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

to bring down 200 men to Plymouth. It was my first independent job. I reported to the barracks at Preston to take command of the draft. They were accompanied by a company sergeant major and a sergeant. We entrained the men at Preston Station. I travelled 1 st class on an officer’s warrant and I invited the CSM to accompany me in my carriage, as I was anxious to keep in touch with what was going on. I cannot remember how many times the train stopped, but I do remember that on arrival we had a roll call of the men and we had lost a number of them. I was absolutely horrified, but Col. Lloyd-Carson was very decent about it and I do not remember any repercussions. Early in 1915 my company went into camp near Plympton, where we were very happy. I was lucky with my NCOs, who prevented me from making the obvious mistakes. We left Plymouth with a draft of the Loyal North Lancashires for some unknown reason. Captain Richardson of the East Lancashires was in command. We had a great send off from Plymouth. Both my parents came down from Lancashire to say goodbye to me. My two children still possess copies of the snapshot of me, taken by Mrs Orr-Paterson, as I stood on the platform just about to entrain. I left for France on 12 th April 1915 from Southampton. The average life of an infantry officer in the trenches was then about a month. I was very severely wounded on 9 th May 1915 and never went into action again, so I maintained the average. As I write this now I am reading a letter dated 11 th April, which I sent off to my parents from the South Western Hotel in Southampton. I remember gazing over the stern of our steamer at the fading lights of Southampton and wondering whether I should ever see England again. The sea was rough and the passage uncomfortable, with the decks littered with officers and men, but our escort of destroyers held my interest and I managed to land at Le Havre in reasonable shape. We spent a night at the rest camp, and next morning Captain Richardson and a few of us started our journey to the Front Line. I cannot remember anyone except Captain Richardson. The journey was slow, but Captain Richardson was a friendly and kind companion. The 2 nd Battalion was holding a section of the line north of Fromelles and was under the command of Major Maclear. It had received severe casualties at the recent battle of Neuve Chapelle. I was posted to “B” Company under the command of Lieutenant Daw, a splendid company officer. Another good fellow in “B” Company was Lieutenant Henderson, and I made friends with 2 nd Lieutenant Bligh, whose Field Service Pocket Book I still possess for some unexplained reason. Captain Arnott, the adjutant, took me to lunch with the commanding officer, and it was an awkward meal for me. Major Maclear asked what training I had had, and I told him Sandhurst and the 3 rd Battalion. He turned to his adjutant with the comment, “Why can’t they send us someone useful from the HAC or Artists Rifles?” Of course the poor man wanted some mature officers, who had already experienced active service, instead of an absolutely green boy of just 18 years of age. Still, he didn’t think much about my feelings and I felt very discouraged. The next incident I remember was the inspection of the battalion by the C-in-C Field Marshall Sir John French. We then went into billets near Sailly, where the forthcoming offensive was explained to the senior officers. The main objective was
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