Remembrance - 6th Royal West Kent Regiment 1914-18. By Sidney T Kemp

The Prince wasn't hurt but our Lewis machine gun crew we now had the Lewis gun as part of our equipment were waiting like U3 togo into the billets. Some were killed and most wounded. Guardsmen afterwards told us that the Prince did his spell of duty in the line as did the other officers and that he was a Captain in charge of a company. One chap who died that I knew personally for he had been in 8 Platoon with me was Private Page, whose home was at Vest Farleigh near Maidstone. Also young Mitchley was badly injured by another shell that fell in the village. On October 5th we left Hagingarbe to march back to the war. Terrific shelling was ongoing by both sides as we neared Vermelles again for the main road passed through this village togo to Hulloch and Loos and Lens and further east. This is where the war really started for us. Let me say that Vermelles was a street with rows of small houses and terraces etc. with shops both sides of the main street. Mow to the east of Vermelles and I am pretty clear about this I should say you could see as there were very few trees no hedges and no buildings a distance up the valley for at least half a mile and I should think it was nearly another half mile before we came to the first captured German trench which ran parallel with the road leading from Vermelles to Hulloch and beyond. I always was and still am a good judge of distances but in that area what lay there not only shocked us but sickened us too for the ground was literally covered by the bodies of Scottish soldiers inlaying all positions some facing the Germams some to the left some to the right. These men were all dead and in their kilts. It looked terrible for not only were they swelling to two or three times their proper size but their faces and hands were black as coal and the answer to that was gas not German gas as was used earlier at Ypres but British gas, and these the young mahood of Scotland had just rushed hell for leather into the gas they were supposed to be following. Our second in command of B Coy, Captain Towse begged to be allowed to take his company and bury these chaps. To put it midly I should say there were hundreds of the flower of Scotland lying there dead but we later on learned that two Scottish Divisions the 9th and 15th were thrown into the battle so those chaps like us in England who had all volunteered were now thrown away and hardly any German trenches captured. None of these Scottish soldiers was wearing a gas mask or respirator whatever you call it for it was impossible togo madly onto a bayonet charge wearing something that stopped your breathing. The mistake they made was to follow the gas and not try and travel into it. Still that is that. After Ethel and I moved to Sevenoaks we met a Scottish lady named Mrs. Stott who was a Campbell by birth and she told us that almost every family in Scotland was bereaved by that awful tragedy of the gas attack which failed at Loos in September 1915- We were now going into the captured German trenches which were few. The Hohenzollem Redoubt of which the battle of Loos seemed to be about was avast honeycomb of fortified trenches each one a fortress of its own and even the communication trenches were made for troops to be able to fire from. But up this road to Kulloc n before we moved off the road we saw a sight the like that I never saw afterwards. There was a British infantryman and a German soldier standing leaning against each other and both had lunged at the same time with their bayonets and each bayonet was right through the body of the other. This had happened no doubt on that first day, September 25th and these chaps enemies to each other had died almost at the same time. It was pretty horrible to see but this now was war and what we had seen and done earlier on that summer at the Annentiers sector was just playing at war that is how I saw it and still do.
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