Express & Star correspondent in France reported in December
the latest menace facing Black Country soldiers - an aerial attack
against which they were virtually defenceless.
The North and South Staffords were in what was supposed to be
a rest camp. Some rest . .
"This body of Staffords, after stiff experience of tench warfare
in different localities, has the ill-luck to experience a bombardment
both from the level and from the air.
"To sit there and be bombed from above, despite the attacks of
anti-aircraft guns, is the most trying experience imaginable for
"It is worse than crouching in a trench while artillery shells
are falling, for the infantryman knows that his own artillery are
doing effective things for him and that presently he will be able
to hit back. He gets his blood up for the scramble over the top,
or the fight in the trench if the enemy gets within bayonetting
"But the soldier in camp cannot hit back. All he can do is clear
up his dead and injured and watch the aircraft in their strangely
graceful evolutions, very daring evolutions sometimes for the Boche
is a good airman.
"One such airman lately flew through the main street of a ruined
city occupied by us, firing as he flew, well below the roofs of
the shell-riddled houses.
"One has to see aeroplanes at work over the lines to realise how
extremely difficult it is for the anti-aircraft gunner to bring
down his quarry."
Military Cross: The son of a former Mayor of Wolverhampton
was reported wounded by shrapnel at the front in May and spent most
of 1917 recovering.
Second Lieutenant Samuel Saunders, son of the late Alderman James
Saunders, was rewarded later in the year with the presentation of
not one but two awards.
At Buckingham Palace he received the Military Cross and bar (equivalent
to two MCs) from the King for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion
Heroism on the high seas: It was the year of Passchendaele,
the terrible battle on the Western Front which ended in a bloody morass
near the Belgian town of Ypres.
But Flanders was not the only scene of slaughter. The war raged
in distant Mesopotamia and, as the poignant memorial in Wolverhampton
reminds us, at sea.
It stands in the gardens of St Peter's Church and commemorates
Douglas Morris Harris, hero of the Floandi who was killed
by enemy gunfire in the Adriatic Sea in May 1917.
While distant war raged, matters closer to home were exercising
the folk of Wolverhampton in January. An "ugly rumour" was spreading
that councillors were preparing to dig up part of West Park to grow
Digging for victory was one thing. Digging up the town's favourite
beauty spot was quite another matter. A sum of 30 was immediately
raised by public subscription to save the park for the children
and "to ensure that it will be in readiness for the Floral Fete
when the war is over."
Quite what the sons of the town, now eye-deep in hell along the
Western Front, made of such events is anyone's guess.
Over there, a trench meant the difference between life and death.
Back home, even digging up a single sod of West Park was headline