I can only summise that my grandfather, Jacob Haines, became a full time soldier 2 years before the outbreak of the Great War as a way of escaping the grinding poverty of early 20th century inner city Liverpool, or perhaps it was a sense of adventure that compelled him to take the King’s shilling.
Jacob set sail to France with the first battalion of the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on 23rd August 1914 and within 3 days took part in the Battle of Le Cateau – an attempt to hold the German advance through France. His battalion of about 1,000 men and officers was ambushed by German machine gun and artillery fire suffering almost 500 casualties including 150 dead. A bloody introduction to war to the majority of the men who had never fired a shot in anger. One of the veterans commented in the Regimental Diary that the battle of Spion Kop was “child’s play” in comparison.
Within months of this old style open warfare, trench warfare had become the norm and during the 2nd Battle of Ypres Jacob was captured as a prisoner of war in May 1915.
I was 9 years old when my grandfather passed away in 1971 and like many others never had the chance to discuss with their relatives the experiences they went through. I just remember a grumpy old man smoking his pipe, sitting in his rocking chair. Hard to imagine now the horrors and deprivation he witnessed and endured.
I have attached a prisoner of war group photograph taken in Germany between 1915 and 1918, Jacob is seated on the ground bottom right.