCS". It is worth noting that in those first few days of August 1917, the 26th Field Ambulance lost over 30 stretcher bearers plus a doctor of the 25th FA.

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