Remembering a brave soldier who needed hospital treatment three times

BRAVE SOLDIER: Alfred George Thompson

(9778078)

First published in Craven History Craven Herald: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Editor

THE centenary of the start of the First World War has prompted former Cross Hills woman Catherine Thomas to write an account of her father's war service.

Cononley-born Alfred George Thompson was called up in 1915 and served in the 2nd/6th company of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, which recruited in the area.

He underwent a short period of training on the East Coast before being shipped to France.

Mrs Thomas writes: "The company soon saw action and, in Thiepval, occupied some old German trenches which, though damaged by allied shells, were deep with dug outs and tunnels and very well constructed.

"Dad fought at both battles at Ypres and also on the Somme where the trenches had been almost obliterated and new ones had to be dug in close proximity to enemy lines .

"Many bodies had to be buried in the hours of darkness and food and water, heavily rationed, were brought up in terribly dangerous circumstances.

"After a long spell in the trenches the whole battalion enjoyed two weeks rest at a village aptly named Paradis. A horse show was organised and the battalion did well and they also swept the board in the tug of war and several field events.

"Dad was wounded three times - on the first occasion getting a bullet through his leg just under his left knee. He was treated for that in a field hospital.

"Later he developed trench foot in which the feet swell very badly and gangrene can set in. On that occasion he was sent back to England to be treated at a military hospital in York. When this was bombed by airships the patients with trench foot were issued with bigger boots and sent back to join their regiments.

"Dad's third wounds were more serious - a lump of shrapnel, jagged and, as big as a hen's egg, blasted through his right arm and into his body where he suffered the loss of a kidney and a ruptured spleen.

"He lay for three days in quite deep filthy water in a small shell hole prior to being found and was told by staff at the field hospital that, if it hadn't been for the cold water, he would have bled to death.

"He was then moved to a French cathedral whose side chapel had been made into a hospital and there he spent his 21st birthday.

"He told me that one of the 'walking wounded' hung a dead rat above the entrance just low enough to catch the very strict matron's head as she entered!

"Eventually he was moved back to a hospital in England and was finally sent up to a place in Whitby and then discharged.

"He never spoke of the horrors of war. He just stuck to amusing anecdotes and often spoke the camaraderie of the trenches.

"I have at home a book called Craven's Part in the Great War and in it are pictures of hundreds men who gave their lives. Dad would look at it occasionally on Armistice Day and, sadly, point out all the men he'd known."

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