August 5th 1918

We have two more Military Crosses to celebrate – both listed in the London Gazette of July 26th.

Capt. PB Frere (KRRC): “He covered 1000 yards of open ground under extremely heavy fire to inform the battalion on the left that we were about to withdraw. Again, next day he personally, under heavy machine-gun fire at close range, took orders for withdrawals to two companies, and was largely responsible for the successful withdrawal of his battalion. He exhibited great courage and cheerfulness under most trying conditions.” 

Although Philip did not mention this incident specifically, it seems likely to fit in with the events of March 24th which he described in his last letter.

Lieut. PJ Campbell (RFA): “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He directed the fire of his battery from a most exposed position, inflicting heavy casualties on the advancing enemy. During the whole retirement he occupied most forward positions, exposing himself to great danger, and supplied much valuable information throughout.” 

Pat too was doing his best to hold back the advancing Germans on March 24th.

November 11th 1917

2nd Lieut. Pat Campbell, having returned to the Ypres front following four days’ leave in Paris, has found himself back in the thick of this seemingly never-ending battle at Ypres, which has been going on since July 31st.

23/10/17 “The veterans of the brigade say – at least some of them do – that in all the long years they have been out here they have never seen such a country of absolute desolation, or such mud, and that they have never had the breeze up so badly as they have in the last few days…”

Pat was involved in an attack on October 22nd. As the Forward Observation Officer for his Brigade, he had to make his way forward with four signallers to a pill box close to the front line. Carrying heavy equipment and in bad conditions, this took them 3 hours.

His job was to keep in touch with the advance and send back information to the artillery. This was easier said than done, it seems:

“It is very difficult to tell what has happened in the early stages of a battle; some of the walking wounded who come dancing down the line are so pleased with themselves that they tell you that everything is going top hole, though they were probably hit before the thing began, while others who are rather worse and have lost some of their friends are equally despondent.”

He and another officer took turns to go forward:

“We went out alternately to various HQ and other less official sources to find out what news we could get and whether the infantry wanted any particular artillery support. On one of these little trips I got rather a nasty shock, which made me decide that I was not going out any more.

Usually you can hear a shell coming for at least a second or two and one learns to act promptly, but on this occasion it was a light velocity shell, which came right alongside us without any warning at all.”

This seems a strange point at which to leave this incident, but Pat does, so there it is. The Campbells deserve their luck. Pat’s brother Percy Campbell was killed in the first battle at Ypres almost three years ago to the day in 1914.

In his letter Pat asks, “I am wondering what the papers said about yesterday’s battle. It seems to have been a pretty decent show…”

This is a view shared at least by the Daily Telegraph:

Given the conditions Pat describes, it is difficult to imagine how a battle can be fought:

“It was very tiring walking about because at every step you lifted pounds of thick Belgian mud. I don’t think you could find a single square yard in that area that was not part of a shell hole, but even so, you can’t have any idea of what it looks like. It is simply indescribable.”

It is not that often that an artillery officer finds himself in the front line and Pat is quick to acknowledge the role of the infantry, who are there all the time:

“The more you see of them, the greater respect you have for them all, and I think the subalterns in particular. Such things as trenches have practically ceased to exist now, and they just live in shell holes and going forward to attack over ground like this, I really can’t understand how they do it. “

And so say all of us.

January 20th 1917

Today’s Daily Telegraph, I note, records on their Roll of Honour, the death of 2nd Lieut. Wallace Hardman, alongside five others from the Manchester Regiment. From articles over the past week it has become clear that he was killed in the engagement that took place on January 9th at Mahammed Abdul Hassan, north of Kut.

The Hardman and Mallalieu cousins are bearing up well in the face of the news, as we settle into a new term – the eighth of the war thus far.

Young Percival Mallalieu (aged 8 and in Form 1a), remembers being with his Aunt Minnie (Wallace’s mother) last autumn on a walk that took them past her local Post Office, when someone came out with a telegram. She must have feared the worst, but as it transpired it was only to give her the news that Laurie (her third son) had arrived safely back at Bedford School.

“Auntie Minnie held the message so that we could see it; but her hand was shaking so much that we could not read it.” Percival recalled.

The telegram she so feared at that moment was the one she received a week ago, on January 13th:

hardman-telegram

 

I am very grateful to the Hardman family for this most charming picture of their grandmother with ten of her grandchildren, taken in 1902. Three of them have now given their lives and four others are serving officers.

hardman-grandchildren

The older boys in the back row are David Westcott Brown (killed), Maurice Campbell (Lieut., RAMC) and Percy Campbell (killed).

The middle row shows Pat Campbell (2nd Lieut., RFA) Hugh Brown (Capt., Bedfordshires and recently wounded) and Geoffrey Brown.

With their grandmother in the front row are Donald Hardman (Artists Rifles for RFC) and Wallace Hardman (killed).

How can anyone look at such a picture without shedding a tear?