Football while shells burst nearby

Driver W. E. J. Cleaver, of the Divisional Ammunition Column attached to the 113th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, Expeditionary Force, and who was in the employ of motor car dealers Messrs Adams, Morris and Co., of New Bedford Road, Luton, has been having a lively time at the front.

Writing to a Luton friend, he says: "We are very near the firing line, so you can see we have to be ready at any moment. All the Tommies out here are as lively as crickets.

"Just in front of me now, there are about 20 of them playing football, and I can see shells bursting in the air not far away.

"Some of our fellows have had a hard time - the infantry, I mean. I was up at the guns yesterday, and when they go off, well, you stop your ears with your fingers quick. The gunners don't take any notice. Some of them are playing about as if they were in barracks.

"I was out after dark last night, and I can tell you it was no joke. I would not think of taking the a lorry down there; a skid, then a hole 18 inches deep, and the railway lines running down the road. Of course, I had to get stuck just to see what it was like. I sank in a hole about a foot deep, and it took an hour to get out. When five or six tons fall in a soft piece you cannot push it out with a few men.

"We saw an aeroplane yesterday, with shells bursting all around it. The pilot seemed to take no notice whatever. Of course, he was British.

"Talk about lorries and buses in England! As we were travelling yesterday we saw and passed on the roads hundreds of them. I should think at the least there must be 2,000 or 3,000 of them about here. We have even got lorries for letters.

"What you saw in the papers about Germans shelling churches was quite correct. I myself saw two churches with shell holes in the spires, and also a house with the roof blown off. The inhabitants were still living in the downstairs rooms. People are working in the fields here as if nothing was happening, though at present some terrific guns are going off. The news has just come round that one of our guns has smashed a German "Jack Johnson" with their second shot. Since then the firing seems to be more pronounced.

"To look at us you would think we were at a motor lorry show, only instead of being covered with polished parts everything is covered with mud."

[The Luton News, November 12th, 1914]