When the war broke out in 1914, Jim was in a reserved job, farm worker, at first (he wore an armband to show that the was in a ‘war-job’). The people called them ‘Lord Derby’s Standbacks’. Later on, about 1916, Jim joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at Warwick. He was sent to France to serve in the trenches. They went out to France in railway trucks, labelled 16 hommes or two shivcres (16 men or two horses).
Jimmy served in the trenches in France and Belguim. When I asked him if he killed any Germans, he said ‘I don’t know, I just pointed my rifle at the German lines and pulled the trigger’. Sometimes when they were behind the lines in the ‘rest area’ they still had to dodge bullets zipping through from the front line. He said that sometimes they had to hold an old piece of board up when they ran across to the latrines (toilets). That was enough to stop a bullet because they were nearly spent (a rifle bullet could kill you at about three miles).
‘Where’s your moustache?’
When Jimmy was on parade one day, when he first joined up, the infantry all wore moustaches. The officer in charge made Jimmy take two paces forward, ‘where’s your moustache soldier? You’ve shaved it off!’ ‘No Sir, I haven’t growed one yet!’ (Jimmy was 21). Most of his mates had big drooping ‘old bill’ tashes. They were older men, because he had been held back a couple of years.
Later on in 1917, Jimmy was in a battle in France and was badly gassed. He was sent back to ‘blighty’ (England) and for a long time he was in hospital at Squire’s Gate near Blackpool, Lancs.
When he got a bit better he was sent to a camp where recruits were coming in. He got a stripe (acting unpaid lance corporal) and a silver stripe to show he’d been gassed (red for wounds, silver for gas). He got two medals for serving in France. He was discharged unfit in 1918.
Back home to Bishop’s Itchington
When he got home to Bishop’s Itchington they were getting over the war. Tom, Jimmy’s dad, had ricks of hay bought for feeding army horses. They kept paying him again for the same hay, he had to write and tell them to stop! They had trouble like that even before computers came out! Tom owed some money on the Blacksmith’s Forge and cottage (£100). Jim paid that off and bought six sheep with money he had saved up in the army (they were paid 5p per day!), and money he got making table centres (woven) and selling them to visitors to the army hospital when he was in bed there.
When he first joined the army he went to Chiselden[?] camp on Salisbury Plain. There were thousands of men there in training. The latrines (toilets) were just trenches dug in fields and when the men were sitting on the rails using the ‘loo’ they used to wave to people outside their houses in the village.
Originally written 02.05.1983. Digitised by Haidee Powell – October 2009
Harbury Heritage reference HM1304