Follow the Drum – Go on the Die Hards!
The gripping story of the Middlesex Regiment at Neuve Chapelle continues as the local men face going over the top. The detail of this part of the battle is based on an eye-witness account given by Sgt Davis, which was reported in the local newspaper, the Richmond & Twickenham Times (May 1915). The story of the fighting continues…
Sadly, the first line to advance was met with terrible machine gun fire. Going over the top at 8.10 am the troops were shouting as they left the trench: ‘Go on, the Midds! Go on the Die Hards!’. (Richmond & Twickenham Times May 1915). Sgt Davis’s letter vividly describes those moments between the soldiers as the second and then third lines went over: comrades and friends together.
‘Over they go and yet more cheering. Don’t forget Mons lads! … A handshake as one chum passes another. “Good luck Jim, take care of yourself”. They meet the same fate as the first only a few getting up to a trench facing the Huns.’
Through the third advance Sgt Davis bravely led his men (a half a platoon) through to an old trench by jumping a thick hedge over spongy ground. Reaching an old trench of the Midds, they landed in with the Devons. He witnessed the death of a young officer there in the communications trench and it sums up the fate of so many of the officers.
‘Here I saw poor Lieutenant McFarlane, the tallest and most popular officer of ours killed: 6ft 8in in height and very broad he was a splendid man. He led the bomb throwers and made too good a target’.
No time for sentiment in the battle the Sergeant continued to lead his men forward despite the conditions in the trenches:
‘The communication trench is full of water, but what is water after what we had experienced in the trenches? … We have reached here without one of No. 2 platoon getting hit’.
A Maxim Jammed
Sgt Davis fulfilled his duty as platoon leader trying to urge his men on though in the face of obvious dangers:
‘Now then boys give them hell; plug into them!’
At the crucial moment their machine gun jammed but a quick recovery was made by mending the lock on the spot just as the Devons came to their aid.
‘… just as the Devons came with their gun we got ours into action. The Devons team was captained by a colour-sergeant, who was bowled over as soon as he was sighted… all their team went down. The Germans could not find ours, as we had found out where they were situated. Then they got a peppering’ (Sgt Davis).