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A friendship that flowered
Mr. 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.

in hospital
"Someone shouted:
"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 the arm.
"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

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

Summers the soldier
They came from neighbouring villages
Mr. Jack Holloway

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

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
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