We last encountered Jim Beard as one of five boys from Cinderford Bridge who had joined up in the Severn and Avon battalion of the Worcestershire regiment in the Autumn of 1915. After seeing action in the Battle of The Ancre Jim was taken ill with fever. Having spent time in hospital he was convalescing in Waterford, Ireland where Sinn Fein were active. The experience was so frightening that Jim volunteered to go to France, so was transferred to the 1/8th (First Eighth) battalion of the Worcestershire regiment. The battalion was sent to take part in the fighting at Passchendaele where towards the end of the campaign they were ordered to the front line to capture the German Pillboxes which were preventing British troops from advancing. The plan was that the men were to go forward into shell holes from where they would join the attack. The following is Jim’s account of the ‘Battle’.
They was in these here pill boxes look and our lot would say that they was going to capture them. Generals at Ypres, terrible that was, a terrible mistake our Generals made there I reckon.
While we was waiting there we had to lay in water up around our necks.
It wasn’t that deep but where we was laying down we was covered in these shell hole. One got killed, him wanted to get out and get into another and got killed in my arms, fell back in my arms dead as a nit, shot right through.
One or two more got wounded had to be took from there look. It wasn’t safe for the stretcher bearer or anybody to go over the top look.
When we did go over the top ‘we failed’ Men was being hauled down because we had to get over the top look. Well they’d got these machine guns and these pill boxes and mowing them down like flies, well we failed of course. Stopped there all night until these here balloons come up, we didn’t know where we was and we had to wait till the balloons come up look, just before daylight or just as it was getting daylight, to tell, because the German balloons were a different shape to ours. So then we made a dash for it, several of us…
Oh my clothes was ripped to pieces when we got back to the battalion they’d had the roll call and there was about 17 left out of 220.
Only 17 left and we was reported missing like, or would’ve been reported missing, but any how like I said we got back and it wasn’t but two dozen, it was battalioners that was coming back all t’others got killed.
The battle took place on 8th/9th of October, the 1/8th were in support of the 1/7th. The following is a summary of the account of the battle in “The Worcestershire Regiment in The Great War Vol1”
The heavy rain of Oct 7th led to a postponement of the move up to the line…had the move been made early, the attacking troops would have had 24 hours in the front line to rest and examine the ground. (The advance on the 8th) was made in indescribable difficulty. The heavily equipped troops sank to their waists and their armpits in the mud.
The attack was led by the 1/7th battalion with the 1/8th in support. The 1/7th were unable to make any impression on the German pillboxes and machine guns, 212 men and 10 officers were killed or wounded. The 1/8th were then sent forward. They too failed to make an impression and the attack was called off with the loss of a further 109 men and 3 officers.
To actually hear Jim Beard speak, just click on the audio file below.