I PROMISE TO TELL THEM OF YOUR DEATH
As the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) marched towards Soignies Belgium, four friends serving in the Royal Field Artillery, Fred Coxen, Pudgie Taylor, George Bramwell, and Bobby Glue were discussing their concerns. Their fear was how their possible deaths would be conveyed to their loved ones back home.
By August 20th the BEF was only two days away from Soignies when their plan took form. They promised each other that those that survive the war would find the loved ones of those that had fallen, and tell them how and where they died.
Little did they know that by October 9th George Bramwell, whose real first name was Percy, would be the first to fall. The following entry in Fred Coxen’s journal describes George’s death:
This day was going to be well-remembered. During the morning things were a little more quiet than usual. We were sitting around the guns (6 inch Howitzers). I had left my telephone beneath one of the gun limbers.
We were having a feast of Bully Beef and potatoes (potatoes did not come our way often), when a battery of German artillery found us with shrapnel shells.
The first round burst directly over our number three gun, which was just a short distance from us. Needless to say we all scattered. Bramwell and I ran towards the gun limber where I left the field phone. George was on my right when I heard the shell burst and saw him go down.
I dove under the limber to phone my chum Collins, while two gunners dragged Bramwell to the shelter of the limber. It was just seconds after they delivered him when three more shells exploded and the two gunners went down.
Collins came running, and he and I did what we could for poor Bramwell but it was useless. Bullets from bursting shells hailed down on the limber as I held him in my arms. Collins and I expected to be hit any second but the limber saved us.
After the shelling stopped we removed poor Bramwell; it was an unpleasant sight to see a chum’s brains by one’s side. Once Bramwell’s body was removed, I noticed that a shell case was stuck in the ground just two yards from where I laid. Luckily it didn’t splinter, for Collins and I would have been killed. Everything seemed to bear marks of that lively hour excepting for us two.
Less than two months had passed since the four chums set foot in France and now only three remain to carry on. Who would be the next to fall?Exerpt from the novel, “The Great Promise” written by Frederick L Coxen.