Tuesday, August 26, 2014

26 August 1914 - With the Irish Guards

Postmark: sent via Harwich, 26 August 1914 

"On Active Service in France... cannot say anything about the war as all letters are read."

"The Battalion heard confusedly of the fall of Namur and, it may be presumed, of the retirement of the French armies on the right of the British. There was little other news of any sort, and what there was, not cheering. On front and flank of the British armies the enemy stood in more than overwhelming strength, and it came to a question of retiring, as speedily as might be, before the flood swallowed what remained. So the long retreat of our little army began.

At Etreux, where with the rest of the Brigade the Battalion entrenched itself after the shallow pattern of the time, it had its first sight of a German aeroplane which flew over its trenches and dropped a bomb that “missed a trench by twenty yards.” The Battalion fired at it, and it “flew away like a wounded bird and eventually came down and was captured by another division.” Both sides were equally inexperienced in those days in the details of air war. All that day they heard the sound of what they judged was “a battle in the direction of Le Cateau.” This was the Second Army Corps and a single Division of the Third Corps under Smith-Dorrien interrupting our retirement to make a stand against four or more German Army Corps and six hundred guns. The result of that action caused the discerning General von Kluck to telegraph that he held the Expeditionary Force “surrounded by a ring of steel,” and Berlin behung itself with flags. This also the Battalion did not know. They were more interested in the fact that they had lost touch with the Second Division; and that their Commanding Officer had told the officers that, so far as he could make out, they were surrounded and had better dig in deeper and wait on. As no one knew particularly where they might be in all France, and as the night of the 26th was very wet, the tired men slept undisturbedly over the proposition, to resume their retreat next day."  (The Irish Guards in the Great War, Kipling)

Friday, August 15, 2014

15 August 1914 - With the Irish Guards

Postmark: Arras, Pas de Calais, 15 August 1914

"Still travelling.  Hope dear you and Lucy are keeping well"

"They reached Havre at 6 A.M. on August 13, a fiercely hot day...  Here they received an enthusiastic welcome from the French, and were first largely introduced to the wines of the country, for many maidens lined the steep road and offered bowls of drinks to the wearied.  Next day (August 14) men rested a little, looking at this strange, bright France with strange eyes, and bathed in the sea... At eleven o’clock they entrained at Havre Station under secret orders for the Front. The heat broke in a terrible thunderstorm that soaked the new uniforms. The crowded train travelled north all day, receiving great welcomes everywhere, but no one knowing what its destination might be. After more than seventeen hours’ slow progress by roads that were not revealed then or later, they halted at Wassigny, at a quarter to eleven on the night of August 15, and, unloading in hot darkness, bivouacked at a farm near the station."  (The Irish Guards in the Great War, Kipling)

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 1914 - With the Irish Guards

Photo taken in 1914.  Used as a postcard from the front line in June 1915
My great grandfather, Arthur Seaman, joined the Irish Guards on 1st December 1903.  He returned to civilian life briefly before being recalled to the regiment when the Kaiser's army invaded Belgium.

Arthur sent this postcard to my great grandmother in June 1915.  It is a photograph of the regiment taken at Wellington Barracks in London.

Rudyard Kipling's The Irish Guards in the Great War provides the context: "Mobilization was completed on August 8. Next day, being Sunday, the Roman Catholics of the Battalion paraded under the Commanding Officer, Lieut.Colonel the Hon. G. H. Morris, and went to Westminster Cathedral where Cardinal Bourne preached; and on the morning of the 11th August Field-Marshal Lord Roberts and Lady Aileen Roberts made a farewell speech to them in Wellington Barracks." 

My great grandfather wrote on the back the card, "3/4 of these chaps will never come home."  

I will be sharing other cards of his on the 100th anniversary of their posting.  

Quis Separabit / Up the Micks!