THE YPRES TIMES 137 In civil life crime is a deep-seated thing; in the Army it is more superficial and is not necessarily a bar to promotion. Many a man whose conduct sheet is not all clean will make a capable officercommissioned or otherwise. Some men there were, of course, who were never out of trouble. The writer has one man in mind who in a period of 365 days had his pay forfeited for over half of these as penalties for various offences. Truth to tell, there was little need to go a-wrong-doing and so add to the hardships of what in so many other respects was such a punishing life. J. M. IN no part of our far-flung Western Front was there less opportunity of constructing good subterranean accommodation for sheltering and protecting the infantry in the line than there was in the Ypres Salient, and especially due east and north-east. Considering the length of time that our line remained stationary, and gave every indication of permanency in this respect, it is amazing how little could be accomplished in the way of providing anything like reasonably dry and puncture- proof habitations in this area, where, above all other places, it was essential to keep our heads well down during the long periods of stagnation on both sides of No Man's Land. The reason, of course, known to everyone condemned to a spell in the forward positions, was the impossible nature of the subsoil, which, except in isolated instances, precluded the idea of going down farther than a few feet unless an elaborate system of pumps and men to man them was available, and there being little, if anything, doing in this respect, as is well remembered, we stayed on top, choosing the lesser of two evils. Perhaps the best known of our dug-out systems in the Ypres Salient was that which existed in the region of the Yser Canal, extending from the dead end at the northern part of the town to within a few yards of Blighty Bridge on the east bank, and on the west bank continuing beyond this point, with but few vacant plots, to within a short distance of a point opposite Boesinghe, where, speaking of the time during which I was in this sectorthe extreme left," as we used to call itour flank rested on the French right. Owing to the gradually diminishing height of the Yser's banks from Ypres to Boesinghe, the conditions under which shelters were constructed along this line were anomalous, inasmuch that the nearer one was to the enemy and his stuff," the lesser was the opportunitywhen in reserve for a few daysof getting down to it in comparative comfort, as the shallow banks of the canal towards Boesinghe gave no margin for adequate overhead protection such as the troops in the burrowings farther along towards the town enjoyed, although I must hasten to add that I recorded this impression at that time in a strictly comparative sense, for nowhere or at any time at or around Ypres could any of us rest with a feeling of any degree of personal safety. Of the hundreds of underground habitations that existed in this quarter very few indeed were of the concrete variety, and of these perhaps the best remembered will be Brigade Headquarters at Bridge 4, Essex Farm. Indeed, it is now the only dug-out left in the whole of the Salient which has not succumbed to the ravages of time and the inevitable industrious peasantry. It exists to-day just as we left it, minus only the R.E. beds and the gas blankets, also three telephone wire insulators which I unscrewed from the roof in the summer of 1926.


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1929 | | pagina 11