Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Over the Top with the 25th
Chapter 8

THE reaction had started to set in by this time. I cannot describe it to you properly, but there are a lot of people under the impression that a soldier gets a glass of rum before he "goes over." The reason I write about this is because people have often said the same thing about me. I'll tell you, the British soldier does not need rum to buck his courage up. I believe that it was given to the men before they went over in the beginning, and that after the effect wore off it left the man drowsy. Once you start "over," you do not give a curse for anything. All you think about is that there is an objective, and that there is nothing in this world to stop you and you keep that spirit up until you have everything securely in your hands, and then perhaps a couple of hours after a certain amount of reaction sets in. Then is the time for the rum. In France it is used, "never abused." The reaction generally works off after a few hours and then you are fit for anything.

During the night Fritz made several counter attacks on the 22nd. We were not quite sure how they were making out, but a runner came up and told us that everything was O. K.

I do not remember anything eventful happening that night. We had a couple killed, and Sergeant Tickle of the Machine Gun Section, whilst reconnoitering, ran into a German strong point. He bombed them and got back safely. But when daylight came there was quite a few of our chaps getting nipped off from the right, so a message was sent out to Major MacAvity, who was brigade major. He came up, and that afternoon the Third Division made an attack and took the trench from which they were sniping, and also 100 prisoners. We knew that there were papers of importance in a house in the village which had been used as headquarters and Fritz was quite determined that we should not get them, for he put shell after shell into the village. But whenever there is information to be had, there is somebody who will get it and we got those papers and believe me they proved to be of great significance.

We had everything consolidated and the artillery had wires right up to our front line for observation purposes. To make matters worse we had a little drizzly rain. The next afternoon Major Tupper was killed, and as "A" company was to make a small attack—Major Nutter took over "A" company, and Lieutenant Matheson, who was now acting officer commanding "C" company took charge of operations. I am sorry to say we had many casualties that day in "A" company. We were relieved on the coming morning by the First Division. There were some machine gun crews to be relieved and as all the other companies and details were relieved the colonel wanted to stay and see them relieved, but he finally decided to let me stay behind and take this matter in hand

On the 9th of April, in my rank as officer, I reported for duty to Colonel Bauld and was glad to be once more with the glorious fighting boys of the grand old Twenty-Fifth. Some few days later we took part in the Arleux fighting; my company, "D," formed the flank. We were able to take all our objectives and consolidate them. It was in this scrap that I 'got mine," for I was hit in the arm, leg, back and behind the ear. After twenty and a half months in France to have escaped death and even a serious injury, I consider it to have been most fortunate, and feel persuaded that someone at home must have been remembering me in their prayers. After my wound, I managed to crawl out and was then sent to a clearing station, subsequently to England, and them home to Nova Scotia. Here I am at the present and to be candid I am not over anxious to return, but if I should be wanted— well, I am ready to go and strike another blow for King and Empire, Liberty and God.

After holding these trenches we were glad to get out and get a rest. The first day we got as far as The Reserve trenches. There we had plenty of rations issued to us and we rested here where there were some very large and comfortable dugouts which our most amiable friend Fritz had built for us. We enjoyed them and although we had lost quite a few of our best pals we knew that we all had gone through that same ordeal and those of us who were lucky enough to come out of the scrap never gave a thought to what we had gone through. A good thing, for if we did a few of us would be good patients for a lunatic asylum. We stayed here for the night and the next morning we got as far as the Brickfields near Albert where there were a lot of the old London Motor Buses waiting to take us back to a little village clear of the shell fire so that we could reorganize and get another go at Fritz.

We were all as happy as larks, singing "Are we downhearted," "The Canadians took Courcelette, they can fight you just bet" and other trench songs. Some of the boys had on Fritz helmets and others had Fritzs' revolvers; we all had souvenirs of some description. We arrived at this town after a couple of hours ride. There was our Pipe Band with the Battalion Mascot, the goat, which we got in 1915. It is still with the battalion and always leads the band. When we reached this village the very first thing we had to do was to shave and clean up, for were we not the best unit in France? We always thought so and we used always to show an example to the others. That is "esprit de corp." We had a pretty good time in this village. Some of the boys sold their souvenirs as they said we were going back and could get lots more. Our old Colonel was still with us but his hand was now bandaged up. I forgot to tell you when- he was coming through Albert the 22nd gave three cheers for "Col. Hilli-am." He turned around and said, "If there is any credit give it to the boys, they deserve it." He quite forgot that we looked upon him as something more than a man, the way he would go around through a bombardment. Out here we had the usual parades and reorganization, but we only had the old battalion to reorganize as we got no reinforcements. However, we were still the "25 th" and could show the Germans what we could do. It soon got spread around that we were going back to have another go at Fritz. So we got our guns fixed up and the afternoon before we went in Col. Hilliam made an inspection of the battalion. I had my Lewis Gun team formed up in rear of "C" Co. When the C. 0. came around I called them to attention and saluted. He said "What is your name my lad?" I replied "Lewis, Sir." "Oh, a very appropriate name to have charge of the Lewis Guns." I said, "Sir, I try to do my best." He says, "You have done wonderfully, my lad." I thought it the greatest honor that I have ever got. We started for the Brickfields next morning, Col. Bauld in command of the Battalion. Col. Hilliam had to go to hospital for a few days. We arrived at the Brickfields and there we were given our full instructions as to what we had to do and went through the usual performance of being fully equipped with all the necessary equipments of war before we went in. Capt. John D. MacNeil was now 0. C. of "C" Co., and one night we got the order to move up to the reserve trenches. All this time the troops who were occupying the trenches were steadily advancing. We had taken quite a lot of their strong-points, including- and other villages. After a long tedious march we arrived at our reserve trenches and made ourselves as comfortable as possible, such as digging a hole in the side of a trench and perhaps a couple of sheets of corrugated iron, and finally we got settled away and went to sleep. It was very comfortable when you consider the circumstances. Certainly now and again one of Fritz large shells would burst somewhere near you but that was all in the game. If it was going to get you it would. But keeping awake would not save us. So Fritz's shells had no more effect than the vermin which we had got quite used to. The next night at 7 o'clock, runners came down from the 14th Battalion to guide us to the front line. We were very inquisitive and began asking those chaps about where they were, what sort of fighting they had and other questions too numerous to mention, for strange to say, no matter how long you are there, when you got into a new position you always want to know what it is like before you go in it, and if you are told that it is a lovely place and that you can have a good time you can depend that it is going to be worse than hell. That is what happened in this case. The guide told us that it was a nice, quiet little spot. We found out the difference before we got out. We toiled through the shell-torn ground for about six hours before we got to where Battalion Headquarters were. Sometimes, our guides lost themselves. At other times Fritz would put a barrage across. We would lie down then in a shell hole and start talking about old times, never giving a thought to the shells which would burst quite close to us. In fact they got a few of our boys on the way up. But one has to be there to realize how callous a person appears to shell fire. By that I do not mean to say that he holds it in contempt for he doesn't He has a mighty regard for it. But you always want to show that you are as brave as your next door neighbour. Sometimes they came a little too close and one of the boys would sing out "Say let's make a move, for I don't mind getting Blightie but the way that one burst it will be France" or some other such remark. When we arrived at Headquarters it was in a large sunken road which our boys had captured a few days before. We hear quite a lot of - and here were quite a lot of wounded Germans who had been taken prisoners that day calling out for water, and although we were going in and we did not know when we were coming out, some of the boys gave them some of theirs. I hope they will do the same. We waited here for a while and then we started out for the trench. We had some night. We would go to one trench and then to another; our guides did not know where to take us. About 4 o'clock in the morning we started wandering around

No Man's Land. At 7 o'clock, broad daylight, (we were laying down in the grass at the time), some of the boys saw somebody moving and as we saw that they were our own boys we made a rush and got into what was known as the Subsidiary trench. That is how "C" Co. relieved the 14th Battalion on the Somme. There was quite a chain-work of trenches here. What we held was named "Subsidiary Line." It really was not a trench but a system of outposts. In front of us were the famed "Kenora" and "Regina." Their names will always linger in the memory of the Canadians, for we cjid some very hard fighting around here. There were also a lot of trenches in rear of us held by some of our other companies. On our left were the 24 th and C. M. R. I really do not know who were on our right. As I said what we were holding was only a system of strongpoints. There were five of them altogether and as I had three Lewis guns I put one on each flank and one in the centre. About 9 o'clock the same morning we saw somebody waving to us from out of No Man's Land. When we saw that he was one of our own lads, Lieut. Alexander, Corp. McEarley, (these two were both killed four days later) and myself, took a rubber sheet and doubled out and got him, expecting to be fired on at any time by Fritz. But he could not have seen us or else he did not want to give his position away. Anyway we got the chap in. He belonged to the 14th Battalion and had been out there for three days. His wounds had stiffened up so that he could not move. Poor chap, he said that he would have gone crazy that day if we had not brought him in.

Some very hard fighting took place here for there was an awful lot of dead Huns lying around. All that morning we made our positions as secure as possible. At about two that afternoon word came from Col. Bauld that we were to attack and that the Co. Commanders were all wanted at Battalion Headquarters. When Capt. MacNeil came back he gave us the outline of the scheme and told me that I was to stay in the Subsidiary trench until they they had things consolidated, or if they had to fall back under a heavy counter attack I was to cover the retirement and hold the trench at all costs. All right! Our barrage opens up; our fellows go over; up goes Fritz's S. O. S. signals, his artillery starts. It is maddening where we are. His artillery is playing all round us, knocking in our trenches in places but never getting any of my guns or men. Then there is a tremendous fire of machine guns from Fritz's trench no man could live through. The bullets are just singing through the air. But our men are quick to grasp the game and get into some shell holes and wait until it gets a little dark and then crawl back to our own line. We have quite a few wounded and some killed. Nothing though when you look at the resistance. One chap by the name of Porter came crawling into the trench with an ugly head wound and blood pouring all over his face. He started swearing at Fritz and ended up by asking for a chew of tobacco before he went out to the dressing station. We got settled away once more all prepared for the wily Hun if he should come over.

There were severed of attacks on our left that night. It sort of got our wind up a little. Outside of that everything went well and we passed a very comfortable night, smoking and tell stories, for there was no such thing as sleep in the outposts. The next morning at daylight we took a good observation and everything seemed normal, so after giving out the rations of food, water and rum, we took turns and had a sleep until about 11 o'clock when for some reason Capt. MacNeil was ordered to take his company back to the sunken road in rear of the trenches so they could have a sleep I had to stay there with my three gun teams and hold the trench against all attacks. About 2 o'clock that afternoon when everything seemed very quiet and normal, Fritz started up with a bit of a bombardment and they were all landing around our trench. At times they would just cover us with mud. Luckily for us it never got anybody. He was also landing them between us and "A" Co., so I began to get a bit worried and decided that I should send a message back to Headquarters as they were shelling pretty bad. I did not think it fair to send one of my men so took a message across to "A" Co., and had them send it back to H. Q. I then went back to my own men, arrived there safely and cuddled up against the side of the trench expecting any minute to go up in the air, but we still kept on joking each other. Neither one of us would let on that we were scared. About 5 o'clock that afternoon I saw about twenty men leave "A" Co. trench and make a dash across No Man's Land. They were a reconnoitring patrol in charge of Lieut. Canning and they were going to find out if the Kenora trench was occupied. Well they did. Fritz stopped shelling us and turned his machine guns and artillery on to this small party. They had to fall back and I believe they had four or five killed, including Lieut. Houston. Shortly after that our own Company came back and I can tell you I was not sorry to see them for it was no enviable position having responsibility for a couple of hundred yards of your front line. We got an issue of rum from the Captain when he came and we needed it bad. About eight that night a ration party came up with our rations and water. Say, you should have tasted it; full right up with the taste of petrol, but still it was good to us. You know we lose all fancy ideas about taste in the trenches.

Everything passed off as usual. Now and again we would think that the German was coming over so would have an extra good watch. He is such an uncanny devil he is always sending up fancy signals. The next morning as usual I visited my teams, issued their rations and rum. I had just finished doing this with my middle team and was sitting down talking to them. The little trench was more like a grave that could just hold us comfortable. All of a sudden there was an explosion overhead. I heard somebody singing out "stretcher-bearer" and I thought something had struck me in the back and had gone though me, but I looked around for my men. As far as I could see they had all been wounded and they were trying to get as fast as they could to the dressing station. Then I looked behind me and there was one of my team with his leg right off; three of his fingers were also off but as he was bleeding so much from his leg there was not a bit of blood left in his hand. I bandaged him up the best way I could and then we got a stretcher and carried him out. The wound that I had was only a little scratch and I found out later the shell that burst overhead was what we call a "wooly bear," instead of the shrapnel bursting forward it shot downwards. My gun was disabled so I thought I should have another. I went back to Howard Johnson who was Acting 0. C. of operations in the front line. He was always optimistic (a good way to be) so told me about all the artillery that we had behind us and that we should not worry.

Well, I did, and finally I got that gun fixed so that it worked alright. Everybody was telling me how lucky I was to escape when everybody else got hit. but I had a more miraculous one that afternoon.

About three Fritz started to shell us badly again. The shells were coming quite thick and as we could see that he did not intend coming over it was decided to evacuate the outposts and go back to the Sunken Road. The most of the Company had gone back and as I was all ready to leave with my team a big fellow burst. It got one of the men who was just behind me, tore off his leg and a big chunk went into his back, missed me, and the concussion took the chap that was in front of me and landed him about 5 yards away dead. I cannot explain it but there are several of the boys back here who saw it. We got back to the sunken road, stayed there about an hour and then we manned our trenches again. About nine o'clock that night rations were brought up to us as usual, and they also sent the few men that they had left at the horse-line, for we were beginning to get them out a little. The advance is all right for the morale but it causes quite a few casualties. This night went past as the others—nothing happened.

The morning was fine and we received word that we were to make an attack and take the Regina trench that afternoon at all costs. We got everything prepared for it that morning and that afternoon at three o'clock we went over again, but it was a futile attempt for they had all sorts of machine guns and barbed wire there waiting for us. But we kept on as far as the Regina, but could not capture it as our numbers were too depleted by this time. It was here I got the M. M. This makes a coincidence in our family, two brothers having the M. M. and one the D. C. M. We were relieved late that night by the 6th Brigade and we were not sorry to get out. We lost quite a few here, including Howard Johnson, who was in charge of operations. If ever a man deserved a V. C., he did. We marched from here to the Brickfield and from there back to a village behind the lines, out of the range of shell fire. We were still the same old battalion in name and those of us who were left intended to let the reinforcements know what sort of a battalion they had come to.

When our reinforcements at last arrived Col. Hilliam took them and gave them a good lecture and then the old boys got after them. It did not take them long to decide that we were the best battalion in France and that is how we got the "Esprit de Corp."

We stayed in this little village for about a week and then started on our march for the Bullez Grenaz front. After a few days marching, we arrived at our destination, a place where all Canadians have spent a happy time. The village itself was right close up to the communication trench and the French people carried on their work as usual, although now and again Fritz would put over an occasional shell, but they all seemed to think that was in the day's work. We went into a reserve trench called Mechanic's Dump. It is a spot that will always remain. Here were buried quite a lot of French and British soldiers who had lost their lives in the battle of Looz and there were also some of our own buried here. Amongst them, Sergt. Jim Harris. He was the greatest all round dare-devil that we had in the battalion. In fact there was nothing too daring for him to do if he could get a joke off. It was he that took the chickens, skinned them and threw the skins beneath the officers' cookhouse so that they would have to pay for them. Sergt. Harris was appointed Wiring Sergt. He had charge of all the wiring in front of our trench and craters. There were two craters quite close to each other, one occupied by us, the other by Fritz. The Brigade Major asked Harris if he could wire this crater as it was a very risky job. Harris promptly replied that "if Kaizer Bill himself were there in the crater opposite, he would wire it." He did and had the job finished when he saw a couple of Huns stick their heads out of their crater. With that he threw a couple of bombs at them and got them, but a couple of their pals got Harris. We were sorry; for he was really the most talked of man in the Battalion. Anyway, I had the satisfaction of fixing his grave up.

Aeroplane map of the sector in which'the "Fighting 25th" were engaged at " Vimy Ridge."

When we took over these trenches everything was quiet in this section, but it was not very long before the Canadians had livened things up. Some days we would "strafe" him with trench mortars; on others we would give him a touch of our artillery. Bill Cameron was aching to get a go at him so he picked out eighty men and four officers. It was decided to use the Bengalore torpedo to blow his wire up. The time appointed was Xmas morning. When they went to put the torpedoes underneath the wire they found it impossible as it was too bright, so there was a consultation and it was decided to crawl out, lay alongside of his wire and then make a dash into his trench as soon as the artillery started which they did with great success, bringing back about nine prisoners. Besides what they killed and the damage done, the moral effect on the Hun was good.

That night the battalion on our right were going to pull off a raid. They started in and Fritz must have thought we were going to pull off another, so he just started in and shelled us like anything, He didn't get any of us, but sure kept us ducking. I would put a chew of tobacco in my mouth and go round and visit my men, shells landing all around us. When they were coming through the air you would swear that they were coming straight for you and that one had" your number engraved on it. Well, I would be as shaky as anybody could be, but I would not let the others see it and the men were the same. We are all alike; we all get a little funky in a bombardment but we will not admit it.

During our stay here Fritz bombarded the village with gas shells, killing four or five civilians. He did not get one of the military. Well, I suppose that is his way of waging war.

We were to be relieved by the 1st Division so that we could go out for a rest and I was advised that on the 21st of February I was to go to a cadet school in France to qualify for a commission. It was also understood that before we went out for this rest that we were to carry out a large daylight raid. The 4th Brigade who were on our right were to do this. A couple of nights before the raid was planned for, the Battalion Scout officer, with a couple of men, were scouting around No Man's Land when they encountered a strong German patrol. Our fellows had to drop back to our trench but the officer was hit and it was believed taken prisoner by the Germans. As he had some important papers the plans were all changed. So much in fact that we knew nothing about them ourselves. We got word at last that the raid was to take place at 4.30 this certain afternoon. Exactly on the second our artillery trench mortars and machine guns opened up. We just showered them with liquid fire shells and gas shells. Well, it was a wonderful night. The 26th Battalion on our left went over, entered his trench and bombed dugouts in the front line, for we were not taking any chances on Fritz having a surprise waiting for us. Our men all returned and we thought everything was over and that we would be relieved the next day. I guess Fritz thought the same. At seven the next morning I had a message handed me telling me that my men were not to stand down until I was notified later, as the Brigade on our left were going to carry out a raid. Again we pounded Cain out of him, Our men went over and our artillery formed a box barrage so that they could go in the trenches secure from a German counter attack. They had great success, brought back 100 prisoners besides what were killed. We suffered very light.

After our boys came back, Fritz, thinking that we still held it completed the work of knocking his trench to pieces which we had started. We were relieved the next day and marched to a large mining town called Bruay. I was there only about four days when I was sent down the line to qualify for a commission and arrived back on the morning of the ninth and went up the line to the front trenches that night, along with Lt. Col. Bauld.

After a month of rest at Bruay, the Battalion left for a training camp where for over a month the Battalion, in conjunction with the remainder of the 2nd Division, trained on ground marked out showing the different communication and main line trenches then held by the Huns and which were to be our objectives. This is made possible by the accurate photography from areoplanes used for that purpose.

At last the time drew near. A week was all that was left before the great day was to arrive and by that time the Battalion was in a good condition for anything that might happen. On the night of the 5th Major Delancy, who was going to take the Battalion over the top, held a meeting of all officers and everything was explained. The officers were made to understand that even if only one man was left alive the objective must be taken and held and unless the position was serious no calls for help were to be sent to other units but that the "25th" must carry out the task alloted to them.

Easter Sunday came and we were ready and anxiously waiting to move. At 6.30 a. m., Lieut. F. G. Lawzanne left with a party of N. C. O's to . take up, what the orders stated, to be a Camp but what was in reality all that was left of a small forest known as the Bois-Des Alleux. At 9.30 a. m., the Battalion, in fighting kit, without great-coats, left for this camp. After arriving bombs, ground flares, etc., were issued the Battalion and the remainder of the day was spent in trying to keep warm. During the course of the afternoon two men appeared in Camp with sand bags slung over their shoulders. They turned out to be Piper Brand and Piper Telford who did not want to be left behind and volunteered to play the Battallion "over the top." Permission for this was given by Lt. Col. D. S. Bauld, who, at that time, was in the Camp with his Battalion and who was feeling downhearted at not being able to lead his men on the following day.

At last orders were received to move forward to our jumping off trench. At 8.30 p. m., Easter Sunday, the 25th left their camp, a camp which, some of the finest sons of Nova Scotia would never see again, and moved forward slowly, passing through Mount St Eloi, where could be noticed a few remaining French families who had stayed by the home all through the months of war. A few hours march, and we arrived on the Muvelle St. Vacest Road where for some reason we stayed for almost two hours, during which time the Hun started shelling the road, and here our first casualties occurred. We were at last able to continue our march and at 3.30 a. m., Easter Monday we marched out to the jumping off trench which was already being shelled by the Huns. Zero hour had been set for 5.30 a. m., so we had two hours to wait, and a long two hours they were. Nobody can realize except those who have been through it the thoughts which pass through mens minds at such a time—thoughts of home and loved ones appear as a vision with a wonder as to whether you will ever see them again.

Operations orders were that the 24th and 26th Battalion would attack a trench known as Zwischen Stelling, while the 25th Battalion with the 22nd French-Canadians, as "moppers-up," would capture and consolidate a trench named Turco Graben which was in advance of Zxischen Stelling. On the left was a communication trench known as Dump Ave which was left to the capable hands of Major Wise and the remaining companies were spread to the right. We stayed in those trenches consolidating, etc., for a few days when two minutes before the time of advancing the word was passed from man to man to get ready and every man in those muddy trenches fixed his equipment, looked to the bombs and rifles and passed wishes of good luck to those nearest him, making a toe hold in the side of the trench to help himself up.

Zero hour (5.30 a. m., Easter Monday, 1917) had come! The Vimy Ridge attack was on! Whistles blew and over the top went the Canadians-. The artillery started their work. Hundreds and hundreds of guns commenced drum fire simultan-ously. Looking towards the Hun trenches it appeared as if the whole line was afire. It was a grand and impressive sight. The gallant pipers leading the 25th could be seen but it was impossible with the din to hear what they were playing. Gradually we advanced our ground—nothing but holes filled with mud and water to make the going very difficult. At last we reached the German line which had been taken by the 24th and 26th Battalion. We jumped into what was left of the trench and waited until the set time to move forward. Looking at the Hun trench one could easily see what good work the gunners were doing. Everything was smashed in; dugouts were gone and many of the enemy with them. Our next objective was the Tu Rop Graben trench. By this time the Boche realized that he had no small attack to deal with and his artillery, helped with many machine guns, started, causing us many casualties. Just about this stage of the advance Major Delancy was killed and also R. S. M. Hinchcliffe. We could see our boys for miles advancing with confidence and determination. The Hun shells and bullets were coming swift but that did not stay the Canadians. Parties of the enemy were trying to put up a fight but they were soon settled. Major A. O. Blois, though wounded, took command of the Battalion and for this and other good work he was awarded the D. S. 0.

Finally we reached our last objective and commenced to consolidate. This trench, like the others, was in an awful condition. We found a large dugout named Craemer House which was a Battalion headquarters. By this time we had lost not only Major Delancy, but Lieuts. Hallesy, Sheriff, Fein-del, Barber, as well as other officers wounded, and a good number of men both killed and wounded.

Then came the long hours of waiting. It had rained during the morning and everybody was more or less wet and as the evening drew on it became very cold and by the time the morning came again, the Battalion having no overcoats, or shelter were in a sorry plight, with but little food or water except what the Hun had left behind.

On the evening of the attack Col. S. Bauld came with Lieuts. Lewis and Fisher and Capt. and Q. M. Ingraham, who having heard of the casualties amongst the officers volunteered to come and help out The following night water was sent up and altho it tasted more like petrol we were glad to get it.

That night we moved back to the rear trench and everyone felt a lot happier when a rumour went around that the Battalion was going to be relieved. After holding the position for less than two days we were sent for two days rest, prior to being relieved, into a larger German tunnel known as Folker Tunnel.

Lieut. Dryden was detailed to take charge of the burial party and the sad work it was, collecting friend and foe from all over the battlefield.

After a night in the tunnel the order came that instead of going out to be relieved we were again to go forward. The people at home will never realize what this order meant to our men. After four days without sleep, wet clothing and mud right next to the skin, with very little food or water, our men were not anxious to move forward, but did they grumble?. Not they. When the word came to move forward they were ready once more for another go at the Hun.

We came out of the trenches for a short rest. We had to travel about two miles over shell-torn ground and we were about all in having been in the line for quite a few days doing our duty regardless of shells, snow and rain. After what seemed to us to be a long time we arrived out at our resting place not so very far from the front line. We bivouacked here in tents and had one beautiful rest. Rain and mud the entire four days that we were out here. Col. Bauld was in charge of the Battalion and Major Blois was acting as second in command. But we were quite happy despite the rain and mud. One night the German aeroplanes came overhead. The order came to put out the lights and just to show you how little the boys thought of Fritz's bombs, a crowd of men in a few of the tents who had just came back from a working party and were turning in when the signal went to put out lights ignored it saying: "Just wait a few minutes as we have to turn in." I wonder if Fritz's planes would wait? I guess not. Anyway he did not get us that night. Now and again Fritz would drop an occasional shell over quite close to us but he never did us any damage.

We had come through one of the heaviest engagements that had taken place up until this time and though very muddy, we were as happy as anyone could be. Well, as I said, we stayed here for a few days and then we went up the line and stayed in supports for a few days. Col. Bauld was in command and I must say that he has done good work for the whole time that he was out there. He was such that no matter who the man was he would do all in his power to assist him. We stayed in supports for a few days and then we got the order to move up into the front line trench—trench in name only as it really could only be called a ditch. On the way up Fritz shelled us pretty badly. I tell you, whilst we were up on top of the ridge, Fritz just peppered us. But strange to say, although he got our wind up and made us feel a little shaky he never inflicted any casualties and that is the main thing. Well, after a long march we arrived at our destination.

How easy to write this back here, but what a feeling whilst going up. An occasional shell bursting close to you. Now and again a machine gun opening up. You are marching along very quietly when a battery of our own guns open up alongside of you and I tell you honestly there are times when the bravest of us get the creeps. We were in our new home, and had to see about some shelters. We would dig into the side of the parapet just enough for a man to crouch up into. I can tell you that although it was clammy and wet it seemed like heaven to us at times. Well, there was an attack planned for the 28th of April. The night of the 28th we dug a jumping off trench and it was understood that "D" Co. should form the left flank of the attack. "C" Co. digging in No Man's Land and connecting with the 26th Battalion. My platoon of "D" Co. formed the left flank of the "C" Co. Lieut. Bell was in charge of "D" Co that day. We were notified that the hour would be at 4.45 p. m. All right. Just before the attack Fritz sent a few shells over on us and we shelled the best way that we could. It is getting quite close to the appointed time. I look at my watch. My men are all ready. I have nothing to worry about. I wonder whether I have been out here too long and that I am going to get mine. But I don't worry for we get to be fatalists and say if it is going to be well it has to be, so what's the odds. I look at my watch, it wants, a minute to go. By the time I put my watch back there is one terrific noise. All around the horizon in the rear there is one mass of flame. You can hear the shells whizzing over your head. We start over—walking, not running. It is a creeping barrage. It will play on his wire and front line trenches for a while and then creep forward. We are following up close behind it. It is a wonderful sight and nobody will ever be able to do justice to it. Shells bursting in front of us. Fritz sending up his S. O. S. signals; our men with their rifles at the "High Port," not giving a damn for anybody living, with one fixed idea that is to get into Fritz* trench and take all of our objectives and take them prisoner, but if they show any fight to do them in. We get to his wire it is not cut as well as it should have been, but we belong to the "25 th." We have to get through regardless of what happens to ourselves. We get through the wire but most of the boys are a little too much to the right. There is a machine gun playing on us but not doing any damage.

One of Fritz's bombs burst right close by us and some of it gets me behind the ear. But they are only flesh wounds and we have got to get to the objective, which is a sunken road. He is using a trench mortar on us. But with our usual luck he is firing wild and, therefore doing no damage. I jump into the sunken road. I am too far ahead of my men. The Fritz's who are firing the Trench Mortar see me and think that we are all there. So they start to beat it. I fire at them with my revolver. I hear some squealing behind me and look around. Three Germans! What can I do. I cannot take them prisoners nor can I take any chances. So I have no other alternative but to shoot them. It may seem cold blooded to a lot but the only thing I am sorry for is that I did not kill a few more. About the same time my men came along and we started bombing the dugouts. It was great sport. You throw a bomb down then stand clear. A burst of flame comes up and then you hear a lot of squealing.

At the end of the sunken road Fritz started to counter-attack us, so there is nothing for me to do but lead a couple of men over the open to a trench and place a block in so that Fritz cannot get behind us. On the way over I get hit in the ankle and the wrist with a couple of Fritz's bullets. We get into the trench and start bombing up the trench. There we have a bit of a fight and I get a bayonet wound in the back. By this time I had lost a considerable amount of blood so have to try to get out the best way I can for at the time we did not know how things were going to go. But I found out later that we held on to all of our objectives. I started to crawl out, but Fritz also started sniping at me. I got to the wire and it looked as if I would not be able to get through as Fritz's bullets were flying around. Anyway I decided to go through the best way I could even if I did get killed As soon as I started to walk through the wire Fritz stopped firing, for why I do not know and another thing I did not care so long as I got out of the wire and could get into a shell hole. By this time, through loss of blood I was feeling pretty weak. Whilst taking a breath in this shell hole I saw a Boche coming towards me. I was not taking any chances so covered him with my revolver. He surrendered and helped me to get out.

It is impossible in this short space to tell all the glorious achievements of the Twenty-fifth. Suffice to say that the empire bore no braver sons and history will chronicle no greater sacrifices than those of the men of Nova Scotia.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus