Auger brothers

Auger brothers

George Auger and brothers

I’m George Auger. I was born in 1895. My dad was also called George, he had lived in Wycombe for most of his life and so had my mother Ada. We lived in Victoria Street. I had two older brothers, Albert (who was born in 1883) and Louis (who was born in 1887). Nobody ever pronounced his name correctly so everyone knew him as Lewis.

Before the war, my two brothers emigrated to Canada to start a new life and they became farmers. At the start of the war we wanted to fight for King and country. Many of the people from England living in Canada signed up to fight.

Lewis signed up straight away and went into the Canadian artillery. I signed up in February 1915 in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Albert also signed up in 1915 into the Canadian infantry but in May, after he had heard about Lewis’s death.

The first tragedy was Lewis who was 27 when he died in early May 1915. It was during the Second Battle of Ypres that he became wounded and died after being evacuated to a hospital. The battle was fought around the Belgium town of Ypres; the Germans were trying to break through. It was the first time that poison gas had ever been used. At around 5pm on the 22nd April, French sentries in Ypres noticed a yellow-green cloud moving towards them – a gas delivered from pressurised cylinders dug into the German front line. They thought that it was a smokescreen to disguise the movement forwards of German troops. As such, all troops in the area were ordered to the firing line of their trench – right in the path of the chlorine. Its impact was immediate and devastating. The Germans released a second batch of chlorine gas two days later, on 24 April, this time directed against Canadian troops situated north-east of Ypres and again prefaced by a sharp artillery bombardment. However, thanks to the efforts of the Canadians over the next few days the Germans were held back; the cost was high, however and one Canadian in three became a casualty. During the battle a Canadian officer, John McCrae, wrote a poem that I came across in a copy of Punch magazine. He wrote it while in a field dressing station helping to treat solders, many of whom died, on May 2nd. I don’t know but he easily could have been treating my brother, Louis.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

At Christmas 1916 we heard the news that our father had passed away on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately we couldn’t come back for the funeral. He is buried in this plot.

In 1917, Albert, who had signed up in May 1915, was sent near Vimy Ridge, which is near Arras in northern France. We later heard this was turned into a great victory for the Canadians who had dug many tunnels under the German front line. Albert never got to see the victory as he was killed by a shell as he left his dugout in January 1917. My mother received a letter, writing fondly about him from a Lieutenant Hepburn: "Dear Mrs Auger – we suppose that by this time you have heard of your son Bill's death" It went on to say how he was – amongst the men, and referred to as "Uncle Bill". This name might sound funny to you, but he was more than a father to his men in the way he cared for and looked after them.”

So what about me? After signing up, in February 1915, I was sent to France in May 1916 but was wounded almost immediately and sent home. I returned in August and this time survived until November when I was seriously gassed and again returned home, spending a lot of time in hospital in Huddersfield. I wasn’t fit enough to fight until June 1918 when I returned to France. In September and October we were pushing the Germans back and were to make good progress at last. On October 5th 1918, we were based near Fresnoy about 30 miles from where Albert was killed and the Germans counter attacked. We managed to hold them back but in the fighting I was killed. My body was never recovered. I had almost made it to the end of the war.

Researched and performed by Harry McHale

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