SSAFA volunteer reflects on father's memoir of the Somme
SSAFA volunteer, Peter Rogerson’s father wrote a frank and often humorous memoir about his time in the First World War trenches. Sidney Rogerson’s Twelve Days on the Somme was one of the first books to reveal what day-to day life was like for those on the frontline during one of the worst battles in British military history. Sidney was in 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment and witnessed the second devastating battle during the Battle of the Somme in the November.
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His son Peter, a caseworker with SSAFA’s Ipswich Division, said: “My father wrote two books about his experiences in the First World War in the 1930s. He read history at Cambridge and he wrote very well and somebody had suggested he write these books. The first was originally called just ‘Twelve Days’. It was the first book that was written about day-to-day life for the soldiers. His observations were actually moving and quite amusing. All the previous books had been written by generals and brigadiers. Unfortunately, I don’t really have many details about what he did in the war. I never really got to talk to him about it which is sad really but I have the book about those twelve specific days on the Somme.”
Sidney’s second book The Last of the Ebb describes his experiences during the Battle of the Aisne in 1918. Peter said: “The experiences he wrote about in the second book were extraordinary. They were much further down the line to the south at that point. His division had been smashed to bits really but they were put back in the line. Meanwhile the Germans were building to a huge offensive and sure enough there was a big attack.
“My father and his colleagues had to run for their lives. He was a staff officer at Divisional HQ by that stage. The front lines were completely over run and they were told to get out quick and put their gas masks on. He said it was panic stations.
“They were completely overwhelmed and weren’t prepared at all for this attack. My father got separated because he was sent off to liaise with another HQ. He had to swim across the Aisne in all his kit. He tried to rejoin his HQ and when he eventually made it back he was absolutely exhausted and covered in mud. The Brigadier looked over and just said, ‘Ah, there you are Rogerson’.”