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Full text of "The battles of the Somme"

H 
TT 
T 


PHILI I S 




, 
L ùJ. 1-' . 
-VL . . 





THE SOUL OF THE WAR 


By PHILIP GIBBS 


PRESS OPINIONS 


.. A living piece of literature, dignified, unhysterical and strong . . . likely to 
survive as an historical document among the most suggestive and significant of its 
time." -Daily Telegraph. 
.. Mr. Gibbs has the mind of the descriptive writer, but what he has seen has got 
hold of his soul, so that he writes with pas:5ion, and with a depth of feeling that shakes 
off the conventions of journalism. . . . One of the books that will outlast the war." 
-Daily Graphic. 
.. One of the half-dozen war books that have any real value."-Daily Express. 
.. Has brought before us with an amazing clarity a panorama of invasion and 
retreat; he has painted for us the Soul of .Paris, brave, sensitive, and wayward; and 
he has shown us how the horrors of war have struck one who holds that war is the very 
worst of human crimes."-Daüy Mail. 
.. A splendid and fascinating book of realistic adventure."-Standard. 
.. A moving and sincere book of brilliant impressionism . . . the book is valuable; 
it is so plainly true."-Times. 
.. By far the most vivid and realistic book on war so far published . . . a living 
book-and a book that will continue to live. . . a real live full-blooded book, with 
a human story on every page."-Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 
.. THE SOUL OF THE WAR combines all the vividness of journalism written on the 
spot with much of the considered judgment of a man who can collate his first impres- 
sions. Mr. Gibbs, too, has written with the deep desire, . the sacred duty of preventing 
another war like this: He has determined . to etch its images of cruelty into the 
brains of Ius readers: And he succeeds."-l"ield. 
.. Not a book for the faint-hearted or the empty-headed-if there be any such 
left. The others should read it for its truth, its sincerity and the candour of its 
criticism."-Punch. 
.. Just before going to bed last night I picked up Philip Gibbs' book' THE SOUL OF 
THE WAR: I read on and on until three o'clock this morning. It Is vivid, compelling, 
with fine splashes of raw, red truth."-Evening News. 
.. This delightful book. . . . Poetry runs through the book and deep feeling, and 
a very human sympathy with suffering. . . . admirably written, with a very clear 
insight. Its style is lively and entertaining. Kothing nearly so good has yet been 
written on the subject."-Globe. 
.. 'THE SOUL OF THE WAR' is calculated better than any book I have read to 
stimulate the somewhat sluggish British imagination into a realization of the insanity 
and savagery of war generally, and of the special senselessness and devilishness of this 
titanic conflict." -Truth. 
.. This war is sure to produce some fine books: it can scarcely produce a finer 
than this one Mr. Philip Gibbs has written. It is moving, human, keenly seen, gravely 
bandIed, and excellently written, and it makes an appeal to the senses that is almost 
enormous in its cogency. . . . That story is perhaps one of the severest indictments of 
war Mr. Philip Gibbs could make. It is part of his great scheme of illumination. His 
book is certainly valuable, and those who miss readin
 it are missing one of the most 
essential and powerful documents bearing on Armageddon."-T.P.'. Journal. 
.. One of the most readable books yet published. . . fiJled with love and pity, and 
is written with the natural and unforced sense of style that can never fail to appeal:' 
-IUustrated London News. 
.. A very striking phantasmagoria . . . the present volume seems to us to mark 
his greatest literary success."-Spectator. 



'fHE BA'rTLES OF 
THE SOMlVIE 



THE BATTLES OF 
THE SO M1\IE 


BY 


PHILIP G IEllS 


AUTHOR OF 


C( THE SOUL OF THE WAR" 


WITH MAPS 


l\lcCLELLAND, GOODCI-IILD, AND STEWART 
PUBLISHERS TORONTO 
1917 



Printed in Great Britain 


\
. 
L 



CONTENTS 


CHAP. PAOE 
INTRODUCTION 1 
I. THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 21 
II. THE FIRST CHARGE 86 
III. THE FIELD OF HONOUR 48 
IV. THE DEATH-SONG OF THE GERMANS 52 
V. THE ATTACK ON THE LEFT 59 
VI. THE LONDON MEN AT GOMMECOURT 64 
VII. THE MEN WHO FOUGHT AT FRICOURT 71 
VIII. How THE PRUSSIAKS FELL AT CONTALMAISON 78 
IX. A CA:\iEO OF "\V AR 85 
X. THE ASSAULT ON CONTALMAISON 89 
XI. THE BATTLE OF THE WOODS 97 
XII. THE FIGHT FOR OVILLERS 108 
XIII. THROUGH THE GERMAN SECOND LINE 110 
XIV. THE WOODS OF DEATH 126 
XV. PRISONERS OF WAR 181 
XVI. THE LAST STAND IN OVILLERS 135 
XVII. THE SCOTS AT LONGUEV AL 138 
XVIII. THE DEVIL'S WOOD 148 
XIX. THE WORK OF THE GUNS 154 
XX. THE FIGHTING ROUND WATERLOT FARM 159 
XXI. THE PETER PANS OF "VAR 163 
XXII. THE IIIGH GROUND AT POZIÈRES 168 
XXIII. THE GERMAN SIDE OF THE SOMME 196 



Vi 


CONTENTS 


CHAP. P\GE 
XXI"". THE ATTACKS ON THIÉPVAL 202 
XX,!. THE LAST }1'IGHTS IN DEVIL'S 'VOOD 217 
XX'TI. THE AUSTRALIANS AT l\IOUQUET FARM 223 
XX"II. THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEl\10NT 230 
XX"III. TnE IRISH AT GIKCIIY 2-t6 
XXIX. THE COMING OF THE TANKS 2j3 
XXX. FIGHTING BEYOND FLERS 267 
XXXI. )IOKSTERS AND l\IEN 27
 
XXXII. LOXDON PRIDE 28:: 
XXXIII. THE SPLENDID NE'V-ZEALANDERS 28
 
XXXIV'". THE CAKADIANS AT COURCELETTE 294 
XXXV. THE ABANDONi\1ENT OF COMBLES 29!: 
XXXVI. THE Doo:\1 OF THIÉPVAL 307 
XXXVII. NORTH'VARD FROM TIIIÉPVAL 31
 
XXXVIII. THE 'YAY TO BAPAUME 82( 
XXXIX. THE GERi\IAN VERDICT ON THE SOMME 
BATTLES 33] 



'!'HE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


INTRODUCTION 


THE CO!'IIKG OF THE NEW ARMIES 


IN this book I have put together the articles "which I have 
\vrittcn day by day for more than three months, since that 
first day of JlÙY 1916 when hundreds of thousands of British 
troops rose out of the ditches held against the enemy for nearly 
two years of trench warfare, advanced over open country 
upon the most formidable system of defences ever organized 
by great armies, and began a series of battles as fierce and 
bloody as anything the old earth has seen on such a stretch 
of ground since the beginning of human strife. 
Before July 1 I had an idea of writing a book about all that 
I had seen for nearly eighteen months, sinee I abandoned the 
hazardous game of a free-lance in the ,var-zones of France and 
Belgium (to me those were the great and \vonderful days) 
and became officially accredited as a correspondent with the 
British armies in the field. I had seen a good deal in the 
trenches and behind the lines-nearly all there \vas to see- 
of stationary warfare fron1 Y pres to the Somme, and enough 
to understand ,vith every nerve in my body not only the 
abomination of this doom \vhich put fine sensitive men into 
dirty mudholes and sinister ruins, in exile from the comforts 
and beauty and decency of life, under the continual menace 
of death or mutilation, but also the valour of great numbers 
of simple souls ,vho hated it all and yet endured it with a 
queer gaiety, and laughed even \vhile they cursed its beastliness, 
and resigned themselves to its worst miseries like Christian 
martyrs with a taste for beer and the pictures of the "vic 
· Å 



2 


THE BATTLES OF THE SO!\f
iE 


parisienne." I had seen, and suffered from, the boredom of this 
stationary ,varfare-an intolerable boredom it is, demoralizing 
to men whose imaginations demand something brighter and 
Dlore varied than a glimpse through the sandbags at the same 
old fringe of broken tree, the same old ruined house, the same 
old line of chalky trenches, froln v{hich death may come at 
any moment by rifle-grenade, sniper's bullet, or \vhizz-bang- 
,vhich is not an exciting form of death giving men the thrill 
of dramatic moments before they drop. Even in this danger 
there ,vas no cure for the deadening monotony after the first 
few days of ne\v experience. It was just another part of 
the dirty business, and, for nlen of nerves, a nagging appre- 
hensive thought, varied by moments of cold, horrible fear. 
Behind the lines, on supply columns, at railheads, in billets, 
in squalid villages of Flanders and Picardy with their ro\vs 
of miserable estaminets and evil-smelling farmyards, Boredom, 
monstrous and abominable, sat like a witch-hag on the shoulders 
of many men, divorced from the interests of their old home life, 
from their ,volDen-folk, from the reasonable normal routine of 
peaceful careers. Discipline and duty had taken the place of 
personal ambitions and the joy of life, and they are cold virtues, 
very comfortless. Artists, actors, barristers, \vriters, sportsmen, 
and men ,vho had found good fun in youth and the wide ,yorld, 
or some corner of it, found themselves as officers on supply 
columns, R.T.O.'s, D.A.D.O.S.'s, and in other administrative 
jobs, condemned to a drudgery Inelancholy in its limitations 
and apparently interminable. To many of theln their area of 
activity ,vas confined between one squalid village and another, 
and the chance of a stray shell or of an aeroplane bomb did not 
really brighten up the scene. 
They fought against this desolation of mind valiantly-and 
it "ranted valour-forced themselves to get absorbed in the 
minute details of their ,york, sent for the old banjo from home, 
organized canteens, smoking concerts, boxing matches, culti- 
vated cheeriness as the first law of daily life until it became a 
second nature, beneath which the first nature only obtruded 
at night when they went back to sleep in thcir billets and before 
sleeping cried out in a kind of agony, " How long is this going 
on ? -this Insanity, this waste of life, this unnatural, damned 
existence ! " 



INTRODUCTION 


8 


The fighting men had all the danger and, on the whDle, 
were less dull during the long period of stationary warfare. 
They too cultivated cheerfulness as the first law of daily life, 
and it 'was a harder job, yet they succeeded wonderfully in 
spite of the filthy trenches, the rats and vermin, the ice-cold 
water in ,vhich they ,vaded up to the front line during thel 
long months of a Flemish ,vinter (beginning in October and 
ending -perhaps-in April), the trench-feet which for a time 
-until rubbing-drill ,vas adopted-drained the strength of 
many battalions, and the enemy's shell-fire and mining activities 
,vhich took a daily toll of life and limbs. Many of them found a 
gruesome humour in all this, laughed at death as a low comedian, 
guffa,ved if they dodged its knock-about tricks by the length 
of a traverse, and did not go very sick if it laid out their best 
pal. " You know, sir, it doesn't do to take this war seriously." 
So said a sergeant to me as ,ve stood in a trench beyond our 
knees in ,vater. It ,vas a great saying, and I saw the philosophy 
which had kept men sane. Without laughter, somehow, 
anyhow, by any old joke, we should have lost the war long 
ago. The only ,yay to avoid deadly depression was to keep 
smiling. And so for laughter's sake and to keep normal in 
abnormal ways of life there ,vas a great unconscious conspiracy 
of cheerfulness among officers and men, and the most popular 
man in a platoon was the fellow ,vho could t,vist a joke out 
of a dead German, or the subaltern who could lead a patrol 
into No Man's Land with men chuckling over some whimsical 
word about his ,vidow, or the comic corporal who could play 
ragtime tunes on a comb and tissue-paper. Behind the lines 
there were variety theatres in old warehouses ventilated by 
shell-holes, packed by muddy men just out of the trenches, 
who found it difficult to laugh for the first half-hour and then 
roared ,vith laughter at funny fellows dressed as 1\1rs. T'wankey, 
or Charlie Chaplin, or the red-nosed cOlnic turn who satirized 
" brass hats " and the .A.rmy Safety Corps and Kaiser Bill, and 
the effect of a 17-inch shell in the neighbourhood of Private 
Spoofkins, V. C. 
Discipline and hard ,york helped men to forget the voice 
that called back to the days of individual liberty and peace. 
There ,vas ahvays something to do up in the trenches, building 
up the parapets ,vhich in the Salient slipped do'wn after every 



4 


THE BATTLES O}1"' THE SOl\iM]
 


rain-stonn, wiring, revetting, digging new comnlunication- 
trenches (under the enenlY's nl3.chine-gun fire), keeping Gcrn1an 
heads down by sniping every head that came up, between the 
stand-to at dusk and da,vn. After the relief in the trcnchcs- 
getting out ,vas the risky job-there ,vas not much rest in 
the rest camps, ,vhat ,vith parades, bombing schools, bayonet 
drill, machine-gun courses, and practice at the rifle- range. 
" I'd rather be in the blinkin' trenches again," groused the 
tired Tommy. "Oh, you'll soon be back again, my lad," 
said the sergeant. " Yet another ,veek of your bright young 
life. " 
It ,vas the youngest men 'who \vere n10st cheerful-young 
officers especially, just do\vn from the Universities or the 
Public Schools. Life was beginning for them, and even here 
in the dirty ditches they found the thrill of life, the splendour 
of life, the beauty of life. They found it splendid to cOlnluand 
men, to "Tin their trust, to "make good" ",'ith them. The 
comradeship ,vith fellow-officers, the responsibility of their 
rank, the revelation of their o\vn manhood and of their O'Wll 
courage-they had been afraid of failing in pluck-and their 
professional interest in their jobs as gunners or sappers or 
bombers, w'hatever they might be, ,vere great re\vards for 
the dirt and the danger. I sa 'v many of these boys in places 
'where death lay in ,vait for them, and they had shining eyes 
and strode along cheerily, talking proudly of some little" stunt" 
they had done ,vith their men, and not 'worrying about the 
menace overhead. It was all "topping" to them, until the strain 
began to tell. The ideals of the Public Schools, the old tradi- 
tional ideals of British boyhood-" Dulce et dccoruln e5t . . ." 
"Play the game," "Flol'eat Etona," or \vhatcver the old school 
motto of chivalry and service might be-inspired them and 
made a little ,vhite flame of enthusiasm in thcir hearts at 
\vhich their spirit \varnled itsclf \vhen the body ,vas very cold 
and cverything comfortle

. One by one many of them werc 
soon picked off by German snipers or laid out by German 
shells, but others callie out, and others, in an endless procession 
of splendid boyhood, stiU "to play the game." 'Vith them 
came ne'v battalions of men, \vhistling and singing along the 
roads of France. 
I saw the first Territorial Divisions come out, and then the 



INTRODUCTION 


5 


first of the "l{itchener cro,vd," and gradually, month after 
month, the building up of the Ne,v Army. The Old Army, 
that little Regular army ,vhich fought on the retreat from 
Ions 
to the ?\-Iarne and then upon the Aisne, and then had s\vung 
up into Flanders to bar the ,yay to Calais-,vas gone for ever 
and ,vas no more than an heroic men10ry. In the first Battle 
of Y pres and the second they had done all that human nature 
could do, and the fields ,vere stre,vn ,vith their dead until only 
a pitiful remnant held the lines of that salient against ,vhich 
the enemy had hurled himself in massed attacks supported by 
tremendous artillery. Battalions had been ,viped out, divisions 
had been cut to pieces. A year ago a battalion commander told 
me that he ,vas one out of only 150 officers belonging to the 
original Expeditionary Force still serving in the trenches-and 
a year is a long time in such a ,val' as this. I met men who 
had passed unscathed through all of that, but there ,vere not 
many of them. The regiments remained, but they ,vere filled up 
with new drafts. The old traditions remained, fostered by the 
old soldiers here and there, and. by officers who know the 
value of tradition, but they ,vere new men and ne\v armies ,vho 
were beginning to crowd the roads of France and to straighten 
the lines of defence. They ,vere the lads who had been called 
to the colours by the shouts of the street placards: " Your 
I{ing and Country need you," ""\Vhat did you do, daddy, in 
the Great War? " (I could not print the outrageous answers 
I have heard to that little simple question !) and" 'Vhat will 
your best girl say if you don't ,veal' khaki?" They had been 
called by quieter and nobler voices also, speaking to their 
hearts above the clicking of type\vriters in city offices and the 
whirr of machinery in great ,vorkshops and in the silence of 
the fields ,vhere they follo\ved the plough. It \vas an army 
of amateurs hastily drilled, hastily trained, knowing very little 
of the real business of \var, but quick to learn and full of pluck. 
They \vere led for the most part by temporary officers" for 
the period of the war only," ,vith a fe,v old" dug-outs" among 
them and some old non-comn1issioned officers to stiffen them. 
The Germans jeered at them-not the enemy in the trenches 
but the enemy in hostile nc,vspaper offices. "\Vhat can this 
rabble of an1atcurs do? " they asked. The answer was kept 
waiting for a littlc while. 



6 


THE BA.TTLES OF THE SOl\lt\IE 


The New Armies were learning. They were bearing the 
hardships, the cruelties, the brutalities of \var, and had to 
suffer and "stick" them. They ,vere learning the craft of 
modern ,varfare in trenches, mine-shafts, and saps, behind 
field-guns and" heavies," and they had to pay for their lessons 
by blood and agony. I ,vent to see the Ne\v Armies learning 
their lesson in frightful places. Ah
;ays the ,vorst place was 
the Ypres Salient, ,,-here the enenlY had the advantage of ground 
and observation, so that he could shoot at our men from three 
points of the c_mpass and even hit them in the back. The 
names of all these places in the Salient are a litany of dcath- 
Pilkem, Potij e, Hooge, Zille beke, Vlamertinghe, Sanctuary 'V ood 
-and Hooge ,vas the concentration-ground of all that was 
devilish. Dead bodies ,vere heaped there, buried and unburied. 

Ien dug into corruption when they tried to dig a trench. 

Ien sat on dead bodies ,vhen they peered through their peri- 
scopes. They ate and slept \vith the stench of death in their 
nostrils. Belo,v then1 ,vere the enemy's mine-shafts; beyond 
them 'vere our o,vn mine-shafts. It was a competition in 
blo'wing up the tumbled earth, and nIen fought like devils ,vith 
bombs and bayonets over mine-craters which had buried 
another score or so of nIeu. The story of Ilooge ,vas a serial 
carried on from week to ,veek, but the place 'vas only one 
of our little schools of ,var for bright young men. 
Ahvays the City of the Salient-the ghost-city of Ypres- 
stood as a memorial of death, and of that dreadful day in 
April of 1915 \vhen the enemy first discharged his poison-gas, 
flung a storm of great shells into the streets and stre,ved them 
and the fields around v:ith dead men, dead horses, and dead 
,vomen. I had been first into Y pres in 1tIareh, ,vhen the 
beauty of its Cloth Hall and of all its churches and of its 
quaint old houses ,vas untouched. The Grande Place \vas full 
of cheerful English soldiers chaffing the Flenlish girls at their 
booths and stalls, buying picture post cards and souvenirs 
in the shops, and strolling into the Cloth Ilall to stare at the 
painted frescoes and thc richness of its mediæval decorations. 
I had tea \vith a party of officers in a bun-shop facing the 
Cathedral. . . . 'Yhcn I ,vent into Ypres again, a fe\v ,vceks 
later, there was a great hole 'where the bun-shop had been 
and only litters of stone and brick,vork ,vhere the soldiers 



INTRODUCTION 


7 


had bought their picture post cards, and the Grande Place 
was a desert about the tragic ruins of the great Cloth Hall 
and Cathedral, which were but skeletons in stone with broken 
arches, broken pillars, broken ,valls standing gaunt above great 
piles of masonry. The Horror had come, when suddenly on 
the breath of the ,vind a poisonous cloud stole into the city, 
and there was a wild stampede of people choking and gasping, 
terror-stricken, black in the face with the struggle to breathe. 
British soldiers and Indian soldiers joined the flight of the 
people of Y pres in a wild turmoil through the streets. l\lany 
of them fell and died on the ,yay. A dispatch-rider rode the 
other ,vay, towards the poison cloud. He had a message to 
carry to the lines beyond. The gas caught him in the throat 
and he fell off his motor-cycle and lay dead, ,vhile his machine 
went on until it crashed into a wall. Then the storm of shells 
burst over the city, flinging down houses, tearing great holes 
in them, and lighting great bonfires ,vhich blazed high, so that 
from a distance Y pres ,vas one flaming torch. . .. . There 
were people ,,,ho could not get away, poor ,vomen and children 
\vho \verc caught in their cellars. One \voman lay ill and 
could not be moved. An officer of the R.A.M.C. promised to 
get back to her if he could get an ambulance through the 
fires and shells. Late in the evening he found her in a field 
two n1iles a,vay \vith a new-born baby by her side. A young 
French officer stayed \vith a crowd of \vounded all huddled in 
an underground drain-pipe and tried to bandage them and 
keep them alive till other help came. For four days they could 
not move out of the hole, so that it was pestilential. T\vo little 
,vounded girls lay there among the dead and dying. One of 
them, \vith eyes strangely bright, talked continually in a voice 
preternaturally clear, sharp and metallic, ,vithout intonation. 
She was a Flemish child, but again and again she spoke three 
'words of French: "Moi, morte demain. . . . ?vIoi, morte 
demain." She died in the arms of the young Frenchman. 
" I am astonished that I did not go mad," says the young Baron 
de Rosen, remelnbering these hours. 
In the summer of IDl5 I went into Ypres several 
times, and ahvays the sinister horror of the place put its 
spell upon me. I spent a night there with a friend-a 
strange, fantastic night, when shells came ,vhirring overhead 



8 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


falling with heavy crashes into the ruins. Beyond, the line 
of the Salient "ras outlined by the white light of flares. In 
abandoned dug-outs ,yere ,vild cats ,vho spat at me ,,-hen I 
peered in. A lonely sentry-poor boy I-had the jim-jams 
and sa-w ghosts about; and truly"\:'" pres should be full of ghosts 
if they ,valk 0' nights-the ghosts of all the men ,vho have 
been buried alive here under the fallen masonry, and have 
been killed here by shells ,vhich have dug enormous craters 
in the road"rays. One day two German aeroplanes flung 
do"rn bombs as I stood in the Grande Place staring at its 
desolation. I ,vas amazed to know ho,v quickly I found a hole 
under a ,vall ,vhich I had not seen before. . . . Y pres ,vas 
never a safe place, and in the minds of many thousands of 
British soldiers ,vho once passed through its ruins it is etched 
as one of the ghastly pictures of ,var. 
All through 1915 ,vc had in France not an army of attack 
but an army of defence. This ,vas not properly realized by 
the people at home, by our Allies, or by some of our generals. 
There ,vere demands for attack before we had enough men 
or enough guns or enough ammunition. It Vias a tragedy 
that we had to make several attacks vlÏthout a rea] chance of 
success. Neuve Chapelle was one of them. Loos was 
another, more forlnidable and brilliantly carried out as far 
as Hill 70 by the 15th (Scottish) Division and the 47th 
(London Territorial) Division, supported on their left by 
the 9th (Scottish) Division and co-operating ,vith a strong 
French attack on the right along the 'Timy Ridge, but unable 
to inflict as much damage upon the enemy as we suffered in 
the assault and the follo,ving days ,vhen the Guards attacked 
at Hullnch. 
It was the first great bombardment of ours I had seen, 
though I had seen many small ones since an attack on Wyght- 
schaetc in March of 1915, and ,vas the first time ,vhen \ve 
sho,ved any real strength in Inassed artillery, but \ve did not 
support the first assault with strong reserves, tactical blunders 
were made, and the enemy was able to rally after some hours 
of panic, ,vhen their gunners began to move a\vay from Lens 
and ,ve had a great chance. The disappointnlCnt came very 
quickly upon one's first hopes, but to me the memory of Loos 
is the revelation of the astounding courage of those Inen of 



INTRODUCTION 


9 


the London, the Scottish, and the Guards Divisions ,vho 
proved the mettle of the N e,v Armies (for even most of the 
Guards "-'ere ne'v men) and ,vent into battle "ith a high-spirited 
valour ,vhich could not have been surpassed by the old Regulars. 
The Scots ,vere played on by their pipers. 'I:'he London men 
played mouth-organs, dribbled a football-as every one knows- 
all the way to Loos, and sang" \Vho's Your Lady Friend? " 
amidst the crash of shell-fire. 
So no'v there ,vere other classrooms in the school of war- 
the I-Iohenzollern Redoubt, Hulluùh, Loos, and other hot 
spots in that broad, flat, barren, villainous plain pimpled by 
black slag-heaps-Fosse 8 and Fosse 14 bis-which one 
approached through miles of cOlnmunication-trenches under 
the ,vhirring of many shells. I went to these places ,vhen the 
battle ,vas on, and after,vards. Quite a long ,yay away from 
them there ,vere spots where one hated to linger, and through 
,vhich one had to pass to get to the battlefields. Noyelles-les- 
Vermelles ,vas one of them, and I had some nasty hours there 
,vhen I ,vent for afternoon tea with some officers and found 
the enemy searching for that house ,vith four-inch shells, ,vhich 
knocked out three gunners in the back yard just as I arrived, 
and killed some horses as I ,valked across the field bet,veen the 
bursting crumps-there ,vas a blue sky overhead and fleecy 
clouds and a golden sunshine--to a hall door where a number 
of young men ,vere expecting death-disliking it exceedingly, 
but chatting about trivial things ,vith occasional laughter 
,vhich did not ring quite true. Vermelles ,vas another of them, 
and I never went 'vithout foreboding into that village of ruins 
where the French had fought like tigers from garden to garden 
and house to house before the capture of the château--do you 
remember how they fought on the ground floor with the Germans 
above and belo,v them, until the first-floor ceiling gave way 
and Gennans came through and a young French lieutenant 
s,vung a marble Venus round his head in the midst of a ,vrithing 
mob of men clutching at each other's throats? Shells made 
smaller dust day by day of all these rubbish-heaps and bigger 
holes in the standing ,valls. The smell of poison-gas reeked 
from the bricks and the litter. Other smells lurked about like 
obscene spectres. At any moment of the day or night death 
might con1e here, and did, ,vithout ,varning. . . . lIighcr up 



10 THE BA.TTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


one felt safer in the ,vinding ditches leading to the front lines. 
But it ,vas the ostrich sense of safety. One had only to mount 
a sandbag and glance ovcr the side of thc trench to see how 
the enemy's" crumps " \vere flinging up fountains of earth in 
all directions. 'fhey caI11e ,vhining ,vith their high gobbling 
note overhead. Dcad bodies lay about. Up in the front 
trenches, by Hulluch and the Hohenzollern, men lived ahvays 
close to mine-shafts \vhich might open the earth beneath them 
at any mOI11ent and bury them or hurl them high. There were 
bombing fights on the lips of the shell-craters. In some 
places a fc,v yards only separated British soldiers and German 
soldiers. 'fhey fought ,vith each other in saps. It ""as another 
Hooge. 
I ,vas only a looker-on and reporter of other 111en's courage 
and sacrifice-a n1iserable game, rather ,vearing to the nerves 
and spirit. There ,verc many placcs to visit along the front, 
and although they ,vere not places \vhere it is agreeable to pass 
a fc,v hours for aI11usement's sake, there ,vas an immense 
interest in these peep-sho,vs of war where one sa,v the real thing 
and the spirit of it all and the ugliness, and the simple heroism 
of the men there. "Plug Street " ,vas the elementary training 
school for many of the nc'v divisions, \vith a touch of Arcadia 
in its woods in spite of the snipcrs' bullets ,vhich came 
" zip-zip" through the branches and the brush,vood fringes 
along the outer ,,"alks, past \vhich one had to creep ,"\varily 
lest ,vatchful eyes should see one and stop. one dead. A 
fairly safe place "Plug Street" ,vas supposed to be, but men 
werc killed there all right-each timc I ,vent I saw a dead 
body carried do\vn one of the glades-and at llyde Park 
Corner, on the edge of it, a colleague of n1ine ,vas hit in the 
stomach by the nose of a shell, and here I first heard the voice 
of "Percy," a high-velocity fello,v 'who kills you before you 
know he is coming. 
Then there ,vas J{emmel and its neighbourhood for an 
afternoon's advcnture any time one liked to be braye or felt 
inclined to look do\vn into the German trenches from Hill 65, 
which gavc a very fine vic,v of them, up above J{emmel village, 
strafed into a miserable huddle of ruins and damnably sinister 
about the deep sheH-craters and the overthro\vn crosses in a 
wrecked churchyard. I ,vent there onc day in a sno,vstorm, 



INTRODUCTION 


11 


and coming back out of its desolation-,vhere plucky young 
men lived \vith their guns and ,vondered no,v and then, at 
their mess-table in a broken barn, \vhose number \vould be 
written up next-sa\v a man in full evening dress "ithout an 
overcoat and \vith a bowler-hat upon his head, walking in a 
leisurely way through the snowflakes and past the churchyard 
with its opened graves. A fantastic figure to meet on a battle- 
field, but not madder than many things in this mad dream 
,vhich is war. 
Up in the trenches at Neuve Chapelle, beyond the ruins of 
Croix Barbée, there \vere bits of open country across ,vhich 
one had to sprint bet\veen one trench and another because of 
German machine-guns trained upon then1 day and night. 
I ran across them on Christmas Day to ,vish good luck to some 
country boys who \vere sitting in puddles below the fire-step 
and chatting ,vith grave irony about peace on earth, good- 
will to men, and the Christmas stockings-waders, really- 
which they had hung up outside their dug-outs to see ho\v the 
trick 'would \vork in war-time. It hadn't worked, and they 
groused against Santa Claus and laughed at this little joke of 
theirs to hide the sentiment in their hearts. 
Festubert and Givenchy, Armentières and IIouplines, \vere 
other familiar places ,vhich one approached through ruins 
before getting into the ditches 'where the British Army was 
learning its lessons. Then as the armies grew the British line 
was lengthened and \ve took over froom the French, from 
IIébuterne to Vaux-sur-Somme, and after,vards, in February, 
when the Germans began their great attack upon Verdun, fron1 
thc Vimy Ridge to the south of Arras. There ,vas plenty of 
room here for the ne\v Divisions who were coming out to learn, 
and plenty of practical object-lessons in the abominable business 
of war. '\Ve learnt a lot of French geography, and dozens of 
small villages unkno,vn before to history are no,v famous among 
British soldiers as places \vhere they lived under daily shelI- 
fire, ,,'here they escaped death by the queerest flukes, or ,vhere 
they were hit at last after a thousand escapes. 
Sailly-au-Bois \vas a village on the \vay to IIébuterne. A 
charming little place it must have been once, with quaint old 
cottages and a market square. 'Vhen I went there first the 
Germans disliked it, plugged shells into most of the houses 



12 THE BATTLES OF THE SOJ.\tIl\fE 


and into one where a number of Sussex gentlemen were sitting 
down to lunch. It spoilt their meal for them and made a 
new entrance through the dining-room ,vall. Beyond the 
village was the road to Hébuterne. I t led through open fields 
and past a belt of trees less than a thousand yards a\vay, ,vhere 
the Germans lay ,vatching behind their rifle-barrels. But the 
French had made a friendly little arrangement. If an open 
car crawled do'wn slowly the Germans did not snipe. If it 
were a covered car, presumably a General's, or went fast, they 
had the right to shoot. Queer, though it seemed to work. 
But I was ahvays glad to get the length of that road and to 
find some cover in the fortress-village of Hébuterne, with its 
deep dug-outs, proof against the lighter kind of shells. The 
Germans had been here first and had dug in ,vith their usual 
industry. Then the French had turned them out after ferocious 
fighting-there are many French graves there in the Orchard 
and in the trenches, and a little altar still kept in good order 
by British soldiers to N otre- Dame-des- Tranchées; they had 
gone on digging and strengthening the place, and when our 
men took over the ground they continued the fortifications, 
so that it 'was a model of defensive work. But the Germans 
shelled it with method, and it was safer belo\v ground than above. 
In the Orchard young fruit of life fell before it had ripened, and 
I did not like to linger there among the apple-trees. 
The taking over of Arras and its neighbourhood down fronl 
the Vimy Ridge to Souchez, Ablain-St.-Nazaire, La Targettc, 
Ncuville-St.-Vaast-the very names make me feel cold-libe- 
rated a complete French army for the defence of Verdun, and 
it was our biggest service to France before the battles of the 
Somn1e. 
I went into Arras and saw the despoiled beauty of this old 
city of Artois, silent and desolate, in its ruined gardens ,vhere 
,vhite statues lay in the rank grass, except ,vhen shells opened 
great craters in the Grande Place or tore off a gable from one 
of the Spanish houses in the Petite Place, or came crashing into 
the wreckage of the raihvay station or knocked a few 
more stones out of the immense ,valls of the Cathedral and 
the Bishop's Palace, through ,vhich I \vandered, gazing up 
long vistas of ,vhite ruin. In the suburbs of St.-Laurent and 
St.-Nicholas the enemy 'was very close across the garden walls, 



INTRODUCTION 


13 


and in the Maison Rouge one had to tiptoe and talk in whispers 
by chinks in the ,vall (there ,vas a rose\vood piano in the front 
room), through which onc could look at the enemy's sandbags 
a few yards away. 'Vrinkled old \vomen and wan-faced girls 
lived still in the deep cellars of the city, coming up for a little 
sunlight \vhen the air \vas quiet, and scuttling do\vn again at 
the scream of a shell. In the dusk small boys roamed the 
broken streets, searched among the litter of stones for shrapnel- 
bullets for games of marbles (I once played such a game in a 
night at Y pres), and cocked a snook at German shells falling 
a street or two a ,va y. Our soldiers became familiar with all 
these places, strode through them \vith that curious lnatter- 
of-fact \vay of the British Tommy, \vho makes himself at home 
in hell-on-earth as though it were the usual thing, and in 
Souchez, Neuville-St.-Vaast, Ablain-St.-Nazaire, and on the 
ridge of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette held the lines in spite of five- 
point-nines, aerial torpedoes, every kind of high-explosive 
force which tried to blast them out. For n1iles the ground 
\vas stre\vn with "duds" -so that one had to pick one's 
\vay lest one should Irick a fuse-and with the litter of men's 
clothes and bodies. 
The months passed. Spring canle, and nightingales sang 
in the bushes of old French châteaux and the \voodpecker laughed 
in the forest glades; the fields were strc\vn with flowers, and 
the beauty of France sang a great song in one's heart. The 
\vheat grc'w tall and green. And all this time the roads in the 
British \var-zone were becoming more crowded with the traffic 
of men and horses and guns and lorries-miles of motor-lorries-- 
as ne\v Divisions can1e out, \vith belts and harness looking 
very fresh, making their ,yay slo'wly forward to the firing-lines 
to learn their lesson like others who had gone b
forc them. 
The billeting areas \vidcned, became congested districts from 
Boulognc to thc Son1me. In Picardy and Artois there was 
khaki every\vherc. In old market-places of St.-Orner, BailleuI
 
Béthune, St.-Pol, Hesdin, Fruges, Doullens, our Tommies 
jostlcd among the stalls and booths, among the old ""Olnen 
and girls and blue-coated" poilus," making friends \vith them, 
learning a wonderful lingua franca, settling do\Vll into the 
queer life, which alternated bet\Veell the trenches and the 
billets, as though it would last for eyer. 



14 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\iE 
The human picture changed. Ne,v types of men arrived 
and some of the old stagers departed. The Indian infantry 
also went, and the flat fields behind Neuve Chapelle, where 
the canals cut straight between the rushes, lost those grave, 
sad-eyed, handsome men who seemed like fairy-book princes 
to the French peasants, ,vhose language they had learnt to 
speak ,vith a courtesy, and with soft, simple nlanners ,vhich 
won the friendship of these people. In the winter trenches 
the Indians had shivered; in the dank mists across the flats 
they had \vandered dolcfully. They had fought gallantly 
under officers ,vho sacrificed their own lives ,vith noble devotion, 
but they hated modern shell-fire and all the misery of trench- 
,varfare in a wet, cold climate, and \vere, I think, glad to go. 
The Australians came, and for the first time we sa,v in 
France those bronzed, hatchet-faced, handsome fello,vs who 
brought a ne,v character of splendid manhood into the n1edley 
of British types. The N e,v Zcalanders followed with l\laoris 
among then1. The Canadians ,vere adding n1any new bat- 
talions to their strength. The South African Scottish sent 
more kilts swinging do,vn the roads of war. There were New- 
foundlanders' \Vest Indians fronl Barbados. All the Empire 
,vas sending her men. For ,vhat? 
That 'vas the question ,vhich we ,vere all asking. How and 
,vhen were these men going to be used? The months ,vere 
dragging on and there ,vas no great attack. There had been 
savage fighting on a small scale up in the Salient at St.-Elol 
and the Bluff. The Canadians lost ground under a sudden 
stornl of shell-fire which flattened out their trenches, and 
retook it after bloody counter-attacks. The Vimy Ridge had 
seen heavy and costly fighting ,vhich gained nothing. All 
along the line there ,vere raids into the enemy's trenches, but 
it ,vas Red Indian ,varfare and not the big thing. France, 
after four months of desperate fighting at Verdun, asked when 
the English ,vere going to strike. And British soldiers \vho 
had been in and out of the trenches, D10nth after month, 
seeing heavy losscs mount up by the usual daily toll, ,vith 
nothing to sho'w for them, began to despair a little. \Vas it 
going on for ever like this? This existence was intolerable. 
To sit in a trench and be shelled to dcath-what ,vas the 

ense of it? At the mess-table thcre ,vere men who found 



INTRODUCTION 


15 


the ,vorld all black, the war a monstrous horror, an outrage 
to God and life. I had queer conversations ,vith men in dug- 
outs, in ,vooden huts under shell-fire, in French châteaux 
inhabited by British officers, and heard the secrets of men's 
souls, their protests against the doon1 that had enchained them, 
their perplexities, their strivings to find some spiritual meaning 
in the devilish appearance of things, their revolt against the 
brutality and senselessness of ,var, their ironic laughter at 
the bloody contrast bet,veen Christian teaching and Christian 
practice, their blind gropings for some light in all the darkness 
and damnation. 
Then suddenly all changed. The" Big Push" 'vas to come 
at last. Trench ,varfare ,vas to end, and all this great army 
of ours in France ,vas to get out of its ditches and out into the 
open and strike. Enormous hope took the place of the doubts 
and dolefulness that had begun to possess men of melancholy 
minds. It would be a chance of ending the business. At least 
we had the strength to deliver a smashing, perhaps a decisive, 
blow. All our t\VO years of organization and training and 
building up ,vould be put to the test, and the men ,vere sure 
of themselves, confident in the new po\ver of our artillery, 
which was tremendous, ,vithout a doubt in the spirit of attack 
which would inspire all our battalions. They ,vould fight 
with the will to win. 
So we came to July 1, that day so great in hope, in achieve- 
ment, and in tragedy, and ,vhat happened then and for three 
and a half months of fighting days is told in the articles no,v 
printed in this bool{. I n1Ïght have re,vrittcn them, polished 
their style, put in ne\v facts here and there, and written a 
narrative of history \vith a more considered judgment than 
,vas possible day by day. But I have thought it best to let 
them stand as they \vere ,vritten at great speed, sometimes 
in utter exhaustion of body and brain, but ahvays ,vith the 
emotion that comes from the hot in1press of new and tren1C'n- 
dous sensations. They may hold SOlne qualities that ,vould 
be lost if I ,vrote them ,vith more coldness and criticism of 
words and phrases. Even the repetition of incidents and 
impressions have some value, for that is true of n10dcrn ,varfare 
-a continual repetition of acts and sounds, sights and smells 
and elnotions. 



16 THE B.A.TTLES OF THE SOlVIl\IE 
The method of attack has become a forlTIula-the intense 
preliminary bombardment almost annihilating the enemy's 
front trenches (but not all his dug-outs), the advance across 
No ?tlan's Land under the enemy's curtain-fire, the rush over 
the enemy's broken parapets in the face of n1achine-gul1 fire, 
the bombing-out of the dug-outs, the taking of prisoners. One 
captured" village" destroyed utterly by shell-fire days before 
the final attack upon its earth-,,
orks is exactly like another 
in. its rubbish-heaps of bricks and ,vood,vork. The pictures 
repeat themselves. Heroic acts-the knocking-out of a 
machine-gun, the bombing do\vn a section of trench, the rescue 
of ,vounded-repeat themselves also through all the battles. 
In my chronicles these repetitions will be found, and the effect 
of them on the reader's mind should be the effect in a faint, 
far-off ,yay of the real truth. 
Some people imagine, and some critics have ,vritten, that 
the war correspondents with the arnlies in France havc bcen 
" spoon-fed" ,vith documents and facts given to theill by 
General Headquarters, from ,yhich they \vrite up their dispatches. 
They recognize the same incident, told in different style by 
different correspondents, and say, " Ah, that is hovV' it is done! " 
They are wrong. All that ,ve get from the General Staff are 
thc brief bulletins of the various army corps, a line or t,vo 
of hard n;ws about the capture or loss of this or that trench 
such as appears after'\,ards in the official con1muluqués. For 
all the details of an action ,ve have to rely upon our o,vn efforts 
in the actual theatre of operations day by day, seeing as much 
of the battle as it is possible to see (sometimes one can see 
everything and sonletimes nothing but smoke and bursting 
shells), getting into the s\virl and traffic of the battlefields, 
talking to the ,valking ,vounded and the prisoners, the men 
going in and the men coming out, going to the headquarters 
of brigades, divisions, and corps for exact information as to 
the progress of the battle from the generals and officers directing 
the operations, and getting into touch as soon as possible 
with the battalions actually engaged. All this is not as easy 
as it sounds. It is not done ,vithout fatigue, and mental as 
well as physical strain. It takes one into unpleasant places 
frOin 'which one is glad and lucky to get back. But \ve have 
full facilities for seeing and kno\ving the truth of things, and 



I
TRODUCTION 


17 


see Inore and kno\v more of the whole battle-line than is possible 
even to Divisional Generals and other officers in high conlmand. 
For ,ve have a pass enabling us to go to any part of the front 
at any tÏ1ne and get the facts and points of view from every 
class and rank, from the trenches to G.H.Q. Because the 
correspondents sometimes ten the sanle stories it is because 
,ve tell them to each other, not believing in professional rivalry 
in a \var of this greatness. Our only limitations in truth- 
teJling are those of our o\vn vision, skill, and conscience under 
the discipline of the lnilitary censorship. I have no personal 
quarrel 'with that censorship-though all censorship is hateful. 
After many alterations in method and principle it was exercised 
throughout the battles of the Somme (and for months before that, 
when there ,vas no conspiracy of silence but only the lack of 
great events to chronicle) with a really broad-minded policy of 
allo,ving the British people to kno\v the facts about their fighting 
men save those which \vould give the enemy a chance of spoiling 
our plans or hurting us. If there had been no censorship at 
all it would be impossible for an honourable correspondent to 
ten some things \vithin his knowledge-our exact losses in a 
certain action, failures at this or that point of the line, tactical 
blunders ,vhich might have been made here or there, the dis- 
position or movement of troops, the positions of batteries and 
observation- posts. 
These are things \vhich the enemy must not know. So 
I do not think that during the whole of the Somme fighting 
there 'vas more than a line or t,yO taken out of one or the 
other of Iny dispatches, and \vith the exception of those \yords 
they are printed as they \vere \vritten. They tell the truth. 
There is not one word, I Vo\V, of conscious falsehood in them. 
But they do not tell all the truth. I have had to spare the 
feelings of men and women who have sons and husbands still 
fighting in France. I have not told all there is to teU about 
the agonies of this war, nor given in full realism the horrors 
that are inevitable in such fighting. It is perhaps better 
not to do so, here and now, although it is a moral cowardice 
which makes many people shut their eyes to the shambles, 
comforting thcir souls with fine phrases about the beauty of 
sacrifice. 
.
 - One thing hurt me badly in writing my accounts and hurts 
B 



18 'l'HE HAT'fLES OF THE SOMME 


me still. For military reasons I have not been pern1itted to 
give the names of all the troops engaged from day to day, but 
only a few names allo,ved by our Intelligence. The Germans 
were counting up our divisions, reckoning how many men 
we had in reserve, how many were against them in the lines. 
It was not for us to help them in this arithmetic. But it is 
hard on the men and on their people. They do not get that 
mmediate fame and honour for their regiments which they 
have earned by the splendour of their courage and achieve- 
ments. It is not my fault, for I would give all their names 
if I could, and tire out my wrist in praising them if it could 
give them a little spark of pleasure and pride. But, after an, 
each man who fought on the Son1me shares the general honour 
\vhich belongs to aU of them. 
The correspondents with the armies in the field do not 
prophesy or criticize or sit in judgment. That is not ,vithin 
our orders, and belongs to the liberty of writing-men who sit 
at home ,vith their maps and the official bulletins and our 
dispatches from the front. "There is not one of these indus- 
trious men," ,vrites a critic of our work, ",vho has had the 
experience to form a military judgment." \Ven, that is as 
may be, though ,ve have had more experience of war than 
most men ,,,ill have, I think, for another fifty years. In our 
own mess 'we are critics and prophets and judges, and I fancy 
we could give a point or t,vo to the experts at home, and, ,vith 
luck, later on, may do so. Now in the ,var-zone we are but 
chroniclers of the fighting day by day, trying to get the facts 
as fully as possible and putting them do,vn as clearly as they 
appear out of the turmoil of battle. Even no,v in this Introduc- 
tion I shall attempt no summing up of the results achieved by 
these battles of the Somme, except by saying that by enormous 
sacrifices, by individual courage beyond the normal laws of 
human nature as I thought I knew them once, by great efficiency 
in organization and a resolute purpose not checked or weakened 
by any obstacles, our troops broke through positions ,vhich 
the enemy believed, and had a right to believe, impregnable, 
carried by assault his first, 
econd, and third systems of trenches, 
dre,v in his reserves with many guns and men from Verdun 
so that the French could counter-attack with brilliant success, 
and inflicted upon the enemy heavy and irreparable loss which, 



IKTRODUCTIO
 


19 


as we hope and believe, though with imperfect knowledge, he 
cannot afford \vithout \veakening his line of defence on our own 
front and facing our Allies. These hammer-strokes were not 
decisive in victory. I believe that the German strength of 
resistance and attack is still great. I do not see a quick ending 
of this most horrible massacre in the fields of Europe. But 
it ,vas only the weather ,vhich stopped for a time our for,vard 
progress \vhen at the end of October the rain-storms made all 
the battlefield a swamp and obscured the observation ,vhich 
our men had won by three months and a half of uphill fighting 
and desperate strife. Even then in the mud they took many 
more prisoners in heavy fighting up by the Stuff and Schwab en 
Redoubts \vhich the enemy hated us to hold because of their 
dominating ground to the north of Thiépval-and then in the 
fog made that great, audacious attack on Beaumont-Hamel, 
\vhich captured one of the stong est positions against our o\vn 
front with over 6000 prisoners. Of that last attack I saw 
nothing, being home on sick-leave. 
I must say a word or t\VO about the Tanks. After the first 
great surprise, the exaltation of spirits caused by these new 
motor-monsters, there followed a disappointment in the public 
mind and even among our soldiers. Some of the infantry, 
poor lads, hoped that at last the enemy's deadly machine-gun 
fire would be killed by these things and that in future infantry 
attacks would be a walk-over behind the Tanks. That ,vas 
hoping too much. It would require thousands of Tanks to 
do that and we had only a few. But I have the record of 
what each Tank' did in action up to the 
iddle of October, 
and it leaves no room for doubt that, balancing success with 
failure, these new machines of war have justified their inventors 
a hundred-fold. They saved many casualties at certain points 
of the line and helped to gain many important positions, as 
at Thiépval and Flers, Courcelette and Martinpuich. If ,ve had 
enough of them-and it would be a big number-trench ,varfare 
would go for ever and machine-gun redoubts would lose their 
terror. 
The battles of the Somme-as we call this fighting, curiously, 
for on our side it is not very near the Somme-are not yet 
finished. As I write these words it is only a lull which seen1S 
to end them, and does end at least the first phase with which 
. 



20 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\ll\IE 
I deal in the pages that follo,v. They are pages \vritten on 
the evenings of battle hastily and sometinles feverishly, after 
days of intense experience and tiring sensation. Yet there is 
in them and through them one passionate purpose. It is to 
revea] to our people and the ,vorld the high valour, the self- 
sacrificing discipline of soul, the supreme endurance of those 
men of ours who fought and suffered great agonies and died, 
and if not killed or wounded, came out to rest a little ".hile 
and fight again, not liking it, you understand-hating it like 
the hell it is-but doing their duty, ,vith a great and glorious 
devotion, according to the light that is in them. 



I 


THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 


1 


WITH THE BRITISH ARMIES IN THE FIELD, JULY 1, 1916 
THE attack which ,vas launched to-day against the German 
lines on a 20-mile front began well. It is not yet a victory, for 
victory comes at the end of a battle, and this is only a beginning. 
But our troops, fighting with very splendid valour, have s,vept 
across the enemy's front trenches along a great part of the line 
of attack, and have captured villages and strongholds ,vhich 
the Germans have long held against us. They are fighting 
their way for,vard not easily but doggedly. Many hundreds 
of the enemy are prisoners in our hands. His dead lie thick in 
the track of our regiments. 
And so, after the first day of battle, we Inay say: It is, on 
balance, a good day for England and France. It is a day of 
promise in this war, in which the blood of brave Inen is poured 
out upon the sodden fields of Europe. 
For nearly a ,veek now we have been bombarding the enemy's 
lines from the Y ser to the Somme. Those of us who ha vc 
watched this bombardment knew the meaning of it. \Ve kne,v 
that it was the prcparation for this attack. All those raids of 
the week ,vhich I have recorded frOln day to day were but 
leading to a greater raid ,vhen not hundreds of men but hundreds 
of thousands would leave thcir trenches and go for,vard in a 
great a
sault. 
\Ve had to keep the secret, to close our lips tight, to ,vrite 
vague words lest the enemy should get a hint too soon, and 
the strain ,vas great upon us and the suspense an ordeal to the 
nerves, because as thc hours went by they drew nearer to the 
time when great masses of our men, those splendid young lnen 



22 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


\vho have gone marching along the roads of France, \vould be 
sent into the open, out of the ditches \vhere they got cover 
from the GenTIan fire. 
This secret ,vas foreshadowed by many signs. Tra veIling 
along the roads 've sa\v new guns arriving-heavy guns and 
field-guns, week after week. We were building up a great 
'weight of metal. 
Passing them, men raised their eyebrows and smiled grimly. 
. . . A tide of men flowed in frOITI the ports of France-new 
men of ne'v diyisions. They passed to SOlne part of the front, 
disappeared for a ,vhile, were met again in fields and billets, 
looking harder, having stories to tell of trench life and raids. 
The Army ,vas gro,ving. There 'was a mass of men here in 
France, and some day they would be ready, trained enough, 
hard enough, to strike a big blo\v. 
A \veek or two ago the \vhisper passed, "We're going to 
attack." But no more than that, except behind closed doors 
of the mess-room. Someho,v by the look on men's faces, by 
their silences and thoughtfulness, one could guess that son1e- 
thing was to happen. 
There ,vas a thrill in the air, a thrill from the pulse of men 
'who know the meaning of attack. 'V ould it be in June or 
July? . . . The fields of France \vere very beautiful this June. 
There \vere roses in the gardens of old French châteaux. Poppies 
put a fialne of colour in the fields, close up to the trenches, and 
there "yere long stretches of gold across the countryside. A 
. pity that all this should be spoilt by the pest of war. 
So some of us thought, but not n1any soidiers. After the 
misery of a ,vet winter and the expectations of the spring they 
\vere keen to get out of the trenches again. All their training 
led up to that. The spirit of the men was for an assault across 
the open, and they were confident in the new power of our 
guns. . . . 
The guns spoke one morning last ,veek with a louder voice 
than has yet been heard upon the front, and as they crashed 
out \ve kne\v that it ,vas the signal for the new attack. Their 
fire increased in intensity, covering raids at many points 
of the line, until at last all thing
 ,v ere ready for the biggest 
raid. 



THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 23 


2 
The scene of the battlefields at night was of terrible beauty. 
I motored out to it from a town behind the lines, \vhere through 
their darkened \vindo\vs French citizens watched the illumina- 
tion of the sky, throbbing and flashing to distant shell-fire. 
Behind the lines the villages were asleep, without the twinkle 
of a lamp in any window. The shadow forms of sentries paced 
up and do\vn outside the stone archways of old French houses. 
Here and there on the roads a lantern waved to and fro, and 
its rays gleamed upon the long bayonet and steel casque of 
a French Territorial, and upon the bronzed face of an English 
soldier, who caIne forward to stare closely at a piece of paper 
which allowed a rnan to go into-the fires of hell up there. It 
was an English voice that gave the first challenge, and then 
called out '" Good night" \vith a strange and unofficia 
friendliness as a greeting to men who were going towards the 
guns. 
The fields on the edge of the battle of guns were very peaceful. 
A faint breeze stirred the tall wheat, above \vhich there floated 
a milky light transfusing the darkness. The poppy-fields still 
glowed redly, and there was a glint of gold from long stretches 
of mustard fio\ver. Beyond, the woods stood black against the 
sky above little hollows 'where British soldiers were encamped. 
There by the light of candles which gave.a rose-colour to the 
painted canvas, boys were writing letters home before lying 
do\vn to sleep. Son1e horsemen were moving down a valley 
road. Farther off a long column of black lorries passed. It 
,vas the food of the guns going forward. 
A mile or two more, a challenge or two more, and then a 
halt by the roadside. It was a road which led straight into the 
central fires of one great battlefield in a battle-line of 80 miles 
or more. A small corner of the front, yet in itself a broad 
and far-stretching panorama of our gunfire on this night of 
bon1bardment. 
I stood \vith a few officers in the centre of a crescent sweeping 
round from Auchon villers, Thiépval, La Boissclle, and Fricourt 
to Bray, on the Somme, at the southern end of the curVé. Here 
in this beetroot-field on high ground, we stood \vatching one of 
the greatest artillery battles in which British gunners have been 
engaged..- Up to that night the greatest. 



24 


THE BATTLES OF THE SO
I
lE 


The night sky, very calm and moist, \vith lo,v-lying clouds 
not stirred by ,yind, ,vas rent ,vith incessant flashes of light as 
shells of cvery calibre burst and scattered. Out of the black 
ridges and \voods in front of us came explosions of ,vhite fire, as 
though the earth had opened and let loose its inner heat. They 
came up ,,,ith a burst of intense brilliance, \vhich bpread along 
a hundred yards of ground and then vanished abruptly behind 
the black curtain of the night. It \vas the work of high explo- 
sives and heavy trench mortars falling in the Gerrnan lines. 
Oycr Thiépval and La Boisselle there \vere rapid flashes of 
bursting shrapnel shells, and these points of flame stabbed the 
sky along the whole battle-front. 
Fronl the German lines rockets \vere rising continually. 
They rose high and their star-shells remained suspended for 
half a minute ,,"ith an intense brightness. ''''hile the light 
lasted it cut out the black outline of the trees and broken roofs, 
and revealed heavy \vhite sllloke-clouds rolling over the enemy's 
positions. 
Thcy \\"cre lTIOStly white lights, but at one place red rockets 
,vent up. They ,,"cre signals of distress, perhaps, fron} German 
infantry calling to their guns. It ,vas in the zone of thcse red 
signals, over to\vards Ovillers, that our fire for a titne ,vas most 
fierce, so that 
heets of flame ,va ved to and fro as though fanned 
by a furious 'wind. All the time along the German line red 
lights ran up and do\vn like little red dancing devils. 
I cannot tell \vhat they ,vere, unless they were some other 
kind of signalling, or the bursting of rifle-grenades. Sometimes 
for thirty scconds or so thc firing ceased, and darkness, very 
black and yelvety, blotted out everything and restored the 
,vorld to peace. Then suddenly, at one point or another, the 
earth seemeù to open to furnace fircs. Down by Bray, sonth- 
,yards, there ,vas one of these violent shocks of light, and then 
a moment later another by .A1.lchonvilkrs to the Borth. 
Aud once again the infernal fires began, flashing, flickering, 
running along a ridge ,,,ith a s\vift tongue of flame, tossing 
burning feathers above rosy SIl10k{'-cloud
, concentrating into 
one bonfire of bursting shells o\"er Fricourt and Thiép\ral, upon 
,vhich our batteries ahvays concentrated. 



THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 25 


3 
There was one curious phenomenon. It was the silence of 
all the artillery. By some atmospheric condition of moisture 
or \vind (though the night \vas calm), or by the configuration 
of the ground, \vhich made pockets into which the sound fell, 
there was no great uproar, such as I have heard scores of times 
in smaller bombardments than this. 
It was all muffled. Even our own batteries did not crash out 
'with any startling thunder, though I could hear the rush of big 
shells, like great birds in flight. Now and then there was a 
series of loud strokes, an urgent knocking at the doors of night. 
And now and again there was a dull, heavy thunder-clap, 
followed by a long rumble, which made me think that mines 
were being blo\vn farther up the line. 
But for the most part it was curiously quiet and low-toned, 
and somehow this muffled artillery gave one a greater sense 
of a \vfulness and of deadly \vork. 
Along all this stretch of the battle-front there was no sign of 
men. It was all inhuman, the work of impersonal powers, and 
man himself was in hiding from these great forces of destruction. 
So I thought, peering through the darkness, over the beetroots 
and the wheat. 
But a little later I heard the steady tramp of many feet and 
the thud of horses' hoofs 'walking slowly, and the grinding of 
wheels in the ruts. Shadow forms came up out of the dark 
tunnel bdo\v the trees, the black figures of mounted officers, 
followed by a battalion marching with their transport. I 
could not see the faces of the men, but by the shape of their 
forms could see that they 'yore their steel helmets and their 
fighting kit. They were heavily laden \vith their packs, but 
they 'were marching at a smart, swinging pace, and as they came 
along were singing cheerily. 
They ,verc singing son1e music-hall tune, with a lilt in it, as 
they marched to\vards the lights of all the shells up there; in the 
places of death. Some of them were blowing mouth-organs and 
ot.hers were whistling. I watched them pass-all these tall boys 
of a North Country regilncn t, and something of their spirit seelTled 
to come out of the dark lllass of thcir moving bodies and thrill 
the air. They \vere going up to those places \vithout faltering, 
\vithout a back,vard look and singing-dear, splcndid men. 



26 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 
I sa 'v other men on the march, and some of them ,vere 
whistling the " l\Iarseillaise," though they ,verc English soldiers. 
Others were gossiping quietly as they ,valked, and once the light 
of bursting shells played all dO'wn the line of thcir faces-hard, 
clean-sha ven, bronzed English faces, ,vith the eyes of youth 
there staring up at the battle-fires and unafraid. 
A young officer ,valking at the head of his platoon called out 
a cheery good night to me. It was a greeting in the darkness 
from one of those gallant boys who lead thcir men out of the 
trenches without much thought of self in that moment of 
sacrifice. 
In the camps the lights were out and thc tcnts were dark. 
The soldiers who had been writing letters Qome had sent their 
love and gone to sleep. But the shell-fire never ceased all night. 


4 
A Staff officer had whispered a secret to us at midnight in a 
little room, when the door ,vas shut and the window closed. 
Even then they were words which could be only ,vhispered, 
and to men of trust. 
" The attack ,viII be made this morning at 7.30." 
So all had gone ,veIl, and there was to be no hitch. The 
preliminary bombardments had done their work with the 
enemy's wire and earth,vorks. All the organization for attack 
had been done, and the men were ready in their assembly 
trenches 'waiting for the ,vords whieh ,vould hold all their fate. 
There was a silence in the room ,vhere a dozen officers heard 
the words-men ,vho were to be lookers-on and ,vho ,vould not 
have to leave a trench up there on the battlefields when the 
little hand of a ,,"rist-"Tatch said" It is no,v." 
The grcat and solemn mcaning of next day's dawn made the 
air seem oppressive, and our hearts beat jumpily for just a 
moment. There ,vould be no sleep for all those men crO'wded 
in the narrow trenches on the north of the Somme. God give 
them courage in the morning. . . . 
The dawn camc with a great beauty. There ,vas a pale blue 
sky flecked ,vith white 'wisps of cloud. But it was cold and 
over all the fields there was a floating mist which rose up from 
the moist carth and lay heavily upon the' ridges, so that the 
horizon was obscured. As soon as light came there ,vas activity 



THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 27 
in the place where I was behind the lines. A body of French 
engineers all blue from casque to puttees, and laden with their 
field packs, marched along \vith a steady tramp, their grave, 
grim faces turned to\vards the front. British Staff officers 
came motoring swiftly by and dispatch-riders mounted their 
motor-cycles and scurried a\vay through the market carts of 
French peasants to the open roads. French sentries and 
French soldiers in reserve raised their hand to the salute as our 
officers passed. 
Each man among them guessed that it was England's day, 
and that the British Army was out for attack. It \vas the spirit 
of France saluting their comrades in anns 'when the oldest 
" poilu" there raised a \vrinkled hand to his helmet and said to 
an English soldier, " Bonne chance, man camarade ! " 
Along the roads towards the battleficlds there was no move- 
ment of troops. For a fe\v miles there were quiet fields, \vhere 
cattle grazed and \vhcre the \vheat grew green and tall in the 
white mist. The larks were singing high in the first glinting 
sunshine of the day above the haze. And another kind of 
bird came soaring overhead. 
It was one of our monoplanes, which fle\v steadily towards 
the lines, a herald of the battle. In distant hollo'ws there were 
masses of limber, and artillery horses hobbled in lines. 
The battle-line came into view, the long sweep of country 
stretching south,vards to the Somme. Above the lines beyond 
Bray, looking towards the German trenches, was a great cluster 
of kite balloons. They were poised very high, held steady by 
the air-pockets on their ropes, and their baskets, where the 
artillery observers sat, caught the rays of the sun. I counted 
seventeen of tht.:m, the largest group that has ever been seen 
along our front; but I could see no enemy balloons opposite 
them. It seemed that \ve had more eyes than they, but to-day 
theirs have been staring out of the veil of the mist. 


5 


'Ve went farther for\vard to the guns, and htood on the same 
high field where \ve had watched the night bombardment. 
The panorama of battlc \vas spread around us, and the noise 
of battle swept about us in great tornadoes. I have said that 
in the night one was startled by the curious auietude of the 



28 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\l
,[E 


guns, by that qneer mumed effect of so great an artillery. But 
no\v on the morning battle this phenomenon, \vhich I do not 
understand, no longer existed. There \vas one continual roar 
of guns, which beat the air with great \vaves and shocks of 
sound, prodigious and over\vhelming. 
The full po\ver of our artillery was let loose at about 6 o'clock 
this morning. Kothing like it has even been seen or heard upon 
our front before, and all the preliminary bombardment. great as 
it \vas, seemed insignificant to this. I do not know ho\v many 
batteries \ve have along this battle-line or upon the section of 
the line \vhich I could see, but the guns seemed cro\vded in 
vast numbers of every calibre, and the concentration of their 
fire \vas terrific in its intensity. 
For a time I could see nothing through the low-lying mist 
and heavy smoke-clouds which lTIingled with the mist, and 
stood like a blind man, only listening. It \vas a \vonderful 
thing \vhich came to my ears. Shells were rushing through 
the air as though all the trains in the world had leapt their 
rails and were driving at express speed through endless tunnels 
in \vhich they met each other \vith frightful collisions. 
Some of these shells, firing from batteries not far from where 
I stood, ripped the sky with a high tearing note. Other shells 
whistled vtith that strange, gobbling, sibilant cry which makes 
one's bowels turn cold. Through the n1Îst and the smoke 
there came- sharp, loud, insistent knocks, as separate batteries 
fired salvos, and great clangorous strokes, as of iron doors 
banged suddenly, and the tattoo of the light field-guns playing 
the drums of death. 
The mist was shifting and dissolving. The tall tower of 
Albert Cathedral appeared suddenly through the veil, and the 
sun bhone full for a fe\v seconds on the golden Virgin and the 
Babe, which she held head do\vnwards above all this tumult 
as a peace-offering to n1en. Thc broken roofs of the town 
gleamed white, and the t\VO tall chimneys to the left stood 
black and sharp against the pale blue of the sky, into \vhich 
dirty smoke drifted above the whiter clouds. 
I could see no\v as \vell as hear. I could see OBI' shell\) falling 
upon the German lines by ThiépvaJ and La Boisselle and farther 
by l\Iametz, and southwards oyer li"ricourt. IIigh explosi ves 
\vere tossing up great von1Ïts of black smoke and earth 
all along the ridges. Shrapnel was pouring upon these 



THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 29 


places, and leaving curly white clouds, 'which clung to the 
ground. 
Belo,v there was the flash of many batteries like Morse code 
signals by stabs of flame. The enemy was being blasted by 
a hurricane of fire. I found it in my heart to pity the poor 
devils \vho were there, and yet 'was filled by a strange and 
a ,vful exultation because this ,vas the 'york of our guns, and 
because it was England's day. . 
Over my head came a flight of 
ix aeroplanes, led by a single 
monoplane, ,vhich steered steadily to,vards the enemy. The 
sky was deeply blue above them, and \vhen the sun caught their 
wings they were as beautiful and delicate as butterflies. But 
they ,vere carrying death with them, and \vere out to bomb the 
enemy's batteries and to drop their explosives into masses of 
men bchind the German lines. 
Farther away a German plane \vas up. Our anti-aircraft 
guns were searching for him \vith their shells, \vhich dotted the 
sky with snowballs. 
Every five minutes or so a single gun fired a round. It spoke 
with a voice I knew, the deep, gruff voice of old" Grandmother," 
one of our I5-inch guns, which carries a shell large enough to 
smash a cathedral with one enormous burst. I could follow 
the journey of the shell by listening to its rush through 
space. Seconds later there ,vas the ?istant thud of its explo- 
SIon. 
Troops were moving forward to the attack from behind the 
lines. It was nearly 7.30. All the officers about me kept 
glancing at their ,vrist-watches. \Ve did not speak much then, 
but stared silently at the smoke and mist ,yhich floated and 
banked along our lines. There, hidden, ,vere our men. They, 
too, would be looking at their \vrist-watches. 
The minutes vvere passing very quickly-as quickly as men's 
lives pass \vhen they look back upon the years. .An officer near 
I me turned away, and there was a look of sharp pain in his eyes. 
\Ve were only lookers-on. The oth('r filCH, our friends, the 
splendid Youth that we have passed on the roads of France, 
were about to do this job. Good luck go ,vith them! l\Icn 
were muttering such wishes in their hearts. 



30 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\ll\IE 


6 


It ,vas 7.30. Our watches told us that, but nothing else. 
The guns had lifted and ,vere firing behind the enemy's first 
lines, but there ,vas no sudden hush for the moment of attack. 
The barrage by our guns seemed as great as the first bombard- 
ment. For ten lninutes or so before this tÏ1ne a ne'v sound had 
come into the general thunder of artillery. It ,vas like the 
" rafale" of the French soixante-quinze, very rapid, with 
distant a.od separate strokes, but louder than the noise of field- 
guns. They ,vere our trench-mortars at work along the whole 
length of the line before me. 
It was 7.30. The Inoment for the attack had come. Clouds 
of smoke had been liberated to form a screen for the infantry, 
and hid the ,vhole line. The only men I could see 'were those in 
reserve, ,vinding along a road by some trees ,vhich led up to 
the attacking points. They had their backs turned as they 
marched very slowly and steadily for,vard. I could not tell 
who they ,vere, though I had passed some of them on the road 
a day or t,,,"o before. But, 'whoever they were, English, Irish, 
or 'Velsh, I watched them until most had disappeared from 
sight behind a clump of trees. In a little \"hile they would be 
fighting, and ,vould need all their courage. 
At a minute after 7.30 there came through the rolling smoke- 
clouds a rushing sound. It \vas the noise of rifle-fire and 
nlachine-guns. The men \vere out of their trenches and the 
attack had begun. The enemy ,vas barraging our lines. 


7 


The country chosen for our main attack to-day stretches froln 
the Somme for some 20 miles northwards. The French were to 
operate on our immediate right. It is very different country 
from Flanders, 'with its swamps and flats, and fronl the Loos 
battlefields, \vith thcir dreary plain pimplcd by slack-heaps. 
It is a sweet and pleasant country, \vith wooded hills and little 
valleys along the river-beds of the Ancre and the Sommc, and 
fertile meado\v-lands and stretches of ,voodland, ,vhere soldiers 
and guns may get good cover. "A clean country," said one 
of our Generals \vhen he first 'went to it from the northern war 
zone. 



THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 31 


It seemed very queer to go there first, after a knowledge of 
war in the Y pres salient, where there is seldom view of the 
enemy's lines from any rising ground--except Kemmel Hill 
and Observatory Ridge-and where certainly one cannot walk 
on the skyline in full view of German earthworks 2000 yards 
a ,vay. 
But at Hebuterne, which the French captured after desperate 
fighting, and at Auchonvillers (opposite Beaumont), and on 
the high ground by the ruined city of Albert, looking over to 
Fricourt and l\lametz, and farther south on the Somme, looking 
towards the little German stronghold at Curlu, beyond the 
marshes, one could see very clearly and 'with a strange, unreal 
sense of safety. 
I sa 'v a German sentry pacing the village street of Curlu, and 
,vent within 20 pac>es of his outposts. Occasionally one could 
stare through one's glasses at German ,vorking parties just 
beyond sniping range round Beaumont and Fricourt, and to the 
left of Fricourt the Crucifix between its seven trees seemed very 
near as one looked at it in the Gern1an lines. 
Below this Calvary was the Tambour and the Bois Français, 
where not a week passed without a mine being blown on one 
side or the other, so that the ground was a great upheaval of 
mingling n1in e-craters and tumbled earth, which but half 
covered the dead bodies of men. 
It ,vas difficult ground in front of us. The enemy ,vas strong 
in his defences. In the clumps of woodland beside the ruined 
villages he hid many machine-guns and trench-mortars, and 
each ruined house in each village ,vas part of a fortified strong- 
hold difficult to capture by direct assnlt. It ,vas here, however, 
and \vith good hopes of success that our men attacked to-day, 
working eastwards across the Ancre and north,vards up from 
the Somn1e. 


8 
At the end of this day's fighting it is still too soon to give a 
clear narrative of the battle. Behind the veil of smoke which 
hides our men there were many different actions taking place, 
and the messages that come back at the peril of men's lives 
and by the great gallantry of our signallers and runners 
give but glimpses of the progress of our men and of their 
hard fighting. 



32 THE BATTLES OF TIlE SOl\Il\IE 


I haye seen the wounded \vho have come out of the battle, 
and the prisoners brought down in batches, but even they can 
give only confused accounts of fighting in some single sector of 
the line \vhich comes 'within their o\vn experience. 
At first, it is certain, there \vas not much difficulty in taking 
the enemy's first line trenches along the greater part of the 
country attacked. Our bOlnbardment had done great damage, 
and had smashed down the enemy's wire and flattened his 
parapets. 'Yhen our men left their assembly trenches and 
swept forward, cheering, they encountered no great resistance 
from German soldiers, \vho had been in hiding in their dug-outs 
under our storm of shells. 
ltlany of these dug-outs \vere blown in and filled \vith dead, 
but out of others \vhich had not been flung to pieces by high 
explosives crept dazed and deafened men who held their hands 
up and bowed their heads. Some of theln in one part of the 
line came out of their shelters as soon as our guns lifted, and 
met our soldiers half - ,va y \vith signs of surrender. 
They were collected and sent back under guard, \vhile the 
attacking columns passed on to the second and third lines in 
the network of trenches, and then if they could get through 
then1 to the fortified ruins behind. 
But the fortunes of war vary in different places, as I kno\v 
from the advance of troops, including the South Staffords, the 
l\Ianchesters, and the Gordons. In crossing the first line of 
trench the South Staffordshire men had a cOlnparatively easy 
time, with hardly any casualties, gathering up Germans \vho 
surrendered easily. The enemy's artillery fire did not touch 
them seriously, and both they and the 
lanchesters had very 
great luck. 
But the Gordons fared differently. 'fhesc keen fighting men 
rushed for\vard \vith great enthusiasm until they reached one 
end of the village of ::\Iametz, and then quite suddenly they \,"ere 
faced by rapid machine-gun fire and a storm of bon1bs. The 
Germans held a trench called Danzig A venue on the ridge \vhere 
l\Iametz stands, and defended it \vith desperate courage. The 
Gordons flung themselves npon this position, and had some 
difficulty in clearing it of the enemy. At the end of the day 
Mametz remained in our hands. 
It \vas these fortified villages \vhich gave our men greatest 
trouble, for the German troops defended them \vith real courage, 



THE HISTORIC :FIRST OF JULY 33 


and \vorked their machine-guns froln hidden enlplacen1cnts 
\"ith skill and detennination. 
Friconrt is, I believe, still holding out (its capture has since 
been officially reported), though our men ha ve forced their 
way on both sides of it, so that it is partly surrounded. l\lont- 
anban, to the north-east of l\lan1etz, \vas captured early in the 
day, and \ve also gained the strong point at Serre, until the 
Ge
rn1ans made a some\vhat heavy counter-attack, and succeeded 
in driving out our troops. 
Beaun10nt-Ilamcl \vas not in our hands at the end of the 
day, but here again our men are fighting on both sides of 
it. The \voods and village of Thiépval, \vhich I had \vatched 
under terrific shell-fire in our prelin1inary bombardI11ents, \vas 
one point of our first attack, and our troops s\vept fro111 one end 
of the village to the other, and out beyond to a ne\v objective. 
They \vcre too quick to get on, it seems, for a considerable 
number of Germans remained in the dug-outs, and \vhen the 
British soldiers ,vent past thenl they came out of their hiding- 
places and becan1e a fighting force again. 
--'arther north our 
infantry attacked bot
 sides of the Gommecourt salient \vith 
th(' greatest possible valour. 
That is 111Y latest kno\vledge, ,vriting at Inidllight on thc 
first day of July, \vhich leaves our Inen beyond the Gennan 
front lines in Inany places, and penetrating to the country 
behind like arro,v-heads bet\veen the enemy's strongholds. 


9 


In the afternoon I sU,\V the first ba.tchs of prisoners brought iu. 
In parties of 50 to 100 they can1e do\vn, guarded by n1cn of the 
Border Itcgin1cnt, through the little :French harulets elose behind 
the fighting-lines, \\
here peasants stood in their door\va ys 
watching these firstfruits of victory. 
They \vere dan1agcd fruit, son1e of these poor \vretches, 
wounded and nerve-shaken in thc great bOlnbardment. 
Iost 
I)f then1 belonged to thc 10Dth and IIOth ltegiments of the 
t4th ltcscrve Corps, and they seclned to be a mixed lot of 
[}rnssians and Bavarians. On the ,,'hole, they \vere tall, strong 
'cHows., and there ,vere striking faces among theIn, of mcn 
it lighcr than the peasant type, and thoughtful. But thcy \vere 
'cry haggard and \vorn and dirty. 
e, 


c 



34 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\lME 


Over the barbed ,vire ,vhich had been stretched across a. 
farmyard, in the shado,v of an old French church, I spoke to 
son1C of them. To one nlan especiaHy, ,,,ho ans,vered all my 
questions \vith a kind of patient sadness. lIe told Ine that 
most of his con1rades and hinls
lí had been ,vithout food and 
",vater for several days, as our intense fire made it impossible to 
get supplies up the communication-trenches. 
About the bombardn1ent hc raised his hands and eyes a 
1110nlent-eyes full of a renlcnlbered horror-and said, " Es 'val' 
schrecklich" (It \Y8S horrible). l\lost of the officers had 
remained in the second line, but the others had been killed, he 
thought. lIis o,vn brother had been killed, and in Baden his 
mother and sisters \vould ,veep ,,,hen they heard. But he ,vas 
glad to be a prisoner, out of the 'val' at last, 'which ,,
ould last 
Inuch longer. 
A nc'v cohu11n of prisoners ,vas being brought do\vn, and 
suddenly the nlan turned and uttered an exclamation ,,,ith a 
look of surprise and a ,,"c. 
" Ach, cIa ist ein Hauptmann!" He recognized an officer 
an10ng these ne,v prisoners, and it seemed clearly a surprising 
thing to him that one of the great caste. should be in this plight, 
cshould suffer as he had suffered. 
Some of his felløw-prisoners lay on the ground all bloody and 
bandaged. One of them seemed about to die. But the 
English soldiers gave them ,vater, and one of our officers emptied 
his cigarette-case and gave thcln all he had to smoke. 
Other n1cn ,vcre coming back from the fields .of fire, glad also 
to be back behind the line. They ,vere our ,vounded, ,vho 
came in very quickly after the first attack to the casualty 
clearing stations close to the lines, but beyond the reach of 
shell-fire. Many of them ,vcre lightly ,vounded in the hands 
and feet, and sometimes 50 or l110re ,vere on one lorry, \vhich 
had taken up ammunition and ,vas no,v bringing back the 
casualties. 
They \vcre ,vonderful men. So ,,"onderful in their gaiety and 
courage that one's hcart melted at the sight of them. They 
'vere all grinning as though they had come fronl a " jolly" in 
\\'hich they had been bUll1ped a little. There ,vas a look of pride 
in their eyes as they came driving do,vn like \vounded knight4ô} 
from a tourney. 
They had g
ne through the job ,vith honour, and have eonlC 



THE HISTORIC FIRST OF JULY 


35 


out \vith their lives, and the ,vorld ,vas good and beautiful again, 
in this ,varIn sun, in these snug French yilla.ges, \vhere peasant 
men and \vomen waved hands to them, and in these fields of 
scarlet and gold and green. 
The men who \vere going up to the battle grinned back at 
those ,vho ,vere coming out. One could not see the faces of the 
lying-down cases, only the soles of their boots as they passed; 
but the laughing men on the lorries-some of them stripped to 
the .waist and bandaged roughly-seemed to rob war of some of 
its horror, and the spirit of our British so]diers sho\vs bright 
along the roads of France, so that the very sun seems to get some 
of its gold from these men's hearts. 
To-night the guns are at .work again, and the sky flushes as 
the shells burst over there where our lnen are fighting. . 



II 


TIlE FIRST CHARGE 


1 


JULY 2 
IT is possible no\v to get sOITIething like a clear idea of the 
fighting which began yesterday morning at 7.30, ,,,hen the 
furious ten1pcst of our guns pas
l:d farther over the Gern1
u1lincs 
and our infantry left their trenches for the great adventure. 
The battle gocs on, ,,,itb succcss to our arms. 
"'ricollrt, 
partly surrounded yesterday (by the 21st Division), ,vas taken by 
assault to-day, and a German counter-attack upon 1\lontauban 
'HiS repulsed \vith losses that tore gaps into thc CUt illY'S ranks. 
Prisoners come tramping dO"ì1 in batches, weary, ".orn 111el1, 
,vho have the gallalJtry to praise our O\VI1 infantry anù ren1en1ber 
,,,ith a shudder the violence of our gunfire. 
'Youndcd nlen ,yho arc coming out of the fighting-lines ask 
onc question, " IIo\v arc ".c doing?" 1\1('n suffering great pain 
have a sn1ile in their eyes ,,,hen the ans\ver comes, " 'Ye arc doing 
',"ell." The spirit of 
ur men is so high that it is ccrtain ,vc shall 
gain further ground, ho\yevcr great the cost. 
The ground \ve have already gained ,vas ,von by 111en \vho 
fought to \vin, and who \vent "aU out," as they say, \,'ith a 
fierce cnthusiasm to carry their objective, quickly and utterly 
and cleanly. This \yondcrful spirit of the ll1ell is praised by all 
their officers as a kind of ne\v revelation, though they sa,,, theln 
in tn.'neh lifc and in hard times. 
" 1 hey "cnt across toppingly," 
aid a \youndcù boy of the 
'Vest Yorkshires, who \vas in the first attack on Fricourt. "The 
fello\vs \V(Te glorious," said another YOlllìg ofIìcer \vho could 
hardly speak for th{' pain in his kft shoulder, 'where a piece of 
&he11 struck hin1 dO'\'1l ill 1\lanletz ',,"ood. "'Vonderfnl chaps! " 
said a lit:utenant of the 1\Ianchesters. "They \vent cheering 



THE FIRST CH...t\RGE 


87 


through machine-gun fire as though it \vere just the splashing 
of rain. . '. . They beat everything for real pluck." 
They beat everything for pluck except their o\vn officers, \vho, 
as usual, led their men for\vard ,vithout a thought of their o'wn 
risks. 


2 


The attack on l\Iontauban was one of our best successes 
. 
yesterday. The men ,vere mainly Lanca
hire troops (of the 
l\lanchester Regiment) supported by n1en of the Home 
Counties, including those of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Bedford, 
and Norfolk. They advanced in splendid order straight for 
their objective, s,vept over the German trenches, and captured 
large numbers of prisoners, \vithout great loss to themselves. 
Their comlnanding officers \vere anxious about a German 
strong point called the Briqueterie, or brickfield, which had 
been full of machine-guns and minen\verfers, and the original 
intention was to pass this \vithout a direct attempt to 
take it. 
But the position ,vas found to be utterly destroyed by our 
bon1bardment, and a party of lnen (the Liverpools) \vere 
detached to seize it, \vhich they did \vith comparative eac;;e. 
The remainder of the men in those battalions \vent on to the 
ruined village of 
Iol1taHban and, in spite of spasmodic n1achine- 
gnn fire from some of the brok.en houses, carried it in one great 
flood of invasion. 
Large numbers of Gernlans \vere taking cover in dug-outs and 
cellars, but as soon as 0111' n1en entered they caIne up into the 
open and surrendered. l\lany of them \vere so co\ved by the 
great bombardnlent they had suffered and by the \vaves of men 
that s\vept into their stronghold that they fellllpon their knees 
and begged nIost piteously for mercy, \vhich \\ras granted to 
them. 
The' loss of l\lantauhan ,vas serious to the enemy, and they 
prepared a counter-attack, \vhich \vas launched this lnorning, 
at 3 o'clock, at a strength of t\VO regÏ1nents. Our men '\"ère 
expecting this and had organized their defence. The Gern1ans 
canIe on in close order, ycry bravely, rank after rank advancing 
over the dead and \vonnùcd bodies of their comrades, \vho \vcre 
eallght by our Inachine-gnl1 fire and rifle-fire and nlown do\vn. 
Only a fe,v men \vere able to cnter onr trenches, and these died. 



38 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\tIl\IE 


Mantauban ren1ains in our hands, and so far the enemy ha5 not 
attempted another attack. 


. 


3 


Our line "rinds round the village in a sharp salient \vhieh drops 
south-eastwards to 1\Iametz, \vhieh is full of German dead and 
"rounded, "rho are being found in the cellars and taken back to 
our hospitals. It \vas in the taking of l\Ialnetz that some of the 
Gordons suffered heavily. 'Vith English troops they advanced 
across the open ,vith sl<;>ped arms. There \vas very little shf'll- 
fire and not a rifle-shot can1e from the enemy's broken trenches. 
"Suddenly," says one of their officers, "a n1achine-gnn 
opened fire upon us point-blank, and caught us in the face. I 
shouted to my men to advance at the double, and \ve ran for,vard 
through a perfect strcall1 of shattering bullets. IVlany of Iny 
poor boys dropped, and then I fell and kne\v nothing more for 
a \vhile. But after\yards I heard that \ve had taken l\lametz, 
and hold it still. . . . 1\1 Y Gordons \vere fine, but 'we had bad 
luck. " . 
It ,vas the fire of German n1achinc-gl1ns \vhieh \vas most 
trying to our men. Again and again soldiers ha ve told me 
to-day that the hard time came \vhen thesc bullets began to 
play upon them. In spite of our cnonnous bon1hardment there 
remained here and there, eyen in a front-lille trench, a n1achine- 
gun emplacement so strongly built ,vith steel girders and 
concrete cover that it had defied our high explosives. .And 
inside were D1en \vho \vere defiant also. 
A Y011ng officer of the N' orthun1berland Fl1siliers paid a high 
tribute to then1... "They are ,vonderful 111Cn," he said, "and 
,,"ork their Inachines until they are bombed to death. In the 
trenches by Frieourt they stayed on \vhcn a.ll the other I11en had 
either been killed or \,"ounded, and would neither surrender nor 
escape. It ,vas the same at Loos, and it would not be sporting of 
us if \\'e did not say so, though they have knocked out so luan)" 
of our best." 
The samc opinion in ahno
t the same ,,'orc1s ,vas given to n1e 
to-day by many men \vhose bodies bore ".itness to these Gcnnan 

Iaxims. and though their \vords werc a tribute to the ClleI11Y, 
they also proved the fine genero
ity in the heart of our o,vn men. 
'Yhile' the attacks ,,'cre b('ing n1ade on l\lontauban and l\lanletz 



THE FIRST CHARGE 


39 


very hard fighting ,vas in progress on the left, or ,vestern, side 
of our line from Gommecourt do,vInvards. So far I have heard 
very little of the action at Gonlmecourt, ,vhere the Gernlan 
salient ,vas most difficult to assault owing to fornlidable defences. 
In that direction our progress has not been great. 
Farther south at Ovillers and La Boisselle our attacks ,vere 
rather more fortunate, and some ground ,vas gained with great 
loss in life to the enemy, though not without many casualties to 
ourselves. Fortunately, as in all this fighting, the proportion 
of lightly \vounded men is ,vonderfully high. 
The advance upon the ridge of La Boisselle 'vas a splendid 
and Inemorable thing. The men ,vho took part in it ,vere hard, 
tough fello,ys "Tho fear neither man nor devil, nor engines of ,val'. 
They went for,vard cheering, and the Tyneside pipers played 
on their men. The Gernlan guns "rere flinging Jack J ohllsons 
over, but the
 did not inflict much damagc, and the men jeered 
at thenl. 
"Silly old five-point-nine ('rumps!" said a young officer 
to-day ,vho had been aillong them. "They only made a 
beastly stink and the devil of a noise. It ,vas the machine-guns 
,vhich did aJI the "Turk." 
The machine-guns 'vere enfilading our men from La Boisselle, 
and froin the high ground above their bullets canle pattering 
do,vn in sho
.ers, so that ,vhen they hit men in the shoulder they 
came out at the \vrist. They s,vept No l\Ian's Land like a 
scythe. 
But 0111' troops passed on steadily ,vith fixed bayonets at 
parade step, not turning their heads ,vhen comrades dropped 
to right and left of thenl. Th('v took the first line of German 
. 
 
trenches, which ,vere blo,vn to dust-heaps ,vith the bodies of 
the nlen ,vho had held theln. In the second line there ,vere 
11lell still living, and still resolute enough to defend themselves. 
They ,vere bombed out of this position, and our men ,vent on 
to the third line still under machine-gun fire. 
" It seemed to me," said a Lincolnshire lad, " as if there ,vas 
a lnnchine-gun to every five men." 'Vithout exaggeration 
there ,vere many of these nlachincs and they ,vere ser\Ted 
skilfully and terribly by their gunners. Beyond La Boissellc, 
,,"hich ,vas pressed on one side, the fire became very intense. 
IIigh explosives, shrapnel, and trench-mortars ploughed up the 
ground. 



40 


THE B.ATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\lE 


" They thre,v everything at us except half-croons," said a man 
of the Royal Scots. 
It ,vas the Royal Scots ,vho charged w'ith the bayonet into 
a body of German troops, and th
 ot.her battalions advanced 
at the double and captured batches of men ,vho had no Inore 
sto111ach for the fight. 
SOlnc of the hardest fighting at La Boisselle ,vas done by 
n1en of Dorset and 
Iallchester ,vith l-Iighland Light Infantry 
and Borderers. They had an easy tÏ1ne over the front line, but 
,vhen the second ,vas reached had to engage in a battle of 
bombs ,,,ith a large body of Gerlnans. This resista.nce ,,'as 
broken do,vn and ,,'hen there ,vas a 
ho,v of bayonets the 
enemy surrendered. They ,vere haggard nlcn, ,,-ho had suffered, 
like most of our prisoners, from long hunger and thirst as our 
bOlllbardllleut had cut off their supplies and broken the ,nttcr- 
pIpes. 
Farther north there ,vas a severe struggle for the possession 
of Thiépval, ,\.hich ,vas once in our hands but is no,v again in 
the enemy's grip. It is clear fronl all the evidence I can get 
that OHr men passed beyond to a further objectiye ,vitho1.lt 
staying to clear out the dug-outs ,\"here Gernlans \\yere in hiding 
or to search for all the 111achine-glln emplacelnents. The 
enemy came out of their hiding-places and served their lnachin
- 
guns upon the British troops ,vho had gone for,vard. 
A sergeant-major of the 
Ianchcsters, ,vho took part in one 
of the attacks which follo,ved each other in ,vaves npon the 
Thiépval positions, says that hc and his comrades forced their 
,vay acro
s the front trenches and had to ,vall
 over the bodies 
of large nunlbers of Gerlllan dead, \vho had fallen in the 
bombardment. 'Yith his regiInent he ,vent for,vard into a 
'wood known to the nl<..'n a
 H Blighty," and then fell "younded. 
::\laehinc-gun bullets and shrapncl \vcre slashing through it 
,vith a storm of lead, lopping off branches and ricochetting fr0l11 
the tree-trunks. The lncn stood this ordeal superbly, and those 
,vho ,\yere not 'VOllllded fought their ,vay through to\\'ards the 
yillagc. Some battalions ".orking on the left of Thii'pval h
td 
a ycry scycre ordeal. One of theIn, ,\'ounded, told n1C that 
they seized the first systcrH of trenches in thc face of machinc- 
gun firc and captured the nlCn ,vho ren1aincd alivc in thc 
dug-outs. 
They ,vere deep dug-outs, going 30 feet bc1o\v ground, and in 



THE FIRST CH.A.RGE 


41 


some cases, even at that depth, had trap-doors leading to still 
10v.Tr chan1bers, so that our bon1bardment had not touched 
thel11. 
Iany of them ,vere elaborately fitted and furnished, 
and ,vere ,vell stocked ,vith ,vine and beer. A great deal of 
correspondence ,vas found and sent back to our lines in sand- 
bags. 


· 4 


It 'vas ,vhcn our mcn advanced upon the Thiépval ,vood'5 
that they had their hardest hours, for the enemy's fire was 
heavy, and they had to pass through an intense barrage. 
l\lean,vhile big fighting ,vas in progress at Fricourt, and son1C 
of thc North-countrymen had a great ordeal of firc. They have 
donc magnificently, and Fricourt is ours. 
Othcr troops ,vere engaged, for lna
ses of men of many 
British regiments advanced on both sides of the village en- 
deavouring to get possession of Shelter 'Vood, Lozenge \;Vood, 
and the high gronnd to the nOl,th of the village from the position 
kno,vn as the Crucifix. Large numbers of Germans ,vere killed 
and wounded, but the garrison of Fricourt maintained a very 
stout resistance, and until this morning our attacks did 
not succeed in taking this stronghold, although it ,vas nearly 
surrounded. 
lleroic acts \vere done by our n1en, as I kno,v from the 
comrades ,,,ho \vere ,,,ith then1. One boy of eighteen, to givc 
only one instance, ,vas so good a captain, although a private 
soldier, that ,vhen the officers of his platoon had fallen h(' 
rallied the men and led then1 forwa.rd. "Conle on, Iny lads," 
he cried. ""\V e'll get thenl out!" A pipe-major of the 
Itoyal Scots led this battalion for\vard to an old Scottish tunc, 
and during the attack stood out alone in No lUau's Land playin
 
5till until he fell ,vounded. 
Early this morning a very fine flanking attack ,vas made on 
Ii'ricourt by the Inen ,,,ho had held on to the ground during the 
night, and Crucifix Trench ,vas taken after the explosion of 
t,vo big n1Ïnes. The attack then ciosed in, one body of troops 
,vorking round to the north and another fighting their ,yay 
rOllnd the south side in order to get the village within a pair of 
tong:-.. 
Th(' operation succeeded and the village ,vas taken, but 
fighting still ,vent on to baiu possession of the high ridge above. 



42 


TIlE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


.A "'hole 
suddenly 
straurrled 
bb 
our men. 
But th
 enemy's guns put np a heavy barrage of shrapnel 
and high explosives ,,-hen our 111en tried to advance along thE' 
ridge, and fron1 the upper end of the Fricourt \V ood there 
came the incessant datter of n1achine-gun fire. Our attack 
did not falter, anù as far as I can learn the position to-night is 
good. 
IIerc, then, are son1e scraps of fact ahout a great battle still 
in progress and coyering a \vide stretch of ground, in \vhieh 
many separate actions a.re taking place. It is ÎInpossible for 
a.n eye-\vitness to see more than a corner of these battlefields, 
and at this hour for one man to 'vrite a clear, straight chronicle 
of so great an adventure. I have heen travellillg to-day about 
the lines, trying to gather the threads together, talking to lnany 
of our fighting men, going among the \vounded and the prisoners, 
and in the intense and ÏInmediate interest of this great drama of 
'val' \vhieh is all about 111C, trying to get at the latest facts of 
our progress fronl honr to hour. 
But what I have \vritten is only the odds and ends of a long 
heroic story \vhieh must be \vritten later \vith fuller kno\vledgc 
of men and deeds. Only one thing is really very clear and 
shining in all this turmoil of t\VO days of battle-it is the 
llneonq ucrable spirit of our men. 


company of Gernutn soldiers \vere seen to eonle 
across the open ,vith their hands up. Other men 
singly o\-er the shell-beaten ground to surrender to 



III 


THE FIELD OF HONOUR, 


1 


JULY 3 
.As the hours pass ,ve are gaullng ne\v ground and extending 
our line slowly but steadily to straighten it out betvieen the 
German strongholds ".hieh have been captured by the great 
gallantry of our men after heavy fighting. 
To-day ,yhen I ,vent into the heart of these battlefields in 
and around Frieourt, ,,,here ,ye hp"ve lnade our Inost successful 
advance, I could see the progress ,ve have made since the first 
day's attacks by the elevation of the shell-fire, which traced 
out the Gernlan and British lines. To the right of 111e ,,,,as 
Mametz, held by our troops and our encircling loop no longer 
dipped so steeply south,vards as before, but curved gradually 
,vestwards bleow the Bois de lVlamC'tz until it reached Fricourt 
itself. 
Here we arc not only in possession of the village but have 
the .wood on the high ground beyond, the Crucifix Trench on 
the edge to the left, and Lozenge \tV ood still farther to the left. 
Our line then runs to La Boisselle, most of \vhich ,vas in our 
hands early this morning after a fierce b0l11bardu1ent by our 
gnns, foHo\ved by the infantry advance. It seemed to me, 
from n1Y o,vn observation to-day, that the Gel'lTIan guns are 
retiring farther back to escape capture or dirC'ct hits, for many 
of their shrapnel shells appeared to come from an extreme 
range by high angle fire. All this sho,vs that \ve arc pressing 
the enemy hard, and that so far he is unable to bring up supports 
to secure his defencc. 
The scene hC're ,vas \vonderful, and though I have been in 
n1any battlefiC'lds since this war began I h3. ve never \vatchcd 
before such a conlplete and close picture of ,varin its infernal 



:t4 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\f1\IE 


grandeur. The ,vood of La Boisselle ,vas to n1Y left on the 
rising slopes, up ,vhich there ,vound a 'white road to that ragged 
fringe of broken tree-trunks, standing like gallo,v5-trces against 
the sky-line. 
In1nlediately facing me ,vas Lozenge 'Vood and the Crucifix, 
,vith two separate trces kno\vn as the Poodles, and just across 
the \vay to my right in the hollo\v that dips belen\" the ,vood 
,vas Fricourt. l\lontauban, ,vhich our troops took by assault 
in the first day's fighting, ,vas marked only by one tall chimney, 
the rest of its ruins being hidden behind a crest of ground, 
but to the' right, near enough for Ine to see a.nd count its ruined 
houses, ,vas 1\Ian1etz lying in a cup belo,v the ridge. 
 great bon1bardmcnt 'was raging frolll both sides, the enenlY 
shelling the placcs \ve had taken from him, and our guns putting 
a heavy barrage on to his positions. La Boisselle \vas being 
shell{'d by shrapnel ,vith great severity, and there \vas one spot 
at the northern end of the tree stumps ,vhere British and Gernuu1 
shells seenled to meet and mingle their explosions. 
In \vhat ,vas once a village there ,"ere dense clouds of sn10ke 
,vhich rose up in columns and then spread out into a thick 
pall. In the very centre of this place, ,vhich looked like one 
of Dante's visions of hell-fire, one of our soldiers was signalling 
,,,ith a flaming torch. 
The red flame moved bacl\::,vards and for\vards through the 
,vrack of sll1oke, and \vas then tossed high, as a ne\v burst of 
shrapnel broke over the place ,vhere the signaller stood. 
Our batteries ,vere firing single rounds and salyos in the' 
direetion of Contalnlaison from many places behind our lincs, 
so that I .was in the centre of a circle of guns all concentrating 
upon the cnemy's lines behind Fricourt and l\Ianletz \Vooel 
and La Boisselle. Shells fronl Ollr heavies camp 
crcaming 
overhead ,,,ith a high rising note \vhich ends ,vith a suddcn 
roar as the shell bursts, and our field-batteries ,vcre firing 
rapidly and continuously so that the sharp crack of each shot 
seemed to rip the air as though it \vere nlade of calico. 
It \vas a tornado of shell-fire, and though one'b head ached 
at it and each big shell as it travelled oyer seemed in a queer 
,vay to take son1ething from one's vitality by it
 rush of air, 
there ,vas a 
trangc exultation in one's senses at the cOJl"cions- 
ness of this mass of artillery supporting our men. Those ,verc 
our guns. Ours! 



THE FIELD OF l-IONOUR 


45 


They had the mastery. They ,vere all registerC'd on the 
cnemy. Our guns at last had given us a great chance. The 
infantry had something behind theIn, and it ,vas not all flesh 
and blood against great engines, as in the early days it used 
to be. 


2 


Thc enemy ,vas replying chiefly on the ground about La 
:BoissellC', so that I hated to think of our men up there, for 
though it ,vas nothing like our bombardment it was heayy 
enough to increa::,e the cost ,ve ha Ye had to pay for progress. 
I could see nothing of the men in that smoke and flanIe, but 
I could see 111Cn going up to,,'ards it, in a quiet., leisurely ,yay 
as though strolling on a sumnler morning in peaceful fields. 
It ,vas curious to ,vatch our 
oldicrs ,valking about this 
battlefield. They seemed very ainlless, in little groups, 
,vanderinf! about as though picking ,vild flo,yerS-SOn1e of 
those poppies "rhich made great splashes of scarlet up to the 
trenches, or son1e of the bluc cornflo,vers and purple scabious 
and ,vhite stitclnvort ,vhich ,veaved the colours of France over 
these poor stricken fields of hers, no,v hers again, and the 
charlock which ran ,vith a riot of gold in all this great luxuri- 
ance bet,veen the tunlbled eartInvorks ,vhere dead bodies lay. 
The shells ,vere \vhining and rending the air above their 
heads, but they did not glance up,vards or for\vards to \vhere 
the shells burst and vOlnited black smoke. They seemed as 
careless of 'val' as holiday-makers on Ifampstead Heath. 
"\.
 et ,,,,hell I \vent among them I found that each nlan had his 
special n1Íssion, and \vas part of a general purpose guided by 
higher po,vers. Some of them \vere laying Be'" ,vires for ne,y 
telephones oyer ground just captured from thc enen1Y. 
Others ,vcre runners cOIning do,vn ,,'ith n1essages through 
the barrage higher up the roads. Artillerynlen and engineers 
,,,ere getting on ,,,ith their job, quietly, \vithout fuss. 
From over thc ridge ,vhere Crucifix Trench runs from the 
Poodles into Fricourt \V ood caHle a body of HICD. I could 
see their heads above the trench. Then they seenled to rest 
a \yhile. After that they canle into full vie\v belo,v the ridge. 
Had thC'y been seen by the GerIuan gunners? 'Yhy ,vere 
they rUllning like that do,vn thc slope? Som<:> shrapnel-clouds 
came ,,,hite and curly above t.he sky-line; others fluffed lo,ver,. . 



46 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


nearer to the men. They "
ere in such a bunch that one shell 
'would do great damage there. . . . 
They scattered a little and I sa\V their figures taking cover 
in the hummocky ridges. It was only later that I heard that 
these men had been fighting hea \Tily down near the t\VO trees 
kno\vn as the Poodles, and that they had captured a number 
of German prisoners, ,vho caIne to,vards them \vith uplifted" 
hands. The pric;;oners ,vere being brought do,vn in snlall 
batches, ,vhom I nlCt on the road. 


3 


Up at La Boisselle the shelling ,vas btiU intense, but our 
troops had already surrounded part of the position, and after 
a concentration by our gW1S advanced and captured it. .L\. 
number of Gernlans ,verc there in their dug-outs, the remnant 
of a battalion which had suffered frightful things under our 
gun-fire. Some of the officers, it seems, from what the prisoners 
told me, went away to Bush Tree Copse, Contalmaison, saying 
that they" ere going to bring up reserves. But they did not 
come back. 
The other men-about 250 of them-stayed in the dug-outs, 
,vithout food and ,vater, ,,""hile our shells nlade a fury aboye 
them and 
mashed up the ground. They had a German doctor 
there, a giant of a nlan ,vith a great heart, ,vho had put his 
first-aid dre
::,ing-station in the second-line trench and attended 
to the ,vounds of the men until our bombardment intensified 
so that no man could livc there. 
He took the wounded do,vn to a dug-out-those who had 
not been carried back-and stayed there l:'
pecting death. 
But then, as he told me to-day, at about cleven o'clock this 
morning the shells ceased to screanl and roar above-ground, 
and after a suddcn silence he heard the noise of British troops. 
He ,vent up to the entrance of his dug-out and sa.id to SOinc 
Eng]ish soldiers who caIne up ,,-ith fixed bayonets, "My 
friends, I surrender." Aftcr,vards he helped to tend our o,vn 
wounded, and did ,,'cry good ,york for us under thc fire of his 
own guns, ,vhk'-J.l had no,v turned upon this position. 
. Þ 
There 'was another German to-day at La lloisselle, but his 
work was not that of helping wounded men. It 'vas onc 
of those machine-gunners ,yho kept up a firc of dropping bullets 



THE FIELD OF HONOUR 


47 


upon our troops when ,ve first made an assault upon this position. 
A.nd to-day he was there still in his emplacement doing very 
deadly ,york, and though he ,vas ,vonnded in nine places ,vhen 
\ve found him he was still ,vorking his terrible little gun. 
Our men took him prisoner, and, in the English ,yay, bore 
no grudge against him, but sang his praises. 
lany other 
machine-guns were captured, and round one of them all the 
team was laid out dead by one of n shells. 
 
' } 'Q . 
 
 
, .r 4 
At about 11.30 in the.n10rning I wal yed do'vn into Fricourt, 
,vhich ,,'as captured yesterday afternoon. It 'vas a strange 
,valk, not pleasant, but full of a terrible interest. Fighting 
,vas still going on on the high ground above, a few hundred 
yards a\vay, and while I had been .watching the scene of ,val' 
from a field near by I had seen heavy shells, certainly five- 
point-nines, falling near the village and raising clouds of black 
and greenish smoke, and they ,vere falling into Mametz some 
distance to the right: 
Fricourt ,vas not an inviting place, but other men had been 
there at a \vorse tirne. And the interest of it called to one to 
get into this bit of ruined ground ,vith its broken brick\vork 
,vhich for more than a year we have star<:>d at across barbed 
,vire and through holes in the ground as an evil place beyond 
our kno\vledge, as a place from \vhich death ca.me to our men 
from trench-mortars and machine-guns, separated from us 
by lines of trenches full of snipers ,,,ho \vaited and ,vatchcd 
for any of onr heads to appear, eyen for a second, above the 
parapet, and by No l\Ian's Land into \vhich some of our braye 
boys ,vent out at night at great peril, hiding in shell-holes, 
and avoiding the mine-fields of the Bois Français and other 
ground honeycombed below by Gernlan galleries which, night 
after night-do yon relncmber the line in the official con1- 
muniqué ?-flllng up the' soil and forlned another crater and 
buried son1e more of our men. "There ,vas mining activity 
near :Fricourt." 'V ell, there wi}] be no more of it there. 
I went across the fields-Lord God! that \vould have n1eant 
death a week or two ago, before the cnelUY ,vas busy \vith other 
things close by-and came do.wn to our old systeJTI of trenches. 
I-Icrc \vere the little ,voodcn bridges across ,vhich our men 



48 


THE BATTLES OF TIlE SOl\fl\iE 


111adc their advancc, and litters of sandbags no lnore to be used 
for the parapets here, and the abandoned propert.ies of n1e11 
"rho had left these old fan1iliar places-the old rat-holes, the bays 
in the trenches "'here they stood on guard at night, the dug-outs 
,,,here they had pinned np photographs-upon the Illorning of 
the great ad,-enture, ,vhich ,vas yesterday. 
Ilere ,vas a redoubt frolll ,vhich I had first looked across 
to the Crucifix and the c0l11lnunication-treuch up \vhich the Blen 
used to COine at night. No". all abandoned, for the' }lleU had 
gone for,vard. 
The flowers ,yerc gro,,'ing richly in No l\Ian's Land, red and 
yello,v and blue, except ,,-here the earth '\'as \vhite and barren 
above the lninc-fields of the famous Talnbour, and bro,vn and 
barren in the Bois F'rançais, ,yhere never a tree no'v grows. 
'Ye ,valked across No Man's Land in the full sunlight of this 
July day, and though shells ,vere rushing overhead, those 
from our batteries seemed lo,y enough to cut off the heads OD 
thc flo,vers, and 111ine. They ,vere 1110stIy our shells. 
Lightly wounded men, just hit up there beyond the ,vood, 
,valked a.long unaided, or helped by a comrade. One of then1, 
a boy of 18 or so, ,,'ith blue eyes under his steel hcln1ct, stopped 
n1e and sho,yed n1e a bloody bandagc round his hand, and said 
,vith an excitcd laugh: 
" They got n1e all right. I ,vas serving n1Y Lc,vis ,vhen a. 
bullet caught Dle slnack. :KO\Y I'nl off. And I'vc had 18 
lnonths of it." 
lIe ,vent a,vay grinning at hi
 luck, because the bullet lnight 
have chosen another place. 
Some Gennan prisoners follo,ved hiln. ï\vo of theln ,vere 
carrying a stretcher on ,vhich an English soldier lay ,,-ith his 
eyes shut. A ,younded Gernlan behind turned and sn1iled at 
me-a strong, llleaningful 
mile. lIe ,vas glad to be ,younded 
and out of it. 
Other Germans came down under guard, and little groups 
of English soldiers and lIed Cro
s n1cn. I struck across the 
field again to the old Gefll1an lines of trenches, and sa'v thc full 
and frightful horror of war. The Gernlan trenches ,vcrc 
smashed at sonlC places, by our artillery-fire, in to shapelessness. 
Green sandbags were flung about, tin1bers froln the trench 
sides had bcen broken and tossed about like tnatch-sticks. 
I 
hllnblcd froln one shell-crater to another, over bits of 



THE }1'IELD OF HOXOUR 


49 


indescribable things, and the litter of mcn's tunics and pouches 
and ha versaeks, and dug-outs. l1illes lay about, and the ground 
,vas stre.wn ,vith hand-grcnadcs, and here and there ,vas a 
, 
great unexploded shell .which had noscd into the soil. There 
,vcre many Gernlan dead lying there in Frieourt, and sonle of 
our o,,-n poor nlcn. 'fhe Gernlan') ,vere lying thick in one 
part of the trenchcs. 
They had been tall, fine Blcn in life. One of thenl lying 
,,,ith Inany wounds upon hinl ,vas quite a giant. .-\nother 
poor man lay on his back ,vith his face turncd up to thc blue 
sky and his hands raised up aboyc his body as though in 
prayer. . . . 
But I turned 111Y head a,vay frol11 these sights, as 1110St peoplc 
hide these things fronl thcir inIagination, too co,vardly to 
face the reality of war. 
I follo,vcd an ollìcer do\vn into a GerIuan dug-out until he 
ha.ltcd haIf-\vay down its stcps and spoke a ,yord of surprise. 
,. There's a candle still burning! " 
It gave one an uncanny feeling to see that lighted candle in 
the deep subterrancan roon1, wherc yesterday German officers 
,,"ere living, unlcss dcad before yesterday. 
It could not havc bcen burning all that tin1c. For a moment 
we thought an encIny n1ight still be hiding thcre, and it '''''as not 
ÎIl1probable, as t,vo of thenl had bcen found in Fricoul't only 
a few hours before. IJut in alllikclihood it had been lit by an 
English soldier after the capture of the place. 
The dug-out ,vas littercd ,vith German books and papers. 
I picked up one of thenl, and S3.\V that it was "Advice on 
Sport." IIcre was sad sport for Gcrnlans. Thcre ,vas a. tragic 
spirit in that little room, and 'Ve ,vcnt out quickly. I pecred 
into other German dug-outs, and sa\v how splendidly built 
they ,verc, so dccp and so strongly timbered that not even our 
bombardn1cnt had utterly destroyed thenl. They are great 
,yorkers, these Germans, and ,vonàerflll soldiers. 
I
Ycrywhere there lay about great nlunbers of steel hchnets, 

onle of thcln .with yizors, and ,veIl designed, so that they 
conle do,vn to the napc of the neck and protcct all the head. 
Sonle of our soldiers ,vcre bringing them baek as souvenirs. 
One Blan had ten dangling about hinI, like the tin pots Qn a. 
travdling tinker. 
In the wood bcyond the Crucifix our n1achinc-gull<'; were 
D 



50 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\'Il\IE 


firing ficrcf'ly, and the' noise ,vas like that of a great flan1e 
. beyond the village. Fricourt itself is just a heap of frightful 
ruin, with the remains of houses \vhich the enemy had used as 
Inachinc-gun enlplacements. Every yard of it was littered ,vith 
the debris of war's afternlath. Before our final attack yester- 
day IDany of the German troops filtered out in retreat, leaving 
some of their wounded behind, and one poor puppy-a fox- 
t('rrier-,,
hich is no, v the trophy of OIle of our battalions. 
But a number of nlen-about 150, I should say-could not 
get away o"ing to the intensity of our first bombardnlent, 
and ,vhen our men stormed the place yesterday afternoon they 
came up out of their dug-outs ,vith their hands up for mercy. 
I saw them all to-day and spoke ,vith some of them. 
They belonged to the 109th, 110th, and Illth Regiments of 
the 14th lleserve Corps, and ,yere nlostly from BadeIl. It 
,vould be absurd to talk of these fello,vs as being undersized 
or underfed men. They ,vere tall, strong, stout men in the I 
prime of life. Only a fe,,, ,vere ,younded, and lay about in a 
dazed ,vay. The others ans,vered me cheerfully, and expressed 
their joy at haying escaped fron1 our gunfire, which they de- 
scribed as "schrecklich" -te'rrible. They had had no food or 
drink since yesterday morning until their English guards gave 
it to them. 
I spoke also ,vith a little group of officers. They ,,,ere young 
n1en of an aristocratic type, and spoke very frankly and poJitely. 
They, too, ackno\vledged the ne,v po,ver of our artillery and 
the courage of our men, \vhich ,vas not new to them. It ,vas 
here that I had a talk ,,,ith the German Illedical officer ,vhonl I 
had seen \vallci.ng do,vn bet,veen t,,"o guards close to Fricourt. 
After describing his o,vn experiences during the bombardment 
this nlorning he laughed in a sad ,yay. . 
" This war ! " he said. " 'Ve go on killing each other to no 
pnrpose. Europe is being bled to death, anrl vlill be im- 
}Joyerishcd for long years. It is a \\'ar against religion, and 
against civilization, and I see no end to it. Germany is strong 
and England is strong and France is strong. It is impossible 
for one side to crush the other, so ,vhen is the end to come? " 
Because of his services to our o"
n men he 'vas given special 
privileges, and an English soldier had brought down all his 
personal belongings. A little apart from all his fello\v-oflicers 
stood a German lieutenant-colonel ,vho ,vas charged with 



TIlE FIELD O
-' HONOUR 


51 


, having killed t\VO of our officers by bombing them after his 
surrender. A tall, gloomy, truculent man of the ,vorst Prussian 
type, he stood a ,vaiting an inquiry, and I could only hope that 
he ,vas not guilty of such a crime. 
:From personal observation I kno,v nothing of 'what has 
happened elsewhere in the line to-day, but I have heard a 
story of an attack on the Gommecourt salient ,yhich shows 
that this action ,vas one of the most tragic and heroic things 
in British history. The enenlY had concentrated a great mass 
of gUllS here in the belief that our main attack ,vas to be 
directed against this part of the front. The existence of this 
bclicf has been proyed by German orders which have come into 
our hands. 
As soon as our men left their trenehès after the bon1bard- 
ment yesterday the enemy barraged our front and support 
trenches ,vith a most infernal fire. Our men advanced through 
this barrage absolutely as though on parade, and in spite of 
heavy losses some of thew made their ,yay over 500 yards of 
No l\lan's Land to the ene1l1Y's front line. 
The German soldiers also behaved ,vith great courage, al'td 
carried their Inachine-guns right through our barrage until 
they faced our men in the open and s,vept theln ,vith fire so 
that large numbers fell. 
;

 
The attack did not succeed in this part of the line. --;:'
 But 
it dre\v on the enemy's reserves, and great honour is due to 
the valour of those men of ours ,vho fought as heroes in one 
of the most glorious acts of self-sacrifice ever made by British 
troops. 



IV 


THE DEATH-SOXG OF THE GERl\IAXS 


!lorning bright; morning bright- 
Light that leads me to the gra.ve- 
Roon shall dawn with summons brazen 
Call me to my death to hasten- 
I and many a comrade brave. 
'" :\lorgenroth -, (Dr. Blackie's translation) 


"lIorgcnroth,U the haunting death-song of the forlorn hopes of the German 
armies, is the Bong which was sung so often in the Franco-Prussian \Yar of 
1870 and is being Bung again to-day. 
The words were writt.en by'ViThe-1m Hauff, a patriot.ic German writ('r of the 
first half of the nineteenth century. 


1 


JULY 
 
No sensational progress has been lnade by us since I "Tote 
)ny last dispatch, yesterday, but our guns are in a good position 
to folIo,\" up our advance, and the battle is developing, I l)('lic\re, 
according to the original plan, ,yhich anticipated sJo'v and 

teady fighting from one Gcrnlan position to another. That 
is being done, q,ud another point "'as gained to-day by the 
cal)ture of Bernafay 'Y ood, to the north-cast of ::\lontauball, 
froB1 ,,'hich I have just COD1C back after seeing thc shelling of 
this ,vood from close range. 
It is behind th
 lines on thf" outskirts of the battlefields that 
one sces most of the activity of '''aI', ns I Sfi.'V it to-day again 
,,,hen I ,vent up to this captured ground of 1-Iolltauhan. Up 
the'rc ,,'here fighting ,vas in progress not )llHny nlcn '''ere yisiblc. 
Until the advance, after the ,,'ork of our guns, and the' short, 
sharp rush fronl open ground under the enemy's shrapnel, 
our 111cn are hidden and the only mOVCl11cut to be s('('fl is that 
of the 
hclls bursting and tossing up th
 e
l1-th. 
But on the way lip, now that the ,nl,r i
 no longer stationary, 



THE DEATH-SONG OF THE GERMANS 53 


there is a great turmoil of men and mules and guns and ,vagons, 
and again and again to-day I ,,
ished that I could put on to 
paper sketches rather than ,vords to describe these scenes. 
For here all along the ,yay ,vere historic pictures of the canlpaign 
full of life and colour. 
Great camps had been asseIllbled in the dips and hollO"ws 
of the hills, ,,
ith painted tents between the lines and great 
nlasses of horses and "
agol1s and gun-lin1bers crow'ded together, 
'with thousands of nlen busy as ants. Transport c<;>lulnIls came 
do,,
n or ,vent up the hilly roads driven by tired nlen ,vho 
drooped in their scats or saddles after three days of battle, in 
,vhich they have had but little sleep. One of them ,vas asleep 
to-day. He had fallen back,,
ards in his ,vagon still holding the 
reins, and whilè he slept his horses jogged on steadily follo,ving 
the leaders of the column. On the roadside and anlong the 
,vild f1o,vers of uncultivated fields batches of infantry, ,,,ho 
had been marching all night, had flung themselves do'wn 

nd slept also ,vhile they had a half-hour's chance, ,vith 
their arIllS outstretched, \vith their rifles and packs for their 
pillo,vs. 
Other 111en \vere moving up to\yards the fighting-lines, 
nlarching ".ith a steady tralnp along the chalky roads, ,,-hich 
plastered them with ,,,hite dust from steel helmet do,vn\vards, 
and put a ,,,hite mask upon their faces, except vihere the sweat 
came do,vn in gullies. Artillerymen \vere leading up reserve 
horses, ,,,ho put their ears back for a mOlTIent, as though to 
switch off flies, \vhen heavy guns blared forth close to them 
and shells of at least S-inch calibre went ho,vling overhead to 
the'l cllPnlY's lines. 
i\t \vayside corners ,vere field dressing-stations flying the 
He'd Cro-.;s flag, and surrounded by little parks of alTIbulances, 
where stretchermen "
ere busy. .A.nd eyery no,v and then, 
at a cross-road or a by-path, a \voodcn notice-board directed 
the ,vay in red letters and the ,vords " 'Valking ,voundcd." 
This ,vas the Via Dolorosa of Inen 'vho could hobble a\n1V 
rroJTI the battlefield up there and get baek OIl their legs to say'c 
transport nlore badly needed by stricken cOJurades. 
Closer to the lines there ,vas a scene \\'hich ,vould make one 
Wt'ep if one had the ,veakness of tears after t\\'o years of 'war. 
0uI' dead '''ere bC'ing buried in a ne,vly nlade Cellletery, and 
S0l11e of their cOlnrac!es ,vere standing by the open graycs and 



54 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


sorting out the crosses-the little v{ooden crosses ,vhich gro,v 
in such a harvest across thesc fields of France. 
They were white above thc bro,vn ea.rth, and put into neat 
ro,,'s, and labelled ,,'ith strips of tin bearing the names of thosc 
,vho no,v have peace. 
French troops \vere n1ingled an10ng our o,vn men. .A ,vorking 
party of them came along shouldering picks and shovels. They 
'Yere Territorials, past the fighting age, but tall, sturdy, hardened 
men, ,vith a likeness to their young sons, ,vho, ,vith less ,veight 
but ,vith the same hard bronzed look, are fighting the nc,v 
battles of the ,val'. 
It ,vas the sound of French guns a,vay to the south ,vhich 
,vas making most commotion in the air to-day. Big fighting 
.was going on there, as though the I.'rench ,vere making a 
further advance, and the "rafale" of their field-guns ,vas in- 
cessant and like the roll of l11any drums. 


2 


As I went over the battlefield of Montauban the cnen1Y's 
shells and our own were falling over Bernafay Wood, where 
each side held part of the ground. A little to my left 
Iametz 
,vas being pounded heavily by the German gnnners, and they 
,vere flinging shra pnel and '" crumps " into the ragged fringe 
of trees just in front of me, \vhich marks the place ,,'here the 
village of l\iontauban once stood. They were also barraging 
a line of trench just belo'v the trees, and keeping a steady 
fluw of five-poi nt-nines into one end of the .wood to the right 
of :\Iontauba.n, for ,vhich onr men are no,v fighting. 
Other shells came \vith an irregular choice of place over the 
battlefield, and there ,verc mOll1ents ,vhen those clouds of 
black 
hrapnel overhead suggested an immediate dive into the 
nearest dug-out. 
I passed across our old line of trcnches, from which OIl 
Saturday morning our rnCD ,vent out chcering to that great 
attack ,vhich carried theln to the farthest point gained that 
day, in spite of heavy losses. Thc trenches now ,vere fillec 
,vith litter collected from the battlefield-stacks of rifles ane 
kit, pilcs of hand-grenades, no longer needed by those \vh( 
owned them. 
This old system of trenches, in which French troops livcr 



THE DEATH-SONG OF THE GERM.A.NS 55 


for n1any months of ,val' before they handed them over to our 
111Cn, was like a ruined and deserted to\vn left hurriedly because 
of plague, and in great disorder. Letters were lying about, 
and bully-beef tins, and cartridge-clips. Our ll1en had gone 
for\vard and these old trenches are abandoned. 
It is beyond the pow'er of ,yords to give a picture of the German 
trenches over this battlefield of 
Iontauban, \vhere we no\v 
hold the line through the ,,"ood beyond. Before Sa.turday 
last it \vas a \vide and far-reaching network of trenches, 'with 
many communication \vays, and strong traverses and redoubts 
-so that one ,voldd shiver at their strcngth to see them marked 
on a map. No mass of infantry, ho\vever great, would have 
dared to assault such a position \vith bOlnbs and rifles. 
It was a great underground fortress, \vhich any body of men 
could have held against any others for all time apart from the 
destructive po\ver of heavy artillery. But now! . .. Why 
no\v it was the most frightful convulsion of earth that the eyes 
of n1an could sec. 
The bombardment by our guns had tossed all these earth- 
works into vast rubbish-heaps. \Ve had made this ground 
one vast series of shell-craters, so deep and so broad that it 
\vas like a field of extinct volcanoes. 
The ground rose and fell in enormous \va ves of brown earth, 
so that standing above one crater I sa\V before me these solid 
billo\vs with 30-feet slopes stretching a,vay like a sea frozen 
after a great storm. We had hurled thousands of shells froll1 
our heaviest ho\vitzers and long-range guns into this stretch 
of field. 


8 
I sa\v herc and touched hcrc the a\vful result of that great 
gunfire \vhich I had watched fronl the centre of our battcries 
on the 1110rning of July 1. That b0111bardnIent had annihilated 
the German position. Even lnany of the dug-outs, going 30 
feet decp belo,v the earth and strongly timbered and cemented, 
had been choked 'with masses of earth so that lnany dead bodie
 
lay buried therc. But SOinc had been left in spite of th(' 
uphca'\;al of earth around thenl, a.nd into sonle of these I crept 
down, impclled by the strong grim bpell of those little dark 
rOOIHS bdo,v ,vhere German soldiers lived only a fc\v days ago. 
They 
cen1('d haunted by the spirits of the InCH ,vho had 



56 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


111ade their homes here and had carried into these holes th(' 
pride of their souls, and any poetry they had in their hearts. 
and their hopes and terrors, and memories of love and life in 
th(" good .world of peace. I could not resist going do,vn to su('h 
places, though to do so gavç lTIC gooseflesh. 
I had to go ,varily, for on the stair"rays ,vere unexploded 
bombs of the" hair-brush" style. A stunlble or a kick n1Ïght 
send one to eternity by high-explosive force, and it ".as difficult 
not to stumble, for the steps ,vere broken or falling into a 
landslide. 
Do.wn inside the little square rooms ,vcre filled ,vith the 
relics of Gernlan officers and ll1ell. The deal tables ,,-ere stre,vn 
.with papers, on the vvooden bedsteads la.y blue-grey overcoats. 
'Vine bottles, photograph albums, furry haversacks, boots, 
belts. kit of every kind had all been tumbled together by 
British soldiers ,vho had come here after the first rush to the 
enell1Y's trenches and searched for men in hiding. 
There ,vere men in hiding no,v, though harnlless. In one 
of the dug-outs .where I groped my 'way dówn it ,vas pitch- 
dark. I stunlbled against something, and fumbled for my 
matches. 'Vhen I struck a light I sa,v in a corner of the room 
a Gernuln. 
He lay curled up, ,,,ith his head on his arnl, as though asleep. 
I did not stay to look at his face, but ,vcnt up quickly. . And 
yet I ,vent do\vn others and lingered in one ,,-here no corpse 
lay because of the trD gic spirit that dv{elt there and put its 
spcH on me. I picked up sonle letter.;;. 
They were all ,vritten to "dear brother \Vilhelm" froln 
sisters and brothers, sending him their loving greetings, praying 
that his health \vas good, pronlising to send hinl gifts of food, 
and yearning for his home-conlÏng. "SÏIìcc your last letter and 
card," said one of then1, " ,ve have heard nothing n10re from 
you. 
"E\yery time the posÌlllan conles \ve hope for a little note 
froln you. . . .. Dear \Yilheln1, in order to be patient ,,,ith 
your fate you must thank God because you have found fortune 
in misfortunc." 
Poor, pitiful letters! I ,va
 ashamed to read then1 because 
it seemed like prying into another lllan's 
ecrets, though he 
,vas dead. 
Therc 'n:1S a little book I picked up. It is a book of soldiers' 



THE DE.ATH-SOKG OF' THE GERMANS 57 


songs, full of old German sentinlent, about " the little Inother 
. 
and the old house at h0l11C and the pretty girl 'who kissed her 
soldier boy before he 'went off to the 'war. And here is the sad 
old "l\lorgenlied," ,,,hich has been sung along 111any roads of 
France. 
" Red morning sun! lled morning sun! Do you light Ine to 
an early death? Soon ,viII the trumpets sound, and I must 
leave this life, and many a comrade ,vith me. 
"" I scarcely thought my joy \vould end like this. Yesterday 
I rode a proud steed; to-day I aln shot through thc chest; 
to-morro,v I shall be in thc cold grave, 0 red morning 
SUll ! " 
On the front page of this book, ,vhieh I found to-day at 
l\lontauban, there is an ArulY Order froll1 Prince von Rupprecht 
of Bavaria to thc soldiers of the Sixth Arll1Y. 
'" 'Ye have thc fortune," it says, "to have the English on 
our front, the troops of those people \vhose envy for year
 
has madc them ,vork to surround us ,vith a ring of enelnies in 
order to crush us. It is to thell1 that ,ve o,ve this bloody and 
1110St horrible ,val'. . . .. IIere is the antagonist ,vho stands n10st 
in the ,va.y of the restoration of peace. For,vard!" 
It seeined to UIC that the preface by Prince Rupprecht of 
IJavaria spoilt thc sentiulent in the Gel'll1an folk-songs, ,vhieh 
"
ere full of love rather than of hate. 


4 


I stood again abovc-ground, in the shell-craters. Other 
shells "'ere coming 
ver my head ,vith their indescribable 
,vhooping, and the black shrapnel ,vas still bursting about th(' 
fields, and the Gernlans ,yere dropping five-point-nines along- 
a line a hundred yards a,vay. 
'" Be careful about those dug-outs," said an ofIicer. "Sonl(, 
of them have charged mines inside, and thcre may be Germans 
still hiding in thenl." · 
Two Gernlans ,vere found hiding there to-day. SOlne of 
our men found thcll1selvcs being 
niped, and after a search 
found that the shots \vcre coming fron1 a certain section of 
trench in ,vhich there ,vere cOllul1unicating dug-outs. 
After cunning trappers' ,vork they isolated one dug-out III 
\yhich the snipers ,yere concealed. 



58 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


'" Conle out of that," shouted our men. "Surrender like 
good boys." 
But the only anSlver they had ,yas a shot. 
The dug-out was bombed, but the men \vent through an 
underground passage into another one. Then a charge of 
ammonal was put do,vn and the dug-out blo\vn to bits. 


5 
This afternoon, while I "'as still on the battlefield of l\Iontau- 
ban, a great thunder-storm broke. It ,vas sudden and violent, 
and rain fell in sheets. The 
ky became black ,vith a greeni
h 
streak in it "Then the lightning forked over the high ,yooded 
ridges to\vards La Boisselle and above Fricourt \V ood. 
"" Heaven's artillery! " said an officer, and his words ".ere 
not flippant. There \vas son1ething awe-inspiring in thp 
darkness that closed in upon these battlefields and the great 
rolls of thunder that mingled \vith the noise of the guns. 
Artillery observation was impossible, but the guns still fired, 
and their flashes \vere as vivid as the lightning, revcaling 
t.hrough the murk the dark figures of n1arching men, and the 
black .woods slashed \vith shell-fire just above l\lontauban. In 
a little \vhile the lo\v-Iying ground 'vas flooded, so that the 
guns in the valleys ,vere in \vater, and the horse transport 
splashed through ponds, scattering fountains above their axles, 
and rivers ran down the broken trenches of the old German 
line. 
I stood in the storn1 ,vatching this scene of war, and the 
gloom and terror of it closed about me. 



v 


THE ATTACK ON THE LEFT 


1 


JULY 5 
LAST night and this nlorning the enemy made attempts to 
drive our men out of their positions at Thiépval, but \vere 
repulsed \vith heavy losses. Their bombers advanced in 
strong numbers upon the Lcipzig Trench, south of the village 
of Thiépval, and at the same time north of the cemetC'ry to 
St.-Pierre-Divion, but in neither case did they have any 
success. 
At other parts of the line, between La Boisselle and Montauban, 
there ,vere bombardments by the enemy's batteries and by 
our o\vn; and by hard fight.ing \ve have captured Peak Trench 
and the important system of trenches known as the Quadrangle, 
north-east of La Boisselle and on the way to Contalmaison. 
Standing to-day on the battlefield north of Ovillers-La 
Büissel1e I ,vas able to look over a \vide area of the zone of fire 
and to see our ne\V positions. Straight in front of me was 
Thiépval ,V ood, marked by a ragged fringe of broken trees, 
through \vhich appeared the ruins of the village. 
IIeavy shells 'were falling there and our shrapnel \vas bursting 
thickly upon the high ground held by the enenlY. To the 
left of me was Beaumont- Hamel, opposite Auchonvillers, and 
the village of Authuillc. 
It is historic ground. A hundred years hence men of our 
blood 'will conle here \vith reverence as to sacred soil. For 
over this stretch of country, a fc\v miles ,vide, has been fought 
one of the great battles of history, and here many thousands of 
onr nlen advanced upon the enemy \vith a spirit of Inarvellous 
self-sacrifice, beyond the ordinary courage of men. 
They faced hellish fires, but \vithout faltering. rrhcrc 'was 



60 


THE BATTI.J:ES O:F THE SOl\Il\IE 


not one nlan ,vho turned and fled at a tÏIne when the hrayest 
of them might have quailed. They ,,'cre all heroes \yorthy of 
the highest honour ,vhich may be given for valour in the field. 
SOinething supernatural seelllcd to aninlate these battalion
 
of English boys and these battalions of Irish and Scots, so 
that they went for"Tard into furnace fires at Beaumont-Hamel 
and Gommecourt as though to fair fields, and ,,,hen many of 
them stood in the very presence of death it \vas to the cry of 
'- Xo surrender!" Then they \vent for,vard again to THeet 
their fate. 


'> 


Their losses were heavy. It is tragic as ,,"ell as ,vonderflll, 
this story of our advance npon the Gf'rma.n lilH'S, when \ve 
captured their trenches by an assault that could not he resisted 
at first evell by oyer,vhclming gun-fire. I have spoken to 
Brigadiers who mourn many of their dear men. The agony 
in thf'ir eyes made it difficult to face them. The lllunbcr of 
casualties was high throughout the \\'hole length of front on 
the left of our attack, and inevitable because the valour of the 
111en counted no cost in their assault against positions terribly 
strong, as they kne,,', but not stronger than their resolve to 
carry them. 
The enemy's losses ,vcre frightful too, and his courage great. 
It \vas because very bravc IneH ,vere on both sides that the 
battlefield in this region ,vas stre\vn ,vith stricken lllell. 
They \vere men of the Korth Country ,vho \vere on the left 
of onr attack bct\veen Ovillers-La Boisselle and a point south 
of I-Iébuterne. As soon <1:-' onr bombardment lifted at 7.30 on 
the lllorning of July 1 the brigade left its trenches and a(h'anced 
linc by line in perfect order as though on parade. 
Th
 ground in front of theIll ,vas \vrccked by our shell-fire. 
S(',-cral times during the bonlbardment the trenches h3d 
heayed and changed their fonn, so that all the contours of the 
earth '\"ere altered. But there ".cre lnany IneH still left ali "e 
helo,v-ground in the Gern1an dug-outs, those deep dug-outs of 
theirs that go belo,y the reach of eYen the heaviest shells, and 
,yith them 'were many lllachillé-guns and deadly ,'.eapolls. 
Dehind them also "'as a great concentration of artillery, for 
it is evident that the elH
nlY had expected attack here, perhaps 
our lllain attack, and had nla5Sf'd his heaviest gUllS at thi
 



TIlE .A.TTAC!{ O
 l"HE LEJI-'T 


61 


point. I-lis barrage ,vas imnlenSt' in its effect of fire upon our 
treneh
s and the ground bet,vecn onrs and his. To reach his 
line our Inen had to pass through a ,vall of bursting shells. 
Onr o"'n barrage eoIitinued intensely, but at the moment of 
the infantry attack the Gennan soldiers stood up on their 
parapets in the very face of this bombardnlcnt and fired upon 
onr advancing men ,vith autonlatic rifles. 
Their machine-gunners also sho,ved an extreme courage, and 
,,,ith anlazing audacity forced their ,vay over the broken 
parapets into Xo l\1an's Land and swept our ranks with a scytht' 
of buHcts. l\'"umbers of our men dropped, but others \vent on
 
charging the Inachine-gulls 'with fixed bayonets, hurling bonlb-.; 
at the n1ell 011 the parapets, and forcing their 'way into and 
across the Gernlan trenches. \Vave after ,vave followed, a.nd 
those ,vho did not fall \vent on, into the enenlY's first line, 
into the enemy's second line, then on again to his third line, 
and by a kind of miracle even to his fourth linc. Thcre "'cre 
BleIl ,vho ,vcnt as far as Serre. They nevc'r canle back. 
The encmy's guns kept up a continuous bombardlnent fron1 
7.30 tillinidday, like an incessant roll of drunls, and the ground 
oyer which our men continued to adyance was cratered like a 

yst(-Jn of trolls-de-Ioup. .An orderly ,vho tried to conIC hack 
,vith a message from the men in front \vas buried three times 
on his ,vay, but struggled out and dclivered his report. IIuIllan 
courage coul
l not reach greater heights than these men sho,,'cd. 


9 

 



 OIl the right of these S orth -countrYlnen were other bodies 
of troops fro III the "\V cst of :England, the Midlands, and Eastern 
Counties, with battalions of Irish and Scottish troops. They, 
too, had to face a great ordeal. 'Vhen they ,vent to'wards the 
Gennan trepches, not at. a rush, but at parade step, under a 
stornl of shells, the cnenlY calne np out of their dug-out,:; 
with n1nehiue-gulls and rifles, and fought ycry stubbornl
T 
c\'cn \vhcn the 
Iidland nlen and other English troops reached 
then1 ,yith bOlnbs and bayonets. There ,vas a fierce corps-à- 
corps in the first-line trench until lnost of the enemy were 
killed. 
Thcn our 1l1Cn \vent on to the 
('eond Gerrnan line under 
still fiercer fire. By this tinle they \\ ere in an inferno of sheH- 



62 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOI\IME 


fire and slnoke, as nothing \vas seen of thcm by artillery obscr\ycrs 
until at 8.45 some rockets ,vent up very far into the Gern1an 
lines, sho\\ing that some of the Territorials had got as far as 
their last objective. SOll1e of the infantry (they were t,vo of 
the Essex Regiments and the !(ing's O,vn of the 4th Division) 
,vent as far as Pendant Copse south-east of Serre. Messages 
came through fro In them. Urgent messages calling for help. 
" For God's sake scnd us bombs." 
But the cnclny's gun-fire "'as so violent and so dcep in its 
barrage that nothing could pass through it, and it ,vas in1possiblC' 
to send up relief to men \vho had gone too far in their keen 
desire to break the Gern1an lines. 
A little farther south ,vere some Irish, 'Velsh, and Scottish 
troops. '''hen they left thcir trenches our bonlbardment ,vas 
still at its full weight, but suddenly the noise of it \vas obliterated 
entircly, 
o that not a gun ,vas heard, by a nc\v and more 
terrible sound. . 
It \vas thc sound as though great furnace fires 'v ere ,veeping 
flanlCS across No 1\-lan's Land \vith a stcaày blast, and it can1C 
fron1 Gern1an machine-guns in thc stronghold of Beaumont- 
IIamcl and from more German machine-guns in concrete 
emplacements \vhich had escapcd our gun-fire upon the cnen1Y's 
trenches. 
l\Iany of our men fell. SonlC of the Irish troops (the Ulster 
111en) lost severely. But othcr ranks marched on, not quickly, 
but at a quiet leisurely pace, never faltering as gaps \vere lnade 
in their ranks. 
Some of thcln did not even trouble to ,veal' thcir steel casques, 
but carried them, as though for future use if need be. And 
they ,vent across the Gernlan trenches and right ahead into 
the very hcart of a storm of fire, too quickly, in spite of their 
calm ,,-ay of going, because they did not clear the German 
dug-outs as they passed, and IDC'n caIne out and bombed them 
from the rC'ar. South of Bcaumont-I-Iamel \\'ere some other 
battalions, \vhose advance ,vas upon Thiépval \V ood, and they 
fought \\"ith extraordinary resolution and hardihood. 
It \vas they \vho shoutcd "No surrender! " as their battlc- 
cry, and these tough, hard, gallant nlcn forced their \vay for\vard 
oyer ground raked by every kind of shot and shell. The 
cnelny's trenches could not resist their attack, and they stormed 
theÜ' way through, killing many of the enemy who resisted 



THE ATT

CI{ ON THE LEFT 63 
them. In Thiépval \Y ood, "'here the trees ,\-yere slashed by 
shrapnel, they collected thcir strength, fornled into line, and 
stood the shock of several Gernlan connter-attaeks. Then they 
charged and flung do,vn the enemy's ranks, taking more than 
200 prisoners. 
Another counter-attack ,vas nlade upon the soldiers ,vho had 
forced their ,,,ay to the outskirts of Thiépval village, fronl 
\vhich there came an incessaÍ1t chatter of lllachine-gun fire. 
Some of thenl ,,,ere cut off from all support, but they fought 
forward, and the shout of " No surrender! " caIne from thenl 
again, though they were sure of death. 
This attack by our troops on the left of the theatre of attack 
is one of the greatest revelations of human courage ever seen 
in history. The tragedy of it-for the loss of nlany brave men 
IDakes it tragic-is brightened by the shining valour of all 
these splendid soldiers, to ,,,honl death, in those great hours, 
had no kind of terror. 
The lightly ,,,ounded nlen ,,,ho caIne back, and there ,vere 
large nUIDbers of lightly "rounded nlen, ,vere proud of their 
adventure and hopeful of victory. They had no panic in their 
eyes or hearts. It .was a ,yeary ,valk for many of then1 do\vn 
to the Red House, ,vhere their wounds ,vere stanched. They 
had t".o miles to go, and it ,vas a long t,vo miles to men ,veak 
fron1 the loss of blood, dizzy, tired to the point of death. Some 
of then1 staggered and fell at the very gate of the dressing- 
station, but even then they spoke brave ,yords and said, 
" \Ve've got 'em on the run! " 
The enemy behaved ,,'ell, I am told, to our wDunded men 
at some parts of th(' line, and helped theln over the parapets. 
This makes us loath to tell other stories not so good. Let u
 
not think, just now, of the ugliness of battle, but rather of the 
beauty of these men of onrs, \vho \vere forgetful of self and 
faced the cruellest fire ,vith a high and noble courage. 



VI 


THE LOI\TDON 1IEN AT GOl\Il\IECOURT 


I 


JCLY 19 
A.s long ago as Loos, ,vhich scen1"; an enOlY110US time ago, it 
,vas proved that London produccs lnen of grcat fighting 
qualities, not ,,"eakened by City life, and, in spite of nlore 
-.;ensitiyc ncrYes than country-brcd men, able to stand the 
-.;train of battle just as ,veIl, ,vith a quick intelligence in a tight 
corner, and ,,-ith pride and illlagination that do not let then} 
surrender self-respect. 
" London n1en fight on their nerves," said one of our Generals 
the other day, "but they lnake great soldiers. 1\lorc stolid 
nlel1 often give "ray to shell-shock and strain more easily than 
the Londoner, váth Dll his sensibility." 
In our great attack of July I some of the London battalions 
again showed a very fine courage and a most self-sacrificing 
devotion to duty in hours of suprelne ordeal. 
They broke the Gernlan line at Gommecourt and ,vhen 
ill-luck beset them on either side, so that they found thelllseives 
in utterly untenable positions, ,vith heavy losses, they held on 
stubbornly against the cnelllY's counter-attacks, and suffcred 
all th t war can make nlen suffer-there is hardly a limit to 
that, God knows-,vith Stoic endurance. 
These lnen belonged to old Volunteer reginlents, fanlons in 
times of peace, ,vhen once a year young City clerks and pru- 
fession
d Blcn took a fortniO'ht's lea"\- c at Easter for manæuVl'CS 
;":) 
on Salisbury Plain, and came back rather stiff and rather 
bronzed, l\'ith stories of sham-fights and jolly bivouacs at night, 
and sn10king concerts ,vith good fcllo,,'s ,vho lead a chorus. 
It "ras a great adventure-in tinlCS of peace! 
nut. {'yen ,,'hen the '701unteers changed their form into the 



THE LONDON l\IEN AT GOMMECOUR'l' 65 


Tcrritorials and \yar tightened up in discipline, and attended 
n10re drills and had a harder tirne in camp, no man guessed 
that before a year or t\VO had passed the Queen's \Vcstminsters 
\vould Qe fighting through hell-fire in France, or that" the old 
'Tics "-the Queen Victoria l=tifies-would be smashing through 
Gern1an barbed ,vire under machine-gun fire, or that the 
ltangers and the London llifle Brigade and the London Scottish 
,vould be crossing ground, stre"wn ,vith dead and ,vounded, 
in a storm of high explosives. 
Punch nlade funny pictures about this anlateur soldiering. 
The" Terriers " ,vere not thought to count for much by lnilitary 
critics who had seen service in South Africa. . . . 
\Vell, in this ,val' the Territorial infantry and the Territorial 
gunners have counted for a groat deal, and during these last 
fe,v days they have proved thenlselves, once again, great 
soldiers-great in attack and great in resistance. 


2 


\Vhen the four leåding battalions left their trenches near 
Gommeeourt at 7.30 after the great bon1bardlnent of the Gennan 
position they had a long ,vay to go before they reached the 
enemy's front lines. 
No l\Ian's Land ,vas a broad stretch of ground, 400 yards across 
in sonIC parts, and not les5 than 200 yards.at the narro,vest point. 
It ,vas a long, long journey in the open, for 50 yards, or 20, 
arc long enough to become a great graveyard if the enemy's 
machine-guns get to \vor
(. 
llut they advanced behind dense smoke-clouds, ,vhich rolled 
stcadily towards the German trenches and kept down the 
machine-gunners in their dug-outs. Unlike the experiencc of 
Inost of our men in other parts of the line, they escaped lightly 
froln machine-gnn fire, and their chief risk ,vas from the barrage 
of shell-fire \vhich the eneluy flung across No l\Ian's Land \vith 
SOlne intensity. 
But the Londoners started for,vard to this line of high explo- 
sives and ,vent on and through at a quick pace, in open order. 
On the left ,vas the London Rifle Brigade, in the centre came 
the Rangers and "Vics," on the right the London Scottish, and, 
behind, the Queen's W estminsters and l{ensingtons, \vho ,vere 
:
 to advance through the others. 


E 



66 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


1\Icn fell across the open ground, caught by flying bits of 
shell or buried by the great bursts of high explosives ,vhich 
opened up the earth. But the others did not look back, afraid 
to weaken thc-nlseh T es by the sight of their strickeu conlrades, 
and at a great pact': half ,,'alking and half running, reached th(' 
G('rman line. It ,vas no longer a system of trenches. 
It \vas a sea of earth "rith solid ,vaves. Our heavy guns 
had annihilated parapet and parados, slnashcd the tÏ1nbers 
into nlatchwood, strc,vn sandbags into rubbish-h('aps, and 
made a great "Teckage. But German industry below-ground 
'vas proof against all this shell-fire, and lnany of the dug-outs 
still stood. 
'rhey ,verc full of Gcrnlans, for the line ,vas strongly held
 
and many of these Blen came up with their nlachine-guns and 
bOlnbs to resist the attack. But the Londoners sprang upon 
them
 s,vcpt over them, and captured the front net,vork of 
trenches \yith alnazing speed. 
It ,vas not a steady-going business, slo,v and deliberate. 
The quiek mind of the London man spurred him to quick 
action. 
He did not linger to collect souvenirs, or to chat \vith 
English-speaking Gernlans. "London leads ! " ,vas the shout 
of 'Tictorias and lVestminsters. 
'fhe London Scottish ,vere racing for\\rard on the right ,vith 
their brown kilts svánging across the broken ground. But the 
officers kept thcir heads and as lnuch order as possible at such 
a tin1e. 
They held back enough n1cn to clear the dug-outs and collect 
prisoners-thc best kind of souvenirs. 
Two hundred of them were captured in the dug-outs and 
brought up and sent back over the place that had been No 
l\Ian's Land and now, for a time, ,vas ours. 
At least 200 canlC back, but there \"erc nlany more ,,,,ho 
never got back, though they started on the journey under 
arlned guard. 


3 


The cnelny's artillery 'vas ill creasing the density of the 
barrage npon our old front-line trenches and the ground in 
front of theIne 
lIe Inade a "'"all of high explosiycs through "hieh no living 



THE LONDON l'tIEN AT GOl\11\IECOURT 67 


thing could pass. The cscorts and thcir prisoners tried to 
pass-and failed. 
At the timc thc London men fighting for\vard did not think of 
that barragc behind them. They ,vere eager to get on, to be 
quick over the first part of their business before taking breath 
for the next. 
And thcy got on ,vith astounding speed. In less than the 
tin1c it has taken me to \vritc this narratiyc No l\lan's Land 
had been crossed, the trcnches had been taken, the prisoners 
collected and sent back on their way, and German strongholds 
and redoubts behind the first systen1 of trench-,,'ork had been 
seized by London regiments. 
It \vould have taken thenllongcr to ,valk from Charing Cross 
to St. Paul's Churchyard with no GenTIans in the ,vay. It 
,vas the quickest bit of ,york that has been done by any freemen 
of the city. 
The !{iflenlen had s,varITIed into a strong point on the left, 
knocking out the machinc-guns, and on the right the London 
Scots w'ere holding a strong redoubt in a very ugly corner of 
ground. Evel'ything had been ,von that London had been 
asked to ,vine 
Before sonlC hours had passed these London soldiers kne,v 
that they ,vere in a death-trap and cut off froln escape. 
Owing to the great strength of the enelny to the right and 
left of the position, ,vhere they had concentrated masses of guns 
and \vhere the ground ,vas nlore difficlùt to carry, the troops 
on either side of the Londoners, in spite of heroic courage 
and c0111plete self-sacrifice, had advanced so far. 
The London men had therefore thrust for\vard a salient into 
the Gernlan lines, and ,vere enclosed by th
 enemy. 
Behind thenl, on the ,vay to thcir O'wn lines, the enemy's 
barrage 'was steadily becoming nlore violent. Having stopped 
the other attacks to the north and south, he ,vas no,v able to 
concentrate the fire of his guns upon the ground in the London 
area, and by the early afternoon he had smashed our trenches 
and comnulnication -trenches, ,vhile still flinging out a line of 
high cxplosiycs to prevent supports cODling up to the men ",'ho 
were in the captured 
alient. 
They ,vcre cut off, and had no other 111CanS of rf>fCUe but 
their O'V11 courage. 
Desperate efforts "Trc Inade by their comradcs behind to 



68 


THE BATTLES OF l'HE SOl\Il\IE 


send 11 P supplies of ammunition and other means of defence. 
The carrying parties attell1ptcd again and again to cross No 
lUan's Land, but suffered heavy casualties. 
One party of 60 men, ,vith supplies of hand-grenades, set 
out on this journey, but only three canle back. Single Inen 
"ent on ,vith a few grenades, determined to carry S0111e kind 
of support to the men in front, but fell dead or ,vounded before 
they reached their goal. 
On the right the London Scottish ,vere holding on to their 
redoubt, building barricades and beating off the GenTIan 
bonlbers. But as the hours passed anllTIUnition becalne scarce. 
Our supplies of bombs 'were almost exhausted, here and there 
quite exhausted. The London nle11 ,vent about collecting 
Gernlan bombs, and for some time these scrved, but not 
cnough could be found to maintain effective fire. The po,;ition 
became more ugly. 
But the mcn did not lose heart. In those bad hours there 
,verc nlany lnen who showed great qualitics of couragc, and 
,vere great captains \vhatever their rank. One officel;-to 
znention only one-\vas splendid ,vhen things ,vere ,vorst. 
lIe had taken command of a company 'when his senior 
officer ,,-as killed in the first assault, and kept his men in good 
heart so that they could organize a defence against the enemy's 
counter-attacks. 
They \verc surrounded by German grenadiers and suffered 
heavily froln artillery, machine-gun, and sniping fire. The 
Iltmlber of the \vounded increased steadily. The bombing 
party keeping the enemy back flung all their bOlnbs, and then 
had empty hands and \vere helpless. Not many rounds of 
ammunition were left for the riflemen. After that there \vOllld 
be no defence. But the ofl1ccr \vould not give way to hopeless- 
ness. He rallied six or seven good nlCn about him, and ordered 
the others to retreat with the \voundcd and take thcir chance 
across No !\Ian's Land \vhile he put up a last fight. 
\" ith his snlall band he held the barricade until the others 
had gone' away, and held on still until all but t\VO of his men 
\verc killed. 
lIe was the last to leave, and by a miracle of luck caIne back 
to his C),vn lines unwounded, except for a few sears and scratches. 
The courage of the man and his fine spirit saved the situation 
.at the most critical lime, and saved also many good lives. 



THE LONDON MEN AT G01\I1\IECOURT 69 


There ,,,ere many men of fine valour there. 
Ien of London, 
not bred for ,var, and liking life as one sees it ,vhen there are 
pretty faces in }{ensington Gardens, and ,vhen there's sunlight 
on the ,vindo,vs in the Stra.nd, and \vhen the dome of St. Paul's 
rises like a \"hite cloud above the buses in Ludgate Hill. 


4 


One of thenl was a lance-corporal ,vho \vas "vounded in two 
places, so badly that his right arm hung useless by his side. 
But he \votdd not gi'Te in. 
" If I can't use a ,vea I )on " he said "I can aive a lead to 
, , b 
my chums." And he gave them a lead, taking charge of a 
group of men holding the left flank of a position, organizing 
then1 into bombing pa.rties, and directing thenl to bl1Ïld 
barrica.des. lIe held on to his post until the Gern1a.n attack 
became too strong, and he was the last to leave. 
A boy in the London Seottish-I played at ball \vith him 
once in an old garden \VhC'1l there \vas laughter in the world- 
escaped death by a kind of Iniraele. 
The trench he was in, ,vith forty men, "vas being shelled to 
bits, and rather than fall into the hands of the GenTIans he 
decided to attclTIpt escape. ,rith one of his sergeants he made 
his ,yay to\vards onr lines, but had only gone a short distance 
,vhen thc sergeant ,vas &hot dead. 
.A. bullet calllC a Inoment later and struck lny friend. It 
'\'as deflected from his brandy-flask and went through his 
thigh, knocking hin1 head over heels into a shell-hole. Ifere 
he lay for some hours until it "yas dark, when he succeeded in 
era ,,,ling back to his lines. 
lIc ,vas the only one sa ved of his forty comrades. 
Gradually the n1en ,vithdre,v, straggling back aeros<.; No 

Ian's Land, ,vhich ,vas still nnder great shell-fire, so that the 
wa y of csca pe ,vas full of peril. 
It \vas the turn of the stretcher-bearers, and they \vorked 
with great courage. And here one nUlst pay a tribute to the 
enemy. 
" 'V chad ,vhite nlen against us," said one of the officer&, 
"and they let us get in our ,voullded \vithout hindrance as 
soon as the fight "as over." 
It is only fair to say that thcy acted "vith humanity, and one 


. 



70 


THE BATTLES OF THE S01\IME 


\vishes to God that they ,vould not use such foul nlcans of 
destruction as those nc"\vly invented by chcmists with devili5h 
cruelty. 
The soldicrs are better than their scientists, and in this case 
at least they renlcmbcred the spirit of chivalry "\vhich they 
have not often ren1embercd in all the foulness of this 'war. 
It \vas difficult enough to get in the woundcd. 
lany of 
them could not be found or brought back and stayed on the 
field of battle suffering great anguish for days and nights. 
One U1an ,,,ho "\Y3.S wounded early in the battle of July 1 cra"\vled 
over to three other "\voundcd men and stayed ,vith them until 
the night of July 6. 
During that time he tended his comrades, \vho \vere "\vorse 
than he ,vas, and 'vent about anlong dead men gathering food 
and \vater from their haversacks and bottles. 
But for hinI his friends w"Quid have died. On the night of 
the 6th he succeeded in getting back to our lines acro::,s that 
a\vful stretch of No :;.\lan's Land, and then insisted upon going 
back as thc guide of the strctcher-bearers \vho brought in the 
others. 



VII 


THE MEN WHO FOUGHT AT FRICOURT 


1 


.J UL Y 6 
THERE is something strangely inhuman in the aspect of a 
battle ,vatched from the edge of its furnace fires, or even as J 
stood ,vatching it ,vithin the crescent of our guns. BattaJions 
rnove for,várd like ants across the field, and one cannot see the 
light in men's eyes nor distinguish bet,veen one man and 
another. 
In this ,val' and in this latest battle I have seen the quality 
of manhood uplifted to ,vonderful heights of courage beyond 
the rangc of Honnal la ,vs; and these soldiers of ours, these 
fine and silnple men, go for\vard to the highest terrors with 
such singing hearts that one can hardly keep a little moisturc 
from one's eyes when they go passing on the roads. 
They picked ,vild flo,vers and put then1 in their belts and 
caps-red poppies and b
ue cornflo,vers-and when the word 
came to march again they ,vent forward to\vards the front 
,vith a fine s,vinging pace and smiling faces under the S1veat 
and dust. Yet they know ,vhat battle 111eans. 
I ,vent to-day again among the men who fought at Fricollrt. 
Some of them had come back behind the lines, and outside 
their billets the divisional band was playing, but not to n1uch of 
an audience, for of those ,vho fought at Friconrt in the first 
assault there are not large numbers left. The officers who came 
ronnd the village ,vith me had a loncJy look. ..After battle, 
such a battle as this, it is difficult to keep the sadness out of 
one's eyes. So many good fello,vs havc gone. . . . But they 
,vere proud of their men. They found a joy in that. The 
Illen had done gloriously. They had \von their ground and 
held it through frightful fire. "The men were topping." 



72 


THE B.A.TTLES OF THE SO
I1\IE 


There "-cre a lot of Yorkshire men among them ".ho fought 
at Fricourt and it ,vas those I S3'V to-day. They ',"ere the 
heroes, \vith other North-country lads, of one of the most 
splendid achievclnents of British arms e,.cr ,vritten dO\Hl in 
history. 
Some of thcm ,,"ere still shaken. ,\Yhcn they spoke to Dle 
their ,vords faltered no\\" and then, and a queer look came into 
thcir eyes. But, on th
 ,,'hole, they ,,-ere astoundingly calnl, 
and had not lost their sense of humour. Of th
 first advance 
over Ko :\!an's Land, ,vhich ,vas 150 yards acrObS to the eneD1Y's 
front-Jine trench, S0111e of these mcn could remember nothing. 
It ,,"as just a dreadful blank. 
"I ,vas just marl at the tiDle;" said one of thenl. "The 
fir
t thing I kno,v is that I found Dlyself scrambling oycr the 
German parapets ,vith a bomb in my hand. The dead ,,"ere 
lying all round me." 
But a sergeant there rClnclllbercd all. He kept his ,,"its 
about hinI, strangely clear at such a time. lie sa,v that his 
men ,,"ere being s,,-ept ,,-ith machine-gun fire, so that they all 
lay dO'WIl to escape its deadly- scythe. But he sa.,v also that the 
bullets ,,-ere just v;ashing thc ground so that the prostrate nU'1l 
\Yere being struck in great numbers. 
lIe stood up straight and called upon the others to stand, 
thinking it 'wotdd be better to be hit in th<: feet than in the 
head. Thcn he ,van
cd on and canle ,yithout [I scratch to the 
Gcrnlan front linc. 


'> 
.... 


lIere and in the lines behind there was a '\Tcckage of carth 
from our bombardment, but several of the dug-outs had bcen 
untouched and in them during our gun-fire men ,,"ere sitting 
30 fcct down, ,vith Dlachine-guns ready, a.nd long periseope
, 
through ,vhich they could see our lines and the first ,vave of 
advancing men. Before the ,,"ord reached them, those German 
machine-gunners had rushed upstairs and behind the cover 
of their "Tccked trenches fired bursts of bullets at our Inen. 
Each gun-tealu had ,vith them a rifleDlan who \vas a crack 
shot, and ,,,ho obeyed his anny orders to pick off English 
officers. So they sniped our young lieutenants ,vith cool and 
cruel deliberation. 1\vo of them ,vho ,,"ere dressed as privates 
escaped for this reason. l\lany of the others fell. k
 



THE l\IEN WHO FOUGHT l\T FRICOURT 73 


"'Vith so many officers gone," said one of the Yorkshire 
lads, "it ,vas eycry nUlIl for hinlself, and ,ve cnrried on as 
best ,ve could." 
Thcy carried on as far as the second and third lines, in a 
desperate fight "Tith Gern1an soldiers ,vho appeared out of the 
tumbled earth and flung b01l1bs ,vith a grim rcfusal of surrcnder. 
" 'Yell, if you'rc asking for it," snid one of our men-and he . 
hurlcd himself upon a great German and ran his bayonet 
t.hrough the man's body. 
It ,vas bloody ,york for boys ,vho are not butchers by instinct. 
Passion caught hold of then1 and they sa,v red. 
" I don't kno,v ho,v it ,vas," said one of them, 'with a queer 
thoughtfulness in his eyes as he groped back to this nloment 
of fierce cxcitement. "Before I ,vent over I had no ragc in 
fiC. I didn't ,vant this hand-to-hand business. But suddenly 
I found n1yself fighting like a demon. It was my life or theirs, 
and I ,vas out to kill first." 
There was not much killing at that spot. 'Vhen most of our 
men wcre ,vithin ten yards many of the Germans ,yho had been 
flinging b0111bs lifted up their hands and cried "
Iercy! " to 
those ,vhom they had tried to blo,v to bits. 
It ,vas rather late to ask for lllercy, but it ,vas given to then1. 
Therc ,vas a search into the dug-out:-,-do you understand that 
all this ,vas under great shell-fire ?-and many Germans ,,"ere 
found in hiding there. 
,
 I surrender," said a Gern1an officer, putting his head out 
of a hole in the earth, " and I have a ,vounded Inan with me." 
" AU l'ight," said a Yorkshire sC'rgeant; "fetch hin1 up, and 
no D10nkey tricks." 
But out of the hole caIne not one man, but forty, in a long 
filc that scclTIed IH'ver to enù, aU of ,vhom said " l
amerad ! " 
to the sergeant, who ans"Tred, " Good day to you I-and ho"\" 
lllany luorc? " 
They ,verc a nuisance to him then. lIe 'wanted to get on 
and this was ,vaste of tillle. Rut he sent back 42 prisoners 
,,,ith threc lightly ,vounded fello"rs of his company-he could 
not spare more-and then advanced ,,-ith his Inen beyond the 
Gernlan third line. 
Bunches of nlen ,verc straggling for,vard over the shell- 
broken ground to,nlrds the German line at Crucifix Trench
 
to the left of }i'riconrt. 



74 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\'IE 


They knew that this trench \vas important,. that. their lives 
'were \vell given if they could capture it. And these Yorkshire 
boys froln the hills and dales thought nothing of their liyes so 
that they could take it. 


3 


They unslung their bombs, looked to the right and left, 
"'here German heavies ,vere falling, cursed the chatter of 
machine-guns fron1 }'ricourt village, and said "Come on, 
lads !" to the men about them. Not one man faltered or 
turned back, or lingered \vith the doubt that he had bone 
far enough. 
They stumbled for\vard over the shell-craters, over dead 
bodies, over indescribable things. Crucifix Trench was reached. 
It ,vas full of Germans, \vho '''ere hurling bombs from it, from 
that trench and the sunken road near by. 
The Yorkshire boys \vent through a barrage of bombs, 
hurled thcir own, ,yorried through the broken parapets and 
over masses of tumbled earth, and fought single fights \vith 
big Germans, like terrier dogs hunting rats and ,vorrying them. 
Parties bombed their ,yay do,vn the sunken road. 
Those \vho fell, struck by Gennan bombs, shouted" Get on 
to 'em, lads," to others ,,,ho came up. In bits of earth,vork 
GCrlnan heads looked up, ,vhite German faces, bearded, and 
covered yvith clay like dead n1en risen. 
They pet up trcn1bling hauds and cried their ,vord of COlTI- 
rndeship to those enemy boys. 
"'VeIl, that's all right," said a Yorkshire captain. "'Ve've 
got the Crucifix. And mean,vhile our guns are giving us the 
dcyil. " 


4 


Our gunners did not kno\v that Crucifix Trench ,vas taken. 
SOlne of our shells ,vere dropping very close. 
" It's tin1c for a red light," said the Yorkshire captain. lIe 
had a bullet in his ribs, and was suffering terribly, but he 
till 
comlnanded his men. 
.A red rocket ,vent up, high through the smoke over all this 
corner of the battlefield. Somc,,,herc it was secn by \vatchful 
eyes, in some O.P. or by some flying fdlo\v. Our guns lifted. 
The:shells went for,vard, crashing into Shelter "Y ood beyond. 



THE ßIEN WHO FOUGHT AT FRICOURT 75 


" Good old gunners! " said a sergeant. "By God, they're 
playing the galne to-day! " 
But other men had seen the red rocket above Crucifix 
Trench. It stood in the sky like a red eye looking down upon 
the battlefield. The German gunners knew that the British 
"were in Crucifix Trench. They lo\vered their guns a point or 
t\VO, shortening their range, and German shells came crumping 
the earth, on either side, registering the ground. 
" And ,vhere do \ve go next, captain 1 " asked a Yorkshire 
boy. It seemed he felt restless \vhere he ,vas. 
The captain thought Shelter 'V ood might be a good place 
to see. He chose tcn men to sce it \vith hin1, and they "were 
very ,vilIing. 
\;Vith the bullet in his ribs-it hurt him horribly-he climbed 
out of Crucifix Trench, and cra ,vIed for"ward with his ten 
men to the wood beyond. 
It ,vas full of Germans. At the south-,vest corner of it was 
a redoubt, ,vith machine-guns and a bomb-store. The German 
bombers ,vere already flinging their grenades across to the 
Crucifix. 
The \vounded captain said that tcn In en ,vere not enough to 
take Shelter \tV ood-it \vould need a thousand men, perhaps, 
so he cra\vled back ,vith the others. 
They stayed all night in Crucifix Trench, and it was a dread- 
ful night. At ten o'clock the enemy opened an intense bonl- 
bardment of heavies and shrapnel, and maintained it at full 
pitch until t,vo o'clock next morning. 
There ,vere 900 men up therc and in the lleighbourhood. 
"\Vhen morning came there ,vere not so many, but the other" 
were eager to get out and get on. 
The Yorkshire spirit \vas unbeaten. The grit of the North 
Country ,vas still there in the morning after the first assault. 


5 


Queer adventures overtook lnen \vho played a lone hand in 
this darkness and confusion of battle. One ma.n I nlet to-day 
-true Yorkshire, ,vith steel in his eyes and a burr in his 
speech; it ,vas strange to hear the Saxon \vords hc used- 
rushed \vith somc of his friends into Birch Tree \;V ood, \vhich 
\vas not captured until two days later. 



76 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\f
lE 


There ,vere n1any Gern1ans there, but not ,?isible. Suddenly 
the Yorkshire lad found hinlself quite alone, his comrades 
having escaped from a death-trap, for the 'wood ,vas being 
shelled-as I sa,v n1ysclf that day-,vith an intense fire from 
our guns. 
The lonely boy, ,vho ,vas a machine-gunner ,vithout his glIn, 
thought that things ,,,ere "pretty thick," as, indeed, they 
,vere, but hc decided that the risks of death ,vere less if he 
stayed still than if he lnoved. 
Presently, as he crouched low, he sa,v a Gennan cOIning. 
lIe ,vas cra ,vling along on his hands and knees, and blood ,vas 
oozing from hin1. As he cra,vled, a young Y orkshirc soldier, 
also badly ,younded, passed him at a little distance in the 
,,"ood. 
The German stared at him. Then he raised hinlself, though 
still on his knees, and fired at the boy ,vith his revolver, so 
that he fell dead. The German ,vent on his hands again to go 
on ,,,ith his cra,vling, but another shot ripped through the trees, 
and he ('ra ,vIed no l11ore. 
It ,vas fired by the n1an ,vha had been left alone-the yonng 
n1an I sa\v to-day. "I killed the brute," he said, "and I'n1 
glad of it." 
Our shells ,vere bursting yery fiercely over the ,vood, slashing 
off branches and ploughing up the earth. The lonely boy 
sC'nrched about for a dug-out and found one. \Vhen he ,vent 
do,vn into it he sa,v three dead Gcrn1ans there, and he sat ,,,ith 
them for Inore than eight hours ,vhile our bombardn1ent lasted. 
There ,vas another lad I met ,vha was also a Inachine-gunner, 
and alone in the battle zone. lIe 'H\S alone ,yhen fourteen of 
his cOlnrades had been knocked out. But single-handed he 
carried and served his gun, from one place to another, all 
through the day, and part of next day, sniping odd parties of 
Germans lvith bursts of bullets. 
i\nothcr 
turdy fello,v I met eanle face to face \vith a German, 
,vho called out to hin1 in perfect English: 
,
 Don"t shoot. I ,vas brought up in England and played 
footer for Bradford City. . . . By Jove! I kno,v your face, 
old man. \Veren't you at the Victoria Hotel, Sheffield? ., 
It 'was a queer nleeting on a battlefield. One of the griulnlcst 
thin
s I have hca.rd ,vas told Ine by another Yorkshire boy. 
..\ German surrendered, and then suddenly, as thi5 lad 



THE 
IEN 'VHO FOUGHT AT FRICOURT 77 


approached to make hÏ1n prisoner, pulled the detonator of a 
bonlb and raised it to thro,v. 
" I put my bayonet right close to hiln so suddenly that he 
'"as terrified, and forgot to fling his bomb. Then a queer kind 
of look can1e into his eyes. He remembered that the bloolning 
bomb ,vas going off. It went off, and ble,v him to bits." 
That is ,val'. And the men ,vho ha,Tc told me these things 
are young men ,,,ho do not like the things they have seen. 
But, because it is war, they go through to the last goal ,vith a 
coura.ge that does not quail. 
The nlen of this division next day took Shelter 'Vood and 
Fricourt, and captured many prisoners. 



\1"111 


HOW THE PRUSSIANS FELL A'l' 
CONTALl\IAISON 


I 


JULY 8 
A.}'TER the first four days of battle there "'as s0l11ething like a 
lull of t,venty-four hours-a lull filled ,vith the great noise of 
gUl1s-,vhich "'as broken by fresh assaults made by our troops 
in thc direction of IV[ametz 'Y ood and Contahllaison. For t,vo 
days no,y-on Thursday and Friday-there has been severe 
fighting in that territory, and although ,vc lost Contahllaison 
la '5t night after taking it in the morning, it is, I am sure, only a 
telnporary set-back, for onr position is strong in its ncighbour- 
hood, and great loss has been inflicted upon the enelny. The 
battle of Contalmaison, not yet finished, ,viII be a distinct and 
inlportant episode in the history of this campaign. 
1 ,vas able to see ::)on1cthing of the battle-all the fierce 
pict.ure of our shell-fire-but, at the time, with no accurate idea 
of ,,,hat ,vas really happening bcyond our guns, and ,vith that 
sense of confusion and mystery which all soldiers have ,vhen 
they are on the battlefield, kno,ving \Tery little of "That is going 
on to the left or right of them, not kno\ving what is happcning 
to thell1sel Yes, or .why thcy stand \vhere thcy do, or \vhat order 
,vill next COlne to them, or ,vhether our men are doing ,veIl or 
badly. 


2 


It ,vas carly in the 1110rning that I went out bcyond many of 
our batteries and \vatched the bombarchncnt that ,vas to pre- 
cede the infantry attacks upon the enemy's positions in front 
of Contalmaisoll and, to the right, on l\'1ametz \V ood, .whcre 
some of our men held the south-\vest corner. Therc \vere 



THE PRUSSIANS AT CONTAL
IAISON 79 


large bodies of troops about on high ground ,vhere our old 
trenches are, and bunched about in groups beyond, up a slope 
leading to the line fron1 ,vhich our attack ,vas to be n1ade. They 
seen1ed to have nothing in the ,vorld to do except hang about 
in a casual ,yay. l\lany of the1l1 ,vere lying on the grass, or 
along roadsides, asleep. Not all the roar of the guns n1ade then1 
turn uneasily. They had been there all night, ,vaiting to go up 
in support, and no,v, dog-tired, they ,vere taking their chance 
of rest. 
It ,vas not quite a safe spot for sleep. l\lthough the enelllY's 
guns ,vere busy on different places, there ,vas no kno,ving 
,,,hether they might not shift a point or t,vo this ,vay at any 
n10111ent. The road,vay had already ten1pted son1e of their 
shells earlier in the 1110rnil1g. Tall beech-trees here and there 
had been cut clean in half, and a litter of branches and foliage 
lay belolv the broken stun1ps. There ,vere new shell-craters 
in the field over the ,yay, just ,vhere a cOlllpany of R.A.l\I.C. n1en 
had sat dO'Vl1 on their stretchers, ,vaiting for ,vork. But 
nobody seen1ed to ,vorry. 
.LA... captain of Pioneers spoke to 111e and said, " Any news? " 
He ,vas a n1iddle-sized, keen-looking n1an, with a hun10rous 
look in his grey eyes, which ,vere shaded by a steel hehnet, 
khaki covered. He "vas as nluddy as a scarecro,v, and shivered 
a little after his night in the rain. 
"Dashed if I kno,," what's happening," he 
aid; "one never 
docs. Our fellows are supposed to be going up, but no orders 
come along. There's our adjutant, ,vaiting for 'en1." I looked 
across the road and sa,v the adjutant. He ,vas lying on his 
back, quite straight, at full length, ,vith his head on his pack 
and his ,vaterproof coat over hin1. He ,vas profoundly asleep. 
The Pioneer captain pointed to,vards little n1asses of men 
belo,v thc crest of the rising ground, beyond ,vhich ,vere hell- 
fires. 
" I thought they ,vould go up an hour ago, but they're still 
"vaiting, poor lads. I expect they'll go in it all right in less than 
half an hour." 
He stared to,vards l\iailletz village. It ,vas under a pall of 
greeni
h silloke, and not a nlinute passed ,vithout a big Gernlan 
shell bursting over it and raising black colun1ns of cloud. 
"Kasty kind of place," said the Pioneer. "Thought I 
should have to spend the night there. Glad 1 didn't, though! 



80 


THE BATTLES Ol? THE SOlVIl\:lE 


And such a night! I never saw' anything like it. Exactly 
like hell, only ,yorse; a sky full of shells, and lights bursting 
like blazes. A regular Brock's Benefit. . . . Hallo, SOine of 
'em are going up." 
The lllell ,vho \vere in sinall bunches on the Io,v ground 'VlTe 
getting into a new kind of order. They \vere n10ving up to\vards 
the crest in extended forll1ation. . . . 
.A. Gern1an shell ,vas cOIning our \vay. I heard its high 
gobbling note, and shifted n1Y steel hat a little, and hoped it 
Inight serve. There \vas a nasty crash fifty yards a\vay belo\v 
the road, \vhere SOine of the n1en ,vere bunched. . . . A ,vhistle 
sounded, and the R.A.l\I.C. nlen, ,vho had been squatting on 
their stretchers, sprang up and ran, carrying their stretchers, 
do,vn a side track. They had found SOine ,york to do. 
T,vo other shells can1e closer, and ,vc changed our position 
a little. It ,vas getting rather hot. 


3 


But not so hot as other places, con1pared \vith ,vhich our 
ground 'vas Paradise. l\Ianletz village, behind our lines now, 
,vas being shelled heavily by the enemy, and ,vas a very ugly 
spot, but even that ,vas a health resort, as soldiers say, con1- 
pared ,vith any of the Gern1an positions in the ncighbourhood of 
Contalmaison. Our guns ,vere concentrating their fire along 
a line north of Birch Tree \V ood fron1 I-Iorseshoe Trench, no,v 
in our hands, across to Peak lV ood and Quadrangle Trench a,vay 
to l\Iametz 'Vood on the right. \Ve ,vere also putting a terrific 
barrage round the village of Contalmaison and Acid Drop Copse. 
Our batteries, heavy and light, seen1ed to be in rings round this 
storm -centre. 
The heavies 'vere a,vay behind, and I could only kno,v their 
existence by the great shells that came rushing overhead, from 
invisible places at long range, ,vith a long drone like SOllle great 
harp plucked by old god Thor, as each shell crossed the valley 
and smashed over the cHenlY's lines. They came in great 
numbers and from half the points of thc compass, to fall upon 
that one stretch of ground a mile or so broad. Our ficld -guns 
\vere not invisible. 
I could see them \vinking and blinking in the valleys and up 
the slopes as far as the eye could range. They fired salvos or 



THE PRUSSIANS AT CONTAL1\IAISON 81 


rounds 'with sharp and separated rat-tat-tats. Every kinù of 
gun and ho,vitzer-old " Grandmothers," the long six-inchers, 
four-point-sevens, French soixante-quinze, and our o\vn cighteen- 
pounders-played the devil over the Gernlan lines. 
I think it ,vas about cleven that they lifted and put a dense 
barrage of shells farther back. For the first tinle in nlY ex- 
perience this moment was perceptible. It \vas a kind of hush 
for just a second, as though all the guns 'vere taking breath. 
Then the tunullt began again, ,vhile the infantry went forward 
into and through the slnoke. A little ,vhile later I sa\v rockets 
high above the smoke in the direction of Contalnlaison. SOlnc- 
thing told me, though \vithout any certainty, that our men \verc 
in t.hat village. 


4 


lh'oln a visual point of vie,v that is all I can tell, but to-day I 
hayc seen some of the officers ,vha ,vere directing this battle, 
and \vhat happened is no'v lunch clearer, though not absolutely 
clear in all its details. The day before yesterday, after heavy 
fighting in the early stages of the battle, sonle of our battalions 
took possession of the Horseshoe Trench to the north- ,vest 
of Birch Tree \V ood and to the south-,vest of Contahnaison. 
Other battalions to the right \vere stretching along a line 
through Birch r-free \V ood to the south of l\Iametz 'V ood. A 
curious affair ,vas happening in a trench called the Old Jaeger 
Trench, running out of the IIorseshoe to,vards a German 
redoubt to the ,vest of Peak "Yood. 
Part of this trench \yas held by the troops on the left a.nd part 
by the troops on the right, and both reported and believed that 
they held all of it. 
-'he truth 'was that a gap in the middle was 
still held by a party of Gennans, ,vho had machine-guns and 
bonlbs ,vith ,vhich, presently, they Bla.de themselves unpleasant. 
Orders ,vere sent to clear the trench of these ugly custolllers, 
J.nd it \vas done by the troops on the left. Then orders ,vere 

iven to clear for,vard to a triangle trench to the right of the 
Old J a.egcr. It ,vas a strong redoubt, and the Germans defended 
themselves so tenaciously at this point that it changed hands 
:hree times before our Inen held it for good. 
It yielded finally ,vhcn the troops on the right fought th
ir 
fVay up to Peak \V ood, captured it, and cnfiladed the CIlen1Y 
trith lnachillc-gun fire. .At that 1110mcnt they saw thcir po
itioB 
F 



82 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOI\lME 


,yas hopeless, and came running out \vith their hands up. 
Farther on there was a machine-gun elnplacement 'which ,vas 
giving us a good deal of trouble, but this was bombarded and 
rushed, and on the evening of July 6 the machine-gun, to use 
the ,vords of one of the officers, was " done in." 
Yesterday morning the attack follo,ving the bombardnlellt 
extended from these points south-,vest of Contaln1aison a,vay 
to the right. Unfortunately, although the fortune of ,var 
favoured us in another ,yay, the troops on the right were unable 
to lnake much headway. But at this time an extraordinary, 
and, for the enemy, a terrible, thing happened. Some battalions 
of the Prussian Guard Reserve, hurriedly brought up a day 
or t,vo ago fron1 Valenciennes, and thrown into this battlefield 
,vithout maps or guidance or local knowledge, advanced to meet 
our men on the right, and walked up, by an awful stroke of 
chance, straight into the terrific barrage ,vhich our guns had 
just started round Contalmaison. A whole battalion ,vas èut 
to pieces. 
l\lany others suffered frightful things. I anI told by sonle of 
the prisoners that they lost three-quarters of their number in 
casualties, and although this n1ay be an exaggeration- 
prisoners always have the tendency to exaggerate their losses 
-it is certain that a mass of men wcre killed and ,vounded. 
As soon as our barrage lifted our troops on the right, most of 
them men of Y orkshirc and northern counties, s,vept for\vard 
and ,vithout great trouble entered Contahnaison and Bailiff 
Wood to the north-,vest. It ,vas their lights ,vhich I had seen 
signalling through the smoke. 
It was a magnificent success, not too dearly bought. But 
just when our position looked full of promise for the nlorrow 
disappointing news came in last night. It is here that the 
details of ",'hat happened are not clear. Germans l\yere reported 
to be streaming out of Mametz lV ood to,vards Contalmaison, 
apparently to make a counter-attack there. The enemy's gUllS 
were shelIing the place. Rain fell heavily, and our men ,vho 
had fought so ,veIl and so long \vere exhausted. 
O'wing to the difficulty of comu1unication and other troubles 
\vhich happen at those times, the situation became confused, 
and late in the evening it was reported that Contalmaison had 
been evacuated as a temporary measure for defensive reasons. 
At the same time it ,vas also reported that MaJllctz 'V ood had 



THE PRUSSIANS AT CONTAL
lAISON 83 


been so heavily shelled by our guns that 11luch daInage had been 
inflicted upon the Germans inside, some of ,vhom had escaped 
to our lines. \Ve are now holding the outskirts of Contal- 
111aison, in, or in the ncighbourhood of, the cemetery, and, I 
believe, Acid Drop Copse, so that ,ve are in a sound position 
for further attack. 


5 


A large number of prisoners ,vere taken, and they came 
straggling back over the battlefield in miserable little groups. 
SOlne of them carried our wounded on stretchers or on their 
backs, and our men carried their ,voullded. 
They ,vere the remnants of the 3rd Prussiall Guard Division, 
,vhich has been so utterly broken that it no longer exists as a 
fighting unit. Those who did not fall into our hands have been 
,vithclra ,vn from the line. The" moral" of the Incn as ,veIl a
 
their fighting force has been smashed. Even the officers adn1!t 
that they have no more stomach for the fight, and several of the 
men ,vith ,vhon1 I spoke to-day ,vere frank in saying that they 
are glad to be prisoners to be safe at la
t from the frightfulnes.;; 
of this 'val'. 
Some of theln told me that after leaving Valenciennes a fe\v 
days ago, after our attack had stal'ted, they \vere brought to 
Cambrai, and ,vhile the officers ,verc sent on by motor-car they 
marched a long distance t.hrough unkno,vn country to the 
front. They do not kno,v the nalnes of the' villages through 
which they passed, their officers had no maps, and they had an 
olllinous feeling that they were going to their doom. But the 
strength of our artillery and its deadly accuracy of aim sur- 
prised thelll. 
. They did not kno,v the English had such gunners. StillInore 
,vere they surprised by the dash of our infantry when they heard 
that they had against them" men of the' New Army:.'" "\Ve 
thought they. ,vere Guards," said these Prussian prisoners, who 
belonged chielly to thc Lehr, Grenadiers, and Fusiliers-all 
Guards Divisions-the 70th Jaeger and the lloth, 11 4th, and 
190th regiments of the line. Some of them I spoke to ,vere 
Poles fron1 Silcsia-" Ich kann nur ein .wenig Deutsch sprechcn " 
(I ca.n only speak a little German), said one of thenl. Yet 
they ,vere tall, hefty lnen of good physique and well feù. Some 
of them 'vel
C nÜddle-aged fello,vs and fathers of families, 



84 


TI-IE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\I)1
 


corresponding to the French Territorials. They spoke of their 
,vives and children, and their tired, dazed eyes (for they "'ere 
just do\vn from the field of fire) lighted np at the thought of 
going honle again after th(' ,val'. 
" God send a quick ending to the \var ! " said one of theI11, and 
he spoke the words as a prayer ,vith his hands upraised. 
I sat in a little dug-out, bOlllb-proof, perhaps, but not sound- 
proof, because the noise of gnns ,vas appallingly close and loud, 
,vhile son1e of the n1en ,vere being brought in to be examined 
by a bright-eyed officer, ,vho spoke their dialects as ,veIl as their 
language, and had an casy ,yay ,vith him so that they ,verc not 
frightened. 
r.rhey ans,vered frankly, in a manly lvay, and ,vere b'1'atcfnl 
for our treatnlent of them. A queer scene inside these ,valls of 
sandbags, lighted by German candles, filled ,vith all sorts of 
litter from German pockets-great clasp-knives, leaden spoons, 
cartridge-clips, compasses, ,vatches, pencils One of the 
investigating officers ,vas the son of a fan10us musician, and 
seemed to find an intense interest in his job, though ne,v batches 
of prisoners keep arriving through day and night, so that his 
meals and his sleep are interrupted. 
.
 
But with his brother officers he is accumulating a store of 
information, and sees all the drama of the ,val', and all its 
n1Ïsery for the enemy, bet,veen these sandbags, and in the dim 
candlelight 'which flickers upon the ,vorn faces of Gennan 
soldiers taken an hour bef(we up there \vhere the shells are 
falling. 



IX 


Á.
 CAMEO OF WAR 


1 


JULY 9 
SLO'VLY, but quite steadily, ,ve are drawing our lines eloser about 
the enelllY's strong places along the ,vhole extent of our attack- 
ing front in order that one by one he must abandon then1. 
Last night our troops captured ne,v trenches about Ovìllers- 
La Boisselle, so that the pressure upon that place is tighter, and 
during the past eighteen hours \ve have established ourselveç; 
in the Bois des Trônes and its neighbourhood to the east of 
l\lontauban. 
The meaning of our attacking methods. and of the hard 
fighting at different points may not be clear to people \vho do 
not realize the position which our men have to storm. It has 
often been said that the enemy's lines, which stretch from the 
sea to the Vosges, are one great fortress, and this is true, but 
it is nlore essentially and even technically true of the line 
through which \ve broke on the first day of July. 
The great German salient ,vhich curves round from GOffilTIC- 
court to Fricourt is like a chain of nlcdiæval fortresses connected 
by carth\vorks and tunnels. The fortrcsscs, or strong places 
as ,vc no,v call them, are thc ruined villages-stronger in defcnce 
than any old to,ver because they are fillcd with machine-guns, 
trench-mortars, and other dcadly engines-of Gommecourt, 
Beaumont- IIamel, Thiépval, Ovillers, La Boisselle, and Fricourt. 
In spite of the supcrb courage of those British battalions 
\vhich flung thel1lselves against those strongholds on the left 
side of the GcnTIan salient they did not fall, but breaches were 
rnade in thcir dcfences which are no\v being widened and 
deepened. On the southern side, \vhere the attack succeeded, 
I.a 130issdle and Fricourt, and farther cast\vards !\Iametz and 



86 


THE BATTLES O:F TI-IE SOl\fl\IE 


l\lontauball, are ours, and the attack is pushing farther in to 
turn the strong places on the left from ,,-ithin the fortress \valls, 
as it ,vere, while they are being \veakened by assaults frODl 
,vithout, gradually putting the strangle-grip upon then1. If ,ve 
have luck and keep striking deeper into the salient, as \ve have 
done during the past t,venty-four hours at Contalmaison and 
Ovillers, it \vould seem to Ine as if the strong places on the 
left 111Ust either be eyacuated by the enemy or surrounded and 
taken, with thcir iInprisoned troops, by us. 
I saw the scene of this struggle for the enemy's strongholds 
to-day almost as if I \"ere looking into the mirror of the Lady of 
Shalott. It seemed like that, strangely unreal, as though in an 
Ï1nag
and yet terribly real and vivid-because I can1e upon 
it suddenly, by accident, arranged for me by a gap in a hedge 
and by t\yO trees on each side of the gap, like the frame of a 
picture. 
I had been up to the lines in search of an officer \vhose head- 
quarters is in dug-outs belo'w the crest of a hill. Beyond this 
crest and another one beyond that the fires of hate ,vere burning 
all right. I could tell that by the smoke-clouds \vhich came 
black
 and white, and green into the fleecy sky of this July day 
in France, and by the noise of the guns all about mc. But I 
did not trouble to climb to the crest. There 'were interesting 
things to see belo,v.. and fine men ,vhom I ,vanted to meet again 
before they go nearer to those fires. 
I passed t,vo friends on the road\vay riding in the centre of a 
long column of troops, and ,,,hen I ,va ved my hands to them and 
shouted" Good luck! " they turned in their saddles and ,vaved 
back and smiled in a way that one remembers through a life- 
time. I did not trouble to climb the crest because there ,verc 
some captured German guns belo\v it ,yorth 
eeing as the first- 
fruits of \yietory. 
1'hey \vc.re being fastened to our 0"'11 gun-carriages and takcn 
off to thc place ,vhere such trophies go, cheered by French 
to,vnsfolk on the "
ay. Queer, beastly things were some of 
these captured engines. There ,vere long ,vooden barrels 
hooped \vith steel, and \vith a touch-hole to fire the charge for a 
" plum-pudding" bomb large ('Dough to blo,y up ten yards of 
trench-as primitive as the engines of ,val' used in the fifteenth 
century. 
It was on the Yvay back that I caIne upon the gap in the 



A CAMEO OF WAR 


87 


hedge. I passed calnps of men and horses, masses of guns and 
long lines of dug-outs in chalk banks, ,vhere soldiers sat in the 
entrie') on this Sunday afternoon, smoking their pipes with an 
air of profound peace in spite of the noise of shell-fire; and 
large bodies of splendid troops, English and Scottish, tralllping 
up the roads, all po,vdered \vith \vhite dust, or lying under the 
shadows of wayside trees, sleeping on their backs with the 
sun full on their bronzed, s,veat-begrimed faces. It \vas 
the madding cro,vd of war, \vith a tangle of traffic on the 
roads, and kicking mules making beasts of themselves at 
the sight of a motor-car, and artillery wagons with creaking 
axles plunging through it all under the daring guidance of 
red-faced boys ,vith short \vhips. 
Turning off the road, a,vay from all this turnloil, and presently, 
through the gap in the hedge, I sa\v, quite unexpectedly, the 
scene of 'war across the fields in front of me, all gold ,vith that 
vveed ,vhich is ruining so many harvest fields of France. It was 
Mametz \Vood. I knew at once the queer shape of it ,vith a 
great bite out of its western side. In spite of all our shell-fire 
it is still thick 'with foliage, upon \vhich the sunlight lay, casting 
a great black shado\v underneath. Just belo,v it \vas Peak 
)\T ood, a row of broken trees by a sunken road, and a triangle 
trench, for .which our men fought desperately, so that it changed 
hands three times before they \von it finally, on Friday afternoon. 
To the left of 
iametz \V ood and on a line with it was Con- 
talnlaison, and on the left of that Bailiff Wood, which \ve cap- 
tured and lost again the day before yesterday, and then farther 
left Ovillers- La Boisselle, and completing thc crescent, La 
Boiselle itself. 


2 


Between the gap in the hedge I sa\v again one of the \vorld's 
great battlefif'lds, and every detail of it ,vas so clearly and 
sharply defined in the sunlight that it was like a Pre-Raphaelite 
picture painted in vivid colours. I could count the shell-holes 
in the roofs of Contalmaison village, and the château there, 
standing to the right of a little \vood, ,vas brought so closely 
for,varrl by a stereoscopic effect that I could look into the black- 
ness of its broken windo,vs. 
Dnwn below n1C were our trenches, and I sa w our men in 
them. Some of them ,,"ere outside the trenches, strolling about 



88 


THE BATTLES OF TI-IE SOl\tIME 


in the open, in little groups, or ,valking about on a lone track, as 
though taking a quiet half-hour on this Sunday afternoon. 
And yet they "'ere in the centre of the battlefield, and over 
their heads ean1C an incessant flight of shells, our shells, which 
I could see falling in the German lines, and in the fields about 
them German shells, bursting ,vith dull crashes and ,vith 
clol
ds of black and greenish smoke. All thc pO'wer of destruc- 
tion ,vas at ,vork, but because of the utter calnl and beauty of the 
sky and the golden light over all the scene it seemed to Ine, 
standing on the cdge of it, less deadly, likc a dream of ,val". 
It ,vas no drean1. Three of our shells follo'wed each other in a 
group and burst ,vith one explosion against the left-hand to,ver 
of Contalmaison château, smashing off a turret as though it 
\yerc a card-castle. 
Our shells were flinging up fountains of black earth and 
c;;moke in the German lines beyond-at Pozières. All round the 
battlefield there were the black clouds of shell-fire breaking and 
rising a.nd spreading over Bailiff \V ood, at Ovillers, and bet,veen 
the broken tree-trunks of La Boisselle. J.\;Ien ,vere being killed as 
usual, over there. But our shells ,vere doing lllost of the dan1age. 
An extraordinary thing happened as I looked across the 
château of Contahnaison. The earth seemed suddenly to open 
in the enclllY's lines and let forth the smoke of its inner fires. 
It gushed out in great round, dense 111a.sses, and rose to a vast 
height, spreading like the foliage of some gigantic tree. It was 
not a mine. 
The explosion froll1 a mine fiings up a black mass ,vith 
jagged edges like a piece of hlaek cardboard cut into teeth. 
But this was a regular uprising of curly black clouds of great 
yolun1C', getting denser, and coming continuously. I \vateherl it 
for t,venty minutes or more, and could not make out its meaning, 
but guessed that ,ve had blo-wn up an 3.111nlunition store. 
Two great explosions ,vhich can1e quite a fe,v seconds after 
the first vomit of smoke suggested this. So I ,vent fHvay frorn 
the picture through the gap in the trees. Down in the valley 
,vhel'e I passed the enemy's shells ,vere coming rather near. A. 
heavy crump burst on a knoll close by, and some officers and 
men ,vere ,vatehing with that curious sll1ile Incn have at times 
lvhen they kno,v their lives depend upon a freak of chance. It 
i') an ironical smile, and rather grim. 



x 
l'HE ASSA.J\ULT ON CONTALMAISON 


1 


JULY 9 
I HAD an idea that there \vould be "solnethillg doing" to-day at 
Contalmaison, and I \vent over the fields towards it, past sonlC' 
of our batteries, past columns of troops marching \vith their 
bands along the roads which pO"wder them \vith white blind- 
ing dust, past great calnps and amlnunition columns, and 
litters of cn1pty shell -ea.ses ren1aining over from the great 
bon1bardmcnt, and past bodies of soldicrs stretched out upon 
the grass and sleeping in the warnl sunlight close behind the 
fighting-lines, until I came to a little crest looking do\vn to 
Conta.lmaison village and the woods about it. 
l\fametz \V ood ,vas very quiet this afternoon. As neither 
side could see exactly the position uf its troops underneath th(
 
heavy foliagc-our men, 'who \vere fighting last night, hold a 
line about half-way through-the gunners \vere chary of shelling 
it severely. N ow and again a burst of shrapnel smoke puffed 
against the dark background of the trees, and the shell slashed 
through the branches, but that \vas not often, and the 'wood 
seemed very peaceful. Looking at it one's imagination found 
it difficult to realize that perhaps there "Tere men there \vIlo had 
dl1g thenlselves into the earth beneath the spreading l'oOtS, 
and that British and German patrols \vere feeling their way, 
perhaps, froln one tree to another, through the glades, until 
they came into touch and exchanged sonle rifle shots before 
falling back to their o,vn line. I could only guess at that, and 
could see nothing but the tight foliage, yello\v in the sun and 
black in the shadows. 
There were plenty of shells falling else\vhere, and it &eelned to 
111P that the cnelny had brought up nc\v batteries to strengthen 



90 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\ll\IE 


his defence. His shell-fire ,vas certainly more intense and 
,vider-spreading than during the past fe,v days round here. lIe 
"'as bombarding our positions from La Boisselle to l\lontauban 
very fiercely. The poor broken wood of La Boisselle, \vhich 
our men captured aftcr dcsperate fighting, was being searched 
by his black shrapnel, and every no\v and then by one of his 
"universals," which broke with a vivid cloud of greenish 
fumes, '\.cry prolonged in density, and fonning fantastic shapes 
as it dissolved. One such cloud, n1etallic in the brilliance of 
its green, \vas like a '\vinged woman with a l\ledusa face. 
High explosives 'were falling into l\iontauban village, raising 
volumes of rose-coloured clouds, beautiful in the sunlight. I 
think it must have been the dust of red bricks flung up from 
ruined houses. 


C) 
.- 


i\t half-past three in the afternoon the enemy put a very 
heavy barrage in a straight line belo,v Contalmaison. One by 
one thc shells burst, and so quickly down the line and back ag
in 
that they formed a ,vall of black smoke l\ith only a few gaps. 
" It is so nice to get a little fresh air! " said a young gunner 
officer 'who ,vas next to me, rcporting for his batt.ery, which 
speaks fronl afar \vith a very gruff voice. "During thc first 
few' days of the 'sho'\v' I lived indoors "-he pointcd to the 
dark entry of a dug-out-" but no'\v I'm getting sunburnt 
again. The men enjoy this open fighting. I.look at 'em! " 
There werc men moving about the battlefield utterly regard- 
less of the trenches-the old German trenches, marked by 
billo,,'s of bro'wn earth (bro\vn becanse of our gun-fire, ,vhich 
ploughed it up), and more regular lines of ,vhite earth\vorks, 
,vhich were our own parapets before the advance. A long 
column of them \yas ,vinding very slo,vly round tnwards Con- 
talmaison. 
" Looks as if they ,verc going up to support an attack," said 
an officcr close to me. 
Other groups of khaki-coloured men ,vere moving over the 
ground 'which one sees south\vard from the tall chimney of 
Pozières village, \vhich '\ve 'were bombarding heavily. 
I thought back to the Y pres salient for a monlent. Men do 
not n10ve about so freely there! Or betw'cen Loos and Hulluch, 
"'here over the wide barren stretch of desolation no hun1an 



THE ASSAULT ON CONTALl\iAISON 91 


being is ever seen, or, if seen, killed. But-" It is nice to get 
a little fresh air" after the imprisonment in the trenches, and 
this open \varfare is enormously better. It is better even to die 
in the open, \vith the \vind upon one's face, standing among the 
poppies, underneath the blue sky, 'which to-day ,vas gloriou,; 
,vith ,,,hite sno\v-mountains piled high \vith dazzling peaks in its 
sea of blue and sunlight. 
And so our men are touched ,vith a kind of spiritual joy to be 
fighting above-ground again instead of crouching in ditches- 
though personally I like a handy hole at times. 
In the very centre of the battlefield, for \vhich some of our men 
fought and died a day or t,vo ago, one tall fcllo,v 'was signalling to 
somebody about something. N O\V and then a German shell 
fell dangerously close to his position, sending up a fountain of 
carth and smoke, but he kept talking \vith his dot-and-dash 
to a far and invisible friend. It seemed an interesting mono- 
logue, as though he had important things to tell. It seemed 
to be addressed to the ruins of Contalmaison. There 'were 
Inoments \vhen its old French château, set in a little wood, \vas 
lit up by a splash of golden light as the \vhite clouds drifted by, 
so that I could almost count its bricks, and could see ho\v the 
shells which I ,vatched yesterday had opened its roofs. But the 
left- hand to'wer ,vas knocked off this morning by a direct hit 
from that same battery ,vhosc fire ,vas being observed by the 
young gunner officer \"ith \vhom I sat to-day. It is a \vonder 
the shell did not smash the ,vhole château to a pitiful ruin, 
but it took the to\ver " en passant" as chess-players say. 
At four o'clock our guns concentrated upon Contahnaison, 
Acid Drop Copse-the poor little straggly ,vood to the right of 
l\lametz-and the German trenches defending the Contalmaison 
ridge. Snloke belched over the battlefield, and the song of the 
shells ,vas loud and high. It was under those shells fa.lling 
bey
nd theln and through the smoke that a body of our men 
moved for,vard to the assault upon the village. 


3 


JULY ]0 
The yillage of Contahnaison is ours again. \Vhether ,ve ever 
held it before, by more than handfuls of men \vho ",rent in and 
,vent out, is doubtfnJ. Certainly some men succeeded in getting 



92 


THE BATTLES O:F THE SOl\fl\IE 


therc from Caterpillar 'Vood and Acid Drop Copse, becau
e I 
lnct theln afterwards ,,,,ith ,vounds in thcir bodies, but it is 
dif1-ìcult to know \vhat happcned. 
One can only guess that Gcnnans ealne up froln their dug-outs 
after our men had penetrated the outskirts and made use of the 
darkness ,vith their machine-guns and bonlbs. 
\Vhat happened last night is clear enongh. I have already 
described in a previous dispatch ho'v ,ve concentrated our firc 
upon thc positions in front of the: village and then shelled the 
village itself \vith terrific intensity. 
I sa,v the beginning of this bombardnlent, and \vatched our 
Inen going up to support the attack \vhich \vas to follow.. It 
'vas begun when fresh troops ,vho had been brought up to help 
the tired men \vho had been fighting in this part of the line 
under heavy shell-fire for several days advanced under thc 
cover of our guns to the left and right of the village. 
It ,vas already hemmed in on both sides, for other British 
troops ,vere in firm possession of Bailiff Wood to the left, and 
during the evening, by a series of bOlnbíng attacks, 1\lalnetz 
\\T ood to the right had been almost cleared of Germans. ,vho are 
no'v only in the outer fringe of it. 
The enemy in Contahnaison kne,v that their position '''as 
hopeless. ''"hen our guns lifted they heard the cheers of our 
infantry on both sides of the village, and In3.ny of them-at 
least n1any of those ,vho .were still alive and un,vounded- 
strean1cd out of the village in disorderly retreat, only to be 
caught behind by our extended barrages bet\veen ContalmaisoI1, 
Pozières, and Bazentin-le-Petit. 
Our men \vere quickly into the village, and having learnt a 
les
on by the experience of other troops at other places nlade a 
thorough search of machine-gun emplacements and dug-outs, 

o that there should be no further trouble ,vith this ,,'asps' 
ncst. 


4 


The men left in Contalmaison ,verc"ln"'a dreadful state, baving 
suffered to the yery limit of human endurance, and beyond. 
They \vere surprised to find thems{'lves living enough to be 
taken prisoners. 
One of these men, "with whom I talked this morning, told n1e a 
tragic talc. lIe spoke a littlc English, having been a cahinet- 



THE ASS.t\ULT O
 CONTALMAISON 93 


maker in the Tott.enhan1 Court Road some years ago before 
he ,vent baek to \Yürtemberg, 'where, when the ,val' bega.n, he 
,vas, as he said, taken and put in a uniform and told to fight, 
though it ,vas not his trade, poor deyil. 
With other men of the 122nd (Bavarian) llegiment he ,vent 
into Contalmaison five days ago. Soon the rations they had 
brought \vith them \vere finished, and o\ving to our ceaseless gun- 
I 1ìre it \vas inIpossible to get fresh supplies. They suffered 
great agonies of thirst, and the numbers of their dead and 
,vounded increased steadily. 
"There ,vas a hole in the ground;' said this German eabinet- 
lnaker, whose head ,vas hound \"ith a bloody bandage and ,vho 
,vas dazed and troubled ,,,hcn I talked \vith him. "It ,vas a 
dark hole ,vhich held t,venty men, all lying in a heap together, 
and that ,vas the only dug-out for my company, so that thcre 
"ras not room for nIore than a fc\v. 
" It ,vas necessary to take turns in this shelter, while outside 
thc English shells ,vere coming and bursting everywhere. T\vo 
or three men ,vere draggcd out to make room for two or thrce 
others. 
"Then those ,vho ,vent outside ,vere killed or ,voulldetl. 
SonIc of them had thcir heads blo,vn off, and some of then1 
had both legs torn off, and some of them their arms. 
" nut \ve ,vent on taking turn
 in the hole, although those 
\vho ,vent outside kne\v that it ,vas their turn to die yery 
likely. At last Inost of those ,vho came into the hole ,vere 
"rounded, somc of them badly, so that ,vc lay in blood. 
" There ,vas only one doctor there, an ' unteroffizicr' "-he 
pointed to a man \vho la.y asleep on the ground, face do"-}} tld 
,vards-" and he bandaged sonIC of us till hc had no 1110r 1aU 
bandages. 
" Thcn, last night, \ve knc,v the end ,vas coming. Your guns 
began to fire all together-the dreadful ' trommel-f<:'uer,' as 
\YC call it-and the shells burst and sn1ashed up the earth 
about us. . 
" "Ve stayed do\vn in the hole ,vaiting for the end. Then 
\YC heard your soldiers shouting. Presently two of them call1e 
do".n into our hole. They ,vere t,yO boys and they had thcir 
pockets full of bOlnbs. 
" They had bombs in their hands also, and they 
eclned to 

'onder ,vhether they ,vould kill us. But we ,,"ere al] wounded, J 



94 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


nearly all, and we cried ' Kameradcn !' . . . And now ,ve are 
prisoners-and I am thirsty." 
Other prisoners told me that the effect of our fire ,vas terrible 
in Contalmaison, and that at least half of their men holding it 
,vere kilJed or wounded, so that .when our soldiers entered last 
night they walked over the bodies of the dead. 
These men ,vho had escaped ,vere in a pitiful condition. They 
lay on the ground utterly exhausted most of then1, and-that 
,vas strange-with their faces to the earth. Perhaps it ,vas to 
blot out the vision of things seen. 
I shall remember the cabinet-Inaker of the Tottenham Court 
Road. In spite of the clay ,vhich caked his face and clothes and 
the bloody rag round his head he ,vas a handsome bearded fello,v 
'\vith blue eyes, \vhich once or t,vice lighted up with a tragic 
smile, as ,...hen I asked him .when he thought the ,var ,yould 
end. 
" In 1915," he said, " ,vhen I ,vas ,vounded at Ypres, I thought 
the war ,v01.dd end in a fe,v months. A.nel a little while ago I 
thought so aga.in ! " 
Then he muttered something to hin1self, but loudly enough 
for me to hear the ,vords-" Surely ,ve cannot go on nluch 
longer? " 
I left these men, and farther dO\V11 the road sa'v lnany n10re 
prisoners. There ,vere nearly thrce hundred of them n1arching 
do,vn a side track, bet,veen son1e ripening corn, under mounted 
escort, their grey-blue uniforms hardly visible until I 'vas 
closer to theln against the background of the ,vheat. 
1 l\Iost of them "Trc young, healthy-looking men, who ,valked 
)riskly, and it ,vas only a fe,v behind who limped as they 
1 .-Talked, and looked broken and beaten men. 


5 


It was a b'ood day for ns in prisoners, for about 500 ha,re C0l11C 
do,vn from Contalnlaison, l\lanletz 'V ood, and the Trôncs 'rood 
as living proofs of our advance in all those places. 
All the prisoners speak of the terror of our artillery-fire, and 
documents captured in their dug-outs tell the san1e talc in ,vords 
,vhieh reveal the full horror of bornbardment. 
" \Ve are quite shut off from the rest of the world," "Tote a 
German soldier on the day before our great attack. "Kothing 



THE ASSAULT ON CONTALl\tfAISON 95 


comes to us; no letters. The English keep such a barrage on 
our approaches, it is terrible. To-morro\v morning it ,vill be 
seven days since this bombardment began; we cannot hold out 
Inuch longer. Everything is shot to pieces." . 
" Our thirst is terrible," ,vrote another man. " We hunt for 
,vater and drink it out of shell-holes." 
Many of the men speak of the torture of thirst \vhich they 
suffered during our bombardment. 
" Everyone of us in these five days has become y('ars older. 
We hardly kno,v ourselves. Bechtel said that, in these five 
days, he lost 10 lb. Hunger and thirst have also contributed 
their share to that. IIunger ,votlld be easily borne, but the 
thirst makes one almost mad. 
"Luckily it rained yesterday, and the ,vater in the shell- 
holes, mixed ,vith the yello\v shell-sulphur, tasted as good as a 
bottle of beer. To-day \ve got sOlnething to cat. It was 
impossible before to bring food up into the front line under the 
violent curtain-fire of the enemy." 
One other out of hundreds tells all in a few ,vords : 
" 'Ve came into the front line ten days ago. During those 
ten days I have suffered nlore than any time during the last t,vo 
years. The dug-outs are damaged in places, and the trenches 
are completely destroyed." 

v e do not gloat over the sufferings of our enemy, though ,ve 
must make them suffer, and go on suffering, that they may 
yield. It is the curse of ,var, the black horror ,vhich not even 
the heights of hunlan courage may redeem, nor all the splendour 
of youth eager for self-sacrifice. 
I have seen things to-day before which one's soul s\voons, and 
which, God ,villing, my pen shall write, so that men shall 
remember thc meaning of ,val'. 
But no\v, ,vhen these things are inevitable, ,ve nlust look only 
to our progress to,vards the end, and to-day ,ve have made 
good progress. 
Yesterday I wrote of the position ,ve attacked on July 1 as a 
great GenTIan fortress ,vith a chain of strongholds linked by 
underground ,yorks. 
In ten days, by the \vonderful gallantry of our men and the 
great power of our guns, ,ve have smashed several of those forts- 
as strong as any on the \Vestern front, and defended stubbornly 
by masses of guns and troops-and have stormed our way in so 



9ß 


THE B.A.TTLES OJ? THE SOl\Il\II

 


dceply that the enelllY is no". forced to fall back upon hi
 next 
line of defence. I 
rrhe cost has been great, but the enen1Y's losses and the 
present position in ,vhieh he finds himself prove the success of 
Ollr main attack. 
}1-'or the first time since the beginning of the ',var thc initiative 
has passed to liS, and the (j.ennan Headquarters Staff is hard 
pushed for reserves. 



XI 


THE BATTLE O}1
 THE WOODS 


1 


JULY 12 
FOR scycral days no'v I have been giving a chronicle of hard 
fighting at several Ünportant points on the ,yay to the second 
German line, ,,,ith such scenes as one eye-\vitness may describe 
in a great battle in ,vhich many different bodies of troops are 
engaged upon a wide front. 
The fortunes of ,,,ar have varied from day to day, almost 
1'1'on1 hour to hour, so that positions taken one evening ha.ve 
been lost in the morning and again captured by the afternooll. 
\;Yriting as events. are happening, one's narrative becon1cs as 
confuscd as the confusion of the battlefield itself, ,vhere troops 
kllO'Y nothing, or very little, of ,vhat is doing to their right 
and left, until SOITIe general scheme of opcrations is cOlTIpleted. 
By the capture of Contalmaison and ground to each side of it 
a general scheme of progress has been achieved, and, although 
fighting docs not cease about these points, it is now possible 
to give a clcarer idca of the battle as it has developed up to 
the present moment. 
I think it may very ,veIl be called the Battle of the "\V oods, 
for the chief characteristic of it has been the determined effort 
of our troops to take and hold a nlullbcr of copses and slTIall 
forests bet,veen the first and second GenTIan lines. 
On the left of Contalnlaison is Bailiff 'Yood, north-eastwards 
of the I-Iorscshoc Itedoubt. If ',"e could get that and keep it 
Contahnaison itself could be cnfiladed and attacked from the 
,vcst as ,veIl as from the south. .A ,yay to the right of Con- 
talmaison is Ma.metz 'Yood, even nlore important both in 

ize and pðsition, ,vith Bcrnafay \tV ood still farther east,vards 
and Trôncs 'Yood on the right again. Ot.her small woods or 
G 



98 


TI-lE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


copses to the south of Contalmaison ,vere strong fighting points, 
from Shelter 'Y ood to llound 'Y ood and Birch 'Y ood at the 
top of the Sunken Road and Peak 'V ood to the left of the 
Quadrangle Trench. 
Some of these places are but a fe,,: shell-slashed trees serving 
as landmarks, but Bailiff 'V ood, l\Iallletz 'Y ood, Bernafay 
',,"ood, and Trônes \Yood are still dense thickets under heavy 
foliage hiding the enemy's troops and our o\\"n, but giving no 
protection frOln shell-fire. 
It is for these \voodlands on high ground that our n1en have 
been fighting ,,'ith the greatest gallantry and most stubborn 
endurance. suffering n10re than light losses, Ineeting heavy 
counter-attacks, gaining ground, losing it,. retaking it, and 
thrusting for,vard again, ,vith a rea.lly unconquerable spirit, 
because they kno,\, that these ,voods are the ,yay to the second 
bastion of the Gernlan stronghold. 
It ,vould bc good to say something about the different 
battalions \vho have been fighting the Battle of the 'Voods, 
and it is hard not to giyc somc honour to then1 no\v by name. 
But there are reasons against it-the enemy ,vants to kno\v 
their nan1es for other reasons-and \ve must \vait until SOlne 
\veeks have passed. They are men fron1 nearly all our English 
counties-from Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire, and 
Yorkshire, fron1 the l\lidlands, thc Hon1C Counties, and the 
H 'Yest Countrie." "T elshmel1 \vere there, and Irish and I-ligh- 
la.nders and Luwlanders. It ,vas a British battle, but the 
greater share of it fell to England alone, and it ,vas English 
lads from the North, and English lads fron1 old county towns 
like \Yorcester and Northanlpton, York and Bedford, Guildford 
and Arundel, N or\vich and old London To\vn itself, \vho 
fought on the ,yay to Contaln1aison and took this stronghold 
of the \yoodlands. 
I passed some of thcln on the roads to-day. They \vcrc the 
lnen ,,,ho captured Contalmaison the day before yesterday, 
and they 'vere marching ,vith such a steady s\ving that it \vas 
ha.rd to think they had been through such fighting and fatigues, 
and that they had left behind them many good fello\vs \vho 
\vill never come back along the road. 
They \vere bringing back trophies of victory. On their 
\Vagolls, beside their o\vn steel hats, ,vere German hehnets. 
Son1(' of the enemy's machine-guns were passing back \vith 



THE BATTLE OF THE WOODS 


99 


them, and although the men \vere tired they held their heads 
high and there \vas a fine pride in their eyes. .An officer \vho 
\vatched them pass called out the names of their regin1ents 
and said, "Well done! " and one of their O\Vn officers \vaved 
his hand and called ba.ck, "Cheery-O !" It \vas the greeting 
of gallant fighting n1en. 


2 
But before the taking of Contaln1aison the day before yester- 
day there \vere other men \vho had done their best to take it, 
and did take it for a \vhile, in spite of bad luck and every kind 
of hardship. 
Their attack depended a good deal upon the progress made 
by other troops \vho \vere fighting for Bailiff Wood on the left, 
and by troops who were attacking up to the line of Pearl Alley 
on the right. 
Neither of these attempts was successful at the tin1c, and the 
lnen who had been ordered to take Contaln1aison were not in 
a happy position. The \veather had been foul, and it \vas this 
\vhich on July 7 and 8 made all attacks difficult. 'Vhen the 
troops of the attacking colnnlns tried to get forward the 
ground was bogged, their rifles and bombs and machine-guns 
\vere covered \vith muddy slin1e, and they stun1bled through 
\vater-Iogged trenches. Apart fron1 this the \vay was perilous 
and tragic. 
The n1ain trench leading up to Contalmaison \vas the Sunken 
Road \vhich goes up bet\veen Round \V ood and Birch Wood, 
and this was being heavily barraged by the enemy's guns 
s\veeping down the valley from Pozièrcs. 
Farther up and slanting right to Pearl Alley \vas a shallow 
trench. 
Dead bodies lay there in the mud, and soon it was choked 
\vith wounded n1cn. How could anyone pass? Ho\v was it 
possible to bring up bon1bs and amn1unition and machine- 
guns and all the stores 'which must follow an attack? That 
was not done, but our n1en, fellows \vho know the chin1es of 
Worcester Cathedral, struggled forward over open ground and 
made a dash for Contalmaison, enfiladed by n1achine-gnll fire 
fron1 Bailiff \V ood and :1\lametz Wood, which \vere not yet in 
our hands. Round the \vcstern side of Contalmaison \vas a 
shallo\v trench in \vhich the enen1Y also kept his machine-guns, 



100 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


but \vhen the renlnants of the attacking force rushed for".ard 
these \vere ,vithdra wn into the village, from \vhich the Gerlnan 
gunners s,vept th(' ground. 
It seenlS to me quite an astonishing feat of arnlS that our 
men, in such small numbers and in such adverse conditions, 
should have penetrated a good ,yay into the village. .A.nd 
it is ,vonderfully to their credit that they should ha ye taken 
eighty prisoners at such a tinle. 
They found themselves "up in the air," as soldiers say, 
and they \vere being badly hurt by machine-gun fire. It ,vas 
a bad position, and after rummaging through some Gern1an 
dug-outs and taking their prisoners they fell back to a strong 
point to the south of the village, ,vhich they held for t".o or 
three days, e
tablishing a machine-gun post ,vhich did valuable 
service in the next attack. 
They did not succeed in holding Contaln1aison, and in 'war, 
,vhich is a hard thing, it is only success that counts. But I 
see nothing to blame in the adventure of those con1panies ,vho 
got through at great hazard. Luck ,vas against them, and 
against their other battalions. Luck-and the weather. 


:3 


In the meantin1e great fighting ,vas in progress for the 
woods around. A very splendid body of men, among them 
true descendants of Sir Hugh Evans and other brave nlen 
across the Marches, had fought their way up on July 5 to 
Birch Tree Copse and Shelter Alley, to Quadrangle Trench on 
the 6th, then t.o Caterpillar \Vood and Marlborough 'Vood, 
and they had placed, ,vith a cunning that belongs to the genius 
of 'war, a machine-gun \vhich covered an exit fron1 :1\lalnetz 
\V ood, 'where the enenlV was still in force. 
At 3 o'c]ock on l\lo
day afternoon last our troops advanced 
to the capture of the wood-a 'wood whose gloom ,vas brightened 
by the frightful flash of shells, ,,,hose tree-trunks ,vere broken 
and splintered and slashed by &harp axes hurtling through the 
leaves, and about ,vhose gnarled roots, in shell-holes and 
burro,vs, German soldiers crouched with their bombs and 
machine-guns. A wood of terror. Yet not disn1aying to 
those men of onrs who ,vent into its t,vilight. Our o,vn guns 
,verc shelling it 'with a progressive barrage. 



THE BATTLE OF THE \;VOODS 101 


Onr Inen ,vere to pass for,vard in short, sharp rushes behind 
the barrage, but some of then1 in their eagerness went too 
fast and too far, and ,vent through the very barrage itself 
until a signal ,yarned a gunner officer sitting in an O.P. behind, 
so that he suddenly seized a telephone and whispered some 
,vords into it, and n1ade the guns " lift " again. 
\Ya ves of bullets ,vere streaming like ,vater through the trees 
from Gernlan n1achine-guns. l\Iany of our n1en fell, and the 
others, checked a while, lay dO'Yl1 in any holes they could find 
or dig. A.II through the night shells broke over them, and 
through the glades there cainc ahvays that horrible chatter of 
machine-guns. 
It "Tas a night to ,vhich men think back through a lifetime 
,vith a ,vonderlnent that it brought any da,vn for them. But 
,vhen dawn came their spirit ,vas unbroken and they n1ade a 
ne,v attack, and ,vent for,vard with bombs and bayonets to the 
encounter of other men not less bra ve. Not less brave, in 
truth and in fairness to theine There was a fierce fight before 
the last of thcIn surrendered, so that l\lametz \Vood was ours, 
for a \vhile at least. 


. 


4, 


l\IeaIl\vhile to the left of Contaln1aison-our left--other n1en 
had ,vorked their \vay up into Bailiff \V ood and had established 
posts there. It ,vas still impossible to attack Contalmaison 
from the south, and, as it happened, perhaps a lucky thing 
because the enemy had expected an attack from the south 
and had most of his Inachine-guns facing that ,yay when our 
troops advanced upon hin1 fron1 the west. 
They advanced after a series of artillery barrages from a great 
number of batteries \vorking in n10st perfect harmony with the 
plan of the infantry attack. 
At 4.50 the infantry ,vent for"ward to their first stage in 
four \vaves and in extended order. They had to cover about 
1100 yards of open ground, and they travelJed light, \vithout 
their packs, fighting troops, searching parties for house-fighting, 
and consolidating troops. 
"They w('nt across magnificcntly," said their General, and 
in spite of the enemy's shells and machine-guns penetrat
d the 
to,vu. They ,vorked across in time to the successive barrage 
\vhich preceded them, and at 7 o'clock they had the ,vholc of 



102 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


Contalmaison. The enemy defended himself bravely, and there 
was SOßle fierce hand-to-hand fighting, in which 200 Germans 
\vere killed, refusing to surrender. l\lany prisoners \vere taken 
in the dug-outs. 
So at last the stronghold of the \V oods ,vas ours, and there 
is good hope that we shall keep it. 
One other \vood in this stretch of woodlands is still not ours. 
It is the \Y ood of Trônes, ,,,here also there has been desperate 
fighting by the men \vho captured Bernafay \V ood and Cater- 
piUar Wood and the ground about Montauban, shelled and 
shelled again by the enelny, who hates to have us there. 
We have taken it several times, but the evening's shell-fire 
forced us from part of it. When they come, our shell-fire 
slashes them to death. So much of it is No Man's Land, anà 
a devilish place. 
But we hold a great stretch of ground after the Battle of 
the 'Yoods. 



XII 


THE FIGHT FOR OVILLERS 


1 


JULY 13 
AT Ovillers there has been fierce fighting to-day, ,vhich has 
gained for us several important bits of trench and ground, 
linking up ,vith other separate points already won, so that this 
German stronghold is closely besieged. 
The enenlY to-day ,vas bon1barding our positions round 
Contalmaison and l\laIllctz \\70od ,vith a n10st forn1idable 
barrage, and as I watched this fro III a vantage-point looking 
across a ,vide stretch of the battletìelds it sceIlled to me that 
the Germans n1ight be preparing a strong counter-attack along 
that line. 
Nearer to Thiépval it ,vas strangely quiet after the great 
fighting a ,veek and n10re ago. 
The village of Thiépval itself "
as deadly quiet in the German 
lines of bro,vn, b0111bardcd earth, beyond our ,vhiter trenches. 
'Yhat was once a ,vood there, about red-roofed barns and houses 
and an old church to,ver, is no,v only a nunlber of charred stumps 
sticking up from the brick-dust and ruin of these buildings. 
Behind Thiépval, captured and lost by our soldiers after 
heroic fighting and great sacrifice on July 1, could be seen the 
places ,vhich the enemy is holding in his second line of defence, 
the next line of village fortresses. 
.They ,vere marked by the tall chimney of Courcelette, the 
,voods of Grandcourt, and the church spire of Irles. And 
there, standing high and clear above the ridge, ,vas one land- 
mark ,vhich has been famous before in the wa.r and will be 
again before the ,val' is ended. It ,vas the clock-to,ver of 
Bapaume, and if the sun had been shining on it ,ve could have 
read the time of day. 



104 THE BATTLES OF Tl-IE SOlVIl\IE 


On the ridge above Thiépyal \vere little nloying figures. 
" G " . d . h I . I 
erlnans, sa.] a sergeant 'Vlt one eye to us g ass. 
There ,vas a lot of them, cra,vling about like ants, but none 
of onr shells fell anlong them. All guns were busy on other 
work farther to the right, \vhere'the smoke of great shells rose 
like smouldering fires over all' the ground from O\Tillers to 
l\lontau ban. 


2 


The fighting for Ovillers has been hard, bloody, and close. 
l\Iany of our men have died to gain a yard or t\VO of earth\vork. 
There have been great adventures in the capturing of SOlne 
bits of broken brick or the ,yorking round a ditch belo\v the 
renlnants of a \vall. 
Under a steady drive of nlachine-gun bullets s\veeping all 
the ground, men of ours from Cheshire and another English 
county in the north have crept for\vard at night with a fe\v 
hand-grenades and flung themselves against the enemy's 
bombing-posts and barricades and fought fiercely to smash 
do\vn the sandbags or brick,vork and get a fe\v more yards 
of clear ground. 
They have sapped their \vay undel'ground and blo\vn up the 
roofs of ,-auUs \vhcre Germans lay in hiding \vith Inachine-guns. 
They have fought in snla.ll parties, gaining isolated points in 
the southern part of the yillage, and holding on to then1 under 
heavy fire until only a fc,,' men re1l1ained alive, still holding OIl. 
There have been fights to the death bet\veen a handfnl of 
English or Irish soldiers and a dozen or more Germans, Illeeting 
each other in the darkness of deep cellars quarried out from the 
chalk subsoil, and German gnnners peering out of slits in concrete 
enlplacemcnts belo\v-ground and firing bursts of bullets do\vn 
the road\vay have found themselves suddenly in the grasp of 
men covered with \vhite clay rising out of holes in the earth, 
\vith no \veapons but thpir picks. 
Ovillers is a place of abolninable ruin. 
" Do you kno\v Neuville-St. - Vaast ? " asked an officer this 
luorning, and \yhf'n I nodded (because I had a near call there) 
he said, " Ovillers beats it hollo\v for sheer annihilation." 
There is nothing left of it except dust. There is not a ,vall 

tanding t\VO feet high, or n bit of a \vall. The gnns have 

 ,vept it flat. 



THE FIGIIT 
FOR OVILLERS 


105 


But underground there are still great cellars quarried out 
by inhabitants \vho have long fled, and in these the Germans 
are holding out against our attacks and our bonlbardments. 
Hea vy shells have opened up some of them, and filled then1 
,vith dead and \vounded, but many still stand strong, and out 
of them come the enemy's machine-guns and bombers to nlake 
counter-attacks against the ditches and debris from which our 
men are ,vorking for\vard. ThG ground is pitted ,vith enor- 
IllOUS shell-holes, in \vhieh men lie buried. Ovillers is perhaps 
Inore ghastly than any ruined ground along the front. 



. 
ú 


It \vas at 8 o'clock on the morning of July 7 that the south- 
eastern part of the village ,vas taken by assault. The N orth- 
countrymen ad ",anced from a line to the north of La Boissclle 
after a great bombardment, and \vent over open ground to the 
labyrinth of trenches ,vhieh defend the village. These had 
been smashed into a tumult of earth and sandbags, but, as 
usual, sonle of the German Inachine-gunners had bcen untouched 
in their dug-outs, and they caIne up to serve their machines 
as soon as our barrage lifted. 
Other Gernlans defended thenlselves with bOlllbs. There 
was savage fighting bet,veen the broken traverses, in shell- 
craters, and in ditches. l\lany of our men fell, but others 
canle up and pushed farther for'vard. One officer and a man 
or t,\"o ran straight to,vards a German machine-gun which ,va.s 
doing deadly ,york, anrl knocked it out with a ,vell-ainlcd 
bomb. But higher up on this Inaze of broken trenches \vas a 
German redoubt, from \vhich machine-gun fire came in streams. 
Some Irish soldiers tried to storm the place but suffered 
heavy casualties in front of the redoubt. It ,vas decided to 
faU back a little and re-fornl the line for the night, and all 
through the night the men ,vorked to build up barricades to 
cut off the enemy from the southern end of the village. 
That end \vas being "cleaned out" of Germans, "rho ,ven' 
routed out of cellars. J\;Iany of then1 \vere glad to surrender 
and grateful for the life they had expected to lose. 
" \Ve took bags of 'em," said an officer in charge of this 
,,"ork. 
Next day the men 'worked their ,yay forward above-ground 



106 THE BATTLES OF THE S0}\11
IE 


and belo,v-ground. Some crept out of a ditch and ,vorked up to 
a born bing- post made by others on the left of the village. 
Another body of troops made a sudden forward movClnent, 
and taking the enemy by surprise 111arched round the left and 
took up a line right across the south-,vest end of Ovillers 
\vithont loss. That ,vas a great gain, ,vhich enabled our men 
to link up from separate points. The fighting to-day has been 
a further process of fitting up this jig-savv puzzle of isolated 
groups ,vho have been burro,ving into the German stronghold. 


4 


A great adyenture, or \vhat the officers call a fine " stunt," 
,vas carried 011t by some Lancashire n1en on the right of the 
village. - They were told to send ont a patrol overland in the 
direction of Pozières. 
I think, to the young officers in charge, it must have seelned 
rather like a pleasant suggestion to go and discover the Korth 
Pole or the l\Iaguetic North. Ho,vever, the idea appealed to 
then1; they \vOl.tld see son1e nc,v country, and there ,vas quite 
a chance of individual fighting, ,vhich is so much better than 
being killed in a ditch by shell-fire. 
'Vith them ,vent a young Inachine-gun officer, ,vho is justly 
proud of having gone out ,vith sixteen Inachinc-guns and, as 
yon shall hear, of coming back ,vith t,venty. 
I kno,v that he is pleased ,vith hi.msclf, as he ought to be, 
because he had a laughing light in his eyes when I gave him 
a lift in a car on the 'way back to a good dinner, and having 
escaped withont a scratch (and four extra gnns) it is no ,vonder 
that he thought this adventure" a topping bit of ,vork." 
It was gallant ,york, and as far as the first day went, ,vithont 
loss. The little company of men struck north-east\vards up 
an old bit of communication-trench, and part of the ,yay in 
the open, in the t,vilight and the darkness that follo\ved. They 
,vere going steadily into German territory, to the high ground 
,vb-ich slopes do\vn from Pozières. 
There \vere lots of Germans about-thousands of them not 
enormously far a ,yay-but they did not expect a visit like this, 
and \vere not ,vatchful of this piece of ground. 
After working for,vard for sOlnething like a n1ile they came 
to a redoubt inhabited by Germa.n bombers. 



THE FIGHT FOR OVILLERS 


107 


\'Vhat happened then is not very clear to me, and was 
certainly not very clear to the Germans. But this place was 
passed successfuIJy, and it was farther on that my machine-gun 
friend (the fellow \vith the sparkle in his eyes) increased his 
number of guns. 
This part of his adventurc is also some\vhat confused, as 
most fighting is. He tells Ine that he "pinched" the guns. 
Also that he made" a bag of 'em." Anyhuw, he captured 
then1, and has brought then1 back, \vhich is a very good proof 
that they were taken. 
So far all went .well. The night \vas spent in consolidating this 
extraordinary position right in the heart of Gernlan territory, 
and all next day our men stayed there. They had a \vonderful 
yie\v of the country below them, sa \v many things \vorth 
noting for future use, and sent bursts of machine-gun fire 
at the enemy's infantry mo
ing down to attack our troops. 
But it \vas too good to last. The enemy became aware 
that they \vere being hit from a position .where none of our 
troops could possibly be, according to the logic of things. 
They could hardly believe their eyes, I imagine, \vhen they 
saw these illogical young gentlemen making themselves at 
home in this extren1ely advanced post. 
There must have been some frightful ,vords used by German 
officers before they ordered an infantry attack to clear these 
Englishmen out. The infantry came do\vn a trench from 
Pozières, but as they came they \vere met by a stream of 
machine-gun fire directed by the young officer \vho had 
" pinched " four more guns than he had taken ont. 
They suffered heavy casualties, and the attack broke down. 
But then the enemy put his guns to work, as he ahvays does 
when his infantry fails, and what had been a great adventure, 
\vith a sporting chance, became a deadly business, with all 
the odds against onr men. 
The enen1Y's shell-fire was concentrated heavily upon this 
one bit of trench a\vay out in the open, and the ground \vas 
ploughed up \vith high explosives. The machine-guns \vere 
taken back, but the British held on until at last only an officer 
and six men were left. 
Those who came back unwounded numbered in the end only 
one officer and one man-\vith the exception of a sergeant \vho 
stayed behind with a wounded Irishman. He would not leave 



108 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIl\IE 


his comrade, and for thirty-six hours stayed out in his cxposed 
position, ,vith heavy shells falling on every side of him. 
The Irisillnan ,vas delirious, and making such a noise that 
his fricnd knocked him on the head to keep him quiet. Every 
time a shell burst near hin1 he shouted out, " You've missed 
Ine again, Fritz." 
But the sergeant himself kept his wits. He is a Lancashire 
man and ,vith all the dogged pluck of Lancashire. 
\Vhen the bombardment quietened do,vn he brought back 
his friend, and then ,vent out to No l\lan's Land to search for 
another one. 


5 


But let us 110t forget that our men have not the n10nopoly of 
courage in this 'val'. \Ve have against us a brave cnemy, and 
again and again during this battle our officers and men have 
paid a tribute to the stubborn fighting qualities of the German 
soldiers. 
"For goodness' sake," said one officer, "get rid of that 

trange idea in the minds of n1any people at home that ,ve are 
fighting old n1en and boys and cripples. 
" All the Germans ,ve have met and captured have been big, 
hefty fello,vs, well fed until our bombardment stopped their 
food, and vvith plenty of pluck in them. 
"The courage of thcir machine-gunners especially is-worse 
luck for us--quite splendid." 
4.-\s far as food goes the \vatch,vord of the GerInan people is 
" soldiers first." 
That they are suffering themselves seems certain from the 
letters found in great nun1bers in their captured dug-outs. It 
seems to me incredible that these should be fictitions. 
They bear in cvery line the imprint of bitter truth, and they 
read likc a cry froI11 starving people. 
" You rcproach me ,vith \\Titing so little to you. 'Vhat can 
I '\Tite? If I told the truth about conditions here I should 
bc locked up, and as I do not wish to write lies to you I had 
bettcr say nothing. 
" \Ve have tickets for ev'crything no,v-flour, ll1ea.t, sausage, 
butter, fat, potatoes, sugar, soup, etc. \Ve are really nothing 
more than tickets ourselves.' J 
And in another letter from Cologne: 



THE FIGHT FOR OVILLERS 


109 


" IIunger is making itself felt here. During the 'week none 
of the falnilies received any potatoes. The allo\vanee now is 
one egg per head per week and half a pound of bread and fifty 
gramnles of butter per head per day. 
"England is not so "'Tong about starving us out. If the 
war lasts three months longer \ve shall be done. It is a terrible 
tÍIne for Germany. God is punishing us too severely." 
There is only one satisfaction in these pitiful letters. It is 
the hope it gives us that the enemy-not these poor WOìnen 
and children, but the Devil at the back of the business-"will 
realize soon that 'war does not pay, and will haul down the 
flag 'with its skull and cross-bones. 



... 


XIII 


THROUGH THE GERMAN SECOI\TJ) LINE 


1 


JULY 15 
FOR a little 'while-yes, and even no\v-it has seelned something 
rather marvellous. We have broken through the enelny's 
second line; through, and beyond on a front of two and a 
half miles, and for the first time since October of 1914 cavalry 
has been in action. Men who fought in the retreat from Mons, 
the little remnant left, look back on the old days \vhen the 
enemy's avalanche of nlen swept down on them and say, as 
one said to me yesterday, "Through the second line? Then 
"
e have broken the evil spell." So it seems to men \vho fought 
in the first battle of Y pres, or in the second, and then for à 
year more stood in their trenches staring through loopholes at 
the zigzag of German lines, barb-\vired, deeply dug, fortified 
'with redoubts, machine-gun emplacements, and strong places 
-a great system of earthworks on high ground, nearly ahvays 
on high ground, which made one gro\v cold to see in aeroplane 
photographs-supported by masses of guns \vhich had been 
registered on every road and trench of ours. 
To smash through t.hat could be done at a great cost. Given 
a certain number of guns on a certain length of front, \vith 
hardened troops ready for a big dash, and there was no doubt 
that we could break the enenlY's first line, or system, as \ve 
broke through at Neuve Chapelle and at Loos. But after- 
'wards? That was the hard t.hing to solve. Noone on the 
'Vestern front had found the fornllda to carry t.he offensive 
beyond the first line \vithout coming to a dead check at a river 
of blood. The French troops \vho broke through in the 
Champagne fell before they reached the second line. At 
Loos, Highlanders and Londoners s\vept through the first line 



THROUGH THE GERMAN SECOND LINE III 


and then, at Hill 70 and I-liIlluch, "
ere faced by annihilating 
fire, and could go no farther except to death. . . . But to-day 
,ye broke the second German line. 


2 


I had the luck to give the nc\vs to some of our men \vho had 
been \vounded early in the battle. It was \,"orth a king's 
ransom to see their gladness. " Have \ve got through, sir? " 
asked an English boy , bandaged about the head and face. 
'Vhen I told him a great light caIne into his eyes, and he said, 
" By Jove! . . . That's pretty good! " 
A ,vounded officer raised himself on a stretcher and called 
out to me as I passed, " Any ne\vs? . . . How are we doing 
up there? . . . '''That, right through? . . . Oh, splendid!" 
Because I had come do\vn fron1 the battlefield and might know 
something, officers and men on the roads asked eager questions. 
A doctor came out of an operating-theatre in a field-hospital. 
He was very busy there ,vith men \vho could not ans\ver 
questions. He stood for a moment in the doorway of the tent 
\viping his hands on a to\vel. 
" How's it going? I-Iave we broken through? " 
He stared at me .when I ans\vered, as though searching for 
the truth in me, and said, "Sure? . . . I hardly thought \ve 
could do it." 
The ne,vs spread quickly behind the lines, and there has been 
a queer thrill in thc air to-day, exciting men with the promise 
of victory. I think they, too, feel that an evil spell has been 
broken because British soldiers have broken thc second German 
line. Their hopes run ahead of the facts. 
Their imagination has visions of an immediate German rout, 
and the Cllorn10US patience of the French people, incredulous, 
after t\VO years, of any quick ending, is not shared by some of 
our young officers and men, ,vho believe that \ve have the enemy 
on the run, not rcn1embering his third line, and fourth, and God 
kno\vs ho\v many more. 
For a day, anyhow, victory has been in the air, and because 
it \vas the 14th of July, France's day, there are flags ,vaving 
everywhere, on \vayside cottages and barns and across the 
streets of an old Fre'nch to\vn. 'V Oinen and children are 
carrying the tricolour, and a
 our ,vounded come dO\Vll in 


.. 



112 THE B.A.TTLES OI
 THE SOMl\fE 


ambula.nccs and lorries, mostly lightly \younded Inen straight 
out of the battle, "rearing Gennan helmets on bandaged heads, 
\vaving bandaged hands, or staring out gravely, with a pain 
in their eyes, at the life of the roads ,,'hich is theirs again, the 
flags flutter up to theln and laughing girls cry, "
Ierci, 
canlarades ! " and old men stand on the roadsides raising their 
hats to these boys of ours ,vho haye \von back a Inile or t\VO 
more of the soil of F
rance and have been touched by fire. 
All that is part of the emotion \vhich belongs to \var, the 
sentinlcnt and the faith and the hope \vithout ,vhich lllen could 
not fight nor 'VOinen hide their tears. 
But the business of ,val' itself is different and of a grin1nlcr 
kind, not adinitting sentin1ent to those Generals of ours ,,,ho 
have been calculating chances based upon the position of 
their guns, the qnantity of their ammunition, their reserves of 
men, the enemy's dispositions, resources, and difficulties, and 
all the mechanics of a great battle. They have had to study 
human nature, too, as ,veIl as the mechanism of \var. To ho\v 
great a test could they put these battalions of ours' in the plan 
to smash the German second line? Ho\v long, for instance, 
could they" stick it " in Bernafay 'Vood and the Trônes 'Vood ? 
'Yas it possible to put in troops already tired by hard fighting? 
Ho\v could they be replaced by fresh troops? . . . A thousand 
problelns of 111an-pO\vcr and gun-po\ver ,vhich must be reckoned 
out, without much margin of error, if all the cost of thG first 
part of the battle-a tragic cost-\vere to be justified by success 
in the second part. 
\Vorking night and day, snatching a little sleep and a little 
food at odd hours, in constant touch \vith telephones ,vhispering 
messages from headquarters, batteries, battalion conl1nanders 
in the field, receiving reports of local successes and local failures 
of German counter-attacks, of German reinforcements in guns 
and men, our Divisional Generals and Brigadiers, keeping in 
touch \vith Corps Generals and .Army Generals, had to prepare 
for the second big blow. It \vould have to Qe quick and hard. 


3 


There had been a \vhole fortnight's fighting since the great 
attack \vas launched on the First of July, and it had been 
very desperate fighting. On the left from I-Iébuterne down 



THROUGH THE GERMAN SECOND LINE 113 


to Beaun10nt-Hamel the heroic self-sacrifice of great numbers 
of men had not been re\varded by success. That side of the 
German fortress-lines had remained standing-broken in places, 
but not carried nor held after the first bloody assaults. 
The enemy had concentrated his defensive strength at that 
part of the line, believing the main attack was to be delivered 
there, and it was one vast redoubt crammed with machine-guns 
which scythed down battalions of our men as they advanced 
'with incomparable valour. Farther south the stronghold of 
Ovillers was not yet taken, though almost surrounded, and 
penetrated by bodies of grenadiers bombing their way into the 
quarries and cellars. 
It was through the southern bastion of the German fortress 
position that our troops had stormed their way, and in fourteen 
days of hard stubborn fighting they had struggled forward 
up the high ground from the Fricourt Ridge to the Montauban 
Ridge. In my dispatches I have endeavoured to record the 
narrative of these daily battles, and to give some faint idea 
of the \vonderful courage and tenacity of our men, who captured 
Contalmaison and lost it and captured it again under terrible 
storms of fire, \vho went forward to the Battle of the 'V oods, 
fighting for every yard of the way in Bailiff Wood on the left, 
and Trônes Wood on the right, and Mametz Wood in the centre, 
with little copses of naked tree-trunks round about, into which 
the enemy hurled his high explosives. 
Wave after \va ve of splendid men went up. Not one of 
these places \vas won easily. The spirit of our race, all the steel 
in it, all the fire in its blood, \vas needed to gain the ground 
s\vept by machine-guns and ploughed by shells. There were 
hours \vhen men of weaker stock would have despaired and 
yielded. But these men of ours \vould not be beaten. Fresh 
\va ves of them \vent to get back in the morning what had been 
lost at night, or at night what had been lost by day because of 
the fire which had destroyed those who had gone up first. 
And every day they made a little progress, thrusting for\vard 
an advance post here, \vinning a new bit of \vood there, bombing 
the Germans back from ground \ve needed for a ne\v ad vance. 
There \vas not a man among all our men \vho had any 
misunderstanding as to the purpose of the struggle. I have 
spoken to hundreds of them, and all knew that it was " up to 
them," as they say, to push on to the second German line so 
H 



114 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\fE 


that other men could break it. I know that many of these 
men, quite simple fellows, felt individually that upon his 
single courage, his last bit of pushful strength, his last stumble 
over a yard of earth towards that second German line, depended, 
as far as one man's strength tells, the success of the great 
attack. It was this spirit which made them shout "No 
surrender! " \vhen surrender would have been an easy \vay of 
escape, and" stick it" in places of infernal horror. I write 
the plain unvarnished truth. 
It was \vhen Contalmaison-the Stronghold of the \Voods- 
was finally and securely taken, when Mametz \V ood and 
Bailiff \Vood \vere mostly ours, and when our positions were 
strengthened at Montauban with some footing in Trônes Wood, 
that the attack upon the second German line became possible. It 
was for that moment that our Generals were no\V waiting and 
preparing. Men \\rere there who had fought long in the Vpres 
salient, hardened to every phase of trench warfare, and men 
who had won great honour in the Loos salient, and men, all 
of them, who had the spirit of attack. 
I watched them passing along the roads towards the front, 
saw old friends in their ranks, and knew, as I looked, that in 
all the ,yorld there are not more splendid soldiers. Hardened 
by a long campaign, bronzed to the colour of their belts, 
marching with most perfect discipline, these handsome, clean- 
cut men ,vent into the battlefield whistling as on the first day 
of the battle their comrades had gone singing, though they 
knew that in a few hours it would be hell for them. As I 
watched them pass something broke in my heart so that I 
could hayc ,vept silly tears. There were other men, harder 
than I, who were stirred by the same emotion, and cursed the 
war. 


4 
The attack ,vas to begin before the dawn. Bchind the lines, 
as I \vent up to the front in the darkness, the little villages of 
France ,vere asleep. It ,vas a night of beauty, very warm and 
calm, with a rnoon giving a milky light to the world. Clouds 
trailed across it without obscuring its brightness, and there ,vas 
only one star visible-a watchful eye up there looking down 
upon the battlefields. 
The whitewashed walJs of cottages and barns appeared out 



THROUGH THE GERMAN SECOND LINE 115 


of great gulfs of shado,v, and trees on high ground above the 
fields ,vere cut black against the moonlight. "Varm scents 
of hay and moist earth, and new-baked bread, and the acrid 
smell of French farmyards came upon the air. Farther for- 
,yard there "ras still great quietude along the roads, but here 
and there long supply columns and ambulance convoys loomed 
black under the trees. 
The ambulances ,vere empty before the battle. For several 
miles only one figure stood at every cross-road. It was the 
figure of Christ on a wayside Calvary. Sentries gave their 
challenge, as on the first night of battle, and presently I saw 
other soldiers about in the dark entries of French courtyards, 
their bayonets shining like a streak of light, and officers standing 
together "rith whispered consultations, and, along side roads, 
men marching. 
A long column of them came to a halt to let our car pass, 
and I looked into the men's eyes. There \vas a young officer 
there ,vhose face I should kno,v if I sa\v him again in the world, 
because it was in the rays of a lantern, and had a \vhite light 
on it. He had the look of Lancelot. 
The men \vere very quiet. Very quiet also were camps of 
men and horses in fields dipping do,vn to hollows \vhere a fe\v 
lanterns twinkled, and presently quiet close to the edge of" the 
battlefields I passed great columns of horse-gunners and horse 
transport and cavalry "yith their lances up, and Indian native 
cavalry, still as statues. The men were dra,vn up along the 
side of the road, and their figures were utterly black in the 
darkness bet'ween an old mill-house and some other buildings.. 
Except for one man \vho ,vas humming a tune, they were 
quite silent, and they hardly stirred in their saddles. They 
seemed to be ,vaiting \vith some grim expectation. 
The road ,vas lined ,vith trees which made a tunnel ,vith 
its foliage, and at one end of the tunnel ,vhich showed a patch 
of sky there ,vere stra.nge lights flashing, like flaming s\vords 
cutting through the darkness. 'Ve went up to,vards the 
lights and towards a monstrous tumult of noise, and \valked 
straight across country to"rards the centre of a circle of fire 
which was all round us. Our artillery was smashing the German 
line. 



116 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


5 
I described, perhaps at too great length, the bon1bardment 
on the night before the 1st of July. Then it seemed to me that 
nothing could be more over\vhelming to one's soul and senses. 
But this was worse-more \vonderful and n10re terrible. As 
I stumbled over broken ground and shell-holes, and got caught 
in coils of wire, a cold sweat broke out upon me, and for a 
little ,,'hile I \vas horribly afraid. It \vas not fear for myself. 
It ,vas just fear, the fear that an animal may have when the 
sky is full of lightning-a sensuous terror. The hell of ,val' 
encircled us, and its 'waves of sound and light beat upon us. 
Our batteries \vere firing \vith an intense fury. The flashes of 
them ,vere away back behind us-\vhere the heavies have their 
hiding-places-and over all the ground in front of our new line 
of attack. They came out of the black earth with short, sharp 
stabs of red flame \vhose light filled the hollo\vs ,vith pools of 
fire. And the sky and the ridges of ground and the earthworks 
and ruins and \voods across our lines were blazing ,,,ith the 
flashes of bursting shells. Blinding light leapt about like a 
\vill-o' -the-\visp. For a second it lit up all the horizon over 
Contalmaison, and gave a sudden picture, ghastly white, of 
the broken château \vith stumps of trees about it. Then it 
\vas blotted out by a great blackness, and instantly shifted to 
IVlan1ctz "700d or to l\iontauban, revealing their shapes intensely 
and the shells crashing beyond them, until they, too, disappeared 
\vith the click of a black shutter. A mOlnent later and Fricourt 
\vas filled with \vhite brilliance, so that every bit of its ruin, 
its hideous rummage of earth, its old mine-craters, and its 
plague-stricken stumps of trees \vere etched upon one's eyes. 
Along the German second line by Bazentin-Ie-Grand, Bazentin- 
le- Petit, and LonguevaI, at the back of the \voods, our shells 
\vere bursting \vithout a second's pause and in great clusters. 
They tore open the ground and let out gusts of flarnes. Flame- 
fountains rose and spread from the German trenches above 
Pearl 'Y ooù. The dark night ,vas rent with all these flames, 
and hundreds of batteries were feeding the fires. 
Every calibre of gun \vas at ,york. The heavy shells, 15-inch, 
12-inch, 8-inch, 6-inch, 4'7, came overhead like flocks of birds- 
infernal birds \vith \vings that beat the air into waves and 
came 'whining with a shrill high note, and s\vooped to earth 



THROUGH THE GERlVIAN SECOND LINE 117 


,vith a monstrous roar. The lighter batteries, far for\vard, werc 
beating the devil's tattoo, onc-t\vo-three-four, one-t\vo-threc- 
fonr, \vith sharp knocks that clouted one's ears. I sat on a 
wooden box on the top of an old dug-out in the midst of all 
this fury. There was a great gun to my left, and every time 
it fired it shook the box, and all the earth underneath, \vith a 
violent vibration. 
The moon disappeared soon after 3 o'clock, and no stars 
were to be seen. But presently a faint ghost of da\vn appeared. 
The \vhite earth of the old, disused trenches about me becalne 
visible. A lark rose and sang overhead. And at 3.30 there 
\vas a sudden nloment of hush. It ,vas the lifting of the guns, 
and the time of attack. Over there in the darkness by l\Iametz 
\Y ood and Montauban thousands of men, the men I had seen 
going up, had risen to their feet and ,vere going for,vard to 
the second Gernlan line, or to the place where death was 
waiting for them, before the light came. 


6 


The light came very quickly. It was strange ,vhat a difference 
a fe\v minutes made. Very faintly, but steadily, the dawn 
crept through the darkness, revealing the forms of things and 
a little colour in the grass. The sandbags at my feet ,vhitened. 
Over at Ovillers there 'were clouds of smoke, and from its 
denseness red and 'white rockets shot up and renlained in the 
sky for several seconds. Other rockets, red and \vhite and 
green, rose to the right of Contalmaison to\vards Bazentin-Ie- 
Grand. Our infantry ,vas advancing. 
A ne\v sound came into the general din of gun-fire. It \vas a 
kind of swishing noise, like that of flanles in a strong \vind. I 
knew \"hat it Incant. 
" Enemy machine-guns," said an artillery observer, ,vho had 
just come out of his hole in the ground. There must have 
been many of them to make that noise. 
Our own artillery had burst out into a ne,v uproar. I could 
see our shells bursting farther for,vard, or thought I could. 
" I believe our men are getting on," said an officer, staring 
through his glasses. 
The gunner observer had one eye to a telescope. 
"There's too nluch mist about. And, anyhow, one can't 



118 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


make out the confusion of battle. It's always hopeless. And 
,vhat the devil is that light ? " 
" Must be a signal," said the gunner officer. "I think I'd 
better report it." 
He put his head into the dug-out, and spoke to a man sitting 
by a telephone. 
At 3.55 the light ,vas clear enough for one to see German 
shrapnel, very black and thick, between Mametz \V ood and 
Bazentin ,V God. IIigh explosives ,vere bursting there too. 
The enemy had got his guns to ,york upon our infantry. 
At 4 o'clock there was a humming sound overhead, and I 
looked up and sa'v the first aeroplane flying towards the German 
lines, just as I had seen one on the first day of battle. It flew 
very lo,v-no more than 500 feet high-and went very steadily 
on towards the furnace-brave moth ! 
At 4.10 there ,vas a red glow to the right of l\lontauban. 
It rose ,vith a pulsing light and spread up\vards-a great torch 
with sparks dancing over it. 
"By Jove!" said one of the men near me. " That's 
Longueval on fire ! " 
In a little while there was no doubt about it. I could see the 
sharp edge of broken buildings in the heart of the red glow. 
The village of Longueval was in flames. 
From behind the north-west corner of Mametz 'Yood a great 
rosy light rose like a cloud in the setting sun, but more glo\ving at 
its base. It died out three times and rose again, vividly, and 
then appeared no more. The gunner observer ,vas bothered 
again. 'Vas it a signal or an eXplosion? \Vith so many lights 
and flames about it ,vas difficult to tell. 
At about 4.30 I heard another furious outburst of machine-gun 
fire in the direction of Longueval, and it seemed to spread 
,vest,vards along Bazentin-Ie-Grand and Bazentin-Ie-Petit. I 
strained n1Y eyes to see any of our infantry, but dense clouds 
of smoke were rolling over the ground past Contalmaison and 
bct,vecn l\iametz and Bazentin Woods. It seemed as if \ve \vere 
putting up a smoke-barrage there, and later a great volume 
of sn10ke hid the grolmd by Montauban. 
The enemy's artillery ,vas no,v firing with great violence. 
Enormous shell-bursts flung up the earth along the line of our 
advance, and the black shrapnel smoke \vas hanging heavily 
above. It seemed to me that some of their guns ,vere firing 



THROUGH THE GERMAN SECOND LINE 119 
wildly and blindly. High explosives burst down below Fri- 
court, \vhere there was nothing to hurt, and in places far 
afield. The German gunners had got the wind np, as soldiers 
say, and now that darkness had gone and dayLight come our 
men must have gone far ahead, if luck was theirs. Had they 
broken the second German line? Men wa 1 cing for any news 
of them found the strain of ignorance intoJerable. . . . "Vhat 
were they doing up there? 


7 
The first men to come back from the battle \vere the wounded. 
They were the lightly wounded, or at least men \vho could 
walk. They came across the fields in twos and threes at 
first, or alone, single limping figures, at a slow pace. But 
after an hour or two they came in a straggling procession from 
the first-aid dressing-stations up in the lines-men with 
bandaged heads, men with their arIns in slings, men with 
wounded feet, so that they could only hop along with an arm 
round a comrade's neck. 
Some of them were all blood -stained, with blood on their 
faces and hands and clothes. Others had their uniforms torn 
to tatters, and there were men who \vere bare alnlost to the 
waist, with a jacket slung over one shoulder. There was 
hardly a man among them who wore his steel helmet, though 
some carried them slung to the rifle, and others wore German 
helmets and German caps. AInbulances 'were waiting for them, 
and the stretcher-bearers were busy with the bad cases. The 
stretcher-bearers had done their duty as gallantly as the 
fighting men, and some of their own comrades were among 
the wounded. 
But they had been reinforced by men who do not belong to 
the R.A.l\I.C. Some of the stretchers \vere being carried by 
men in grey uniforIns ,vith flat round caps, who walked stolidly 
looking about them, at all those British soldiers, and at those 
fields on the British side, with curious eyes as though every- 
thing were strange to theIne They were German prisoners 
paying for the privilege of life, and glad to pay. 
Later in the day there came do\Vll a long column of these 
men, not carrying stretchers, but marching shoulder to shoulder, 
under armed escort. There were over 700 of them in this 
one convoy, as a living proof that the day had gone well for 



120 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMI\fE 


British arn1S. They ,vere tall, sturdy men for the most part, 
and in spite of their ordeal by fire most of them looked in good 
physical health, though haggard and hollo,ved-eyed and a 
little dazed. fhere was a number of wounded among them 
,vho dragged wé'l.rily by the side of their luckier friends, but 
those who ,vere b3.dly hurt travelled ,vith our o,vn ,vounded, 
and I saw several of them on the lorries ,vith their hands on 
the shoulders of men who had gone out to kill them. 
So the backwash of battle came down like a tide, but long 
before then I knew that we had broken the second German 
line and that our men were fighting on the high ground beyond. 
The village of Longueval was ours. Bazentin-Ie-Grand, both 
,vood and village, and Bazentin-Ie-Petit were ours. A gallant 
body of men had s,vept through Trônes \V ood, on the extreme 
right of the line, and patrols 'vere pushing into Delville \Yood 
and to,vards the highest ridge behind the broken German 
trenches. On the left our men had s,vept up and beyond 
ContaÌn1aison Villa, which stands far north of the village. 
Every objective of the attack had been carried and our 
losses were not enormously heavy. The German lines had 
been captured on a front of nearly three miles-and the cavalry 
was gOIng In. 
Scottish troops ,vere amongst those ,vho ,vent first into 
Longueval-men belonging to famous old regiments-and they 
fought very grimly, according to the spirit of their race, ,vith 
their blood set on fire by the music of the pipes that went with 
them. Before the light of da wn came, and ,vhen our guns 
lifted forward, they rose from the ground just north of Montau- 
ban and went forward across No 1\lan's Land to,vards the 
German trenches. They had to make a distance of 1200 yards 
over open ground and came at once under heavy shell-fire 
and an enfilade fire from machine-guns. 
The enemy also used smoke-bombs, and the ground ,vas 
ploughed with high explosives. A number of n1en fell, but the 
others ,vent for\vard shouting and reached the German line. 
In some parts the ,,,ire had not been cut by our bOlnbardment, 
but the Highlanders hurled themselves upon it and beat their 
,,?ay. l'rlachine-guns were pattering bullets upon their ranks, 
but not for long. The men poured through and surged in 
,vaves into and across the German trenches. Every man 
among them was a grenadier, provided ,vith bombs and ,vith 



THROUGH THE GER
lAN SECOND LINE 121 
supplies coming up behind. It was with the bomb, the most 
deadly weapon of this llHlrderous war for close combat, that 
the men fought their ,yay through. The German soldiers 
defended themselves with their o,vn hand -grenades when their 
machine-guns had been knocked out in the first-line trenches, 
but as they sprang out of their dug-outs ,vhen the bombardment 
lifted and our men were upon them they had but a poor chance 
of life unless they were quick to surrender. I hear that these 
trenches in the second German line ,vere not deeply dug, and 
that the dug-outs themselves ,vere hardly bomb-proof. 
For once in a ,vay the enemy had been lazy and over-confident, 
and he paid now a bitter price for his pride in believing that the 
first line was impregnable. I do not care to ,vrite about this 
part of the fighting. It was bloody work, and would not be 
good to read. One incident was told me by a kilted sergeant 
as he lay ,vounded. From one of the dug-outs can1e a German 
officer. He had a wild light in his eyes, and carried a great 
axe. 
" I surrender," he said in good English. 
And in broad Scotch the sergeant told him that if he had an 
idea of surrendering it would be a good and wise thing to drop 
his chopper first. But the German officer swung it high, and 
it came like a flash past the sergeant's head. Like a flash a]so 
a bayonet did its ,york. 


8 


\tVhile men were" cleaning up " the dug-outs in the first-line 
trenches other men pressed on and stormed their way into 
Longueval village. The great fires there ,vhich I had seen 
in the darkness had died do,vn, and there was only the glo,v 
and smoulder of them in the ruins. But machine-guns ,vere 
still chattering in their em placements. 
In one broken building there .were six of them firing through 
holes in the walls. It was a strong redoubt sweeping the 
ground, which had once been a roadway and ,vas no,v a shambles. 
Scottish soldiers rushed the place and flung bombs into it until 
there was no n10re s,vish of bullets but only the rising of smoke- 
clouds and black dust. Longueval ,vas a heap of charred 
bricks above-ground, but there ,vas still trouble below-ground 
before it was firmly taken. There ,vere many cellars in which 
Germans fought like wolves at bay. And down in the darkness 



122 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 
of these places men fought savagely, seeing only the glint of 
each other's eyes, and feeling for each other's throats, unless 
there \vcre still bon1bs handy to make a quicker ending. It 
was primitive warfare. The cave-men fought like that, in 
such darkness, though not \vith bombs, which belong to our 
age in this Christian era of grace and civilization. 
To the right of Longueval and south of the second German 
line lies the Trônes \í\T ood, and as it ,vas on the right flank of 
our attack it could not be left in the enemy's hands. We 
had held most of it once, a few days ago, and for a few hours, 
but the enemy's shell-fire had made the place untenable. It 
,vas into that fire that some of our English battalions advanced 
yesterday morning from Bernafay Wood. "They shelled us 
like hell," said a boy who came from a quiet place in Sussex 
before he knew ,vhat hell is like. 
There were machine-guns sweeping the southern end of the 
woods \vith cross-fire, and with bursting shells overhead it was 
a place of black horror in the night. But these English boys 
kept era ,vling on to gain a yard or two before the next crash 
came, and then another yard or two, and at last they came up 
to the German line, and flW1g themselves suddenly upon 
German nlachine-gwlners and German riflemen sheltered 
behind earth,vorks and trunks of trees. . . . The wood was 
captured again, and then a queer kind of miracle happened, 
and it seemed as if those who had been dead had come to life 
again. For out of holes in the ground, and frolTI behind the 
fallen timbers of shelled trees, came a number of English boys, 
dirty and \vild-Iooking, who shouted out, "Hallo, lads!" 
and" 'Vhat cheer, matey ? " or just shouted and laughed with 
a sob in their throats and big tears down their grimy faces. 
They 'were West Kents, 'who had first taken the Trônes "V ood 
and then had been caught in a barrage of fire. \Vith one 
officer 300 men had dug themselves into the roots of trees on 
the eastern edge of the wood and kept the Germans at bay 
'with a machine-gun. 


9 
Meanwhile a number of battalions, mostly English, but 
'with some Scots-men \vho have done as well in this ,val' 
since the early days of it as any troops who have fought in 
France-w'ere attacking the line between Longueval and the 



THROUGH THE GERl\IAN SECOND LINE 123 


t\VO Bazentins. They, too, found the wire uncut in places, 
but they went through in a tearing hurry, hating the machine- 
gun fire and resolved to .end it quickly. They stormed the 
German trenches and fought do\vn them with bombs and 
bayonets. German soldiers came out of the dug-outs and 
begged for mercy. They came holding out their watches, 
their pocket-books, their helmets, anything that they thought 
"ould ransom their lives, and when they had been taken 
prisoners they made no trouble about carrying back the English 
,vounded, but were glad to go. It was all in the darkness, 
except when shell-bursts lit the ground, and some of our 
battalions lost their sense of direction towards Bazentin \V ood. 
Prisoners acted as guides to their o,vn lines. Five or six of them 
unwillingly led the way back. A British officer of nineteen, a 
boy who had only been in France a month or t\VO, led one of the 
companies forward because his brother-officers had fallen. 
"Come on, lads!" he shouted. "I'm only a kid, but I'll 
show you the way all right." 
They liked those words, " only a kid," and laughed at them. 
" He's a plucked 'un, he is," said one of the men \vho followed 
him. They went after him into Bazentin Wood, and others 
followed on, into and through a heavy barrage of fire. 
So it \vas on the left, where other battalions were at work 
pressing for,vard in \va ves to Contalmaison Villa and the 
ground beyond. The second German line had fallen before 
our men, and they were over it and away. 


10 
It was at about 6 o'clock in the evening that some British 
cavalry came into action. They were the men whom I had 
seen on my way up to the battlefield, a small detachment of 
the Dragoon Guards and also of the Deccan Horse. They 
'worked for\vard \vith our infantry on a stretch of country 
bet\veen Bazentin \Vood and Delville \Vood, rising up to 
lIigh \Vood (Foureaux 'Vood), and then rode out alone in 
reconnaissance, in true cavalry formation, with the commander 
in the rear. Lord ! Not one in a thousand \yould have believed 
it possible to see this again. '\Then they passed, the infantry 
\vent a little mad, and cheered \vildly and joyously, as though 
these men ,vcre riding on a road of triulnph. 



124 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


So they rode on into open country, skirting Dclville 'V ood. 
Presently a machine-gun opened fire upon them. It ,vas in a 
cornfield, ,vith Gernlan infantry, and the officer in comn1and 
gave the word to his men to ride through the enemy. The 
Dragoons put their lances do\vl1 and rode straight into the wheat. 
They killed several men and then turned and rode back, and 
charged again, among scattered groups of German infantry. 
Some of them prepared to ,,'ithstand the charge \vith fixed 
bayonets. Others \vere panic-stricken and ran for\vard crying 
" Pity! Pity!" and clung to the saddles and stirrup-leathers 
of the Dragoon Guards. Though on a small scale, it \vas a 
cavalry action of the old style, the first on the \Vestern front 
since October of the first year of the ,val'. 
'Yith thirty-t\vO prisoners our men rode on slo\vly, still 
reconnoitring the open country on the skirt of Dclville \Vood, 
until they came again under machine-gun fire and dre\v back. 
As they did so an aeroplane came overhead, skimming very 
lo\v, at no more than 300 feet above ground. The cavalry 
turned in their saddles to stare at it for a moment or t\VO, 
believing that it 'vas a hostile Inachine. But no bullets came 
their \vay, and in another moment it swooped over the German 
infantry concealed in the wheat and fired at them ,vith a 
machine-gun. Four times it circled and swooped and fired, 
creating another panic among the enemy, and then it flew off, 
leaving the cavalry full of admiration for this daring feat. 
They could ride no farther, o\ving to the nature of the ground, 
and that night they dug themselves in. Gennan guns searched 
in vain for them, and the cavalry to-night is full of pride, be- 
lieving with amazing optimism that their day may come again. 
[It \vas after all only a "fancy stunt," as soldiers call it, and it 
seen1S certain now that the cavalry is an obsolete arm of ,val' 
on the Western front. The Tanks have taken their place.] 
The scene all through the afternoon behind the battle-lines 
and down in little villages beyond the reach of guns ,vill stay 
in Iny mind as historic pictures. Nunlhers of \voundcd nlel1- 
,vith a very high proportion of lightly \vounded àmong them- 
arrived at the casualty clearing-stations, and \vhile they ,vaited 
their turn for the doctors and nurses lay about the grass, 
fingering their souvcnirs-\vatches, shell-fuses, helnlets, pocket- 
books, GC'rman letters, and all manner of trophies-and telling 
their adventures in that \"ild battle of the night. 



THROUGH THE GERl\IAN SECOND LINE 125 


They seemed to ha ve no sense of pain, and not one man 
groaned, in spite of broken arms and head ,vounds and bayonct- 
thrusts. Every dialect of England and Scotland and Ireland 
could be heard among them. There 'were men from many 
battalions, and as they lay there talking or sn10king or sleeping 
in the sunlight, other processions came do\vn in straggling 
columns, limping and holding on to comrades, hobbling with 
sticks, peering through blood-stained rags, tired and 'worn 
and 'weak, but \vith a spirit in them that was marvellous. 



XIV 


THE WOODS OF DEArrH 


1 


JULY 17 
WE are again in the difficult hours that inevitably follow a 
successful advance, ,vhen ground gained at the extreme limit of 
our progress has to be defended against counter-attacks from close 
quarters, \vhen men in exposed positions have to suffer the ravag- 
ing of the enemy's artillery, and ,vhen our own gunners have to 
,york cautiously because isolated patrols of men in khaki may be 
mistaken in bad light for grey-clad men in the same neighbourhood. 
This period is the test of good generalship and of good captains. 
The \veather was rather against us to-day. There \vas a 
thick haze over the countryside, causing .what naval men call 
"lo\v visibility," and making artillery observation difficult. 
It 'was curious to stand on high ground and see only the dim 
shado\v-forms of places like Mametz 'Vood and the other wood- 
lands to its right and left, ,,,here invisible shells were bursting. 
Our shells were passing overhead, and I listened to their high 
whistling, but could see nothing of their bursts, and for nearly 
an hour an intense bombardment made a great thunder in the 
air behind the thick veil of mist. 
'Ve were shelling High '''' ood, from which our men have had to 
retire for a time o\ving to the enenlY's heavy barrage of high 
explosives, and \ve were also pounding the enemy's lines to the 
north of Bazentin-Ie-Grand and Longueval, where he is very 
close to our men. Hostile batteries were retaliating upon the 
woodlands whieh ,ve have gained and held during the past 
three days. . 


2 
This woodland fighting has been as bad as anything in this 
war-most frightful and bloody. Dead bodies lie stre\vn 



THE WOODS OF DEATH 


127 


beneath the trees, and in the shell-holes are wounded men who 
have crawled there to die. There is hardly any cover in which 
men may get shelter from shell-fire. 
The Germans had dug shallow trenches, but they were 
churned up by our heavies, and it is difficult to dig in again 
because of the roots of great trees, and the fallen timber, and 
the masses of twigs and foliage which have been brought down 
by British and German guns. When our troops went into 
Trônes Wood under most damnable fire of 5.9's they grubbed 
about for some kind of cover without much success. 
But some of them had the luck to strike upon three German 
dug-outs which were exceptionally deep and good. Obviously 
they had been built some time ago for officers whò, before we 
threatened their second line, may have thought Trônes Wood a 
fine dwelling-place, and not too dangerous if they went under- 
ground. They went down forty feet, and panelled their rooms, 
and brought a piano down for musical evenings. 
A young company commander found the piano and struck 
some chords upon it at a time when there was louder music over- 
head-the scream of great shells ani the incessant crash of high 
explosives in the wood. Farther on, at the edge of the wood, 
our men found a machine-gun emplacement built solidly of 
cement and proof against all shell splinters, and it was from 
this place that so many of our men were shot down before the 
enemy's gunners could be bombed out. 


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One of the most extraordinary experiences of this woodland 
fighting was that of an English boy who now lies in a field- 
hospital smiling with very bright and sparkling eyes because 
the world seems to him like Paradise after an infernal dwelling- 
place. lIe went with the first rush of men into Mametz Wood, 
but was left behind in a dug-out when they retired before a 
violent counter-attack. 
Some German soldiers passed this hole where the boy lay 

rouched, and flung a bomb down on the off-chance that an 
English soldier might be there. It burst on the lower steps and 
tVounded the lonely boy in the dark corner. 
I He lay there a day listening to the crash of shells through the 
:rees overhead-English shell-fire-not daring to come out. 



128 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


Then in the night he heard the voices of his o\vn countrymen, 
and he shouted loudly. 
But as the English soldiers passed they thre\v a bomb into the 
dug-out, and the boy was wounded again. He lay there 
another day, and the gun-fire began all over again, and lasted 
until the Germans came back. Another German soldier sa \v 
the old hole and thre'w a bomb down, as a safe thing to do, and 
the boy received his third wound. 
lIe lay in the darkness one more day, not expecting to live, 
but still alive, still eager to live and to see the light again. If 
only the English would come again and rescue him ! 
He prayed for them to come. And when they came, captur- 
ing the wood completely and finally, one of theIn, seeing the 
entrance to the dug-out and thinking Germans might be hiding 
there, threw a bomb down-and the boy was wounded for the 
fourth tin1e. This time his cries were heard, and the monoto- 
nous repetition of this ill-luck ended, and the victim of it lies 
in a white bed \vith \vonderful shining eyes. 


4 
The German prisoners have stories like this to tell, for they 
suffered worst of all under the fury of our bombardment and the 
coming and going of our troops in the woodland fighting. I 
spoke with one of them to-day-one of a new batch of men, 
\vhose number I reckoned as 300, just brought do\vn from 
Bazentin -Ie-Grand. 
He was a linguist, having been an accountant in the North 
German Lloyd, and gave me a choice of conversation in French, 
Italian, Greek, or English. I chose my own tongue, but let 
him do the talking, and standing there in a barbed-\vire entangle- 
nlent, surrounded by hundreds of young Germans, unshavcn, 
dusty, haggard, and war-worn, but still strong and sturdy Inen, 
he described vividly the horrors of the woods up by the two 
Bazentins ,yhere he and these comrades of his had lain under our 
last bombardment. 
They had but little cover except ".hat they could scrape 
.ut beneath the roots of trees. And thc trees crashed upon 
them, slnashing the limbs of men, and shells burst and buried 
men in deep pits, and the ,vounded lay groaning under great 
branches \,.hich pinned them to the ground or in the open \vhere 



THE WOODS OF DEATH 


129 


other shells ,vere bursting. From what I can make out some 
of the men here retreated across the country bet\veen Bazentin 
and Delville Woods, for they were the men who were captured 
by our cavalry. 
"My comrades ,vere afraid," said this German sergeant. 
" They cried out t.o me that the Indians would kill their prisoners, 
and that we should die if we surrendered. But I said, "That 
is not true, comrades. It is only a tale. Let us go forward 
very quietly ,vith our hands up.' So in that ,vay we went, and 
the Indian horsemen closed about us, and I spoke to one of 
them, asking for mercy for our men, and he was very kind, and a 
gentleman, and ,ve surrendered to him safcly." 
He was glad to be alive, this man who came from 'Viesbaden. 
He showed me the portrait of his wife and boy, and cried a little, 
saying that the German people did not make the war, but had 
to fight for their country ,vhen told to fight, like other men. 
All his people had believed, he said, that the war would be over 
in August or September. 
" .A.re they hungry? " I asked. 
"They ha ve enough to eat," he said. "They are not 
starving. " 
He waved his hand back to the woodlands, and remembered 
the terror of the place from ,vhich he had just come. 
" Over there it was ,vorse than death." 


5 


Over there on the one small village of Bazentin-Ie-Grand our 
heavy ho,vitzers flung an amazing quantity of shells on Friday 
morning. The place was s\vept almost flat, and little was left 
of its church and houses but reddish heaps of bricks and dust, 
and t\vistqd iron, and the litter of destruction. Yet there \vere 
many Germans living here ,vhen the men of some famous 
regiments came through in the da\vn \vith bayonets and bombs, 
Y orkshiremen and some of the Scottish all mixed together, as 
happens at such times. There was one great cellar underneath 
Bazentin-Ie-Grand large enough to hold 1500 men, and here, 
crouching in its archways and dark passages, were numbers of 
German soldiers. 
They came to meet our men and surrendered to them. And 
here also lay many wounded, in their blood, and unbandaged- 
I 



130 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\fl\1E 


just as they had crawled down from the ground above where 
our shells \tvere smashing everything. 
If any lnan ,vere to draw the picture of those things or to tell 
them more nakedly than I have told thenl, because now is not 
the time, nor this the place, no man or ,voman would dare to 
speak again of war's" glory," or of " the splendour of war," or 
any of those old lying phrases ,vhich hide the dreadful truth. 



xv 


PRISONERS OF WAR 


1 


JULY 17 
IN spite of bad weather, which has hampered operations so that 
no great advance has been possible, "\ve have made some progress 
to-day in the direction of Pozières. 
Some of our troops stormed a double line of trenches from 
Bazentin-Ie-Petit to the south-east of Pozières, a distance of 
1500 yards, strewn from one end to the other with German dead 
and "\vounded. 
IIigh "Tood, or the Bois de Foureaux, as it is properly called., 
is to a great extent No Man's Land, as lying over the crest of the 
hill our men could be shelled by the direct observation of the 
enemy's artillery, over the heads of their own men in the lower 
edge of the wood. 
Our line therefore has becn dra"\VI1 back from this salient and 
straightened out from Longueval to the long trench by Pozières, 
"\vhich is now approached on both sides. 
Ovillers is ours, after a German post which had been bravely 
defended surrendered \vith two officers and about 140 men early 
this morning. There is no other news of importance to:day on 
the line of attack, but it is good enough, and the general position 
of our force is in1proved. 


2 
What is the German point of vie"w about our attack and the 
prosp<'cts of the war ? 
That is the question I have always had in my head during the 
last fortnight, "Then I have seen batches of prisoners being led 
down from the battlefields, and the question I have put to some 
of them in bad German or fair English. 



132 THE BATTLES OF 'THE SOl\Il\iE 


It is diffif\ult to get any clear answer, or an ans\ver of any real 
value. The men have just come out of dreadful places, many 
of then1 are still dazed under the shock of shell-fire, some of 
them are proud and sullen, others are ready to talk but ignorant 
of the battle-front in \vhich they have been and of the situation 
outside the dug-outs in ,vhich they crouched. 
Yet there is something to be learnt out of their very ignorance, 
and by putting together answers from separate groups of men 
and individual soldiers one does get a kind of hint of the general 
idea prevailing among these German troops against us. 
Quite a number of them have told me that they and their 
people ,vere sure that the war would be over in August or 
September. They have been promised that, but could not 
give any reason for belief except the promise. 
" Do you think you are winning? " I asked one man-of real 
intelligence. 
" \Ve thought so," he answered. 
" And now ? " 
He raised his hands and shrugged his shoulders. 
" The English are stronger than 've believed." 
There seems to me no doubt that they were perfectly confident 
in the strength of their lines. They did not believe that such 
-defences as those at :Fricourt and l"Iontauban could ever be 
broken. 
The new power of our artillery has amazed them-they speak 
of it ahvays with terror-and the officers especially adlnit that 
they did not imagine that" amateur gunners," as they call our 
men, could achieve such results. 
For the courage of our infantry they have always had a great 
respect, remembering the two battles of Ypres, but they count 
the strength of armies by the strength of guns, and until recent 
days knew they had the greater po\ver. 
The foundations of their belief are shaken, but only to the 
extent that they admit the possibility of their army having 
to retire to a new line of defence. 
I have not found one man speak of defeat. They are still 
convinced that the German army ,viII never be beaten to the 
point of surrender. As the German doctor ,vhom I ha ve 
previously quoted said to me a few days ago, " You are strong 
and we are strong. Neither side can crush the other. If the 
"war goes on it 'v ill be the suicide of Europe." 



PRISONERS OF WAR 


133 


These German soldiers do not 'want it to go on. That idea 
in their heads is clear enough. They are ,veary of war, and have 
a great craving for peace. They 'want to see their "yives and 
children again. One strain of thought creeps out in their talk. 
It is the suggestion that they fight not as free men desiring to 
fight, but as men compelled to fight by higher pow'ers, against 
"whom they cannot rebel. 
" It is our dIscipline," said one of them to-day. " We cannot 
help ourseh es." 9- 
I am told by one of the officers in charge of thenl that they 
talk of another inevitable "val' between Germany 
nd England 
in ten years from no\v. 
They have been taught to believe, he says, that \ye thrust 
t.his ,val' 
T)on them, that all through \ve have be 1 the aggressors, 
and that Germany ,viII seek her revenge. 


3 


Personally, I have not heard such words spoken, but rather 
from several of these prisoners a frank hatred of war as the 
cause of horrors anà suffering beyond the strength of man to 
bear. They talk as men under an evil spell put upon them by 
unknown powers beyond their reach. 
As I have said, all this does not amount to anything of real 
value in trying to see into the spirit of the German people. 
They are the opinions of prisoners, who have escaped from the 
",rorst terrors of \var, but are imlnediately cautious of any 
interrogation, and perhaps a little tempted to say pleasing things 
to their captors. They cannot conceal their ignorance, ,vhich is 
enormous, because all but victories have been hidden from them 
until their o\vn defeat, but they conceal their knowledge. 
I ,vas interested, for instance, to hear them deny any great 
suffering from hunger in their o,vn country. 
" Our people have enough to eat," said several of them ,vhcn I 
questioned them. When I told them of the letters captured in 
their dug-outs, all full of pitiful tales. about lack of food, they 
5tared at me \vith grave eyes, and said again, stoutly: 
"They have enough to eat. Bread enough, and Ineat 
enough. " 
Their first desire upon cOIning from the battlefields is ,vater, 
\'rhich they get at once, and their next is permission to \\Tite 



184 



.- 


THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\il\fE 


. 
home to their people. All of then1. are anxious to be sent at 
once to England, where they expect greater comforts than in the 
fields with barbed-\vire hedges, where they are kept on the \vay 
do\vn until they can be entrained. 
As I \vatched them to-day again I thought of our men who 
are prisoners, and of all the great sum of human misery which 
has been heaped up in this war. Fortunately, in our treatment 
of prisoners ,ve teach our enemies a lesson in chi va.lry, for it is 
not, I think, in our race or history, with rare exceptions, to kick 
men when they are down. 



XVI 


THE LAST STAND IN OVILLERS 


1 


JULY 18 
IK all the fighting during the past fortnight the struggle for 
Ovillers stands out separately as a. siege in which both attack 
and defence were of a most dogged and desperate kind. 
The surrender of the remnants of its garrison last night ends 
an episode which will not be forgotten in history. These men 
'\vere of the 3rd Prussian Guard, and our Commander-in-Chief, in 
his day's dispatch, has paid a tribute to their bravery which 
is echoed by officers and men ,vho fought against them. 
It is a tribute to our o,vn troops also, who by no les
 
courage broke do,vn a stubborn resistance and captured the 
garrIson. 
I have already described the earlier phases of the siege; the 
first attack' on J nly 1, when our men broke through the outer 
network of trenches and advanced through sheets of machine- 
gun fire, suffering heavy casualties, the seizure of separated bits 
of broken trench-work by little bodies of gallant men fighting 
independently, gaining ground by a yard or t,vo at a time and 
attacking machine-gun posts and bombing posts by hand-to- 
hand fights; the underground struggle in great vaulted cellars 
beneath the ruined town; the surprise attack at night when a 
number of fresh troops sprang upon the defences to the western 
side of the town, and then, linking up ,vith the men in the 
captured trenches and ruins, cut the place in half, took many 
prisoners, and isolated the enemy still holding out in the northern 
half of the position. 

lany different battalions had taken a share in the fighting, 
all had suffered, and then given way to ne,v men who knew the 
nature of this business, but set grimly to ,york to carryon the 



186 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 
slo,v process of digging out the enemy fron1 his last strongholds. 
It ,vas almost literally a ,york of digging out. 


2 
The to,vn of Ovillers does not exist. It was annihilated by 
the bombardments and made a rubbish-heap of bricks and dust. 
"'hen our men ,vere separated from the enemy by only a yard or 
t".o or by only a barricade or two the artillery on both sides 
cca
ed fire upon Ovillers, lest the gunners should kiU thcir 
own men. 
They barraged intensely round ahout. Our shells fell 
incps
antly upon the cnen1Y's communication-trenches to the 
nOILh and east so that the beleagured garrison should not get 
supplies or rcinforcemcnt
. 
\Ve made a "all of death about them. But though no shells 
no,v burst over the ground ,vhere many dead lay &+rc\vn, there 
was arti1ler j of a lighter kind, not less deadly. It ,vas the 
artillery of nlachine-guns and bombs. The Prussian Guard 
made full usc of the vaulted cellars and of the ruined houses. 
They had made a series of small keeps, ,vhich they defended 
almost entirely by machine-gun fire. As soon as we adyanced 
the machine-guns ,vere set to ,york, and played their hose of 
buHets across the ground '\vhich our men had to cover. One by 
one, by getting round about them, by working zigzag ,vays 
through cellars and ruins, by sudden rushes of bOll1bing parties 
led by young officers of daring spirit, ,ve knocked out thesc 
machine-gun emplacements and the gunners ,,,ho served thcm, 
until, yesterday, there was only the last rcmnant of thc garrison 
left in Ovillers. 
Thesc men of the Brd Prussian Guard had long been in a hope- 
less position. They \vere starving because all supplies had been 
cut off by our never-ceasing barrage, and they had no ,vater- 
supply, so that they suffered all the torture of great thirst. 
Human nature could make no longer resistance, and at last 
the officer
 raised a signal of surrender, and came over ,vith 
nearly 140 men, who held their hands up. 
Thc fighting had been savage. At close grips in the brokcn 
earthworks and deep cellars there had been no sentiment, but 
British soldiers and Germans had flung themselves upon each 
other \vith bombs and any kind of weapon. 



THE L
J\ST STAND IN OVILLERS 137 


But llO'\\", when all ,vas ended, the last of the German garrison 
were received with the honours of ,var, and none of our soldiers 
denies tbem the respect due to great courage. 
" They stuck it splendidly," ,vas the verdict of one of them 
to-day, and though there is no love lost bet,veen our army and 
the enemy's, it is good at least that ,ve should have none of that 
silly contempt for the foe ,vhich is sometimes expressed by 
people-never by British soldiers-,vho unconsciously discredit 
the valour of our men by underestimating the courage and 
tenacity of those \vho fight us. 



XVII 


THE SCOTS AT LONGUEV AL 


1 


JULY 20 
THE present stage of our advance is causing us very hard 
fighting for important positions on high ground which must be 
gained and held before ne,v progress over open country is 
possible. The enemy is gathering up his reserves and flinging 
them against us to check the on,vard movement at an costs, and 
it seems to me that he has brought up new batteries of heavy 
guns, because his artillery-fire is increasing. 
His prisoners reveal the grave anxiety that reigns behind 
the German lines, where there is no attempt to minimize the 
greatness of our menace. The enemy is undoubtedly straining 
every nerve to organize a ne,v and formidable resistance. 
To-day, however, he has lost many men and valuable ground, 
not only in fighting with British troops, but with the French, "Tho 
at l\laurepas and other positions on our right ha ve made a 
successful advance. 
In the early hours of this morning, after a long bombardment 
,,'hich made the night very dreadful with noise, and the sky 
vivid with the light of bursting shells-such a night as I 
described at length a day or two ago-an attack ,vas made by 
our troops on the high ground bet\veen Delville \V ood and High 
',","God and to the \vest of these positions. 
The enemy \vas in great strength, and maintained a strong 
defence, but he suffered severely, and was forced to retreat in 
disordcr upon some parts of his line. 


2 
A good deal of the fighting fell to south-country boys ,vho 
once follo,ved the plough and still have the English sky in thcir 



THE SCOTS AT LONGUEV AL 


139 


eyes. But not far from then1 ,vere some of the " Harry Lauder 
lads," ,vho used to man the battlements of Edinburgh Castle 
\vhen Rouge Dragon knocked at the gate and asked admittance 
for the J{ing. 
They had a bad night-" the \vorst a man could dream of," 
said one of them ,vho had kno,vl1 other bad nights of war. 
They lay under the cross-fire of great shells, British and GerJl1an. 
l
icld- batteries \vere pun1ping out shells in a great hurry before 
breakfast-time, but these \vere as nothing compared with the 
\vork of the heavies. 
'Ve \vere firing "Grandlnothers" and "Aunties," those 
I5-inch and 12-inch shells \vhich go roaring through the air and 
explode \vith vast earth-shaking crashes. And the enemy ,vas 
replying with his coal-scuttles. 
"They were the rea.l 'Jack Johnsolls,' "said a Devonshire lad 
'who had a pieee of one of them in his right shoulder. "These 
brutes have not been seen, I'm told, since Ypres, except 
in ones or twos. But they caIne over as thick and fast as 
hand-grenades. You kno\v the kind of hole they make? 
'Tis forty feet across and deep enough to bury a ,vhole 
platoon.' , 
"The din fairly made me quake," said a tall lad with the 
straw-coloured hair one sees on market days in Ipswich, and he 
shivered a little at the remembrance of the night, though the 
sun ,vas ,varm upon him then. 
But they did not suffer much from all this gun-fire as they 
manned their trenches in the darkness. The shells passed over 
them, and few ,vere hurt. The attack \vas made before the 
dawn up the rising slope of ground towards high roads \vhich 
used to go across fro111 the Bois de Foureaux, or IIigh \V ood as 
we call it, to Delville Wood. 
Now therE' are no roads, for our bombardment had torn up the 
earth into a series of deep craters. The Germans had a line of 
dug-outs here, built in great haste since the 1st of July, but 
'well built. 
As soon as our men were upon them, the German soldiers, \vho 
had been hiding below-ground, came up like rabbits \vhcn the 
ferrets are at work. l\lost of them ran Rway, as hard as they 
could, stlunblillg and falling over the broken ground. 
" They ran so hard," said one of our men, "that I couldn't 
catch_up with 'em. It \vas a queer kind of race, us chasing 'em, 



140 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIME 


and they running. The only Germans I came up v,ith were 
dead 'uns." 
But some of the Germans did not run. They came for\vard 
t.hrough the half-darkness of this da\vn with their hands raised. 
One Cornish boy I knew took five prisoners, who crowded round 
him crying " J{amerad ! " so that he felt like the old WOlnan in 
the shoe. 
Up to that point our casualties \vere very slight, but later on, 
up the higher ground, the cnemy.s machine-gun fire s\vept 
across the grass and the bro\vn, barc earth of the old trenches, 
and above the high rims of the shell-craters. But our lnen 

wept on. 
Other troops were w'Orking round High 'V ood on the left, and 
in the centre men were advancing into the wood itself, and 
forcing forward over the fallen trees and branches and the 
bodies of German dead. The enemy's sh<'lls crashed above 
them, but these regiments of ours were determined to get on 
and to hold on, and duriflg the day they have organized strong 
points, and captured the ,vcstern side and all the southern part 
of this position. 


3 


The situation at Longueval and Deville \Yood, on the north- 
east of that village, has been very full of trouble for our men ever 

ince these places were taken by some of our Highland regin1ents 
on July 14. The enemy n1ade repcated counter-attacks from 
the upper end of the village, where he still held some machine- 
gun emplacements, and kept a way open through his trenches 
here on the north so that he could send up supports and supplies. 
Fron1 the north also he concentrated heavy artillery-fire on the 
southern part of Delville 'Vood, which ,vas held by some of our 
South African troops, and maintained a violent barrage. 
Nevertheless the Highlanders have held on for nearly a \veek 
\vith a dogged endurance that has frustrated all the efforts of the 
enemy to g(.t baek on to their old ground. The gallantry of 
these men \vho ,v
ar the tartans of the old Scottish clans \votIld 
seem wonderful if it were not habitual with them. 
Their first dash for Longueval was onc of the finest exploits 
of the war. They \vere led forward by their pipers, who went 
with thenl not only towards the Gern1an lines but across them 
and into the thick of the battle. 



THE SCOTS AT LONGUEV AL 


141 


It was to the tune of " The Campbells are coming" that one 
regiment went forward, and that music, \vhich I heard last up the 
slopes of Stirling Castle, was heard with terror, beyond a doubt, 
by the German soldiers. Then the pipes screamed out the 
Charge, the most a\vful music to be heard by men who have the 
Highlanders against t.hem, and \vith fixed bayonets and hand- 
grenades they stormed the Gern1an trenches. 
Here there are many concealed machine-gun emplacements, 
and dug-outs so strong that no shell could slnash thenl. Some 
of them ,vere great vaults and concreted chambers of great 
depth, where many Germans could find cover. But the High- 
landers went do\vn into them \vith great recklessness, two or 
three men flinging themselves into the vaults where enemies 
were packed. They ,vcre scornful of all such dangers. 
I aln told by one of their colonels that in bombing do\vn the 
communication-trenches they threw all caution to the \vind, and 
\vhile some of the men went along the trenches others ran along 
on top under heavy fire, cheering their comrades on, and then 
leaping do,vn upon the enemy. 
The Germans defended themselves \vith most stubborn 
courage, and even now, or at least as late as last night, they still 
serve some machine-guns at one point, from \vhich it has been 
found difficult to dislodge them. They are down in a concrete 
emplacement, from which they can send out a continual spatter 
of bullets do\vn the ruined way of what once ,vas a street. 
The Highlanders dug trenches across the viHage, and had what 
they call in soldiers' language" a hell of a time," which is a 
true ,yay of putting it. The enen1Y barraged the village with 
progressi ve lines of heavy shells, yard by yard, but by the best 
of luck his lines stopped short of where some ranks of I-ligh- 
landers were lying down in fours, using frightful words to keep 
their spirits up. There \vere hours of bad luck, too, and one ,vas 
,vhen some of the transport men and horses were knocked out 
by getting into a barrage. Casualties ,vere heavy among other 
officers and men, but the Highlanders held on \vith a wonderful 
spirit. 


4 


It is a spirit which I saluted to-day \vith reverence when I met 
these men marching out of the fire-zone. They came marching 
across broken fields, where old wire still lies tangled and old 



142 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\il\IE 


trenches cut up the ground, and the noise of the guns ,vas about 
theine 
Some of our heavy batteries \vere firing \vith terrific shocks of 
sound, ,,,hich made mule-teams plunge and tremble, and struck 
sharply across the thunder of masses oÎ guns firing along the 
\vhole line of battle. There ,vas a thick summer haze about, 
and on the ridges the black va pours of shell-bursts, and all the 
air ,vas heavy .with smoke. It ,vas out of this that the High- 
landers came marching. They brought their music with them, 
and the pipes of ,var ,vere playing a Scottish love-song: 


I lo'e nae laddie but ane, 
An' he lo'es nae lassie but me. 


Their kilts 'were caked ,vith mud and stained \vith blood and 
filth, but the men 'were beautiful, n1arching briskly, with a fine 
pride in their eyes. Officers and men of other regiments 
watched then1 pass and saluted theIn, as men ,vho had fought 
'with heroic courage, so that the dirtiest of them there and the 
humblest of these Jocks ,vas a fine gentleman and worthy of 
knighthood. 
1\Iany of then1 ,vore German helmets and grinned beneath 
them. One brawny young Scot had the cap of a German Staff 
officer cocked over his ear. One machine-gun section brought 
do,vn t,vo German machines besides their own. They were very 
tired, but they held their heads up, and the pipers who had been 
,vith them blew out their bags bravely, though hard up for wind. 
And the Scottish love-song rang out across the fields. \Vhat- 
ever its words, it ,vas, I think, a love-song for the dear dead 
they had left behind them. 



XVIII 


THE DEVIL'S WOOD 


1 


JULY 21 
DEL VILLE 'V OOD, to the right of Longueval, is a name marked 
on the ,var-maps, but son1e of onr soldiers, ,vho take liberties 
,vith all French place-names, giving a familiar and homely 
sound to ,vords beyond the trick of their tongues, call this 
"The Devil's \V ood." 
It is a reasonable name for it. It is a devilish place, ,vhich 
has been a death-trap to both the German and British troops 
\vho have held it in turn, or parts of it. It is here and 
in High \V ood to the north-,vest of it that the fighting 
continues hotly. Last night and to-day the northern end 
,vas under the fire of our guns, the southern end under 
German fire, and somewhere about the centre the opposing 
infantry is entrenched as far as it is possible to dig in such 
a place. 
The German soldiers have the advantage in defence. They 
have placed their Inachine-guns behind barricades of great 
tree-trunks, hidden their sharpshooters up in the foliage of 
trees still standing above all the litter of branches smashed 
do,vn by shrapnel and high explosives, and send a patter of 
bullets across to our men, 'vho have dug holes for themselves 
below the tough roots. 
There is no need for either side to do any ,vood-chopping 
for the building of their barricades. Great numbers of trees 
have fallen, cut clean in half by heavy shells, and lie across 
each other in the tangle of brush,vood. Branches have been 
lopped off or torn off, and are piled up as though for a bonfire. 
The broken trunks stick up in a ghastly ,yay, stripped of their 
bark, and enormous roots to which the earth still clings have 



lLt
 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


been torn out of the ground as though by a hurricane, and 
stretch their tentacles out above deep pits. 
The wood is stre\vn with dead, and \vounded men are so 
caught in the jungle of fallen branches that they can hardly 
cra\vl through it. Even the un,vounded have to cra\vl on their 
way forward to fight, over, or underneath, the great trunks 
which lie across the tracks. 
The gallant South Africans \vho 'verc here could not dig 
quickly enough to get cover from the shells 'which the enemy's 
guns pumped into the \vood as soon as our men had gained it, 
and found it very hard to dig at all, but no\v, I hope, our 
troops are more secure from shell-fire and the enemy is suffering 
severely from our bombardment. His machine-guns chatter 
through the day and night from one or t\VO strong emplacements, 
and our men, lying behind their o\vn stockades, effectively 
reply. In the twilight of "The Devil's \'V ood " the struggle 
goes on, but gradually we are enclosing the place and the 
Germans in it are not there for long. 


2 


JULY 27 
At about ten o'clock this morning our troops again took 
Delville \Vood-all but a narrow strip on the north-and 
perhaps it is the last time that it ,vill be necessary to send 
men to the assault of this evil position which has earned the 
nickname of "Devil's 'Vood" from soldiers who have been 
through it and out of it. 
As onc of our officers said to me this morning, "I ,vish to 
goodness we could wipe the place off the map, or burn it off. 
A good forest fire there \vould cleanse the ground of this filthy 
,vreckage of trees which has been a death-trap to so many 
good fellows." 
It is a queer thing that so many trees are still standing, and 
that it still looks like a wood as I sa\V it the other day \vhen the 
enemy was barraging this side of it. In spite of all the trees 
that have been cut down by shells the foliage still looks dense 
at a distance and hides all the horror underneath. 
To-day many more trees have been slashed off and hurled 
upon other fallen trunks. If the \vood had been drier the 
f.orest fire would have blazed. I am told that our concentration 



THE DEVIL'S WOOD 


145 


of guns for this morning's bombardment secured the Inost 
intense series of barrages upon one position since the battle 
of Picardy began t\venty-seven days ago; twice as heavy as 
any similar artillery attack. 
The bon1bardment began early this Inorning, and took line 
after line from south to north above the ground held by our 
lllen, in progressive blocks of fire. Our batteries over an area 
of several miles, from the long-range heavies to the IS-pounders 
far forward, flung every size of shell into this" Devil's Wood," 
and filled it \vith high explosives and shrapnel so that one great 
voluD1e of smoke rose from it and covered it in a dense black 
pall. 
It seeD1S impossible that any Germans there could still be 
left alive, but it is too soon yet to know whether our men found 
any of them crouching in holes or lying under the shelter of 
great trunks and roots. Perhaps a few German soldiers may 
come out from this place of death, having escaped by \vhat 
seems like a miracle, except that every day men do escape in 
the strangest way fro In shells \vhich burst above them and 
under them and around them. 
llut there will not be nlany ,vho may tell the tale of this 
morning's bombardment of the wood, for the enemy has not 
had time to make an elaborate system of dug-outs here, deep 
enough to protect them from 6-inch or 8-inch shells, but had 
no more cover than our own men who held the ,vood when it 
"'as the turn of the enemy's artillery. 


:3 
I ,vas talking to some of these men this morning and they 
all had the same tale to tell. "Devil's \V ood," said one of 
theIn-a shock-headed Petcr in shorts, who had not lost his 
jcnse of humour, though a good deal of blood, up there- 
., this Delvillc Wood, as it is called politely by fellows who don't 
\:no,v the look of it or the smell of it, is easily the \vorst place 
)11 carth, as far as I can guess. 
" It's just crowded \vith corpses, and to stay there is to join 
hat company. The only cover one can get is to crawl under 
" log and hope for the best, or cra"wl into a sheIl-hole and expect 
he ',orst-which generally arrives. I had the dcvil's o"'n 
uck-a puncture of the left leg-so I can't ,valk back there." 
K 



146 THE BATTLES OF THE SOM1\'1E 


He was alnaz
d to have come out so easily, and because he 
still had life, and could see the sun shining through the flap 
of a tent, he "'as in high spirits, like all our men who have had 
the luck to get a "cushie ,vound," which in this "\var is the 
best of luck to men in such places as " Devil's \V ood." 
'l"'he other men \vere eloquent about the German snipers 
who were hidden in the foliage of trees with rifles and n1achine- 
guns and waited very patiently until any of our men began to 
cra wI through the tree-trunks. That game is finished. Our 
bombardment this morning n1ust have swept away all such Dlcn 
with whatever \veapon they had. 
Devil's \Vood has become more cro\vded \vith dead, and it 
is over these bodies that our men stumbled this morning \vhen 
they 'went forward slowly and cautiously behind the great 
barrage of our guns, which cleared the way for them. They 
advanced in waves, halting while another barrage \vas main- 
tained for half an hour or more ahead. They had to cross 
Princes Street, which was a sunken road made into something 
like a trench by the South Africans, and after,vards by Scots 
from home, striking across the glades from ,vest to east, and 
then they pHshed northwards. 
I have no details of the fighting, which is still in progress, 
but it is probable that the attack has succeeded vrithout many 
casualties. It is in holding the ground that the ,vorst time 
comes to the men \vho capture it. 


4 


l\Ieanwhile another attack has been made this morning, 
advancing eastwards to Dtlville \V ood from Longueval, which 
is partly in and partly out of the wood, 'with the object of 
clearing out the enemy from the northern part of the village 
and joining up with the men advancing into the wood from the 
south, as I have just described. 
Here, again, not much more of the fighting is kno\vn, but 
we kno\v the difficulties of the position, and it is not surprising 
that the hardest fighting has been happening here. The 
history of the fight that has gone on in this corner of ground 
since July 14 is one of the most wonderful things, for sheer 
stubborn courage, that has been done in all this great 
battle. 



THE DEVIL'S WOOD 


147 


The Scottish troops who first took Longueval, as I have 
described in a previous dispatch, held part of the village in 
spite of heavy counter-attacks and incessant bombardlnents, 
'while the South Africans ,vere in the adjoining wood of devilish 
fame. 
The home-gro\vn Scots had a trench-a poor thing, but still 
called a trench-running from east to ,vest at the south end 
of the village, and t\VO parallel roads going out of this trench 
northwards through the ruins of the village. 
There were barricades up these two roads held by the Scots 
,vith machine-gnns, and on the other side of the barricade 
the roads were No JUan's Land leading to the cnelny, who were, 
and still remain, in bits of copse and ruined gardens and old 
orchards, with their 0\Vl1 machine-guns protected by strong 
emplacements. 
The Scots had a severe time, under almost continuous fire, 
and lost hea vily. .At night they \vere attacked from the 
orchard land by parties of German bombers, who advanced 
,vith desperate courage although swept back again and again 
by rifles and machine-guns and hand-grenades. Mean\vhile 
the South Africans were being shelled to death in Del ville 
'V ood close by, and, as I have already told, the poor rcn1nants 
of theln \vere \vithdra,vn. 
The troops in Longueval were replaced by others, who 
succeeded in clearing the enemy out of part of the orchard and 
capturing some of his machine-guns, but not enough to " clean 
up" this position, \vhich \vas still very dangerous. It was 
another battalion of Scottish troops, together \vith English 
boys of the New Army, who captured "\Vaterlot Farm, running 
do'wn south-eastwards from Delville Wood, and made t\VO or 
three very gallant attenlpts to get as far as Guillemont, and 
on July 22 another part of Longueval was taken a third time 
by these fine men, whose General has trained them to attack 
and to go on attacking. 


5 
Dclville "V ood proved the stumbling- block again. One 
young officer ,vho was wounded here yesterday told me that 
he could get no kind of cover where he lay with his men at the 
edge of Del ville Wood and on the outskirts of Longueval. 



148 THE BATTLES OF THE SONIME 


All night long there \vas the swish of machine-gun bullets 
above him, varied ,,'ith shrapnel and bits of high explosive. 
He has only been out in France a fortnight, and t\VO days 
ago came straight to "The Devil's ,\\700d," into the heart of 
Inferno. 
On his first day he ,vas surprised to come face to face with a 
German soldier. The young officer had been given orders to 
push out a patrol down a sap or shallo,v trench to reconnoitre 
the position of the enemy. He had not gone many yards 
before he met the enemy-a tall fello,v in a steel helmet, 
follo\ved by forty others. 
There ,vas surprise on both sides and considerable alarrn, 
but the English boy was first in ,vith a revolver shot. He 
thinks no,v that he made a mistake because the Germans 
111ade no attack upon him and ran back into the ,vood, so 
that it is likely enough they had come forward to surrender, 
as a means of escape from our shell-fire. 
Our lieutenant came back to report, dodging snipers who 
" potted " at him from several directions, and then lying in a 
ditch until a fragment of shell caught him. 
"Longueval is the very devil," says this subaltern with 
two days' experience of \var-and enough too. "With 
Delville Wood on its right it's not a healthy neighbourhood. 
But of course Brother Boche is getting it in the neck all the 
tinle, so he can't be pleased \vith his position." 
To-day there. are other men attacking the sanlC position, 
up a.gainst the same difficulties, subject to the sanle fire. 
Those who ,vent before them have gained the inlmortality 
of history-a poor reward, perhaps, for great struggles and 
great suffering, but theirs, whatever the value of it, for all 
time, ,vhen the secrets of the ,val' are told. 
The men who are 1l0\V in are of the same breed, and ,vill not 
fail for lack of courage, but as I ,vrite the guns are firing with a 
!,YTcat tumult of noise over there, and ne'v history is in the making 
so that it cannot yet be known. 


ü 


JULY 29 
I have already described in a previous dispatch the great 
difficulties that ha ve confronted our men in Longucval and 



THE DEVIL'S ""TOOD 


149 


Del ville "... ood, and I left off my last narrative at a time ,vhen 
our troops ,vere making a strong attack upon both of those 
positions-the battalions on the left endeavouring to clear the 
enemy froI11 the north of Longueval, ,vhere they had machinc- 
gun redoubts, and those on the right working up from the 
south through Delville 'V ood. 
The infantry advanced stage by stage behind our shell-fire 
-a very simple thing to write or read, but not at all a simple 
matter to troops ,val king under the hurricane of shells and 
depending for their lives upon the scientific accuracy of 
gunners calculating their range and their time-fuses a long ,yay 
behind the lines, and unable to see the infantry advancing to 
attack. 
"It "vas queer to see the shells bursting in front of onp." 
said a bright-eyed fello,v, who had just come out of " Dev
Js 
Wood" with a lucky wound. "The line of them ,vas just 
about seventy-five yards ahead of us, flinging up the ground 
and smashing everything. It ,vas ,vonderful ho,v the gunners 
kept it just ahead of us." 
Our men did not go through Delville "V ood in one of those 
fine cheering rushes which are dra,vn sometimes by imaginative 
artists, and sometimes, but not often, happen. They went in 
scattered groups, keeping touch, but in extended ordL. '1nd 
scrambling, stumbling, or cra,vling for,vard as best they cou.Ld, 
in a place which had no clear track. 
There ,vere not two yards of ground ,vithout a shell-hole. 
Fallen trees and brush\vood made a tangled maze. Old 
barricades smashed by shell-fire and shallow trenches scraped 
up by men ,vho had been digging their O'Vll graves at the same 
time made obstacles and pitfalls everywhere. Our men, 
heavily loaded with their fighting kit, with bombs slung about 
them, and ,vith their bayonets fixed, could not go forward at 
a bound through this infernal wood. 
This ,vood had been taken four times by four ,vaves of British 
troops. It had been retaken four times by four ,va ves of 
German troops. It had been the dumping-place of the artillery's 
most furious bombardments on both sides, so that these English 
boys of ours were advancing through a great graveyard of 
unburied dead. 
The ghastliness of the place has left its lnark upon the minds 
)f many men ,vho are not troubled much by the sights of 



150 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\fE 


battle. I notice that some of them ,vince at the name of 
Delyille \Y ood, and others-the officers mostly-laugh in a 
,vay that is not good to hear, because it is the laughter of men 
,vho realize the great gulf of irony that lies between the decent 
things of life and an this devildom. 


7 


\Vhen our men advanced they were surprised to see men 
running a,vay through the broken trees, and astonished, also, 
to see bits of white rag fluttering above some of the shell-holes. 
'fhese 'white rags, tied to twigs, bobbed up and do\vn or \vaved 
to and fro as signals. It ,vas the white flag of surrender, 
held by German soldiel's crouched at the bottom of the shell- 
craters. From one of them a Red Cross flag \vaved in a frantic 
way. 
Our men w-cnt forward with their bayonets, and shouted, 
"Come out of it, there!" and from each shell-hole came a 
German soldier, holding his hands up, and crying '" Pity! 
Pity ! " which is a word they seem to have learnt in case of 
need. 
" Some of them were so small and young,': said a man ,vho 
,vas i. hting in this part of the \,,"ood, " that their uniforms \vere 
m: _h too big for them and their tunics came down to their 
knees. " 
They were exceptional in youth and size, for all the prisoners 
I have seen since the beginning of our attack are tall, strapping 
fellows of the be5t fighting age; but it is possible that our men 
bave come up against some of the 1916 class. When the 
English poked their bayonets at them, but not into them, 
they fell on their knees and cried for mercy. 
It \-vas mercy asked and given at a time ,,,hen our soldiers 
were angry, for the enemy was firing a large number of gas- 
shells. . 
Early in thc afternoon a good deal of the ground to the 
north of Longueval had been captured by very fierce fighting 
at close qual'ters in and about the orchard, \vhere the enemy 
had machine-gun emplacements and a strong redoubt called 
l\lachiut'-gun House. Here they defended then1selves stub- 
bornly behind barricades of broken bricks and fallen tree- 
trunks and barbed ,,,ire, serving their guns in a deadly way. 



THE DEVIL'S WOOD 


151 


Several of our officers behaved 'with the utmost gallantry 
and led forward many bombing parties to the attack of the 
machine-gun enlplacements, from 'which there came a continual 
g,vish of bullets. Our men were quite reckless in taking all 
risks, and made repeated attacks on this position left of Delville 
Wood until they captured or knocked out several of the machine- 
guns which had given most trouble. 


8 
In the meantime the troGps on the right ""ere gradually 
pushing their way up to the top of the \vood, past Princes Street 
(an old trench dug by the Scots, and no,v battered out of shape 
by the morning's bombardment), and acroos a line of dug-outs 
made by the enemy-and very well made in the time. They 
are master diggers, the Germans, and they have the industry 
of ants. It is sometimes an industry inspired by fear; but, 
after all, fear is often the wisdom of defence, and in this case 
they fought longer because by night and day they had toiled 
to get shell-proof cover into which death could not enter 
easily. 
Some men of ours who were first to go into those dug-outs 
tell me that they \vere as deep as those they had seen in parts 
of the line where Germans have had months for their work. 
They had plenty of head cover, of timber balks and sandbags 
and earth, and inside them ,vas room for twenty men or 
more. 
"Then our men came through the trees to them there 
,vere two officers sitting outside as though at a cottage 
doorway, and they seemed quite calm, except for their extreme 
pallor. 
They \vere both \vounded, but not badly, and it is our 
men's idea that they had come to sit in the open in case 
they should be buried alive in the dug-outs by direct hits 
from our heavy shells. They rose and showed their wounds, 
and surrendered. 
Some of our men went into the mouths of the dug-outs, and 
cautiously, with their bombs handy, do,vn the dark steps. 
There were forms huddled up in that narro\v stairway, and they 
groaned at the touch of boots. They were badly wounded men, 
,vho had staggered do,Vll to get shelter and medical aid. Down 



152 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\1:l\iE 


belo\v, in rooms about ten feet square and almost dark, ,ycre 
other ,vonnded men lying about in their o,vn blood. 
.A. lantern hanging on a nail in one of these places gave a 
dim flicker of light to the scene, and sho,ved the \vhite, unshaven 
faces of the men ,,,ho, as our young soldiers came tramping 
and stumbling do,vn, raised their heads, but had no strength 
to stand up. Two or three men, un,vounded, or only slightly 
wounded, came forward with their hands held up a little, and 
bo,ved their heads as they muttered something \vhich meant 
surrender. 
Early in the afternoon the enemy made a counter-attack 
upon the left of the ,vood and to the north of Longneval village. 
At the same time their artillery had received ,vord somehow', 
by fugitives, that the wood was full of English, and that they 
could shell it ,vithout killing many of their o\yn men. German 
" crumps " no\v began to crash through the trees, and a counter- 
bombardment of high explosives fell into the cratercd earth. 
The attack by German infantry was luade by strong parties 
of grenadiers, ,vho came do,vn saps above Longneval and 
from a cOlnmunication-trench bet\veen Delville 'Vood and 
High "\V ood. They came on \vith great resolution, follo,ved 
by machine-gunners, but they were received váth rifle-fire, 
bombs, and machine-gun fire from our o,vn men. 
Some parties managed to work their ,yay back into the 
orchard, and through the scattered trees about it, and there 
was some close and desperate fighting. For a time our men 
in one of the battalions ,vere short of bon1bs, and sent back 
urgent messages for ne,v supplies. 
" 'Ve had bcen hanging on to them," said one of the boys, 
" because it's ahvays ,veIl to save theln for a tight place, but 
of course ,ve sent then1 up to the chaps in front." It ,vas 
timely help, and all the German efforts to dislodge our 111cn 
broke do\vn ,,,"ith heavy loss, so that the ground ,vas stre\yn 
with their dead and wounded. 

Iany Germans ,,"ere seen retreating over the high ground 
above Dcl ville \'" ood, to the left. Parties of them ran along 
the sky-line, and then seemed to drop into a sunken road. 
So Delville 'Vood is ours again-and it is again under the 
fire of German guns instead of British guns, and the trouble is 
to know ,vhethcr it is possible for either side to hold snch a 
place ,vithout too great a sacrifice of life. It is easier to h01d 



THE DEVIL'S WOOD 


153 


now that the ground to the north of Longucval and in the 
western corner of the \vood has been cleared of its hornets' 
nests-those hiding-places of machine-gunners \vho "rere able 
to send waves of bullets upon our advancing men. 
That trouble, anyho,v, is gone, and the enelny feels the loss, 
because several ne\v counter-attacks last night failed as com- 
pletely as those made earlier. They were our machine-guns 
which met then1 in their old haunts, and made theln pay back 
a hea "'Y price for the toll they had taken before. 



XIX 


THE WORK OF THE GUNS 


1 


JULY 24 
MORE ground has been gained to-day at Pozières, and the 
Australians after their first great assault before dawn yesterday 
ha ve been pushing across the Bapaume Road, which goes 
through the to,vn, and bombing out the German lnachine- 
gunners and holding parties on the western side, so that not 
many enen1Ïes are left among the ruins or underground in 
Pozièrcs itself. There is higher ground beyond, towards the 
'VÏndm :U, and farther north, for \vhich a fight ,viII ha ve to 
be 111è 1 de before the key of the position is really captured, but 
the advance of English regin1ents on the left is a lnenace to 
the u1emy which must cause him grave anxiety. The line 
has also been thrust for,vard a little by a series of posts and 
joined up with positions in the neighbourhood of High Wood, 
'where the enemy is again bombarding heavily, so that no 
further progress has been made in this direction during the day. 
One curious incident ,vas observed here by the troops holding 
the ground on the south of High 'Yood. They suddenly 
noticed a body of men coming out of the glades, and \vere 
surprised to see that they \vere in kilts. 
For a monlcnt it fi1ay have occurred to them that they ,verc 
some of the v.oullded Scots who had fought through I-ligh 
\V ood a few days previously. That could hardly be possible, 
however, because the enemy is in strong nun1bers in the upper 
part of the wood. An officer staring through his glasses uttered 
a ,vord of astonishment and t,vo of anger. The men on the 
sky-line ,vere Germans dressed up in kilts taken from the dead. 
Our guns put some shells over then1, and they disappeared 
below the ridge. } ,. 



THE WORK OF THE GUNS 


155 


For the past few days the increasing strength of the enemy's 
artillery, especially of heavy guns, has been noticeable, and he 
has been firing at longer range, and rather wildly" into the blue" 
in order to make things uncomfortable behind our lines. 
O"\vil1g to the great superiority of our observation and the 
complete failure of his O\Vll aircraft-our anti-a.ircraft guns 
have hardly been called upon to fire a round during the last 
fe"\v weeks-he is \vasting a great deal of heavy a.mmunition. 
This is different from earlier days of the battle when the 
German gunners had to concentrate their fire upon very definite 
points of attack, and were completely mastered in many of 
their positions by the immensity of our bombardment. 


2 


The ,york of our artillery is a wonderful achievelnent, and all 
the success \ve have gained during this great battle has been 
largely due to the science and daring of our gunners and to 
the labour of all those thousands of men at home \vho have 
sweated in soul and body to make the guns and the ammunition. 
It is only just and fair to the munition workers to say this 
thing and to let them kno,v that their t0il has helped enormously 
to break the German lines, and that without their untiring 
effort all the courage of our soldiers, all their sacrifice of blood, 
\vould have been in vain. If they slacken off now in the factories 
and ,vorkshops these men of ours in places like IIigh \tV ood 
and Longueval and Pozières will no longer have the support 
that is most desperately needed now that the enemy is bringing 
up many ne"\v batteries against us. ,.. 
Flesh and blood cannot fight against high explosives. It 
can only die, and the whole history of the battle is not to be 
.written in reference to bayonets or rifles but to guns. It has 
been, and is still, a battle of guns, and onr heroic infantry 
has only been able to get for,vard or to hold its ground when 
the artillery preparation has been complete, and the artillery 
support over\vhelrningly strong. Should this fail it would 
not be fighting, but massacrc. 
From the early days of the battle on"\vards our artillery 
has been great, ia weight of metal, in science, in the vastness 
of its supplies of shells, in the superb courage and skill of its 
men, ,vho have endured a continuous strain upon them night 



156 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


and day for four weeks. They broke the German spirit and 
the German strength to the point ,vhen our infantry could 
attack ,vith something like a chance, almost for the first time 
in this ,val' along the British front. 
By the ,york of aviators and artillery observation officers 
we kne,v the positions of most of the enemy's batteries and the 
geography of all his communication-trenches, transport roads, 
and supply depots. Our guns, ,vhich had been brought up 
secretly, ,vcre unmasked one morning ,vhen the great bombard- 
ment began before the battle, and poured unceasing shells upon 
all those positions, smothering them with high explosives and 
shrapnel, while the field-guns closer up ,verc cutting the enemy's 
,vue. 
Trenches \vere swept out of existence, batteries ,vcre blo,vn 
to bits- I have seen many of those broken Gern1an guns now 
standing as trophies on French la ,vns-and the roads ,vere 
swept by storms of death. The barrage was a great ,vall 
through ,vhich nothing could pass. The German soldiers in 
their lines could get neither food nor ,vater. No reinforce- 
ments could be sent to them. 


3 


Three of our own soldiers ,vho \vere taken prisoners on the 
morning of the first attack could not be sent back into the 
German lines because no escort dared to go \vith them through 
the barrage. They were thrust down into a dug-out \vith 
some of the German soldiers and saw and suffered the effect of 
our fire. The enemy had no food to give them, having none 
for themselves, and they were tortured by thirst. 
For five days they endured this until nearly dead, but ,,,hen 
the Germans were too dazed to act as guards, these three 
English soldiers nlanaged to cra,vl out of the dug-out and by a 
miracle of luck escaped back to t.heir o,vn lines over No l\lan's 
Land. 


4 


A German officer, no\v one of our prisoners, bears ,vitness 
to the ,york of our gunners. He was sent ,vith his battalion 
from Verdun to Contalmaison and was detrained at Bapaume. 
There he began a painful experience of shell-fire through an 
accident to one of the German 12-inch guns, ,vhich burst and 



THE 'VORK O:F THE GUNS 


157 


ble\v up several carriages of the train. killing sonle of his men. 
But the rest of his journey was made terrible by British gun-fire. 
\Vith his battalion he caIne do\vn a road \vhich was being flung 
up by our I5-inch and I2-inch guns. Some n10re of his men 
were killed, and he came on towards Bazentin, where he was 
under the fire of our 8-inch howitzers and nine-point-t,vos. 
l\lore of his men were killed, but he went on until near Contal- 
nlaison he came within the range of our I8-pounders and lost 
the remainder of his men. At Contalmaison he ,vas immediately 
taken prisoner by our attack and \vas rejoiced to come to his 
journey's end alive. 
" Your artillery," he said, "is better than anything I had 
seen before, even at Verdun, and worse than anything I 
had suffered." 
A.l] the German officers with \vhom I have spoken are sur- 
prised that an "army of amateurs," as they call us, should 
produce such scientific artillery ,york in so short a time, and 
they also pay tribute to the daring of the field-gunners, ,vho 
go so far for\vard to support the infantry attacks. 
"They came up," said one of them, speaking of the MalIlctz 
".. ood attack, "like charioteers in a lloman circus, at full 
gallop. Many of their horses ,yere killed, but the nlen were 
reckless of danger, and placed their batteries in the open as 
though at manæuvres." 


5 


The field observing officers are audacious almost to the point 
of foolhardiness. Before the ground of attack has been cleared 
of Germans they ,valk calmly up \vith a telephonist, sit do\vn 
on a crest or a knoll commanding a field of observation, and 

cnd back messages to a battery a mile or so behind. 
Vfhen the territory round Contalmaison was still s,varll1ing 
\vith Germans, one of our officers went for\vard in this ,va y 
and lllade himself at home on the top of a G
rman dug-out, 
recording flashes and getting excellent information. He ,vent 
back to his battel'y for an hour or two, and ,vhen he l'cturned 
to his chosen spot found it occupied by Germans. They 
,,,anted to round him up, but he fired a few revolver shots and 
retired with dignity-to choose another place not quite 
o 
cro\vded with the enemy. Such tales seenl fantastic and 
inlpossible. But they are true. 



158 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


There is no doubt that Hlany Gern1an batteries have been 
destroyed, apart from those \vhich ha ve been captured. I 
sa\v to-day a map, which told, by little colourcd dots, a great 
drama of war. Each dot represented a German battery 
discovered by our gnnners since the beginning of the battle, 
and each colour the day it was discovered, and they "rere 
arranged on the map so that one could see the exact distribution 
of the enemy's guns as it has changed during the course of 
the battle. 
Soon after onr bombardment began they began to drift 
do\vn new batteries and there were clusters of little coloured 
dots at certain spots. But a day or t\VO later they were "wiped 
out, or \vithdra\vn farther back. There was one thick cluster 
of green dots to the north of Bazentin-Ie-Grand. It represented 
111a.ny batteries. A day later they had gone. 
" \Vhat happened ? " I asked. 
The gunner officer laughed. 
" \Ve just smothered 'em." 
They \vere "smothered" by storms of shells \vhich burst 
all over these battery positions, over every yard of ground 
there, so that no gun emplacement could escape. 
But other dots are appearing on the map-other little clusters 
of colour, farther away to the right. The enemy is massing 
ne\v batteries, and it is from these positions that Delville 'Vood, 
High Wood, and other parts of our line are being shelled night 
and day ,vith fierce and increasing violence. 
Those batteries are not so easy to reach. To keep their 
fire down, and still more to knock them out, ,ve must have a 
continual increasing flo\v of guns and ammunition-ammunition 
in vast and unimaginable quantities, for the figures I have 
heard to-day of the ammunition ,ve have used during the past 
three "reeks are beyond one's range of imagination. The 
munition ,vorkers at home must not relax their efforts if we 
arc to continue our successes. It is by their labour that the 
lives of our men can be saved. All the time it is a battle of 
guns. 



L
 


THE FIGHTING ROUND W ATERLOT FARM 


1 


JULY 30 
THERE was some infantry fighting to-day in co-operation 
with the French on our right wing, and as far as our own troops 
were concerned some progress was made to the east of \Vaterlot 
Farm, ,vhich is on the I'oad going down from Longueval to 
Guillemont. It was a very hot day, with a scorching sun, 
but artillery observation ,vas not easy during certain hours 
owing to a rather thick haze. In spite of this our guns main- 
tained a heavy bombardment upon the enemy's line in support 
of our troops, who advanced over difficult ground. 
l\Iany prisoners surrendered at an early stage of this progress, 
onc batch of 170 men being captured first and other groups 
being rounded up later, bringing the total number to something 
more than 200. 
It was rather more than a week ago that some of our men 
pushed our line down from Longueval to \Vaterlot Farm, on 
the road to Guillemont, which they held against repeateq 
attacks. 
The Germans are very busy digging new trenches to the east 
of the road, and through thu;e they are able to send up bombing 
parties and machine-gunners to protect the northern and 
\vestern approaches to the ruins of Guillemont itself. 


2 
The first forward movement from \rVaterlot Farm was made 
by some Scots who had already been fighting hard since July 
14, ,vhen they helped to break the second German line. These 
Scots, \vhom I have met in many fields of war during the past 



160 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\l
lE 


year or nIore, had done ,veIl else,vhere, and cha
ed the enenlY 
out of his lines. They ,vere grim men, and ready for a ne,v 
" crack at the ould Boche " ,vhen they took over from another 
regiment at \Vaterlot }"arnl, south of Delville "Yood. It ,vas 
not a farm such as Caldccott ,vould have dra\vn for his coloured 
picture-book. There ,vere no cows or sheep in the neighbour- 
hood. It was a collection of ruined buildings and yards ,vhich 
the enemy seems to have used as a dumping-ground for old 
iron and machinery. There ,vere several derelict engines here, 
and a steel cupola for a heavy gun emplacement, like those 
at Liége ill the early days of the 'war, and a litter of ,vheels 
and rods and wire, nlostly smashed by our shell-fire. ,..-I\s a 
farm it left mu
h to be desired, but the Scots settled dO";1l here 
and made themselves as cOlnfortable as possible in the circum- 

tances. 
In the darkness of that night and the next patrols ,vent out 
to discover the strength of the enemy. Our young officers and 
their nIen, crawling for,vard over the broken ground, satisfied 
thcmselycs that "the Roche" ,vas there in strength. They 
only had to listen to the patter of bullets ,vhich ,vhipped the 
grass to kno,v that he had plenty of machine-guns unpleasantly 
near. 
Those who had not nlet any of those bullets came back 
,vith their reports, and the artillery bombarded the enenlY's 
trenches to make the ,york of the infantry easier. ...t\n advance 
,,-as made fronl the farnl before da,vn, led by bOlllbing parties 
of the Scots. 
It ,vas a quiet and silent ,valko The enelny's nlachine-guns 
,\rere chattering a little, but there was no great fire, and the 
Scots reachcd a trcnch north of the raihvay line ,vith only 
three Inen and one officer ,vounded. "That's nothing," said 
the officer, and he carried on. 
It ,vas impossible to go farther at that tinle. The enemy 
,yere holding, very strongly, a trench immediately across the 
raihvay line, and they had dug a nest of new trcnches on the 
cast of the road, fronl ,yhich they could enfilade our men ,vith 
rifle and Inachine-gun fire. 
'1:'he Scots got ,veIl do"rn into a trench ,vhich ,vas lnostly a 
series of shell-craters, and looked to their rifles and bombs. 
There was not nInch doubt as to 'what was coming. It came 



FIGHTING ROUND WATERLOT FARM 161 


do\vn the main road from Guillemont-a large force of German 
soldiers \vith machine-guns. 
...t\t the same time, from the trench parallel \vith ours, the 
Germans sprang on to their parapets and canle over. The 
Scots \vere hardly strong enough to resist these attacks 
supported by enfilade fire. They \vere ordered to fall back, 
and the retirement \vas carried out \vithout disorder-to say 
" \vithout panic" \vollld be ridiculous to these men \vho have 
fought a score of battles since they came to France-and it was 
covered by the machine-gunners, \vho remained as a rear-guard, 
s\veeping do\vn the advanced parties of the enemy, so as to 
gain time for our men to get back. 


3 
A second move from 'Vaterlot Farm was made by the 
same Scots, supported by other troops. The enemy suffered 
badly. 
A very strong force of German bombers made a brave counter- 
attack on the Scots, but were caught by rifle and machine-gun 
fire, and fell almost to a man. 
" Practically ,viped out" was the \vay in which an officer of 
the Scots described it. During the afternoon a patrol of our 
snipers went out on a hunting expedition and sighted a party 
of Germans carrying down ammunition-boxes. Not all of 
them reached their journey's end, for the Scottish snipers are 
good shots. 
Some of the German soldiers \vere sick of the business, and 
had had too much shell-fire. "Vhen dusk \vas creeping over 
the countryside a group 'of them came out of a ruined farm- 
it had really been a farm in the old days of peace-standing 
on the left of the main road to Guillemont. 
They came holding up their hands as a sign of surrender, 
and some of the Scots went out to bring them in. But the 
enemy in the trenches beyond opened fire on their o\vn country- 
men, and some of our own were killed and wounded. 
\Vhen, later on, another party carrle out, they \vere not 
received in a friendly spirit. . . . That night the Scottish 
stretcher-bearers "vent out to bring in their wounded, and they 
L 



162 THE BATTLES OF THE SOJ\flVIE 


found among them one man of theirs ,vho had been discovered 
by a German patrol, but left behind because he gave them his 
,vater to drink. They thanked him, a.nd said, "Good luck, 
and a safe return to your own lines ! " but ,vhen they went 
away he thought he had been left to die. 



XXI 


THE PETER PANS OF WAR 


1 


JULY 31 
FOR t,vo days now the sun has been blazing hot, and our fighting 
men have been baked brown. It is not good fighting ,veather 
either for guns or men. A. queer haze is about the fields, as 
thick at times as a Novembcr mist and yet thrilling with heat, 
so that artillery observation is not good for anything like 
r long-range shooting. 
lVlametz Wood, ,vhich is no,v ,veIl behind the lines, looms up 
vaguely, and, beyond, Dclville 'Vood is hardly visible except 
as a lo,v-Iying smudge on the sky-line. Yet the sun is not 
shaded by the haze, and strikes do,vn glaringly upon the 
white roads and the trampled fields, upon transport crawling 
for,vard in clouds of dust that rise like the smoke of fires about 
thenl, and upon soldiers trudging along ,vith their rifles slung 
and their packs slipping, thcir iron helmets thrust for,vard 
over the eyes and their faces po,vdered ,vhite as millers'. 
It is hot and thirsty work and painful to the spirit and flesh 
of men, even along roads that are not pebbled with shrapnel 
bullets. ::\icn on the march to-day were glad of frequent 
halts, and flung thenlselves do,vn on the ,vaysides panting 
and sweating, moistening their dusty lips ,vith parched tongues 
and fumbling for their ,vater-bottles. They ,vere lucky to 
have water, and knew their luck. It was ,vorse for the men 
who were fighting yesterday in the same heat ,vave up by 
'\Vaterlot. Farm and farther south by Maltzhorn Farm, not far 
from Guillemont. 
Some of them drank their ,vater too soon, and there ,vas not 
a dog's chance of getting any more until nightfall. Thirst, 
as sharp as red-hot needles through the tongue, tortured some of 



164 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\'lME 


these TI1Cn of onrs. And yet they ,vere lucky, too, and kne,v 
their luck. There ,vere other men suffering ,vorse than they, 
the ,vounded lying in p]aces beyond the quick reach of stretcher- 
bearers. "It ,vas fair a-wfu' to hear them crying," said onc 
of their comrades. "It ,vas "Vater! ,vater! For Christ's 
sakc-,vater! ' till their voices died away." 
As usual the stretcher-bearers ,vere magnificent and can1C 
out under heavy fire to get these men in until some of thcn1 
fell ,vonnded themselves. And othcr men era ,yled do,vn to 
,vhere their comrades lay, and in spite of their o,vn thirst 
gave the last dregs of their ,vater to these stricken men. There 
,vere many Sir Philip Sidneys there, not knighted by any 
accolade except that of charity, and very rough fello,vs in thcir 
,va y of speech, but pitiful. 
There ,vas one of them "yho lay ,vounded ,vith some ,vater 
still in the bottle by his side. N ext to him ,vas a ,vounded 
Gern1an, groaning feebly and saying, "'Vasser! 'Vasser!" 
The Yorkshire lad kne,v enough to understand that ,vord of 
German. He stretched out his flask and said, "Hi, matey, 
tak' a swig 0' that." They were t,vo men ,vho had tried to 
kill each other. 


2 


On one part of the battlefields recently ,vere sorrle of the 
Bantam battalions, those little game-cocks for ,vhom most of 
us out here have a ,varm corner in our hearts, because they are 
the smallest fighting men in the British Army, and the sturdiest, 
pluckiest little men one can rrleet on a long day's march. They 
ha ve been under fire in several parts of the line, ,vhere it is not 
good for any men to be except for duty's sake. 
It has generally been their fate to act in support of other 
troops-troops ,vhom it is an honour to support when they go 
into action, because their regiments have ,yon fame on all the 
battlefields of Europe since the Napoleonic 'val's. 
But it is always a dangerous honour to be in support. The 
attacking troops have often an easier tirrle than those ,vho lie 
behind them ,vith scanty cover. It is here that the enemy's 
barrage is likely to fall, and there is not much fun in lying 
under shell-fire hour after hour, perhaps for t,vo days, ,vithout 
seeing the enemy or getting at him. The ground becomes 



THE PETER PANS OF WAR 


165 


stre\vn with dead and \vounded. It is then that to " hold on " 
means the highest heroism. 
The Bantams held on in hours like this, held on gamely 
and with \vondcrful grit. They became great diggers, and 
because they are not very high, a shallo,v trench was good 
enough for cover, and they burro\ved like ants. " They would 
as soon forget their rifles as their shoyels," said -one of their 
officers to-day. " There is no need to tell theln to dig. They 
get to work mighty quick, being old soldiers no\v who have 
learnt by experience." 
They are old soldiers in cunning and knowledge, but there 
are young lads among them. Old or young (and there are nlany 
middle-aged Bantams ,vho stand no higher than five feet in 
their socks) they are all the Peter Pans of the British Army- 
the Boys-who-wouldn't-gro\v-up, and, like the heroic Peter 
Pan himself, \vho \vas surely the first of the Bantams, they are 
eager for single combat \vith the greatest enemy of England, 
Home, and Beauty who may come along. They had their 
chance yesterday, and brought back a nunlber of enormous 
Bavarians as prisoners fairly captured. 
A certain Bantanl, ex-boilermaker of Leeds (" the grandest 
city in the world," he says), and the King's Jester of his battalion, 
was enormously amused by the incident. fIe said that each 
Bantam looked no higher than the match-stick to the candle 
,vith each Ravariail. To all these little men the German 
soldiers looked like giants, but like so many lIop-o' -my- Thumbs 
they took charge of these Bavarian Blunderbores and brought 
them back in triumph. They went searching for them in the 
ruins of Longueval sonle days ago, and found some of them 
sniping from the trees. They brought thenl do\vn with a 
crash, and collected souvenirs. 
This village \vas a dreadful place \vhen sonIe of the Bantams 
went into it. Only a few ruins remained, and about these 
many soldiers of nlany different reginlents \vent pro\vling in 
search of Germans \vho were still concealed in dug-outs and 
sheU-craters, and ,vho still defended the outskirts of the village 
,vith machine-guns, ,vhich s,vept the streets. 
There ,vere IIighlanders there, so "fey" after their fierce 
fighting that they ,vent about with their bayonets, prodding 
ÏInaginary Germans, and searching empty dug-outs as though 
the enemy were cro\vded there. The ground \vas strewn with 



166 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIME 


dead, and from ruined trenches and piles of broken bricks there 
came the a ,vfu1 cries of ,vounded men. 


3 


There were n1any ,vounded-Germans as"" ,veIl as British- 
and one n1an tended them ,vith an heroic self-sacrifice ,vhich is 
described ,,'ith reverence and enthusiasm by many officers 
and men. It "'as a chaplain attached to the South Africans 
\"ho fought so desperately and so splendidly in " Devil's \V ood." 
This '
padre" came up to a dressing-station established in 
the one bit of ruin ,vhich could be used for shelter and applied 
himself to the wounded ,vith a spiritual devotion that was 
utterly fearless. 
In order to get ,vater for them, and the means of lnaking 
tea, he ,vent many times to a well 'which ,vas a danger spot 
marked do,vn by German snipers, who shot our men, agonizing 
'with thirst, as though they ,vere tigers going do,yn to drink. 
They are justified according to the laws of ,val', but it ,vas a 
cruel business. There ,vas one German officer there, in a shell- 
hole, not far from the ,veIl, ,vho sat ,vith his revolyer handy 
to pick off any men ,vho ventured to the well, and he was a 
dead shot. 
But he did not shoot the padre. Something in the fine 
figure of that chaplain, his disregard of all the bullets snapping 
about hiIn, the tireless, fearless ,yay in ,vhich he crossed a street 
of death in order to help the wounded, held back the trigger- 
finger of the German officer, and he let him pass. He passed 
many times, untouched by bullets or machine-gun fire, and he 
'went into its ,vorst places, \vhich were pits of horror, carrying' 
hot tea, ,vhich he had made from the "Tcll- ,vater for 111en in 
agony because of their ,,"ounds and thirst. 
They ,,"ere officers of the Bantams ,,,ho told me the story, 
though the padre 'was not theirs, and their generous praise 
'vas fine to hear. It ,vas good also to hear the talk of these 
DIen lvho had just come out of battlC' ,vith the grime and dirt 
of 'val' upon theIn, about the men they love to' command. 
These young officers are keen, bright-eyed fcHows, and in 
spite of all they had been through-things not yet to be described 
-they bore but little trace of their endurance. I sat ,vith 
them under a tent propped up by stretcher-poles, ,vith one 



THE PETER PANS OF WAR 


167 


flap tied to an old cart, ,vhile the men who had just rrlarched 
do,vn ,vere lying in groups on the field, nlostly ,vithout shirts 
and socks, because of the heat and the long tirrle since they 
had changed their clothes. 
After,vards I ,vent anlong the men-all these Peter Pans- 
who can1e froln all parts of Scotland and the' North of England, 
so that their speech is not easy to a man from the South. They 
were talking of Gerrrlan snipers and German shells, of all that 
they had suffered and done, and the boiler-maker, their comic 
turn, was egged on to say outrageous things ,vhich caused 
roars of laughter from the Bantanl cro,vd. The language of 
the boiler-mak{'r on the subject of Germans and the pleasures 
of ,val' ,vould be quite unprintable, but the gist of it ,vas full 
of virtue and suited the philosophy of these five-foot Cæurs- 
de-Lion ,yho were grinning round hÏ1n. 
It is the philosophy of our modern knights, ,vho take more 
risks in one day than their forbears in a lifetime, and find a 
grin1 and sinister humour in the ,vorst things of war. 



XXII 
THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIERES 


1 


AUGUST 5 
LAST evening
 just as dusk ,vas creeping over the battlefields, 
the Australians, ,vith English troops on their left, sprang over 
the parapets of their lines at Pozières, advanced up five hundred 
yards of rising ground, stormed through the trenches of the 
second German line, and captured the crest of the ridge ,vhich 
looks do,vn to Courcelette and 
Iartinpuich
 
It ,yas a great and tragic surprise to the encmy. They may 
ha ve believed, I think they did believe, that after the series of 
battles in the July fighting, the spirit of the British offensive 
,vas broken, and that our troops ,vere too tired to nlake fresh 
assaults. The German Generals tried to put comfort into the 
hearts of their men by telling them that the British guns and 
the British soldiers had done their ,,"orst, and that the attack 
,yas at an end. The lull deceived thenl. 
Because t,vo or three days had passed ,vithout any infantry 
action after thirty days of unceasing battle there may well 
have seemed to the enemy a reasonable hope that ,ve should 
content ourselves ,vith digging in and holding the ground 
gained. One thing, ho,vever, must have disheartened the 
German troops and prevented any kind of neryous recuperation 
after the appalling strain of the month's shdl-fire. The British 
guns. ,vhich should have been ,vorn out, and the British gunners 
supposed to be exhausted, ,vent on firing. 
They ,vent on all yesterday, as on the day before and more 
than a month of yesterdays, with their long, steady bombard- 
ment, that bombardment ,vhich is no'v rumbling ,vith it.s sullen 
shocks of sound as I ,vrite, and as it goes on night and day. 
Long- range guns ,vere reaching out to places far ahead of the 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIBRES 169 


German lines. Courcelette was a ruin. l\lartinpuich was falling 
to pieces. There is no safety for Germans any,vhere and up in 
the lines no safety except in the deepest dug-outs for officers 
and lucky men. 


2 


As many men as could get into dug-outs to the north of 
Pozières ,vere do,vn there yesterday, listening to the crashes 
of our heavy shells, ,vhich ,vere smashing the trenches 
about them and screaming overhead on more distant 
Journeys. 
The Australians and Eng1ish troops, including men of I{ent, 
Sussex, and Surrey regiments, 'were ,vaiting in their o,vn 
trenches. 
A crescent moon came up. The ,voods darkened. Shado,vs 
crept do,vn from Thiépval. Distant cornfields in the ,vorld 
beyond the ,val', so near as miles are counted, so far a,vay in 
peace, became bronzed and red, and then all dark and vague in 
the evening mist. Above, the sky ,vas still blue, ,vith stars 
very bright and glistening. 
It was, I think, about 9 o'clock-as the clock goes now in France 
and England-,vhen the British troops left their trenches. 
They ,vent quietly ,vithout any great clamour across that 500 
yards of ground, dusky figures, the bro\vn of their khaki no 
different from the colour of the earth around them, through 
the gloom of coming night. The Australians ,vorked up to the 
right, the English to the left. Before them was the German 
second line on a front of about 3000 yards, and part of that 
long line \vhich was pierced and taken on July 14, bet,veen 
Bazentin-Ie-Petit and Longueval, ,vhcn the British troops 
,vent up in ,vaves and astounded the ,vorld by their achicve- 
n1ent. It ,vas no longer a line of trenches. 
It was a ,vavy line of hummocky and tumbled earth along 
irtnumerable shell-craters such as I described at Montauban. 
Only the dug-outs, or some of them, still remained in all this 
chaos, filled ,vith living and ,vounded and dead. 
Out of the ,vreck of earth, as our men advanced, living men 
came out in gronps. They came for,vard through the dusky 
night ,vith thcir hands hcld up-pitiable shadows. l\Iost of 
them were uttc!ly nerve-broken-bcaten and broken men ,vith 



170 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\fLVIE 


no fight left in them, but only an animal fear and desire of 
life. 
Their surrender ,vas received, and the English and Australians 
put guards about them and sent them back to our lines 
,yhil<=, they ,vent on to clear the dug-outs of men ,vho refused 
to come out, or \vOlIld not come out, and to deal ,vith 
those ,vho farther back had still the courage to defend then1- 
sel \
es. 
There was &Onle bayonet fighting and bombing. Fronl 
behind the German lines in isolated redoubts machine-guns 
,vere at ,york spraying out bullets. But our casualties ,vere 
very fe,,"; all told, less, I imagine, than in any action of import- 
ance during the battles of the Somme. The enemy's losses 
,vere heavy. l\fore than 400 prisoners have passed the toll- 
bar, and others are being brought do.wn. In dead he lost 
more than that, and his wounded must nnmber high figures. 
It was a blow ,vhich must be grievous b) him after all the 
hanlmer-strokes of the month, and what is most significant is 
the troubled state of his soldiers, these dazed and nerve- 
shattered Inen ,,,ho surrendered. They had no pride left in 
them. 
These men ,ver(' mostly of the] 7th and 18th Reserve Divisions 
of the 9th lleservc Corps, ,vith miscellaneous drafts from 
various "Ersatz" or reserve battalions, the scourings of the 
last class ,vhom Germany can, I suppose, put into the field. 
By that I do not mean they are physically weak or undersized 
-there are very few German soldiers ,vho could be described 
like that-but they are not soldiers of the proud and highly 
trained kind ,vho fought in earlier days of the ,val'. They are 
men ,yith families and ,vith a great yearning for peace, and no 
love of this massacre ,vhich is ordained by their ,val' lords. 
During the night the troops behind them ,vere rallied to 
lnake three separate counter-attacks. They came on very 
bra vely-thcrc is nothing the lnatter ,,,ith GenTIan courage ns 
a rule-but in a spirit of self-sacrifice and stupidly. They 
,valked into our barrage, and our shells caught them and 
&hattercd thenl. 
To-day np to the tinle I ,vrite there has been no further 
attack by infantry, but the enemy's guns have opened and 
maintained a very fierce fire upon the po&itiou::, gained by our 
i.roops. 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIÈRES 1'71 


The ne,v part of the German second line now in our hands 
makes up 
Tith the other part of his line captured on .July 14 a 
distance of nearly 10,000 yards. 


3 


AUGUST 7 
All last night, ,vhich was still and calm, as the 'weather 
goes, there ,vas a great hanlmering of guns, and this morning, 
,vhen I ,vent out in the direction of Thiépval, the artillery 
on both sides "Tas hard at ,york. The enenlY "Tas dropping 
" heavy stuff" in the neighbourhood of Pozières, \vith occasional 
shots at long range into fields about quiet villages behind 
the lines \vhieh look utterly peaceful in the \Varnl light of this 
August sun gleanling upon their church spires and upon the 
thick foliage of the trees around them. 
It 'was in the midst of a tumult of guns and below the long 
resonant journeying of great shells on their ,yay to the enemy's 
territory that I sat to-day \vith some of the officers \vho have 
just chased the Germans out of their trenches. to the north of 
Pozières. 
They were all men of I{ent around me. The captain is a 
merry soul, ,vho laughs most heartily over his hairbreadth 
escapes and still more loudly when he describes little exploits 
,vhich ,vould make most men shudder at the nlere remem- 
brance. 
The colonel of his battalion, \vho sat opposite
 is of a different 
type, quiet and thoughtful, but ,vith a sense of humour also 
that lights his eyes. And t\VO places off wa" the l\i.O.-a 
doctor ,vho loves his men and would not leave this battalion of 
the I{cnts for any other in the army (he has patched up all their 
bodies after every scrap and did heroic work for thenl the other 
night ). 
Before the fighting began the colonel took the jovial captain 
up to the line "to yie\v th(' Pron1Ïsed Land," as he called it. 
And the Promised Land looked very uninviting on this high 
ridge--aboye the blackened ruins of Pozières-where the Gerlllan 
second lines \,"ere guarded by a tangle of barbed \vire. It ,yas 
also ditficult to look at it very long or very closely, because 
the enemy ,vas" lathering" the field of observation \vith every 
kind of " crunlp " and shell. 



172 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIME 


"When ,ve popped over the parapet," says the captain, 
" ,ve advanced into the rniddle of the Brock's Benefit, and it 
,vas obvious that the blinking Boche had got the ,vind up." 
That is to say the enemy ,vas sending up distress signals to 
his guns, and in the anticipation of an attack was flinging 
coloured lights over to our lines so as to illuminate any British 
infantry who n1ight be advancing. These lights ,vere fired 
out of a special kind of pistol, and \vhen they fell flared up \vith 
vivid red and green fires. At the same time the enemy's 
machine-guns played upon any figures so revcaled, so that it 
,vas almost certain death to be in those flare-lights. At great 
risk several men sprang for\vard into the illumination and 
kicked out the burning canisters. Then in the nlomentary 
darkness the leading companies advanced in 'waves to,vards 
the German ,trenches south of l\louquet (or, as the soldiers call 
it, Moo-Cow) Farn1. 


4 
The colonel of the battalion went very gallantly ,vith his 
111en, and as he dre\v near to the enemy's line saw t,yO figures 
silhouetted, like his o,vn men had been, against the enemy's 
lights. lIe called out to them, thinking they might be his 
own men \vorking for\yard on his right. But he sa,v they \vere 
Germans \vhen one man threw up his hands as a sign of surrender, 
and the other dropped on to one knee to fire a rifle shot. The 
colonel sprang forward, covering them with his revolver
, 
and took both of them prisoner. 
\Vithout many casualties in spite of machine-gun firc, our 
men reached the German trenches. Great heroism ,vas sho\vn 
by a young lieutenant and a party of bon1bers, who \vent first 
over No Man's Land so quickly behind our barrage that they 
risked death by our o\vn shells and came against the first 
defence. 'fhe officer and several of this first \va ve ,vere found 
lying \vounded 400 yards farther than the "jump-out" 
position, and it ,vas their quick advance ,vhich scarcd the cncn1Y 
and helped to demoralize him. 


5 


One of the prisoners taken later was a for\vard observing 
officer, a Prussian giant \vell over six feet high and enormously 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZI:ßRES 173 


stout, and he ,vas put in charge of a little J{entish man stand- 
ing five-feet-one in his socks. The German giant was very 
frightened at the machine-gun fire of his o,vn people, ,vhich was 
,vhipping over the ground, and he ,vent back crouching in a 
bear-like ,yay, prodded from behind by the .wee man in khaki.. 
This sight, illuminated by the flares, ,vas seen by the men 
left behind in our o,vn trenches, and they stood up on their 
parapets laughing and cheering ,vildly. 
But there were other trenches ahead, and the men" hared " 
off to these, and found theln held by scared men. The }{entish 
nlen started bombing do.wn the trench " like nlad," and blocked 
it at each end in case of accidents, ,vhile a young officer posted 
a n1achine-gun on the left of it. 
The position, ho,vever, became quite obviously an untenable 
one, .when thç Germans rallied and attacked in bombing parties 
from the farm. l\fany of them 'vere cut do\vn by the young 
officer ,vith his Le,vis gun and by the Kentish grenadiers, but 
they brought up machine-guns and made the position" very 
hot." A lance-corporal behaved very gallantly in going back 
700 yards under heavy fire to report the situation, and volun- 
teered to return with the message that the patrol could not be 
supported and must fall back in small groups. This he did, 
and returned again in safety ,vith the other party, ,vho brought 
,,-ith them three more prisoners "as samples" (to use their 
o,vn phrase), including the huge officer ,,,hom I have described 
previously. 
They have funny fello.ws among them-this British battalion 
-and the amount of comedy they extract from all this grinl 
business is astounding. There is one of their number who 'vas 
once a men1ber of }-'red Karno's troupe, and has not lost his 
old instincts for a knockabout turn. 'Vhen he took a prisoner 
he caught him by the hand and danced a "pas de quatre " 
,vith him. 
" Offizicr ? " asked the astounded man. 
"Oui, oui," :said the comic turn, "and you-pnsonnler- 
savez ? " 
So much for the men of J{ent, though I should like to tell 
more if I had the time to-night about their medical officer, ,vho 
tended all the wounded men of t,vo companies and thirty 
,vounded Germans in a subterranean dressing-station (there 
,vas no comedy there), and more about their very fine and 



174 THE BATTLES OF THE SOJ.\tIME 


fearless colonel, and about the cheerful captain, ,vhosc adven- 
b Ires since the war began would fill a book as strange as the 
" Memoirs" of 
Iarbot. 
To-day other men ,vere fighting in the same place, and I 
must tell at some later time the fine ,york of the Surrey and 
Sussex men. 


6 


AUGUST 11 
The enemy has made several attempts to regain the high 
ground taken from him to the north of Pozières, and yesterday 
evening, bet\veen the hours of fiye and sevcn o'clock, he sent 
out a strong body of infantry to attack our trenches. It 
,vas a curious, vain, and tragic endea vour, like several other 
counter-attacks launched at the command of the German 
Staff by men recently brought up as support troops, kno,ving 
quite obviously nothing of the country in \vhich they are 
called upon to fight, and just blundering out ,vith a kind 
of desperate courage to\vards our lines. It ,vas exactly thus 
last evening. . 
From the prisoners ,ve took it is certain kno,vledgc that 
these troops had no familiarity ,vith this ground bet,veen 
Mouquet Farm and the 'Vindlnill, and \vhen they ,vere ordered 
to attack regarded themselves as sheep scnt to the slaughter. 
They knew only that the Australians were in front of then1, 
and from ,vhat they have heard of the A.ustralians they did 
not have mneh hope. 
"\Vhat hope they had 'vas in the guns behind them, and 
certainly, in spite of all the German gnns we have knocked out 
by counter-battery work, and all those having had to shift 
their ground frOln day to day o\\Ting to our ceaseless scarchings 
for their emplacements ,vith the aid of our aerial scouts, the 
bOlnbardment that preceded the Gern1an assault \vas intense 
and forlnidable. 
The ...t\ustralians "stuck it," guessing 'vhat ,vas to folio 'v. 
In the trenches they have dug, and the shell-craters, and the 
old German trenches \vhich are no\V ahnost shapeless under 
our own and the enen1Y's fire, they held on, and kept their 
bombs ready, and their machine-guns handy, and watchful 
eyes, wherever a man could see, upon a ro,v of broken tree- 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIÈRES 


. 
175 


stumps appearing over the crest of the Pozières Ridge beyond 
the Windmill. 
Then belo-w the crest on the other side of the ridge-the 
German side-is Mouquet Farm, called " Ivloo-co\V" Farm by 
men \vho will still jest, 'whatever the conditions of life. A. 
small valley or gully runs behind the farnî to\vards the quarries, 
and it \vas from this that the Gernlan soldiers came strcaming 
out in open order \vhen their guns lengthened range so that 
they could get for,vard without \valking into their own 
barrage. 
As it happened, they \valked into our barrage. Our guns 
were \yaiting for them. At the end of a telephone \vire ,vas a 
gunner-general \vho does not keep people \vaiting very long 
when they are in need of his "hea vies," and many gunner 
officers ,vere standing by their batteries ready to give the 
,vord "Fire!" \vith their guns and ho\vitzers registered on 
the line across which the enemy's troops ,vould COlne as soon 
as they ,vere ordered to attack. 
In our lines the trench-mortar batteries ,vere making ready 
to hurl their high explosives, and the Le\\1.s gunners wcre 
eager to get to ,york instead of standjng under German 
shell-fire. 
The enemy's infantry came straggling for\vard in extended 
order, and in irregular ,vaves. There were t,vo battalions of 
then1 in the open-out in that 750 yards of No l\ian's Land 
upon ,vhich the evening sun ,vas shining ,vith a golden haze- 
when our shells burst over them and the trench-mortars made 
a target of them, and our machine-guns whipped into their 
ranks ,,,ith a scourge of bullets. 
The men fell face for,vard in large numbers. Others canle on 
and fell farther from their O"
l lines. l\Icn ran quickly, as 
though to escape from all the bursting shells, into the Australian 
lines, flung up their arms, and lay still. 
They were very brave. Quite a lltunber of these German 
soldiers travelled a quarter of a Il1ile over this open ground in 
spite of the terrific fire concentrated upon it before some bit 
of shell caught them and killed them, or left them lying there in 
agony. 
No German soldier came through alive. Only a fe\v men 
out of the two battalions escaped. l\'Ien werc standing on the 
parapets of the German line, calling to thcIn, calling them 



176 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


back, trying to save something out of this senseless slaughter 
that had been ordered. 
The counter-àttack ,vas an uttcr failure, and one is lcft 
,vondcring ,vhy the enen1Y attempt such attacks, predestined 
to cnd in disaster. It is an expensive form of reconnaissance 
to test our strength. 
The Gern1an soldiers ,volIld have a right to call it murder. 
It seenlS to sho,v that the enemy's Staff is disorganized, perhaps 
a little demoralized, by the continual bombardment . ,vhich 
cuts their signal lines and prevents the sending up of supports 
and supplies. 
The Australians are still fighting in a 'yay \vhich ,vins the 
admiration of their Generals and Staff and of all the army. 
These clean-cut men, so fine in physique and appearance that 
one ahvays turns to look at them in any street of war, are not 
stolid fello,vs 'who can stand the test of shell-fire without suffer- 
ing in spirit. 
They are highly strung and sensitive, ,vith a more nervous 
tempcran1ent than many of our English soldiers, but they have 
a pride and an heroic quality that keeps them steady, and an 
intelligence in the individual as ,veIl as in mass \vhich makes 
them great soldiers. 


7 


AUGUST 13 
There have been no sensational advances since the great 
day of July 14, ,vhen our men broke through the second German 
line, but hardly a day passed since then ,vithout somc progre
s 
being made to get a stronger grip on the high ridge which 
rolls do,vn on the enemy's side from Pozières and the t,vo 
Bazentins and lIigh \V ood. This fighting has been very hard 
and grim, and thc enemy has done his utmost to check every 
yard of our men's advance by continual curtain-fire, so that 
to take a trench or t,vo, or to rush over a few dozen yards of 
No l\lan's Land, has been a perilous adventure. 
It is most excellent, therefore, that last night our men ,vere 
able to make a further " shove," as they call it, of nearly 400 
yards in depth on a front of about a mile. This was to the 
north-,vest of Pozières, and at the same time ground ,vas 
gained on the north-\vest of 13azentin-Ie-Petit closer to the 
German s,vitch-line bet,veen us and l\Iartinpuich. 



THE HIGH GROUND A.T POZIÈRES 177 


The men 'vho have been fighting this uphill battle, for that 
is ,vhat it is literally and morally, have been sho-wing re!narkablc 
qualities. It is an alliance between the Australians and old 
English regiments ,vith ne,v men in them, including some of 
the "Derby recruits." ...-'\lthough the .Australians have had 
the greater share of the fighting round Pozières, being in greater 
numbers, they are the first to pay a tribute to the spirit of the 
English lads, and their admiration is returned. An episode 
\vhich happeneà a week ago sho'vs the ,yay in ,vhich they are 
sharing the struggle. 
I have already written ho,v the men of l{ent went for,vard 
on August 4 and took the German line, under the comlnand 
of that fine colonel and jovial captain, ,vhose exploits ,viII 
be remembered. On the right of theln were the Sussex men 
-fair-haired fello\vs from Arundel and Burpham, and little 
old villages lying snug in the South Do,vns, and quiet old market 
to"rns like Chichester-Lord I-a ,vorId a,vay from places like 
Pozières. The line of their trenches ,vas in touch ,vith the 
Australians, and as they scrambled over the parapets at the 
tinle of the attacks these comrades on the right shouted ont 
to them, 
" Hallo, boys, "what's up? 'Vhere are you going? " 
"Oh, just up along," said the Sussex lads, pointing 
to a "hot shop," as they call it, where a lot of shells 'vere 
bursting. 
"Is that so ? You don't say? Gosh! 'Ve'll C0111C \vith 
you." 
It ,yasn't discipline. The 111en had no orders to go, as far 
as I can Inake out, but some of them certainly did go, in a 
friendly way, and joined in the" scrum " up there, where it 
was no joke. 


8 


The story of the Sussex men is very luuch like that of their 
cOlnrades from I(ent ,vhich I have told in detail-the bombing 
do,vn the trenches, the searching of the German dug-outs, 
the encounters ,vith Germans ,vho ,vere hiding in shell-craters. 
But some of the episodes have a special character, ,vorth 
telling. 
They sho,v the human nature of the business up there beyond 
Pozièrcs. 
\ftcr the first rush through the German line it 
l\I 



178 THE BATTLES OF TIlE SOl\Il\IE 


became a question of catching Germans in shell-holes, ,vhich 
are good places
r good enough-for snipers ,vho prcfer to 
go on killing before they die. A Sussex man who spoke some 
German took the risk of going out alone to one of these craters 
and shouted out to the n1cn below: 
" If you don't surrender at once we shall shoot you." 
Instantly several heads and several pairs of hands appeared. 
One man came out ,vith his hands full of gifts and, falling 
upon his knees, begged for mercy. I-Ie had cleared his pockets 
and his dug-out of little fancy articles like his ,vatch, knife, 
conlpass, cigarette-case, scissors, silver soap-box, and pipe- 
lighter, ,vhich he offered humbly as a ransom for his life. 
It appcared later that he was in mortal terror of having his 
throat cut, and he was profoundly grateful ,vhen he was taken 
back to a dug-out and given some ,vhisky and cigarettes. He 
then asked leave to tell his friends the glad tidings, and when 
this ,vas allo,ved he ,vent out ,vith his guards and called to 
the other men. Immediately a number of them came out of 
their hiding-places and formed a procession ,vith their hands 
up. 
It ,vas against the Sussex men that the Gcnnans used their 
"ftan1menwerfer," or flame-jets. It is a clumsy form of 
frightfulness, as I guessed ,vhen I first sa 'v one of these machines. 
It takes t,vo men to ,york it, one with the reservoir strapped to 
his back, the other pUlnping out the long spray of flame, ,vhich 
has a range of t,venty-fivc yards. There ,vere eight of these 
ftame- thro,vers brought against the Sussex lads, but before 
they had done any dan1age the sixteen men who ad vanced 
,vith them ,vere all shot down. It is not by " flan1men,verfer " 
that the German counter-attacks have any chance of success. 


9 
The advance last night \vhen the Australian troops took 
an important line of rising ground is a further proof that the 
enemy has not by any means consolidated his defensive positions 
so strongly that they make the same kind of barrier against us 
as those ,,,hich had to be forced in the first attacks. 
In spite of all his industry in digging he has not been able to 
make any system of trenches and dug-outs to ,vithstand our 
shell-fire. As soon as he gets on with a trench our guns register 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIÈRES 179 
upon it and lay it flat. His only protection is in artillery 
retaliation, and however great its destructi ve po,ver it cannot 
give cover to the German infantry crouching in shallo\v ditches, 
and having to come up through communication-trenches 
ploughed by high explosives. 
They belong to battalions hurriedly gathered froln other 
parts of the line and flung in to stop the gap. They are the 
victims of the general disorganization of the divisions and the 
staffs ,vhich have suffered most heavily from our repeated 
attacks. Behind them, no doubt, the German Headquarters 
Staff is as cool and deliberate as ever, not allowing itself to be 
scared by these reverses, organizing new lines of defence in 
case of need, shifting its guns, playing the old blood-and-iron 
game ,vith cold, scientific brains that are not affected by the 
losses or the agonies of men, except as they have an influence 
upon the operations. 
For they are highly trained scientists of war, these German 
Staff officers, and in defeat, as once in victory, they ,viII, I 
fancy, be as cold and as hard as steel, and as inhuman as the 
devil. Therefore it is idle, in Iny opinion, to hope for a sudden 
and sensational collapse of the German war-machine, or to 
argue from 10cRI \veaknesses and synlptoms of bad Staff ,vork 
a general disorder. 
Nevertheless, there are nlany signs that the enemy is begin- 
ning to feel a severe strain upon his defensive strength and 
that his, men are bcing put to an ordeal \vhich not even all 
their discipline and thcir courage can make endurable. 
For men of a certain kind of science are apt to forget that 
there are other things in human nature besides the chemistry 
of flesh and blood, and that not even the finest soldiers can 
be made to fight \vcll if their spirit is broken by repeated 
losses. 


10 


AUGUST 17 
It is at the t,vo ends of our recent line of attack-on the left 
above Pozières and on the right around Gnillclnont-that the 
interest of the prcsent fighting for the moment gathers, and in 
both these districts some progress has been nlade by our infantry 
during the past day or t\yo. The successful advance of the 
Frcnch,____ north\vards _from Hardecourt to\vards Angle Wood, 



180 TI-IE BATTLES OF THE SOl\ll\IE 


and thc->ir capture of the ravine to the south-,,
est of it, helps 
to strengthen our lines about GuilJemont, especially as some of 
our troops advancing from the trenches south of l\falz Horn 
Farm, and "est of Tlônes \Vood, linked hands \vith our _L\.llies 
yesterday. 
I have already described in a previous dispatch the great 
difficulty of \vorking over the ground about Guillemont and 
the hard tin1e some of our men have had in pushing forward 
to the outskirts of that to"'n. The enemy has concentrated 
a large nun1ber of hatteries in the country beyond, and near 
at hand is defending himself from many machine-gun emplacc- 
n1ents and a maze of ne\vly dug trenches. 
The operations yesterday in conjunction \vith the French are 
still in progress and the result at present is indecisive, but with 
both French and British troops closing upon then1 the situation 
of l,"'Í1e garrison in Guil1emont is not \vhat soldiers .would cali 
" healthy." 
Yesterday morning I \vas Inore interested personally in the 
left side of the hattle-line above Pozières, as fro1l1 an artillery 
observation post I ,vas able to get a very clear view of our 
O\Vn and the enemy's ground in this district-ground \vhich 
has been "'on and held by 

nglish and Australian regiments 
\vith a determination and courage \vhich I have described 
several tinles with some detail. 
There before me on the sky-line ,vas the ,vindmill \vhich 
should be as fan10us in the history of this "Tar as the :Ferryman's 
House on the Yscr Canal or the château at Vermelles, or the 

'To\ver Bridge" at Loos. Waves of men have surged up 
the slope to it under storms of shell-fire. To Australian\.) 
fighting for the high ridge on \vhieh it stands above l\lartinpuich 
it has been the goal of great endeavour, for .which Inany of then1 
have given their lives. The enen1Y defended it as if it were 
a great treasure-house, though onjy an old building of timber 
and stone against which the \vind of centuries has blo,vn, 
turning the great black sails which ground the corn of the folk 
in Pozières before ever a howitzer had been fired in the \vorld 
or a flying machine had come humming over the hill. The 
\vil1dn1ill is ours no\v. Our line s\vecps rOHlld it and our shcll- 
fire drops on the other side of the slope, barragillg the enemy's 
,va ys to and from 
lartin puich. 
But it is only the relic of a mill-house. The timbers haye 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIÊRES 181 


been blo'wn to atoms 'wecks ago. The sails fell in the first 
bombardment, and an that stands now is the stone base in 
the form of a slnall pyramid as a nlemorial of great bloodshcd. 


11 


The enemy yesterday ,vas dropping a heavy barra.ge all 
a.long our line, \"hich runs south of l\louquet Farm and s,vceps 
belo\v the village of ThiépvaJ and its \vood. 
On the other side of Thiépval ".ood the opposing lines run 
\?cry close together, and here there ,vas not much shell-fire, 
but on the Pozières side the shell-bursts and smoke-clouds 
,,'ere drifting up and do\vn in a steady, regular \vay. Our 
own guns were busy \"ith l\Iouquet Farm (called by our soldiers 
U l\loo-co,v" Farn1, or "l\lnckie" Farnl, according to their 
w'him), and, farther off, with Courcelette, ,vhose tall fa
tory 
chimney sticks up above the ridge, and no,v and again one of 
onr heavies sent a great shell crashing into Thiépval. 
There were no German soldiers to be seen in that village, 
and no sign of human life at all. It is a ghastly-looking place, 
with its stripped trees, like ,vithered lin1bs, and a ruined church 
a bove a ro,v of apple-trees, ,vhich stand a little separate from 
the village. 
Above is a cemetery ,vith hroken tombstones and shell- 
craters among its graves. Beyond, on a road running north- 
,yards, is a talI crucifix \yith the figure of Christ looking down 
upon all this death. 
In the trenches no man puts his head above the parapet. 
Several times one of our machine-guns spluttered out a burst of 
fire as a ,varning to the enemy to keep well do\vn. The only 
movement over this village and battI('field was made hy shells 
\vhich tore up the earth and sent drifting snloke-clouds across 
the ruins. 
The doom of Thiépval is creeping closer, for our nlcn are 
advancing slo'wly but surely around l\louq uet .Farm, so that it 
,viII be hemmed in. The garrison hiding in the dug-outs 
below those broken buildings at \vhich I gazed yesterday must 
be in a state of dreadful appr('hcnsion. I should not like to 
live in 'I'hiépval. 



182 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


12 


AUGUST 20 
It is quite inlpossible to understand the progress of our 
advance since J lily 1 \vithout being familiar 'with the ground 
over which this has been made and the local conditions of the 
fighting on our present front. 
In n1Y dispatches I have done nlY best to picture these things 
and to reveal the heroism of our n1en by describing, as realisti- 
cally as one Inay without being too brutal to one's readers, 
the appalling dil-ficulties they have to encounter. Even now 
many people wonder, I dare say, at the various panses in the 
victorious progress of our troops, and look forward, day by 
day, to more snlashing blows and greater strides oyer the 
enemy's gronnd. 
To me the wonder of this battle is that \ve should have got 
on so far and so fast. \Vhen one has seen the net,vork of 
Gernlan trenches, their great systems of underground galleries 
-proof against tht' heaviest of high explosives-their machine- 
gun redoubts, against which, if even only one gun is left, it is 
sometinlt-s difficult to advance, and the power of tht:ir artillery 
able to b
nrage a strip of ground ,vhich our men have to cross, 
it is astounding that our soldiers could have forced the enemy 
back from stronghuld after stronghold and gained their way to 
the high positions of the Pozières Ridge. 
Take tho
e men of ours who have won their 'way through a 
D1aze of trenches in this last bit of fighting between Pozières 
and ThiépYál. 
They had to force their way between machine-gun posts and 
scrarnble over ground 'which is like a billowy sea of earth \vith 
deep pits at the bottom of eaeh billow, into which many of 
them stt Inl bled and ft..lI. Not good going for an attack ! 
Then they had to storm their way down to the enemy's 
underground system of galleries, ,vhere large nUD} bers of strong 
and uuwolu,ded Gernlans were waiting with stores of bombs 
and every killd of weapon. 
It is true that Dlany of these men surrender readily at the 
.first rush of our troops, but if those dug-outs are not cleared 
out at Ollce, and if our men in their eagerness go on, it is 
quite likely, as it has often happened during the past six 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZlliRES 183 


weeks, that the enen1Y ,vill come up and attack them frolll 
the rear. 
FroIn one of these holes in the ground ,vhich seemed a simple 
little dug-out there came up, on Friday, as I have already said, 
six officers and over 150 men. I saw then1 all to-day, tall 
fello\vs with unstained uniforms and a \veIl-fed, fresh, and 
healthy look. 
One of the officers ,vas quite a giant. He ,vas \vearing a 
steel casque of the German pattern, which is very much like a 
mediæval heln1, and he was laughing and joking with his 
brother-officers as he marched at the head of his company. 
If these rrlen had come up behind English assaulting parties 
who had not made sure of the dug-outs first they could have put 
up a very strong fight, and with one machine-gun might have 
done great damage. 
In their underground galleries they had lived snugly and safe, 
sleeping on spring beds, reclining on upholstered chairs, in 
well-furnished rooms so much like tho
e in the upper world 
that they had even false windows draped with lace curtains. 
Our lnen have to fight below-ground as well as above-ground 
before they are in possession of an enemy position. 
Above-ground it is not good for a quick advance. Our guns 
have been bombarding so continuously that although the 
infantry depends utterly upon an effective artillery preparation, 
and not in vain, the effect of all this shell-fire impedes their 
progress when the tin1c comes to cross No l\1
an's Land. 
It is just a series of shell-craters likc a \vide stretch of those 
" trous-de-Iour" which used to be dug in the old days of 
,varfare behind the" glacis," and have been revived again in 
thi<; war, which has adopted every d<:>vice kno"Nn to fighting 
lnen from the time of Cain on \vards. 


13 


'Vhcn some of the A.ustralians " ,vent over " the other night 

his ,vas thpir great cause of trouble. They rushed forward 
eagerly, and before they had gone fifty yards most of thern had 
fallen into shell-holes deeper than their o,vn height. It was 
pitch-dark, except for the white light of the Gern1an flc1.l'es 
rising and falling, and ,vhcn they scrambled up the shelving 



184 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


sides of the craters they ,vere black as ink in this illumination 
and horribly visible to the German bonl bel's and machine- 
gUilners, 'who made the most of their opportunity in the tin1e 
at their disposal. 
I stood by a man to-day ,vho, since July 1, has been buried 
aliye by shell-bursts upheaving the earth about him no fewer 
than six times. 
He is a young Australian officer, now wounded in the back 
and leg, and he assured me that he did not D1ind this premature 
burial very much. 
"There is mostly a little air to breathe-enough to keep 
one going for a fe,v minutes," he said, '
but of course it's 
unpleasant ,vaiting to be dug out, if one has the luck. J\Iost 
fellov
.s D1ind it very much. But it don't affect me in that 
,yay." 
This is not an uncommon experience. There are a lot of 
nlen buried in an advance ,vhen, as the official dispatch says, 
" lVe made good progress." So that progress is not a soft 
job for soldiers. 'Then the German is beginning to leave a lot 
of little things behind him, even if he abandons a trench in a 
hurry. This is a ne,v dodge. One invention ,vhich has come 
into his fertile imagination is a man-trap, 'which he sets outside 
his parapet or inside a shell-hole on the ,yay to it. As soon as 
one of our soldiers sets foot on to it it closes about his leg with 
a terrific bite and brings him do,vn like a log. 
Another little device in devilry is the "tortoise bomb." 
It looks very Inuch like a tortoise if you happen to see it- 
,
\hich you don't, in the dark-and it stands on four little legs. 
They ,,'aggle a little, but should it be un,varily touched it nlay 
detonate the bomb and blo,v a man to bits. 
There was some heroic fighting on Friday afternoon along 
a road which runs from IIigh 'Vood to Delville 'Vood. The 
heroes of this fight 'vere ordered to take this road with troops 
on their left and right, and in spite of the shell-holes on the 
".ay and heavy n1achine-gun fire s,vecping do,vn on them they 
took the trench all right, going even a little too far in thcir 
eagerness. 
Owing to casualties in officers, the sergeants had, in some 
.cases, to carryon the command, and they did so ,,,ith the calm 
courage of old soldiers. The German trench, battered by our 
gun-fire, 'was full of dead, and littered ,vith rilles and equipment. 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIÊRES 185 
A fe,v of the enemy stayed and fought to the death, and others 
ran a,vay. Three were dragged up out of a dug-out and made 
prisoners. An looked good, from a fighting point of vie,v, 
in this sect.ion of the trench, and ,vould have been good if the 
men on the l
ft and right had been able to come up. But they 
were not able to do this, and presently from the right and left 
can1e parties of German bombers, hurling their grenades at our 
men, ,vho hurled back until eyery one of their bombs was 
gone. 
Then they grubbed about for German bombs, and used those 
until they could find no more. It ,vas time to escape, and the 
way out was through a narro,v sap ,vhich was also a death-trap 
if the enemy closed about it. 
But the enemy did a strange thing. They can1e swarming 
up on both sides, and each side took the other for English 
soldiers, and, in th
 dusk, bombed each other furiously over 
the heads of our men, ,vho slipped away, marvelling at their 
luck in ill-luck. They had five prisoners when they reached 
their own lines, for they were joined by two other men (in ad- 
dition to the three fron1 the dug-out), one of \vhom ,vas a 
German hero-tired of heroism-wearing the Iron Cross and 
another decoration. 
So the fighting goes on, and it is the grit of our troops, their 
splendid obstinacy, their refusal to be beaten by shell-fire or 
shell-holes, by rnachine-guns or tortoise bombs, by poison-gas 
or tear-shells, by Germans above-ground or underground, or 
dropping high explosives from the sky-" the ,vhole blinking 
bag of tricks," as they would call it, which keeps them going 
ahyays a little bit farther. 
Unless one knows the cost of victory one cannot tell the 
greatness of thè victors. 


lot 


AUGUST 23 
'Ve are getting a stronger grip upon the ridge froIn Pozières 
to High Wood. Last night the Australians gained a little more 
ground, so that they have pushed out a line to the north-east 
of 
Iouquet Farm, and the Seottish troops to their right have 
gained another hundred yards of that fan10us s,viteh-line into 
,yhich I took a walk the day before yesterday to see ho\v 



186 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


"'e held the enemy's last line of defence on the ,vay to 
Martin puich. 
The s\vitch-line exists only as a name, anrl in reality is nothing 
but a series of shell-craters in which our men have to get \vhat 
cover they can, after chasing out the Germans, before digging and 
strengthening an effective trench. 
But it is the position that counts, and if ,ve can hold it, as I 
am now certain \ve shall, it puts the enemy at a great disadvan- 
tage, of which Ollr guns are already making a full and terrible 
use. The enenlY's endeavours to counter-attack-he made 
t,vo last night-have broken down under our fire ,vith great 
bloodsh('d, and now it is not in the least likply that he ,vill 
succeed in wrt->sting back from us any of the high ground. 
The Ünportance of the position is, of course, entirely one of 
observation, apart fron1 the tactical inlportance of having driven 
the enemy on to ground beyond his firs
 and second systems 
of trenches and dug-outs, so that he can get no strong cover 
until he retires to a considerable distance. 
It gives us vantage-points from \vhich we can observe his 
movements òown the slope, rake him \vith rine and machine- 
gnn fire if he sends out \vorking parties, and turn the guns on 
to him \yith direct observation of results. 
One of the Ïlnmediate effects of being on the Pozières Ridge 
was seen yesterday, \vhcn our artillery registered something 
like t\venty-five direct hits upon some of the enemy's batteries. 
He had a great concentration of gunc;. 
Acting in conncxion \vith our aviators, ,vho are always 
observing from high places, our gunncrs a.re punishing the enemy 
in a very frightful \yay, and the ground above Thiépval and 
COllrcel<.tte, into which I looked for the first time at close 
range from the s,vitch-trench, and l\lartinpllich, and the barren 
ground to the Tight of it, is swept by onr shclJ-fire. 
A very realistic and tragic picture of what is happening do,vn 
there beyond the high ridge is given in a lettcr \vritten on 
August 10 by a Gern13,n officer of the 133rd lufantry Rcgi- 
111ent : 
,r. The T(.lief yesterday," he ,vrotc, "is incredible. The 
route taken-Ligny-\Yarlencourt-Pys-Courcdette-on the 
".ay to the trenches was very dangeruu
. ))uring the first 
part the thunòer of the gnllS ,vas very disagreeable, and the 
second part was very unsafe. IIcavy shells fell right and left 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZI
RES 187 


of the road. l\iountcd troops, cars, field -kitchens, infantry 
in column of route, ,vere all enveloped in an Í1npenetrablc 
cloud of dust. 
" The last stage consisted of troops in single file crouching 
on the slope beside the road, ,vith shells bursting overhead. 
Close to Conrcelette a message arrived: 'Enemy firing ga"}- 
shcBs, on ,vith your gas-hehnets.' It appeared to be an error. 
From Courcelettc to our position in thc line \ve relieved across 
the open. If the enemy had only noticed that, ,vhat a target 
he ,vould have had ! 
" Our position ,vas of course quite different to ,vhat we had 
been told. Our company alone relieved a whole battalion. 
\Ve had been told \ve \vere to relieve a company of fifty men 
weakened by casualties. The men \ve relieved had no idea 
where the eneDIY was, how far off he was, or if any of our troops 
were in front of lIS. \Ve got no idea of our supposed position 
until 6 o'clock this evening. 
"To-night I am taking my platoon out to form a covering 
party. l\ly men and I are to lie in shell-holes in part of an old 
demolished trench of ours. The English are 400 Dletres away. 
The "Vindrnill is over the hill. The hundreds of dead bodies 
make the air terrible, and there are flies in thousands. About 
300 metres from us is a deserted artillery position. "Ve shall 
have to look to it to-night not to get taken prisoners by the 
English. \Ve have no dug-outs. \Ve dig a hole in the side of 
a shell-hole and lie and get rheumatism. \Ve get nothing to 
eat or drink. . . . The ceaseless roar of the guns is driving us 
DIad. l\lany of the men are knocked up. The company com- 
mander thinks we were breathing gas yesterday, which slowly 
decomposes the blood, and this is an end of one. \Vhat a 
variety of ways onc can lose one's life in this place! . . . It 
is getting light. I must start on my way back to the front- 
line trench
s." 
From another n1an in the 3rd Battalion of the 124th Regiment 
there is a letter which pays a doleful tribute to our flying 
men: 
" I am on sentry duty, and it is a very hard job, for I dare 
not n10\ e. Overhead are the Eng;lsh airrrlCJl and in front of 
us the English obser,"crs with telC$copes, and as soon as they 
perceivc anything, then t,venty-four 'cigars' arrive at once, 
and larger than one cares to sce-yc',u understand \vhat I lnean. 



188 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


'fhe coun try round me looks frightful. 1\lany dead bodies 
belonging to both sides lie around." 
These letters give the other side of the pictures \vhich I have 
been describing. They sho\v ,vhat German life is like belo\v 
the Pozières Ridge. 
'Ve are dra \ving very close to Thiépval, and standing yester- 
day on the high ground to the right of the \Vindmill by Pozières, 
\vithin 500 yards of Martinpuich, I could see how near our lines 
have been pushed to both these places. Tl.iépval I have 
seen several times from the western side, but yesterday I 
stood to the south-east of it looking straight across the 
eemetery of Pozières to the long line of branchless trees 
and broken roofs \vhere the German garrison a \vaits its certain 
doom. 
That doom crept 3 little nearer last cvening \vhen SODle of 
our English troops left their trenches south of the Leipzig 
Redoubt, ,vhich ,vas already in our hands, and follo\ving in 
the wake of a terrific bombardment on a short line of the enemy's 
position took that section quickly by assault. I sa\\" the steady 
bombardment of the ground hereabouts, \vhich was continuous 
throughout the afternoon, but, by bad luck, having gone 
to another part of the line, did not see th
 attack \vhich 
followed. 
It was a highly organized and grim bit of work, very quickly 
done and váth few casualt.ies on our side. As soon as the guns 
had lifted, after concentrated fire which tore up the ground 
and Inade an uttcr chaos of the German line of trench, our 
luen follo,ved. They went over in t\VO waves, at as rapid a 
pace a.s possible over the tumbled ground. Then they 'went 
through the broken strands of barbed wire, and by men \vatching 
them from a little distance were seen to drop down into the 
enemy's trench. 
After a little while-less than a minute-the result of the 
attack was seen by a number of German soldiers coming out 
of the shell-craters \vith their hands up.' A little later a large 
group of soldiers ran out and tried to escape. They ran as 
though the devil were behind them, but there \vas a devilish 
fate in front of then1, for they plunged straight into a heavy 
fire from our guns, 
nd disappeared. 
In less than a quarter of an hour the fight was over and lnen 
came plodding back along thc "ray for "\valking \vounded," 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIßRES 189 


and the Red Cross flag could be seen over there in the light of 
the setting sun. 
The enen1Y n1ust have suffered heavily. Our guns caught 
them during a relief, \vhich means that there ,vas a double 
garrison, resulting in a double number of killed, ,vounded, and 
prisoners. \V orse still for then1, it seen1S likely that on their 
way up to the lines many of them were caught in the heavy 
barrage we had for some time been flinging across their 
route. 
...t\mong the 200 prisoners taken there is an ex-waiter of the 
Savoy Hotp], who says that he is thoroughly sick of the ,val', 
like most of his comrades, and that Verdun, frOln ,vhich he 
has just come, is a heaven compared to the battlefields of 
Pi cardy. 
Some time after our assault German troops "rere observed to 
be n1assing for a counter-attack behind the captured position, 
but these ,vere imm{'diately dispersed by onr artillery, and no 
attack took place throughout last night. 
The result of the operation is that \ve no\v hold a line straight 
above the Leipzig salient and striking across to our trenchc,;; 
south of 1\louquet Farm, where the Australians made an attack 
yesterday to push farther forward to\vards Thiépval. 


15 
The successful advance south of the Leipzig Redoubt was 
due mainly to the gallant ,york of some Territorial troops who 
attacked a maze of German trenches on Friday evening last, 
carried them by assault, and linked up 
\Vith the redoubt itself, 
already in our hands immediately belov{ Thiépval, getting 
a closer grip at the throat of the garrison there. 
I have already told ho,v the men captured the great dug-out 
and took nearly 600 prisoners. They ,vere n1en of the Royal 
'Var,yicks, who did that great achievement ,vith e-xtraordinarily 
slight loss to themselves. One of the most thrilling episodes 
of the attack was ,vhen they were held up on the right by a 
German strong point, from ,vhich came a stream of machine- 
gun fire. The men lay do,vn in front of it, and held on until 
our o,vn Le,vis guns could get to ,york. Four times a message 
came over the telephone asking \vhether the" heavies" should 



190 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


shell the place, but the colonel \vas afraid that his men \vould 
be hit, and refused the offer each time. Then suddenly, \vhen 
it seemed impossible to stop that deadly squirt of bullets, 
the German machine-gun ceased fire and a white flag fluttered 
up. 
The colonel of the 'Yar\vicks expected to see twenty men 
conle out of that bomb-proof hiding-place. To his amaze- 
ment there emerged six officers, and-not 150 men (as I think 
I said in my last dispatch) but 242 unwounded Germans and 
six" stretcher cases." There were many acts of great individual 
gallantry anlong the \tVarwicks, and all were splendid under the 
fine leadership of their officers. One sergeant jumped on to 
the parados of a German trench and kept a machine-gun team 
a\vay from thcir \veapon until our bombing party could arrive, 
thereby saving the lives of many \Varwickshire lads and helping 
to secure victory. 
Further along the trench a company officer, held up at a 
" bomb-stop" or barricade, called for a rifle and fired repeatedly 
'with a cool aim at the German machine-gunners on the other 
side, with t\VO men by him, who kept refilling his magazine, and 
bombers behind him hurling grenades over his shoulders. 


16 
l\lany of the Germans defended themselyes stubbornly, 
to the death. A sentry standing outside one of the dug-outs 
sa\v our nlen approaching, and, turning quickly, shouted 
down the ,vord "England!" to his comrades belo\v. One 
of the \'Varwicks ,vho was closest to him hurled his last bomb 
at him, and then, seizing the man's rifle, sprang on to the 
parapet ready to shoot the enemy as they came up. They 
came up in a swarm, \vith bombs, and there \vas a great conflict 
which ended only when the last German ,vas dead. 
In one dug-out there was, in the n1Ïdst of all this horror, a 
comic episode, like that of a clo\vn in tragedy. A curtain 
divided the dug-out, and a Warwickshire man thrust his 
bayonet through it. Suddenly the curtain \vas drawn on one 
side and a German soldier, yawning loudly and rubbing his 
eyes \vith the knuckles of one hand, stood there, as though 
to say" 'Vhat's up?" He had slept heavily through the 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZIßRES 191 


bombardlnent and attack, and no\v when he sa,v the English 
soldiers facing him, believed he was dreaming. 
So the "Va,rwicks took 400 yards of trenches along a front 
of 600 yards and thrust the wedge closer to Thiépval. 
Meanwhile, in the centre of our line of attack, English and 
Scots and Australian troops had been fighting for the German 
s\vitch-line beyond Bazentin-Ie-Petit, the ne'wly dug trench 
,vhich the enemy had n1ade feverishly to defend the high ridge 
above Pozières, but couìd not hold. They were Scottish troops 
\vho took the trench opposite Martinpuich, so gaining at least 
part of the ground for which we have striven since July 1. 


17 


It is not long ago, as the calendar counts time, though a 
lifetime ago for many thousands of men 'who have fought along 
the road to l\Iartinpuich, since that village ,vith a queer name 
seemed as unattainable as any dream-city. No man of ours, 
except our flying men, had ever seen it, for it lies just below 
the Pozièrcs Ridge, and before the battle opened on J lIly 1 the 
ridge itself was a high and distant barrier defended all the way 
by great strongholds like Fricourt and Mametz and Contal- 
maison, and by all those woods \vhich could be captured, as 
evc:ry soldier kne\v, only by desperate fighting. 
No\v, after the greatest battle in British history-a series of 
battles, rather, in one great and continuous attack-,ve have 
gained that ridge above Pozières and the 'Vindmill, and, 
pushing up to this German switch-line, look do\vn the slopes 
beyond. 
There, only 500 yards a\vay across No Man's Land, lies 
Martinpuich, as I sa\v it myself to-day from our front-line 
trench, surprised that one could see so close into its ruins. 
To Iny left as I stood out in the open, above the trenches, \vas 
the Windn1Íll for which the Australians have fought-the 
conical base of it being all that is left as a memorial of the 
heroism that gained this ground, and behind was Pozièrcs, the 
d('solate, shell-s\vept ruin ,vhich is linked also, for ever, \vith 
the n1emory of those boys from the C-',rerseas Dominion \vho 
gave a treasure of life to take it. 
The ,yay to Martinpuich is truly" The Street of Adventure " 



192 THE BATTLES OF THE SOM
IE 


for hundreds of thousands of our lnen ,vho have fought their 
.way over the ground about it since that first day of July ,vhich 
was the beginning of the great adventure. 
'Vhen I ,vent up it to-day, farther than I have ever been 
before, and to our last post upon it, I passed all the places \vhich 
\vill 111ake chapter-headings in any history of the ,var-the 
scenes of all the big battles and of all the little desperate 
conflicts "rhich have been fought along this ,ving from ditch to 
ditch, in every tiny copse, in every bit of broken \voodlanel. 
It is a road of imnlortality. Alas, also of great death, as one 
sees all along the ,yay past Fricourt and Contalmaison over 
ground dotted with ne,v-madc graves, ,vhere white \vooden 
crosses stick up above the mounds of earth, everywhere, 
amidst the torn tree-stumps, and very neat bet\veen the 
upheaval of these fields fiung into chaos by gun-fire, and 
clustering thickly about piles of broken brickwork \vhich arc 
still called by their old village-names. 
Many of those graves are the size of one man's bed, but 
others are broad lnounds into \vhich many bodies have been 
laid, \vith taller crosses, to the remembrance of all of then1, such 
as that" To the men10ry of the N.C.O.'s and nlen of the - 
Border Regin1ent .who fell in action at this spot on the 1st of 
July 1916." Many of them are to unknown British soldiers 
who could not be identified, but ,vhose names arc on the long 
roll-call of honour. 


18 
On the road to Martinpuich \ve passed up by Lonely Copse 
-just a few" strafed" trees-and by Lozenge 'Vood and the 
Dinglc, and Birch Tree 'Vood and Peake 'Vood, and Acid Drop 
Copse. Do you remember the names? l\-Icn fought ferociously 
to get these places, our artillery registered on them, and I sa'v 
the In in the first days of July under tempests of 
hell-fire. No 'v 
they can be found only by a few charred sticks, a few black 
gibbets, standing above heaps of ashes and the bones and dust 
of men. 
Contalmaison, tho capital of the woodlands, is on higher 
ground, and is still the tt1rget of German bonlbardlnents, as it 
\vas our target when I saw it first. l\lost of its red-brick 
château ,vas standing \vhen I looked into its ,vindo,vs one day 



193 
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THE HIGH GROUND AT POZI
RES 193 


from an artillery O.P. and SRW one of its towers shot a,vay 
by one of our 15-inch shells, as cleanly as one could cut a slice 
out of a cake. Now all that is left of the château is a broken 
,vall or t,"o, rose-coloured except ,,,here the bricks are blackened 
by fire, standing in the midst of great shell-craters and solid 
waves of earth and ash-colourpd tree-trunks all hurled about. 
A devilish place is Contalmaison no,v, and ,vhen I walked 
through it yesterday the foul horror of it reeked about me. In 
the night the Germans had flung thousands of gas-shells into 
it, and the stench was still prowling about, stealing out of 
crannies and shell-holes with faint, sickly ,vhiffs as though from 
rotten eggs. And the smell of corruption came up from all 
the litter of battle lying there. . . . 
\Ve ,vent beyond Contalmaison, and were glad to leave it, 
for the enemy's shells \vere bursting over it, and round by 
Bazentin-Ie-Petit 'Vood, thinned out by successive storms of 
shell-fire to the mere ghost of a wood, with the light striking 
through its leprous-looking trunks, where many unburied dead 
lie among the broken trenches. The ground rose gradually 
past Contalmaison Villa, which stood far beyond the village 
itself, as the country house of some French gentleman ,vho 
will never see it again except in dust and ashes, and here \ve 
were out in the centre of the battle-ground, where our men arc 
now fighting between the windmill of Pozières and High 'V ood, 
on the farthest line of our advance. 
The battle was going on, as it goes on all through the days 
and nights, with never-ceasing gun-fire. The infernal tumult 
of it was all around us, and death ,vas every,vhere for any man 
'whose luck had run out. Lord God in heaven! If a man had 
any kind of prayer in his soul, or any special form of curse for 
those who made this ,var, his lips should mutter it in a place 
like this. 


19 
It was into the famous switch-trench which has been the 
goal of great endeavour since July 14, when our troops broke 
the German second line, that ,ve went through other trenches 
after the long ,,,alk in the open, and looked at last into Martin- 
puich, just below the high ridge. l\Ierely to see it ,vas the 
supreme proof of the greatest achievement in arms ever done 
N 



194 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIME 
by British soldiers. To get as far as this, to capture the high 
ground where \ve now stood, behind earth and sandbags, 
looking do,vn into the valley beyond, our men have stormed 
many strongholds, fought through all the ghastly woodlands 
from Fricourt and Bazentin and High 'Vood, and many have 
fallen all along the road to l\fartinpuich. 
The village itself is just like any of all those ruins which have 
been smashed to bits in this poor France. There ,vas no sign 
of human life there among the broken buildings. But there 
,vas human life, though I could not see it, in the 500 yards of 
No Man's Land bet\veen our first line and the village. 
In the deep shell-craters here, as thick as holes in a sieve, 
there are still some German soldiers living. They have no kind 
of trench, for there is nothing but open ground before us for 
1000 yards, now that we have taken the German switch-line, 
but in these holes they hide themselves at night and snipe our 
men by day. They are fellows ,vho have been sent out to 
hold the ground as much as possible before they are dead or 
captured, and their officers never expect to see them again. 
"Then our guns barrage this stretch of barren land they can 
be seen hopping from one shell-hole to another, and it is then 
the turn of our snipers. They brought do\vn thirty-five the 
first day, after taking the switch-line, and about as many two 
days ago. 
l\lore valuable than a German prisoner-for what's thc value 
in this war of one man's life ?-was the German machine-gun 
brought in a day or t,vo ago from the ground outside Martin- 
puich, where it lay half buried, but so undamaged that it is 
now used against the enemy ,vith his o,vn cartridge-belts. 
Other queer things have been brought back. Two days after 
the capture of the switch-line our soldiers'saw two men waving 
out there in No 1tIan's Land, and getting their glasses on to 
them saw that they \vere ,,,"ounded Englishmen. A party of 
Scots cra\vled out and brought them in, as during the same day 
they had carried back a number of German wounded lying 
about in the shell-holes close to our o\vn line. 
The real 'wonder of our men is only to be seen in such places 
as this. On thesc battlefields, under heavy shell-fire, they were 
\vorking as calmly as though they \vere building sand-castles 
on the English seaside. Behind them lay many of their 
dead. 



THE HIGH GROUND AT POZI:ßRES 195 
I could track my ,yay back by the blood that splashed the 
walls of the trenches to the place where a medical officer 
patches up the bodies of broken men in a hole in the ground. 


20 
The ground over which I walked with a young Scottish 
officer-'who has no emotion at all about such things because 
since he went first into Loos he has lived cheek by jowl with 
death so that any fear he may have had is killed by habit-was 
nothing but one great stretch of shell-craters. There was not 
one yard of ground into which a shell had not fallen, over 
thousands of yards. Some of them were small shells making 
small craters, others were heavy shells which had made enormous 
pits, and the rim of one crater met the rim of another, or 
mingled. And, as we walked, the sky above our heads ,vas 
fillcd 'vith shells continuing this work, flinging up the earth 
again into new hills and hollo\vs. 
From our own batteries far away behind us there came a 
steady bombardment of the German ground just beyond us, 
and the shells passed overhead with that indescribable sound 
which is half a scream and half a sigh, enormous in the volume 
of its noise. But those sounds ,vere comforting compared 
'\vith others ,vhich were coming overhead. They were coming 
from the enemy's side with a savage overwhelming roar, ,vhich 
ended in a rending explosion. 
"Eight-inch," said the young Scot by my side. " Heavy 
stuff. " 
It is surprising '\vhat effect an eight-inch shell can have in 
the way of unhcaval. But one's sensation is not that of 
surprise '\vhen fifty yards a,vay, or less, a mass of field is suddenly 
lifted skyward and a smoke-cloud as large as a cathedral 
stands there strangely solid in the wind. The whole field of 
battle about us was vomiting up these things, and it was 
damnable. 


* 



XXIII 


THE GERMAN SIDE OF THE SOl\fl\iE 


1 


AUGUST 9 
I HAYE not been across to the enemy's side of the line (except 
'when it has becn broken by our guns and men), and I have no 
intention of folJo,ving the example of a friend of 111ine 'who 
deliberately tricd to get across to them in search of informa- 
tion. But no\v and again it is possible to get a menta] glimpse 
of ho\v the enemy lives and works and thinks behind the barbed 
\vire and the ditches and the machine-gun redoubts which make 
up his defensive system. 
I mean the enemy's fighting men, and not aU those people 
in Germany ,,"ho starve on false promises and gro,v sick with 
hope deferred, and count up the number of their dead, and 
still say, \vith a resolute pride, "At least-,ve cannot be 
beaten." 
From talks with prisoners, and explorations of German 
dug-outs, and the reading of captured documents, and many 
days spent (before the battles of the SOD1me) in our o,vn trenches 
from ,vhich through a loophole or a tuft of grass I have looked 
over to the German lines and seen, not often, but several 
times, German soldiers moving about in ,,"orking parties, and 
German infantry Inarching down a hill-side over 2000 yards 
a\vay, I have been able to conjure up a fair ans\ver to questions 
which have often come into my head: "What are the fello\vs 
doing over the ,vay? What are they thinking about and talking 
about? '''hat does it look like behind their lines? And ho,v 
do their methods and their ' moral' differ from onr o\vn ? " 
Since the beginning of our attack on July 1 I have gained 
some later information about those things, and it seems to me 
interesting to put do\vn a few of the facts, so that people at 



THE GERMAN SIDE OF THE SOM1\IE 197 
home may know more about the enemy than they seem to 
kno,v. 


2 
There is no doubt at all that as a fighting man the German 
knows his business thoroughly, and performs it with great 
skill, courage, and discipline. He has had the advantage of 
us in an enormous reserve of highly trained officers and non- 
commissioned officers, and although the advantage is rapidly 
disappearing, because after two years of war we are getting 
large numbers of the same class of men and he is losing and 
has lost a great mass of them by death and wounds, he still 
has, I imagine, more than enough for his needs. 
No\v, and to the end of the war (for he is careful to keep his 
best brains out of danger), he can call upon a great store of 
professional and scientific knowledge to direct the machinery 
of this business of destruction and defence, and to organize the 
lives of his machine-made men. 
In minute detail of organization, and in a driving industry 
behind it, the German High Command is masterly, and there is 
not a soldier in the Kaiser's armies 'who is not well equipped 
(do\vn to the "housewife" full of pins and needles, cotton, 
buttons, and thread, \vhich he carries in his pouch) and well fed, 
unless our guns do not permit his supplies to come up. 
Enormous attention is paid to the" moral" of the men, by 
organizing concerts, religious services, and beer-parties behind 
the lines, so that they shall be kept cheerful until they die, 
and the news of the world, as we all know, is specially edited 
for them with that point of view in mind. 
But the German High Command is careful of the lives of 
its men until the day comes when they have to be flung ruthlessly 
for\vard, in wave after wave, against the guns of the Allies. 
Again and again I have described the spaciousness and the 
depth and comfort of the German dug-outs. That is part of 
the systcln of life-saving, and the divisional comlnanders set 
their men to work and kecp them at work in a way \vhich our 
men would call slave-driving. 
I have described those at Montauban and Fricourt as I sa-w 
them immediately after their capture, and after the bombard- 
ment which crumpled up all the trenches about them, but left 
them, for the most part, solid and untouched. 



198 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\'IE 


8 


At Ovillers they are even more elaborate, some of them having 
six or eight rooms communicating ,vith each other, and t,vo 
separate stories-rooms as large as fifteen feet by thirty feet, 
furnished with spring beds, carpets, ,vashing arrangements 
,vith ,vater laid on, electric light, tapestries to keep out the 
draughts, and other luxuries. One of the dug-outs at Ovillers 
has nine entrances, with beds for 110 men, thirty feet belo,v 
the surface, and with a cook-house containing three big boilers. 
But it is not only in the trenches and in places like Ovillers 
that the Germans dig so industriously. Far behind their lines, 
,vherevcr our long-range guns can reach thcln, they have 
these elaborate subterranean shelters, deeper and stronger than 
Dl0st of ours, and with much greater accoffilnodation. It 
means incessant ,vork in addition to all the ,vork ,vhich keeps 
our own soldiers busy night and day. 
But it is ,york that saves life, and the Gern1ans do not 
begrudge it, and have no special pride in taking risks. That 
is good generalship and good soldiering. But it does not save 
them. Some of our officers are apt to imagine-I confess it 
'vas in my own imagination for a time-that the German was 
so snug in these burro,vs of his that our bombardments in 
normal times ,vithout infantry attacks to follow did not cause 
him many casualties. 
The truth is that continuous artillery-fire like ours has been 
and is frightfully destructive of human life, and that no amount 
of digging ,viII safeguard it. Transport Inust move along the 
roads. l\len must go up communication-trenches. Working 
parties must come out into the open. 
During all the month that our artillery has been increasing 
its ,veight of Inetal and the numbcr of rounds fired, the Germans, 
therefore, have been suffering great losses, and the strain upon 
the nerves and "moral " of the men has been severe. 
This is certain not only from the statements of German 
soldiers brought into our lines, but from new instructions 
issued as late as July 16, ,vhich refer to the treatment of thc 
great numbers of wounded, and the terrible conditions of the 
present fighting. Significant sentences reveal the truth of 
things behind the German lines, and again the organizing 
nlinds ,vhich try to better then1 as far as possible: 



THE GERMAN SIDE OF THE SOMME 199 


" As the circumstances of the present fighting do not as a 
rule permit of a dressing-station being established near the 
fighting troops, the wounded must at any rate be taken to 
places which are easy to find, easy to describe, and easy to 
recognIze. 
"Companies must inform battalions, and battalions regi- 
ments, ,vhere the wounded are to be found, and ho,v many 
there are to remove. 
" They ('an as a rule only be moved at night. The stretcher- 
bearers who come to fetch them generally waste a good deal of 
time in searching for the wounded, and sometimes do not 
find them if they are not assisted by the unit which has be(:D 
engaged. 
" The nights are short for carrying out these large evacuations. 
"I have already reminded units that troops which are 
relieved should carry their ,vounded ,vith theIn." That reveals 
a tragic picture of the enemy's losses. It is emphasized again 
that many of the ,vounded are not found, and suggestions are 
made that pieces of canvas dipped in luminous paint might 
be used to indicate the ,,,hereabouts of the ,vounded, or white 
canvas cut into the form of a cross. 
The German mind is busy with the problem of its dead also. 
The enemy goes to great risk and trouble to remove the dead 
from the fields because the living men who follo'v are dis- 
heartened and terrified by the sight of so many corpses on their 
way. 
Search-parties are sent out under shell-fire to collect them, 
even though many of the searchers may join the dead, and the 
bodies are put into mortuary chambers like one found by us 
the other day at Pozières. 
It was fillcd with dead bodies waiting to be taken away on a 
light raihvay which runs up to the place, but the enemy's 
artillery fired upon this mortuary and set it on fire, as though 
they ,vere more jealous of their dead than of the living who 
were our prisoners. 


4 
I have said that they keep their best brains out of danger. 
This is true, even ,,,hen the brains are second-best. It is 
very seldom that any officer over the rank of a captain is found 
in the front-line trenches, and officers of higher rank remain 



200 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


well in the background. Lately, during our attack, orders 
have been given that officers and N.C.O.'s commanding com- 
panies and platoons should visit their trenches at night "so 
that the men may see or hear their commanders." It is all 
very naïve, and reveals that curious lack of humour v;hich 
characterizes the German ,,'ar lord. 
" The men," say these instructions, " should be instructed as 
to the whereabouts of their commanding officer, and kno\v 
,vhere to go if they feel that they require inspiring with courage. 
To stimulate courage and to foster the feeling of confidence 
and the spirit of resistance, tbese should be the first duties of 
an officer in the front line, at all events in the present circlun- 
stances. Courage rather than tactful theory is the essence of a 
true leader." 
To give their men courage in hours when these German 
soldiers, who are brave men, 111ight ,veIl give 'way to terror, 
the German chemists have ma.nufactured tabloids which drug 
them with a kind of frenzy. There is no doubt of this, which 
sometimes I have doubted, because many of these drugs were 
found by a friend of mine-the medical officer of the Kentish 
mt>n who helped to take the trenches north of Pozières a few 
days ago. 
They contained ether and opium in sufficient quantity to 
intoxicate the strongest man. In the German opinion it is 
good stuff before a counter-attack. 
German organization is remarkably good. It docs not 
neglect the spiritual or the physical side of their soldiers. It 
provides them "rith song-books and prayer-books as well as 
,vith food and drink. 
It has never revealed a shortage of shells. Its gunners arc 
full of science and wonderfully quick to get on to their targets 
,vhen the infantry calls for help by sending up signals of distress. 
In all the mechanics of war and in the fine art of keeping 
up the pride of men the German \var lords and high oIIicers 
sho\v real genius. But they cannot bring dead men to life 
nor hide the agonies of all their wounded, nor blink the fact 
that British troops have broken their second line, and hammered 
them with terrific blo'ws and reached out far with long-range 
guns to destroy them behind their lines. 
They live in many ruin
 as bad as Ypres-French ruins, 
alas-and I know that, on the eve of our great attack, all 



THE GERMAN SIDE OF THE SOMME 201 


instructions were prepared for a general retreat, with every 
detail ready in case our troops should break through on a ,vide 
front. 
That is a confession of deep apprehension. It shows that 
they are envisaging defeat and preparing for it-wisely enough 
-in case of need. It is a state of mind not expressed in an 
Order of the Day issued by the German Emperor a few days 
ago and found on a German officer captured to the north of 
Pozières : 


" To the leaders of the troops of the First Army," says the 
Kaiser, "I express from the bottom of my heart my deep 
appreciation and my Imperial gratitude for the splendid 
achievement in warding off the Anglo-French mass attacks of 
the 30th of July. They have accomplished with German 
faithfulness ,vhat I and their country expected from them. 
" God help them further. 


"(Signed) WILHELM I.R." 


Since then the ground to the north of Pozières has been 
captured, and to-day there has been fierce fighting and further 
progress made by British troops to,vards Guillemont. God has 
not helped then1 it seems. 
Behind the German lines, in spite of the l{aiser's gratitude 
for the courage of his troops-a courage which we must not 
belittle, for it is great-men are thinking gloomily and ,vondering 
when all the agony of this great war, which holds no victory 
for Germany, ,viII have an ending, after all their blood and all 
their tears. 



XXIV 
THE ATTACKS ON THIÉPVAI
 


1 


.A.UGUST 25 
THE doom of Thiépval is near at hand. By a series of small, 
sharp attacks, in short rushes, after enormous shell-fire, our 
troops have forged their ,yay across a tangled ,veb of trenches 
and redoubts until now they are just belo,v the row of apple- 
trees ,vhich still sho,v a broken stump or two belo,v .the southern 
end of the village. They have bitten off the nose of the Leipzig 
salient, and yesterday I sa,v theIn take the Hindenburg Trench 
and its strong point, which is almost the last of the defensive 
works barring our way to the south entrance of the village 
fortress. 
On the ,vest our trenches have been dug for some time through 
Thiépval 'V ood, within four hundred yards of this place, and 
on the east they have been pushed forward to the left of l\Iouquet 
Farm; so that we have thrown a lasso, as it were, around the 
stronghold on the hill, from ,vhich its garrison has only one 
way of escape-by way of the Crucifix, north,vards, where our 
guns ,viII get them. That garrison is in a death-trap. The 
German soldiers in Thiépval must be praying for the end to 
come. 
As I stood watching the place yesterday, from a trench 
only a fe,v hundred yards a,vay, it seemed to me astounding and 
terrible that Inen should still be living there. I could see nothing 
of the village for there is next to nothing left of it-nothing 
at all but heaps of rubbish which were once the roofs and 
,valls of houses. But on the sky-line at the top of a ridge 
which slopes up from the Leipzig salient there still stand a 
hundred trees or so, ,vhich are all that is left of Thiépval. 
They stood black and gaunt against the blue sky, without a 



THE ATTACKS ON THI
PV AL 203 


I eaf on their broken branches, and all charred. The bro\vn 
humnlocks of the German trench-lines encircled them, with 
narrow strips of grass, vividly green, between these earth- 
works and below, falling away to our own lines, a turmoil of 
upheaved soil \vhere a maze of trenches had been made shapeless 
by incessant shell-fire. 
All through the afternoon, as all through the morning, and 
the mornings and afternoons of many yesterdays, our guns 
,vere firing in a steady, leisurely way, one shell every minute 
or t\VO, at the ground marked out by the black tree-stumps. 
They were mostly the shells of our "heavies" firing from 
long range, so that for several seconds one could hear the long 
voyage of each shell, listen to the last fierce rush of it over our 
heads, and then see, before the roar of the explosion, a vast 
volume of smoke and earth vomit up from the place between 
the trees, or just belo,v the line of trees where the enemy's 
trenches lay. 
A friend of mine, sitting on some sandbags with his steel 
hehnet just below the tops of some tall thistles which gave 
friendly cover in our foreground above the parapet, said 
" Beautiful! " every time there was a specially big cloud-burst. 
He is such a hater of ,val' that his soul follows each shell of 
ours "\1áth a kind of exultation so that it shall help to end it 
quickly. But I kept thinking of the fello\vs below there, 
under that shell-fire. 
It was only previous knowledge, explorations in German 
dug-outs, talks ,vith men who have come living out of such 
bombardn1ents, that made me still believe that there \vere 
men alive in Thiépval, and that before we take the place they 
may fight desperately and keep machine-guns going to the last. 
There was not a human soul to be seen, and the earth was 
being flung up in Inasses; but underground a garrison of German 
soldiers \vas sitting in deep cellars, trying to turn deaf ears 
to the crashes above them, trying to hide the terror in their 
souls, a terror invading all their courage icily, and looking 
into the little n1irrors of long periscopes which showed them 
the vision of things above-ground, and the stillness of the 
British trenches, from which at any Ininute there might come 
waves of men on a ne\v attack. 



204 THE BATTLES OF THE SO
IME 


2 


With a few others in the trench '\vhere I stood I knew that 
our men were to make another bound yesterday afternoon, 
though not the exact time of it. For nearly two hours I 
\vatched the bombardment, steady and continuous, but not 
an intense fire from all available batteries, and every few 
minutes I looked at my '\vrist-watch and wondered "'Vïll it 
begin now?" Down below me was the hummocky track 
of our front-line trenches, in '\yhich the attacking parties had 
assembled. Only no,v and again could I see any movement 
there. 
In our o'\vn trench some signallers ,vere carrying do,vn a 
ne'\v wire, ,vhistling as they '\vorked. A for'\vard observing 
officer was watching the shell-bursts through a tclescope 
resting on the parapet and giving messages to a telephone 
operator '\vho sat hunched at the bottom of the trench with 
his instrument. A couple of young officers came along jauntily, 
swearing because " these silly asses "-whoever they might be 
-" never tel] you where they are." An artillery officer came 
along for a chat, and remarked that it was a fine day for a 
football match. 


3 


It ,vas a day when the beauty of France is like a song in 
one's heart, a day of fleecy clouds in the blue sky, of golden 
sunlight flooding broad fields behind the battle-lines, .where 
the ,vheat-sheaves are stacked in neat lines by old men and 
women, who do their sons' work, and of deep, cool shado'\vs 
under the wavy foliage of the \yoodlands. 
Behind us was a ruined village, and German shells '\vere 
falling into the corner of a ,vood not far a,vay to our left, but 
the panorama of the French countryside beyond the edge of the 
battlefield '\\
as full of peace. ....\bove our heads some .Lritish 
aeroplanes came flying, and the hum of their engines '\vas like 
big bees buzzing. They fle'\v straight over the German lines, 
and prescntly the sky about them was dotted with \vhite 
puffs of shrapnel, and above the noise of the guns there 
,vas the high "ping!" of the German "Archies, " as each 
shcll reached up to those soaring ,vings, but failed to bring 
them do,vn. 



THE ATTACKS ON THIßPVAL 205 


4.t\nothcr officer can1e along thc trench and said, "Good 
afternoon. The sho,v begins in ten minutes." 
The " sho,v " is the name soldiers give to a battle. 
By my ,,'atch it ,vas longer than ten minutes before the 
" sho'w "began. The leisurely bombardment continued in the 
san1e way. Now and again a German "crump" replied, like 
an elaborate German guttural. Then suddenly, as though 
at the tap of a baton, a great orchestra of death crashed out. 
It is absurd to describe it. No words have been nlade for a 
modern bombardment of this intensity. One can only give 
a feeble, inaccurate notion of what one big shell sounds like. 
\Vhen hundreds of hea vy gnns are firing upon one small 
line of ground and shells of the greatest size are rushing through 
the sky in flocks, and bursting in masses, all description is 
futile. I can only say that the 'v hole sky ,vas resonant ,vith 
,vaves of noise that were long-dra,vn, like the deep notes of 
violins, gigantic and terrible in their power of sound, and that 
each vibration ended at last in a thunderous crash. Or again 
it seemed as though the stars had fallen out of the sky and 
,vere rushing do\vn to Thiépval. 
The violence of this bon1bardment ,vas as frightful as anything 
I have seen in this \var in the 'way of destructive gun-power. 
The shells tore up the German trenches and built up a great 
\vall of smoke along the crest of the ridge, and smashed through 
the trees of Thiépval, until for minutes together that place 
,vas only to be kno\Vll by tall pillars of black, and \vhite, and 
brown smoke, ,vhich s\vayed about as though in a great ,vind, 
and toppled down upon each other, and rose again. 


4 


A voice at my elbo,v, speaking breath}essly, said: "Look! 
They're away. . . . Oh, splendid fello,vs ! " 
Out of our front-line trenches scrambled long lines of 111en. 
They stood for a moment on the top of the parapet, ,vaited for 
a second or two until all the n1en had got up into thcir align- 
ment, and then started forward, steadily and in ,vonderflù 
order. Some of the officers turned round, as though to see 
that all their men were there. I sa 'v one of them raise his 
stick and point towards the ridge. Then he ran ahead of his 
men. They ,vere on lo,v ground-Io,vest on the right, in front 



206 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\lME 


of the parapet where I stood, but sloping up a little on the left 
by the Leipzig Redoubt. Beyond them the ground rose steadily 
to the ridge on which Thiépval stands. Our men had a big 
climb to make, and a long ,yay to go over open country, for 
four or five hundred yards is the very devil of a ,yay to go 
,vhen it is swept with shell-fire. 
The enemy was not long in flinging a barrage in the way of 
our men. A rocket went up from his lines as a signal to his 
guns, and perhaps half a minute after our men had sprung 
over the parapet his shells began to fall. But they were too 
late to do any damage there. Our men ,vere out and away. 
Some message seemed to reach the enemy and tell him this. He 
raised his barrage on to ground nearer to his own lines, and his 
heavy" crumps " fell rapidly, bursting all over No l\lan's Land. 
Now and again they seemed to fall right into the middle of a 
bunch of our men, it]. a ,yay frightful to see, but when the smoke 
cleared the group was still going forward. On the right of 
the line one great shell burst with an enormous crash, and this 
time there was no doubt that it had caught some of our men. 
I saw them fall in a heap. . . . Perhaps they had flung then1- 
selves down to avoid the shell splinters. Perhaps not one of 
them had been touched. It is extraordinary how men can 
avoid death like that. 
Nothing checked the advance of the long lines of figures 
going through the smoke; not all the Gern1an barrage, ,vhicl 
was now very fierce. The men had to cross o
e of those 
narrow strips of grass-land between the earth,vorks before they 
came to the first line of Gern1an trenches, and they showed 
up black and distinct against this green belt ,vhenever the smoke 
of the shells bursting above them drif't
d a,vay. 
They were not in close formation. They ,vent for"ward, 
after the first fe\v mon1ents of advance, in small parties, ,videly 
scattered, but keeping the san1e direction. Son1etimes the 
parties themselves broke up and separated into individual 
figures, jumping over shell-craters, running first to left or right 
as the shriek of an enemy shell warned then1 of approaching 
death. I saw then ho,v easy it is to lose all sense of direction 
in an attack like this, and the reason ,vhy men sometimes go 
so hopelessly astray. But yesterday it ,vas quite marvellous 
ho\v quickly the men recovered their line ,vhen they had 
drifted away in the blinding smoke, and how the groups kept 



THE ATTACKS ON THIE
PV AL 207 


in touch with each other, and ho\v separate figures running to 
catch up succeeded in joining the groups. 


5 


'Ve watched the single figures, follo,ving the fortunes of each 
man across the fire-swept slope, hoping with all our souls that 
he .would get through and on. Then he ,vould pick himself up 
when he fell face forward. 
For a little ,vhile the men ,vere s,vallowed up in smoke. I 
could see nothing of them, and I had a horrible feeling this 
time none of us would ever see them again. For they had 
,valked straight into the infernal fires, and all behind them and 
all in front the shells were bursting and flinging up the earth 
and raising enormous, fantastic clouds. 
It seemed an hour before I saw them again. I suppose it 
was only five or six minutes. The wind drifted the smoke 
a,vay from the Thiépval Ridge, and there, clear and distinct 
to the naked eye, ,vere the lines of our men s'warming up. 
SOlTIe of them were already on the highest ground, standing, 
single figures, black against the sky. They stood there a 
second or two, then jumped down and disappeared. They 
,vere in the German trenches, close to Thiépval. 
" l\lagnificent !" said a French officer ,vho ,vas standing 
close to me. "By God, your men are fine ! " 
They \vere ,vonderful. The German barrages did not stop 
them. They went through and on as though proof against 
shells. Some men did not go on, and fell on the side of 
the slope, but it seemed to me there were not many of 
them. 
In the centre of the German trenches ,vas a strong point or 
redoubt, with machine-guns. It was one of those deadly 
places that have often checked one of our attacks, and cost 
many brave lives. But I could see that our men were all round 
it. One single figure was an heroic silhouette against the blue 
of the sky. He was bon1bing the redoubt, and as he flung 
hi5 bombs the attitude of the man was full of grace like a Greek 
disc-thrower. .A. German shell burst close to him and he ,vas 
engulfed in its upheaval, but whether he was killed or not I 
could not tell. I did not see him again. 



208 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


6 
Up the slope ,vent the other men, follo,ving the first ,vave, 
and single fello,vs hurrying after them. In a little while they 
had all disappeared. They ,vere in the enemy's trenches, 
beyond all doubt. 
N c,v sounds of an explosive kind came through all the 
fury of gun-fire, ,vhich had slackened in intensity, but was 
still slashing the air. It was a kind of hard knocking in 
separate strokes, and I knew it ,vas bomb-fire. Our men 
,vere at ,york in and about the German dug-outs, and there 
.were Germans there ,vho were not surrendering without a 
fight. 
One fight took place on the top of the parapet. A man came 
up and stood on the sky-line-,vhether an English soldier or a 
German it was impossible to sec. I think a German, for a 
second after another man came up as though chasing him, and 
the first man turned upon him. They both had revolvers 
and fired, and disappeared. Other men \vere running along 
the parapets of the German trenches. They were ours, and they 
were flinging bombs as they ran. Then a curtain of smoke. 
,vas ,vafted in front of them again, and they were hidden. 
From our own trenches another ,yave of men appeared. I 
think it wanted more courage of them even than of the first 
line of assaulting troops to go out over that open ground. They 
had to face the German barrage and to pass over a way where 
many of their comrades were lying. But they went on steadily 
and rapidly, just as the others had gone, splitting up into 
groups, running in short rushes, disappearing in the smoke of 
shell-bursts, falling into shell-craters, scrambling up, and on 
agaIn. . . . 
Another wave came still later, making their way to that 
ridge ,,,here their comrades ,vere fighting in the enemy's trenches. 
They, too, disappeared into those ditches. 
Only in the ground near to me could I see any sign of life 
now. Here some of our wounded were .walking back, and the 
stretcher-bearers were at work. I watched a little procession 
coming very slO"wly to our trenches with their stretchers lifted 
high. It was a perilous ,yay of escape for wounded \vhen the 
enemy ,vas flinging shells all over the ground and there was 
no safety zone. Some,vhere on our right a shell had struck 



THE ATTACI{S ON THI];:PV AL 


209 


a bomb-store or an amnTlulÏtion dump and a volunle of sInok
, 
reddish bro,vn, rose and spread into the sha pe of a gigantic 
query mark. Other fires ,vere burning in what had been No 

lan's Land, and out of an explosion in the enemy's trenches 
there ,vas flung up a black vomit in which 'were hUlnan beings, 
or fragments of them. Over the ridge by ThiépvaJ the enemy's 
barrage was continuous on the far side of the sJope between 
our trenches on the ,vest and the ground just gained, and th
 
top of the smoke-clouds drifted above the sky-line as though 
from a ro\v of factory chiInneys. 


7 


Suddenly out of all this curtain of sn10ke came a cro,vd of 
figures, leaping and running. They were Germans trying to get 
to our trenches, not in a counter-attack, but to give themselves 
up as prisoners, and to get some cover from their o,vn shell-fire. 
Terror was in their attitudes, in their wild stan1pede and 
desperate leaps over the broken ground ,vhere the shells of 
their o,vn guns were bursting. One great German "crump" 
crashed close to them, and I think it must have killed some of 
theine 
Then for more than an hour as I ,vatched, other figures came 
back from the high ground towards our old front line, some- 
times in groups of two or three, sometimes alone. They were 
our light y wounded men, with here and there a German. 
It was with a sense of horrible fascination that I ,vatched 
the adventures of these men, separately. One of them would 
jump do'wn from the sky-line, and come at a quick run do,vn 
the slope. Then suddenly. he ,vould stop and stand in a. 
indecisive way as though wondering what route to take te 
avoid the clusters of shell-bursts spurting up bclo'w him. II
 
would decide sometimes on a circuitous route, and start running 
again in a ziggag \vay, altering his direction sharply ,vhen a 
shell crashed close to him. 
I could see that he ,vas out of breath. lIe would halt and 
stand as though listening to the tUïnult about hint, then COll1C 
on very slo,vly. I wanted to call out to him, to shout, "This 
,vay, old n1an! . . . Quick!" But no voice would have 
carried through that \vorld in uproar. Then perhaps he would 
stulnble, and fall, and lie as though dead. But presently I 
o 



210 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\fE 


wOlùd see him crawl on his hands and knees, stand up and"'run 
again. He ,vould reach our line of trenches and jump down, 
or fling himself down. Some cover at last, thank God! So it 
happened with man after man, and each journey was the 
adventure of a man trying to dodge death. It was horrible to 
see. 
High above the Thiépval Ridge there were perpendiclùar 
streaks of white smoke and light, strangely spectral, like tall 
thin ghosts wrapped in white shrouds and illumined in a 
ghastly way. I think they ,vere the long tails of rockets fired 
as signals to the guns. The German black shrapnel and their 
green "universa.l" shell was hanging in big puffs above the 
denser pall belo\v, and there was the glint and flash of bursting 
shells stabbing through the wall of smoke. 
Our aeroplanes were right over Thiépval all through the 
battle, circling round in ,vide steady flights, careless of the 
German a.nti-aircraft guns, .which were firing continuously. 
Two hostile planes came out and our men closed about them, 
and flew to attack, but after a little while the Germans fled 
back in retreat. The only observation the enclny had was 
from two kite balloons, poised ,veIl forward, but often lost 
and blinded in all the clouds. 
So I watched, and knew, because our n1en did not come 
back froin those trenches on the Thiépval ridge, that they had 
been successful. It was only the prisoners and the lightly 
\vounded who came back. The assaulting parties were holding 
the ground they had captured in spite of all the shell-fire that 
crashed over them. They had tightened the iron net round 
Thiépval and dra ,vn it closer. 
So at last I ,vent a\vay from the battlefield, back to the 
quiet harvest-fields flooded with the golden glo\v of the sinking 
sun, luckier than the men who had to stay, and ashamed of my 
luck. The enen1Y was flinging shells at long range. The 
harvest-fields were not quite so safe as they looked. 
There \vere ugly corners to pass, shell-trap corners, where 
it is not ,vise to linger to light a cigarette. But hell ,vas behind 
me, up there at Thiépval, where the storm of shell-fire still 
raged, and ,vhere, below-ground, the German garrison awaits 
its inevitable fate. 



THE ATTACKS ON THI
PV AL 211 


.8 


AUGUST 26 
Following the official communiqué, I can now say that the 
troops whom I saw advancing so splendidly and steadily across 
a great stretch of No Man's Land to the higher ground round 
Thiépval were filen of "Yiltshire and "Y orcestershire. They 
deserve the honour that has been given them by Sir Douglas 
Haig in his report, because after their great assault they had to 
sustain last night a strong attack by Prussian Guardsmen, 
following a long and fierce bombardment. The courage of 
these English lads-among them being boys ,vho once follo,ved 
the plough and worked in the orchards of those quiet old 
counties-did not fail against the finest troops of the Kaiser's 
armies, and that phrase in the official communiqué which 
records their achievement is a fine memorial : 
" The success of our defences is largely due to the steadiness 
and determined gallantry of Wiltshire and \V orcestershire 
men, ,vho, in spite of being subjected to a very heavy bombard- 
ment, steadily maintained their positions, and repulsed the 
determined assault of the enemy." 
It seems to me probable that the enemy \vill make a big 
effort to check our continued advance along the ridge fronl 
Thiépval to IIigh "\tV ood, and especially to rescue Thiépval 
itself from its impending fate. The position our troops have 
gained by two months' fighting of the Illost heroic kind has put 
the enemy at a great disadvantage from the point of vie,v of 
artillery observation, which is all-important in modern \varfare. 
On the ground in front of us now, beyond the 'Vindmill and 
the switch-line, the German battalions are in an untenable 
position if our attack is pressed on, until they fall back upon 
,vhat is known as the 
-"lers line, more than 2000 yards behind 
Martinpuich and High 'V ood, and mean,vhile their present 
line of defence is open to our bombardnlents, so that the enemy's 
casualties must be very heavy, and, as ,ve kno,v, the" nloral" 
of their men in these shell-craters and ruins is badly shaken. 
It is obvious that the German Headquarters Staff realizes 
the gravity of the position, and is endeavouring to organize 
a method of defence by attack, which will stop or check the 
British advancc. They are probably too shre,vd to believe 



212 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


that this can be done by bringing up fresh troops to replac
 
those who have been ,vorn out, and stand \vith shattered nerves 
beyond the British lines. 
Fresh troops or old troops are food for our guns, greedy for 
then1. It is only by guns that the enemy can fight against 
guns, and he is drifting down batteries into a great concentration 
for the defence of Thiépval. . 
It will be the greatest duel of artillery ever seen on the British 
front, for as I have seen myself the s,veep and fury of our O\Yll 
shell-fire in the neighbourhood reaches the nlost astounding 
intensity. l\lean,vhile we have in this sector, beyorttl any 
shado,v of doubt or exaggeration, the mastery of the air, and 
that is of supreme advantage to our gunners, and to the infantry 
,vho are supported by them. 
So far our progress has not been brought to a dead halt, and 
,ve have made further ground yesterday, by wonderfully fine 
fighting on the part of English and Scots battalions, to the 
north and east of Dc1ville Wood. Our hurricane bombard- 
Inent preceding the attack of these troops was countered by a 
heavy barrage from the enemy, but our men went forward ,vith 
an unflinching spirit to a line striking across the Flers-Longueval 
road, and joining on the left-by a curved salient-our old 
position south-,vest of High "\Vood. 
The hardest part of the fighting ,vas on the left of the attack, 
where there was a great deal of machine-gull fire, but the enemy's 
trenches were carried and prisoners ,vere taken to the number 
of ten officers and 214 other ranks. Several machine-guns also 
'vere brought back after being captured by hand-to-hand 
fighting at the strong points. 


9 


AUGUST 28 
I have already described Iny own visual impressions of th
 
great assault made south of Thiépval by men of \Viltshire and 
W orcestershire, ,vhich I watched from a neighbouring trench. 
But there are still things to be told about this nlemorable 
achievement-as fine in its ,yay as anything our men have 
done. The name of , Vi Its hire ,vill always be specially remCln- 
bered on the ground of the Leipzig salient, which barred the 
southern ,yay to Thiépval, for they were troops of this county 
who, as far back as July 8, captured the butt-end of that strong- 



THE ATTACKS ON THIEpV AL 


" 

.13 


hold, and, working with other county troops on their right, 
made the next advance, on August 22, which preceded the 
greater attack t"\""O days later. 
That affair of August 22 was extraordinarily fine and brief 
and successful. T,velve minutes after the attacking time, th
 
'Vilts men had gone across the one hundred yards of No Man's 
Land, captured the enemy's nearest line of trenches, and sent 
down their first batch of twenty prisoners. 
The "Viltshires had only three casualties in getting across 
the open ground, though after"\vards suffered more under the 
enemy's shell-fire. 1\lost of the German dug-outs were blown 
in, but there was one big subterranean chalnber ,vhich was 
not badly damaged, and wanted only a little ,york to make it 
a. place of comfort for the ne,v-comers. As their colonel said 
to me to-day: "It always gives us great pleasure to take 
lodgings in these Gcrman apartments." 
The attack on the I-lindenburg Trench ,vhich I saw on 
August 24 was complicated because the Wiltshires had to 
advance partly across the open-300 yards of No Man's Land, 
which is no joke-and partly, on their left, through a net,vork 
.f trenches climbing the high ground from the Leipzig salient 
to Thiépval. 
It was necessary therefore to organize the attack so that 
those advancing over the open should not arrive at the Hinden- 
burg Trench sooner than those worry.ing their way up through 
the broken earth"\vorks, not at all an easy proposition. 
Also before the Hindenburg line could be seized securely 
it .would be essential to "kill" a German strong point at a 
junction made in the Hindenburg Trench by a con1munication- 
way running up from the Leipzig salient. 
The penàlty of not doing so would be certain death to many 
.f our men by an enfilade fire of machine-guns. These are little 
details that ,vorry the souls of commanding officers and company 
con1manders before they get the men over the parapet ,vith 
thousands of bombs and the supplies of picks, shovels, sandbags 
Le"\vis-gun " drums," Very lights, and other material of ,val'. ...
 


10 
On the day before the last attack on the southern ,yay into 
Thiépval the enemy, ,vho suspected bad things coming, tried to 



214 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


thwart our plan by hurling a terrific storm of shell-fire all over 
the Leipzig salient. 
He seems to have brought up new guns for the purpose, and 
his heavy five-point-nines "crumped" the ground in all 
directions. But all this did not stop the 'Vilt
hires and the 
\i\T orcesh rs, 'who went on with their own little scheme. 
On Thursday afternoon last everything went like clock,vork 
from the nloment that our artillery opened with the intense 
bombardment described by me in a former dispatch. 
The '\tV orcesters attacked on the right, the WiJtshires on the 
left. Over the parapet they halted a moment, and then went 
forward in a steady and ordered way. I could not see the men 
,vorking up through the trenches on the left until they sprang 
up to the crest of the ridge, but only those 'who went across the 
open. The last eighty yards was cover
d in the quickest time, 
and soon after our shell-fire lifted off the German trench the 
Wiltshires and \"" orcesters were in among the enemy. 
But not close together. There 'was a gap of fifty yards 
between th<: t,yO parties, and in order to get in touch ,vith each 
other they bomb(
d left and right. It was at this moment that 
a company officer distinguished himself by great gallantry. 
There ,vere Prllssian Guards in the trench, and they fought 
fiercely, using the gap as a bombing centre. Unless routed 
out this group of men might have spoiled the attack. The 
officer sa, v the situation in a flash, and "'as quick to get a rifle 
to his shoulder. He was a dead shot, and shot, one after the 
other, five men who were trying to blow him to bits with their 
hand-gn:nades. 
At the same time a sergeant scrambled up into the open, 
and running along outside the trench flung his bombs at the 
ene-my bdow, " to rattle them," according to the description of 
his commanding officer. Another young soldier fixed his Le\vis 
gun over the parapet and fired down into the trenches, so that the 
enemy had to keep quiet until our men were all round them. 
The s1 rong point by the Koenigstrasse had been rushed, and 
the lIindlnburg Trench was ours. 


11 

hBrp and fierce fighting had carried the trf'llches on the left 
and ca}Jtured a strong dug-out belonging to the German company 



THE ATTACKS ON THI:ßPV AL 215 


commanders. Here also the Prussian Guards fought ,vith 
great courage, firing up from their dug-outs and only surrender- 
ing undcr the menace of immediate death. One sergeant here 
on the left walked about in the open ,vith a cool courage and 
shot twelve Germans who were sniping from shell-holes. The 
ground ,vas already strewn with their dead, killed by our 
bombardment, and over this graveyard of unburied men there 
,vas bayonet fighting and bombing uritil all the Prussians 
,vho remained alive became the prisoners of the Wiltshires. 
There we're several officers among them wearing the Iron 
Cross, and all the officers and men were 
alJ fellows with brand- 
ne'v equipment, ,,-hich showed that they had just come into 
the trenches. 
Two captured machine-guns were turned against the enerI1Y's 
line, with their own ammunition ready for use, and both the 
"Viltshires and the \tVorcesters settled do\vn in the ne,v line, 
badly smashed as usual by our shell-fire, but ,vith a lot of 
useful dug-outs still intact, to hold on under the inevitable 
retaliation of the enemy's guns. 
All through the night there was a steady bombardment, but 
nothing of extraordinary ferocity. It was the usual night's 
" strafe" in the neighbourhood of Thiépval, \vhich is not really 
a nice place. 
On. the following day-last Friday-the hostile shell-fire 
increased. Five-point-nines were joined by eight-inchers, and, 
as one of the officers described it, "every durned thing." It 
quickened and strengthened in intensity until to,vards evening 
it was a hurricane bonlbardment meaning one obvious thing- 
a counter-attack. Our mcn were well do\vn in the old German 
dug-outs, grateful to their enemy for digging so deep and well, 
but it became most necessary to warn our " heavies" that the 
Prussians were gathering for a smashing assault. 
Runners 'v ere sent out to get back through the barrage if 
they had the luck, and several of these brave men tried and 
several failed, dying on the ,yay. But one had more than human 
luck. Owing to the appalling character of the ground, " pitted 
and ploughed as though by a gigantic harro,v"-it is his 
officer's phrase-the man lost his sense of direction, staggered 
and stumbled on through the slnoke and ov
r the shell-craters, 
and then-anlazed-found himself looking over a parapet 
into a trench full of Germans with fixed bayoncts. They ,verc 



216 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\lME 


crowded there, those tall Prussians, a waiting the moment to 
launch their counter-attack. 
The runner turned back. Before him the ground ,vas a 
series of \?olcanoes, tossed up by German shells and British 
shells. He knew that he had to pass through our barrage and 
the enemy's barrage. The chances against him were tremen- 
.ous. In his o,vn opinion he had no more chance than a 
"snowflake in hell." But hc ran back, dodging this death, 
and-can1e through untouched ! 
The " hea vics " did at last get the message and ,vere quick 
to ans,ver it. "In three shakes," said an officer of the \Vilt- 
shires, " they ,vcre smashing the Gerrnan lines to glory." 
Those tall Prussians cro,vding there ,vere caught by this 
stonn. Thcir trench bec
une a ditchful of mangled bodies. 
Only a thin ,va ve of mcn came out into open country, and of 
these not rnany ,vent back. 
The Prnssian counter-attack was killed. The '\V orcestcrs 
a.nd the \Yiltshires held their ground rounel Thiépval, and their 
losses were paid for heavily by German blood. 



xxv 


THE LAST FIGHTS IN DEVIL'S WOOD 


1 


AUGpST 29 
THE barren ground of the battlefields ,vas turned into swamps 
this afternoon
 when the clouds which had been piling up in 

Tcat black Inasses suddenly broke after a few 'warning flashes 
()f lightning and a roll of thunder. 
I have been watching the usual artillery bombardment over 
the Pozières Ridge and Thiépval, spreading east,vard to the 
thin fringe of High Wood, faintly pencilled against the darkening 
sky. The guns quickened their pace at about three o'clock, 
and on our right the French artillery ,vas also hanlmering a way. 
Then the storm burst and nature, after all, had the best of it, 
though all the atmospheric effects seemed like a magnificent 
plagiarism of our hUll1an chemistry which has filled the sky 
with darkness and forked lightnings, and the earth ,vith high 

xplosives, and the air ,vith noise. These thunder-claps ripping 
the clouds before the long ruffle of their drums, and the winking 
.r the lightning behind the black curtains on the hills, and the 
queer, ghastly colours e
ging fantastically shaped wreaths of 
cloud, ,vere cnorlnously like our miniature tempests of hate. 
Nature 'was at ,var ,vith itself, and our pop-guns seemed silly 
toys. 
Coming do,vn to earth and its funny ants, called men, 
there has no): been very much activity during the past twcnty- 
four hours beyond the work of the gunners. Bet\\'een Delville 
Wood and High Wood our troops captured a German barricade, 
and there 'vas some bombing about the shell-craters on the 
way to Ginchy, all of which gives us at last a strong grip all 
round and beyond that Ðevil's lVood where our men have 
fought so often and so hard. 



218 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\:IME 


There seems no doubt about it now, judging from all I heard 
at an officers' mess in a big-sized tent between the bombard- 
ment and the thunder-storm, 'where a. nunlber of young officers 
told me incidents of the recent fighting there. 


2 


It was on August 24, as I have described already in a brief 
,yay, that the big U shove" was made all round this beastly 
wood and out of it on the east side, where the Germans still 
had some strong posts and shell-craters and machine-guns. 
The troops engaged were mostly of Engli
h regin1ents, ,vith 
one body of Scots, and they all did splt>ndidly in spite of the 
tragic character of the ground and the intensity of the enemy's 
barrage. Accidents happened now and then. At one point 
of the advance the German wire was uncut, and only eight 
men could get through. They killed eleven Germans in the 
craters beyond them, and stayed there till dusk, and came 
back. 
On the north side of the wood the troops were hammered 
by shell-fire, but "stuck" it out, and went forward marvel- 
lously, under the protection of their o\vn shell-fire, \vhile our 
machine-guns kept the enemy's heads dO'wn by a stream of 
machine-gun bullets-a million of them-which "watered" 
his trenches. 
'.fhere was but little hand fighting here. Many Germans 
were found dead in their muck-heaps which \vere once trenches. 
Four of them ran forward to surrender so fllriously that they 
scared one of 0111' men, who ran too, until he realized their 
intention and took them prisoner. Another came running 
forward and was seized by the throat by an officer, who was 
suspicious of his intention in the heat of the nloment. 
There was also a bull-pup who came over and is now enjoying 
bully-beef. 
Farther on the riRht there was great fighting to thrust the 
enemy out of his last ditch in Delville "Vood aud to get across 
the ground to the east of it. 
The enenlY fought \vith high courage, and there were many 
bombin
 duels, in' which one of our sergeants caught German 
bombs before they burst and flung then) hack again-,,"hich 
is not an easy trick to learn. A Lewis gun was thrust up very 



THE LAST FIGHTS IN DEVIL'S WOOD 219 


quickly to a German post where a machine-gun was concealed 
in a shelJ-crater and played its hose on the team who refused 
to surrender. Out of one such strong point-a nest of craters- 
fifty-four Prussians came up with the usual shout of surrender 
,vhen our bombing parties had surrounded them. 
Every man fought with reckless courage. The wounded 
officers carried back on stretchers brought the latest news to 
their briga.dier, and said, "We're doing jolly well, sir," or 
explained the difficult bits of work in hand. 
The stretcher-bearers went out through the heaviest fire 
and searched for the ,vounded with great self-sacrifice. One 
man of the R.A.M.C. was out there, over this frightful ground, 
, for twenty hours at a stretch, saving many lllen, untired till 
the last. 
One queer horror was seen. Some German sentries were 
found tied to posts, and one man stood there ,vithout a head, 
which had been blowll off by a shell. It seemed some Rwful 
form of field punishment, perhaps for men who had tried 
to desert. Nearly 400 prisoners were taken altogether that 
day. 
They had fought bravely-once they had the pride of 
Prussians. But now many of them were utterly broken, and 
one officer, when he was questioned, could only wring his 
hands and moan about the a\vfullosses of his company. 
It was fighting which continued the tradition of Devil's 
Wood-where horror and heroism have gone hand in hand. 


:3 


SEPTEMBER 2 
The enpmy's attenlpt to recover some of his lost ground 
around DclvilJe "'. ood has been very costly to him, and has 
only succeeded in two places in forcing onr men back a little 
'vay, in spite of the self-sacrifice of those German soldiers who 
obeyed orders and came across a foul ground through the 
curtain-fire of our guns, and fell, as they knew they must 
fall. 
So we go back to Devil's 'Vood again. and the name of its 
beastliness Inust be "'Titten down once more as a place where 
n10re dearllif' arnong tho
e ,,,ho have lain there long, and where 
once more shell-fire is smashing through the charred tree- 


, 



220 TIlE BATTLES OF THE SOIVIME 


stumps and biting great chunks of wood out of sturdy old trunks 
still standing in this shambles. 
It win be remembered, perhaps, how in the last big fighting 
:here more than a week ago our men thrust our lines out beyond 
the \vood, above the orchard trench of Longueval and the 
sunken road to High Wood, and captured the enemy's last 
strong point in the north-east corner of the \vood, and chased 
the enen1Y out of a network of trenches zigzagging away from 
the wood towards Guinchy. Something like 400 prisoners 
were taken then, and in knocking out machine-gun posts
 in 
bombing the enen1Y out of' sman redoubts, and s\veeping across 
:round pitted \vith shell-craters in which lay stubborn Germans 
sniping Ollr men as they passed, every quality of coura.ge and 
the fighting spirit was shown by our troops engaged. 
It was good to get about beyond the Devil's Wood, and our 
men redng their trenches outside it with a willing industry. 
Then by bad luck the rain came, and heavy clouds gathered 
and broke, slashed by lightning, and flooded the battlefields. 
It was hard luck on newly made trenches and on the men 

yho had dug then}. I think it is di1f1'Cult for people at home 
to understand the meaning of big rain in this war of ours; 
the very sandbags come slipping off the parapets, and parapets 
.ome falling on to the firesteps, and rivers conle rushing down 
the boggy ditch es. 
Rifles drop and get caked with wet mud. Iland-grenades 
Ilisappear into the quagmire. To get supplies up narrow 
.itches is tiring to the point of sheer exhaustion. So our men 
were tired-" fed-up" with the weather, as they would put 
it-when the enemy began to bombard them, not in the usual 
way of a war-day's work, but furiously, with a storm of hate. 
For three hours the bombardment \vent on and increased 
in violence. The front trenches had been lightly held, and the 
men there held on until there were no trenches, but only shell- 
craters and a wild upheaval of wet earth. The enemy believed, 
perhaps, that they had finished all our life in those muck- 
hea ps. 
German soldiers ordered to advance may, for a few minutes, 
have bolstered up their courage by the thought that their 
guns had done most of the work. Not longer than that. 'Vhen 
the first wave of the 118th German regin1ent came out of their 
shell-craters and ditches they came full into the face of a 



THE LAST FIGHTS IN DEVIL'S "VOOD 221 


deadly machine-gun fire, and under a great barrage of high 
explosives. 
It ,vas the fire of our machine-gunners which killed most of 
them. They feU as if s,vept down by invisible scythes. 
The second ,va ve came-not in a standing line, as peopl
 
may imagine, but in little bunches or groups, and singly, 
stlunbling in and out of shell-holes, in short rushes, lpaping to 
avoid shell-bursts, but not retreating one bit from the death 
that ,vaited for them. The second German 'vave was ,viped 
out. 
A third, fourth, and fifth 'Yave advanced, and though n1any 
of these men fell, and the ,vaves became mingled and confused 
in . their tide, there were enough to reach the place ,vher
 
our lines had been, and too many at the time for our men, 
,vho had been sorely tried to dispute the foremost shell-craters 
,vith them. 
Our troops had to fall back in one or t,vo places along th
 
fringe of Delville \tV ood and behind the line of the sunken 
road westward. But the enemy did not gain the ground round 
the ,vood. Even "'here he had damaged our trenches most 
"Te held strong posts, machine-guns in convenient shell-holes, 
and small groups of brave fello,vs in isolated bits of trench 
keeping their bombs and rifles dry. 
During the night also our n1en bombed out parties of Germans 
in a portion of the sunken road, and regained the bit of ground 
for ,vhich the enemy had paid so high a price in blood. 
To-day there ,vas a blue sky again over the battlefields, and 
the sunlight layover the ghastly ruin of all those villages and 
,yoodlands. 
A great day for the gunners, 0 God! . . . They made the 
most of it, and I .watched the bombardment piling up th
 
colunlns of smoke and earth bct,veen Thiépval and High \V ood, 
and a fierce Gprman barrage bet,,'een l\lametz Wood and th
 
Bazentins. 
Heavy" crumps" ,vere bursting also away back by Contal- 
maison, and once the Virgin of Albert ,vas hidden in a smokc- 
cloud \vhich rose froln the ruins about it. 
The sun glean1ed on all our kite-balloons hastening for,vard 
in the blue to watch the enemy's lines. They 'vcre dazzling 
white, these" lluperts " of the sky, and above and about them 
flashed our battle-planes going over the enen1Y's country. 



222 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


Ceaselessly the infernal clangor of great guns banged over 
the hills, and the shells 'went ,vhining overhead. The enemy 
was getting the worst of it, if I could judge from the greater 
,veight of our bombardment, but his guns were also hard at 
work, at long range beyond Grandcourt and Flers. He flung 
out a quantity of gas-shells-and the sun shone down upon 
all these little busy 'ways of men, and the fields ,vere flooded 
with a golden light. 



XXVI 


THE AUSTRALIANS AT MOUQUET FARM 


1 


SEPTEMBER 3 
TO-DAY, Sunday, Septen1ber 3, many of our troops have been 
engaged in hard fighting. 
The main facts of these battles will be told officially before 
what I have to write is published-the capture of Guillemont, 
the advance at least as far as half-way through the village of 
Ginchy, the taking of ground eastwards beyond Mouquet Farm 
-and put even as briefly as that it will be known by people 
at home that our men have again gone forward in a great 
attack and fought tremendously. 
Again all this countryside above the Somme has been filled 
with those scenes of war \vhich I have described so often since 
that morning of July 1 when \ve began the great attack, 
pictures of a day of battle when many troops are engaged, 
I and when the po\ver of our artillery is concentrated in a tremen- 
I dous endeavour-stabs of fire from the muzzles of many guns, 
I smoke-clouds rising above the ridges of the hills and lying 
dense in the valleys, the bloody trail of the walking wounded, 
groups of prisoners tramping down, ambulance convoys swirling 
through quiet lanes, bandaged men in casualty clearing-stations 
or sitting in harvest-fields behind the lines waiting for the Red 
Cross trains, guns going up, ammunition colunuls crawling 
for\vard, transport, mules, motor-cars, field-guns, troops- 
everywhere the movement of a great day of war. 


2 
Looking back on to-day's battle-pictures t\VO of them rise 
before me now as I write, most vividly. One of them was '"just 



224 THE BATTLES OF THE SONIlVIE 


a smoke-picture as I stared do\vn into the boiling heart of its 
cauldron this morning. I was in an artillery observation-post, 
from which on ordinary days one may see each shell burst 
above the ruins of Thiépval and the ragged trees of its ,voods 
and the broken row of apple-trees, and a charred stick or t,vo 
of l\fouquet Farm, and beyond, very clearly on the ridge, the 
conical base of the windmill above Pozières. 
To-day one could see nothing of this. Nothing at all but 
a hurly-burly of smoke, black rising in columns through ,vhite, 
,vhite floating through and above black, and an moving and 
,vrithing. That was where our men ,vere fighting. 
That '''as an the picture of this struggle, just smoke and 
mist. Thousands of shells were bursting there, but one could 
see no separate shell-burst; no single human figure dodging 
death or 111eeting it. So I stood and stared and listened. It 
was like a world in conflict. 
The noise of the guns ,vas tense. The hammer-strokes of 
each explosion met each other stroke, and gave out an enormous 
clangor. Dante looking do,vn into Inferno may have seen 
something like this, and would not have heard such a noise. 
It ,vas most like the spirit of ,var of anything I have seen, and 
I have seen men go for\vard and fall, and \vatched their single 
adventures. 
The other picture ,vas more human and less frightful, though 
sad and tragic and 'wonderful. It ,vas a field behind the battle- 
lines, into ,vhich the "'walking wounded" first came down 
after thcir escape from those fires farther up. It ,vas a harvest- 
field \vith rows of neat corn-stooks near a ,vood in heavy foliage, 
in spite of shells which came from time to time to break the 
branches. Some \vounded men lay about on the stubble. 
Others came limping bet\veen the corn-stooks, ,vith their arms 
about the necks of stronger comrades. 
Horse anlbulances halted by the side of the road, and groups 
of Red Cross men ran forward and brought back very slowly 
stretchers hea vily laden with hun1an bundles, ,vho were laid 
by the side of those ,vho could sit up with their backs to the 
,vheat-shcaves. IVlany of the men's faces ,vere caked ,vith 
blood. There \\Tas every kind of ,vound except the ,vorst. 
But men ,vith bandaged heads called out to others ,vho came 
,vith their arms in slings, and men gone lame gossiped with 
men 'whose jackets had been cut a,vay at the shoulder-ând 



THE AUSTRALIANS AT l\IOUQUET FAPl\I 225 
I sa,v again the .wonder that one always sees after battle, .which 
is the cheerfulness of men who are not too far gone to hide their 
pain, the courage of the British soldier, ,vhich is sublime. 
There \vere a fe\v men there from wholn one's eyes played 
the coward, but it was good to see the happiness of those ,vho 
had come out of the zone of death into this harvest-field, ,vhere 
there was safety except for chance shells. Guns .were firing 
all round theln. But they ,vere our guns. These n1en were 
the heroes of a great day of battle, and they had been touchcd 
by fire, but had not been burnt in the furnaces to ,vhich they 
had gone before the da,vn. They had had all the luck. 


3 
It is too soon to tell the story of this day. Our lnen are 
still fighting as the sun goes down this evening .with a red 
glo,v in the sky after a sharp burst of rain. In those ,vet and 
broken ditches, .which \ve call trenches, north-east beyond 
l\Iouquet Farn1, and on the right by Guillelnont, the enelny 
is still being routed out of shelJ-craters and trying to rally to 
counter-attacks, and the German guns are flinging out barrages 
to drive our n1en back if they can. At this hour, ,vhen all is 
confused and uncertain except the main facts that \ve have 
taken Guillemont and part of Ginchy, and far beyond IVlouquet, 
with great news from the French on our right-the capture of 
Cléry and 1500 prisoners-I can give only a few glÎInpses of 
the incidents of all this fighting. 
On the left our attack ,vas lnade on the German lines north 
and south of the Ancre. Our troops \vent over their parapets 
this morning ahnost before the first glimlner of da ,vn had 
lightened the sky. They could only see the ground ÎInlnediately 
before them, and it ,vas, of course, pitted \vith shell-craters, 
old and new. The ne\v craters had just been lnade by our 
hurricane bombardlnent, which had laid the enemy's parapets 
in shapeless ruin, killing a great nU111ber of Germans in ,vhat 
had been their trenches. Their light signals called to their 
gunners, and at the very instant our men caIne into the open 
an accurate barrage swept our lines. But the men were away, 
and as far as I heard from them this morning the line on the 
left did not suffer uncommonly in the scramble across No 
Man's Land. 


p 



226 THE BATTLES OF THE SO
Il\'IE 
A nUlnber of thenl forced their ,yay into and through the 
cnelny's first and second lines, bayoneting the Germans .who 
tried to resist then1, and clearing the ground of strong snipers 
and 111achine-gunners. They fought-these English country 
fello,vs--in heroic style to the south of the river. The enelny's 
Inachine-gunners played an enfilade fire upon the successful 
troops across the Ancre, and the enemy's artillery ,vas able to 
concentrate on this ground. Ours held on to the Gennan 
second line against this over\vhehning fire ,,'ith a Inost stubborn 
endurance, but after\vards ,,'hen a body of Prussians advanced 
to a counter-attack dre\v back to get into line again ,vith the 
111en on their right, south of the river. 
" It \vas the shell-fire \yhich Inade onr position untenable," 
said one of the officers \vho had been fighting here. "But in 
any case "ve put a large nun1ber of Boches out of action, and 
that is always \vorth doing, and brings the end of the 'val' a 
Ii ttle closer." 


4 

luch 1110re lucky and va]uable \vas the advance ITlade by 
Australian troops upon l\Iouquet Fann. These Inen knc,v the 
ground intimateJy, and had already penetrated the ruins of 
the farm by a strong patrol, \vhieh went in and out some days 
ago, bringing back sOlne prisoners, as I described at thc tÌlne. 
They \vere confident that they could do the saIne thing again, 
though the site of the farm 111ight be diflìclllt to hold against 
hostile fire. Our guns did not fail then1 this Inorning. 
One of these clean-cut Australian boys ,vith those fine, 
steady, truth-telling eyes \vhich look so straight at one even 
after a nerve-breaking ordeal of fire, told DIe to-day that the 
bOlnbardlnent preceding their attack ,vas the greatest thing 
he has ever heard, though he has fought under Inany of them 
hereabouts. 
" Our shells rushed over us," he said, "\vith a strange, loud, 
ringing noise \vhich pierced one's ear-drums \vith a violent 
vibration. It \vas just marvellous." But the enelny's guns 
were po\verful too, and he replied tremendously as soon as 
our o\vn " lifted " and lengthened their fuses. 
The \vay across No 
Ian's Land, \vhich "vas about 200 yards, 
I think
 ,vas a passage perilous. There \vas no level ground 
any\vherc, 110t a foot of it. It \vas all shell-holes. Our 111cn 



THE AUSTRALIANS AT 
IOUQUET FARIvI 227 
fell in and scrambled out and fell in again. Some of the holes 
were full of ,vater and mud, and men plunged up to their arm.. 
pits and were bogged. 
There ,vas nothing in the ,vay of trenches to take. The 
Germans 'were holding lines of shell-craters. In these deep 
pits they had fixed their machine-guns, and were 
cattered 
all about in isolated groups, ,vith little stores of bombs, and 
rifles kept dry someho,v. It was extraordinarily difficult to 
attack such a position because there was no definite line. 
The Australians found themselves sniped by machine-guns- 
horrible little spasms of bullets-from unknown quarters, to 
the right and left, even behind them. By the time the line 
of 1\louquet Farm ,vas reached the battle \vas broken up into 
a number of separate encounters bet,veen small parties of 
Australians and small parties of Prussians. 
There were bombing duels between one man and another 
over a shell-hole. Prussians sniped Australians and Australians 
Prussians at short range from the cover of craters. 
But in spite of all this hugger-mugger fighting the Australians 
pushed for,vard, and advanced parties went into lVIouquet 
Farm and 200 yards beyond it on the other side. Mouquet 
Farm-or " Moo-cow " and " l't:luckie " Farm, as it is variously 
called-only exists as a nan1e. Of the farm buildings there is 
nothing left but some blackened beams no higher than one of 
the Australian boys. 
The enemy, however, had his usual dug-outs here, tunnelled 
deep and strongly protected \vith tilnbers and cement. Into 
one of these went a group of Australians, ready for a fight, and 
\vere surprised to find the place empty of human life. It ,vas 
quiet there out of the shell-fire, and it was pleasant to be in 
the cool dark room, away from the battle. The men searched 
about and found cigars, which they lit and smoked. 
" Good work ! " said a boy. 
As he spoke the ,vords there ,vas a scuttle of feet and dark 
figures appeared in the entrance,vay. They ,vere Gennans, 
and an offieer among them said: "Surrender!" "Surrender 
be dalnned!" shouted the Australians. "Surrender your.. 
selves. " 
Bombs were flung on both sides, but other Australians came 
up, and it ,vas the Germans \vho surrendered. I sa,v one of 
them to-day, sitting on the grass and smoking a pipe among 



228 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


some of his comrades, ,vho lay wounded among the men who 
had helped to capture them. 
Other dug-outs ,vere being searched, and other prisoners 
were taken-ho,v many is still uncertain. But ,vhat is quite 
certain is that the Australians have taken ground beyond 
l\Iouquet Farn1 to the east and defeated Germany's best troops 
-the 1st Regiment of the Prussian Guards Reserve. 
They were sturdy and fine-looking men, as I saw sonle of 
them to-day, and they did not hide their joy at being alive 
and ,veIl treated as "Tounded prisoners. One of them spoke 
quite freely, and answered all questions put to him, though 
with ,,'hat truth it is difficult to judge. 
I think he told the truth, according to the kno-wlcdge that 
had been given to him and the lessons taught hÍ1n by his war 
lords. One of his most startling statements, ,vhich he made 
quite definitely, is that the German Emperor has issued a 
proclamation to his troops, declaring that there ,viII be no 
winter campaign. 
With regard to the coming in of Rumania, he said that it 
did not surprise them, as they had expected it for a long time.. 
"It ,viII make no difference to the real war," he said. He 
disclaimed that there was any shortage of food in Gcnnany, 
and as for the soldiers, said: "At least the Prussian Guards 
feed ,veIl. I had two eggs for breakfast. It is the same ,vith 
all our men." 
In the captured districts of France, the French people, he 
says, live on good terms with the Prussian soldiers, but do not 
like the Bavarians, who are rude fellows. " They were glad 
to see us back from Russia,," he added. 
They seem to have been brought back hurriedly from Russia 
to resist our offensive, and one man to whom I spoke a fe,v 
words-a house-painter in Berlin in days of peace-told me 
that he had only been here in France since the early days of 
July. He said that the ,val' ,vas far worse in France than in 
Russia, because of the intensity of artillery fire. "We are 
weary of it all," he said. "Our people are weary of it. The 
,vorld is weary of it." 
" And you are glad to be out of it ? " I asked. 
He smiled, and said, " It is good to be here." 
The Australians ,vcre giving their tobacco to these men, 
and there was no sign of hatred bet,veen them. It seClns that 



THE AUSTRALIANS AT MOUQUET FARM 229 
the Prussian Guard behaved \vell to-day ,vith regard to the 
\vounded and the stretcher-bearers. Mter the battle the 
bearers ,vent out all across No 
lan's Land to rescue the wounded 
and we allo\ved the same privilege to the enemy, so that parties 
of Germans and British came close to each other in this ,york 
of rescue, and there \vas no sniping. 
'Vith regard to the Guillemont fighting I can \vritc very 
little, as the battle there began only at midday and I could 
not get in that direction. But I learn that in co-operation 
,vith the French, ,vho \vere advancing magnificently from the 
south, and ,,,ho had linked up ,vith us near Angle Wood, our 
troops fought their ,yay forward from Arrnw IIead Copse by 
way of a maze of little saps \vhich had been dug all about 
here. They went straight through Guillen10nt, knocking out 
machine-gun posts and clearing out dug-outs, and established 
themselves on the Sunken Road from Ginchy. The Prussian 
Guard put up a big fight near Falfemont Farm, but suffered 
great losses. The other German regiments against us were 
the 73rd, 76th, and 164th. 
Fighting still goes on, and the exact issue is uncertain, but 
at the end of this Sunday the advantage of the day lies with 
liS, and the enemy has submitted to heavy blo\vs. 



x..XVII 


THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEMONT 


1 


SEPTEMBER 4 
I
 my dispatch yesterday describing the very heavy fighting 
at several parts of the line, I was unable to give sufficient 
prominence to the greatest success of the day, and one of 
the best achievements since the beginning of the battles of 
the Somme. 
That ,ve hold Guillemont safely and surely I had the luck 
to see for myself to-day when from neighbouring trenches 
I looked into the ruin of the place-strangely quiet this after- 
noon apart from a few German "crumps "-and saw that our 
men were holding the Sunken Road 500 yards farther on before 
they made an attack which has given us \Vedge "\'Vood and 
ground to the north of FaJfemont Farm. 
Yesterday's attack at midday was wonderfully good. Our 
men ,vent for,vard steadily in waves after a hurricane fire froJn 
a great mass of British guns. By some curious chance the 
enemy does not seem to have expected an attack at the exact 
hour it' happened. They may have thought that they had 
baulked it by their own bombardment on our lines and behind 
them ,vhen they flung over 10,000 gas-shells, ,vhose poisonous 
vapour floated over the ground for hours. They know now to 
their cost that they did not thwart the advance of our troops. 
The enemy's machine-guns swept the ground ,vith a rush of 
bullets, but our men took cover as much as possible in the 
dips and hollows of the earth-chaotic after long weeks of 
shelling-and came along quite quickly to the outskirts of the 
ruined village. A quarry there, in the centre of the western 
edge, had been entered and held for a day or two by British 
troops, but it was no longer in our hands and häd to be retaken. 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEl\iONT 231 


On the edge of the village also, on the ,vestern and southern 
sides, the Gern1ans had built their best dug-outs, months ago
 
before our guns concentrated their fire here, so that they had 
plenty of time to build them deep and build them strong, to 
panel theIn, and roof them ,vith concrete, and to furnish then} 
comfortably, and to decorate theln ,vith pictures from Gennan 
ne'wspapers and post cards from home. 
Our assaulting troops ,vere in and about those dug-outs in 
the first ,vave, and halted here to see that no enelnies should 
remain in hiding to attack them froln the rear. Underground 
there ,vas not much fighting. A fe,v proud men refused to 
surrender, or did not surrender quickly enough. Most of them 
gave themselves up easily and gave no trouble in being n1ar- 
shalled back, so that something like 600 n1en belonging to the 
finest German troops are no-w behind our lines-out of it for 
good, and rejoicing in their luck of life. 
Half an hour afterwards, joined by supporting troops, the 
British line advanced to the Sunken Road, where other Gennan 
soldiers 'vere captured, and found here a fine defensive position 
all ready for them, after a little ,york in reorganizing the shelter. 
From that point a nlunber of men ,vent for,vard again to an 
attack on Falfemont Farm, but this was too far for one day's 
,york, and they were held on the outskirts of the ,vood-poor 
,vood of "strafed" trees I-by an immediate counter-attack 
from the Prussian Guard. For one of the rare times in this war 
the Germans faced British bayonets, and stood to their ground 
so stoutly that they 'were able to maintain their position. 
So the battle ended yesterday ,vith the capture of Guillemont, 
'which ,vas good enough, and our line strongly entrenched along 
the Sunken Road. 


2 


To-day I saw another attack upon Falfemont Farm and our 
capture of the "\Yedge "\V ood. Every'where along the ,yay 
which leads to the country bet,veen Hardecourt and 
faurepas 
there is a great desolation. 
The Sunken Road led down from Guillemont to "\Ycdge Wood 
in the hollo,v. British soldiers held the Sunken Road, Germans 
,vere in "\tV edge \V ood. 
Striking up from that slnall solitary copse of naked sticks 
,vere two ,vhite chalky trenches in an obtuse angle ,vith the 



232 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


apex nearest to Wedge 'Vood and the broad base up the 
sloping ground to\vards Leuze \V ood on the ridge above. 
And half-,vay down the slope to the right of the triangle 
trenches \vas Falfemont Farm, without a sign of a farm, 
but marked by a nun1ber of tree-stems stuck up like telephone- 
poles. 
A little after three o'clock in the afternoon I sa"\v our men in 
the open. They came up suddenly, as though by a spell word, 
along the line of the Sunken Road and southwards belo,v 
Falfemont Farm, advancing north\vards to that place. 
The men advanced in waves. I saw the left waves surging 
down into 'V edge "\Yood. Some of them ,vavered a little, then 
fell. Groups fell, not dead or \younded, but getting below the 
stream of bullets yard-high over the ground. The small copse 
,vas soon cro\vded ,vith British soldiers. They seen1ed to be 
in a kind of scrimlnage, and .out of the middle of it came presently 
a compact little body of men. 
" German prisoners, right enough-and ,veIl done ! " said an 
officer by my side. 
I follo,ved the advance of the southern waves to,vards 
Falfemont Farm. They \vent on slo,vly and steadily, and had 
a long way to go. It seemed to n1e a fri,ghtfullong way. But 
they crept up nearer and nearer to the edge of the bare poles 
\vhich were once a wood. Then SOlne of them fell, and dis- 
appeared into shell-craters and broken trenches. New waves 
came up and disappeared also, as though lying, or dead, in the 
tall thistles. After a little ,vhile I saw that n1any of them had 
reappeared to the left. They ,vere 'working up to,vards the 
Gern1an triangle trenches on the slope of the spur, striking 
down from Leuze 'V ood. 
In a few. minutes two figures appeared black against the 
\vhite chalk of the first trench, and presently they were lost in 
it. But not for long. Groups of thenl were up again, marshal- 
ling another group which seemed separated from them and then 
moved back to,vards "\Vedge ,V ood. I guessed they \vere lnore 
Germal} prisoners, but could not see the difference bet,veen 
grey and khaki. 
" llallo, they've got the second trench! " said another n1an 
by my side. 
It ,vas some time after t\VO, \vhile I was ,vatching the confused 
groups of men, that strange things began to happen in the 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLElVIONT 233 


German lines. Froln Leuze Wood parties of men came running 
do"\vn to Falfemont Farm. 
"By the Lord!" said an officer. "A German counter- 
attack. . . . Get it over the telephone, quick. A good target 
for the guns." 
It was a "\vonderful target. The Prussian Guardsmen can1e 
for"\vard, not in open order, but shoulder to shoulder. They 
made a serpentine line across the ground, advancing steadily 
and not slo"\vly to-wards our troops. They looked very tall men, 
and their figures \vere quite black against the chalky earth. 
Then suddenly the right end of the line crumbled away. Gaps 
opened in the thick bar of men. Our machine-guns "\vere 
raking theIne I listened to the s"\vish-s\vish of the fire, like a 
flame blo\VIl in the .wind. Then, like a ro\v of ninepins on 
uneven ground, the Prussian Guards all fell face forwards. 
The unwounded men had fallen with the wounded to escape 
our bullets. 
" Counter-attack repulsed! " said a voice near the telephonist. 
T\venty minutes later, if I remember accurately, another 
Gern1an counter-attack was organized in exactly the same 
way, by parties of men coming down from Leuze Wood. But 
this was also broken up by our machine-gun fire. 


3 


SEPTEMBER 5 
l\tIy last dispatch describing the capture of Wedge "\tVood and 
the attack on Falfemont Farm left off like a serial story at a 
moment of exciting uncertainty. It was impossible for me to 
tell whether our men had actually taken possession of the 
farm-that plantation of " strafed " trees to the south of Leuze 
'V ood-and the meaning of all that cOIning and going of groups 
and individuals to the .west and north of it, after the second 
German counter-attack had failed. 
Now the tangled \veb of the plot-not spun by imagination 
but as real as death-is straightened out, and the end of another 
grim little chapter of the \var is the capture of 1000 yards of the 
cneIny's front, to the depth of 1500 yards, in and around 
Falfemont Farm, which is no\v held by British troops. 
It \vas great fighting \vhich gained this ground, and the men 
\vere their own generals. These \Vest-country lads \vere not 



234 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


n10ved like marionettes pulled by the strings froln headquarters. 
It ,vas, after the first orders had been given, a soldiers' battle
 
and its success was due to young officers and N.C.O.'s and Inen 
using their o,vn initiative, finding another ,yay round ,vhen 
one had failed, and arranging their o,vn tactics in face of the 
enemy to suit the situation of the moment. 
Such a thing has been done very rarely since the first days 
of trench warfare, except in raids over No l\lan' s Land and 
bombing fights in such places as Ovillers and Longueval. 
Here the individual ('raft of our men gained an ÏInportant 
position. When the attack on Falfemont Fann ,vas checked 
on the south by .wicked machine-gun fire our troops ,vorked 
their ,vay ,vest,vards, and joining other bodies of men advancing 
from the Sunken Road beyond Guillelnont, crept round the 
slope of the ground that goes up to Leuze "Vood. 
Half-way up, on the outer edge of the spur, were the t,vo 
V -shaped trenches ,vhich I saw taken by the first two ,vaves, 
immediately after the capture of \Vedge 'Vood, in the hollo.w 
at the bottom of the Sunken Road, and these trenches were 
used also as good cover for men inspired by a great idea. 
It was the idea of Inaking a surprise rush into Leuze "V ood, 
from its ,vestern side, while the enemy's attention ,vas directed 
to the defence of Falfemont Farm, half-way down the slope 
to the south. 
It ,vas this surprise movement ,vhich caused all the confusion 
,vhich I saw yesterday among the enemy. 
Splendid work '''as done by our men after dusk and during 
the night, in spite of a deluge of rain, when the enemy's artillery 
fired most furiously. By dawn n10re troops had joined those 
who held the spur and pushed on to the north of Falfcmont 
Farm, and others had got close to the farn1 on the south and 
,vest by way of \Vedge \V ood. 
Between the black posts which ,vere once high living trees 
about sixty Germans stayed on in their shell-craters and broken 
dug-outs. 'Vhen the final British rush came from three sides 
they could do nothing but surrender or die. Some of them 
died, and others lay wounded and unconscious, but most of 
them put their hands up, and this afternoon I saw some of the 
wounded Gern1ans from Falfemont lying side by side on 
stretchers with boys from the \Vest Country who had been hit 
in attacking them. 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEMONT 235 


From first to last it ,vas the ,york of infantry rather than 
gnns, and it was a great and terrible moment when the Germans 
came out in their first counter-attack, in close ranks, moving 
very steadily against Ollr men, in a long, black, undulating 
wave over the rise and fall of the ground, through the ,vaist-high 
weeds; and then, again, after this first advance had been 
broken by our nlachine-gun fire and had fallen prone into the 
tall thistles so that no more of them ,vas to be seen, ,vhen 
another body of big Germans came out, crouching for the last 
rush upon our lines, and our men fell back a little, and opened 
out, so that the machine-guns had a clear field upon which to 
play their hose of bull ets. 
For a littlc while at least it was fighting ,vithont the usual 
massacre of shell-fire from long-range guns which annihilate 
the human element as well as the bodies of men. Hcre at least, 
in spite of the machine-guns, men looked into each other's eyes 
and "
ere killed advancing in the sight of their enemies, which 
seems to me better and less frightful than ,vhen men go forward 
and see nothing and are swallowed up in a great explosion 
directed from machines six miles away. 
The gun-fire was intense afterwards, and men and masses of 
men were swallowed up as usual by its high explosives, but 
for a couple of hours it ,vas more like old-fashioned fighting, 
damnable enough, God kno,vs, but not so utterly inhuman. 


4 


It is not sufficiently realized, I believe, ho,v very important 
has been the gain to us of the last t,vo days of battle. The 
capture of Guillemont and of the ground beyond it has given 
us now the whole of the German second line, which ,ve broke 
in parts on the great day of July 14. 
Since then our men have had an uphill fight aU the time, a 
long struggle upwards to seize the high ridge from Pozières 
eastwards, and to hold it. It has been difficult to take and 
difficult to hold. The cost has not been light. The heroisI11 
shown on those slopes, in those ,voods, in the assault on the high 
trenches, has been the nlost wonderful ever sho\vn by British 
soldiers in continuous endeavour. 
No,v we have gained the crest of the ridge, and even if our 
offensive ,vere brought to a dead halt to-day, ,vhich it ,viII not 



236 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


be, the posit.ion of our men for t.he \vinter .would be enorInousl, 
superior over that of the enemy on the other side of t.he \vatc; 
shed. Again, t.he taking of Guillemont and t.he ground b
 
Ginchy has defended our right flank and st.raightened out al 
awk\vard salient.. 
With Ginchy in our hands on one side and Thiépval on th 
other, ,ve should be \vell placed, and there ,vould be a grea 
gain for all t.he sacrifice our men have 111adc in fighting forwar< 
so hard, and so far, and with such exalted courage. 


5 


SEPTEMBER 5 
Thc taking of Guillemont, the quick progress to the Sunkcl 
Road beyond, the capture of Falfemont Farm, the thrust for 
,yard, by great daring, into Leuze \Vood, the close assault 01 
Ginehy, and the splendid advance of the French on our right 
have given to this part of the battle-line an atmosphere a 
exultation, which our troops have not felt so strongly sinc 
that day of July 14 when we broke the second German line a 
Longueval. 1\len are fighting hereabouts ,vith a sense of victor: 
,vhieh is half the battle. They feel, rightly or wrongly, that the: 
have the German on the run at last, and that by getting har. 
on to him, taking all risks, they will keep him running. 
The rapid and far progress of the F'reneh is helping our O\VJ 
men, not only in a nlilitary ,yay by " keeping the Boche busy': 
as thcy put it, but as a moral tonic, showing that the Germa 
strength of resistance has began to crack. The noise of th 
French guns is \vonderful music to British soldiers going for\var. 
to their o\vn part of the battlefields, and, by Jove, it is astound 
ing in its uproar, as I heard it to-day again on our right, awa: 
do\vn to the gates of Péronnc in a great roll of drum-fire fa 
miles. It is one ceaseless tattoo of " soixante-qninze" ani 
of heavier guns, like a titanic hammering of anvils in th 
smithies of the gods or deyils. I 
"Hark at them! They seem to be getting on \vith it a 
right," said an English officer to-day, and listening for 
moment to the great s\veep of the artillery battle-for ou 
o\Vll guns ,vere firing steadily and tremendously-he added tha 
"The enemy is having a really thick tÜne. 'Ve are getting 0 
top at last." 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEMONT 237 


It"is this sense of " getting on top" that is inspiring our men 
to fight to the last ounce of strength on this right wing of our 
1ttack, up to Ginchy and beyond Guillenlont. It is literally 
1S well as moralJy a desire to get on top, up the hill to the crest 
)f the ridge, to the last vantage-point of the enemy, and it 
it to push him off and over that high point that our men have 
been fighting uphill with a really passionate endeavour. 
They got all round the place a fe\v days ago after hard, 
1100dy fighting. They held on under great shell-fire and 
:nachine-gun fire, and many men took the last hazard in trying 
to force their way into the stronghold \vhere the enemy is 

ntrenched and covered with well-placed machine-guns. Some 
)f them \vent in, and stayed in. No message has come back 
from them, but it is quite likely that they are still there as a 
living \vedge in the enemy's gates. 
One party, thirty strong, fought their way along a sap to the 
north of the village and established a bombing-post which they 
held against all odds. Their rations gave out, but they ,vould 
not go. They had no ,vater, and suffered horribly from thirst, 
but not a man would go. Their ammunition was nearly spent, 
but they ,vaited for new supplies, if they should have the luck 
to get them. A sergeant canle back to the front trench \vith 
this tale of stubborn courage, and a request for food and \vater 
::tnd bombs so that the thirty might still" carryon." That 
is the spirit with which our men are fighting, and one marvels 
d.t then1. 
The enemy has suffered heavily against these assaults, and our 
shell- fire has massacred many of his troops. A German officer 
brought back from the outskirts of Ginchy yesterday \vas asked 
what casualties he had in his company. He said, " Oh, a fe\v. 
Not many." He turned away and tried to destroy a scrap 
of paper in his hand, but \vas not quick enough. It was a 
message caning urgently for rescue and saying that his men were 
unable to hold out any longer, as there \vere only t\venty of 
them left out of the full strength of his company. 
To-day other British troops have forced their ,vay into the 

tronghold, but as yet it is too soon to know whether they can 
maintain their position. The enemy is fighting bravely, but 
ho\vever long his resistance may be, I have no doubt that 
Ginchy \vill be added to the list of all those strongholds which 
have fallen one after another under our repeated assaults. For 



238 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIME 


Ginchy must be ours to give us the end of the ridge and to 
link up the line ,vith Leuze \V ood, \\There at present our 
men are exposed to flanking attacks. 


6 
The difficulty of all this close and open fighting, ,vhere 
bodies of British troops press on to the very edge of the enemy's 
ditches, and \vhere bodies of Gernlans hold bits of roadway or 
bits of trench in isolated positions, is that the guns on both 
sides cannot concentrate a heavy barrage without killing their 
o\vn men. In this kind of situation the German gunners are 
ruthless, but sonletimes that method does not pay. 
In 
pite of all their skill-for they are good gunners, these 
Germans-they \vere scared enough to \vithdraw their field- 
batteries to a safer distance before our final attack on Guillemont 
last Sunday. Some of our officers fighting here told me that 
there \vere very few ",vhizz-bangs" about that day, and it 
,vas all shell-fire from heavy long-range guns. 
Before our attack they opened an intense bombardment 
upon Trônes '\Tood. It smashed in steady lines of shells- 
the great five-point-nines-right through the \vood, and ,vas 
nlaintaincd mercilessly for many hours. Some of our men 
behind the front lines had escapes from death which seem like 
miracles. One young officer I kno\v received an invitation 
to tea at a dug-out a few hundred yards, I reckon, from his 
o\vn hole in the earth where he lay \vith t\yO comrades. It 
,vas a pleasant and friendly idea, that cup of tea, but he decided 
against it when he heard the a\vful crash of shells outside. 
Later a message came that he must go on a nlatter of business. 
It ,vas his duty to go, and so he \vent as fast as possible. A 
moment or t\VO after reaching the other dug-out there was the 
tinkle of a telephone bell, and he heard that both his comrades 
had been killed by the direct hit of a five-point-nine. He went 
back with a soldier to see if there \vas any hope for his friends 
--one of them might be \vounded only-and as he \vent a shell 
exploded a yard or t\VO a,vay, the man by his side \vas killed, 
and his shoulder ,vas splashed with the man's blood, but he \vas 
left unscathed. 
Our bombardment before the attack on Guillemont ,vas more 
effect.ive. There \vere not many Germans here or in the 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEMONT 239 


Sunken Road, or higher up in the trenches by Ginchy, ,vho 
had miraculous escapes. They ,vere killed in masses. A great 
number of dead ,vere found by our men outside Guillemont 
in the Sunken Road, which 'was the German third line of defence 
there. They were a frightful sight, as many of them ,vere quite 
naked, all their clothes having been stripped off by the blasting 
force of high explosives. Some men, untouched by fragments 
of shell, were killed by the enormous concussion of air or by 
heart-shock, and there was one dead man kneeling, and still 
grasping his rifle ,vith fixed bayonet. 
The successful attack on Guillemont was due to the effect 
of our shell-fire on the garrison. \Vhen the infantry advanced 
they met with but little hostile n1achine-gun fire. :!\iost of the 
Gern1ans were dazed and done. They had no alertness left in 
them to bring up their weapons and resist the attack. Eyen 
n1any of the dug-outs ,vere blo'wn in. A sergeant of one of the 
conlpanies ,vho came up in support--one of those splendid 
N.C.G.'s to \VhOnl the steadiness of our troops is largely due- 
told me t.o-day that he ,vent into one deep dug-out where forty 
men ,vere lying. Only three ,vere alive, and of those t,vo ,vere 
badly ,vounded. In other dug-outs there \vere many dead. 
This was in the Sunken Road, ,vhere after,vards our men 
" organized" the bank, digging themselves in so as to get 
cover from the heavy barrage flung upon them by the German 
artillery after the capture of the position. A lance-corpora.l 
,vas killed here by the side of n1Y sergeant friend, who buried 
him where he fell. And another shell killed six men in a heap 
just as these troops were relieved and went back for a little 
,vhile into the support lines. They, too, ,vere buried by 
another lance-corporal ,vho volunteered to go back for the 
purpose, and went under heavy shell-fire to do this last service 
to good comrades. 
Lord, ho,v Inany stories of this kind I have told! The spirit 
of our men in these hideous places and in these frightful hours 
is ahvays the same, indomitable and unbroken by the worst 
ordeals. 


7 


SEPTEMBER 9 
The first mention that the Irish troops were fighting at 
tGuillemont has been 111ade officially, and it is no,v possible for 



240 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\fl\IE 


me to ,vrite about then] in more deta.il. Their charge through 
Guillemont last Sunday, \vith English battalions of riflenlen 
on their right, ",vas one of the nlost astonishing feats in the ,val', 
almost too fast in its impetuosity. They went for\vard ,vith 
their pipes playing them on, in a ,vild and in'esistible assault. 
If there had been three times the number of enemy against 
them they ,vould not have been checked until they had carried 
the northern part of the ruined ,vaste that ,vas once a village. 
The English troops ,vho fought \vith them ten Ine that they have 
never seen anything like the ,yay in which these Irishmen 
dashed ahead. "It ,vas like a human avalanche," said one 
of them. 
The officers chcered their men on as they came alongside. 
One of thcir conlmanding officers, follo,ving the last across, 
picked up pieces of chalk and thre,v them after his men, shouting 
good luck to them. They stormed the first, second, and third 
German lines through the upper part of the vil]age, sweeping 
all resistance a,vay, and not stopping to take brcath. They 
,vere men uplifted, out of themselves, " fey," as the Scots ,vould 
call it. 
Death had no terror for them, nor all the dead men ,vho lay 
in their way. After months of dull and dogged fighting in the 
trenches, where they were restless in their ditches, they ,verc 
excited at getting out into the open and meeting the enemy 
face to face. It ,vas not good to be a German in their ,yay. 
The only fault ,vith this fighting at Guillemont ,vas the 
rapidity of pace, ,,,hich gave thenl no time to safeguard the 
ground behind them. But that ,vas a fault due to the splendour 
of their gallantry, and no harm came froIn it. The English 
riflemen who fought on their right had more solidity in their 
way of going about the business, but they ,vcre so inspired by 
the sight of the Irish dash and by the sound of the Irish pi pes 
that those who ,vere in support, under orders to stand and hold 
the first German line, could hardly be restrained from 
follo\ving on. 
"I nearly blew my teeth out of my head in ,vhistling , enl 
back," said an English sergeant. But discipline prevailed. 
The ,vhole attack from first to last 'was a model of efficiency, 
organization, and courage. ..A.ll the qualities that go to the 
making of victory were here, fitting in ,vith each other, balancing 
each other, nlaking a terrific \veapon driven by a high spirit. 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEMONT 241 


The artiHery ,vas in perfect union with the infantry-the 
most difficult thing in war-the brigadiers and the officers 
carried out the general plan to the letter, and the men-it is 
impossible to overpra.ise the men, who were ,vonderful in 
courage and ,vonderful in discipline. 


8 
As far as the English battalions ,vere concerned thëy were 
recruited since the first phase of the war, but as one of their 
officers-once of the Guards-told me yesterday, there are no 
regular soldiers, no soldiers of any army in the world, who could 
have attacked in a finer and more disciplined way than these 
young riflemen, as cold as ice in self-control, but on fire with 
the resolve to ,vine The first rush of Irish on the left went 
over, as I have said, playing their pipes-old songs of victory 
which could be heard through the swish of machine-gun bun
ts 
and the crash of the German" crumps." 
The assaulting troops on the right ,vent more quietly, and at 
the first short halt to ,vait for the barrage of our guns, which was 
smashing ahead of them, lit their cigarettes, and then went 
on again with their rifles slung, as though marching on a field- 
day. 
" \Vhere's that village ,ve've got to take? " they shouted, 
staring at a choppy sea of shell-craters, \vhere there was hardly 
a stick or a stone. 
I have already described the assault on the first lines, where 
our men found many German dead. But strange things 
happened between the first and second lines. The Irish on the 
left, ,vho had gone so quickly forward in their great" hooroosh," 
had failed to clear up all the dug-outs as they ,vent. 
Some of the Germans there climbed out and began sniping 
in the rear. It was a dangerous menace, but with quick 
judgment the colonel of an English battalion on the right 
diverted five of his platoons to that direction, and they search
d 
all the dug-outs and broke up the enemy's attempt to rally. 
One dug-out near the quarry at the central entrance of 
Guillemont was discovered by a young gunner officer, who 
had come down behind the advancing infantry "just to look 
round," as he puts it, after he had done his work with some 
sixty-pounder plum-pudding bombs from a neighbouring 
Q 



242 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


position. '\'Vith him was his corporal and one or two other men 
of the trench-n10rtar battery. 
I n looking round he discovered a slit in the rock, which 
seemed to lead down into an underground chamber, and having 
explored it came down into a deep place where twenty German 
soldiers and one officer were hiding. It was a surprise, but he 
held his revolver ready and said" Hands up !" They surrendered 
quietly, clicking their heels together and saluting, after they 
had been searched for arms, and the officer, who was a polite 
fello\v, offer('d the corporal a valuable gold watch as a souvenir 
of the occasion. 
That was one little adventure on the edge of things. Farther 
forward each man was in the middle of a great adventure, 
gruesome and full of peril. An enveloping movement ,vas 
being made by English troops to the south-west of the village, 
on the choppy ground on which Guillemont once stood, and it 
lvas here that most opposition was encountered, between t\VO 
sunken roads. In the second sunken road, where the enemy 
had a row of strong dug-outs, the ground was thick with huddled 
dead. 
But from the dug-outs a large number of living men who 
climbed on to the parapet in front of them maintained a 
fusillade of rifle-fire and bombs. In the ground bet\veen the 
two Sunken Roads men climbed half-way out of shell-craters and 
sniped our men as they came forward. At the same time 
mac,hine-gun fire was coming down from Ginchy and up from 
Falfemont Farm. It was difficult ground to cover, but our 
riflemen ignored the bullets and the bombs and went straight 
forward, halting only to fire, and then going on again, and 
firing again, as though on manæuvres. 
Some Lewis gunners ran forward and played a hose of bullets 
upon the enemy's parapet, so that the men dropped. Some 
of our own men had fallen too, but the wounded cra\vled into 
she}]-holes to get out of the way, and shouted, " Go on, boys! " 
or just crawled in silently and uncomplainingly, not asking for 
help however bad their wounds. 
Then the Germans started running and our men went after 
them. One fello\v flung off his pack and chased one of them until 
he had him by the neck. A German officer who surrendered 
threw up his hands and said, " If you run like that you'll be in 
Berlin before we're in England." There were 150 dead in one part 



THE CAPTURE OF (jUILLEl\IONT 2'}.3 
of the Sunken Road and the dug-outs \vere crowded. Into one of 
them a s1110ke-bomb ,vas thro-wn to tease the n1en out, but they 
\vould not come. Then a l\Iills bomb was flung in as a stronger 
argument, but before it exploded it was flung back again. 
After that the Germans retreated through a tunnel and 
ran out at another exit, \vhere they were taken prisoner. 
T\venty-five of theln \vere put into a shell-crater under guard 
of one little rifleman, who strutted up and do-wn in a German 
helmet \vith his bayonet high above his head and a pride 
t\vice as high as his bayonet. 
In one dug-out, as I \vrote in my first narrati ve, there \\"ere 
forty-one bodies, of 'whom only three were alive, and those 
were \veeping. All the prisoners, of whom there were about 
600, \vere in a pitiful condition, as our artillery-fire had prevented 
them from getting any rations for three days. Their spirit 
was broken and they \vere trembling \vith fear. 


9 


In our dug-outs farther back \vere three officers, one of 
\vhom, a young captain, was clearly in command of the \vhole 
garrison of Guillemont, and afterwards, when he passed the 
prisoners' cage behind the lines, all the men sprang up and 
saluted him \vith profound respect. He was the only man 
who maintained a proud indifference at the moment of capture. 
He stood very straight and still, as though not caring whether 
he lived or died. The two officers with him clung about the 
necks of our own officers crying for mercy. In another place 
an officer fell do\vn on his knees \vith his hands in an attitude 
of prayer and his head bowed, and one man puUed out a photo- 
graph of his \vife and children, holding that out as his strongest 
plea for life. Our men had no thought to take thcir lives. As 
one of the sergeants said to me, " As soon as a man surrenders 
it's an end of the fight, and I'm sorry for him." 
It was hard for some of our men to be sorry for the enemy 
in those \vild moments about the dug-outs, for some of them 
flung bombs until the last yard had been covered by our troops, 
then disappeared into their holes and came up farther away \vith 
an air of innocence and meekness. In one or two bad cases of 
fighting after a sign of surrender it \vas the authority of the British 
officers which saved the lives of German soldiers standing by. 



244 TI-IE BATTLES OF THE SOl\i
IE 


But on the 'whole the prisoners were ,veH-behaved and very 
glad to get a\vay froIn the hOITor of Guillcmont, grateful for 
being given the chance of life. One sergeant of ours, hit in 
the hip by a piece of shell, captured four men without help, and 
then ordered them to carry him back on a stretcher to the 
dressing-station, where he arrived, sn10king a cigarette, \vith 
his prisoner stretcher-bearers. 
\V ords can convey very little of all those scenes in Guillemont 
-the isolated fights, the storming of dug-outs, the searching 
of prisoners, the crowds of British soldiers moving forward to 
new lines behind our terrific curtain-fire, the Le\vis gunners 
rushing through \vith their machine-guns to take up positions 
at ad\
anccd points, the supporting and con
olidating troops 
coming up behind the assaulting troops, starting to dig as soon 
as the ground had been gained, the stretcher-bearers rummaging 
about among the shell-craters for stricken men, the walking 
\vounded making their way back across the rough ground, 
dazed, and sometimes falling not to rise again, the cheers of 
men taking the last Sunken Road to the east of Guillemont, 
where they consolidated a defensive position for the night, the 
\viJd music of the Irish pipers, the crash of German shells, the 
high \vhine of German shrapnel, the long rush of our heavies 
passing overhead to " Lousy " Wood, and, in the midst of all this 
tumult, the quiet dead. 


10 


In quiet heroism, of the suffering and not of the fighting 
kind, it seems to me that the finest thing was done by a wounded 
man. That at least is thc opinion of a commanding officer 
who met him on his way. His face had been terribly smashed 
by a piece of sheIl, but he \vaved back the stretcher-bearers 
with a sign that others needed carrying more than he did. Then, 
a solitary and ghastly figure, he walked back to the dressing- 
station and Jaid himself do\vn. 
Of the German garrison of 2000 men hardly one escaped, 
The figure has been accounted for in dead, \vounded, and 
prisoners. Two Gern1an battalions have thus been wiped 
out. Among them were men who \vear the "word " Gibraltar ,: 
on their shoulder-straps, belonging to the famous Hanoverian 
regiment \vhich fought side by side \vith us on thc Rock in tht 
eighteenth century. 



THE CAPTURE OF GUILLEMONT 245 


It ,vas after the battle that our men suffered n10st, for during 
the next forty-eight hours there ,vcre violent storms, which 
filled the shell-craters with water so that men \vere up to their 
shoulders in it. But they had dug magnificently before the 
rain came, under the inspiration of a splendid colonel, who 
cried, "Dig, dig, for God's sake! Dig, my lads!" knowing 
that he ,vould save their lives by every foot of earth turned up 
by the German shovels they used for the work. In three hours 
they had dug an eight-foot trench in the village. 
So Guillemont was taken and held, not only by great gun-fire 
but by men inspired with some spirit beyond their ordinary 
courage, and one day these troops will carry the name upon 
their colours, so that the ,vorld may remember. 



XXVIII 


THE IRISH AT GINCHY 


1 


SEPTEMBER 10 
THE capture of Ginchy by the Irish Brigades should be told 
not in journalist's prose but in heroic verse. Poor Ireland 
,yill weep tears over it, for many of hC'T sons have fallen, but 
there \vilJ be pride also in the heart of the lrish people, because 
these men of Munster, Dublin, and Connaught, and of all parts 
of the \vest and the south have done such splendid things in 
conrage and endurance, adding a very noble episode to the 
history of the Celtic race. 
""hen they came out of the battle this morning they were 
,yeary and spent, and they had left 11lany good comrades 
behind thenl, but the spirit of the war sustained them, and 
they came marching steadily \vith their heads held high. It 
was one of the most moving things I ha ve ever seen in this 
'war. 
A great painter \vould have found here a subject to thrill 
his soul, that long trail of Irish reginlents, horrihly reduced 
by their lu
scs, and with but few officers to lead them, coming 
across a stret.ch of barren country stre\vn wit h the \vreckage 
of t,,,"o years' bombardment, and cro\vded \vith the turmoil 
of the present fighting. 
Behind them arosc the black curtain of snloke across the 
battlefields through \vhich there came the enornlOUS noise of 
the unending gun-fire, and around them ,,"ere some of our 
o\vn batteries hard at work with great hammer-strokes as 
their shells went on thf'ir \vay to the encnlY's lines, but ahead 
of them walked one Irish piper playing then) home to the 
harvest-fields of peace with a lament for those who \"ill never 
come back. 



THE IRISH AT GINCHY 


247 


2 
A brigadier came riding over the fields to meet them. It 
was the first time he had seen them together since the early 
dawn of to-day, \vhen they were still fighting beyond the ruins 
of Ginchy, which they had won by a great assault. 
He stood, a solitary figure by the side of the track down 
\vhich his men came, and there was a great tenderness in the 
eyes of this brigadier as he watched them pass, and called out 
to them-words of thanks, and \vords of good cheer, and turned 
to me now and then to say how splendid they had been. 
"Eyes right! " shouted the officers or sergeants who were 
leading their companies, and the General said, "Carry on, 
there," and ""VeIl done-you did glorious]y." "Bravo, 
Dublins'! . . . You did ,veIl, damned well, Munsters, nlY 
lads ! " 
The men's eyes brightened at the sight of him; and they 
squared up, and grinned under German caps and German 
helmets. 
"Hallo, Greene!" called out the brigadier to a very tall 
fellow tranlping in the outside file. "Glad to see you're all 
right. And a big target, too ! " 
The music of the Irish pipes went calling do\vn to the valley, 
and I \vatched the men out of sight with something stirring 
at my heart. Earlier in the morning, before they had formed 
up, I had been among them and had heard many stories of 
great. adventure and of great courage, told sOlnct.imes \vith 
an Irish humour that finds a ,vhimsicality even iu the most 

nvful moments, and sometimes ,vith the sad nesS of nlen who 
monrn for their friends, but \vonderfully untouched by the 
fearful strain of it all and with a grim joy in their victory. 
Some of them had been in Gallipoli, and one sergeant 
of the Munsters told me that the taking of Ginchy ,val;) the 
" hottest" thing he had seen since the landing on l\UgUSt 21 
at Suvla Ea.v. There were t\VO men in his rl'!.rÏ1nent \vho had 

 .') 
fought all through from !'flons, and had eSC3 red froln the hell 
of the Dardanelles
 but had fallen now, at last, on the ,yay 
up from GlliHemont. He and other men of t},c olrl Regulars 
spoke of the regiments of the New Arn1Y who had fought ,vith 
them to-day. 
" They \vere just great. The Irish Rifles went throt'gIl like 



248 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIME 


a whirlwind. There was no stopping then1. \Vhen the 
Germans ran you couldn't see them for dust." 


3 
The story of the Irish Brigades does not begin at Ginchy. 
It begins last Sunday, a week ago, at Guillemont, when one 
brigade, as I have already described in an earlier dispatch, 
went through the northern part of that viJlage in one fierce 
assault which would not be checked. After that (as well as 
before) they lay under heavy shell-fire, without sleep and 
\vithout hot food or much \vater, until the new attack, when 
they were on the right of the assault. 
The brigade on the left, which had the greatest triumph 
yesterday, \vas lying out in connected shell-craters (the old 
kind of trench, neatly revetted, with strong traverses and cosy 
dug-outs, does not exist in this part of the battle-line). For 
five days they held on stubbornly under ceaseless shell-fire. 
\Vhen the hour of "zero" came for the attack they were not 
broken in spirit, as \veaker men would have been after all this 
trial, but eager to get out and get on-" to get some of their 
own back." 
The Germans in Ginchy \votdd have had n10re terror in their 
hearts if they had kno\vn the character of the n1en who were 
about to storm their stronghold. They would have prayed 
to God tQ save them from the Irish. As it was, these German 
soldiers were not feeling safe. They were new men just sent 
up to the line, and conscious of a frightful nlenace about them. 
They belonged to the 185th Division, the 19th Bavarian 
Diyision, and the machine-gun company of the 8
th Division. 
They crouched down in a network of dug-outs and tunnels 
under the ruins of the village expecting attack, and determined, 
as \ve kno\v no\v, to sell their lives dearly. They were brave 
men. 


4 
F The attack began yesterday afternoon shortly before five 
o'clock after a heavy bombardment. The Irish sprang up and 
'went for\vard checring. They shouted, "Go on. l\Iunsters!" 
.,.. Go on, Dublins ! " and old Celtic cries. "Now then, Irish 
Rifles!" Our shell-fire crept up in front of them. They went 



THE IRISH AT GINCHY 


249 


from the south in four waves in open order, with about 50 yards 
bet\veen each wave, and on the left the troops reached their 
first halting-place in the village, right across the first German 
trenches and dug-outs, in eight minutes after starting time- 
a distance of 600 yards, whIch is a wonderful record. 
On the right the Irish were checked by three machine-guns 
,veIl placed for very deadly ,york and sweeping the ground ,vith 
waves of bullets. l\lany poor fellows dropped. Others fell 
deliberately with th{"ir faces to the earth so that the bullets 
might skim above their prone bodies. At the same time the 
Irish officers and men were being sniped by German marksmen 
who had crept out into shell-craters. It was a serious situation 
here unless the machine-guns could be " killed." 
A brilliant little piece of tactics was done by the troops on 
the left of the right wing, who swung round and attacked the 
machine-gun position from the west and north, in an encircling 
movement so that the German teams had to run out of the 
loop with their ,veapons to some broken trenches 300 yards 
away, 'vhere they again fired until knocked out by some trench- 
mortars attached to one of the Irish battalions. This enabled 
the right \ving to advance and join the left) and they then 
advanced together through the village, \vith the Irish Rifles 
remaining to hold the captured ground, and the Dublins 
charging ahead. 
In the centre of the village among all the dug-outs and tunnels 
was the ruin of an oJd farm in \vhich the enemy had another 
machine-gun which they served with bursts of fire. Again our 
trench-mortar nlen saved the situation. They came on with 
the infantry, and ranged their little engines on to the farm, 
aiming with such skill that the hostile machine-gun was put 
out of action by a short storm of high explosi Yes. 
The men were still suffering from snipers and ordinary 
riflemen hidden in all kinds of places in the northern half of 
the village, where there were concreted and tunnelled chambers 
with loop-holes level \vith the ground, through whi(Oh they shot. 
The Irish were rf'ckless of all this and s,vept over the place 
fiercely, searching out their enemies. In shell-craters and bits 
of upheaved earth and do,vn in the dug-outs there was hand-to- 
hand fighting of the grinlmest kind. The Bavarians struggled 
savagely, using bombs and rifles, and fighting even with the 
bayonet until they were killed with the same weapon. 



250 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\iE 
It was all very qllick. 'Vithin ten minutes of reaching the 
line half-way through the village the leading Dublins had 
got to th(' northern end of it and sent out advanced parties 
200 yards beyond. But there \vas one menace, \vhich might 
have led to disaster but for quick \vit and fighting genius. 
The Irish had expected that their left flank \vould be sup- 
ported by other troops attacking between Ginchy and Delville 
';Vood, but o\ving to the difficulty of the ground in that neigh- 
bourhood and the rapidity of the Irish advance this had not 
been possible, and the victors of Ginehy found themselves 
,vith an exposed flank to the north-\vest of the village. A 
young sapper officer from Dublin realized t.he situation, and 
taking ('omnland of a body of n1en dug a defensive flank and 
established strong posts as a protection against a counter- 
attack. The situation on the extreme right was for some time 
equally perilous, as the troops engaged in an enterprise on 
that sine had not yet made good their ground, and the splendid 
achievement of the Irish Brigade, from a military point of 
view, is their success-quite astoundingly good-of taking a 
hostile front of 900 yards to the depth of nearly a mile with 
no supporting troops on either flank. 


5 


From a non-military, untechnical, human point of view the 
greatness of the capture of Ginchy is just in the valour of 
tho
e Irish boys who were not co\ved by that sight of death 
very dos{-> to them and all about them, and who \vent straight 
on to the \viuuing-po'5ts like Irish race-horses. The men \vho 
were ordc'rt'd to stay in the village almost wept \vith rage 
because they could not join in the next assault. 
" \Ve would have gone on into the blue," said one of them, 
" except for all this confounded diplomacy." Diplomacy is a 
fine word for the simple law of safeguarding the captured 
ground; but you see the spirit \vhich userl it. It \vas the 
same spirit which caused the temporary desertion of threc Irish 
servants on the Brigade Staff. One of them left a note yester- 
day morning on his master's table: "As I could not be at 
Guillemont I am going to Ginchy. I hope to be back again, 
so please eXcitse." 
Fine and wonderful men! There was a Sinn Feiner among 



THE IRISH AT GINCHY 


251 


them, ,,,ith all the passion of his political creed and " a splendid 
soldier," said one of his officers, ,vho is an Englishman. 
Nationalists and Catholics, Irish to the bone, with every 
tradition of their race in their blood and spirit, they fought 
yesterday and in the dawn of to-day withol1t any thought of 
grievance or any memory of hatred, except against the enemy, 
whom they call " Jerry " instead of Fritz. 
In fair fight they were relentless, but they were kind to their 
prisoners. It is queer how hatred and kindness alternates 
in these men. One man told me the strangest tale \vith absolute 
truth, I am sure, because of his fine, stt'ady eyes. I-Ie captured 
a big Saxon in a sheH-hole the night before the attack. The 
man was ,vounded in the leg and back, but held a revolver, 
and ,vas not too ilJ to fight. But he had no fight left in hin1 
,vhen the Irishman jumped down to him. 
" Are you going to kill me ? " he asked in good English. 
"Sure, no," said the Irishman. "But just put away that 
pistol, v{on't you." Then the Irish sergeant undid his o'vn 
field dressing and bound up the nlan's leg and back (it was all 
under the loud whistling of shells), and said, " Now get along 
váth you back to your own lines, for faith I don't mean any 
harm to you." 
So R,vay ,vent the German into Ginchy, and afterwards, no 
doubt, wished he hadn't. 
A tall Irishnlan, describing the great charge to me, said: 
" The small, littlp men went over with the greatest pluck, sir, 
so that it was a real pleasure to see. And the Jerry boys ran 
that fast the dllst was in their throats, it was." 
" How did you g(.t that Boche cap? " one man asked another. 
" Did you kin your man? " 
"Did I kill him? . . . I brought down fourteen prisoners 
all by myself, I did, and if you don't believe it, here's my receipt 
for the same." 
lIe held out a slip of paper, and there sure enough was the 
officer's receipt for the fourteen men. 
One GenTIan climbed up a tree during the attack. fIe had 
a white cap-band and a white ribbon on his shoulder, and 
seemed to be signalli ng. 
" Now, ('orne down, Jerry." shouted. five IrishnlC'n in a chorus. 
" If you don't con1C do':vn we'll shoot you, we will." 
The man would not come down. 



252 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\fl\IE 


" And sure we shot him," was the end of the story. 
The honours of the day are "ith the Irish, and these gallant 
men hope-they spoke about it pleadingly-that their losses 
will be filled up by Irishmen, so thät the spirit of their regiments 
may be kept. 



XXIX 


THE COMING OF THE TANKS 


1 


SEPTEMBER 16 
ANOTHER day of great remembrance has been given to our 
history by British troops, September the Fifteenth, that will 
not quickly pass out of the n1emory of our people, for on that 
day, \vhich \vas yesterday, our soldiers broke through the 
enemy's third line of defence and \vent out into open country, 
and gave sta.ggering blows to that German \var-machine \vhich 
for two years, all but two months, seemed unbreakably strong 
against us. 
It was a day of good success yesterday. It was no longer 
a promise of future victory, dependent upon all the flukes and 
chances of \var, \vith their awful hazards, but, for one day at 
least, not looking further, the real thing. 
Our men had the taste of victory, and it was like a strong 
drug to their hearts, so that they laughed even while blood 
was streaming do\vn their faces, and said" It's wonderful! " 
\vhen they came limping off the battlefields with wounds on 
fire, and said "We made 'em run like rabbits! " when they 
lay on stretchers and could not move \vithout a groan. 
And it \vas \vonderful indeed. For this day of victory came 
after two and a half months of continued and most bloody 
fighting. This nc\v British Army of ours had not had an easy 
walk through after its time of preparation and training in the 
dirty dit.ches of the old trench warfare. 
The task that was set to our soldiers yesterday \vouId have 
been formidable on the first day of a great offensive. Coming 
after two and a half months, it was startling in its boldness, 
and sho\ved that our Gencrals had supreme confidence in the 
men, in thcir o\vn po\vers of organization, and in the luck of 



254 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 
battle that con1(>S to those who have \vorked for it. The enemy 
believed that our offensive had petered out. There is much 
evidence for that. 
They did not believe it possibJe t.hat an army of our size 
and strength could carryon the attack at the same fierce 
pace. They cherished the hope that our divisions were broken 
and spent, that our stores of ammunition were giving out, 
and that our men were overtired. 
They still had faith in their o,vn gun-po\ver, the defensive 
strength of a thousand guns against the British front, and it 
,vas a reasonable faith. They had been digging furiously on 
dark nights to strengthen the third line of defencc-the famous 
}'}ers line, which was, they thought, to be the boundary of our 
advancing tide, and though they were anxio1ls, and were 
counting up frightful losses on the Somlne, they did not expect 
this last disaster to them. 
Yesterday I saw their prisoners coming off the battlefields 
in droves, and to-day hundreds of them in the barbed-wire 
cages behind the lines. They were dazed men, filled with 
gloom, and tortured by a great be\vilderment. 
" It is your victory," said one of their officers, speaking to 
me in French. u. It is our defeat. I cannot understand." 
" Germany is 'kaput,' " said one of thcir non-commissioned 
officers. He meant that Germany is down-" in the soup," 
as our soldiers would say. It was an exaggeration, for Germany 
has stiU a lot of fight left in her, but it was the belief of her 
beaten soldiers yesterday. 
Our men ,vere exalted-excited by the smell of victory, 
xaggerating also our o\vn gains gloriously in the belicf that 
the last great smash had been made, and that the end of 
1l1is foul and fiJthy \var is at hand." They" went over" at 
da\vn yesterday filled with the spirit of victory, and it ,vas 
half the battle won. 


2 


l\Iany of them went over, too, in the greatest good-humour, 
lan.ghing as they ran. Like children whose fancy has been 
inftamed by some new toy, they ,vere enormously chef'red by 
a new \veapon \vhich was to be tried \vith them for the first 
l ;rtLc-" the heavily armoured car" mentioned already in the 
ficial bulletin. 



THE COl\lING OF THE TANKS 255 
That description is a dull one compared with aU the rich and 
rare qualities ,vhich belong to these extraordinary vehicles. 
The secret of them was kept for months jealously and nobly. 
It was only a few days ago that it ,vas whispererl to me. 
"Like prehistoric monsters. You know, the old Ichthyo- 
saurus," said the officer. 
I told him he ,vas pulling my leg. 
" But it's a fact, man! " 
lIe breathed hard, and laughed In a queer way at some 
enormous corr1Ìcality. 
" They eat up houses and put the refuse under their bellies. 
Walk right over 'em ! " 
I knew this man was a truthful and simple soul, and yet 
could not believe. 
" They knock down trees like match-sticks," he said, staring 
at lTIe with shining eyes. "They go clean through a wood! " 
"And anything else?" I asked, enjoying what I thought 
was a new sense of humour. 
" Everything else," he said earnestly. " They take ditches 
like kangaroos. They simply love shell-craters! Laugh at 
, em ! " 
It appeared, also, that they were proof against rifle-bullets, 
machine-gun bullets, bombs, shell-splinters. Just shrugged 
their sh0111ders and passed on. Nothing but a direct hit from 
a fair-sized shell could do them any hann. 
"But what's the name of these mythical monsters?" I 
asked, not believing a word of it. 
He said " Hush! " 
Other people said " Hush! . . . Hush! " when the subject 
was alluded to in a remote way. And sinee then I have heard 
that one name for them is the" IIush-hush." But their real 
name is Tanks. 
, For they are real, and I have seen them, and walked round 
them, and got inside their bodies, and looked at their mysterious 
organs, and watched their monstrous movements. 


3 
I came across a herd of them in a field, and, like the country- 
nlan .who first sa,v a giraffe, said "Hell! . . . I don't believe 
it." Then I sat down on the grass and laughed until the tears 



256 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


came into my eyes. (In war one has a funny sense of humour.) 
For they were nlonstrously comical, like toads of vast size 
emerging from the primeval slime in the twilight of the world's 
da-wn. 
'l'he skipper of one of them introduced me to them. 
" I fe]t awfully bucked," said the young officer (\vho is about 
five feet high), " \vhen my beauty ate up her first house. But 
I was sorry for the house, which ,vas quite a good one." 
" And how about trees? " I asked. 
" They simply love trees," he ans\vered. 
When our soldiers first saw these strange creatures lolloping 
along the roads and over old battIefields
 taking trenches on 
the way, they shouted and cheered wildly, and laughed for a 
day after,,"ards. And yesterday the troops got out of their 
trenches laughing and shouting and cheering again because 
the Tanks had gone on ahead, and were scaring the Germans 
dreadfully, while they moved over the enenlY's trenches and 
poured out fire on every side. As I shall \vrite later, these 
motor monsters had strange adventures and did very good 
,york, justifying their amazing existence. 


4 


For several days before the great blow was to be made, and 
while there was hcavy fighting in progress at most parts of the 
line-the capture of Guillenlont by English and Irish troops, 
the splendid rush of the Irish through Ginchy-there was a 
steady forward mOVClnent and concentration of all the men 
and machinery to strike at the Flers line. 
Villages beyond the zone of fire 
!here battalions had been 
resting and where there was the busy life of soldiers in their 
billeting areas suddenly became emptied of all this human 
interest. 
The men had passed on-higher up the roads, and higher 
up wh('re there was a struggling tide of all the traffic of war- 
with supply columns, mule-trains, guns, limber, ambulances, 
and troops from all parts of the Empire, surging, swirling, 
struggling s]owly forward through narrow village streets, up 
long winding roads, across trampled and barren fields, through 
the ruins of villages destroyed a year or more ago, and out 
into the country of evil menace which is criss-crossed by old 



THE CDl\fING OF THE TANKS 257 
trenches and pitted with old shell-craters and stre\vn \vith the 
refuse of battles two months back in history. 
I-Iere a great arrny \vith all its material of \var-incredibly 
vast and cro\vded-Iay \vaiting for the hour \vhen it should 
be hurled to the great hammer-stroke. 
They \vere masses of men \vho were there the night before 
the battle hidden in the darkness of the earth, not revealed 
even by the \vhite moonlight except in huddled cro,vds and 
camps, but as I passed thern again a fe\v hours before the 
da\vn I thought of the individual and not of the mass, all the 
separate hopes and pulse-beats of these Inen \vho were going 
to do a big thing if luck should favour us. 
And out of the darkness I thought I heard the sound of 
laughter rising at the thought of the monstrous" Hush-hush." 
Before the da ,vn the moon w.as high and clear in a sky that had 
hardly any clouds. It shone do'wn upon the fields and roads 
so that the plaster walls of French cottages \vere very \vhite 
under the black roofs, and ro,vs of tents were like little hillocks 
of sno-w in the harvest-fields. 
As I looked up a shooting star flashed across the sky, and I 
thought of the old le
end of a passing life, and wondered ,vhy 
to-night all the stars \vere not falling. 
Presently da-wn came, and some low-lying clouds were 
touched with a warm glo,v \vhich deepened and spread until 
they 'were all crimson. It ,vas a red da\vn. 
" The promise of victory like the sun of Austerlitz," said an 
officer. 
Before six o'clock, summer time, all our guns were firing 
steadily, and all the sky, very pale and shimmering in the 
first t\vilight of the day, \vas filled \vith the flashes of guns and 
shell-bursts. Heavy ho,vitzers were eating up shells. 


5 


I \vent to the right of the line, hoping to see the infantry 
attack to the left of Leuze 'Vood, as I had \vatched the battle 
here a ,veek or two ago, and here one of the motor monsters 
,vas coming across the ground. But as the sun rose higher it 
dre,v the InoÌsture out of all these shell-craters and trenches, 
and a dense white nlist blotted out the ridge for an hour or 
more. French troops \vho joill our line here canle across 
R 



258 THE BATTLES OF THE SOlVIJ\tIE 


country. British soldiers were n10ving for,yard on the left, 
silently, ,vith the nlist about them. 
Overhead shells ,vent rushing-heavy shells that travelled 
\vith the noise of trains. }'or,vard batteries ,vere firing rapidly 
and increasingly, and then sharp staccato knocking ,vas clear 
above the heavy ct'ashcs of giant" crumps," compared by a 
,vhimsical mind in this ,yar ,vith " an imn10rtaI plumber laying 
do,vn his tools." 
l\Iachine-gun fire rapped out in fierce spasms, and the Gerluan 
" Archies " were thro\ving up shells \vhich burst all about the 
planes of our ainuen, ,vho came like a flock of birds over the 
battlefields, flying lo,v above the mists. 
They did \vonderful things yesterday, those British air- 
pilots, risking their lives audaciously in single COBlbats. with 
hostile ainncn, in encounters against great odds, in bombing 
enenlY headquarters and raihvay stations and kite-balloons 
and troops, and registering or observing all day long for our 
artillery. They 'v ere out to destroy the enelny's last n1eans 
of observation, and they began the success of the battle by 
gaining the absolute 111astery of the air. 
Thirteen Gerrna.n aeroplanes (since reported by Sir Douglas 
Haig to be fifteen) ".ere brought do,vn, and thcir flying men 
dared not come across our lines to risk nlore losses. 
On our side it was fighting "all in." There ,vas nothing 
of a killing character within our reach and kno,vledge \vhich 
\ve did not use, and ,ve turned the enemy's O'V11 ,vorst ,veapons 
against himself. 
Every material of ,var made by the hon1e ,yorkers in our 
factories by months of toil ,vas called in. 
The men ,vent in ,vith the resolve to break through the 
enelny's third line ,vithout counting the cost, to smash do,vn 
any opposition they might meet, and to go for,vard and far 
until they could get the enemy on the rnn. 
A body of Scots went up to the battle-lines to the tunc of 
"Stop your tickling, Jock," but there ,vas a grim meaning 
in the music, and it ,vas no love-song. 
English soldiers had been practising bayonet exercise harder 
than usual, and ,,,ith a personal interest beyond the discipline. 
" It's tinle to finish old Fritz" 'vas the shout of one soldier 
to another. " 'Ve ,vant to go home for Christmas ! " 
The Inen fought yesterday fiercely and ruthless]y. They 



THE COl\iING OF THE TANI{S 259 


,vant to get on to the heels of the enemy, and there \vere 
moments yesterday 'when they saw many pairs of heels. 


6 
The area of our attack extended on the left from the ground 
north of Pozières to the line recently ,von to the north of 
Ginchy on the right, and its purpose ,vas, as I have said, to 
break through the third German line belo,y Courcelette, Nlartin- 
puich, and Lesbæufs, a distance of about six miles. Time of 
attack ,vas shortly after six o'clock yesterday n1orning, and 
along all the Jine the troops \vere a \vaiting the mon1ent to rise, 
after our artillery had completed its first barrage. 
On the left in front of Courcelette there \vas hard and un- 
expected fighting. As \ve no\V kno\v the enemy had prepared 
an attack against us, and had nîassed troops in considerable 
force in his front and reserve lines. He sent out advanced 
patrols and bombing parties, \vhile our men \vere ,vaiting to 
go over, and ilnnlediately there \vas a fierce encounter. 
One young bro,vn-eycd fellow told me his o,vn experience, 
and it "Tas like n1any others. 
"The sergeant in IllY bay," he said, "suddenly called out that 
he had seen a signal light go up from another point of the trenches 
giving a ,yarning of attack. "Ve shall have the ,vhole lot on 
us,' he shouted. 'Look out for yourselves, lads.' " 
The enen1Y came over in a rush. l\Iany fell before the rifle- 
fire of our men, but others managed to jump into portions of 
trench, and bonlbed their \vay up several of the bays. 
l\lachine-guns ,vere turned on to them, and there were not 
n1any left alive. But before the fight had ended a ne\v one 
began, for our jumping-off tin1e had con1e, and the assaulting 
troops rose as one man, and taking no notice of \vhat had 
happened s"wept across their o,vn trenches and the Gernlans 
,vho were in then1, and went straight across country to,vards 
Courcelette. 
They came up immediately against difficult ground and 
fierce machine-gun fire. South-east of Courcelette, beyond the 
sheH-craters and bits of broken trench ,vhich the men had 
carried easily enough, s\veeping the Gern1ans dO\Vll before 
them, stood the ruins of a sugar factory, ,vhich the enemy had 
made into a redoubt, \vith machine-gun emplacements. 



260 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 


It ,vas one of those deadly places \vhich have cost so nlany 
lives among our men in other parts of the battle-ground now 
in our hands. 


7 


But \ve had a ne,v engine of ,val' to destroy the place. Over 
our own trenchcs in the twilight of the da ,vn one of those 
nlotor-monstcrs had lurched up, and now it canle cra\vling 
forward to the rescue, cheered by the assaulting troops, \vho 
callcd out ,vords of encouragemcnt to it and laughed, so that 
some n1en "were laughing even \vhen bullets caught then1 in 
the throat. 
" Crênle de l\Ienthe " ,vas the name of this particular creature, 
and it "waddlcd fOf,vard right over the old German trenches, 
and ,vent forward very steadily to,vards the sugar factory. 
There ,vas a second of silence from the enemy there. Then, 
suddenly, their machine-gun fire burst out in nervous spasms 
and splashed the sides of " Crême de 
lenthe." 
But the Tank did not mind. The bullets fell from its sides, 
harmlessly. It adval{ced upon a broken ,vall, leaned up 
against it heavily until it fell ,vith a crash of bricks, and then 
rose on to the bricks and passed over them, and \valked straight 
into the midst of the factory ruins. 
Fron1 its sides caIne flashes of fire and a hose of bullets, and 
then it tranlpled around over machine emplacements, " having 
a grand time," as one of the lnen said 'with cnthusiasnl. 
It crushed the machine-guns under its heavy ribs. and killed 
machine-gun teams ,vith a deadly fire. The infantry follo,ved 
in and took the place after this good help, and then advanced 
again round the flanks of the monster. 
In spite of the Tank, .which did such grand work, the assault 
on Courcelette was hard and costly. Again and again the men 
came under nlachinc-gun fire and rifle-fire, for the Gcrmans 
had dug nc,v trenches, called the Fabeckgraben and Zollern- 
grabcn, which had not been wiped out by our artillery, and 
they fought with great coura.ge and despcration. 
Seventy men who advanced first on a part of these lines 
,vcre swept down. Seventy others who went for\vard to fill 
thcir places fell also to a. man. But their comradcs ,,,ere not 
disheartened, and at last carried the position in a great ,vave 
of assault. 



THE COMING OF THE TANKS 261 
Then they ,vent on to the village. It ,vas like all these 
villages in Gernlan hands, tunnelled with a nest of dug-outs, 
and a stronghold hard to take. The British troops entered 
it from the eastern side, fought yard by yard, stubbornly 
resolved to have it. 
The Tank came along and ploughed about, searching for 
German lnachille-guns, thrusting over bits of wall, nosing here 
and there, and sitting on heaps of ruin ,vhile it fired down the 
streets. By 6.30 last evening the village ,vas taken. 
The British took 400 prisoners, and ,vhen they were brought 
down to Pozières last night they passed old " Crême de Menthe," 
,vho was going home, and held up their hands crying, " Gott 
in Himnlel!" and asked how they could fight against such 
monstrous things. 
The taking of Courcelette ,vas a great achievement skilfully 
planned and carried out ,vith stern and high courage by splendid 
nlen, and one monster. 


8 


On the right of these troops there was a great assault upon 
l\lartinpuich and High '\V ood. Here, also, in IIigh \'V ood, the 
Gernîans had been ready for an attack, and, being forestalled 
in that, they made a strong counter-attack ,vhich for a time 
had some success, driving our men back to the southern edge 
of the ,vood. 
Our troops had been heavily shelled beforehand, and they 
found the enell]y in much stronger force than they had expected 
in that \vood of bitter memory. But these men of ours-I 
had met many of them before, a year ago-fought very gamely. 
S01l1e among them \vere utterly without experience of the 
SOIYlllle kind of fighting and ,vilted a little before its ferocity 
of fire, but the older 111en, the " veterans" of a year's service 
or more, cheered them up, kept theln steady, and led them 
on. 
They counter-attacked the counter-attack and regained their 
old line, and then to their great joy sa\v the Tanks advancing 
through High '\Y ood and on each side of it. 
" It was like a fairy talc! " said a Cockney boy. "I can't 
help laughing every time I think of it." 
lIe laughed then, though he had a broken arm and \vas 
covered in blood. 



262 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\il\fE 


"They broke do'wn trees as if they ,vere match-sticks, 
and ,vent over barricades like elephants. The Boches ,vere 
thoroughly scared. They came running out of shell-holes and 
trenches, shouting like mad things. 
" Some of them attacked the Tanks and tried to b0l11b theIn, 
but it "\vasn't a bit of good. 0 Crikey, it ,vas a rare treat to 
see! The biggest joke that ever "vas! They just stamped 
do"\vn the Gern1an dug-out as one might a 'whops' nest." 
On the left of High "\V ood ,vas a very fine body of troops 
,vho had no trenches to lie in, but just layout in shell-craters 
under a constant fire of " whizz-bangs," that is to say, field- 
guns firing at short range, "\vhich "\vas extremely hard to endure. 
" It "vas cruel," said one of these men, " but ,ve ,vent for"\vard 
all right "\vhen the time came, over the bodies of comrades ,,,ho 
were lying in pools of blood, and afterwards the enenlY had 
to pay." 


9 


They were co-operating with some troops on thcir left, ,vho 
,vent straight for l\lartinpuich, that villa.ge into ,vhich I stared 
a week or t,vo ago after a long ,valk to our front line on the 
crest of the ridge beyond Bazentin, looking at the Pron1Ïsed 
Land. 
These men ,vere superb and ,vent across Ko l\Ian's Land 
for nearly 1000 yards in six minutes, racing. They made 
short work "vith the Germans ,vho tried to snipe them from the 
sheH-craters, and only canle to a check on the outskirts of 
l\lartinpuich, ,vhere they "vere receivcd ,vith a blast of nlachine- 
gun fire. 
It ,vas then the turn of the Tanks. 
Before the dawn t,vo of thenl had come up out of the dark- 
ness and lunlbercd over our front-line trenches, looking to,vards 
the enenlY as though hungry for breakfast. After,vards they 
came across No l\Ian's Land like enornlOllS toads ,vith pains 
in their stomachs, and nosed at l\Iartinpuich before testing the 
strength of its broken barns and bricks. 
The men cheered thenl "viI dIy, "vaving their helmets and 
dancing round thcln. One company nceded cheering up, for 
they had lost t,,"o of their officers the night before in a patrol 
adventure, and it ,vas the sergeants ,vho led them oycr. 
Twenty minutes after,vards the fir&t ,,,aves ,vere inside the 



THE COMING OF THE TANKS 263 


first trench of l\Iartinpuich and in advance of them waddled a 
monster. 
The men ,vere held up for some tinle by the same machine- 
gun fire \vhich has killed so many of Ollr men, but the monsters 
\vent on alone, and had astounding adventures. 
They \vent straight through the shells of broken barns and 
houses, straddled on top of German dug-outs, and fired enfilad- 
ing shots do\Vll German trenches. 
From one dug-out came a Gennan colonel with a ,vhite, 
frightened face, who held his hands very high in front of the 
Tank, shouting, "I(amerad 1 l{amerad 1 " 
" "V ell, come inside then," said a voice in the body of the 
beast, and a human hand came forth from a hole opening 
suddenly and grabbed the GerDlan officer. 
For the rest of the day the Tank led that unfortunate man 
about on the strangest journey the \vorld has ever seen. 
Another Tank ,vas confronted ,vith one hundred Germans, 
,vho shouted "l\Iercy 1. Mercy 1" and at the head of this 
procession led thenl back as prisoners to our lines. Yet another 
Tank ,vent off to the right of l\Iartinpuich, and ,vas so fresh and 
high-spirited that it ,vent far int.o the enemy's lines, as though 
on the ,yay to Berlin. 
The U1en 'vere not so fortunate as the monsters, not being 
proof against machine-gun bullets. The enemy concentrated 
a very heavy fire upon them, and many fen. One boy- 
a fine, stout-hearted lad ,vho had a keen and spirited look 
in spite of dreadful experience-told DIe a tale that Edgar 
Allan Poe might have \vritten if he had lived to see things 
worse than anything in his 1110rbid inlaginings-one of our 
common tales. 
A German "crump" kill('d a lance-corporal by his side and 
buried them both conlpletely. 
" It ,vas just my steel hat that kept the earth from my face," 
said the boy, "and gave me a little handful of air to breathe. 
It 'vas in a ,vee trench ,ve had dug to get some cover. But 
no\v I wa
 covered too mnch. 
" It seeu1ed like an hour I was there, but perhaps no mero 
than half that time. I tried to shout, but could not. .A man 
\valked over my head, but did not kno,v I ,vas there. 
"Presently they saw the lance-corporal's leg sticking out, 
and started to pull hinl. I got my hand out, and ,vaggled it, 



264 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


and they started digging for n1e. It was just time. The veins 
,vere starting out of my head, and I ,vas nearly gone." 
It ,vas late in the evening before the ,vho]e of l\iartinpllich 
,vas taken after fierce fighting, and it was the cro,vning triumph 
of a successful day. 


10 


The troops on the left side of the line did amazingly ,veIl, 
and ,vere handled well. They took forty Gernlan officers and 
1430 other raI
ks. Against them ,vas the 2nd Bavarian Corps, 
\vhom many of our men had met before at I{cmmcl and the 
Hohenzollern and Ypres, glad no,v to payoff old scores against 
them. 
On the right of the troops at l\iartinpnich the attack ,vas 
s,vinging up to }-"lers across a ,vide stretch of difficult and 
perilous ground strongly defended. 
The enemy \vas flinging over storms of shrapnel and high 
explosives, and many of our nlen fell, but the ,youndcd shouted 
on the others, if they 'were not too badly hit, and the others 
,vent forward grimly and steadily. 
These soldiers of ours "vere superb in courage and stoic 
endurance, and pressed for\vard steadily in broken \vaves. 
The first ne,vs of success caIne through from an airman's wire- 
less, ,vhich said: 
" A Tank is ,valking up the High Street of Flers with the 
British Army cheering behind." 
It was an actual fact. One of the n1otor-monsters wa.s there, 
enjoying itself thoroughly, and keeping do\vn the heads of the 
enerrlY. 
It hung out a big piece of paper, on ,vhich were the ,vords : 


"GREAT HUN DEFEAT. SP:ECIAL!" 


The aeroplane flew lo"v over its carcass, machine-gunning 
the scared Germans, "vho fled before the monstrons apparition. 
Later in the day it seemed to have been in need of a rest before 
coming home, and t,vo humans got out of its inside and ,val ked 
back to our lines. 
But, by that time, Flers and many prisoners were in our 
hands, and our troops had gone beyond to farther fields. 



THE COMING OF TIlE TANI(S 


265 


11 
On the extreme right of our line of attack the fighting ,vas 
hardest and fiercest of all, and is still very confused and un- 
certain to the north of Ginchy and in the direction of Guede- 
court. In this direction the enemy fought ,vith fine courage. 
l\Iachine-gun fire s,vept our men from the direction of :\forvaJ 
and COInbles, and the shE'll-fire ,yas frightful in its violence. 
Nevertheless, the first rush for,vard ,vas magnificent on the 
part of the troops. They ,vere the Guards. 
"Lots of our men dropped;" said one of theIn, "but \ve 
didn't look round or bother about anything or see anything 
of ,vhat was going on around us. \Ve had orders to push on, 
and .we pushed." 
The enemy resisted stoutly along his first line. They kept 
up a seyere rifle-fire and machine-gun fire until our Inen ,vere 
right on them, and then fought bayonet to bayonet. 
Large numbers of them were killed, and the troops s,vept 
through to the second line of trenches and took that. 
A third ,vave passed through them to the third German 
trench, but before they reached this goal the German soldiers 
came out "Tith their hands up and surrendered. 0111' men 
went on and on. 
"The Boches ran like rabbits hefore us," said several of 
them. They ,vent too far, these soldiers, in their eagerness. 
One of the colonels stood up on a hillock blo\ving a hunting- 
horn to fetch them back, but they did not hear, and ,vent on 
stiH farther, unsupported by troops on their right. 
The officers waved on the men with their revolvers, and 
many fell leading their con1panies. I t was one of the greatest 
charges in history, but drove out too far into the "blue" 
,vithout sufficient co-operation, ,vith troops held up lower down 
by strong points and machine-guns. 'Vhat the situation is 
there to-night I do not yet kno,v, except that our men were 
fighting on the outskirts of Guedecourt. 


12 
I have no tÏIne to tell of all the great drama I have seen- 
the long trails of the "Talking .wounded, marvellously brave, 
\vonderfully full of spirits:, the long columns of German prisoners 



266 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


tramping back from the battlefields, dejected and n1Ïserable, 
and other great pictures of ,val' not yet to be ,vritten. 
The German prisoners ,vere utterly disnlayed--be,vildered 
beyond ,vords. Some of the officers tried to shrug it off as 
" a stroke of luck," but others admitted that ,ve had sllrprised 
them by a great and brilliant stroke. 
One of them ,vith ,vhom I spoke ,vas a young artillery officer 
,vho had fought against us at Ypres in 191 L t, and after,vards 
against the Russians. 
"The Somme is the ,vorst of all for us," he said. "It is 
fearful. " 
Several Gernlan officers ,vere appalling figures, in masks of 
horror, their faces as black as negroes. They had been in a 
dug-out blo,vn up by one of our bornbs, and it ,vas full of Very 
lights, ,vhich flamed about them and burnt them black. 
It was a black day for Gerrnany, and the hardest blo,v that 
has been struck at her heart and pride by Brit.ish troops. For 
us the glory of the day is in the splendour of our men. 


. 



xxx 


FIGHTING BEYOND FLERS 


1 


SEPTEMBER 17 
THE enemy has made desperate attempts to organize counter- 
attacks to thrust back our lines from the ground gained by us 
since }-'riday morning. They have failed. We hold all the 
ground captured in the general assault, and yesterday and to-day 
our troops have gone farther for\vard, \vinning ne,v and im- 
portant positions. 
l\iouquet Farm, for ,vhich the Australians fought with a 
most stubborn courage, entering the place several times \vith 
their patrols, was taken last night by a swift and successful 
assault. Left of that, below Thiépval, and to the east of that 
stronghold, attacks beginning last Thursday on a fortified 
position kno,vn as the" Wunder,verk " (a curious and villainous 
system of trenches and dug-outs) have been a brilliant success, 
and have extended our gain by a mile of frontage along the 
Danube Trench. 
We have a strong flank line securing Courcelette and have 
pH shed out beyond l\Iartinpuich towards Eaucourt-l' Abbaye, 
and beyond Flers to,vards Geudecourt. The day has not been 
so sensational as Friday, but solid progress has been made, 
and the enemy is kf'pt nervous. 
He has been hurrying up reserves from Le Sars and l\Iirau- 
mont and places far back behind his lines. They ,vere reported 
to be n10ving up yesterday by motor transport, and Ollr long- 
range gUllS "dealt .with them," to use the grirn phrase of one 
of our artillery officers. 
The enemy's losses are certainly very frightful. IIis dead lie 
solid in certain parts of the battle-front. There are fields of 
horror here round Tligh \tV ood and above Delvi}le 'V ood, and 



268 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


not all the shells \vhich I sa \v slashing those rows of tree-stumps 
to-day \vill give the enemy back those Inen \vho are being buried 
by his high explosiyes. 
The ,,,hole of the great stretch of battlefield along the high 
ridge to Delville ,V ood and Ginchy is one great graveyard, 
and looking across it to-day, as I stood among shell-craters and 
old German trenches and the litter of a \vide destruction, this 
great desolate borror \vas an eyil panoralna \vhich chilled one's 
spiri t. 
The enemy \vas flinging over heavy "crumps" and black 
shrapnel, but his shooting seemed to me \vild and \vithout definite 
targets. The reason of it \vas clear. In taking the high ridge 
\ve have the obseryation \vhich was once his, and it is our artillery 
\"hich no\" has the supreme advantage. 


2 
The bon1bardment of September 15 was the most remarkable 
achieven1ent ever done by British artillery, and not surpassed, 
I should say, in any army. Every detail of it \vas planned 
beforehand. 
Every " heavy" had its special objective and its o\vn time- 
table, \,"orking exactly \vith the infantry, concentrating upon the 
enemy's trenches and strong points, barraging his lines of 
communication, follo,ving the tracks of those lllotor monsters 
\vhose amazing adyentures I described in lny last dispatch, 
and co-operating \vith the air service to reach out to distant 
targets. 
The field-batteries \vere marvellously audacious in taking up 
new positions, and the F.G.O.'s (the for\vard ubserving officers) 
\,"ere gallant in getting up to the high ground as soon as our 
infantry had taken it and registering their batteries from these 
ne\v vie\v-points. 
I heard to-day the \vhole artillery scheme of one corps and 
the scientific precision \vith \yhich the enemy's defences .were 
destroyed made me shiver as in the presence of a high intelligence 
distributing death on a great scale, by Illeans of n1Ïnute calcula- 
tions of time and space, \yhieh, indeed, is exactly the truth. 
The enemy's artillery is still very strong, and it \vould be 
nonsense to depreciate his prodi
ious gun-power. But SOUle 
at least of his batteries are in a perilous position now that \ve 



FIGHTING BEYO:SD FLERS 


269 


are able to observe them, and from my own observation of his 
shell-fire to-day it seems to me that he is shifting them farther 
back. 
lIe had not shifted them when our attack began on Friday 
morning last (although our counter-battery work ,vas 111aking 
it extrcll1ely hot for him), and it is remarkable that ,vithin 
t,vo minutes of our attack he concentrated a particularly fierce 
fire on High "\tV ood, ,vhere our men ,vere advancing. 
"It is possible that his "sausage" balloons had observed 
the approach of the Tanks, and had seen them behind our 
trenches, like ichthyosauri ,vaiting for their morning meal. 
But, as I have previously hinted, there is sound evidence for 
the belief that he had prepared a great counter-attack along 
a ,vide front at the very time when our o,vn ,vas launched. 
This accounts for the great mass of men killed in his lines 
and for the large number of prisoners who fell into our hands. 


3 
The capture of l\Iouquet Farm last night was made by a 
dash across a short strip of No l\lan's Land. The garrison 
there re
eated into a tunnelled dug-out, which had at least 
t,vo entrances, and showed no willingness to surrender, main- 
taining rifle-fire from loopholes after they ,vere surrounded. 
1.'he southern entrance to this underground stronghold was 
blo,vn in by high explosives, ,vhile men kept guard of the other 
entry, waiting for any Germans who might come up to sur- 
render. 
This capture of Mouquet Farm (a stick or two above a heap 
of broken brick,vork, as I sa'v it sorne weeks ago) has made the 
position of Thiépval still more closely gripped-the garrison 
there holds out stubbornly in its tunnelled corridors-and 
helped forward the assault upon the Danube Trench launched 
,vith absolute success. 
This carried further the operation begun last Thursday, 
,vhen our troops made one of those brilliant ass,aults upon the 
intricate system of earth,vorks to the south of Thiépval, ,vhich 
I ,vatched a few weeks ago, when the 'Viltshires and the 
Gloucesters did so well. 
On the left, running south,vards down the ridge, IS an 
extraordinary V-shaped ,vedge with an open end. This 



270 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\ll\iE 


position ,vas not attacked, but our men drove straight up to 
the left of it, upon the "'Yonder-\vork," ,vhich ,vas one of 
those nests of dug-outs upon ,vhich the Gennans lavished all 
their skill in digging and pommelling and strengthening and 
furnishing in ,,,hat soldiers call" the days of peace "-the old 
da ys of ordinary trench - ,varfare. 
It ,vas no longer a "'Vonder-,vork" ,,,hen our 111en rushed 
upon it. A ,vhirhvind bon1bardment, ,vhich had preceded 
them, and heavy shell-fire for ,veeks past had broken the 
concrete emplacements and flung up the earth ,,,ith deep shell- 
pits, so that it ,vas merely a part of the general chaos existing 
on these battlefields. 
}i'ive Gernlan officers and 116 Inen ,vere still aliye there, and 
surrendered instantly. " You ,vere on us like the ,vind," said 
one of these officers afterlvards. " 'Ve had no tÏ1ne to defend 
ourselves." Other nlen fled from neighbouring shell-craters, 
but ran straight into our curtain-fire and fell. 
Our lads chased some of them as they ran, but halted this 
side of our bursting shells, and caIne back " fearfully bucked," 
to use their o,vn phrase, because they had put the enemy to 
flight and Il1astered him so utterly. 


4 
Yesterday counter-attacks were attempted by the 5th 
Reserye Regiment of Guards, but they ,vere not carried through 
,vith resolution. The first ,vaye of men came a hundred yards 
or so to\vards our men, then hesitated, fiung their bOlnbs, ,vhich 
fell ludicrously short, and ran back. 
On the left they ,vere bolder and brave, and a yery long 
and stubborn fight took place ,vith bombs, ending in the 
complete victory of our men after they had fiung 1500 hand- 
grenades. 
North-east of Flers other counter-attacks ,vere attempted 
yesterday, but our troops ,vho ,vere adyancing to,vards Guede- 
court ,vent right through thenl and over theln ,vith irresistible 
spirit, checked only by concealed machine-guns in a harvest- 
field on their lying. 
In Rouleaux 'Yood, to the north of Leuze ',,"ood, there has 
been fierce hand-to-hand fighting, and in the centre of it is 
an unfortunate Tank-one of the few casualties among the 



FIGHTING BEYOND FLERS 


271 


armoured monsters-,vhich lies ,vith its nose in the earth, 
forn1ing a barricade bet,,'een the opposing bombers. 
The general situation along our attacking front leaves the 
initiative in our hands and reveals the temporary demoralization 
of the enemy's troops and command. 
One cannot say more than that. The enemy has had a 
hard blo,v, but he has reserves of strength which are controlled 
by cool brains behind his lines. 
There is still much fighting to be done before Gernlany's 
\veakness reaches the breaking-point, but the losses \ve have 
inflicted upon her during the last three days are so terrible that 
she cannot hide her ,,"ounds. 



XXXI 


MONSTERS AND J\;IEN 


1 


SEPTEMBER 18 
IN all the accounts of the fighting since Friday the story of the 
Tanks-those weird and wonderful armoured monsters-runs 
like a hU1110rous thread. Full of humour and fantasy, because 
of their shape and qualities, they are also filled ,vith very 
gallant men, to \vhom great honour is due. The skippers 
and crews of these land-ships, as they are called, had to go 
out alone in many cases in advance of the infantry and upon 
hazardous chances, which each one of then1 kne\v \vere \veighted 
with the risk, alnlost the certainty-for it was a ne\v, untried 
experiment-of death. They had astounding adventures and 
a large measure of success, and it was due, not to any kind of 
luck, but to great skill and great courage. 
I have already told the first stories of their actions. To-day 
I obtained a full narrative of their achievements, and it is one 
of the most dramatic and gallant records in the history of this 
,val' . 
T\vo of them \vho set ont to attack the line from Combles to 
l\lorval made a rendezvous at 'V edge 'V ood, and took up their 
position at night. One of them set off and alnbled slo\vly 
until it came within 400 yards north-\vest of Combles, far in 
advance of the infantry. Here it sat for five hours, fighting 
the enemy alone, and shooting do,vn German bombing parties 
until it was severely damaged. 
The other Tank in the neighbourhood of Bouleaux 'V ood 
reached the enemy's trenches near l\Iorval, and, finding that it 
had left the infantry behind, \vent back to inquire for them. 
They were held up by Gern1an b0l11bers in a trench, so the Tank 
came to the rescue, bucked over the trench, and crushed the 



l\10NSTERS AND MEN 


273 


bombf'rs into the earth before backing into a deep shcll-crater 
and toppling over. IIere for an hour and a half it formed a 
barricade bet\veen British and German bombers, and the cre\v 
got out and tried to hoist it out of the shell-hole under heavy 
fire. One of the men picked up a live bomb flung by the enemy, 
and tried to hurl it to a safe distance
 a,vay from his comrades, 
but ,vas blo,vn to bits. Finally t.he "skipper," \vith his 
surviving men, came back to our lines, leaving the derelict 
monster still used as a barricade. 
North of Ginchy telegraph one of the Tanks attacked a 
machine-gun emplacement and killed many of the men. East 
of Dclyille \ïV ood another advanced upon a German trench 
called Laager Lane, and so frightened the enemy that about a 
hundred of then1 came out under 'white flags and surrendered 
to it, follo\ving the monster back to our lines. 
The attack on Hop Alley, by I)elville \Vood, was led by a 
Tank ,vhich attacked a number of bombers and put thcm to 
flight, so that the trench ,vas cleared for the infantry. After- 
wards, under a heavy German barrage, it could advance no 
farthcr, and the skipper and his crew, aftcr doing this fine 
.work, came out of their monster and, ,vith splendid heroism, 
helped our ,younded for three hours. 
The officer "\vho did \vhat the soldiers call the grcat " stunt " 
in Flers told me his story to-day, and I found him to be as modest 
a fellow as any nayal officer on a light cruiser, and of the same 
fine type. I-Ie went into Flers before the infantry and follo,ved 
by them, cheering in high spirits, and knocked out a machine-gun 
,vhich began to play on him. The to,vn \vas not much dan1aged 
by shell-fire, so that the Tank could ,valk about real streets, 
and the garrison, \vhich was hiding about in dug-outs, surren- 
dered in small, scared groups. Then the other Tanks caIne 
into Flers, and together they Iolloped around the to,vn in a 
free and easy nlanner before going farther afield. 
The Ta.nk which \vcnt through lIigh \V ood did grcat execution 
over the Gcrman trenches, and another \vandcred around shell- 
craters" killing" German machine-guns. rrhe casualties \vcre 
slight considering the great success of the experimcnt, and on 
all sides among our soldiers thcre is nothing but praise of the 
gallant men \vho led them. They a.re still going strong. 
To-day one of the lTIonsters-it \vas old " Cordon !{ouge "- 
came ,vaddling over shell-craters, climbing over broken trenches, 
s 



274 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


and fetched up outside the door of a brigadier's dug-out. From 
the inside of the beast came a very cool and grave young man, 
who saluted in a naval ,yay, and said, "I a,vait your orders, 
sir, for going into action." 
" And I'm very glad you didn't bring your monster do,vn 
into my dug-out," said the brigadier. "But it's very kind of 
you to call, and no doubt we shall ,vant you shortly." 


2 


I have becn to-day, and for four days, among the men ,vho 
have broken the Flers line and given the enenlY the hardest 
blows he has ever suffered on this front. Sir Douglas Haig 
has named thenl this afternoon in his great bulletin, paying a 
tribute to thcir valour in a broad, gencral 'way, without letting 
the enemy kno,v too much about the battalions facing him. 
They were all splendid. For the big battle on Friday ,vas a 
hard one
 and not a " walk-over," so that our nlcn ,vere put to 
the supreme test of courage by most damnable shell-fire and 
fierce concentrated barrages by which the enemy's gunners at 
long ranges endeavoured to support their lost and suffering 
infantry . 
'Vhat touched me most, perhaps, though Hca,ycn kno,vs 
the experiences of all our soldiers nlade one a,ve-struck, ,vas the 
,yay in ,vhich our newest and youngest men went through 'vith 
their business. Thcre were some of them Dcrby recruits, ,vho 
had never yet seen what shell-fire means in the Sommc battles. 
Older nlen among them, ,vho kne,v, ,vere sorry for them, 
wondered how they ,vould " stick it," and said, ,vith a view to 
encouragement, "Cheer up, you'll soon be dead." They did 
not ha.ng back, these new fello,vs. The ra,vc
t recruits among 
them strained forward ,vith the rest, floundered over the shell- 
holes like the others, and leapt into the Gern1an trenches, like 
men of old fighting spirit. 


3 
The London men did gloriously and had one of the hardest 
points of the attack, and came under some of the heaviest 
storms of fire. These young Civil servants and men of the 
London suburbs, 'who used to go to City offices by earJy morning 
trains-do you remember how they spoke once of "London 



MONSTERS AND l\lEN 


275 


pride ? "-fought sternly and endured ,vith stoicism, and had 
a laugh left in them after the battle when they forgot the 
frightfulness of it all and remembered the fantastic adventures 
of the Tanks ,vhich ,vaddled into the GenTIan lines, knocking 
do,vn tree-stumps, climbing over heaps of ruin, and" putting 
the ,vind up " in the enenlY's ranks. "It was a fair treat! " 
said one of thenl. "Every time I think of it I can't help 
laughing!" And yet it ,vas no joke, after all, but very grinl 
and deadly ,york. 
There ,vas hardly a county of England ,vhich did not have 
its sons in this battle, and all those English regiments of the 
north and the south ,vere so good, so fine, so full of spirit, that 
it made one ,yonder at the stock that has bred these men, giving 
to them out of the strain of England sonle quality of blood 
that has withstood all the ,veakening inHuences of factory life 
and city life. And yet, having written that, I see it is foolishness. 
:For men of all the Empire were here, and it 'vas the spirit of 
the ,vhole race that rose at da,vn out of the trenches and shell- 
crat
s and ,vent for,vard into the furnace-fires. 


4 
About the Scottish troops I can say no more than I have 
said a hundred tinIes, loving all those Lo,vlanders and High- 
landers" this side idolatry." 
I ,vas .with some of their officers to-day again, and heard 
stories of their men ,vho took one of the German strongholds 
after a serpentine plan of attack difficult to perform, because in 
attacking men will go straight, and coming under shell-fire 
,vhich ,vould have broken the spirit of ,veaker men. But they 
,vent on in ,vaves over the German trenches and into the village 
where some hundreds of men surrendered to thenl, coming up 
out of the dug-outs as soon as the Scots were about their hiding- 
places. 
The German soldiers had been thoroughly frightened by the 
Tank, ,vhich had COine nosing in before the infantry, and many II. 
of them huddled piteously under its flanks in order to escape 
from its rapid fire. Sixty men came out of one dug-out and 
surrendered in this ,vay. 
:; Mter,vards the Scots pushed on 
beyond the stronghold and established posts and dug cover 
for thenlselves against the enemy's gun-fire, ,vhich thre,v an 



276 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\iE 


enormous nnmber of high explosives into their old place of 
defence, ,vhich ,"as stacked ,,,ith timber for dug-outs and other 
stores of war material. 


5 
The Canadians gained great glory on Friday and Saturday. 
After their long and hard cxpcriences in the salient they came 
dO'Vll to the Sonlnle battlefield detcrmined to " get their o,vn 
back," and do great advcnturcs. Thcir attack ,vas finely 
organized, and ,,'hen all the difficulties are kno,vn ,viII be put 
down to their credit as a really great military achievement. 
Amolìg them is a body of French Canadians, dark -eyed fello,vs 
,vhom it is strange to meet about the villages of }1-"rance speaking 
volubly .with the peasants in their o,vn tongue, a little old- 
fashioned, as it ,vas once spoken in the days of Louis XI'T, 
when Canada ,vas one ûf the brightest rays in the glory of the 
Sun- King. 'These fello,vs, close in likeness to the proyincial 
Frcnchnlan, though perhaps more dour and reserved, ,vent 
a,vay like ,volves a-hunting, ana. raced for"Tard to a German 
stronghold ,yhich they had askcd leave to take. 
They ,,-ere s,vept by machine-gun fire and checked by a 
stubborn defence on the part of the enemy
 but ,vith the help 
of the t".o Tanks, called "Crême de l\fenthe" and "Cordon 
Rouge," ,vho sat on the enemy's Inachine-gun emplacements 
and knocked out his machine-gun crc-ws, the French Canadians 
carried the stronghold and captured hundreds of prisoners. 
Later I hope to ,vrite the full story of the Canadian victory 
,vhich ,viII thrill through all the to,vns and fields of the great 
Dominion like an heroic song, for these nlen from overseas 
,vere very careless of death so that they might ,,,in. 


ti 
Then there ,,-ere the Ke,v-Zealanders, those clean-cut, hand- 
some fello,vs in the felt hats ,vith a bit of red ribbon round 
the brim, ,,,hich I looked for do,yn village streets and in French 
harvest- fields before they ,vent into battle. A ustralia has set 
a great example to then1, being first in the fighting round 
Pozières, ,vhere they. fought as ,vonderfully as in the Dardanelles. 
They ,,,cre not less gallant in the great charge they Blade at 
da,vn on Friday, going forward very far to a distant place 



MONSTERS AND IVIEN 


277 


across No Man's Land, and across German trenches, under 
heavy fire, and out" into the blue" in pursuit of retreating 
men. 


7 


Sir Douglas Haig Inentions last of all the Guards, but not 
because they were least in valour. They fought as the Guards 
ahvays fight, ,vith superb discipline, and with a tradition that 
is sacred to them. I sa,v them before they ,vent into battle, 
and had a meal in the mess of the Irish Guards, and saw them 
111arching up to take their line in the battlefields. 
They are not the old Guards who fought at Y pres and in 
many bloody battles when we ,vere hard pressed, and after- 
wards at Loos, \vhen they had sonle fearful hours. J.\tlany of 
those brave men lie under the soil of France, and ne,v men 
have taken their place. But the tradition stays, and the 
physical standard of the men has not been lowered by a hair's- 
breadth, and their discipline is still upon the ')a.me high and 
hard level. Everyone knew they would put up a great fight, 
and they did. 
They had a very difficult part of the line, and had to pass 
machine-guns ,vhich s,vept upon their ranks in enfilade fire, 
and had to advance over ground covered by ,vhirhvind fire 
of high explosives. Rut they gained their ,yay for,vard in a 
series of charges which \yent straight through three lines of 
German trenches, and captured large numbers of prisoners 
after heavy fighting, and held on to their ground against strong 
counter-attacks. The tradition of the Guards has been upheld, 
and a new tradition has been given to them. 
I must put into a line some late important ne\vs of the day, 
,vhich is the great casualties inflicted upon the enenlY in the 
neighbourhood of Guedecourt. i\ body of the enelTIY's infantry 
,va.s observed to be retreating through the mist, and they ,vcre 
caught by some of our advanced patrols, ,vho cut them to pieces 
with machine-gun fire. Else,vhere the enemy is surrendering in 
small batches, unable to stand the fearful slaughter inflicted upon 
them by our gu ns. 


SEPTEMBER 19 
Some of the most noble fighting qualities in the great 1 
Lttle 
of Friday last were sho\Vll by the troops ,vho were rc ùnsible 


8 



278 THE BATTLES OF THE SOM
IE 


for the centre of the attack directed against F]ers and the 
country immediateJy to the right of that village. Those 
,vho "Tre given the task of assaulting Flers itself ,vere mostly 
recruited from the London area. 
They had not seen much fighting before going into thc great 
fire of the Somme battles. Their General, ,vho had raised and 
trained thenl, 'was sure of them, and had taught cach n1an 
the task expected of hÜn on this great da.y, so that ,,'hatever 
n1ight befall their officers, the n1en should not be mere shecp 
,vithout a sense of guidance or dircction. 
"Yhen they formcd up in line to the north of Delvine "\Vood 
(,vith a,vk,,,ard bits of German trench thrust do,vn upon thcir 
right flank), they had three lines in front of them over a distance 
of about 2500 yards barring their ,yay to F]ers. It was a long 
,vay and a hard 'way to go, but they leapt for,vard in solid 
,,,ayes of keen a.nd eager men following a short and violent 
barrage frOITI our heavy guns. 
In a fc,,,, minutes from the start the first t,yO ,,,ayes dropped 
into the Gf'rman switch-linc running diagonally fron1 the rea.l 
Flers line. They found it choked ,vith German dead, killed 
by our gun-fire, and among them only a poor remnant of liying 
Inen. The first t,vo ,vaves stayed in the trench to hold it. 
The others s,,'ept on, sn1ashed through the Flers line, and 
forged their ,yay ovcr shell-craters under machine-gun and 
shrapnel fire, to the outskirts of Flers, ,vhich they reached 
bet,veen nine and ten in the n10rning. 
Some London men "'ere held up by barbed ,,,ire protecting 
a hidden trench ,vhich had not been previously observed, 
and a call ,vas made for one of the Tanks ,,-hich had come 
rolling up behind. It crawled for,vard, ,,'alking over the 
shell-craters, and smashed the ,vhole' length of barbed ,,,ire 
in front, firing rapidly upon the enenlY's b0111bers in the 
trench and putting them ont of action. This ellabled the 
,,,hole linc to advance into Flcrs village at the tail of another 
Tank no,v famous for its adventures in F'lers, ,vhich I have 
a1ready narratcd. 
The yictorious troops found but littlc opposition in the 
village. Curiously enongh, it 'vas not strongly dcfended or 
fortified. There ,verc fe,,, of thc tunncJs and dug-outs ,vhich 
make nlany of these places hard to capture, and the enCIUY 
,,-as utterly denloralized by the motor monstcr ,vhich 
ppeared 



MONSTERS AND MEN 


279 


as a bad dream before them. The enemy flung a heavy barrage, 
but our men had fe\v casualties. 


9 


An attempt ,vas ma.de to reach Geudecourt, and, as I have 
already told, one of our Tanks reached the outskirt.s of that 
ne'v objective. The infantry attack failed o\ving to massed 
n1achine-gun fire, and the men fell back to a ne\V line of trenches 
hastily dug by the enemy before their defeat, which no,v gave 
us useful cover. This was 2700 yards from the starting-point 
at da\vn, and \vas alnlost a record as a continuouC) advance. 
The enemy rallied and made t\VO counter-attacks, one at 
three o'clock in the afternoon, the other bet\veen fonr and five. 
They ,vere tragic attempts. Sonle of our machine-gunners 
lay in ,vaiting for them and lnowed do,,'ll these ro\VS of men 
as they caIne bravely for\vard. It ,vas such a sight as I ,vatched 
at Falfen10nt Farrn \vhen solid bars of tall men crumbled and 
fell before a ::,cythe of bullets. 
At ß.30 on the foHo,ving evening our troops made another 
attempt to reach Geudecourt in co-operation \vith the men on 
their right, but they were unable to get the whole distance in 
spite of a most heroic assault after t,vo days of heavy fighting. 
The force attacking on the right of Flers on Friday morning 
had sin1Ïlar experiences and more difficulties. They are n1en 
,vho kno\v all there is to kno\v about the Y pres salient, where I 
met them first nearly a year ago. They are men \vho have old 
scores to \vipe off against the enemy in the vv-ay of poison-gas 
and flame-jets, and they \vent very fiercely into the battle. 
To start ,vith, they had to clear out a place knO\Vll as l\lystery 
Corner, to the right of })elville \V ood, ,vhere they captured 
fifty-one prisoners, and aftcr,vards a trench a ]ittle to the 
north of that, thrust do\yn as a ,vedge bet\veen their left flank 
and the right of the troops ,vho had started out for Flcrs. 
This second strong point ,vas \"iped out by the Tanks, \vhich 
came and sat do\vn on it, and by a small body of N orth-country- 
111en \vorking 'with the Tanks. Their particular job ,vas done, 
and they nlÍght have stayed there, but, seeing the long waves 
of their comrades strearning for\vard to the n1ain attack, they 
could not hold back, but follo\ved on, all through the fight 
keeping touch in a n10st orderly ,yay ,vith the men ahead of 



280 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\I
IE 


them, and doing, as they put it, " odd jobs," such as knocking 
out n1achine-gnns and killing snipers. 
It ,vas so ,vith other n1en. Having done their alloted task 
they ,vould not stand and hold, but strC'anlCd aftcr the tide 
,vhich ,vent through and past then1, detC'rmined to be in at 
the death. 
In the attacks upon Geudecourt that day and on the evening 
of the next they had a hard bad time like the men on their . 
left. They were nnder enfilade fire fron1 machine-guns, ,vhich 
chattered honr after hour, never silent. "The air ,vas stiff 
with bullets," says one of the officers. l\Ien finding their 
only cover in shell-craters could not put their heads up, so 
close did the bullets slash the earth. And in other shell-craters 
not far a,vay .were n1any German riflen1en picking off any n1an 
who appeared for a mon1ent out of the tumbled earth. 
It ,vas a hellish neighbourhood, yet ,vhen the moment for 
the second attack came mixed con1panies of n1en fron1 various 
regiments ,vho had nlÏngled in the inevitable confusion of such 
a place and time (it was now thirty-six hours since the da,vn 
of Friday) rose out of their holes in the earth and formed up as 
on parade, and went forward in a fine gallant style. 
It ,vas impossible in the face of all those bullets about them, 
and they fell back to the original line of advance ,veIl to the 
north of Flers, which was good enough for that day after such 
heroic ,york. There ,vas no Division in our armie<) ,vho could 
have done bettcr, nor "rho did better, on a great day when all 
did ,veIl. 


10 
And no,v J mHst tell a little more in detail the story of the 
Guards in this battle. It is hard to tell it, and not all can be 
told yet because of the enemy. The Guards had their full 
share of the fighting, and of the difficult ground, ,vith strong 
forces against then1. They knew that ,vould be so before they 
went into battle, and yet they did not a<)k for better things, 
but Rwaited the hour of attack ,vith strong, gallant hearts, 
quite sure of their courage, proud of their nanie, full of trust 
in their officers, eager to give a smashing blow at the enemy. 
These splendid men, so tall and proper, so hard and fine, 
went away as one might irnagine the old knights and yeomen of 
England at Agincourt. }'or the first time in the history of the 



MONSTERS AND MEN 


281 


Coldstreal11ers, three battalions of them charged in line, great 
solid waves of men, as fine a sight as the world could show. 
Behind them ,vere the Grenadiers, and again behind these nlen 
the Irish. 
Thcy ha.d not gone more than 200 yards before they came 
under the enfilade fire of massed machine-gt\ns in trenches not 
previously observed. The noise of this fire 'vas so loud and 
savage that although hundreds of guns were firing, not a shot 
could be heard. It ,vas just the stabbing staccato hammering 
of the Gernlan l\laxims. J.\;len fell, but the lines were not 
broken. Gaps ,vere made in the ranks, but they closed up. 
The ,vounded' did not call for help, but cheered on those ,vho 
s\vept past and on, shouting, "Go on, Lily-,vhites! "-,vhich 
is the old nalTIe for the Coldstreamers--" Get at 'ern, Lily- 
,vhites ! " 
They ,vent on at a hot pace ,vith their bayonets lowered. 
Out of the crumpled earth-all pits and holes and hillocks, 
torn up by great gun-fire-grey figures rose and fled. They 
were German soldiers terror-stricken by this rushing tide of 
men. 
The Guards ,vent on. Then they were checked by t,vo 
lines of trenches, wired and defended by ma.chine-guns and 
bombers. They came upon them quicker than they expected. 
Some of the officers \vere puzzled. Could these be the trenches 
marked out for attack-or other unkno,vn trenches? Anyhow, 
they must be taken--and the Guards took them by' frontal 
assault full in the face of continual blasts of machine-gun bullets. 
There ,vas hard and desperate fighting. The Germans 
defended themselves to the death. They bombed our men, ,,,ho 
attacked them with the bayonet, served their machine-guns 
until they ,vere killed, and \vould only surrender ,vhen our men 
,vere on top of them. It was a very bloody hour or more. 
By that time the Irish Guards had joined the others. All the 
Guards were together, and together they passed the trenches, 
s"\\Tinging left inevitably under the machine-gun fire which poured 
upon thenl from their right, but going steadily deeper into the 
enclny country until they ,vere 2000 yards from their starting- 
place. 
Then it was necessary to call a halt. Many officers and men 
had fallen. To go farther would be absolute death. The 
troops on the right had been utterly held up. The Guards 



282 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


\vere "up in the air," with an exposed flank, open to all the 
fire that was flung upon them from the enemy's lines. The 
temptation to go farther ,vas great. The GCrInan infantry 
,vas on the run. They .were dragging their guns a,vay. There 
,vas a great panic among the men \vho had been hiding in 
trenches. But the Gern1an machine-gunners kept to their 
posts t? safeguard a rout, and the Guards had gone far enough 
through their sco1lrging bullets. 
They decided very \visely to hold the line they had gained, 
and to dig in ,vhere they stood, and to make for,vard posts 
"ith strong points. They had killed a great nUl11ber of Gernlans 
and taken 200 prisoners and fought grandly. So no\V they 
halted and dug and took cover as best they could in shell- 
craters and broken ground, under fierce fire froln the enemy's 
guns. 
The night \vas a dreadful one for thp "rounded, and for men 
,vho did their best for the wounded, trying to be deaf to agonizing 
sounds. Many of them had hairbreadth escapes fron1 death. 
One young officer in the Irish Guards lay in a shell-hole with 
t\VO comrades, and then left it for a \vhile to cheer up other 
men lying in surrounding craters. \Vhen he came back he 
found his t,vo friends lying dead, blo,vn to bits by a shell. 
But in spite of all these bad hours the Guards kept cool, 
kept their discipline, their courage, and their spirit. The 
Germans launched counter-attacks against them, but \v('re 
annihilated. The Guards held their ground, and gained the 
greatest honour for self-sacrificing courage ,vhich has ever 
given a special meaning to their name. They took the share 
,vhich all of us kne,v they ,vould take in the greatest of all our 
battles since the first day of July, and, ,vith other regiments, 
struck a vital blo\v at the enemy's line of defence. 



XXXII 


LOl\TJ)ON PRIDE 


1 


SEPTEMBER 20 
AKOTHER dark, ,vet day, filled ,vith grey mist and rain-storms 
and nlud. Up in the lines British soldiers and Germans lie 
near each other in shell-craters, ,vaist-high in ,vater. The rain 
is slashing upon thenl, and it is cold. But though gunners 
cannot see, nor airrnen fly, the bombardment goes on, and all 
day long there has been the dull crashing of heavy shells, on 
both sides deep and sullen boon1ings through the "white fog of 
this foul day. 
Last night and early in the morning the enemy attempted 
a counter-attack at different parts of the line. They attacked 
heavily here and there ,vith strong bombing parties, ,vho for 
a time forced a ,yay into our ne"w lines, at the corner of Cour- 
celette and the north of Martinpuich and t.he ground farther 
cast. 
l\'Iany of then1 ,vere killed-the bad ,veat.her does not stop 
this slaughter-and they ,vere driven out and back again by 
n1en ,vho, though cold in their shell-craters, kept their courage 
and flung thenlselves fiercely upon the German assaulting troops, 
in sharp bombing fights, ,vhich left us with more ground-at 
least in one part of the line-than ,ve had before. All of 
,vhich sho,vs that the enenlY is hard pressed and tightly held, 
and that our men-infantry to infantry-not counting gun-fire, 
have the nlastery of these German reserves, and a spirit that 
refuses to be beaten even by artillery. 
I have ,vritten many thousands of ,vords about this abomin- 
able ,val' since the first shot ,vas fired, and for fifteen months and 
more have been trying to picture as closely as 
ossible the life 
of onr soldiers in action, but I am conscious that all I ha ve 



284 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMlVIE 


,vritten has given but a vague, dim, fa.r-off glimpse of the 
character, sufferings, and valour of our men. 
How is it possible to sho,v these things truly, to make my 
readers understand sonlething of the truth when I cannot 
understand myself, but can only guess and grope at the qualities 
which make them do the things they do? Take our last great 
day of battle-September I5-there were troops of many 
different types engaged in its fighting-Canadians, New-Zea- 
landers, Scots, Irish, and E
nglish of many counties. One ,vould 
expect to find differences among these men, to find some harder 
than others or softer than others, battalions here and there 
,vho flinched before the storm of steel and those frightful 
shells ,vhich open great chasms in the earth. But on Friday 
the courage of all those men was of one quality, and a man 
would be a liar ,vho said that one set of men were less brave 
than another. 


2 


To-day I ,vent among the London nlen, and after\vards 
among SOlne Highlanders, who have a special place in my heart. 
In blood, in upbringing, in physique, in temperament one 
could not find t,vo bodies of men more unlike, yet they have 
been alike in splendid endurance under merciless fire last 
Friday and onwards. "I cannot understand ho,v my boy
 
stuck it out during the worst hours they had," said a colonel 
of one of the City of London battalions. "They just had to 
sit in shell-craters under heavy' erumps.' l\lany men ,vould 
not have gone through with it. But the London boys just 
stayed there, gamely. They are wonderful." 
The colonel himself ,vas ,vondcrful-this old Territorial 
soldier, nearly sixty years of agé, ,vith a ,,'hite moustache and 
grizzled eyebrows that did not hide the bright and almost 
boyish light in his eyes. He used to be a dyspeptic and a 
" bundle of nerves," so he told 111e, and did not think he could 
last three n10nths of war. But no,v at the beginning of the third 
year of ,val' he led his battalion into action, went under some of 
the fiercest fire along the ,vhole battle-line with them, and lay 
side by side ,vith his "boys," as he calls thenl, in a shell-hole 
,vhich becanle filled with ,vater by violent rain-storms. .For 
three days and nights he lay there while the enelny ,vas trying 
to shell our men to death by his monstrous five-point-nines. 



LONDON PRIDE 


285 


There were London ITIen ,vith him and all around him in the 
same kind of holes---for there ,vere no trenches here-and 
though even the sergcants ,vere shaking ,vith a kind of ague, 
not ,,,ith cold but after the nervous strain of enduring the 
incessant shock of high explosives, they "carried on" -oh 
splendid phrase !-..and not a feIlo,v played the coward, 
though all ,vere very much afraid, as all ITIen are in these 
frightful hours. . 
They had been born and bred in London. They had worn 
black coats and " toppers " in the City-all the officers among 
them-and the nlen had been in ,varehouses and offices and 
shops down Thanles-side and a\vay to 'Vhitehall. They had 
played the gentle game of dominoes in luncheon hours over a 
glass of milk and a Bath bun. They had gro,vn nasturtiums in 
suburban gardens, and their biggest adventure in life had 
been the summer ITIanæUVres of the dear old "Terriers." 
And no,v-they fought through German trenches and lay in 
shell-holes, and every nerve in their brains and bodies was 
ravaged by the tunrnlt of shell-fire about them and by the 
,vounded ,vho lay ,vith them. But these Londoners ,,,ho fight 
on their nerves ,,,cre no less staunch than men like the Scots 
and the North-country lads, who, as far as I can see, have no 
nerves at all. . 


3 


There ,vere S0111e strange individual advent.urf's in the midst 
of the general experience of rushing two lines of German trenches 
through a violent barrage and getting forward to open country, 
,vhere they dug themselves in. AITIOng ten machinf'-gul1s 
,vhich they captured on their 'way up there ,vas one handled by 
a German gunner ,vho a,vaited his chance to s,,-cep the ranks 
of the London lads. But he did not get it. A.n officer of the 
London Regiment ,vho ,vas carrying a rifle "spotted" the 
man quickly and killed him ,vith a straight shot before he had 
fired more than a fe,v bullets. That rifle-shot saved the lives 
of many of our n1en. 
In the second German trench there ,vas a sharp fight, and one 
single cOlnbr"t bet,veen one of our officcrs-,vho happens to be 
a South African-and a great lusty Gernlan 'who ,vas a Inuch 
bigger man than ours. It ,vas a bayonet duel as t,vo nlediæyal 
knights might have fought in the old days ,vith heavy s,yords. 



286 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


Our officer ,vas already wounded twice. He had a bullet 
through the shoulder, and a damaged ja,v. But five times he 
pierced his enemy ,vith the bayonet. It should have been 
enough, but the grcat German still fought. Both bayonets 
were dropped and the two men closed and ,vrestlcd with each 
other, trying to get a grip of the throat. The German wrestler, 
bloody as he "'as
 seemed to keep all his brute strength, but he 
,vas laid out by a bullet in the neck from a sergcant of the 
Londoners ,vho came to the rescue of the officer. Afterwards 
this easy-going gentleman-from South .L-\frica-chatted with 
his colonel over the body of his man as quietly and calmly as 
though he ,vere in his smoking-room at home, and paid no 
attention ,vhatever to his ,vounds, rcfusing to go dO"'1l to the 
doctor, but going for,vard again ,vith his Inen. 
Some of the Inen ,vent too far in thcir eagerncss, a,vay into 
the "blue. " No ,vord came back from them. No signal. 
Later one man trudged back, bringing t,vo prisoncrs. "'Vhere 
are the others? " he ,vas asked. He pointed far a,vay, and 
said, " Over there." He is the only man ,vho has come back 
from that place of mystery. 


4 


Sonle of the London battalions did not suffer so heavily 
as might have been expected from the hard task they had, and 
the ,vonderful ,yay in ,vhich they fought. vVhat loss they 
suffered "vas the price of extreme valour. The charge of the 
Light Brigade at Balaclava has been put into song as one of the 
great heroic tales of history. "\tYill anyone Inake a song of the 
Loudon men ,vho fought forward through a hurricane of fire? 
The stretchcr- bearers of the London Tcrritorials did thcir 
work nobly, and among them as a volunteer "yas one German 
,yho deservcs a ,vord of praise, by men ,vith a sporting spirit, 
fair to thcir enenlY. He had first' been taken prisoner by an 
officer of ours, ,vho ,vas then hit by a piece of shell or a rifle- 
bullet. lIe fell, and could not rise again, but his prisoner, 
,vho was an officer too, picked him up and carried him across 
the battlefield to our dressing-station, and then stood by for an 
escort to take hiln away. 
The Gcneral commanding these London men spoke of them 
to-day ,vith a thrill in his voicc. lIe had becn ,vith thcIn, and 
had reconnoitred thcir ground, and had secn their .way of 



LO
DON PRIDE 


287 


fighting. 'Yhen I spoke to. him he had been without sleep and 
rest for two days and nights. "No men could have done better," 
he said. "No General could wish to comnland braver men 
or better men. Their discipline is splendid. There is never 
any crime among them. They behave ahvays as gentlemen 
should behave, and they fight ,vith fine hearts. These London 
boys of mine had one of the hardest tasks on Friday, and they 
carried it through ,vith a most gallant spirit." 


5 


Another day I ITIUst write of the Highlanders ,vhom I met 
to-day-those Gay Gordons of "whom I have 'written several 
times ,vhen I have found them in other parts of the battle-line. 
Some of them ,vaved hands to nle to-day and shouted cheerfully 
across a track of mud, and, seeing the faces under their bonnets, 
I ,vas enormously glad to find these old friends of mine alive 
and ,veIl after l11any days of fighting. Squarer, tougher, 
harder men than the Londoners, they fought in their o\vn style, 
gloriously, ,vith all their comrades in kilts or trews ,vho s,vept 
across the German lines, and then held their captured ground 
under infernal fire. One story they told nle of the things they 
have seen is a grim little picture ,vhich is etched in my brain. 
T,vo of them ,vent do\vn into a Gern1an dug-out and started 
back ,vhen they sa\v a man seated there at table. The table 
,vas laid for a meal, but the food ,vas uneaten. It 'was a dead 
German officer ,vho sat before them, as though asleep. The 
top of the dug-out had been knocked in by one of our shells, 
and sonlething had fallen and kiUed hinl as he ,vas beginning 
breakfast. The Gordons ,vent into other dug-outs and found 
other dead bodies, but it was this sitting man that they 
renlember most. 



XXXIII 


THE SPLEl\TDID NEW-ZEALANDERS 


1 


SEPTEMBER 23 
IT ,vas incvitable that after the great battle of September 15 
our line should have raggcd edges and run up or do\vn into 
small salients. This \vas due to the greater progress n1ade by 
different bodies of troops; and to the way in ,vhich isolated 
groups of Germans held on very stubbornly to these stretches 
of ground not in the general line of our advance. 
During the past forty-eight hours a good deal has been done 
to clear out thcse pockets, or wedges, and to straighten out the 
line from Courcelette cast\vards. 
This morning our troops did a useful bit of ,york in such a 
place bctwccn Courcelctte and l\Iartinpuich, knocking out a strong 
post and taking some prisoncrs, \vith whom ,vere t\VO officers. 
Elsewhere strong posts thrust out by us beyond the main trenches 
have been linkcd up, so that the line no'v runs in a reasonably 
even ,yay fron) the north of Courcelettc across the Bapaume 
Road, above l\Iartinpuich, and so on to the north of Flers. 
'fhis linking-up and clearing-up work no\v done to a great 
extent puts us in a stronger position of defence, to hold ,vhat 
\ve have gained. against any attenlpts lllade by the enemy 
in counter-attack. 
He has made many atten1pts since September 15 to drive 
our troops out of the high ground, which is vital to his means 
of observation, and the failure of them has cost hÏ1n a great 
price in life. 


2 


Among the most desperate thrusts, pressed \vith stubborn 
bravery by bodies of German soldiers, collected hastily and 



THE-rSPLENDID 
TEW-ZEi\LANDERS 289 


flung with but little plan or preliminary organization against 
our lines, were those dirt'cted upon the Ne\v-Zealanders, ,vho 
repelled them after hard and long conflicts fought out for the 
most part with naked steel. 
In all the fighting since July 1 there has not been anything 
more fierce or more bloody than these hand-to-hand struggles 
on the left of Flers, and the l\e,v-Zcalanders have gained a 
greater name for themselves (it was already a great name 
since Gallipoli) as soldiers ,vho hate to give up what they have 
gained, who will hold on to ground with a grim obstinacy 
against heavy odds, and if they are ordered to retreat because 
of the military situation round them come back again \vith a 
stern resolve to " get the goods." 
That is not only my reading of the men, and I do not pretend 
to kno\v them ,veIl, but is the sumn1ing-up of an officer, not 
from their o\vn country, who has seen them fight during these 
last few days, and ,vho spoke of them with a thrilJ of admiration 
in his voice, after watching the stoicism \vith which they endured 
great shell-fire, the spirit \vith which they attacked after grf'at 
fatigues and hardships, and the rally of men, discouraged for 
a while by their loss of officers which swept the Germans back 
into panic-stricken flight. 
'l'his struggle covers a week's fighting since September 15, 
when at dawn the New-Zealanders advanced in waves to a 
series of positions ,vhich would bring them up to the left of 
Flers if they had the luck to get as far. On their right ,vere the 
troops, whose capture of Flers village I have already described, 
and on their left other troops attacking High Wood and the 
ground north of it. 
The men of New Zealand ,vent forward with hardly a check 
to the German s,vitch-trench 500 yards from the starting-line. 
They were rnen of Auckland, Canterbury, Otago, and \VeHington, 

nd they put their trust in the bayonet and desired to get 

lose to their enemy. 
They had their desire. In the switch-trench the Germans 
:lefcnded themselves to the last gasp, and, as far as I can n1ake 
Jut, only four of them were left alive after that frightful 

n(,OHnter. It was a fight to the death on both sides. and the 

e,v-Zcalanders did not cross that ditch at full strength. 
On the ,vay up they lost under shrapnel and machine-gun 
ire. On the other side of the ditch their lines \vere thinner. 
T 



290 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 
But they ,vere on the other side, and the ditch behind then1 ,vas 
H grave upon ,vhich they turned their backs to get across the 
next stretch of ground to trenches 800 yards ahead. 
The Ne,y Zealand Rifles covered this ground quickly, nloving 
in open order, but kecping in touch 'with each other bv fine 
discipline and an esprit de corps "which is better than discipline. 


3 


That next systcn1 of trench.,vork, t,vo lines heavily "Tired 
and deeply dug, part of the famous F'lers line, ,vas a grca.t 
obstacle. Our gun-fire, grand as it had been, had not laid all 
the ,vire low nor destroyed the trenches. A s\vish of machine- 
gnn bullets showed that the enemy was alive and savage. 
An infantry assault on such a line had to be paid for, S0111e- 
times by a great number of dead and wounded. But it ,vas the 
day of the Tanks. T,yo of them had tried to keep pace ,vith 
the N e"w Zealand attack, but had lagged behind like short- 
winded creatures suffering from stitch-and no ,vonder, looking 
at t.he shell-craters and pits across 'which they had to bring 
their long bodies, cra"wling in and crawling out, with thcir 
tails above their heads and their heads above their tails. 
But they arriycd in time to attack the Flers line, and in a 
\Tcry deliberate and stolid ,yay they sidled along the barbed 
'wire, smashing it into the earth, before poking their big snouts 
over the German parapets, hauling themselves up, and firing 
fron1 both flanks upon German machine-gun teams. 
'Vith this noteworthy help, ,vhich saved time and trouble and 
life, the New-Zealanders took the double trenches of the Flers 
line, and again pushed on, anothcr 700 yards, across a sunken 
road v.-it.h steep banks and ycry deep dug-outs, ,vhere the 
encnlY did not stay to meet them until they had established 
themselves on a line running \vestwards fronl the top of Flers 
village, no'v in the hands of our English lads. 
One of the Tanks follo\,red them, getting do\vn the steep 
bank .with its nose to earth, and lumbering up the other side 
like a huge elephant (without a trunk). 
A German battery 1500 yards away searched for it ,vith 
shell-fire, but did not get ,,,ithin hitting distance of its armoured 
skin. Eventually it ,vas the Gernuln battery that was knocked 
out by our guns, 



THE SPLENDID NEW-ZEALANDERS 2Dl 


" 
However, this was a side-show, and the Tanks n1ust not take 
all the glory away from the infantry, ,vho had not armoured 
skins, alas, and ,vho \vere facing murderous fire else,vhere. 


4 


They had been ordered to s,ving left to make a flanking 
front up the edge of a valley running nort.h-" est of Flers, right 
away beyond the village, and this t.hey did n10st gallantly, 
although at the time thcy stuck out like a thin wedge into 
Gern1an territory, because at that time they had no support on 
their left (our English fellows, as I have describcd in an earlier 
dispatch, had been having a fearful tin1e in and beyond I-ligh 
\V ood), and on the right the other English troops were busy 
with the capture of Flers. 
It 'vas clearly and undeniably a hazardous position for thc 
Ne",--Zealanders all alone out there, and they were ordered to 
fall back to the line going straight \vestwards fronI the top of 
Flers village, which they helped to hold on the night of the 
15th to 16th. 
From that day onwards the enemy made repeated counter- 
attacks. Sometimes they were in feeble strength, shattered 
quickly, but they gre\v in intensity and numbers as the days 
passed, while the Ne\v-Zealanders were still in a rather pre- 
carious position, "a rocky position," says one of their officers, 
I owing to the weakness of their left flank. 
Right do\vn on that flank Germans ,vere' still holding out in 
shell-craters ,vith a way open behind then1, so that supports 
might conlC do"rn to drive a wedge between the Nc,v-Zealanders 
!tnd the English troops north of High \" ood. 
This ,vas attempted by sorncthing like a brigade of Germans, 
who advanced in six or seven waves upon the English soldiers- 
who were outnumbered by nlorc than t,vo to one-in a steady, 
ietcrmined ,vay. Thcy 'were met out in the open with the 
)ayonet. It was the old ,yay of fighting men lneeting men, 
;taring into each other's eyes, trusting to their o\vn strength 
J.nd skill with sharp steel, and not to engines of war with high 

xplosives or quick-firing guns. 
If mcn fight it is the best way though not pleasant and 
tgreeabJc for ladies to watch from silken canopies, as in the 
)Id days of the tourney, when gentlemen hacked at each other 



:! 2 THE BATl'LES O}i""' '1:'HE SOMME 


,vith axes, just for fun. A Ne\v Zealand officer watched it 
from a little distance, and his breath came quick ,,,hen he 
described it to me. The Gernlan ranks 'were broken and a 
remnant fled. 
But it was not so long or so bloody a fight as \vhat the New- 
Ztalanders themselves had to encounter three days ago. 
Thc enemy struck a blo\v against the New Zealand troops. 
at the joining-point between those men and their conlrades on 
the left, ,vho had come up to the west of Flers. 
The Ne\v-Zealanders-who were Canterbury men-werf 
beaten back twice, and twice regained the ground. All through 
the night of September 20 until the dawn of the 21st there 
,vas violent bomb-fighting and bayonet-fighting. 
'There \vas no straight line of men, British on one side, Germar 
on the other. It ,vas a confused mass, isolated bodies of mer 
struggJing around shell-craters and bits of trench, single figure
 I 
fighting twos and threes, groups joining to form lines whicl 
surged backwards and for\vards and a night horrible with tht 
crash of bombs and the cries of the dying. 


5 
One New Zealand officer, a very splendid heroic -rnan, wa: 
the life and soul of this defence and counter-:.attack. 
There \vere moments \vhen some of his men \vere disheartene< 
because their line had faHen back, and the number of thei 
wounded lay too thick about them. lIe put new fire into then 
by the flame of his own spirit. lIe led then1 forward again 
rallying the gloomy ones, so careless of his own Iife, so eage 
for the honour of N e\v Zealand that they folIowed him under, 
kind of spclI, because of the ma.gic in him. 
They thrust back the enemy, put. him to flight do"rD the valIe
 
remained masters of the ground when the da\, n brightC'ned int 
the full light of day, rc'vealing the c
un8ge that had been hidde 
in the night. 
It was not the end of the flghting here. In the afternoc 
the enemy came again, in strong nUD1bers-sent fOf\Vard b I 
their high command, men at the end of far telephones, despera1 
to retake the ground, and ordering new assaults ,,'hich we] 
sentences of death to German soldiers not at the end of fr 
telephones but very near to British bayonets. 



THE SPLENDID NE\V -ZE,AL,A.NDERS 298 


Th
y came on thickly, these doomed nlen, shoulder to shoulder, 
Lnd it 'was again the captain of the Canterburys who led his 
Den against thenl in a great bayonet charge, right across the 
tpen. 
It was bayonet against bayonet, for the Germans stood to 
eceive the charge, though with blanched faces. For the Ne,,'- 

ealanders came upon them at the trot and then sprang for\vard 
vith bayonets as quick as knitting-needJcs. . . . 
The Germans cried out in terror. Down the hill-side, beyond, 
hose ,vho could escape ran, and fell as they ran. It ,vas a 
out and the end of the counter-attack. 
The Ne,v-Zealanders were no\v sure of thcIllsclves. They 
I ne\v that with the bayonet they can meet the Germans as 
I heir masters. So scornful are they of their bayonet-fighting 
hat they have it in their hearts to pity then1 and say, "Poor 
evils I " 
'fo my nlind, and to others, the finest heroisnl was shown by 
he Ne,v Zealand stretcher-bearers. They did not charge 'with 
J.e bayonet. All their duty ,vas to go out across open country 
1 cool blood to pick up men lYIng there in blood that was not 
301 unless they had lain there too long. 
They had to go through salvos of five-point-nines, which 
)re up thc ground about then1, and buried them, and lnangled 
lany of them. And they went quite steadily and quietly, 
at once or t,vice, but hour after hour, until nj,OlC t

n:l sixty 
f them had fallen, and hour after hour they carried out their 
'ork of rescue quite careless of thernselves. 
" I am not a sentimentalist," said a New Zealand officer 
)-day, as he looked at me ,vith grave eyes, remembering those 

enes, "but the work of those men seemed to me very noble 
1d good." 
In New Zealand and in the quiet farmsteads there, those 
ords will be read gladly, I think. 
And if any words of mine could give a little extra share of 
)nour to these Colonial boys, ,,,ho have come so far overseas 
) fight by the side of English soldiers, I should be glad and 
I rond too, having a heart very filII of admiration for the valour 

 these men, ,vho have fought in these great battlc
 a
; ,,"ell as 
r lY troops who shared the day \"ith them. 



XXXIV 
THE CANADIANS AT COURCELETTE 
... 


1 


SEPTEMBER 24 
IN a scrappy way I have told something about the way the 
Canadians fought for Courcelette. It is worth more than that 
as an historic narrative. Froin first to last, beginning \vith 
the dawn of Friday, September 15, and going on no\v, beyond 
the village, against German counter-attacks, these men from the 
West have shown themselves very gallant, and hard and quick 
in fighting qualities. 
There was a body of French-Canadians among them, dark- 
eyed fellows, of the same type as the French people among 
\v hom they found themselves by the odd chance of fate, like 
some of the French Chasseurs AIpins ,vho have been fighting 
on our right, lithe-bodied men, with muscles like whipcord, 
full of individual character, and an old tradition of \varfarc 
behind them, war against nature and \vild animals, a\vay from 
to\vn life. 
The enemy ,vas not sure what men he had against him do\vr 
belo\v Courcelette. I think it ,vas to get this knovdedge thai 
he sent out a number of his bombers just before the Canadial 
attack was to be launched. I have already told about the 
sergeant who sa \v them coming, and about the boy by his sid, 
,vho ,vas buried alive by a shell, and lived to tell me the tall 
with a strange smile in his brown eyes, as he leaned on a crooke( 
stick, some old tree-stump he had picked up to support hin 
when he was weak from loss of blood. He was one of the French 
Canadian boys.. The German bombers came out of the darknes 
suddenly, and pounced upon a bit of trench, flinging thei 
hand-grenades, and trying to grab some of our men as prisoner
 
It ,vas jnst like- one of the old raids, better done by the Canadian 



THE CANADIANS AT COURCELETTE 295 


thenlselves. They had a short innings, and not a luan ,vent 
back. A Canadian machine-gunner rushed up to his" Lewis" 
and killed those who came over our parapets. One officer ,vith 
t\velve bombers accounted for the others. 
Rut it was awkward happening just at the hour \vhen the 
grand attack was waiting for the \vord "Go." It might havc 
disorganized the plan at the outset. The Canadians did not 
let it make any kind of difference to them. At the exact 
moment all the waves of men rose, swept over the dead bodie
 
of the raiders, and in a great tide rolled over No Man's Land. 
Three Tanks ,vent with them, slo\ver than the infantry, but 
climbing steadily over the trenches and the shell-craters, and 
pro,vling around for the places from which there came a spitting 
fire of machine-guns. Theý found some of theln in the sugar 
factory, and I have told how they sat down there, crumpling 
the en1placen1cnts under thcir heavy ribs, and pouring out [t 
deadly fire. 


2 


The Canadian infantry had a difficult operation. The 
ground from the high ridge of Pozières sloped down before 
them to the edge of the village of Courcelette, where they had 
been ordered to halt and consolidate ,vhile reserve battalions 
-the French-Canadians on the right-came up behind to 
"mop-up" the captured ground. A German trench ran at an 
angle from their obj ective, and as they advanced the Canadians 
had to take this" en passant," as chess-players would say, the 
flank capturing the trench at the same rate of progress as the 
centre and right went forward. 
It \vas done. Through machine-gun fire and an inferno of 
shrapnel and high explosives the Canadians stormed their 
,vay do\vn the slope, shouting and cheering as they went, led 
by officers who urged them on, before falling, some of them, 
mortally \vounded. In the trenches the German soldiers fought 
stubbornly, flinging their bombs and maintaining a rapid rifle- 
fire until the Canadians were right upon them \vith the bayonet. 
l\t the sight of sharp steel they fought no more, but flung up 
t heir hands. 
The Canadians had a long way to go to the outskirts of 
Courcelette, right across open country, and as they ,vent the 
German "crumps" fell among them, tossing up great masses 



296 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 
-as large as viIIage churches-of smoke and earth filled with 
flying shell-splinters. 
It \vas on the line outside Courcelette that they stopped 
at last to dig and gather their strength and take breath. It 
was late in the afternoon, I think, that the ground behind 
then1 was thoroughly cleared, and that the German defence of 
the sugar factory \vas finally broken with the help of the 
Tanks. There was a conference between the officers, those 
who were still un\vounded. l\len in the ranks asked the same 
question, and answered it. "Why not take Courcelette itself? " 
... 


8 


The order and the honour of the new attack was given to 
the " mop-up" battalions behind, wIth the French Canadians 
among them s who had been advancing behind the assaulting 
troops as 8 clearing and consolidating force. The colonel of 
the French-Canadians tells the story. lIe is a wiry man, 
typical of his race, modest, bright-eyed, keeping a sense of 
humour in spite of all the tragedy of war, such a man as Chaucer 
knew when Norman-French was spoken in English fields- 
" a very parfit gentil knight." 
He is proud of his French-Canadians. They had a long \vay 
to go to get to Courcelette. Nearly three and a half nÜ]es to 
the final line given to them on the other side of the village. 
"We're late, we're late," said the little colonel. "\Ve must 
get there in time at whatever cost. :French - Canadians, 
forward I " 
They were not too late: r - They came up to the first assaulting 
battalions-those who had dug in south of the village-just 
in time to pass through them and lead the new attack. l\fany 
men had dropped on the way. The ground was still being 
torn up by steel ploughs. All the air was full of the scream and 
whine and crash of shells. Round Courcclette there was a 
clatter of machine-gun fire from German hiding-places. The 
garrison there was ready for defence. 
" Allons done, mes enfants I" . 
It is the 'way in which French officers lead their men to 
victory or to death. 
The French-Canadians, with their comrades on the left, 
tlJwung round in...8.)oop round the southern half of the village, 



THE CANADIANS AT COURCELETTE 297 



nd closed in and invaded its streets. . . . The capture of 
Courcelette \vas one of the astounding things in this battle of 
the Somme. There ,vere 1500 Germans in and about it, and 
the place was stormed by much less than that number. Dug- 
outs full of Germans ,vere routed out by a few men ,vho could 
have been crushed and killed by the odds against them. One 
Canadian boy went down into a dug-out, and after a time- 
what queer conversation could he have down there ?-came 
out again with prisoners. There were t,venty of them, tall, 
big men, ,vho could have made a meal off this bro,vn-eyed lad 
who marshalled them up. 
Some of the Germans made themselves useful. A wounded 
Canadian officer captured five of them before too weak to get 
back to the dressing-station unaided. Sppaking French to 
them, 'which one at least understood, he ordered his prisoners 
to make a stretcher for him, enforcing his command by keeping 
his revolver on theln. From some old sticks and sandbags 
they made the stretcher, and then carried hitn down. 
Two German doctors heJped to dress our ,vounded, and 
'worked bravely and steadily under shell-fire for many hours. 
One of them objected to having a sentry put near his dug-out. 
" I am not a fighting man," he said. "I did not help to make 
this war. l\ly work is for humanity, and your ,vounded are 
the same to me as ours, poor, suffering men, needing my help, 
which I am glad to give." 


4 
Beyond the vilJage that"night the enemy made seven counter- 
attacks upon the Canadians. There were moments ,vhen 
even the colonel thought that things did not Jook " too bright." 
But all these assaults were beaten off, as the Canadians have 
beaten off other attacks yesterday and to-day, inflicting heavy 
losses and gaining more ground. 
One counter-attack 'was repulsed by a handful of men in a 
way that gives a grotesque comcily to all this night scene of 
war fined with so much death and terror, and human courage 
strong in endurance. A tot of rum had been served out to 
each Canadian to give a glo,v of warmth to limbs chiIIed in the 
wet soil of shell-craters and to hearts chilled by the reaction 
which follo,vs fierce excitement. This handful of men were 
sitting in a German dug-out. 



298 
HE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


1.'hey laughed and sang, forgetful of the scenes about them. 
It ,vas as jolly as in a log-cabin o
 the "Vest, by this dug-out, 
,vhere a corpse lay very quiet. Again they shouted anù laughed 
more loudly, giving Red Indian war-cries, and other \vild 
\vhoops. And that was ,vhen the counter-attack began. 
It did not get very far. A body of Germans advancing over 
No l\lan's Land to the British lines suddenly heard frightful, 
blood-curdling sounds. It ,vas as though the tribes of the 
Blackfeet had come out upon the ,var-path, yelling as they 
s\vung their tomahawks and dancing round the scalps of thcir 
victims. The Germans hated to hear such a noise. It was as 
though all the devils of hell were upon therrl, laughing diaboli- 
caliy. . . . They turned and fled. 



. 


xxxv 


THE ABANDONMENT OF COMBLES 


1 


SEPTEMBER 26 
THE eneluy cannot stand against us on his present line. That 
has been proved to-day and yesterday by s\veeping British 
successes, which include the capture of Geudecourt, Lesbæufs, 
Morval, and Combles, \vith nearly 2000 prisoners (according 
to my own reckoning) and a great mass of material. 'fhe 
German infantry was ordered to hold on to thesè places at all 
costs, to the very death. 
The enemy may pretend later that they have made a volun- 
tary ,vithdra,val to" take up a new and stronger line of defence" 
-that is the usual convention-but I have talked \vith their 
officers and men and know what their orders were. They 
were to fight for every inch of soil against us, and they did not 
lack courage. 
But our n1en and our guns have been too strong for them. 
As soon as \ve held the high ridge from the Pozières Windmill 
through the old Gerrnan switch-line below IVlartinpuich, and 
above High \Vood and Ginchy, their position down the slopes 
became untenable bécause of the new observation we had for 
our artillery. 
One by one their strongholds have fallen, Courcelette and 
Martin puich and Flers, now those other places, Geudecourt, 
Lesbæufs, and l\lorval. In spite of all their massed machine- 
guns in strong emplacements, and all their tunnelled dug-outs, 
and all their stubborn resistance, they could not hold on to a line 
here under the hurricane of fire our guns have flung upon them, 
and the tide of men \vho swept for\yard and over\vhelmed 
them. 
Their defence began to sho'w sIgns of cracking \vhen they 



300 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\lE 


were unable to force home their repeated counter-3ttncks by 
any big general scheme of offence. 
It was dear that our constant hanlmer-strokes, with those 
delivered by the French on our right, had demoralized and 
disorganized them, and that they were unable to gather reserves 
from other parts of the line quick enough or big enough to 
strike back heavily so as to thwart our progress. They had 
to rely n1ainly on their gun-po\ver. and formidable as that is it 
has been mastered by ours for the time being, and could not do 
more than make our advance costly to our ,vonderful infantry, 
who \vent through its curtain-fire. 
Even that has 
'eakened a little during the past forty-eight 
hours-our men 'who come back broken by it will not think so, 
poor feIlo\vs-and the last attacks have succeeded \vith far 
fewer casualties on our side than ever before on such a day of 
success in this battle of the Son1n1e. The casualties, indeed, 
were very light considering the striking successes gained. 'fhe 
enemy is in retreat-not for a great distance, perhaps, ..but 
certainly retreating. 


2 
For the first time in the history of this war on the 'Vestern 
front since the battle of the l\larne and the beginning of treneh- 
,varfare the enemy has been compelled to abandon a to,vn 

'ithout a fight in it. He has \vithdrawn from Combles, 
'hich 
is a place of some importance, and more than a mere village, 
and our troops have entered it from the north, while the French 
hold the southern half. 
As soon as l\lorval \vas taken yesterday, after that wonderful 
assauJt upon the double line of trenches defending it, his gunners 
near Sailly-SaiJIisel, to the east, packed up and' bo1ted a\vay. 
In the night troops holding the ground between l\lorval and 
that place have melted away, and our patrols are out there 
trying to find out his rear-guard. 
Bctw'een Geude(\ourt and I
esbæufs a body of German 
infantry tried to rally up to a counter-attack and (\ame for,vard 
a little way 'with a sho\v of strength and resolution. 
Our gunners were quick to get their target. Clouds of 
shrapnel burst over those massed men, and their attack turned 
into a panic-stricken rout. They fiung d(\wn rift
s and packs 



THE ABANDONl\lENT OF COMBLES 801 


and fled back towards Le Transloy, leaving many dead and 
wounded in their ,vake. 
The \vorst thing that has happened to the enemy is the break- 
ing-up of the "moral" of his troops. These rnen have been ordered 
to hold out in death-traps, and although there can be no slur 
on their courage, for they have fought well and are brave men, 
they have seen \vith dismal eyes that if they hold on longer they 
must die or be taken. 
As soon as our lnen had swept across the trenches and the 
sunken roads ,vhere the Germans defended thenlselves stub- 
bornly and entered the villages-Morval being taken from 
the north-the garrisons came up out of their underground 
places and surrendered in heaps. They could have fought 
longer and harder here, perhaps, but only ,vith their backs to 
the \valls asking for death. They had not the spirit to do that 
and no man ,vould expect it of them. 
They were done and dazed by the appalling intensity of the 
shell-fire which we had smashed over their tunnels. They 
were disheartened by the unfailing regularity \vith which the 
British had captured one stronghold after another since July 1, 
and at last after two years of utter confidence in the supreme 
strength of the Gerlnan war-machine, their faith had been 
destroyed. 
They have seen it crack and break, leaving them as the victims 
of its failure. 
Icn who have lost faith in the one idol to which 
they had pledged their souls are not so strong as before. It is 
this loss of faith among her soldiers which is the worst thing 
that has happened to Germany. 


3 
In opposition to the faith which we have now broken is the 
fear they have of British troops whom, once upon a time, they 
,vere taught to despise, they are stupefied by the grim \vay 
in which our men attack, reckless of loss, so that no barrage 
stops them, and they are amazed that men ,vho were not 
soldiers a year ago should no\v be equal to their own best 
troops in fighting skill as gunners and as infantry. 

, A German officer who surrendered to-day with a \vhole 
company when the British stormed their \vay into l\Iorval 
paid a tribute to them when hf' ,vas taken prisoner. 



302 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\1:l\fE 


" Your soldiers," he said, "surprise me by their sang-froid. 
'They ,vere very cool and caln1 in nloments when most soldier& 
lvould lose their heads." 
He was touched, too, by their kindness to him, pnzzled by it
 
not finding any kind of hatred in thcir hearts now that the 
fighting ,vas over. 
" They asked me ,vhether I ,,,ould like to go do,vn at once or 
,vait until the barrage eased off. That ,vas very good-natured 
of them. Then they ga ve me ' küchen '-little cakes-and 
called me 'old boy' as though they had known me before." 
They are grateful for our treatment of them, and truly some 
of our men are chivalrous in the way they behave to them after 
the bloodshed is over and the fierce and frightful things of 
battle. 
There ,vere t,vo fellows on the roadside to-day, an English 
soldier and a German, trudging side by side to a field dressing- 
station. Both heads ,vere bandaged, and one man could see 
out of one eye and one out of the other. 
Said the Englishnlan : 
" This chap tried to gouge out my eye ,vith his fist, and I 
did the same to his with my elbo,,,, and now ,ve get on famouc;ly 
together. " 
Two other men came in-enemies an hour before. 
"This is Old Bill," said the English soldier, pointing to a 
"vonnded German. ""Vhere I go Bill goes. I ,vonnded him 
and I took him. . . . Come on, Bill, old son." 
I saw 1200 German prisoners to-day just out of the battle. 
They lay in rows, grey body close to grey body
 so that when 
any stood and walked about they had to step carefully over all 
those lying men. They ,vere men from l\lorval and Lesbæufs, 
and some from Con1bles, ,vho in the retreat in the night had 
mistaken their way ont and come into our lines. 
They "Tere nlostly strong, well-built young men-bC'tter than 
some of those I saw yesterday-and. ,vere nearly all Prussians 
from the Rhinelands. In the mass there ,vas nothing repulsive 
about them, though here and there 'vas an evil-looking face. 
These fresh-coloured fcllows, very snlart and soldierly, and with 
very little of the dirt of ,val' upon thenl, as they had been 
living in the dug-outs, starcd about them with curious eyes 
-at the British troops passing and British transports, and all 
the traffic that goes up to the battIe-lines. They ,vere startled 



THE ABANDONMENT OF COl\IBLES 303 


at finding themselves in so great a company of fello,v-prisoners. 
They confessed to one of our officers that it \vas "a great 
British victory." 
These n1en ,vere all un,vounded. But in a tent not far 
away, and in other tents, were" ro,vs of Germans on stretchers, 
lying very still, and looking very grey, in blood-soaked clothes. 
Some of them ,vere moaning their lives away, but English 
doctors ,,,ere with theIn, attending to them just in the sam
 
,yay as they dealt with our wounded men carried into other 
tents. 
" 'Ve nlake no difference," said the medical officer. 
There was a young officer there whom I had met yesterday on 
the roadside. He sat up when he saw me again, and said he 
,vanted nothing that cou]d be given to him, and ,vas grateful 
for the treatment. He had just been writing down t.he address 
of one of his wounded comrades, ,vho ,vas going to die, so that 
he might send a letter t.o the luan's wife. I-Ie had been asked 
to do this by one of the English doctors, and he ,vas glad to 
do it. 
I sat do\vn by the side of a young soldier fron1 the Rhineland. 
" Are you badly ,vounded ? " I asked. 
He pointed to his shoulder, and said, " Here." 
When I said he looked very young, he shrugged that ,vounded 
shoulder of his, and said, "All my comrades were young. 
"\iVe fought as ,veIl as older men. The English came behind 
11S, or ,ye would not have been taken." 
The pride of the boy remained \vith him even now, and it 
scemC'd to me fine and plucky. 
But these lnen, as a ,vhole, have none of the braggart con- 
fidence of the prisoners ,ve used to take a year ago. '.rhe 
truth, I think, is beginning to da \vn upon them. The guns 
that protected thenl have been matched by British guns, and 
the nc,v army that has gro,vn np against them has broken their 
strongest lines. 
It is only the beginning. People at hon1e must not think 
that the Gerrnan army has lost its power of defence and that 
the great rout is at hand. They are drawing back their guns, 
but saving most of them. They are rctreating, but ,viII stand 
again, and dig ne'v trenches and defend other villages. 
There will be greater and fiercer and more desperate fighting 
before the end conles, and God alone kno,vs ,vhen that ,viJI be. 



304 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 
But so far as the fighting goes it is a real stroke of victory 
for us. \Vithin the last forty-cight hours ,ve ha ve put out of 
action cight Gernlan battalions bet\veen Lesbæufs and l\lorval, 
and the enèmy can ill afford such loss after all that has happened 
since the first day of July. 


4 
The story of the meeting of the French and British in the 
stronghold of Conlbles is an historic incident, whieh nlay form 
one day the subjcct of a grcat painting, though perhaps no 
artist's eye was there to see it. Some brigades of English 
troops were holding, on l\londay n10rning, the ground of the 
Quadrilateral (where our men had been badly held up on 
September 15), to the "Test of Boulcaux \Vood. 
The French were hammering forward with their soixante- 
quinze and masses of splendid infantry to the east of Combles 
in the direction of Frégicourt. The plan of attack \vas to box 
in Combles by the French advance on one side, and on ours by 
forming a. strong line to the north-west of Combles. 
The operation ,vas of great importance to the ,vhole of our 
n.ttack on l\Iorval and Lesbæufs on l'tlonday morning, bec{luse, 
apart from cutting off Combles, the new position \vas needed as 
a solid plank to our right wing. 
The men \vho were given the task-it is sad that I am not 
yet able to say 'who they \vere-had been fighting heavily in 
previous battles, and had suffered many los
es. But for thi8 
new assault they rallied up again "ith a brave spirit, and did 
all that was asked of them and a little nlore. 
Instead of attacking Boulcaux 'V ood itself, ,vhere the Germans 
were in great force, they were ordered to take t\VO lines of 
trcnches on the west side of it, and to establish the flank line 
there-a clever bit of strategy \\Thich a Gernlan officer has since 
complained of bitterly as "not pJaying the game," because 
at Bouleaux Wood the Germans were waiting for an attack 
and ready for it ,vith n1assed n1achine-guns, \vhich they could 
not put to their fuJI use, poor lads ! 
The trenches \vere taken easily and rapidly-in five nlinutes 
from the moment of attack-but nearly at right angles to them 
was an embankment with a rabbit-warren of dug-outs, \vhich 
ga ve more trou ble. 
It was the German flank line, and enormously important_to 



THE ABANDONrtlENrr OF COl\lBLES 305 


the en
my, so that he held it 'with a large force of men and many 
machine-guns and" minenwerfer." 
:Fierce, savage fighting took place here, and it was only four 
hours later that the dug-outs ,vere finally cleared. IIereabouts 
eighty prisoners were taken, but a great many dead bodies In. y 
belo'w the embankment ,vhen the fight was done. 
Near by five" minf'n\verfer" were captured, and our n1en found 
some empty gun-emplacements, \vhich had been abandoned in 
such a hurry by the German gunners that they had left behind 
thcln a great store of four-point-two shells and all their ammuni- 
tion-carriers. 
Our strong flank was formed and a new' trench dug in great 
style by a pioneer battalion, and then in the darkness patrols 
of infantry pushed for\vard in the direction of Combles. It 
,vas dark, yet not an absolute and lasting darkness. The 
sky was very calm and stre\vn with bright stars, and up above 
thè Comblcs road at l\forval white flares \vent up and down, 
throwing every few' moments a \vhite, vivid glare over the 
battlefield, lighting up its desolation, with the rim of every 
shell-crater white as sno\v and \vith black pits in the depths of 
them. 
The sky \vas not quiet except high above the 5trife of meI1c 
Away down the French lines it ,vas all on fire, and shells were 
bursting in a great semicircle where the British were fighting 
at Lesbæufs and Geudecourt. 
But Combles was dark and quiet. No star-shells came up 
from its ruined houses. There was no sign of life there, only 
a fe\v black shado'ws came up from the to'Vll to\vards our 
patrols and exchanged shots \vith them and then tried to escape. 
Twenty of thcse stragglers 'vere taken prisoner. Ten were 
killed in fights \vith our patrol parties. 
Hour after hour there was the tremendous tattoo of the 
French soixante-quinze coming nearer and nearer, and a 
final outburst of gun and rifle-fire when Frégicourt \vas taken. 
The' night was passing, but it \vas long before da\vn-at 
8.15-when a strong patrol of English soldiers \vith machine- 
gnns advanced down a tram-line into the town of Combles. 
They \vere tired men, ,vorn with fighting, craving sleep, hating 
all this hell around them, not in that night hour inspired by 
any thrill of joy because they were entering Combles "in 
triumph." Th("y were not quite sure ho,v far the beast1y 
u 



306 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\'lE 
place had been abandoned. News had come to them that the 
enemy had found a \vay out. 
But you never can tell. There might be despcrate fellows 
in the cellars, machine-guns behind any of these broken \valls. 
They ,vent on slowly and cautiously until they reached the 
ruined streets. 
Dead men lay about, with white faces turned upwards to 
the stars. The ground ,vas littered ,vith broken bricks and 
t,visted iron and destroyed wagons. But no shot came through 
the gaping holes in houses which still stood as roofless shells. 
It ,vas all as quict and still as death. A halt ,vas made at thc 
raihvay line, and then our tired men saw through the gloom 
other tired figures trudging towards them. 
Officers ,yent forward. Words 'were spoken in French and 
English : 
". "Ce sont les Anglais." 
'" \ " Them's the French all right." 
:. "The blooming to\vn's abandoned." 
" Les sacrés Boches n'existent plus! " 



 Combles 'vas taken thus in the early hours of the mgrning 
of the day before yesterday 'without any den10nstration or 
dramatic ceren10ny, without cheers or theatrical nonsense, by 
grim, quiet, tired men who 'were glad t
 be at the end of another 
day's fighting, with a dog's chance of rest. 
It ,vas a great place for booty. '.rhe cellars \vere stacked with 
thousands of rifles and a great store of ammunition. The 
enemy had left behind four thousand rounds of five-point-nine 
shells-the less to fire at us, thank God I-and a mass of 
lnaterial and kit of every kind. 
This flight from Combles is the most ignominious thing that 
has happened to the enemy on the 'Vestern front since he .'was 
hammered back on the IVlarne, and it must have hurt his pride 
-the pride of his" High Command "-as a smarting wound. 



XXXVI 


, 
THE DOOl\I OF THIEPV AL 


1 


SEPTEMBER 27 
THE doom of Thiépval is fulfilled. That place upon the high 
ridge, with its thirty-four black tree-stumps-I counted them 
this morning-'which has been harrowed and ploughed and 
cratered under incessant storms of high explosive, fell into our 
hands last evening-all but one corner to the north-west, 
which is ours to-day. · 
"Veeks ago I said-as it may be remembered-that the 
German garrison there must have known that their doom was 
creeping nearer, and that sooner or later they must surrender 
or die. 
It 'was longer reaching them than I expected when I watched 
the attack on the Zollern Trench, and the defences running up 
to the" Wunderwerk," and saw our men crossing a wide stretch 
of No Man's Land through great shell-fire which tossed up the 
earth about them, and go on until those who had not fallen 
leapt upon the German trenches and bundled back batches of 
prisoners, and then went on again until they were very near 
to the row of apple-trees 'which used to blossom in April on the 
outskirts of Thiépval to,vn perched upon the hill. 
It seemed to me then, ,vatching the rapid progress of our 
men and their ,vonderful courage, that in a few days more 
from the Wunder\verk and Mouquet Farm on the east side 
our lines would close in and put the strangle-grip upon the 
place. 
It has taken longer than that, more storms of shells, more 
splendid lives, to win the stronghold, and the wonder to me is, 
no\v that I know the full strength of the place, the resistance of 
its underground fortificatoins' and the fighting spirit of the 



308 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 
troops holding it, that we captured it yesterday and to-day 
with such little loss. 
For our loss was amazingly light considering the long and 
stubborn fighting there and the machine-gun fire which sw'ept 
upon our men from n1any hidden places, and the desperation 
of the garrison, who defended themselves with great gallantry. 
Let us give them the honour of saying that, for they were fine 
fighting n1en. 
In defence the advantage ,vas all with them. But for the 
power of our guns and the way in which British troops 
fight-meaning to win ,vhatever the cost-they were in an 
impregnable position. The taking of l\Iouquet Farm by the 
Australians and afterwards by the Canadians was the worst 
menace to them, enclosing them on the right, but an astounding 
episode which happened yesterday will show most clearly the 
difficulties of our troops and the cunning of the enemy's 
earth works. 


2 
It is many days since I reported the final capture of Mouquet 
Farm, after in-and-out fighting, and since I saw its ruins from 
the high ridge. 
These bits of broken brickwork, all that was left after the 
Australians had made it their own, were the remna
nts of a 
place more important once than an ordinary French farmstead. 
It was a series of buildings such as one finds in France 
attached to a big château, with barns and out-houses and 
stables, or to an old monastic institution, covering a large 
space of ground. 
Our last line of trenches struck through the middle of the 
place, leaving t,vo bits of ruin to the north of the trench and 
one to the south, behind the line. The enemy seemed to be 
well away north\vards in the shell-craters beyond our parapet, 
and nobody suspected" Brother Boche " near at hand. 
It was \vith great surprise a few days ago that one of our 
EngJish officers saw t\VO Germans rise suddenly from a hole 
behind our line, near the southern ruin of bricks. 
One of them beckoned to him. "Be careful, sir," said the 
sentry. But the officer imagined that the two Germans had 
strayed into our lines and wanted to be takcn prisoner, as some 
do from time to time. 



THE DOOM OF THI:ePV AL 


309 


He ,vent forward slo,vly until he was quite close to them. 
Then he fell dead, shot by the man 'who had beckoned to him, 
who with his comrade disappeared immediately into some hole 
which could not be found. 
A day or t\VO later a working party digging in the neighbour- 
hood broke through to a deep tunnel. Instead of searching 
it there and then they filled it up again. Our men found 
themsclves being sniped from other holes in the ground. It 
came into the heads of our officers that beneath the ground, 
even behind our lines, were nests of Germans 'who might turn 
upon them at any moment, or blow them up by a charge of 
guncotton. 
Orders were given to draw back a little from l\louquet Farm, 
and the guns were turned on to it again, flinging high explosives 
and shrapnel over the place, as in the old days. Then some of 
our men were sent for\vard to clear the trenches, if they could 
find them. They came back without success. So the place 
remained one of our "mystery corners" until yesterday, 
when the attack was to begin on Thiépval, from the trenches 
south, and swinging left from 
Iollquet. It was dangerous, 
but it \vas decided to carry out the attack without worrying 
about the underground inhabitants. 
The attack on Thiépval began, and immediately our men on 
the right had advanced beyond the farm to the Zollern Trench 
parties of grey-coats came out of the tunnels of 
Iouquet and 
began firing machine-guns into the backs of the British 
soldiers. 
. a 
By good luck there was a young British officer not far away 
who kept his head on his shoulders, and had a quick way of 
dealing with a situation of this kind. He was in charge of a 
working party, but he sa,v his chance of a "scrap." "Come 
on, boys!" he shouted. "Never mind your shovels." His 
men thrc,v do,vn their tools and followed him. 
I don't kno,v how many there were of them, but only thirteen 
came back. They did not come back ingloriously. They 
brought ,vith them one German officer and fifty-five men as 
prisoners, and there were no living men left at six o'clock last 
night in the tunnels of Mouquet. 
It was only a small episode in the rear of the assault on ThiépvaI, 
but extraordinary, and not ,vithout importance, on the right 
,,,iug of our advance, for men do not like to go forward with 



310 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 
machine-gun fire from behind. It shows the way in \vhich 
the ground a.ll about here has been used for subterranean 
fighting. 


8 
So it was in Thiépval. Above-ground there was nothing to 
see to-day, and for a long time, but the black and broken tree- 
trunks ,vith their lopped branches high above Thiépval Wood, 
which is just as utter]y destroyed-those bare poles, and to 
the left a mass of reddish brickwork ,vhich was once Thiépval 
Château, and, standing solitary, a queer-shaped monster, 
looking like a sleeping megatherium, which I recognized as an 
old Tank on the 'warpath. 
No men could have remained alive above-ground yesterday 
when our guns hurled upon it a stream of heavy shells 'which 
burst all over the site of the village with violent upheavals 
of earth and vast clouds of curly black smoke filled with 
death. 
The Gern1an garrison kept below, in a long series of vaults 
and tunnels 'which they had strengthened and linked up, and 
dug deeper, in a way that 'would have surprised the old French 
farmers who used to keep their wine and stores down there 
centuries ago. They had made many exits, so that they could 
pop up with rifles and machine-guns at many spots between 
the four corners of the village, and they 'were ready for another 
British attack. 
I know these things because I have been talking 'with the 
German survivors of the garrison. They were nearly all men 
of the 180th Regiment, and they have held Thiépval for two 
years. 
"In the old days," said one of them this morning-he 
talked very frankly to me in excellent French-" the place 
was quiet and happy. We had no great comfort bclo\v-ground, 
no fancy furniture or fine decorations (our beds were just 
,vooden planks raised above the ground); but 'we worked hard 
to fortify the vaults. We pierced many ne,v tunnels. We 
made this underground world perfectly safe, and ,ve 'were 
proud of it." 
It belonged so lnuch to the 180th Regiment that instead of 
being relieved in the ordinary way like other troops, and sent off 
to different parts of the front, they were given the honour of 



THE DOOIVI OF THIßPV AL 


311 


defending Thiépval since the beginning of the battles of the 
Somme. The regiment arranged its o\Vll reliefs company by 
company, Bapaume being their rest-camp. The men I met 
to-day had been actually in Thiépval only seven days, \vithout 
relief, and had guessed that it 'would be their turn to defend 
the place against a great English assault. They had pledged 
themselves to defend it to the death. 
Before telling the narrative of our attack and the adven- 
tures of our o\vn men I think it is interesting to give this 
glimpse of the defenders, of their life underground. \Vhen 
I talked \vith them this morning they had just been captured. 
I \vas struck by the superior bearing and intelligence of 
them all. 
They were certainly the best type of Germans I have seen on 
this front- Würtembergers all, and handsome fellows, \vho had 
kept their spirit-one of the last groups of men 'who fought 
against us in the early days, and survivors of the first-line 
troops of the German army who have fallen like autumn leaves 
upon the battlefields of Europe, in the endless massacre of this 
'war. 
They are weary of the war, like all their troops. They 
laughed \vhen I asked, " Will England win? " and \vould not 
pretend that Germany is still victorious. They had heard of 
the do\vnfall of the two Zeppelins in England, "I{aput," as 
they called it, and had all the news that is given to German 
people by the newspapers \vhich they had every day-even 
yesterday!-in their underground d\velling-place at Thiépval. 
But they \vere not dupes of false news. 
" Do you believe the British Fleet is destroyed ? " I asked, 
testing them. " The English Fleet is too great to be destroyed," 
they said. " '\Ve did not believe all those stories. But \VC 
ga ve you a good fight at sea." 
They gave us a good fight on land and underground, this' 
garrison of Thiépval, and ,vith a fe\v exceptions they fought 
honourably, so that our men have no grudge against them 
now that they are prisoners of war. 


4 
Our attack began yesterday at half-past twelve after a great 
bombardment that had been continuous for twenty-four 



.12 THE BATTLES OF TIlE SOMME 


hours, rising to infernal heights of shell-fire. Our men leapt out 
of their trenches to the south of the trees, just north of the 
"\Vunderwerk," and advanced in ,vaves up to the trench 
by the row of apple-trees, the right wing swinging round, as 
I have said, from 
,louquet. 
It was on the left that the men had the hardest time. One 
battalion lefl ding the assault had to advance directly upon 
the château, that heap of red rubbish, and from cellars beneath 
it caDle "
aves of savage machine-gun fire. They ,vere also 
raked by an enfilade fire of machine-guns from the left top 
corner of the ground ,vhere the village once stood. 
Our men 'v ere astounded. 
" I didn't be1ieve it possible," said one of them, "that any 
living soul could be there after all that shell-fire. But blessed 
as soon as it s,vitched off if the Germans didn't come up like 
rabbits out of bunny-holes and fire most hellishly." 
For a long time it ,vas impossible to get near the château or 
take a trench dug in front of it. It ,vas a château once belonging 
to a GerD1an. French gossip said that he had tunnelled it 
for such a defence as that of yesterday, 'which is a fantastic 
tale, but its cellars stood now, and were a strong place 
froDl which one party of the garrison poured out a stream 
of lead. 
" ,"Th
re are the old Tanks? " shouted our men, and stared 
back to catch a gJimpse of them. 
It is splendid to see the smiles spreading over our men's 
faces every time they talk of the Tank. Whatever their 
sufferings have been they cheer up and laugh in a comical 
'way at this thought, for the Tank is a wonderfully fine tonic 
to the spirits of our men and an outrageous comedy thrusting 
a blunt nose into the grim business of this fighting. 
A Tank had been coming along slo,vly in a lumbering way, 
crawling over the interminable succession of shcll:.craters, 
lurching over and down into and out of old German trenches 
nosing heavily into soft earth, and grunting up again, and 
sitting poised on broken parapets as though quite ,vinded by 
this exercise, and then ,,'addling for,vard in the ,vake of the 
infantry. Then it faced the ruins of the château, and stared 
at them very steadily for quite a long time, as though ,vondering 
whether it should eat them or crush them. Our nlen 'were 
hiding bc>hind ridges of shell-craters, keeping low from the 



THE DOO1\I OF THIßPV AL 


313 


swish of machine-gun bullets, and imploring the Tank to 
" get on with it." 
Then it moved forward, in a monstrous ,vay, not swerving 
much to the left or right, but heaving itself on jerkily, like a 
dragon with indigestion, but very fierce. Fire leapt from its 
nostrils. The German machine-guns splashed its sides with 
bullets, which ricochetted off. Not all those bullets kept it 
back. It got on top of the enemy's trench, trudged down 
the length of it, laying its sandbags flat and s\veeping it 
with fire. 
The German machine-guns were silent, and \vhen our men 
followed the Tank, shouting and cheering, they found a few 
German gunners standing \vith their hands up as a sign of 
surrender to the monster \vho had come upon them. 
"\'Ve couldn't have faced the château without the help of 
the old Tank," said several men. "It didn't care a damn for 
machine-guns. It did them in properly." 
Unfortunately the grcat grasshopper got into trouble with 
some part of its mysterious anatomy, and had to rest before 
cra,,'ling home to its lair, so that the rest of the fighting in 
Thiépval was \vithout this powerful support, and our infantry 
faced many other machine-guns alone. 


lJ 
I suppose'" only Ovillers can rank \vith Thiépval for long and 
close fighting. Our men had to tackle an underground foe, 
who fired at them out of holes and crevices while they remained 
hidden. 
They had to burrow for them, dive down into dark entries, 
fight in tunnels, get their hands about the throats of men who 
suddenly sprang up to them out of the earth. 
,,' I \vent do\vn into some of those deep dug-outs," said one 
boy, "but ran back again every time I saw Germans there. 
Some of them wanted to surrender, but how did I kno\v if 
they wouldn't have killed me? And other chaps were coming 
along with bonlbs. As likely as not I should have been done 
in by our own lads. It \vas very difficult to know how to 
handle 'em, and up above \ve were being raked by rifles and 
machine-guns something frightful." 
Many of the deep dug-outs were blown in at the entranc
s 



314 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\Il\IE 
so that the men ,vere forced to come up the other side. Our 
men smoked them out, and dug holes for them to tease them 
out. It ,vas like rat-hunting, but dangerous rats, life-size, 
and often desperate. They surrendered in hundreds ,vhen 
our men ,vere all round them and right down in their tunnels. 
I cannot tell the number of the German garrison. Ninc 
hundred and ninety-eight un,voundcd men and forty wounded 
,vere brought do\vn safely as prisoners, but others ,vere killed 
on the ,yay by their o\vn barrage, and many fought until they 
died, so that some of the dug-outs are filled \vith dead and many 
lie above in the shell-cratcrs. In one case a party of sixtecn 
prisoners behaved treacherously. 
They turned on the escort of t\VO English soldiers taking 
them down, woundcd them, and tried to go back to fight. 
They had no mercy from other English soldiers who came up 
at this moment. All through the night and early this morning 
the last remnant of the garrison held out in the north-west 
corner of Thiépval, until they ,vere swept into the net by a 
separate and gallant assault of South-country troops. 
Later in the morning the enemy attempted a counter-attack 
after a tremendous barrage, ,vhich I ,,,atchcd falling along the 
ridge and belo\v in Thiépval 'V ood. Very lights rose through 
all this smoke, and I saw our men signalling for the help of 
our guns. 
The help came quickly, and a new storm of \vhite and black 
slTIoke-clouds rent by little flashes of flame burst beyond the 
village on to the German positions in and beyond the 
cemetery. 
It was queer that this seemed to silence the enemy's guns, 
for after this Thiépval ,vas quiet for a time, and our men came 
poking about in the open as though looking for souvenirs, and 
dug ne\v holes do\vn into the tunnels. 
They seemed to be teasing out more prisoners, because I 
sa \v trails of smoke rising from those holes in the earth, and one 
black volume gushed out of a cavern mouth made through the 
heap of red rubbish which \vas once the château. 


6 


I have no space or time to deal \vith n1any events on other 
parts of the line, but everywhere the enemy is hara$,
ed, and 



THE DOOM OF THIEPV AL 


315 


his troops do not seem able yet to rally up to strong counter- 
attacks. In many parts of the line patrols find it difficult to 
locate the enemy, and No l\lan's Land is widening out. His 
guns were active to-day along all the line, shelling Combles 
now and then, and l\lorval heavily, but even his gun-po,ver 
seems to be weakening here and there, and it is likely that he 
is shifting some of his batteries. 
One of the most remarkable Tank adventures was in the 
direction of Geudecourt, where our troops were held up yester- 
day in the usual ,vay, that is to say, by the raking fire of machine- 
guns. They made two attacks, but could not get beyond that 
screen of bullets. 
Then a Tank strolled along, rolled over the trench, with 
fire flashing from its flanks, and delivered it into the hands of 
the infantry with nearly 400 prisoners, who waved ,vhite flags 
above the parapet. That was not all. The Tank, exhilarated 
by this success, ,vent lolloping along the way in search of new 
adventures. It went quite alone, and only stopped for minor 
repairs when it was surrounded by a horde of German soldiers. 
These men closed upon it. with great pluck, for it was firing 
in a most deadly ,vay, and tried to kill it. 
They flung bombs at it, clambered on to its back, and tried 
to smash it with the butt-ends of rifles, jabbed it with bayonets, 
fired revolvers and rifles at it, and made a wild pandemonium 
about it. 
Then our infantry arrived, attracted by the tumult of this 
scene, and drove the enemy back. But the Tank had done 
deadly work, and between 200 and 300 killed and ,vounded 
GenTIans lay about its ungainly carcass. For a little while it 
seemed that the Tank also was out of action, but after a little 
attention and a good deal of grinding and grunting, it heaved 
itself up and waddled a,vay. 
These things sound incredible. . . . They are true. And 
though I write them in fantastic style because that is really 
the nature of the thing, it must not be forgotten that these 
Tanks are terrible engines of war, doing most grim ,york, and 
that the men inside are taking high risks with astonishing 
courage. 
They are of the same breed as those flying men of ours 'who 
to-day and yesterday flew in flocks over and beyond Thiépval 
"ridiculously low doY
 n/' as one of our officers observed, 




16 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 


swooping down like hawks over German batteries so that they 
did not dare to fire. All our soldiers are fighting with a spirit 
beyond the normal laws of human nature. They arc fighting 
for a quick finish-if that may be had by courage-to this 
most infamous and vile war. 



XXXVII 


I 
NORTHWARD FROM THIEPV AI.J 


1 


SEPTEMBER 28 
THE weather is still in our favour-and soldiers watch the 
weather like seamen in frail craft, knowing that two days of 
heavy rain, or less than that, may make a month's difference 
in the progress of attack, and that when mist gathers over the 
hills airmen cannot see to report to the guns, and guns cannot 
shoot on certain targets, and enemy troops may come creeping 
up to a counter-attack. 
One of his battalions was spotted by our airmen to-day, 
and our artillery found the range quickly and scattered them. 
It puts them into the same viUainous plight as our men have had 
to endure TInder the bro,v of the Messines ànd "Vyghtschaete 
Ridges and other high ground from which the enemy could see 
the slighest movement of our troops and would snipe even a 
solitary wagon with shell-fire. 
The tables are turned do,vn here by the Somme and the 
Ancre. The German soldiers will kno,v now the devilish 
torture of living always under hostile observation, and under 
great gnns. They are already beginning to find it int.olerable, 
not " sticking " it as our men " stuck " it in the salient, when 
we had hardly any guns to answer back. 
A further gain of ground was made yesterday on the high 
ridge where Thiépval stood when our men captured a strong 
line of trenches kno,vn as the Stnff Redoubt, and again to-day 
when they advanced north,vards from the black trees of 
Thiépval to the Schwaben Redoubt, which is on the edge of 
the plateau. 
This attack at midday to-day was similar to other operations 
which I have described on this part of the front before. A large 



318 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


number of batteries concentrated intense, violent fire upon the 
position beyond the last blighted trees on the ridge and on the 
upheaved lines of soil, of white chalk and bro,vn earth, which 
Inarked the enemy's next defensive system. 
Our heavy shells tore up the ground, opening great chasms 
and raising hell fires, until all the blue of the sky was hidden 
behind heavy spreading smoke, gushing up in round, dense 
masses which mingled and thickened the overhanging pall. 
Then our guns lengthened their range, and our infantry 
trudged across through this fog and under the wild scream of 
shells flung beyond them, and fought their way down into the 
enemy's ditches. Later, after signals of distress, the German 
gunners barraged the line of the Schwaben Redoubt, which 
seemed to prove the successful advance of our men, and ranged 
their heavies on to Thiépval itself as we did until the day 
before yesterday, when it changed hands. 
The industry of the men who lived there first-that 180th 
Regiment ,vhich has held Thiépval for t,vo years-is now of 
use to our own soldiers, ,vho can find ample and shell-proof 
cover in those underground rooms, one of them, at least, 
large enough to hold three companies of men. 
I am not certain at this hour ,vhether we hold the whole of 
the Sch,vaben Redoubt, but if not all, the rest ,vill be taken 
quickly, and the whole of the high plateau will be ours from 
Thiépval to Ginchy old telegraph. 
l\Ieanwhile on the right we hold a firm straight line, down 
from Geudecourt to Combles, and it forins a solid flank. 


2 


SEPTEMBER 30 
It is here beyond Thiépval that the slaughter of men is 
greatest just now-the scene of the shambles changes quickly 
these days-and here that the enemy is sacrificing many more 
lives in the vain hope of driving our men back from the under- 
ground fortress and its surrounding redoubts. 
Desperate German counter-attacks were made last night 
and this morning on the Schwaben Redoubt, just north of 
Thiépval, and on the Hessian Redoubt, farther east, where 
the German troops hold out in a wedge made by a sunken 
road from Grandcourt. 



NORTHWARD FROM THIEPV AL 319 


I have not often heard such a menace in the sound of gun- 
fire as when I ,vent to an artillery O.P. in this direction this 
1110rning. There was something in the atmosphere as well a,; 
in the intensity of the bombardment which made the shell- 
bursts-they were Gernlan "crumps "-thunder out in a queer, 
hollo, v, reverberating way. 
The enemy had concentrated a heavy 'weight of metal on to 
our lines here (so recently his o\vn), and I watched these high 
explosives vomiting up from the Thiépval Ridge, just below the 
Sch\vaben Redoubt, \vith a great hope that our men holding 
out there might have found good cover in old German dug- 
outs. 
That is one advantage gained in capturing these strongholds. 
The enemy's industry through t\VO years of trench warfare 
may be turned to our own good and safety. In Thiépval itself 
many of the elaborate underground chambers have now been 
found, though when our men first won the place, after all their 
hard hand-to-hand fighting with the garrison, they could not 
get to cover at once. 
A major belonging to one of the battalions who came up 
first behind the assaulting troops-N e\v Army men 'who fought 
like the old Regulars, though many of thenl ,vere quite new 
to this fortress fighting-tells me that the entry into Thiépval 
,vas the most devilish experience he has had, though he has 
been through other frightful " shows." 
A dug-out next to a hole in ,vhich he had made his temporary 
headquarters was blo\vn up \vith sixteen men, and ,vhen he 
moved on beyond the château-a fine name for the only rubbish- 
heap which marked the site of a town-he found the head- 
quarters of the leading battalion" sitting on red bricks" in 
the midst of dead men. 
By that time his colonel and adjutant had been badly,younded, 
and the major arrived with only three runners, surprised to 
see the C.O. of the other battalion standing up on the brick- 
heap waving his stick and rallying his men. 
It is not really surprising. I met that officer to-day, and I 
sa'v the ice-cold fervour of the man, the quiet determination 
of his character, utterly scornful of any kind of danger. Men 
'Would follo,v such a man into furnace- fires-and did. 
The enemy was six hours before he began to get his barrage 
fixcd (before then he was not quite sure of his own soldiers' 



320 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 
whereabouts) and it was colossal \vhen it came. l\lany of our 
men lay about ,vounded. It was difficult to get them into 
safety. 
The medical officer of one of the battalions lost his stretcher- 
bearers and went up alone to do what he could, dodging great 
shells, binding up the wounds of men. 
For a time a Tank gave valuable cover. It had heaved 
itself across a trench, enfilading it each side with deadly fire. 
Underneath its body there was good shelter, and the M.D. 
worked here for a while with a heap of wounded. 
The fighting on the north-east of Thiépval is in a land of 
shell-craters. 1\lost of the trenches are just linked shelI- 
craters, into 'which men burrow as soon as they have rushed 
the ground, getting a little cover in their depths from the 
barrage \vhich searches then1 out. 
The IIessian Trench has changed hands several times within 
the last forty-eight hours, after savage bomb-fights and bayonet 
work. Forty Germans have been brought in from one bit of 
ground, but it is not country in ,vhich prisoners are gathered 
in great numbers. It is difficult to know one's own ,vhere- 
abouts. 
There are single combats over the rim of a shell-hole. Men 
knock up against each other in the dark, and peer into each 
other's faces to know it if is friend or foe. If friend, they drop 
into a shell-hole together; if foe, fight till one is dead. 


8 
Queer things ha pp
n in shell-crater land, as when a Canadian 
officer brought up the rum ration for his men, and found 
himself in a ditch \vith a number of German wounded. They 
\vere lyin
 in a ro,v, in a tragic state. 
What was the officer to do? He was puzzled, but decided to 
give the rum to these poor suffering devils, who were grateful 
for it. 
In the Hessian Trench, or in a t,vist of the crater-land about 
it, t\VO German officers and twenty-two men came do,vn across 
the holes. They \verc met by a private soldier, 'who was 
surprised to see them. He emptied his revolver at them, 
shooting one of them. 
Then he picked up 8 German ri1ie and fired that and kilIed 



NORTHWARD FROM THIÉPV AL 321 
another. A second time he stooped and grasped a German 
rifle at his feet, and killed a third man. The others ran. Our 
man ran after them. 
It 'was a chase along a dirty ditch ,vhich had once been a 
trench, and the hunter was a dead shot, with abandoned rifles, 
all along the ,yay. At the end of the hunt there was only 
one German unwounded, and he ,vas brought back as a 
pn.soper. 
It sounds like a lie-preposterous in the numbers given. 
But the German prisoner tells the same tale, and other men 
,vatched the hunt at different stages-this fearful man-hunt 
do,vn a bloody ditch. 


4 


Things happen like that in this present fighting. 'V orse 
than that in human anguish, and better than that in courage. 
Out in crater-land were found three Australians in a hole. 
One of them 'was un\vounded, the other two rotting ,vith 
,vounds. They had been there for nine days. The unwounded 
man had stayed with his" pals" all that time, day after day, 
night after night, hoping for rescue. This part of crater-land 
was swept ,,,ith machine-gun fire-ours or the enemy's, ho\v 
could these men tell, ,vho had lost all sense of direction ?- 
but at night the un\vounded Australian cra-wled out of 
his hole and nlmmaged among dead bodies for rations and 
water-bottles, ,vhich he took back to his friends and shared 
,vith them. 
It is only one incident of the kind. In crater-land there are 
many like it, though not so long-drawn. But it is the enemy 
,vho suffers most out there. 
l\lany times men left to hold a line against us do not get 
their reliefs, for the reliefs cannot get up through our curtain- 
fire or ,viII not come. 
So the others, starving and ,voundcd, crawl back, leaving a 
trail of dead on the ,yay, and for a time
 here and there, the 
enemy has disappeared before us, so that when our patrols 
push out they can find no living man. 
Then, after a ,vhile, the reliefs come up, dodging our shell-fire, 
leaving another trail of dead and wounded, and then dropping 
into shell-holes inhabited by corpses. 
 . 
It is the way of the war, about ,vhich the orators have much 

 '" 
x 



322 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


to say, not knowing quite the meaning of it. Herr Bethmann- 
Hollweg has not seen his men in crater-land. 


5 


OCTOBER 4 
A little romance clings to old buildings, even the remnant of 
a ,vall or two, so that a place like Eaucourt-I'Abbaye-lhe 
ruin of a French monastery-seems of greater importance than 
a heap of earth and a network of ditches like the Scbwaben or 
Hessian Redoubts. It is of no more importance (I suppose 
less, except as another stepping-stone on the ,yay to Bapaume) 
but it is the scene of fighting which has a special interest 
because of those old bricks built up centuries ago by French 
monks to enclose a place of prayer and peaceful work. 
On Monday last, ,vhen the fighting began, two monsters 
came cra"wling up to the ditches ,vhich had been dug by the 
fighting men outside the monastery walls. They breathed 
out smoke and fire. Their sides opened with stabs of flame, 
and they killed the men in the ditches by rolling on them and 
crushing them, and hurling invisible bolts at them. 
The ghosts of the monks, if any were there, ,vould have seen 
that modern ,varfare has brought back the mediæval dragon- 
myth, and made it real, and more terrible than superstition. 
They were the Tanks which came. 
One could ,vrite all this fantastically and make a queer tale 
of it. The truth is fantastic, but one must \vrite it soberly, 
because they ,vere British boys who have given their lives or 
a little of their blood to get these bits of wall called Eaucourt- 
l' Abbaye, with its vaults and cellars. To them it was not like 
an old fairy-tale, but ,vas just one of those grim bits of fighting, 
damnably dangerous and ugly and cheerless, which belong 
to the battles of the Somme. 
The first part I have already told, two days ago, how our 
men, in their attack on the double line of trenches outside the 
monastery, were checked by barbed wire and machine-guns, 
and two Tanks came to the rescue. One of them, after doing 
useful work, came to a stop, and the skipper came out and, 
after doing most gallant service, was wounded. 
Three of the cre,v put him into a shell-crater and ,vould not 
leave him. A day later he ,vas wounded again by a bomb, which 



NORTHWARD FROM THIÉPV AL 323 


-amazing as it seems-did not burst, but injured him badly 
in the ribs, so that he had to endure great suffering out there in 
the crater. .. 
Our infantry passed over the trenches and through the 
monastery ruins and dug a new ditch on the north side for 
defence and cover. Heavy rain came and drenched them and 
swamped the ditch. They were cold and \vet and hungry. 
For a time it was impossible to get food up to them. The 
ground behind was a quagmire for miles. The carriers became 
bogged. That little body of men to the north of the abbey 
were dangerously isolated, and might have starved but for the 
help of troops on their right, \vho discovered their needs and 
sent food. 
That was on l\londay night. To the best of their belief the 
enemy was in force all round them. They could see flares going 
up at Warlencourt, and fron1 a primeval burial-ground, about 
forty feet high, called the Butte de Warlencourt, just north of 
them, and they could hear the snap of rifle-bullets from close 
shell-craters and the rat-tat-tat of a machine-gun from a 
mill-house 300 yards away, north-west. 
From ,vhat our men learnt yesterday there was an hour or 
two at least when they had only a few Germans in the close 
neighbourhood of the abbey. 
The enemy's troops were expecting their relief. When they 
found that the reliefs did not come up they cursed the war 
and the weather-they were as wet and hungry as our men- 
and decided to go back 'without further ,vaiting. Only a few 
snipers and machine-gunners stayed. 
Such things have happened before" in. the enemy's lines as 
I have already described. It ,vas given a\vay this time by a 
body of twenty men \vith an officer and non-commissioned 
officer, \vhQ came down past the mill-house and took cover 
under a bank close to the abbey buildings. 
They were seen by our men, ,vho crept out to\vards them 
\vith a machine-gun, and then shouted" Hands up !" Twenty 
men held up their hands. The officer and the " unter-offizier " 
did not surrender, but :r:an hard back and made their escape, 
unless two of our bullets reached them. 
The t\venty men told their tale. They belonged to the 
battalion which had been sent up to relieve the troops holding 
the outskirts of the abbey. They had found no one to receive 



324 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 
them or to explain the lie of the land. They had not the 
slightest notion of the amount of ground held by the English 
here. 
Other bodies of the relieving troops were just as ignorant. 
Some of them blundered against trenches held by our men 
on the right of the abbey, and were dealt with by them. 
Meanwhile a telephone message had been sent to our artillery, 
which flung out a barrage and caught more of the relief coming 
do\vn from 'Varlencourt. 
In spite of their horrible mess, the men who got through the 
barrage \vere bold fellows and attacked the abbey and the 
trenches south of it. They had a new supply of bombs and 
used them freely. Our men were sadly at a disadvantage. 
Bombs were very scarce. 
A dump had exploded by accident, sending their store to 
blazes. They had to fight with what they carried on their 
bodies, and it was not enough. For a time they had to submit 
to the fortune of war, and while still holding the north side of 
the abbey and ground to the east and south-east, could not 
keep the enemy from bombing his way into a part of the ruins 
and into the southern ditch 'which had been captured ,vith the 
help of the Tanks. 
So the situation remained last evening and night. New 
and heavy rain-storms increased the ugly discomforts of our 
men. 
They were clinging on to water-logged holes. They were 
wet to the skin, covered in slimy mud, and cold and weary. 
The "
ounded among them were in a tragic plight. 
The dead seemed to have all the luck. . . . But the fighting 
spirit did not desert them. New bombs arrived, and that 
heartened them. Some of their comrades came fighting up 
from the south. 
k' Early in the morning there were roars of explosion as the 
bombs crashed into the south ditch and then burst among the 
abbey ruins. It was then that there ,vas hot fighting under- 
ground as well as above-ground. Our men "cleaned up" 
Eaucourt-l' Abbaye. 
It is a technical phrase ,vhich has a very grim meaning. 
There are no Germans there now in the abbey vaults, except 
the bodies of their dead. 
In those great arched cellars, where old spiders have spun 



NORTHWARD FROM THIEPV AL 325 


their webs, and where old monks once came blinking down 
with horn lanterns to fetch the abbot's wine, or to count their 
stores, English soldiers, covered with mud, but drier now, 
sit rubbing up their rifles and binding up their wounded and 
talking of the fight that is over. . 



XXXVIII 


THE WAY TO BAPAUME 


1 


OCTOBER 7 
OUR troops have taken advantage of fine weather after heavy 
rains to make a new attack this afternoon upon a German 
front of 12,000 yards, and have captured a number of important 
positions, including the fortified village of Le Sars, to the 
north-\vest of Eaucourt-l' Abbaye. For several days past the 
pressure of our attack had to be slackened on account of the 
bad state of thc ground and the rain-storms, which prevented 
artillery and aerial observation. 
It 'was bad luck upon our men, as it increased the difficulties 
for getting up the supplies essential to the success of a nevt 
move fOl'\vard, and made the battlefields one vast bog, in \vhich 
guns and men and wagons and mules were clogged with slime 
and mud. 
Yesterday the sky cleared, and the men who had taken 
Eaucourt-l'Abbaye by such a gallant struggle pushed out and 
seized the mill-house to the west of those ruins from which the 
enemy had been maintaining heavy lnachine-gun fire. 
It is to those who know \vhat mud and rain mean to an army 
in the field an astonishing and audaciol}s thing to attack in 
such numbers to-day, abruptly and without waiting for more 
favourable conditions of ground. 
At this hour, when heavy fighting continues along the whole 
line from Le Sars eastwards towards Le Transloy, it is impossible 
to 'write more than a few details of the progress that has been 
made already. 
The taking of Le Sars itself is the gain of another fortress 
defending the \vay to Bapaume, the main road to that town 
running through the village, which ,vas in a natural position 



THE \VAY TO BAPAUl\IE 


327 


of defence protected by a deep cutting on the right, by a double 
line of trenches to the south, and by machine-gun emplacements 
with a wide field of fire. 
It was from that position that our troops were heavily 
enfiladed in their first assaults upon the abbey ruins, and the 
enemy had determined to defend it desperately, as it holds a 
position of great strategic importance to our future drive 
against them. ,. 
\tv ell, they have lost it. Before the red dusk this evening 
our airmen, \vho were hovering over the place high above the 
shell-fire, signalled back that our infantry were ,veIl into the 
to\vn and sending back batches of prisoners. 
It was a rapid assault. \tVithin an hour our men had fought 
their way across the tangle of trenches and shell-craters just 
belo,v the village, and had gained their chief objectives, which 
included the deep cutting striking into the village from the 
right. 
The only way of escape for the Germans was ,vest\vards 
through a belt of scarred and blackened tree-stumps. I do 
not knO"w yet whether they had been dislodged from that 
primeval burial-place called the Butte de Warlencourt, \vhich 
rises about f.fty feet to the north of Le Sars on the right of the 
Bapaume Road. 
The ground beyond has the village of La Barque on the right 
of the road and four sunken cross-roads called the Cut-Throat 
on the west of a deep ravine, just above the village of Warlen- 
court-Eaucourt. It is here that the enemy will be under our 
barrage and the enemy's troops must rally there if they can 
for any counter-attack. 
East of Le Sars and north of Flers and Lesbæufs British 
battalions have made solid progress, driving back the enemy 
out of trenches hurriedly scraped up during recent weeks, 
but not so richly provided with dug-outs as his earlier lines, 
so that when our guns concentrated their fire on them the only 
escape from great slaughter was to hold them thinly with the 
main reliance on machine-guns for defence. 
Our right wing has advanced about a kilometre from Lesbætûs 
towards Le Transloy, where it has linked up \vith the }'rench 
battalions pressing forward to Sailly-Saillisel, with their usual 
dashing spirit of attack. 
It seems that the day has been in our favour all along the 



328 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\lME 


line of this s,veeping movement. 'Ve shall kno,v In ore and n1ay 
tell n10re in a fe"y hours. 


2 


OCTOBER 8 
The men who took Le Sars are still holding it, and only the 
short facts of their case come back from them through the mist 
and across the ,vater-pools. Last night and this morning it 
has been raining again, in a drizzling way, and all the shell- 
craters are ponds. 
It ,vould be possible to s,vim in some of them, those scooped 
out by the biggest shells and linked up ,vith others. It is 
not easy to get runners back across country like that, and 
the Germans find it harder and are dro,vned in many of 
those pits, because of our artillery-fire pouring "stuff" over 
them. 
Yet, curiously, it is from the Gennans that one learns most 
of the frightful dran1a \vhich ,vent on yesteràay afternoon in 
Le Sars village. They are prisoners, 300 of theIn, ,vith five 
officers ,vho '''ere sent back to safety, whil
 oÙr men stayed on 
and fought on. 
Those frOln the village-it's just" the name that stands- 
belong to the 321st and 322nd " Ersatz," or Reserve Regiment. 
They had been reinforced, strengthening the garrison and 
expecting an attack, by some uncanny means, at the exact 
minute. 
They ,vere stout fello,vs-our officers pay them this tribute 
-and they had been ordered to fight to the last men rather 
than surrender this fortress, which is one of the gates barring 
the long road to Bapaume. 
They trained their machine-guns and trench-mortars on our 
front trenches, kept their rifles dry by wrapping them in rags, 
and sent out volunteers and victims to lie in the shell-pits 
,vaist-high in ,vater to snipe our men as they callie over. 
They kne,v that they had a poor chance really to keep Le Sars, 
and their best hope of life or death was to put up a hard fight. 
Our guns had already smashed the houses and barns to rubbish- 
heaps like those of l\lartinpuich and Courcel<>tte-even a little 
more, judging from. .what our airmen sa,v-and our nine-point- 
t,vos, eight-inch, and other monster guns ,vere making a ,vorse 
hell of the place. 



THE WAY TO BAPAUME 


329 


The men of the German 321st and 322nd Regiment of Reserves 
lay lo,v in their dug-outs and tucked their heads do,vn in new 
trenches, finely built in a hurry. 
What happened first was that our barrage lifted and long 
waves of bro,vn soldiers sprang over their parapets facing 
up from ground close south of Le Sars and on the German 
left from the edge of Eaucourt-l'Abbaye and the mill-house 
beyond. 
Their first goal on our right was one of those beastly quadri- 
lateral redoubts called the Tangle (there is another behind 
our new line at Eaucourt), and after that the road from 
Martinpuich, north-eastwards, and then for,vard to the Butte 
de Warlencourt-that old high tumulus in ,vhich the bones 
of some prehistoric man lay until we flung them up to the 
surface of our modern civilization. 


3 


The Tangle ,yas the first check and a bad one. Machine- 
guns swept the ficld with bullets so that men lay on their faces 
in the mud, not bothering, you may guess, about appearances. 
They were just scarecrows and mud-larks, wallowing in slime 
but finding an inch or two of luck in it. Another muddy 
thing came on the way to the Tangle, more like a primeval 
riyer-hog than in the early days of its debut, because of the 
mountains of slush churned up by its flanks. .- 
The Tank turned its snout towards the Tangle and struggled 
over the choppy ground-wave upon wave of craters ,vith high 
rims, until it reached a bit of the deep cutting which makes a 
hole in the side of Le Sars. 
This sunken road, or old quarry track, was filled with German 
soldiers alive and dead. The living ones flung bombs at the 
Tank, fired rifle-volleys and tried to stab it from beneath 
as it straddled across the ditch and stayed across it, firing 
venomously from each flank. After that, something having 
happened to its internal organs, it committed "hari-kari." 
But it seems to have been useful before going up in a blaze 
of glory. 
The German prisoners who faced our men in the outskirts 
of Le Sars and then farther back in the sunken road, and in 
the hiding-places below-ground, say there ,vas grim and bitter 



330 THE BATTLES OF THE SOl\IME 


fighting there, and pay a soldier's tribute to the men who 
captured them. "They fought us fiercely, and beat us. We 
could not stand up against them." Our men saw red, even in 
the mist, and in the hand-to-hand fighting they had the Germans 
by the throat. 



XXXIX 


THE GERMAN VERDICT OF THE 
SOMME BATTLES 


1 


OCTOBER 3 
THERE has come into our hands, by the fortune of ,var, a 
long and critical report by General Sixt von Armin, commanding 
the fourth Gern1an Corps against the British front in the battles 
of the Son1me during July. 
It is an important historical document. The German 
Genera] has written it as a great soldier 'writes on his own subject, 
without passion or prejudice, in a cold scientific spirit, analysing 
the qualities of his enemy as well as the enemy's ,veaknesses, 
and exposing the errors and failures of his own organization, 
leadership, and troops with the same impartial candour. 
It is welJ done, minutely technical, full of military knowledge 
and common sense. But in setting all these things down, in 
this analysis of German organization, tactics, material, and 
" moral," during the first month of our great offensive, General 
von Armin has confessed to the utter failure of his war-machine. 
In almost every paragraph, dealing with every department 
of his corps in fighting organization, there is this confession of 
breakdo,vn and an ackno\vledgment of British superiority. 
No General of ours writing of our own troops, or of our own 
artillery, or air service, could claim greater supremacy than is 
granted to us by this German army corps commander in his 
comparison between our po,ver and his own. To our soldiers 
this document is worth a thousand times its weight in gold as 
a moral tonic, for everything they hoped had been attained in 
these battles of the Somme-the ever-increasing strain upon 
German organization, the effect of our artillery-fire, the mastery 
of our flying corps, the demoralization of the enemy's command 



332 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMl\IE 
is here admitted as the bitter fruit of experience. It is the 
fruit of one month's experience. 
Since then there have been more months, and not all the 
lessons set down in this document have been of help to the 
enemy, but the cup of bitterness has been filled and refilled. ' 


2 
The report begins with a tribute to our British infantry, 
which, says General von Armin, " has undoubtedly learnt much 
since the autumn offensive" (of 1915). 
" It shows great dash in attack, a factor to which immense 
confidence in its overwhelming artillery greatly contributes. 
The Englishman also has his physique and training in his 
favour. 
"The English infantry showed great tenacity in defence. 
This was especially noticeable in the case of small parties, 
which when once established with machine-guns in the corner 
of a wood or group of houses were very difficult to drive out." 
Again and again General von Arnlin reveals the new and 
overwhelming power of our artillery. 
" Particularly noticeable was the high percentage of medium 
and heavy guns with the artillery, ,vhich, apart from this, was 
numerically far superior to ours. The ammunition has appa- 
rently inlproved considerably. 1 
"All our tactically important positions were methodically 
bombarded by the English artillery, as ,veIl as all known 
infantry and battery positions. 
"Extremely heavy fire was continuously directed on the 
villages situated immediately behind the firing-line as well as 
on all natural cover afforded by the ground. Registration and 
fire control were assisted by well-organized aerial observation. 
At night the villages also were frequently bombed by aero- 
planes. " 
The terrifying destructive power of our artillery is revealed 
110t only by these definite statements, but in advice under 
separate headings. Thus, in the instructions to officers selecting 
infantry positions: 
" Narrow trenches with steep sides again proved very 
disadvantageous, and caused considerably more casualties 
(men being buried) then shallower trenches ,vith a ,vide top. 



GERMAN VERDICT OF SOl\'1ME BATTLES 383 


A cover-trench roughly parallel with the front fire-trench 
is not sound. Such trenches are destroyed by the enemy's 
fire at the same time and in exactly the same \vay as the actual 
fire-trenches. " 
Heavy casualties \vere also experienced during July by the 
German artillery, as the following note shows : 
" The English custom of shelling villages heavily led to the 
adoption of the principle that batteries should never be sited 
in the villages themselves. . . . The employment of steep 
slopes for battery positions must also be discarded for similar 
reasons. " 
A melancholy picture is dra\Vll of the German battle head- 
quarters, also brought under fire by our far-reaching artillery, 
and in such a zone of fire that German Staff officers get killed 
on their way up or cannot find their \vhereabouts, or having 
found the building scuttle down into overcrowded hiding- 
places, panic-stricken by our bombardments. Owing to 
choosing unsuitable sites for battle headquarters there \vere 
"frequent interruptions in personal and telephone traffic by 
artillery-fire, and overcrowding in the few available cellars in 
the villages." 
That rush for cellars already thronged must hurt the pride 
and dignity of the German Staff. They are recommended to 
have many sign-boards put up to direct them to battle head- 
quarters, and to avoid "lengthy searches \vhich caused many 
casualties. " 


3 


. 


The enemy's own artillery was much hampered during the 
July battles by the steady intensity of our fire. 
" It was found very difficult," says General von Armin, "to 
form a continuous barrage, without gaps, in front of our own 
lines, owing to the occasional uncertainty as to the position 
of our front line, \vhich ,vas continually changing during the 
fighting, the frequent changing of batteries, the regrouping 
of the artillery, which was often necessary, the bad conditions 
for observation, the permanent interruption of the telephone 
communications, and the practically continuous heavy fire 
which was maintained behind our front line." 
The General describes in detail the enormous difficulties 
experienced by his officers in bringing up reserves Quickly 



884 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


for counter-attacks, owing to the severity of our barrage, the 
breakdown of telephonic communications, the killing of the 
runners, and the time taken for transmission of orders from 
the front line. 
The troops have to "advance slowly across country, with 
which they are generally unacquainted, and under heavy 
fire. " 
He confesses to the utter failure of the counter-attacks made 
against us during July.. without method and without weight. 
His words are: 
"If counter-attacks, which, on account of the situation, 
ought to be methodically prepared, are hurried, they cost much 
blood, and cause the troops to lose their trust in their leaders 
if they fail, which nearly always happens in such a case. 


4 


With regard to the air service, General von Armin acknow- 
ledges in strong language the supremacy of the British and the 
failure of their own: I 
" The means for providing the artillery with aerial observa- 
tion has proved to be insufficient. . . . The numerical supe- 
riority of the enemy's airmen and the fac
 that their machines 
were better were made disagreeably apparent to us, particularly 
in their direction of the enemy's artillery-fire and in bomb- 
dropping." I 
" The number of our battle-planes ,vas also too small. The 
enemy's airmen were often able to fire successfully on our troops 
with machine-guns by descending to a height of a few hundred 
metres. 
"The German anti-aircraft gun sections could not continue 
firing at this height ,vithout exposing their own troops to 
serious danger from fragments of shell. . . . 
" A further lesson to be learnt from 'this suprisingly bold 
procedure on the part of the English airmen is that the infantry 
make too little use of their rifles as a meaDS of driving off 
aircraft. " 


5 
The army corps commander responsibIe for the organization 
and direction of the troops who fought against us in July finds 



GERMAN VERDICT OF SOMME BATTLES 335 


failure and shortage in almost every department of war material 
at his disposal. 
The supply of artillery ammunition of all kinds during the 
first days of the battle did not equal the expenditure. Reserve 
supplies ,vere only available in very small quantities. 
There were" repeated requests from all arms for an increased 
supply of entrenching tools." 
"The original supply of maps was insufficient, not only as 
regards quantity, but also as regards detail." 
The supply of horses and vehicles to the troops " has reached 
the utmost limits, owing, on the one hand, to the permanent 
reduction in the establishment of horses, and, on the other hand, 
to the permanent increase in fighting material and articles of 
equipment. " 
"The existing telephone system proved totally inadequate 
in consequence of the development which the fighting took." 
"The existing organization in the light signalling service 
does not meet requirements." 
The supply of light pistols for signalling " is too small." 
The establishment of motor-cycles proved insufficient for 
the heavy fighting. This deficiency was" painfully evident." 
"The great weight" of the German machine-guns "has 
again proved to be a serious disadvantage under these con... 
ditions. " 
"Complaints have been received that the ammunition... 
boxes and ,vater-jackets of the machine-guns are too heavy." 
" It is universally suggested that the supply of hand-grenades 
should be increased." 
With regard to food there is no suggestion that the army 
behind the lines is on short rations, but there are difficulties 
in getting supplies up to the front trenches, and it is re- 
commended that men going into action should carry their 
"third iron rations "-that is, a more ample supply of tinned 
foods. 
They ask for more tinned meats, tinned sausages, bread, and 
mineral ,vaters, but the General advises that tinned herrings 
should not be eaten, as they encourage thirst. 
In all but the food department the German organization of 
supplies is weighed in the balance and found .wanting by one 
of their own great Generals. 
In spite of all their boasted genius of organization, and it has 



336 THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME 


been wonderful (let us admit that handsomely), it could not 
,vithstand the tremendous pressure of our July thrust. 
It failed item by item-artillery, aviation, ammunition, and 
stores of every kind. The Staffs were inadequate, the communi- 
cations broke down, the great German war-machine was strained 
and put out of gear and badly knocked about by the ferocity 
and continuance of the British assault. 
Since then it has not been able to recover its efficiency. The 
pressure has become more po,verful, the strain harder to bear. 
If General von Armin were to write a second report on the 
battles of the Somme it would be a moregloomy document than 
this. But what he has written stands, and it is a frightful 
confession which .would put terror into the hearts of the German 
people could they read it. 
They will not be allo,ved to read it, .for it tells the truth, 
which the ,var lords are hiding from them. 
I 


[It will be seen that my dispatches do not include the capture 
of Beaumont-Hamel-one of the most astounding achievements 
in all this fighting. In October I was compelled to go home 
on sick-leave, so that I missed that grea
 battle on the Ancre. 
It has revived the nation's hope that by 
 continuous series of 
these blows the German resistance ,viti break down utterly at 
last and that they will acknowledge defeat. From a military 
point of vie,v that hope is the best thipg we have, but the 
fulfilment of it must be deferred through many months of 
another year, reeking, like this one, of blood and massacre and 
sacrifice. ] I 


PRINTED AT THE COMPLETE PRESS 
WEST NORWOOD 
LONDON 



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