12 THE YPRES TIMES It was late in 1916 that my Erst visit to the Salient was made. A kindly, or rather cautious, War Office had decreed that, before being trusted there, an apprenticeship should be served in Gallipoli and on the Somme. My first impression was that the horrors of the Ypres sector had been somewhat exaggerated, and after a three weeks' sojourn there, my opinion remained unaltered. Actually it was Ypres at its best, the offensive on the Somme had temporarily relieved the pressure in the Salient, and it was then a fairly tolerable spot. It is, however, not my intention to mislead anyone into thinking that it was difficult to realize there was a war onYpres never let you doubt thatbut after the Somme it was not too bad then. One Saturday in March of the following year, we again became acquainted, my battalion being quartered in the infantry barracks with the Company Mess in the cellar of a house opposite, and a howitzer battery just behind. There was work to be done that night, but, being a new arrival, a night's respite was afforded me, and so to bed. Shortly after midnight there was a terrific roar followed by rumbling like an earthquake, as the brickwork and masonry of the building entombed me. It took the boys some time to remove the debris and release me, but Ypres had given me a typical welcome. Looking back on this episode, it appears that we might have petitioned the gunner officer to move his children from the vicinity of our Mess, but we were so tolerant in those days that, rather than trouble others, we transferred our Mess into the barracks. A few nights after this we were detailed to dig a trench across abcmt 200 yards of No Man's Land," where the line had ceased to exist. We were covered by a machine gun party, but the job was a most unpleasant one, chiefly through the constant digging up of Germans, the enormous amount of barbed-wire encountered, and the intermittent Very lights which continually fell spluttering amongst the party. On the second night we found, on arrival, that the enemy had registered the job during the day, the tape being cut in several places. The night was exceptionally quiet, one of those nights that portend trouble before the dawn. The work had proceeded for several hours without interruption, when, without any warning, a salvo of whizz-bangs suddenly crashed along the trench, and seventeen men were off the strength in as many seconds. On the Sunday after Messines, two of us were detailed to carry out a reconnaissance beyond Ravine Wood. We left Ypres in the early evening, the other officer leading, followed by his orderly, then myself and orderly, all about fifty yards apart. Guns were firing from positions in the open, between the railway and Verbranden Road, just beyond Shrapnel Corner, and as we passed in front of them the enemy were replying, but their range was short. As the spot was rapidly becoming" unhealthy, we hurried on to the communication trench and proceeded in the same order, but before a hundred yards had been covered, a shell fell between my companion and his orderly, killing them both outright and denting my tin hat. It was bashed again while we were removing them to a convenient M.G. emplacement, and for the next half hour we had to sit tight while the Bosch put down a heavy concentrated barrage on the sector. On the return journey there were further displays of fireworks, largely through Jackson's Dump being on fire, the intermittent showers of metal causing us some unpleasantness. One route we often traversed lay through the Lille Gate, across the Bund to the Zillebeke Promenade, where we generally halted and closed up. Just beyond, where we had to climb out of the trench and cross the road, was a favourite target for the German gunners, and we frequently suffered casualties there. My company was leading out from Ypres one night and, while crossing the Bund, we were greeted with gas shells, necessitating the donning of gas masks. The company immediately behind suffered badly, and we were the only party to reach the allotted task that night. On returning next morning a warm welcome awaited us, as it was thought that we also must have become casualties, particularly


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1930 | | pagina 14