Click image for family biographyARCHIVES INDEX (new window)Memoirs of World War I
Richard Irving Dacre R.A.M.C.
 
Part 1 - THE OUTBREAK OF WAR

My first thoughts go back to the time when the papers were full of rumours of war.

I was staying at Compton House, Bournemouth, with a great friend, T. B. Robb, whom I called "Bob" and I was enjoying life in the summer fashion way - that is to say, bathing was the predominant factor and that - with a bungalow (No.22) - made life extremely tolerable, especially as the weather was gorgeous.

My Father recalled me by letter saying that if war was going to be, it were better that we should all be home together. So - on August 1st, 1914 - I left Bournemouth. A Hurrah party of "Cyril", Miss Newnham - one of my swimming companions - Mr. and Mrs.Maudsley and Maudsley himself saw me off; and I arrived at Clifton in due course.

On the night of August 4th, Gerald Elliott, who was my dearest and best friend at the time, was at the Bristol Hippodrome, and during the performance the manager appeared and made a request that any members of the North Somerset Yeomanry, who might be in the house at the time, should report immediately to their headquarters.

This was the first intimation of what was going to happen for many long years. I remember being wonderfully thrilled at the time, because I thought that now the time had come when I, as a Territorial soldier, would really show to advantage and I was very thankful and proud at that moment that I was not as other men were and that I was in a small way prepared to fight for or even defend my country.

After the show was over Gerald suggested that we go to the Western Daily Press office for the latest news. We stood around with various other enthusiasts and at about 11p.m. a poster was put up at the window  "England at war with Germany".

We cheered! Mark you, cheered. Well, what could we have done else? Again, I felt that wonderful thrill! We cheerers little realised! Thank God we didn't, or Britain would have been in a poor state, if everyone had not been the same. When I say "everyone" that makes me think; there is many a man who will go to the grave with shame in his heart and many a man who will find an answer difficult when his child is old enough to ask that historical question, "Daddy what did you do in the Great War?" Ah well! Thank God, there were enough of the right sort at the beginning, and they were the ones who saved England! The others were not considered. Everyone was for the 'Khaki' boys.

The next day Gerald was in his uniform. He was an officer, 2nd Lieutenant, In the 6th Gloucester Regiment and I, a very proud Trooper in his Majesty's Royal Gloucestershire Hussars.

Several days elapsed, while we bought horses, transport and equipment and on August 8th, at an early hour in the morning, Sam Bowles, a brother trooper, and I had breakfast and then departed from the goods yard, Temple Meads Station, Bristol, by troop train en route for Warwick, our centre for mobilisation.

We arrived at Warwick and trekked for the race course where we made our horse lines, drew blankets, waterproof sheets etc., "watered and fed", "hayed up" and did everything in true Cavalryman style.

I was billeted in a small private house with four other troopers. The Billet people, who were pleased with the novelty of housing and mothering British soldiery, did us proud and gave us everything we wanted in the way of food, drink and entertainment. I daresay this novelty wore off very soon. I forget the billet people's names, but I must say they were very kind to us.

The next day I was given a new horse. She was a chestnut mare: nothing too good to look at, but quiet to take to water and feed and above all she had a nice mouth. I called her "Nelly". The same evening I was taking her to water and I approached a little too near the pair in front of me. All the horses were a bit strange and a bit fidgety and, as a consequence, the horse in front let out and caught me on the thigh just above the knee.

For a moment I thought I was going to faint with pain and I had to lean on my horse to prevent myself falling down. However, I  was very keen at the time and I think that was what made me pull myself  together and carry on. However, for many days I had a large bruise on my right thigh and a certain amount of fluid in my knee. I had made myself up a small first-aid  case before I left home and I found this very useful. Luckily I did not have to go sick and I found I could ride without difficulty.

After mobilising at Warwick, we received orders to proceed to the East Coast. We journeyed by troop train again to Bury St. Edmunds where we were split up into Squadrons and sent to the various villages. D. Squadron was under the command of Major R. M. Yorke, with Captain Howard and Lieutenants Turner and Gettling supporting.

We were sent to the village of Ixworth where we arrived in the middle of the night. The local Policeman, after we had made our horses comfortable, took two other troopers and myself under his wing and planted us down in a terrible flea-blown hovel, belonging to two evil smelling persons who called themselves man and wife and who didn't want us and who didn't make any bones about saying so. I thought war was horrible that night, but my enthusiasm kept me going or, rather, allowed me to sleep.

The next day I was transferred to a small inn, run by mine host Wilkes, Mrs. and daughter. Wilkes was good and kind. Mrs. was motherly and did us well, but Miss - oh ye Gods - she had an awful cackling giggle, showed her gums and went pink at the end of her nose. The other boys called me "Doctor" and I suppose, being a nice quiet looking boy, "I" was selected by her - her, mind you - to be the object of her smiles. Really, it was most embarrassing. Oh! that awful smile, those dreadful gums and that terrible blouse.

While at Ixworth, we had a sudden order during the middle of the night to boot and saddle and hell for leather to the coast. Some German cruisers had been sighted off the East Coast and it was thought that a landing was intended. However, all was well and we returned to our camp. During this time I was not in the troop but was detailed as Major Yorke's galloper, with young Thornycroft as his trumpeter. The weather was gorgeous and life was very pleasant. We had our mess in the Old Manor House.

Having stayed a fortnight at Ixworth we trekked for Norwich where we entrained again. At this station, an interesting thing happened to me - an incident which few persons believed. Rumours had been going around that Russian troops were passing through England and everyone was on the look out for them. There were some Russian officers with their servants standing on the platform, apparently going to London and our officers were speaking to them. The sight of a Russian officer, of course, led everyone to suppose that the rumour was true, and I, as many others, was very pleased at the idea that we had seen the "Russians" and for a while I was famous at home. To-day I am a much maligned person for assuring people that the Russians had really passed through. Our uniform, being different from the ordinary khaki, as well as the leg pulling of the men, gave great satisfaction to the people of Norwich, who were certain that the Russians had passed through.

Again, some Yeomanry regiments from the North of Scotland, talking a strange tongue and riding wild looking ponies, viz., The Lovat Scouts, passed through Norfolk saying that they had come from Rosshire.There were plenty of excuses for romancing about Russians and I consider that mine was one of the best and therefore excusable.

Entraining at Norwich where it was very hot, we passed through North London to Newbury. On our way, we were given a tremendous reception by people living near the line. They waved flags and cheered to the echo. Whenever we stopped, we amused ourselves by throwing pennies to the children who fought for them.

On this journey I tasted beer for the first time in my life. It was so hot and we had nothing else to drink. I can't say I liked it until some time afterwards. Still, perhaps this journey marked an epoch in my life and some people would say "How sad, look what the war did for poor Dacre!"

At Newbury we marched to the Race Course where we encamped; or rather, I should say, we picketed our horses and bivouacked with a water-proof sheet and a blanket. At this time many of the old Yeomen rolled up as reinforcements. Among them were Elard Hughes, Paul Adcock and "Piggy" Velsby, who got scabies and had to be isolated.

At this time the United Royal Colleges of Medicine and Surgery issued a memo saying that there would be a special exam for the "Final" in September. Harold Logan and I obtained leave to go home to Bristol for a few days and then to sit for our finals in London. We journeyed up to London and I put up in rooms in Grosvenor Gardens in Russell Square and sat for the exam.

I got very wet one day and could not wear my tunic so I went out in shirt sleeves with bandolier and belt. I went with another  fellow, a Legion of Frontiersman, to the Alhambra where we caused some excitement when we walked into the stalls. He had on a dark blue shirt and wore a pistol holster and I had on a khaki shirt - with the throat open - a bandolier full of cartridge clips and the letters R.G.H.I.Y. on my shoulder straps.

I can't think to this day why I wasn't run in for doing it. An H.L.I. Captain in blue was extremely annoyed with us because the two girls he was with would keep looking so interestedly towards us and try and puzzle out who we were and what L.F. or R.G.H.I.Y. stood for. Oh - I carried a heavy hunting crop which, again, was not uniform. Lord! How I smile now at the sensation we caused and what would have happened to us if discipline had been as strict as it is now. Alhambra and shirt sleeves!

For a week the exam went on until the dread day arrived. We were ushered into a small Library in the Royal College of Surgeons and we waited with thumping hearts until Mr Hallett opened the door and called the numbers out. Mine came at last and I was told "you're alright" and I went straight across to a larger Library, where we signed all sorts of papers and, finally, we paraded in front of various learned gentlemen in magnificent robes.

The President made a little speech to us and finally one and all  bowed to us. "Us" was a motley crowd:- a girl, two blacks and an officer temporarily attached to the R.A.M.C., myself in uniform and an old Epsonian called G. L. Grant who was a Private in the London Scottish. He was going to France the next day. He afterwards became M.O. to the Scottish, after Macnab who was killed at Messines and he was killed himself later on in the war.

After being received into the Colleges, I went out and had dinner with my Frontiersman who had only got Surgery. Afterwards we went to the Crab Tree or Artists' Night Club where we danced till the early hours. I was qualified. I never thought I should ever reach this height. I had changed from one day from an irresponsible Medical Student to a dignified member of the profession.

I returned to the Regiment at Newbury and my papers for commission were duly signed and sent away. I shook hands with my C.O., had several drinks with my comrades and departed home on leave pending commission.

In the train down I travelled in the Guard's Van. The old gentleman was of a religious turn of mind and well up in the Scriptures. He tried to impress me with his knowledge and beliefs. He laid great stress on prophecy, saying that he believed that the world would soon come to an end owing to the prophecy about the world ending after the "wars and rumours of wars" and "an enemy shall come from the North, the South., the East and the West".

I was interested at first and encouraged him, but the journey from Newbury is long and tedious to Bristol and I soon became fatigued and I didn't want to hurt his feelings because he had been very good in allowing me to ride in his car. However, I got out at Devizes and changed into an empty coach. When I arrived home I changed into mufti and thus my career as a cavalryman ended.

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