Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who died during the two World Wars.
THE GREAT GERMAN ATTACK ON YPRES SALIENT [Bridgnorth Journal, 17th June, 1916]
Writing on Thursday the 8th inst. In an article reproduced in the “Daily Telegraph” of the 12th, Philip Gibbs, the war correspondent, gives a graphic account of the severe fighting, and the epic part borne by the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and other Canadian regiments, Of the “Princess Pats” he says: “I only know that the ‘Princess Pats’ behaved with a superb, self-sacrificing courage, more wonderful than even their former actions in this war – and Canada knows the glory of her sons.” The following are extracts from a letter received by his father from Private Roy Hamilton Kelly (son of Mr. Wm. Kelly, Surveyor of H.M. Customs and Excise, Bridgnorth), who gave up his situation in the Imperial Bank of Canada at Saskatoon, and came over with the Universities’ contingent of the ‘Princess Pats;’ this being his first appearance in the trenches and his baptism of fire:-
“ June 7, 1916, I was very glad to get a letter from you and M. when we came out. It helped be [sic] a good deal. Many thanks also for sending the papers; they came just before we went in, so I took them with me, and read them the first day we were in. The cigarettes turned up safely, but Fritz has them, unless they were blown up.
I wish I could give you an idea of the whole business, but that is impossible. It is safe enough to say that when our company was practically blown to bits, and almost surrounded, it retired to the first supports and could not be moved.
General Macdonald has just been round asking us how we were feeling? When we said we were ‘Fine!’ he said; ‘We are always safe where the Princess Pats are.’ It was only by God’s mercy that I was spared, but I did my best, and meant to go like a soldier.
We gathered around the colonel; he was magnificent! Fritz was getting in by a communication trench, and they wanted help to block it up with sandbags so three of us did that. Then I got ammunition and carried it. It all happened very quickly. We fixed bayonets, and beat them with our fire. I hope I got a few. The bombardment was awful – just a rain of high explosive, with some shrapnel. Was buried, and soaked, and buffeted – some initiative!
Later on, in our new line, I found a Charles Garvice’s ‘A Girl of Spirit’ in a ruined dug-out, and read that to steady my nerves. It helped a good bit.
The worst trip I had was one night. We wanted water, so off I beat it down the trench to get it. The parapets and parados were down in places, so had to take a running chance, and crawl along in other places – over dead bodies and bits of bodies. Luckily, it was getting dusk, and their faces were dirty, so I couldn’t recognise any pals. High explosives are hellish. They were so kind to us when we got back, and did everything they could do.
Daring it all I felt so glad that there was a Hereafter, where I might have B. and you all again. Don’t worry if I go, for it is an honour to be with those fine fellows. They died game – the only epitaph we want in the Pats. I didn’t forget to wish you many happy birthdays, but I’m blest if I expected to wish it you from there!
Gallagher and I went up to see Tom Whitefoot the day before we went in. Tom is looking awfully fit, and is soon coming over to Bridgnorth on leave. Am trying to get in touch with him again. Poor Gallagher has gone West. Will you tell Mrs. Burton, and thank her for asking him to look me up. I can never be grateful enough for having been spared, and by this I mean a great deal more than I can say.”
This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg. For news of updates follow @BridgnorthHeros on Twitter.