Rfn Walter Clayton,
1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, described his part in an attack upon Delville Wood on 27th July 1916. As he said, “I was in the fighting last year, but it was nothing to this.”
“I am just writing you a few lines, hoping you will be able to find any space in your valuable paper. Firstly, I want to thank all who helped and sympathised with my dear parents and myself at the death of my loving brother. No doubt, many will sympathise with me in not being able to see him laid to rest but I am very happy to know he is laid to rest comfortably beside my other brother in our dear churchyard, which was a great consolation to my dear parents and myself.
“Now, I suppose I had better let you know how I had been faring throughout the big push. I cannot explain the awfulness of the sights there, so shall not try. I am glad to say I got through safely, for which I thank God. The day of the attack I was in was the 27th of July 1916, the bombardment beginning at 5 a.m., and lasted two hours. It was some bombardment, I can tell you. You could not hear one another speak for the roar, whilst pieces of shrapnel were dropping all around. At seven o’clock the order came down, fix bayonets and be ready to go over in five minutes. All was excitement, scarcely was a word spoken. We reached the front line, and took it with many prisoners, easily by the way. It was a wood we were to take, about eight hundred feet deep. My company was then in support, which, after the first part of the advance, brought us into our original front line; another hour’s bombardment and we were to rush forward, push our fellows into the old German front line, and clear the whole of the wood, which was a walk over.
“The next trouble was the German counterattacks, which they tried twice without avail. I might add we pushed them all into the open, meanwhile we were digging ourselves in, but our artillery did not give them a chance to dig in. Our bombers, of which I am one, were sent for and had a somewhat exciting time, as the trench we dug was not connected with those on our right. That is where the Germans tried to catch us weak, but it did not work. I had been there about five minutes when a shell burst about a yard behind me. Strange to say I was not hurt. I got into a shell hole after that and had a hour or so sniping at the German reinforcements, which we caught coming in. I was then beginning to enjoy myself and some of my chums called my attention to a big Bosche advancing very cautiously on my left towards our front line, I thought with the intention of bombing us. However, I looked round, and so did he, and I was spotted. I lost myself then and did not know which to do, as I had very little cover and I fully expected a bomb dropping on me. I looked round and, chancing it, got between two trees which had been blown across one another. This proved worse than the shell hole I had just left, so the next thing I did was to go back, and there I had to lie until it was dusk. Then I was relieved and I was not sorry. I have had a few rough times since, but am still in the best of health. I just missed being recommended, still I was satisfied to get out safely. I was in the fighting last year, but it was nothing to this. I suppose I had better ring off now.
I am looking forward to being in Hucknall again soon.
Rfm. W. Clayton”
Credits to Small Town, Great War, Hucknall 1914-1918
Sourced from ‘Hucknall Dispatch,’ 12th October 1916.