Another Week - 9th August, 2018
Further “eloquent testimony” to the “splendid character” of the late Capt Furnell was contained in a letter received by his widow, which the Chronicle published a century ago this week.
It read: “I am sure no words of ours can express the deep regret and sorrow we feel at the loss of your husband, who we have known so long and respected so much. His hard and conscientious work, which naturally brought its reward in promotion, only goes to show what a fine character we have lost. His devotion to duty was only exceeded by his devotion to God; therefore, it is to Him we trust and leave the issue, knowing that He does all things for the best. It may be a little consolation to you to know your husband is buried in a large cemetery at the base and was carried to his last resting place by the undersigned sergeants of his own battalion, and there were about eight officers present. Three volleys were fired by 100 men the regiment to which he belonged, and the Last Post, which was sounded by the bugler, ended the career of a fine officer and gentleman. Please accept our deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement. It was signed Sgts Spencer, Dale, Alcock, Laithwood, Byrom and Tatton.
We also had more on the death of Pte Starkey. We said it would be remembered that when Pte Starkey joined up — in September 1915 — the youths of the town were pouring down the drill hall in one constant stream, eager to “do their bit” for the Great Cause.
Pte Starkey was 22 and could claim many friends in Congleton and Astbury. He was particularly well known at Astbury, where, prior to the war, he was employed as a farm-hand. He went out to France in February 1916 and had been engaged in many sanguinary battles.
The official news that reached his mother was to the effect that he was “gassed” on 25th July and died on the following day at No.10 General Hospital, Rouen, France. This was about the same time that Capt Furnell was mortally wounded, and several of the rank and file killed and “gassed”.
Mrs Brown, of 4, Princess Street, Congleton, had received official notification (dated 1st August, 1918) from the officer in charge of records, Shrewsbury, saying that with no further news having been received about Pte Amos Brown, the Cheshire Regiment, who had been missing since 30th July, 1916, the army council had concluded that he was dead.
At the time of enlistment in May 1915, Pte Brown was employed by Peter Ford, of Eaton, and, after a spell of training, he went out with a draft to France. He was posted as “missing” and Mrs Brown had sought tidings of him through “every available channel”.
There was more on the death Sapper WT Hill, second son of Mr and Mrs Walter Hill, of High Street, Congleton, and the eldest of four brothers on active service, who died of wounds on 27th July, in a Canadian Hospital at Doullen.
In a letter to the bereaved parents, a comrade (Lce/Cpl WJO Kemp) describes how Sapper Hill met with his injuries.
“It happened while we were going on duty. The Germans sent over some shells very quickly, and we could not run for shelter, but had to get what cover we could in an old trench. Unfortunately, this shell dropped into the trench between us.”
The No.3 Canadian Stationary Hospital, BEF, France, had also written. The letter read: “He was brought in here yesterday very seriously wounded, and after some efforts to resuscitate him, the necessary operation was performed, but of no avail. All that skill, care, and sympathy could do was done for him. His thoughts were with you while he was conscious.”
A further letter elicits the sad intelligence that Sapper Hill did not survive but a few hours after his wounds were attended to, one arm had to be amputated, and a leg was badly shattered. He could leave no specific message, as he was scarcely conscious, and too weak to speak.
Mrs Dean, of Princess Street, Congleton, had received news that the younger of her sons (Pte Jack Dean) had escaped a watery grave, for in crossing and re-crossing the seas he had twice been torpedoed.
The following are extracts from a letter sent to his mother after the hospital ship on which he was crossing was torpedoed.
“Just a line hoping this letter finds you all in the best of health. Well, I suppose you have received the post card I sent you from Southampton telling you I had been torpedoed again. I shall never forget it! What with being wounded and sick I really thought that there was but little hope of ever being saved but — thank God! — I came out all right.” We also reported a great Anglo-French attack along a 20-mile front, with 7,000 prisoners and 100 guns taken.
The operations started on the Amiens front and saw French, Canadian, Australian, and English divisions, assisted by a large number of British tanks, storm the Germans on a front of over 20 miles from the Avre river at Braches to the neighbourhood of Morlancourt.
The British had fooled the Germans into thinking the various men were elsewhere, sending out fake messages of an advance on one hand and quietly moving men about on the other. The enemy was taken by surprise and at all points the Allied troops made rapid progress. At an early hour, our first objectives had been reached on the whole front of attack.
During the morning the advance of the Allied infantry continued, actively assisted by British cavalry, light tanks, and motor machine-gun batteries.
The resistance of the German divisions in line was overcome at certain points after sharp fighting, and many prisoners, and a number of guns, were captured by our troops.
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