Thursday, 30 June 2016

Charles Moss: Hendon beaches

Charles Herbert Moss was from Chester-le-Street. He enlisted enlisted as 18/544 Private in the 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. By 1 July 1916, he had been promoted to a Lance Corporal and was party of the C Company Lewis machine gun team. He survived both the Battle of the Somme, and the First World War, after which he wrote ‘My part in the Battle of the Somme' from which the quotes below are taken.
Charles Moss, 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 1915 (D/DLI 7/478/6)
D/DLI 7/478/6 Charles Moss, 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 1915
Somme - Barbed Wire
“Despite the terrific bombardment by our artillery, most of the German barbed wire entanglements were still as strong as ever… Those barbed wire defences were a great wonder to me… They were a great massive rusty wire wall built along the whole of the Western Front. They were about 5 or 6 feet high, and 3 to 4 yards deep in most places, built up on strong wooden and iron stakes.”

Evening before the attack, 30 June 1916 
“During the evening our CO, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Bowes, give us instructions for our conduct during the battle. There was to be no turning back, every man must advance at a steady pace. All officers had the authority to shoot anyone who stopped or tried to turn back. The wounded had to be left to be attended to by the stretcher bearers and RAMC. The grimmest order to me was that no fighting soldier was to stop to help the wounded.”

Extra Equipment, June 1916
“Over and above our ordinary equipment, rifle and bayonet and ammunition in our pouches, I had a khaki bandolier full of .303, six loaded Lewis Gun magazines – carried in a horse’s nose bag because we hadn’t enough proper containers available – two Mill bombs, and a pick with the shat stuck down my back behind my haversack, and we were called Light Infantry!”

Bombardment, 1 July 1916
“I wanted to see how our attack was so going so I moved some of the chalk on the front of the trench in such a way that I would be protected from German sniper fire, and took a good look at the German line in front of me. But all that I could see was fountains of chalk and smoke sent up by our artillery. It was like watching heavy seas rolling and roaring on to Hendon beaches… during winter storms.”

Walking wounded, 1 July 1916
“We got the word to move to our ‘jumping off’ trench to be ready to go over the top… As I got into this trench I nearly bumped into a soldier who seemed to be carrying a big piece of raw meat resting on his left arm. He was doing a sort of crying whimper… Then I realised it was the remains of his right forearm he was carrying… Many more soldiers were making their way back up the trench, they were the walking wounded.”
Charles Moss, taken a few years after the first photograph (D/DLI 7/478/8)
D/DLI 7/478/8 Charles Moss, taken a few years after the first photograph
Night, 1916
“The darkness of the night was often broken by the brilliant light from the arching Verey Lights being fired across No Man’s Land. As each light died out we were blinded by the darkness being blacker than ever, and the sudden changes from the blackness to such weird and ghostly light… made the place such a terribly eerie sight, that I felt as though I was no longer on the civilised world.”

Young soldier, 1916
“While we were in the shelter the talk amongst the team became very morbid and downhearted. They would persist in talking about the cruel and gruesome sights they had seen, and how easily such things could happen to them. One of the youngest, a lad of about 17, was becoming very distressed as the despondent talk continued. I realised I would have to get their minds on to other and more cheerful things, so when one of them passed the remark… “It’s a bloody good job we’ve got a navy,” I took this as my cue… so I got them interested in some of my trips in the Merchant Navy especially my holidays on the continent with the Londonderry boats out of Seaham Harbour. It was marvellous how they responded to the change of subject, the young gunner brightened up considerably and the rest of them stopped their depressing gossip.”

Durham miners, 1916
“The Kitchener’s Army Pit Lads proved themselves to be ‘born soldiers.’ What a great pity it is impossible to estimate how much the country owes to the miners for the ultimate victory, and the good hearted manner of it. All the world ought to know how many miners there were in the regiments that broke through the German Front at Contalmaison and Fricourt and repulsed the enemy counter attacks at Martinpuich, Butte de Warlencourt and Flers. It was their contempt of danger and death that won them through.”

You can read the full story of Charles Moss on Durham at War and a transcript of his memoir:

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