“I remember the eerie silence that first Christmas Day. All the explosions stopped…. We’d spent two months with the cracking of bullets and machine-gun fire, and sometimes distant German voices – but now it was quiet all around…. The silence came to an end in the afternoon when the guns started again. The killing began again too. It was a very short-lived peace. Now, at Christmas, I think of that day in 1914 and remember all my friends who didn’t make it. But it’s too sad to think too much about it – it’s far too sad. ….
The Battle of Loos was dreadful for the Black Watch and casualties were very high – especially the first day, 26 September….You see, our bombardment wasn’t strong enough to break the German wire or to destroy their machine guns.
…On one occasion we were entrenched in a listening post on the Somme front and I was brewing up some tea when a shell exploded over our heads, killing several of my pals and injuring many others – myself included. I was hit by shrapnel in the neck and shoulder, but I managed to crawl to the officers’ dugout, where someone put a field dressing on it. I had to lie there all day bleeding and in a lot of pain until dark, when they could send out a stretcher party to get me back to the trenches…. My fighting days were over, but I’d been lucky just to survive. That day my dearest friends were left behind in that trench for ever….
At the time of the war I didn’t give the reasons much thought. I was too young for that, and it was all a kind of jaunt for us. It was a different kettle of fish once we got to the trenches. I saw fellows I knew dying around me, and all I thought about then was living. I’ve been trying to forget war for the past eighty or so years, but wars just keep happening, and it’s ordinary folk who pay the price……Looking back, I wonder, “What did we gain?” We certainly lost a lot, and we’re right back to square one now, I think men will always fight. War is needed, I suppose to settle some things – but maybe there is a better way.”
Alfred Anderson, Scotland’s longest surviving World War One veteran
born 25 June 1896, died 21 November 2005
(extract lifted from Last Post (The Final Word from our First World War Soldiers) by Max Arthur)