THE YPRES TIMES 13 as we were late returning. We had, however, not merely survived the gas, but had completed the whole of the work allotted to the others, as well as ourselves, which fact accounted for the lateness of our return. Another night we set out for the line near Hill 60. One of our batteries was merrily engaging the enemy from a position in the open near the end of the Panama Canala wide trench running into the railway cutting about a hundred yards below the saps, in the direction of \pres. As we approached, the Germans replied, thus delaying us a few minutes, and no sooner had we reached the cover of Panama Canal than we were almost blown into the railway cutting. We found that both the battery and the adjoining dump had been blown up. A very unpleasant task which fell to our lot was trying to drain Immediate Avenue shortly after it passed into our hands. Armed with ladles, the men worked night after night, standing in three feet of mud and water, with the Bosch always nasty. The man who named that trench avenue was a humorist it should have been called a drain, for after nights of work it was still full of water, and the men concluded that it was either an uncharted stream or it drained the whole of the Ypres Salient. Every night we suffered casualties, and it was no pleasant task walking about on top with Jerry sending along frequent reminders of his close proximity and alertness. One Sunday night we arrived on the job to find more water than ever in the trench. It was another of those ominously quiet nights. Hardly a shot had been fired up to 3 a.m. and, for nearly seven hours, work had proceeded without interference. It was certainly uncanny, especially on a Sunday night, and we had, what is described in army parlance, as the breeze vertical." Then the spell was suddenly broken, and after a brief hesitation the realization came to me that, although somewhat unbecoming in even a temporary gentleman, it would be more sensible to sit in the trench than stand on ceremony, and so the next quarter of an hour was spent by me sitting with my men in the bottom of the trench, with the water up to our chins. We did not all return that night. In this way we spent many unpleasant nights in the vicinity of such well- known places as Mount Sorrel, Stirling Castle, Shrewsbury Forest, Sanctuary, Chateau and Glencorse Woods, Inverness Copse and other unhealthy spots. We were once sent to clear the road through Chateau Wood, which was blocked from end to end with the wreckage of a transport column caught by the enemy guns. The job was easier than it sounds, because everything was so smashed up that we merely had to push the debris off the road, and the Flanders mud quickly removed all traces of its existence. When we reached Hooge, after completing this task, a number of German aeroplanes were bombing the Menin Road, and doing it very thoroughly. My worst ordeal behind the line was experienced when engaged on the construction of a road near Canadian Dugouts, a continuation of Buff's Road. We started the job early one morning and, after some three hours' work, received orders to clear out at once, as the front line, which should have been advanced overnight, remained stationary, and was within a few hundred yards. Fortunately, for us, the morning was very misty. Next morning all was well and, after several days' hard work, such progress had been made that, apart from the side drains, the job was complete, our casualties throughout having been exceptionally light. The following morning we set out to complete the job and, on our arrival, found half the road ruinedpit props, which had been carefully laid were tilted skywards at all angles, and a most apologetic Major of Tanks explained that he had brought up fifty of his children during the night, and, as the road was not shown on his maps, he was quite unaware of its existence. Well, the tanks were in evidence, parked just to the right of our ruined road, and we knew that his second statement was equally true, so there was nothing to be done but get busy and repair the damage as quickly as possible. About two hours later a couple of German aeroplanes appeared flying low and, almost immediately, under their directions, ranging with


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1930 | | pagina 15