for my great grandfather and great-uncle
Mike Burrows recites over
Track One: Lament for String Orchestra, Frank Bridge
Ghosts - Remembrance
A brown wave without break, ceaseless rocking
Of arms, back and forth, and if wearier, legs –
The tramp of hobnailed boots crisper than they,
If they think at all, can feel. Forward march.....
The weight of their boots still works them along –
The command to halt never came to them.
The horse-drawn batteries now plod with them,
In place where place is found in swinging-on,
No longer whipped up, no longer the pride
Of polished God of Thunder all pause for,
The gunners driving or sitting hunched-up -
Though carried, reduced to the thrill of pride
Of the Labour Corps or commissariat.
Maybe, amid column, you catch the sight
Of flashed stretcher-bearers without stretchers
Or forms of where or how lost, or ambulances
Whose drivers feel no drag of inertia
Or beginning of the end of too much seen.
All are in the army of the mud-subsumed,
Yet move, and move on through old potential.
If they think, and a collection of thoughts
Amasses across the Battalions,
The Regiments and Divisions of war,
Peace never came; it will never now come,
The endless paces and wheel-turns – God knows –
To Gehenna, clay's triumph of logiastics,
Are taken, and somehow, death deals no hurt
Except war – this war that never ended
Lives on as shades. Through mud, one-bright badges
Rust with rifles-barrels furred, breeches blocked,
Bayonets that flashed out with the Summer
Or Autumn or thinner sun of Winter
Or Spring, shineless, as old in appearance
As any Iron Age blade. The wire will not,
They know now, be refitted into crown
Of cap. It is Gorblimey now and always,
Or Glengarry, colonial slouch hat –
Or tin hat disconsolately low in front.
Can you look at their faces? Can you look
Them in the hollow eye? Lean cheeks and jaws
Shrunken in some famine you never knew,
That consumed them for nation-heroism:
They were the Grand-parents who never sat
Dreaming or refusing ever to tell
What could not be told...and they never joined
Enemies you might see subdued like them,
To one earthen colour. You see no peace
In the dark glint of eyes in which, downcast,
Is too plain the secret society
Of gauging distances and flaming fear
That seems almost to herald chance snipers,
Mines and booby traps of the long-ago,
That expects the unexpected in crumps,
Whether live or dud. For peace never came,
And now, they are made mute and billetless,
Perhaps even haltless, for evermore.
Copyright, Mike Burrows, 11/11/13
Yes - everything - even a girl's rose-musk
Can haunt the field's wooded edge, whose dark gave
Clear notes both mystery in a June dusk,
And reflection; everything, that is, save
What is not felt. Now, silence sounds Last Post;
Release comes and free hours in which to think
Of the owl's cry heard in the close: a ghost
Of cold brass flared with vibrato, to sink.
In the camp, some wonder if hope is dead;
To sink into an acrid clay as man
Is only a picture to men now led
By brass, and yet as sure as what began
Their lives; put off perhaps for days and more,
Will come the proof of what one has lived for.
(Before Montaubon, July 1st, 1916,
The Manchester Pals)
A small township, there it is, the future,
A tactical eternal city – near
In the mind’s grasp and, if enough endure,
For fight and wit to bring us to. So clear
Through the periscope, that slim glimpse of stone
And earthen tiles, of tower part-masked by trees
And calm slopes: lifted by the fields, high-flown
But proffered beyond all casualties.
One man, shot through, whimpering, finds refuge
As explosives strike soul and drape over
Worlds with earth’s mud, yet some feel the deluge
Moves with them. They help him into cover,
And find ways towards that town on the rise –
Ducking as his shellhole doubles in size.
Copyright, Mike Burrows, 20/11/12
This is Classical Break, and I’m Rupert Kirkham. Today’s programme is a continuation of our remembrance broadcasts and was researched and written by Mike Burrows.
Of partly Danish blood and born in 1892, the son of an interior decorator from South Shields, the Mancunian Herbert Ingoe, was a typical recruit to the British Army in 1914. Ninety-eight years have passed since his medical. He joined the Eighteenth City Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, on the Fourth of September, Nineteen Fourteen. He was described in the report as a clerk, aged twenty-two, dark-haired, of a sallow complexion, with hazel grey eyes. He was five feet three-and-a-half inches in height, with a girth, at full expansion, of thirty-one-and-a-half inches, capable of an expansion of two inches, and weighed in at one hundred-and-six pounds, that is, eight stone-eight pounds. He was passed as being in good or normal health apart from low weight, which could be soon increased. His eyesight was categorized as D-Six, which one takes to mean poor. In other documents, 1810411, Private Ingoe, Herbert was described variously as a Congregationalist and Wesleyan by faith. He was teetotal - no impediment to his becoming a Pal. Here is a patriotic song: The Deathless Army.
Track Two: The Deathless Army
Basic training in drill, physical fitness, care of equipment, musketry, use of the bayonet on straw, trench-digging and combat in attack and defence were got through. The only records are of innoculations and postings; Herbert left no trail of fines, fatigues and CBs - Confinements to Barracks. He would have had a few days of leave during this time, and stayed with his parents - he had a sweetheart who lived not far away from them. A song by Grieg, now, one of his Melodies Of The Heart, setting a poem by Hans Christian Andersen: I love But Thee.
Track Three: I Love But Thee, Grieg
A popular song that sent many men to France and the Battle of The Somme was Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kitbag - it was much satirized even at the time... Here, it can be heard – sung amid a medley as played by HM Coldstream Guards at the Wembley Military Tattoo of 1925. The other tunes need no introduction.
Track Four: March Medley
The Eighteenths, now the Eighteenth (Service) Battalion, arrived in France on the Sixth of November, Nineteen Fifteen. They marched ten miles to Folkestone on route-march-hardened feet for a rough channel-crossing to Boulogne. During his time in the Army, poor Herbert was guilty of one minor infraction of King’s Regulations: he was reported by Corporal Beattie and had up on a charge of losing an oil-cloth through neglect, on the Twenty-first of November. He was directed by the court to pay for a replacement.
A march and train-journey brought the unit to Amiens. As for Herbert’s service in France, between drill, route-marches, training in trench-warfare and labour on a British Army railway-system to expedite the moving of men and materials to the front, there were short stints in the lines, and further preparations for an up-coming push. There were periods of rest, though nothing to compare with the Manchester Pals’ celebration of Christmas.
Easter would have been celebrated most richly in men’s hearts.
Unattrib. Track: Rejoice, the Lord is King, Wesley
For a man like Herbert Ingoe, the Easter of 1916 may have seemed all-important, the season of resurrection amid the Spring of the French countryside and blasted landscapes of War, where somehow, Nature lived on in battening corvines and giant rats but also as larks nested and flowers and grasses sprang somehow from contaminated mud and the dead bodies of men and horses. With him, were the Pals.
The expectations of those at home weighed heavily. Here’s a patriotic arrangement of a song by the Irish composer, Balfe: The Trumpeter.
Track Five: The Trumpeter, Balfe
One asks oneself what hi-jinks the smart soldier would have come to expect by the Spring of Nineteen Sixteen. Victory, owing to overwhelming numbers and superior equipment, perhaps!
At last, the momentum of preparations reached their height. The Eighteenths left greatcoats and other unnecessary equipment in constituted warehouses: on the eve of the push, they paraded and were addressed by their Commanding Officer via a megaphone.
Track Six: Moto Perpetuo, Variations on A Theme Of Frank Bridge, Britten
That was the Moto Perpetuo from the Variations On A Theme of Frank Bridge by his pupil, Benjamin Britten.
As a component of the Thirtieth Division, they moved up through an expanded trench-system to the front line. Their task was to assist in the rolling back of the local German defences and capture of the fortified town of Montaubon beyond. To reach Montaubon, they would have to advance some three thousand yards, almost two miles, over rising ground, in the face of strong opposition. The Germans had been bombarded by heavy artillery for a week; in spite of big, concrete dugouts, they had not coped well. Yet how well-protected they were would cause some surprize to the British Tommy. It was believed that most of those manning the German forward defences had been killed or that concussion had reduced them to confusion or numb incapacity, and that special shells filled with metal balls and fused to burst in the air had cut the barbed wire defences ahead of them to shreds.
This was one occasion when the barrage was heard in England: the poet Thomas Hardy wrote a poem, Channel-firing. Here is Gerald Finzi’s setting of that poem, from another defining year in our country’s recent history, 1940.
Track Seven: Channel-firing, Finzi
In fact, thanks only partly to the concrete dug-outs, the weight of artillery had not come close to doing all that had been asked of it - even of the shells fired, many had been duds, and the fusing of the shells meant to break the wires had been left far too much to chance.
Now, overnight, Stokes mortars - an invention of the previous year - were employed from the front trench, many their spherical projectiles aimed at barbed--wire to make assurance doubly sure. Soldiers who took part in the assault spoke later of seeing numbers of football-like objects lying amid and around the unbroken wires - mortar--shells that had failed to explode. On the sector that Private Ingoe and his comrades were due to go over, occurred one of ten preparatory acts of man well-diguised as God that erupted at fortified points on the Somme front that day. To add to the destruction and terror caused by bombardment, at three minutes to zero-hour - Seven twenty-seven A M - miners detonated a large explosive charge under the German position known as Kasino Point. Some elements nearby had gone over the top prematurely, only to be injured by debris from the huge spout of earth and stones. What goes up must come down.
Track Eight: Climax from the first movement of Sinfonia Da Requiem, Britten
A moment from the Sinfonia Da Requiem, by Benjamin Britten.
At Seven-Thirty, the whistles were blown along a wide Front; bayonets fixed, the British, Commonwealth and French troops involved in the attack scaled ladders. They emerged in three mighty waves, one hundred yards apart. Try to imagine going over the top while carrying a back-pack, rifle with bayonet fixed, ammunition pouches - one hundred-and-twenty rounds had been issued to each man – iron rations, admittedly of the barest, a full canteen, gasmask and trenching-tool, two grenades for the use of trained grenadiers and two empty sand-bags, a burden in total of about seventy pounds...
Selected sections were given extra duties - carrying large rolls of barbed-wire, further trenching-tools, wire-cutters, duckboards, machine-guns and ammunition-boxes, or other equipment, over and above their own - men would be marked out by white shoulder-flashes, or yellow triangles in addition to the standard-issue metal discs worn on the back so as not to draw friendly fire on oneself. The duckboards were to be placed across the trench-walls to enable men following up to advance quickly over them, and the rolls of barbed-wire would be set up on the far side of the captured positions. During the advance at a walk -in order to keep everyone, including artillerymen, machine-gunners and mortar--firers in supportive rather than unwittingly lethal phase - casualties were heavy, but a German Redoubt, Glatz, was taken, the enemy trenches were overrun and then, Montaubon beyond, fell. German counter--attacks were repulsed over the next few days. On the First of July through, the spirits of troops facing heavy resistance had risen with the taking of prisoners and, ultimately, the chief objective. This in spite of no-man’s-land being torn up by shellfire. As they overran comparatively light resistance in the German front-line, an enfilading machine-gun post caused many casualties, but could not halt the British attack. A Battalion was normally divided into Four Companies; one imagines that C--Company was in the second wave. The second wave of the Eighteenths had a relatively easy advance; the German lines were neutralized and crossed with less wastage of shock troops than in other Sectors. Junior Officers kept their companies in strict formation, armed with Webley revolver and whistle only. Soldiers had been ordered not to halt to assist wounded comrades. The remaining in close order was intended to ensure that the men were defensive of one-another but, more particularly, offensive in weight of numbers, an effective force in hand-to--hand combat.
Military policemen followed-up in the British trenches, encouraging ‘stragglers’ to face the front and do their duty... Courts-martial cost time and money. The story is told of a wounded man - walking wounded’s - seeing two young soldiers cornered by Red Caps where they were hiding - as he stumbled on down, he heard two revolver--shots. In another touch of thrift, it had been laid down as a point of honour for the walking wounded to return to Field-dressing stations carrying rifle and as much as possible of their other equipment. Furthermore, at the outset, soldiers had been repeatedly warned to be frugal with their personal canteen of water... The combination of the rum-ration and shock must have left soldiers with a deadly thirst.
Track Nine: Funeral March from Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Britten
Day One of the Battle of The Somme cost the British Army its greatest-ever number of casualties: 57,750, of whom 19,240 were killed.
From his Mother, Mike heard the unsubstantiated family-story that a young soldier, distressed and badly wounded, was left to sit in a crater; when his mates sought him, later, they found only a crater doubled in size.
There it is. As a member of C-Company, the Eighteenth (Service) Battalion, 180411 Private Herbert Ingoe was killed on the first day of the Battle of The Somme. Of how he had met his death there are no details. He was noted on a form as having been “Killed in the field”, the words scribbled and signed at Headquarters. His last effects, signed-for, were sent home in two groups: first, a notebook, photo and ribbon; second, one disc with chain, two letters, one postcard, one diary, two notebooks, one French and English dictionary, one New Testament, three visiting cards, two newspaper-cuttings, Herbert’s Father, George William Ingoe, signed for these and also later accepted his son’s scroll and Victory Medal. Herbert’s body went uninterred, but his name is inscribed on the Thiepval monument for those with no known graves, Pier and Face 13A and Fourteen C. He is remembered elsewhere, too, on the War Memorial at Boggart Hole Clough and on the Blackley Wesleyan Sunday Schools Roll of Honour.
In spite of his age, he had been little more than a fairly puny boy on joining up, weighing only eight stone-eight pounds and being possibly of impaired vision - yet he had volunteered and been catapulted into the armed forces. What had he had to offer but willingness to serve, and his life?
One unfamiliar term in the military records haunts the reader: ‘embodied’, obviously means ‘attached to a body of men’, but it seems almost as though the recruits were given their physical persons by the Army.
Perhaps Herbert lost his through neglect, one thinks bitterly. There are two photos of him in uniform: he looks tall and well-built, his features rather noble, if curiously inexpressive about the mouth. He seems defiant. His physical stature was increased by apparent inner strength, no doubt to do with Faith as a devout Wesleyan. Like his signature on forms, his appearance is confident. His autodidactic bent is hinted at by that dictionary returned to his family! Also, his sentiment - witness New Testament, photograph, letters and ribbon. One wonders what was in the notebooks and diary? The real Herbert emerges as a physical entity, even as a mind, but what of his voice, his opinions?
How sturdy and weighty a citizen was Herbert when expected to hurl himself and seventy or more pounds of equipment up that ladder and over the parapet? To add to that burden, what a weight of years and decades of international hatreds and expectations he had to carry, as an ex-City clerk of twenty-three or -four! You have to ask yourself how much taller this Private had been than a Lee Enfield rifle with bayonet fixed.
Mike says: A man related to me by blood was a Pal and killed at the age of twenty-four on the first day of a military operation of then-unprecedented magnitude. Possibly the four hundred-and-eleventh volunteer to join the Eighteenth, once Third (Bantam) City or Service Battalion, C-Company, how calmly did Herbert walk up to death, one of nearly sixty thousand casualties, his life one of nineteen thousand lost outright?
When I was twenty-three, I was five feet-eight-and-a-half, weighed eleven stone, with a chest at full expansion of forty inches, capable of over two inches of expansion, and waist of thirty-two. My vision was perfect in one eye and not to be bothered-with by officials in the other. I would have been terribly scared to volunteer, and swept along into the Pals. Anything to have so many Pals and the sense of a great cause. I should have got through basic training with a few fizzers owing to bad drill, poor handling of equipment and my reluctance to do cross-country runs. Sergeants would have liked me...
A lot fitter, I’d’ve gone to France, savouring that rough crossing. Once there, I’d’ve enjoyed every minute of not being on duty, and the three other individuals in my four would have made me look to the untutored eye pretty much like a soldier. True, Officers and En-Cee-Ohs would have done a double-take. Come stints in the front line, I’d have kept my head down and done what I were told. Come the big push... I’d’ve at least been able to partake of the Adulterated Rum Ration before the off, and I’d’ve somehow scorned not to climb that ladder as quickly as anyone... As for my chances beyond that point, the worst’s a tragedy afterwards, for everyone but the dead. The dead have had their life with us. Suddenly, it doesn’t hurt anymore; there’s nothing to be afraid-of. You realize how pointless fear has ever been. Perhaps I know more than Herbert did, but now, perhaps, it can be taken that he knows more than I do. We know what his service cost him, but he has forgotten. To lose an arm or a leg would have been bearable. There were worse fates than that, and I don’t mean being killed by the enemy. I hope that my nervous system should have let me move after the bombardment of the German front and that explosion at Kasino Point. I should say that the chance of my freezing up would be down to how sensitive were my hearing. The row must have been frightful in itself. To be windy would have been intolerable to me. A slow two-mile walk with diversions on the way might have seemed survivable, even with the machine-gunfire, and the tendency for the land in front of me to develop craters. We’re not like the close relatives who feared that their young men should be denied their part in the Resurrection because their bodies had not been found entire, or at all. The truly horrible thing on setting off should have been to see Officers and men fall away and have to leave them and go on.
What a story. His story and my story - through History. Nevertheless, I draw a thick line between me and the relative who was a Number, Rank and Name.
This was Classical Break on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham. Today’s script, the story of a Manchester Pal, was researched and written by his Great-nephew, Mike Burrows. We hope you enjoyed it and will tune in again soon.
Track Ten: I love Only You, Grieg (arranged for orchestra)