WWI Soldier Tells The Story Of Battle Of The Aisne


Private Cain of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment was born in Newport, Shropshire. He was a reservist for 18 months and worked as a postman in Biddulph, Harriseahead and Mow Cop before he had to leave.

He became part of the British Expeditionary Force and first went into action at Ligny, France, on August 26. There they lost 200 soldiers under the fire. Cain recalls a moment when one of the boys almost got shot by the enemy; happy he was alive, the man moved away a little bit, only to get killed by a shell.

During another bloody episode, the Germans were only 400 yards away from them. Because of the large number of casualties, they had to retire. And not just that but they were forced to leave behind all their dead and wounded men.

As they were heading to Paris, they caught a German officer. “He was all bombast at first, and said that he was sorry for us English,” said Cain.

On September 9, Cain and his regiment were at La-Ferte-sous-Jouarre. Although the Germans tried to stop them, they took the risk and ran “well within range of their machine guns”. Luckily for them, all that got shot at were the roofs of the houses that were behind them, The Sentinel reports.

Private Cain remembered how Colonel Marchant, their Commanding Officer, died while he was trying together with another Sergeant who got killed, to locate the artillery from the windows of the houses. Colonel Marchant was buried that afternoon “just like a private soldier, with his clothes on, and I was one of the burial party,” confessed Cain.

It seemed like the Germans hadn’t been the best until they arrived at the Aisne river. That was also the first time Cain was wounded. It was on September 12 and they were ready to attack, when a German aircraft dropped a ball of smoke. Private Cain was was hit with a shell, then a bullet went straight through his left arm and hit the ammunition pouch, which saved his life.

He remembers walking to the hospital, when houses were falling down under the bombings and only the hospital building seemed to be left standing.

Private Cain witnessed an unusual encounter between a British and German aircraft. Although they were firing at one-another, the German looked quite damaged when “he made a dive down, and fortunately for him, reached his own lines.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE