One hundred years ago this month my father Albert Hodgson was in a military hospital recovering from horrific wounds he had received whilst fighting on the western front in France.
My father was born at Angle House in Gressingham and educated at Gressingham school. After leaving school he worked for the vicar Mr Mercer looking after the garden. In 1914 he volunteered for army service with The Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, and after basic training, in which he qualified for his Marksman badge, he was later trained as a sniper.
He was lucky in some respects as his battalion was posted to Salonika in Greece to guard the Greek-Serbian border. Unfortunately, they set up camp in a river valley not knowing that the river was infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes and almost the whole force was infected with malaria. They then moved camp to higher ground away from the river.
There was no fighting in Greece – all the action was across the Bosphorus in Gallipoli. They eventually left Salonika travelling across the Adriatic Sea and were put on troop trains that carried them the length of Italy through Switzerland to join the army fighting in France.
By this time my father had been promoted to platoon sergeant and it was then his job to blow his whistle and lead his men to attack the enemy trenches. Early one morning he was doing just that when a shell burst right alongside him, blowing him off his feet, tearing large pieces out of his calf and knee, and leaving lots of particles of shell-shrapnel embedded the full length of his body.
Unable to move, and bleeding profusely, he lay in no man’s land for fourteen hours before the stretcher bearers found him and took him back to the first aid post to join the queue of wounded soldiers waiting for treatment. He did not remember much of the next few days as he was barely conscious through loss of blood.
He eventually arrived back in England to be treated and to recover, and he was discharged early in 1919 and awarded a small disability pension.
By the time he arrived home his mother had died in the Spanish flu epidemic, and he moved in with his sister and brother-in-law at Storrs Cottage, and was employed as a gardener at Storrs Hall, where he stayed until he retired in 1955.
In the Second World War, he was asked to form the Arkholme and Whittington Home Guard and promoted to full Lieutenant. They met every Sunday morning to practice marching and rifle drill in the garage yard at Storrs Hall and practised live firing in a field at Locka Farm. His name is on the Roll of Honour in Gressingham Church.
The next dance at Whittington is on 17 November when Denis Westmorland will be providing the music for dancing.