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1914 Haywards Heath Man writes home about his experience of the horrors of War

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 3 November 1914



Mr and Mrs H. A. Baker, of Milton Road, Haywards Heath, have received an interesting letter from their son, private H. A. Baker of the first Battalion Coldstream Guards, who was reported wounded some weeks ago. He writes “I was wounded in the battle of the Aisne (1) on 14 September.

‘It was terrible: shot and shell came on us like rain. I was hit by shrapnel which burst right in front of me. It was a wonder I was not killed outright. As it was, I got off with a piece of it right in the centre of the forehead. There were eight of us who went down by the same shell–two were killed and the rest wounded in the arms and legs.

I had a near shave from being captured after being hit. After I was hit a fellow carried me about half a mile behind a big haystack and bound me up. Presently a lot more wounded came behind the stack and the German shells were bursting all round us. My chum and I decided to chance our luck and get to the hospital. We got there safely, but the other wounded were captured about half an hour afterwards. The Germans shelled the hospital while I was lying there and my chum who took me back was severely injured just afterwards.

The next day we started away in an ambulance wagons, and the dirty swines of Germans started shelling us. One waggon went up with all the poor helpless fellows inside. We then got in some motor lorries and had to go about 20 miles to catch a train. It was there I saw Ernest White - (this is a reference to Milton Road neighbour who is in the Army service Corps)–but I could not get up in the wagon to speak, and he was going one way and we the other.

After that we had the horrible news brought to us that we had got a train ride that would last us two days and nights. And well we knew it. Anyway we arrived in hospital about 3 o'clock in the morning on the 18th. I soon got well enough to get about again, and then we were shifted about hundred miles for a boat for Convalescents, where I have been ever since. There were about 800 was here. We shall all be going to the front again soon.

(1) The battle, fought from 10th to 13th September 1914 in the First World War, saw the end of mobility and the beginning of four years of trench warfare on the Western Front

Summary of the Battle of the Aisne

Date of the Battle: 13th to 15th September 1914

Place of the Battle: On the Aisne River to the east of Soissons in Eastern France

Contestants at the Battle: The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Army against the German Western Army.

Commanders at the Battle: General Joffre commanded the French Army. Field Marshal Sir John French commanded the BEF. General Manoury commanded the French 6th Army. General Franchet D’Espèrey commanded the French 5th Army.

Winner of the Battle: The Battle of the Aisne could best be described as a draw. The Germans failed to drive the BEF and the French back across the Aisne River, but the BEF and the French failed to take the Chemin des Dames plateau. The German retreat stopped on the plateau and both sides dug substantial trench networks, which remained the front line for several years.



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