Chapter 24

In Hospital

 

Someone shouted my name. I jumped up, thinking it was the usual command, 'To action stations,' only to find two parcels and a number of letters were for me. I always had lots of letters and parcels. I wrote home to relatives regularly.

If a wagon or dispatch rider came up to the guns they carried my mail in 'censored' green envelopes or a service post card. Others slept and snored from exhaustion while I was awake with the letters acting like a tonic and the many titbits in the parcel giving me enjoyment.

In a typical parcel there were small oatmeal scones, cooked sausages, powdered milk, meat cubes, sardines and a roll filled with butter. I dined and had a mug of milk. It was so good. There was Keatings Powder too, so off came my clothes, a hurried wash down and Keatings in the seams of my shirt and trousers, also in the neck of my tunic to deal with the ever-present fleas. In each parcel I had handkerchiefs, socks, a few razor blades and cleaning things. This enabled me to keep my feet clean and dry, have regular and decent shaves, to polish my boots and buttons, blanco my lanyard and reduce flea biting. This refreshed me more than disturbed sleep because I felt clean.

We were supplied with forty mules and horses and drivers from the Depot, also two new guns and twenty gunners to bring us up to strength. We had three days of comparative ease, quite good cooked food, showers each evening and our worn-out clothing was renewed.

On the fourth day out of action, two 'red tabs' (staff officers) arrived with our adjutant. We sensed something was brewing.

It happened just half an hour after the 'tabs' met our officers. There was a scramble when 'action' was sounded. We did not imagine we were going into the hot-seat so soon, but we were. At dusk we moved into Zillebeke. The shelling was of the saturation type. We had seven men wounded going up the line, also many animals put out of action. All the wounded had just joined us. It was their fourth day in France.

Near a place called Jackson's Dump we manhandled our guns into their sites. It was a ticklish job, but we managed. At daybreak the fun started. The whole area was subjected to systematic shelling. The creeping pattern of shells burst near us. We retaliated with all the guns in the Zillebeke zone. It was hell let loose. Many guns were destroyed and ammunition dumps blown up. Fires illumined the sector on the German line and our Jackson Dump section.

Our losses mounted. Colonel Street, Lieutenant Butters, Bombardier Crowhurst, Gunners Megan and Mahon were killed and I was among about a dozen wounded on 19th July, 1917. It was difficult getting away from the inferno. Royal Army Medical Corp soldiers moved quickly and silently among the dead, dying and wounded.

I was among sixty walking wounded. Some fell by the way, unable to reach the advance dressing station. I just made it, was given an injection and woke up some hours later in hospital.

The wounds did not break my spirit. I kept bright - perhaps too bright, for when badly wounded came in, I was asked to give up my bed and lie on a mattress on the floor. Next morning I was back in another bed, my condition was not too good according to the Medical Officer. Perhaps it was a chill, I did not ask. I was in bed a month and then shifted to a convalescent retreat, where conditions were good.

During my hospitalization I kept in touch with my unit. One day a letter came from Major Hobday saying, 'When you are fit for discharge, you will be welcomed back to the battery with promotion.

I got back to my unit in early October, 1917 and two days later my promotion appeared on the notice board, 'As from today, 70412 Bombardier Caseby, A., is promoted to Corporal.' I had a fine welcome from my brother NCOs and gunners.

 

 

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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.