STORIES SEEN THROUGH A GLASS PLATE

Pte. George Maslen — A Letter Home

Box F

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D8861/006 — Westgate Street, Lewes, 2017

 

‘Letter Home from Pte. George Edgar Maslen (just 17) of Westgate Street — Colin Reynolds, Lewes Operatic Society

Audio transcript below

 

Pte George Edgar Maslen, just 17, of Westgate Street:

“It was about twenty minutes to five in the morning when our guns started to play havoc with the German lines. Our shells knocked their trenches to blazes, sending sandbags, dirt and wreckage sky high. .. All along the lines was a yellow and greenish haze, and it seemed as if nothing could live. ‘Coal boxes’, shrapnel, ‘pig-squeaks’ and high explosive shells were falling in their midst every few yards. When we got the order to charge, the 2nd, whom we were supporting, went over the top of the trench with a yell like we do on Bonfire day. We followed, and got three parts over the ‘no man’s ground’, when they opened a terrible fire with machine guns, and we lost heavily. More men kept coming out to assist us, but it was no use and we had to lay there. It seemed terrible … not being able to raise your head, and your mates being knocked over and needing your help, and you could not move. One chap got hit and I handed him my water bottle, and a bullet whizzed by my ear, hitting my haversack.

 

There were shells dropping behind us, and their deadly machine gun fire in front of us, and we did not dare hardly to move. I laid out there for two hours, and then I ‘chanced my arm’. By short crawls on my belly I managed to get to our barbed wire, and I laid there for a few minutes. I then crept through the wire, until I came to the parapet and then I thought ‘neck or nothing’, so I bolted over, and just as I got to the top a bullet hit my putty, going right through putty, sock and pants, and just left a mark on my legs. But I got in safely… After I got over it and got my breath, I helped get the wounded in and bandage them up. One of our Captains got on the parapet and shouted to his men: ‘Come on boys. England expects, you know the rest’, and our boys went over… Not another band of fellows could have trod it better than the Sussex Regiment did. We were relieved the same night, and when roll call came it seemed awful. I am sorry to say that poor Arthur Moore is missing, and I am still trying to find out what became of him, but I am afraid he is gone.”