A Carberry Connection.
We are rapidly approaching the One Hundredth Year from the beginning of the War to ‘End all Wars’. There have been many books and articles written about WW1, however there are few books attempting to record an individual’s ongoing experience in the war. Most references are ‘snapshots’ of an individual’s recollections, for few wished to remember. My Dad did not talk about the War, until he was old. My brother, Ed Somers recorded comments when Dad was over eighty years old, and one recollection is recorded in this story.
In August 1918, the war in Europe had been raging for four years. The hardships for the soldiers, in all armies, seemed unending. The Canadian Army’s success at Vimy Ridge, on April 9, 1917, had boosted the morale of allied forces and labeled the Canadian Corps as the Elite soldiers of the British Empire’s Army. After Vimy Ridge, the Canadians were in the forefront of every British offensive, right up to the end of war on November 11, 1918.
On August 8, 1918, a British offensive, including the Canadian Corp, was initiated in the Amiens sector. This was the start, of what came to be known as the last, ‘One Hundred Days’. This offensive culminated in the Armistice on November 11, which ended the First World War.
The attack, involving the Canadian Corp, occurred southeast of Amiens. The advance would past through villages like Beaucourt, Quisinel, Wervillers and forward to Rouvrey de Courier. These were small French villages, but were major milestones in the advance of the Canadian soldiers. Each yard was dangerous to overcome, as enemy forces were hidden in any protective cover.
The advancing soldiers were separated into two groups. The ‘First Wave’, these soldiers were to keep moving, and not stop for wounded, or enemy pockets of resistance. Twenty five to fifty yards behind the ‘First Wave’ was a second wave known as the ‘Moppers-up’, who eliminated any enemy forces missed by the First Wave.
A third group, the Machine Gun Batteries were to follow the Second Wave, by about 200 yards, and provide covering fire as needed.
This set the stage for the first coincidence for two soldiers in this story. These two soldiers have relatives living here in Carberry.
One soldier, Alec Picton Brereton V.C. was a corporal, later Sargent, in the 8thCanadian Infantry Battalion, 1stCanadian Infantry Division. The second soldier was Pte. Alfred Somers, a gunner in “G” Battery of the 1st Canadian Machine Gun Battalion.
As fate would have it, “G” Battery was assigned to support the 8th Infantry Battalion. This led to a most unusual circumstance in which, my father, Alfred Somers witnessed Alec Brereton’s attack on the German machine-gun positions.
This courageous attack earned Corporal Brereton a Victoria Cross and saved many lives, possibly my father’s included, by silencing the German machine guns, which were firing at Dad’s position.
Dad’s battery was pined-down, on the edge of a wooded ravine, by this machine gun fire from the other side. This deadly fire had already killed or wounded, 6 out of the 8-man gun crew. Fortunately, a big tree stump was where Dad dived and provided protection, as the Spandau spit bullets in his direction. When Dad tried to advance, he was showered with wood chips and bark, from above his head, making it very unwise to move.
On the other side of the ravine, Corporal Brereton’s platoon was advancing. They were in the open, when the German machine gun stared firing. Realizing the danger to his platoon if the guns were turned onto his group, he immediately attacked shooting one gunner and bayoneting second. By this time, his Platoon mates had joined the fray, capturing all six of the Spandau machine guns and several of prisoners.
In latter life, Alec Brereton’s brother married Alf Somers’ sister. This produced the father of Jim Brereton, who lives in Carberry.
A further coincidence occurred when I attended the Brandon Museum. The museum contained a display featuring Sir Arthur Currie, who commanded the Canadian Corps during the latter part of 1917 and all of 1918. This display featured a captured German Spandau machine gun, which was taken at a site near Wervillers by Alec Brereton’s Platoon.
A “Voice from Beyond The Perimeter”