Cricket as shells scream overhead


No matter what the circumstances, Thomas Atkins retains his individuality and continues to satisfy his inherent love of sports. He has played football under shell fire, and now comes authoritative information that he is not disposed to allow the cricket season to be entirely lost.

This is made clear in interesting letters from Signaller F. E. Green, who is with No. 3 Battery of the Lincoln R.F.A. Prior to enlisting he was with hat manufacturer Paul Walser and Co Ltd, and his home is at 42 Wenlock Street, Luton.

He says in the course of his recent letters: "Things are very much as usual along our front. The battery was called out twice during last night to bombard the enemy's trenches. The Germans are getting a bit troublesome - throwing hand grenades and using trench mortars, so we retaliated with a few 15 lb shells. They soon quietened down when they received one or two of those. I am thinking the Germans have got a big score up against our battery. Wouldn't they just love to find us.

"Practically every day they shell a village about a mile to our right. It is only a wanton destruction of property and serves no military purpose. I came through that village this morning. Even the graves in the churchyard had been ploughed up by the shells, and you can see the bones of the dead scattered about. About a quarter of the population still hang on to their homes, but it is at the daily risk of their lives."

In his next letter he says he is with another Lutonian, and adds: "Last afternoon we played a cricket match against the 2nd Battery. I am afraid we were hopelessly beaten, but they had the advantage of us in the fact that their team has had practice practically every night for three weeks. Anyway, we had a good game, and hope to give them a licking next time.

"We are having some grand weather now. Let's hope the wind will invariably keep in the direction of the Fatherland and carry with it the foul gases of the 'cultured' Huns. The blighters threaten to use it along our front. Last night the Germans shouted 'Get you respirators ready'. The pigs, they will get a licking as bad as the 2nd Battery will next time we play them at cricket.

"We are now sleeping in the open air in our waterproofs, well covered with blankets. It is really fine, and we wake up feeling very much fresher. Last night we were just turning in when we were disturbed by the noise of a beastly Zeppelin. Anyway, he did not trouble us as he was making towards the German lines. Been on another baby-killing expedition, I expect."

A third epistle says: "The artillery of both sides has been more active lately, and it looks as if something decisive is shortly to take place. The other day the enemy shelled out observation station, and the Major and four or five telephonists had a narrow escape. They retired to their dug-outs just in time and everyone escaped injury.

"When we are shooting shells at the Germans we are playing cricket. The other day we played the 'Howitzers' two innings and beat them. One of their officers is a county cricketer - Joyce, of Leicester. We had him out for two runs. While we play the shells scream overhead and burst in the village just behind us. We are playing them again tonight, and I am looking forward to an enjoyable evening."

In a letter received on Friday morning, Signaller Green says: "Tomorrow we are leaving our position. I am sure every man in the battery regrets having to leave it, but we must hope our good luck will remain with us in the future. But it is questionable if ever we shall find such a good position of cover.

"Early yesterday morning we had a visit from one of the Kaiser's flying men. I think he was trying to observe the position of the anti-aircraft gun in our rear which was so persistently firing at him, for soon after that several shells came whistling in that direction. But that aeroplane gun is still in action, so I assume the airman failed to observe its position."

[The Luton News, Thursday, July 1st, 1915]