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Sentries had very anxious moment in a line which was being trench mortared. Some of them became experts in calculating exactly where a TM was going to drop and were often able to save not only their own lives but those of other men. Our Padre, Rev R Whincup, owed his life on one occasion in the Thiepval trenches near Hamilton Avenue, to the nice calculation of Pte R Howard, a D Coy sentry. The Padre was walking cheerily along the front line when he heard a sudden shout from a sentry telling him to ‘double round the traverse.’ He did so – just as an enemy TM landed clean in the bay he had left and made a shambles of everything in it. E.V. Tempest History of the Sixth Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment; Vol 1 – 1/6th.
A trench mortar explodes
Soldier’s instincts save Whincup’s life
Interestingly Rev Whincup never mentioned the trench mortar incident but several times, including 11 August 1916, he used his monthly newsletter to his Windhill parishioners to pay tribute to ‘the courage, self-sacrifice and gallantry of the various units at the front. Speaking of the boys from Bradford and district he says “they have done splendidly and most worthily upheld the highest traditions of the British army in the face of all manner of abominations which have been used against them.” He concluded: “This is not fulsome flattery. It is merely the truth. At times as I think about what they are going through, the spirit in which they are facing it, the magnificent manner in which so many have died, my heart is filled with a wild tumult of pride and sadness.”
Infantrymen in dugouts on the Somme