Contributed by: Kevin Williams, on 2008-11-06
|Year of Birth||1894|
|Year of Death||1972|
|Place of Wartime Residence||Hornsey, Greater London|
As a child I used to play with grandads medals, they were just things which were kept in a small glased container on the top of the mantle piece. When what I was doing was discovered I would ask the inevitable questions about them and receive answers. I would follow up with "Did you kill anyone in the war?" to which he would always answer " I don't know we couldn't see them." He always seemed reluctant to talk about it but as I was a child I didn't understand this. In later years, after he had died and I had grown up I discovered from other members of the family that he would never talk about his experiances with anybody. He did however write his memoirs in the 1930's which chronicled his army life from being a territorial in 1914 to demobilzation in February 1919. He served throughout 1914 mainly in England, then in Egypt until May 1916 when he sailed from Alexandria to Marselles. On 6th July 1916 he joined the 56th Div at Sur-St-Leger near Gommecourt on the Somme. He suffered from shell shock following the 56th Div attack on Leuze Wood on the 12th Sep 1916. In his words from his memoirs "Into the line we go. The line I said but wait we are now trudging over what was Jerry's ground a few days ago. See there's Highwood, or what's left of it, just a few stumps here and there. We can't walk straight for shell holes, no not 10 yards and in one place they overlap. There's a line of Tommies they might be resting before rushing on again but they are all dead, just as they were caught by a machine gun as they crested a rise. This is it with a vengence. We creep into the front line no elaborate trench system here, just shell holes connected here and there. It is strangely quiet, we can even look over the top in daylight but shelling still goes on but most go over head screeching through the air. I am a Company Runner, 6 of us and we make a shell hole deeper in between trotting around. Along come the shells, teh rude things take lumps out of our trenchmen, one chap goes raving with shock. Some don't make a sound anymore. At 02.30 we are told to turn left and walk along the trench to Leuze Wood. There are parts of the line not dug so we have to scramble over the top - ah Jerry is there now and many don't reach the trench again. There is a gap between the trench and the wood and here many more stumble, bullets are everywhere, one passes my ear so close it deafens me. At last we're in the wood but it's only the beginning for Jerry seems to switch all his guns on it. Groups of shells search everywhere until it seems no part can be missed."
From private to rifleman Eric Williams 304416 Middlesex Regiment