History page

Visit of Delville Wood




        Then we moved.

        Marching to Lillers we then took train to a station outside Amiens, proceeded that city on foot, one man leaving the ranks to kiss a passing girl, who accepted the salute without disfavour, though uttering a shriek at the unexpectedness of it, an so on to Breilly-sur-Somme, about five miles beyond. There we remained only a few days, moving by train to Heilly, whence we marched to Etinehem, near Bray-sur-Somme.

         The direct road to our new camp was under shell fire as we drew near - we were once more in the fire zone - so we were obliged to go by a roundabout way. The extra mileage thus involved was added to by our guide taking the wrong road, and we reached our destination at 1 a.m., several hours after scheduled time.

         We found limited tent accommodation awaiting us, but the weather was fine, so some slept in the open.

         At that time, about the middle of June, preparations for the Somme offensive were nearing completion, and parties from our Brigade were sent to assist in the work behind the lines. Our sphere of pick and shovel operations was in the section between Suzanne and Carnoy, and that meant a walk of at least six miles to work, many hours of employment, and the walk back towards evening. Every day was the same, and sometimes at night other parties were sent.

         When the opportunity offered we bathed in the Somme, which flowed, conveniently near by, past the camp, and from time to time gala washing days were held on its banks when men enjoyed a short respite from work at the front. Afterwards when we moved to Celestine Wood, three miles farther back, we were still conveniently near the river, but our daily duties behind the lines involved an extra march of six miles.

         Those days were strenuous, but they gave us an opportunity of witnessing some of the preparations for the offensive. We were at the junction of the French and British lines, and the mass of artillery and ammunition concentrated at the various points was an eye opener to us. On the way to our work we passed countless batteries nestling securely in their specially constructed positions, while in deep valleys nearrer the lines, and on the roads and heights overlooking them, guns of every calibre stood almost wheel to wheel.

         The bark of the 18 pounder, the aristocratic growl of the French 75, the belch of the 4.7, and the deep-throated roars of the 9.2 and the 15-inch were some of the sounds emenating from those regions. For the most part of the guns stood there silent, giving to the enemy no indication of their numbers, but seeming to say "Here are we, and our children, and our children's children, ready for our part in the coming struggle".

         And for the two days immediately preceding the advance they played their part. The roar from the mass of guns concentrated not only in the region I have mentioned, but all along the battle line, could be heard for miles ; was heard by us in our far away camp in Celestine Wood.

         We did not remain there long after the offensive commenced. Our division being in reserve during the early days of the battle, we were moved to a position nearrer, but still behind the lines.

         The road from Celestine Wood, which was situated on a height, dipped into a deep, narrow valley and then ascended a sleep hill on the other side. Our platoon came in for the duties of regimental rearguard on that occasion, and starting at sundown, it was no until 4 a.m. that the last wagon reached the top of the opposite slope. The task of getting them there was too much for the animals alone, but by dint of human assistance at the wheels, each vehicle in turn was taken up, and then the men, tired out, stretched themselves on the ground and fell asleep waiting for the order to move on, with our late camp appearing little more than a stone's throw away.

         In time for the late breakfast, we reached the valley where our, and the other Brigades of the Division had bivouacked, and settled down to a day and night at ease.

         Caps had been discarded, steel helmets only being worn, and valises with all articles not considered necessary sent back to the base. The havresack containing rations and necessary small kit was carried on the back, waterproof sheet and great coat rolled and strapped below, and extra ammunition and bombs served out.

         The advance had commenced, and great interest was evinced in reports of the fighting which came in from time to time. Positions were explained to us with the aid of maps, and the objective, when our own turn to come, was carefully pointed out.

         During the next day numbers of German prisoners were brought back and lodged within a wire enclosure erected for the purpose, but we were ordered not to go near them.

         The next day we moved to one of those valleys where we had so often worked, and had reached the top of the last rise leading down to it, when our artillery on the slopes and rise in front opened a bombardment on the enemy for the purpose, we afterwards heard, of checking a threatened counter attack. We halted where we were, within a hundred yards in rear of the guns, and watched the scene in front. It was night, about a hundred guns took part in the bombardment, and the effect was one of remarkable beauty. The sustained roar of the guns firing sometimes independently, sometimes in unison, made conversation impossible. Comments to a neighbour standing a yard away had to be shouted to be heard, but comments were few, all intention being rivetted on what was happening. Never an instant of silence, never even a subdued moment, only the continuous tumult and a multitude of darting lightning flashes at the muzzle of each gun. It was really remarkable to watch. The rapid succession of dancing, leaping illuminations playing up and down the line of guns on the slope, and round about those on the rise beyond, gave to the scene an appearance of fairy land en fête while in the air the shells, clearly visible, appeared like myriads of balls of fire soaring, chasing one another, and finally disappearing in the distance.

         For more than half an hour it lasted, and then the guns gradually ceased their fire until the final boom and the last flash of light, and it was over.

         We wended our way through a communication trench to the valley below very much impressed with what we had just seen.

         The next day and the two following we assisted in the preparation of an artillery road towards some positions in advance of our old front line near Carnoy. The infantry advance in that sector had pushed the enemy back beyond Montauban and Bernafay and Trônes Wood to the trenches before Longueval. No man's land that was, presented a scene not easily forgotten. A veritable shambles, it was littered with British and German dead which men of the Medical Corps were at that time collecting preparatory to burial. Morbid curiosity drew many of us to examine the nature of the wounds received by those still, silent forms. On the brink of a shell hole lay a khaki-clad figure, rifle still in hand, and in the dry bed of a shallow ditch leading from the enemy front line to ours lay a number a Germans in single file. It looked almost as if death had overtaken then in the act of creeping up to attack our line under the cover the ditch afforded. Those were the first we came across, but more to the front and to the left and right, friend and foe lay in groups. I remember looking at one young Britisher who sat in a shell hole, his head against the slope behind, and wondering what had been his thoughts as he went into the action, and whom he had left behind to mourn his loss.

         Some distance to the rear of our old front line and below the road leadind from Maricourt to Carnoy, was a miliary cemetery, and it was no doubt there that all those dead were buried.

         A continual stream of men passed to and for, wounded men on stretchers, others walking, and men carrying water and rations to those in front. Many stopped and gave us graphic accountsof what was happening out there.

         Up to then we had played a somewhat inactive part in the proceedings, but during the next days the Division's turn came, and we were moved forward again. Passing through Maricourt and carrying, in addition to our usual kit, supplied of picks, shovels, barbed wire and rifle grenades, we continued on through an interminable communication trench, or so it seemed to us, as it was very narrow and our burdens impedingour progress, we were a long time on the way, and at 1 a.m. reached our destination, relieving an Imperial unit.

         Our regiment was one of those in support - our own turn to go in advance had not yet arrived - and the British front line was then near Bernafay and Trônes Woods to our immediate and right fronts respectively. We occupied what had once been German trenches, despite their communiques that all attacks had been repulsed, but we were forbidden to make use of any of the dug-outs that had escaped utter destruction under the bombardment.

         The German dug-outs were always very deep, with steps leading down ; in some cases they were large, with two exits, and contained home comforts, such as bed springs, etc.

         We had been warned not to handle everything we came across, as the enemy was very ingenious in laying traps for unwary. A stray German hand grenade might be attached to a hidden collection of others in such a way that mere handling brought about explosion and its attendant results ; sticks driven into the ground in conspicuous positions were to be regarded with suspicion, while even innocent looking pictures on the walls of dug-outs were not to be touched for fear they concealed traps. Those warnings were based on past experience, and experts, such as engineers, were supposed first to investigate the positions for dangerous signs.

         We did not came across any danger signals, hewever. Not a single dug-out was intact, and the trenches had been battered to such an extent that they offered little protection. The portion we occupied had suffered to a little less extent, and by dint of much labour and many sandbags we repaired some of the damage for our own benefit.

         We slept on the fire steps without discomfort, except when it rained, as it frequently did, and then not even the extra German blankets and waterproof sheets we had collected kept us entirely dry in our exposed positions. On fine days we spenthours in removing caked mud from our clothing, but the comfort of having fairly clean exteriors was short lived, as the rain soon undid all our labours.

         Great interest was centred in the attempts of our artillery to hit a high smokestack just beyond Trônes Wood, as it afforded an excellent observation post for the enemy. Eventually it was brought down, much to our jubilation (Probably Waterlot Farm).

         The Germans naturally had the range of our trenches to a nicety, and they subjected us to some severe bombardment. In fact it was the hottest time we had had up to then, but our casualties were surprisingly few. We suffered more when parties were sent into Bernafay and Trônes Woods, as those places continually received showers of German "coal boxes" (large shells deriving their nickname from the huge clouds of black smoke following explosion). it was at the latter that Colonel Jones of the 4th was killed, and there also that the Rev. Cook, Wesleyan minister to the 3rd, lost his life while assisting wounded.

         We next transferred to a position to the left, and there about a dozen reprensentatives from each regiment were selected and despatched to take part in a review at Paris, while on the 13th July the rest of us moved once more, that time to a position more in the rear, for a night's rest preparatory to our jump off on the morrow.

         That night one of the Scottish regiments of the Division moved off from the spot we had arrived at, to take up positions for their attack on the trenches before Longueval and on the village the following day, after which we were due to go forward and attack in advance.

         It was not, however, until late the next afternoon that we made a move. Earlier in the day British and Indian cavalry had passed us, so it was with a feeling a great things to come that we passed through Montauban, halted on one side of it, and then filed into trenches on the other sode overlooking a valley, with Longueval away on our right.

        I should say we passed over, rather than through Montauban, as that one-time village had been razed to the ground and its remains were barely visible at a distance.

         The cavalry were seen to gallop up and halt for the night on the opposite slopes of the valley, and an aeroplane flying low, its pilot waved to us as he passed overhead.

         We passed the night in those trenches as best we could. Great coats had been left behind when we moved off that afternoon, but we did not find it cold. During the night the Germans sent over tear shells and, our eyes streaming and sore, we were obliged to wear the goggles issued for the purpose as, very early on the morning of the 15th, we left the trenches and marched in the direction of Longueval.

         Arrived at the outskirts, we halted for a short time in some trenches occupied by scottish troops, and at about 7 a.m. passed through the ruins of the village. Traces of recent fighting were seen at every step ; dead bodies, some very much mutilated by shell fire, lay about. Kilted men of the 9th Division they were, and amongst them probably some of those we had seen off to the attack two nights before. Longueval had been taken by the British, but not entirely, as was evidenced by sharp exchenges of rifle fire in parts.

         Between ruined buildings, over debris strewn road and lanes, we moved, until we came to that part of the village where the last of its houses mingled with the first trees of Delville Wood.




         It is with a feeling of being unequal to the task that I now apply myself to a description of the succeeding events. To convey with graphic reality even a sense of what ensued, requires a practised hand, and no words of mine can adquately picture the drama which the four following days saw enacted.

         Delville Wood covered a large area ; its treets, closely set, towered to a great height, where the leafy branches intermingled and formed a screen so thick that, in parts, the view of sky was almost obscured. Here ans there was a clearing, here and there a narrow road, here and there a foothpath ; but for the most part nothing but trees and thick undergrowth. Seen in any other circumstances its grandeur would have excited comment, but not so on the occasion I write of. True, that quality impressed itself subconsciously on our minds, but it led to no voiced appreciation at the time.

         I order to explain my inability to record other than the events in the vicinity of the Company I belonged to, it should be stated that the irregular contour of the wood, and the abundant foliage, rendered the observation of movements in other parts of the line eventually taken up, a matter of great difficulty. Our regiment's position extended over a long curved line, and except to men on the flanks and to those whose duties took them from place to place, the activities even of adjoining companies were veiled from us. Word reached us from time to time as to the general state of affairs all round, and although the conditions under which we were placed may have applied equally to others, yet the diversity of incidents at the various piints was so great, that a complete acount is impossible without collaboration.

         What I am about to describe therefore, must not be understood to cover the entire area of action, but only a limited sphere.

         Lieutenant-Colonel Thackeray was in command of the Battalion, Major Jackson, on C Company, acted second in command, Captain Vivian commanded A Company (Major Hemming was still suffering from the wound received in Egypt), Captain Medlicott B Company, Captain McLachlan C Company and Captain Tominson D Company.

         A short distance inside the wood was a section of trench then occupied by a few men of the Cameron Highlanders, and there our headquarters established themselves. Some time before, a certain number of men had been told off as water carriers, and it was their duty to take supplies as far as headquarters, where parties from the firing line called for same at a certain hour every day. In the same way rations were to be brought up and called for.

         A first-aid station had been set up in a house on the near edge of the village, and a secure, sandbagged dressing station farther back at Bernafay Wood.

         The enemy was believed not to have entirely vacated the wood, and our orders were to clear a certain section and then to hold it until further orders.

         Bearing off to the right, we formed into what were known as fighting sections, and in that formation, the extreme right-hand section almost on the edge of the wood, the others, abreast at intervals, extending towards the interior, each section in touch with its neighbour, others in support, all in single file, we continued to advance.

         It was impossible ti see clearly any distance ahead, the enemy might easily have been concealed close by, so it was slowly and deliberately, peering behind possible cover, screening our movements to the utmost, rifles with bayonets fixed ready for emergencies, that we made our way forward. Trees devoid of lower branches, but runged for scaling purposes with transfixed horse-shoes, were encountered and recognised as snipers'posts. They were unoccupied, but we realised that danger might also lurk in tree tops.

         We had proceeded in that way for some distance without encountering the enemy, when from outside the wood a rocket was sent up. It was distinctly heard and recognised, though not visible to all. One man took it for a rifle grenade, but he was promptly snubbed. It was a signal to the enemy artillery, for immediately shells began to fall in our vicinity. To the accompaniment of those opening bars of the bombardment which was destined to last, with varying intensity, until 4 p.m. on the 18th, we continued on our way. The ennemy's shell fire rendered improbable the existence of his infantry in that quarter, but our forward movements were nevertheless carried out with caution.

         Then it was that the presence of the enemy was reported, and A Company swinging round to the right took up positions on the fringe of the wood, inside the last row of trees, while B and D Companies ranged themselves similarly on its left and C Company on its right, thus covering the section originally allotted to the Battalion.

         Some cover was afforded by the tree trunks, but not sufficient for a large body of men. Through the spaces between and under the overhanging branches we had a clear view before us. About fifty yards in front was a trench leading to others behind, to our right front stood what looked like a decayed reed fence through the gaps of which we could see the gradual slope of a low rise with another trench, visibly peopled, running along its crest. In the near front of the right flank of our Company was a large haystack.

         Lewis guns were allotted positions along our line, one covering the mouth of what appeared to have been a German trench communicating with the wood.

         We opened rifle fire immediately on the then visible enemy, and our overtures drew a rapid response, as our movements also were visible to him. There were no trenches where we were, and the enemy's rifle and shell fire rendered our positions somewhat unsafe despite the fact that we had prostrated ourselves on arrival. We therefore commenced to dig ourselves in without relaxing our other efforts too much. We had only entrenching tools, and hacking away at the earth with them while lying on our stomachs was a slow process.

         Instead of constructing a continuous trench, each man dug a hole for himself sufficiently deep to afford him, when sitting, some protection from flying shrapnel and sufficiently long to enable him to stretch himself at full lenght. Those holes when eventually completed after many hours of labour, resembled shallow open graves with the loose earth thrown up and compressed in front and rear for additional protection.

         We could not help exposing ourselves from time to time ; the physical strain of digging and scraping in a prostate position was so great that moments of relaxation had to be taken, also later when, as the holes increased in depth, we worked in crouched positions. Meanwhile we had to devote a certain amount of attention to our front as the enemy showed signes of being very much alive.

         The rain of shells and bulets was bound to bear fruit, and the first casualty in my neighbourhood came early.

         A young fellow three or four yards away uttered a queer little cry and lay still on his face.

         "Stretcher bearer," someone called, "here's a case for you".

         A stretcher bearrer came up and bent over the man.

         "I can't do anything for him, he's dead", he said, and removed the body to the rear.

         More casualties occured.

         Then a curious thing happened.

         The word went around to cease fire. It appeared there was some doubt as to whether the men in front were Germans or Frenchmen. A sergeant-major ran along in front of our line shouting out the order. With mixed feelings we obeyed. From the near trench in front arose a German officer - he was unmistakably a German and clearly an officer - and beckoned us over. Some thought he wanter to surrender, so they rose and went forward suspiciously. One, his excitement getting the better of his discretion, rushed right up to the German, who snatched the rifle from his hand and pushed him into the trench, a prisoner. Seeing this, the others started back to their lines, one, an officer, having quite an altercation with the German, who approached and invited him to enter the trench. Neither displayed arms. From somewhere in the opposite trench a shot rang out and one of the returning men fell with a bullet in his leg and had to be assisted back, while immediately after a rifle spoke from our line and the German officer crumpled up like a concertina. His body lay where it fell in full view for the next four days. The man responsible for the shot said he had kept his rifle trained on him from the moment he appeared.

         It appeared afterwards that the Germans had misconstrued the shouts and subsequent cessation of our fire as a desire of surrender. A voice was heard bawling to us from the opposite trench, and one of our men who has lived in South-West Africa and could speak German, was told to ask what was wanted.

         "They want us to surrender," he said, after some shouted remarks had been exchanged.

         "Tell them to go to hell, and call for their surrender".

         The incident closed, but no further doubts existed as to their nationality.

         That day we had many casualties. Captain Vivian was wounded and taken back, the officer had declined the German's invitation later received a bullet in the upper part of his leg, and numerous other officers and men were killed and wounded. One man who had joined us at Celestine Wood with a draft was cut clean un half by a shell, and one disappeared and was not heard of again. Whether he was buried or blown to pieces was never found out. He just disappeared.

         A report came from C Company. "Captain McLachlan has been killed and Captain Elliot is now in command of C Company".

         As the bombardment increased the ground behind and before us became littered with shell holes. Bushes and small trees were torn up, large trees uprooted. Many a grand monarch of the wood, lifted from its roots and projected forward, was seen to crash through the branches of other trees and settle down full length to earth. Others borne up by neighbourly branches rested in that position like so many tired giants.

         Rations and water were brought up and distributed, and the day gradually drew to a close.

         At night there was little rest. men off duty stretched themselves in tjeir open shelters for a little sleep, but repeated burts of rifle fire brought them up alert and watchful for an attack.

         Then it rained, and the shelter holes receiving and retaining the water and consequent mud, rendered sleep in the orthodox position out of the question. Steel helmets of dead men were collected and placed upturned in the mud, and seated on them, backs resting against shelter walls, knees drawn up, waterproof sheets over heads and bodies for protection from the rain, men tried to snatch a few moments sleep. In those circumstances however, it was impossible to sink into a restful unconsciousness of what was going on around us. Much as we were accustomed to the tumult of guns and shells, bried intervals of dozing brought no rest. To say we slept would be mere travesty.

         And all the time, night and day, the stretcher bearers, unfortunately few in number, worked like heroes though ready to drop from fatigue. Continually exposed, ever on the move, dressing wounds, bearing the serious cases back over ways encumbered with fallen trees and shell holes, they were at the beck and call of all who required their assistance. I saw only two with our Company and there was sufficient work for a couple of dozen.

         It was "stretcher bearer", "stretcher bearer", "stretcher bearer", from a multitude of directions where wounded lay.

         "Coming, coming", they shouted, running from one to another.

         Throughout almost the whole of one night, there came the cry from a wounded man somewhere behind in the darkness, "stretcher bearer", stretcher bearer". An interval of silence, then again "stretcher bearer, "stretcher bearer", in a voice of great pain, heard between the crashes of bursting shells.

         "I heard him" said one of the bearers when his attention was directed to the call, "I have been looking for him, but God knows where he is, I can't find him".

         He was eventually discovered and taken back.

         The two ould not cope with all the cases, and assistance had occasionally to be rendered by the men.

          "Private XXX is badly wounded" said a N.C.O. to an officer on one occasion, "and will bleed to death unless attended to at once. May we take him back as the stretcher bearers are busy".

         The necessary permission was accorded and the man removed.

         Those were but a few of the incidents that crowded our days and nights.

         We were not short of food but did not have anything warm. Not a drop of tea or coffee, not and ounce of hot food, only cold rations and water, the latter in carefully distributed quantities. Occasionally a issue of rum, but passing through the hands of some unscrupulous persons, it had been freely diluted with water by the time it reached us, and had consequently lost all warming qualities. A cup of tea or coffee would have put new life into one, but it was not forthcoming.

         It is no idle boast to say that, in spite of the hardships, the men never lost heart, never felt but they were experiencing only what others had experienced before them, and that it was "up to them" to have their share. Where hardships were necessary in order to "carry on" they were accepted unquestioningly.

        Our ranks were being lamentably thinned out hour after hour. At intervals along the line gaping cavities marked the spots where shells had pitched clean on to shelters and blown their occupants to eternity. Men were put out of action singly and in bunches. One Lewis gun team was wiped out to a man. All around, in and out of shell holes, in and out of their one-time shelters, lay the dead bodies of men. As soon as possible they received burial, sixteen one day being buried in a single grave.

         Shells pitching clear of men's positions scattered "whirring" jagged pieces of iron broadcast to maim and to kill. Others finding no human billets vented their spleen on nature. Clearings in the wood appeared where none had previously existed ; bare decapitated trunks stook where once had been clusters of lofty trees.

         "This is hell", we said, "things can't go on like this. Why don't they send us on to take the trenches in front ?".

         Our orders, however, were to hold on. The taking of the trenches in front would have created too great a salient.

         A shell burst in front of the position I occupied. Shrapnel damaged my rifle lying on the parapet before me, and smashed the bayonet. I picked up another lying near, its owner having been killed. The man next to me uttered a solft cry.

         "Are you hit ?", I asked.

         There was a small scratch above one of his eyes and he held his right hand over his heart.

         "I think so", he replied, and undoing his shirt discovered that a piece of shrapnel had lodged under the skin over his heart. It had passed through a book in the left hand breast pocket of his tunic. Taking up his rifle, and with full equipent on, he made his way calmly to the dressing station.

         Two well known Johannesburg footballers lay with broken legs. One died, the other to-day wears an artificial limb. One man, whose singing had so often delighted us at camp concerts, lay in a shell hole, his face calm, his body bearing no outward signes of mutilation. They said he had been killed by concussion. Another young fellow, a mere boy, had both his legs blown off. At the dressing station he is reported to have told the doctor not to worry about him as he had no chance, but to attend to others. He died.

         During the second day some officers of another Division came to our positions to spy out the land. They said they were going to relieve us the next day. To our left front and behind the German front line stood a village with a prominent church steeple. That village, they said, was to be their objective in a coming attack.

         The rain came down in torrents and the expected relief did not materialise. Our boots, strong as they were, could not withstand the pressure of water and mud ; waterproof sheets protected only our shoulders, and the other parts of our bodies received the rain and became soaked through.

         Shells from our artillery began to fall amongst us. One gun, it appeared, had been misdirected, and hasty and frequent messages had to be sent by runners to the artillery officer concerned before it lifted, but not before it had killed several of our men.

         We cursed that artillery officer, whoever he was, as an incompetent ass.

         During the night of the 17th, some duty took me to headquarters and to the first aid station. At the former place lay one of our two stretcher bearers, badly wounded and unable to be moved at the time. He was very cheerful and quite pleased when he told me he had a "blighty". Poor fellow, he was killed the next day before he could be taken to a place of safety. At the first-aid station was Father Hill, Chaplain of the 3rd, sitting over a fire in the open making coffee for the wounded, quite regardless of his own personal safety. The artillery officers objected to his fire as it was too conspicuous, and told him to extinguish it, but he ignored them. Many a wounded man blessed him for his untiring and unselfish efforts on their behalf.

         And so, when the 15th, 16th and 17th passed away while we waited and wondered what turn of events each day would bring forth, the 18th was ushered into being with a shock so fierce, so unexpected, that nature groaned under the strain.

         For at an early hour on that morning the German gunners, seeming to open the very floodgates of their resources, launched upon us an attack that reached a pitch of violence and intensity the like of which we had never before experienced. The air was filled with the shrieks of shells that rained upon us unceasingly ; the atmosphere seemed to be rent asunder by the endless succession of terrific explosions ; sand and stones hurled up by the force of same showered over us clattering on to our steel helmets ; the earth shook ; trees crashed over ; and men waiting for the storm to abate, helpless under its fury, saw or experienced death dealt out with a lavish hand.

         But the storm did not abate ; was not to abate for many hours. Instead, it increased in vigour. It was unsafe to move, impossible to remove wounded, impossible to bring up rations and water ; so we had to subsist on what we had, take as much cover as possible, and trust to Providence to intervene where it could in that raging inferno.

         The shriek of shells, the hiss of their approach and descent, brief moments of speculation as to whose turn was coming next, and then more, and more, and yet more, crowding into the seconds as the minutes and hours dragged on.

         The scene beggars description. What impressions of the grim reality can cold print convey ? The three previous days, eventful and trying as they had been, were to the 18th as is the calm to the storm that it precedes.

         And yet men lived through it, some even unwounded.

         One man's shelter was completely covered in. With feverish haste he was dug out, nose, ears, mouth and eyes full of sand, and he trembling like a leaf, for he had been unable to move a muscle beneath the weight of earth that covered him and thought, as he said, that his last moments had come.

         That an infantry attack would follow on the cessation of the bombardment was sure, but when that would be we did not know.

         Major Jakson was killed, and our only remaining Company oficer wounded.

        And then, at 4 p.m. every gun ceased fire with a startling abruptness.

         A brief, blessed interval of silence, and then the sentries "here they come" brought every man to his feet to meet the coming attack. The rapid fire that followed caused the rifles to become hot in our hands, but we could not stem the tide of the advancing infantry. Avoiding a frontal attack, they came at our flanks while others advanced on to and occupied Longueval, or a portion of it, thus cutting us off in the rear.

         Some men from C Company ran up.

         "The Germans are in the wood behind ; millions of them", they said.

         And there they were sure enough, absolutely barring our way to the rear had we received orders to retire. We did not however receive such orders, and at that stage it would have been too late to carry them out had they been issued ; so we devoted our attention to the enemy in the wood, keeping an eye on the other direction as well.

         A party of our own men passed through the wood a short distance away, and we could not understand the move until we saw the German soldiers over them. Then another small party passed.

         That was too much.

         Leaving their positions a few charged towards the party and released the captured men, their German guards not waiting to see the matter out. Two of our number were mortally wounded in that little affair, one being the man who had been dug out earlier in the day.

         It was not to last however. There was no chance of relief, and we were hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded. No useful purpose counld have been served, nothing gained, by further opposition. Only a few more German lives, and the extermination of our diminished force. Based on those considerations, towards evening the order to cease fire was issued.

         And that was the end.

         When the day was over we were able to take some stock of the havoc wrought in our ranks, but the fate of many of our comrades was unknown. Of the platoon I belonged to, four unwounded men represented the fifty who had entered the wood, while of A Company's muster of approximately two hundred, less than thirty remaines. the rest had been killed or wounded, some of the latter being captured with us. The other companies suffered as badly as ours.