Tom Herbert's Lost Years 1917-1919
World War One Memories
Welcome to Tom's Story
Tom wrote his memories of World
War 1 in his seventies, and as he wrote, the memories came flooding
back. He wrote for his family, and it is a personal and detailed
description of what he saw, from carnage on the Menin Road to
the beauty of the Italian mountains, of friendships made, and
of the humour amidst the tension.
In his teen years Tom's parents urged him to make a career
in the Post Office. This meant he trained as a telegraphist,
which led to him being called up to join the Royal Flying Corps
As a telegraphist he was trained to work with pilots to align
the range of the gun emplacements. Tom was always attached
to Army Units, sometimes British and sometimes Italian. The telegraphists
worked in pairs, and their experiences were unique, and not well
In September 1917 Tom went from Folkestone to France and on
to Belgium, where he served at Ypres, then on to Northern Italy,
at Montello Ridge, and later on to Monte Pau, south west
of the Asiago Plains, and then to the final battle against the
Austrian/German Armies at Vittorio Veneto which brought the war
to an end.
Tom's next fight was to survive the Spanish Flu. The
war was now over and his long convalescence at Bordhigera, Italy,
gave him a glimpse of the Italian way of life.
When he returned home, his father suggested to Tom that he
must work hard on his career as he had lost two years. Tom
felt that for two years he had experienced so much that they were
not lost years, but years that he would never forget.
In 1986, a few weeks before he died (aged 88) Tom went back
to Folkestone. As he stood at the top of the road now called
Road of Remembrance, his back straightened, his head lifted, and
he marched down to the harbour as smartly as he had done on his
Tom's Story is told in his own words, typed out at that
time by his eldest daughter. One correction has been added about
the height of Monte Pau. Relevant photos have been included, and
additional information is in Appendix 1, and websites which may
be of interest in Appendix 2.
Click on any of the links to take you to the website
1 - World War One Begins
World War 1 begins, Bank Holiday 1914. ~ Study and Exams
for the Civil Service. ~ Wallingford Post Office. ~
2 - Work and Play
Leisure time on the Thames at Wallingford. ~ Visit to a Sergeants
Mess. ~ Zeppelins. ~ Called up to the Royal Flying Corps. ~
3 - RFC 1917
Abingdon Recruitment Centre. ~ Farnborough Common. ~ Boiled Fish
in a Bucket. ~ Wireless Operator Training at Blenheim Barracks.
4 - Barrack Life
Barrack Life and Measles. ~ Cookhouse Fatigues. ~ Preparing for
War. ~ Folkestone. ~
5 - To the Front Line
Boulogne. ~ Etaples. ~ St. Omer. ~ Bailleul. ~ Telegraphy and
Ranging the Guns. ~
6 - Menin Road
Zillibeke. ~ Lice. ~ Polygon Wood. ~ Menin Road and the
Wounded. ~ Finding a Dugout. ~ Poison Gas. ~ Near Misses from
Shells. ~ Aerial Mast. ~ Torn Trousers. ~ Cookhouse Menu. ~ Helping
Load Shells. ~ The Old Boy with the Walrus Moustache and his Cigarette.
~ Talbot House. ~ Belgian Coffee. ~ Passchendaele. ~
7 - Entrained
Boeschepe, ~ Windmill. ~ Free of Lice at last. ~ 247 Siege Battery
Loaded onto a Train to Italy. ~ 10 Chevaux, 20 Hommes. ~
8 - France to Italy
No Water, No sanitation. ~ Journey through Rhone Valley to Marseille.
~ Two Hours on Beach at Nice. ~ Ventimiglia. ~ Genoa. ~ Plain
of Lombardy. ~ Detrained for 5 Day Journey by Foot and Truck to
Montello Ridge. ~ River Piave. ~ Facing the Austrian Army. ~
9 - Montello
Winter on Montello Ridge. ~ Christmas Day. ~ Cheap Wine and Chestnuts.
~ Best Mouse Trap. ~ Direct Hit on Gun Position, Goodbye to the
Old Boy with the Walrus Moustache. ~
10 - Easter
Easter and the Move to the Mountains. ~ On Loan to the Italian
Army. ~ The Zigzag Road up the Mountain. ~
11 - Monte Pau
The Last Sight of Civilization for Six Months. ~ Monte Pau. ~
Sharing a Hut With Italian Artillerymen, and the Language Problems.
~ Learning Some Operatic Arias. ~ Tunnels for Shelter. ~ On Italian
Rations. ~ Collecting Rainwater for Washing. ~ Rats. ~
12 - Angelo
June 1918. ~ "Man Friday" Angelo. ~ At Last New Trousers.
~ Promotion to Air Mechanic 1st Class. ~ Back on British Rations.
~ June 15th , Start of the Battle of the Piave. ~
13 - Log Cabin
Move down the Mountain Closer to the Guns. ~ Building a Cabin.
~ Back on Italian Rations. ~ Cigarettes and Vermouth. ~ Angelo's
Special Petrol Light. ~ Back to Squadron for the Final Push at
the River Piave. ~
14 - Vittorio Venuto
Attached to an Italian Mobile Battery. ~ The Old Patriarch and
his Daughters. ~ The Battle of Vittorio Veneto Begins. ~ Not Needed
by the Italian Battery, Back to Squadron. ~ November 7th 1918
War Ends on the Italian Front. ~ Spanish Flu Strikes Tom. ~ To
Bordhigera on Hospital Train. ~ November 11th 1918, War Ends.
15 - Bordighera.
Hotel Belvedere. ~ Humiliation of Bedpans. ~ Christmas Day. ~
English Helpers. ~ Convalescent and Helping Out. ~ Old Bordighera.
~ Watching the Fishing. ~ Silent Films. ~ Discharge from Convalescent
Camp. ~ Train across Northern Italy to "Aqarta". ~ Train
to R.A.F. Wing Headquarters Near Verona. ~ Night Guard Duty. ~
By Train to Turin. ~ Through Mount Cenis Tunnel to Le Havre. ~
10 Chevaux 20 Hommes. ~ Through the De-Louser. ~ Southampton.
~ Fovant, Wiltshire. ~ Lost Years?. ~
Welcome to Tom's Story