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The Earl of Kingston

Henry Edwyn King-Tenison (1874-1946) was the 9th Earl of Kingston, elected a representative peer in 1917. Earl of Kingston is a title in the peerage of Ireland, created in 1768. The following excerpt is from correspondence written in early November 1914. The recipient is unknown.

I got a leg down on 1 November, and so have been out of it since I am afraid I shall not get either the rifles or the glasses you so kindly sent me. We had a bad day on Sunday (the 1st) they attacked the wretched 7th Division and we had to come to their help on night of 31st. We arrived after dark and had to make trenches about 10 o’clock we were ordered about a mile to the left. We were relieved by the Grenadiers who took over our trenches and we had to fix up fresh ones between Squadron of 10th Hussars and Gordon Highlanders on our left. We dug all night. There was a beastly spring in my trench which I could not drain and was most uncomfortable, still as we had not been dry for a week it did not matter. When day dawned we found ourselves well dug in bar the water, though not a very long field of fire, but what we could not see the Gordons could. The Oxfords came in between us to strengthen up matters then about 7.30 the most damnable shell fire started, salvos of their big high explosives intermittently with what they call ‘Universal’. The latter we have not got at present. It has three distinct bursts (1) forwards shrapnel (2) segmental and straight down (3) segmental backwards. This hell lasted till 1.30 and then I call the roll in the trench passing down names who were hit. I found I had only 1 killed and 2 wounded in spite of this frightful fusillade. Of course if we had not had a good trench we were all in. As it was we were all badly shaken. I walked down to the next trench where Teddy Mulholland (my captain) was, and reported all well etc. and that I expected an attack. He had not had quite as bad a shelling but had lost two more men than I had. About 3 p.m. suddenly they started shelling again, our guns who had been put to sleep spoke first but no sign of an attack. The howitzers had our range exactly. Suddenly I saw the Gordons retiring and followed by thousands of Germans. We could do nothing, if we shot there was as much chance of killing our own men, as they seemed all mixed up, Gordons, Oxfords, and Germans. They were enfilading our trench, so we drew back out left to 50 yards and I made them start throwing up a line down trench as best they would but the turned a maxim on me. I went down before it was complete. I had a rotten time. They shot at me on the ground, and shells burst all round. I had had my best shot away before I fell, then my sergeant and a drummer carried me away. (I hear since both poor chaps have been killed. I know the drummer got three in him.) It seems wonderful to be alive. Even when our medical officer was dressing me two shells came through the roof and he dropped my leg (how it did hurt!) and poor chap he got covered with boiling water which also got on me, but being in such pain I hardly felt it. I am afraid there is nothing left of the Regiment. I heard the regiment on the left of the Gordons let them through, and though afterwards they charged and got back to their trenches they had eventually to leave them again as there was no one on their left. We are having a hell of a time in reserve, fighting and digging all the time, men cannot stand it. Unless the troops are relieved I fear something disastrous will happen. The French always come gaily up but then nothing seems to happen, something goes wrong. Excuse this long epistle, but I thought you might like to hear the sort of thing that goes on.

14 Nov. 1914

--- I am sure you will like to hear we had --- home for a week’s leave the other day; he was so fit and well and in good spirits. They have had a very rough time of it in the trenches, sometimes for five days! The only wonder to me is why everyone is not killed or wounded. Take ---‘s case, - on the Aisne, in one attack his double company made, they went into action 262 men and 6 officers. --- and 70 men were all that came out! and he had to take up a reinforcement of about 30 men. They had to advance in the open, over a turnip field, about 200 yards (and so could not double) being fired on by machine guns and rifle fire! and no one – was hit. Beside that, he has had a bullet from the right which entered his right breast passed through his cross-belts, thick greatcoat, comforter, and jacket and out by the left breast, and never touched him! Then he has had two bullets through his cap. A piece of shell, as big as his hand, hit him in the middle of the back on his belt, and knocked him down, but did no harm, although he feels it on damp days, - one of those big ‘Black Marias’ pitched two yards off him and never burst! Such is war, and I say whoever comes home safe has had a marvelous escape.
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