“A very nasty bit of line”

An army chaplain with links to Stratfield Mortimer reported on life and death in the thick of the fighting.

Mr. Bowdon

The most recent news from Mr. Bowdon includes the following:-

Since I last wrote we have been almost constantly on the move, and it seems as though there were little likelihood of our being permanently established anywhere. Orders to march come so suddenly and unexpectedly sometimes that it is very difficult to arrange one’s work. It has been interesting visiting centres, and we have had very pleasant times on the march and at our various camping grounds. Here, down South, we have had a bad time.

This is a very nasty bit of line, and we have had two battles in two successive days and lost a good many officers and men. I was right in the thick of the second fight. It commenced one evening just after nightfall as I was finishing a funeral service at the back of the lines. After a heavy bombardment the Huns came over and succeeded in capturing a number of men of our Brigade in a part of the front where the lines are only about 25 yards apart. The roar of the guns was terrific, the very ground shook and the air was thick with the fumes of the explosives. The Huns sent over a number of weeping shells, and everyone got out his gas helmet…

The brutes are shelling us again; some 4’7 shells keep whistling past my window as I write, and are exploding a little way over to my right; I hope they won’t come nearer or I must shift. There is no glass to break, that all went long ago. I have nailed up some calico to keep the weather out and give me light.

The country we are in now is much more interesting than where we have been – there it was flat as a pancake, here it is all hills and woods and rivers scattered about, and one can see something of what is going on. From many points one can view the Hun lines, though it isn’t healthy to expose oneself too much, as they have a nasty trick of turning on the machine guns at unexpected moments when they don’t consider it worth while to send shells.

With every best wish to all friends at Mortimer.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

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