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In his monthly newsletter home, published on 11 February 1916, Rev Whincup tells of a massive gas attack launched by the Germans All sorts of wild rumours seem to have been flying about Bradford and district as to the experiences which the Bradford Territorials passed through in the recent big gas attack. I do not wish to in any way minimise the awfulness of the whole business but it is always well to try and avoid foolish exaggerations, particularly in matters of this kind. All such wild statements only cause a great deal of unnecessary anxiety and mental suffering to large numbers of people who have relations out here. Casualties The whole of this Brigade certainly passed through an awful time on December 19th and the total casualties were somewhat heavy but there is a great deal to be thankful for. In the first place there is the great honour which this Territorial Division has earned so worthily by the truly magnificent way in which the enemy was held back despite all the diabolical weapons which were used against our troops. The use of this poisonous gas is awful and it is a great credit to the general discipline of the Bradford Battalion that we lost comparatively few as the direct result of the gas although large numbers were more or less affected. Most of the helmets were in excellent condition, the men kept them near at hand and
consequently, although the poisonous fumes came over during the early morning when most of the men were asleep, yet as soon as the men awakened precautionary measures were immediately resorted to. It is certainly due to the excellent discipline of the Battalion that we did not lose a far greater number. Help comrades Some men were disastrously affected by the gas and others were killed because they lifted their helmets in order to see more perfectly in their efforts to help wounded comrades. There is much to be thank for in that there was not a much higher number of casualties for what with the gas and the huge number of deadly shells etc., which were sent over our men, it would not have been surprising if the casualties had been four times as many. At least this is the opinion of many of those who are quite competent to judge. Of course, the loss of so many excellent men is very deplorable, for some very fine young fellows fell on that fatal Sunday, December 19th but we can safely leave them all in the hands of God who has seen well to call them away from any future participation in the awful hardships and terrible cruelties of this disastrous war. It has been a great joy to the boys out here to notice the expressions of congratulations which have been made as regards the splendid manner in which they resisted this awful German attack. They thoroughly deserve those congratulations.
The British Artillery were also magnificent and supported our infantry in excellent fashion. A silly rumour appears to have been circulated that I had been very seriously affected by the gas. It is amazing how these utterly false reports originate. All I can tell you is that I know the smell of German gas quite well enough by this time; it is not altogether unpleasant but I have no particular wish to renew my acquaintance with it whether in the shape of a scent bottle or anything else. I was sorry to hear of the death of Sgt J H Yates and I sympathise with Mr Yates and his family very much. I know Sgt Yates quite well and evidently he has proved himself to be an excellent soldier. Dr Anderson Many of you will be interested to know that I have met Dr Anderson out here. He surprised me very much one morning by suddenly appearing at my quarters. Dr Anderson looked to be in fine form and his bright cheery greeting acted like a tonic; but I am afraid that the medical profession would not be a very lucrative mode of existence if all tonics were bestowed so gratuitously. I understand that Dr Anderson is now attached to the very ambulance with which I was attached when the Battalion were in the trenches.
This being so, if we go back to the line it will not be very long before Dr Anderson becomes quite accustomed to the noise of all sorts of strange things which have a very awkward way of flying about in a most unconventional manner. There is no doubt that Dr Anderson will be excellent for the work and we shall all earnestly hope that he may safely come through all his dangerous experiences. Denuded As a result of Lord Derby’s Recruiting Scheme, Windhill must be very denuded of young men. I hear that the Roll of Duty is mounting up by leaps and bounds. It is such a pleasure to know that Windhill has responded so well to the great call of national duty. It makes me prouder than ever of being the Vicar of Windhill. The scouts have done excellently and I often wonder how the troops can be so well kept together seeing that so many of our leading scouts have joined the colours. The loss of so many good Church workers will be seriously felt but still they must be yielded up quite willingly during this great crisis. I often wish that I was again amongst you and able to take some of the work off Mr Moreton’s shoulders for my sympathies are always with him in his arduous task. I know how keen and earnest Mr Moreton is to do his duty and again I ask you all to support him most faithfully in every way.
“I know the smell of German gas quite well enough by this time; it is not altogether unpleasant but I have no particular wish to renew my acquaintance with it”
Discipline saved gas attack from being even more deadly