Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who died during the two World Wars.

Letter from Serg. Ted Hurdley, 11th Hussars.

[Bridgnorth Journal, 6th October, 1917]

In July last we published an interesting letter written by Sergt. T. Hurdley,11th Hussars, who is a native of Chelmarsh. Near Bridgnorth, and who is serving with our forces in France. He is a cousin of Mrs. Breakwell, The Bull's Head, Chelmarsh. Our readers will we feel sure read with interest the following interesting communication from the pen of the same writer on the bombing of the advanced hospitals at the front. In a letter to a relative who resides at Chelmarsh, referring to the communication we reproduce here, he remarks that he had never seen a more dastardly act than the bombing of the 14th Corps Clearing Station (Hospital) on the 19th, 20th, and 21st of August, and adds :— "I was at the hospital when it was bombed, and assisted in extracting the wounded and dying from the wreckage after the aeroplanes had passed over. I had quite a long conversation with the nurse I mention, who escaped. The traces of the ordeal through which she had passed were very obvious in her eyes and in the slight tremour of her voice next day, but she would not leave the hospital although she knew very well there [was a] probability of their bombing it again the following night. I could not help saying, "What a brave little girl you are." She smiled sweetly as she replied, "Such praise from an experienced warrior like you is for me a great compliment."
"The Harvest Moon is Shining." What memories those beautiful words bring back to many a soldier this autumn of 1917. How clear, how soft. how marvellously enhanced appears its light over the battlefield. The Light of the Harvest Moon! The beautiful silvery light ordained by God himself, as a prolongation of the autumn days, to enable the reaper to prolong his labours, and collect his winter's food.
Oh, beautiful moon, how clearly you speak of the days of yore, of happy days among the golden corn, of dances on the village green, memories of my boyhood days, now gone beyond recall; but not one sad memory do you bring from the days of the fading past. Shine, shine moon, forever, as a glorified emblem of peace and a soldier's dream of home.
The guns are particularly still tonight; the heavies, away back, are sullenly booming, but the forward guns are silent. "No Man's Land" is only marked by the everlasting rise and fall of the star shells. Close by is the advanced hospital. They are very busy to-night clearing the wards for to-morrow's attack; the bright light on the front entrance and in the operating theatre is the only light visible as far as the eye can reach, but the Red Cross is sacred to every fighting man throughout the world;
sacred for its noble purpose, for its beautiful intent; a haven of rest where the dying warrior sighs with content as he gazes with wonder at the angels of mercy flitting tenderly from bed to bed. and with his fleeting breath he murmers "This is heaven." Peace, perfect peace. "May God protect the Red Cross."
Suddenly the machine guns in the trenches rap out the "Alert" (hostile aircraft), the [line missing. something like "planes are closing fast - the growing sounds"] of their engines are distinctly heard - very near, very ominous. They whisper, "Death!" Death in the worst form, terrible in its entirety, Death, hurled with a hatred, impregnated with a diabolical determination – unprecedented and unheard of - even in this cruellest of all universal massacres "The World War."
The searchlights respond to the danger with marvellous rapidity, and traverse the sky in every direction, but too late. He has timed his flight too well. He it within striking distance of his object. His engines are shut off with a "click," and all is still. The calm before the Storm. O, God of Battles, of justice and right, is there no power to upset this demon's intent! Like the eagle pounding on his prey, silently, swiftly, but surely, he slides down, down, without a sound; down, until his aim is sure, and the accomplishment of his fell purpose is certain, aided in his descent by the "Light of the Harvest Moon."
There is heard the whirr of his "sighting shot," the deadly aerial torpedo. "Bang!" My God, that's on the hospital, and there's that brilliant light in the operating theatre. Can it be true? Is it possible that the cur--also all too true!
One, two, three, four, in rapid succession, with a roar that shakes the very foundations of the earth, the whole centre of the hospital opens up like a volcano. For one brief space the air is full of falling debris; then all is still. And the "Harvest Moon is Shining!"
Then in the silence of the night is heard the groans of the wounded, — maimed and dying, — the choking sobs of the weeping sisters, weeping for the loss of their wounded charge, for the loss of their girl friends — for they, too, have answered the call and several lie stretched out, bleeding and buried among the debris.
Come with me and let us view for ourselves the evidence of this dastardly act, this greatest of all crimes on record, the deliberate murdering of the wounded. Through the centre of the hospital runs the main thoroughfare on to which all the lines of marquees, or wards, open for facility of communication. At the far side of the hospital, and on opposite sides of the thoroughfare, lie the tents of the sisters and doctors, with a marquee on either side as dining rooms.
The extremity of the thoroughfare is blocked by a small cookhouse built of wood and corrugated iron. This small cookhouse was the point of impact for Fritz's "sighting shot." So violent was the explosion, that parts of the cookhouse fell 200 yards away. The cook's one leg and part of his body sailed through the roof of the officers mess marquee, some 30 paces distant, leaving a gaping hole smeared with blood, open to the sky, and fell with a thud at the feet of an officer., who was writing at a table inside.
The remaining part of the cook could be seen splattered along the front line tents of the sisters' compound — tents at the time, all occupied by nurses, peacefully sleeping after a sixteen hours' tour of duty. The first four tents were completely wrecked, and the nurses frightfully wounded — one mortally — another lost her eyesight. The most marvellous thing was that the nurse in the tent nearest the explosion, some four or five yards from the cookhouse, escaped without a scratch.
This tent was literally "in strips," and she was buried under earth and wreckage, but physically intact. Though badly bruised, and suffering from shock, she refused to leave her work, and still "Carried on."
This was only Fritz's "sighting shot," but imagine what happened in the centre of the hospital, where the bombs fell in the marquees full of wounded men, who, in many cases, were unable to move a limb. The appalling scene as viewed by the light of the moon was beyond description, but it is notably described in the official communication next day, thus: "Great aerial activity in Flanders ! German air raid on British hospitals."
And now, in the North of France, the night that is dark and stormy, with a wind that is howling wild, is far more preferable than "The Light of the Harvest Moon."
In the Field,
September, 1917.
Ted Hurdley.

This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg. For news of updates follow @BridgnorthHeros on Twitter.