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The Men Who Died



89               90

Some extracts from the Pendre School Log Book of the time give some insight into Bertha's life:

October 19th 1915 – Miss Smith was to have been married at Xmas but her fiancé suddenly received orders to proceed to the front so the wedding is to take place this week, consequently she is absent today.

October 28th 1915 – Mrs Irons (nee Miss Smith) returned to school today.

June 15th 1917 – Mrs Iron's Husband has ten days leave from France, the first since October 1915, so I told her she could have the time off school. However, she will come in the mornings.

September 28th, 1917 – Mrs Irons will be away till Tuesday morning. She has accompanied her husband who is home from France on a visit to his friends.

November 26th 1917 – Mrs. Irons heard this morning that her husband had been killed in France, so I do not expect her in school this week at least.

December 3rd, 1917 – Mrs. Irons returned to school today.

July 30th, 1918– Mrs. Irons leaves today and is entering Derby Training College in September.

He was wounded twice during his service. James had been home on leave about six weeks before his death.

Bertha received a letter from Colonel Raikes after the event who wrote:

‘I am very sorry you have not received news of your husband's death before this but the Battalion has been in action practically every day for 15 days and all the Officers were hit.

On November 20th when the attack started we came up to a position in our original front line preparatory to going through to a further objective. There was fairly heavy shelling and Co. Sergeant Major Irons was hit by a piece of shell just as we were arriving at this position. I saw him myself almost immediately after he was hit, he was quite unconscious and died almost immediately. this was about 7.30 on the 20th. It was not possible to carry him back at this time as the Battalion was moving forward to the attack almost at once.

There were stretcher bearers of another division working over that part of the ground and no doubt it was one of those that carried him back and buried him.

I have known Sgt Major Irons for many years’ time and was with him in the 1st Battalion some time before the war. I well know his many sterling qualities and his death is a great loss to us. He has always shown a high sense of duty, cool and courageous in all circumstance and his service has been of the greatest value in the Battalion where he will always be remembered as one who upheld the finest traditions of the regiment. His grave is sure to have been marked and registered by the Graves Registration and I will try and ascertain exactly where it is. I hope you will accept my sincerest sympathy in your loss’.