Private Thomas Burnett We reproduce this letter from Richard Edgar's excellent book: A Call to Arms – Portadown and the Great War. It was written by Thomas Burnett, from Church Street, Portadown who was wounded on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He spent three days lying in No Mans Land before he was rescued and bought back to the trenches and his graphic account gives a fascinating insight into that bloody day on a foreign battlefield so many years ago. Portadown News: 25th November 1916: Portadown soldier's graphic letter; Spent three nights wounded in No man’s land. Lance Corporal T. Burnett, son of Mr A. J. Burnett, Portadown, who is serving with the 9th R.I.F., Ulster Division, and was wounded in the big push on 1st July, writes to a friend in Vancouver:- Dear Bill – Yours to hand this morning was very welcome. No, you're wrong Bill, about the time we went into the trenches. It was on October 3, 1915, and except for about 15 days at Christmas, we have been in the trenches all the time, six in and six in reserve, and although July 1, was our big battle, it was not our first time over the top as on three or four occasions we raided their lines and put the wind up them while we were there. Well about the famous first of July. We were in the trenches for the seven days preparatory bombardment; during which time the Germans let us know they had artillery also, and quite a lot of or boys went west. Then at 7:30 o'clock on the morning of the first we went over, expecting after the shelling, we were going to have a clinch of it. But not so; they brought up their machine guns out of their dugouts that our heaviest artillery shells could not reach, and then the fun commenced. They were on a hill and we had to take it. But before we got to their front line there was 300 yards of open ground to cover. That's when we got it. I got within 50 yards of their line when a machine gun got my range just when I was nicely worked up for the dirty work. It was fine to hear the boys shouting as they charged. No surrender and all the other Orange phases we used to hear. I couldn’t help cheering myself – it was better than lying groaning. So I shouted myself hoarse. The boys got as far as the second line when the Germans counter attacked, and were beaten back, so they tried again and got it in the neck. And the third time our fellows had to retire. You can imagine what my feelings were when none of them picked me up. So I just made up my mind that I was going to have a little fun before handing in my checks. So Sergeant Jackson (he died later in the day, shot through the chest) and I lay in a shell hole and potted at every moving thing we saw and we sure had some success. Then I did not seem to care about anything. Jackson died, so I just lay beside him and went to sleep. I woke up when it was dark and both sides had started a terrible bombardment. Some of our shells hit pretty close to me, so I decided to try and make myself scarce, but I had a job to get out of the shell hole on account of the way my leg was smashed up. The bone was badly shattered and protruding at the back of my leg, so you can guess there was some pain. However I got out at last, but could not raise myself on the good leg. So I took out my jack knife and a big German knife I had and stuck them into the ground as far ahead of me as I could reach and pulled myself forward. It was a good job my way was down hill else I would never have made the grade. During the night I travelled about 50 yards and had to lie quiet the next day because of snipers, who never fail to shoot the wounded. They came pretty close to me a few times, but I played possum all day. Then when dark fell I started my weary way again. This was my third night out, and believe me, Bill, I was in no form for a Marathon. However, I managed to reach a miniature railway cutting that lay half way between the lines, so at least I was safe from snipers. I lay there until about 4 p.m., when I saw three officers coming alone. At first I mistook them for Germans, but thank God they were British, and, believe me Bill, I gave a queer old hurrah! One of them carried me up the cutting a little way and left a water bottle with me until the night, when the stretcher bearers came out for me, when I was taken to the clearing station and then on to the advanced field hospital, where they took the leg off. The following day they took me to the base hospital, where I lay for weeks. The doctor in France told me when my leg was examined the wound was full of maggots and the doctor here told me I'd have kicked the bucket only for them. They sucked a lot of dirty matter, which would sure have killed me. I am now convalescent and am going to Southampton soon to get my wooden one so I won’t be able to travel as fast as I used to. You might make a trip over after the war. I would be tickled to death to see you. Goodbye Bill, for the present. Write soon. Your old Tillicum. Tom Burnett