Saturday 1 June 2013

Belgian Blog - Day Two

Glorious sunshine greeted the second day of the bantamspast trip to the battlefields of the Great War. In the morning we left a football, used in the warm up at Wembley this year, at the site of the 1914 Christmas Day truce when British and German troops played football in no man's land. The site is marked by a wooden cross where visitors regularly leave footballs. Bradford City chairman Mark Lawn kindly supplied a ball and he wrote a message of remembrance from all at Valley Parade.
The day was to be dominated by thoughts of City's captain and goal scorer in the 1911 FA Cup Final Jimmy Speirs. A chance meeting at the site of one of the huge British mines exploded on the Messines Ridge with a group of Scottish doctors, who were undertaking a cycling tour of the Ypres area, gave us an insight into the fate of Jimmy Speirs. One of the doctors had written a book entitled 'War Surgery 1914-1918' examining the treatment of wounds during the conflict. Jimmy Speirs was shot through the thigh during the Battle of Passchendaele. The doctor explained that he would have suffered a broken femur. By 1917 the rapid strapping of such wounds, using a specially developed strap, vastly improved survival rates. However, it had to be applied almost immediately and as Jimmy was shot advancing across an open field it is probable that such a procedure was unlikely. His fate was probably sealed the moment he was shot. The muddy shell hole he was placed in lessened even further the chances of survival as infection was probable. In the end Jimmy was left in the shelter of the shell hole as his company continued their advance. The intention was to return, but sadly they were unable to and Jimmy was never seen alive again. In all probability he died an agonising and lonely death.
In the afternoon we visited the exact spot where he died, The two farms, named Iberian and Gallipoli by the British troops, from where the German's opened fire on Jimmy's company are still in existence - although they were probably rebuilt after the war. The open field over which Jimmy advanced offered little cover. We looked across the windy farmer's field where our great cup winner met his untimely end, it was difficult to visualise how it would have looked during the war. Appropriately we ended our trip at the graveside of Jimmy Speirs. Once again Bradford remembered.

No comments: