The date is August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force is in France and You're in the Royal Field Artillery. You're riding alongside one of the battery's gun limbers on its way to the assigned position on the east side of Mons, Belgium. This begins your journey into the Hell they called World War One. To purchase this historical memoir go to https://createspace.com/3649268
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
April 26th Journal
The battery started to march about 8:30 a.m., halting outside the town of Vlamertinghe. As the battery remained outside of the town, George, Collins, and I went with the CO to reconnoiter a position for the battery.
As we neared Ypres we could hear the hellish bombardment going on. While galloping along the road we witnessed dead horses, overturned Lorries,15 and discarded equipment along both sides of the road. Hundreds of wounded were being carried down, or seen hobbling along, the road the best way they could.
As we directed our horses through the town, some disturbing sights met our eyes. It seemed that along every few yards of the road there was something dead, or bits and pieces of men and horses that had been blown apart during the bombardment.
Shells were still absolutely falling everywhere. The town was an inferno. It seemed that every second man we met was wounded. We said to each other, “I reckon we’re on the last lap of this journey.”
We found a likely position where a few old branches and some dugouts were still intact, about a half mile to the rear of St. Jean. Shells were bursting right over us, so we continued to search for a more favorable position.Yet everywhere we looked seemed to be the same.The captain wasn’t comfortable with the area for there was practically no cover remaining.
We went a little closer to the town where a Canadian Officer stopped us and asked what we were wanting. When we explained that we were looking for a spot to bring the battery into position, he said, “For God’s sakes, don’t bring them here; this corner is hell itself. Get out of it as quick as you can.” Shells were dropping all around us. It seemed astounding that none of us had gotten hit.
Afterwards I learned that this part of the town was called “Dead Man’s Corner”. It deserved the name, for many dead were there about.
We left the Canadian and returned to our prior position.We decided it would have to suffice for all places seemed to be equally vulnerable.
While the remainder of the battery was approaching, we started to lay out a wire to a likely observation spot. George took a couple of chaps to start from the observation station while Collins, Billison, and I ran wire from the battery position through the village of St. Jean. We managed to reach the village unharmed, but like everywhere else, it was being heavily shelled.
I was jumping over a small stream that was by the church when a large shell burst almost on us.We took shelter behind a building.We could not move an inch due to all the shrapnel bullets flying about. It was miserable, for we had to remain there for an hour as shells continued to fall.
I noticed that just a few yards from us an artillery man and his horse were lying dead. Nearby was a smashed motor ambulance with the driver burned to a cinder. The ambulance’s petrol tank must have ignited when it was hit by a shell. A naive from one of our battalions lay dead in a ditch. At the end of the building there were several other corpses.
After a time the shelling abated a little, allowing us to start moving again. I met up with George, who had been in much the same terrible show as we had gone through. I was thirsty and thankfully managed to get a drink of water.
As we made our way back, we didn’t get far before the shelling started again. We ran for our previous little shelter and gained it just in time. Shells were bursting very near and I asked Collins, “What is that strong, stinking smell?” My eyes were watering and we all three began coughing.We decided to chance it and go anywhere away from where we were.
After an exciting half-hour we got to the guns, but by that time I felt very sick. Afterwards we learned from an officer that it was due to the gas shells the Germans were using.