Being an account by Ernest Lycette of his life as a young man and soldier in the years between 1911 and 1921
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Being an account by Ernest Lycette of his life as a young man and soldier in the years between 1911 and 1921.
This covers his time as a soldier in the British Army in such places as Gallipoli, Somme, Italy, Egypt, Vimy Ridge, Dardanelles, Amiens among many others. His memoirs also cover his time post-war in the army of occupation of Rhineland, and also the Auxiliary Division in Ireland. More
Ernest Lycette was born at Rugeley, in Staffordshire, on 6th July 1891, son of a coal miner.
The area was largely a sheep farming district but there were beginnings of some industry, particularly coal mining. At one time, when as a youth, Ernest was working with his father, who was a specialist in constructing tunnels, there was an accident and he had to work to free his father and help him out. He never did like mine work.
Little is known of Ernest’s early education, but at that time it was probably of a basic nature. For his 16th birthday he was given a book, written by Lord Baden-Powell, about scouting and this became his main interest. He was ultimately appointed the local scoutmaster, as mentioned in the book.
Upon the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the British Army on the 8th August 1914.
Ernest’s story must be typical of those of millions of families throughout Europe, on both sides of the Great War. Anxiety, hardship, sadness, sorrow, relief and humour all played a role. Like most of the survivors, he said little about his experiences except on rare occasions some happening or event stimulated his memory. There were few war relics in our household. One was a pair of binoculars of American design. Many years later, when asked about them, he said that an American soldier lying in “no man’s land” had been calling out for help. My father crawled out and found the casualty, badly injured with a leg missing. He brought him back to their trench and the soldier was sent off in an ambulance. Later my father visited him in hospital and the American gave Dad the binoculars, saying, “I won’t need these any more, you can have them”.
Ernest also had a large field telescope encased in thick leather, which had a deep jagged gash along most of its length, which was caused by a heavy shrapnel blow, presumably saving his life. When I grew up I realised that, not only had it saved his life, but also given me mine. Because of the huge numbers involved in that mayhem, there must have been other sons grateful for their fathers.
Years later I asked my father, whom I admired enormously, to write an account of his war. Sometime later I came across a large notebook written in pencil, which has been typed and edited.
The following pages describe those years.