News from the Front
Home on Leave (1)
By F. J. Foy
When a man returned from the Front on leave he became a source of news, not only for his family and friends, but also for the local newspaper. The public was keen to hear of first hand experiences and the soldier was often glad of an opportunity to relate them. In the New Year of 1915, with this in mind, a reporter from the ‘Letchworth Citizen’ interviewed Los Pettengell who prior to the War had been a noted local Baldock athlete.
Los (short for Lossander) had joined the Army Service Corps at the start of the Great War and remained with the Corps until an accident in August 1916 when a heavy wheel from a gun fell on his chest. By this time he had been promoted to sergeant but his injuries proved so severe that he was discharged soon afterwards.
He returned to Baldock and after the war he took an interest in local politics as one of the first Labour councillors in the area. He became chairman of Baldock Urban District Council in 1938 and held that office until 1944 giving further invaluable public service during another national crisis.
In the interview with Letchworth Citizen (5th January 1915) he told of his experiences to that date in France and an extract from that piece is reproduced here. The content is graphic and perhaps may be exaggerated in parts but it would have been a thrilling item for the news hungry reader of the paper.
For clarification a ‘Jack Johnson’ was a heavy German shell nicknamed by the British troops after the Heavy-weight Champion of the World of the day.