An Unforgettable Sight and a Great Victory

Featured in the May 2017 handbook.

October 23rd 1915 Continued

With thanks to Alf "Legs" Beeching

Our artillery were playing hell from their new positions and it was grand to hear our shells screaming over our heads. We knew that the Germans were having it hot as well as ourselves. The burial parties were out doing their best to clear the battlefield. The ground was absolutely strewn with dead although nearly a week since the advance was made. It was about this part of the line that the Ö. made their charge and they lost heavily as we could see so plainly. The barbed wire entanglement had clamed so many victims and in places the poor chaps were standing amongst the wire which held them in a more or less upright position. One younger fellow a bomb thrower stood out most prominently as he had apparently got amongst the wire and whilst trying to get free had received a bullet in the head. With one hand to his head and the other clutching the belt of hand grenades strapped around his waist he stood there held in an upright position held by the wire. All around him were his comrades some still grasping their rifles with bayonets fixed. These were of course, plenty of dead Germans as well although the trenches had been cleared of them and the majority of them had been buried in heaps whereas our fellows are buried with more care and wooden crosses erected bearing names regiment ect. This was he kind of thing we were amongst. Looking over the parapet especially at night it was most weird. The star shells as they went up and died out showed the horrible results of this great victory. Yes, victory but at what a cost! On the second evening I was sent off with a party for rations and as you have probably heard this is a dangerous job because the rations have to be dumped well in the rear and to get them into the trenches it is necessary to go out at dark and bring them in a portion at a time.

On this occasion we got te rations all right and each man had been sent back with something or other. It is found necessary to leave and enter the trenches in single file as the enemy find out the way the rations and ammunition parties take and snipers are generally on the look-out for them. Well as it happened the Troop sergeant and I were last to leave the dumping ground and unfortunately we allowed the party to get too far in front. It was a very dark night and we missed our way. I tell you I thought my time had come. Every time a star shell went up we had to fling ourselves flat on the ground. How long we were crawling about I donít know but it seemed hours before we found the entrance to the communication trench and all the time shells were bursting all around us and the whiz of bullets made my heart beat like a drum.

Once between the sided of the trench we sat down and looked at one another. I think the narrowest escape was the following morning just after day-break. The shelling was still as bad as when we came into the trench high explosive and shrapnel were dropping all around us, about every quarter of an hour a big un or Jack Johnson would come over and what a mess of things they make. They make a hole big enough to bury a couple of horses and throw earth and anything lying about, yards in the air. It was one of these that landed about twenty yards in front of the trench. I heard someone shout Oh! And knew that another one of the boy was hit. At the same moment I felt the cap lift off the back of my head and heard a whiz past my face. It was a piece of shell about two inches long and an inch wide. It had torn the peak off my cap and embedded itself in the side of the trench. I dug it out and am keeping it as a souvenir.

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