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Military: The Cellar House of Pervyse - Chapter 5 - On The Road

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

'The Cellar-House of Pervyse'

A Tale of Uncommon Things from The Journals and Letters of the Baroness t'Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm

A Story of Two British Volunteer Nurses on the Yser Front



Chapter V - On The Road

There was no question about the amount of work waiting to be done at Furnes. Calls from Dixmude, where hot fighting was going on, were incessant, and the ambulances were kept hard at it. Dixmude is about eight miles south-east of Furnes as the crow flies, but much more by road; and the way along the scattered and smashed pavé was rolled out many times in a day by the coming and going of the motors. Chauffeurs were difficult to get, and there were many cars requiring drivers now; so early next morning Gipsy had hardly had time to get on her clothes before there was a shout, and she ran down to find Gilbert waiting outside with the heavy 40 h.p. Napier. There was no one else to take it, and he ordered her to do so. Put upon her mettle, she obeyed at once, but as she climbed into the seat she realized that...

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Military: The Cellar House of Pervyse - Chapter 4 - The Retreat

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

'The Cellar-House of Pervyse'


A Tale of Uncommon Things from The Journals and Letters of the Baroness t'Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm

A Story of Two British Volunteer Nurses on the Yser Front




Chapter IV - The Retreat

But Ghent did not long remain a refuge; well before the middle of the month earnest warnings to evacuate it were given. The way in which the final summons came was dramatic. Mairi was in bed, sleeping with her usual heart-whole earnestness, when she was awakened suddenly, and saw standing by her one of the doctors attached to the ambulance, telling her the Germans were upon them and they must fly. Then followed a scramble. The first thing was to save the wounded soldiers, who must not be left to fall into the hands of the foe. Alas! the order had come through the day before that all the kits belonging to these men were to be sent to Ostend as a measure of precaution. One of those "decisions in blinkers" which cause such infinite suffering. The patients were mostly in thin cotton pyjamas; the night was...

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Military: The Cellar House of Pervyse - Chapter 3 - The Field of Mercy

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

'The Cellar-House of Pervyse'


A Tale of Uncommon Things from The Journals and Letters of the Baroness t'Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm

A Story of Two British Volunteer Nurses on the Yser Front




Chapter III - The Field Of Mercy

In the midst of this whirlpool of madness and misery Melle was inhabited. There were old men and women and children whose homes were in those shot-torn houses, and they had cowered there while the shells hurtled overhead and the piercing bullets flew like arrows. After this fearful day there were a larger number of wounded civilians than usual. The nuns at the convent had their hands quite full. The dull dreamy current of their lives had dashed into a vortex, and in it they had had to stretch out hands of help and pity to those who were drowning beside them. As Gipsy came into the convent next morning, she was overwhelmed with pity at the spectacle of the wounded people there. Somehow it is so much worse to see civilians wounded than soldiers; soldiers, at all events, know what they are...

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Military: The Cellar Hose of Pervyse - Chapter 2 - In the Thick of Battle

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

'The Cellar-House of Pervyse'

A Tale of Uncommon Things from The Journals and Letters of the Baroness t'Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm

A Story of Two British Volunteer Nurses on the Yser Front


Chapter II - In the Thick of a Battle

By September 29, three days after they had arrived in Ghent, Gipsy's vital energy had got too much for her, and she had to do something or explode; so she found a job in driving the car of the Belgian Colonel, whose own chauffeur had disappeared. She fell into this niche, which fitted her to a nicety, in the simplest and most feminine way possible, because she walked up to look at the Belgian trenches outside the town, and found the Colonel minus a coat button. Of course she sewed it on, and followed up the obvious opening by offering to fill the place as chauffeur. Though the Belgian Army was not nearly so much swathed about with red tape as some of the older countries, yet it was rather an innovation that the Colonel should accept a woman as chauffeur in war-time, and therefore...

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Military: The Cellar House at Pervyse - Chapter 1 - The Start

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle
'The Cellar-House of Pervyse'

A Tale of Uncommon Things from The Journals and Letters of the Baroness t'Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm

A Story of Two British Volunteer Nurses on the Yser Front



Chapter I - The Start

I shall never forget them as I saw them first, a little oddly mixed group. They might have been a party of Cook's tourists going for a week-end across the Channel as they stood there in Victoria Station; but it was more than a week-end trip they had to face. At first I thought that some of them were merely seeing the others off, especially the lady with cherries in her hat. In fact, there were only two who looked real sportswomen, and they were Mrs. Knocker and Mairi Chisholm. They were dressed in big khaki overcoats, but as these were flung open one could see the high boots and tunics underneath, and there was no manner of doubt that they were wearing knickerbocker khaki suits in London! The others were slightly scandalized—one could see it in their furtive glances, and the way they obviously avoided looking...

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Military: Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC, 34th Battalion. AIF

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle


Captain Clarence Jeffries, 34th Battalion, Victoria Cross action at Passchendaele, Belgium. It was a posthumous award.

The 9th Australian Brigade suffered bitter losses in its ill-fated attack on Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. Before he became one of the officers killed there, Clarence "Jeff" Jeffries (1894-1917) had led attacks on German machine-gun posts, capturing several guns and killing or capturing their crews.

Jeffries was just 22 and his family was well known in the Newcastle region, where he had been a mining surveyor on the state's northern coalfields. After the war his father went to Belgium and for a while personally led an ultimately successful search for his grave.

Victoria Cross Citation:

'For most conspicuous bravery in attack, when his company was held up by enemy machine gun fire from concrete emplacements. Organizing a party, he rushed one emplacement, capturing four machine guns and 35 prisoners. He then led his company forward under extremely heavy enemy artillery barrage and enfilade...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - Southdowns in Action

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle



The Eastbourne Gazette on 2nd August 1916, had these two reports of the action at 'Boar's Head'.

Southdowns in Action


Letter from Sergeant Rowsell


Writing from the V.A.D. Hospital, Fernlagul, Larkfield, near Maidstone on July 29th. Lance-Sergeant T.S. Roswell says:-

“As an old Eastbourian I have been a reader of your valuable paper for some years and I received it weekly in the trenches before I was wounded. I belong to one of the Southdowns Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment and am able to tell you that our long training in England enabled the men to become not only good fighters but good workers as well. If any trenches needed making or repairing by our division one of the ‘Southdowns’ Battalions was sure to get the job. With regard to the fighting, all were eager to go over the parapet to meet ‘Frtiz’ when the time came and the ‘Squareheads’ the other side of No Mans land soon learnt what they were up against. You were quite correct in your surmise that some day Sussex people will hear the...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - The Wounded Officers Letter – “The Men Were Magnificent”

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle


This is another report in the Eastbourne Gazette on 19th July 1916. No name is given by the wounded officer, but his letter confirms the other reports without overemphasising the carnage of the attack.

The Wounded Officers Letter – “The Men Were Magnificent”

No warmer tribute to the splendid work of “Lowther’s Lambs” in the recent operation on the Western Front could be given than contained in a private letter by a wounded officer, who says:-

“The men were magnificent; there is no doubt about that. If the men in the rest of Kitchener’s Army are anything like the ‘Southdowns’ nothing will stop us now that we have made the right start.

Our divisional General said only a few days before the beginning of this great push, “You men (meaning the Southdowns) do not require leading, we know their reputation.” And he was right. When their officers and men fell on the survivors went, right through the hell of fire. ‘My Company (‘A’...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - How The South Downs Fought - Eastbourne Hero

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

Reports continued to filter into the newspaper about the fighting on 30th June 1916. The Eastbourne Gazette on 26th July 1916 contained these reports.

The first is from a letter by Lieutenant Robinson where he writes about the heroism of CSM Nelson Carter who would later be posthumously awarded the V.C. for his actions during the battle.


"How the Southdowns Fought


Eastbourne Hero


Loses his life while rescuing comrades


In a private letter to a friend an Eastbourne officer, Lieutenant Harold C.T. Robinson, who is at home wounded, tells of the gallantry of a local soldier who lost his life in the great advance on the morning of June 30, while rescuing comrades who had fallen wounded over the parapet.

Lieutenant Robinson, who is the younger son of Mr. C. Wyndham Robinson, of Kya Lami, The Greys, Eastbourne, was the officer commanding A Company, 12th Royal Sussex Regiment and the soldier of whose heroism he speaks was Company-Sergeant Major N.V. Carter (formerly an attendant at Old Town, Cinema)...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - The South Downs Battalion

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle



On 30th June 1916 the Southdowns Battalions took a major part in their first battle. It was a diversionary operation at the village of Richebourg L’Avoue in northern France. A set piece battle had been planned to straighten out the line of a German position known as Boar’s Head.

The first reports started to trickle back in early July 1916 together with the start of the Battle of the Somme which was further south. The casualties from the the Somme were enormous, in fact the 1st July 1916 was the worst day in the history of the British Army; 60,000 casualties either, dead, wounded or missing.

The Battle of 'Boar's Head' has today been largerly forgotten about, in fact many books about that time do not even mention it. The cost to the three South Downs Battalions and to the people of Sussex was terrible. The total causalities were 15 Officers and 364 other ranks killed or died of wounds and 21 Officers and 728 other ranks wounded. In total nearly 1,100. A conservative count of men killed coming from...

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Latest Out Of Battle Stories

The Cellar House of Pervyse - Chapter 5 - On The Road
The Cellar House of Pervyse - Chapter 4 - The Retreat
The Cellar House of Pervyse - Chapter 3 - The Field of Mercy
The Cellar Hose of Pervyse - Chapter 2 - In the Thick of Battle
The Cellar House at Pervyse - Chapter 1 - The Start

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