During the war, George Weddell served with the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. Before the war, he had moved to the North East just outside of Durham City. This is where he met and married his wife, Margaret.
Whilst serving with the Durham light infantry, George was killed in action on 18th September 1916 aged 29. He was buried in Adanac Military Cemetery in Plot VII, Row E, and Grave No. 15. George kept a diary of his day to day life in the trenches. On the 1st June 1915, George sent a letter home to his father giving a detailed account about his first engagement with the enemy.
He was awarded a 1914-15 Star, a British War Medal, and a Victory Medal for his service.
Letter to his father:
“After getting back for a bit rest but still when we can hear the big guns, I have a bit time to write you a few of my experiences. Well after leaving the place where we were staying at we marched for two hours, then we got out and stayed at a farm for the night but we got no sleep as the rats we running about the barn like monkeys.
Next morning April 24th we set off for the firing line and after many stops of rests we arrived at day break on Sunday April 25th right into the German lines. I don’t know how we didn’t all get out up straight away but as it was dusk they must not have seen us. I didn’t think the Germans were so near tell we were going along a dyke bask[?] And the gutter was half full of dead Kilties & Canadians. Thus I said to myself we are up against it and mind we were. We came to some trenches half full of water. We no sooner got into them till the Germans started shelling us like hell, there were a few Canadians in these trenches that we went to relieve but they wouldn’t leave us so they stopped and helped us. It’s a good job they did as they were used to the shells and noises and we were not and they showed us how to go on as not one of us knew which was our front when we first got in. I was close to Serg. Taylor when he was killed he would not have been 10 minutes in action till he got the [indecipherable] by a sniper he was shot through the head we were not long there till a few more got wounded by shells. Very few were shot by rifle. They can’t shoot for nuts. These infantry but there artillery is very good and they don’t forget to use it. By this time I was wet through as it had been raining all night and the trenches were up to waist with water.
OK, it was fine we stayed there a few hour’s then we advanced and one of our companies made a charge. I was not in it just as well for me as there was only one or two came back to tell the tale as the [indecipherable] were so thick as bee’s. They were all G[?] Guards + big fellows. I was sent across a bit planton[?], where there was a farm, along with another chap to get a sniper who was shooting as us when we were lying on a road as we had no trenches after we advanced. After we got halfway across we had to lie down for the bullets were flying about our heads. I took aim at him as he made off. I pulled and he fell forward to the ground. Whether it hit him or he fell on purpose I can’t say as our officer shouted to us to come back and I was pleased to do so. We dug ourselves in alongside this road I held on all day. And Sunday night under heavy shell fire. On Monday morning they advanced to us in masses. I was lying beside a Canadian about the middle of the line & he was keep saying (go on Durham), Pump it into them. By now I had seen a lot of my comrades fall by the side of me nearly all by shells. I had some near things myself but by now I had lost all fear.
The Germans must have lost a lot of men as they were coming up in four deep right along the line and we were pumping the lead into them. The first lot that came up had khaki clothes on so that how they stole a march[?] on us, they were shouting don’t fire we are English and Col Turnbull shouted to us to stop firing, but where they got a bit nearer we saw they had top boots on. Then a Canadian officer shouted out go at it lads pump it into them, the B- Germans, the shells were dropping about us. It was like hell but we kept pumping away. Our maxims gave them some stick. Then a Durham chap ran out of the trench and I started shouting at him to come back, the silly bugger you’ll be shot but when I looked around the whole of our right flank was retiring. They were half way across the field so I had another pop or two at the Germans as I thought it hard[?] lines to have such cook[?] shots.
By now the Germans were not very far off so I threw off my pack and walked away that’s how I lost everything I brought from home. I stuck to my rifle + ammunition and walked on. I couldn’t run (or I would mind) as I was wet from head to foot. The bullets were playing all sorts of tunes about our heads and the Germans were shouting at the top of their voices ‘Hock Hock’ but I kept walking on till I came to an old musk heap. I got in behind it and had a few more pop’s at them but when they got so far they didn’t care about following us to close up in case we had a trap set for them, and it’s a good job for them they didn’t as we had some maxim set in a wood waiting for them to come up.
After I left the musk heap I broke head first through a dyke a lot of our lad’s made for a gate way and they got the [indecipherable] as the Germans had two maxims playing on it. We then retired to another line of trenches which we held on to till Tuesday night then we got relieved. But we went back to some supporting trenches where it was just as bad for they shelled them more or less till may 2nd.
The first day in the trenches we had neither food or water. I managed to get a few oxo cubes from a Canadian which I ate as they were and then I ate some dry tea leaves so this is a few details of my first battle.
Your loving Son
Story and photographs kindly submitted by Jill McGarvie.