Sunday, 2 November 2014

22859 Sapper William George Pink, 26th Field Coy, Royal Engineers

I met William Pink on 1st October 1981. At the time, he was one of a dwindling band of Chelmsford Old Contemptibles although he was originally from Hampshire and had been born in Southampton on the 10th December 1895. Prior to enlisting on 10th May 1912, he had worked as a groom. This is what he told me.

"When war was declared we were immediately shipped over to Boulogne and went straight to Mons from there. There was a lot of troop movement all sorting themselves out because the Germans were heading straight for the Belgian Front. I fought at First Ypres and then la Bassee and there was no sign of an armistice although everyone expected the war to be over within a few weeks.

"The conditions were awful of course and the trenches full of water. In some of them we didn't know whether we were going to be drowned or whether we'd get out. We were filthy. The lice were embedded under your armpits and around your crotch.

"All of a sudden we were retreating and the might of the German Army was just behind us. We were impeded by the Belgian refugees fleeing in front of us; families and children all mixed up with the troops. Such was their hurry that meals were left in the oven still cooking, or on the tables. We released all the animals to try and get them away before we were overrun by the Germans.

"We were retreating through La Bassee and a shell exploded above us showering us with shrapnel. A piece the size of a walnut hit me at the base of my spine and laid me out. I lay where I fell until the stretcher bearers picked me up and took me to a casualty clearing station. From there I was transferred to the General Hospital and then shipped back to a VAD hospital at Oxford. My injury meant that I couldn't walk until 1917 and even after then I still had to use a stick. For me, the war was over."

William Pink has a surviving service record in WO 364 and this tells a somewhat different story. He enlisted in May 1912 at Chatham and was wounded on the 24th January 1915. He was taken to No 3 Field Ambulance the following day and admitted to the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital on the 26th January. On the 6th February he was transferred to England where he was admitted to a London hospital the same day. He subsequently spent time at a hospital in Oxford and then VAD hospitals first in Slough and finally in Wantage. He remained in England until 1916 but was well enough to resume service with the Colours and sailed for Basra in June 1916 and served in Mesopotamia and India until April 1919.

William Pink died in 1982.

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