Seventh Manchesters index
Ypres! That wonderful place, the sound of whose name makes the heart of the Englishman at home glow with pride, but makes the soldier, friend or foe, shudder at the mere recollection. It was the scene of much stern work, and if Belgium has been dubbed the Cockpit of Europe, surely the "Salient" was the cockpit of cockpits. More men lie buried in that small patch of ground than one cares to think about, and when instances of the unreasonableness and veritable folly of war are cited from other fronts, they can always be equalled by experiences at Ypres.
In many respects, however, the 7th were lucky in this sector, for we did not actually go over the top during our stay. Other units of the division carried out what would be termed minor operations (which are anything but minor operations to the people concerned), but the 7th escaped any such work. So far as we were concerned it was a continuation of line-holding, but under vastly new conditions. It would be useful, perhaps, to indicate the nature of these conditions.
As all the world knows the third battle of Ypres commenced on the 31st July, 1917, preceded by a terrific concentrated bombardment of the Hun positions lasting about ten days. The effect of this bombardment was to obliterate all signs of life on that part of the earth, with the exception of a few horrible, naked, and shattered trees. Nothing green was visible anywhere. In fact the land looked as though it had been a very choppy earth-brown sea suddenly frozen to stillness. Everywhere was shell-holes, shell-holes, shell-holes--large and small. Only by careful searching could one ascertain where enemy trenches had been. Dotted about over this terrain were the Hun "pill-boxes," concrete shelters in which the enemy had made their last machine gun fight. Whereas at one time they had been skilfully concealed from view, they were now standing stark above the ground which had been torn away from them. Some of the pill-boxes, indeed, had been smashed in by direct hits from the heavies, so deadly had been our gun fire during those ten days.
The opening of the British offensive had brought bad luck with regard to weather. The men had gone over in a terrific downpour of rain, so that all the advantage lay with the defences. The tanks had struggled wonderfully with the appalling conditions, but the ground was against them, and most of them were "ditched" before they were knocked out. A few, however, had got well ahead, until they were out of action, and it hardly required field glasses to be able to distinguish them within the enemy's lines, now functioning, by the cruelty of fate, as German pill-boxes and sniper-posts. Such was the salient in the early days of September when the 42nd went up to take over the "line."
It was ascertained that we were to relieve the 15th division, a most excellent division consisting chiefly of highlanders of the New Armies. They had fought over this ground in the first days of the offensive, and after a short rest had come back again to help to hold the positions taken and to initiate "minor" operations. They were situated astride the Potijze Road, due east of Ypres, and that is where the advance parties from each battalion of the division found them. The first impression was: "What a contrast with Havrincourt!" It was the exact antithesis in every respect. This was a country where the desire to kill and destroy had developed to an unimaginable intensity. Nothing of use was to be left by either side, and every yard of ground almost was searched by the gunners to carry out their cruel game.
As evidence of the meaning and determination of the business the 18-pounders were packed axle to axle amongst the mud and shell holes, ready to bark forth their loud defiance to the Hun. The 4.5 howitzers were visible in batches at various places. Further back, but still closely packed were the 6-inch howitzers, the 60-pounders, and the heavier calibre guns. The huge, ever popular 15-inch and large naval guns lay beyond Ypres, and were not for the eyes of the ordinary infantryman, but evidences of their sound work would be found when the advance continued. It required very little imagination to picture the German guns similarly placed and in similar numbers, for this offensive had alarmed the enemy, for did it not threaten the existence of their submarine bases in Belgium, to say nothing of their hold upon Lille? His defence was careful, however, as we found to our cost, and, however much the papers at home kept up the morale of England by sneers at the "pill-box," the soldier on the spot regarded it with extreme caution and respect. After all they were the only things that stood the test of this bashing method of fighting and their very existence, when everything else was destroyed, was ample proof of the fact. Tacticians from the highest general to the platoon sergeant tried hard to discover the most effective and least costly manner of "dealing with a pill-box," and the highest in the land eagerly snatched at ideas from the man out of the line if they bore the scent of feasibility about them.
One never knew if it was in pursuit of the solution of these tactical problems that the higher command persisted during those sad August and early September days in their policy of "minor" operations. Certainly no part of the salient was ever at rest. Local attacks were launched here, there and everywhere, but comparatively few succeeded, or if they did it was merely a temporary success. While our advance parties were in the line the Black Watch and the Gordons of the 15th division, executed a night attack on "Gallipoli" and Hill 35, a job which had been previously attempted, and very little advance was made. Those who had reached the foremost position were immediately expelled or captured, or killed where they stood, by the Boche counter attack next morning. Losses were very heavy.
The 42nd took over the right portion of this front near the Frezenburg Ridge, and the 61st division the left. Incidentally, the latter again attempted Hill 35 but with equal success. The 125th brigade was given one of these unfortunate tasks, with the 6th Manchesters in support. They were to take the Iberian, Borry and Beck Farms, now no longer farms, but strong pill-boxes well defended by a system of outworks. They carried out the job and suffered heavy casualties, so heavy indeed that they could not withstand the inevitable Hun counter attack which came in the evening and was delivered by fresh storm troops brought up for this purpose from the rear. After they had attained their objective they realised the peculiarity of the strength of the German defensive system. They were subjected to heavy cross machine gun fire from the enemy positions which had not been attacked. It was evident that unless these latter were taken also they could not hold on. In other words, the policy of local attacks was suicidal and was, in fact, playing into the German scheme of defence.
While these things were taking place the 7th had moved from behind Poperinghe to Toronto Camp near Brandhoek, where it enjoyed its full share of the evening's excitement from Hun bombing planes. On September 7th, the battalion went by train to Ypres as far as the Asylum, and from there filed cautiously by platoons through the town, past the ever famous Cloth Hall, whose scraggy skeleton could be only dimly discerned in the darkness, and through the Menin Gate. A short distance along the Menin Road, and then we turned off and eventually got on "J" track--the interminable length of duck boards that carried generals, privates, rations, ammunition, runners, artillery observers, and all the other various persons and impedimenta of war, through the maze of shell holes up to the forward positions. There were a number of these tracks all leading out like arteries from the bases of organisation to the front line. They were labelled at intervals with small boards bearing the distinctive letter or number of the track painted in white luminous paint so that they were equally legible by day or by night. These were the only guides in this desolate waste, and woe betide the man who in the night came across a spot where shelling had obliterated a good portion of the track, for it was a difficult job to pick it up again, and frequently a nerve-racking experience.
With the exception of a few bursts of 4.2's at intervals none of which came uncomfortably close, the battalion were fortunate in having a peaceful passage that night, and the relief of the 7th Lancs. Fus. proceeded without incident. We were in support in old German positions just in front of Cambridge Road, headquarters being established in the shafts of a dug-out which had filled with water. Oh--how we longed for the comfort of Havrincourt! But we never allowed this thought to cause depression, for it was all in the game and other men had had much worse things to do.
I think the dominant note of our stay in this sector was shelling. It was an ever present serious factor, and a most disturbing one. Men were killed and maimed "for doing nothing" so to speak. They were merely on the spot, and there was nowhere else to go. Tactical reasons demanded that they should be there, should scratch a little cover and remain, and there they cheerfully remained--and waited. Officers moved about and tried to get their men interested in their surroundings, in their comfort, in their protection, and in the rigging up of a defensive battle if necessary. The men understood and worked with a will, and laughter and song rang out over the torn earth. But every man knew that in a place like this almost anything might happen; however, the worst would never happen to _him_--the other fellow perhaps, but not him. That, I imagine, was one of the secrets of sticking it.
Undoubtedly the Boche was putting up a fight for this bit of ground, and his guns never ceased, only in the grey hours of dawn was there any semblance of peace along the front, and then one felt that he had just temporarily put a hand over the mouth of the guns in a straining attitude of watching and listening for a movement on our part. A sudden withdrawal of that hand and they would all bark forth together in a terrible chorus. It was a strain for all, and faces began to show the lines of wearing mentality. Our persons lost their spruceness too. There was mud clinging to us, we were unshaven, equipment hung rather loosely, but our rifles and ammunition were still as ever, and Lewis guns would be found in good condition.
After two nights the battalion occupied the front positions, relieving the 5th Manchesters, and headquarters were established in a good sound pill-box at Wilde Wood. Another attack was being planned upon Borry and Beck, to be carried out by the 5th, with ourselves in support. Meanwhile our job was to dig new trenches out in front as jumping off places for the attack. They were successfully completed, but when the enemy saw them he paid his usual attention to them and as a result 2nd-Lt. Chatterton (C Coy.) was badly wounded, and eventually lost a leg. He was an extremely popular figure both with officers and men being known to everyone as "Joe," and his absence was keenly felt, for he had gone out originally with the battalion in 1914.
Luckily the plan of attack was abandoned, and apart from a feeling of personal relief everyone felt that a wise thing had been done. There was little hope of the enterprise proving any more successful than that of the L.F's., especially as similar attempts had just been made left and right of us and had failed miserably. It was clear that the only way to ease the situation was to carry out a big attack on a wide front. Evidences of the imminence of such an attack showed themselves very soon, for advance parties from the 9th division came up to learn the front, and they intimated that they had a "big job on."
One night one of our patrols out in No Man's Land, heard not far from them, feeble calls for help. Making their way across the shell holes towards the sound they found a man with a smashed leg and absolutely exhausted. He was brought in and proved to be an Inniskilling Fusilier who had taken part in an attack some four or five weeks previously! He stated that he had kept up his strength by eating the food and iron rations and drinking the water which he had found upon the dead men around him. It seemed incredible that such a thing could have happened, but on making inquiries concerning his division, the number of which I have forgotten, it proved to be perfectly true. Surely this case presents physiological and psychical problems worthy of consideration.
We were relieved again by the 5th and went back to our old support position. After two days the L.F's. came up again to relieve the brigade, but the bulk of our battalion continued to go up in the evening to dig in a corps cable which was being laid as far forward as possible. By the time we completed the last of our journeys to the east of Ypres, we were a battalion chastened in body and spirit. Many big gaps had been made in the ranks, and it was when we settled down to the more comfortable and peaceful existence that these gaps were keenly felt. A most noticeable absentee was R.S.M. Hartnett. He had been badly hit by a piece of shell at Bill Cottage, and later died in hospital at Rouen. Hartnett's work with the 7th Manchesters has nothing but good to show. He had been a sergeant instructor with the battalion in pre-war days, being sent to us by the 1st Manchesters, and had gone out in 1914 to the Soudan. He stayed on through Gallipoli, and became R.S.M. when Franklin was made adjutant. A keen, regular, disciplinarian and the scourge of feeble N.C.O's., he was an untiring worker in entertainments. His song in Gallipoli--"Oh, Achi, Achi Baba," to the tune of the "Absent Minded Beggar" will never be forgotten, while some of the sketches that he wrote and had performed were masterpieces of good humour. C.S.M. Clough, of "D" company, was appointed as his successor and although the post of R.S.M. is a difficult one to fill, he did some excellent work, particularly in the line.
Toronto Camp sheltered us again for a night or two after which we moved nearer to Poperinghe. It was evident by now that we were to leave Ypres altogether, and no one exhibited any regrets, but there was a peculiar feeling that the division was rather under a cloud, and apart from a natural partisanship in the matter, everyone was indignant at the unfortunate opportunities which had been afforded us to make our reputation in this country. All were emphatic that had we been given a sporting chance in a general attack, there would have been nothing wanting in the final result. However, there was a violent spring clean through the division. The G.O.C. left us, as well as a number of the staff. In accordance with an army scheme to move round commanding officers, Lt.-Col. Cronshaw was exchanged for the C.O. of the 8th Worcesters--Lt.-Col. Carr, D.S.O.--and bade a sad farewell to the 7th on September 20th. The men sent a good many regrets after him, for he had done sound work, and had had a big hand in the creation of the fair name of the Fleur de Lys. We were pleased later to see his name in the honours list for a D.S.O. in recognition of his work with the 7th Manchesters.
On that day the battalion marched to Winizeele and there we were joined by the new C.O. A sort of kinship sprang up when it was discovered that he had been wounded at the landing on Gallipoli with the Worcesters of the famous 29th division.
It was now apparent that our destination was north, one more step in the direction of Blighty, towards which we had constantly moved since leaving El Arish. But it was as near as we ever should get until the final crossing. We were to join that small, isolated batch of the British Army which had taken over the coastal sector from the French with such high hopes in the middle of the year. Ever since the first furious German onslaught in 1914, when the Kaiser had come in person to see his myrmidons seize the coast road to the Channel Ports, and when they met the wonderful defence of the Belgian and French troops culminating in the flooding of the Yser lowlands, the Nieuport sector had settled down to a quiet front.
The intention was for the British Fourth Army, under General Rawlinson to steal quietly in, and on an appointed day to startle our friend the enemy by a quick turning movement along the coast, which, worked in conjunction with the Ypres offensive would free Ostend and Zeebrugge. A far-reaching conception, but unfortunately doomed from the first by its over-importance. The Hun had found out. Someone had told him there were British soldiers on the coast, so he stampeded--not in the way we should have liked but in a disastrous manner for ourselves. It had been part of the scheme to preserve the secrecy of this movement by not bringing up the guns when the infantry came, for there is nothing like gun positions for "giving the game away." So soon as the German knew, however, that the British had arrived, up came his guns very quickly, for he was well aware that they had not come for a rest, especially in view of other activity near Ypres.
The 1st division had taken over the Coastal sector with the 32nd division in front of Nieuport on their right. On the coast the line ran through the sandhills on the east side of the Yser, while on the right of this the ground was very low lying and was largely flooded from the five canals which converge near the town. In July the Huns smashed down all the bridges over the river with shell fire and then attacked in overwhelming numbers, with the result that amongst the sand dunes, being unsupported either by artillery or infantry, the battalions on the east of the river were completely blotted out. Very little progress, however, was made against the 32nd division, and their line remained more or less intact. It was impossible to retake the lost ground, for the wide river mouth had now to be crossed. This incident altered the whole face of the situation, for a general advance over the inundated sector alone was out of the question, and the scheme was given up. A number of guns was brought up to form an effective background to the infantry and that was as far as matters developed.
When the 42nd arrived they found, by a curious chance, the 66th division in charge of the coast sector. This division was composed of the 2nd line battalions of our own units, so there was a tremendous amount of interest in each other displayed by both sides. Friends met friends, and opportunities for these meetings were further afforded by the fact that most units relieved their own 2nd line battalions.
The 7th, after a novel experience of being carried up to the coast on motor 'buses from Winizeele, were "debussed" at Coxyde, where they billeted themselves comfortably in the deserted houses. The Boche had paid this place some attention prior to his attack in July, and had not really left it alone, so that the civilians had made a rather hurried departure. A few had elected to remain, and were to be seen walking furtively about the streets with that curious strained look that the war-driven peasantry of France and Belgium always wore. Here we met the 2nd battalion of the Manchesters, and were glad of the opportunity to make their acquaintance. A 7th officer, then Capt. L. Taylor, was amongst them and it may be mentioned here that later in the war he added lustre to the Fleur de Lys by winning, with the 2nd Manchesters, the Military Cross with two bars, which decorations he fortunately lived to carry home after the conflict. Whilst here the 2/7th being anxious to prove their mettle, challenged us to a game of football, from which we carried off the honours by a comfortable margin. Needless to say, this match excited considerable enthusiasm.
After a couple of days we took over the brigade support position, where we were charmed to find ourselves living in huts amongst the sandhills behind Oost Dunkerque Bains. There was a fly in the ointment, however, for the enemy knew about this camp, and being in possession of a couple of high velocity 5.9 guns for which this place was a suitable target, he pooped them off at us occasionally in the evening time. The night before we came, indeed, a shell dropped upon a hut occupied by 2/6th Manchester officers, killing four of them. Although we were worried this way, there being little feeling of security under a thin wooden or canvas roof, we fortunately sustained no casualties. On October 2nd we took over the front line from the 5th, and were now in the unique position of being the left battalion of the whole Western Front.
It was an extraordinary place to fight in--like having a real war at Blackpool amongst the houses along the front. Nestling in the corner made by the mouth of the Yser and the coast, is the seaside resort ostensibly belonging to the town of Nieuport, for it is called Nieuport Bains. The war had arrived here suddenly, apparently, for an engine and trucks still stood in the station, much battered now of course, while every cellar was filled with most expensive furniture which the people in their rapid flight had been unable to remove. All the houses had been of the new and large type, particularly those overlooking the promenade, but they were now skeletons of their former glory, and to see property of this kind in such a state only served to bring home still more forcibly the cruel destruction of modern war. The French had made this front, and with typical French ingenuity they had connected all the cellars of the houses and so constructed a perfectly safe communication trench to the front line. This C.T. was continued backwards as a sort of tunnel along the beach, but it was really a camouflaged trench, just covered with a layer of sand. Flash lamps were thus greatly in demand on this sector. As well as watching the Hun on land we were expected also to keep a look out to sea for submarines and any other vicious craft, and the two posts allotted this duty were armed with wonderful pom-pom guns that no one had the courage to experiment with. Still "the man behind the gun" had a comfortable feeling of importance so long as there was nothing to shoot at. In that eventuality one trembles to think what might have been the effect upon himself and the remainder of the crew.
Patrolling was also a queer business. In warmer weather it was accomplished in bathing costume and tin hat, with revolver between the teeth or behind the ear, but cold nights discouraged these efforts, and we sneaked about on our side of the river wondering what we could do. We were now at the seaside and there was the usual crop of mad holiday projects. One of these was to experiment with a new gas to be projected into the Boche front trench across the river. Then Lt. Morten was to pilot a boat over, hop into the said trench, and return in possession of a "gassee" from whom the results would be studied. Morten went down the line with a sturdy crew of A.B's. from "D" company to practise rowing, but luckily that was as far as the scheme progressed. Then we had our sea-serpent. An odd sentry or so had sworn to having seen a boat on successive nights knocking about the river. A careful look-out was instituted, but no one in authority caught a glimpse of this "mystery ship." After six days of this sort of thing we were surprised to find ourselves relieved by the 20th D.L.I. of the 41st division. They had just arrived from Ypres and the 42nd were to take over the sector on the right. The 127th brigade, however, went out into reserve at La Panne and there we had a splendid time.
It was about this time that the new divisional commander arrived--Maj.-Gen. Solly-Flood, D.S.O., who was destined to raise the fair name of the 42nd to rank with the proudest of the British Army. He had been for a time the director of training at G.H.Q., and this fact filled us with awe but none the less with pleasure, for every sensible soldier knows that success in the field is the product of good training. We expected strafe upon strafe whilst out of the line, but it was a joy to find that the new commander knew that the best results are obtained by instructing everyone down to the meanest soldier in his job rather than by bullying. What could the Manchesters better wish for then, than to have Generals Henley and Solly-Flood? It was indeed a lucky chance that had brought us under his command. The 7th were also able to welcome an old friend in Major Hurst who suddenly rejoined the battalion from England about this period.
La Panne had not altogether lost its characteristics as a pleasure resort, for it was the place where the tired officers of the Belgian Army came for a rest cure. King Albert and the Queen frequently stayed at their residence here in their usual quiet, simple way. The Belgians told you with pride how their monarch could at any time be seen walking by himself about the streets of the town or along the country roads like any other officer in the army. A story was told how a couple of young, dashing French flying officers met the Queen on the beach one day but, not recognising her, started a conversation. She, seeing the possibility of a good joke, invited them to her home, and they gleefully accepted. Picture their consternation when they were presented to the King! Altogether we spent an extremely pleasant fortnight in this place, and it was by way of a study in contrasts that October 20th found us installed in the Redan on the opposite side of the river from Nieuport.
This town is a sister in misfortune to Ypres, but the destruction was even more complete because it was almost in the front line, and shells of all calibres dropped in it well-nigh continuously day and night. Peace-time bridges, of course, had been obliterated, but soldiers had built others to connect up the front line defence, which was east of the river, with the rear. Who will ever forget Putney Bridge? Lancashire men who knew nothing of its parent in London, had now perforce to take a lively personal interest in this wobbly structure. There were two others but they were not so famous as this because they were not so frequently used. Many things can be camouflaged to deceive aircraft, but I think a bridge over a river would tax the most ingenious in this art, hence, although hidden from direct observation from the enemy lines, the Hun had the exact position of these bridges, and, what was more disconcerting, he also had the exact range. So he "dusted" them at irregular intervals with various calibres, and trips across resembled the noble game of running the gauntlet. This portion of night reliefs was naturally particularly exciting. The late Lt.-Col. Marshall, V.C., when second in command to the 6th L.F's., provided an amusing story for the division one day when a couple of officers failed to salute him in the middle of Putney Bridge, he walking calmly across, and they--obviously hurrying. He pulled them up and strafed them duly, then, to force his point, he stood on the bridge and caused them to pass him two or three times in a dignified manner and salute him correctly. Luckily the Boche did not interfere in this little humorous interlude.
The Redan was a large triangular redoubt, with the base resting on the river and having an artificial moat through the middle and on its other two sides. It had been built many years ago to defend Nieuport and in this war had played its part. The enemy had paid a good deal of attention to it with heavy shells so it was considerably knocked about. Most of the concreted dug-outs, however, were still intact, and they served to house a good portion of the 7th in their support position. Headquarters inhabited the ever famous Indiarubber House. This resembled an innocent barn in appearance, and the Hun had hit it hard many many times, but his shells had only bounced harmlessly off the solid concealed concrete--hence its name. The French, in the quiet days, had "done themselves well" here, and we thanked them for the excellent supply of electric light which they had handed over.
It was when we took over the front line, however, that the real meaning of the Nieuport sector was revealed. The ground was torn and devastated like the Salient, but here the destruction and misery was increased by floods, ever present in a greater or less degree. It had been impossible to dig in the low ground, so the defences consisted of breastworks which had been very much battered since the enemy had established his superiority here in guns. Over this area the Boche had uninterrupted observation from the ruins of Lombaertzyde, which lay on slightly higher ground just within his lines. It was thus practically impossible to move about by day, for the sight of khaki brought down a hurricane of whizz bangs, special batteries being apparently told off for sniping of this nature. Further, as we lay in a very sharp salient just here our men could be plainly seen behind the breastworks by the enemy on their right rear, and these people indulged in long range machine gun sniping. Since our purpose was a "peaceful" one in this sector, we could see no value in inviting the enemy to indulge in artillery and M.G. target practice on us, so we lay "doggo" during the day. Everything had to be done at night, and runners to the companies found this their busiest time, wading thigh-deep through stretches of water, and picking their way amongst innumerable shell holes in search of Company Headquarters. This front also lent itself to heavy trench-mortar work by the Hun, and "minnies" were constantly stealing over with evil intent to batter down our flimsy breastworks. Battalion H.Q. and the signallers will probably not easily forget the morning when they found themselves the objective in this kind of work. One shot dropped plumb on the H.Q. concrete shelter, half removing the roof and scattering the contents of the orderly room in a disrespectful manner, whilst the next one pushed in the signaller's dug-out, wounding L.-Cpl. Wild. It was the sang-froid of a/R.S.M. Clough on this occasion, coupled with his sound work generally in the line, which earned for him the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
Although the casualties were nothing like so numerous, still our men agreed that for general conditions they preferred the Ypres sector to this, and it certainly was a most depressing spot. One of the great troubles was the number of canals, which, owing to the destruction of the dams and locks, etc., were now affected by the tides, causing them to overflow and flood our defensive works. This was another source of glee to the Hun, and he played a most amusing game--to himself--of allowing us to build up a dam and then promptly knocking it down with 5.9's and 8"s. One night, a new officer to the 7th, 2nd-Lt. J. H. Milne, was in charge of a working party on one of these jobs when they were suddenly subjected to heavy shelling. The dam was smashed and Milne found his party broken up on each side of the canal. Realising that one or two of the men on the opposite side of the canal to himself had been hit, he, along with Sgt. Heath and Pte. Titchener, scrambled across, although the shelling had not ceased, and looked after them, getting them to places of safety. Milne received recognition for this, while Sgt. Heath and Pte. Titchener were awarded Military Medals.
On the night of November 1st a most unfortunate incident occurred. We were out in support again and were to relieve the 5th the following night in the front line, the usual advance parties having been sent up. Lt. Sievewright had gone up for "B" company, and whilst there some scheme had been suddenly formed to go out a short distance to examine new wire that had been put up. The party had ventured out beyond the wire, however, and were suddenly assailed with a hurricane of bombs from what appeared to be an enemy patrol or covering party. Sievewright and two officers of the 5th were killed and two other ranks wounded. It was an exceedingly unfortunate event for it was quite an impromptu venture and it would appear that the usual patrol precautions had not been considered so seriously as they would ordinarily have been. This was a strange front, however, and extraordinary things happened, our brigade not being the only one to suffer from mishaps, for on another night the commanding officer of the 8th L.F's., whilst visiting his outposts wandered into a Boche post and was never seen again, while the late Lt.-Col. Marshall, V.C. (previously mentioned) did the same thing, but after a short scrap with a Hun he managed to get away.
We had the 2nd Matrosen (Naval) division in front of us, and they were really an enterprising lot. Undoubtedly our pressure upon Paschendaele was making the German nervy on this sector, and he was under an obligation to keep alive and display a vigorous activity. Further, his morale was considerably heightened by the Teutonic success in Italy which his wireless sets were busy blazoning forth to all the world. This will account, therefore, for the sudden arrival of an enemy patrol outside one of our isolated posts one night. They flung in bombs over the scanty wire, inflicting casualties, and then rapidly departed. This was a sting which had to be avenged, and while the 5th were in they took first toll by meeting a Hun patrol in No Man's Land, and after fighting it out returned triumphant with two prisoners, who proved to be Bavarians, thus giving a valuable identification. When we took over, our chance came very soon for a patrol was met on the same game as before. The result was discomfiture of the enemy and the capture of a wounded petty officer of the Matrosens. From these two events we could approximately deduce the enemy divisional boundary. The next night, determined to assert our superiority over the Boche, another of our patrols from "A" company, journeyed forth, got through his wire, located a post, and then filled it with bombs.
After seventeen days of amphibious soldiering in front of Nieuport we were relieved by the 125th brigade, and went back for a welcome rest to huts near Coxyde. Rumours drifted around about accompanying the 41st division to Italy, but they did not materialise. Bitterly cold weather suddenly arrived, however, which made us aware of the flimsiness of the French huts in which we dwelt.