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War Memories of Lt. W L Heape East Lancashire Regiment 1914-1919

junior officers and men had not received much information about the impending battle, in which many of them would die. The 2 nd East Lancs formed part of the first wave of the attack by 24 th Brigade on the Rouges Bancs section of the German Front Line. B and C Companies of 2 nd East Lancs led the assault on the right flank of 24 th Brigade across the Fromelles to Sailly road. The Regimental History records that on the night before the attack one platoon each from “B” Company (Lt Daws) and “C” Company (Lt Boothby) took up their positions in the advance trench. The advance trench from which the two platoons had to attack was open to enfilade fire from the left. After the heavy bombardment of the enemy lines at 5am next morning, one of the men shouted, “It’s a walk-over, a ---- walk-over.” He soon found out that it was not. At 5.40am the attack commenced. The men had to cross about 300 yards of open ground to reach the German trenches. As soon as they left the Advance Trench they met a hail of bullets from the enemy lines. After the initial attack had failed a further artillery bombardment was ordered. Many of the British shells fell short, causing yet more casualties, including my father. So ended what was described in the Regimental History as the most disastrous day, with one possible exception, that the battalion experienced in the whole war. The casualties on that day amounted to 19 officers and 388 other ranks killed or wounded, and 42 men missing. What follows is my father’s own account of his life in the army and his part in the battle, which he wrote shortly before he died in 1972. He calculated that his chances of surviving the conflict were not very good, and as he sailed away he wondered if he would ever see England again. Reading his words brings alive what it was really like to fight in the trenches in World War One: War Memories of Lt. W L Heape of the East Lancashire Regiment, 1914-1919 “I entered Sandhurst in August 1914 and joined “G” Company, which was commanded by Major Cowie of the Dorset Regiment. We were housed in the handsome old buildings with spacious rooms. I rose to the rank of Sergeant and had a lovely room to myself, just over the main portals. I was commissioned to the East Lancashire Regiment in December 1914, having stayed only a few months at Sandhurst. The war was going badly, and conditions then were quite abnormal. Our work was entirely confined to military training. I have no recollection of any academic classes. We worked all day at musketry, range firing, field exercises, map reading and night compass marches. We dug trenches and learned to build bridges. We also did a lot of physical training in the gym and over obstacle courses. My knee stood up very well and I got very fit. I ran occasionally with the Aldershot Command Beagles, but I spent most of my free time in boats on the lake. My time at Sandhurst was far too short, and I was still very green when I joined the Third Battalion of the East Lancashires in December 1914. We were stationed at Liara Barracks in Plymouth, under the command of Lt. Colonel Lloyd-Carson. He was a rather elderly, retired officer and a very nice man. Our adjutant was Captain Orr-Paterson, and he and his wife were very popular. Our main task was to train drafts to feed the regular battalions in France, and I remember being sent to Preston
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