This story goes as follows:

“I was in the front line in the trenches, on duty as a signal man in the British Army in the First World War, fighting the Turks in Salonika (Thessaloniki). One day in 1918, a message came through in Morse code, inviting all officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Jewish faith, who wished to attend a service, to be held in a fortnight’s time in the village of Gigunchy (which was situated 6 miles behind the front line). Rabbi Gollup, the Jewish chaplain, would conduct the service. I took the message and informed the sergeant major, and as I was the only Jew in the company, he did nothing about it, as I would be on duty at the time.

I worked for fourteen days, and then went to see the Adjutant, Lieutenant Williams, at the Regimental headquarters, without asking permission. I explained how I had taken the message a fortnight earlier. It was 6.00 am by then, and I knew the service would commence at 10.00 am. Lieutenant Williams pointed out that to reach this village would be a six mile walk, and I would be under enemy observation as I travelled, but he felt religion came first, and gave me the required permission, on the condition that I returned that night by the transport (which was a mule) that would be bringing supplies of water, food and ammunition up the line.

Before seeing the Adjutant, I was told that I was to be one of 30 men listed to go on a bombing raid on the evening of my return from the service. I did not mention this to Lieutenant Williams, as I felt it would jeopardise permission being granted.

I set off down the line with the support of a bivouac stick, and within a short time I was spotted by the enemy and fired at twice. I could hear the shells, so I lay flat on the ground and watched as they landed and exploded 200 yards away. I was lucky to avoid being hit by any shrapnel.

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Finally, I arrived at Gigunchy in time for the service at 10.00 am. This was not a service for a festival or the Sabbath, but as held because a chaplain was in the area, at the time. After this had taken place, I heard that the 22nd Divisional concert party were playing “The Chocolate Soldier” that evening. It just so happened that the officer in charge of the 62 players, Lieutenant Spiers, a pianist himself, had formerly been in charge of my company, and he invited me to have lunch and dinner with him, but he was unable to give the necessary permission himself for me to watch the concert. However, the officer in charge of the transport gave permission on condition that I report back in time for Reveille next morning and pointed out that once again I would be under enemy observation on the walk back.

When I eventually arrived back to rejoin my regiment after enjoying the concert, the orderly sergeant came to check I had returned, and told me I was ‘up for orders’ for being absent without leave. Later that day I was brought up before Capt Lloyd, and explained I had permission to be absent from Lieutenant Thomas, the transport officer. The captain dismissed the charge immediately.

As it turned out, the bombing raid took place, with 30 men as planned, but I was replaced by a Welshman of the same name, Jacobs, from another company. this man was the only casualty, killed returning from the enemy line. In the meantime, some of my friends had heard that Jacobs had been killed, and thinking it was me, collected my belongings to send them to my parents. Fortunately the truth came out in time - they did not get to hear this story".


Other pages on this site:

  1. General story about a soldier's life in World War One.

  2. First World War stories home page



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