First-hand memories of those man who took part in the defence of Gheluvelt are as rare as they are humbling.
It shouldn't be forgotten that the British response to the Germans' attack on the third day of the Battle of Gheluvelt had already seen all the front line battalions defending the Menin Road reduced to mere fragments of their full strength.
Remember, the 2nd Worcesters had advanced through streams of wounded stragglers pleading with them not to go on.
The following is reproduced here by kind permission of the www.worcestershireregiment.com website, which is the authoratitive source for all things Worcestershire Regiment and the situation they faced at Gheluvelt that day.
A survivor of Gheluvelt
We lay one night in a wood that embowered a fine chateau. Next morning, we left the wood and went on up the Menin Road to the trenches at Gheluvelt.
It was a couple of days later that the 31st of October broke, and no one can forget that dawn. There was a presage of crisis in the air. The night before it had gone round that the Kaiser had sworn that Ypres should be his by 5 o’clock next evening.
I had a dressing station in a small isolated house standing in a by-lane off the main street of Gheluvelt. Soon after day break a high explosive shell crashed into it.
I went to the doorway, and, standing there, I became aware that a ghastly procession was filing down the road. They were the wounded dribbling back. Some were limping, some staggering; some hobbled with the help of a comrade’s arm; I saw some even crawling.
Then a few came carrying stretchers with inanimate burdens. He had a race for life across cabbage patches amid a hail of bullets to another cottage.
Then he and two others took refuge again, but a disaster threatened. We all three repaired to the back door of the cottage and prepared for the rush. The two of them ran out, when a shrapnel burst and killed them on the spot. I myself was saved by the door-post.
A little later my sergeant came galloping across, and, seeing the dead body in the doorway, thought it was mine.
He passed through the cottage to the front door, and peeped out of it down the road. I heard his cheery voice calling out to me, no less mirthful than at any time, but his words froze all the humour out of myself immediately.
“We’re done, sir. They are all coming down the road.”
I ran and looked, too, and saw, truly enough, the blue-coated figures swarming across the fields and converging on to the pave.
The writer made another dash. We ran down all those back gardens like maniacs, hurling ourselves through the hedges, with the crash of explosions on every side of us. Dimly, too, were aware of other men running over the fields on either side of us.
At last we reached the road, down either side of which a deep ditch ran. This was all full of men running, many of them wounded.
I stumbled over one lying dead. In places it was obstructed by telegraph wires fallen across it.
It was a mad rush. Everyone was in a desperate hurry, but there was no sort of panic.
About a mile back, coming into the open, I came on the trench which was being hastily manned to check the enemy. I had to leap across it – a curious sensation, with all the tense-strained faces inside it, and the rifles across the parapet, ready to blare forth their Halt.
TEXT COURTESY OF WWW.WORCESTERSHIREREGIMENT.COM