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Title: Over the top with the 25th - Chronicle of events at Vimy Ridge and Courcellette
Author: Lewis, R.
Language: English
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    | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
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    | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For     |
    | a complete list, please see the end of this document.     |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

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   [Illustration: LIEUT. R. LEWIS, M.M.]



OVER THE TOP
WITH THE 25TH

CHRONICLE OF EVENTS
AT VIMY RIDGE AND
COURCELLETTE

BY

LIEUT R. LEWIS, M.M.



1918
H.H. MARSHALL, LIMITED
HALIFAX, CANADA



Chapter One


The end of August, 1914, found me following my usual employment as
second mate on a small steamboat plying between St. John's,
Newfoundland, and various stations on the coast of Labrador. The news
from the front aroused my patriotism, and though my captain, who was a
Britisher through and through, strongly urged me to remain with him
because of the great difficulty of securing another man, I was fully
made up in my mind that my clear, plain duty was to enlist. On my
return trip to St. John's I found, greatly to my disappointment, that
it was all too late to enroll my name in the already organized
Newfoundland regiment. There was nothing for it but to cross to Canada
and try my luck at enlisting there. Arriving at Sydney, and making
enquiries, I discovered that the second division was not going to be
formed up for some little time, and I therefore enlisted in the 94th
Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. With them I remained in Sydney
until October of the same year when the 25th Battalion was
organized--a battalion which has since covered itself with glory and
earned the legitimately proud title of "The Fighting Twenty-Fifth."

Although I was one of them myself, I do not hesitate to assert that a
finer bunch of men never left the shores of Nova Scotia to take up
arms for Britain in the fields of France and Flanders than the gallant
boys of the splendid Twenty-fifth. The general public does not appear
to know very much of the achievements of this battalion and this
perhaps may be due to the fact that we left Canada in May of 1915, and
that we had been in France some nineteen months before any other Nova
Scotia Battalion went into action as a unit. This story is not being
penned with the slightest idea of seeking in any way to disparage the
Nova Scotia Highlanders; that intrepid body of superb fighters have
fought splendidly and well and their glorious record is fresh in the
minds of all.


It has been my privilege to be with the Twenty-Fifth right from the
day of its organization until the 23rd of April, 1917, and now, from
records and diaries which I have kept from the beginning, I am
attempting to relate the true story of the wonderful work accomplished
by this battalion.


As previously intimated, we organized in the October of 1914, and at
that time I was a private under Major MacRae. Since then, to quote the
words of Kipling,

    "Things 'ave transpired which made me learn
      The size and meanin' of the game.
    I did no more than others did,
      I don't know where the change began;
    I started as an average kid,
      I finished as a thinkin' man."

In those early days following upon enlistment we enjoyed some real
good times in Halifax and the old boys will always recall with
genuine appreciation the many kindnesses shown us by the citizens.
Taking all the various circumstances into consideration we were well
looked after by the military authorities; of course, our one burning
eagerness was to get over to France and plunge into the thick of
things as speedily as possible, and when it was rumored that we were
going to be put on home duty feeling ran pretty high among the men and
some quite lively times were experienced! The rumor, however, came to
nothing and we settled down to the routine of our daily drill. By this
time I had transferred to the Machine Gun Section and became linked up
with "B" Co. with Lieutenant Medcalfe second in command. I shall not
waste space in telling you about the time we strutted about, proud of
our khaki uniforms, hugging the fond thought that we were real
soldiers, even as not a few who today, still at home, wearing the
uniform, are victims of the same absurd delusion. At last the great
day came--the day of our embarkation; we were going to say our
farewell to the land of our birth, sail away over the ocean and begin
our great adventure, taking our place among the soldiers of the King
and Empire in the greatest fight for liberty and right which the world
has ever witnessed.


Eager and keen, and with spirits high, we stepped aboard the old
"Saxonia" along with the 22nd French-Canadian regiment, and sailed on
the 20th of May, 1915, arriving in England after a pleasant but
uneventful voyage. We found the training in England far more thorough
than anything we had before experienced. We had to work, and real
hard, too, but undoubtedly the process made us better men and tended
to increase our confidence as soldiers.



Chapter Two


It is obvious that to relate to my readers the truth concerning the
Twenty-Fifth it is necessary to be somewhat critical, and I shall
endeavor to be absolutely impartial. To begin with, let it be said,
and said with perfect candor, that the credit of handling our
battalion in England which eventually helped us to go across to France
must be given to our own officers.


For the most part we greatly enjoyed our stay in England. We had a
splendid time in Folkestone, a beautiful sea-side place; and for
company we had about 50,000 Canadians in addition to some English
cavalry. After a little more than three months' training the welcome
news arrived that the next item on the program was France and the
firing line. This information was received with the utmost enthusiasm,
for the boys were getting somewhat "fed up" with training and were
anxious for a crack at the Hun. On going over, we had to leave some of
our officers behind, as they were "extra" to the establishment. Among
them were Will Cameron, Charlie MacAloney and others. They came out
later and proved their worth as fighters. Arthur Weston, who was
second in command, refused to stay behind and accompanied us to
France as quartermaster, thus setting a fine example to a good many
majors and captains who would rather hang on to a job in England than
cross to France and fight. Weston was not of this type. He was a
soldier and a man.


We landed in France on the 15th of September, 1915, and I will never
forget that first march, heavily accoutred, over a big hill to our
first camp. You could easily have picked out our train by reason of
the boots etc., strewn along the line of march, and followed us
without difficulty from the day we left Boulogne till we finally
arrived at a little village in Flanders called ----. Here, within
sound of the guns, we bivouacked for the night, some of the officers
going ahead to look over the trenches we were so soon to occupy. The
next night, under cover of darkness, two platoons from each company
went up to the trenches. I well remember that night, the long march up
the rough shell-torn road, and then along the communication trenches
where we were received by the Imperial troops who, during the next few
days, showed us all around and taught us what to do. Two nights later
the remainder of our own boys came in, and the English soldiers went
south to take part in the battle of Loos. It was about this time that
Major Jones, as fine a soldier as ever went overseas, suffered a
breakdown in his health. The heavy responsibilities thrown upon him
proved too much.


After spending eight days in the trenches we came out for a
well-earned rest. My particular company was stationed at a farmhouse
which was situated quite close to the firing line. The owner was
generally considered to be pro-German, his father, according to rumor,
having previously been shot as a spy. The farmer had a dog which had
been tied up for about nine months, and our sentries had strict orders
that if any of the civilians left the house we were to halt them, and
if they did not halt on the word of command we were to shoot. But I
think at that time it would have been a case of "shoot first," for we
were imagining all sorts of things. As it happened somebody let the
dog loose, and as the sentries felt sure he was going over to the
German lines with despatches, they just shot him dead. Major MacKenzie
had to pay 30 francs for him to satisfy the farmer and to prevent
headquarters hearing of the matter.


At the termination of our six days' rest we went back to the trenches
and relieved the 24th Battalion. "B" Company, to which I belonged,
occupied H 3, J 3, 4, 5 and H 4. Every little while Fritz would
"strafe" us with rifle grenades, and there was some mining reported in
H 4. This was a small salient; and was held by about forty men under
Capt. Medcalfe.


On the evening of October 8th about six p.m. we were all chatting
together, some papers from home had been received by some of the boys
and we were discussing the names of the newly formed 36th Battery,
when all of a sudden there was quite an explosion on our right. The
Germans had blown up several small mines. Capt. Medcalfe at once gave
the order to "stand to," but before I had time to get my rifle and
equipment, the ground trembled and rocked beneath us and everything
went up into the air. The explosion took away fully half of H 4
trench, and left a crater about 10 feet deep. Those of us who were
lucky enough to escape without being wounded managed, I don't know
how, to make our way into H 3 trench. Fortunately for us the enemy
was very erratic in his artillery fire. It was all going between our
second and third line trenches and consequently did no damage. This
was our first real bombardment, and quite naturally we all felt more
or less "shaky"--I know I said my prayers that night as I never said
them before! The papers had it that the Germans got into our trenches
and that we drove them out again. Such a thing never happened. They
made an attack on us, but our artillery, rifle and machine gun fire
caught them in "No Man's Land." By a happy coincidence the West
Lancashire Artillery was just relieving the 7th Battery of Artillery
and we had the support of both of them, and, believe me, they sure did
some wonderful work.


Our front line officers, such as MacRae, Logan, MacKenzie, Tupper,
Roberts, Johnson and others, were all out on the job; unfortunately
the same cannot be said of headquarters. As I was merely a private at
the time I do not know just what really transpired; but we never saw
the colonel at all that night. About four the next morning the major
came and paid us a visit when we had a new parapet built. The Germans,
however, failed to get into our trenches; and up to this day the 25th
can with perfect truth declare that they never failed in the critical
hour, for if we did not always have competent officers at the head of
the battalion we certainly had them in our companies. Following this
action we were marched out of the trenches for a rest, and prior to
going back again, we were visited by General Alderson, who gave us a
pretty severe lecture. He said he had every confidence in the men. A
few days later Colonel Hilliam took over the command, and Major Stan
Bauld was appointed second in command.



Chapter Three


When officers arrive in England they are given the option of going to
France as lieutenants or going back home. That is the reason you see
so many bold footed officers holding down staff jobs in England and
Canada. Colonel Hilliam who was now our commanding officer, says that
the 25th battalion made his name; but the 25th boys are equally
positive that he made the battalion. It was truly wonderful the
confidence we placed in him and he never disappointed us. He was very
strong on discipline, and when all is said and done that is most
essential in the army. Without it a battalion simply becomes a mob.
During the winter we were on the Kimmel front. It was a bad year in
the trenches, for the rain and mud were something awful. The mud was
waist deep and of such a nature that once a fellow got stuck it took
another chap to get him out. For about two months they were trenches
in name only; they were caved right in and the boys that were doing
front line work would go in at 8 o'clock one night and would not be
relieved until 8 o'clock the next night--twenty-four hours without any
hot food. I must say that we found the hot rum ration that winter to
be a most desirable thing.

Our colonel was a regular fire eater, and wanted to be at it all the
time. He organized a raiding party in charge of Capt. Tupper along
with Brooks, Cameron and Roberts. All four of them proved to be great
fighters. They were the pick of the battalion.


And now enters that great hero--Toby Jones--"the Man who came back!"
He was machine gun officer, and the Colonel also put him in charge of
a wire cutting party, and thus he was carrying the responsibility of
both jobs. He would be around his guns all day and at night he would
be scouting all over "No Man's land" and in December, 1915 it was no
joke crawling around in the mud. He never got any rest. He would not
eat, and the day of the raid Fritz had straffed us quite a lot. I was
in trench S.P. 12 along with Toby when a message came to tell us that
a shell had knocked in one of the dugouts and had killed one of our
N.C.O's, Corporal Ferguson, a chap who was well liked by everybody. A
road named the "V.C. Road" separated us from J 4. The Germans were
shelling this road pretty bad; but as soon as Toby got the message he
did not hesitate one minute but went across to J 4. He seemed to have
had a charmed life. Shells were bursting all around him but he never
got a scratch. That night Corporal Ingraham and the McNeil brothers,
the three biggest dare devils that were in our battalion left our
dugout on a wire cutting expedition. Imagine, three or four men lying
on their backs in mud and water cutting at Fritz's wire just a few
feet away from his trench! Jones would go around his gun teams to make
sure that everything was all right and then he would visit his wire
cutting party.

Night after night Toby would be engaged in this dangerous and telling
work. It proved too much for flesh and blood, and one night just as a
visit was planned he broke right down and was carried to our lines on
a stretcher. Well, Toby got the blame for the failure of that evening
and left our battalion; but as the old adage puts it "You can't keep a
good man down" and Toby Jones enlisted again as a private in the 42nd
Battalion--won back his commission with the D.C.M. and a bar. Every
man in the "Fighting Twenty-Fifth" lifts his hat to Toby Jones--the
greatest hero of them all!


We carried out several raids the next few weeks on the Kimmel front,
and, as a matter of fact, it is no exaggeration to say that
trench-raiding which has since been carried out so extensively was
really initiated by the "Fighting Twenty-Fifth." Before proceeding
further, let me describe a trench. They are all transversed, because
if a shell or bomb should burst in one part of the trench the
transverse prevents the spread of the shrapnel. A communication trench
is usually to connect the trenches together, and sometimes these
trenches are a mile long reaching from the front line to some part
behind the line where it is comparatively safe to walk around. They
are very deep and zig-zag in shape so that they cannot be enfiladed.


On the Belgian front we could not have deep dugouts for the soil was
so soft. To dig down a few feet was to strike water. At first we only
had sand bags shelters, then we had the corrugated iron ones which
were shrapnel and bomb proof.



Chapter Four


We stayed on the Kimmel front from September 15th until sometime in
February. We were never in anything big here for it was winter time
and we had all our work cut out in repairing and rebuilding trenches.
Now I have made mention of the fact that we came out for a rest, but
that does not mean to say that we didn't work, for whilst we were
resting we figured in many working parties. We all learned to believe
that

  Our section was the best in the Platoon
  Our Platoon the best in the Company,
  Our Company the best in the Battalion,
  Our Battalion the best in the Brigade,
  Our Brigade the best in the Division,
  Our Division the best in the Corps,
  Our Corps the best in the Army,
  And that the British were the best in the world.

Our old Colonel would have concerts and lectures arranged for us when
we went to rest, and on Christmas day we had quite a big dinner,
thanks to the people at home who helped by sending us quite a lot of
nice things.

As you might know we had quite a lot of Cape Breton boys. They were
needed to do some mining and they were splendid at that work. The
miners work is as follows; first they sink a shaft so many feet down,
and then when they get down deep enough they start sapping forward,
putting up timbers as they go. They have to work very quietly as Fritz
also does some sapping and if too much noise is made the miners
themselves are liable to go up in the air and come down in pieces, and
I do not think that anybody would relish that idea. Mining is done now
on a very large scale. So you see this war is carried on underneath
the earth as well as underneath the water.


I will remember a certain officer who got the creeps after the October
affair and would always go around wearing armored body plates, and
every time he heard a rat scratch he thought it was a mine. He heard a
noise in his dugout and he cleared all the men out of his trench and
had the miners up. They dug down and found that his place must have
been over an old dugout and that there were quite a number of rats
running around having a good time all to themselves. Certainly, I must
admit that I was no hero myself. When our front trenches started to
cave in we had to get out in front into No Man's Land and dig a new
trench and what earth we excavated we had to throw up against our own
front line trench, and although at the present time I would think
nothing of it I was sure some scared. But after you are there awhile
you do not mind it at all. The first winter Bill Cameron, along with
his scouts used to live in No Man's Land. They thought nothing of
doing that. They used to be planning to do all sorts of things, but
the opportunity only seldom came for them to do anything out of the
way, except it was to go over No Man's Land searching for dead bodies
and curios, and those chaps were game enough for anything.

   [Illustration: LIEUT. CANNING, M.M.]

   [Illustration: MAJOR MACRAE
   OFFICER COMMANDING "A" CO., 25th BATT.]

The whole time we were on this front everything went very smoothly,
for we had one great man at the head of our Battalion. We were great
friends with the French-Canadian Battalion, but there was another
Battalion in our Brigade with whom we did not pull at all, and there
was always a certain amount of jealousy between us, which was a good
thing as we were always trying to outdo the other. Their Commanding
Officer thought that they were the best battalion that ever left
Canada, and Hilliam, the bulldog that he was, would not stand for
that; so there was always a certain amount of rivalry between us.


On one occasion there were a few Canadians guarding a road where
people were not supposed to travel by night unless they had a pass,
and a "Twenty-fifth" man who had been having a good time was coming
home. "Halt," cried the sentry, "who goes there?" Answer "25th," "Pass
25th all is well," so the 25th man went on his way home. Along came
another belated traveller. The same performance was gone thru and he
gave the number of his battalion which was not the 25th. The answer
came back from the sentry, "Turn out the guard," and they put this
poor soldier into the guard room. It was all due to their petty
notions as to what they should not do. But still it always works out
well; a little jealousy between the battalions always makes one try to
outdo the other. But thanks to our Commanding Officer we never took
second place to any battalion in France.


Shortly after we were ordered to move up to the M. and N. trenches
where we relieved some of the 4th Brigade for a time. There was a
trench in this locality named the "International" because of it's
changing hands so often. Well, about a month before this the Germans
had made an attack on the Scotties and they were just relieving and
were not prepared for the Huns. But they fought until they saw that
they would have to plan a surprise attack to get it back. The Scottish
Division then went out for a rest and left Fritz master of the trench.
But the canny Scot was not giving in so easily. When they had been
reorganized they came back with one intention and that was to take
back the "International" trench and they did.


Well here we were in the Vierstrutt trench, and we held it for a week.
Our artillery would open up every couple of hours and we could look
over our parapets and watch them pounding Cain out of Fritz's
trench--it was wonderful. We kept this up for about four or five days
so that Fritz could not have much of a trench left. The idea of the
heavy bombardment was to give him the notion that we were going to
make an attack at this point. On the morning that the Scotties were to
take back the trench Bill Cameron, George Roberts, together with
Canning, and some of the other boys, played quite a trick on Fritz.
They got a couple of very long steam pipes and filled them up with
explosives; carried them across and put them underneath Fritz's barb
wire. There was a long fuse attached.


Now to describe it:--The hour is 4 a.m. Everybody is anxiously waiting
for the bombardment to take place. We never gave a thought to the
possibility of Fritz bombarding us. The attack starts, but we do not
leave our trench, but set fire to the fuse. That fuse did all sorts of
fancy turns and twists travelling across No Man's Land, and then the
explosion! Fritz's wires are all blown to pieces. He was sure then
that we are making the attack and sends up all sorts of S.O.S. signals
that look very pretty. His artillery opens up, but it seems there is
something the matter with his range for he cannot reach us at all. But
what is taking place on the right of us? The Scotties, without firing
a shot, walk over No Man's Land, jump into Fritz's trench and bomb the
dugouts, capturing quite a few prisoners, and once more the
"International" is ours and has not changed hands since.



Chapter Five


Our Battalion did not remain long on the Kimmel front, but on being
relieved by some English troops, we were sent for a rest to a little
village called Berthem. We were situated in a French farm house and
received splendid treatment from the occupants. Here it was that we
met the Anzacs, fresh from their terrible fighting at Gallipoli; and
there was quite a little friendly rivalry between them and our
Canadian boys.

Contrary to our expectations we did not remain for any length of time
at Berthem. Some big fighting was in progress at St. Eloi, and the
Imperials had planned a strong offensive movement. Several mines were
exploded, and an attack was launched the objective of which, in the
first instance, was to gain part of the Messines Ridge. The attack was
a considerable success but not wholly so, because the Germans were
able to get in some pretty effective artillery work; the Fourth
Brigade was thereupon sent to their assistance and managed to drive
Fritz back for quite a distance.

For the next three days there was some very hard fighting in this St.
Eloi district in which our men participated with great valor. Some of
our boys were obliged to remain in those mine craters for twenty-four
hours with no chance of communication with the rear. Howard Johnstone
beat off no less than five attacks in four hours. Guy Matheson, who
had crossed over as a sergeant won the M.M. in this action, and here
it was that Corporal Ingram gained the D.C.M. They really deserved the
V.C. Captain Brooks did wonderful work, but I cannot continue to
mention individuals or I should have to mention every name in the
entire Battalion. After some days the intensity of the fighting died
down and the ordinary trench warfare was resumed. We had hard work
rebuilding our badly shattered trenches and were very glad of the
opportunity to enjoy our divisional rest. While out on rest on one
occasion we were visited by the King and Queen. Their Majesties,
accompanied by Colonel Hilliam, walked through our lines and appeared
much interested in our welfare.

It was in St. Eloi that we captured some prisoners who gave us the
information that there was going to be a gas attack on the Kimmel
Front. We warned the Imperials who were at that point, so they were
quite prepared. The Germans sent over the gas, and then came over
themselves. Our fellows fell back in the centre and thus surrounded
them, capturing or killing every one that came over. It was while in
those trenches that we first started to use the Lewis gun and the
Stokes trench mortar.

The Lewis machine gun is a wonderful weapon. Like a rifle it can be
fired from the shoulder and the discharge is at the rate of about 500
rounds a minute. The Stokes gun is much like a stove pipe; and as fast
as the shells, which weigh 13 lbs., are dropped into it, they go
flying through the air right to their object, and then burst and
create an awful havoc. The Germans have invented quite a number of
trench mortars, but nothing to come up to this.

One night whilst we were in those trenches a few Germans managed to
get into a part of our trench which we were not occupying, as we knew
that they had a mine there ready to blow up at any minute. As we
discovered, by the bombs and other stuff that they had left behind,
that they had been in our trench we decided to go and look for them,
so Lieut. Dennis Stairs took a party out. He had with him Sergt.
Canning, who has since won the M.M. and his commission. They wandered
about No Man's Land for awhile when they suddenly came upon a supply
of Fritz's bombs. There were a few hundred of them, so it was quite
plain that they intended to make a big raid on us. But when he had the
"25th" to contend with he had the wrong crowd. The next night the same
party went out, prepared for anything that might happen and they
waited by that supply of bombs, and sure enough, quite a few Huns
appeared. Our fellows then threw the bombs, and I can assure you there
were many Huns who never got back home again. We got a little
information from the prisoners taken and that was most important.


Another night, as usual, we had our listening posts out in some of the
shell holes, when one of the men of the "A" Company posts saw a couple
of Huns quite close and immediately opened fire on them, killing one
and wounding the other. It was by means such as these that we were
able to gather very desirable information regarding the enemy, his
strength, probable intentions, and sometimes the effect of our
artillery fire. In fact one of the main reasons for making these raids
was for the very purpose of getting information and also to weaken the
morale of the Germans opposite to us.

While we were here at this section of the front, about June 9th, the
Third Division had to withstand a very heavy bombardment, followed by
a terrible barrage fire, and subsequently a fierce attack. The Germans
managed to get into the trenches but not without paying a dreadful
price.


It was found necessary to send for reinforcements if the trench was to
be re-captured. Imperials relieved us on the St. Eloi front, and we
were speedily conveyed by motor lorries and rushed up to the Ypres
section. Our boys all knew they were in for a hot time but we were
keen to be at it for we were "just spoiling for a fight." We got it
all right, and though we were only here for two days, such was the
severe nature of the fighting, that our casualty list was very heavy.
Incessant rain added to our discomfiture; but the spirit of the boys
was something wonderful to behold.


After a twenty-four hour rest in the huts at Ypres we went to the now
famous "Hill 60" where we remained for seven days. It was while we
were here at "Hill 60" that Sergt. Duffet got the D.C.M., though he
afterwards died of the wounds which he had received.


After leaving "Hill 60" we went back to the St. Eloi front again, and
had the usual routine of work to perform--trench warfare and plenty of
working parties. Just imagine a party of about a hundred men carrying
wire trench mats across the open in full view of Fritz. A flare goes
up; everybody stands still; a machine gun opens fire; everybody goes
down so that they will not be hit; and then every thing is still
again. All of a sudden somebody swears as he trips over a shell hole,
but the oath is made in such a reverent way that it is more of a
prayer than a curse word. Thus it continues night after night.



Chapter Six


As I have previously said, there is always a certain amount of rivalry
between the Battalions. In illustration of this we got word that a
Battalion on our right was going to pull off a raid. Our Colonel
immediately ordered Lieut. Wise (he went over with the 25th as a
Sergt. and is now a Major and second in command of the Battalion) to
take a party of men and make a raid into Fritz's trench. They set off
and after wandering around "No Man's Land" for a while found an
opening in his wire. They got into his trench and bombarded him right
and left, killing quite a few and bringing back valuable information.
Unluckily we had a few wounded, and Sergt. Anderson got no further
back than Fritz's wire when he was hit. Lieut. Wise made three or four
gallant attempts to get him out, but, owing to the machine gun and
rifle fire, it was impossible. Lieut. Wise, who was badly wounded got
the Military Cross and Cross de Guerre, and several of the boys got
the Military Medal, so the Battalion on our right had to postpone
their raid.


A few nights later we planned another. There were three parties, one
under Lieut. Matheson, one under Lieut. Daley, and one under Lieut.
Hiltz, the whole being under the command of Major Grant. Lieut.
Dennis Stairs also took part in this. We were all ready to raid the
trench when we got orders that the Battalion on our right was going to
pull off a raid and that we must postpone ours. The same night that
Lieut. Wise pulled off his raid so successfully, the Fourth Brigade
"put one over" on the Hun. They raided his trench, bringing back some
prisoners and doing quite a lot of damage to his trench.

But one of their men had been missing and had been given up for lost.
Two days later one of the Artillery officers, while observing our
fire, noticed a chap wandering around No Man's Land, and he would have
fired at him only the man turned round and the observer saw his black
face and knew right away that it was the missing man. A couple of boys
crawled out and brought him in. He was quite delirious. It seemed that
he had been wounded and bled quite a lot and became unconscious. The
sun dried the wound, but left him insane and he had started wandering
around No Man's Land.

Just before we left the St. Eloi front we had some of the Fourth
Division in with us, and we showed them what they had to do and left
them to play their part and show the Huns that they were
Canadians--and this they have undoubtedly done.

The Somme fighting was on about this time. I well remember the 1st of
July. Our aeroplanes went over the German lines and brought down about
six or seven of their observation balloons before you could say "Jack
Robinson." It was pretty slick work, with some new explosive that our
fellows had kept very secret.

In leaving the St. Eloi front we marched for three days to a little
town quite close to St. Omer called ----, where we drilled from five
in the morning till seven or eight at night, doing the usual training
so as to get us fit for the fray. By this time I was a full fledged
Lance Corporal in charge of "C" Company's Lewis guns. We had a great
time here. A couple of days in the week we would have sports and then
we would play games of baseball. Some of the boys would help the
French girls make up their crops. Another thing that helped to make us
so comfortable here was the difference in the people. They were most
hospitable and could not do enough for us. We would scatter our straw
on the floor, spread our blanket and go to sleep as happy and
contented as possible. I tell you when you have a tiled floor for a
mattress, your pack for a pillow and your overcoat for a blanket you
can appreciate such a comfort as straw and blankets.


We all knew that we were going to the Somme to take part in that big
show and we were very anxious to get down upon them. The First
Division had gone down a little ahead of us, but we were going to show
them that the 25th could play its part as well as any of the
Battalions and we did so.


We stayed a while here in training and then we started on our journey.
We would march about fifteen miles each day and would camp or bivouac
for the night. Before turning in to sleep we would have a sing-song,
all the men being in the best of spirits for at last we knew we were
going to have a real scrap with the Hun, and although we had been in
France twelve months, we had always been on the defensive and that is
always the hardest kind of fighting. As we had quite a lot of old
scores to pay off, we were just eager to get at the foe. After a long
march we finally arrived at the brickfield in Albert, and there we saw
for our first time the brass statute on the Church of Albert which
was hanging head down. You would think that it would fall at any
moment, but it was well secured so that the person who made the
prophecy that when the statute on the church at Albert fell, the war
would end, must have known that the war would last a long time.


Well here we were. Thousands of troops ready for a big attack. One day
we saw some queer looking objects coming along the road. We were all
wondering what sort of war machines they were. There were all sorts of
rumors as to what they were and what they could do. We did not find
out what they were until the 15th of September and then we knew that
they were the much-talked of "tanks." Fritz also found that out--much
to his loss. We did several working parties here, going up through
Contalmaison, Pozieres and other villages. We should not have known
that they had been villages only that there were signs there to inform
us to that effect.


Anybody who has seen the German trenches here, and the deep dugouts
and steep ridges which the British troops had to swarm over could
scarcely believe it possible to take any of their positions; but we
had a leader in General Haig and he knew what he was doing. The
Artillery pounded the Hun with such vigor that if any were left they
were properly demoralized, and then the infantry went over and caught
the Germans down in their dugouts. By the night of Sept. 14th we were
ready to launch our attack. The great Somme fight was on!



Chapter Seven


On the way up to the trenches and on seeing the guns, practically
speaking, wheel to wheel, we thought it would be impossible to use
more artillery at one time. But I know we have four or five times the
number of heavy guns in use on the western front now than we had on
the Somme, and that is one of the reasons that the morale of the men
in the western area is so good.


On the night of September 14th we moved up to a position of reserve,
and we were all issued our fighting material which consisted of
ammunition, rifles, bombs, with haversack on our backs, rations enough
for two days and water bottle filled. We also made sure that we had
our field dressing with us. There was also another little thing which
we were given and that was our aeroplane signal. As soon as the
advance starts our aeroplanes are ready to co-operate with us in all
possible ways, and I can tell from what I have seen that Fritz's
planes stand a very poor chance against ours.


Now to describe our action. As soon as we start to dig in we light
some of those flares; our planes see them and they signal back with
the Klaxon horns, then they drop some signal and do a little fancy
flying, and by that means, sometimes combined with wireless, our
artillery know just exactly where we are. Some of the men also carry
wire cutters, others, shovels and picks. I can assure you that it is
no light load but the queer thing is that nobody seems to mind it,
until everything is all over.

On the morning of the 15th the 4th and 6th Brigades made the attack
for our Division. It was a pretty big affair on about a three mile
front. We were back in reserve and we were pretty sore because we were
not taking a part in it, when we saw the "Irish Navy," as we called
the tank, come puffing up. Little did we think that many who were
there talking would be killed or wounded before the day was over. Then
all of a sudden the artillery with a mighty roar opened up the most
terrific fire.

It was a wonderful sight. Nothing could be seen all along the horizon
in the rear but one mass of flame, where our guns were sending out
shell after shell. They were there in all sizes from the eighteen
pounders up to the fifteen inch guns.

Now, our boys are over with all their objectives well defined. The
principal one for our division, at the time, was the Sugar Refinery,
and in a very short while the prisoners started to come in. Some of
them carrying our wounded with them, others carrying some of their own
wounded. They were a demoralized crowd and after the artillery barrage
which was put up it is not to be wondered at. Brigade headquarters
were very close to us and they were taken there where they were asked
all sorts of questions by our intelligence officers. Some would speak,
others would not; but our intelligence corps generally got all the
information that was needed. Our troops advanced so much that day
that some of the artillery had to shift their guns up closer as they
were out of range.

That movement was a very pretty sight--the gun limbers being galloped
across the shell torn ground, wheeling their guns around and getting
into action in very short while. If I were a professional writer, I
could describe a lot of things that happened that morning which would
be very interesting to the reader but there are a number of incidents
which I shall have to omit thru lack of memory.

Now and again, Fritz would throw a shell over at us, but it would do
no more harm than fling up dirt over us and we were so used to this
that we did not mind it at all.

The tanks did wonderful work puffing along to the German strong points
and using their guns. I guess the moral effect was just as terrible as
the real. No wonder that the German prisoners were so scared. Anyway,
the main thing was the British got all of their objectives and quite a
few were still pushing further ahead. We did not think that we would
have a chance to take part in the show but at the same time we were
prepared for anything that might happen.

At 3 p.m. that same afternoon the Scottish Division on our right took
Martinupuch, so General Byng decided that the Canadians should make
another drive and take Courcelette, and, as it was, the 4th and 6th
Brigades that went over that morning it was our turn for Courcelette.

There was a conference of the four colonels commanding the four
battalions in our Brigade and it was decided that the 25th were to go
thru the left half of the village, the 22nd thru the right half, the
26th in close support and the 24th in reserve, and altho there have
been not a few rumors as to who really took Courcelette all I can say
is that the whole Canadian corps played a part one way or another,
even to the Army Service Corps who supplied our ammunition. But anyway
that is how our brigades went over on the 15th of September.

When the colonel came back he held a consultation with his company
commanders who were Major Tupper "A" Co., Lieut. Col. Flowers, "B"
Co., Capt. Stairs, "C" Co., Major Brooks "D" Co., and the entire
scheme was explained to them. I was in the Lewis Gun Corps of "C" Co.,
so when Captain Stairs called together his platoon officers, I had to
be there too, and the scheme was that "A" and "D" companies were to
form the first wave. There was a railroad the other side of
Courcelette, there they were to dig in, in the most suitable place in
front of that. "C" and "B" formed the second wave and were to dig in,
just in front of the village. My instructions as to my guns were that
I was to plant one gun on the left flank of the company and one on the
right. When I saw that D. Co., had consolidated their position I was
to start and take the right flank gun up and put it out in a shell
hole about 20 yards in front of D. Co. My left flank gun I was to
leave as it was guarding a sunken road. It was also an understood
thing that we were to leave so many Lewis gunners behind, so when we
started over we had but two trained men per gun, and four others,
untrained, to carry ammunition.

We started to get into position. The glorious 22nd were on our right,
and the 3rd Division on our left, and tho this was our first time
"over" everybody was laughing and eager to get at it. There was that
grand old colonel of ours with a foot rule held in one hand and a map
in the other. We were all lined up in extended order about 1-½ miles
from our objective and we had to advance over ground that had been
ploughed up pretty badly by our own artillery that morning. Shortly,
our colonel gave the order to advance. Almost at the same time our
artillery opened up. We advanced in one long extended line. (I must
say that we use a different formation today). We were all joking with
one another. We had fixed bayonets and as we passed a trench I heard
one artillery observing officer say: "By the Gods of War, isn't it
fine." One of my gunners asked me for a chew of tobacco. We passed
some of the trenches which our boys had taken that morning. I saw a
big German lying on his face dead, and a few of our own lying around.
Then again we came across a few more dead Huns. Here were a couple of
skulls which had been thrown up by our artillery. One of our boys
passed the remark that they would not even let the dead rest.


People talk about Fear; I must admit there is such a thing before you
start over, but once you get started you are callous to everything.
You see you own best friend killed alongside of you, but that does not
stop you for you keep right on, never thinking that you may be the
next, and even if you did you would say to yourself that you have got
to go sooner or later, so what's the odds?


We were getting near to the Sugar Refinery that Fritz had put a
barrage across. No matter, we kept on. We got to the trenches held by
one of our other brigades. The second wave is supposed to stop here
for a few minutes whilst the first wave keeps on. One of the boys who
were holding the trench said "Keep on lads, don't be frightened. We
gave them hell this morning. You ought to be able to do the same now."
I got mad at him for thinking that we were not "playing the game," so
I gave my gun team the order to advance. As we passed the Sugar
Refinery, Fritz's shells were bursting everywhere--shells bursting in
the air, shrapnel coming down on us white hot like snow. One of my men
was hit. I took his ammunition and left him to get out the best way he
could. Fritz's machine guns were now playing on us.

   [Illustration: Aeroplane map of the sector in which the
   "Fighting 25th" were engaged at "Vimy Ridge."]

   [Illustration: Aeroplane map of the sector in which the
   "Fighting 25th" were engaged at "Vimy Ridge."]

We saw some of the boys turn around and then drop dead. It must be a
great death, for in the excitement one would never know what struck
him. We opened up our machine guns on the Huns who were hiding in a
bit of a wood. My team is up with the first wave by now. Then we all
made a dash and arrived at the Convent wall in Courcelette. There were
lots there before us. The most prominent of all was Colonel Hilliam,
with a cigar in his mouth, stick in one hand and watch in the other.
He says, "Now boys, the barrage will play there for five minutes and
then we will go right thru the village." He was wounded in the hand,
but he only smiled at that. I went and found out that both my guns
were O.K. and that I was lucky enough to get over with my full amount
of ammunition, which was very fortunate considering that we came thru
quite an artillery barrage.

Our shells were bursting just in front of the village. You could see
nothing but one mass of flame and smoke. Our colonel looked up and
said "Now Boys get ready," and then the artillery lifts and we go thru
the village. What was once a peaceful village is now nothing but a
mass of burning ruins. We got thru, but some of our boys had to
bayonet a few Germans to make them be good.

The first wave was now well in front, and I was with my right flank
team in the second wave. We came up on the right of "C" Co., just as
they were preparing to dig in.

Lieut. Dalley was about ten yards in front of his platoon giving
orders to his men to dig in, when I saw him take a turn round and
drop. I rushed out and picked him up. He told me to go on and never
mind him. It was a dry day and there were quite a few bullets striking
close to us, but at the time I did not seem to know, what they were so
I got hold of Dalley and brought him back to a shell hole where our
boys were digging in, and turned him over to their care. By this time
I saw that "D" Co., had started to dig in, so I took my guns along and
placed them in a shell hole about 20 yards in front of where our boys
were digging. It was now about six p.m. The aeroplanes were over our
heads sounding their horns and we were burning our signals.

After placing my team I came back and found that Lieut. Dennis Stairs
was wounded on the arm and leg. I bandaged him up, but he persisted in
staying in and "carrying on" with his work altho the colonel wanted
him to go out. He has the Military Cross and I must say he deserved
it. I also found that Major Brooks had been killed and that Major
Nutter was acting O.C. of "D" Co. I reported to the colonel who was in
the front line, and he asked me to take out the prisoners. There were
about thirty-five of them, and I was to turn them over to the 26th
Battalion, which was supposed to be in close support. There were a
couple of chaps who were slightly wounded, going out as escort. We
went out right thru the village but no sign of the 26th.

We saw a couple of their scouts who told us that the battalion was a
little in the rear of us, but as it was getting dark we decided to
send them out in charge of the wounded runners. The Huns were so
demoralized that they really did not need any escort. Just before they
left I saw Lieut. Wetmore stick his head out of a shell hole. He had
been badly wounded in the head, so he also went out with the
prisoners. I then started on my way back to the front line. Going thru
the village we came across two Huns carrying a wounded Hun. We took
them prisoners and turned them over to Sergt. Anderson of "C" Co. I
then saw Sergt. Laird of "B" Co. and got about 30 bombs from him and
took them up to my front line gun and came back to visit my left flank
gun, which was still with "C" Co. While I was talking to Sergt. Weir
there was a message came to me from Major Nutter to get my left gun up
and place it out in front. I went to the left flank to carry out my
order, and found my gun and ammunition scattered around the sunken
road not damaged. But my team was gone, so I hunted around and got
another team together and placed them out in "No Man's Land." If Fritz
had to counter attack us that night he would have got an awful
reception, for we had quite a few machine guns out in front and
everybody was in good spirits and keeping a good look out.

We found out by this time we had lost quite a few of our best
officers; out of our company we had lost one of the finest men that
ever went over. He was a man that no matter how hard the bombardment,
he was always normal and would never get excited--that was John
Stairs. The O.C. of "B" Company, Colonel Flowers was also missing. He
was not with us very long, but everybody thought a lot of him. It was
splendid for a man of his age to come out and volunteer as a platoon
commander as he did, and he deserves all the credit that can be given
to him. We had a few others killed and missing, but taking everything
into consideration and the objective that we had taken, we had come
out very lucky.

Our boys were pretty well dug in by 12 that night. It was hard
digging, about a foot of earth, then flint and underneath the flint
was chalk.



Chapter Eight


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

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

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


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


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


After holding these trenches we were glad to get out and get a rest.
The first day we got as far as The Reserve trenches. There we had
plenty of rations issued to us and we rested here where there were
some very large and comfortable dugouts which our most amiable friend
Fritz had built for us. We enjoyed them and although we had lost quite
a few of our best pals we knew that we all had gone through that same
ordeal and those of us who were lucky enough to come out of the scrap
never gave a thought to what we had gone through. A good thing, for if
we did a few of us would be good patients for a lunatic asylum. We
stayed here for the night and the next morning we got as far as the
Brickfields near Albert where there were a lot of the old London Motor
Buses waiting to take us back to a little village clear of the shell
fire so that we could reorganize and get another go at Fritz. We were
all as happy as larks, singing "Are we downhearted," "The Canadians
took Courcelette, they can fight you just bet" and other trench songs.
Some of the boys had on Fritz helmets and others had Fritzs'
revolvers; we all had souvenirs of some description. We arrived at
this town after a couple of hours ride. There was our Pipe Band with
the Battalion Mascot, the goat, which we got in 1915. It is still with
the battalion and always leads the band. When we reached this village
the very first thing we had to do was to shave and clean up, for were
we not the best unit in France? We always thought so and we used
always to show an example to the others. That is "esprit de corp." We
had a pretty good time in this village. Some of the boys sold their
souvenirs as they said we were going back and could get lots more. Our
old Colonel was still with us but his hand was now bandaged up. I
forgot to tell you when he was coming through Albert the 22nd gave
three cheers for "Col. Hilliam." He turned around and said, "If there
is any credit give it to the boys, they deserve it." He quite forgot
that we looked upon him as something more than a man, the way he would
go around through a bombardment. Out here we had the usual parades and
reorganization, but we only had the old battalion to reorganize as we
got no reinforcements. However, we were still the "25th" and could
show the Germans what we could do. It soon got spread around that we
were going back to have another go at Fritz. So we got our guns fixed
up and the afternoon before we went in Col. Hilliam made an inspection
of the battalion. I had my Lewis Gun team formed up in rear of "C" Co.
When the C.O. came around I called them to attention and saluted. He
said "What is your name my lad?" I replied "Lewis, Sir." "Oh, a very
appropriate name to have charge of the Lewis Guns." I said, "Sir, I
try to do my best." He says, "You have done wonderfully, my lad." I
thought it the greatest honor that I have ever got. We started for the
Brickfields next morning, Col. Bauld in command of the Battalion. Col.
Hilliam had to go to hospital for a few days. We arrived at the
Brickfields and there we were given our full instructions as to what
we had to do and went through the usual performance of being fully
equipped with all the necessary equipments of war before we went in.
Capt. John D. MacNeil was now O.C. of "C" Co., and one night we got
the order to move up to the reserve trenches. All this time the troops
who were occupying the trenches were steadily advancing. We had taken
quite a lot of their strongpoints, including ---- and other villages.
After a long tedious march we arrived at our reserve trenches and made
ourselves as comfortable as possible, such as digging a hole in the
side of a trench and perhaps a couple of sheets of corrugated iron,
and finally we got settled away and went to sleep. It was very
comfortable when you consider the circumstances. Certainly now and
again one of Fritz large shells would burst somewhere near you but
that was all in the game. If it was going to get you it would. But
keeping awake would not save us. So Fritz's shells had no more effect
than the vermin which we had got quite used to. The next night at 7
o'clock, runners came down from the 14th Battalion to guide us to the
front line. We were very inquisitive and began asking those chaps
about where they were, what sort of fighting they had and other
questions too numerous to mention, for strange to say, no matter how
long you are there, when you got into a new position you always want
to know what it is like before you go in it, and if you are told that
it is a lovely place and that you can have a good time you can depend
that it is going to be worse than hell. That is what happened in this
case. The guide told us that it was a nice, quiet little spot. We
found out the difference before we got out. We toiled through the
shell-torn ground for about six hours before we got to where Battalion
Headquarters were. Sometimes, our guides lost themselves. At other
times Fritz would put a barrage across. We would lie down then in a
shell hole and start talking about old times, never giving a thought
to the shells which would burst quite close to us. In fact they got a
few of our boys on the way up. But one has to be there to realize how
callous a person appears to shell fire. By that I do not mean to say
that he holds it in contempt for he doesn't He has a mighty regard for
it. But you always want to show that you are as brave as your next
door neighbour. Sometimes they came a little too close and one of the
boys would sing out "Say let's make a move, for I don't mind getting
Blightie but the way that one burst it will be France" or some other
such remark. When we arrived at Headquarters it was in a large sunken
road which our boys had captured a few days before. We hear quite a
lot of ---- and here were quite a lot of wounded Germans who had been
taken prisoners that day calling out for water, and although we were
going in and we did not know when we were coming out, some of the boys
gave them some of theirs. I hope they will do the same. We waited here
for a while and then we started out for the trench. We had some night.
We would go to one trench and then to another; our guides did not know
where to take us. About 4 o'clock in the morning we started wandering
around No Man's Land. At 7 o'clock, broad daylight, (we were laying
down in the grass at the time), some of the boys saw somebody moving
and as we saw that they were our own boys we made a rush and got into
what was known as the Subsidiary trench. That is how "C" Co. relieved
the 14th Battalion on the Somme. There was quite a chain-work of
trenches here. What we held was named "Subsidiary Line." It really was
not a trench but a system of outposts. In front of us were the famed
"Kenora" and "Regina." Their names will always linger in the memory of
the Canadians, for we did some very hard fighting around here. There
were also a lot of trenches in rear of us held by some of our other
companies. On our left were the 24th and C.M.R. I really do not know
who were on our right. As I said what we were holding was only a
system of strongpoints. There were five of them altogether and as I
had three Lewis guns I put one on each flank and one in the centre.
About 9 o'clock the same morning we saw somebody waving to us from out
of No Man's Land. When we saw that he was one of our own lads, Lieut.
Alexander, Corp. McEarley, (these two were both killed four days
later) and myself, took a rubber sheet and doubled out and got him,
expecting to be fired on at any time by Fritz. But he could not have
seen us or else he did not want to give his position away. Anyway we
got the chap in. He belonged to the 14th Battalion and had been out
there for three days. His wounds had stiffened up so that he could not
move. Poor chap, he said that he would have gone crazy that day if we
had not brought him in.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

   [Illustration: Aeroplane map of the sector in which the
   "Fighting 25th" were engaged at "Vimy Ridge."]

   [Illustration: Aeroplane map of the sector in which the
   "Fighting 25th" were engaged at "Vimy Ridge."]


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

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


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


We were to be relieved by the 1st Division so that we could go out for
a rest and I was advised that on the 21st of February I was to go to a
cadet school in France to qualify for a commission.

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


FINIS


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    | Page 44: "until they they had" replaced with              |
    |          "until they had"                                 |
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