<< March 1918 – May 1918 >>
MONDAY 1ST APRIL, 1918
In Achieux at McArthur’s suggestion. the company sharpen their bayonets on a grindstone standing in our backyard.
TUESDAY 2ND APRIL, 1918
Same place and outposts again and I take my platoon for another night of such duty. We do not know where the enemy is as the whole front had been blotted out where the 5th Army had been. Captive balloons, very lights and everything that resembled the old line had gone. It is for that reason that outposts are sent forward to give local protection.
THURSDAY 4TH APRIL, 1918
Back from picket duty Achieux.
FRIDAY 5TH APRIL, 1918
In the early morning our Brigade is called up. The 54th Battalion is picked up by London buses and driven to Aubignee. Here my platoon is on Outpost again tonight position on road in front of Aubignee. A battery of Artillery is close to my position one of N.C.O’s from the battery speaks to us and says they have had no rest but constant short retirements. He said, “we will feel easier now that you chaps are in front of us.
SATURDAY 6TH APRIL, 1918
Pickets are drawn in and after a hasty midday lunch in the street of Aubignee we move up to man the supports line at Villers Brettoneaux, where the 3rd Australian Division had met and had a big say in holding up the advancing Germans with very heavy losses to the Germans. Also used on that front was a regiment of dragoons who fought as infantry, many of their horses were killed behind the line by shell fire.
While Villers Brettoneaux is held by the British there is much dead ground leading down to the Somme and to Amiens. Amiens can be plainly seen from the town about 8 miles distant. It is over this dead ground that the Battalion moves up in to supports. Our 14th Brigade is relieving a Brigade of the 3rd Division and taking over that part of the front.
C Company can march up in daylight and keeping German planes from observing us were over 70 British planes or Allied planes. This was a large number of planes together at one time during World War 1.
Our Battalion marches up by platoons in Artillery formation and we occupy some low ground just in rear of the town. The war is now undergoing a big change and in some respects would be different to what it had been on seeing marks on the ground as if made by very small shells men remarked “he only has whiz bangs here” but these marks seldom more than 1” deep were made by 5.9” and 4.2” grass cutting shell which were made to burst on so light an impact that they did not enter the ground and were quite different to the shells that grubbed up such a large part of French country and which left holes everywhere that gave men protection especially from machine gun fire.
Our Battalion is spread out over low ground. We dig new trenches where needed and those who dug in fresh places were the lucky ones as we found out afterwards that all used positions were marked off for German gunners.
SUNDAY 7TH APRIL,1918
Some rain fell and we improve our positions.
MONDAY 8TH APRIL, 1918
Battalion Headquarters, about 100 yards distant behind my platoon’s position, had borrowed two of my lewis gunners namely Churchland and Dave Shaw, (there were two Shaws’s in my platoon) for Headquarters protection and Headquarters being in an old position came under heavy shell fire early in the morni9ng with disastrous results. Both my lewis gun boys Shaw and Churchland were killed. Another shell killed Colonel Mc Conaghy and our adjutant Captain Norman Lovatt MC, Lieutenant Evans, wounded, our intelligence officer Lieutenant Staples killed and five others wounded. Captain Jack MC was also killed while out on liaison work. Lieutenant Ferns also was severely wounded. This was all a severe blow to the Battalion to have its Headquarters wiped out. During the shelling of Headquarters searching shells had been missing my position by about 20 yards but next morning these gunners altered their direction by about that much and fell right on one of my posts.
TUESDAY 9TH APRIL, 1918
My birthday and my post was to be the punished one. The whole area was shelled with searching fire. At earliest dawn it started. I was putting on my putties when the first shell of the morning landed on the possie next to mine which was about 3’ away and which accommodated 4 men, 1 of the occupants, Ken Gillet was speaking to me at the time from the entrance of my possie. He was missed. Stewart and Guthrie were killed out right while Tibby Car the fourth occupant, although in the possie at the time was strangely enough missed. We laid the two men in the bottom of the trench and covered them with a blanket for they had been badly smashed. Ken Gillet was badly shaken so I sent him off for a run back to Battalion Headquarters to call the stretcher bearers up.
Sergeant Larkings and I were standing near the feet of the two bodies when the sharp brief hiss of another shell giving us that split second of time to duck down. Larkings was first round the angle of the trench myself just down and the shell which could have caught me on the full had I been standing passed over me and fell directly on the dead men throwing them apart. Out of the smoke Larkings white face met me, I said, “all right keep going along” which was round the angle of the trench. Three yards had not been gained when again the brief shriek of a shell that is close, time only is given to duck the head. The shell landed on the newly thrown up earth of the parapet. Half its venom raked down into the trench. My duck was quick but not an inch too low for a rent was torn in my steel hat on the side of the crown. The havasack hanging to my left side was blown away and a small fragment, its power retarded by passing through my web equipment at the shoulder, just entered behind my left shoulder. Our trench being only short we jumped out for another shelter a few yards distant. Private Seary caught a blighty in the leg on the way over.
Our move out was quite unnecessary as our little trench had had its turn of punishment, Sergeant Larkings noticed blood coming through my tunic and said, “here your bloody well wounded” and asked me to take off my coat. It was the smallest of scratches and that evening I went up to Battalion Headquarters for our Medical Officer Captain Leidman to insert a needle. What a transformation is here Major Ceasar Lucas has taken over command of our Battalion and taken the Chateau, for his Headquarters on the western edge of the Village of Villers Brettoneaux.
I was invited to share the evening meal upstairs in the big dining room. The food was our crude ration only, but good wine was free and the courteous Caeser Lucas at the head of the table gave the impression that we were banqueting and he the host. A carefree attitude is always admirable in time of war and while I liked Caesar for his happy disposition I could not help fearing for his situation, I wondered that the Chateau had escaped shell fire for as long as it had done. I return to my platoon with a big package of Australian mail and it is birthday wishes from home. It was strange that such letters should arrive to the day.
WEDNESDAY 10TH APRIL, 1918
Our Company go into local support, No. 12 platoon is under my care but it keeps its identity under Sergeant MacLean.
The daily shell fire mostly falls about 50 yards behind us so we consider our position well chosen.
At night orders come up with a plan for an attack by us in the morning. I read it out to my platoon, No. 11, and they showed great interest as they crowded around and asked many questions. I then visited No. 12 platoon and the tone of the men was quieter. No. 12 platoon had not had an Officer permanently for some time and the men were unknown to me. However, the stunt proposed was cancelled some hours later.
THURSDAY 11TH APRIL, 1918
Spent in supports. There is big enemy shelling over behind us.
FRIDAY 12TH APRIL, 1918
Same place. We improve our position. More shell fire to our right. Our position is to the North of the village.
SATURDAY 13TH APRIL, 1918
We are to move back to reserves again tonight.
SUNDAY 14TH APRIL, 1918
Spent in reserves digging trenches at night. Our position in reserves is behind a terraced bank.
MONDAY 15TH APRIL, 1918
I am ordered back to Aubignee for the night as a gesture towards a rest which I did not expect.
TUESDAY 16TH APRIL, 1918
Aubignee a very much deserted village is holding Brigade transport and some Artillery.
WEDNESDAY 17TH APRIL, 1918
I report to Battalion at 4 am. Villers Brettoneaux is very heavily gassed. An estimate of over 1000 gas shells fell in the village in a short time.
The howling of the shells mingled as of one and a fall of smoke lay over the Village.
Our D Company lay between my platoon and the Village about 80 yards distant. To my left lay some dead ground for about two or three hundred yards and wind was coming from that direction. I warned all men on C Company’s right to be ready if gas shelling was to extend over our way. Each man must put on his gas mask and walk into the wind. Luckily for us gas did not reach us, but, D Company was badly gassed and their Officer was suspended for a time. 90 men or more from D Company were carried out with faces turning black. They were carried close to us on way to the road leading out. Captain Leidman became a casualty from working amongst the gassed. Leidman never shirked a job. He worked while he could stand.
90 men would count for most of D Company and the program for relief’s had to be altered and Battalion Headquarters in the Chateau was gassed also.
So again our Battalion Headquarters was wiped out. Caesar Lucas had a short life with the 54th Battalion. He was a popular Officer. For reasons given above the 54th Battalion is turned back from relieving the 53rd Battalion in the forward area and the 56th Battalion is called up for relief.
THURSDAY 18TH APRIL, 1918
We remain in Reserves. Another heavy gas shelling of the Village.
FRIDAY 19TH APRIL, 1918
SATURDAY 20TH APRIL, 1918
Our 14th Brigade is to be relieved by a Brigade of Tommies so that we will be able to close our ranks more over to the left. One Company of the Royal Berks march up and their platoons being in full strength require more cover than our Company had. The 54th Battalion takes over the front facing the Bois de Verre and to the right of same.
Our Headquarters are on hill 104 and C Company takes over the front line. Tommies join us on the right and they extend across the front of the village.
On the day D Company was so badly gassed McArthur suggested that he and I each take a rifle and I carried mine to the end of our war. He knew we would see use for them.
Heavier fighting was sure to come now. We had found during Winter months that the lot of a soldier is more to be shot at than to shoot.
SUNDAY 21ST, APRIL, 1918
I have platoon 11 and 12 manning the four front line posts. Our C Company posts lie opposite the Bois de Verre and the chalk pit. The broad flat gully on our right front here deepens to a narrow little gully leading across our front in direction of the Somme to our left. The enemy is holding the Bois de Verre and his line runs on other side of the gully and at the back of the chalk pit. The night is cold with a drizzle of rain. We patrol the front and enter the chalk pit and on our immediate right is a Company of the Rifle Brigade in posts marked 1, 2, 3 and 4. The number 4 post was not manned by them continually.
MONDAY 22ND APRIL, 1918
Our Airmen are about in Large numbers and keeping enemy airmen back. They are expected to attack at any time now and we are warned to expect this coming attack. Since enemy advance had been checked he has had to build up his front to continue his attack and for this he is now about ready.
TUESDAY 23RD APRIL, 1918
We were interested to watch at one moment in the day one of our field guns (18 pounder) drive up to the top of hill 104 and discharge 3 shots in quick succession into a spot in the Bois de Verre and then swing round and out of sight back to its cover in the timber of the Somme.
Perhaps a ? gun position had been located and gun was sent up to destroy it before it would be used on us next day.
The whole action was strange to us.
We expect to be relieved this night.
WEDNESDAY 24TH APRIL, 1918
Our relief was delayed a few hours and about 2 am. We are relieved by the half of A Company and we come back to support line on the forward slope of rise called Hill 104. The trench we come to had only lately been made. There are no possies cut out of the sides and we had to cut out our own beds.
Our C Company Officers are Captain Crobie, Lieutenant McArthur and myself, this is a common complement of Officers in times of action. The Company is divided under two Junior Officers with Captain at Company Headquarters.
Front line duty is strenuous and little sleep can be obtained during the nights we spend manning the front posts and patrolling. After posting our sentries, I dreaded the effort of cutting a shelf in the trench to lie on. This shelf was not to be used, as dawn was near and with earliest dawn came the Hun attack.
Down to our right fast flashes of shells in dust and smoke marked the head of his attack and drawn very close up were his field guns out of which, in a staggered line, issued red fingers of flame. Immediately it became clear to us that the attack we had been waiting for was on. We could only stand and watch its awful grandeur. As daylight increased the flashes from his guns changed to jets of smoke and where falling shells had flashed fire it became a cloud of dust and smoke. Fritz as usual had sprinkled the scene with ? lights and we assumed that the flare of three greens was the signal for his guns to lift their range and in successive lifts, as we watched, his attack moved past until we knew not how far the attack had proceeded to our rear as it disappeared behind a fold in the ground, A low spur from Hill 104. After some half hour or so the attack slowed down. Its first objective had been obtained.
The Village of Villers Brettoneaux was in enemy hands and enemy infantry had out flanked our support lines and our Battalion Headquarters. Now for a space of time our front became comparatively quiet until about 8 am. When heavy shell fire worked up again and this time the heaviest concentration of enemy fire was to fall on the forward slope of hill 104 for it was there that Minnie Werpers of medium size were fired from the Bois de Verre.
Minnies can be fired quickly into the air and they descend without noise which gives them a greater morale effect. These Minnie shells made craters of 4 yards in diameter of 3’ to 4’ deep but since they penetrate the ground so deeply the blast and fragments is mostly upwards which detracts from them having a wide killing power. The scene now is Hill 104 being deluded with Minnie and Artillery fire. This concentration of Fire did not extend down to our front line posts. The enemy plan apparently was to widen his penetration from the flank. If this could be accomplished and Hill 104 occupied and taken from the flank our front line troops could have been by passed by the enemy.
Hill 104 was strategically as important to the enemy as Villers Brettoneaux would be and the heavy nature of his shell fire left no doubt about his intention.
The morning had been clear of fog but dust and smoke made a broken and changeable visibility.
I will now tell that which I have never spoken about but the scene is still fresh in my mind when such memories are brought to the surface. The enemy fire burst on us like a storm concentrated on forward slope of Hill 104 evidentially intended to destroy any defence from that quarter. Minnies from the Bois de Verre unheralded by any noise before bursting mingled with his artillery fire. We were in a hall of smoke which obscured our vision and the extent of enemy penetration on our right was unknown to us. I know that all our Company was badly shaken and a most horrible feeling of fear and failure came over me, a fear that I might be incapable of action if called upon. Lives and bols seemed to be fighting a deadly war within me and my prayer to Almighty God was “saved me from cowardice”. My vanity could not stand being shunned as a coward. I was to receive immediate relief and it came in the first part in the shape of three visions. I have never dreamed since I was a boy so it is not natural to me. These visions only take a flash of time but will take a few lines to relate. Being so extremely weary could be a consideration and then the heavy blasts of the minnies I must have been in a dopey state of mind.
First Vision: To my half left front was enacted a play showing the life and end of a coward and as the players moved away down the slope the last sight I had was that of a shrinking miserable little coward shrinking away to nothing in stature.
Second Vision: Following in immediate succession. On top of the trench to my right about 10 yards away stood my Uncle R.D. Barton. He had been my greatest support when getting away to enlist. He was dressed in the same dark grey suit in which I had last seen him. His big brown eyes bright and fearless. The message he conveyed to was “Remember Jack you are a Barton”.
Third Vision: Immediately the scene changed and to my front there on top of a cloud of shell burst was the head and shoulders of my deceased Father. He was mute, his face was placid, but the message that he passed to me was “if you are crossing over to me let me be proud to shake your hand, if you are not coming then the same applies when you do.”
There was no time to feel any ailments for a big minnie landed on the traverse of our trench.
Captain McNabb of A Company had come up from the front posts, where part of A Company were. He dropped in beside me just after the shelling started. There were about 8 of us in the trench bay. I was on the right and McNabb was next to me on my left. When the minnie fell the traverse heaved over on to us. I saw Scotty Finlayson from the middle of the bay thrown out forward and landed on his feet out on the parapet. I was pushed by the earth to the bottom of the trench and scrambled to avoid being partially buried under earth picked up a shovel. McNabb was standing buried over the knees, two men had scrambled out and had come to his assistance, I said, “mind we don’t pull his legs off”, for I could not understand a man buried only as he could not free himself unless his legs had been shot away. McNabb said, “I am all right my legs are crossed”. We lifted him in one lift to his feet and I was amused at him saying his legs were crossed as it was characteristic of him to stand with crossed legs.
Immediately the whole personnel of our trench fell back about 60 to 80 yards to another trench. I waited a moment digging to see if a man was under the earth. The bursting shell had saved me and all fear had now left me and I bent over the shovel wearily I thought “Fritz you can land one on my back if you wish” and then the next moment the thought ran through me “but I don’t think you can do it”.
A few strokes with the spade convinced me that no man could be covered over and turning from it I pulled Sergeant Wichardt round to bring his head up the slope. He was unconscious in the shell hole and lying with his head downward until I pulled him round. One other man apparently dead was lying out on the parapet evidently thrown there as Finlayson had been thrown.
I walked back to join my platoon. It creates good morale amongst men to walk through shell fire but I was certainly too weary to run. On the way back I passed McArthur. He was No.12 platoon had been in a short trench just at the back of mine. A shell landing on the trench had killed most of his platoon and McArthur was shaken. We could only give each other a look as I passed.
On rejoining my platoon I watched the falling of the shells for a minute. I was concerned over leaving an unconscious man alone. It was this thought and the fact that shells were not falling so thickly a little to the right , it was the edge of our the shelled area, that I ventured on a return to our trench and our ammunition boxes. Support from Sergeant Larkings was swift his reply was a gem “too bloody right”. We ran forward and regained our trench with only one light casualty. Minnies penetrate the ground when exploding and much venom goes upwards.
Our forward movement was promptly followed by A Company men under Lieutenant Dickenson so A and C Company men had mingled. At Larkings suggestion we used ammunition from the boxes to save that which the men carried in their equipment.
We had a target in front at about 400 to 500 yards. Sections of the advanced Huns would wheel towards us advancing on our front they only reached a point where our rifle or lewis gun gun fire put them to earth and from that on they they no doubt crawled to gain cover in their front line. Smoke and dust spoilt our vision. Our men were now happy they could fire at will and keep the huns to ground. A great many of the enemy could be seen but mostly too far off for our fire. The field in the distance was thickly sprinkled with sections of enemy infantry they were moving past our right flank in the direction to the break in our lines. It was only their right flank sections those nearest to us which wheeled right and approached their front line build up.
It was now that Captain Crombie made good use of his chance. Crombie had been an Artillery Officer and from his Headquarters position on hill 104 summit where the best view of the advancing huns could be had from. He had by ringing through to Brigade arranged for a direct telephone connection with a battery of our Artillery. He can now act as an observer for the battery and he directed their fire very skilfully and each little while a section of the enemy would be blotted out by a direct hit. I feel sure that Crombie’s action in directing Artillery fire had some great disorganising and morale effect on the advancing Huns. Meanwhile our men were happy in helping to keep his foremost advance down to earth. I think our most useful part in the defence was our advance down the hill through the smoke of shell fire, men would loom up big and gentle almost in front of his artillery fire. Judging by the intensity of enemy fire on hill 104 he would expect more to see men destroyed or in retreat rather than advancing through in front of his fire.
The next move on our part is started by a message, reaching me by runner, from Captain Crombie, originating in Battalion headquarters where Major Holland was in charge. The message ran “take 9, 10 and 11 platoons on to the road running between Villers-Breattoneaux and Hamel, get in touch with A Company on your left and Tommies on your right”. I immediately called the three N.C.O.’s, McLean, Burt and Larking, together and they were quick to act. I could see nothing else for it but scanty shell hole cover and using an old shallow trench leading off to our half right to gain forward as much as I could before resorting to shell holes. I led off down this trench and followed it out to its end, which was was no more than 40 yards in front of Rifle Brigades Company’s Headquarters. This Company of the Rifle Brigade was on the right of A Company and was intact and had been passed by the enemy.
Our position now seemed to me a very good one. There was flat ground leading across to A Company enabling us to give some good covering fire if need be and at the same time we were in a good position on a defensive flank. I sent Corporal Carr to go, by shell hole hopping, across to Company Headquarters of the Rifle Brigade with the message, “The 54th Battalion is here”. I despatched a tall sandy haired chap named Clunes back to Captain Crombie regarding our position and I pointed out in the message that I would not risk the life of a runner by sending across to our front namely to Lieutenant Harvey with A Company and if such a message was thought necessary it had better be sent from the rear namely from C Company Headquarters. During the remainder of the day we had no communications with anyone excepting a visit from a runner on his way back from the front to his Rifle Brigade Company.
We are out on the flank, Fritz on two sides of us and we have no idea of how far he has gone in our rear. Our chief annoyance during the day was caused by our own shells dropping short. It was, I think, about the limit of the range of our field guns which where firing from the Somme channels where they had good cover from view made by green timber on the Somme about 3 miles distant. Regarding these shorts we had no other recourse but “like brer Tarrapin to sot and tuck it”. When evening comes we will hear some news from Company Headquarters.
One man alone, a runner, might move, without perhaps drawing any fire, single man may not be considered worth troubling. One runner from RB Company front came past my post on his way to his Company Headquarters. He was unmolested. A little later another man commenced to walk back from the front. He was shot through the legs by a machine gun from our right, which disclosed to us that gun’s position and when the man fell two Germans from cover only a few yards away came out with hands up and quickly dragged him under cover. These Germans were surrounded by our posts and at evening were brought in as prisoners and the wounded man was taken back.
At dusk I had a visit from Captains Crombie and McArthur and they informed me that a counter attack was going to take place this night timed to start at 8 p.m. Owing to certain delays the counter attack did not start until 11 p.m. and it was all over well before dawn. I need not relate that swift counter attack by the 15th Brigade (General Elliot) and the 13th Brigade (General Glascow). These Generals and their Brigades contribution to the action is well described in history of the 5th Division and also in the official war history.
I feel it good fortune and a great honour for those of us that were present to be stationed on our right flank where the enemy had swept past. We knew nothing of what is happening behind and how far his attack had penetrated. Not many days before this when with my platoon in a front line post and being expectant of an attack by Fritz the question was asked at a consultation in my trench, “What will happen Sir, in the event of an attack”. I replied, “For those of us who live through the shell fire which must proceed the attack”. If any man can kill two Huns he is fit to die for in order to give our supports a chance, “front line posts must hold to the last man”. A thought of these words or boast was very close to me at this time.
It is very certain that if our ground was not held where it was the greatest counter attack as it happened could not have taken place.
Now with the night arriving I am able to meet and speak with the Captain of the Rifle Brigade Company which is right of the line. His front line posts remain intact and his Company Headquarters quite near to us is now a front in the flank defence.
We can now only wait for the counter attack to come. A large fire burned in Villers Brettoneaux which tended to draw the night attackers towards it and when before dawn the attacking Brigades had joined hands in front of the Village a pocket of enemy had been left between the Rifle Brigade positions and the left of the 15th Brigade. Just before dawn a party consisting of an Officer, one N.C.O. and two runners from 60th Battalion visit my post bringing news of their successful attack and informed me that they would push a post over towards me to fill in the gap that had been left. I informed the Officer of the positions of Rifle Brigade Company in front of me but he said he would link up with me and as it happened the little nest of Germans which had been left would sever him off from the forward Rifle Brigade post. Dawn was about to break and the visiting party from the 60th Battalion must return and to do this they had to make a detour to get round the enemy machine gun which intercepted the direct route.
THRUSDAY 25th APRIL 1918
It is now ANZAC Day and the counter attack had partly run into this day. For us it was a day of many dropshots which at times seemed to outnumber enemy shells. When daylight changes to darkness again the Captain of Rifle Brigade Company informs me that he has been ordered to withdraw his Company for the reason that the Australians had linked across in front of him. I agree with him that this was not the case and he had the order repeated and then again. It was getting on towards morning light when he finally withdrew his Company, at the third demand. He was a good solider and had worked for our flank defence and reluctantly withdrew.
Our histories both official and that of the 5th Division make small reference to the presence of this Company. They had used their rifles so much at times that I wondered where they were finding targets, and they certainly were the Company which held firm to the extreme right of the broken flank. I certainly think that the front line posts did not have to contend with the extreme shell fire which fell on the supports and it looked very much as is Fritz had planned to widen the breech at the back of the front line posts and thus leave them swinging.
The withdrawal of the Rifle Brigade Company did not take place until about 2.00 a.m. so this now finds our time merging into the 26th. As the Rifle Brigade Company drew out I was ordered by Captain Crombie to take over the front line from them so I had to fill, with about 6 men to a post, three big posts which had each contained a big platoon of 30 men or more. My first lewis gun section manned No. 1 post on the right. The other lewis gun section in No. 3 post on the left. The middle or No. 2 post was manned by Sergeant Larkings with six men. At this time Lieutenant McArthur as 2nd in command of our C Company arrived on the scene and suggested that he and I take a walk round. We walked out a little way in front and listened. We heard the tramp of men approaching and lying close together on the ground. We watched about 15 or 20 Huns in single file approaching and they passed us by only a few yards. As they were drawing near to us I very quietly pushed the safety catch on my rifle forward. McArthur noticing the movement whispered, “don’t shoot Toby” and there was a chuckle in his whisper. It was the barely audible laugh in McArthur’s whisper, I refer to, which I knew to mean that while caution was the best policy he would not give a damn if I had fired or not.
With the dawn of the 26th we found some confusion in the enemy front as though they were lost as to where and how their position lay.
Repeatedly Huns approached in the slight fog at dawn making their way forward and taking a short cut through our lines. Two of them making their back to their lines walking into my No. 3 post from the rear to be taken prisoners. Those approaching in front of us had to be enlightened and although we shot some down others, at intervals, still kept coming the same way. The fog no doubt was confusing. At No. 3 post they let one right into the post, McArthur bagged him as his prisoner.
It was sullen sniping work and sniping does not win wars. The parties of enemy walked in, as they did, showed that they were ignorant that our position was manned perhaps through reports coming to them of over estimated success. I have lately read in the Official History that many German Officers did believe that Hill 104 was in their hands on that day.
The day passed quietly as the light fog cleared and all but Sentries could snatch a little sleep.
Having had a little nap I told the 2 men on duty that they could stand down for a time while I was about. All was quiet and taking advantage of this quiet spell a Fritz in a hole not 100 yards distant in front of me commenced to deepen and enlarge his home. Each time he raised his shovel he exposed his back to me from his hips upwards. I sighted my rifle on him but did not pull the trigger and I watched him carry on with his work. It is hard for a man wounded in a front line post where stretcher bearers can not attend him until nightfall and snipping does not win wars. When night came on and taking Corporal Carr with me we went to find the left of the 60th Battalion. To do this we had to skirt round a little pocket of enemy directly on the track of direction and which had not been dislodged. It was nearly half a mile walk. Just before Carr and I started out the rum issue arrived. I issued No. 3 post and then I would next issue No. 1 taking Private Bourke across with me so that he could bring the remaining rum back to No. 2 post and Sergeant Larkings could issue it out to the men in that post. The way between posts Nos. 1 and 2 was directed by following ploughed land which was very simple. In passing, quite noticeable, some earth was mounded up where I pointed out to Bourke some Huns were. I only know that Bourke and the rum were lost together. He was a prisoner.
Tibby and I made our journey across to the left flank of the 60th Battalion but coming back was not so easy and having once found ourselves on the wrong side of some German wire we climbed through it carefully and it turned out to be disused wire and we regained our post only by way of our support line.
The little pocket of intrusive enemy had to be cleaned up a night or two later.
<< March 1918 – May 1918 >>