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Title: At Ypres with Best-Dunkley
Author: Floyd, Thomas Hope, 1896-1973
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "At Ypres with Best-Dunkley" ***




 _Garden City Press, Letchworth, Herts._








  "... Henceforth
  These are our saints.

  These that we touched, and kissed,
  And frowned upon;
  These that were frail, yet died because the good
  Was overthrown.

  That they in one dread hour
  Were terrible
  Stains not their sainthood, nor is heaven less sure
  That they knew hell.

  How beautiful they are,
  How bright their eyes.
  Their hands have grasped the key
  Of Paradise!

  They hold it out to us,
  Our men, our sons
  ... To us
  The lonely ones."



[1] Quoted with Mr. Moult's permission.


No doubt it will be thought that some apology is necessary for thrusting
upon the public all this mass of matter, relating to many persons and
episodes with whom and with respect to which they may feel that they are
in no way concerned. I quite realize that my action may appear strange
and uncalled for to the superficial observer. But I do not hold that
view. I, personally, have always felt a desire to read this kind of
literature. The Press does not cease to pour forth volumes of memoirs by
leading and prominent persons--matter which is all wanted for a true
understanding of the history of our times. But this is not enough. We
require all the personal narratives we can get; and, in my opinion, the
more personal and intimate, the better. We want narratives by obscure
persons: we want to know and appreciate everybody's outlook upon public
events, whether that outlook be orthodox or unorthodox, conventional or
unconventional. Only thus can we see the recent war in all its aspects.

The motives which have prompted me to publish this book have been well
expressed by Dr. A. C. Benson in his essay on Authorship in _From a
College Window._ In that volume there occurs the following striking

"The wonderful thing to me is not that there is so much desire in the
world to express our little portion of the joy, the grief, the mystery
of it all, but that there is so little. I wish with all my heart that
there was more instinct for personal expression; Edward Fitzgerald said
that he wished that we had more lives of obscure persons; one wants to
know what other people are thinking and feeling about it all; what joys
they anticipate, what fears they sustain, how they regard the end and
cessation of life and perception which waits for us all. The worst of it
is that people are often so modest, they think that their own experience
is so dull, so unromantic, so uninteresting. It is an entire mistake. If
the dullest person in the world would only put down sincerely what he or
she thought about his or her life, about work and love, religion and
emotion, it would be a fascinating document. My only sorrow is that
amateurs of whom I have spoken above will not do this; they rather turn
to external and impersonal impressions, relate definite things, what
they see on their travels, for instance, describing just the things
which anyone can see. They tend to indulge in the melancholy labour of
translation, or employ customary, familiar forms, such as the novel or
the play. If only they would write diaries and publish them; compose
imaginary letters; let one inside the house of self, instead of keeping
one wandering in the park!"

These memoirs, then, consist mainly of extracts from my private diary
and my letters home during those memorable days, spent in the Salient
and its vicinity, between the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of
Ypres. The letters cover a definite period in the history of a great
battalion and in the course of the war. As will speedily be noticed, the
whole period was one of looking forward, practising and awaiting a great
day which we all knew was not far off, but the actual date of which none
of us knew until it was almost upon us. All this time our interests
(and, perhaps, our fears!) were centred upon one man, the unpopular
Colonel who, few of us guessed in those days, was destined to win the
V.C. on "the day," going down in a blaze of glory which should ever
associate his name with that battle. With that "day," which was for many
of us the end of all earthly troubles and hopes and fears, or, at any
rate, an end for many months, the story reaches its natural termination.

In these pages I give to the public, for what they are worth, my own
personal impressions of the people and things I saw and with whom I
came into contact. I hope I have revealed the late Colonel Best-Dunkley
to the public just as he was--as he appeared to me and as he appeared to
others. I believe that in this I am doing right. "Paint me in my true
colours!" exclaimed Cromwell to Lely. That is all that any hero--and
Best-Dunkley was certainly a hero--can conscientiously ask. And I am
sure it was all Best-Dunkley himself would ever have asked. He was a
brilliant young man, endowed with a remarkable personality. It is right
that his memory should be preserved; and if his memory is to be
preserved it must be the memory of the Best-Dunkley we knew.

The battalion which Best-Dunkley commanded has, since his death,
achieved great things and acquired great fame under the still more
brilliant leadership of his successor, Colonel Brighten; but we must
never forget that it was Best-Dunkley who led it on the glorious day of
Ypres and that it was the tradition which he inspired which has been one
of the strongest elements of esprit de corps in the 2/5th Lancashire
Fusiliers. All who served under Best-Dunkley remember the fact with a
certain amount of pride, however unfavourably his personality may have
impressed itself upon them at the time--for "All times are good when

I am fully aware of the many imperfections of this book; but if it
succeeds at all in vividly recalling to those who were in the Ypres
Salient in 1917 the atmosphere of that time, and if it should encourage
others to risk a similar venture, I shall feel amply rewarded.


    CHAPTER                                                         PAGE

    FOREWORD                                                         vii

     I OFF TO THE FRONT                                                1

    II THE PRISON                                                     26

   III ENTER BEST-DUNKLEY                                             49

    IV MILLAIN                                                        57

     V THE MARCH                                                      63

    VI THE GENERAL'S SPEECH                                           77

   VII THE VALE OF ACQUIN                                             81

  VIII BACK TO THE SALIENT                                           103

    IX BILGE TRENCH                                                  113

     X THE RAMPARTS                                                  128

    XI MUSTARD OIL                                                   136

   XII THE CITY AND THE TRENCHES                                     146

  XIII RELIEF                                                        164

   XIV WATOU                                                         168

    XV THE DAYS BEFORE                                               179

   XVI THE BATTLE OF YPRES                                           187


     I MURRAY AND ALLENBY                                            227

    II THE INFANTRY AT MINDEN                                        229

   III GENERAL RAWLINSON AND OSTEND                                  230

    IV EDWARD III AND THE ORDER OF THE GARTER                        231

     V GOLDFISH CHÂTEAU                                              233




I had been to France before--in 1916, during the Battle of the
Somme--but not as an officer; in 1916 I was a private in the Royal
Fusiliers, and I had received orders to return to "Blighty" in order to
proceed to an officer cadet battalion at Gailes, in Ayrshire, before I
had been able to see what a front-line trench was like. So this, then,
was my first experience of war--my "baptism of fire." I had seen and
heard those magnificent bombardments up the line in 1916, and had gazed
with awestruck admiration upon the strange horizon far away from my
tents at Boulogne and Étaples, wondering what it must be like to be
amongst it all, and expecting to be amongst it all in the course of a
day or two; but, as I have already observed, I was recalled to England,
and was not destined to be amongst it until the following summer. But
now, at last, the experience, the great adventure to which I had been
looking forward so long, was to be mine. I was gazetted a
second-lieutenant in the 5th (Territorial) Lancashire Fusiliers on March
1, 1917; on March 26, I reported for duty with the 5th (Reserve)
Lancashire Fusiliers at South Camp, Ripon, where I spent some unpleasant
weeks amongst snow and mud; from Ripon the unit proceeded to
Scarborough, where I rejoined it after having spent a couple of weeks in
hospital, with tonsillitis, at the former place. Shortly after this, I
received orders to proceed overseas, and returned to my home in
Middleton Junction to spend my embarkation leave.

That leave was spent in the happy way in which all such leaves were
spent during the Great War, terminating with a visit to the Gaiety, in
Manchester, in conjunction with my father and mother, where we saw a
most enjoyable comedy entitled "The Two Miss Farndons."

I bid farewell to my parents on Victoria Station at 10.35 that
evening--Friday, May 25, 1917; and I then proceeded to the train which
was to carry me away to England's capital.

The following letter, written at Folkestone at 11.15 the following
morning, describes my journey up to that moment:

"I hope you and Father got home safely last night and are not worrying.
My train left Manchester at 11.20. I had to change at Stockport. In
neither case could I get a carriage to myself, but I managed to doze.
When dawn broke we were in Northampton. It was 6.30 when the train
arrived in Euston Station. I got a taxi across London to Victoria. There
was an enormous crowd of military there, bound for France. People were
seeing some of them off. I could not get any breakfast there. My train
left London at 7.50. The journey through Kent is really delightful, such
beautiful country. I am sorry to leave dear old England; hope I shall
soon be back again!

"As we passed through Shorncliffe I noticed a house in ruins. Apparently
there had been an air raid. And there has indeed! There was a bad air
raid here at 6.30 last night. There is a good deal of damage done in
Folkestone: I have seen it while walking about the streets this morning.
There have been a good many casualties.

"The weather is glorious, delightful sunshine and hot. I am now having
breakfast in a cafe in Folkestone with another officer. We sail on the
_Princess Clementine_ at 2 this afternoon, and so will be in Boulogne
about 3.30."

I landed at Boulogne at 4 that afternoon and we went straight on to
Étaples the same evening. The following letter recounts my journey and
arrival at that great camp upon the sand-hills:

"May 27th, 1917.

"I have now, once more, safely arrived in this place, where there is
nothing but sand. I expect you will already have received my
communications from Folkestone. Is the news of the raid yet in the
papers? I was told that there were thirty German aeroplanes and one
zeppelin. Bombs were dropped on the soldiers' camp there, and a good
many soldiers were killed. Apparently the operation made a big row, for
it was heard across the water in the cathedral city in which we landed.

" ... We went on board at 1.30, but the boat did not start until 2.50.
It was, and still is, tremendously hot. It seems that submarines are not
harassing our transport route: for the number of ships, of various
kinds, crossing was considerable. It was a pleasant voyage; but as I saw
the white cliffs of Folkestone receding from my ken I could not help
recalling with what rapture I beheld them on my return from France last
October, and expressing a faint wish that I were again returning rather
than going out! But, still, one will soon get used to France again; and
we can always look forward to the next return. One thing is obvious--I
am here for the hottest weather; heat, if anything, will be the trouble,
not cold.

"The boat stood in the harbour for some time before we could land; but
we eventually did so at 4. After seeing about my kit I had tea at the
British Officers' Club, opposite the Gare Centrale. Then I got into the
train. It should have left at 5.45, but, like all French trains, was
very late in starting. It did start a little before 7. It was a train
filled entirely with officers. It ambled along in the usual leisurely
fashion. When we were about half-way we noticed that a good many were
standing outside on the step; some had their legs hanging out of the
window, others were actually on the roof! When we came to a tunnel the
latter dived in through the open windows. Others got out and spoke to
girls on the way, and then ran on and got back into the train. This is
how travelling is carried on 'Somewhere in France'!

"The scenery, beautiful as it seemed last autumn, is much more beautiful
now. It is at its best: the green grass with the dandelions and daisies,
the hawthorn and the trees in bloom, little villages clustering in
charming woods, the sheep and the cows, and little children cheering the
train, everything sparkling in the hot sunshine; such is France--and
such was the Kent I left behind me--at present. As one looks upon the
peaceful country-side in France to-day one can scarcely realize that war
is raging in all its ferocity and barbarity so near. It seems an
anomaly. The weather is more suggestive of cricket than of war.

"I got here about 8.30, and went to the mess of the 23rd Infantry Base
Depot. Here I found Bridgestock, Hamer, and Allin (officers who had been
at Scarborough with me, and had come out a few days earlier). They have
been here nearly a week. They are going to the 3/5th Lancashire
Fusiliers. I had some supper before going to bed in my tent. We are
three in a tent. Leigh and Macdonald are the names of my tent

"Fortunately it is Sunday to-day. So we did not get up until 7.45. I did
not feel like rising until then!

"We (the twenty Lancashire Fusilier officers who arrived here yesterday)
saw the Adjutant, Captain Reid, this morning, in the orderly room, and
had some information given to us. I spent most of the morning at the
field cashier's, waiting for an 'advance of pay book'! Then lunch. It is
now about 2.30 in the afternoon.

"As I expected, I find that I have too much kit: I am told that I shall
have to get rid of some when I get to my unit. I am at present writing
on my nice table, but no other officers have brought out tables or
chairs or anything of that kind! Well--we shall see...."

"May 28th, 1917.

"It is still boiling hot; thank goodness we have finished for to-day! I
must first, however, tell you how I spent the remainder of yesterday,
after writing home. I spent the afternoon in the town. I explored most
of it. Happening to pass the church, I saw a great crowd. It was full
inside; the west doors were open, and people were sitting in the doorway
and standing out in the street watching the service. So I too stopped
and watched. It was most interesting, but as the service was conducted
in French (apparently the Gallican Church differs from the Roman
Catholic Church in England in that the service is conducted in the
vernacular), I do not know what the service was. Although most of it was
in French, bits were in Latin. It was exceptionally spectacular. There
were about a hundred little boys in surplices and little girls in white
veils (as if dressed for confirmation), all carrying long, lighted
candles. Music and hymns were proceeding all the time. The little boys
and girls were standing still part of the time, and processing up and
down the chancel at other times. Eventually they all processed past the
senior priest, attired in full vestments; and he blew out their candles
as they passed. Towards the close of the service, a little girl,
carrying her candle, was brought out by the priest and stationed in
front of the altar with her face to the congregation; then she recited,
in French, something which sounded like a very long creed. She was only
about twelve or thirteen; but she did it without a stop, and in a
clear, pleasant voice. After that a bell rang, everybody bent their
heads, and the priest pronounced the Benediction. Then the congregation
came out, and behind came the boys and girls and the priest. The people
lined the road, and the procession walked on until it reached a kind of
yard leading to some institute. The people followed. They all halted
inside here. Then the priest prepared to make a little speech and
pronounce another Benediction; but he would not proceed until all the
little choir boys were perfectly quiet. He waited about five minutes.
Then he preached a brief sermon (of course in French) directed to the
children. I could not understand much of what he was talking about; but
I think he was very eloquent. I could deduce from words here and there
that he was reminding them that their fathers and brothers and uncles
were fighting at the front, and telling them that if they were not good
little boys and girls their fathers and brothers and uncles would fall
in battle! Then he pronounced his final Benediction, and we

"I could see that everybody was discussing the service and the sermon. I
overheard a Frenchman in frock coat and top hat, who seemed to be a
churchwarden or something of the kind, expressing his appreciation of
the latter.

"Then I came back to camp and paraded for a box-respirator! We then went
through 'tear gas.' Then dinner. I sat at the Commandant's table. He was
talking about a great concentration up North--guns and supplies and men
swarming there recently....

"After dinner I went to bed. Thus ended Whitsun Day, 1917.

"I got up at 7.15 this morning. Breakfast. Then down to the 'bull ring'
in full marching order. Gas all day. Fortunately we were under nice
shady trees most of the time. We had sandwiches down there between 12
and 1, and got back at 4.30, feeling very hot after the march. Then

"Hamer, Bridgestock, and Allin have gone up the line this morning. I am
posted to the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers (the battalion Norman Kemp was
in!). I shall not be going up the line for a few days, but by the time
your reply to this reaches me I shall be there...."

My diary of that same day, May 28, records: "To Paris Plage in the
evening." And my letter written home the following day proceeds as

"After writing home yesterday I walked down town, and took a car to the
seaside place opposite. The country through which the car went was
pretty, and the seaside place quite passable; all right in peace-time I
should think. Unfortunately the last car back leaves at 8.15, so I came
by it....

"To-day, Royal Oak Day, we have spent on the 'bull ring' again....

"I have seen David Morgan (who was in the same billet with me when we
were privates together in the 29th Royal Fusiliers at Oxford, in
January, 1916) this evening. I managed to find the C.R.E. offices where
he works. He saw me, and came out to me. I went inside. He is very cosy
there, in a nice new hut. He was working at a drawing. His hours daily
are from 9 in the morning until 8 in the evening; but, as I had come, he
managed to get a pass to go down town with me this evening. We therefore
had a walk. He looks very well with his stripe, and he seems to be
having a good time. He desires to be remembered to you both. I left him
at about 8. Then I had dinner at the Officers' Club, but was not struck
by it....

"It is now 'lights out,' so I had better stop."

"May 30th.

" ... We spent the day on the 'bull ring' as usual. It has been fine. We
have not, I am thankful to say, had any rain at all since I landed in
France on Saturday last.

"This evening I have spent parading the streets of the town. I have
become heartily 'fed up' with the dirty antediluvian place. Morgan
actually, after nine solid months of residence here, says that he likes
it and the people. I could not have imagined that there were many of
the latter whose acquaintance would be particularly charming; but he
speaks upon the authority of long experience!"

I also wrote down the following note at that time while I was still in

"One noticeable thing to-day (May 30) has been the number of men and
transport which have been passing through on the trains all day and
going north, obviously coming from one part of the Front and going round
this way, to avoid the observation of the Germans, to another. We are
massing troops round the great city where great battles have been fought
before--concentrating for a great offensive. So there will very soon be
a third battle of Ypres, and I expect I shall be present on the occasion
myself. It should be very exciting. In the two former battles we were on
the defensive; this time we shall be on the offensive. And I must
say--pessimistic as I am on all Western offensives--this idea holds
forth a faint ray of hope of success. I have always held that there is
only one way in which the war can be won in the West--by a flanking
offensive in the North. This is not entirely the type of flanking
movement I would myself recommend, but it is an attempt at the idea--and
that is something. It may prove a semi-fiasco like the awful tragedies
of Neuve Chapelle, Loos, the Somme, and Arras; but it might possibly
turn out a success. Then it would be simply a case of _veni, vidi,

That memorandum is particularly interesting in view of the events which
followed, and the story which this narrative will tell. I always held
very strong-views on the conduct of the war. I was not one of those who
looked upon this great bid for world power on the part, of the German
Empire as purely a campaign on the Western Front, all other campaigns in
other corners of the globe being mere "side shows." I was always a firm
and consistent supporter of the "East End" school of strategy. I looked
upon the war as a _World War_ and, since the decisive Battle of the
Marne in September, 1914, when the German hopes of complete and crushing
victory in the West were shattered (which decision was still more
finally confirmed at First Ypres), as primarily a south-eastern war. I
held with that great statesman and strategist, Mr. Winston Churchill,
that Constantinople was "the great strategic nerve-centre of the world
war." I realized that a deadlock had been reached on the Western Front,
and that nothing was to be hoped from any frontal attack there; and I
also realized that Germany held Constantinople and the Dardanelles--the
gateway to the East. And the trend of German foreign policy and German
strategy convinced me that it was in the Near East that the menace to
our Empire lay. There was our most vulnerable part; while Germany held
that gateway, the glamour of the East, with its possibilities of
victories like those of Alexander, and an empire like that one which was
the great Napoleon's early dream, would always be a great temptation to
German strategists. I therefore always used to assert that "The side
which holds Constantinople when peace terms come to be discussed is the
side which has won the war," and I think the events of September, 1918,
have proved that my view and prophecy were correct. I firmly believe
that if unity of command under Marshal Foch and Sir Henry Wilson, with
the following decisive victories of D'Esperey at Cerna and Allenby at
Armageddon in September, 1918, bringing about the capitulation of
Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, and the surrender of Constantinople to
the Allies, had not been attained last year the war would still be in
progress. And I therefore hold that it is impossible to estimate the
debt which the Allies owe to those statesmen who brought about that
unity of command.

But to return to my story. The next day was spent, as usual, on the
"bull ring." On June 1, I find that I recorded the following incident:

"We have been on the 'bull ring' again this morning. The weather is as
hot as ever. While we were down there a German aeroplane flew right
over from one end to the other--north to south. The anti-aircraft guns
were firing at it the whole time, but failed to hit it. It was flying at
a great height, and the shrapnel appeared to be bursting all round it.
At one time it flew directly over our heads; but it did not drop any
bombs! A few minutes after it had passed, bits of shrapnel fell quite
near us--within four or five yards--proving how much overhead it had
been. It was quite exciting, but not quite so much so as it was during
those two minutes at Dover last September. Now the question which arises
is: What was its object? It did not drop any bombs. Its object,
therefore, must have been reconnaissance. I suppose that it came to find
out what number of troops we are moving round this way to the new
battlefield in the north. Even though we may move troops by so
roundabout a way, the enemy is able to find out by means of aircraft.
Aircraft makes manoeuvre in modern warfare intensely difficult."

That same evening orders came through for me to proceed up the line,
but, as the following letter will tell, they were afterwards cancelled,
owing to some mistake:

"June 2nd.

"I had a walk down town yesterday evening. Then I came back and called
at the C.R.E. office to say good-bye to David Morgan. He was in--writing
letters--and I stayed a few minutes; then he walked back with me part
of the way. He wished me the best of luck. We both expressed a hope that
the war would soon be over! 'What a life!' said Morgan.

"Leigh got up before 4 this morning, as his train up the line left soon
after that. I got up at 6, and had breakfast. My kit was taken down to
the New Siding Station where I had to report at 7.50. The place was, as
usual, crowded with troops waiting to go up the line. There was a train
full of Portuguese troops in the siding. I reported to the R.T.O. He
said 'Get in officer's coach marked C, and get out at Béthune.' Then he
suddenly discovered that my name was crossed out. 'I've got your name
crossed off here; I don't think you are to go. You had better stand by a
few minutes while I telephone and find out,' he remarked. He then
telephoned to Headquarters and, after about ten minutes, the reply came
through: 'Not to proceed.' There had been a mistake about the division
or something. Anyhow, I was ordered to return to camp. So I told my man
to take my kit back, and returned. The others went up the line. It is
funny, isn't it? I am amused. I take all these changes with equal
equanimity. I am quite agreeable whatever happens.... I know that
whatever happens all will turn out right. I shall arrive at the right
place at the right time. It is most interesting. I expect you will be
pleased at the delay!

"When I got back I saw the Adjutant and reported to him. He was with the
padre, an Irishman who was an officer in Carson's Ulster Volunteer
Force, at the time. He was amused, and the padre said 'Lucky man!' So I
have had a nice easy day, writing letters and strolling about....

"There are a whole crowd of Portuguese here now. A large number marched
up from the station, with band playing, this morning. I find that the
Portuguese troops pay more attention to saluting than do the French; I
have received more salutes from Portuguese than from French; but I hear
that the discipline of the Portuguese in the trenches is very bad

"I notice that it is announced in the paper to-day that a violent
artillery bombardment is in progress between Ypres and the sea. There
you are--that is the preliminary bombardment which always precedes a
great battle in war of to-day."

"June 3rd.

"I am still here, and have heard nothing further about going up the
line. The weather is still hot and fine--summer at its best. Yesterday
evening I went down town as usual. When I got back I found some
Portuguese officers in the mess. Everybody was talking French; it was
amusing; but I soon disappeared to my tent. Macdonald left this tent
some days ago; Leigh went up the line; ---- took the latter's place: so
now there are just ---- and I in Tent 12. He returned slightly tight
about 11, and talked a lot of stuff, telling me many stories of his
lurid past! He seems to have been a gay undergraduate at Jesus College,
Oxford, seventeen years ago; he is now thirty-eight. His home is in
----. His two children live there. He has a daughter fifteen and a son
in the Cathedral choir. Yet he himself is a Quaker! And he is in the
Army! He was present at the Battle of the Marne. He is a most quaint
individual altogether.

"He and I were censoring-letters this morning. It was amusing, but soon
became boring as most of the men employed the same formula: 'Just a line
to let you know that I am in the pink, hoping this finds you in the best
of health as this leaves me at present, etc.'!

"I went down town this afternoon and had a bath (an expensive luxury
which cost me 2s.) and strawberries and cream (which cost 3s. 6d.) That
just gives you an idea of prices in this God-forsaken land named

"I also looked inside St. Michael's Church during the afternoon service.
It appears to be a case of come in and go out when you please. There is
one redeeming feature about the French people: they take their religion
seriously, and the children are systematically taught. One can see that.
The priest is a depressing-looking old chap. The service in the Gallican
Church is much nicer than the service in Roman Catholic, or extreme High
Anglican churches in England. There were not nearly so many candles
to-day carried in procession as last Sunday. Nor was the congregation so

"I read the _Middleton Guardian_ correspondence to ---- in the tent when
I got back. He was interested. We then argued until about 11. Macdonald,
in a tent close by, called out 'Floyd, shut up!' The latter is marked
'temporary base' for a month; that is why he has not yet gone up the
line. All the others who came out when I did have now gone up the line;
I am the only one left behind!"

"June 4th.

" ... At 3.50 this afternoon I was informed that the Adjutant wished to
see me; so I went to the orderly room. He informed me that I go up the
line to-morrow morning. I go to the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers, 55th

"Now I am going to bed in my tent for the last time in this peaceful
place, where the only reminder of the fact that war is raging is to be
traced in the encamped city on the sand dunes above the town and the
swarms of soldiers. The sunset is fine, the air is now a little cooler
after the heat of the day, and the sea and the river calm and

Thus ended my long wait at Étaples. The following morning (June 5) I
rose at 6. Having had breakfast, I reported at the New Siding Station at
6.50. I was ordered to get into the train which was drawn up there, and
get out at Hazebrouck, where I would receive further orders from the
R.T.O. there. The train moved off at 7.40. As we passed Camiers we
noticed an American camp there; an American waved the Stars and Stripes
as we passed. We passed through Boulogne at 9. At 1 we reached the city
of St. Omer, where the great Earl Roberts had died at Field-Marshal
French's G.H.Q. in 1914. All round here we noticed numerous German
prisoners working along the line; and we passed many dumps of various
kinds. At 2.30 we steamed into Hazebrouck. I noticed a long hospital
train standing in the station, full of wounded who were being taken to
the Base hospitals. Those who were in a condition to do so looked very
pleased with life.

I reported to the R.T.O. in the square at Hazebrouck, and he gave me
instructions to go by the next train to Poperinghe. It was a sultry day
and I was glad of a drink. I managed to get one on the station. I could
occasionally hear the rumble of the guns in the distance now, but very

The train left Hazebrouck at 3.30 p.m. The country looked as calm and
peaceful as anything. The only signs which suggested war were the German
prisoners at the side of the railway and the numerous dumps. But we drew
nearer to the Front. The train halted at Abeele, a village near the
frontier of France and Flanders. As we stopped here for a few minutes a
number of us managed to dash into an _estaminet_ opposite the station
and get a drink! From Abeele onwards the most noticeable objects were
the aeroplanes which were now very numerous above us, the presence of
which indicated our proximity to the war.

At 6.30 the train came to a standstill in a station which I was informed
was my destination, Poperinghe. "This is the railhead for the Ypres
Salient" I was told. So out I got with my kit. I was expected. There was
a mess cart awaiting me at the station; and in it I jogged along to the
Transport Lines which were in the vicinity of Brandhoek a mile or so
further on--on the left of the road from Poperinghe to Ypres.

The transport driver told me what it was like in that part, how it had
been very quiet when the 55th Division took over their positions in the
Salient from the 29th Division the previous autumn, but had grown more
lively every day; how they had received a nasty gas bombardment only a
few days ago, how the Boche had recently taken to shelling us furiously
and systematically every night, and how there were some very hot times
ahead--there was to be a raid by a battalion in our brigade that night.

It was fairly quiet when I arrived--it was a time of the day when things
generally were somewhat quiet, when the guns were resting before joining
in the nightly fray--so I did not immediately notice how near to the war
I had come. But I was soon to realize it.

When I reached the Transport Lines I made the acquaintance of two
officers of the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers of whom I was destined to see
much in the coming months, Philip Cave Humfrey and Joseph
Roake--especially Roake, as it was his good fortune to remain with the
Battalion until long after the cessation of hostilities and to be with
me in the 15th Lancashire Fusiliers in the Army of the Rhine. Humfrey,
by a curious coincidence, turned out--though I did not know it until
many months after--to be the brother-in-law of my school-friend William

Never shall I forget that summer evening near Brandhoek. Roake,
effervescing as always with droll wit, and Humfrey, with his natural
cheerfulness and affability, made me at home in their little hut at
once. I can well recall the scene: a tiny little wooden hut at the edge
of a large field; the wall adorned by a trench map of the Ypres Salient,
on which our present position was marked in pencil, and a striking
group photo of the Imperial War Cabinet, taken out of an illustrated
journal, in which the well-known faces of Lloyd George and Lord Curzon
seemed to dominate the picture; a little table upon which Humfrey
drafted a signal message to the Adjutant of the 2/5th, announcing my
arrival and asking for instructions, the table upon which an excellent
little dinner was almost immediately served; outside the observation
balloons in a curved line, denoting the Salient, and aircraft sweeping
through the skies.

It was then that I first saw what was going to be to me a very common
sight during those memorable "Wipers days"--an air fight. I had not been
in the little wooden hut many minutes before Roake called me out to
watch a scrap between British and German aeroplanes over the Salient. We
got out our field-glasses and, in the cool of a summer's evening, when
any ordinary individual in "Blighty" would be relaxing from the labours
of the day in cricket or in tennis, we surveyed with interest the
contests between the chivalrous heroes of the air far above. It was then
that I first saw a "blazing trail across the evening sky of Flanders."
There were many such in the summer of 1917, though the brilliant young
airman of whose death that glowing eulogy had been written now lay
sleeping beneath a little wooden cross in the grave in which the
Germans, paying homage to true chivalry, had laid him at Annoeullin. Who
could watch those little specks rising and falling, and falling to rise
no more, up there in the bright blue sky without a thrill of admiration
for these "New Elizabethans" of England and Germany?

It was during tea that I realized that I was really at the war. The guns
began to boom and the hut shook with the continual vibration. And then
the band of the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers struck up some jolly tunes in
the field. War and music going hand in hand, it was difficult to know
whether one ought to feel jolly or sad. I think I may safely say that we
felt as jolly and gay as could be; I know that the romantic aspect was
the one which appealed to me most. This was the real thing, none of your
home-service games.

The bombardment became more intense as the evening progressed. After
dark the Transport moved off to carry rations up to the men in the line.
If it is not superfluous to do so, I would wish to pay here the warmest
possible tribute to those gallant Transport men who used to "carry
rations on the road from Pop to Ypres." It was no picnic. The Boche knew
quite well the time that vast and apparently never ending chain of
traffic would be wending its nightly way from Poperinghe to Ypres. He
shelled the great high road systematically every night. Every night
some of those gallant men would go never to return. It seemed marvellous
that so many could escape the destruction which was hurled at them; but
war is full of wonders.

My diary of that night reads as follows:

"As it began to get dark the bombardment became louder and louder and
the flashes more vivid. Shells were falling at Vlamertinghe, half way
between Poperinghe and Ypres, exploding with a great sound. They were
falling here yesterday!

"At about 10.30 p.m. we saw the Transport set off along the road, taking
rations and supplies up to Ypres.... Humfrey went with them. (I would
have gone up with him, but the Adjutant of the 2/5th had sent a message
by the signals saying that I could sleep at the Transport Lines and
report the following morning.) Red Cross motors were also coming back
from Ypres with wounded. Meanwhile the moon--a full moon--steadily rose
above the Front, amid the flashes between Ypres and Messines, the
bombardment sounding like thunder. It was a fine scene. If only there
had been an artist there to paint it! A farm on the Switch Road (a new
road for traffic built by the British Army) some way off got on fire. I
hear that the King's, in our Brigade, are going over the top on a raid
to-night. Our great offensive here has not yet opened, but it will come
off before very long....

"To bed 11.30, the guns booming like continuous thunder. I was awakened
in the night by shells whizzing past the hut where I was sleeping."

So I was, at last, introduced to that strangest of all music--the
screech of a shell: _Whoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-UMP!_



It has already been observed that the 55th (West Lancashire) Division,
after a hot time on the Somme, particularly at Guillemont and Ginchy,
had come up the Salient in October, 1916. So when I joined the Division
it was in the 8th Corps, commanded by Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston
("Hunter-Bunter," as I remember Best-Dunkley calling him), in Sir
Herbert Plumer's Second Army. The 55th Division was responsible for the
sector between Wieltje and the south of Railway Wood.

The 55th Division was commanded by Major-General Jeudwine, of whom it
has been said: "No General ever was more devoted to his Division: no
Division ever was more devoted to its General."[2] The three infantry
brigades in the Division were the 164th Brigade (Brigadier-General
Stockwell), the 165th Brigade (Brigadier-General Boyd-Moss), and the
166th Brigade (then commanded by Brigadier-General Lewis). The 2/5th
Lancashire Fusiliers, who had been commanded by Colonel
Best-Dunkley--an officer who had previously been Adjutant on the
Somme--since October 20, 1916, were in the 164th Brigade.

In those days a brigade consisted of four battalions. The other three
battalions in the 164th Brigade were the 1/4th King's Own Royal
Lancaster Regiment, commanded by Colonel Balfour, the 1/8th King's
Liverpool Regiment (Liverpool Irish), commanded by Colonel Heath, and
the 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, commanded by Colonel Hindle,
who, after winning the D.S.O. and Bar, was killed at the head of his
battalion at Heudecourt during the great Battle of Cambrai on November
30, 1917. When the necessity for "infiltration" brought about the
reduction of the strength of brigades from four battalions to three, the
Liverpool Irish were afterwards transferred to the 57th Division. But
throughout the whole of the period with which this narrative deals the
Liverpool Irish were still with us.

It is interesting to note the summary of the situation written by the
chronicler of the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers in the 1917 _Lancashire
Fusiliers' Annual_:

"On May 26th, the Battalion moved back to the Prison. Lieutenant-Colonel
B. Best-Dunkley went on leave the same day, leaving Major Brighten in

"Then began a very memorable 17 days--Ypres was shelled heavily every
day, particular attention being paid to the Prison.

"By night the Battalion was occupied in digging a new communication
trench, Pagoda Trench. The digging was finished in two nights, but there
was all the riveting to do as well. Every night the working parties have
to pass through a barrage. Our casualties during this period totalled 60
or 70. The _moral_ of the men was very high all the time. The continual
shelling, paradoxical as it must seem, hardened and prepared them as
much as anything for the great day which every one knew was not far off.

"We had our first serious gas attack on June 3rd. It was preceded by a
heavy bombardment of Ypres, after which some 25,000 gas shells were put
over, lasting from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. We were fortunate in having very
few casualties."

That was the position of the Battalion when I set off to join it in the
Prison cells on the morning of June 5, 1917.

I rose at 10 a.m. It was a rowdy morning. The guns were still unusually
lively. While we were having breakfast shells were bursting three or
four hundred yards away from our hut, and we could hear occasional H.E.
dropping as far back as Poperinghe behind us.

The following letter which I wrote home from my cell (which I shared
with three other second-lieutenants, Gilbert Verity, Bernard Priestley
and H. A. Barker) in the Prison, dated June 6, 1917, describes my
journey to Ypres:

"At 11 a.m. I set off up the road with another officer to the city where
my unit is stationed. We got a lift in a motor as far as a town
half-way. This town (Vlamertinghe) was almost entirely in ruins. There
has been an ancient church there, but only the front of the tower and
all the crucifixes remain. Shells were bursting all about. We sat down
on a fence and waited for another lift. It was most exciting. I have not
got the 'wind up' yet; I am more interested than anything else. I
contemplated a famous hill on my right. Then we got on another motor.
This ride was _most_ exciting, the excitement consisting in whether we
could reach the city without being blown to pieces by the shells which
were exploding to front of us, to right of us, to rear of us, and to
left of us! The road was cut up by shells which had exploded on it, and
trees were felled across it. We jogged a good deal riding over this
debris. We saw one of our batteries on the left of the road which had
been smashed by a German shell. A good many of the transport horses had
been killed on the road last night, but the bodies had been removed by
now. We got out of the car just outside the city and walked into it.
What struggles have taken place here! One could hardly realize that in
pre-war days this had been a great and flourishing city. Just a few
buildings remain standing, and those all in ruins; debris everywhere,
shells constantly exploding everywhere. It is reckoned that the rate of
casualties in this city just now is a thousand a week; military, of
course--there are no civilians here; it is a battlefield where battles
have been fought, where strafing is going on now, and around which a
great battle is about to be fought. One battalion in our brigade went
over the top on a raid last night. Our guns are even now conducting the
preliminary bombardment along the line which precedes a great offensive.
And the Germans are giving it us back too! My companion was very anxious
that we should reach the Prison without personally encountering any
shells. He told me that the corner round which we were passing was a
windy one! But we got inside the Prison safe and sound, and here I now
am writing this while the shells are flying and our guns stationed in
the city are speaking. The top of this building is in ruins as shells
are constantly hitting it, but we are down below, and we have
wire-netting to catch the falling debris.

"I was received by a young Major and the Adjutant, Lieutenant Andrews. I
had lunch with them and the other officers in the (Headquarters)

There let us pause for a moment. There are scenes in one's life,
pleasant and otherwise, which one can never forget, which ever rest
vividly in the eye of the mind. There were many such scenes during my
experiences in France and Belgium; but none do I recollect more clearly,
and few with more satisfaction, than this my first meal with the 2/5th
Lancashire Fusiliers. Never was a subaltern given a more friendly
welcome than that which Major Brighten extended to me. I was made at
home at once. Padre Newman, who seemed little more than a young
undergraduate with a gay and affable countenance, but with that
unselfish and utterly unostentatious heroism depicted in every
feature--a typical example of the kind of hero which our public schools,
with all their failings, have sent forth in hundreds and thousands
during the last five years--was placing jolly records on a gramophone
when I entered the little cell; and the mess-waiters were preparing
lunch on a table which had been erected for the purpose.

In England I had been accustomed to "battalion messes," but out here
such an arrangement was very rare. "Company messes" were the thing out
here. There were generally five messes in all--Headquarters and the four
companies. Major Brighten at once invited me to stay for lunch at
Headquarters and, when the meal was announced to be "served," told me to
sit next to him. I found him extremely interesting. The conversation
was most entertaining. The subject upon which his wit pivoted during a
good part of the meal was the Brigadier (always an interesting topic!),
his latest sayings and possible future career 'after the war'--a period
which Major Brighten always declared to be in the very near future. The
first thing which struck me about Major Brighten was his youth; he was
only twenty-seven. I had not been accustomed to such young senior
officers in England. In fact, youth seemed to be the foremost
characteristic of the Battalion. Nearly all the officers were extremely
young. And I learnt that Colonel Best-Dunkley himself was only
twenty-seven! It was the pride of the Battalion that it was led by
youth. If ever a proof were required of the truth of Disraeli's famous
maxim "The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity," it is here
in the brilliant record of the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers. Let Mr. Alec
Waugh and the League of Youth and Social Progress carefully note that,
for here, surely, is a feather in their cap!

After lunch I was posted to a company--"B" Company; and I was conducted
to another cell where I found my company commander, Captain H. H.
Andrews, sitting up in bed, looking very happy. It was quite the thing
to stay in bed until the afternoon in those days, because the nightly
working parties did not get back until just before dawn. It was a day of
pleasant surprises. I had already been very favourably impressed by the
magnetic personalities of Major Brighten and Padre Newman; now I was
ushered into the presence of another amiable military genius, Captain
Andrews. I had not been in his presence two minutes before I
congratulated myself on my good fortune in having "clicked" for so
delightful a company commander as Captain Andrews. Though older and very
different in appearance, he was another officer of the same stamp as the
lovable and brilliant Major Brighten. He was an ideal company commander.
One could not hope for a better either from a military or from a social
point of view. He was ability, wit, and sociability combined. Those were
great days.

But to continue the reproduction of the letter quoted above:

"I am attached to B Company, commanded by Captain Andrews, and I have
been appointed by him to command the seventh platoon. Just before tea
Captain Andrews had me in his room and gave me maps of the district and
explained--with reference to the maps--the situation. He also told me
the plan of campaign and explained what Haig's intentions for the whole
summer offensive are and what he requires us to do; so I now know the
general idea, and I also know in detail what this battalion, this
company, and my own platoon have got to do--and when; but as it is all
very secret information only for officers, I, unfortunately, cannot give
it you. My opinion is that the general plan is good, with the exception
that I do not quite appreciate the point with respect to the particular
part which this battalion (and brigade) has to play in a few days; it
strikes me as being rather foolish, though it may be all right.

"While we were having tea the Germans set up a most terrific bombardment
of this prison. Shells exploded just outside the window-opening, causing
quite a wind inside the room. It is going on still; shells keep striking
the wall outside. There it goes--bang! And there are our guns smashing
back at them. There again--debris scattering in the quad, the other side
of the door. Whizz-bang! It is extraordinary that any walls in this city
can remain standing at this rate. They say that this goes on day and
night. When a shell explodes the room is temporarily darkened by the
cloud of smoke which rises. This is _some_ bombardment; it is worse than
the worst of thunder-storms.

"I have found Verity here. He has been here some time, and is alive and
in the best of health.

"Well, I really must stop now; though I could go on recording every
bang as it comes; there are about two explosions during every sentence
which I write.

"Now do not get anxious, we manage to exist through it all; and I do not
see why my luck should desert me. I am on the one point on the Western
Front where I had a desire to explore. There is something doing here."

And "something doing" there was, much sooner than I expected. I had
reached the Prison at Ypres just in time to hear and feel the best
staged battle in history--the Battle of Messines. The following letter
written home on the evening of June 7, describes Messines Night:

"Since I wrote to Mother yesterday a good deal has happened. About 6.30
I attended a conference consisting of the officers and sergeants of B
Company in Captain Andrew's room; and Captain Andrews explained the
scheme which he had explained to me earlier on; though he did not tell
them quite as much. I, of course, will not tell you what the scheme was!
Then dinner. Things were much quieter now--quieter than they had been
all day. A working party of the Battalion was to leave after dinner. The
2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers are the battalion in reserve to General
Stockwell's brigade at present: we hang out here in the day-time, and go
out on working parties in the trenches in the Salient at night. But
Captain Andrews said that I need not go out with them on this occasion.
So I remained behind and censored letters. While doing so my eyes began
to water--about 11 to 11.30. Then the Company mess-waiter, Private Saul
(Captain Andrews' batman), came in and told me that the Germans were
sending over 'tear gas.' So on with my gas helmet. The gas shells were
bursting outside the windows; but I thought it safe to take off my
helmet after a few minutes; my eyes watered a good deal, that was all.
At about midnight I went to bed.

"For three hours I slept quite comfortably. At 3.15 I was awakened by a
terrific row. The whole place was shaking like an earthquake; the wall
was quivering; our guns were firing rapid as fast as ever they could go;
every gun in the city, in fact, every gun on the British Front for
miles, was pounding the enemy with shells. A man came in to say that the
order was 'everybody down in the cellar.' So I threw some clothes on and
went down there. There was a crowd down there. The parties which had
been out working had returned, but not without casualties; there had
been a few killed and wounded. At a table in the centre of the room, a
lamp on it, sat Captain Andrews, in his shirt sleeves, and other
officers, seriously contemplating a message which had arrived, the
purport of which they were trying to understand. The man who had
brought it was under arrest as a suspected spy; but after inquiries had
been made at Brigade it was discovered that he was perfectly _bona
fide_; So Major Brighten ordered him to be set free.

"I found myself next to Verity, so I asked him whatever all this hubbub
was about. He replied that it was the expected push on our right--'the
Messines push'--taking place. The New Zealanders (and Australians, the
36th Ulster Division, the 16th South Ireland Division, the 23rd
Division, and the 47th London Division) were going over the top, and
this was our barrage. Captain Andrews said that this was a bombardment
which our guns were conducting, double in intensity to any which we
inflicted upon the enemy during the Battle of the Somme! It was a row
indeed, and it continued for some time. Then dawn broke, and it had
slackened. At 5.30 we came upstairs and had some refreshment in the
mess; the gramophone was set going ('The Bing Boys'--'Another little
drink wouldn't do us any harm'--was the precise record which was put on
as soon as we entered the mess!); things were much quieter, but we were
expecting the Germans to retaliate."

It was at these early morning breakfast parties in the Prison that the
grim significance of the word "Gate" impressed itself upon me. "Which
gate did you come in at?" was a very common question which one officer
would ask another on their return from work in the trenches. "I came in
by the Dixmude Gate," or "I came in by the Menin Gate," would be the
reply. And some would say that they had avoided "gates" altogether and
threaded their way across the open. These gates were places of evil
omen. The enemy had the exact range of them, and knew when working
parties would be likely to be passing them. And upon no spot was
conferred a greater legacy of awe than upon the Menin Gate. It was
always one of the most terrible spots in Ypres. People were killed there
every day. To go past the Menin Gate was considered to be asking for it.
So a terror of the Menin Gate was bred in me before I had ever seen the
gruesome, stinking spot. And the Menin Gate had taken its toll on
Messines Night.

My letter continues: "At 6 I went to bed again. Just as I was doing so,
gas shells began to burst once more, but we did not smell much; the wind
could not have been very favourable to the enemy. I soon got to sleep
again. We all did. In my room, apart from myself, there are Verity,
Priestley, and Barker. They are in different companies from me.

"We got up at midday to-day. Things are very much quieter; there are
only, on an average, about one or two bangs per minute; and those are
generally caused by our guns firing shells on the enemy. Very few German
shells have burst here to-day since the terrible bombardment in the
early hours of the morning. We lost no officers last night, but a few
non-commissioned officers and men were killed and wounded while
returning last night. An official message has come through that all our
objectives were captured this morning."

It was on this afternoon that Major Brighten gathered all officers
together for a conference in Headquarters Mess, and read out to us, in
great exultation, a "secret" Special Order of the Day by Sir Douglas
Haig dated, if I remember rightly, the day before Messines. I wish I had
a copy of that Order in my hands now in order that I might quote it
verbatim here. In the course of his Order I remember the Field-Marshal
declared that another such blow as those which we had inflicted upon the
enemy on the Somme, on the Anare, and at Arras would win the war! Major
Brighten, with his eternal optimism, honestly believed it; and so did
everybody else. Everybody was effervescing with excitement about
Plumer's brilliant victory at Messines. I hold now with Mr. John Buchan,
and I realized then, that "Sir Herbert Plumer had achieved what deserves
to be regarded as in its own fashion a tactical masterpiece"; but, as I
have already pointed out, I took a much more telescopic view of the
World War than that. So, while sharing the satisfaction of the others in
the Messines success, I could not endorse the ultra-optimistic view of
the course of the campaign which Sir Douglas Haig had inspired. Major
Brighten was beaming with delight as he read out Sir Douglas Haig's
Order, and informed us that General Jeudwine and General Stockwell, with
whom he had just been conversing, were equally "bucked" about it all.
And he laughingly chaffed me upon my pessimism. I told him quite frankly
that I did not share the general opinion.

That night only one company had to go out to work, and the company
detailed was C Company; so I was not affected.

In the course of a letter written the following day (June 8) I wrote:

"I went to bed about 10 last night. About 2, Barker, Priestley, and
Verity returned from their working parties. Priestley was very doleful;
he was mournfully discussing the horrors of the war, and of his
evening's experiences in particular. And it appears that there was some
reason, for he had been in command of a party of eight whose mission had
been to fetch back some steel helmets from the trenches. (A ruse had
been played upon the Boche on Messines Night. A large number of helmets
had been placed in such a position as to encourage the Boche to think
that we were concentrating troops there instead of, or as well as, at
Messines and Wytschaete!) They were returning, and Priestley was
remarking that the Boche was very quiet just at present, when a shell
burst amongst them. Four of his party were wounded and one killed; and a
piece of shrapnel went right through the tube of his box-respirator, he
himself escaping unhurt. A near shave! 'Well, do you think those helmets
were worth the life of one man and injury to four others?' I heard him

In my next letter (June 9) I wrote:

"There was only one working party last night. I went to bed at 10 p.m.
At 10.20 there was a terrible row on our front. A big artillery duel was
going on, machine-guns were firing continuously, and flares were going
up! I sat up in bed and watched it all through the prison bars. It went
on for about twenty minutes! I should think it must have been a raid of
some sort. Shortly after this, Priestley came to bed, and, later, Verity
and Barker. We had quite a long discussion upon all kinds of topics
ranging from the conduct of the war (East versus West), and the doctrine
of the Apostolical Succession, to the character and policy of Winston
Churchill (whom, of course, they all detest!), and the pre-war morals of
civilian Ypres, concerning which Barker held very decided views. We
went on arguing until dawn broke! Then we got to sleep.

"I rose at 10 this morning. When I entered the mess for breakfast I was
greeted by the inquiry from Captain Andrews: 'How's Palestine?' They all
think that the war will end out here and in two or three months' time!
They think that the next great offensive will end it. I admit that there
is a great deal to be said for their theory; our plans are good, and if
successful, will probably do the trick; but I am none too sanguine. We
shall see. I hope they are right. Everybody does. Everybody is 'fed up'
with the war; that goes without saying. I have not read a single one of
the men's letters in which they do not say that. To say that, and to
inform their people that they are 'in the pink' is the stock substance
of their letters!

"I ought now to tell you something about my platoon. To give you the
names of my non-commissioned officers is surely not giving away any
information which would be of use to the enemy! So I do not see why I
should not do so.

"As I may already have told you I am in command of No. 7 platoon. My
platoon sergeant (second-in-command) is Sergeant Williams. (He was a
waiter in Parker's Restaurant in St. Ann's Square, Manchester, in
pre-war days). A platoon consists of four sections, each of which is
commanded by a corporal. My sections are as follows: Rifle Section
commanded by Lance-Corporal Tipping; Bombing Section commanded by
Lance-Corporal Livesey; Lewis Gun Section commanded by Lance-Corporal
Topping; and Rifle Grenade Section commanded by Corporal Baldwin. You
will notice that a Lewis Gun Section is part of every platoon; I think
that is sufficient answer to your question whether the fact of my
attending lectures on the Lewis Gun meant that I should go into a Lewis
Gun Section.

"There has not been much to do to-day; nor has anything very notable
happened during the day up to now. It is now 6.40 p.m. So I will close."

"June 10th.

"Last night the whole Battalion went out on working parties; so I had
command of a party. My party was detailed to repair the parapet of a
communication trench just behind our front line. I set off with Sergeant
Williams and a party of fourteen men of my platoon at 9.40, just as it
was getting dark. We were soon in the open fields and so could see all
around us the ruined buildings of the great city. Three shells fell
across the path we had traversed, _after_ we had passed the points.
Fritz was just a little too late on each occasion! We went on in the
dusk, amidst the flashes of booming guns and exploding shells and
flares lighting up the weird ruins and ghostly country, as far as a dump
(Potidje) where the remainder of the Battalion appeared to be
congregated. It occurred to me what a number would have been knocked out
if a shell had burst just by this dump just then! Fortunately no such
thing happened. Tools were drawn here; then we proceeded on our way by
platoons. The whole region was swarming with little wooden crosses where
lie the thousands who have fallen on this oft-fought, long-fought, ever
contending, battlefield. We threaded our way along a winding
communication trench (Pagoda Trench). We passed a party in the trench
with bayonets fixed--a party of one officer, Lieutenant Alexander, and
thirty men of the 1/4th King's Own--waiting to go over the top for a
bombing raid on a section of the enemy front line. 'Good-byee!' they
laughed as we passed them. Eventually we reached the point at which we
were to commence work. Flares were going up the whole time; the enemy
_must_ have seen us: the whole crowd of us all in the open by the side
of the trench which was to be repaired! When a flare goes up the whole
place is as light as day for a few seconds; and they were going up all
round the Salient--what remains of it, one side disappeared on Thursday
morning! Now and then a machine-gun would rattle a few rounds, and we
would all duck down; but none of them were ranged on our party.

"At 11.20 I was informed that Captain Andrews wished to see me; and,
with some difficulty, I found him. He was in a trench with the other B
Company officers and Sergeant-Major Hoyle. He had sent for us in order
to tell us that at 11.35 we must each bring our parties into a certain
trench (Oxford Road) for refuge as we knew that the bombing raid was
coming off at 11.45, and we expected that the Germans would retaliate.
So I brought my party into this trench at the appointed time. We were
there just in time. At 11.45 our barrage--artillery, stokes-mortars and
machine-guns--opened on the section of the enemy trench to be raided
(Ibex Trench from Oskar Farm to The Stables) a little to our right; and
as our barrage lifted, the bombers went into the enemy trench. We could
hear the bombs exploding. The enemy replied by sending 'whizz-bangs' in
the vicinity of the trench in which we were taking refuge. Some of them
burst within a yard or two of us; but we crouched behind the parapet,
and there were no casualties.

"At about 12.30 this morning, when the raid was over and things had
quieted, we emerged from the trench and went back to the job. Just
before we got back an ugly instrument of death familiarly known amongst
the boys as a 'minnie' burst about the spot where our work was. That
was not encouraging! But we went back and set to again. One or two more
'minnies' burst not far from us while we were there. You should have
seen us duck! And the flares continued rising and falling. We constantly
heard the shells from the big guns screaming like express trains over
our heads; and every now and then a machine-gun or a Lewis gun would
spurt forth its bullets. We felt anything but comfortable! One man in C
Company was carried away with very bad shell-shock--a 'Blighty' all
right! None of us were sorry when 2 came. Major Brighten came along just
before it was time to stop. 'Is that you, Floyd? How are you going on?'
he inquired as he passed me. He is liked by everybody. He is awfully

"Major Brighten is the young Major who is temporarily in command of the
Battalion while the real Commanding Officer--the notorious Colonel
Best-Dunkley--is home on leave. By the way--I have not seen Colonel
Best-Dunkley yet. He was away when I arrived. I am told that it is a
treat in store for me! He is simply hated by everybody. His reputation
as a beast is famed in 'Blighty.' I heard about him in the 5th Reserve;
and Brian Kemp told me about him when we were in Harrogate. He is
discussed here every day. From what I hear he is a horrible tyrant;
nobody has a good word to say for him. So I am looking forward to
seeing this extraordinary man. He is only twenty-seven! His greeting to
Verity when he arrived a month ago was: 'Who the d---- are you?'

"As soon as it was 2 a.m. we set off back. Going back is generally
considered the most dangerous of all; it is then that most of the
casualties occur. When we were going along one winding communication
trench shells began to burst in front of us right in our course. We bent
down and dashed through the hundred yards or so which these shells were
sweeping as fast as we could go. It was very hot, but we did not trouble
about that; that did not matter; to get safely past the shells was the
important thing. We got through all right, and we managed to get all the
way back to the Prison without a single casualty. I can tell you we felt
very happy when we were safely inside. To think that one should look to
the cells of a prison as a haven of refuge!

"In Lieutenant Alexander's bombing raid five German prisoners were
captured--they are in here now--and three killed. Alexander sustained no
casualties whatever, and got back safely.

"We had breakfast at 3 a.m. and I went to bed about 4 a.m. I rose at 12
this morning. At breakfast we learnt some very good news. To-morrow we
are leaving here and going into rest billets a long way behind the line
for some time. Everybody is very happy indeed about it; I think we
shall have a fine time there. So you have absolutely nothing to worry
about now for quite a long time...."

"Things are very quiet to-day. We had our usual gas parade outside this

"Latterly all the men have been walking about with a windy expression on
their faces; now everybody looks gay in anticipation of the time in
front of us. Don't you think I am really exceedingly lucky? I do."


[2] _Story of the 55th Division_, by Rev. J. O. Coop (page 25).



The following letter, written on June 12, at Millain, recounts my first
impressions of the colonel whose name figures on the title-page of this

"We are now in rest billets a long way behind the line. I write to
narrate to you the journey.

"On Sunday (June 10) I went to bed about 10 p.m., and had only been in
bed half an hour when a very intense battle appeared to have broken out
on our right. A violent artillery duel was in progress, with the usual
accompaniments. The thunder of the guns continued for quite a long time.
I think there must have been something big on: either a further advance
of Plumer's Army or a counter-attack by the Crown Prince Rupprecht. It
was a big row.

"Apropos of Sir Herbert Plumer, the victor of Messines: we were in his
Second Army until that battle; now we have been transferred to Sir
Hubert Gough's Fifth Army. I was amused when I heard Priestley telling
his servant that we had moved into General Gough's Army; the servant
replied 'Oh, he's a fighting man, isn't he, sir? We're in for something
big now!' (General Gough had the reputation of being 'a fire eater.')

"Reveille went at 5.30 yesterday morning. We had breakfast in bed at 6.
It was arranged by Major Brighten that the Battalion should leave the
city by platoons, each platoon moving off at five minutes interval from
the ones in front and behind of it. I moved off with the seventh platoon
at 8.10. We marched through the city as happily as if we were a Sunday
School trip, looking at the magnificent ruins as we passed. Scarcely a
gun was fired on either side the whole time. Things were extraordinarily
quiet. On any ordinary occasion we would have been observed by the enemy
aircraft and strafed like ----; but fortunately it was very dull at the
time, the clouds precluding observation. The weather was in our favour.
The whole Battalion got safely away without a single casualty! An
astonishing feat. Major Brighten has reason to feel very pleased with
himself. We marched along the road for a distance of about four miles,
and then halted and concentrated; then we marched on together and at 10
a.m. reached the transport camp where I first appeared last Tuesday
evening. Here the Battalion was halted and left to have lunch. The
officers were allowed to go into the town (Poperinghe) and have lunch
there if they wished. Donald Allen, the commander of the fifth platoon,
and I, got lifts on two motors down to the town. Then we had baths at
the Divisional Baths there. We then set off to the Officers' Club for
lunch; but just before we got there two other officers called out to us
from the opposite side of the road. They inquired whether we were going
to the Club; and when we replied that we were, they exclaimed: 'Don't;
the C.O.'s there!'

"'Who? _The_ C.O.--Colonel Best-Dunkley?' we asked.

"'Yes,' was the reply. So we jolly well did not go; we went to a
restaurant instead! Apparently Colonel Best-Dunkley had now returned.
Everybody was very fed up at his return.

"At 2 we turned up at the station. The news of the Commanding Officer's
return had already spread throughout the Battalion. We got our platoons
entrained, and then proceeded to the officers' carriages. It was
rumoured that Colonel Best-Dunkley was going to travel by a particular
carriage. You should have seen how that carriage was boycotted! Nobody
would go into it. They preferred to crowd out the other carriages and
leave the tainted carriage empty. It was most noticeable. I do not think
there is a single person in the Battalion who would not rather travel
with the devil incarnate than with Colonel Best-Dunkley.

"He appeared on the scene shortly. There was a flutter of low mutterings
as he appeared. I was very interested to see this extraordinary man of
whom I had heard so much. He stopped two or three doors away from our
own and stood talking to someone inside the carriage. He is small,
clean-shaven, with a crooked nose and a noticeable blink. He looks
harmless enough; but I noticed something about his eyes which did not
look exactly pleasant. He looks more than twenty-seven. When war broke
out he was a lieutenant. It is interesting to note that he was educated
at a military school in Germany! (And he had travelled a good deal in
the Far East. 'When I was in China' was one of his favourite topics of
conversation.) I have not yet spoken to the man, so I am not yet in a
position to judge him myself. I will tell you my own opinion of him when
I have had a little experience of him. I may just remark that an officer
observed in the mess this morning that he supposed that there were some
people who liked the Kaiser, but he was sure that there was not a single
soul who liked Best-Dunkley! That is rather strong.

"Well our train moved off at about 3 p.m. We travelled through pleasant
country to a little town which I cannot, of course, name. (Esquelbeck.)
Here we had tea. I may mention that this place was just over the
frontier--that is to say 'Somewhere in France.'

"Refreshed by our tea (for the preparation of which Padre Newman was
mainly responsible), we began our long march at 7.15 in the evening. We
marched to a village ten miles away (to Millain via Zeggers,
Erkelsbrugge, Bollezeele, and Merekeghem). Colonel Best-Dunkley had gone
on by himself; he left Major Brighten to carry on for the remainder of
the journey. We had the band with us. I enjoyed the march immensely. It
was a beautiful evening and the pretty villages through which we marched
looked at their best. One thing which I have particularly noticed in
France and Belgium is this: that a village, however small, seems to
possess a large and magnificent church. I have not seen a single village
in Belgium or France where the church is not the most prominent object.
And I think that the villages are much healthier and prettier, and in
every way much more inviting, than the towns. It is in such a village
with such a church in pretty rural surroundings that I am now stationed.
Darkness fell while we were on the march. We got here about 10.30,
feeling considerably tired and ready for bed. Talbot Dickinson had been
here a day or two and had arranged about billets. So the men were
immediately shown into their billets. I am billeted in a farm-house; I
have a nice little bedroom all to myself, and sleep in a civilian bed.
So I am very well off. What do you say? I have nothing to grumble about
as regards my quarters. B Company is billeted in the two barns belonging
to this farm: two platoons in each barn. The Company parade in a
delightful field the other side of the barns. There are three officers'
messes: Headquarters and two of two combined companies. B and A
Companies mess together in a house about two minutes' walk from this
farm. Battalion Orderly Room is in a house about five minutes' walk from
here. The other companies are in other parts of the village. General
Stockwell and the remainder of the Brigade have not yet arrived, but
they will be following on shortly. I am very happy here. The weather has
been delightful, and the country looks fine. The trees here are very
tall indeed. There was a heavy downpour of rain at tea-time: the first
real rain we have had while I have been in France this time.

"We have spent the day 'under company arrangements': a series of
inspections in the field outside the barn.

"At 5.30 Colonel Best-Dunkley wished to see all officers and
sergeant-majors at Headquarters Mess. When we got there we adjourned to
Battalion Orderly Room. He kept us until after 7, discussing various
matters of routine. He seemed to have set his mind on purchasing a new
band which was to cost £100 and for which officers should pay their
share according to rank--subalterns to pay £2 each. But there was not a
single person in favour of the idea! The proposal was received in cold
silence. (Everybody had agreed before the conference upon the attitude
to be taken up! I thought the whole affair a huge joke. Plots and
intrigues always appeal to me as exciting.) Then Captain Mordecai--O.C.
C Company--said that he did not think it worth it 'Since the war is
nearly over.' The Colonel did not like that idea at all! He appealed to
Major Brighten for his opinion; and Major Brighten urged that if we are
to spend money like this it would be better spent in helping the men in
some way. Others pointed out that one band was sufficient, and said that
they would rather pay 10s. each for the improvement of the present band.
Colonel Best-Dunkley blinked and twitched his nose in a disapproving
manner. Eventually it was decided that we should not get a new band, but
that we should all pay 10s. towards the present band. Colonel
Best-Dunkley had set his mind on this band enterprise; I do not suppose
he is at all pleased that it has not been taken up! The officers are all
congratulating themselves on their victory. Colonel Best-Dunkley has
announced that we must all see that the men have their equipment
blancoed and polished until it sparkles. I have no personal quarrel with
Colonel Best-Dunkley myself yet--in fact I have not yet exchanged a word
with him--but I cannot say that I am very favourably impressed."



It was at Millain that I had my first personal interview with Colonel
Best-Dunkley. That interview is recounted in the following letter, dated
June 13:

" ... The weather continues to be glorious: too hot to do anything. I am
Orderly Officer to-day. One of my duties as such is to inspect the
billets. They are scattered on all sides of the village, so quite an
appreciable walk is entailed. The Orderly Sergeant and I had a drink of
milk at one farm. We felt a little refreshed after that. I mounted the
guard with the Regimental Sergeant-Major. (Clements.) This afternoon he
has been made Sergeant of the Transport, and has been succeeded as
R.-S.-M. by Sergeant-Major Hoyle of B Company. Sergeant Preston becomes
Company Sergeant-Major of B Company.

"Yesterday the padre was appointed President of the Sports Committee,
but, as the Colonel wanted to arrange everything on his own
lines--suggesting races in full pack, amongst other things!--he has
resigned to-day.

"I had my first interview with Colonel Best-Dunkley this morning. As
Orderly Officer I was present at Commanding Officer's Orders. When he
arrived at the Orderly Room he saw me and said:

"'Who are you? Let me see, I don't think I have been introduced to you
yet. How are you?'

"I replied that my name was Floyd; and he shook hands quite genially!

"There were only two cases up for orders. One man was there for cheeking
a sergeant. He had called the sergeant something which cannot be
repeated here.

"'Why the b---- h---- did you speak to an N.C.O. like that?' exclaimed
the Colonel in a Judge Jeffreys tone. 'Will you take my sentence? Or
will you have a court martial?' he demanded.

"The man replied that he would take the Colonel's sentence.

"'Fourteen days Field Punishment No. 1,' snapped the Colonel. Exit

"After orders, Colonel Best-Dunkley asked me: 'What is your strong
point?' I replied that I was sorry to have to say so, but I had none; I
was not a specialist on anything. He did not even then become annoyed,
but went on asking me one or two other questions. How long had I been
gazetted? 'Not long,' was his comment on my reply. How long had I been
in the Army? What unit was I in before? Where had I been educated? When
I had answered these questions he expressed himself satisfied; so I
saluted and departed. So I am on quite good terms with him so far,
despite his terrible reputation! The question is--how long shall I
remain on good terms with him? I wonder."

The next letter (June 14) recounts one of those solemn Battalion parades
which I recollect so well--those parades concerning which copious orders
used to be issued the night before, and in preparation for which we were
instructed in the formula which we (platoon commanders) had to employ
when the Colonel, to the accompaniment of sweet sounds from the band,
reached the edge of our platoons:

"We had a Battalion parade in a large field this morning. There was a
long type-written programme of the ceremony to be gone through. We
paraded on the company parade ground at 8 a.m. and the Colonel arrived
on the Battalion parade ground at 9 a.m. He rode round the Battalion.
When he reached my platoon he called me up to him and asked me whether I
had a roll of my platoon. I replied that I had. He asked me whether I
had it on me; and I replied that I had, and produced it. He seemed
perfectly satisfied. He also asked me one or two other questions; to
all of which I was able to give a satisfactory answer. And last night as
I passed him in the road and saluted he smiled most affably and said
'good evening.' So he is quite agreeable with me so far. I do not
therefore yet join in the general condemnation of him. As far as I can
tell at present his chief faults appear to me to be: that he suffers
from a badly swelled head; that he fancies himself a budding Napoleon;
that he is endowed by the fates with a very bad temper and a most vile
tongue; that he is inconsiderate of his inferiors wherever his personal
whims and ambitions are concerned; and that he is engrossed with an
inordinate desire to be in the good graces of the Brigadier-General, who
is really, I believe, a very good sort. Apart from those failings, some
of which are, perhaps, excusable, I think he is probably all right. You
may be sure that his unpopularity will not prejudice me against him; I
shall not join in the general condemnation unless and until he gives me
good reason. As yet I have no such reason. Up to now his personality is
merely a source of curiosity and amusement.

"During the course of the morning's training, Captain Andrews rearranged
the composition of the platoons in the Company; so I now command the
eighth platoon. Sergeant Clews is the name of the platoon sergeant.
Sergeant Dawson (who saw Norman Kemp killed and has the same high
opinion of his heroic qualities as everybody else, whether officer,
N.C.O., or man, who knew him; who tells me that he was by far the most
loved officer in the Battalion--'one who will never be forgotten') is
also in my platoon.

"In the afternoon I went with the Company on a bathing parade. It was
about half an hour's march. They bathed in a canal.

"After tea I had a stroll in the country: it is very pretty, especially
this weather....

"Captain Andrews goes home on leave to-night; so Lieutenant Halstead is
in command of B Company for a fortnight."

"June 15th.

"The weather continues hot. We had another Battalion parade this
morning: procedure the same as yesterday. The Colonel is still most
agreeable; he has not said a cross word to me yet.

"We took the afternoon easy, except that there was a parade for
inspection of equipment at 4 p.m.

"I received, this afternoon, a letter from you of June 11, and one from
Mother of June 10, also enclosures. I am sorry to learn that you are
both worrying. What's the use of worrying? What is there to worry about?
I am quite safe. If I had the 'wind up' it might be another matter; but
I do not, strange to say, even dread the time when we shall go back
into the line! I think it rather exciting. One is inclined to feel a
little 'windy' when shells and 'minnies' are bursting dangerously near,
or when a machine-gun spurts out of the gloaming; but there is a certain
element of excitement about it all. I would not have missed those few
days in the Salient for worlds. I had a pleasant 'baptism of fire'
there. Everybody seems to think that it was worse than going over the
top in a push. Those who fought at the Battle of the Somme last year say
that they would rather be there than in the place where we were last
week! Candidly, I cannot understand it.

"We shall remain out of the line for some time yet--so cheer up!"



I now come to one of the most remarkable, and in some respects certainly
the most comical, of all the episodes in which Colonel Best-Dunkley
figured--the memorable march from Millain to Westbecourt. The following
lengthy epistle which I wrote in my billet in the Vale of Acquin at
Westbecourt the following day draws a perfectly accurate picture of what

"You will be interested to learn that we have moved again. We are now
billeted in a pretty little village in the heart of north-eastern

"Yesterday, Saturday June 16, 1917--the hundred and second anniversary
of Ligny and Quatre Bras--is a day I am not likely ever to forget. Such
a march we had; and it was _some_ stunt! Let me tell you, as far as I
can without naming places, the whole story.

"Reveille sounded at 3 a.m. I rose at 5 a.m. We (the officers) had
breakfast at 5.30. Parade at 6. At 6.45 we marched off from the village
in which we had been billeted during the last few days. It was a very
long march which we had before us to the village in which we now are--a
distance of sixteen miles. Yet we were expecting to arrive there by
midday! I will show you how events turned out so that we did not arrive
here anything like midday. The weather was, and is, just as it has been
all the time--a cloudless sky and a burning sun. It was already quite
warm when we set off, and as the morning advanced the sun naturally
became more powerful still. We joined up with the rest of the Brigade a
little further on, and marched past General Stockwell and Major Thompson
(the Brigade-Major)."

It was in the streets of Watten that we marched past Stockwell; and I
vividly recollect that he was not at all pleased with things as early as
that. I distinctly heard the word 'rabble' burst from his lips! The
letter proceeds:

"Men began to fall out before we reached the first village (or town as
it happened to be). And as soon as the falling out began it continued
without ceasing, only becoming more frequent the farther we got. I do
think they began falling out too early. Every time a man fell out we
subalterns had to drop behind with him and give him a chit. That
naturally took time and one got right behind; then one would endeavour
to catch up again; as soon as one was back with one's own
platoon--generally before--one would come across more men of one's
company who had fallen out, and so would get right back again. Thus it
went on the whole time. It meant that we had double the walking to do
that the men had; and we were loaded like Christmas trees just like
them. Fortunately there was a mess cart with the Transport, containing
still lemonade; so I had a drink now and then. It is an Army idea that
one should not drink on the march: that it knocks one up much quicker. I
say frankly, from experience, that it is nonsense. I drank as much as I
could get hold of on the way (by no means as much as I could have
drunk!) and though I was jolly tired I was as fresh as anybody else, and
a good deal fresher than the majority, as you will see later. Well,
after the first halt the falling out became dreadful; it was almost
impossible for us to cope with the number of chits required; crowds must
have been without chits at all. The whole roadside became one mass of
exhausted men lying full length. Some were very bad indeed, some had
sunstroke, some were sick, more than one were dying. At one time the
padre and I were a long way behind, attending to these men. We hurried
on to catch up the Battalion. The Transport, under Humfrey, were just
behind the Battalion, so we followed along the Transport. When we got to
the front end of it we saw nothing beyond! 'Where is the Battalion?' I
asked Humfrey. He informed me that he had lost it. The Adjutant had, at
the last turning, sent the Battalion one way and the Transport another;
and he (Humfrey) had not the faintest idea where he was to go to! So he
halted and got out a map. Then the Medical Officer (Adam) arrived on the
scene too. We told him that the Battalion had disappeared. So we
(Newman, Adam, Humfrey, and myself) sat down for about five minutes and
discussed the situation. It struck us as being rather comical, though we
wished that we were at the end of our journey instead of in a strange
village and ignorant of which way we were to go. Humfrey decided to take
his Transport the same way as the remainder of the Brigade Transport had
gone; so we went on with him! We went across some very open country. The
sun was simply burning down upon us. I felt very exhausted now; but I
can stick almost anything in the way of a route march; no route march
could, in my opinion, be as bad as that memorable Kidlington-Yarnton
route march in March, 1916. The difficulty then was fatigue caused by
the march through thick, soft slushy snow when vaccination was just at
its worst; the difficulty this time was fatigue and thirst caused by the
heat of a French summer. I admit that this route march yesterday was a
stern test of endurance; but if I could stick the Kidlington-Yarnton
stunt I could stick this, and I did stick this all the way, which very
few others did! The trail which we left behind us was a sight to be
seen: men, rifles, equipment, riderless horses all over; the Retreat
from Moscow was spoken of! 'An utter fiasco, a debacle!' exclaimed Padre

"Before we had gone with the Transport very far the Medical Officer was
called round a corner to see a man who was reported to be dying; the
padre went with him. I went on with the Transport. After a time I saw
Lieutenant Reginald Andrews (the Adjutant) standing alone in a village;
so it looked as if the remains of our Battalion must be somewhere about.
A little further on I found Captain Blamey (O.C. D Company) and Giffin
sitting by the side of the road. I asked them what they were doing, and
they replied that they had fallen out with Sergeant-Major Howarth who
was very bad indeed--reported to be dying. So the Battalion had passed
that way.

"I went on, and, in about ten minutes, saw ahead Colonel Best-Dunkley
standing at the corner of a road branching off to the left from the road
I was proceeding along with the Transport (just outside the village of
Boisdinghem). Just as I reached this corner Brigadier-General Stockwell
rode up from the opposite direction (on horseback) and, with a face
wincing with wrath, accosted Colonel Best-Dunkley as follows:

"'Dunkley, where's your Battalion?'

"'This is my Battalion here, sir,' replied the Colonel, standing
submissively to attention and indicating fifteen officers,
non-commissioned officers, and men--all told--lying in a state of
exhaustion at the side of this shaded country road.

"'What! You call that a Battalion? Fifteen men! I call it a rabble. What
the b---- h---- do you mean by it? Your Battalion is straggling all
along the road right away back to (Watten)! You should have halted and
collected them; not marched on like this. These men have not had a long
enough halt or anything to eat all day. If this is the way you command a
Battalion, you're not fit to command a Battalion. You're not even fit to
command a platoon!'

"The General then said that the Colonel, the Adjutant, and four company
commanders could consider themselves 'under arrest'! The General was
simply fuming with wrath; I do not think I have ever seen a man in such
a temper. And I certainly never heard a colonel strafed in front of his
own men before. It was an extraordinary scene. Those who have writhed
under the venom of Colonel Best-Dunkley in the past would, doubtless,
feel happy at this turning of the tables as it were, a refreshing
revenge; but I must admit that my sympathy was with Colonel
Best-Dunkley--and so was that of all present--in this instance, for we
all felt that the General's censure was undeserved. It was not Colonel
Best-Dunkley's fault; if it was anybody's fault it was the General's own
fault for ordering the march by day instead of by night, and for not
halting the Brigade for a long enough period earlier on in the course of
the march. One felt that Colonel Best-Dunkley was being treated
unjustly, especially as the North Lancs. had only arrived with ten! And
the Irish had not yet arrived at all! (These facts must soon have become
apparent to General Stockwell, and, perhaps, caused him, inwardly at any
rate, to modify his judgment). And the way Colonel Best-Dunkley took it,
the calm and submissive manner in which he bore General Stockwell's
curses and the kind and polite way in which he afterwards gave orders
to, and conversed with, his inferiors, both officers and men, endeared
him to all. I consider that out of this incident Colonel Best-Dunkley
has won a moral victory. He played his cards very well, and feeling
changed towards him as a result.

"The General went on: 'You yourself, the Adjutant, and four mounted
officers go right back to (Watten) immediately and collect your men
together and bring them along here before you proceed any further.'

"'I _have_ sent two officers down the road, sir,' replied the Colonel.

"'What the d----s the use of detailing unmounted officers for the job?'
snapped General Stockwell. The Colonel said something else, and the
General replied, 'That's no excuse.'

"Then General Stockwell went off, and Colonel Best-Dunkley carried out
his orders. We could see that we were now in for a very long halt here.
It would take a deuce of a time to collect the Battalion together again!
So we lay down under the shade of the roadside hedge and discussed the
whole affair. Three sergeant-majors had fallen out on the way, two very
bad indeed; officers had fallen out; and men wearing ribbons of the
D.C.M. and the M.M., heroes of Gallipoli and the Somme, men who had
never been beaten by a route march before, were lying along the country
roads; so there must have been some reason for it! Amongst the sturdy
fifteen were the new Regimental Sergeant-Major (Hoyle) and
Sergeant-Major Preston of B Company; and there were also a few officers.
The Transport made us some tea, which we enjoyed immensely. Humfrey had
his little fox terrier, 'Darky,' who was born in the trenches at
Thiepval during the Battle of the Somme last summer, with him. It is a
nice little dog. I found a gold ring on the road just by me; and I
intend to keep it as a souvenir of the episode.

"We remained here for five hours--from 2.30 to 7.30. Men were
reinforcing us all the time. After about half an hour General Stockwell
appeared again. Glaring at Sergeant-Major Hoyle he addressed him as

"'Here are fifteen men whom _I_ myself--_I_--have collected along the
road. Get them some tea at once, sergeant-major!' He glanced at us all
and then rode off again. He is clean-shaven and exceptionally young for
a General; I should think he is not more than thirty-five. He is rather
good-looking, but he has _some_ temper. Some one remarked that General
Stockwell and Colonel Best-Dunkley were men of similar temperament; on
this occasion the latter had run up against the former; this interesting
little episode at this country corner was the result!

"There was an aerodrome near by (at Boisdinghem), and the Major there
kindly sent his motor-lorries down the road to fetch up our men; so they
kept arriving in motor-lorries the whole afternoon.

"I can tell you we enjoyed this rest. One officer who had fallen out saw
a mail motor-lorry. The driver said that he was looking for the (164)
Brigade! So he got a lift. The mail arrived while we were resting in
this shaded road; so I got your letter of June 12 and the enclosed
letters, and read them there....

"When we marched off again it was much cooler. The majority of the
Battalion had been collected during the five hours, and we marched
happily on--the band playing. The country was pretty, and everything was
gay! The Colonel was awfully nice, inquiring whether the step was to our
liking, and making himself agreeable in every possible way. All were
pleased with him.

"We arrived at our destination at 8.30, and the men were taken straight
into the barns where they are billeted. Tea was served out immediately.

"I am billeted in a farm again. The people are very decent indeed. The
woman gave me three drinks as soon as I arrived, offering them herself
and refusing to take any payment for them; she also offered to boil me a
couple of eggs, but I did not wish to put on good nature any further.
There is a nice little boy named Edmond, aged fourteen. I talked to him
in French as much as it was possible for me to do in that language. He
cannot speak English....

"Allen and I are both billeted in the same room here. B Company Mess is
in a house close by, and B Company are billeted in the barns of a farm
almost opposite.

"The village we are in (Westbecourt) is geographically divided into two
parts, north and south. The southern portion, in which we are, is a
valley (le Val d'Acquin). The northern part is on the reverse slope of a
hill which lies on the other side of the valley. Battalion Headquarters
is at a farm on that northern side of the high ground, just by the

"We rose at 10 a.m. this morning. The weather to-day has been hotter
than ever. One perspires even when quite still. The sun has been
scorching down. We had an inspection at 11, and the M.O. came round to
inspect the men's feet at 2.40. Just as he was going away the Colonel
turned up at the farm where B Company is in billets. He was on
horseback, in slacks and in his shirt-sleeves; to live in one's shirt
sleeves is a very common custom this weather. He informed us that
General Stockwell is coming to inspect the Battalion to-morrow!

"During the day I have been exploring the village. It is very pretty
indeed, much prettier than the last place we were at. There are thick
woods, green fields, shaded avenues--some completely arched by all kinds
of trees; and, the district being hilly, the country is thus all the
more charming. Milk is very cheap here. I got a big bowl of milk for 1d.
at one farm in the valley the other side of the hill. It is splendid
here; and we are likely to remain here some time.

"At 7.40 the padre conducted a short voluntary church parade service in
an orchard behind the farm in which C Company hangs out--just opposite
the farm in which I am billeted. Allen, Priestley, Barker, Giffin, and I
were there. The band was there for the first hymn--it then had to go to
Headquarters to play 'retreat' at 8 p.m. There were about twenty

Sergeant-Major Howarth, D.C.M., died at St. Omer that day, overpowered
by the march of the previous day. "He was not at all the class of man
one can afford to lose, and his loss was greatly deplored," comments the
_Lancashire Fusiliers' Annual_. And Sergeant-Major Howarth was not, I
believe, the only casualty of the kind caused by the march.

Before I close this chapter I ought to say a word about the Brigadier
whose personality dominates the canvas. I do not wish it to be supposed
that I desire to reflect in any way upon the character and ability of
General Stockwell. Nothing could be further from my mind. I relate the
incident because it strikes me as being funny, because such an episode
forms the subject for an interesting study in the bearing of two
remarkable personalities, and because I hold that the truth should
always be told about such matters. The episode has long been a topic of
intimate conversation amongst members of the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers
and their friends; many a laugh have we had about it. Why should not
the public be allowed to laugh with us?

All men and women, even the greatest, are capable of making mistakes.
Nobody is perfect. Even the great Napoleon made mistakes. So General
Stockwell will not, I am sure, claim to be immaculate. But for Clifton
Inglis Stockwell as a General I entertain, and always have entertained,
feelings of the most profound respect. Nobody can possibly entertain a
more ardent devotion for a leader than I entertain for General Stockwell
under whom it has been my good fortune to have the honour to serve in
1917, in 1918, and in 1919. The longer I have served under him the more
have I admired his perfectly obvious talent, his brilliant initiative,
and his striking personality. His record in the Great War is unique. As
a captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, he commanded a company in the
retreat from Mons in 1914. He rose rapidly. He became a major; and he
became a colonel; and, during the Battle of the Somme, in 1916, he
became a Brigadier-General, succeeding Brigadier-General Edwards in
command of the 164th Brigade. And he remained in command of that famous
Brigade until the end of the war. As I studied the countenance of
General Stockwell on that country road at Boisdinghem that afternoon I
realized that he was no ordinary twopenny-halfpenny brigadier; but I
did not then know that this was the man who, less than twelve months
later, was destined to stand between Ludendorff and decisive victory in
his last dramatic throw at Givenchy on the glorious ninth of April, and
seven months later still to be chosen to command the flying column known
by his name which captured Ath on Armistice Day and fired the last shots
of the Great War. It is right that Stockwell's place in history should
be duly appreciated.



This chapter will be a very short one; but, despite its brevity, it
seems to me that the event narrated in it should form the subject of a
single chapter. General Stockwell's speech at Westbecourt, on Waterloo
day, 1917, was a very remarkable speech; it was the most striking speech
I have ever heard--and I have listened to a good many famous public
speakers in my time--and it produced a very profound impression upon all
who heard it. I only wish there had been a reporter present to take it
down verbatim. But that could not be. Those were the days of that most
objectionable of all tyrants, the Censor! I can but quote from the
letter which I wrote home from Westbecourt on June 18:

"The Battalion paraded in a field just by my billet this morning.
General Stockwell arrived at 10.45. The General Salute, Present Arms,
was ordered by Best-Dunkley. The General rode up, and, facing the
Battalion, said to Best-Dunkley: 'All right; slope arms, order arms,
stand at ease, and close up your companies.' The Colonel gave the
required orders. General Stockwell then addressed the Battalion.
'Colonel Best-Dunkley, gentlemen, non-commissioned officers, and men of
the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers, I am very sorry indeed to have to say
what I am going to say to you now'--he began. He then spoke about the
march of Saturday, drew a vivid picture of the scene as it appeared to
him, said that he had had very great faith in the discipline of this
Battalion and was very sorry that under stress our discipline should
prove so weak; said that the Brigade had been selected for the most
difficult and trying part in the forthcoming operations (he then told us
what part: I cannot, of course, reveal what!) because Sir Douglas Haig
considers us the best brigade in the Division, and that if we could not
stick Saturday what would we do then? He remarked that the Lancashire
Fusiliers had won more V.C.'s than any other regiment in the British
Army, and he closed by saying that he would still trust us, and hoped
that we would act up to our traditions in the future.

"Having said his say he disappeared as quickly as he had appeared!

"We then carried on with training. We finished at 12. The weather is
still hot.

"I had a stroll about the village this afternoon, having some milk
again at the farm I spoke of yesterday.

"At 6.15 this evening we were all summoned to a conference at Battalion
Headquarters. Colonel Best-Dunkley told us all about a new scheme of
training which commences to-morrow and also explained to us the plan of
campaign and what part we are to play, with reference to the exact
points on the map, in the next great battle, which he said would be the
greatest battle of the war. It is a thing which I have always thought
ought to be done. And I may say that I am of a very decided opinion that
_if_ it is a _complete success_ there is not a shade of doubt but that
peace will be signed in September; but unless it is a complete success
we shall have to wait for Maude and Murray in Asia Minor.... This battle
is not going to be fought just yet; we have to practise it all first!

"There is no harm in telling you that the Colonel told us that we should
remain billeted in this village for the remainder of this month at
least. And it is a delightful little village to be in. But we are an
hour and a half's march from the divisional training area where we are
now going to proceed for training every day....

"Every time June 18 comes round I cannot help thinking of the great
drama brought to a close on that day in 1815. Before many weeks have
passed I myself will probably partake in the operations of another
Waterloo fought upon the blood-stained soil of unhappy Belgium! I always
said that I would be in at the finish whether that finish happens to be
in Belgium, on the Rhine, or in Palestine, didn't I?"

Yes, It was my destiny to be "in at the finish;" but the finish was not,
as so many of our optimists then thought it would be, at Ypres in 1917!
The decisive victory was not to be ours until Foch and Sir Henry Wilson
were at the head of military affairs and D'Esperey at Cerna and Allenby
at Armageddon had won their Waterloo in the September of 1918; and when
Stockwell's Force fired the last shots at Ath in Belgium I was there!



We now commenced that early rising and continuous training with which we
soon became heartily "fed up."

"June 19th.

"I rose at 3.30 this morning, made a hurried breakfast, and went on
parade at 4.15. We marched about three miles to the training area. Our
dress on this occasion was without tunics, but Sam Brown and other
articles of equipment over our shirts; shirt-sleeves rolled up. When we
reached very open country, high up on the moorland, a thunder-storm came
on and we were drenched! It was splendid. As we were wet through, we
marched back to our village again when it got fine! It was quite fine
again when we got back. It is just a little cooler now, but is quite
fine and warm.

"At 11 we had a conference at Battalion Headquarters. The Colonel
informed us that we are moving again, after all, to-morrow! We are going
to another village eighteen miles away. I expect the reason is because
the selected training area for us while here is not satisfactory. I am
sorry we are moving again so soon, because I like this village...."

"June 20th.

" ... An order came round yesterday evening to the effect that we might
move to the new place by bus, it might be by march; in case it should be
the latter we must be prepared to move off at 2 in the morning. Later in
the evening Regimental Sergeant-Major Hoyle came to see us in B Company
Officers' Mess, as he frequently does by invitation, and told us that it
was now official that we were to move by motor-bus at 7 this morning; so
we all decided to go to bed. We got up at 4.30 this morning and had
breakfast. We were then informed that the move was 'washed out' for
to-day, and that we were to carry on with training. A parade was
ordered, and took place at 6.30, for the purpose of proceeding to the
training area as per yesterday; but it rained, and the parade was
dismissed with orders to stand by until further orders. Then a
box-respirator inspection in billets, with drill on same, was ordered
and took place; it was, I may incidentally remark, the second they had
already had during the day. This kind of thing went on for some time;
the weather cleared up; and then another parade was ordered and took
place at 9.15. We then marched off to the training area. We went four or
five miles this time, further than we went yesterday. We passed through
that village where the padre and I lost the Battalion on the march here
on Saturday! We halted in a field beyond that village. Then Colonel
Best-Dunkley asked for all officers. We all sat round him on the grass
for about a quarter of an hour while he explained to us a tactical
scheme which the Battalion was now to carry out in the district. We then
carried out the tactical scheme which took place over potato fields and
fine crops--it seemed a great pity for the farmers! We all had to move
our platoons across country to a certain position, each platoon
proceeding separately, but, of course, keeping its correct distance from
the others, and, by means of scouts and runners, keeping in
communication. On the front along which I had to proceed with my platoon
there were numerous fields enclosed by thick hedges and awkward
obstacles; but I got it along all right, without either map or compass.
In one lane I encountered Major Brighten, sitting on horseback. He asked
me various questions about the position, and gave me a word or two of
advice. I really like Major Brighten very much; he is the nicest, as
well as one of the most capable, officer in the Battalion. When the
scheme was over, Halstead told me that my platoon was in exactly the
right position. That information was a pleasant surprise!

"We then marched back. Some of the way I rode on Halstead's horse,
'Peter.' He must be a very good horse, because I got along all right; he
did not play any pranks. We got back at 3.45.... We had a kind of lunch
at 4 p.m. At 5.30 we attended a conference of all officers at Battalion
Headquarters. The Colonel discussed the scheme, and criticized most
officers very roundly; fortunately he had nothing whatever to say about
me! While we were there the Adjutant opened an order from Brigade to the
effect that the move is now cancelled altogether; so we are remaining
here for our training. I am glad."

"June 21st.

"We were up at 4 again this morning. I am becoming very 'fed up' with
this stupidly early rising. I have no particular objection to shells or
to route marches in themselves; but I do object to being awakened from a
pleasant sleep and having to get up at 4 every morning! It makes one
feel so washed out.

"At 5 we marched off on a Battalion route march. We went round about
nine miles, and got back at 9.45. Then there was a kit inspection; then
gas drill. This afternoon I had a stroll in the woods. There was a foot
inspection at 4; there is a battle-order inspection at 5.40; and this
evening there is to be bayonet fighting and bombing! The men are, quite
naturally, not pleased."

"June 22nd.

"We marched off at 6 this morning to a range about seven miles away (at
Cormette). When we had been going about twenty minutes it began to rain.
It rained all the way, but we went on just the same. I had no coat, so
was thoroughly wet. When we got to the range it was still raining. We
had lunch there and discussed whether to fire or not. We got there at 9.
At 11 it was decided to return without firing."

This, I remember, was the occasion upon which I first met John
Bodington, who had just returned to the Battalion, from leave I suppose.
He was then second-in-command of D Company, and did not possess a single
ribbon. Few could have guessed what a remarkable military future lay
before him. "I should guess he's about the luckiest fellow that ever
dodged a 5.9," remarked a friend, now on the Rhine, who wrote to me the
other day (August 11, 1919).

"It simply poured on the way back. I was drenched to the skin. I do not
think I have ever had such a drenching before. The ground was thick with
mud and slush. We were all horribly dirty. It was 2 p.m. when we got
back. I took off my things and had them dried by the fire. The people in
this billet are really very decent indeed. I went to bed for an hour.
Then tea. At 6 we had a lecture on the compass, by Major Brighten."

"June 23rd.

"Reveille was not quite so early as usual this morning. We did not march
off from here until 8 a.m. We then went, in battle-order, to the
training area. While there I saw, through my field-glasses, General Sir
Hubert Gough, Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Watts, Major-General
Jeudwine, and Brigadier-General Stockwell, on horseback, together with a
whole crowd of staff-officers, on the crest of a hill some distance
away. They were too far off for their faces to be distinguishable; but I
knew that they were the above-mentioned generals because Major Brighten
told us yesterday that they were coming. They were inspecting the

"The weather to-day has been very nice--sunshine, yet neither too hot
nor too cold. We got back at 2. Then lunch. I then went to the farm the
other side of the hill for some milk. Then tea. Then bombing. Then
dinner. Then letter-writing. Now bed!

"Would you mind sending me a Lancashire Fusilier cap badge? Excuse me
asking for something fresh in every letter, but Colonel Best-Dunkley has
conceived the brilliant idea that our battalion should set an example to
the rest of the Brigade--'lead the way,' as he calls it--by having cap
badges in our steel helmets as well as in our soft hats. Of course with
such devices we cannot fail to defeat the enemy next time we encounter
him! What a life!

"We are hoping, but scarcely daring to expect, that a somewhat easier
day will be ours to-morrow, Sunday!"

"June 24th.

"I did not get up until 9 this morning. Church parade was at 10. The
service was, of course, taken by Newman.... The service was held in the
field which is the Battalion parade ground. After the service the padre
had a communion service in a corner of the field for those who wished to
stay. About twenty men stayed, and the following officers--Colonel
Best-Dunkley, Allen, Gratton, Giffin and myself. The padre had a
miniature oak altar, containing a crucifix, with two lighted candles, on
a table.

"After this Colonel Best-Dunkley walked down the lane with us and
accepted Giffin's invitation to come inside B Company's Mess. He had a
drink with us there, and stayed a minute or two. He remarked that it was
a dirty mess, pointed out a match on the floor, and, with his customary
blink and twitch of the nose, asked how we dare ask him into such a
dirty mess; but he also paid us the compliment of saying that B Company
was the best working company in the Battalion! Then we walked up to
Headquarters with him as he wanted us there. He told us that Sir Hubert
Gough expressed himself pleased with the Battalion yesterday. When we
got to Headquarters he gave us a paper to answer--an account of an
operation upon which we were each to write a report. We then returned
and wrote out the reports. Then lunch.

"The weather has been glorious to-day--bright sunshine, with a
refreshing breeze, not too hot. This afternoon I had a walk in the
country beyond this village, and strolled about a thickly-clustered
wood, plucking wild strawberries and eating them. Then back for tea.
Then letter censoring.

" ... We are supposed to do an hour's reading per day of military
text-books, and have to send in to Orderly Room a certificate to that
effect every evening!"

"June 25th.

"We have been to the range again to-day. A and B Companies went later
than the others, so we did not leave here until 8.45. It was 11.45 when
we got there. The weather was glorious as usual; and, since there was a
slight breeze, it was not too hot. We got the men into details of eight
and fired this time. We had taken our lunch with us, and so we had it
there. The ground there (at Cormette) is very high, and there is a
splendid view. I put my glass on it. We remained there until 4. Then we
marched back....

"I had three sergeants with my platoon to-day--Sergeant Clews, the
platoon-sergeant, Sergeant Dawson, and Sergeant Baldwin. The latter I
like very much; he is a very pleasant youth; he was a corporal in 7th
Platoon when I first joined the Battalion. My four section commanders in
8th Platoon are Corporal Pendleton (Bombers), Lance-Corporal Morgan
(Rifleman), Lance-Corporal Flint (Rifle Grenadiers, and Gas N.C.O.), and
Lance-Corporal Riley (Lewis Gunners). Lance-Corporal Topping, of 7th
Platoon, lives in Oldham Road, Middleton; he is a nice easy-going boy; I
like him very much. He told me, when we were out on that working party
on June 9, that he knew my face.

"Since I am on this subject I might mention that there are the following
sergeants in B Company: Sergeant-Major Preston, Quartermaster-Sergeant
Jack, Sergeant Donovan, Sergeant Butterworth, Sergeant Williams, and the
three I have mentioned above. I think the most competent N.C.O. in my
platoon, apart from Dawson, who does not command a section, and Baldwin,
who really belongs to 7th Platoon, is Corporal Pendleton. My servant is
Critchley. He is, of course, in my platoon. He is a very obliging man. I
am perfectly satisfied with him. Officers' servants also act as runners.
I think it is a bit thick on the part of the Colonel making them go on
parade; it means that they have very little time to themselves.

"The B Company officers are: Captain Andrews (Officer Commanding),
Lieutenant Halstead (Second-in-Command) who is Company Commander while
Captain Andrews is on leave, Lieutenant Giffin (a Rossall boy who, with
the traditional Rossall touch, tries to play the 'senior sub'
part--always ticking one off and making personal remarks),
Second-Lieutenant Allen, Second-Lieutenant Gratton, and myself. Gratton
was a private in Gallipoli, and so is a decent sort. Allen is very
orthodox and proper, and gets very 'windy' about being on parade in
time; but he is a good sort and we are great friends. He comes from
Buxton way somewhere. Gratton comes from the south; he was in the Royal
Fusiliers as a Tommy. Halstead comes from Haslingden; he is a very
decent, calm, fellow. He is married. Giffin comes from Burnley. He is
about my age. Gratton is twenty-seven. The two latter were on leave when
I arrived.

"Two new officers have recently arrived from Scarborough--Walsh and
Hickey. They arrived there from cadet battalions just before I came out
here. They are in A Company, which is at present commanded by Captain
Briggs, Captain Cochrane being on leave. Lieutenant Ronald, an Argyll
and Sutherland Highlander attached to this Battalion--a decent sort--is
also in A Company; he has just been on leave. Leave comes round in turn
throughout the officers of the Battalion; it will be a long time before
my turn comes: perhaps when the war is over! Horace Beesley of D Company
is very nice with me; he is an awfully decent sort. Lieutenant Joye, who
is in command of Headquarters Company, is an amusing fellow; he is large
and fat, with yellow hair and a smiling face. Colonel Best-Dunkley is
always going for him; he had him under open arrest for something paltry
the other day! Lieutenant West is Assistant Adjutant and also physical
training officer. Captain Bodington is in command of D Company while
Captain Blamey is on leave. Reggie Andrews, the Adjutant, amuses me. He
does not seem to worry much, though the Colonel gives him a deuce of a
time; he is very short-sighted, but does not wear glasses. He is very

"I am Orderly Officer to-day and have not performed a single duty
appertaining thereto! It was too late to mount the guard when I got back
from the range; and the Colonel had a conference of all officers this
evening at the time when staff parade was being held. These conferences
are a bore. The Colonel blinks and twitches his nose, and the thing
dawdles on. The subject of the conference on this occasion was to
discuss a Brigade scheme taking place on the training area on

"June 27th.

"We have had hardly a moment to ourselves during the last two days. At 9
yesterday morning we walked to the training area, as all officers and
N.C.O.'s had to reconnoitre the area in which the Brigade stunt was to
take place to-day. When we got a little beyond the aerodrome, Allen,
Verity, Barker and I got a lift in a Flying Corps tender as far as
(Cormette), the little village where we had to assemble at 10. We then
went over the area using maps, and the scheme was explained. The area
was exactly the same in dimensions as that with which we shall have to
deal in the great battle, and positions were named by the names of
positions which we shall attack then; strong points were marked by rings
of flags. We spent a terribly long time up there; we sat down waiting
for company commanders to return for about two hours. The whole thing, I
am sure, could have been done in much less time. The position of advance
allotted to our Battalion was on the extreme left of the Brigade, B
Company on the left of the Battalion, and 8th Platoon, therefore, on the
extreme left of the Brigade....

"It was nearly 5 p.m. before we got back, having had no lunch. We had
some then. At 6.30 we had to attend a conference at Battalion
Headquarters. It was 8 when we got back to B Company Mess, so then
dinner; and at 9.15 we were on parade for marching off on this Brigade
stunt! It was midnight when the Battalion reached the village where we
had assembled in the morning; we felt very tired and sleepy. The first
thing we did was to get all the dispositions of the Battalion (the same
happened throughout the whole Brigade) effected under darkness, every
section in its correct place. The dew had fallen very thickly and the
long grass and corn were wringing wet; consequently we all got our feet
and legs soaked. Then dummy ammunition was distributed. At about 2 a.m.
we had permission to lie down where we were and get some sleep if we
could! I lay down in the dirt at the roadside and had an hour or two's
sleep. At about 3.30, when it was becoming light, I was awakened, my
teeth chattering horribly, hearing the Brigadier-General strafing
somebody! General Stockwell and his Staff seemed to be walking up and
down all night. I saw them just before I went to sleep, and the first
object which I saw on opening my eyes again was General Stockwell. I
hear that poor Best-Dunkley got it hot again from the Brigadier about
something during the night! The fiery young General seemed to be on the

"At 5.15 we had breakfast, cooked in the travelling cook-waggons. We
had to keep going up and down the line most of the time, explaining the
scheme to the section commanders. Then Colonel Best-Dunkley went along
the line asking questions. The first section commander he dropped on was
poor Topping, who had only been put on the particular job last night; he
had been somewhere else yesterday when it was all explained. The Colonel
asked him what was the interval between his section and the section on
his right; he did not know! 'You see, your section commanders don't know
their orders,' blinked the Colonel.

"7th and 8th platoons were merged into one under Giffin. I commanded the
left wing, consisting of the sections of Lance-Corporal Topping and
Lance-Corporal Heap. We were the fourth wave, supporting the two
platoons of Gratton and Allen who were in the third wave. The idea was
that another brigade had taken all the strong points, and our brigade
had to push forward past them and penetrate the enemy's lines to a
certain distance, consolidate, and repel counter-attacks. The other
brigades were supposed to have gone over the top at dawn. So we went
over at 7 a.m. We went forward very nicely, under cover of a 'creeping
barrage' which was represented by drums rumbling and flags waving. At
the little village of (Noir Carme) Giffin went to the right, and I took
Topping's and Heap's sections through the village and round to a field
the other side where I turned half-left and awaited Giffin's arrival on
the right. When he came up we all advanced to our final objective which
was in advance of the Battalion's objective. We have to go to the
outpost line. Then we sent off flares to signal to the aircraft that we
had reached our objective; and then we were supposed to be digging in
and putting out wire, patrolling, and resisting counter-attacks! As a
matter of fact we sat there for a an hour or two. My two sections were
on the extreme left of the whole Brigade.

"At 11.30 the stunt was declared over and the men went home; but General
Stockwell wished to see all the officers in the Brigade. So we assembled
near the aerodrome. The General was very agreeable; he was in a most
agreeable and accommodating mood; he seemed very pleased indeed with
everything. He spoke for about twenty minutes on the operations. He is
really a brilliant speaker. He said that on the whole the advance was
carried out very well indeed, that the right was not quite so good, but
that the left was very good indeed; we kept our dressing splendidly!
Giffin and I exchanged glances of satisfaction. At the close of his
speech General Stockwell said that we must do the scheme once or twice
again, and asked the colonels (Best-Dunkley, Hindle, Heath, and
Balfour) whether 9.30 to-morrow morning would be agreeable on the
training area. Colonel Best-Dunkley said that it would do quite well;
but Colonel Heath objected that the men were all tired and would require
some sleep--would not Friday be better? 'Very well then; I'm quite
agreeable to have it on Friday; you can do what you like to-morrow,'
replied the General in a jovial tone. We were all very pleased. The
conference over we set off back. Thus ended our first 'dress rehearsal'!

"When we got back we had some lunch. Then, at 2 in the afternoon we went
to bed. At 5.30 Critchley wakened me with the information that there was
a conference of all officers at the aerodrome at 6. Allen immediately
got the 'wind up,' but I pointed out to him that even if it were
correct, which I doubted, the thing was now out of the question so far
as we were concerned; so we might as well remain in bed and get up at
our leisure. As a matter of fact, the information turned out to be
incorrect: it was merely company commanders who were required--Halstead
had gone.

"We got up for dinner at 8. Captain Andrews had then returned from
leave. When Halstead got back he was jolly glad to find that he was
relieved from the responsibilities and worries of a company commander.
But Captain Andrews is going to be second-in-command of the Battalion
in the forthcoming battle, as Major Brighten, who is now home on leave,
may not be there; so Halstead will have to command B Company in the
operations, and this scheme is to hold good, with regard to all schemes
and rehearsals concerning the operations."

"June 29th.

"We are working very hard just now, and it is all I can do to find time
to write letters; one's natural inclination is to sleep when one has an
afternoon free after a strenuous morning, but some letters must be
written, so I must write.

"Yesterday morning we rose at 8.30 and had breakfast. Then we received
notification that all officers and N.C.O.'s were to parade at the
aerodrome at 10.30 for a lecture. So we walked there. There was not much
of a lecture. A Royal Flying Corps officer explained some aeroplane
signals to us, and then an aeroplane went up and exhibited them. Then we
were told that we could dismiss. So we walked back again. We all thought
it a 'wash out' having us up there just for that. Colonel Best-Dunkley
stayed behind to have a fly. I will not repeat the hopes which were
expressed by certain of his battalion! He flew over our village and
dropped a message at Battalion Headquarters. All went off without any

"We had lunch when we got back. Then I censored two hundred letters. We
had a thunder-storm and a heavy fall of rain in the evening. I went to
bed soon after dinner. There was no mail yesterday.

"This morning we rose at 5.30. We marched off at 6.30 and did the
Brigade stunt again on the training area. I am getting rather fed up
with Giffin on parade. He nearly landed me in the soup this morning by
his dictatorial interference; he seems to like to make one realize that
he is a full lieutenant! When I had got Topping's section down on to the
road just before the village he signalled for me to bring it back again.
The result was a 'box-up,' and we got right behind our wave, whereas if
we had gone straight on we would have kept in line; but, fortunately, I
got right again in a few minutes. We finished at 12.40. Then all
officers had to attend a conference with the General again. General
Stockwell was very pleased with the show, and had no complaints. I am
getting to like General Stockwell very much; his face is not unlike that
of the great Sir David Beatty.

"We felt jolly tired after it all. It was hot and tiring walking back.
We got back at 3 p.m. Then lunch. Giffin had the decency to apologize
for his nastiness. 'I hope you did not mind me cursing you this morning,
Floyd,' he said. I replied that I did not, but said that I thought that
it would have been better for me to go on when I had got on the road.
Of course, he did not agree! When on the march if I call out a step he
washes it out and says that it is the wrong one. And he is always
criticizing one. Halstead is very different; he does not interfere with
one; in fact, he has complimented me on all occasions of these schemes.
After the General had mentioned that the left did so well the other day
Halstead said in the Mess: 'Yes, our left flank was fine, thanks to
Floyd; he managed it like a general!' That is, of course exaggeration in
the opposite direction; I make no claim to any talents of that kind: but
it is encouraging for one's company commander to talk like that, more
encouraging than the way the second-in-command, Giffin, behaves. Giffin
is quite agreeable generally, but I do not like his patronizing air.

"We have packed and sent off our kit-bags this evening, as we are
returning to the trenches in a day or two. So if you do not get any
letters for a few days shortly, do not get the wind up; I will write
whenever I have time....

"I am rather surprised to hear of the change in the Mediterranean
Command. I gather that Sir Archibald Murray, towards whom I entertained
such complete confidence, is sharing the fate of his famous predecessor,
Sir Ian Hamilton; for I learn that Sir Edmund Allenby, the victor of
Arras, is leaving France to take command in Egypt. Sir Julian Byng has
been appointed to command the Third Army in his place, and General Byng
is succeeded by General Currie as commander of the Canadian Corps.
Things have certainly been very quiet in Palestine lately; but I think
that is the fault of Sir William Robertson in taking Douglas' 42nd
Division away from Murray; but poor Murray gets sacked because he fails
to get on when supplied with insufficient troops! I am sorry. I had
pictured Sir Archibald Murray leading a victorious wing at Armageddon,
but that, apparently, is not now to be: Sir Edmund Allenby reigns in his
stead. Perhaps the new general will have more troops sent out to him;
perhaps we shall now get a move on in Palestine, so important a theatre
of operations; the arrival of Sir Edmund Allenby in the East may prove
the signal for a fresh offensive out there.[3] Sir Stanley Maude has
been very quiet lately; but I suppose the weather will be adverse to
operations in Mesopotamia at present. I wonder why something is not done
with Sir George Milne's force at Salonica. Apparently all is not even
yet plain sailing in Greece. There is still intrigue going on. I do not
think Venizelos is going to have everything his own way, even now King
Constantine has gone to Switzerland. Switzerland is now, I think, the
theatre of important diplomatic intrigues. I think King Constantine's
abdication is only temporary; I think King Alexander only reigns for the
period of the war. Do not fret--King Constantine knows what he is doing!

"What about Holland? There seems to be trouble there. And, as Father
remarks, Ireland is troublesome again; but Sir Bryan Mahon ought to be
able to deal with the insurgents, even though Lord Wimborne is still
Viceroy; and Duke is a better Chief Secretary than Birrell!

"How is Lord Rhondda going on as Food Controller? Are things any better
than they were under Devonport? Lloyd George seems to be declining in
popularity. And the people seem determined not to have Churchill in
office! So what will happen? Things are very quaint at present.

"Well, darkness has descended upon the country-side; it is time I was
retiring to rest; I therefore lay down my pen. Good night!"

My diary, under date June 30, states: "A quiet morning. Inspections.
Then went to see relief plan of area of our forthcoming attack in a
field at Boisdinghem."

Thus ended our long rest. The evening of June 30--our last at
Westbecourt--is one which is still well remembered by those who were
there, and still much spoken of by those who were not there! It was a
lively evening in the various company messes. Champagne was much in
demand, and "all went merry as a marriage bell." I will never forget the
fun we had in B Company Mess that evening. I laughed for two hours
without ceasing. At 11 p.m. I returned to my billet whence the staid and
quiet Allen had already preceded me. I talked volubly to him for about a
quarter of an hour, apparently causing him considerable amusement, and
then would insist on going back to the mess for my _Church Times_ which
I had left there. When I got there the mess was locked up, so I had to
return without it! The most amusing point about this episode is that an
officer who was in another company mess at the time has always professed
to know more about the happenings in B Company Mess that evening than
any B Company officers who were present!


[3] See Appendix I.



We returned to Ypres on July 1. Everybody was thinking and talking about
the great Battle on the Somme of which this was the first anniversary;
but before the day was over we ourselves had cause to remember the first
of July.

My diary contains a brief synopsis of the journey:

"July 1st.

"Up 4 a.m. Breakfast 4.40. Marched off from Westbecourt at 6.15. Marched
to Lumbres. The place full of Portuguese. Entrained there. Train left
Lumbres at 10 a.m. Went through St. Omer, Hazebrouck, and Poperinghe. We
got out at Brandhoek, about two miles beyond Poperinghe--nearly at
Vlamertinghe. Marched to Query Camp. Remained here in tents during the
afternoon. The arrangements concerning us seem very vague. Divisional
Staff do not appear to have given very definite orders to General
Stockwell. But one thing is known: we are to relieve the 165th Brigade
in the trenches in the Ypres Salient. At Query Camp we are about three
miles from the German front line, and so well within range of the guns.
They are booming as usual all the time."

In a letter written home from the Ramparts the following day, July 2, I
described our return to the Salient as follows:

"Yesterday, Sunday, was our last day in reserve billets. We rose at 4
a.m. At 6.15 we marched off. We marched to a village about an hour and a
half's march away--a village where there are some Portuguese troops.
There we entrained. We left at about 10 a.m. We travelled to the
railhead where I got off on my arrival on June 5; but this time the
train took us about two miles beyond the station. Then we marched to a
camp about three miles behind the front line. We remained there, in
tents, all the afternoon. Colonel Best-Dunkley came into B Company's
mess tent. He was so taken up with the arrangements which Allen, the
mess president, had made that he remained for tea with us! He was in a
very agreeable mood; he is certainly a man of moods. He tried to put the
wind up me about life in the trenches, but did not succeed. The Adjutant
was there too, also Captain Andrews and an officer from the brigade we
are relieving. Nobody else seemed disposed to come in. The Colonel dined
at Division, which was the other side of some trees; but the Adjutant
remained for dinner with us. Gratton asked me to show my _Middleton
Guardian_ correspondence to the Adjutant, and I did so; he was very
interested. West, the Assistant Adjutant, also read it."

While we were at Query Camp orders came round to all companies that one
officer per company was to be detailed to leave at 5 p.m. and proceed to
the Salient and reconnoitre the trenches. Captain Andrews detailed
Halstead to go from B Company. Ronald went from A, Barker from C, and
Wood from D. They all set off together. Giffin also left us, as he was
detailed to take over billets for us in the Prison.

"At 8.40 we moved off. We went at intervals of three hundred yards
between platoons, with six connecting files. As Giffin had been sent on
much earlier to 'take over,' I was in command of the combined 7th and
8th platoons. I had four sergeants with me--Sergeant Williams and
Sergeant Clews in front, and Sergeant Dawson and Sergeant Baldwin
behind. At first I marched in front, but then Captain Andrews told me to
march in rear of my platoon; so I chatted with Sergeant Baldwin for the
rest of the way. He is twenty years old and has been in the Army since
he was seventeen. He joined the Argyles in 1914, and was stationed in
Edinburgh for some time. Then he was discharged on account of weak
eyesight. But he immediately enlisted again; this time in the
Lancashire Fusiliers. His home is Higher Broughton. His father, who is
forty-nine, is a sergeant in the Manchesters at Salonica; I believe he
said that he was wounded.

"Things were moderately quiet until we reached the (Prison). It was
about 10 p.m. when we got there. Things then became much livelier;
shells were bursting all round. We found the building uninhabitable. The
casualties there during the last few days have been very heavy. One
shell buried a party in the debris; it took four hours' solid digging to
get them out! So it has been decided to abandon the place as a billet.

"We were delayed here because we thought this was our destination; but
we were informed that we were to go on to some ramparts, wherever they
might be! I had not the faintest idea where they were. Anyhow I followed
those in front along the ghastly streets of the city. Shells were
dropping all round. One shell exploded ten yards away. A moment later
Sergeant Baldwin and I noticed one of the men in rear of the platoon
fainting and pulling horrible faces. I asked him whether he was hit. It
appeared that he had got shell-shock. So we got hold of him and called
out for the stretcher-bearers. Meanwhile, we got completely out of the
platoon; they, of course, went on. So we were left behind by ourselves.
A stretcher-bearer turned up in a minute or two; then another. So we got
Private Armstead off to the nearest dug-out we could find; it happened
to be a Brigade Headquarters of some other brigade. There was a Medical
Officer there; so he saw to the man, and gave me a chit to take back
with me concerning him. Baldwin and I thought that we might as well have
a rest for a short time as it was quite comfortable here! So we did. I
happened to have a couple of oranges in my haversack, so we each had
one; we then felt refreshed. At about 11.40 we thought it would not be a
bad idea to get a move on; so we went outside amongst the nasty shells
again. It was decidedly exciting in that we did not know how far we had
to go, or whether we were ever likely to find the dug-outs whither our
platoon had gone! We kept asking everybody we passed whether they had
'seen any L.F.'s?' We thus kept in the right direction as we were
generally told that they had gone over yonder! We came to a spot having
a very sinister tradition attached to it (the Menin Gate). So we doubled
across here as fast as possible! Eventually we managed to find the
dug-outs where our people were. We had arrived safe and sound. So
Baldwin went to his dug-out with the others and I looked for Captain
Andrews and reported to him when I found him. I then went into my
dug-out, which is the same one as his. It is very cosy. I lit a candle
and read the four letters which I had received by the mail which arrived
just before we left the tents, and also the newspapers which you have

"As regards the papers--they are very interesting indeed. The
Mesopotamian Commission Report seems to have caused a great sensation. A
good many public men are censured. I am glad to find that the one
reputation made, or rather restored, is that of Earl Curzon! I have been
discussing it with Captain Andrews at breakfast this morning. We had
breakfast in the mess dug-out at 12 this morning. The other B Company
officers stayed in bed for breakfast.

"There was an inspection of box-respirators and rifles this afternoon. I
inspected my own platoon, which is now 7 again! with Sergeant Baldwin. I
happened to remark to him that I presumed that he was now platoon
sergeant of this platoon. He said that he was. 'That's all right,' I
replied; and he smiled. Then Giffin, who must have overhead our remarks,
approached and, in his imperious way, said: 'Sergeant Baldwin, you're
only in charge of 7 Platoon temporarily, until Sergeant Butterworth
comes back; you're not platoon sergeant. You understand that, Floyd?' he
concluded, turning to me. I think it a bit thick that one cannot choose
one's own platoon sergeant....

"Halstead has not yet turned up, and we now learn that the three others
(who went with him), have not returned to their respective companies.
When I was in that Brigade dug-out last night the M.O. casually remarked
to me that he had attended to four officers, who appeared to belong to
our brigade, at about 6 in the evening. They were all wounded; one was
very bad. In the light of the present situation it certainly looks as if
they must have been the unfortunate four. So Captain Andrews has sent
Giffin down there to inquire. It looks serious.

"It is now 6 p.m. I must close. Captain Andrews says that I had better
warn you that you must not expect letters very frequently now, as it is
not easy to get them off from here. We are going further up to-night.
But do not worry; it is as safe there as here!"

A postscript to this letter states: "It is as I surmised. Halstead,
Barker, Ronald, and Wood are all wounded--by the same shell."

The _Lancashire Fusiliers' Annual_ thus sums up the events of July 1 and
the fate of these four officers:

"On July 1st, the Battalion returned to the forward area. We were to
have gone into our old billets in the Prison and the Magazine, but, as a
17in. shell had just landed in the Magazine and the foundations of the
Prison had been shaken by 8in. duds, it was impossible to do so. Half
the Battalion therefore found billets in the Ramparts, etc., the other
half and Headquarters went back to Goldfish Château. During the
afternoon of July 1, the Battalion suffered the most severe loss it had
suffered for some time. Four officers, Lieut. W. C. Ronald, Lieutenant
H. A. Wood, Lieutenant J. Halstead and Second-Lieutenant H. A. Barker,
one officer from each Company, had started up to reconnoitre the line.
At Wells Cross Roads a shell landed and wounded all four.
Second-Lieutenant Barker died of his wounds a month later, but the other
three have all recovered."

The _Lancashire Fusiliers' Annual_ goes on to say that "On July 2nd the
Battalion moved up into the Potijze sector. We had a hot reception, the
enemy sent over 1,500 shells all round Battalion Headquarters between
midnight and 5 a.m." But, as the following extract from my diary will
show, the move took place while I was otherwise engaged:

"July 2nd.

" ... There came an order for a working party of one officer and twenty
men to report at Potijze dump at once. So Captain Andrew detailed me to
take Sergeant Baldwin and twenty men of 5 Platoon. We went by the
Water-pipe track across the open, in broad daylight. Enemy observation
balloons were up all the time and spotted us. A few shells were fired,
but nobody was hit. When we got to Potijze the men were given material
to take to Pagoda Trench; so we proceeded there in small parties. We got
to Pagoda Trench at 7.30; but enemy observation balloons were still up,
and a few bullets whizzed over the trench, so it was not yet safe to
work. We accordingly sat in the trench and waited. Darkness fell upon a
beautiful summer evening before the observation balloons disappeared. At
9.30 we decided that it was safe to begin work. The work to be done
consisted of repairing duck-boards. It did not require much supervising,
especially as representatives of the Royal Engineers were managing it,
so Baldwin and I sat down and chatted most of the time. As a matter of
fact, we had six men too many; so they had nothing to do. One or two
machine-gun and rifle bullets whizzed past while we were there, but no
one was hit. We stopped at 11.30 and filed back down the communication
trench through Potijze Wood. Coming round the corner here--near Bottle
Wall--we were shelled rather badly; the shells were bursting very near
us--one within six yards--but none of my party were hit. An R.E. officer
close by was wounded. We got back to Potijze dump at 12 midnight. I
reported to Captain Andrews, who was there in a dug-out. The Company had
moved up while we had been on this working party. I saw my party into
their new dug-outs here, and then came back and spent the night in the
officers' dug-out at Potijze with Captain Andrews, Giffin, and Gratton.
Allen was with a working party and did not return until 3 a.m.... Shells
were falling round our dug-out all night. One shell blew a dug-out, a
few yards away, to pieces, killing two, wounding two, and causing
shell-shock to the remaining man--all of 5 Platoon (Allen's platoon).
Two more B Company men were wounded on fatigue near St. Jean. A good
many transport men and horses, and men of other units, were killed and
wounded near. It was what might be called a rough night in the Ypres
Salient! Morning (July 3) dawned bright and clear.

"A message came to us at 5 a.m. that I must proceed to Bilge Trench to
be temporarily attached to D Company in Wood's place. At present C
Company (Captain Mordecai) are in the front line, with their
headquarters in the Estaminet (the deep tunnel dug-out beneath Wieltje).
D Company (Captain Bodington) are in support in Bilge Trench. Colonel
Best-Dunkley calls it the front line, and considers it such in his
dispositions. A Company (Captain Briggs) are in reserve. And B Company
(Captain Andrews) are in Potijze dug-outs. Battalion Headquarters are
close to Potijze."



When I got to Bilge Trench I found that the facilities for
letter-writing were not quite what they had been before. But there was
plenty to write about. Every hour one was confronted with some new
aspect of modern warfare. I had an interesting taste of it in Bilge
Trench and its vicinity! On July 5 I began a letter home in the
following tone: "Letter-writing of the proper kind is becoming quite a
problem. I am quite behind-hand, but fortunately I am keeping lengthy
diary notes in pencil; so, if I have not the time to let you know all my
experiences just now, I hope to get a connected narrative together
sometime. How ripping it will be when that far-off day arrives when I
can come home and tell you all about everything! It will be a long tale
which I shall have to tell. I have almost forgotten which articles from
home I have acknowledged and which not. I received a nice parcel the
other day, containing a cake which we had for tea in the mess and which
was duly appreciated--also chocolates, toffee, ink, socks, and
badge...." As this letter intimates, the diary tells the clearest story
at this period. So for the time being I will quote from the diary:

"July 3rd.

"I left Potijze at 7.20 a.m. accompanied by a runner named Firth. We
passed A Company in Garden Street on the way. I saw Captain Briggs,
Hickey, Kerr, and Walsh. They have had no casualties yet. We arrived in
Bilge Trench at 8 a.m. Here I found Captain Bodington, Victor Telfer,
and Beesley. I had a cup of tea and a sleep during the morning. In the
afternoon I sent for my batman, Critchley, as I expected to be here some
days. He brought up some letters for me.... In the evening Captain
Blamey returned from leave, and so takes over command of D Company. At
10.30 p.m. Beesley went out into no man's land with a patrol; and Kerr,
of A Company, Telfer, and I went out on a wiring party just behind him.
We went up Durham Trench by ourselves first; the party followed on
after. Machine-gun bullets whizzed past the desolate area; it was not
exactly pleasant. We went on along New Garden Street, and waited for the
parties. Then they drew wire and pickets which had been dumped by a
carrying party under Giffin. The Brigade-Major and Colonel Best-Dunkley
went past us while we were at this spot. We were delayed some time.
Then we moved on and got into Hopkins Trench, a new trench pushed out
right beyond our front line. They began to get over the top here, but
made a great row about it. Naturally the enemy heard us and a hell of a
strafe began. It continued for about five minutes; then we got on again.
Beesley's covering party was right out in front of a hedge in no man's
land. Our men started wiring in front of Hopkins Trench, and just behind
the hedge. Things seem very weird out there; from the continual series
of Véry lights it looks just as if the enemy trenches were stretched all
around one. While we were there a little raid took place on our left. At
times machine-guns fired across from both sides--not exactly pleasant
for us in the middle of it all!

"July 4th.

"We returned to Bilge Trench about 2 a.m. I had a sleep in my clothes
until 8. Then breakfast. Then a wash and shave. I was officer of the
watch during the morning. Duty consists of seeing that sentries are at
their posts, and fatigue parties at work. Hostile aircraft frequently
comes over and fires machine-gun bullets down into the trenches. Our
guns fire shrapnel at them, but I have not yet seen one hit. Periodical
shelling continues all day. At present the Germans continue to drop
shell after shell on one spot near St. Jean behind us. They scream over
us and alight on the same spot every time.

"In the afternoon I had a chat with Telfer and Beesley, and then an
hour's sleep. Then tea. After tea Beesley and I went up Durham Trench to
Wieltje--the strong point on our front line at present held by C
Company. The headquarters of a company of the 1/4th King's Own Royal
Lancaster Regiment is also down in the mine at Wieltje. We went down
here and saw Captain Mordecai, Agnew, and Verity. The first had a bloody
bandage round his head; he has been wounded by a piece of shrapnel, but
is not bad enough to get away. We stayed there a few minutes and then
went into Dead End, the front line trench. Here we saw Francis (who was
at Scarborough before I came out, and who has just come back here again.
He was wounded out here in January in this unit) and Walsh and I sat and
had a chat with them there. These trenches are very pretty--the parapet
and parados covered with grass and flowers. In fact they seem to have
become natural features in the geography of the district.

"We returned via New John Street to our Company Headquarters in Bilge
Trench for dinner. At 9.30 I went with Captain Blamey for a stroll up
Durham Trench, Armitage Trench and Hopkins Trench, out into no man's
land. Blamey was not sure of the geography of this particular part and
wanted to have a look round; so I went with him. Then Beesley got his
patrol out again. Blamey and I then supervised a working party in Durham

"July 5th.

"All was moderately quiet until 1.50 a.m. Then we heard rifle shots, and
more rifle shots, ringing out in no man's land; and at 2 a regular
set-to began. The Cheshires on our immediate left were making a raid
with an artillery barrage. It was quite a set-to. Beesley got back in
time. He, Telfer, and I watched it all from the parapet of Durham
Trench. The enemy were too preoccupied to trouble to shoot us! This went
on for about half an hour. Then the enemy retaliated in a furious manner
with his artillery. We made for Wieltje dug-out and were only just in
time. Shells were falling everywhere in a continual succession. It was a
terrific bombardment; it was the biggest row I have heard since the
Battle of Messines! After a few minutes we went and sat in C Company
dug-out in the Estaminet. Captain Andrews was there too. Who should walk
in but Gaulter, of Hut 5 at Gailes! He is in the 1/4th King's Own in our
Brigade. I had a talk with him. We returned about 4 a.m. to Bilge
Trench; and Andrews went back to Potijze.

"When we got back to Bilge Trench we found that there had been two or
three casualties, and one dug-out totally demolished. Colonel
Best-Dunkley came on the scene, and started strafing one or two people
about something. He stayed and had a cup of tea in our mess. He asked me
whether I could tell him what were the six infantry regiments, including
the Lancashire Fusiliers, which took part in the Battle of Minden! I
confessed that I did not know. 'That's very feeble for a historian like
you,' he said, with a blink. As a matter of fact, he could not think of
all the names himself; he knew of about four.[4]

"The Colonel departed about 5 a.m. I then came on duty as officer of the
watch until breakfast. The Germans were still shelling that spot near
St. Jean--some of the nose-caps returned as far back as Bilge Trench.
Sleep in the morning. There was a heavy bombardment of our trench from
12.20 to 12.45; one or two casualties. The padre called in to see us and
had tea in our dug-out. I had a little sleep before dinner, and was
officer of the watch from 9 p.m. to 12 midnight. While on duty, I
supervised a working party, consisting of Sergeant Dawson and eleven B
Company men, in Bilge Trench. They were putting up camouflage. Sergeant
Dawson tells me that Sergeant Butterworth is wounded. They have been
having a hot time of it.

"July 6th.

"At 12 I had another sleep until 4 a.m., when I became officer of the
watch again. There was a good deal of aircraft about. One aeroplane,
despite the fact that shrapnel was fired at it every time, was very
persevering in returning over and over again. I felt horribly sleepy all
the time. At 7.30 Sergeant-Major Stanton took over duty again. So I had
my breakfast. Then I had another sleep. At midday I was awakened hearing
great excitement occasioned by an air scrap overhead. Four were brought
down. I felt too cosy to trouble to get up and look! Up at 12.45. One or
two whizz-bangs landed uncomfortably near while I was shaving. At 2 p.m.
there was another air scrap overhead. We watched it through our glasses.
We saw one of our aeroplanes cut off and brought down into the Boche
lines completely smashed. Then one of the German aeroplanes was brought
down. There has been considerable aerial activity all day.

"July 7th.

"On patrol with Beesley at night (July 6-7). We left our own trench soon
after 10 p.m. and filed up the communication trench and out into no
man's land. The moon was shining brightly and a good deal of country
was visible in its silvery light. We got our patrol stationed along the
line of a hedge, facing the German front line. Then we crouched along to
the left to get into touch with a patrol sent out by the Cheshires on
our left. It was a strange sensation creeping along no man's land,
grasping our revolvers, and anxiously peering into every hedge or bush
or tuft of grass or ruined cottage (such as Argyle Farm and Lytham Cot)
wondering whether it were occupied; and ever and anon gingerly glancing
in the direction of the German trenches, wondering whether we were seen!
I cannot understand why we were not sniped; logically we ought to have
been; but, fortunately, the enemy were not logical on this occasion. We
found the party of the Cheshires and then crept back. We were walking
over the same ground where the recent bombing raid had taken place. I am
glad the enemy did not do a stunt while we were there! Kerr and Telfer
were behind us, wiring. Our patrol, or covering party, ran right across
what was _avant la guerre_, the St. Julien Road. It is now so completely
overgrown with grass that it is scarcely distinguishable at first sight
from the remaining country in no man's land. All went well until 12.30
a.m. But for the rumble of the guns on both sides of us and the
periodical sound of the shells flying high over our heads, the Véry
lights and the occasional rat-tat of a machine-gun, there was little in
the peaceful, moonlit country-side to suggest to us the fact that we
were between our own lines and those of the enemy! However, at 12.30
a.m. we received a curt reminder that there was a war on, and that we
were in the very heart of it. Captain Blamey had given orders that,
since I was to be officer of the watch in our trench at 4 in the
morning, I must leave the patrol party at 12.30 and return in order to
be able to get a little sleep before going on duty; so Beesley said that
as it was now 12.30 I had better go; and I, therefore, stealthily made
my departure. A few yards behind were the wiring party; so I whispered a
word or two to Kerr and Telfer. Telfer said that I ought to have a man
with me; one is not supposed to go about here alone; so he detailed a
man. We were just setting off when, like a bolt from the blue, a rifle
bomb burst right amongst the wiring party with a crack; and immediately
we heard groans. Three men were wounded: one had his leg very badly
smashed, and the other two had nice 'Blighties'--one in the leg, the
other in the nose. That was the first shot. Shell followed shell and
bomb followed bomb in one continuous succession; a regular strafe began.
We made a bound for the nearest trench (Hopkins Trench) behind us. The
bottom was full of water; that did not matter; in we splashed, and only
just in time. The shells were dropping everywhere. An aeroplane flew
overhead and dropped a few bombs, just to liven things up a little more!
And then a machine-gun also opened right on to us--only the parapet of
the little trench saved us. But for this trench we would all have been
wiped out; the bullets were peppering the parapet. Such a to-do it was!
After about ten minutes of this, Kerr said that I had better go. Then
began the most desperate adventure I have so far struck. I made a dash
across the open into the communication trench and hurried down it, bent
double. I had to duck constantly, for shells were bursting around me
every yard of the journey. The dust raised by the explosions enveloped
me; and, to crown all, gas shells came over. But I did not trouble to
put my box-respirator on; the gas was not so bad as that. I simply
dashed from bay to bay, crouching behind each traverse as the shells or
bombs exploded and then bounding on to the next. In many places I went
down into thick mud and water up to my knees; but when it is a question
of life or death things like that do not trouble one. At last I reached
Bilge Trench in safety. It was crowded with fugitives from working
parties--amongst them many wounded men. There have been a whole crowd
wounded and some, including Sergeant Fergusson of the patrol, gassed.
Having got back, I reported the proceedings to Captain Blamey, and then
went to sleep.

"At 4 a.m. I got up again and went on duty as officer of the watch.
Sergeant-Major Stanton relieved me at 7. Writing in the morning. Much
aerial activity. Sleep in the afternoon until 7.30 p.m. Working party
with Sergeant Noden in New John Street from Monmouth Trench to Dead End
in the evening."

On July 8 I wrote home from Bilge Trench as follows:

"I have just received two letters from home--July 4 and July 5--and I am
sorry to observe that you are both becoming anxious just because you
have not heard from me for a day or two. You really must not do this.
Circumstances may easily arise at any time out here which would prevent
my writing for a week or two; it is absurd to put a bad construction on
everything. I always write when I can. By the way, blotting paper would
be a great aid to writing. But some is probably on the way by now. I
received a parcel from home yesterday containing parkin, chocolates,
socks, writing material, and magazines. Thank you very much indeed. They
have been duly appreciated.

"We had three artillery officers from the 36th Division here yesterday
reconnoitring as to where to place their guns. They were at the Battle
of Messines and are now coming up here. Recently we have had hardly any
guns here; we have been biding our time; if we had had them here now the
Germans would have found them out; as it is, they will come as a
surprise upon the enemy now; he will not have time to locate them before
the great push. We are having the same artillery which did the job at

"I spent yesterday afternoon sleeping. At dinner I found that
Second-Lieutenant Talbot Dickinson, M.C., had returned from leave. He
ought to have had his investiture while on leave, but, as there was not
one fixed at Buckingham Palace until a few days after the date on which
he should return, he had to come back without it.

"Yesterday evening I was supervising a working party under Sergeant
Noden, repairing the parapet of a trench. All was quiet while we were at
it; but I knew that a raid, about a mile away on our right, was fixed
for 1.30 this morning. So, my party having finished their job, I brought
them away at 1.20 and got them all back in their dug-outs by 1.30. Then,
just as I entered our Company Headquarters dug-out at 1.30, the peaceful
night was suddenly turned into hell. With a thunderous noise shells came
over from the German guns in hundreds. Our dug-outs seemed to be their
particular mark. ('When in doubt, shell Bilge!' was a maxim which
Bodington used to attribute to the enemy artillery opposite us.) The
place shook. Captain Blamey, Captain Bodington, Beesley, Dickinson and I
were inside. We began to think that the dug-out was going to be blown to
atoms; but we occupied ourselves by eating some of the parkin you sent!
The candles were twice blown out by the force of the exploding shells.
It seemed impossible that anything could live in such a bombardment.
After about ten minutes of this the others went out, saying that all the
officers in the Company should not crowd in the same dug-out during a
bombardment because if a shell were to blow the dug-out to pieces we
would all be knocked out, which would not do; so Dickinson and I alone
remained. I remarked to him that this was a pleasant welcome for him on
his return from leave! After 2 a.m. the bombardment began to slacken
down; and by 2.15 it was all over, and quiet reigned again. I noticed
that it had begun to rain. When we took stock we found that D Company
had not suffered a single casualty on this occasion! This struck me as
being extraordinary when one takes into consideration the fact that our
trench was simply packed like sardines with various returning working
parties which had all got congested here--working parties from various
companies and regiments; there were some Irish amongst them. It was
amusing to listen to the language: men shouting, with all kinds of
unmentionable oaths, to each other to get a 'bloody move on for ----

"It is amusing what a number of new men, 'obviously Derbyites and
conscripts,' as Beesley said the other day, have got the wind up. One
incident of the kind, related by Captain Bodington, was very funny. He
was walking along a trench last night and a man came rushing along as if
the whole German Army were chasing him; and he bumped right into
Bodington, nearly sending him flying. Bodington asked him whatever was
the matter; and the man replied in a voice of abject terror, 'They're
sniping at us up there, sir!'

"At 2.30 this morning I retired to rest--in my clothes of course; we do
not undress in the trenches. At 5.40 I rose and took on officer of the
watch until breakfast at 8.45, when I was relieved by Sergeant-Major
Stanton. It was raining, so I wore my trench-coat. After breakfast I
retired to rest again. But at 10.15 I noticed something happen: our
guns, of which we have heard so little during this week in the trenches,
began to bombard the enemy lines. Not an intense bombardment, but a
continuous and systematic bombardment; they have been at it all day with
the exception of a pause for about an hour in the middle of the day. The
German guns have been quiet all day since they ceased at 2.15 this
morning. There is always a calm after a storm. It is fine again now.

My diary of the same date (July 8) carries on:

"Germans started shelling us at 7.45 p.m. Dinner. Sleep from 10 to
11.30. Then I went into Company Headquarters to be ready for chits, as
all the other officers were away somewhere. The dug-out was shelled
while I was in there; the candle was blown out once. The shells were
landing pretty close.

"July 9th.

"Sleep 1 a.m. to 4.30. Officer of the watch from 4.30 to 8. Then
breakfast. Sleep, or tried to, in the morning. The Germans were shelling
Bilge Trench the whole time. Lunch at 1.30. Got down again after tea.
Then, at 6 p.m., I left Bilge Trench with my batman Critchley and
proceeded to Potijze to rejoin B Company, as D Company's tour in the
front line is now concluded." Thus ended the memorable stay in Bilge


[4] See Appendix II.



My diary of July 9 tells how we once again got back to the cosy dug-outs
in the Ramparts, those ramparts from whence was continually stretched
out before our ken, in sunshine and in moonlight, the heart of the dead

When I arrived at Potijze "Allen had gone to the Ramparts to take over,
as B Company proceeds there to-night. D Company are going to Goldfish
Château, the other side of Ypres. I had dinner at Potijze. Things were
quite peaceful at that time; we stood outside after dinner and admired
the view in the Salient. Just a few shells were flying over. At 11 p.m.
Captain Andrews, Dickinson and I, with Sergeant-Major Preston and a few
runners, left Potijze and returned to the dug-outs in the Ramparts.
There is more room to move about here!"

My first letter home after my return to the Ramparts--dated July
10--runs as follows:

"I am now back with B Company, as D Company have come out of the
trenches. Dickinson has been transferred from D Company and appointed
second-in-command of B Company in Halstead's place; and he is to be in
command of the Company in the push. Captain Andrews will be, in the push
(not before: Major Brighten is back and is on 'battle reserve!'),
second-in-command to Colonel Best-Dunkley--'the man who stands by
waiting for the other man to die,' as Colonel Balfour has wittily
remarked to Captain Andrews upon the arrangement! Captain Andrews is
really a very smart man; he could have been a staff officer once, but
Colonel Best-Dunkley would not let him go in for it. He did not want to
lose him. Colonel Hindle stands in a similar position to General

"Gratton has gone to Headquarters (as Assistant Adjutant), so the
officers in B Company Mess now are Captain Andrews, Dickinson, Giffin,
Allen and myself, also an M.O. I had dinner in this dug-out and then
wrote a letter or two. Things were moderately peaceful at dinner-time,
and for an hour or two after. At 11 p.m., the relief having been carried
out, Captain Andrews, Dickinson and I, with Sergeant-Major Preston and a
few runners, proceeded to Battalion Headquarters, which are at a strong
point a little nearer the line. Then we turned back and proceeded to the
dug-outs where we were on July 1 and July 2. Allen had preceded us to
take over, and Giffin was with a working party in the trenches. While we
were on our way a deuce of a row began on the north; it was a German
raid on our trenches. So we watched it all the way. We got along quite
well until we were almost here. Then two shells burst just in front of
us. But we managed to get in quite safely.

"I am now in the same dug-out as Giffin and Allen. We did not get up
until midday to-day. Giffin made himself quite unbearable, and
eventually remarked that we would be having a scrap soon. 'Yes. I notice
that you seem to have been trying to make yourself as objectionable as
possible!' I dryly replied. He then declared that he was only pulling my
leg, and he has not been quite so bad since then.

"This afternoon we had platoon inspections. Sergeant Baldwin carried on
with 7 Platoon. Then Giffin came on the scene and said that he wanted
him in 8 Platoon because, since he is to go over the top with 8 Platoon
he ought to be with them now in order to get to know the men. Now, as
you know, Baldwin was in 7 Platoon as a corporal, so he naturally knows
the men in 7 Platoon very well indeed; also, he himself prefers, I
believe, to be in 7 Platoon; also, I want him as my platoon sergeant:
three excellent arguments why he should remain, as Captain Andrews has
ordered to-day. Giffin said that he would see Captain Andrews about it.
Then we fell to discussing the matter. The cause of the controversy is
really to be traced in a lack of sergeants now in B Company. The
Quartermaster-Sergeant having been wounded, Sergeant Jack has taken his
place; Sergeant Butterworth has been wounded; and Sergeant Williams and
Sergeant Dawson are on 'battle reserve.' There, therefore, remain only
three sergeants to four platoons; and all the N.C.O.'s in my platoon are
lance-corporals and cannot, therefore, very well be promoted to sergeant
at a bound....

"I have since discussed the matter with Allen. He sees in the difficulty
the chance of a solution which would give me what I want, and also
secure something which he wants. At present he has got Sergeant ---- as
his platoon sergeant. He says that he would not go over the top with him
for worlds; so he suggests that that sergeant should be put on 'battle
reserve' in place of Sergeant Williams and Corporal Stokes be promoted
platoon sergeant of 5 Platoon; that Sergeant Williams should take 8
Platoon; and that I should thus retain Sergeant Baldwin for 7 Platoon.
Personally I think that would be quite a good solution of the problem. I
hope it will, when put forward, meet with the approval of Captain

"July 10th (later).

"I have won! Captain Andrews has just been into our dug-out to give us
our orders as to working parties for to-night. Giffin brought up the
question of the platoon sergeants, and Captain Andrews immediately
replied: 'Oh, you will have to carry on with Sergeant Williams at
present; Sergeant Baldwin is going to remain with his old platoon'--7
Platoon! Giffin then asked whether Sergeant Williams would be going over
the top with him; Captain Andrews replied that it would probably end in
his doing so. Anyhow, Sergeant Baldwin is now definitely appointed to 7
Platoon. That is satisfactory. I am also quite satisfied with my section
commanders--Lance-Corporal Livesey (Bombers), Lance-Corporal Tipping
(Riflemen), Lance-Corporal Topping (Lewis Gunners), and Lance-Corporal
Segar (Rifle Grenadiers). The men in my platoon are practically the same
as they were when I first had 7 Platoon. So things are now much more
satisfactory. I hope they will continue so.

"While here we are under direct orders from Brigade. The Brigade-Major
has just been in with detail of working parties for this evening. I am
to take Sergeant Clews and a party of thirty men to carry ammunition
from one dump to another.

"I must now close. It is nearly dinner-time. It is 7.20 now; dinner at
7.30. I start with my party at 9.25."

My diary of July 10 states:

"Working party in the evening with Sergeant Clews--carrying ammunition
from a dump near White Château to a Brigade dump further on to the left,
behind Congreve Walk. A very quiet night."

On July 11 I wrote home as follows:

"We had Major Brighten and Captain Blamey in for dinner yesterday
evening. Major Brighten is delightfully optimistic; he is, like Captain
Andrews, positive that the war will be all over by October. He thinks
that the coming offensive will settle the dispute. We discussed the war,
its duration, and the coming battle. The other day I remarked to Captain
Blamey that a landing ought, during the heat of the action, to be
effected at a certain place, and that a certain famous General would
probably be chosen to do it, because he has already done it (but under
easier conditions!) on a former occasion. A day or two later Captain
Blamey was astonished to receive information from Major Brighten that
the very thing I had proposed, and by the very General I had suggested,
was going to be done! So he told him that I had said that this General
would probably be the one, because he had done it before; but Major
Brighten said that he did not think that he had done it before. Captain
Blamey said that he did not argue the point because he was not sure
himself, but he told me about it afterwards. I told him that this
general certainly had done this thing, and referred him to a certain
despatch of Lord French. So at dinner yesterday evening the subject was
again brought up. Major Brighten said that he had forgotten that this
general had done this thing before, but accepted my statement as

"Major Brighten went on to say that the Colonel had been debating in
Headquarters Mess the question as to who was the countess whose garter
Edward III picked up, and nobody knew, could I enlighten them? I replied
that I recollected having read of the incident, but had forgotten the
name of the countess!..."[6]

My diary proceeds--under date July 11:

"Working party in the evening with Sergeant Clews. We drew tools at
Potijze dump, proceeded up Strand, which has been badly knocked about by
shells, and repaired the parapet and parados of the front line to left
and right of Strand. The Germans sent over trench-mortars on our left
(about ten yards to the right of Giffin's party) while we were at it.
Nobody was hurt. Dickinson had a party further to my right. It is quite
high ground up there, and the front line trench slopes down to the
right; over the parados the open ground is much lower, dotted with
trees; it looks quite quaint when a flare goes up. We left about 1 a.m.
and returned via Strand, Oxford Road, Pagoda Wood and Potijze. Then
along Track 4. A thick mist came on, and we very nearly lost our way; I
was with my party just behind Dickinson's party. We managed to find our
way in time. To bed, 3 a.m."

"July 12th.

"One shell during the morning so shook the place that my head bumped up
and down on my pillow. Before we were up the Brigade-Major (Thompson)
came to see Captain Andrews about working parties. Brigade are very
pleased with our work, especially as the ---- left their work
unfinished, owing to wind up about trench-mortars!

"Up 2 p.m. Platoon inspections. Then lunch. From the sound I should
imagine that our preliminary bombardment for the forthcoming offensive
is beginning. Our artillery here is sending a good deal of stuff over.
At 6 p.m. I commenced a period of twenty-four hours as Orderly Officer.
My main duty consists of seeing that the road outside is cleared after
heavy shelling: for this object, Baldwin has a party permanently on the


[5] See Appendix III.

[6] See Appendix IV.



"On the night of July 12th we were treated to a new form of gas,
'mustard oil.' The two Companies billeted in Ypres suffered heavily, the
casualties numbering 3 officers and 114 other ranks." Thus the
_Lancashire Fusiliers' Annual_. The following letter, which I wrote in
the Ramparts, on July 13, after alluding to the working party recorded
at the end of the last chapter, describes that great bombardment of

"On Wednesday evening (July 11) I had had a working party, with Sergeant
Clews, in the front line. Dickinson had a party on my right. The work
was: repair of parapet and parados knocked in by recent shelling. While
we were at it the Germans sent over trench-mortars, a kind of shell
which rises to a great height, looking like a burning snake, and then
descends and pierces right into the earth, exploding underneath and
sending the earth above it in all directions. The men all crouched
against the parapet with a certain amount of wind up; but they were well
to our left. Giffin, who had a party some distance to our left, said
that they were about ten yards to his right. He and his party were
covered with dirt when one of them exploded. Dickinson and I ceased work
about 1 a.m. and returned. While returning, a thick mist came on.
Dickinson's party was in front; my party following behind his. It was
all we could do to keep in touch; and we almost lost the way. The party
in front kept halting while Dickinson tried to find the way; then they
would go on at a great speed, so much so that we had to run to catch up,
floundering into shell-holes; the men were cursing and swearing, each
thinking that he knew the way himself: on the whole it was a box-up;
but, as usual, we got home all right eventually. No casualties--two days
without any casualties!

"To-day I am Orderly Officer. My period of duty began at 6 p.m.
yesterday and continues until 6 p.m. to-day. My chief duty is to see
that the road is repaired after shelling. There is a party permanently
detailed for the job under Sergeant Baldwin; they do not go out at night
because their working hours are from 4 to 9 in the afternoons.

"Captain Blamey, Captain Bodington, Captain Briggs and Gratton were in
for dinner yesterday evening. Gratton is now Assistant Adjutant at
Headquarters. Every day Colonel Best-Dunkley goes to a certain house
(Hasler House at St. Jean) which has an upstairs still left, and,
through field-glasses, gazes at the front over which we shall have to
advance. On these trips Gratton accompanies him, and has to take
bearings and answer silly questions. He says that he is becoming most
horribly bored with it all. While they were at it yesterday a shell
exploded just by them. Gratton says that he jumped down below as soon as
he heard it come; he was hit by one or two bricks and covered with dirt;
when he looked round again he expected to find the Colonel done in, but
found him safe and sound!

"Yesterday evening Captain Andrews, Giffin, Dickinson and Allen all went
out on working parties. I remained behind as Orderly Officer. Captain
Briggs and Gratton remained in my dug-out with me. After a while Gratton
had to go to Brigade Headquarters next door to discuss a map with the
Brigade-Major. Soon after he had left us--about 10.10 p.m.--a terrific
shelling of the city began. Shells were bursting everywhere; the ground
frequently vibrated as if mines were going off; dumps were blown up; and
very soon parts of the city were in flames. It was a sight such as I
have never seen before; at times the whole scene was as light as day;
the flames encircled the already ruined and broken houses, bringing them
to the ground with a rumbling crash. It was a grand and awful sight--a
firework display better than any at Belle Vue, and free of charge! The
sky was perforated with brilliant yellow light, and the shells were
whizzing and crashing all round. The air was thick with sulphur. So much
so that we did not smell something much more serious than sulphur.
Amidst all the turmoil little gas-shells were exploding all over. As we
could not smell the gas we did not take any notice of it. We little
dreamt what the results were going to be. We knew not what a revelation
the morrow had in store for us!

"At about midnight I went to bed, and at about 6 this morning I heard
Giffin returning from his working party. He was muttering something
about gas and saying that he would be going sick with it in a few days,
but I was too sleepy to take much notice. I rose at 10.30 and made my
personal reconnaissance of the road, but only found two very serious
shell-holes actually on the road. These I pointed out to Sergeant
Baldwin and got his men at them. Then I began to hear things about gas.
I saw Corporal Flint (our gas N.C.O.!) being led by Sergeant Donovan and
Corporal Livesey in a very bad state; he could hardly walk, his eyes
were streaming, and he was moaning that he had lost his eyesight. So I
began to inquire as to what was the matter. I was then informed that
there had been a whole lot of men gassed. Then Captain Andrews sent for
me and questioned me about gas last night. I told him frankly that I
had not smelt any. He said that it was very strange, because when he got
back early this morning 'the place simply stank of it.' He said that
there would be a devil of a row about it; there were about ten
casualties already! But, as time went on, the numbers began to grow
rapidly. Yet I had not smelt it; the sentry had not smelt it; and the
Sergeant-Major had not smelt it! After some time the Colonel appeared on
the scene. He informed us that A Company had got seventy-two casualties
from last night's gas! (A Company were billeted in the Soap Factory,
near the Cathedral.) We felt a little relieved, because we realized that
ours was not the only company and by no means the worst; so we could not
be held responsible, as we were fearing that we might be--myself in
particular, as the only officer on the spot at the time, for not
ordering box-respirators on. I, of course, never thought of ordering
box-respirators, considering that I smelt no gas myself! The Colonel
further told us that three officers in A Company--Walsh, Hickey, and
Kerr--were suffering from gas. Hickey is very bad.

"During the day our casualties have risen considerably. They are now
twenty-eight, including Corporal Flint, Corporal Pendleton, Corporal
Heap, Pritchard, Giffin's servant, and Critchley, my servant. There have
been heavy casualties all over the city. The Boche has had a regular
harvest if he only knew it! Over a thousand gas-casualties have been
admitted to hospital from this city to-day. And many who have not yet
reported sick are feeling bad. So much so that the Brigade-Major has
agreed that all our working parties, but one small one under Allen,
shall be cancelled for to-night. I feel all right. I must have a strong
anti-gas constitution. This is a new kind of gas; the effects are
delayed; but I do not think I am likely to get it now since I have
hardly smelt any yet.

"The Germans are doing the obvious thing--trying to prevent or hinder
our forthcoming offensive. I notice that they have attacked near
Nieuport and advanced to a depth of 600 yards on a 1400 yards front. I
have been expecting an enemy attack here, because it is the best thing
the Germans can do if they have any sense; and I have repeatedly said
so, but have been told that I am silly, that the Germans dare not attack
us because they are not strong enough. For a day I held the view that
peace was coming in a week or two! But Bethmann-Hollweg's
straightforward declaration that Germany will not make peace without
annexations or indemnities, that she is out to conquer, has altered
things. We now know exactly how we stand. Germany is still out for grab.
Therefore she is far from beaten. _Ipso facto_, peace is out of the
question. The end is not yet in sight. There is still a long struggle
before us. I think the forthcoming battle here will be the semi-final:
the final will be fought in the East about Christmas or the New Year.
Constantinople still remains the key to victory, if victory is to be won
by fighting."

       *       *       *       *       *

My diary of July 13 concludes with the statement: "Captain Briggs's A
Company--the remains of it--are coming to these billets to join with us.
Gas casualties in Ypres (latest) over 3,000."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was about this time (in the middle of July) that, in the course of
one of my letters to my school-friend, Mr. K. L. P. Martin, then--having
been rejected for service in the Army as medically unfit--a student at
Manchester University, I had remarked that I would probably get a
"Blighty" in a fortnight; and I would, therefore, want something
interesting to read in hospital: would he please send me _England Since
Waterloo_, by J. A. R. Marriott, whom I had heard lecturing at the
Oxford Union on "The Problem of the Near East," in February, 1916, when
I was a recruit in the 29th Royal Fusiliers?

Mr. Martin, who was staying with another friend, Mr. George Fasnacht,
at Clayton Bridge, replied as follows:

        "The Hollies, Clayton Bridge,
                      "July 23rd, 1917.

"Dear Floyd,

"Many thanks for your last letter. So you consider that you are likely
to become a casualty in the near future. I hope not. Though, if such an
event should take place, I hope it will not be serious and will involve
a sojourn in England for at least six months.

"I will order the Marriott at once. I decline to accept it as off the
debt I owe you. It will do as a twenty-first birthday present, as I have
received no news re Lovat Fraser. As soon as the book comes I will
forward it on.

"Teddy[F] and myself had a glorious cycle ride yesterday. We rode to
town, took the train to Ashley, then rode to Knutsford via Mobberley. At
Knutsford we had tea and then proceeded to Pickmere where we had a row;
then on to Great Budworth, Arley, Rostherne and Ashley. The country was
glorious, a fine day, good roads, midsummer and Cheshire--the
combination needs beating.

"I may say that I am extremely pleased at Churchill going to the
Ministry of Munitions.

"Both Teddy and myself intend getting our photos taken this week, and I
will forward copies of both to Middleton Junction.

        "Best wishes,
                  "KENNETH MARTIN."

The Marriott was destined to have a curious history. As these pages will
show, I got my "Blighty" in a fortnight all right. Meanwhile the book
was on its way from England. It arrived after I had left the shores of
France behind, me. I never received it. Kenneth Martin visited me in
hospital at Worsley Hall in August and told me that he had sent it. I
had to tell him that it had not reached me. When I returned to the
Battalion in the spring of 1918, Padre Newman informed me that a book
had come out for me after I had been wounded, that he had read it with
much interest, and that it was now in the custody of Captain J. C.
Latter, M.C. Latter was one of the original 2/5th officers who had been
wounded in 1916 and who returned to the Battalion immediately after the
Third Battle of Ypres, in August, 1917, and succeeded Reginald Andrews
as Adjutant. But when Padre Newman told me this Captain A. H. G. Griggs,
M.C., was Adjutant and Latter was away with Sir Herbert Plumer in Italy.
However, Latter returned once more in the summer of 1918, and mentioned
that he had a book belonging to me; but he disappeared again--first on
to the Brigade Staff and then to a Staff job further away--as suddenly
as he had reappeared. I did not see him again until we were both once
more in civilian clothes, and I called at the Barracks at Bury one
August afternoon in 1919. He again mentioned the Marriott, remarking
that he had discovered it in his kit in August, 1917, and had not the
faintest idea how it had got there!


[7] Edward James Martin, Second-Lieutenant in the Seaforth Highlanders,
afterwards killed in action, December 1917.



After the bombardment of Ypres there still remained seven more days
before our memorable nineteen days' sojourn in the ghastly Salient was
to end. And memorable those days certainly were. Nearly every day
brought with it some fresh adventure. For any boy who, like this boy,
craved for excitement, and, while hating war theoretically and disliking
it temperamentally, was not blind to the romance and grand drama of it
all, there was ample satisfaction in the Great War; and perhaps on no
other sector of the line did all the factors which are conducive to
excitement obtain as they did in the dead city of the Salient and the
shell-ploughed fields around it.

My diary of July 14 carries on as follows:

"Up about 2 a.m. Twenty-eight more men in B Company reported sick with
gas, but they were not sent to hospital. The M.O. said that they would
be excused duty to-night and must report sick to-morrow morning. We had
a little more gas in the afternoon. I think a German heavy exploded one
of our own gas dumps near the Canal Bank. A dense cloud of vapour rose
in that vicinity, and we felt the smell slowly drifting towards us in
the almost breathless calm of a bright summer afternoon. Giffin, who was
the senior officer present at the time, ordered respirators on. But it
did not last long, so we went on with our tea.

"In the evening Giffin and I were on a working party with Sergeant
Clews, Sergeant Dawson and forty-five other ranks. We proceeded to
Potijze Dump and drew tools; thence to Pagoda Trench and carried on with
the making of a new trench branching off that trench. All went well for
the first three quarters of an hour. Our guns were pounding the German
trenches the whole time--the first preliminaries in the bombardment
preceding our offensive. But the Germans do not always allow us to have
all our own way in these matters; they always retaliate. And, by Jove,
we did get some retaliation too! At 10.50 p.m. quite suddenly, a heavy
shell exploded just near us; and a regular strafe commenced. I was
standing near a shell-hole at the time, so I immediately crouched where
I was; the men digging at the trench at once took refuge in the trench.
In a few minutes I mustered sufficient courage to make a dash for the
trench. I got there just in time, for, soon afterwards, a shell burst
almost where I had been. They were dropping all round us, both in front
of and behind the trench. Only the trench could possibly have saved us.
And it was a marvel that no one was hurt as it was. I honestly expected
every moment to be my last; it was a miracle that none of our party were
hit. If we had remained out in the open I firmly believe that the whole
lot would have been knocked out. It seemed as if it was never going to
cease. I never went through such a disagreeable experience in my life
before. Then, to crown all, gas shells began to be mixed with the
others. There was soon a regular stink of gas; I smelt it this time all
right. We got our respirators on, which added to our discomfort. This
went on for quite a long time. Then it also began to pour with rain and
we were all drenched. The night was pitch dark. Every now and then the
exploding shells around us and far away, the burning dumps near Ypres
and the star shells along the line, lit up the whole panorama with an
effect like that of lightning. The water and mud grew thick in the
trench; and still the shells fell thickly all around. We were thankful
for the discomfort of rain because it saved us from being gassed."

"July 15th.

"About 1 a.m. Giffin decided, the shelling having slackened a little,
that we had better get down a mine-shaft near; so we stumbled along to
it in anything but a happy frame of mind. Everybody was cursing. Despite
our discomfort, however, the humour of the situation under such
circumstances cannot fail to strike one; I could not help chuckling.
Eventually we got down the mine. It was horribly damp and dirty down
there, but the atmosphere was much clearer; there was no smell of gas.
That was a relief. And we felt much safer here! No heavies could reach
us at such a depth as this. But it was all darkness. We remained in this
subterranean sanctuary for three hours, standing on a water-covered
floor, amidst dripping walls, in the darkness; above us, all the time,
we could hear the dull thud and feel the vibration of the bursting
shells. For want of anything better to pass the time away the men began
to air their opinions about the war to each other. 'We're winning!' 'Are
we heck as like; Billy's winning. Judging from t'newspapers you'd think
t'war was over long since! They keep telling us he's beat; but they want
to come out 'ere and see for 'emselves.... They say t'last seven
years'll be t'worst!' Such was the conversation which was going on.
Others had a sing-song. 'Hi-tiddle-ite! Take me back to Blighty; Blighty
is the place for me!' rang out with great enthusiasm from the darkness

"When we did go upstairs again daylight had dawned. We left the mine at
4.20 a.m. Giffin went, with one or two men, back to the trench to
replace the camouflage; he told me to get back to the Ramparts with the
remainder as quickly as possible. I did so. We went along the road all
the way from Potijze to Ypres. We were literally chased by gas-shells;
we had to run in respirators as fast as we could go; we came round by
the Menin Gate and got back into the Ramparts, safe and sound, about
4.45, very thankful that nobody in our party had got hurt. Other
battalions out on working parties had had a good many casualties. One
party of the King's Own had had one killed and eleven wounded by one
shell on the Canal Bank.

"When I got back to the Mess dug-out I found Captain Andrews, Dickinson,
and Allen all sitting there. They had not been to bed. They had had a
deuce of a time. The shells had been falling here as well--also the gas.
But due precautions against gas had this time been taken! Captain
Andrews declared that the rain had saved the lives of hundreds of men.
Giffin got back soon after me. He is feeling the gas. We all got to bed
about 6 a.m....

"It was 3 in the afternoon when I got up. Before rising I read nine
letters which were awaiting me--_some_ post!"

After describing the happenings of the previous night in a letter
written home that Sunday afternoon (July 15) I went on to say: "I shall
pull through all these exciting little episodes all right. I am quite
all right so far. Cheer up! Better times in store! We all look forward
to that great day 'When war shall be no more.' It will be a glorious day
when, at last, peace is attained. I am looking forward to the happy days
to come and intend to have a good time then. We are now going through
the storm. But there is a calm ahead: 'Peace shall follow battle, Night
shall end in day.'"

My diary of July 15 carries on:

"In the evening I went on a working party with Allen. It was a case of
extending the trench in Pagoda Wood another fifty yards. We set to work
at 10 a.m. Our guns were bombarding the enemy trenches most of the time,
but there were not many shells coming from the enemy. A few fell some
hundred to two hundred yards away during the night. Our chief annoyance
on this occasion was a German machine-gun firing from Kaiser Bill. It
swept our trench completely. One man in my platoon, Berry by name, was
wounded in the leg. It was a wonder there were no more casualties: the
bullets were flying amongst us in great profusion. But they were mostly
low, so not very dangerous. 'This is the place for "Blighties"!'
Lance-Corporal Livesey encouragingly observed to me while they were
whistling round us. We stayed at the job quite a long time. I was
beginning to wonder when Allen was going to pronounce it finished; the
men were obviously fed up. At last he let half the party go at 2.30 a.m.
and told me to take them back. We returned by the road all the way from
Potijze to the Menin Gate. It was 3 a.m. when we got back to the
Ramparts. It was getting quite light. Allen followed on with the
remainder about half an hour later; he came through the fields. We had
some refreshment and then went to bed."

"July 16th.

"I did not get up until 3 p.m. this afternoon. Since 8 Platoon has
practically ceased to exist owing to gas casualties, 7 and 8 are again
combined under Giffin, and I am second-in-command. Baldwin remains
platoon sergeant. If and when we get sufficient reinforcements the two
platoons will separate again.

"The Germans have been bombarding Poperinghe with very big shells
to-day. The shops, I hear, are all shut. It looks as if they intend to
destroy the town. Our great bombardment of the enemy trenches is in

That evening I wrote a lengthy letter home. In the course of it I said:
"The padre is in hospital at present, having been wounded by a shell in
the streets of the city the other day. It is only a very slight wound,
so he will not be in hospital long. With regard to the four officers who
were wounded on July 1--Ronald is in hospital in Bristol doing well;
Halstead, with a wound in the stomach, is going to 'Blighty' shortly;
Barker and Wood are very bad indeed, the former was given up altogether
the other day. They are much too bad to cross the water yet. We were all
amused to read in the _Manchester Guardian_ that Halstead had been
lately in the Army Ordnance Corps; it is, of course, incorrect.

"Whenever Colonel Best-Dunkley or Major Brighten come into our Mess they
always ask me what I think of the war and when I think it is going to
end. They came in yesterday. Colonel Best-Dunkley, with his customary
squint and twitch of the nose (I have been told that he contracted this
habit as the result of shell-shock on the Somme), said: 'Well, "General
Floyd," what do you think of the war? How long is it going to last?' I
replied: 'February, 1918.' They then always give vent to great
amusement, especially when I mention Palestine; but I really think this
sinister commanding officer is not at all badly disposed towards me; in
fact I am inclined to think that he likes me! I do not dislike him at

"I am Orderly Officer to-night so am now going to bed. The Germans are
sending copious gas shells over while I am writing this, but we have
got the gas curtain down in our dug-out and it has been sprayed; all
precautions have been taken; so we ought to be all right. There is also
a good deal of shelling of a heavier kind going on; our guns are giving
the German trenches hell at present; we have kept up a consistent
bombardment all day. The Germans are giving us some back now; but I feel
quite safe in this dug-out! I am glad I am not on a working party
to-night. So good night! Again I say, 'cheer up!' It's a funny world we
live in!"

My diary of July 17 states:

"Up 11 a.m. Had breakfast while dressing. Reconnoitred the road; all
correct. At 1.10 p.m. I reported to Captain Warburton at Brigade
Headquarters about a working party for which I was detailed. Carberry,
the Brigade bombing officer, explained to me what was to be done. At
1.30 I set off with a party of Sergeant Clews and thirty-four other
ranks including Corporal Chamley and Lance-Corporal Topping. The job
consisted of carrying boxes of bombs from a dump at the junction of
Milner Walk and the road to White Château; then detonating bombs which
were not already detonated; then carrying S.A.A. from one spot to
another about twenty yards away. I left Corporal Chamley in charge of
the first dump, where the men left their equipment. I went backwards
and forwards myself. On one occasion, while I was at the junction of
Milner Walk and the road, General Stockwell appeared. He asked me what
we were doing; I told him; he expressed himself satisfied and proceeded
up the trench. It was a very hot day and I felt very tired. My head
began to ache. We finished at 5.30 p.m. Then we came back. Our guns were
blazing away all day, making a great row. It was 6.30 when we got back
to the Ramparts. I reported to Carberry at Brigade. I felt very bad
indeed now. The exercise in the heat, after gas, was taking effect upon
me. I did not have any dinner, but lay down. I was told that I looked
white. I felt rotten. Giffin also is bad; he got some more gas last
night. A good many more have reported sick with gas to-day. I think I
have got a slight touch of it now. However, as the evening advanced I
began to feel much better. By midnight I felt quite well again."

On July 18 I wrote home as follows: "More gas shells came over last
night. We had the gas curtains down again, but, even so, gas is bound to
get in. There are fresh gas casualties every day. The number is rising
rapidly. Giffin has, at last, reported sick with gas and has departed to
hospital to-day--another officer less! So now instead of having no
platoon at all I find myself in command of the two, 7 and 8!"

I never saw Lieutenant Giffin again. I shook hands with him in the
dug-out and said good-bye when he announced that he had reported sick
and was going down the line. He went away and never returned; I have
heard absolutely nothing of him since.

"Our guns have been blazing away all night, and are still pounding the
enemy lines. Our bombardment is now going full swing. But the Germans
are sending shells over too. Five B Company men were wounded by one
shell, just outside, this morning. One of them was Hartshorne. He has
got four shrapnel wounds and is off to hospital. I have been speaking to
him this afternoon. He said that they were hurting a little, but he
seemed quite happy about it. He said that he wished he was in hospital
in Middleton! It is nothing very serious; it should prove a nice
'Blighty' case!

"The padre is now back from hospital! He has not been there long, has

"A few of those men who went to hospital with gas on July 13 were marked
for 'Blighty' and were just off, when General Jeudwine stopped them and
said that as few as possible from this Division must be sent home at
present. So, instead of going back, they have turned up here again as
'fit.' Hard luck!"

My diary of the same date (July 18) states that in the afternoon "I went
on a working party with Sergeant Clews and fifteen men. We were filling
in shell-holes on the road near St. Jean. After we had filled in a few
we got shelled. We took refuge behind an artillery dug-out for about an
hour. The shells were falling close all the time. One fell less than six
yards from me. I quite thought we were going to have some casualties,
but the only one we had was one man who got a scratch in the arm with a
piece of shrapnel. At 5.15 we decided to come back via a trench, as the
shelling was still going on. All got back safely. But it is most
disconcerting--one cannot go out on a little job like that in the
afternoon without having the wind put up us vertical! I had tea and
dinner. Then to bed. I felt very hot and could not get to sleep. Allen
returned from a working party at 10.15 p.m. There was a strafe on at
10.30; the German trenches were being raided in four places."

The following day, July 19, I wrote to my mother as follows:

"I got up at 2.30 a.m. this morning, and with Sergeant Clews's working
party filled in the remaining shell-holes (outside Hasler House). We had
a moderately quiet time. Only about three shells burst anywhere near us
the whole time. Yet we were working in broad daylight! We got back at
5.45 and I then went to bed again. I had breakfast in bed. Then some
post arrived: a letter from Father dated July 16 and the enclosed from
Norman Floyd. As I expected, he, too, is now in the Army; has been for
some months. He is in the 74th Training Reserve Battalion, and is
thinking of going in for a commission. I have advised him to do so--in a
letter which I have just written to him.

"I got up at midday and had lunch. The afternoon I took easy. The padre
was in for tea. While we were having tea newspapers arrived. Captain
Andrews opened the _Daily Mail_ and exclaimed with horror: 'Good
heavens! Churchill's been appointed Minister of Munitions!'

"'Hurrah!' I exclaimed, nearly tumbling off my seat in my excitement.

"'Good God! How awful!' dolefully exclaimed the padre, looking at me in
amazement that I should express satisfaction at such a catastrophe.
'What? Are you pleased to hear that Churchill is in office again?'
inquired he and Dickinson in surprise!

"'Rather! he's one of our two most brilliant statesmen,' I replied.

"Thereupon an argument began and continued throughout tea. I must say I
never admired Lloyd George more than I do at this moment when, in face
of most bitter public opposition, he has had the courage to give office
to Churchill. I admire him for it.

"The new appointments are certainly of a sensational nature. Carson
leaves the Admiralty and enters the War Cabinet as Minister of
Reconstruction (whatever that may mean!). Montagu becomes Secretary of
State for India in Austen Chamberlain's place. Then the most startling
thing of all--the wonderful Sir Eric Geddes becomes First Lord of the
Admiralty! That is very significant indeed. The appointment of that
extraordinary production of the war to the Admiralty at this particular
moment is not, I think, unconnected with the forthcoming operations. I
leave you to surmise what I mean. Churchill has now once more set foot
upon the ladder, despite popular prejudice. Watch him now. He will not
rest until he has mounted to the top. It is really delightful. How angry
everybody will be! Do, please, pull their legs about it for me! But
watch also Sir Eric Geddes. He is one of the most remarkable men of our
time--general, admiral, statesman!

"I am rather amused at the change in the Royal Name: our Royal Family is
now to be known as the Royal House of Windsor! It does strike me as
pandering somewhat to popular prejudice. That King George should change
his name to Windsor cannot change the fact of his ancestry; he is still
a member of the Royal House of Coburg, to which King Albert of Belgium
and King Manoel of Portugal belong: no legal document can alter the
facts of heredity! not that I think any the worse of him because he is a
Coburg. However, the Royal House of Windsor will be peculiarly the
British Royal Family and will probably marry amongst the British
nobility. To that I have no objection whatever, as I have said before.

"No, I have not seen the King or the Queen out here; but I knew that the
Queen was inspecting the hospitals in the town where we get off the
train for this part of the front.

"Talking of hospitals--the Padre says that Barker is not expected to
live many hours longer. The other three are pulling through. We have got
another officer gas casualty to-day. Kerr, who has been suffering from
the effects of gas ever since July 12, has reported sick to-day and has
gone to hospital for a fortnight. One by one we diminish! I feel quite
all right.

"I was talking to Sergeant Brogden--the new gas N.C.O.--last night. He
comes from Middleton Junction. He says that he was in the Church Lads
Brigade at St. Gabriel's.

"I have been reading the leading article about popular scapegoats in the
_Church Times_, and I agree with it. I think the young Duke of Argyll's
attack on Archbishop Davidson in the _Sunday Herald_ was conspicuous
rather for venom than for good taste.

"Earl Curzon's speech in the Lords on Mesopotamia I thought very sober
and statesmanlike indeed. I read it in the _Times_."

The next day (July 20) I wrote home as follows:

"We actually had no working parties to take last night. How considerate
of the Brigade-Major! So we had a good night's sleep. And we have not
done anything particular to-day. We are going to have a change at last.
After twenty days in the line we are going out to-night, and are going
to have a few days in a rest camp some distance behind. The place to
which we are going on this occasion is nothing like as far back as we
were last month; but I can assure you it is a perfectly _safe_ distance.
So you need not worry. I can tell you it has been _some_ twenty days! I
have never experienced such a twenty days before; and I am glad to be
looking back upon them, writing during the last few hours, rather than
at the beginning. We are all glad to be going out again. General
Stockwell has ordered that we have three days' complete rest; and Sir
Hubert Gough has issued an order that on no account are the men in his
Army to be worked more than four hours per day, inclusive of marching to
and from parade ground, while out of the line. So the prospect is
bright. It is now 4.10, and we are going to have tea. Our bombardment is
still making a great row."

My diary of the same date (July 20) states:

"At 4.30 p.m. Captain Briggs, Dickinson, Allen, Sergeant Donovan and I
walked via Wells Cross Roads, La Brique (where our guns were very close
together, their sound almost deafening us as we passed them), to
Liverpool Trench. Here we reconnoitred our starting points for the
forthcoming push. Then Allen and I went on with Sergeant Donovan up
Threadneedle Street to Bilge Trench. We watched, through glasses, the
German line going up in smoke. In present-day warfare I certainly think
that artillery is the most formidable arm of the Service; it is
artillery which is the chief factor deciding success or failure in all
the great battles in the West. It is even now preparing the way for us.
After having had a look round from over the parapet in Bilge Trench we
returned the same way we had come; and we actually got safely back to
the Ramparts without having any adventures whatever!"

When we got back to the Ramparts our tour in the line was at an end. All
we had to do now was await the arrival of relief. And a very pleasant
sensation, indeed, that is to weary soldiers! The sensation of "relief"
is the happiest of all the various sensations one had "out there." There
were just a few hours of irritating expectancy to live through--followed
sometimes, as at Givenchy in 1918, by some boring experience such as a
"stand to" in some particular, and generally uninviting, positions--and
then one would be free, safe and in a position and condition to enjoy a
delightful sleep: free and safe for a few days, until the all too soon
moment for return should come!



My diary of July 20 goes on to state how our relief was effected: "We
were relieved by a company of the 1/5th South Lancashires of General
Lewis' 166 Brigade at 8.45 p.m. So I set off with my platoon at 9
p.m.... We went round Salvation Corner and across various tracks--a very
roundabout way; but Sergeant Baldwin, Sergeant Dawson and I between us
managed to find our way to Vlamertinghe somehow. Then we went along the
road to Brandhoek Cross Roads and thence into our destination, B Camp,
on the right."

The letter which I wrote home on July 21 describes the events of the two
days in greater detail without naming places. It begins where my letter
of the previous day left off, at tea-time: "After tea yesterday I went
up to the trenches to reconnoitre our own positions as they will be on
'the day,' and the front over which we shall have to advance. I was
accompanied by Allen and others. We got there and back again without
any adventures whatever; but we saw crowds of batteries bombarding the
German lines. The noise as we passed them was deafening. And through our
glasses we saw the German lines going up in smoke. If the artillery
fails to achieve exactly what the General orders the infantry is
foredoomed to failure; and, conversely, if the artillery is successful
the infantry ought to have things all plain sailing. That was the secret
of the victory of Messines last month. Churchill, with his customary
intelligence, has aptly summed up the matter in the following words: 'In
this war two crude facts leap to the eye. The artillery kills. The
infantry is killed. From this arises the obvious conclusion--the
artillery at its maximum and infantry at its minimum.'[8]

"We got back at 6.45 and had dinner. At 8.30 we began to be relieved.
So, at 9, I got off with my platoon. We had no adventures except that
even the three of us--Sergeant Baldwin, Sergeant Dawson and I--had some
difficulty in finding our way through the various tracks across the
fields! We passed some simply huge field-guns firing into the enemy
lines. On one occasion if I had not called out to inquire whether all
was safe I would have been blown up with others by one of our own big
guns. 'Just a minute,' was the reply; and then a loud report nearly
lifted us off our feet as the shell left the muzzle of the gun which was
pointing across the path we were taking! They ought to have had a picket
out to warn passers-by as is done in the case of most big guns when

"We eventually got to our destination, a certain camp. We stayed the
night there. We tried to get some sleep on the floor in a large elephant
dug-out, but found it utterly impossible: the sound of the guns all
round was too terrific. This bombardment is as yet only in its early
stages. I was only a few hundred yards away from where I was last night
on that night previous to the night of the Battle of Messines when the
preliminary bombardment for that battle was at its height; yet I may say
that the present one sounded last night just like that one sounded then.
So what will it become as the days roll on?

"We had breakfast at 4 this morning and marched off from this camp at
6.40. We marched about nine miles to a village which was really only
about six miles away! I can tell you I was, and we all were, very tired
indeed when we got here. It was about midday when we arrived. We are
still well in sound of the guns, but just nicely out of range of them.
Nevertheless, air scraps have been going on overhead most of the day. We
are under canvas--the whole battalion in a large field enclosed by
hedges. The weather is splendid; fine camping weather. We had lunch
about 2 p.m. Then I played a game something like tennis (badminton). The
Colonel is very keen on it. When he saw that I was going to play he
said, 'Oh, I'll back the "General,"' meaning me! Then he showed me how
to play. He has been most agreeable with me all day. Major Brighten has
started calling me 'The Field-Marshal!' I think I cause these gentlemen
considerable amusement!

"Sir Douglas Haig is in this village to-day; but as I have not been out
of camp since I got here I have not seen anything of him."


[8] Churchill, _London Magazine_, Dec., 1916.



The time we spent at Valley Camp, Watou, is duly chronicled in my diary.

"July 21st.

"We got here at 12. Lunch at 2.... My servant Johnson reported sick with
gas and departed for hospital; so I asked Sergeant Baldwin to suggest
another. He took me to M'Connon. I endorsed the selection. Allen's
servant, Parkinson, has also gone to hospital with gas to-day! To bed 10

"July 22nd (Sunday).

"Breakfast in bed. Up 9.30. The Colonel had a conference of all officers
re training and man-power. Then there was a Church parade in the field
at 12.15 p.m. The main points of the padre's sermon were Repentance,
Hope, Intention. In the afternoon Dickinson and I went over my platoon
roll with the Sergeant-Major (Preston) to see how we stand. He also did
the same with the other platoons. After tea I had a walk into the
village of Watou and purchased some chocolates. Then dinner. The padre
tells me that Archbishop Lang is in Poperinghe to-day.

"Critchley came back from hospital this evening; so he will resume his
duties as my servant to-morrow.

"Corporal Flint has died, in hospital, of gas."

"July 23rd.

"Breakfast in bed. Up 7.30. Parade 8. Training during the morning. There
were also lectures by company commanders on the forthcoming operations,
and a lecture on the compass by Major Brighten. In the afternoon General
Stockwell spoke about the forthcoming operations to all officers and
N.C.O.'s. His speech was very interesting.... He is to have his
Headquarters in Wieltje Dug-out. He said that casualties of this brigade
while in Ypres this time had been 26 officers and 470 men. I have been
very busy with matters relating to the push all day."

"July 24th.

"Battalion parade 8.30 a.m., followed by lectures on the forthcoming
operations and a lecture to officers and N.C.O.'s on field messages by
Major Brighten. In the afternoon platoons marched to Poperinghe to bathe
at the Divisional Baths in the Square--just by the church, I left Valley
Camp with my platoon at 1.45. We marched via St. Janster Biexen to
Poperinghe and there bathed. Then I took my N.C.O.'s--Sergeant Baldwin,
Corporal Livesey, Lance-Corporals Topping, Tipping, Heap and Hopkinson,
and also Sergeant Dawson, to see a model of the battlefield at the
Divisional School. We were ages finding it. We went the wrong way. But
we eventually went along the Switch Road and found it. It was 6 p.m. by
then. So I gave Baldwin, Topping, Tipping and Heap a pass to have tea in
Poperinghe. Dawson and Hopkinson did not want one, so they set off back.
I went into Poperinghe and had a drink of citron. I felt very tired.
Then I set off back to Watou. I came across Dickinson returning on
horseback. Then I caught up Sergeant Dawson and Lance-Corporal
Hopkinson; and we got on a lorry which took us right as far as St.
Janster Biexen. We then walked back to Valley Camp. I had dinner. Then
to bed, feeling a little seedy."

"July 25th.

"Breakfast in bed at 8. Dickinson, feeling very bad, stayed in bed. I
also felt washed out. I expect it is the gas at last taking effect. At
10 a.m. I set off with one officer and one N.C.O. from each company to
reconnoitre the route to Query Camp. Beesley and I with Sergeant Clews
and Sergeant Malone went one way; the others went another way. We found
ourselves wrong, but eventually got right. It was raining, the route was
thick with mud, and I felt very weary. I soon felt done to the world.
We had some coffee in a hut on the Poperinghe road, about a mile from
the town; then walked on to the Switch Road, right along that and on to
the main Poperinghe-Vlamertinghe road. Here Beesley and his sergeant
went one way and Sergeant Clews and I went another--right along the main
road. We had a drink of citron at a little hut named Villa Franca. Then
we turned to the left at Brandhoek Cross Roads, went through B Camp, and
eventually reached Query Camp. I felt horribly fatigued and also had a
most annoying cold.... Soon Beesley and his sergeant turned up. We had
some citron in a cottage here. The Belgian woman who served us said that
she had lost her father, mother and three brothers in the war. After
this we went along Track 1 and back to the main road. Here we got a
motor-lorry which took us through Poperinghe and right back to St.
Janster Biexen. We walked back to Valley Camp from there. I really feel
done up; and I have a headache in addition to my bad cold--something
like influenza. All symptoms of gas! When we got back the rain had
ceased and it was quite nice. A new large draft arrived about 6.30;
there were two new officers with it--Richard Maxwell Barlow and Kenneth
Leslie Smith. Young has also returned to the Battalion. There have been
a number of drafts recently, so we are getting up strength again.
Young, Barlow and Smith have all been posted to A Company; so, as the B
and A Company Mess is joint, they mess with us."

The same day, July 25, I wrote home from Watou as follows:

"Just a line to let you know that I have received all your letters up to
July 20 and the parcel for which I thank you very much. I have been
simply awfully busy--chiefly with maps and operation orders re coming
offensive--and have not been able to write home during the last few days
as a result. We are supposed to be resting, but I have hardly a moment
to spare. General Stockwell lectured all officers and N.C.O.'s of this
Battalion here in the field on Monday afternoon. He said that he was
going to tell us everything that he knew himself about the coming
battle, but did not tell us anything we did not already know! I do not
think he told us all: if he did tell us all then I don't think much of
the idea. The General had a cigarette in his mouth and his hands in his
pockets the whole time he was speaking; he was quite jovial, cracking
jokes all the time. He impressed upon us the importance of sending
messages back when we reach our objectives; he said that if we do not do
so it will mean his coming up to the front line himself for information
'and I don't want to have to do that,' he laughed, 'but it will come to
that if necessary,' he went on in a more serious tone, 'and it will be
woe betide the platoon commander whose negligence has brought his
brigadier-general's life into danger!' At the conclusion of his speech
the General asked whether any of us had any questions to ask. I could
have asked one, but I know he would not have answered it; so I remained

"Archbishop Lang was in the big town half-way between here and the front
line on Monday, but I did not see anything of him. Nor did I see the
Queen when she was inspecting the hospitals there. But I think it very
fine of Queen Mary to visit troops within range of the Germans guns as
she did.

" ... It is now evening and is quite bright, the sun is shining into the
tent where I am writing this. We have been stationed here since July 21,
and are now marching back in a few minutes to a camp beyond the
above-mentioned town--where I went to reconnoitre this morning.

"You will see that it is impossible to write any reply to 'Bumjo' at
present as I have not the time.[9] I also warn you not to get the wind
up if you do not hear from me for a week or so. I can quite foresee a
period of that length elapsing between my letters now, as before this
present week is out we shall be engaged in fighting the great battle of
the North. 'Bumjo' will have to wait until we come out of action again.
I intend to deal with him and give him the telling-off which his
impudence and his treason are asking for after the battle. I hope to
have more leisure then! So au revoir!"

These days at Watou, while being days full of work, were not unpleasant.
We had plenty to talk about; and, seated on the grass on a summer
evening, Joe Roake would make us rock with laughter at his quaint and
humorous tales of his experiences when a sergeant at Loos and other
battles. Roake was always a great asset to any mess when he honoured it
by a visit. He hated Headquarters Mess; he was always ready to jump at
any excuse to get away from the society of Colonel Best-Dunkley; and he
was never happier than when, over a nice selection of drinks, he was
retailing the Colonel's latest sayings and doings. And we, needless to
say, were never happier than when listening to him on this most
interesting topic! Roake and Humfrey with little "Darky," who was their
invariable companion, were always welcome.

It was at this time that news came across that a son and heir had been
born to Colonel Best-Dunkley. The event was one of considerable
interest, and was widely discussed. "Poor little ----! To think that
there's another Best-Dunkley in the world to look forward to!" exclaimed
our humorous friend when he heard the news. "Well, when he grows up he
will always have the gratification of knowing that his father was a
colonel in the Great War!" mused Captain Andrews in a tone which
suggested that he had a presentiment that Colonel Best-Dunkley would not
survive the coming push. And, somehow--though nobody ever anticipated
for a moment that he would win the V.C.--we all discussed the
probability of his falling, and always thought that the odds were in
favour of his falling. And to be perfectly frank (my object in writing
this book is to tell the truth), nobody regretted the probability! If we
had really known what kind of a man he was, if we had been able then to
fathom beneath the forbidding externals, we might have felt very
differently about it. But it is not given to man to know the future or
even to discern the heart of his most intimate acquaintance! We only saw
in him a man who was as unscrupulous as his prototype Napoleon in all
matters which affected his own personal ambition, the petty tyrant of
the parade ground, who could occasionally be very agreeable, but of whom
all were afraid or suspicious, because none knew when his mood would
change. In a few days this man was going to give everybody who knew him
the surprise of their lives. Had he any presentiment or intention as to
the future himself? I think he had both intention and presentiment.
Throughout the whole summer of 1917 his whole heart and soul were
absorbed in preparation for the coming push; never did a man give his
mind more completely, unstintingly, and whole-heartedly to a project
than Best-Dunkley did to the Ypres offensive which was to have carried
us to the Gravenstafel Ridge, then on to the Paschendaele Ridge, into
Roulers and across the plains of Belgium. He was determined to associate
his name indelibly with the field of Ypres; he was determined to win the
highest possible decoration on July 31: he knew what the risks were; he
had seen enough of war to know what a modern push meant; he had not come
through Guillemont and Ginchy for nothing and learnt nothing; he was
determined to stake life and limbs and everything on the attainment of
his ambition. He was determined to cover himself with glory; he was
determined to let people see that he did not know what fear was. And I
think--there was that in his bearing the nearer the day became which
suggested it, everybody who had known him of old declaring that they
noticed a certain change in him during the last two months of his
life--that he felt that his glory would be purchased at the cost of his

I well remember one afternoon in the Ramparts when Captain Andrews came
in and told us that it had been proposed that Major Brighten should take
the Battalion over the top in the push and the Colonel remain behind on
"battle reserve." Captain Andrews said that that would be fine, because
if the push were a success--as it was sure to be--Major Brighten[10]
would probably get the D.S.O. before the Colonel, which would annoy the
Colonel intensely; and he said that he would do anything, risk anything
to bring success to our beloved Major Brighten--feelings which we all
cordially reciprocated. But Colonel Best-Dunkley would not hear of it.
He implored the General to allow him to lead his battalion over the top;
he waxed most importunate in his entreaties, almost bursting into tears
at the thought of being debarred from going over with the Battalion;
and, at last, his request was granted and the General agreed that
Best-Dunkley should take the Battalion over.

Another very gallant officer was also very grieved when he was informed
that he was detailed to be on "battle reserve" for the push. That
officer was Kenneth Blamey. When Captain Blamey was informed that his
second-in-command would take the Company over he implored to be allowed
to go over the top with his company. But his request was not granted.
Bodington was to take D Company over. It would not do for all company
commanders to go over the top at once: the future has to be considered.

One more reminiscence before I close this chapter. It was at Watou that
fat Joye used to come into the tent and get me to talk to him about the
war. I remember him coming in to see us the last night at Watou and
saying to me that we would both have nice "Blighties" in the leg in a
few days. I replied that I hoped so. Things turned out exactly as Joye
forecast: about ten days later I met him on the grand staircase in
Worsley Hall!


[9] This refers to the newspaper controversy in the _Middleton Guardian_
in which I had been engaged throughout the whole time I was at the

[10] He afterwards won the D.S.O. and Bar, Belgian Ordre de la Couronne
and Belgian Croix de Guerre.



On the evening of July 25 the 164 Brigade marched back from the Watou
area to the camps behind Ypres; we went to Query Camp. In my tent at
Query Camp on July 27 I wrote my last letter home before going into
action. It ran as follows:

"I have received all letters up to date: I got father's letter of July
23 this morning. I am still very busy, but have found time this
afternoon to send a reply to 'Bumjo's' insolent letter to the _Middleton
Guardian_ and to write this.

"We left the last camp at 9.30 on the evening of July 25 and marched
back here. We are now in a camp behind the line. We got here at 1 in the
morning. Then we had dinner. A and B Companies mess in the same tent, so
we had the two new officers--Barlow and Smith--who arrived just before
we marched off from the other camp.... They have just come out from

"We went to bed at 2.20. Allen and I had a tent to ourselves, but were
yesterday joined by Harwood, a new officer who arrived yesterday and has
been posted to B Company. He seems all right. The new officers are all
fresh from cadet battalions via Scarborough. Captain Cocrame, who has
been at the Army School since June, has returned to-day, so our mess is
increasing. A and B Company Mess now consists of Captain Briggs, Captain
Cocrame, West, Barlow, Smith, Young, Dickinson, Allen, Harwood and
myself. Captain Andrews has gone to Headquarters.

"The weather just now is glorious--too hot to move. Just by our tent
there is a military railway constantly carrying things and men up to the
front line. The engines and trucks are quaint little things. They have a
bell which sounds like the trams running from Blackpool to Bispham and
beyond. One expects to see the sea when one hears the tinkle, but one
merely sees--well! One sees life at the Front; one hears the roar of the
guns; and if one cares to lift one's eyes to the sky one sees copious
observation balloons and aeroplanes. The day is very near now. This will
probably be my last letter before going into action, so do not worry if
you do not hear again for a week.

"Cheer up--all's well that ends well!"

And in a P.S. I said, "I cannot guarantee even field-cards regularly."

My diary tells the story of these last days until I packed it up with
my kit which I handed in when we reached our concentration area in front
of the Café Belge on the right of the Vlamertinghe-Ypres road on July

"July 25th.

"We marched off from Watou at 9.30 p.m. We got along very slowly; the
North Lancs in front kept halting. However, it was a nice cool evening.
We got to Query Camp at 1 a.m. We had dinner and then went to bed in
tents at 2.20. Allen and I have a tent to ourselves."

"July 26th.

"Breakfast in bed. Up 10.30. At 11.30 Beesley, Telfer, Sergeant Donovan
and I went to the 39th Division Headquarters in C Camp in a wood near
by. We saw Major-General Cuthbert while we were there. We were sent to
the 39th Division model of the Ypres battlefield where we discussed the
operations with the officers of the 1/6th Cheshires on our left. We got
back at 1.30 p.m. and had lunch.... Took the afternoon easy; studied
maps, etc.... To bed 9.30."

"July 27th.

"Inspections and explanation of scheme in the morning. In the afternoon
I went, with Sergeant Baldwin, to reconnoitre the trench on the right of
the main road between Vlamertinghe and Ypres, where we are to spend 'XY
night'! It was a very hot day. Coming back we (and also Sergeant-Major
Preston) got a lorry all the way to Brandhoek. I got back at 4 p.m....
I wrote two or three letters and then had dinner. To bed at 9.30. At
10.15 a zeppelin came over and dropped a big bomb a few hundred yards
away, causing a loud explosion. We got up and stood outside the tents
looking for the zeppelin; but we could not see it, although there were a
whole crowd of search-lights trying to get on to it."

"July 28th.

"Up 8 a.m. Parade 9 a.m. Drill and explanation of campaign. At 12 noon,
Major Brighten lectured all officers and N.C.O.'s on the forthcoming
battle. He closed with an eloquent peroration in which he said that,
although our little bit is only part of very large operations, our
holding the Gravenstafel Ridge may help to end the war and sway the
destiny of the world! In the afternoon I went into Poperinghe. It was
extremely hot. I had a cold bath at the Divisional Baths and felt very
refreshed by it. I met Gaulter of the King's Own on the same job. He
said that he was not looking forward to the push. His battalion are at
present in camp near Poperinghe Station. In the push they will be the
right rear battalion of Stockwell's Brigade. After my bath I made one or
two purchases in Poperinghe and then had tea there. Having had tea, I
returned to Query Camp--by lorry most of the way--where I arrived at
6.30 p.m."

"July 29th (Sunday).

"Up 9 a.m. At 10 it poured with rain and prevented Church parade. At
10.30 Allen and I set off with Sergeant Baldwin, Sergeant Donovan,
Sergeant Brogden, and a few other N.C.O.'s and runners, to reconnoitre a
track. We went on a miniature train as far as Vlamertinghe. Then we
walked across the fields. We were in a hot-bed of artillery batteries.
Suddenly a shell dropped close to us. Three of our party were
wounded--Sergeant Donovan, Lance-Corporal Segar and Private Hampson.
Lance-Corporal Segar had a large slice out of his hip, but only a flesh
wound, a nice, but painful, 'Blighty'! Donovan and Hampson had slight
wounds; they were 'walking cases,' but it will be hospital for them all
right. When they were dressed we left them with an R.F.A. man to be
taken on the first ambulance; and we then carried on along Track 6, past
Salvation Corner, beyond Ypres and into Liverpool Trench. We left some
sign-posts there and then walked back to the miniature railway. It was a
horribly dirty trip; all the ground was thick with slush. We got a train
part of the way back and travelled on an engine the remainder! It was
4.15 p.m. when we got back. We had some tea. Then we attended a
conference, presided over by Colonel Best-Dunkley, in Headquarters Mess
Hut, to have our last corporate discussion upon the coming battle. There
were officers from other units connected with us there; and Best-Dunkley
made sure that everybody knew exactly what he had got to do and what
assistance he could expect from anybody else. He was calm and dignified
and even polite. He concluded the proceedings by making a soldierly
appeal to the honour of the battalion, said that he knew that every
gentleman in the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers would do his duty, that he
placed entire confidence in our loyalty and our ability; and remarked
that he would not hesitate to recommend for decorations anybody who
carried on when wounded or distinguished himself by any conspicuous act
of bravery.

"Major Brighten looked into our mess tent just before dinner. I was
alone, looking at maps. He said that he wondered what I would think of
it all when I saw the coming battle in full swing. He told me that the
landing on the Coast is not, he thinks, after all, coming off this time!
In fact Rawlinson's Fourth Army is not to be in it at all. I expect the
German thrust at Nieuport has spoilt Haig's plans there. I am very sorry
indeed. Major Brighten said that the plan is completely changed. This
battle is going to be fought north and south of Ypres with the object of
breaking through here. One would naturally assume so from the number of
maps with which we have been issued. Major Brighten is going down to
the Transport. He will not take part in this battle unless required. He
is on 'battle reserve'; and so are Barlow and Smith as they have arrived
so recently, and have not practised the 'stunt.' Harwood is liaison
officer with the 1/6th Cheshires on our left.

"A and B Companies had a very lively time at dinner this 'X' evening.
West was acting the fool and making us all laugh.

"At 9.30 p.m. the Battalion left Query Camp and we marched to our
concentration trenches beyond Vlamertinghe. The men filed into these
trenches--5 and 8 platoons in the same trench. Battalion Headquarters
are at Café Belge on the left of the main road. B Company Headquarters
are in the cellar of the next cottage on the left. About a hundred yards
further on--on the left of the road--is the trench my (8) platoon is in.
The organization of my platoon is as follows: Sergeant Baldwin is
platoon sergeant, and Corporal Livesey is next in seniority after him. I
have five sections. The Bombing Section, under Livesey, consists of
eight all told; Tipping's Riflemen, thirteen; Heap's Rifle-Grenade men,
eleven; two Lewis Gun Sections--Topping and Hopkinson being the
respective section commanders and each having seven in their sections.

"Various articles were drawn from a dump when we got to the trench. We
got to the trench about 11 p.m."

There my diary of the period abruptly closes. For the events which
followed it is necessary to turn to the long letter describing the whole
operations which I wrote home from Worsley Hall a few days later. That
letter describes the Third Battle of Ypres which is the subject of the
next chapter.



(July 31st, 1917)

  "'Tis Zero! Full of all the thoughts of years!
  A moment pregnant with a life-time's fears
  That rise to jeer and laugh, and mock awhile
  The vaunted courage of the human frame,
  Till Duty calls, till Love and beck'ning
  Lead forth the heroes to that frenzied line.
  The creeping death that, searching, never stays;
  To brave the rattling, hissing streams of lead,
  The bursting shrapnel and the million ways
  That war entices death; when dying, dead
  And living, mingle in the ghastly glare
  That taints the beauty of a night once fair,
  And seems to flout the Majesty divine."
                            F. SHUKER (_Zero_).

Safely ensconced beneath the sheets of a very comfortable hospital bed
at Worsley Hall, I wrote the following letter in which I described the
Third Battle of Ypres up to the time when I left the battlefield. For
the progress of the battle beyond that it will be necessary to quote
other documents. Here is my own account of the operations written on
August 3:

"I will now endeavour to tell you the story of the Third Battle of
Ypres. As you are aware, we were preparing for this battle the whole
time I was at the Front. It was part of Haig's general plan of campaign
for 1917. When I first arrived in the Prison at Ypres, the day before
Messines, Captain Andrews had me in his cell and explained to me the
plan of campaign. He opened some maps and explained to me that Plumer's
Second Army was, very shortly, going to attack on the south of the Ypres
Salient with the object of taking Hill 60 and the Messines Ridge. If
that attack should prove successful _we_ should, a few days afterwards,
do a little 'stunt' on a German trench named Ice Trench. We were issued
with photograph maps of this trench and many conferences were held with
regard to it. Further, he explained that this was only a preliminary
operation: the main campaign of the year was to be fought on the front
between Ypres and the Sea, and Sir Hubert Gough was coming to Ypres to
take command. Well, the Battle of Messines was fought the following
morning; all Plumer's objectives were gained; it was a perfect 'stunt';
but, still, our Ice Trench affair was cancelled! We left Ypres soon
afterwards and went into rest billets at Millain and then training
billets at Westbecourt. Hunter-Weston's VIII Corps became a reserve
corps behind the line and we, Jeudwine's 55th Division, were transferred
to Watts's XIX Corps which became part of Gough's Fifth Army--that
famous general having arrived in Flanders. While at Westbecourt
we--Stockwell's 164 Brigade--practised the Third Battle of Ypres in the
open cornfields and amongst the numerous vegetable crops between
Cormette and Boisdinghem. When we got back to the Salient we understood
Haig's plan to be that Gough's Army should smash forward from Ypres,
that there should be a French Army on Gough's left, and that Rawlinson's
Fourth Army should land upon, or push up, the Belgian Coast at precisely
the same moment as Gough struck north from the Ypres Salient. That plan
commended itself to me as highly satisfactory. But one always has to
reckon with an enemy as well! I do not know whether Armin got wind of it
or not, but he effectively thwarted Haig by doing precisely the kind of
thing I expected he would do. Rawlinson's Army was engaged and driven
back at Nieuport, thus disorganizing his plans; and Ypres--the other
flank--was intensely bombarded with high explosives and gas shells on
that never-to-be-forgotten night of July 12-13. The gas casualties in
Ypres who were taken to hospital on July 13 were, I was told, 3,000! A
much higher figure than I thought at first. A day or two after these
events Gratton came in to us at the Ramparts and casually informed us
that the Coast idea was postponed: the battle was going to be fought
north and south of Ypres only. The Coast landing was going to take place
later if the Third Battle of Ypres should prove a success--of which, of
course, no patriot could entertain any doubts! Rawlinson was not ready.
Nieuport was to me sufficient explanation for that. And Beatty was not
ready! That I do not understand. I was very disappointed, indeed, when I
heard this news, as I was not very hopeful as to the chance of success
in any battle fought in the centre. A flanking movement is, in my
opinion, the best policy; and the original idea would have meant, if a
landing had been effected, a triangular advance which would have left
before Armin only two alternatives--retreat or surrender. But attrition
seems to be far more in Robertson's line than strategy! So the Third
Battle of Ypres has begun. And, unless things change very quickly, I am
bound to say that it is not a success. So much for the general idea.

"During our twenty days in the Ypres Salient, from July 1 to July 20, we
suffered very heavily in casualties; and when we came out we were
certainly not strong enough to go into battle. So while we were at
Valley Camp, Watou, we were reinforced by large drafts. And, in
accordance with the above plans, we left Watou on the night of July 25
and marched to Query Camp, near Brandhoek, but on the left of the main
road. Here we remained awaiting 'XY night.' 'Z day' was the day on which
the battle was to take place. On 'XY night' we left Query Camp and took
up our positions in our concentration trenches near Vlamertinghe. My
platoon and Allen's platoon were in a trench on the right of the
Vlamertinghe-Ypres road, across the field stretching from the road to
the railway. Sergeant Brogden's platoon (6 Platoon) was a little further
on. Dickinson was in command of B Company. We had our Headquarters in a
little wooden dug-out[11] in the centre of the field behind the trench.
Battalion Headquarters were at the Café Belge--a house on the right of
the road close by. 'XY night' was the night of July 29-30. We got a
little sleep during the morning.

"For the last fortnight the artillery had been preparing the way for us,
raids had been taking place, and conflicts in the air had been of
frequent occurrence; the Royal Engineers had been constructing roads and
other means of advance; miniature railways were running up to the front
line; and the road from Watou, through Poperinghe and Vlamertinghe, to
Ypres was simply thronged with transport. The weather had been fine and
hot. On 'XY night' troops were swarming round Vlamertinghe and there was
every sign that a great push was about to commence.

"During July 30, in our little wooden dug-out here, Dickinson held
conferences consisting of Allen and myself with Sergeant Brogden,
Sergeant Baldwin, Sergeants Stokes and, of course, Sergeant-Major
Preston and Quartermaster-Sergeant Jack. Did it occur to us that within
twenty-four hours we should all be scattered to the winds--some killed,
others wounded? I expect it did. But it did not worry us. We smiled and
discussed plans. During the day Colonel Best-Dunkley looked in and
chatted most agreeably; he was in a most friendly mood. Padre Newman
also looked in.

"At 8.55 p.m. I marched off with my platoon along Track 1. All units
were moving up to the line. After I had been going about a quarter of an
hour half a dozen shells burst quite close to us, badly putting the wind
up us. We all lay on the ground. When the disturbance had subsided we
moved on again along Track 1, leaving Goldfish Château,[12] the one
building in that region which stands intact, on our right, along Track
6, touching Ypres at Salvation Corner, along the Canal Bank, again
across the open and though La Brique, where the Tanks (commanded by
Major Inglis) were congregating ready to go forward on the morrow, to
Liverpool Trench. We reached Liverpool Trench, the assembly trench from
which we were to go over the top on the morrow, about 11 p.m.... D and B
Companies were in Liverpool Trench, and C and A Companies in Congreve
Walk--the other side of Garden Street. It was a dull, cloudy night. The
guns were continually booming. Our howitzers were flinging gas-shells on
to every known German battery throughout the night. The enemy replied by
shelling Liverpool Trench and Congreve Walk--especially the latter. One
shell burst right in the trench, took one of Verity's legs almost clean
off, and killed his servant Butterworth. The shells were bursting all
night. All our trenches were simply packed with troops ready to go over
the top at Zero. Lewis's 166 Brigade filled the trenches in front of us.
The 55th Division occupied a front from the west of Wieltje to Warwick
Farm. Half of this frontage was occupied by Lewis's 166 Brigade on the
left, and Boyd-Moss's 165 Brigade occupied the other half on the right.
Stockwell's 164 Brigade occupied the whole frontage in rear with the
object of passing through the front brigades and penetrating into the
enemy's positions. The 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers were the left front
battalion of the 164 Brigade. Colonel Hindle's 1/4th North Lancashires
were on the right. We were supported by the Liverpool Irish as 'moppers
up'; and the North Lancs. were supported by the 1/4th King's Own Royal
Lancaster Regiment in the same way. In our battalion, D Company,
commanded by Captain Bodington, were on the left front. On their right
were C Company, commanded by Captain Mordecai. In rear of D Company were
B Company commanded by Second-Lieutenant Talbot Dickinson, M.C.; and on
our right were A Company commanded by Captain Briggs. The front
companies comprised the first two waves; the rear companies the third
and fourth waves. The first wave of D Company contained Beesley's
platoon on the left; and behind Beesley's platoon was that of Telfer.
Then came Sergeant Brogden's platoon of B Company, with Allen on his
right. My platoon occupied the whole Company front behind Brogden and
Allen. My orders were to advance to the 'Green Line,' and when I got
there I was to take Lance-Corporal Tipping's rifle section and four
Lewis Gunners on to reinforce Allen at Aviatick Farm where he was to dig
a strong point in front of the front-line when the Gravenstafel Ridge
was reached. Two of my sections were detached: Corporal Livesey took his
bombers with Brogden's platoon to mop up a dug-out beyond Wurst Farm,
and Lance-Corporal Heap was sent with his rifle grenadiers to 15
Platoon. On my left was a platoon, commanded by Sergeant Whalley, of the
1/6th Cheshires. They belonged to the 118th Brigade of the 39th Division
of Maxse's XVIII Corps--so, you see, I was on the extreme left of Sir
Herbert Watts's XIX Corps. It was Cuthbert's 39th Division that was to
take St. Julien. We were to go through Fortuin and leave St. Julien just
on our left. On the right of our division was the 15th Division. Behind
us, in the Watou area, was Nugent's 36th (Ulster) Division, ready to go
through us in a day or two. The 15th Division is entirely Scottish. So
much for Gough's dispositions for the battle.

"Zero was fixed for 3.50 in the morning. As the moment drew near how
eagerly we awaited it! At 3.50 exactly I heard a mine go up, felt a
slight vibration, and, as I rushed out of the little dug-out in which I
had been resting, every gun for miles burst forth. What a sight! What a
row! The early morning darkness was lit up by the flashes of thousands
of guns, the air whistling and echoing with shells, the calm atmosphere
shaken by a racket such as nobody who has not heard it could imagine!
The weird ruins of Ypres towered fantastically amongst the flashes
behind us. In every direction one looked guns were firing. In front of
us the 166th and 165th Brigades were dashing across no man's land,
sweeping into the enemy trenches, the barrage creeping before them. I
stood on the parados of Liverpool Trench and watched with amazement. It
was a dramatic scene such as no artist could paint.

"Before the battle had been raging half an hour German prisoners were
streaming down, only too glad to get out of range of their own guns! I
saw half a dozen at the corner of Liverpool Trench and Garden Street.
They seemed very happy trying to converse with us. One of them--a boy
about twenty--asked me the nearest way to the station; he wanted to get
to England as soon as possible!

"The Tanks went over. As daylight came on the battle raged furiously.
Our troops were still advancing. Messages soon came through that St.
Julien had been taken.

"Our time was drawing near. At 8.30 we were to go over. At 8 we were all
'standing to' behind the parapet waiting to go over. Colonel
Best-Dunkley came walking along the line, his face lit up by smiles more
pleasant than I have ever seen before. 'Good morning, Floyd; best of
luck!' was the greeting he accorded me as he passed; and I, of course,
returned the good wishes. At about 8.20 Captain Andrews went past me and
wished me good luck; and he then climbed over the parapet to
reconnoitre. The minutes passed by. Everybody was wishing everybody
else good luck, and many were the hopes of 'Blighty' entertained--not
all to be realized. It is a wonderful sensation--counting the minutes on
one's wrist watch as the moment to go over draws nigh. The fingers on my
watch pointed to 8.30, but the first wave of D Company had not gone
over. I do not know what caused the delay. Anyhow, they were climbing
over. Eventually, at 8.40, I got a signal from Dickinson to go on. So
forward we went, platoons in column of route. Could you possibly imagine
what it was like? Shells were bursting everywhere. It was useless to
take any notice where they were falling, because they were falling all
round; they could not be dodged; one had to take one's chance: merely go
forward and leave one's fate to destiny. Thus we advanced, amidst shot
and shell, over fields, trenches, wire, fortifications, roads, ditches
and streams which were simply churned out of all recognition by
shell-fire. The field was strewn with wreckage, with the mangled remains
of men and horses lying all over in a most ghastly fashion--just like
any other battlefield I suppose. Many brave Scottish soldiers were to be
seen dead in kneeling positions, killed just as they were firing on the
enemy. Some German trenches were lined with German dead in that
position. It was hell and slaughter. On we went. About a hundred yards
on my right, slightly in front, I saw Colonel Best-Dunkley complacently
advancing, with a walking stick in his hand, as calmly as if he were
walking across a parade ground. I afterwards heard that when all C
Company officers were knocked out he took command in person of that
Company in the extreme forward line. He was still going strong last I
heard of him.

"We passed through the 166th Brigade. We left St. Julien close on our
left. Suddenly we were rained with bullets from rifles and machine-guns.
We extended. Men were being hit everywhere. My servant, Critchley, was
the first in my platoon to be hit. We lay down flat for a while, as it
was impossible for anyone to survive standing up. Then I determined to
go forward. It was no use sticking here for ever, and we would be wanted
further on; so we might as well try and dash through it. 'Come
along--advance!' I shouted, and leapt forward. I was just stepping over
some barbed wire defences--I think it must have been in front of Schuler
Farm (though we had studied the map so thoroughly beforehand, it was
impossible to recognize anything in this chaos) when the inevitable
happened. I felt a sharp sting through my leg. I was hit by a bullet. So
I dashed to the nearest shell-hole which, fortunately, was a very large
one, and got my first field dressing on. Some one helped me with it.
Then they went on, as they were, to their great regret, not hit! My
platoon seemed to have vanished just before I was hit. Whether they were
in shell-holes or whether they were all hit, or whether they had found
some passage through the wire, I cannot say. I only know that, with the
exception of Corporal Hopkinson and one or two Lewis Gunners who went
forward soon after, they had all vanished. It was one of the many
mysteries of a modern battlefield! Allen was going on all right: I saw
him going on in front: I believe he got to Aviatik Farm![13] It was 10.20
a.m. when I was wounded. I lay in this shell-hole for some time. When I
had been there about half an hour the enemy put down a barrage just on
the line which contained my shell-hole! It was horrible. I thought I was
lost this time. Shells were bursting all around me, making a horrible
row; some of them were almost in the trench. I was covered with the
fumes from one or two of them and also sniffed some gas. I put on my
box-respirator. One piece of shrapnel hit me on the head, but,
fortunately, I had my steel helmet on my head; so I was all right.

"At 11.30 a.m. I decided that I might just as well be blown to bits in
the open, trying to get back to safety, as lying in this shell-hole; so
I made a dash for it and got out of the barrage. I inquired the way to
the nearest aid post, and was told that it was a long way off. But I
proceeded in the direction indicated. Before long I met Corporal Livesey
returning from his bombing stunt with about half a dozen prisoners and a
shrapnel wound in his back; also another lance-corporal, from D Company,
who had been on a similar stunt and was wounded in the ear by a bullet.
Some of the prisoners were also wounded. So we all walked down together.

"Corporal Livesey told me that Sergeant Brogden[14] was wounded in the
arm, Sergeant Stokes killed, and Corporal Chamley wounded. We saw some
horrible sights all the way along. We were joined by more prisoners as
we went down. German prisoners have only to be told which way to go and
they go. They are quite sociable people too--many of them bright-eyed
boys of seventeen and eighteen. They are only too glad to carry our
wounded men back; they need no escort. We got on very well indeed with
them. I suppose that in a sense we were comrades in distress, or, rather
comrades in good fortune, in that we were all leaving the field of
horrors behind us! Yet they were the very Boches who, an hour before,
had been peppering us with those bullets. One would never have imagined
that we had so recently been enemies. One of them asked for water to
'drinken;' so I let him have a drink from my water-bottle. About half a
dozen of them drank, and they appeared very grateful.

"Germans are not half so vile as they are painted.... They are only
doing their bit for their Empire as we are for ours. The pity of it is
that destiny should have thrown us into conflict. It is a great pity.
How fine it would be if we could let bygones be bygones, shake hands,
and lead the world in peace and civilization side by side! If we can
fraternize so speedily on the battlefield, why cannot those who are not
shooting each other also fraternize? It is a cruel insult to humanity
that this thing should go on. War is hell, and the sooner some one
arises who has the courage to stop it the better. Somebody will have to
take the lead some time. I myself believe in peace after victory--but we
are not yet going the right way about achieving victory; and, unless Sir
William Robertson speedily changes his plans, we might as well make
peace. This killing business is horrible. The present policy of the
General Staff is: see which side can do the most killing. A far wiser,
and far more humane, policy would be to win it by strategy. I believe in
out-manoeuvring the enemy and taking as many prisoners as possible;
make him evacuate territory or surrender by corps and armies; it can be
done if we go the right way about it, but this bloodshed is barbarous.

"When we walked over Wieltje we found our once 'strong point' no longer
existent. The sandbags were scattered all over. Yet in the mine
below--in the estam--General Stockwell had his Headquarters.

"We were sent on from aid-post to aid-post. They were all crowded with
wounded. The number of 'walking cases' was very large. At Potijze we
were again sent on. So I walked into Ypres and passed the Cathedral and
the Cloth Hall and reached the remains of the Prison which is now the
central aid-post for Ypres. There was a pleasant padre there; and he got
me a refreshing cup of tea. Then I went on again. I got on a lorry and
was taken to the mill at Vlamertinghe, which is known as the 2/1 Wessex
Dressing Station. When I got there I was sent upstairs for some tea. On
entering the mess, I found Lieutenant Francis also there, having tea. He
was wounded in the arm. His arm was in a sling. There were also two or
three German officers having tea there. They were quite as sociable as
our Allies! Who should come in to see us, a few minutes later, but Major
Brighten, who, being on 'battle reserve,' was down at the Transport! He
expressed surprise when he saw me, and asked me to tell him all about
it. He would insist on carrying some of my equipment downstairs. He
informed me that my batman, Critchley, was down below. So I went and
saw him. He had got one in the leg too.

"I had my wound dressed here and also had an anti-tetanous inoculation
put into me. I did not like it!

"Then Francis and I got into a motor-ambulance and were motored away,
through Poperinghe, to Watou. We passed what I assumed to be Nugent's
36th Division coming up in motor-lorries to relieve the 55th Division.
At Watou we were taken to the 10th C.C.S. We had our wounds dressed
again there and then had tea. Then we got on to a hospital train which
was standing in the siding. Who should join us in the saloon on this
train but Gaulter, of the King's Own! He, too, had got one in the leg!
The question which interested us most on the way back was whether we
would get to 'Blighty.' The train went very slowly. We were held up
because the Germans were shelling Hazebrouck of all places. They must
have some long-range guns!

"We arrived in Boulogne at 5.30 on Wednesday morning, August 1, and were
immediately motored to Wimereux, where we entered the 14th General
Hospital. We went to bed at once and remained in bed all day and night.

"The next morning I was awakened by the greeting: 'You're for England;
you leave at 8.15.' So I got up and had breakfast. Then we were motored
down to Boulogne again where we all embarked on the _St. David_, and
sailed for the shores of old England. It was a happy voyage. We landed
at Dover at midday....

"The train left Dover at 4.30 p.m. We reached Manchester at midnight and
I and seven others were immediately motored to Worsley. So here I am in
a nice cosy bed in the spacious mansion of the Egertons of
Ellesmere--Worsley Hall. What vicissitudes one does go through!" ...

       *       *       *       *       *

So, as far as the writer of this book was concerned, Ypres and all that
its name implies was now but a memory: I was safely back on the right
side of the water once again. My feelings on leaving "Wipers" behind me
can best be expressed in the words which a poet of the 55th Division
dedicated to the British Soldier in the second number of _Sub Rosa_:

  "Good-bye, Wipers! though I 'opes it is for good,
  It 'urts me for to leave yer--I little thought it would.

  When I gets back to Blighty, and all the fightin's done,
  Mebbe the picters of the past will rise up, one by one.

  Like movies at the Cinema, they'll bob up in my brain,
  The places that I knew so well--I'll see them all again.

  The battered-in Asylum; the Prison scorched and scarred;
  And 'ole Salvation Corner with the guns a bellowin' 'ard.

  The muddy, ruddy, Ramparts; the mist upon the Moat;
  The grey Canal between whose banks no barges ever float.

  An' them Cathedral ruins--O Gawd, the fearsome sight!
  Like mutilated fingers they points up through the night.

  The blighters what relieves us--we'll treat 'em fair an' kind,
  They're welcome to the soveneers what we 'ave left be'ind.

  Good-bye, Wipers! though I 'opes it is for good,
  It 'urts me for to leave yer--I little thought it would."

It was with a thrill of pride that I read in the newspapers during the
following days of the magnificent achievement of the 55th Division--of
the "Lancashire Men's Great Fight:" "Stubborn in attack and withdrawal."
I read of heroic fights round Pommern Castle, of Wurst Farm being
captured by a gallant young officer, and, particularly, the case of: "An
officer who was left last out of his battalion to hold out in an
advanced position (who) said to the padre who has just visited him in
hospital, 'I hope the General was not disappointed with us.'" The
General, I am sure, was not disappointed with these Lancashire men. No
one could think of them without enthusiasm and tenderness, marvelling at
their spirit and at the fight they made in the tragic hours--because it
was a tragedy to them that, after gaining all the ground they had been
asked to take, and not easily nor without losses, they should have to
fall back and fight severe rear-guard actions to cover a necessary

It was, naturally, a matter of great interest to me to determine to what
particular officers these remarks referred, as no names were given and
no battalions mentioned by name. Now, of course, we all know. The
officer who reached Wurst Farm was John Redner Bodington, and the
gallant young officer who fought like a hound at bay, while wounded over
and over again, and hoped that "the General was not disappointed," was
none other than the hero whose name is upon the title-page of this
book--Bertram Best-Dunkley. And, as the days rolled by, one familiar
name after another was recorded in the casualty lists. It was the
bloodiest battle in History; the casualty list which contained my name
was the longest I have ever seen in the _Times_.

I wrote to Sergeant Baldwin for information as to the fate of my
platoon, and, some time afterwards, received the following reply:

                                              "Ward 24,
                          "Ontario Military Hospital,
                            "Orpington, Kent.
                                    "August 15th, 1917.
"Dear Sir,

"I have much pleasure in replying to your letter dated August 5th, 1917.
I am very pleased indeed to know that you are safe in 'Blighty.' Well,
sir, you ask me where I got to when we went over the top. I think you
will remember halting and lying down in no man's land. Well, as I lay
there the time seemed to be long; then I got up and went to the front of
the platoon to see what had gone wrong. When I got there I found you had
gone on and the remainder of the men had not the sense to follow you. So
I led on with the remainder, taking my direction from the compass. I
reached the hill and passed Schuler Farm on the right. We started to
climb the hill and then a funny thing happened: those already at the top
came running back again shouting 'Get back and dig in; they are
outflanking us.' I took the warning and retired to a suitable position
and got the men digging themselves in. We could see the Boches coming
over the ridge like a swarm of bees. When they got nearer we opened
machine gun and rifle fire. All the time this was going on the artillery
had ceased firing, and I began to feel a bit downhearted. Then things
quietened down a bit; so I told the lads to make a drink of tea for
themselves, which they did gladly enough. All the time we could see
Fritz preparing for a counter-attack and we knew it had to come. I
waited patiently keeping a look-out for them coming. The men were
getting knocked out one by one, until I had only five; and the Lewis Gun
had got a bullet through its pinion which rendered it useless. Nothing
happened until the evening, and then the bombardment started and we knew
we had something to put up with. I sent up an S.O.S. rocket and our
artillery opened out, but the shells were dropping short and hitting our
men. Then we retired for about fifty yards and took up some shell-holes.
I looked round and found all my men had vanished. I was amongst some of
the Cams. and Herts. I really did not know what to do. The artillery
became more intense and still our shells were dropping short. There was
another sergeant out of the Cams. in this shell-hole with a few men; so
I told him I would go back and try and get in touch with the artillery.
On my way back I got wounded in the leg, so I rolled into a shell-hole.
It began to rain and rained heavily all the night. When day broke I
found myself covered with clay and mud, and wet through to the skin. I
crawled out and looked about me. It was a quiet morning except for a
shell bursting now and again, and I could see some men through my
glasses, about a mile away, working on a road. I made my way towards
them. How I got there I do not know, for I was more dead than alive. I
inquired for the dressing-station, which I found after a long walk. I
was sent down to the Base to hospital and was sent to England on August

"I am pleased to say that I am feeling much better and my wound is
getting on nicely. I hope my letter will find you feeling much better
for the rest you have worked so hard for. I saw in the casualty list
that the Colonel had died of wounds, the Adjutant killed, Sec.-Lt.
Gratton missing, Captain Andrews wounded, and Lt. Telfer missing. I
think I have told you all the news you require, and hope you enjoy
reading it.

        "With best wishes,
              "Yours sincerely,

Sergeant Baldwin was awarded the Military Medal for his services on July
31--August 1, 1917.

Having reproduced the personal narratives of our experiences at Ypres,
first by myself and then by my platoon sergeant, it is now desirable to
see what happened to the Battalion as a whole. For this it will be
necessary to quote the official account in the _Lancashire Fusiliers'
Annual_. After mentioning the machine-gun fire which caused me to extend
my platoon the account goes on to say:

"This fire was so heavy that it not only inflicted severe casualties,
but caused confusion in the shaking out into extended order, and it is
to be believed that from this moment the correct formation was never
absolutely regained. Machine-gun fire was active chiefly from Wine
House, Spree Farm, parts of Capricorn Support and Capricorn Keep, Pond
Farm, Hindu Cot and other points. Seeing that they could not advance
till these points were dealt with, the commanders of the leading waves
took steps to take the first points, such as Wine House, Spree Farm,
Capricorn Support. These were dealt with at considerable loss, some
enemy being captured, some killed and some running away. It was
difficult to obtain a definite account of all the incidents that
happened before the Black Line was reached, but great gallantry was
shown by the officers and N.C.O.'s in rallying and leading the men in
face of heavy fire. The Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Colonel B.
Best-Dunkley, put himself at the head of all men in his immediate
vicinity, and led them on through intense machine-gun fire. Ultimately
the Black Line was reached. The casualties up to this point may be
estimated at anything up to 50 per cent of the total strength of the
Battalion. However, the advance had to continue and that quickly, as it
was impossible to wait to reorganize under the heavy fire; moreover, the
advance was timed to a programme of artillery. The advance to the Green
Line, the Gravenstafel Switch, 6,000 yards from our original front line,
therefore continued. Few details necessarily are obtainable owing to the
heavy casualties. The creeping barrage, not a heavy one, certainly not
sufficient to deal with the country up to the Green Line, had run away
from us. Many more casualties were suffered, but the Battalion
eventually reached its objective. Digging in and consolidation at once
commenced. Captain J. R. Bodington, commanding left Company, reached
Wurst Farm with ten men, this number being shortly reduced by casualties
to two. The Green Line had only been in our possession for about twenty
minutes when the first enemy counter-attack, consisting of two
companies, commenced. This came from a north-easterly direction,
sweeping across the front of the division on our left. It was very
determined, as the division on our left had not been able to get up; our
left flank was quite unprotected.

"An attempt was therefore made to form a defensive flank. The
counter-attack halted on a road running north-west and south-east.
Finding we had not sufficient men to form a defensive flank, a further
withdrawal was ordered to Jew Hill, east of St. Julien. From this point
a large enemy counter-attack was observed commencing. This also came
from a north-easterly direction, and was apparently simultaneous with
that from the south-east affecting the 1/4th Loyal North Lancs.--the
battalion on our right. This counter-attack was overwhelming in its
strength. It had been preceded by four enemy aircraft, flying low over
our advanced positions and firing Véry lights and machine-guns. The
lights were apparently the call for artillery cooperation. They were
answered by the opening of fire by heavy guns which dealt with
individual points. Owing to the general disorganization caused by the
very heavy casualties, troops on the whole front of this unit had now to
commence a general withdrawal. Isolated points, however, held out most
gallantly and held up the advance of the enemy while consolidation on or
about the Black Line was completed by troops in rear and whilst the
withdrawal of the remainder was safely effected. A small strong point
situated west of Schuler Farm was held by one hundred and thirty men of
this Battalion, and the 1/8 (Irish) Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment
and with them Captain Bodington, one of the few remaining officers of
the Battalion. Those were first attacked from the front, which attack
they warded off. The enemy counter-attack then developed on their left
and right; both these attacks also were held off for some time by
machine-gun, Lewis gun, and rifle fire. The few survivors were forced to
withdraw and fight their way back, Captain Bodington and ten other ranks
reaching the Black Line safely.

"Battalion Headquarters was situated at Spree Farm, and they only
received late warning that the enemy were near them. Lieutenant-Colonel
B. Best-Dunkley gathered together all men available, and, placing
himself at the head, beat off the counter-attack at this point. At this
time our own artillery brought down an extremely heavy barrage on the
enemy which appeared to catch him, and it was probably due to this that
they were unable to gain a footing in the Black Line on our immediate
front. During this withdrawal the Adjutant--Lieutenant R. Andrews--was
killed. The Commanding Officer was wounded shortly afterwards--about 8
p.m. There was then no officer of this Battalion known to be alive, and
the Orderly Room Sergeant--Sergeant F. Howarth--took command, organizing
the defence of that part of the line until the Battalion was withdrawn
to Bilge Trench, about 9 a.m. the following morning--August 1. Captain
Bodington, who was the one surviving officer, came in subsequently from
the left of the line."

Let us now follow the movements of Captain Bodington. He afterwards
wrote the following report:

"Up to the time of reaching a point a hundred yards in rear of the Black
Line, the advance was easy.

"On crossing the small rise behind Wine House we came under very heavy
machine-gun and rifle fire from both Wine House and Spree Farm. Two
platoons had to be used in driving the enemy from the above-named farms,
and the casualties were heavy in this minor operation.

"Both the dug-outs at Wine House and Spree Farm were in fairly good
condition, and from here with the remainder of the men we pushed forward
towards Border House without much difficulty, and hence to Winnipeg,
where we got into touch with the 1/6th Cheshires on our left, and
proceeded to the Gravenstafel Ridge. Being left here with only two of my
men, I could do no more than reconnoitre Wurst Farm and Aviatik Farm.

"Both the dug-outs and O.P. in these farms were in fairly good
condition, but must have been evacuated hurriedly, although no documents
of any importance could be found.

"We could see at a distance of about six hundred yards more of our
troops on the right, but unable to get into touch with them as the enemy
held posts between us.

"On returning to the 1/6th Cheshires on our left, a counter-attack had
already been launched against their left flank, consequently it was
decided to withdraw to the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Roads. It was found
impossible to make a stand here, so the withdrawal continued to a point
where the 13th Sussex Regiment had dug themselves in on Jew Hill.

"About two hours elapsed, when it was found that a party of the enemy
were getting round their left flank. A party was at once detailed to
deal with this, but at this time I became detached from this party and
consequently reported back to Battalion Headquarters, then situated at
Spree Farm.

"I was at once detailed to take a party up to reinforce a partly
organized strong point about the dug-outs at D. 13. a. 8.0. I found here
two officers and about one hundred men. The position was strong, but
both flanks were unguarded.

"There were two machine-guns and one Lewis gun. After a short time a
strong counter-attack was made by the enemy on this position from the
front which was easily beaten off, but almost simultaneously we were
attacked on either flank.

"By this time, another machine-gun had been brought into position, but
the Lewis gun had used up all its magazines. A number of casualties had
been caused. We held the enemy for half an hour, and a heavy battery was
shelling us considerably. Two direct hits were obtained causing a number
of casualties. Meanwhile the enemy was advancing on either flank. It was
found that only forty or fifty men remained, and little means of escape
was left, but it was decided to withdraw to a line well wired about
three hundred yards in rear. On reaching this point it was found to be
untenable and the withdrawal continued to the Black Line, where some of
the 165 and 166 Brigades had been digging in.

"They were at once warned of the advance of the enemy, and here he was
finally beaten off. A number of casualties were sustained in the
withdrawal from the dug-outs behind Schuler Farm. At that time we could
not get into touch on our left, but the gap was soon filled in by a
party of the 6th King's Liverpool Regiment and the Battalion
Headquarters from Spree Farm. Later we got into touch with the 1/5th
South Lancashire Regiment on our left and the 45 Brigade on our right.

"At that time I could find none of my own Battalion.

        "(Signed) J. R. BODINGTON,
      "2/5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers."

The 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers, what remained of them, "spent August 1,
Minden Day, in the utmost discomfort in Bilge Trench, everybody was
soaked through from the pouring rain. However, we all flaunted Minden
roses in our helmets. On August 2nd we were relieved and marched back to
our transport lines. There all preparations had been made for us and
everybody enjoyed a good hot meal. The same evening we were taken back
in buses to the Watou area." Thus writes the official chronicler in the
_Lancashire Fusiliers' Annual_.

It was on July 31 that Philip Cave Humfrey distinguished himself by his
able and courageous leading of his Transport to carry supplies to the
worn and wearied troops. "He led one hundred pack mules, laden with
ammunition and bombs, through heavy enemy barrage to a point close
behind our lines which was then being defended against a strong
counter-attack. At this point he unloaded his mules in spite of hostile
machine-gun and rifle fire, and the ammunition which he brought up was
immediately used by the troops who were defending the position. By his
promptness and fearlessness he greatly assisted the defence at a
critical moment." For this act of gallantry he was awarded the Military

Many were the brave deeds done and numerous the honours gained by the
officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Battalion on this
historic day. Captain Bodington was awarded the Military Cross as a
matter of course. He was the sole combatant officer who came through
unscathed, and his unique services have already been fully recorded; he
showed himself on July 31, what he has invariably shown himself since,
an incomparable man over the top, fearless and ruthless, ever where the
fight is hottest and always ready to display his individual initiative
on all possible and impossible occasions, a born man of action to whom
long experience of shot and shell has made the art of modern war a
second nature--an officer after Best-Dunkley's own heart: the Military
Cross was the least form of recognition which could reward such an
achievement as his. The bright and chivalrous Newman too--who had
already been recommended for the Military Cross for his bravery in
tending wounded at the Menin Gate on Messines Night--won this decoration
by his unselfish devotion to duty on July 31. Horace Beesley commanded
his platoon with such courage and success right out on our far-flung
battle line in the vicinity of Wurst Farm and Aviatik Farm until he was
badly wounded; and to him also was the Military Cross awarded. And John
Agnew, who was second-in-command of C Company, took command of that
company when Captain Mordecai was wounded: "Although shot through the
knee, he continued to advance and lead his men to their objective--a
distance of some 4,000 yards. He was then again wounded and had to
return, being wounded a third time on his way back. Although his wounds
were serious he refused to take a stretcher, in order that more serious
cases might be dealt with. He set a splendid example of pluck and
unselfishness." The Military Cross was also Agnew's reward. When I met
him again at Scarborough he was a cripple. Heroic, too, was the end of
that flamboyant patriot Talbot Dickinson, M.C., my Company Commander.
"He was wounded in the arm," wrote one of his friends, "but carried on
to a very advanced position, and, while encouraging his men, was shot
through the head." With him Sergeant-Major Preston, too, was killed.

Sergeant Howarth was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his
personal initiative in taking command of the Battalion when no officers
were to be found, and for the able way in which he executed his task;
and the D.C.M. was also awarded to Lance-Corporal Lawson.

Eleven Military Medals were awarded for deeds done that day: Sergeant
Baldwin, Sergeant Olive, Corporal Fox, Lance-Corporal Furnes, Sergeant
Hudson, and Privates Baron, Daynes, R. Turner, Rouse, Rodwell and

The casualties, as has already been pointed out, were tremendous. Five
hundred and ninety-three other ranks went into battle; four hundred and
seventy-three became casualties. It was a very tiny Battalion therefore
that went to rest, reorganize, and train at Le Poirier a few days later!

Gilbert Verity had expired shortly after his misfortune in Congreve
Walk. Douglas Bernard Priestly was shot through the head and killed
instantly almost as soon as he got over the top. The fate of the
Adjutant, Reggie Andrews, whom I last saw aimlessly wandering about the
battlefield shortly after we went over and who looked over his glasses
at me and inquired whether I had seen anything of Headquarters, has
already been recorded. And the Assistant-Adjutant met a similar fate:
Gratton was, first of all, wounded and he lay in a shell-hole; and while
he was in the shell-hole another shell came right into the hole and took
his head clean off. Joye remained with Colonel Best-Dunkley until quite
late in the day, when he got the 'Blighty' in the leg which was to send
him to join me at Worsley Hall. Captain Briggs, Telfer, and Young,
together with a large number of other ranks, were taken prisoners;
Briggs and Telfer were also wounded. West was badly wounded. Captain
Andrews, Captain Mordecai and Donald Allen were all wounded quite early
in the day. Out of nineteen combatant officers eighteen were casualties.
The non-combatants, Padre Newman and Dr. Adam came through this battle
safely, but they were both wounded at the Battle of Menin Road on
September 20! Newman got to England with his wound after that battle,
but he was very soon back with the Battalion again to play an even more
conspicuous part in the drama of the Great War.

It was a great day was the 31st of July. General Gough sent the
following message of congratulation to Brigadier-General Stockwell:

"The Army Commander wishes to convey his thanks and congratulations to
the G.O.C. and all ranks of the 164th Infantry Brigade on their fine
performance on July 31st. They carried out their task in a most gallant
manner and fought splendidly to retain their hold on the ground won.

"All officers showed energy, courage, and initiative in dealing with the
situation, and the men under their command in spite of heavy losses did
their utmost by carrying out their orders to ensure our success and the
enemy's defeat. Great credit is due to G.O.C. 164th Brigade for the
magnificent behaviour of the troops under his command." And Stockwell
sent on the message with the following personal addition: "The
Brigadier-General Commanding has much pleasure in forwarding the above
remarks of the Army Commander. He considers that all the credit is due
to the officers and men of the Brigade."

Major-General Jeudwine congratulated Stockwell in the following terms:
"Well done, 164th Brigade. I am very proud of what you did to-day. It
was a fine performance and no fault of yours you could not stay." And in
the course of a Special Order of the Day issued to his Division on
August 3, General Jeudwine said: "The attack you made on the 31st is
worthy to rank with the great deeds of the British Army in the past, and
has added fresh glory to the records of that Army."

Meanwhile, the supreme hero of the day lay at the Main Dressing Station
mortally wounded. But like Sir Henry Lawrence long ago he had the
consolation of feeling that he had tried to do his duty. The Reverend
James Odgen Coop, D.S.O., T.D., M.A., the Senior Chaplain to the 55th
Division, visited the dying Best-Dunkley at the Main Dressing Station
on August 1. It was to Colonel Coop that Colonel Best-Dunkley said that
he hoped the General was satisfied, and Colonel Coop recounted the
conversation to General Jeudwine. Old "Judy's" heart was touched as it
always was by any deeds of gallantry, and to Best-Dunkley he immediately
wrote the following historic letter:

        "Headquarters, 55th Division.
             "1st August, 1917 (Minden Day).

"Dear Best-Dunkley,

"The padre has given me your message, and I am very much touched by it.

"Disappointed! I should think not, indeed. I am more proud of having you
and your Battalion under my command than of anything else that has ever
happened to me.

"It was a magnificent fight, and your officers and men behaved
splendidly, fighting with their heads as well as with the most superb
pluck and determination.

"The 31st July should for all time be remembered by your Battalion and
Regiment and observed with more reverence even than Minden Day. It was
no garden of roses that you fought in. I have heard some of the stories
of your Battalion's doings and they are glorious. And I have heard of
your own doings too, and the close shave you had.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than that you should come back
and command your Battalion, and I greatly hope you will. I am afraid
you have painful wounds, but I trust they will not keep you long laid

"The best of luck to you.

                   "H. S. JEUDWINE."

"General Jeudwine's hopes were not to be realized. After a few days'
agony Best-Dunkley passed away. On August 6 Major Brighten issued the
following pathetic Special Order to the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers at Le

"I regret to inform all ranks of the Battalion that our late Commanding
Officer, Lieut.-Colonel B. Best-Dunkley, died at a C.C.S. yesterday from
wounds received in the attack on 31st July--an attack to the magnificent
achievement of which he contributed so largely in the long preparation
and training and in the actual carrying out. His personal gallantry in
leading on the Battalion in the face of heavy enemy fire was an example
of bravery and courage which has added to the laurels of the Regiment,
and his loss is one which will be felt deeply.

        "(Signed) G. S. BRIGHTEN,
    "Major, Commanding 2/5 Battalion
        Lancashire Fusiliers.
             "August 6th, 1917."

Best-Dunkley was buried at Proven. The funeral was taken by Padre
Newman. As the body was lowered into the Flanders clay General Jeudwine
exclaimed: "We are burying one of Britain's bravest soldiers!" The
Battalion buglers played the Last Post. And the spot where the hero lies
is marked by the traditional Little Wooden Cross.

The crowning triumph came when he was awarded the Victoria Cross;
though, to the great sorrow of all, he did not live to know that he had
won it. I well remember the excitement in the Mess at "Montpellier" at
Scarborough when we read the following announcement in the _Manchester


     "For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in command
     of his battalion, the leading waves of which, during an attack,
     became disorganized by reason of rifle and machine-gun fire at
     close range from positions which were believed to be in our hands.
     Lieutenant-Colonel Best-Dunkley dashed forward, rallied his leading
     waves, and personally led them to the assault of these positions,
     which, despite heavy losses, were carried.

     "He continued to lead his battalion until all their objectives had
     been gained. Had it not been for this officer's gallant and
     determined action it is doubtful if the left of the brigade would
     have reached its objectives. Later in the day, when our position
     was threatened, he collected his battalion headquarters, led them
     to the attack, and beat off the advancing enemy. This gallant
     officer has since died of wounds."

And some time afterwards I noticed, in an illustrated paper, a little
photo entitled "Daddy's V.C." It was the picture of a little baby being
held in his mother's arms at Buckingham Palace, while His Majesty King
George the Fifth pinned upon his frock the Victoria Cross.

[Illustration: Map of FREZENBERG]


[11] This refers to the officers' quarters. Company Headquarters were
stationed in the cellar mentioned in the previous chapter.

[12] See Appendix V.

[13] He did not get as far as Aviatik Farm. We met again at Scarborough
in October, and he told me that he was wounded about the same time that
I was wounded.

[14] Sergeant Brogden was afterwards killed in action at the Battle of
Menin Road, September 20, 1917.

[15] _Manchester Guardian_, August 4th, 1917.




In view of my comments upon the appointment of Sir Edmund Allenby to
succeed Sir Archibald Murray, the following extract from the _Manchester
Guardian_ of September 17, 1919, is of interest:

_The Victor and His Predecessor._

When Field-Marshal Allenby stepped off the train at Victoria to-day one
of the first men whom he greeted was General Sir Archibald Murray, his
predecessor in the East. The meeting must have been a pregnant one to
them both. Sir Edmund Allenby came home victor of our most successful
campaign in the war to receive a peerage, while inside and outside the
station London was roaring its welcome. General Murray, after the
failure of the battle of Gaza, had been transferred home and had been
received there with the severest criticism and some personal attacks.
The War Office is famous for its short ways when it does make up its
mind to do something disagreeable, and its treatment of Sir Archibald
Murray is said to have lacked nothing in discourtesy. Since then a good
deal has come out about the early part of our war in the East and the
work done by General Murray, and the nearness he got to success with
quite inadequate support had become recognized even before Sir Edmund
Allenby's dispatch was published, which officially re-established his
military reputation.

To-day, at Dover, Sir Edmund Allenby spoke even more clearly of the debt
he owed for the foundations laid by General Murray and for the loyal way
in which he started him off as a beginner. It is not too common in our
military history to find great commanders on the same battle-ground as
sensitive about one another's reputation as they are of their own. It is
so easy to say nothing and leave matters to history. The lustre of
Allenby's achievement is even greater for his acknowledgment of his debt
to his predecessor.

_The First Palestine Campaign._

Something may be added now about General Murray's work in the East. He
commanded in Egypt from January, 1916, to May, 1917. During that time he
dealt with the Gallipoli forces, disorganized and with most of their
supplies gone. He had to reorganize them into a fighting force again and
to send them West. He had to organize and plan the campaign against the
Senussi, to be responsible for the internal condition of Egypt, and to
defend Egypt from the Turks, then relieved of the Gallipoli operations.
The Turkish attack was beaten off and four thousand prisoners taken, the
defences of Egypt were pushed forward through the Sinai desert,
water-lines carried up and wire ways laid, and all the vast preparations
made by which it became possible to take Palestine. His two assaults on
Gaza failed, but he held the ground he had taken, including the Wadi
Ghuzze, which would have been a big natural defence of Palestine.

He was fighting with three divisions very far short of their full
strength and several battalions of dismounted yeomanry, four big guns,
and thirty aeroplanes, all of old-fashioned type. His pipe-line was
within distance from which it seemed possible to "snap" the Turks at
Gaza, but fog delayed the start, and the manoeuvre took too long, and
the cavalry fell back from want of water. The snap was so near a success
that they picked up a wireless from the Germans in Gaza to their base
saying "Good-bye," as they were going into captivity. That was the main
point of the story.

According to General Murray's friends what happened in Palestine was
what has happened so often in our history. A general is given a job to
do with insufficient forces, and urged on despite his appeals for a
sufficient force. He fails. Another commander is appointed, and the new
man naturally can exact his own conditions, begins the task with an
adequate force, and succeeds. All this, of course, does not take away a
single leaf from Sir Edmund Allenby's brilliant bays or suggest that
General Murray could have done so well. All that is suggested is that he
did not get the same chance.



The six Infantry Regiments engaged at Minden, on August 1, 1759, were:

  12th Foot--Suffolk Regiment.
  20th Foot--Lancashire Fusiliers.
  23rd Foot--Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
  25th Foot--King's Own Scottish Borderers.
  37th Foot--Hampshire Regiment.
  51st Foot--King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry).

Tradition tells that in the course of the operations at Minden, the 20th
were passing through flower gardens and, while doing so, the men plucked
some of the roses and wore them in their coats. This story was the
origin of the "Minden Rose" which is worn annually, on August 1, by all
ranks of the Lancashire Fusiliers.



Field-Marshal French did not definitely state in his fourth dispatch
that General Rawlinson landed at Ostend, but he devoted a number of
paragraphs to the subject of "the forces operating in the neighbourhood
of Ghent and Antwerp under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, as
the action of his force about this period exercised, in my opinion, a
great influence on the course of the subsequent operations." However, in
"1914" Lord French has written (page 200): "I returned to Abbeville that
evening. I found that an officer had arrived from Ostend by motor with a
letter from Rawlinson, in which he explained the situation in the north,
the details of which we know." And John Buchan in _Nelson's History of
the War_, Vol. IV (page 33), states that "On 6th October the 7th
Division began to disembark at Zeebrugge and Ostend, and early on 8th
October the former point saw the landing of the 3rd Cavalry Division,
after a voyage not free from sensation. The force formed the nucleus of
the Fourth Corps, and was commanded by Major-General Sir Henry
Rawlinson, who had a long record of Indian, Egyptian, and South African
service." G. H. Perris in _The Campaign of 1914 in France and Belgium_
is even more emphatic: on page 305 of that work he writes: "Part of the
4th British Corps--the 7th Infantry Division and the 3rd Cavalry
Division--under Sir Henry Rawlinson, had been landed at Ostend and
Zeebrugge without interference, and had advanced eastward to cover the
Belgian-British retreat to the south."



Colonel Best-Dunkley's question on this subject can best be answered by
quoting in full the first paragraph of Chapter XVI of David Hume's
_History of England_, Vol. I:

"The prudent conduct and great success of Edward in his foreign wars had
excited a strong emulation and a military genius among the English
nobility; and these turbulent barons, overawed by the crown, gave now a
more useful direction to their ambition, and attached themselves to a
prince who led them to the acquisition of riches and glory. That he
might further promote the spirit of emulation and obedience, the king
instituted the order of the garter, in imitation of some orders of a
like nature, religious as well as military, which had been established
in different parts of Europe. The number received into this order
consisted of twenty-five persons, besides the sovereign; and as it has
never been enlarged, this badge of distinction continues as honourable
as at its first institution, and is still a valuable, though a cheap
present, which the prince can confer on his greatest subjects. A vulgar
story prevails, but is not supported by any ancient authority, that at a
court ball, Edward's mistress, commonly supposed to have been the
Countess of Salisbury, dropped her garter; and the king, taking it up,
observed some of the courtiers to smile, as if they thought that he had
not obtained this favour merely by accident: upon which he called out,
'Honi soit qui mal y pense,' Evil to him that evil thinks; and as every
incident of gallantry among those ancient warriors was magnified into a
matter of great importance, he instituted the order of the garter in
memorial of this event, and gave these words as the motto of the order.
This origin, though frivolous, is not unsuitable to the manners of the
times; and it is indeed difficult by any other means to account, either
for the seemingly unmeaning terms of the motto, or for the peculiar
badge of the garter, which seems to have no reference to any purpose
either of military use or ornament."



The following note about Goldfish Château, contained in the _Manchester
Guardian_ of September 8, 1919, is relevant to the text:

All the men who had any part in the tragic epic of Ypres will be
interested in the news that the Church Army has taken over "Goldfish
Château" as a hostel for pilgrims to the illimitable graveyards in the
dreadful salient.

For some reason (writes a correspondent who was in it) we christened the
place "Goldfish Château." It was a somewhat pretentious mansion, in
Continental flamboyant style, standing just off the Vlamertinghe road
about half a mile our side of Ypres. Its grounds are ploughed up by
shells and bombs, but most of the fountains and wretched garden statuary
remains with the fishponds which perhaps gave the villa its army name,
and rustic bridges most egregiously incongruous with the surrounding
death and desolation.

All through the Ypres fighting it was a conspicuous landmark well known
to every soldier, and used, as things got hotter and hotter, as staff
headquarters, first for corps, then for division, and finally for
brigade and battalion.

Strangely enough, the château never received a direct hit, though all
the country round was ploughed up and every other building practically
flattened out. The camp tales accounted for this immunity in all sorts
of sinister ways. One story was that some big German personage had
occupied the place. Probably these were romantic fictions. But the fact
remained that "Goldfish Château" bore a charmed life in spite of the
fact that the German sausage balloons almost looked down the chimneys
and so many staffs lived there. Hundreds of thousands of men in this
country who could not name half the county towns in England would be
able to describe every room in this Belgian villa outside Ypres.
Lancashire soldiers are well acquainted with it.

During the third battle of Ypres the transport of the 55th Division had
to leave the fields just opposite the château in a hurry. The Germans
not only shelled the place searchingly, but one morning sent over about
a dozen bombing planes. Simultaneous shelling and bombing is not good
for the nerves of transport mules. But the luck of the "Goldfish
Château" held. Nothing hit it.

       *       *       *       *       *


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       *       *       *       *       *



_Translated from the French._

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       *       *       *       *       *


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       *       *       *       *       *



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