Son of John and Sarah Agnes ( Swindle ) Taylor, Greta Hamlets, Keswick
Mr Frank Taylor of `K` Battery, Royal Artillery, who is in the 3rd Cavalry Division of the Epeditionary Force in France, Has forwarded more interesting letters to his parents at Keswick, under dates 28th Nov / 5th / 12th December 1914 , he give more details of his life at the front.
My governor is coming
to England for a few days and is posting this for me. He tells me I can
tell you some of the places we have been to and the times we have had.
We left Southampton 6th October on the " Minnesota ", it was nice
enough but being a cattle boat it was not to luxuriously fitted up. We
got over all right, which was more important. It was past midnight when
we left so we could see nothing of the country as we left. We followed
the coast all day and reached Dover at dusk, we thought we were going to
be able to get off here for half an hour , but they took us further on
and we dropped anchor off Margate. We arrived off Ostend the following
morning and hung about there all day and disembarked in the evening. we
had a grand reception from the people of Ostend, but I did not get
chance to see anything of the place as it was nearly midnight by the
time we got our horses and guns off. We stayed the night just outside town and set off next morning on the march, stopping at Bruges the following night.
went on for about a fortnight, and except for a occasional brush with
the Uhlans it was a uneventful march until we got into action We got
into it alright one morning, we had left our billet and went along
alright for a few miles, when suddenly there was such a whistling and
rattling of bullets we wondered what was up, our cavalry which was up
in front of us was in touch with the enemy, so we sought cover behind a
hill to see if we were wanted. We soon found out we were and got into
action behind cover of a hill and gave the Germans plenty of shell to
keep them going. The enemy seemed to have no artillery with them so we
were having a fine time, in action for three hours without receiving a
shot in return, but when it did come we knew it. It was my first taste
of German guns and it was a proper hell while it lasted, they soon got
the range of us and shell after shell came down, shrapnel bullets
falling like hailstones.
Had we not been well under cover no doubt there would not have been many of us left, our horses got the worst of it, but out of all the shells that came down there were few casualties. We were about an hour under fire when the French came up and took the task off our hands. It was worse the second day when we had a proper battle all along the line, we got worse shelling than ever but the Germans got back all they gave and with plenty to spare. The same battle is still going on but I hope it will soon be over, we have never been under the same amount of fire since but we got quite enough of it in the first two days to last us out. The German heavy guns do not do much damage considering the amount of shells they fire but they do make an awful mess of anything they land on top of, you feel like crawling down a rabbit hole when you hear them coming although the shell has gone by when you hear it. , I have been fighting all the time in the vicinity of Ypres - where the hardest fighting has been going on - first in one action and then another.
has been a most terrible time, although what we had was nothing to what
the infantry had to go through. the losses in my battery have been very
heavy, out of the 120 men we started with 12 have been killed and 20
wounded. we seemed to be very unfortunate as wherever we were the
Germans always found us, I did not see the attacks as we were always
behind, but we covered our infantry with our guns when they were into
the Prussian Guards, and the site of the ground after they retired over
it was awful
It was littered with nothing but dead and dying men. It has always been the same whenever the Germans have tried to break through, they were pushed back leaving thousands of dead behind, but they have made us suffer heavy casualties too. I don`t think the Germans can last much longer as the number they are losing must tell in the end. The way they shell towns and villages is the worst, one village we were in was a very nice place, but when we went through it one day it was a very different; there was not a house that did not have a shell in it, some were blown clean down, others had their roof blown off and great gaps in the walls while dead men lay about the streets, they were still shelling this place as we went through and we had to gallop as hard as we could to get through it.
Ypres was a very nice town indeed when we first went into it, it had a beautiful town hall hundreds of years old, but it is destroyed like the rest now, the Germans have never had it and never will. There must be hundreds of people buried in the ruins of these places, some of them won`t leave their homes and so they go under with them.
No doubt you will be pleased to hear that I have come out of the firing line, I have been out about a week and am glad of a rest, as it is very trying fighting day after day without any rest at all and sometimes all night. I told you what my fist two days action was like, I have never been under the same amount of shell fire since. When the bigger shells from the " Jack Johnsons " land in a ploughed field or soft ground they blow up yards of earth right up into the air, and make a hole big enough to put a horse in. It is when they land on hard ground they do the damage, the splinters are blown in all directions and there is not much chance for anybody near.
One shell landed on one of our wagon wheels and blew the team and men to pieces, they cause fearful damage when they land in the right place, but they do not land very often among us.
They weigh I should think between 60 and 80 pounds and some of them more than that. Considering the number fired they must waste an awful lot of ammunition, they have a very demoralising effect on troops, they come down with a crash that shakes everything.
I have never been able to run up against any Keswick chaps out here I expect I have been in a different part of the line.