suppose he did much laughing once he was alone
with his homeward rattling limbers.
Zero hour was forty-five minutes after midnight.
Two companies were to attack on a 6oo-yard front
and the Royal Irish were to do the same on our right.
Barton's company was to be in reserve; owing to the
absence of the carrying-party it could only muster
about thirty men.
At nine o'clock we started up the sunken road to
Mametz. As a result of the rain, yesterday's dry going
had been trodden to a quagmire. Progress was slow
owing to the congestion of troops in front. We had
only a couple of thousand yards to go, but at one time
it seemed unlikely that the assaulting companies
would be in position by zero hour. It was pitch dark
as we struggled through the mud, and we got there
with fifteen minutes to spare, having taken three and
a half hours to go a mile and a quarter.
Barton arranged his men along a shallow support
trench on the edge of Bottom Wood, which was a
copse just to the left of the ground we'd visited the
night before. Almost at once the short preliminary
bombardment began and the darkness became dia-
bolic with the din and flash of the old old story. Not
for the first time—I wondered whether shells ever
collided in the air. Silence and suspense came after.
Barton and I talked in undertones; he thought I'd
better borrow his electric torch and find out the
nearest way to Battalion Headquarters.
Everyone was anonymous in the dark, but "It's
me, Kendle, sir," from a looming figure beside me
implied an intention to share my explorations. We
groped our way into the wood, and very soon I
muttered that unless we were careful we'd get lost,
which was true enough, for my sense of direction had