14 THE YPRES TIMES shrapnel commenced. There was scarcely time to signal the men to take what scanty cover there was available when their heavies opened out, and for the next two and a quarter hours we endured the most frightful barrage imaginable. The airmen up aloft were having a very jolly time firing their machine guns at men temporarily driven mad and running from one shell hole to another. When the firing ceased, seventy men were casualties, and the road no longer existed. The irony of it all was, that after helplessly enduring this bombardment for two and a quarter hours, as soon as it ceased a squadron of our fighters passed overhead in perfect formation. In camp, at Dickebusch, we were twice flooded out at the end of June, and also bombed on two occasions. The first raid resulted in eleven casualties and, in the second, a bomb was dropped in the officers' lines which brought down every tent and killed three and wounded four, my Company Commander being one of the former. Only a few nights beforeit may interest the superstitious to know that it was on a Friday and the thirteenth of the month we were coming down from the line together, and two dud shells landed within a yard of us, one almost at his feet. The loss of so many officers, when virtually resting, was a calamity, but by no means an uncommon experience in the Salient. Most nights held their terrors at Ypres, and to work for hours in the eerie shell-lit atmosphere of the Salient, probably at a spot where, on the previous night, you had suffered severely, was a nerve wracking experience for anyone. After a few months in the sector there were few spots that did not recall some unpleasant memory, and to stand for the first time in the front line and see the Very lights soaring and falling, and the reflection of gunfire all round you, was an experience never to be forgotten. It was all nasty, dangerous and unpleasant work, but it had to be done, and if it was impossible to always keep cheerful, those in authority saw that you were kept busy. In an area where the casualties were one thousand a day, and with one friend after another falling, it was as well for us to be kept busythere was less time to ponder over the tragedy of it all. One thing we learnt from these working parties was that those whose duty kept them just behind the line had their trials just as much as those whose duty it was to hold it. Well, it is all fast becoming history now, and we can look back with some degree of satisfaction and wonderment that we survived it all. It was a dirty job and a risky one but, after all, it was a man's job, and somehow the Ypres men were a wonderfully bright and cheery lot of fellows who were never found wanting whatever the task. Sohere's to them all! living and dead! and here's to old Ypres! It's a safer and healthier spot now than when we knew it. Shall we ever get the smell of the Salient out of our nostrils? It is no longer our Ypres, all signs of our labour and handiwork have long since been obliterated from the landscapekindly nature and the industrious Flemish peasants have removed them, and we are glad that it is so. Nothing remains in the sacred area now to mark its glorious defence, save the memorials and those beautiful enclosures of land that are for ever England, where lie our sleeping comrades. They, too, would be glad to know that old Ypres has risen again from her ashes, purified and ennobled by their service and sacrifice. More than ten years have passed, and as we look back in this article to the crowded years of war, so in conclusion it is fit that we should consider if, during the past ten years, we have proved worthy to carry on where our comrades finished. The Great War was to end all wars, and although we are inclined to be suspicious of some peace propaganda, particularly when of alien origin, we ought to lose no opportunity of supporting such, provided the safety of our Empire is not affected.


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1930 | | pagina 16