Having to turn out for a German


11th December 1914

It was the early morning of another damp day as the Dorsets trudged over the frontier, back to France, and into Saint-Jans-Cappel. Here they went into billets at 2am, which Gleichen describes as “a nice little village”. It became a popular destination for troops getting some respite from the frontline.

I’ve recently read an extract from a diary by Major (his name, not rank) Swindell of the 2nd Bn. Manchesters. His entry for the 2nd December 1914, which mentions our old friend Count Gleichen, made me chuckle:

### Dec 2nd 1914
‘Aunties’*. Had a generals’s inspection by General Count von Gleeson (sic) [this was Brigadier General Edward Gleichen, then OC 15 Brigade – ST Ed.] This made the boys moan a little, having to turn out for a German. Auntie went strong today. She put a chalk mark on her wood, & of course marks and all went. She got wound up & then the music started. She only stopped for breath. The only thing I can compare her voice with is a steam hooter.

* The Manchesters had named the local farmer’s wife “Auntie”. She tried to charge the troops a penny for a bucket of water and took away the pump handle when they told her where to get off.

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