A friendship that flowered
Bert Summers, of 4 Monks Hall Road, North-ampton, who
is 81, was born at Radstone, near Brackley, and joined up
in Northampton in 1915.
That same day he was posted with 23 others to the 9th Battalion,
the Norfolk Regiment at Felixstowe.
"I was up at Ypres when the Battle of the Somme started,
and we were marched down to fight. My first taste of the Somme
was on September 15 when the tanks first went into action.
"We had gone up during the night, and all along the side
of the road were large things covered in tarpaulins. No one
knew what they were. Then in the morning the tarpaulins were
removed and we saw the tanks. They started up at once and
advanced. The German lines were only 200 yards away, and as
soon as they saw what was coming the Germans got out of their
trenches and started running.
"That's Johnny Summers to a T - he was a famous boxer
at the time - and the name stuck with me right the way through
until I was demobbed."
Mr Summers was wounded at Flers on October 17, as he slept
in his dug-out. A shrapnel shell exploded and he was hit in
"I was in the field hospital drinking some Bovril and the
man next to me was from Northants.
He had lost a finger. He was called Jack Holloway, and said
he lived in Helmdon, the next village to Radstone. We laid
side by side in the hospital in Etaples, and I have seen him
once a fortnight ever since. We are as close as brothers."
Mr. Summers, who was a King's Corporal, added: "The Somme
was indescribable. There were men hanging dead on the barbed
wire for months on end."
| "But every
tank stopped because they did not have a cooling system, and
then they had hell. They were shelled to blazes. Some of them
only got 40 yards.
"We were occupying trenches that had been the German front
line, and German shells could go straight into the dug-outs
and blow them up.
Mr Bert Summers
| On that first day
I collapsed out of exhaustion. I had been on the go all the
day before, and I was properly done in.
"Shortly after that the Scots regiment next to us attacked
the Germans and bought in some prisoners. One of these Germans
tried to shake hands with me, but I hit him on the jaw.
Summers the soldier
They came from neighbouring
Mr. Jack Holloway
Mr Jack Holloway, of 49 Church Street, Helmdon, joined up on
August Bank Holiday Monday,
1915, two days after his 18th birthday.
He joined the Northamptonshire Regiment, but was transferred
to the 1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment. It was with this
unit that he went to the Somme, arriving at Beaumont Hamel
late in July.
"It wasn't a very nice experience, but the longer it
lasted the more you got used to it. Going over the top was
very frightening. Machine gun bullets were the worst fear,
and the noise was tremendous.
"In August his unit
|was posted back to
the Ypres Salient, but they were back on the Somme in October,
having had to march most of the way.
"I was wounded in October, which was when I first met Bert
Summers in the dressing station. A piece of shrapnel had gone
right through my finger and it had become poisoned."
Later in the war while serving with his Regiment's 10th Battalion
at Arras he was completely buried in mud but was dug out by
three mates. He came home with
Holloway the soldier
"trench feet" in October 1917, but returned to the
front the next year to "see the thing finished".
Northampton Chronicle & Echo, Wednesday,
June 30, 1976