Clifford Lone’s view of World War I – James Clark – 17 November 2014

This is basically a true storey based on the diaries of two Chesterfield lads called Clifford Lone and Jimmy Tate.  Jimmy was 15 years old when he lied about his age and signed up.

James Clark donned the uniform of an army private of WW1 and demonstrated the basic equipment and weapons issued to a “Tommy” in front of a spell bound audience.  He gave a background indication of the crude propaganda circulating in the press at the beginning of the War that was believed by much of the British population.  So Clifford and Jimmy volunteered to fight to stop the Germans from bayonetting babies and then roasting and eating them.  They had little idea where Belgium was but sought adventure beyond the confines of a Chesterfield foundry.

James explained how soldiers were rotated from about a day in the front trenches to 1 to 2 weeks in the support trenches (250 yards behind the front) to 1 to 2 weeks in the reserve trenches followed by a month in a training area before returning to the front.  He demonstrated the early gas mask that steamed up so that vision was very poor and the later small box respirator that was better but meant that beards were unpopular because a tight fit was needed around the neck.

James accepted that initially the British Generals did not change their tactics in the face of appalling loses of men because this was a new type of warfare and alternative approaches were not obvious.  As the war progressed however better tactics were developed and totally new organisation, training and equipment were used.  At the start of the war, Germany adopted a defensive strategy for the Western Front whilst they attacked in the East.  This meant that they dug deep and their sleeping quarters were protected from heavy bombardment whereas the Allies were attacking so regarded their trenches as only temporary and therefore more susceptible to German bombardment.

James gave moving accounts of the actual battles in which Clifford Lone fought.  It was a very informative and enjoyable, thought provoking talk.