Somme Memories 1

Thomas Alexander Ervine, born 14th July, 1895….36th (Ulster) Division
“We had a football team and I unfortunately had to keep the ball all the time, although it wasn’t easy to carry it about with you. Our sleeping quarters were everywhere and any wee corner you could get into. We got this old barn one time and I was sleeping in the hay-loft and the other men were all down below. And here didn’t the rats scrape and scrape and nearly drive me up the walls. I had to get up in the middle of the night, and I threw the ball at them, and it bounced from one man to another, and they called me for everything for throwing it down. But the blinking rats were driving me up the walls, they were terrible!
Before the Battle of the Somme I captured a German: well, I didn’t capture him as he came up to me with his hands up. And some of the men- like, all you could see was the tops of their heads looking up over the trench-well, anyway, they were shouting at me: “Shoot him, Tommy, shoot him!” But I didn’t like to shoot a man in cold blood, it wouldn’t have been right anyway. So I took him down a hill and searched him at the bottom, but he had nothing on him- we got word at one time that the Germans had been using daggers. I don’t believe it though, because I don’t think the Germans were really bad people or wicked in any way, as far as I could see. So I walked him along to where the reserves were coming up and I told him to go on down there, and he walked down the hill with his hands up, and that was the last I saw of him.
I went back to my own battalion as the attack had opened up (1st July 1916), and I went in with them. I didn’t get very far until someone fired a gun and hit me in the leg. I fired back at him and hit him in the face, and I could see the blood running out of his face, in gushes like, coming out of his cheek. He was a nice looking young man , but he was a sniper, and if I hadn’t got him God knows how many people he would have killed before we would have got him.

Anyway I was still able to walk and I went down into the trench. I only got a few yards when a shell burst above my head and I was all shrapnel in my shoulders and my back; my arms had pieces of shrapnel everywhere, so I went out for the count right there. When I wakened up on the 4th of July I was in Colchester hospital. I don’t remember how I got from France to England.

When I wakened up I saw two nurses standing looking at me and they laughed and one of them says ” there’s a wee souvenir for you”- it was two wee bags made out of pieces of lint and they were filled with wee pieces of shrapnel and a bullet that was taken out of me.”

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