January 1918 saw Uncle Percy raised to the skilled rate of E.P., or Engineers Pay, which would have meant a little extra in his pay packet.
The next entry in his service record is on the 10th March 1918 when he was given four days confined to camp for being absent from 8.20pm to 8.45pm.
Two days later, on the 12th March at Les Attaques, Calais, Percy failed to attend the 6.15pm defaulter’s parade and was absent from the 8.20pm roll call to 9.30pm. For this he was awarded nine days Field Punishment No.1, which involved being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel.
|Field Punishment No.1|
Percy would only have been fixed for up to two hours in every twenty four, and not for more than three days in every four. Field Punishment No.1 came to be known as ‘crucifixion’ and due to its humiliating nature was considered by Tommies as unfair.
In March and April 1918, there are only two entries in Percy’s service record, both noting that he joined the Royal Engineers’ base depot. But during this period the 21st Division were in action. The Battle of St. Quentin on the 21st -23rd March saw the German army advance forty miles and many Tommies taken prisoner. This was followed immediately on the 24th-25th by the first Battle of Bapaume in which the German army recaputured Baupaume.
On the 10th-11th April 1918 the 21st Division were at the Battle of Messines, where the British army withdrew four miles as the Germans captured Messines. This prompted General Haig’s famous ‘backs to the wall‘ message to the troops.
‘Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.’
The next entry in Uncle Percy’s record reveals that he was wounded on the 22nd April 1918 and transfered to No. 13 General Hospital, based in the Casino in Boulogne with a mild gunshot wound to his face and arms on the 24th April.
From the 17th May to the 2nd of October 1918, Percy was in Britain, beginning with a stay at the Springburn Woodside Central Hospital in Glasgow for thirty-five days, suffering from pneumonia.
Following his period of convalesence Percy was expected to return to a Royal Engineers base but he overstayed his sick furlough from the 2nd to the 11th July and was confined to barracks for ten days, forfeiting ten days pay.
The 2nd of October found Percy back in France. Following which the 21st Division were involved in the successful Battle of the Selle from the 7th to the 26th October.
Percy found himself in trouble yet again on the 9th of November, when on active service he was absent for fifteen minutes and was caught drinking in the cafe Le Clas Fleuri during prohibited hours. For this he was deprived of two days pay and was also confined to barracks for seven days.
The Armistice on the 11th of November, found the 21st Division around Berlaimont and they moved via Beaufort to to Amiens by the end of December. Following demobilisation the 21st Division had ceased to exist but Percy’s time with the Royal Engineers was to continue for a little longer.
Picture Credit: http://www.historytoday.com/clive-emsley/crucifying-tommy-punishment-first-world-war
Picture Credit: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205331665
Picture Credit: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH1-Fran-t1-body1-d15.html