German Samaritan on the battlefield


The story of a Samaritan German prisoner was revealed in a letter from a Bedfordshire man who had been wounded twice on the Somme battlefield. The Luton News told the story in its August 3rd, 1916, edition.

Pte Sidney Folds (pictured), 19347, Bedfordshire Regiment, son of Vince and Sarah Ann Folds, of Breachwood Green, was an inmate of the V.A.D. Hospital, Quarry Place, Shrewsbury, as a result of leg wounds.

Pte Sidney FoldsIn a letter to his sister, Mrs W. [Ada] Warren, of 35 Albert Road, Luton, he said: "I was very lucky. About my experience of the 'Big Push' I can tell you a little. We went into the trenches on the Saturday, holding the line for four days in the bombardment, and after lively retaliation by the Germans we came out on Thursday night for 36 hours' rest. We had a few casualties during the four days.

"It soon came round that we were to go back on the Friday night, and got back to our positions about 2 o'clock on Saturday morning. We had our orders what to do, and we knew exactly where to go when we got on the job, and the 'zero' time was that we were to be in the German trenches by 7.30.

"On rolled the time, and there was a thick mist. Then our platoon had orders to get ready. Just before we got up the parapet we cried, 'Over the top, boys; with the best of luck'. We were the fourth wave, and the shells and bullets were flying about., and I couldn't say if all our section reached the first German trench, but I know our sergeant did. He is a Luton man.

"We had six lines of trenches and a redoubt to capture, and on we went from the first trench to the second. All the time it was like hell, and there were poor Germans throwing up their hands and shouting for mercy. Of course, we sent them back to our lines, for we didn't stop to send any men back with them, and our boys who went over first must have done a lot in, for there were lots of dead and wounded in the trenches.

"Then on we went to the third trench, and when we got there the boys seemed quite pleased. They said to each other, 'Isn't this fine sport?'

"After we had been there a few minutes, of course, before we went forward each time, our artillery shelled the next trench and we laid flat, and our fine artillery dropped shells in their trenches a treat. As soon as it lifted, up we jumped and into the trench.

"Of course we were getting on fine, so we went to the fourth trench, and that's where I got my lot. We were rushing along when a bullet went through my left leg just above the knee. I said to my pals on each side, 'I am wounded' and they told me to get along. I had a try and managed to get a few more yards, and I was obliged to drop in a shell hole. I lay there some time, and then the Germans started shelling our supports, which were coming up, and the shells dropped so close to me I was obliged to move, and I started to get back out of the way.

"No sooner had I started than I got another bullet through the same leg, about the same place, and it broke the bone. Some lad came by and I asked him to carry me to some shallow place, and he did. I managed to get on his back, and he laid me out flat in a place and on he went again.

"I lay there about three hours and saw our supports coming up. Some fell, for the shells were dropping all around, and I was lucky enough to get only the lumps of dirt on me instead of the shrapnel. I was lucky. It was only 'the One above' who saved my life.

"While I lay there our boys were bringing the prisoners back in gangs of tens and twenties. A wounded German came by and seeing us he stopped and laid down with us, and fetched out water bottles out and gave us some drink.

He was very kind, and what amused me was the way he kept talking about, 'What will they do with me? Will they shoot me?' Of course, he didn't say that, but that was what he meant, and I kept saying, 'They won't hurt you,' and he wanted to shift us out of the way of the shells, but my leg hurt me too much to be shifted. So he spotted our Red Cross chaps and called to them. I had it bandaged and we were soon fetched by the stretcher-bearers, and this German walked down with us.

"When we got in between our first line and the German first there is a valley, and that is where we lay till five o'clock. Of course, there were a lot of us, and then were were carried down to Carnoy by the prisoners. They carried us nice and gently for half a mile, and then we were soon in a motor and off to the first dressing station.

"While I was in the hospital I saw our platoon sergeant and he said the boys were going on fine when he got wounded, for they had captured the lot of the trenches. They had to advance about another thousand yards and dig themselves in, which they did, and the time from when we left our trenches till they had dug themselves in was two hours and ten minutes."