Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Day - 2nd Lieutenant J.A. Raws letter home.

On Remembrance Day I thought I would post this famous extract from a letter by Melbourne journalist Lieutenant J. A. Raws,.

There are many, many various accounts of the fighting in France.

This account always speaks right into my heart and I think that its short paragraph contains every element of emotion imaginable.

It is a truly remarkable record of the intensity which I can only imagine.

The action takes place during the the battle for Pozieres in July 1916 at the Somme.

"... we lay down terror-stricken along a bank. The shelling was awful ... we eventually found our way to the right spot out in no-man's-land. Our leader was shot before we arrived and the strain had sent two other officers mad. I and another new officer took charge and dug the trench. We were shot at all the time... the wounded and killed had to be thrown to one side ... I refused to let any sound man help a wounded man; the sound had to dig ... we dug on and finished amid a tornado of bursting shells ... I was buried once and thrown down several times ... buried with dead and dying. The ground was covered bodies in all stages of decay and mutilation and I would, after struggling from the earth, pick body by me to try and lift him out with me and find him a decayed corpse ... I went up again the night and stayed up there. We were shelled to hell ceaselessly. X- went mad and disappeared... there remained nothing but a charred mass of debris with bricks, stones, girders and bodies pounded to nothing ... we are lousy, stinking, unshaven, sleepless ... I have one puttee, a man's helmet, another dead man's protect dead man's bayonet. My tunic rotten with other men's blood and partly spattered with a comrade's brains".

2nd Lieutenant John Alexander Raws of the 23rd Battalion who was born in Manchester, England, enlisted at Adelaide, South Australia and was killed in action on 23rd August 1916 aged 33.

His younger brother, Lieutenant Robert Goldthorpe Raws, was also killed at Pozieres. He was also in 23rd Battalion, born in
Manchester, enlisted at Adelaide and was killed instantly by a shell on the 28th July 1916, 26 days before his brother, aged 30.

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