A. G. Bailey
Private, 15th Co of London (Civil Service Rifles)
A. G. Bailey was a student at Alleyn’s until 1910. He joined
the war effort early on as part of the 15th Co of London (Civil
Service Rifles) and served overseas on the Western Front as a Private. During
his time at the front, Bailey kept up close links with Alleyn’s by
corresponding with his old tutors about the AOBs serving alongside him what
they were up to. One of his letters from the front, dated October 5th
1915, can be read in its entirety below. It was published in the Edward Alleyn
Magazine in April 1916.
A Letter from the Front
October 5th, 1915.
Dear Mr. Brading, ― I thought you might like a line from one of the Old Boys now “carrying on” out here.
The Alleyn members of this battalion, the Civil Service Rifles ― are reinforced by the arrival of Hanna, who joined us from base about a couple of days ago.
We are resting behind the line, after being in the trenches for a week ― before, during and after last week’s attack. Once more ours was the waiting part. We occupied the trench (in which the water quite covered our boots ― a foretaste of things to come) the day preceding the attack, moving out at night and following up the next morning in support of the attack battalions. We were not required to go to their help, however, and remained in the trench we had occupied the previous day. At night we formed a screen covering the activities of a working party busily engaged in digging communication trenches between our own and the captured trenches.
Later in the week we moved again, this time to garrison the captured trench, which then, of course, formed our first line. Throughout this time we had no shelter, except what we were able to improvise with our waterproof sheets. The weather was wet and cold all the time, and we emerged from the trenches like huge mud-pies with every belonging wet through.
During this time we came into contact with German gas, as a great many gas shells were sent over, of which the fumes stuck in the lowest part of the trenches for many hours. The gas affected the eyes, making them smart and water terribly. The smell of it reminded me of a flower to be found in most English gardens― the nasturtium.
We expect soon to have another spell in the front line, and who knows? ― a chance to make our name may come our way. Whittington is in the same company as I, and Field is also in the battalion. He has been wounded, but is now, I believe, on the strength once more.
I was very sorry, indeed, when I was told a few days ago that Mr. Cross had passed away. I shall always remember him as a clever tutor and a gentleman.
The treatment I received from him was always kind and considerate, and the first year I spent at Alleyn’s under him a most happy one. But it was the same throughout the School, and one looks back to the days spent under its roof with regret that the time is now past.
A.G. BAILEY (2409)