In 1934, Reg Evans D.C.M., who lived at Armitage in Staffordshire and ran a newsagents in the village, had his wartime memoirs published in The Lichfield Mercury in weekly parts.
In November 1914, he was serving as a Lance-Corporal in “F” Company of the 1/1st Battalion, The Hertfordshire Regiment (Territorial Force), and described his journey to France and his first experience of war near Ypres:
“We were up very early on the morning of November 5th, greatly to the annoyance of our host, who told us plainly that he wasn’t going to have his house upset at that time of the morning, orders or no orders. We cheekily told him he needn’t bother, as we were off to France to keep the Huns away from him; and Charley said bluntly that he hoped if they did land, some of them would be billetted on him for a change. We had to do a certain amount of hanging about once we had reported in the market square, and didn’t finally leave Bury station until half-past eleven. How we pushed out our chests and roared “Tipperary” as we passed through the town – what a scramble for pieces of chalk to mark “To Berlin” on the carriages – and then the train steamed out amid a roar of cheers, and we were started off on the great adventure.
It was night when we reached Southampton and proceeded straight on board an old cattle ship, “City of Chester,” and shortly after midnight, accompanied by warships, we set sail. It was beautifully moonlight, and Charley and I wandered about the boat. To find ourselves actually on board a ship was a new experience to us both, and there was lots to interest us, especially the number of other vessels which, under cover of night, were travelling in both directions. Besides, there was a great want of room for sleeping accommodation. Early in the morning biscuits and tea were served out, and we finally disembarked about two p.m. at Le Havre, where we had a good uphill march along a rotten road till we reached the rest camp. Here we were packed in, sixteen men to a tent, and in spite of the cold only one blanket per man was issued. Reveille was at seven, and though there was a rotten fog we were turned out for P.T. and later a route march and an inspection. I was lucky enough afterwards to get a pass to Le Havre, and went down on a tram to have a look round and air my French.
The sight of a sovereign acted as a talisman to the keeper of an estaminet or beer-house, and he proceeded to supply me with what seemed unlimited drinks and 27 francs in change. When I got back to the camp I found it all in disorder, orders having been received to stand by ready to move at once, but we managed to get a little sleep amongst the baggage. The sounding of the alarm about two o’clock set everybody stirring, and we were soon off to the station, where we had breakfast in the yard, whilst a long line of horse boxes, painted “8 chevaux, 40 hommes” (8 horses or 40 men) were coupled up to form our train. In these, all that day and the following night, in the most cramped positions imaginable, we crawled on through the country, knowing nothing of our destination until we found ourselves at St Omer. Whilst we were detraining rumours flew around that this was G.H.Q. and we were to be General French’s bodyguard, but we were soon disillusioned, and found ourselves once more on the road, where at a dirty little village called Tatenheim (sic), or some such name, we were distributed to find billets in the various cowsheds.
Next morning we were out about seven to receive instruction on the new rifle we had been issued with, as they were very different from those we had used in England. In the afternoon, in pouring rain, we had an inspection by Sir J. French and his staff. The men swore that the Commander-in-Chief hadn’t turned up; and when we got back to the billets the news that we should probably stay where we were for at least a fortnight confirmed the pessimists, who insisted that our sole job would be to furnish guards for G.H.Q.
Next morning we were out in the filthy blackness of a November morning at 5.30, full marching order, to dig trenches the other side of St Omer. About 11 o’clock up dashed an orderly asking for the officer in charge. Back to our billets at once. Off we set, full speed, sweating and swearing. We were to join the 4th Brigade of Guards at Ypres. Only about three-quarters of an hour to spare to get dinner, emergency rations and water, then all aboard a fleet of motor ‘buses.
As we started we could hear the distant mutter of guns, but we had not the slightest idea what had taken place to cause our being sent forward so urgently. Our only official stop was at Cassel, where we all got out for a few minutes to stretch our legs, and some were lucky enough to get hold of a bottle or two of wine. Soon after we resumed our journey it started to rain in torrents. Those on the outside came crowding down for shelter, and before long, such was our state, equipment, rifles and men all crowded in an indescribable heap, I was glad to escape outside to avoid suffocation.
The bad condition of the road caused frequent stoppages to our convoy, and once we had to turn out and help haul one of the ‘buses out of the mud in which it was stuck; but we finally arrived at Poperinghe amid a terrific hail and snowstorm, wet to the skin. Here, after a considerable delay, we were served out with rum and a day’s rations, and then, falling in by companies and sections, we started about midnight our first march to the trenches. By the time we reached Ypres the rain had ceased, and the moon shining brightly showed us our first sight of war. Here and there houses lay in battered heaps across the road, blocking our path, and we occasionally saw a dead body amongst the ruins.
I was too tired to look in the wood for one of the dug-outs which we were told were there, so another man and I, wet through as we were, curled up together in some undergrowth and had a couple of hours’ sleep. When we awoke we managed, after great difficulty, to make a Dixie of tea, and, scrounging round with Gilbert, found a large dug-out just outside the wood which was unoccupied. With the captain’s permission we took our kit over, and we were just making ourselves comfortable when orders came to move. We passed no end of artillery, and at last found ourselves in another wood, where we had to dig ourselves in on account of the shelling which was taking place. It rained incessantly all day, and just as it got dark we had to turn out again and go back to our morning quarters. Gilbert was whacked to the wide, but between us we got him along somehow, and eventually about half a dozen of us shot packs and rifles and equipment into the top of the dug-out in the pouring rain and crawled inside, where we lay in a heap till morning.
When I woke up I was half perished with cold and damp, and had scarcely any feeling in my legs. The rain had been soaking into the dug-out all night, and our equipment and rifles outside were in an awful condition. We made some tea, and fags and bacca were issued, as well as two biscuits per man.
Looking round we could see two or three farms burning, and as we watched a calf wandering near our shelter was killed. Lord! the very earth seemed to stink of death, so fought over has this ground been, and we felt anything but happy over our immediate prospects. Next day we made a set at the unlucky calf and it was not long before it was hacked up and being cooked, but alarms of aeroplanes overhead caused a sudden dousing of fires and a posting of sentries to keep a look out for these unwelcome visitors. Cold bacon was issued, and we were told to eat our emergency rations as there was nothing else come up for us, and about four o’clock Captain Smeatham came round and warned us to be ready to move again at a moment’s notice. Aeroplanes had been seen dropping lights over the wood, and shortly afterwards there was a terrific noise and three or four large shells exploded near us.
This seemed the commencement of heavy firing which shook the earth with the shock. The noise was like a rushing wind, branches came crashing down from the trees, and in the gathering darkness the scene seemed indescribable. We were glad to get on the move again, heavy “coal-boxes” bursting all round us, and the mud on the road, being now knee-deep, made the feeling of desolation complete. Every now and then somebody would disappear with a splash into a shell-hole, but we draggled on, finally landing in what we were told was the reserve line of the wood. Another nightmare night, and feeling pretty rotten in the morning, sought out the M.O.’s cart in the rear. Luckily I fell in with some men of the Worcestershire Regiment, with whom I spent the afternoon, and had a good feed before I wandered back.
The wood was covered with equipment and ammunition of all sorts, British, French and German, and other signs of the severe fighting which had recently taken place there. We moved off about 6.30 to the trenches, which were two or three feet deep in running water, so that rest was impossible. My first turn of duty was from 10 till 12, and about one o’clock, and again later, word was passed along to open rapid fire, as the Germans were attacking. Our new rifles, the working of which we had got only the most elementary knowledge, were all jammed, bolts wouldn’t act, and when they did, and we got a round off, away shot the bayonet over the parapet – and then there was a scramble. “If Jerry only knew,” we told one another, and what with this and the cold we began to realise the true meaning of the saying “Fed up and far from home.”
As it got lighter again we could see heaps of dead just beyond our trench. In a smashed-up farm on our right we found the body of a Prussian Guardsman, and nearby a British Tommy with a gaping wound in his stomach. Just a short distance separated them in death, and all round were other signs of the terrific hand-to-hand fighting which had taken place. The swishing of shots overhead cut our explorations short and we scuttled back to our trench, and shortly afterwards we found ourselves back on the road again with the news that the French were taking over that part of the line.
We met them as we went back, and their straggling column and ours intermingled, but flowing in opposite directions, added to the feeling of being right off the earth and in a strange sphere, the thunder of the artillery in an incessant roll sounding like the efforts of a gigantic blacksmith to hammer things straight.
We lay that night as best we could in our old dug-out, and the next day as well. We had been over a week without a wash or shave and were plastered with filth, and the news we received of the death of Lord Roberts seemed quite in keeping with the state of our feelings.
After a day or two of this existence, short of water and rations, with no light of any kind, so that we were forced to stay in our dug-outs soon after 4 o’clock because of the darkness, we had orders to be ready to move at once. There was a sharp frost by now, and this made the roads a bit better, though they were still in an awful state, and our legs seemed almost unable to support us. To our surprise we found ourselves once more passing through Ypres, but there was practically no shelling, and only the lights from the burning debris to guide us.”
 Bury St Edmunds.
 No. 2 Rest Camp.
 The 1/1st Herts suffered their first loss on active service when 2682 Private Charles Castle, a painter from Ware who had attested at Hertford on 5 September, died while at No. 2 Rest Camp on 7 November, aged 35. He was the son of Francis and Elizabeth Castle and is buried at Ste. Marie Cemetery: Division 14, Row D, Grave 3. His widow, Emily, is recorded as living at 21 West Street in Ware after the war.
 The 1/1st Herts arrived at St Omer at 7 o’clock on the morning of 9 November, after travelling through the night. They then marched to billets at Tatinghem, where they remained until 11 November.
 Field Marshal Sir John French had in fact inspected only one company of the Battalion.
 The 1/1st Herts were not formally attached to 4th (Guards) Brigade until 20 November at Meteren.
 As the 1/1st Herts marched through Ypres, the Battalion came under artillery fire. One Officer and one Other Rank were hit by shell fragments, but were only slightly injured and only the Other Rank required any medical attention.
 Captain Lovel Francis Smeatham.
 Probably soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, which served with 5th Brigade of 2nd Division.
 Lichfield Mercury, 6 July 1934.
 The 1/1st Herts had relieved the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on the evening of 14 November in positions between Polygon Wood and Nonne-Bosschen. Three companies were deployed in the front line and five were in reserve. The fighting that Lance-Corporal Evans saw the evidence of had taken place on 11 November.
 153e Regiment d’Infanterie de Ligne. The relief took place on 16 November.
 Field Marshall Frederick Roberts V.C., 1st Earl Roberts, was taken ill with pneumonia while on a visit to France to meet troops of the Indian Corps and died at St Omer on 14 November 1914, aged 82.
 The 1/1st Herts took over trenches from 6th Cavalry Brigade a mile south-east of Zillebeke on 17 November. 2270 Corporal Ernest Boardman and 2238 Private Frederick James Darlow were killed on 18 November, and 2504 Private William Butts, 2747 Private George Haslear Catlin, 2518 Private George Edward Ellis, 2426 Private Walter William Flanders, 2428 Private Joseph William Johnson, 1911 Private Frank Pulley, 2636 Private Phillip James Robinson and 2746 Private Henry West all died on 19 November. The Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards and marched via Ypres to billets at Meteren.
 Lichfield Mercury, 13 July 1934.
Another extract from the memoirs of Reg Evans D.C.M. can be found on this blog via this link: https://ourwar1915.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/a-month-in-the-brickstacks-a-herts-guard-at-cuinchy-february-1915-2170-corporal-reginald-jack-evans-no-2-company-11st-battalion-the-hertfordshire-regiment-territorial-f/