My Uncle Herbert Faulkner was born in 1892 and died in 1981. He was, to use his own words, '… especially lucky. I do not consider my experiences more than about average and certainly not as grim as very many of the boys.' Herbert was a lovely man who remained the focus of my family throughout his life, in spite of the more high profile figures around him.
Before he joined up on the 6th of August 1914 he had been an outstanding 100 yards runner with the physique to match and had worked as a junior clerk for Silcocks Animal Feeds - a Unilever company. Throughout the war the company paid the difference between his Private's, Lance Corporal's and finally Sergeant's pay and his civilian pay to my Grandmother.
After the war he was re-employed by the company and allowed a normal career path. Whereas his younger brother's wartime role had been determined by his civilian role - he was a pharmacist and naturally joined the RAMC - Herbert had a choice. He predicted (and remember that this was in 1914 before the realities of war were generally accepted), that the Liverpool Scottish, being a 'crack' regiment, would be treated with respect as opposed to the PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry). On this basis he found some previously unsuspected Scottish ancestry and joined what became the 1/10th Battalion (Scottish) King's Liverpool Regiment, 55th (West Lancashire) Division. In the Regiment he became a machine gun specialist and trained first as a Lewis Gunner, initially defending the East Coast from Zeppelin intruders. He then served in the Battle of the Somme, joining the Machine Gun Corps attached to the Liverpool Scottish in 1917 and trained to use the Vickers. He contracted trench fever in the same year and saw the war out with the Black and Tan Rebellion in Ireland.
These extracts have been taken from a study based on his notes of the war transcribed by his eldest daughter in 1977. The times and places have been verified with the help of the Liverpool Scottish Museum, the Internet, wide reading and the Scottish War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.
In his own words, Herbert describes his experiences on the Somme:
'I have often heard it said that it is sometimes just as well not to know what is just round the corner, for we were on our way to the Somme. We found ourselves at Albert where the Madonna, having been hit by shellfire, hung down from the top of a church.
After a day or so on the move, marching through the pouring rain all day with hardly a 'spello', we turned into a field of long wet grass and spent the night huddled together for warmth, with frogs croaking away all round us.
The morning was fine and we were feeling stiff, but our field kitchen got going, and after a meal, we moved on again as far as Fricourt. Here I saw what war was really like. The result of a recent engagement was spread out over the combat area, not having been cleared up, and the dead were lying about all over the place. A pair of highly polished German Jack boots took my attention and I went over to look at them. I was sorry I did for the poor chap's legs were still in them.
From there we moved to Montauban in support of the Liverpool Irish (31st July 1916). To our left was a battery of Howitzers and I was amazed to find that we could spot the shells for a second or so as they went on their way. Then trouble broke out up front. The Irish had gone over to raid the enemy's lines for rations as their own had not come up. It was apparent to us that we would have to go forward and help. So, when a runner came for two gunners to report to the Sergeant Major's dugout, we were not surprised.
The senior man in charge of our team (our N.C.O. was in hospital) did not like my pal or me, so it was with a grin on his face that he ordered us to get moving. This was a fatal error on his part and cost him his life, for he went into action whilst my pal and I (and about a dozen specialists) went down to the transport lines.
An army order had been issued that a percentage of the specialists must be held back as a nucleus on which to build, should casualties be heavy.
I am not too sure of our immediate movements after this, but the next action of importance in which we were involved was at Guillemont (8th August) and it was very nasty.
We were heavily shelled on the way up and it meant treading on, and over, our dead and wounded in a narrow trench. As it was, we got bunched up and this was bad and frightening. To make things worse, our gun was hit and was put out of action. Captain Jaeger used me as a runner to and from HQ.
In the trench I had the distinction of being the last man on the British sector. Next to me was a French officer. We were a little shy of making any conversation, but he did, with a smile, lend me his field glasses.
Finally, I got the job of guiding the Company out of the line and passed a battery of French 75's, to which our boys shouted 'Saluto'. It was about this time that our army launched their first tank attack (15th September). We moved up into this sector a day or so afterwards and I saw my first tank. It had been damaged and was now being used as an orderly room. We stayed the night in a slit trench that contained 2 feet of water and our kilts fanned out around us. I was very bad indeed.
In the morning we moved forward towards a sunken road which ran close to a village known to us as 'Fleurs', which the Germans shelled all day with salvos of four shells every few minutes. So far as we knew, nobody was in it, so we just ignored them until one day a shell dropped short and it was then that my Archangel spread her wings.
The mail had just come up and I was talking to a Preston boy when the earth exploded. All the air was sucked out of me and everything went black. Maybe I had closed my eyes. Then an officer was lifting me and leading me to the bank by the side of the road. I then saw what had happened to my friend from Preston and tried not to watch as the remains were shovelled into a sandbag. There is not much more to say about this place, except perhaps that at night we moved forward into a field of long grass so as to repel any night attack from Jerry. Nothing happened, but we did almost shoot down lads from the South Lancs who strayed across in front of us - they were looking for souvenirs in NML.
As far as I remember, it was soon after this that we moved down the line on 'Rest' and our gun teams were billeted on a farm.'
Herbert lived and survived in a world I am lucky enough to research. Please God may my research remain academic, and never be an area of direct experience for my sons.