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Title: How I Filmed the War - A Record of the Extraordinary Experiences of the Man Who - Filmed the Great Somme Battles, etc.
Author: Malins, Geoffrey H.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  | Transcriber's Note                                         |
  |                                                            |
  | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in        |
  | this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of   |
  | this document.                                             |


     _When I was in France I made arrangements with my friend Mr.
     Low Warren, at that time Editor of the_ Kinematograph
     Weekly, _to arrange the manuscript I sent him for
     publication in book form._

     _The manuscript has in no way been altered in any material
     respect, and is in the form in which I originally wrote it._


















I Reach the First Line Belgian Trenches--And become a Belgian
    Soldier for the Time Being--A Night Attack--An Adventure
    whilst Filming a Mitrailleuse Outpost--Among the Ruins of
    Ramscapelle--I Leave the Company and Lose my Way in the
    Darkness--A Welcome Light and a Long Sleep--How Little
    does the Public know of the Dangers and Difficulties a
    Film Operator has to Face                                    6



A Morning of Surprises--The German Positions Bombarded from
    the Sea--Filming the Goumiers in Action--How these
    Tenacious Fighters Prepare for Battle--Goumier Habits and
    Customs--I Take the Chief's Photograph for the First
    Time--And Afterwards take Food with Him--An Interesting
    and Fruitful Adventure Ends Satisfactorily                  15



A Dangerous Adventure and What Came of It--A Race Across
    the Sand-dunes--And a Spill in a Shell-hole--The Fate of
    a Spy--A Battle in the Dunes--Of which I Secured Some
    Fine Films--A Collision with an Obstructive Mule            22



In a Trench Coat and Cap I again Run the Gauntlet--A Near
    Squeak--Looking for Trouble--I Nearly Find It--A Rough
    Ride and a Mud Bath--An Affair of Outposts--I Get Used to
    Crawling--Hot Work at the Guns--I am Reported Dead--But
    Prove Very Much Alive--And then Receive a Shock--A Stern
    Chase                                                       30



I Start for the Vosges--Am Arrested on the Swiss Frontier--And
    Released--But Arrested Again--And then Allowed to Go My
    Way--Filming in the Firing Zone--A Wonderful French
    Charge Over the Snow-clad Hills--I Take Big Risks--And
    Get a Magnificent Picture                                   40




I am Appointed an Official War Office Kinematographer--And Start
    for the Front Line Trenches--Filming the German Guns in
    Action--With the Canadians--Picturesque Hut Settlement
    Among the Poplars--"Hyde Park Corner"--Shaving by
    Candlelight in Six Inches of Water--Filming in Full View
    of the German Lines, 75 yards away--A Big Risk, but a
    Realistic Picture                                           51



Leave-taking at Charing Cross--A Fruitless Search for Food on
    Christmas Eve--How Tommy Welcomed the Coming of the
    Festive Season--"Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men" to the
    Boom of the Big Guns--Filming the Guards' Division--And
    the Prince of Wales--Coming from a Christmas
    Service--This Year and Next                                 61



Boxing Day--But No Pantomime--Life in the Trenches--A Sniper
    at Work--Sinking a Mine Shaft--The Cheery Influence of an
    Irish Padre--A Cemetery Behind the Lines--Pathetic
    Inscriptions and Mementoes on Dead Heroes' Graves--I Get
    Into a Pretty Warm Corner--And Have Some Difficulty in
    Getting Out Again--But All's Well that Ends Well            65



A Visit to the Old German Trenches--Reveals a Scene of Horror
    that Defies Description--Dodging the Shells--I Lose the
    Handle of My Camera--And then Lose My Man--The Effect of
    Shell-fire on a Novice--In the Village of Neuve
    Chapelle--A Scene of Devastation--The Figure of the
    Lonely Christ                                                72



How I Made a "Hide-up"--And Secured a Fine Picture of the Prince
    Inspecting some Gun-pits--His Anxiety to Avoid the
    Camera--And His Subsequent Remarks--How a German
    Block-house was Blown to Smithereens--And the Way I
    Managed to Film it Under Fire                               76



Greeted on Arrival in the Ruined City of Ypres by a Furious
    Fusillade--I Film the Cloth Hall and Cathedral,
    and Have a Narrow Escape--A Once Beautiful Town Now
    Little More Than a Heap of Ruins--Arras a City of the
    Dead--Its Cathedral Destroyed--But Cross and Crucifixes
    Unharmed                                                    80



Filming Within Forty-five Yards of the German Trenches--Watching
    for "Minnies"--Officers' Quarters--"Something" Begins to
    Happen--An Early Morning Bombardment--Develops Into the
    Battle of St. Eloi--Which I Film from Our First-Line
    Trench--And Obtain a Fine Picture                           85



A Very Lively Experience--Choosing a Position for the Camera
    Under Fire--I Get a Taste of Gas--Witness a Night Attack
    by the Germans--Surprise an Officer by My Appearance in
    the Trenches--And Have One of the Narrowest Escapes--But
    Fortunately Get Out with Nothing Worse than a Couple of
    Bullets Through My Cap                                      93



The First Kinematograph Film Taken of the Western Front--And
    How I Took It Whilst Travelling Through the Air at Eighty
    Miles an Hour--Under Shell-fire--Over Ypres--A Thrilling
    Experience--And a Narrow Escape--A Five Thousand Foot
    Dive Through Space                                         107



Chasing an "Enemy" Aeroplane at a Height of 13,500 Feet--And
    What Came of It--A Dramatic Adventure in which the Pilot
    Played a Big Part--I Get a Nasty Shock--But am
    Reassured--A Freezing Experience--Filming the Earth as we
    Dived Almost Perpendicularly--A Picture that would Defy
    the Most Ardent Futurist to Paint                          116



The Threshold of Tremendous Happenings--General ----'s Speech
    to His Men on the Eve of Battle--Choosing My Position for
    Filming the "Big Push"--Under Shell-fire--A Race of
    Shrieking Devils--Fritz's Way of "Making Love"--I Visit
    the "White City"--And On the Way have Another Experience
    of Gas Shells                                              121



The General's Speech to the Fusiliers Before Going Into
    Action--Filming the 15-inch Howitzers--A Miniature
    Earthquake--"The Day" is Postponed--Keeping Within "The
    Limits"--A Surprise Meeting in the Trenches--A Reminder
    of Other Days--I Get Into a Tight Corner--And Have An
    Unpleasantly Hot Experience--I Interview a Trench
    Mortar--Have a Lively Quarter of an Hour--And Then Get
    Off                                                        135



A Firework Display Heralds the Arrival of "The Day"--How the
    Boys Spent Their Last Few Hours in the Trenches--Rats as
    Bedfellows--I Make an Early Start--And Get Through a
    Mine-shaft into "No Man's Land"--The Great Event Draws
    Near--Anxious Moments--The Men Fix Bayonets--And Wait the
    Word of Command to "Go Over the Top"                       151



A Mighty Convulsion Signalises the Commencement of
    Operations--Then Our Boys "Go Over the Top"--A Fine Film
    Obtained whilst Shells Rained Around Me--My Apparatus is
    Struck--But, Thank Goodness, the Camera is Safe--Arrival
    of the Wounded--"Am I in the Picture?" they ask            162



A Glorious Band of Wounded Heroes Stagger Into Line and
    Answer the Call--I Visit a Stricken Friend in a
    Dug-out--On the Way to La Boisselle I Get Lost in the
    Trenches--And Whilst Filming Unexpectedly Come Upon the
    German Line--I Have a Narrow Squeak of Being Crumped--But
    Get Away Safely--And later Commandeer a Couple of German
    Prisoners to Act as Porters                                169



The Process Described in Detail--Developing the Negative--Its
    Projection on the Screen--Cutting--Titling--Joining--Printing
    the Positive--Building Up the Story--It is Submitted to the
    Military Censors at General Headquarters--And After Being Cut
    and Approved by Them--Is Ready for Public Exhibition       178



Three Times I Try and Fail to Reach this Stronghold of
    the Dead--Which Has Been Described as "Hell on Earth"--At
    a Dressing Station under Fire--Smoking Two Cigarettes at
    a Time to Keep off the Flies--Some Amusing Trench
    Conversations by Men who had Lost Their Way--I Turn in
    for the Night--And Have a Dead Bosche for Company          183



Looking for "Thrills"--And How I Got Them--I Pass Through
    "Sausage Valley," on the Way to Pozières--You _May_ and
    you _Might_--What a Tommy Found in a German Dug-out--How
    Fritz Got "Some of His Own" Back--Taking Pictures in What
    Was Once Pozières--"Proofs Ready To-morrow"                196



His Majesty's Arrival at Boulogne--At G.H.Q.--General Burstall's
    Appreciation--The King on the Battlefield of
    Fricourt--Within Range of the Enemy's Guns--His Majesty's
    Joke Outside a German Dug-out--His Memento from a Hero's
    Grave--His Visit to a Casualty Clearing Station--The King
    and the Puppy--Once in Disgrace--Now a Hospital Mascot     205



An Historic Gathering--In which King and President, Joffre and
    Haig Take Part--His Majesty and the Little French Girl--I
    Am Permitted to Film the King and His Distinguished
    Guests--A Visit to the King of the Belgians--A
    Cross-Channel Journey--And Home                            214



Something in the Wind--An Urgent Message to Report at
    Headquarters--And What Came Of It--I Hear for the First
    Time of the "Hush! Hush!"--And Try to Discover What It
    Is--A Wonderful Night Scene--Dawn Breaks and Reveals a
    Marvellous Monster--What Is It?                            222



A Weird-looking Object Makes Its First Appearance Upon the
    Battlefield--And Surprises Us Almost as Much as It
    Surprised Fritz--A Death-dealing Monster that Did the
    Most Marvellous Things--And Left the Ground Strewn with
    Corpses--Realism of the Tank Pictures                      230



An Awful Specimen of War Devastation--Preparing for an
    Advance--Giving  the Bosche "Jumps"--Breakfast Under
    Fire--My Camera Fails Me Just Before the Opening of the
    Attack--But I Manage to Set it Right and Get Some Fine
    Pictures--Our Guns "Talk!" Like the Crack of a Thousand
    Thunders--A Wonderful Doctor                               234



Inspecting a Tank that was _Hors de Combat_--All that was
    Left of Mouquet Farm--A German Underground Fortress--A
    Trip in the Bowels of the Earth--A Weird and Wonderful
    Experience                                                 245



A Choppy Cross-Channel Trip--I Indulge in a Reverie--And
    Try to Peer Into the Future--At Headquarters
    Again--Trying to Cross the River Somme on an Improvised
    Raft--In Peronne After the German Evacuation--A Specimen
    of Hunnish "Kultur"                                        250



Exploring the Unknown--A Silence That Could be Felt--In
    the Village of Villers-Carbonel--A Cat and Its Kittens in
    an Odd Retreat--Brooks' Penchant for "Souvenirs"--The
    First Troops to Cross the Somme                            259



The Enemy Destroy Everything as They Go--Clearing Away
    the Débris of the Battlefield--And Repairing the Damage
    Done by the Huns--An Enormous Mine Crater--A Reception by
    French Peasants--"Les Anglais! Les Anglais!"--Stuck on
    the Road to Bovincourt                                     266



Possibilities--Food for Famished Villagers--Meeting the
    Mayoress of Bovincourt--Who Presides at a Wonderful
    Impromptu Ceremony--A Scrap Outside Vraignes--A Church
    Full of Refugees--A True Pal--A Meal with the Mayor of
    Bierne                                                     275



The "Hindenburg" Line--A Diabolical Piece of
    Vandalism--Brigadier H.Q. in a Cellar--A Fight in
    Mid-air--Waiting for the Taking of St.
    Quentin--_L'Envoi_                                   292


    JULY 1ST, 1916                                  _Frontispiece_

                                                      TO FACE PAGE


    ATTACK, FEBRUARY AND MARCH, 1915                            12

USING MY AEROSCOPE IN BELGIUM, 1914-15                          22

    BELGIUM AND THE VOSGES MOUNTAINS                            40

    OF WAR                                                      52

    THE DAYS OF TIN HATS                                        52

    AT PICANTIN. WITH THE GUARDS. WINTER, 1915-16               56

    CAMERA"                                                     62

    GORGUE, XMAS DAY, 1915                                      62

    TO FILM OUR GUNS IN ACTION                                  76

TAKING SCENES IN DEVASTATED YPRES, MAY, 1916                    80

    PHOTOGRAPHER, MAY, 1916                                     84

    ST. ELOI                                                    90



    REDOUBT," AFTER A GERMAN ATTACK                            109

    BOMBARDMENT OF THE GERMAN LINES                            122

    TO THE WAR OFFICE                                          132

    OF THE GREAT SOMME FIGHT, JULY 1ST, 1916                   138

    THE SOMME, JULY 1ST, 1916                                  138


OVER THE TOP OF BEAUMONT HAMEL, JULY 1ST, 1916                 146

    HOUR, JULY 1ST, 1916                                       154

    AT BEAUMONT HAMEL, JULY 1ST, 1916                          154

    1916                                                       162

    HAMEL, JULY 1ST, 1916                                      168

    TRENCHES, JULY 1ST, 1916                                   168

    OVILLERS, JULY 3RD AND 4TH, 1916                           176

    "HOHENZOLLERN REDOUBT"                                     176

    GENERAL JOFFRE AND GENERAL FOCH                            184

    1916                                                       206

    ME AT WORK WHILE FILMING THE KING                          218

    PANNE, BELGIUM                                             218

    SEPTEMBER 15TH, 1916                                       222

THE BATTLEFIELD OF "GINCHY"                                    224

    15TH, 1916                                                 224

OVER THE TOP AT MARTINPUICH, SEPT. 15TH, 1916                  228


    SEPTEMBER 15TH, 1916                                       234

LORD KITCHENER'S LAST VISIT TO FRANCE                          256

    TO ST. QUENTIN, MARCH, 1917                                268

    TRENCHES IN FRONT OF ST. QUENTIN, 1917                     290






Fate has not been unkind to me. I have had my chances, particularly
during the last two or three years, and--well, I have done my best to
make the most of what has come my way. That and nothing more.

How I came to be entrusted with the important commission of acting as
Official War Office Kinematographer is an interesting story, and the
first few chapters of this book recount the sequence of events that led
up to my being given the appointment.

Let me begin by saying that I am not a writer, I am just a "movie man,"
as they called me out there. My mind is stored full to overflowing with
the impressions of all I have seen and heard; recollections of
adventures crowd upon me thick and fast. Thoughts flash through my mind,
and almost tumble over one another as I strive to record them. Yet at
times, when I take pen in hand to write them down, they seem to elude me
for the moment, and make the task more difficult than I had anticipated.

In the following chapters I have merely aimed at setting down, in simple
language, a record of my impressions, so far as I can recall them, of
what I have seen of many and varied phases of the Great Drama which has
now been played to a finish on the other side of the English Channel.
Most of those recollections were penned at odd moments, soon after the
events chronicled, when they were still fresh in mind, often within
range of the guns.

It was my good fortune for two years to be one of the Official War
Office Kinematographers. I was privileged to move about on the Western
Front with considerable freedom. My actions were largely untrammelled; I
had my instructions to carry out; my superiors to satisfy; my work to
do; and I endeavoured to do all that has been required of me to the best
of my ability, never thinking of the cost, or consequences, to myself of
an adventure so long as I secured a pictorial record of the deeds of our
heroic Army in France. I have striven to make my pictures worthy of
being preserved as a permanent memorial of the greatest Drama in

That is the keynote of this record. As an Official Kinematographer I
have striven to be, and I have tried all the time to realise that I was
the eyes of the millions of my fellow-countrymen at home. In my pictures
I have endeavoured to catch something of the glamour, as well as the
awful horror of it all. I have caught a picture here, a picture there; a
scene in this place, a scene in that; and all the time at the back of my
mind has always been the thought: "That will give them some idea of
things as they are out here." My pictures have never been taken with the
idea of merely making pictures, nor with the sole idea, as some people
think, of merely providing a "thrill." I regarded my task in a different
light to that. To me has been entrusted the task of securing for the
enlightenment and education of the people of to-day, and of future
generations, such a picture as will stir their imaginations and thrill
their hearts with pride.

This by way of introduction. Now to proceed with my task, the telling
of the adventures of a kinematograph camera man in war-time.

From my early days I was always interested in photography, and boyish
experiments eventually led me along the path to my life's vocation. In
time I took up the study of kinematography, and joined the staff of the
Clarendon Film Company (of London and Croydon), one of the pioneer firms
in the industry. There I learned much and made such progress that in
time I was entrusted with the filming of great productions, which cost
thousands of pounds to make. From there I went to the Gaumont Company,
and I was in the service of this great Anglo-French film organisation
when war broke out.

During the early days of the autumn of 1914 I was busily occupied in
filming various scenes in connection with the war in different parts of
the country. One day when I was at the London office of the Company I
was sent for by the Chief.

"We want a man to go out to Belgium and get some good 'stuff.' [Stuff,
let me say, is the technical or slang term for film pictures.] How would
you like to go?"

"Go?" I asked. "I'm ready. When? Now?"

"As soon as you like."

"Right, I'm ready," I said, without a moment's hesitation, little
thinking of the nature of the adventure upon which I was so eager to

And so it came about. Provided with the necessary cash, and an Aeroscope
camera, I started off next day, and the following chapters record a few
of my adventures in search of pictorial material for the screen.



     I Reach the First Line Belgian Trenches--And become a
     Belgian Soldier for the Time Being--A Night Attack--An
     Adventure whilst Filming a Mitrailleuse Outpost--Among the
     Ruins of Ramscapelle--I Leave the Company and Lose my Way in
     the Darkness--A Welcome Light and a Long Sleep--How Little
     does the Public know of the Dangers and Difficulties a Film
     Operator has to Face.

Leaving London, I crossed to France. I arranged, as far as possible, to
get through from Calais to Furnes, and with the greatest of good luck I
managed it, arriving at my destination at eleven o'clock at night. As
usual, it was raining hard.

Starting out next day for the front line, I reached the district where a
battalion was resting--I was allowed in their quarters. Addressing one
of the men, I asked if he could speak English. "Non, monsieur," and
making a sign to me to remain he hurried off. Back came the fellow with
an officer.

"What do you want, monsieur?" said he in fine English.

"You speak English well," I replied.

"Yes, monsieur, I was in England for four years previous to the war." So
I explained my position. "I want to accompany you to the trenches to
take some kinema films."

After exchanging a few words he took me to his superior officer, who
extended every courtesy to me. I explained to him what I was desirous of
doing. "But it is extraordinary, monsieur, that you should take such
risks for pictures. You may in all probability get shot."

"Possibly, sir," I replied, "but to obtain genuine scenes one must be
absolutely in the front line."

"Ah, you English," he said, "you are _extraordinaire_." Suddenly taking
me by the arm, he led me to an outhouse. At the door we met his Captain.
Introducing me, he began to explain my wishes. By the looks and the
smiles, I knew things were going well for me.

Calling the interpreter, the Captain said, "If you accompany my men to
the trenches you may get killed. You must take all risks. I cannot be
held responsible, remember!" And with a smile, he turned and entered the

Hardly realising my good fortune, I nearly hugged my new friend, the

"Monsieur," I said, saluting, "I am un Belge soldat _pro tem_."

Laughingly he told me to get my kit ready, and from a soldier who could
speak English I borrowed a water-bottle and two blankets. Going round to
the back of the farm, I came upon the rest of the men being served out
with coffee from a copper. Awaiting my turn, I had my water-bottle
filled; then the bread rations were served out with tinned herrings.
Obtaining my allowance, I stowed it away in my knapsack, rolled up my
blanket and fixed it on my back, and was ready. Then the "Fall in" was
sounded. What a happy-go-lucky lot! No one would have thought these men
were going into battle, and that many of them would probably not return.
This, unfortunately, turned out to be only too true.

In my interest in the scene and anxiety to film it, I was forgetting to
put my own house in order. "What if I don't come back?" I suddenly
thought. Begging some paper, I wrote a letter, addressed to my firm,
telling them where I had gone, and where to call at Furnes for my films
in the event of my being shot. Addressing it, I left it in charge of an
officer, to be posted if I did not return, and requested that if
anything happened to me my stuff should be left at my café in Furnes.
Shaking me by the hand, he said he sincerely hoped it would not be
necessary. Laughingly I bade him adieu. Falling in with the other men we
started off, with the cheers and good wishes of those left behind
ringing in our ears.

It was still raining, and, as we crossed the fields of mud, I began to
feel the weight of my equipment pressing on my shoulders, which with my
camera and spare films made my progress very slow. Many a time during
that march the men offered to help me, but, knowing that they had quite
enough to do in carrying their own load, I stubbornly refused.

On we went, the roar of the guns getting nearer: over field after field,
fully eighteen inches deep in mud, and keeping as close to hedges as
possible, to escape detection from hostile aeroplanes. Near a bridge we
were stopped by an officer.

"What's the matter?" I asked of my interpreter. Not knowing, he went to

An order was shouted. The whole regiment rushed for cover to a hedge
which ran by the roadside. I naturally followed. My friend told me that
the Germans had sent up an observation balloon, so we dare not advance
until nightfall, or they would be sure to see us and begin shelling our
column before we arrived at the trenches. In the rain we sat huddled
close together. Notwithstanding the uncomfortable conditions, I was very
thankful for the rest. Night came, and we got the word to start again.
Progress was becoming more difficult than ever, and I only kept myself
from many a time falling headlong by clinging on to my nearest
companion; he did likewise.

Ye gods! what a night, and what a sight! Raining hard, a strong wind
blowing, and the thick, black, inky darkness every now and then
illuminated by the flash of the guns. Death was certainly in evidence
to-night. One felt it. The creative genius of the weirdest, imaginative
artist could not have painted a scene of death so truthfully. The odour
arising from decaying bodies in the ground was at times almost

We had been conversing generally during the march, but now word was
passed that we were not to speak under any circumstances, not until we
were in the trenches. A whispered order came that every man must hold on
to the comrade in front of him, and bear to the left. Reaching the
trench allotted to us, we went along it in single file, up to our knees
in water. Sometimes a plank had been thrown along it, or bricks, but
generally there was nothing but mud to plough through.

"Halt!" came the command to the section I was with. "This is our
shelter, monsieur," said a voice.

Gropingly, I followed the speaker on hands and knees. The shelter was
about 12 feet long, 3 feet 6 inches high, the same in width, and made of
old boards. On the top, outside, was about 9 inches of earth, to render
it as far as possible shrapnel-proof. On the floor were some boards,
placed on bricks and covered with soddened straw. There was just enough
room for four of us.

Rolling ourselves in our blankets we lay down, and by the light of an
electric torch we ravenously ate our bread and herrings. I enjoyed that
simple meal as much as the finest dinner I have ever had placed before
me. Whilst eating, a messenger came and warned us to be prepared for an
attack. Heavy rifle-fire was taking place, both on the right and left
of our position.

"Well," thought I, "this is a good start; they might have waited for
daylight, I could then film their proceedings." At any rate, if the
attack came, I hoped it would last through the next day.

Switching off the light, we lay down and awaited events. But not for
long. The order came to man the trench. Out we tumbled, and took up our
positions. Suddenly out of the blackness, in the direction of the German
positions, came the rattle of rifle-fire, and the bullets began to
whistle overhead. Keeping as low as possible, we replied, firing in
quick succession at the flashes of the enemy rifles. This continued
throughout the night.

Towards morning a fog settled down, which blocked out our view of each
other, and there was a lull in the fighting. At midday the attack
started again. Taking my apparatus, I filmed a section of Belgians in
action. Several times bullets whistled unpleasantly near my head.
Passing along the trench, I filmed a mitrailleuse battery in action,
which was literally mowing down the Germans as fast as they appeared.
Then I filmed another section of men, while the bullets were flying all
around them. Several could not resist looking round and laughing at the

Whilst thus engaged, several shells fell within thirty feet of me. Two
failed to explode; another exploded and sent a lump of mud full in my
face. With great spluttering, and I must admit a little swearing, I
quickly cleaned it off. Then I filmed a large shell-hole filled with
water, caused by the explosion of a German "Jack Johnson."

The diameter was 28 feet across, and, roughly, 6 feet deep in the
centre. At the other end of the line I filmed a company damming the
Canal, to turn it into the German trenches.

Then I cautiously made my way back, and filmed a section being served
with hot coffee while under fire. Coming upon some men warming
themselves round a bucket-stove, I joined the circle for a little
warmth. How comforting it was in that veritable morass. Even as we
chatted we were subjected to a heavy shrapnel attack, and the way we all
scuttled to the trench huts was a sight for the gods. It was one mad
scramble of laughing soldiers. Plunk--plunk--plunk--came the shells, not
20-25 feet from where we were sitting by the fire. Six shells fell in
our position, one failed to explode. I had a bet with a Belgian officer
that it was 30 feet from us. He bet me it was 40 feet. Not to be done, I
roughly measured off a yard stick, and left the shelter of the trench to
measure the distance. It turned out to be 28 feet. Just as I had
finished, I heard three more shells come shrieking towards me. I simply
dived for the trench, and luckily reached it just in time.

Towards evening our artillery shelled a farm-house about three-quarters
of a mile distant, where the Germans had three guns hidden, and through
the glasses I watched the shells drop into the building and literally
blow it to pieces. Unfortunately, it was too far off to film it

That night was practically a repetition of the previous one. The trench
was attacked the greater part of the time, and bullets continually
spattered against the small iron plate.

Next morning I decided to try and film the mitrailleuse outpost on a
little spot of land in the floods, only connected by a narrow strip of
grass-land just high enough to be out of reach of the water. Still
keeping low under cover of the trenches, I made my way in that
direction. Several officers tried to persuade me not to go, but knowing
it would make an excellent scene, I decided to risk it. On the side of
the bank nearest our front line the ground sloped at a more abrupt
angle, the distance from the trench to the outpost being about sixty
yards. Rushing over the top of the parapet, I got to the edge of the
grass road and crouched down. The water up to my knees, I made my way
carefully along. Twice I stumbled over dead bodies. At last I reached
the outpost safely, but during the last few yards I must have raised
myself a little too high, for the next minute several bullets splashed
into the water where I had been.

The outpost was very surprised when I made my appearance, and expressed
astonishment that I had not been shot. "A miss is as good as a mile," I
laughingly replied, and then I told them I had come to film them at
work. This I proceeded to do, and got an excellent scene of the
mitrailleuse in action, and the other section loading up. The frightful
slaughter done by these guns is indescribable. Nothing can possibly live
under the concentrated fire of these weapons, as the Germans found to
their cost that day.

After getting my scenes, I thanked the officer, and was about to make my
way back; but he forbade me to risk it, telling me to wait until night
and return under cover of the darkness. To this I agreed, and that night
left the outpost with the others when the relief party came up.

Shortly after news was received that we were to be relieved from duty in
the trenches for the next forty-eight hours; the relief column was on
its way to take our places. I was delighted, for I had been wet through
during the days and nights I had been there, but was fully satisfied
that I had got some real live films. Hastily packing up my equipment, I
stood waiting the signal to move off. At last the relief came up.
Holding each other's hands, we carefully made our way in Indian file
along the trench, on to the road, and into Ramscapelle.



What a terrible sight it was! The skeletons of houses stood grim and
gaunt, and the sound of the wind rushing through the ruins was like the
moaning of the spirits of the dead inhabitants crying aloud for
vengeance. The sounds increased in volume as we neared this scene of
awful desolation, and the groans became a crescendo of shrieks which,
combined with the crash of shell-fire, made one's blood run cold.

Leaving the ruins behind we gained the main road, and on arriving at the
bridge where we had stopped on our journey out, I parted with the
company, thinking to make my way to a café by a short cut over some
fields. I wished to heaven afterwards that I had not done so. I cut
across a ditch, feeling my way as much as possible with a stick. But I
had not gone far before I knew I had lost my way. The rain was driving
pitilessly in my face, but I stumbled on in the inky darkness, often
above my knees in thick clay mud. Several times I thought I should never
reach the road. It was far worse than being under fire.

I must have staggered along for about two miles when I perceived a light
ahead. Never was sight more welcome. Remember, I had about fifty to
sixty pounds weight on my back, and having had little or no sleep for
five nights my physical strength was at a low ebb. It seemed hours
before I reached that house, and when at last I got there I collapsed on
the floor.

I struggled up again in a few minutes, and asked the bewildered
occupants to give me hot coffee, and after resting for an hour, I made
again for Furnes reaching it in the early hours of the morning.

Going to my café, I went to bed, and slept for eighteen hours; the
following day I packed up and returned to London.

A day or two afterwards I was sitting comfortably in a cushioned chair
in the private theatre at our London office watching these selfsame
scenes being projected upon the screen. Ah! thought I, how little does
the great public, for whom they are intended, know of the difficulties
and dangers, the trials and tribulations, the kinematograph camera man
experiences in order to obtain these pictures.



     A Morning of Surprises--The German Positions Bombarded from
     the Sea--Filming the Goumiers in Action--How these Tenacious
     Fighters Prepare for Battle--Goumier Habits and Customs--I
     Take the Chief's Photograph for the First Time--And
     Afterwards take Food with Him--An Interesting and Fruitful
     Adventure Ends Satisfactorily.

Once more I went to Furnes, and while sipping my coffee at the café I
heard a remark made about the Goumiers (the Arab horsemen employed by
the French as scouts). Quickly realising the possibilities in a film of
such a body of men, I made enquiries of the speakers as to their

"Ah, monsieur, they are on the sand-dunes near Nieuport. They are
veritable fiends, monsieur, with the Bosches, who run away from them
like cats. They are terrible fighters."

After such a glowing account, I thought the sooner I interviewed these
fighters the better.

Starting out next morning, I made a bee-line for the coast.

I soon began to hear the sharp crackle of rifle-fire, and artillery on
my right opened fire on the German position, and then the heavy boom,
boom of the guns from the sea. Looking in that direction, I discerned
several of our battleships opening fire, the shells giving a fearful
shriek as they passed overhead. The Germans were certainly in for it
that day.

Keeping along the bottom of the dunes, I observed a Goumier encampment
in the distance. At that moment there came a rasping voice on my right.

"Halt!" This certainly was a morning of surprises.

"Ah," I said, with a laugh, "you startled me."

"I am sorry, monsieur," he said. "The password, if you please?"

"It is not necessary," I replied. "I wish to speak to your officer. I
will go by myself to the officer in charge, it is not necessary for you
to leave your post. Direct me to Headquarters, and tell me your
captain's name."

"Captain ----, monsieur. He is billeted in that house which is half
destroyed by shell-fire. Be careful, monsieur, and keep low, or you will
draw the fire on you." He saluted, and turned back to his post.

Making straight for the ruined house in question, I observed a sentry on
guard at the door. This, I perceived, led to a cellar. I asked to see
the Captain. The man saluted and entered the house, appearing in a few
minutes with his chief. I saluted, and bade him "good morning,"
extending my hand, which he grasped in a hearty handshake. I straightway
explained my business, and asked him for his co-operation in securing
some interesting films of the Goumiers in action.

He replied that he would be glad to assist me as far as possible.

"You will greatly help me, sir," I said, "if you can roughly give me
their location."

"That I cannot do," he replied, "but follow my directions, and take your
chance. I will, however, accompany you a short distance."

We started out, keeping as much to the seashore as possible.

"Keep low," the Captain said, "the place is thick with Bosche snipers."
I certainly needed no second warning, for I had experienced those
gentry before. "Our Goumiers are doing splendid work here on the dunes.
It is, of course, like home to them among the sand-heaps."

Our conversation was suddenly cut short by the shriek of a shell coming
in our direction. Simultaneously we fell flat on the sand, and only just
in time, for on the other side of the dune the shell fell and exploded,
shaking the ground like a miniature earthquake and throwing clouds of
sand in our direction.

"They have started on our encampment again," the Captain said, "but our
huts are quite impervious to their shells; the sand is finer than

Several more shells came hurtling overheard, but fell some distance
behind us. Looking over the top of the dune, I expected to see an
enormous hole, caused by the explosion, but judge my surprise on seeing
hardly any difference. The sides of the cavity had apparently fallen in
again. A short distance further on the Captain said he would leave me.

"You can start now," and he pointed in the distance to a moving object
in the sand, crawling along on its stomach for all the world like a
snake. "I will go," he said, "and if you see the Chief of the Goumiers,
tell him I sent you." With a handshake we parted. I again turned to look
at the Goumier scout, his movements fascinated me. Keeping low under the
top of the dune, I made for a small hill, from which I decided to film
him. Reaching there, I did so.

I then saw, going in opposite directions, two more scouts, each
proceeding to crawl slowly in the same fashion as the first.

"This film certainly will be unique," I thought. Who could imagine that
within half an hour's ride of this whirling sand, with full-blooded
Arabs moving about upon it, the soldiers of Belgium are fighting in two
feet of mud and water, and have been doing so for months past. No one
would think so to look at it.

A rattle of musketry on my right served as a hint that there were other
scenes to be secured. Making my way in the direction of the sound, I
came upon a body of Goumiers engaged in sniping at the Germans. I filmed
them, and was just moving away when the interpreter of the company
stopped and questioned me. I told him of my previous conversation with
the Captain, which satisfied him.

"Well," he said, "you are just in time to catch a troop going off on a
scouting expedition," and he led the way to a large dune looking down on
the sea, and there just moving off was the troop.

What a magnificent picture they made, sitting on their horses. They
seemed to be part of them. Veritable black statues they looked, and
their movements were like a finely tensioned spring. Hastily filming the
troop, I hurried across and succeeded in obtaining some scenes of
another detachment proceeding further on the flank, and as they wound in
and out up the sand-hills, I managed to get into a splendid point of
vantage, and filmed them coming towards me. Their wild savage huzzas, as
they passed, were thrilling in the extreme. Looking round, I perceived a
curious-looking group a short distance away, going through what appeared
to be some devotional ceremony.

Hastening down the hill, I crossed to the group, which turned out to be
under the command of the Chief of the Goumiers himself, who was going
through a short ceremony with some scouts, previous to their meeting the
Germans. It was quite impressive. Forming the four men up in line, the
Chief gave each of them instructions, waving signs and symbols over
their heads and bodies, then with a chant sent them on their journey.
The actual obeisance was too sacred in itself to film. I was told by the
interpreter afterwards that he was glad I did not do so, as they would
have been very wrath?

A few words about the customs of the Goumiers may not be out of place.
These men are the aristocracy of the Algerian Arabs; men of independent
means in their own land. At the outbreak of war they patriotically
combined under their chief, and offered themselves to the French
Government, which gladly accepted their services for work on the
sand-dunes of Flanders. The troop bore the whole cost of their outfit
and transport. They brought their own native transport system with them.
The men obey none but their chief, at whose bidding they would, I
believe, even go through Hell itself. All arguments, quarrels, and
discussions in the troop are brought before the Chief, whose word and
judgment is law.

On the dunes of Northern Flanders they had their own encampment,
conducted in their own native style. They looked after their horses with
as much care as a fond mother does her child. The harness and trappings
were magnificently decorated with beautiful designs in mother-of-pearl
and gold, and the men, when astride their horses and garbed in their
long flowing white _burnouses_, looked the very personification of
dignity. The Chief never handles a rifle, it would be beneath his
position to do so. He is the Head, and lives up to it in every respect

I filmed him by the side of his horse. It was the first time he had been

Returning to the point where the scouts were leaving, I decided to
follow close behind them, on the chance of getting some good scenes.
Strapping my camera on my back, and pushing a tuft of grass under the
strap, to disguise it as much as possible if viewed from the front, I
crawled after them. One may think that crawling on the sand is easy;
well, all I can say to those who think so is, "Try it." I soon found it
was not so easy as it looked, especially under conditions where the
raising of one's body two or three inches above the top of the dune
might be possibly asking for a bullet through it, and drawing a
concentrated fire in one's direction.

I had crawled in this fashion for about 150 yards, when I heard a shell
come shrieking in my direction. With a plunk it fell, and exploded about
forty feet away, choking me with sand and half blinding me for about
five minutes. The acrid fumes, too, which came from it, seemed to
tighten my throat, making respiration very difficult for some ten
minutes afterwards. Cautiously looking round, I tried to locate the
other scouts, but nowhere could they be seen. I crawled for another
thirty yards or so, but still no sign of them. Deciding that if I
continued by myself I had everything to lose and nothing to gain, I
concluded that discretion was the better part of valour. Possibly the
buzzing sensation in my throat, and the smarting of my eyes, helped me
in coming to that decision, so I retraced my steps, or rather crawl.
Getting back to the encampment, I bathed my eyes in water, which quickly
soothed them.

In a short time news came in that the scouts were returning. Hurrying to
the spot indicated, I was just in time to film them on their arrival.
The exultant look on their faces told me that they had done good work.

I then filmed a general view of the encampment, and several other
interesting scenes, and was just on the point of departing when the
Chief asked me to partake of some food with him. Being very hungry, I
accepted the invitation, and afterwards, over a cup of coffee and
cigarettes, I obtained through an interpreter some very interesting

The night being now well advanced, I bade the Chief adieu, and striking
out across the dunes I made for Furnes. The effect of the star-shells
sent up by the Germans was very wonderful. They shed a vivid blue light
all round, throwing everything up with startling clearness.

After about a mile I was suddenly brought up by the glitter of a
sentry's bayonet. "Password, monsieur." Flashing a lamp in my face, the
man evidently recognised me, for he had seen me with his officer that
day, and the next moment he apologised for stopping me. "Pardon,
monsieur," he said. "Pass, Monsieur Anglais, pardon!"

Accepting his apologies, I moved off in the direction of Furnes, where,
after reviewing the events of the previous days, I came to the
conclusion that I had every reason to be thankful that I had once more
returned from an interesting and fruitful adventure with a whole skin.



     A Dangerous Adventure and What Came of It--A Race Across the
     Sand-dunes--And a Spill in a Shell-Hole--The Fate of a
     Spy--A Battle in the Dunes--Of which I Secured Some Fine
     Films--A Collision with an Obstructive Mule.

I arrived at Oost-Dunkerque, which place I decided to use as a base for
this journey, chiefly because it was on the main route to Nieuport Bain.
Having on my previous visit proceeded on foot, and returned
successfully, I decided that I should go by car. To get what I required
meant that I should have to pass right through the French lines.

Finding out a chauffeur who had previously helped me, I explained my
plans to him.

"Well, monsieur," he said, "I will try and help you, but for me it is
not possible to get you through. I am stationed here indefinitely, but I
have a friend who drives an armoured car. I will ask him to do it." We
then parted; I was to meet him with his friend that night.

I packed my things as close as possible, tying two extra spools of film
in a package round my waist under my coat, put on my knapsack, and drew
my Balaclava helmet well down over my chin.

Anxiously I awaited my friends. Seven o'clock--eight o'clock--nine
o'clock. "Were they unable to come for me?" "Was there some hitch in the
arrangement?" These thoughts flashed through my mind, when suddenly I
heard a voice call behind me.

"Monsieur, monsieur!"


Turning, I saw my chauffeur friend beckoning to me. Hurrying forward, I
asked if all was well.

"Oui, monsieur. I will meet you by the railway cutting."

This was the beginning of an adventure which I shall always remember. I
had been up at the bridge some two minutes, when the armoured car glided
up. "Up, monsieur," came a voice, and up I got. Placing my camera by the
side of the mitrailleuse, I sat by my chauffeur, and we started off for
the French lines.

Dashing along roads covered with shell-holes, I marvelled again and
again at the man's wonderful driving. Heaps of times we escaped a
smash-up by a hair's-breadth.

On we went over the dunes; the night was continuously lighted up by
flashes from the big guns, both French and German. We were pulled up
with a jerk, which sent me flying over the left wheel, doing a
somersault, and finally landing head first into a lovely soft sandbank.
Spluttering and staggering to my feet, I looked round for the cause of
my sudden exit from the car, and there in the glare of the headlight
were two French officers. Both were laughing heartily and appreciating
the joke. As I had not hurt myself, I joined in. After our hilarity had
subsided they apologised, and hoped I had not hurt myself. Seeing that I
was an an Englishman, they asked me where I was going. I replied, "to
Nieuport Bain." They asked me if my chauffeur might take a message to
the Captain of the ---- Chasseurs. "Yes, yes," I replied, "with

Thinking that by staying every second might be dangerous, I asked the
officers to give the message, and we would proceed. They did so, and
again apologising for their abrupt appearance, they bade us "good

I hurriedly bade the driver start off, and away we went. He evidently
had not got over his nervousness, for, after going about three-quarters
of a mile, we ran into a large, partially filled shell-hole, burying the
front wheels above the axle. To save myself from a second dive I
clutched hold of the mitrailleuse.

This was a position indeed! Scooping away as much sand as possible from
the front wheels, we put on full power, and tried to back the car out of
it. But as the rear wheels were unable to grip in the sand it would not

While there the Germans must have seen our light, for suddenly a
star-shell shot up from their position, illuminating the ground for a
great distance. I swiftly pinched the tube of our headlight, so putting
it out, then dropped full length on the sand. I observed my companion
had done the same.

We lay there for about ten minutes, not knowing what to expect, but
luckily nothing happened. It was obvious that we could not move the car
without assistance, so shouldering my apparatus we started to walk the
remaining distance. Twice we were held up by sentries, but by giving the
password we got through. Enquiring for the headquarters of Captain ----,
we were directed to a ruined house which had been destroyed by German
shell-fire. "Mon Capitaine is in the cellar, monsieur."

Thinking that it would be a better introduction if I personally
delivered the message to the Captain, I asked my chauffeur to let me do
so. Asking the sentry at the door to take me to his Captain, we passed
down some dozen steps and into a comfortably furnished cellar. Sitting
round a little table were seven officers. I asked for Captain ----.

"He is not here, monsieur," said one. "Is it urgent?"

"I do not know," I replied. I was trying to form another reply in
French, when an officer asked me in English if he could be of any
service. I told him that an officer had given me a message to deliver on
my journey here, but owing to an accident to the car I had had to walk.
Taking the letter, he said he would send a messenger to the Captain with

"You must be hungry, monsieur. Will you share a snack with us?" Gladly
accepting their hospitality, I sat down with them. "Are you from
London?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "Do you know it?"

"Yes, yes," he replied. "I was for three years there. But are you
_militaire_?" he enquired.

"Well, hardly that," I confess. "I am here to take kinema records of the
war. I have come in this direction to film an action on the sand-dunes.
Will you help me?"

"I will do what I can for you," he replied. "We expect to make a sortie
to-morrow morning. It will be very risky for you."

"I will take my chance," I replied, "with you."

Whilst our conversation proceeded, I noticed a scuffling on the cellar
steps, then into the room came four soldiers with a man in peasant's
clothes. He turned out to be a spy caught signalling in the dunes. They
brought him in to have a cup of coffee before taking him out to be shot.
He was asked if he would take sugar; his reply was "No."

Presently there was a shot outside, and there was one spy the less.

The Captain returned and, after explanations, made me understand that he
would accept no responsibility for my safety. Those conditions I did not
mind a scrap. Rolling myself in a blanket, I tumbled in. "What would the
morrow bring forth?" I wondered.

I was up next morning at four o'clock. Everywhere there was a state of
suppressed excitement. Outside the men were preparing, but there was
not the least sign of confusion anywhere. To look at them one would not
imagine these men were going out to fight, knowing that some of them at
least would not return again. But it is war, and sentiment has no place
in their thoughts.

The order came to line up. Hours before the scouts had gone out to
prepare the ground. They had not returned yet. Personally, I hoped they
would not turn up till the day was a little more advanced. Eight
o'clock; still not sufficient light for filming. A lieutenant came to
me, and said if I would go carefully along the sand-dunes in the
direction he suggested, possibly it would be better; he would say no
more. I did so; and I had only gone about half a kilometre when,
chancing to turn back, I spied coming over the dunes on my right two
scouts, running for all they were worth.

Quietly getting my camera into position, I started exposing, being
certain this was the opening of the attack. I was not mistaken, for
within a few minutes the advance guard came hurrying up in the distance;
the attack was about to begin. Suddenly the French guns opened fire;
they were concealed some distance in the rear. Shells then went at it
thick and fast, shrieking one after the other overhead.

The advance guard opened out, clambered up the dunes, and disappeared
over the top, I filming them. I waited until the supporting column came
up, and filmed them also. I followed them up and over the dunes.
Deploying along the top, they spread out about six metres apart, with
the object of deceiving the Germans as to their numbers, until the
supporting column reached them. The battle of musketry then rang out.
Cautiously advancing with a company, I filmed them take the offensive
and make for a large dune forty yards ahead. Successfully reaching it
they lay down and fired in rapid succession. Crawling up, I managed to
take a fine scene of the attack, showing the explosion of two French
shells over the ruins of the town. The Germans evidently found our
range, for several shells came whistling unpleasantly near me.

What followed was a succession of scenes, showing the covering columns
advancing and others moving round on the flank. The Germans lost very
heavily in this engagement, and great progress was made by the gallant
French. While filming a section of the flanking party, I had the nearest
acquaintance with a shell that I shall ever wish for. I don't think it
would have been the good fortune of many to have such an experience and
come scathless out of it.

I was kneeling filming the scene, when I heard a shell hurtling in my
direction. Knowing that if I moved I might as likely run into it as not,
I remained where I was, still operating my camera, when an explosion
occurred just behind me, which sounded as if the earth itself had
cracked. The concussion threw me with terrific force head over heels
into the sand. The explosion seemed to cause a vacuum in the air for
some distance around, for try as I would I could not get my breath. I
lay gasping and struggling like a drowning man for what seemed an
interminable length of time, although it could have only been a few

At last I pulled round; my first thought was for my camera. I saw it a
short distance away, half buried in the sand. Picking it up, I was
greatly relieved to find it uninjured, but choked with sand round the
lens, which I quickly cleared. The impression on my body, caused by the
concussion of the exploding shell, seemed as if the whole of one side of
me had been struck with something soft, yet with such terrible force
that I felt it all over at the same moment. That is the best way I can
describe it, and I assure you I don't wish for a second interview.
Noticing some blood upon my hand, I found a small wound on the knuckle.
Whether or no it was caused by a small splinter from the shell, I cannot
say; in all probability it was, for I do not think striking the soft
sand would have caused it.

Turning back, I made for the sea road, and filmed the reserves coming up
to strengthen the positions already won. Hurrying across in the
direction of another column, I filmed them steadily advancing, while
their comrades kept the Germans employed from the top of a large dune.
The main body then came up and lined the top for a considerable
distance, and at the word of command the whole body arose as one man.
For the fraction of a second they were strikingly silhouetted against
the sky-line; then with a cheer they charged down the other side.

Darkness was now closing in, making it impossible for me to film any
further developments, so I proceeded back to the cellar with an officer
and some men. After resting awhile, I decided to go back to Furnes that
night with my films and get home with them as quickly as possible.
Meeting a small transport car going in the desired direction after some
stores, I begged a ride, and getting up beside the driver, we started
off. Owing to the enormous shell-holes it was impossible to proceed
along the road without a light.

What a magnificent sight it was. Magnesium star-shells were continually
being sent up by the Germans. They hung in the air alight for about
thirty seconds, illuminating the ground like day. When they disappeared
the guns flashed out; then the French replied; after that more
star-shells; then the guns spoke again, and so it continued. We were
suddenly stopped by an officer warning us to put out our lamp
immediately, and proceed cautiously for about three hundred yards.
While doing so a shell came screaming by. We knew then that the Germans
had seen our light. We immediately rushed to a shell-proof shelter in
the sand. I had barely reached it when a shell exploded close by the
car, half destroying the body of it. That was the only one that came
anywhere near. Running to see what damage was done, I was pleased to
see, by the aid of a covered light, that the chassis was practically
uninjured. So starting up we once more proceeded on our journey.

We had several narrow squeaks in negotiating corners and miniature
sand-banks, and once we bumped into a mule that had strayed on to the
road--but whether it will do so again I don't know, for after the bump
it disappeared in a whirl of sand, making a noise like a myriad of
fiends let loose. But the remainder of the journey was uneventful, and
after a long night's rest I left for Calais.



     In a Trench Coat and Cap I again Run the Gauntlet--A Near
     Squeak--Looking for Trouble--I Nearly Find It--A Rough Ride
     and a Mud Bath--An Affair of Outposts--I Get Used to
     Crawling--Hot Work at the Guns--I am Reported Dead--But
     Prove Very Much Alive----And then Receive a Shock--A Stern

Time after time I crossed over to France and so into Belgium, and
obtained a series of pictures that delighted my employers, and pleased
the picture theatre public. But I wanted something more than snapshots
of topical events.

Unfortunately, I had been unable to make previous arrangements for a car
to take me into Belgium. The railroad was barred to me, and walking
quite out of the question. A motor-car was the only method of
travelling. After two days of careful enquiries, I at last found a man
to take me. He was in the transport department, taking meat to the
trenches. I was to meet him that evening on the outskirts of Calais. And
I met him that night at an appointed rendezvous, and started on our

Eventually we entered Furnes. Making my way into a side street, I told
my chauffeur to call at a certain address whenever he passed through the
town, and if I should require his services further, I would leave a
letter to that effect.

I was awakened next morning by being vigorously shaken by my Belgian
friend, Jules.

"Quick, monsieur, the Germans are bombarding us," he cried.

Jumping out of bed, I rushed to the window. The next second I heard the
shriek of shells coming nearer. With a crash and a fearful explosion
they burst practically simultaneously on the houses opposite, completely
demolishing them, but luckily killing no one. Hastily dressing, I
grabbed my camera and went out into the square and waited, hoping to
film, if possible, the explosion of the shells as they fell on the
buildings. Two more shells came shrieking over. The few people about
were quickly making for the cover of their cellars. Getting my camera
into position, ready to swing in any direction, I waited. With deafening
explosions the shells exploded in a small street behind me. The Germans
were evidently trying to smash up the old Flemish town hall, which was
in the corner of the market-place, so I decided to fix my focus in its
direction. But though I waited for over an hour, nothing else happened.
The Germans had ceased firing for that morning at least. Not till I had
gone to my café did I realise the danger I had exposed myself to, but
somehow I had seemed so confident that I should not get hit, that to
film the explosions entirely absorbed all my thoughts.

Next morning I decided to tour the front line, if possible from Dixmude
to Nieuport, making Ramscapelle a centre. I hoped to drop in with an
isolated action or a few outpost duels, for up to the present things
were going exceedingly slow from my point of view.

Arranging for a dispatch rider to take me along to Ramscapelle, away I
went. The roads were in a frightful condition after months of rain, and
shell-holes were dotted all over the surface. It is marvellous these men
do not more frequently meet death by accident, for what with the back
wheel sliding and skidding like an unbroken mule, and dodging round
shell-holes as if we were playing musical chairs, and hanging round the
driver's waist like a limpet to keep our balance, it was anything but a
comfortable experience. In the end one back wheel slipped into a
shell-hole and pitched me into a lovely pool of water and mud. Then
after remounting, we were edged off the road into the mud again by a
heavy transport lorry, and enjoyed a second mud-bath. After that I came
to the conclusion that I would rather film a close view of a bayonet
charge than do another such journey.

By now I was the most abject-looking specimen of humanity imaginable. My
camera in its case was securely fastened on my shoulders as a knapsack,
and so, with the exception of a slight derangement, which I soon
readjusted, no damage was done. But the motor-cycle suffered
considerably, and leaving it alongside the road to await a breakdown
lorry to repair it--or a shell to finish it--I proceeded on foot to

Within a hundred yards of the ruined town, from the shelter of a wrecked
barn came the voice of a Belgian soldier peremptorily ordering me to
take cover. Without asking questions, I did so by sprawling full length
in a deep wheel-rut, but as I had previously had a mud-bath, a little
more or less did not matter. I wriggled myself towards the cover of the
barn, when a sharp volley of rifle-fire broke out on my left. Gaining
shelter, I asked the soldier the reason of the fusillade.

"Uhlan outposts, monsieur," replied the man laconically.

Keeping under cover, I crawled towards the back of the barn, and
ensconced behind some bales of straw, on a small bridge, I filmed this
Belgian outpost driving off the Uhlans, and peeping through one of the
rifle slots, I could see them showing a clean pair of heels, but not
without losing one of their number. He was brought into our lines later,
and I was lucky enough to secure the pennon from his lance as a

I made my way by various means into the town. The place was absolutely
devoid of life. It was highly dangerous to move about in the open. To be
seen by the German airmen was the signal for being shelled for about
three hours.

Whilst filming some of the ruins, I was startled by a sharp word of
command. Turning round, I saw a Belgian soldier, with his rifle pointing
at me. He ordered me to advance. I produced my permit, and giving the
password, I quite satisfied him. Bidding me come inside he indicated a
seat, and asked me to have some soup. And didn't it smell appetising! A
broken door served as a table; various oddments, as chairs and the
soup-copper, stood in the centre of the table. This proved one of the
most enjoyable meals of the campaign.

The soldier told me they had to be very careful to guard against spies.
They had caught one only that morning, "but he will spy no more,
monsieur," he said, with a significant look.

I rose, and said I must leave them, as I wanted to take advantage of the
daylight. I asked my friend if he could give me any information as to
the whereabouts of anything interesting to film, as I wanted to take
back scenes to show the people of England the ravages caused in Belgium
by the Huns, and the brave Belgians in action. He was full of regrets
that he was not able to accompany me, but being on duty he dare not

With a hearty shake of the hand and best wishes we parted, and, keeping
under cover of the ruined buildings as much as possible, I made my way
through Ramscapelle. Hardened as I was by now to sights of devastation,
I could not help a lump rising in my throat when I came upon children's
toys, babies' cots, and suchlike things, peeping out from among the
ruins caused by the German guns.

These scenes caused me to wander on in deep thought, quite oblivious to
my immediate surroundings. This momentary lapse nearly proved
disastrous. By some means I had passed the sentries, and wandered
practically on top of a Belgian concealed heavy gun battery. I was
quickly brought to my senses by being dragged into a gun trench,
absolutely invisible both from the front and above.

Compelled to go on hands and knees into the dug-out, I was confronted by
a rather irate Belgian officer, who demanded why I was there walking
about and not taking cover. Did I know that I had drawn the enemy's
fire, which was very nearly an unpardonable offence?

Quickly realising the seriousness of my position, I thought the best
thing to do was to tell him my mission, and so I explained to the
officer that I had unconsciously wandered there.

"There, monsieur," he said, "that is what you have done," and at that
moment I heard two shells explode fifteen yards behind us. "We dare not
reply, monsieur," he said, "because this is a secret battery. Mon Dieu!"
he exclaimed, "I hope they cease firing, or they may destroy our
defences." Fortunately, the Germans seeing no further sign of life,
evidently thought it was a case of an isolated soldier, and so ceased
their fire. Imagine my thankfulness.

I enquired if there was anyone there who could speak English. A
messenger was sent out and returned with a Belgian, who before the war
broke out was a teacher of languages in England. With his aid I gave the
chief officer full explanation, and pledged my word of honour that
neither names, districts, nor details of positions should ever be

Wishing to film some scenes of big guns in action, I enquired whether he
was going to fire. He was expecting orders any minute, so making myself
as comfortable as possible in the dug-out, I waited. But nothing
happened, and that night, and the one following, I slept there.

Early next morning (about 3 a.m.) I was awakened by the noise of a
terrific cannonading. Together with the officer I crawled out on to the
top of our embankment and viewed the scene. The Germans had started a
night attack, the Belgian guns had caught them in the act and were
shelling them for all they were worth.

As soon as it was daylight I strapped my camera on my back, and, lying
flat in the mud, I edged away in the direction of the battery. Before
leaving, the officer gave me a final warning about drawing the Germans'
fire. Alternately crawling and working my way on hands and knees, and
taking advantage of any little bit of cover, I drew nearer to the guns.
While I was lying here, there crashed out a regular inferno of
rifle-fire from the German trenches. The bullets sang overhead like a
flight of hornets. This certainly was a warm corner. If I had filmed
this scene, all that would have been shown was a dreary waste of
mud-heaps, caused by the explosion of the shells, and the graves of
fallen soldiers dotted all over the place. As far as the eye could see
the country was absolutely devoid of any living thing.

Thousands of people in England, comfortably seated in the picture
theatre, would have passed this scene by as quite uninteresting except
for its memories. But if the sounds I heard, and the flying bullets that
whizzed by me, could have been photographed, they might take a different
view of it.

Death was everywhere. The air was thick with it. To have lifted my head
would have meant the billet for a bullet. So there I had to lie soaked
through to the skin, and before I had been there twenty minutes I was
literally lying in water. The German fusillade seemed interminable.
Suddenly with a roar the Belgian guns spoke. About fifty shells were
fired, and gradually the rifle-fire ceased. With a sigh of relief I drew
myself out of the hole which my body had made, and on my elbows and
knees, like a baby crawling, I covered the intervening ground to the
battery. Getting up, and bending nearly double, I ran under cover of the

The men were astounded to see me run in. I went in the direction of a
group of officers, who looked at me in amazement. Saluting me, one of
them came forward and asked who I wanted. Explaining my business, I told
him I had permission from headquarters to film any scenes of interest.
The officer then introduced me to his friends, who asked me how in the
world I had crossed the district without getting hit. I described my
movements, and they all agreed that I was exceedingly lucky.

Once more the guns started, so getting my camera ready I commenced
filming them in action, one scene after another. I changed from the
firing of one gun to the full battery in action. The men were working
like mad. All the time they were baling water out of the gun trenches
with buckets. In some cases after the gun had fired it sank back about
eighteen inches in the mud, and had to be dug out and set again. These
poor devils had been doing this for nearly four months, every man of
them was a hero.

While taking these scenes, my compressed air cylinders ran out. Looking
round for somewhere solid on which to put my machine and foot-pump, I
found some bricks, and made a little foundation. Then I started to pump
up. At every six strokes of the pump, it was necessary to pack under it
more bricks, and still more, for the ground was a veritable morass. In
the ordinary way my camera takes ten minutes to refill. On this occasion
it took me forty-five minutes, and all the time guns were thundering

Making my way in a semi-circle, under cover of the communication
trenches, to the most advanced outpost, I filmed a party of Belgian
snipers hard at work, cheerfully sniping off any German unwise enough to
show the smallest portion of his head. Several times while I was
watching, I noticed one of the men mark upon his rifle with the stub of
a pencil. I asked why he did it.

"That, monsieur," he replied, "is a mark for every Bosche I shoot. See,"
he said, holding the butt-end for me to look at, and I noticed
twenty-eight crosses marked upon it. Snatching it up to his shoulder he
fired again, and joyfully he added another cross.

By this time it was getting dark, and quite impossible to take any more
scenes, so I returned to the battery, where the officer kindly invited
me to stay the night. Getting some dry straw from a waterproof bag, we
spread it out on the boards of the trench-hut, rolled our blankets round
our shoulders, and lighted our cigarettes. Then they asked me about
England. They told me that as long as Belgium existed they would never
forget what England had done for her people. While talking our candle
went out, and as we had no other we sat in the darkness, huddled
together to keep warm. Heavy rain again came on, penetrating through the
earth roof and soaking into my blanket.

I must have dozed off, for after a little while I awoke with a start
and, looking towards the entrance, I noticed a blue-white glare of
light. As my companions were getting out, I followed them, in time to
see the Germans sending up star-shells, to guard against any attack on
our part.

The following day I filmed several scenes connected with the Belgian
artillery and outposts. I waited during the remainder of the day to
catch, if possible, some scenes of German shells exploding, but again I
was doomed to disappointment, for, with the exception of a few at a
distance, I was never able to get the close ones in my field of view.

Having exhausted my stock of film, I decided to return to my base, but
on bidding adieu to the Commandant he begged me to return under cover of
darkness. That night I set out for Furnes, and after walking about an
hour, I was lucky enough to get a lift in an ambulance waggon, which set
me down in the market-place.

Entering the café by a side door, my Belgian friend seemed to me to be
astounded at my appearance. He immediately rushed up to me, shook my
hands and pummelled my back. His friends did the same. After I had got
over my astonishment, I ventured to ask the reason for this jubilation.

"We thought you were dead," he cried; "we heard you had been shot by the
Germans, and as you had not turned up for the last five days, we came to
the conclusion that it was true. But, monsieur, we cannot tell you how
pleased we are to see you again alive and well."

Seeing the condition I was in, they heated water for a bath, and
assisted me in every way possible. When I was once more comfortable, I
asked my friend, over a cup of coffee, to tell me the exact report, as
it highly amused me.

"Well, monsieur," he said, "your motor cyclist came rushing in the other
evening, saying that Monsieur Malins, the Englishman, had been shot
while crossing ground between the two batteries. He told us that you had
been seen attempting the crossing; that you suddenly threw up your
arms, and pitched forward dead. And, monsieur, we were preparing to send
your bag to London, with a letter explaining the sad news. The Colonel
was going to write the letter."

"Well," I replied with a laugh, "I am worth a good many dead men yet. I
remember crossing the ground you mention--but, anyway, the 'eye-witness'
who saw my death was certainly 'seeing things.'"



     I Start for the Vosges--Am Arrested on the Swiss
     Frontier--And Released--But Arrested Again--And then Allowed
     to Go My Way--Filming in the Firing Zone--A Wonderful French
     Charge Over the Snow-clad Hills--I Take Big Risks--And Get a
     Magnificent Picture.

The man who wants to film a fight, unlike the man who wants to describe
it, must be really on the spot. A comfortable corner in the Hôtel des
Quoi, at Boulogne, is no use to the camera man.

"Is it possible to film actual events with the French troops in the
Vosges and Alsace?" I was asked when I got back after my last adventure.

"If the public wants those films," I replied, "the public must have
them." And without any previous knowledge of the district, or its
natural difficulties, apart from the normal military troubles to which
by that time I was hardened, I set out for Paris, determined to plan my
route according to what I learned there. And for the rest I knew it
would be luck that would determine the result, because other camera men
had attempted to cover the same district, men who knew everything there
was to be known in the way of getting on the spot, and all had been
turned back with trifling success.


For various reasons, among them the claims of picturesqueness, St. Dié
struck me as the best field, and to get there it is necessary to make a
detour into Switzerland. From Geneva, where I arranged for transport of
my films in case of urgent need, much as an Arctic explorer would
leave supplies of food behind him on his way to the Pole, I arranged in
certain places that if I was not heard from at certain dates and certain
times, enquiries were to be made, diplomatically, for me.

From Basle I went to the Swiss frontier, and had a splendid view of the
Alsace country, which was in German possession. German and Swiss guards
stood on either side of the boundary, and they made such a picturesque
scene that I filmed them, which was nearly disastrous. A gendarme
pounced on me at once, took me to general headquarters and then back to
Perrontruy, where I was escorted through the streets by an armed guard.

At the military barracks I was thoroughly examined by the chief of the
staff, who drew my attention to a military notice, prohibiting any
photographing of Swiss soldiery. He decided that my offence was so rank
that it must go before another tribunal, and off I was marched to
Delemont, where a sort of court-martial was held on me. My film, of
course, was confiscated; that was the least I could expect, but they
also extracted a promise in writing that I would not take any more
photographs in Switzerland, and they gave me a few hours to leave the
country, by way of Berne.

That didn't suit me at all. Berne was too far away from my intended
destination, and, after a hurried study of the map, I decided to chance
it, and go to Biel. I did. So did the man told off to watch me. And when
I left the train at Biel he arrested me. I am afraid I sang "Rule
Britannia" very loudly to those good gentlemen before whom he took me,
claiming the right of a British citizen to do as he liked, within
reason, in a neutral country.

In the result they told me to get out of the country any way I liked, if
only I would get out, and, as my opinion was much the same, we parted
good friends.

I had lost a week, and many feet of good film, which showed me that the
difficulties I should have to face in my chosen field of operations were
by far the greatest I had up to then encountered in any of my trips to
the firing line. I pushed on through Besançon on the way to Belfort.

Now Belfort, being a fortified town, was an obviously impossible place
for me to get into, because I shouldn't get out again in a hurry. So I
took a slow train, descended at a small station on the outskirts,
prepared to make my way across country to Remiremont. This I achieved,
very slowly, and with many difficulties, by means of peasants' carts and
an occasional ride on horseback.

This brought me into the firing zone, and the region of snow. My danger
was increased, and my mode of progress more difficult, because for the
first time in my life I had to take to skis. So many people have told
the story of their first attempts with these that I will content myself
with saying that, after many tumbles, I became roughly accustomed to
them, and that when sledge transport was not available, I was able to
make my way on ski. I don't suppose anyone else has ever learned to ski
under such queer conditions, with the roar of big guns rumbling round
all the time, with my whole expedition trembling every moment in the

The end of my journey to St. Dié was the most dramatic part of the whole
business. Tired out, I saw a café on the outskirts of the village, which
I thought would serve me as a reconnoitring post, so I went in and
ordered some coffee. I had not been there five minutes when some
officers walked in, and drew themselves up sharply when they saw a
stranger there, in a mud-stained costume that might have been a British
army uniform. I decided to take the bold course. I rose, saluted them,
and in my Anglo-French wished them good evening. They returned my
greeting and sat down, conversing in an undertone, with an occasional
side-flung glance at me. I saw that my attack would have to be pushed
home, especially as I caught the word "_espion_," or my fevered
imagination made me think I did.

I rose and crossed to their table, all smiles, and in my best French
heartily agreed with them that one has to be very careful in war time
about spies. In fact, I added, I had no doubt they took me for one.

This counter-attack--and possibly the very noticeable Britishness of my
accent--rather confused them. Happily one of them spoke a little
English, and, with that and my little French, satisfactory explanations
were made.

I affected no secrecy about my object, and asked them frankly if it
would be possible for pictures of their regiment to be taken. One of
them promised to speak to the Commandant about it. I begged them not to
trouble about it, however, as really all I wanted was a hint as to when
and where an engagement was probable, and then I would manage to be

They shrugged their shoulders in a most grimly expressive way.

"If you do that it will be at your own risk," they said.

I gladly accepted the risk, and they then told me of one or two vantage
points in the district from which I might manage to see something of the
operations, taking my chance, of course, of anything happening near
enough to be photographed, as they could not, and quite rightly would
not, say anything as to the plans for the future.

It was not quite midday. I had at least four hours of daylight, and I
determined not to lose them. It was obvious that my stay in St. Dié
would be very brief at the best. I hired a sledge and persuaded the
driver to take me part of the way at least to the nearest point which
the officers had mentioned.

But neither he nor his horse liked the way the shells were coming
around, and at last even his avarice refused to be stimulated further at
the expense of his courage. So I strapped on my skis, thankful for my
earlier experience with them, and sped towards a wood which French
soldiers were clearing of German snipers. I managed to get one or two
good incidents there, though occasional uncertainty about my skis
spoiled other fine scenes, and in my haste to move from one spot to
another, I once went head over heels into a snowdrift many feet deep.

The ludicrous spectacle that I must have cut only occurred to me
afterwards, and the utterly inappropriate nature of such an incident
within sight of men who were battling in life and death grip was a
reflection for calmer moments. I do not mind confessing that my sole
thought during the whole of that afternoon was my camera and my films.
The lust of battle was in me too. I had overcome great difficulties to
obtain not merely kinema-pictures, but actual vivid records of the Great
War, scenes that posterity might look upon as true representations of
the struggle their forefathers waged. Military experts may argue as to
whether this move or that was really made in a battle: the tales of
soldiers returned from the wars become, in passing from mouth to mouth,
fables of the most wondrous deeds of prowess. But the kinema film never
alters. It does not argue. It depicts.

The terrific cannonade that was proceeding told me that beyond the crest
of the hill an infantry attack was preparing. It was for me a question
of finding both a vantage point and good cover, for shells had already
whizzed screaming overhead and exploded not many yards behind me. There
were the remains of a wall ahead, and I discarded my skis in order to
crawl flat on my stomach to one of the larger remaining fragments, and
when I got behind it I found a most convenient hole, which would allow
me to work my camera without being exposed myself.

In the distance a few scouts, black against the snow, crawled crouching
up the hill.

The attack was beginning.

The snow-covered hill-side became suddenly black with moving figures
sweeping in irregular formation up towards the crest. Big gun and rifle
fire mingled like strophe and antistrophe of an anthem of death. There
was a certain massiveness about the noise that was awful. Yet there was
none of the traditional air of battle about the engagement. There was no
hand to hand fighting, for the opponents were several hundred yards
apart. It was just now and then when one saw a little distant figure
pitch forward and lie still on the snow that one realised there was real
fighting going on, and that it was not manoeuvres.

The gallant French troops swept on up the hill, and I think I was the
only man in all that district who noted the black trail of spent human
life they left behind them.

I raised myself ever so little to glance over the top of my scrap of
sheltering wall, and away across the valley, on the crest of the other
hill, I could see specks which were the Germans. They appeared to be
massing ready for a charge, but the scene was too far away for the
camera to record it with any distinctness.

I therefore swept round again to the French lines, to meet the splendid
sight of the French reserves dashing up over the hill behind me to the
support. Every man seemed animated by the one idea--to take the hill.
There was a swing, an air of irresistibility about them that was
magnificent. But even in the midst of enthusiasm my trained sense told
me that my position must have been visible to some of them, and that it
was time for me to move.

I edged my way along the broken stumps of wall to the shelter of a wood,
and there, with bullets from snipers occasionally sending twigs, leaves,
and even branches pattering down around me, with shells bursting all
round, I continued to film the general attack until the spool in the
camera ran out. To have changed spools there would have been the height
of folly, so I plunged down a side path, where in the shelter of a dell,
with thick undergrowth, I loaded up my camera again, and utterly
careless of direction, made a dash for the edge of the wood again,
emerging just in time to catch the passage of a French regiment
advancing along the edge of the wood to cut off the retreat of the
little party of Germans who had been endeavouring to hold it as an
advanced sniping-post.

Snipers seemed to be in every tree. Bullets whistled down like acorns in
the autumn breeze, but the French suddenly formed a semi-circle and
pushed right into the wood, driving the enemy from their perches in the
trees or shooting them as they scrambled down.

Through the wood I plunged, utterly ignoring every danger, both from
friend or foe, in the thrill of that wonderful "drive." Luck, however,
was with me. Neither the French nor the Germans seemed to see me, and we
all suddenly came out of the wood at the far side, and I then managed to
get a splendid picture of the end of the pursuit, when the French, wild
with excitement at their success in clearing the district of the enemy,
plunged madly down the hill in chase of the last remnants of the sniping

A few seconds later I darted back into the cover of the trees.

My mission was accomplished. I had secured pictures of actual events in
the Vosges. But that was the least part of my work. I had to get the
film to London.

The excitement of the pursuit had taken me far from my starting-point,
and with the reaction that set in when I was alone in the wood, with all
its memories and its ghastly memorials of the carnage, I found it
required all my strength of nerve to push me on. I had to plough through
open spaces, two feet and more deep in snow, through undergrowth, not
knowing at what moment I might stumble across some unseen thing. Above
all, I had but the barest recollection of my direction. It seemed many
hours before I regained my stump of wall and found my skis lying just
where I had cast them off.

It was a race against time, too, for dusk was falling, and I knew that
it would be impossible to get out of St. Dié by any conveyance after

I had the luck to find a man with a sledge, who was returning to a
distant village, some way behind the war zone, and he agreed for a
substantial consideration to take me. We drove for many hours through
the night, and it was very late when at last, in a peasant's cottage, I
flung myself fully dressed on a sofa, for there was no spare bed, and
slept like a log for several hours.

It was by many odd conveyances that I made my way to Besançon, and
thence to Dijon. I had managed to clean myself up, and looked less like
an escaped convict than I had done; but I was very wary all the way to
Paris, where I communicated with headquarters, and received orders to
rush the films across to London as fast as ever I could.

Having overcome the perils of the land, I had to face those of the sea,
for the German submarines were just beginning their campaign against
merchant shipping, and cross-Channel steamers were an almost certain
mark. So the boat service was suspended for a day or two, and there was
I stranded in Dieppe with my precious films, as utterly shut off from
London as the German army.

I was held up there for three days, during which time I secured pictures
of the steamer _Dinorah_, which limped into port after being torpedoed,
of a sailing vessel which had struck a mine, and some interesting scenes
on board French torpedo boat destroyers as they returned from patrolling
the Channel.

I spent most of my time hanging around the docks, ready to rush on board
any steamer that touched at an English port. At last I heard of one that
would start at midnight. My films were all packed in tins, sealed with
rubber solution to make them absolutely watertight, and the tins were
strung together, so that in the event of the ship going down I could
have slipped them round my waist. If they went to the bottom I should go
too, but if I was saved I was determined not to reach London without

As it happened, my adventures were at an end. We saw nothing of any
under-water pirates, and my trip to the fighting line ended in a prosaic
taxi-cab through London streets that seemed to know nothing of war.




     I am Appointed an Official War Office Kinematographer--And
     Start for the Front Line Trenches--Filming the German Guns
     in Action--With the Canadians--Picturesque Hut Settlement
     Among the Poplars--"Hyde Park Corner"--Shaving by
     Candlelight in Six Inches of Water--Filming in Full View of
     the German Lines, 75 yards away--A Big Risk, but a Realistic

During the early days of the war I worked more or less as a free lance
camera man, both in Belgium and in France, and it was not till the
autumn of 1915 that I was appointed an Official Kinematographer by the
War Office, and was dispatched to the Front to take films, under the
direction of Kinematograph Trade Topical Committee. When offered the
appointment, I did not take long to decide upon its acceptance. I was
ready and anxious to go, and as I had had considerable experience of the
work, both in Belgium and in the Vosges, I knew pretty well what was
expected of me. Numerous interviews with the authorities and members of
the Committee followed, and for a few days I was kept in a fever of

Eventually arrangements were completed, and the announcement was then
made that Mr. Tong (of Jury's Imperial Pictures) and myself had been
appointed Official War Office Kinematographers. I was in the seventh
heaven of delight, and looked forward to an early departure for the
Front in my official capacity. This came soon enough, and on the eve of
our going Tong and I were entertained to dinner by the members of the
Topical Committee, and during the post-prandial talk many interesting
and complimentary things were said.

We left Charing Cross on an early morning in November, and several
members of the Committee were there to see us off, and wish us
God-speed. We reached the other side safely, after a rather choppy
crossing, and soon I was on my way to the Front--and the front line
trenches, if possible.

Passing through Bailleul, Armentières and Ploegsteert, I was able to
film some hidden batteries in action. As the whole road was in full view
of the German lines we had to go very carefully. Several shells dropped
close by me when running across the open ground. I managed at last to
get into a house, and from a top window, or rather what was once a
window, filmed the guns in action.

While doing so an artillery officer came and told me not to move too
much as the Germans had been trying to find this battery for some
considerable time, and if they saw any movement they would undoubtedly
start to shell heavily. Not wishing to draw a cloud of shells on me,
needless to say, I was very careful. Eventually I obtained the desired
view, and making my way through the communication trenches to the front
of the guns, I obtained excellent pictures of rapid firing. I had to
keep very low the whole of the time. About forty yards on my right a
small working party of our men had been seen, and they were immediately

During the next few days it rained the whole of the time, and there was
little opportunity for photography; but I obtained some excellent
scenes, showing the conditions under which our men were living and
fighting, and their indomitable cheerfulness.



About this time I arranged to go to the Canadian front trenches, in
their section facing Messines. Arriving at the headquarters at Bailleul,
I met Lieutenant-Colonel ----, and we decided to go straight to the
front line. Leaving in a heavy rain, we splashed our way through one
continuous stream of mud and water. Mile after mile of it. In places the
water covered the entire road, until at times one hardly knew which was
the road and which was the ditch alongside. Several times our car got
ditched. Shell-holes dotted our path everywhere.

Apart from the rotten conditions, the journey proved most interesting;
vehicles of all kinds, from motor-buses to wheelbarrows, were rushing
backwards and forwards, taking up supplies and returning empty.
Occasionally we passed ambulance cars, with some poor fellows inside
suffering from frost-bite, or "trench-foot" as it is generally called
out here. Though their feet were swathed in bandages, and they were
obviously in great pain, they bore up like true Britons. Line after line
of men passed us. Those coming from the trenches were covered in mud
from head to foot, but they were all smiling, and they swung along with
a word and a jest as if they were marching down Piccadilly. Those going
in to take their places: were they gloomy? Not a bit of it! If anything
they were more cheerful, and quipped their mud-covered comrades on their

We drew up at a ruined farm-house, which the Colonel told me used to be
their headquarters, until the position was given away by spies. Then the
Germans started shelling it until there was hardly a brick standing.
Luckily none of the staff were killed. Leaving the farm, we made our way
on foot to Ploegsteert Wood. A terrible amount of "strafing" was going
on here. Shells were exploding all round, and our guns were replying
with "interest." As we made our way cautiously up to the side of the
wood, with mud half way up to our knees, we scrambled, or rather
waddled, round the base of the much-contested hill, which the Germans
tried their hardest to keep, but which, thanks to the Canadians, we
wrested from them.

Under cover of canvas screens, which in many places were blown away by
shell-fire, and bending low to save our heads from the snipers' bullets,
we gained the communication trenches. Again wading knee-deep in mud and
water, we eventually reached the firing trench.

The German front line was only sixty-five yards away, and the town of
Messines could be seen in the distance.

Staying in this section of trench, I filmed several scenes of the men at
work repairing and rebuilding the sides which the night previous had
been destroyed by shell-fire and the heavy rains. Then followed scenes
of relief parties coming in, and working parties hard at it trying to
drain their dug-outs. This latter seemed to me an almost superhuman
task; but through it all, the men smiled. Bending low, I raced across an
open space, and with a jump landed in an advanced sniper's post, in a
ruined farm-house. I filmed him, carefully and coolly picking off the
Germans foolish enough to show their heads.

Then I set my camera up behind what I thought quite a safe screen, to
film a general view of our front line, but I had hardly started exposing
when, with murderous little shrieks, two bullets whizzed close by my
head--quite as near as I shall ever want them. Dropping as low as
possible, I reached up, and still turning the handle finished the scene.
Then followed several pictures of scouts and snipers making their way
across the ground, taking advantage of any slight cover they could get,
in order to take up suitable positions for their work.

By this time the light was getting rather bad, and as it was still
raining hard I made my way back. During the return journey, an officer
who accompanied me showed himself unknowingly above the parapet, and
"zipp" came a bullet, which ripped one of the stars off his coat.

"Jove!" said he, with the greatest of _sang-froid_, "that's a near
thing; but it's spoilt my shoulder-strap": and with a laugh we went on
our way.

Again we had to cross the open ground to the covered way. Accordingly we
spread out about fifty yards apart, and proceeded. Careful as we were,
the Germans spotted us, and from thence onwards to the top of the hill
shrapnel shells burst all round us and overhead. Several pieces fell
almost at my feet, but by a miracle I escaped unscathed.

For some minutes I had to lie crouching in a ditch, sitting in water. It
was a veritable inferno of fire. I cautiously worked my way along. Where
the rest of the party had gone I did not know. I hugged my camera to my
chest and staggered blindly on. In about half an hour I gained the cover
of some bushes, and for the first time had a chance to look about me.
The firing had momentarily ceased, and from various ditches I saw the
heads of the other officers pop out. The sight was too funny for words.
With a hearty laugh they jumped up and hurried away. My chauffeur, who
incidentally used to carry my tripod, was the most sorry spectacle for
he was absolutely covered from head to foot with clay, and my tripod was
quite unrecognisable. Hurrying over the top of the hill we gained our
cars, and rapidly beat a retreat for headquarters.

The following day I went to film the ruins of Richebourg St. Vaaste.
What an awful spectacle! A repetition of the horrors of Ypres on a
smaller scale. Nothing left, only the bare skeletons of the houses and
the church. With great difficulty, I managed to climb to the top of the
ruined tower, and filmed the town from that point. I was told by an
observation officer to keep low, as the Germans had the church still
under fire. Naturally I did so, not wishing for a shell that might bring
the tower down, and myself with it.

Remarkable to relate, the figure of Christ upon the Cross was untouched
in the midst of this terrible scene of devastation. Subsequently the
tower was completely destroyed by German shells.

Hearing that the Canadian guns were going to bombard Petite Douve, a
large farmstead which the Germans had fortified with machine-guns and
snipers, I started off from headquarters in the company of a
lieutenant-colonel and a captain. A few passing remarks on the
conditions of the road as we went along to Hill 63 will be interesting.
No matter where one looked there was mud and water. In several places
the roads were flooded to a depth of six inches, and our cars several
times sank above the front axle in hidden shell-holes. The whole
district was pitted with them. Entire sections of artillery were stuck
in the mud on the roadside, and all the efforts of the men failed to
move them.

All around us hidden guns, 4.5 and 9.2, were hurtling their messengers
of death with a monotonous regularity. Passing a signpost, marked "Hyde
Park Corner," which looked incongruous in such a place, we entered
Ploegsteert Wood. But what a change! It was as if one had suddenly
left France and dropped unceremoniously into the western woods of
America, in the times of the old pioneers. By the wood-side, as far as
one could see, stretched a series of log-huts. To the right the same
scene unfolded itself. Our cars came to a stop. Then I had a chance to
study the settings more closely.


What a picture! Amidst all the glamour of war, these huts, surrounded by
tall poplars, which stood grim, gaunt and leafless--in many places
branchless, owing to the enemies' shells, which tore their way
through them--presented the most picturesque scene I had come across for
many a long day. Upon the boards fixed over the doorposts were written
the names of familiar London places. As the time of the bombardment was
drawing near I could not stay at the moment to film anything, but
decided to do so at an early opportunity.

Sharing my apparatus with two men, we started climbing through eighteen
inches of slimy mud towards the top of Hill 63. The effort was almost
backbreaking. At last we got through and paused, under cover of the
ruins of an old château, to gain breath. To negotiate the top needed
care as it was in full view of the German front. I went first with the
Captain, and both of us kept practically doubled up, and moved on all
fours. The men behind us waited until we had covered about one hundred
yards, then they followed. We decided to make for a point in the
distance which was at one time a grand old château. Now it was nothing
more than a heap of rubble. We waited for the remainder of the party to
come up before proceeding, the idea being that in case either of us was
hit by shrapnel, or picked off by a sniper, no time would be lost in
rendering assistance.

Resting awhile, we again proceeded in the same order as before. We were
held up by a sentry, and warned to take to the communication trenches
down the hill, as German snipers had been picking off men in the working
parties the whole of the morning, and shrapnel was continually bursting
overhead. We entered the trench, and as usual sank up to our knees in

How in the world we got through it I don't know! Every time I lifted my
foot it seemed as though the mud would suck my knee-boot off. After
going along in this way for about three hundred yards, and occasionally
ducking my head to avoid being hit by bursting shells, we came to a
ruined barn. The cellars had been converted, with the aid of a good
supply of sandbags, into a miniature fort. A sloping tunnel led to the
interior, and the Captain going in front, we entered.

There by the light of a candle, and standing in a good six inches of
water, was a captain shaving himself. This officer the previous week had
led his party of bombers into the German trenches, killed over thirty
and captured twelve, and only suffered one casualty. For this action he
was awarded the D.S.O. I was introduced, and sitting on the edge of a
bench we chatted until the others came up. A few minutes later the
Colonel entered.

We then started off in single file down the other side of Hill 63. I had
to take advantage of any bit of cover that offered itself during the
descent. At one point we had to cross an open space between a ruined
farm and a barn. The Germans had several snipers who concentrated on
this point, and there was considerable risk in getting across. Bending
low, however, I started, and when half-way over I heard the whistle of a
bullet overhead. I dropped flat and crawled the remainder of the
distance, reaching cover in safety.

At that moment our big guns started shelling the German trenches, and
knowing that the diversion would momentarily occupy the snipers'
attention the others raced safely across in a body. The remainder of the
journey was made in comparative safety, the only danger being from
exploding shrapnel overhead. But one does not trouble very much about
that after a time. Reaching the front trenches, I made my way along to a
point from which I could best view the Petite Douve. Obtaining a
waterproof sheet we carefully raised it very, very slowly above the
parapet with the aid of a couple of bayonets. Without a doubt, I
thought, the Germans would be sure to notice something different on
that section after a few seconds. And so it proved. Two rifle-shots rang
out from the enemy trench, and right through the sheet they went.

Our object in putting up this temporary screen was to hide the erection
of my tripod and camera, and then at the moment the bombardment began it
was to be taken away, and I would risk the rest.

Just when the bullets came through I was bending to fasten the tripod
legs. A few seconds earlier and one or other of them would have surely
found my head. Getting some sandbags, we carefully pushed them on to the
parapet, in order to break the contact as much as possible, and we put
one in front of the camera in a direct line to cover the movement of my
hand while exposing. I was now ready. Raising my head above the parapet
for a final look, I noticed I was fully exposed to the right German
trenches, and was just on the point of asking Captain ---- if there was
any possibility of getting sniped from that direction when with a "zipp"
a bullet passed directly between our heads. Having obtained such a
practical and prompt answer to my enquiry, though not exactly the kind I
had expected, I had some more sandbags placed, one on top of the other,
to shelter my head as much as possible.

All I had to do now was to focus, and to do that I lifted the bottom
edge of the screen gently. In a few seconds it was done, and dropping
the screen, I waited for the first shot. I was warned by an observing
officer that I had still five minutes to spare. They were not bombarding
until 2.15. German shells were continually dropping all round. The part
of the hill down which we came was getting quite a lively time of it.
The enemy seemed to be searching every spot. On the right a Canadian
sniper was at work, taking careful aim. Turning to me, he said:

"Wall, sir, I bet that chap won't want any more headache pills."

The remark caused a good deal of laughter.

Boom--boom--boom. In rapid succession came two shells from our guns.
Everyone was alert. I sprang to my camera. Two men were standing by me,
ready to take down the screen. Boom came another shell, and at a sign
the men dropped the screen.

I was exposed to the full view of the German lines, from my shoulders

I started exposing; the shells came in rapid succession, dropping right
in the middle of the Petite Douve. As they fell clouds of bricks and
other débris were thrown in the air; the din was terrific. Nothing in
the world could possibly have lived there. After about thirty shells had
been dropped there was a slight pause for about half a minute, during
which I continued turning the handle. The Germans were too occupied in
getting under cover to notice the fine target my head offered, for not a
single shot was fired at me.

Once more our guns rang out, and in as many seconds--at least so it
seemed to me--another thirty shells dropped into the buildings and tore
them wall from wall. Word was then passed to me that this was the
finishing salvo.

With the same suddenness as it had begun, the firing ceased. Dropping
quickly, and dragging the camera after me, I stood safely once more in
the bottom of the trench and, to tell the truth, I was glad it was over.
To put one's head above the parapet of a trench, with the Germans only
seventy-five yards away, and to take a kinematograph picture of a
bombardment, is not one of the wisest--or safest--things to do!



     Leave-taking at Charing Cross--A Fruitless Search for Food
     on Christmas Eve--How Tommy Welcomed the Coming of the
     Festive Season--"Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men" to the
     Boom of the Big Guns--Filming the Guards' Division--And the
     Prince of Wales--Coming from a Christmas Service--This Year
     and Next.

On December 23rd I met an officer, a captain, at Charing Cross Station.
We were leaving by the 8.50 train, and we were not the only ones to
leave Christmas behind, for hundreds of men were returning to the Front.
Heartbreaking scenes were taking place, and many of the brave women-folk
were stifling their sobs, in order to give their men a pleasant
send-off, possibly for the last time.

Amidst hurried good-byes and fond kisses from mothers, sisters,
sweethearts and wives, and with shouts of good luck from hundreds of
throats, the train started off. Handkerchiefs were waved from many
windows, cheerful heads were thrust out, and not until the train had
cleared the platform, and the "hurrahs" had faded away in the distance,
did we take our seats. Then with set faces, grim with determination, we
resigned ourselves to the fate that awaited us on the battlefields of
France. Reaching Boulogne, after a rather choppy voyage, our car
conveyed us to G.H.Q., which we reached late in the evening.

The following morning I was told to leave for La Gorgue, to film scenes
connected with the Guards' Division. Late that afternoon, the Captain
and I set out for our destination, reaching there about 8 o'clock. I
was billeted in a private house, and immediately enquired for some food,
but it was impossible to obtain any there. Going out I walked through
the town, in the hope of finding a place to get something. But none
could be found. Feeling very tired, I began to retrace my steps, with
the intention of going to bed.

On my way back I had reason to change my mind. Quite an interesting
scene unfolded itself. The boom of the guns rang out sharp and clear.
The moon was shining brightly, and at intervals there flashed across the
sky the not-far-distant glare of star-shells. In the houses, lining both
sides of the road, there was music, from the humble mouth-organ to the
piano, and lusty British voices were singing old English tunes with the
enthusiasm of boyhood.

On the pavement clusters of our Tommies were proceeding towards their
billets, singing heartily at the top of their voices. Some batches were
singing carols, others the latest favourites, such as "Keep the Home
Fires Burning."

No matter where one went, the same conditions and the same sounds
prevailed; just happy-go-lucky throngs, filled with the songs and
laughter born of the spirit of Christmas. And yet as I reached my room,
despite the scenes of joyousness and hilarity rampant, I could still
hear the crash of the guns.



This was my second Christmas at the Front, although not in the same
district. Last year I was with the brave Belgian army. This year was
certainly very different in all respects except the weather, and that
was as poisonous as ever. A miserable, misty, drifting rain, which would
soak through to the skin in a few minutes anyone not provided with a
good rainproof. Donning my Burberry, I proceeded towards a small chapel,
or rather to a building which is now used as one. It was originally a
workshop. On three sides it was entirely surrounded by the floods. The
front door was just clear, but I had to paddle through mud half-way up
to my knees to get there. I intended to obtain a film of the Guards'
Division attending the Christmas service.

Fixing up my camera, I awaited their arrival. After a short time they
came along, headed by their band. What a fine body of men! Swinging
along with firm stride, they came past. Thinking I had got sufficient I
packed my camera, when, to my astonishment, I saw the Prince of Wales,
with Lord Cavan, coming up at the rear. Rushing back to my old position,
I endeavoured to fix up again, to film them coming in, but I was too
late. "Anyway," I thought, "I will get him coming out."

Fixing up my machine at a new and advantageous point of view, I waited.
The service began. I could hear the strains of the old, old carols and
Christmas hymns. Surely one could not have heard them under stranger
conditions, for as the sound of that beautiful carol, "Peace on Earth,
Good Will to Men!" swelled from the throats of several hundreds of our
troops, the heavy guns thundered out round after round with increasing
intensity. Strange that at such a moment so terrific a bombardment
should have taken place. It seems as if some strange telepathic
influence was at work, commanding all the guns in the vicinity to open
fire with redoubled fury. And high in the air, our steel "birds" were
hovering over the enemy lines, directing the fire, and flecked all round
them, like flakes of snow, was the smoke from the shrapnel shells fired
on them by the Germans.

"Peace on earth, good will to men," came the strains of music from the
little church. Crash! went the guns again and again, throwing their
shrieking mass of metal far overhead. I fell into a deep reverie, and
my thoughts naturally strayed to those at home.

Returning to my room. I donned my thick woollen coat, as I intended to
rush off to G.H.Q. to see Tong, who had got a bad attack of dysentery,
and try and cheer him up. Getting into my car, I told the chauffeur to
drive like the wind. I had fifty kilometres to go. Away we rushed
through the night, and as we went through villages where our Tommies
were billeted, the strains of the old home songs--Irish, Scotch and
English--were wafted to my ears. Except for the incessant shelling, the
flash of guns, and the distant glare from the star-shells, it was almost
impossible to believe we were in the terrible throes of war. I arrived
at G.H.Q. about 8.30 p.m.

Poor Tong was very queer and feeling dejected. Not being able to speak
French, he could not let the people of the hotel know what he wanted. I
soon made him as comfortable as possible, and sat beside his bed
chatting about this, the strangest Christmas Day I had ever experienced.
After remaining with him for about an hour and a half, I again started
for the front line, where I arrived about 1 a.m., dog-tired, and at once
turned in.

So ended my second Christmas Day at the Front, and, as I dozed off to
sleep, I found myself wondering whether the next Christmas would find me
still in France. Should I be listening to carols and guns at the Front,
or would the message of the bells peal from a church in an adjacent
street at home, and announce the coming of another Christmas to me and



     Boxing Day--But No Pantomime--Life in the Trenches--A Sniper
     at Work--Sinking a Mine Shaft--The Cheery Influence of an
     Irish Padre--A Cemetery Behind the Lines--Pathetic
     Inscriptions and Mementoes on Dead Heroes' Graves--I Get
     Into a Pretty Warm Corner--And Have Some Difficulty in
     Getting Out Again--But All's Well that Ends Well.

Boxing Day! But nothing out of the ordinary happened. I filmed the Royal
Welsh Fusiliers en route for the trenches. As usual, the weather was
impossible, and the troops came up in motor-buses. At the sound of a
whistle, they formed up in line and stopped, and the men scrambled out
and stood to attention by the roadside. They were going to the front
line. They gave me a parting cheer, and a smile that they knew would be
seen by the people in England--perchance by their own parents.

I went along the famous La Bassée Road--the most fiercely contested
stretch in that part of the country. It was literally lined with
shell-destroyed houses, large and small; châteaux and hovels. All had
been levelled to the ground by the Huns. I filmed various scenes of the
Coldstreams, the Irish and the Grenadier Guards. At the furthermost
point of the road to which cars are allowed shells started to fall
rather heavily, so, not wishing to argue the point with them, I took
cover. When the "strafing" ceased I filmed other interesting scenes, and
then returned to my headquarters.

The next day was very interesting, and rather exciting. I was to go to
the front trenches and get some scenes of the men at work under actual
conditions. Proceeding by the Road, I reached the Croix Rouge crossing,
which was heavily "strafed" the previous day. Hiding the car under cover
of a partly demolished house, and strapping the camera on my back, my
orderly carrying the tripod, I started out to walk the remaining
distance. I had not gone far when a sentry advised me not to proceed
further on the road, but to take to the trench lining it, as the
thoroughfare from this point was in full view of the German artillery
observers. Not wishing to be shelled unnecessarily, I did as he
suggested. "And don't forget to keep your head down, sir," was his last
remark. So bending nearly double, I proceeded. As a further precaution,
I kept my man behind me at a distance of about twenty yards. Several
times high explosives and shrapnel came unpleasantly near.

Presently I came upon a wooden tramway running at right angles to the
road. My instructions were to proceed along it until I came to "Signpost
Lane." Why it was so dubbed I was unable to discover, but one thing I
was certainly not kept in ignorance of for long, and that was that it
was perpetually under heavy shell-fire by the Germans. They were
evidently under the impression that it was the route taken by our relief
parties going to the trenches at appointed times during the day, and so
they fairly raked it with shell-fire.

Unfortunately I happened to arrive on one of these occasions, and I knew
it. Shells dropped all round us. Hardly a square yard of ground seemed
untouched. Under such conditions it was no good standing. I looked round
for cover, but there was none. The best thing to do under the
circumstances was to go straight on, trust to Providence, and make for
the communication trenches with all speed. I doubled like a hare over
the intervening ground, and I was glad when I reached the trenches, for
once there, unless a shell bursts directly overhead, or falls on top of
you, the chances of getting hit are very small.

I was now in the sniping zone, and could continually hear the crack of a
Hun rifle, and the resulting thud of a bullet striking the mud or the
sandbags, first one side then the other. The communication trenches
seemed interminable, and, as we neared the front line, the mud got
deeper and parts of the trench were quite water-logged.

Plod, plod, plod; section after section, traverse after traverse.
Suddenly I came upon a party of sappers mending the parapet top with
newly filled sandbags. At that particular section a shell had dropped
fairly near and destroyed it, and anyone walking past that gap stood a
very good chance of having the top of his head taken off. These men were
filling up the breach. "Keep your head well down, sir," shouted one, as
I came along. "They" (meaning the Germans) "have got this place marked."

Down went my head, and I passed the gap safely.

We were now well up in the firing trench. Fixing the camera, and the
rest of the apparatus, I began taking scenes of actual life and
conditions in the trenches--that mysterious land about which millions
have read but have never had the opportunity of seeing. No mere verbal
description would suffice to describe them. Every minute the murderous
crack of rifles and the whir of machine-guns rang out. Death hovered all
round. In front the German rifles, above the bursting shrapnel, each
shell scattering its four hundred odd leaden bullets far and wide,
killing or wounding any unfortunate man who happened to be in the way.

The trenches looked as if a giant cataclysm of Nature had taken place.
The whole earth had been upheaved, and in each of the mud-hills men had
burrowed innumerable paths, seven feet deep. It was hard to distinguish
men from mud. The former were literally caked from head to foot with the
latter. I filmed the men at work. There were several snipers calmly
smoking their cigarettes and taking careful aim at the enemy.


"Sure, sir," remarked one burly Irish Guardsman, "and he'll never bob
his ---- head up any more. It's him I've been afther this several
hours!" And as coolly as if he had been at a rifle range at home, the
man discharged the empty cartridge-case and stood with his rifle,
motionless as a rock, his eyes like those of an eagle.

All this time it was raining hard. I worked my way along the
never-ending traverses. Coming upon a mount of sandbags, I enquired of
an officer present the nature and cause of its formation. He bade me
follow him. At one corner a narrow, downward path came into view.
Trudging after him, I entered this strange shelter. Inside it was quite
dark, but in a few seconds, when my eyes had got used to the conditions,
I observed a hole in the centre of the floor about five feet square.

Peering over the edge, I saw that the shaft was about _twenty-five feet
deep_, and that there was a light at the bottom. It then dawned upon me
what it really was. It was a mine-shaft. At the bottom, men worked at
their deadly occupation, burrowing at right angles under our own
trenches (under "No Man's Land") and under the German lines. They laid
their mines, and at the appointed time exploded them, thus causing a
great amount of damage to the enemy's parapets and trenches, and killing
large numbers of the occupants.

Retracing my steps, I fixed the camera up and filmed the men entering
the mines and others bringing up the excavated earth in sandbags and
placing them on the outside of the barricade. Then I paused to film the
men at work upon a trench road. Thinking I could obtain a better view
from a point in the distance, I started off for it, bent nearly double,
when a warning shout from an officer bade me be careful. I reached the
point. Although about fifty yards behind the firing trench, I was under
the impression that I was still sheltered by the parapet. Evidently I
had raised my head too high while fixing up the tripod, for with a
murderous whistle two bullets "zipped" by overhead. I must be more
careful if I wanted to get away with a whole skin; so bending low, I
filmed the scene, and then returned.

While proceeding along the line, I filmed the regimental padre of the
Irish Guards wading through the mud and exchanging a cheery word with
every man he passed. What a figure he was! Tall and upright, with a long
dark beard, and a voice that seemed kind and cheery enough to influence
even the dead. He inspired confidence wherever he went. He stayed awhile
to talk to several men who were sitting in their dug-outs pumping the
water out before they could enter. His words seemed to make the men work
with redoubled vigour. Then he passed on.

Along this section, at the back of the dug-outs, were innumerable white
crosses, leaning at all angles, in the mud. They were the last
resting-place of our dead heroes. On each cross a comrade had written a
short inscription, and some of these, though simple, and at times badly
spelt, revealed a pathos and a feeling that almost brought tears to the
eyes. For all its slime and mud it was the most beautiful cemetery I
have ever seen. On some of the graves were a few wildflowers. No
wreaths; no marble headstones; no elaborate ornamentation; but in their
place a battered cap, a rusty rifle or a mud-covered haversack, the
treasured belongings of the dead.

I had barely finished filming this scene when with a shriek several
shells came hurtling overhead from the German guns and burst about a
hundred yards behind our firing line. Quickly adjusting the camera, I
covered the section with my lens. In a few seconds more shells came
over, and turning the handle I filmed them as they burst, throwing up
enormous quantities of earth. The Huns were evidently firing at
something. What that something was I soon found out. An enemy observer
had seen a small working party crossing an open space. The guns
immediately opened fire. Whether they inflicted any casualties I do not
know, but a few minutes later the same party of men passed me as though
nothing had happened.

The rain was still falling, and the mist getting heavy, so I decided to
make my way back to headquarters. Packing up, and bidding adieu to the
officers, I started on the return journey through the communication
trenches. One officer told me to go back the same way, via "Signpost
Lane." "You will manage to get through before their evening 'strafing,'"
he called out. After wearily trudging through nearly a mile of trenches,
I came out at "Signpost Lane," and I am never likely to forget it.

We had left the shelter of the trench, and were hurrying, nearly
doubled, across a field, when a German observer spotted us. The next
minute "whizz-bangs" started falling around us like rain. No matter
which way I turned, the tarnation things seemed to follow and burst with
a deafening crash. At last, I reached the crossing, and was making my
way down the trench lining the road, when a shell dropped and exploded
not thirty feet ahead. But on I went, for a miss is as good as a mile.
About a hundred yards further on was the battered shell of a farm-house.
When almost up to it a couple of shells dropped fairly in the middle of
it and showered the bricks all round. A fairly warm spot!

I had just reached the corner of the building when I heard the shriek of
a shell coming nearer. I guessed it was pretty close, and without a
moment's hesitation dropped in the mud and water of a small ditch, and
not a moment too soon for with a dull thud the shell struck and burst
hardly seven feet from me. Had I not fallen down these lines would never
have been written. Picking myself up, I hurried on. Still the shells
continued to drop, but fortunately at a greater distance. When I reached
Croix Rouge, I was literally encased in mud. Our progress along the road
had been anxiously watched by the sentries and by my chauffeur.

"Well, sir," said the latter, with a sigh of relief, "I certainly
thought they had you that time."



     A Visit to the Old German Trenches--Reveals a Scene of
     Horror that Defies Description--Dodging the Shells--I Lose
     the Handle of My Camera--And then Lose My Man--The Effect of
     Shell-fire on a Novice--In the Village of Neuve Chapelle--A
     Scene of Devastation--The Figure of the Lonely Christ.

It occurred to me that an interesting film might be made out of scenes
of the battlefield of Neuve Chapelle. The very thought of it conjured up
a reeking, whirling mass of humanity, fighting with all the most
devilish, death-dealing weapons that had ever been conceived by the mind
of man. I decided to do a picture of the scene, and took with me an
orderly who had never been under fire before.

We proceeded along the La Bassée Road, and at the Croix Rouge proceeded
on foot towards Neuve Chapelle. As usual, Bosche shelling was so
consistent in its intensity that we thought it advisable to spread out a
bit in case a shell burst near us. My guide was Major ----, who
commanded one of the regiments holding the ground on the other side of
Neuve Chapelle.

Eventually I reached the assembly trenches, where our men concentrated
for the great attack. In shape they were just ordinary trenches,
branches off a main gallery, but they were in an awful state of decay,
and literally torn to shreds by shell-fire. What tales these old
sandbags might tell if only they could speak, tales of our brave boys
and our Indian troops that would live for ever in the history of
mankind. Standing upon one of the parapets, I looked round, and
marvelled that it was possible in so small a section of ground so many
men were hidden there. Quickly formulating my programme, I decided to
begin at the assembly trenches, and follow in imagination the path of
the troops during the battle, ending up in the ruins of Neuve Chapelle
village itself, which I could see in the distance.

"Be careful," came the warning voice of a major, "the whole of the
ground here is in view of the Bosche artillery observers. If they see
anyone moving about they'll start 'strafing' like anything, and I assure
you they do it very conscientiously."

I therefore kept as low as possible.

Fixing up the camera, I started to film the scenes from the assembly
trenches to the old first line trench, and then into the stretch of
ground known as "No Man's Land." Finishing this particular picture, we
went along to the old German trenches, and during the whole time we bent
nearly double, to keep under the line of the old parapets. In the old
German trenches the frightful effect of modern shell-fire was only too
apparent. The whole line, as far as one could see, was absolutely
smashed to atoms. Only the bases of the parapets were left, and in the
bottom of the trenches was an accumulation of water and filth. It was a
disgusting sight. The whole place was littered with old German
equipment, and whilst wading and splashing along through the water I saw
such things, and such stenches assailed my nostrils, as I shall not
easily forget. Dotted all over the place, half in and half out of the
mud and water, were dead bodies.

But why recount the horrors of the scene? Imagine the sights and the
smell. How I got through that section of trench Heaven only knows. It
was simply ghastly.

To escape from the scene I hurried to the end of the trench and again
crossed "No Man's Land." The sight here was not so bad as in the
trenches. To obtain a good view of the spot I got up very gingerly on
top of the parapet, fixed the machine, and filmed the scene. But this
enterprise nearly put an end to my adventure, _and also to the other
members of the party_. I had finished taking, and had got my camera down
on the stand, in the bottom of the trench, and was on the point of
unscrewing it, when two shells came hurtling overhead and exploded about
forty feet away. The Major ran up to me and shouted that I had been
seen, and told me to take cover at once. He and the others, suiting the
action to the word, dived below the parapets. Snatching the camera off
its stand, I followed, and paddled as close as possible to the mud. The
shells began falling in quick succession. Nearer and nearer they came.
Some just cleared the parapet top; some burst in front, some immediately

"They have got our line; let's shift along further," some one said.

From one point of the trench to the other we dodged. The shells seemed
to follow us wherever we went. Crash! One struck the crumbling parapet
on the very spot where, a few seconds before, I had been sheltering. In
the rush for cover I had lost the handle of the camera, and as it was
the only one I had there, I began to work my way back to find it.

"Don't be a fool," called the Major. "If you show yourself they'll have
you, as sure as eggs are eggs." But my anxiety to obtain pictures of the
bursting shells was too much for me. I set to to make a handle of wood.
Looking round, I spotted an old tree-trunk, behind which I could take
cover. Doubling towards it, I crouched down, and finding a piece of wood
and an old nail I fashioned a handle of a sort.

At this moment a funny incident occurred. I had momentarily forgotten
the existence of the other members of the party. I was hoping against
hope that they had escaped injury. What had happened to them? Where were
they? It almost seemed as if my thoughts were communicated by telepathy
to one of them, for just above the parapet in front of me rose the head
of Captain ----.

"I say, Malins," he said, "did you find your handle?"

The words were barely out of his mouth when a shell shot by. Captain
----'s head went down like a jack-in-the-box. The sight was too funny
for words. If he hadn't ducked the shell would have taken his head off,
for it struck the ground and exploded, as we found out afterwards, only
ten feet away.

For three-quarters of an hour this "strafing" continued, then giving
Bosche ten minutes to settle down we came out of our holes and corners.
What sights we were!

Collecting my apparatus, I again crossed "No Man's Land," and carefully
made my way into the village of Neuve Chapelle itself. To describe it
would only be to repeat what I said of the devastated city of Ypres.
There was nothing whole standing. The place was smashed and ground down
out of all recognition. And yet, from its solitary high position upon
the cross, the figure of Christ looked down upon the scene. It was
absolutely untouched. It stood there--this sacred emblem of our
Faith--grim and gaunt against the sky. A lonely sentinel. The scene was
a sermon in itself, and mere words fail to describe the deep impression
it made upon me.



     How I Made a "Hide-up"--And Secured a Fine Picture of the
     Prince Inspecting some Gun-pits--His Anxiety to Avoid the
     Camera--And His Subsequent Remarks--How a German Block-house
     was Blown to Smithereens--And the Way I Managed to Film it
     Under Fire.

To-day has certainly been most interesting, and not without excitement.
I was to film the bombardment of a concrete German block-house from the
Guards' trenches at ----. Previous to starting out from ---- news came
through from headquarters that the Prince of Wales was going to inspect
some guns with Lord Cavan.

The staff officer who told me this knew the trouble I had previously
experienced in trying to obtain good films of the Prince, and warned me
to be very careful. I enquired the time of his arrival at the gun-pits.
So far as I could ascertain, it was to be at 11.30 a.m. I therefore
decided to be there half an hour earlier, and make a "hide-up" for
myself and camera. I was determined to succeed this time. Proceeding by
way of ----, which place has suffered considerable bombardment, the
church and surrounding buildings having been utterly destroyed, I stayed
awhile to film the interior and exterior of the church, and so add
another to the iniquitous record of the Bosche for destroying everything
held sacred.


A short distance outside the town I came upon the gun positions, and
crossing a field--or rather shall I say a mud-pond, for the mud very
nearly reached my knees--I selected a point of vantage at one side of
a hedge which ran at right angles to the gun-pits. There was only one
path fit to traverse, and getting hold of an officer, I asked him if we
could so arrange it that the Prince started from the further end of the
path and came towards camera. He said he would try. Fixing up the
camera, I got in front of the hedge facing the path, and completely hid
all signs of the machine with bracken and branches of trees. Pushing the
lens well through the hedge, I ripped open an old sandbag, cut a hole in
it and hung it on the hedge, with my lens pointing through. By such
means it was quite impossible for anyone in front to see either myself
or the camera, and having completed my preparations, I settled down to
patiently await the arrival of the Prince.

In about half an hour he came along with Lord Cavan, a general, and
other officers of the staff. True to his promise, Captain ---- got the
Prince to follow the path I had indicated. When he arrived at the
further end of the row of guns, I started filming. He came direct
towards the camera, but when within fifteen feet of it the noise of
handle turning attracted his attention. He stood fully fifteen seconds
gazing in my direction, evidently wondering what it was on the other
side of the hedge. Then he passed out of range. I hurried across the
field with my aeroscope (an automatic camera), and stood at the end of
the path waiting for him to pass.

In a few moments he came along, and I started filming. The smiles of the
staff officers were pleasing to behold. One of them remarked to the
Prince that it was quite impossible to escape this time. As he passed
inside the farm-house, I heard him remark: "That was the man I tried to
dodge on Christmas Day. How did he know I was coming here? Who told
him?" The enquiry was followed by some good-natured laughter, and
feeling satisfied with my work, I hurried away.

I had now to proceed to the front line trenches, taking the car, as far
as possible, along the road. I had hidden it under cover of some ruined
buildings, and taking the camera, and bidding my chauffeur bring the
tripod, I started out. A captain conducted me. We quickly got to the
communication trenches. As usual, a good deal of "strafing" was going
on, and the German snipers were very busy. When we reached the first
line firing trenches, I peered over the parapet through a periscope, but
found I was too far south of the block-house. So I proceeded higher up,
and about eight hundred yards further on came a traverse, which I had
chosen, and the loophole through which I was going to film the scene.
The distance to the German block-house from where I was standing was
about 150 yards.

The thickness of the parapet, I should say, was roughly four feet; and
through the parapet was a conical, square-shaped, wooden cylinder. In
front, under cover of darkness, the night previous, I had had two
sandbags placed, so that when everything was ready, and my camera fixed,
a slight push from the back with a stick would shift them clear of the
opening. Fixing up the camera, I very carefully pinned an empty sandbag
over the back of the aperture, with the object of keeping any daylight
from streaming through. I placed a long stick ready to push the sandbags
down. I intended doing that after the first shell had fallen.

This particular loophole had been severely sniped all the morning, the
Germans evidently thinking it was a new Maxim-gun emplacement. Time was
drawing near. I thought I would try with the stick whether the sandbags
would fall easily. Evidently I gave them too vigorous a push, for the
next moment they came toppling down. Knowing such a movement as that was
certain to attract the German snipers' attention, I quickly ducked my
head down and hoped our 9.2's would soon open fire. I did not relish
the idea of having a bullet through my camera.

Sure enough the Germans had seen the movement, for bullets began
battering into sandbags around the loophole. At that moment the C.O.
withdrew the whole of the men from that section of the trench, and I was
left alone. But the prospect of getting a fine film drove all other
thoughts from my mind.

A few minutes later the first shell came hurtling over and exploded
within ten yards of the block-house. I started filming. Shell after
shell I recorded as it exploded, first on one side then on the other,
until at last the eighth shell fell directly on top of the block-house,
and with a tremendous explosion the whole fabric disappeared in a cloud
of smoke and flame. Débris of every description rattled in the trench
all round me, and continued to fall for some moments, but luckily I was
not hit. Being unable to resist the temptation of looking over the
parapet, I jumped up and gazed at the remains of the building which now
consisted of nothing more than a twisted, churned-up mass of concrete
and iron rails. Our artillery had done its work, and done it well.



Greeted on Arrival in the Ruined City of Ypres by a Furious Fusillade--I
Film the Cloth Hall and Cathedral, and Have a Narrow Escape--A Once
Beautiful Town Now Little More Than a Heap of Ruins--Arras a City of the
Dead--Its Cathedral Destroyed--But Cross and Crucifixes Unharmed.

To Ypres! This was the order for the day. The news gave me a thrill of
excitement. The thunder of the big guns grew louder as we approached the
front line, until they seemed to merge into one continuous roar.

Stopping on the road, I asked if the Germans were "strafing" to-day.

"Yes," said one of our military police, "they were shelling us pretty
heavily this morning: you will have to be very careful moving about
inside. Bosche machines are always up in the air, taking bearings for
the guns."

Arriving at the outskirts of the ruined town, we were pulled up by a
sentry, who, finding our papers in order, allowed us to proceed. At that
moment a furious fusillade of gun-fire attracted our attention, and
three shrill blasts of a whistle rang out; then we heard a cry,
"Everyone under cover!" Stopping the car, I immediately jumped out, and
stood under cover of a broken-down wall, and looking up, could see the
cause of this activity.


High in the air, about eight to ten thousand feet, was a Bosche
aeroplane, and while I was watching it shrapnel shells from our
anti-aircraft guns were exploding round it like rain. A great number
were fired at it. The whole sky was flecked with white and black patches
of smoke, but not one hit was recorded. The machine seemed to sail
through that inferno as if nothing were happening, and at last it
disappeared in the haze over its own lines. Only then were we allowed to

I had made a rough programme of what to film, and decided to start from
the Grand Place. In a few words, I may say that I filmed the Place from
the remains of the Cloth Hall, the Cathedral, and various districts of
the town, but to try and describe the awful condition of what was once
the most beautiful town in Belgium would be to attempt the impossible.
No pen, and no imagination, could do justice to it. The wildest dreams
of Dante could not conjure up such terrible, such awful scenes.

The immensity of the outrage gripped me perhaps more completely when I
stood upon the heap of rubble that was once the most beautiful piece of
architecture of its kind in all the world. The Cloth Hall, and the
Cathedral, looked exactly as if some mighty scythe had swept across the
ground, levelling everything in its path. The monster 15-inch German
shells had dismembered and torn open the buildings brick by brick.
Confusion and devastation reigned everywhere, no matter in what
direction you looked. It was as if the very heavens and the earth had
crashed together, crushing everything between them out of all semblance
to what it had been.

The ground was literally pock-marked with enemy shell-holes. The stench
of decaying bodies followed me everywhere. At times the horror of it all
seemed to freeze the understanding, and it was difficult to realise that
one was part and parcel of this world of ours. Literally, horror was
piled upon horror. And this was the twentieth century of which men
boasted; this was civilisation! Built by men's hands, the result of
centuries of work. Now look at them; those beautiful architectural
monuments, destroyed, in a few months, by the vilest spawn that ever
contaminated the earth. A breed that should and would be blotted out of
existence as effectively as they had blotted out the town of Ypres.

Beneath one large building lay buried a number of our gallant soldiers,
who were sheltering there, wounded. The position was given away by
spies, with the result that the Germans poured a concentrated fire of
shells upon the helpless fellows, and the shelling was so terrific that
the whole building collapsed and buried every living soul beneath the

As I stood upon the heap tears came into my eyes, and the spirits of the
brave lads seemed to call out for vengeance. And even as I stood and
pondered, the big guns rang out, the very concussion shaking bricks and
dust upon me as I stood there. While filming the scene, German shells
came hurtling and shrieking overhead, exploding just behind me and
scattering the débris of the ruins high above and whizzing in my

To obtain a good view-point, I clambered upon a mount of bricks nearly
fifty feet high, all that was left of the Cathedral Tower. From that
eminence I could look right down into the interior, and I succeeded in
taking an excellent film of it. While doing so, two German shells
exploded a short distance away. Whether it was the concussion or pieces
of shell that struck it, I do not know--probably the latter--but large
pieces of stone and granite fell at my feet, and one piece hit my
shoulder. So I quickly made my way to more healthy quarters, and even as
I left the shells overhead began to shriek with redoubled fury, as if
the very legions of hell were moaning, aghast at the terrible crime
which the fiendish Huns had perpetrated.

Arras, although not by any means as badly damaged as Ypres, is one of
the most historical and beautiful places systematically destroyed by the
Germans. The Cathedral, the wonderful Museum, the Hôtel de Ville, once
the pride of this broken city, are now no more. Arras provides yet
another blasting monument of the unspeakable methods of warfare as
practised by the descendants of Attila, the Hun. The city was as silent
as the tomb when I visited it. It was dead in every sense of the word; a
place only fit for the inhabitants of the nether world. Only when the
German shells came screaming overhead with unearthly noise, in an empty
street, was the silence broken in this city of the dead.

I visited the ruined Cathedral, and filmed various scenes of the
interior and exterior, having to climb over huge mounds of fallen
masonry to obtain my best view-points. In places all that was left
standing was the bare walls. The huge columns, with their beautiful
sculptures, no longer able to support the roof, still stood like grim
sentinels watching over their sacred charge. And yet, despite the
unholy bombardment to which the building had been subjected, three
things remained unharmed and untouched in the midst of this scene of
awful desolation. The three crucifixes, with the figures of Christ
still upon them, gazed down upon this scene of horror. And high upon
the topmost joint of the south wall stood the cross, the symbol of
Christianity--unharmed. The united endeavours of the Powers of Evil
could not dislodge that sacred emblem from its topmost pinnacle.

I left the Cathedral and walked along the grass-covered streets,
pock-marked by innumerable shell-holes, and every now and then I had to
dive into some cellar for shelter from falling shells. At the Hôtel de
Ville the same sight presented itself. The bombardment had reduced its
walls to little more than a tottering shell, which fell to pieces at the
merest touch.




     Filming Within Forty-five Yards of the German
     Trenches--Watching for "Minnies"--Officers'
     Quarters--"Something" Begins to Happen--An Early Morning
     Bombardment--Develops Into the Battle of St. Eloi--Which I
     Film from Our First-Line Trench--And Obtain a Fine Picture.

A bombardment was to take place. A rather vague statement, and a common
enough occurrence; but not so this one.

I had a dim idea--not without foundation, as it turned out--that there
was more in this particular bombardment than appeared on the surface.
Why this thought crossed my mind I do not know. But there it was, and I
also felt that it would somehow turn out seriously for me before I had

I was to go to a certain spot to see a general--and obtain permission to
choose a good view-point for my machine. My knowledge of the topography
of this particular part of the line was none too good.

Reaching the place I met the General, who said, in a jocular way, when I
had explained my mission:

"Have you come to me to-day by chance, or have you heard something?"

This remark, "Had I heard something?" confirmed my opinion that
something _was_ going to happen. Without more ado, the General told me
the bombardment would take place on the morrow, somewhere about 5.30

"In that case," I said, "it will be quite impossible to obtain any
photographs. Anyway," I added, "if you will permit me, sir, I will sleep
in the front line trenches to-night, and so be ready for anything that
may happen. I could choose a good spot for my machine this afternoon."

"Well," he replied, "it's a hot corner," and going to the section maps
he told me our front line was only forty-five yards away from the
Bosche. "You will, of course, take the risk, but, honestly speaking, I
don't expect to see you back again."

This was anything but cheerful, but being used to tight corners I did
not mind the risk, so long as I got some good films.

The General then gave me a letter of introduction to another general,
who, he said, would give me all the assistance he could. Armed with this
document, I started out in company of a staff officer, who was to guide
me to the Brigade headquarters. Arriving there (it was the most advanced
point to which cars were allowed to go), I obtained two orderlies, gave
one my aeroscope the other the tripod, and strapping another upon my
back, we started off on a two-mile walk over a small hill, and through
communication trenches to the section.

At a point which boasted the name of "Cooker Farm," which consisted of a
few dug-outs, well below ground level, and about five by six feet high
inside by seven feet square, I interviewed two officers, who 'phoned to
the front line, telling them of my arrival. They wished me all good luck
on my venture, and gave me an extra relay of men to get me to the front.
A considerable amount of shelling was going on overhead, but none,
fortunately, came in my immediate neighbourhood. The nearest was about
fifty yards away.

From our front line trenches the Bosche lines were only forty-five yards
away, therefore dangers were to be anticipated from German snipers. A
great many of our men had actually been shot through the loophole of
plates. I immediately reported myself to the officer in charge, who was
resting in a dug-out, built in the parapet. He was pleased to see me,
and promised me every assistance. I told him I wished to choose a point
of vantage from which I could film the attack. Placing my apparatus in
the comparative safety of the dug-out, I accompanied him outside.
Rifle-fire was continuous; shells from our 60-pounders and 4.2's were
thundering past overhead, and on either side "Minnies" (German bombs)
were falling and exploding with terrific force, smashing our parapets
and dug-outs as if they had been the thinnest of matchwood.

Fortunately for us these interesting novelties could be seen coming. Men
are always on the look-out for "Minnies," and when one has been fired
from the Bosche it rises to a height of about five hundred feet, and
then with a sudden curve descends. At that point it is almost possible
to calculate the exact whereabouts of its fall. Everyone watches it; the
space is quickly cleared, and it falls and explodes harmlessly.
Sometimes the explosion throws the earth up to a height of nearly 150

While I was deciding upon the exact point of the parapet upon which I
would place the camera, a sudden cry of "Minnie" was heard. Looking up,
I saw it was almost overhead, and with a quick rush and a dive I
disappeared into a dug-out. I had barely got my head into it before
"Minnie" fell and blew the mud in all directions, covering my back
plentifully, but fortunately doing no other damage.

Eventually I decided upon the position, and looking through my periscope
saw the German trenches stretching away on the right for a distance of
half a mile, as the ground dipped into a miniature valley. From this
point I could get an excellent film, and if the Germans returned our
fire I could revolve the camera and obtain the resulting explosions in
our lines.

The farm-house where I spent the night was about nine hundred yards
behind the firing track. All that now remained of a once prosperous
group of farm buildings were the battered walls, but with the aid of a
plentiful supply of sandbags and corrugated iron the cellars were made
comparatively comfortable.

By the time I reached there it was quite dark, but by carefully feeling
my way with the aid of a stick I stumbled down the five steps into the
cellar, and received a warm welcome from Captain ----, who introduced me
to his brother officers. They all seemed astounded at my mission, never
imagining that a moving picture man would come into the front battle
line to take pictures.

The place was about ten feet square; the roof was a lean-to, and was
supported in the centre by three tree-trunks. Four wooden frames, upon
which was stretched some wire-netting, served as bedsteads; in a corner
stood a bucket-fire, the fumes and smoke going up an improvised chimney
of petrol tins. In the centre was a rough table. One corner of it was
kept up by a couple of boxes; other boxes served as chairs.

Rough as it was, it was like heaven compared with other places at which
I have stayed. By the light of two candles, placed in biscuit tins, we
sat round, and chatted upon kinematograph and other topics until 11.30
p.m. The Colonel of another regiment then came in to arrange about the
positions of the relieving battalions which were coming in on the
following day. He also arranged for his sniping expert and men to
accompany the patrolling parties, which were going out at midnight in
"No Man's Land" to mend mines and spot German loop-holes.

A message came through by 'phone from Brigade headquarters that the time
of attack was 5.45 a.m. I could have jumped for joy; if only the sky was
clear, there would be enough light for my work. The news was received in
quite a matter-of-fact way by the others present, and after sending out
carrying parties for extra ammunition for bomb guns, they all turned in
to snatch a few hours' sleep, with the exception of the officer on duty.

At twelve o'clock I turned in. Rolling myself in a blanket and using my
trench-coat and boots as a pillow, I lay and listened to the continual
crack of rifle-fire, and the thud of bullets striking and burying
themselves in the sandbags of our shelter. Now and then I dozed, and
presently I fell asleep. I suddenly awakened with a start. What caused
it I know not; everything seemed unnaturally quiet; with the exception
of an isolated sniper, the greatest war in history might have been
thousands of miles away. I lit a cigarette, and was slowly puffing it
(time, 4.15 a.m.), when a tremendous muffled roar rent the air; the
earth seemed to quake. I expected the roof of our shelter to collapse
every minute. The shock brought my other companions tumbling out.
"Something" was happening.

The rumble had barely subsided, when it seemed as if all the guns in
France had opened rapid battery fire at the same moment. Shells poured
over our heads towards the German positions in hundreds. The shrieking
and earsplitting explosives were terrific, from the sharp bark of the
4.2 to the heavy rumble and rush of the 9-inch "How." The Germans,
surprised in their sleep, seemed absolutely demoralised. They were
blazing away in all directions, firing in the most wild and
extraordinary manner, anywhere and everywhere. Shells were crashing and
smashing their way into the remains of the outbuildings, and they were
literally exploding all round.

Captain ---- instructed his officers to see what had happened to the
ammunition party. They disappeared in the hell of shell-fire as though
it were quite an every-day incident. I opened the door, climbed the
steps, and stood outside. The sight which met my eyes was magnificent in
its grandeur. The heavens were split by shafts of lurid fire. Masses of
metal shot in all directions, leaving a trail of sparks behind them;
bits of shell shrieked past my head and buried themselves in the walls
and sandbags. One large missile fell in an open space about forty feet
on my left, and exploded with a deafening, ear-splitting crash. At the
same moment another exploded directly in front of me. Instinctively I
ducked my head. The blinding flash and frightful noise for the moment
stunned me, and I could taste the exploding gas surrounding me. I
stumbled down the steps into the cellar, and it was some minutes before
I could see clearly again. My companions were standing there, calmly
awaiting events.

The frightful din continued. It was nothing but high explosives, high
explosive shrapnel, ordinary shrapnel, trench bombs, and bullets from
German machine-guns. One incessant hail of metal. Who on earth could
live in it? What worried me most was that there was not sufficient light
to film the scene; but, thank Heaven, it was gradually getting lighter.

It was now 5 a.m. The shelling continued with increasing intensity. I
got my apparatus together, and with two men decided to make my way to
the position in the front line.


Shouldering my camera I led the way, followed by the men at a distance
of twenty yards. Several times on the journey shrapnel balls and
splinters buried themselves in the mud close by. When I reached the
firing trench all our men were standing to arms, with grim faces,
awaiting their orders. I fixed up the tripod so that the top of it came
level with our parapet, and fastened the camera upon it. It topped the
parapet of our firing trench (the Germans only forty-five yards away),
and to break the alignment I placed sandbags on either side of it.

In this position I stood on my camera case, and started to film the
Battle of St. Eloi.

Our shells were dropping in all directions, smashing the German parapets
to pulp and blowing their dug-outs sky-high. The explosions looked
gorgeous against the ever-increasing light in the sky. Looking through
my view-finder, I revolved first on one section then on the other; from
a close view of 6-inch shells and "Minnies" bursting to the more distant
view of our 9.2. Then looking right down the line, I filmed the clouds
of smoke drifting from the heavy (woolly bears) or high shrapnel, then
back again. Shells--shells--shells--bursting masses of molten metal,
every explosion momentarily shaking the earth.

The Germans suddenly started throwing "Minnies" over, so revolving my
camera, I filmed them bursting over our men. The casualties were very
slight. For fully an hour I stood there filming this wonderful scene,
and throughout all the inferno, neither I nor my machine was touched. A
fragment of shrapnel touched my tripod, taking a small piece out of the
leg. That was all!

Shortly after seven o'clock the attack subsided, and as my film had all
been used up, I packed and returned to my shelter.

What a "scoop" this was. It was the first film that had actually been
taken of a British attack. What a record. The thing itself had passed.
It had gone; yet I had recorded it in my little 7- by 6-inch box, and
when this terrible devastating war was over, and men had returned once
again to their homes, business men to their offices, ploughmen to their
ploughs, they would be able to congregate in a room and view all over
again the fearful shells bursting, killing and maiming on that winter's
morning of March 27th, 1916.



     A Very Lively Experience--Choosing a Position for the Camera
     Under Fire--I Get a Taste of Gas--Witness a Night Attack by
     the Germans--Surprise an Officer by My Appearance in the
     Trenches--And Have One of the Narrowest Escapes--But
     Fortunately Get Out with Nothing Worse than a Couple of
     Bullets Through My Cap.

The weather was very fine when I left G.H.Q., but on reaching ----, to
interview Colonel ---- in reference to the mining section, rain fell
heavily. I arrived soon after midday, and went to the Intelligence
Department to report; the C.O. telephoned to the C. of M. for an
appointment. It was made for nine o'clock that night. Having plenty of
time at my disposal, I returned to ----, and passed a few hours with
some friends. In the evening I returned for my appointment at the hour
named. The Colonel was exceedingly interested in my project, and was
willing to do anything to help me. He gave me a letter of introduction
to the Corps Commander of the ---- Army, Brigadier-General ----; also
one to Captain ----, C.O. of the ---- Mining Section. I was to proceed
to General ---- first, and obtain the permission.

At eight o'clock the following morning I rushed off to the Company H.Q.
I met the General leaving his château. Having read my letter of
introduction, he promptly gave his consent. I was to report to Major
----, at H.Q., saying it was quite all right. Thanking the General, I
hastened to H.Q., and showing his letter and delivering his message, I
was given a note to Captain ----, asking him to give me every
assistance. Before leaving, the Major wished me success, and asked me
whether I was prepared to wait until a "blow" came off?

"Yes, sir," I replied, "for five or six days in the trenches, if

The Colonel had made arrangements with several Companies that they were
to report immediately to ----th Company when they were going to "blow,"
in order to give me time to go immediately to the spot and film it.

Leaving the Company H.Q., I proceeded to ----, and duly presented the
Captain's letter.

"You have the Corps' permission," said the Colonel; "it will now be
necessary to obtain the Divisional C.O. permit."

This I eventually obtained. Now if by any chance a "blow" took place
opposite either of the other Companies, it would be necessary to obtain
their permission, as they were in another Division. Therefore, calling
upon a major of that Division, I secured the final permit.

Next morning I left for the front line trenches. Reaching ----, which
was smashed out of all recognition, we drew up under cover of some
ruined walls. Shells were falling and bursting among the ruins, but
these diversions were of such ordinary, everyday occurrence that hardly
any notice was taken of them. If they missed--well, they were gone. If
they hit--well, it was war!

The Miners, gathering near the "Birdcage" (a spot which derives its name
from a peculiar iron cage erection at the corner of the road), formed
up, and proceeded for about three hundred yards to the beginning of
"Quarry Ally," the ammunition trench leading to their particular part of
the front line. They filed in one by one; I filmed them meanwhile.

The journey of thirteen hundred yards to the front line was quite an
ordinary walk. It was interesting to note the different tones of the
heavy and light shells as they flew overhead, from the dull rush of a
9.2 to the shriek of the 18-pounder. I reached a Company dug-out. It was
certainly one of the best I have ever seen. Going down three steps, then
turning sharply at right angles, I disappeared through a four-foot
opening; down more steps to a depth of ten feet, then straight for three
paces. At the end was the main gallery, about twenty-five feet long,
five feet in width, and five feet six inches high. Half of it was used
for the telephone operator, and sleeping accommodation for the
orderlies, the other half was used as officers' quarters. Several
officers were busy discussing plans when I arrived. The conversation
might sound strange and callous to an ordinary listener.

"Well, what's the news? How's Brother Bosche?"

"Bosche reported quite near," was the reply. "Our shaft is practically
finished, and ready for charging. This morning you could distinctly hear
Bosche speaking. His gallery was getting nearer to ours. I told the
Sergeant to work only when Bosche was doing so."

"When are you going to 'blow' ----?"

"I am not sure of the date, but 'Dinkie' is going to 'poop' in a few
days. He's got two tons under Bosche. It will be a ---- fine show; right
under his trenches. Ought to snip a hundred or so."

"Well," said another, "I was down in C shaft, and could hear Bosche
working very hard, as if he had got all the world to himself."

At that moment a tunnelling-sergeant came in, and reported that the
Bosche was much nearer. The listener could distinctly hear talking
through the 'phone.

An officer immediately got up and went out with the sergeant, one of the
speakers meanwhile suggesting that Brother Bosche was certainly going
to visit realms of higher kultur than he had hitherto known.

Then came a close scrutinising of maps, showing shafts in the making and
mines ready for "blowing"; of sharp orders to the tunnelling-sergeants
and fatigue parties to bring charges from the magazine. The whole thing
was fascinating in the extreme. A new branch of His Majesty's Service,
and one of the most dangerous. To be on duty in a listening-post thirty
feet underground--in a narrow tunnel, scarcely daring to breathe,
listening to German miners making a counter-mine, and gradually picking
their way nearer and nearer, until at last you can hear their
conversation--would try the nerves of the strongest of men.

I went out, and made my way towards the well-known Quarries. Noting
several interesting scenes of our Scottish battalions at work, I filmed
them. A most pathetic touch was added to the scene, for a neat little
graveyard occupied the right-hand corner, and about one hundred small
crosses were there.

I was not allowed to remain very long. The Bosche sent over several
aerial torpedoes, which exploded with terrific force and split up the
ground as if a 12-inch H.E. shell had been at work. Naturally every one
rushed to obtain as much cover as possible. I crossed to the other side
of the Quarry, and entered a small tunnel, which led into a winding maze
of narrow communication trenches.



"Be careful, sir," called a sentry. "Bosche is only thirty yards away,
and they are plugging this corner pretty thoroughly; they're fairly
whizzing through the sandbags, as if they warn't there, sir. They caught
my Captain this morning, clean through the head. I was a-talking to him,
sir, at the time; the finest gentleman that ever lived; and the swine
killed him. I'll get six of them for him, sir." The look in his eyes and
the tone of his voice told me he was in earnest. I passed on, keeping
as low as possible.

The crater, when I reached it, proved to be one of an enormous size. It
must have been quite 150 feet across. The place had been converted into
a miniature fort. I noticed how spongy the ground was. When walking it
seemed as if one was treading upon rubber. I casually enquired of an
officer the cause of it. "Dead bodies," said he; "the ground here is
literally choked with them; we dare not touch it with a spade; the
condition is awful. There are thousands of them for yards down, and when
a shell tears away any section of our parapets the sight is too ghastly
for words."

At that moment a man yelled out "cover," and, looking up, I saw several
Bosche rifle grenades falling. Shouting to my orderly to take cover with
the camera, he disappeared into what I thought was a dug-out but which I
afterwards discovered was an incline shaft to a mine. He made a running
dive, and slid down about four yards before he pulled himself up.
Luckily he went first, the camera butting up against him. He told us
afterwards he thought he was really going to the lower regions.

I dived under a sandbag emplacement, when the grenades went off with a
splitting crash, and after allowing a few seconds for the pieces to
drop, looked out. A tragic sight met my gaze. The officer with whom I
had been speaking a few moments before had, unfortunately, been too late
in taking cover. One of the grenades had struck him on the head, and
killed him on the spot. Within a few moments some Red Cross men
reverently covered the body with a mackintosh sheet and bore it away.
One more cross would be added to the little graveyard in the Quarry.

Shortly after I met an officer of the Mining Section. He was just going
down into the gallery to listen to Bosche working a counter-mine. Did I
care to accompany him? "Don't speak above a whisper," he said.

He disappeared through a hole about three feet square. I followed,
clinging to the muddy sides like a limpet, half sliding, half crawling,
in the impenetrable darkness. We went on, seemingly for a great
distance; in reality it was only about fifteen yards. Then we came to a
level gallery, and in the distance, by the aid of a glow-lamp, I could
see my companion crouching down, with a warning finger upon his lips to
assure silence. The other side of him was a man of the tunnelling
section, who had been at his post listening. The silence was uncanny
after the din outside. In a few moments I heard a queer, muffled
tap--tap--tap, coming through the earth on the left. I crept closer to
my companion, and with my mouth close to his ear enquired whether that
was the Bosche working.

"Yes," he said, "but listen with this," giving me an instrument very
similar to a doctor's stethoscope.

I put it to my ear and rested the other end upon a ledge of mud. The
effect was like some one speaking through a telephone. I could
distinctly hear the impact of the pickaxe wielded by the Bosche upon the
clay and chalk, and the falling of the débris.

I turned to him with a smile. "Brother Bosche will shortly have a rise
in life?"

"Yes," said he, "I think we shall 'blow' first. It's going to be a race,

Final orders were given to the man in charge, then we crawled up again
into the din of the crashing shells. I was more at home in these
conditions. Down below the silence was too uncanny for me. When I
reached our dug-out once more a message was waiting for me to return to
H.Q., as important things were in prospect the following morning.

The message was urgent. Mines were to be blown at an early hour. I
therefore decided that the best thing to do was to go into the trenches
and stay the night, and so be prepared for anything that might happen.
Little did I dream what the next forty-eight hours were going to bring.
It's a good thing sometimes we don't know what the future has in store
for us. The stoutest heart might fail under the conditions created by
the abnormal atmosphere of a modern battlefield.

I prepared to depart at 8 p.m., and bidding adieu to my friends, I
started off in the car. The guns were crashing out continuously. Several
times I pulled the car up to shelter under some ruins. Then for a few
minutes there was a lull, and directing my chauffeur to go ahead at top
speed we reached our destination safely. I had barely entered this scene
of desolation when Bosche shells came hurtling overhead and fell with a
deafening explosion a short distance away. Here I had my first taste of
gas from the German weeping shells. The air was suddenly saturated with
an extraordinarily sweet smell. For the first few moments I quite
enjoyed it. Then my eyes began to water freely, and pain badly.
Realising at once that I was being "gassed," I bade the driver rush
through the village, and as far beyond as possible.

His eyes, poor fellow, were in the same state. The car rolled and
pitched its way through, smashing into shell-holes, bounding over fallen
masonry, scraping by within a hair's-breadth of a recently smashed
lorry. On and on, like a drunken thing. Still the air was thick with the
foul gas. My eyes were burning; at last it was quite impossible to keep
them open. But I had to get through, and so with a final effort looked
ahead, and to my great relief found we were beyond the village, and the
air smelt cleaner. I told the driver to pull up, and with a final roll
the car landed its front wheels into a ditch.

For two hours afterwards I was to all intents and purposes blind. My
eyes were burning, aching and weeping. The pain at last subsided, and
collecting the apparatus we trudged off along the communication trench
to the front line. Threading our way through seemed much more difficult
than previously. The sides of the trenches had been blown in by shells a
few minutes before, and this necessitated climbing over innumerable
mounds of rubble; but working parties were quickly on the scene clearing
a way through. At last I reached the dug-out previously referred to, and
believe me, I was very thankful. The officer there seemed rather
surprised to see me.

"Hullo!" he said. "What news? Anything doing?"

"Yes," I replied. "H.Q. says they are 'blowing' in the early morning, so
I decided to come along to-night and fix up a good position for the
camera, not desiring to attract the too earnest attentions of a Bosche

"Whose mine are they blowing?" said he. "I suppose I shall hear any
moment." Just then a message came through on the 'phone. He picked up
the receiver and listened intently. An earnest conversation was taking
place. I could gather from the remarks that H.Q. was speaking. In a few
minutes he replaced the receiver, and turning to me, said: "D shaft is
going to blow; time, 7.15 a.m."

Soon after I turned in. Rolling myself in a blanket, I lay down on a
trestle-bed in the corner, and in doing so disturbed a couple of rats,
almost as large as rabbits, which had taken up their temporary quarters
there. Apparently there were plenty of them, for several times I felt
the brutes drop on my blanket from holes and crannies in the chalk.
Needless to say, I could not sleep a wink, tired out as I was, and as I
lay there, twenty feet underground, I could hear the rumble and roar of
the shells crashing their way through our parapets, tearing, killing and
maiming our brave lads, who throughout all these horrors held this
section of our line like a wall of steel.

I had been lying there for about half an hour. Then I got up and climbed
out of the incline into the open trench. I worked my way towards the
firing trench; bullets from Bosche machine-guns and snipers were
flattening themselves against the parapet. Several times I had to
squeeze myself close to the muddy sides to allow stretcher-bearers to
pass with their grim burdens; some for the corner of the Quarry, some
for good old "Blighty."

I stayed for a while alongside a sentry.

"Any news?" I asked.

"No, sir," said he, "but I feel as if something is going to happen."

"Come," said I, with a laugh, "this is not the time for dreaming."

"No, sir, I'm not dreaming, but I feel something--something that I can't

"Well, cheer up," I said. "Good night."

"Good night, sir!"

And as I wended my way along I could hear him softly whistling to
himself the refrain of an old song.

At last I came upon the section opposite which our mine was going up in
the morning, and cautiously looking over the parapet I surveyed the
ground in front. There were several sandbags that required shifting. If
they remained it would be necessary to place the camera higher above the
top than was safe or wise. Carefully pulling myself up, I lay along the
top of the parapet and pushed them aside. Several star-shells were fired
whilst I was so engaged, and I dare not stir--I scarcely dared
breathe--for fear the slightest movement would draw a stream of bullets
in my direction.

Undoubtedly this was the only place from which to film the mine
successfully. So marking the spot I slid down into the trench again, and
retraced my steps to the dug-out. I found the officer I had previously
seen enjoying a lovely, steaming tin of tea, and it wasn't many minutes
before I was keeping him company. We sat chatting and smoking for a
considerable time.

"Is everything ready?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "There is over three thousand pounds of it there"
(mentioning an explosive). "Brother Bosche will enjoy it."

"Let me see your map," I said, "and I'll point out the spot where I'm
working. It's about eighty yards away from Bosche. If we work out the
exact degree by the map of the 'blow,' I can obtain the right direction
by prismatic compass, and a few minutes before 'time' lift the camera up
and cover the spot direct. It'll save exposing myself unnecessarily
above the parapet to obtain the right point of view." The point of view
was accordingly settled. It was 124° from the spot chosen for the

We had been so busy over our maps that we had not noticed how quiet
everything had become. Hardly a gun sounded; the silence was uncanny.
Save for the scurrying of the rats and the drip--drip--drip of water,
the silence was like that of the grave.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Bosche is up to no good when he drops silent so soon," he said. The
words of the sentry recurred to me. "I've a feeling, sir, that I cannot
describe." I was beginning to feel the same.

At length my companion broke the silence.

"As Bosche seems to be going easy, and our artillery has shut up shop,
let's lie down," and with that he threw himself on the bed. I sat on the
box, which served as a table, smoking.

Half an hour went by. Things were livening up a bit. We began to hum a
tune or two from the latest revue. Suddenly we were brought to our feet
by a crashing sound that was absolutely indescribable in its intensity.
I rushed up the incline into the trench. What a sight! The whole of our
front for the distance of a mile was one frightful inferno of fire. The
concentration of artillery fire was terrific! Scores of star-shells shot
into the air at the same moment, lighting the ground up like day,
showing up the smoking, blazing mass more vividly than ever. Hundreds of
shells, large and small, were bursting over our trenches simultaneously;
our guns were replying on the German front with redoubled fury; the air
was alive with whirling masses of metal. The noise was indescribable.
The explosions seemed to petrify one.

I made my way as near the front line as possible. A number of Scots
rushed by me with a load of hand grenades. The trenches were packed with
men rushing up to the fight. I asked an officer who raced by,
breathlessly, if Bosche was getting through.

"Yes," he yelled; "they are trying to get through in part of my section.
They have smashed our communication trenches so much that I have got to
take my men round on the right flank. It's hell there!"

It was impossible to get through. The place was choked with men, many of
them badly wounded; some of them, I'm afraid, destined as tenants of the
little cemetery near by.

The awful nightmare continued. Men were coming and going. Reserves were
being rushed forward; more bombs were being sent up. The Bosche
artillery quietened down a bit, but only, as I found out immediately
afterwards, to allow their bombers to attack. I could see the flash of
hundreds of bombs, each one possibly tearing the life out of some of our
brave boys. Nothing in the world could have withstood such a
concentrated artillery fire as the Germans put upon that five hundred
yards of ground. It was torn and torn again, riven to shreds. It was
like the vomiting of a volcano, a mass of earth soddened with the blood
of the heroes who had tried to hold it.

The Germans came on, bombing their way across to what was left of our
trench. They dug themselves in. Then with a whirl and a crash, our guns
spoke again. Our boys, who had been waiting like dogs on a leash, sprang
to the attack. Briton met Bosche. The battle swayed first this way then
that. Our men drove the Germans out twice during the night, and held on
to a section commanding the flank of the original position. Towards four
o'clock the fighting ceased. Daylight was breaking. The wounded were
still being passed to the rear.

I stopped and spoke to an officer. "How have you got on?" I asked.

"We occupy the left flank trench, and command the position. But, what a
fight; it was worse than Loos." Then suddenly, "What are _you_ doing

"I am taking kinema pictures!" I said.

The look of amazement on his face was eloquent of his thoughts.

"Doing _what_?" he asked.

"I am taking kinema pictures," I repeated.

"Well I'm damned," were his exact words. "I never thought you fellows
existed. I've always thought war pictures were fakes, but--well--now I
know different," and giving me a hearty shake of the hand he went on his

Time was now drawing near for my work to begin. Taking the camera to
the selected point in the front line, which, luckily, was just on the
left of the fighting area, I took my bearings by the aid of a compass.
Fixing up a tripod in such close quarters was very difficult. I
stretched an empty sandbag on a piece of wire, cut a hole in it and hung
it on the front of the camera in such a position that the lens projected
through the hole. The sandbag stretched far enough on either side to
shelter my hands, especially the right one, which operated the machine.

I was now ready. I had to risk the attentions of the snipers; it was
unavoidable. Little by little I raised the camera. It was now high
enough up, and ramming some sand against the tripod legs, I waited.

Had the Bosche seen it?

Three more minutes, then the mine. One minute went by; no shots! Another
minute went by. A bullet flew over my head. Immediately afterwards
another buried itself in the parapet, then another. Surely they would
hit it! Heavens how that last minute dragged! To be absolutely sure of
getting the mine from the very beginning, I decided to start exposing a
minute before time. It had to be done; reaching up, I started to expose.
Another and another bullet flew by.

Then the thing happened which I had been dreading. The Bosche opened a
machine-gun on me.

At that moment there was a violent convulsion of the ground, and with a
tremendous explosion the mine went up. It seemed as if the whole earth
in front of us had been lifted bodily hundreds of feet in the air.
Showers of bombs exploded, showing that it had been well under the
German position. Then with a mighty roar the earth and débris fell back
upon itself, forming a crater about 150 feet across. Would our men rush
the crater and occupy it? On that chance, I kept turning the handle.
The smoke subsided; nothing else happened.

The show was over. No, not quite; for as I hurriedly took down the
camera, I evidently put my head up a little too high. There was a crack,
and a shriek near my head, and my service cap was whisked off. The whole
thing happened like a flash of lightning. I dropped into the bottom of
the trench and picked up my cap. There, through the soft part of it,
just above the peak, were two holes where a bullet had passed through.
One inch nearer and it would have been through my head.

Can you realise what my thoughts were at that precise moment?



     The First Kinematograph Film Taken of the Western Front--And
     How I Took It Whilst Travelling Through the Air at Eighty
     Miles an Hour--Under Shell-fire--Over Ypres--A Thrilling
     Experience--And a Narrow Escape--A Five Thousand Foot Dive
     Through Space.

"I feel confident I can manage it, and that the result will be both
instructive and unique, and provided the weather is clear and I get as
small a dose of 'Bosche' as possible, there is no reason why it
shouldn't be successful."

"Of course, I am quite aware of the atmospheric difficulties. The fact
that it is so thick and misty is entirely due to the heavy body of
moisture in the ground--but if I start off early in the morning I may
just escape it."

This conversation took place in the office of a certain British
aerodrome in France between the Flight Commander and myself. We had been
going into the pros and cons of an aerial expedition over the German
lines. I was anxious to film the whole line from an aeroplane.

"Well," said he, "what about the height? I think I had better call in
the Captain," and pressing a bell an orderly quickly appeared and was
sent off to inform the Captain that his presence was required.

"I say," said the Flight Commander, "this is Malins, the War Office
Kinematographer." He then explained my mission and requirements.

"Now," he said, after all preliminaries had been discussed, "the
question is about the height. What is a tolerably safe height over

"About 8,000 feet, I should say, though of course if we go well over his
lines it will be necessary to rise higher. There are too many
'Archibalds' about to dodge any lower."

"Well," I replied, "I'll start taking my scenes when we arrive at the
coast-line. We can then follow it along and turn off inland towards
Ypres. I should very much like to film that place from above, then
follow down the lines, passing over St. Eloi, Ploegsteert,
Armentières, Neuve Chapelle, Richebourg, Festubert, Givenchy, Loos,
Hohenzollern Redoubt, and on to Arras. I am of course entirely in your
hands. I do not want to jeopardise the trip, nor wish you to run any
unnecessary risks, you understand, but I should like to get as low as
possible, and so obtain more detail. It will be the first kinematograph
film ever taken of the Western Front."

"Well," said the Flight Commander, rising, "you have full permission.
You can have the use of a BE 2C machine, with Captain ----. Do what you
like, but take care. Don't be rash. Good luck to you. I shall be as
anxious as you to see the result."

In the Captain's company I left the office, and together we went round
to make arrangements regarding the means of fixing my camera.

The machine was the usual type of passenger-carrying aero, numbered BE
2C, a very stable and reliable machine, but according to the Captain,
not very fast. Speed in this case was not an absolute necessity, unless
a Fokker favoured us with his attentions.


I went aboard to find the best means of fixing and operating my camera.
I decided to use my debrie, not the aeroscope. The latter had jambed a
day or two previous, and I had not had an opportunity of repairing
it. The observer's seat was in the front, and just above, on the main
struts, was a cross-tube of metal. On each end was an upright socket,
for the purpose of dropping into it a Lewis gun. The pilot also had the
same in front of him.

I suggested that a metal fixing, which would fit the socket, and a
tilting arrangement, so that it would be possible to raise or lower the
camera to any angle, would suit admirably, and on the other side, in
case of attack, a Lewis gun could be fitted.

"It's well to be prepared for emergencies," said the Captain. "It's
quite possible we shall be attacked."

"Well," I said, "I will have a good shot at him if he does turn up. And
who knows--I may be able to get a picture of the Hun machine falling. By
Jove, what a thrill it would provide!"

Instructions were given to the excellent mechanics employed in the
R.F.C., and within an hour or so the metal tilting-top was made and
fixed on the plane.

"You will have to wrap up well," said the Captain. "It's jolly cold up
there. It looks rather misty, and that will make it all the worse. Now
then, all aboard."

Up I scrambled, or rather wriggled, between a network of wire stays, and
taking my seat the camera was handed to me. I fastened it on one side of
the gun-mounting and fixed a Lewis gun on the other, making sure I had
spare boxes of film ready, and spare drums of ammunition. I then
fastened the broad web belt round my waist, and fixed on my goggles.

I was ready for the ascent.

My companion was in his seat, and the machine was wheeled into position
for starting. The mechanics were turning the propeller round to suck
the gas into the many cylinders, to facilitate easier starting.

"All ready," shouted the Captain. "Right away, contact, let her go." And
with a jerk the motor started.

The whirl of the huge blades developed into a deafening roar. The
machine vibrated horribly. I clung to my camera, holding it tight to the
socket. I knew that once in the air the shake would be reduced to a
minimum. Faster and faster whirled the propeller as the Captain opened
the throttle. How sweet and perfect was the hum of the giant motor. Not
the slightest sound of a misfire. Being an ardent motorist, I could tell
that the engine was in perfect tune. The Captain leaned over and shouted
to me through the roar to fasten the telephone receiver against my ear
under my leather cap.

"That," said he, pointing to a mouthpiece attached to a small rubber
tube, "is the transmitter. If you want to give me any instructions shout
into that. I shall hear you. All fit?" he asked.

I nodded my head. He took his seat, and opened the throttle. The engine
leapt into new life. The roar was deafening. The whirring blades flung
the air back into my face, cutting it as if with a whip. He dropped his
arm. The men drew away the chocks from the wheels, and amid shouts of
"Good luck!" from the officers present, the machine sprang forward like
a greyhound, bounding over the grass, until at last it rose like a
gigantic bird into the air.

The earth gradually drew away. Higher and higher we rose, and began to
circle round and round to gain height.

"We will get up to three thousand feet before we strike towards the
coast," he shouted through the telephone.

The vibration, now we were in the air, was barely perceptible, at any
rate it was not sufficient to affect the taking of my scenes. In case
any moisture collected on my lens, I had brought a soft silk pad, to
wipe it with occasionally. Higher, still higher, we rose.

"What's the height now?" I asked.

"Very nearly three thousand feet," he said. "We are now going towards
the coast. That's Dunkirk over there."

I peered ahead. The port, with its shipping, was clearly discernible.
Over the sea hung a dense mist, looking for all the world like a
snowfield. Here and there, in clear patches, the sun gleamed upon the
water, throwing back its dazzling reflections.

As soon as we reached the coast-line, I shouted: "Proceed well along
this side, so that I can obtain an oblique view. It looks much better
than directly above the object. What's our speed?"

"Sixty miles," he said. "I shall keep it up until we reach the German

He turned sharp to the right. We are now following the coast-line
towards Ostend. How beautiful the sand dunes looked from above. The
heavy billows of sea-mist gave it a somewhat mystic appearance. How cold
it was. I huddled down close into my seat, my head only above the
fuselage. Keeping my eye upon the wonderful panorama unfolding itself
out beneath me, I glanced at my camera and tested the socket. Yes, it
was quite firm.

"We are nearing the lines now," my companion shouted. "Can you see them
on your right? That's the Belgium area. Our section, as you know, begins
just before Ypres. Will this height suit you? Shall I follow the
trenches directly overhead or a little to one side?"

"Keep this side, I'll begin taking now." Kneeling up in my seat, I
directed my camera downwards and started filming our lines and the
German position stretching away in the distance.

We were nearing Ypres, that shell-battered city of Flanders. White balls
of smoke here and there were bursting among the ruins, showing that the
Huns were still shelling it. What a frightful state the earth was in.
For miles and miles around it had the appearance of a sieve, with
hundreds of thousands of shell-holes, and like a beautiful green ribbon,
winding away as far as the eye could see, was that wonderful yet
terrible strip of ground between the lines, known as "No Man's Land."

We were now running into a bank of white fleecy clouds, which enveloped
us in its folds, blotting the whole earth from view. I held my
handkerchief over the lens of the camera to keep the moisture from
settling upon it. After a time several breaks appeared in the clouds
beneath, and the earth looked wonderful. It seemed miles--many
miles--away. Rivers looked like silver streaks, and houses mere specks
upon the landscape. Here and there a puff of white smoke told of a
bursting shell. But for that occasional, somewhat unpleasant reminder, I
might have been thousands of miles away from the greatest war in

Who could imagine anything more wonderful, more fantastic? I had dreamed
of such things, I had read of them; I even remembered having read, years
ago, some of the wonderful stories in _Grimm's Fairy Tales_. To my
childish mind, they seemed very wonderful indeed. There were fairies,
goblins, mysterious figures, castles which floated in the air, wonderful
lands which shifted in a night, at the touch of a magic wand or the
sound of a magic word. Things which fired my youthful imagination and
set me longing to share in their adventures. But never in my wildest
dreams did I think I should live to do the same thing, to go where I
listed; to fly like a bird, high above the clouds. It was like an
adventure in fairyland to take this weird and wonderful creation of men,
called an aeroplane, through the home of the skylark.

Boom! Boom! I was suddenly brought back to--no, not to earth, but
to--things more material.

Looking down, I could discern several balls of smoke, which I
immediately recognised as shrapnel shells, or "Archibalds," that had
been fired at us by the Germans. They were well below. I looked round at
the Captain. He was smiling through his goggles, and humorously jerked
his thumb in the direction of the bursting "Archies."

"Too high, eh?" I shouted. But I had forgotten that in the fearful hum
of the rushing air and whirling motors my voice would not carry. It was
literally cut off as it left my lips. I picked up the 'phone and shouted
through it.

"Yes, they are pretty safe where they are," he said drily. Then a few
more burst underneath us.

By this time we were well out of the cloud bank. The atmosphere was much
clearer. I knelt up again on my seat and began to expose, and continued
turning the handle while we passed over St. Eloi and Hill 60. On certain
sections I could see that a considerable "strafe" was going on. Fritz
seemed to be having a very trying time. Near Messines my film suddenly
ran out. I had to reload. This was anything but an easy operation. I
unscrewed my camera from the gun socket, and in doing so had a near
escape from doing a head-dive to earth. Like an idiot, I had unfastened
my waist-strap, and in reaching over the fuselage my camera nearly
over-balanced, the aeroplane contributing to this result by making a
sudden dive in order to avoid an "Archibald."

For a second or two I had clear visions of flying through space on wings
other than those of an aeroplane. But fortunately I had the steel
crossbar to cling to, and this saved me.

Getting back to my seat, I asked the pilot to circle round the spot for
a few minutes. While changing my spool, I settled down in the bottom of
the car and reloaded my camera, eight thousand feet above the earth.
This operation occupied about ten minutes, and when I had finished I
gingerly raised myself on the seat and refixed the camera in its socket.

"Right away," I shouted. "Is it possible to go any lower?"

"It's very risky," he said, "but if you like I will try. Hold tight,
it's a dive."

I held tight. The nose of the machine tilted forward until it seemed as
if it was absolutely standing on end. The earth rushed up to meet us.
For the moment it seemed as if the aeroplane was out of control, but
with a graceful glide, which brought us level, we continued our journey
at a height of three thousand feet.

"Get what you want quickly," he shouted. "We can't stay here long."

I began to expose again. By now we were over line after line of
trenches. At times we were well over the Bosche lines. I continued to
film the scenes.

First came Ploegsteert, Fromelles, and Aubers Ridge. Then we crossed
to Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, La Bassée and Loos. Town after town,
village after village, were passed over, all of them in ruins. From
above the trenches, like a splash of white chalk dropped into the middle
of a patch of brown earth. The long winding trenches cut out of the
chalk twisted and wound along valley and dale like a serpent. Looking
down upon it all, it seemed so very insignificant. Man? What was he? His
works looked so small that it seemed one could, with a sweep of the
foot, crush him out of existence. How small he was, yet how great; how
powerful, yet how weak! We were now over La Bassée.

"We shall have to rise," shouted my companion. "Look up there." I looked
up, and thousands of feet above us was a small speck.

"Bosche plane," said he. "Hold tight!" And I did.



     Chasing an "Enemy" Aeroplane at a Height of 13,500 Feet--And
     What Came of It--A Dramatic Adventure in which the Pilot
     Played a Big Part--I Get a Nasty Shock--But am Reassured--A
     Freezing Experience--Filming the Earth as we Dived Almost
     Perpendicularly--A Picture that would Defy the Most Ardent
     Futurist to Paint.

"Is that gun ready?" asked my companion, twisting round in his seat. I
nodded. "Right-o! I'm going to get up higher. We are absolutely lost
down here."

I fixed on a drum of cartridges, and with a butt in my hand was ready
for any emergency. Higher and higher we rose. The mist was becoming more
and more dense. Photographing was impossible. The cold seemed to chill
one's bones. I could tell by the increasing vibration we were going "all
out," in order to get above the enemy machine, which seemed to be
drawing closer and closer. I looked at the pilot. He had his eyes fixed
upon the Bosche.

"What are we now?"

"Eight thousand," he said. "That chap must be at least thirteen thousand
up. Do you notice whether he is coming nearer?"

I told him it seemed to me as if he was doing so.

Up and up we went. Colder and colder it grew. My face was frozen. To
breathe, I had to turn my head sideways to avoid the direct rush of air
from the whirling propeller. I could just discern the ground through the
mist. I looked around for the Bosche. He seemed further away. I shouted
to the pilot. He looked round.

"I'm going to chase it," he said. And away he went. But the faster we
moved the faster went the other machine. At last we discovered the
reason. In fact, I believe we both discovered it at precisely the same
moment. _The plane was one of our own!_ I looked at the Captain. He
smiled at me, and I'm positive he felt disappointed at the discovery.

"What's the height?" I enquired.

"About thirteen thousand feet," he said. "Shall we go higher? We may get
above the mist."

"Try a little more," I replied. "But I don't think it will be possible
to film any more scenes to-day; the fog is much too heavy."

The whole machine was wet with moisture. It seemed as if we should never
rise above it. I had never before known it so thick. My companion asked
if we should return. With reluctance I agreed, then, turning round face
to the sun, we rushed away.

The mist did not seem to change. Mile after mile we encountered the same
impenetrable blanket of clammy moisture. I was huddling as tight as
possible to the bottom of the seat, taking advantage of the least bit of
cover from the biting, rushing swirl of icy-cold air. Mile after mile;
it seemed hours up there in the solitude. I watched the regular dancing
up and down of the valves on top of the engine. I was thinking of a tune
that would fit to the regular beat of the tappets.

I shouted through the 'phone.

No answer.

He must be too cold to speak, I thought. For myself, I did not know
whether I had jaws or not. The lashing, biting wind did not affect my
face now. I could feel nothing. Once I tried to pinch my cheek; it was
lifeless. It might have been clay. My jaw was practically set stiff. I
could only just articulate.

I tried again to attract my companion's attention. Still no answer.

I was wondering whether anything had happened to him, when something did
happen which very nearly petrified me. I felt a clutch on my shoulder.
Quickly turning my head, I was horrified to see him standing on his seat
and leaning over my shoulder.

"Get off the telephone tube, you idiot. You are sitting on it," he
shouted. "We can't speak to one another."

"Telephone be damned!" I managed to shout. "Get back to your seat. Don't
play monkey-tricks up here."

If you can imagine yourself fourteen thousand feet above the earth,
sitting in an aeroplane, and the pilot letting go all his controls, as
he stands on his feet shouting in your ear, you will be able to realise,
but only to a very slight extent, what my feelings were at this precise

He returned to his seat. He was smiling. I fumbled about underneath and
found the tube. Putting it to my mouth, I asked him what he meant by it.

"That's all right, my dear chap," he said, "there's no need to get
alarmed. The old bus will go along merrily on its own."

"I'll believe all you say. In fact I'll believe anything you like to
tell me, but I'd much rather you sit in your seat and control the
machine," I replied.

He chuckled, apparently enjoying the joke to the full, but during the
remainder of the journey I made sure I was not sitting on the speaking

The mist was gradually clearing now. The sun shone gloriously, the
clouds, a long way beneath us, looked more substantial; through the gaps
in their fleecy whiteness the earth appeared. It seemed a long time
since I had seen it. We were again coming to the edge of a cloud bank.
The atmosphere beyond was exceedingly clear.

"We are nearly home," said my companion. "Are you going to take any more

"Yes," I said, "I suppose you'll spiral down?"


"I'll take a film showing the earth revolving. It'll look very quaint on
the screen."

"Here goes then. We are going to dive down to about six thousand feet,
so hold on tight to your strap."

The engines almost stopped. Suddenly we seemed to be falling earthwards.
Down--down--down! We were diving as nearly perpendicular as it is
possible to be. Sharp pains shot through my head. It was getting worse.
The pain was horrible. The right side of my face and head seemed as if a
hundred pin-points were being driven into it. I clutched my face in
agony; then I realised the cause. Coming down from such a height, at so
terrific a speed, the different pressure of the atmosphere affected the
blood pressure on the head.

Suddenly the downward rush was stopped. The plane was brought to an even

"I'm going to spiral now," said the pilot. "Ready?"

"Right away," I said, and knelt again in my seat. The plane suddenly
seemed to swerve. Then it slanted at a most terrifying angle, and began
to descend rapidly towards the earth in a spiral form. I filmed the
scene on the journey. To say the earth looked extraordinary would be
putting it very mildly. The ground below seemed to rush up and mix with
the clouds. First the earth seemed to be over one's head, then the
clouds. I am sure the most ardent futurist artist would find it utterly
impossible to do justice to such a scene. Round and round we went. Now
one side, now the other. How I held to my camera-handle goodness only
knows. Half the time, I am sure, I turned it mechanically.

Suddenly we came to an even keel. The earth seemed within jumping
distance. The nose dipped again, the propeller whirled. Within a few
seconds we were bounding along on the grassy space of the aerodrome, and
finally coming to rest we were surrounded by the mechanics, who quickly
brought the machine to a standstill.

"By the way," I said to the pilot, as we went off to tea, "how long were
we up there altogether?"

"Two hours," he replied.

Two hours! Great Scott! It seemed days!



     The Threshold of Tremendous Happenings--General ----'s
     Speech to His Men on the Eve of Battle--Choosing My Position
     for Filming the "Big Push"--Under Shell-fire--A Race of
     Shrieking Devils--Fritz's Way of "Making Love"--I Visit the
     "White City"--And On the Way have Another Experience of Gas

The time for which England has been preparing during these past two
awful years is here. We are now on the threshold of tremendous
happenings. The Great Offensive is about to begin. What will be the

We see the wonderful organisation of our vast armies, and we know the
firm and resolute methods of our General Staff--as I have seen and known
them during the war--would leave nothing to be desired. As a machine, it
is the most wonderful that was ever created.

My position as Official Kinematographer has afforded me unique
opportunities to gain knowledge of the whole system required to wage the
most terrible war that has ever been known to mankind. I have not let
these opportunities slip by.

The great day was coming; there was a mysterious something which
affected everyone at G.H.Q. There was no definite news to hand; nobody,
with the exception of those directly concerned, knew when and where the
blow was to be struck. Some thought on the northern part of our line,
others the centre; others, again, the south. In the home, in the
streets, in the cafés and gardens, the one topic of conversation
was--the coming Great Offensive.

I was told by a colonel that my chance to make history was coming. That
was all. But those few words conveyed an enormous lot to me. Later in
the day I was told by a captain to proceed to the front line, to choose
a suitable position wherein to fix up my camera. Our section facing
Gouerment was suggested to me as the place where there was likely to be
the most excitement, and I immediately set out for that section. During
the journey I was held up by a large body of our men, who turned out
afterwards to be the London Scottish. They were formed up in a square,
and in the centre was a general, with his staff officers, addressing the
men. His words thrilled the hearts of every one who heard them:

     "Gentlemen of the London Scottish: Within the next few days
     you will take part in the greatest battle in the history of
     the world. To you has been entrusted the taking and holding
     of Gouerment.... England is looking to you to free the world
     from slavery and militarism that is epitomized in the German
     nation and German Kultur.... Gentlemen, I know you will not
     fail, and from the bottom of my heart I wish you the best of

I waited until the address was finished, and then proceeded to a certain
place, striking out on the left and trudging through innumerable
communication trenches, at times up to my knees in mud and water.
Eventually I reached an eminence facing the village of Gouerment. It was
in a valley. The German trenches ran parallel with my position, and on
the right I could discern the long green ribbon of grass termed "No
Man's Land," stretching as far as the eye could see. The whole front of
the German lines was being shelled by our heavy guns; the place was a
spitting mass of smoke and flame. Salvo after salvo was being poured
from our guns.


"What an inspiring sight," I said to an officer standing by my side,
"and these shells were made by the women of England."

"Well," he said, "you see Gommecourt; that's all coming down in a day or
two. Every gun, large and small, will concentrate its fire on it, and
level it to the ground. That's your picture."

"In that case," I replied, "I shall want to be much nearer our front
line. I must get within five hundred yards of it. What a sight! What a
film it will be!"

I stood watching the bombardment for some time, then fixing my camera
position, I returned. Divisional H.Q. told me I should be informed in
ample time when the attack was to be made.

That afternoon I returned to G.H.Q., but the best laid schemes of mice
and men aft gang agley. I was told that night to prepare immediately to
proceed to the H.Q. of a certain Division, with instructions to attach
myself to them for the next week; all particulars would be given to me
in the morning.

I received my instructions next morning. I was to proceed to the
Division, report myself, and I should receive all the information and
assistance I required. With parting wishes for the best of luck, and
"don't come back wounded," I left H.Q., and proceeded by car to the
Company H.Q., where I was received with every courtesy by General ----.

He told me the best thing to do was to go to Divisional H.Q. and see the
General. He had been informed of my arrival, and the final details could
be arranged with him, such as the best points of vantage for fixing up
my camera. Accordingly I hurried off to Divisional H.Q. and met the
General. On being ushered into his room, I found him sitting at a table
with a large scale map of a certain section of our line before him. He
looked the very incarnation of indomitable will, this General of the
incomparable ---- Division.

I quickly explained my mission, and told him I should like to go to the
front trenches to choose my position.

"Certainly," he said, "that is a very wise plan, but if you will look
here I will show you the spot which, in my opinion, will make an ideal
place. This is the German position. This, of course, is Beaumont Hamel,
which is our objective. This is as far as we are going; it will be a
pivot from which the whole front south of us will radiate. We are going
to give the village an intense bombardment this afternoon, at 4 o'clock;
perhaps you would like to obtain that?"

"Yes, sir," I replied, "it is most necessary to my story. What guns are
you using?"

"Everything, from trench mortars to 15-inch howitzers. We are going to
literally raze it to the ground. It is one of the strongest German
redoubts, and it's not going to be an easy job to occupy it; but we
achieved the impossible at Gallipoli, and with God's help we will win
here. There is a spot here in our firing trench called 'Jacob's
Ladder,'" and pointing to the map, he showed it me.

"That certainly looks a most excellent point, sir," I said. "What is the
distance from Bosche lines?"

"About 150 yards. They 'strafe' it considerably, from what I am told;
but, of course, you will have to take your chance, the same as all my
other officers."

"That is unavoidable, sir. The nature of my work does not permit me to
be in very comfortable places, if I am to get the best results."

"Right," he said, "if you will report to Brigade H.Q. the Brigade Major
will give you what orderlies you require, and you had better draw
rations with them while you are there. He has instructions to give you
every assistance."

"Oh, by the way, sir, what time does the mine go up?"

"Ten minutes to zero," he replied. "You quite understand, don't you?
Major ---- will give you zero time to-morrow night."

After lunching with the General I started off for Brigade H.Q. The
weather was vile. It had been raining practically without break for
several days, and was doing its best to upset everything and give us as
much trouble as possible.

What an enormous number of munition waggons and lorries I passed on the
road; miles and miles of them, all making for the front line. "Ye gods!"
I thought, "Bosche is certainly going to get it."

I reached my destination about 2.30. What a "strafe" there was going on!
The concussion of what I afterwards found out was our 15-inch howitzers
was terrible. The very road seemed to shake, and when I opened the door
of the temporary Brigade H.Q., one gun which went off close by shook the
building to such an extent that I really thought for the moment a shell
had struck the house.

"Captain ----, I presume?" said I, addressing an officer seated at a
long table making out reports and giving them over to waiting dispatch
riders. The room was a hive of industry.

"Gad, sir," he said, "are you the kinema man? I am pleased to see you.
Take a seat, and tell me what you want. You are the last person I
expected to see out here. But, seriously, are you really going to film
'The Day'?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Where do you propose to take it?"

"General ---- suggested 'Jacob's Ladder.'"

"What?" came a startled chorus from about half a dozen other officers.
"Take photos from 'Jacob's Ladder,'" they repeated in tones of
amazement. "Good Lord! it's an absolute death-trap. Bosche strafes it
every day, and it's always covered by snipers."

"Well," I said, "it certainly seems by the map to be an ideal place to
get the mine going up and the advance over 'No Man's Land.'"

"Granted, but--well!--it's your shoot. Will you let us introduce the
doctor? You'll need him."

"Gentlemen," I said, with mock gravity, "I assure you it would be most
difficult for me to receive a more cordial welcome." This remark caused
some laughter. Turning to the Captain, I said: "Will you give me an
orderly? One who knows the trenches, as I wish to go there this
afternoon to film the 'strafe' at 4 o'clock. I shall stay down there for
the next few days, to be on the spot for 'The Day,' and ready for
anything that follows."

"Certainly," he said. "Have you got a trench map? What about blankets
and grub?"

"I have my blanket and some provisions, but if I can draw some bully and
biscuits, I shall manage quite well."

Having secured supplies and filled my knapsack, I strapped it on my
shoulder, fixed the camera-case on my back and, handing the tripod to
another man, started off. I had hardly got more than two hundred yards
when the Captain ran up to me and said that he had just had a 'phone
message from D.H.Q., saying that the General was going to address the
men on the following day, before proceeding to battle. Would I like to
film the scene? It would take place about 10 a.m. Naturally, I was
delighted at the prospect of such a picture, and agreed to be on the
field at the time mentioned. Then with a final adieu we parted.

The weather was still vile. A nasty, drizzly mist hung over everything.
The appearance of the whole country was much like it is on a bad
November day at home. Everything was clammy and cold. The roads were
covered to a depth of several inches with slimy, clayey mud. Loads of
munitions were passing up to the Front. On all sides were guns, large
and small. The place bristled with them, and they were so cunningly
hidden that one might pass within six feet of them without being aware
of their existence. But you could not get away from the sounds. The
horrible dinning continued, from the sharp rat-tat-tat-tat of the French
75mm., of which we had several batteries in close proximity, and from
the bark of the 18-pounders to the crunching roar of the 15-inch
howitzer. The air was literally humming with shells. It seemed like a
race of shrieking devils, each trying to catch up with the one in front
before it reached its objective.

Salvo after salvo; crash after crash; and in the rare moments of
stillness, in this nerve-shattering prelude to the Great Push, I could
hear the sweet warblings of a lark, as it rose higher and higher in the
murky, misty sky.

At one place I had to pass through a narrow lane, and on either side
were hidden batteries, sending round upon round into the German
trenches, always under keen observation from enemy-spotting balloons and
aeroplanes. The recent shell-holes in the roadway made me pause before
proceeding further. I noticed a sergeant of the Lancashire Fusiliers at
the entrance to a thickly sand-bagged shelter, and asked him if there
was another way to the section of the front line I sought.

"No, sir," he said, "that is the only way; but it's mighty unhealthy
just now. The Hun is crumpling it with his 5.9-inch H.E., and making a
tidy mess of the road. But he don't hit our guns, sir. He just improves
their appearance by making a nice little frill of earth around them, he
does, and--look out, sir; come in here.

"Here she comes!"

With a murderous shriek and horrible splitting roar a German shell burst
on the roadway about fifty yards away.

"That is Fritz's way of making love, sir," he said, with a chuckle;
which remark admirably reflects the marvellous morale of our men.

"Have they been shelling the avenues much?" I asked, referring to the
various communication trenches leading to the front line.

"Yes, sir. Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are being severely crumped. I would suggest
No. 5, sir; it's as clear as any of them. I should advise you to get
along this lane as fast as possible. I have been here some time, so I
know Fritz's little ways."

He saluted, and like a mole disappeared into his dug-out as I moved

I told my man to keep about ten yards behind me, so that in the event of
a shell bursting near by one or the other of us would have a chance of

"Now," I said, "let it go at a double. Come on," and with head well
forward I raced up the road.

Altogether, with my camera, I was carrying about seventy pounds in
weight, so you can guess it was no easy matter. There was about another
150 yards to go, when I heard the ominous shriek of a German shell.

"Down in the ditch," I yelled. "Lie flat," and suiting the action to the
word, I flung myself down in the mud and water near a fallen tree. Crash
came the shell, and it exploded with a deafening roar more on the side
of the road than the previous one, and near enough to shower mud and
water all over me as I lay there.

"Now then," I yelled to my man, "double-up before they range the next
one," and jumping up we raced away. Not before I had got well clear,
and near the old railway station, did I stay and rest. While there
several shells crashed in and around the road we had just left. I was
glad I was safely through.

With the exception of the usual heavy shelling, getting down to the
front trench was quite uneventful. My objective was a place called "The
White City," so called because it is cut out of the chalk-bank of our
position facing Beaumont Hamel. Getting there through the communication
trenches was as difficult as in the winter. In places the mud and water
reached my knees, and when you had come to the end of your journey you
were as much like dirty plaster-cast as anything possibly could be.

After three-quarters of an hour's trudging and splashing I reached "The
White City," and turned down a trench called "Tenderloin Street." About
one hundred yards on my right, at the junction of "King Street" and "St.
Helena Street," my guide pointed me out the Brigade dug-out. Depositing
my camera and outfit close to some sandbags I went inside and introduced
myself. Four officers were present.

"By Jove!" said one, "you are welcome. Have a drink. Here's a

"Here you are," said another, "have a match. Now tell us all the news
from home. My word, we haven't heard a blessed thing for days. Have you
really come to photograph 'The Day'?"

"Yes," I replied. "But I have come this afternoon to look round, and to
film the 'strafe' at Beaumont Hamel. You know the trenches round here:
where can I see the village to the best advantage?"

"Well," said one, "there are several places, but Bosche is 'hating' us
rather this afternoon, and the firing trench is anything but healthy.
He's been properly dosing us with 'whizz-bangs,' but you know he _will_
have his bit of fun. You see, when Fritz starts we let off a few 'flying
pigs' in return, which undoubtedly disturbs his peace of mind."

"By my map, a spot called 'Lanwick Street' seems likely," I said. "It's
bang opposite the village, and they are putting the 15-inch on the
eastern corner. If you will be good enough to guide me, I will have a
look now; it will take me some time to fix up my camera in reasonable

"You won't find much safety there," he replied. "We have practically to
rebuild the parapet every night, but only for a few more days, thank
Heaven! Anyway, come along."

We proceeded by way of "King Street" to "Lanwick Street," and several
times we had to fall flat in the trench bottom to escape being hit by
shells. They seemed at times to burst almost overhead. The "whizz-bangs"
which Fritz puts over are rather little beggars; you have no time to
dodge them. They come with a "phut" and a bang that for sheer speed
knocks spots off a flash of lightning. One only thinks to duck when the
beastly thing has gone off.

"Lanwick Street" was the usual sort of trench. At one end was an
artillery observation officer, correcting the range of his guns.

"Go easy, won't you?" he said to me. "Bosche has an idea we use this
corner for something rather important. If he sees your camera we shall
certainly receive his attention. For Heaven's sake, keep your head

"Right-o!" I said. "Lend me your periscope; I will have a look at the
ground first through that."

I looked on the village, or rather the late site of it. It was
absolutely flattened out, with the exception of a few remaining stumps
of trees, which used to be a beautiful wood, near which the village

"That's been done by our guns in five days; some mess, eh?"

"My word, yes. Now about this afternoon's bombardment; they are working
on the left-hand corner."

I chose a spot for working and fixing up my tripod, and waited until
4.30 p.m.

In the meantime, with the aid of a stick, I gradually pushed away
several sandbags which interfered with my view on the parapet. To do
this it was necessary to raise myself head and shoulders above the top
and, with one arm pushed forward, I worked the bags clear. I felt much
better when that job was done.

"You're lucky," said the A.O. "I had one of my periscopes hit clean by a
bullet this morning. Fritz must be having a nap, or he would have had
you for a cert."

"Anyway," I replied, "it gives me a comparatively clear view now."

Time was drawing near. I prepared my camera by clothing it in an old
piece of sacking, and gently raising it on to the tripod I screwed it
tight. Then gradually raising my head to the view-finder, I covered the
section which was going to be "strafed," and wrapping my hand in a khaki
handkerchief, waited.

Our guns were simply pouring shells on the Bosche. The first of the
15-inch came over and exploded with a deafening roar. The sight was

I began to expose my film, swinging the camera first on one side then
the other. Shell after shell came roaring over; one dropped on the
remaining walls of a château, and when the smoke had cleared there was
absolutely nothing left. How in the world anything could live in such a
maelstrom of explosive it is difficult to conceive.

I continued to expose my film at intervals until about 6 o'clock, and
twice I had to snatch my camera down hastily and take shelter, for the
"whizz-bangs" came smashing too close for safety.

I was just taking down my camera when several shells exploded in the
trenches about fifteen yards behind us. Then a man came running into our
traverse: "Shure, sor," he said, "and it's gas-shells the dirty swine
are sending over. My eyes seem to be burning out." His eyes were
undoubtedly bad. Tears were pouring down his cheeks, and he was trying
to ease the pain by binding his handkerchief over them. Then I smelt the
gas, and having had a previous dose at Vernilles, and not wishing for
further acquaintance with it, I bade my man rush as quickly as possible
back to "The White City."

I got back to H.Q. dug-out just in time for tea. I told the officers
present of my success in filming the "strafe," and I learned that it was
the first time Fritz had put tear-shells over them. "We must certainly
prepare our goggles," they said.

"Have you seen 'Jacob's Ladder'?" enquired one of the officers.

"No," I replied, "I shall wait until dusk. It will then be safer to move

We sat smoking and talking about the prospects of the "Big Push," and at
last we all lapsed into silence, which was broken by the arrival of a
lieutenant. The Captain looked up from his bench. "Hullo, what's up? Any

"Oh, no; nothing much, sir," said he, "but H.Q. wishes me to go out for
a raid to-night. They want a Bosche to talk to; there are a few things
they want to know. We haven't brought one in for several nights now.
They asked me to go out again; I said, if there was one to be had my
Company would bring him along."


"Right-o!" said the Captain. "Who are you taking?"

"---- for one, and a few men--the same lot that have been across with me
before. H.Q. specially want to know the actual results of the heavy
'strafe.' They are going to cease fire to-night, between twelve and one.
I want to find out where their machine guns are fixed up----" And so the
conversation went on.

At that moment another officer came in, and I got him to show me round
"Jacob's Ladder." We went through "King Street" again, and followed the
trench until we arrived at the place. The formation of this point was

A stranger coming upon it for the first time would undoubtedly get a
slight shock for, upon turning into a traverse, you come abruptly upon
an open space, as if the trench had been sliced off, leaving an opening
from which you could look down upon our front line trenches, not only
upon them but well in front of them.

I was on the bank of a small valley; leading down from this position
were about twenty-five steps, hence the name "Jacob's Ladder." Our
parapet still followed down, like the handrail of a staircase, only of
course much higher.

The position from a photographic point of view was admirable, and I
doubt whether on any other part of our front such a suitable point could
be found. "Jove!" I said, "this is the ideal place. I will definitely
decide upon it."

"If you look carefully over here you will see the Bosche line quite
plainly. They are about seventy yards away, and at that point we are
going to put a barrage of fire on their second line with our Stokes
guns. We are going to do that from 'Sunken Road,' midway in 'No Man's
Land.' Can you see it there?"

"Yes," I replied; "splendid. As soon as I have got the mine exploding,
and our men going over the parapet and across 'No Man's Land,' I can
immediately--if all's well--swing my camera on to the barrage and film
that. This is a wonderful position."

"It rests entirely with Fritz now. If he does not crump this place you
will be all right, but they are sure to plaster our front trench as soon
as they see us go over."

"Well, I must risk that," I said.

And we turned and retraced our steps to the "White City," where I bade
my companion good night, and returned to film the scene of the General's
speech to his men the following morning.



     The General's Speech to the Fusiliers Before Going Into
     Action--Filming the 15-inch Howitzers--A Miniature
     Earthquake--"The Day" is Postponed--Keeping Within "The
     Limits"--A Surprise Meeting in the Trenches--A Reminder of
     Other Days--I Get Into a Tight Corner--And Have An
     Unpleasantly Hot Experience--I Interview a Trench
     Mortar--Have a Lively Quarter of an Hour--And Then Get Off.

Rain, rain, rain. It was like a dull, dismal December night. Owing to
the tramping of hundreds of feet up and down the trenches, they became
like a quagmire. We slipped and slid, clutching to the sticky, clay
walls, and floundering up to our knees in holes, and, to make matters
worse, Bosche, who knew that this was the time we brought up fresh
munitions, crumped the Fifth Avenue as hard as he could. One or two
shells crashed into the trench on the way up, and I had to pass over two
working parties (by the aid of a candle-light, screened) searching for,
and placing the remains of their comrades in sacks.

Good God! it's a hellish game; and the terror of war gripped one's
heartstrings that night. The momentary flash of the exploding shells
lighted up the faces of the men with ghastly vividness, some grinding
out curses then groping blindly on. I was glad when the journey was
ended, and I turned into a dug-out in the village to rest for the night.

Next morning a misty, drizzly pall still hung over everything. I
wondered how in the world our men were going to attack under such
conditions, and to-morrow was "The Day." I pitied them with all my
heart and soul. And then I thought of myself, and my own particular job.
I couldn't possibly "take" in such disgusting weather. The result would
be an absolute failure. I controlled my feelings, and hoped for the

The time arrived for the General's speech. Reaching the field, I found
all the men mustered up. The General had just arrived. I started to film
the scenes as they presented themselves to me. Jove! The speech was the
most impressive that I had ever heard. I will give it as it was spoken,
as near as I can. I do not think that it has been published before:

     "Officers and men of the West Riding Field Company, R.E.,
     and -- Battalion, Royal Fusiliers:

     "I hoped yesterday to be able to come and wish you good
     luck, on the first anniversary of the engagement in Gully
     Ravine, there the Royal Fusiliers took the Turkish fifth
     line of trenches. Owing to the rain, however, and to the
     discomfort to which you would have been placed, I postponed
     my visit until to-day.

     "I want to tell you something of the situation as it now
     stands. You are probably aware that we are now taking part
     in the greatest battle ever fought by British troops. Not
     only is it of far more importance than any fight since
     Waterloo, but the numbers engaged far exceed any assembly of
     troops in former days. The strength of this army,--the
     Fourth Army--under General Sir H. S. Rawlinson, is ----
     times as large as the force of British troops at Mons, when
     we first came out a year and a half ago.

     "The importance of winning a great victory is so great that
     nothing has been left undone to ensure success. But the
     higher Commanders know--and I know--that all the best
     arrangements in the world cannot win battles. Battles are
     won by infantry, and it is to the battalions like yourself
     that we look to gain a great victory, equal to the great
     victory which the Russians have obtained this month.

     "The Germans are shut in all round. On their northern flank
     they are shut in by the British Navy, on the eastern flank
     pressed back by the Russians, on the southern flank the
     Italians are advancing, and this week, on the western flank,
     certain Divisions of the French and many Divisions of the
     British are determined to break their line and drive them
     back to their own country.

     "Officers and men of the -- Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers:
     You are very fortunate in having this opportunity to add to
     the high honours already gained by your distinguished
     regiment. Not only, however, are you fighting for your
     battalion and your regiment, you are fighting to maintain
     against the Germans the same high reputation which you have
     won for the ---- Division on the Gallipoli Peninsula. More
     than that, you are fighting for your country, and also you
     are fighting for Christianity and Humanity. You are fighting
     for truth and justice against oppression. We are fighting
     for our liberty against slavery.

     "It is now thirty-three years since I was first associated
     with the Royal Fusiliers, the regiment I have looked up to
     during all my service as a pattern of smartness and
     efficiency. I have served with you in Gibraltar, Egypt, and
     many stations in India; also at Aldershot, and on the
     Gallipoli Peninsula during the past year. There is no
     regiment in the service in which I have had a higher
     confidence, and I hope next week to be able to assemble you
     again and to congratulate you on the great victory that you
     are going to win for me, as commanding this Division, and
     for your country."

The faces of the men shone with a new light. It seemed as if they had
seen a sight which other mortals were not allowed to look upon. As
upright as poplars, chests well forward and heads thrown back, their
souls seemed to speak out of their inflexible determination to win. They
marched away, going to that stretch of land from which many have never
returned--giving their lives for freedom and the honour of England.

I turned and gave a parting wave of the hand to a group of officers
standing by.

"See you to-night," I said, "at the 'White City.' We will drink to the
health of 'The Day,'" and with a parting laugh I moved a way.

I found out through H.Q. that some of our 15-inch howitzers were in the
vicinity, so I decided to film them without delay, to work them into the
story of the battle. I discovered their position on my map. I reached
the battery. The state of the ground was indescribable. It was more
like a "sea of mud," and standing in the middle of this morass was the
giant gun, for all the world like a horrible frog squatting on its
haunches. Each time it breathed it belched out flame and smoke with the
most unearthly crash that could possibly be produced, and with each
breath there flew with it a mass of metal and high explosive weighing
fourteen hundred pounds, scattering death and destruction for hundreds
of yards round the point of impact in the German defences, so that our
boys might find it easier to force their way through.

I filmed the firing several times, from various points of view, and when
standing only about fifteen yards away the concussion shook the ground
like a miniature earthquake. On one occasion, indeed, it lifted my
camera and tripod in the air, driving it crashing into my chest. I had
unknowingly placed myself in the danger zone which forms a semi-circle
on either side of the muzzle when fired, the force being at times so
great as to tear trees up by the roots and send them crashing to the

The prospects for "The Day" were certainly bad. As one burly Lancashire
lad said to me: "the Devil was looking after his own; but we are going
to beat them, sir." That was the spirit of all the men I met there.

I went direct to B.H.Q. to get a full supply of film stock before going
to the front line. I wished to get there early, to have a final look
round and a discussion with the officers.

A man I knew was there, looking for all the world like a man down and
out. He had a face as long as a fiddle, and several other officers were
looking just as glum. "You're a cheerful lot," I said. "What's up?
Anything wrong?"

"Yes, rather," they replied, "the ---- day is postponed for forty-eight



"Great Scott! Why?" I asked.

"The weather," he answered laconically. "It's quite impossible for our
chaps to go over the top in such sticky stuff. They wouldn't stand an
earthly. As I said before, it's doing its best to upset the whole
affair. I know the men will be awfully disappointed. We can hardly hold
them back now--but there, I suppose the Commander-in-Chief knows best.
Undoubtedly it's a wise decision. The weather may break--God knows it
couldn't be worse!"

At that moment the Brigade-General came in. He was looking quite bright.

"I hear 'The Day' has been postponed, sir," I said. "Is that official?"

"Yes," he said. "If the weather improves ever such a little it will pay
us for waiting, and of course it will suit you much better?"

"Rather," I replied. "It also gives me more time to film the preliminary
scenes. I shall, however, keep to my programme, and go to the trenches
this afternoon."

I packed all my apparatus together, put some bully and biscuits in my
bag, and started off once more for the trenches. I admit that on the
journey thoughts crept into my mind, and I wondered whether I should
return. Outwardly I was merry and bright, but inwardly--well, I admit I
felt a bit nervous. And yet, I had an instinctive feeling that all would
be well, that I need not worry. Such is the complex mystery of the human
mind, battling within itself against its own knowledge, its own
decisions, its own instincts. And yet there is a predominating force
which seems to shuffle itself out of the midst of that chaotic state of
mind, and holds itself up as a beacon-light, saying "Follow me, believe
in me, let me guide you, all will be well." And it is the man who allows
himself to be guided by that mysterious something, which for the want of
a better name we may call "instinct," who benefits, both spiritually
and materially, by it.

The usual big gun duel was proceeding with its usual intensity, but we
were putting over about fifty shells to the Huns' one. "Crump" fell both
ahead and behind me, compelling me, as before, to fall flat upon the
ground. I reached the "Fifth Avenue." The trench was full of men taking
down munitions. The news of the postponement had by some means reached
them; they also were looking rather glum.

Ye Gods, I thought, it's very nearly worth while to risk walking along
the top. In places there was quite two feet of mud and water to wallow

"Fritz is crumping down the bottom of the Avenue, sir," said a Tommy to
me; "just caught several of our lads--dirty blighters: right in the
trench, sir."

"Thanks," I replied.

Thinking there might be an opportunity of getting some scenes of
shell-bursts, I hurried on as fast as conditions would permit. With men
coming up, and myself and others going down, with full packs on, it was
most difficult to squeeze past each other. At times it was impossible,
so climbing up on to the parapet, I crawled into another traverse
further along.

Just then another shell burst lower down, but well away from the trench,
hurting no one. I eventually reached the "White City" without mishap,
and was greeted enthusiastically by the officers present.

"What's the programme now?"

"I am waiting for the final kick-off," I said. "Are you going to give me
a good show? And don't forget," I said, "hold back some of your
bayonet-work on Fritz until I get there with my machine."

"But you're not coming after us with that affair, are you?"

"Yes, certainly; bet your life I shan't be far behind. As soon as you
get into Bosche trenches I shall be there; so don't forget--get there."

From the corner some one shouted: "Tell brother Fritz if he gets out of
'the limits,' won't you?" This remark caused much laughter.

"Where have you heard that term used?" I enquired. "'Limits' is a
technical term."

"Yes, I heard it used once, a year or two ago. I was staying at a small
place called Steyning, near Brighton. A Film Company was taking scenes
in the village and on the downs. They had about two hundred horsemen and
an immense crowd, and were rehearsing a scene for what I was told was a
representation of the Battle of Worcester. It was some fight. The camera
man was continually shouting out to them to keep in 'the limits' (I
assumed he meant the angle of view). As I say, it was some fight.
Everything went well until a section of the men, who were supposed to
run away, got a few genuine knocks on the head and, wishing to get their
own back, they continued fighting. It was the funniest thing in the
world. Of course the camera was stopped, and the scene retaken."

"That's extraordinary," I replied. "Do you know that I was the chap who
filmed that scene? it was for a film play called 'King Charles.' It's
very peculiar how one meets. I remember that incident quite well."

I again filmed various scenes of the Germans "strafing" our lines. Our
guns, as usual, were crashing out. They were pouring concentrated fire
on the Hawthorn Redoubt, a stronghold of the Germans, and thinking it
would yield an excellent picture, I made my way to a point of vantage,
whence I could get an unobstructed field of view. There was only one
place, and that was a point directly opposite. To get there it was
necessary to cross a sunken road about twenty-five feet wide. But it
was under continual fire from German machine guns, and being broad
daylight it was absolutely asking for trouble, thick and unadulterated,
to attempt to cross it. I was advised not to do so, and I admit I ought
to have taken the advice. Anyway, the opportunity of getting such a fine
scene of a barrage of fire was too strong, and for once my cautionary
instincts were at fault.

To reach the sunken road was comparatively easy. You had only to walk
along our front line trench, and fall down flat on the ground when a
German shell burst near you, then proceed. I reached the junction where
the road ran across at right angles, and from the shelter of our parapet
the road looked the quietest place on earth. It appeared easy enough to
me to jump up quickly, run across and drop on the further side in our

"Ridiculously easy! I'm going across," I said to my man. "When I'm over
I'll throw a cord across for you to tie my tripod on to; then I'll pull
it across. It will save you attempting it."

I tied the camera on my shoulders, so as to have my arms quite free. I
was now ready. The firing was renewed with redoubled vigour. Shells I
could see were falling on the Hun lines like hailstones. "Jove!" I said
to myself, "I shall miss it. Here goes."

Clambering up to the road level, I sprawled out flat and lay perfectly
still for a few seconds, with my heart jumping like a steam engine.
Nothing happened. I gradually drew up my leg, dug the toe of my boot in
the ground, and pushed myself forward bit by bit. So far, so good: I was
half-way across. I was congratulating myself on my easy task. "What in
the world am I lying here for?" I asked myself; "why shouldn't I run the
remaining distance?" And suiting the action to the word, I got up--and
found trouble! I had barely raised myself to my hands and knees when,
with a rattle and a rush, a stream of bullets came swishing by, some
striking the ground on my left, about nine feet away.

I took the whole situation in in a flash. To lie there was almost
certain death; to stand up was worse; to go back was as bad as going
forward. What happened afterwards I don't know. I could hear the bullets
whizzing by my head with an ugly hiss. The next moment, with a jump and
a spring, I landed head first in the trench on the opposite side. For
the moment I did not know whether I was hit or not. I unstrapped my
camera, to see if it had caught any bullets, but, thank Heaven, they had
cleared it. Some of our men were standing looking aghast at me, and
wondering what the devil it was that had made such a sudden dive into
their midst. The look on their faces was just too funny for words; I had
to roar with laughter, and, realising that I was safe, they also joined

But I was not out of the wood yet, for brother Fritz immediately turned
"whizz-bangs" on to us. "Phut-bang," "phut-bang," they came. Every one
scampered for cover. Needless to say, I did so too. Five minutes went
by. All the time these souvenirs dropped around us, but luckily none of
them got any direct hits on our trench.

I thought I would wait another five minutes, to see if Bosche would
cease fire. But not he. He was rather cross about my crossing the road

Time went by. Still the firing continued. I decided to risk throwing the
cord and pulling over my tripod. Keeping low, I yelled to my man: he,
like a sage, had also taken cover, but hearing my shouts came out.

"The rope is coming," I yelled. "Tug it as a signal, when you have it."

"Right," came the reply.

Three times I threw it before I received the welcome tug at the other
end. Then a voice shouted: "Pull away, sir."

I pulled. I had to do it gently, otherwise the broken nature of the
ground might damage the head. At last it was safely over, but Bosche had
seen something moving across; then he turned his typewriter on again.
More bullets flew by, but with the exception of one which struck the
metal revolving top and sliced out a piece as evenly as if it had been
done by machine, no harm was caused.

I bade one of the men shoulder my tripod. We rushed up the trench as
fast as possible, and I thanked Heaven for my escape. When I reached the
section where I judged it best to fit up my camera, I gently peeped over
the parapet. What a sight. Never in my life had I seen such a hurricane
of fire. It was inconceivable that any living thing could exist anywhere
near it. The shells were coming over so fast and furious that it seemed
as if they must be touching each other on their journey through the air.

To get my camera up was the work of a few seconds. I had no time to put
any covering material over it. The risk had to be run, the picture was
worth it. Up went my camera well above the parapet and, quickly sighting
my object, I started to expose. Swinging the machine first one way then
the other, I turned the handle continuously. Pieces of shell were flying
and ripping past close overhead. They seemed to get nearer every time.
Whether they were splinters from the bursting shells or bullets from
machine guns I could not tell, but it got so hot at last that I judged
it wise to take cover. I had exposed sufficient film for my purpose, so
quickly unscrewing the camera, my man taking the tripod, I hurried into
a dug-out for cover. "Jove!" I thought, mopping the perspiration from
my head, "quite near enough to be healthy!"

Although the men were all taking cover, they were as happy as crickets
over this "strafe." There is nothing a Tommy likes more than to see our
artillery plastering Bosche trenches into "Potsdam."

"Well, what's the next move?" I was asked.

"Trench Mortars," I said. "Both 'Flying Pigs' and 'Plum Puddings' ought
to make topping scenes."

"Yes," the Captain said. "They are in action this afternoon, and I am in
charge of H.T.M. I'll give you a good show. I have only one pit
available, as Fritz dropped a 'crump' in the other yesterday, and blew
the whole show to smithereens. My sergeant was sitting smoking at the
time, and when she blew up it lifted him clean out of the trench,
without even so much as scratching him. He turned round to me, and
cursed Bosche for spoiling his smoke. He's promised to get his own back
on 'Brother Fritz.' Bet your life he will too."

He had hardly ceased speaking, when our dug-out shook as if a mine had
gone up close by. I tumbled out, followed by the others. Lumps of earth
fell on our heads; I certainly thought the roof was coming in on us.
Getting into the trench, the bombardment was still going strong, and
looking on my left I saw a dense cloud of smoke in our own firing

"What in the world's up?" I enquired of a man close by.

"Dunno, sir," he said. "I believe it's a Bosche mine. It made enough
fuss to be one, yet it seems in such an extraordinary position."

"How about getting round to have a look at it?" I said to ----.

"Right-o," he said; "but you know we can't cross the road there. I
think if we back well down, about one hundred yards, we may nip across
into No. 2 Avenue. That'll bring us out near 'Jacob's Ladder.'"

"Lead on," I said. "I wish I had known. I came in across the road
there," pointing down our firing trench.

"You've got more pluck than I have," he said. "You can congratulate
yourself that you are alive. Anyway, come on."

Eventually I reached "Jacob's Ladder," and asked an officer what had

"I don't know," he said; "but whatever it was, it's smashed our front
trench for about eighty yards: it's absolutely impassable."

Another officer came running up at that moment. "I say," he said,
"there's a scene up there for you. A trench mortar gun had a premature
burst, and exploded all the munition in the pit; blew the whole lot--men
and all--to pieces. It's made a crater thirty yards across. It's a
beastly wreck. Can't use that section of the front line. And to make
matters worse, Fritz is pumping over tear-shells. Everybody is tickled
to death with the fumes."

"Don't cheer me up, will you?" I remarked. "I'm going to film the trench
mortar this afternoon, both the H.T.M. and the 2-inch Gee. I can thank
my lucky stars I didn't decide to do them earlier. Anyway, here goes;
the light is getting rather poor."

The officer with whom I was talking kindly offered to guide me to the
spot. Crumps were still falling, and so was the rain. "We'll go through
'Lanwick Street,' then bear to the left, and don't forget to keep your
head down."



There are two things I detest more than anything else in the trenches:
they are "whizz-bangs" and rats. The latter got mixed up in my feet
as I was walking through the trench, and one, more impudent than the
rest, when I crouched down to avoid a burst, jumped on to my back and
sprang away into the mud.

"We will turn back and go by way of 'White City,' then up King Street.
It may be cooler there." It certainly was not healthy in this

Turning back, I bade my man follow close behind. Entering the main
trench, I hurried along, and was quite near the King Street turning when
a Hun "crump" came tearing overhead. I yelled out to my man to take
cover, and crushed into the entrance of a dug-out myself. In doing so, I
upset a canteen of tea over a bucket-fire which one of our lads was
preparing to drink. His remarks were drowned in the explosion of the
shell, which landed barely twenty-five feet away.

"Now then," I called to my man, "run for it into King Street," and I got
there just in time to crouch down and escape another "crump" which came
hurtling over. In a flash I knew it was coming very near: I crouched
lower. It burst with a sickening sound. It seemed just overhead. Dirt
and rubble poured over me as I lay there. I rushed to the corner to see
where it had struck. It had landed only twelve feet from the dug-out
entrance which I had left only a few seconds before, and it had killed
the two men whom I had crushed against, and for the loss of whose tea I
was responsible.

It was not the time or place to hang about, so I hurried to the
trench-mortar pit to finish my scenes whilst daylight lasted.

I met the officer in charge of the T.M.

"Keep your head down," he shouted, as I turned round a traverse. "Our
parapet has been practically wiped out, and there is a sniper in the far
corner of the village. He has been dropping his pellets into my show
all day, and Fritz has been splashing me with his 'Minnies' to try and
find my gun, but he will never get it. Just look at the mess around."

I was looking. It would have beaten the finest Indian scout to try and
distinguish the trench from the débris and honeycomb of shell-holes.

"Where the deuce is your outfit?" I said, looking round.

"You follow me, but don't show an inch of head above. Look out."
Phut-bang came a pip-squeak. It struck and burst about five yards in
front of us. "Brother Fritz is confoundedly inconsiderate," he said. "He
seems to want all the earth to himself. Come on; we'll get there this
time, and run for it."

After clambering, crawling, running and jumping, we reached a hole in
the ground, into which the head and shoulders of a man were just

"This is my abode of love," said my guide. "How do you like it?"

I looked down, and at the depth of about twelve feet was a trench
mortar. The hole itself was, of course, boarded round with timber, and
was about seven feet square. There was a gallery leading back under our
parapet for the distance of about eighty feet, and in this were stored
the bombs. The men also sheltered there.

I let myself down with my camera and threaded by the numerous "plum
puddings" lying there: I fixed my camera up and awaited the order for
the men to commence firing.

"Are you ready?" came a voice from above.

"Right, sir," replied the sergeant. I began exposing my film.

"Fire!" the T.M. officer shouted down.

Fire they did, and the concussion nearly knocked me head over heels. I
was quite unprepared for such a backblast. Before they fired again, I
got a man to hold down the front leg of my tripod. The gun was
recharged; the order to fire was given, the lanyard was pulled, but no

"Hullo, another----"

"Misfire," was the polite remark of the sergeant. "Those fuses are
giving us more trouble than enough."

Another detonator was put on, everything was ready again. Another tug
was given. Again no explosion.

Remembering the happenings of the morning in another pit, when a
premature burst occurred, I felt anything but comfortable. Sitting in
the middle of about one hundred trench mortar bombs, visions of the
whole show going up came to me.

Another detonator was put in. "Fire," came the order. Again it failed.

"Look here, sergeant," I said, "if that bally thing happens again I'm

"The blessed thing has never been so bad before, sir. Let's have one
more try."

Still another detonator was put in. I began turning the handle of my
camera. This time it was successful.

"That's all I want," I said. "I'm off. Hand me up my camera. And with
due respect to your gun," I said to the T.M. officer, "you might cease
fire until I am about fifty yards away. I don't mind risking Brother
Fritz's 'strafe,' but I do object to the possibility of being scattered
to the four winds of heaven by our own shells." And with a laugh and
good wishes, I left him.

"I say," he called out, "come into my dug-out to-night, will you? It's
just in front of Fifth Avenue. I shall be there in about half an hour; I
have got to give Fritz a few more souvenirs to go on with. There is a
little more wire left over there, and the C.O. wants it all 'strafed'
away. Do come, won't you? So long. See you later. Keep your head down."

"Right-o!" I said, with a laugh. "Physician, heal thyself. A little
higher, and you might as well be sitting on the parapet." He turned
round sharply, then dropped on his knees.

"Strafe that bally parapet. I forgot all about it. Fire!" he yelled, and
I laughed at the pleasure he was getting out of blowing up Fritz.

I scrambled and slithered back into the recognised trench again, and on
my way back filmed the H.T.M., or "Flying Pig," in action. By this time
it was getting rather dull, so going to a dug-out, I dropped my
apparatus, and had another final look at the position from which I was
going to film the great attack in the morning.



     A Firework Display Heralds the Arrival of "The Day"--How the
     Boys Spent Their Last Few Hours in the Trenches--Rats as
     Bedfellows--I Make an Early Start--And Get Through a
     Mine-shaft into "No Man's Land"--The Great Event Draws
     Near--Anxious Moments--The Men Fix Bayonets--And Wait the
     Word of Command to "Go Over the Top."

Darkness came, and with it a host of star-shells, or Verey lights, which
were shot up high in the air from both the German and our own trenches.
They looked for all the world like a huge firework display at the
Crystal Palace.

Rain had ceased. The heavens were studded with countless millions of
stars. "Great prospects for to-morrow," said one. "I hope it's fine, for
the sake of the boys. They are as keen as mustard to go over the top."

As we talked, batch after batch of men came gliding by in their full
kit, smoking and chatting. While I was standing there hundreds must have
passed me in that narrow trench, quietly going to their allotted
positions. Now and again sharp orders were given by their officers.

"How's your section, sergeant? Are you fitted up?"

"Yes, sir," came a voice from the blackness.

"Now, lads, come along: get through as quickly as possible. Post your
sentries at once, and be sharp."

It was not long before little red fires were gleaming out of the dug-out
entrances, and crowds of men were crouching round, heating their
canteens of water, some frying pieces of meat, others heating soup, and
all the time laughing and carrying on a most animated conversation. From
other groups came the subdued humming of favourite songs. Some were
cursing and swearing, but with such a bluntness that, if I may say so,
it seemed to take all the profanity from the words.

And these men knew they were going "over the top" in the morning. The
day which they had dreamed of was about to materialise. They knew that
many would not be alive to-morrow night, yet I never saw a sad face nor
heard a word of complaint. My feeling whilst watching these men in the
glow of the firelight was almost indescribable. I was filled with awe at
their behaviour. I reverenced them more than I had ever done before; and
I felt like going down on my knees and thanking God I was an Englishman.
No words of mine can fitly describe this wonderful scene. And all the
time more men, and still more men, were pouring into the trenches, and
munitions of all descriptions were being served out.

The bursting German shells, and the shrieks overhead of the missiles
from our own guns, were for the moment forgotten in the immensity of the
sights around me. I turned and groped the way back to my shelter and, as
I did so, our fire increased in intensity. This was the prelude to the
greatest attack ever made in the history of the world, and ere the sun
set on the morrow many of these heroes--the Lancashire Fusiliers, Royal
Fusiliers, Middlesex, etc.--would be lying dead on the field of battle,
their lives sacrificed that civilisation might live.

At last I found a friend, and sitting down to our box-table we had a
meal together. Afterwards I wandered out, and entered several other
dug-outs, where friends were resting. They all seemed anxious for the
morning to come. I met the mining officer.

"I say; let me check my watch by yours," I said. "As the mine is going
up at 7.20 I shall want to start my machine about half a minute

"Right-o!" he said. We then checked watches.

I bade him good night, and also the others, and the best of luck.

"Same to you," they cried in general chorus. "I hope to heavens you get
through with it, and show them all at home in England how the boys
fight. They will then realise what war really means. Good night, old

"Good night," I replied, and then found my way back to the shelter. I
rolled myself in a blanket, and tried to sleep.

The night was very cold. I lay shivering in my blanket and could not get
warm. The guns were continually crashing out. Shells were bursting just
outside with appalling regularity. Suddenly they seemed to quieten down,
as if by some means the Germans had got to know of our great plans and
were preparing for the blow. Presently everything was comparatively
quiet, except for the scurrying of countless rats, running and jumping
over my body, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I expect
I must have dozed off to sleep, for when I awoke day was breaking, and
the din of the gun-fire was terrific. Innumerable worlds seemed to be
crashing together, and it sounded as if thousands of peals of thunder
had concentrated themselves into one soul-terrifying roar.

An officer looked in at the entrance at that moment.

"Hullo!" he said. "Are you the 'movie-man'?"

"Yes," I said, sitting up. "What's up?"

"Well, I'm hanged; I'm glad I've found you. Do you know, I asked
several Johnnies down the line if you were in the trenches and they
laughed at me; asked me if I had been drinking; they thought I was
pulling their leg. 'A movie man in the trenches,' they said, in tones of
amazement; 'not likely!' I told them that you were here last night, and
that you are here to film the attack. Well, anyway, this is what I have
come for. The Colonel sent me--you know him--to see if you would film a
company of our men in occupation of Sunken Road. They occupied it during
the night without a single casualty, by tunnelling for about fifty yards
through the parapet, under 'No Man's Land'; then sapped up and into the
road. It's a fine piece of work," he said, "and would make a good

"Rather," I said; "I'll come. It will be splendid from the historical
point of view. Can you let me have a guide, to show me the quickest and
best way?"

"Yes, I will send one of our pioneers; he will guide you," he said. "Let
me know how you get on, won't you? And, if possible, when you return
call in and see the Colonel. He will be frightfully bucked."

"Right-o!" I said. "By Gad! it's bally cold. My teeth won't hold still.
Push that man along, and I'll get off."

"Au revoir," he called out as he left. "See you later."



The guide turned up a few minutes afterwards; he took the tripod, I the
camera. I started off and entered King Street, making my way towards the
firing trench. I have described in previous chapters what it was like to
be under an intense bombardment. I have attempted to analyse my feelings
when lying in the trenches with shells bursting directly overhead. I
have been in all sorts of places, under heavy shell-fire, but for
intensity and nearness--nothing--absolutely nothing--compared with
the frightful and demoralising nature of the shell-fire which I
experienced during that journey.

I had only just reached King Street, when it started on that section.
Bosche was fairly plastering the whole trench, and smashing down our
parapets in the most methodical manner. Four men passed me, with
horrible wounds; another was being carried on the shoulders of his
comrades, one arm being blown clean off, leaving flesh and remnants of
cloth hanging down in a horrible manner. The shells fell in front,
overhead and behind us.

I bent low and rushed through traverse after traverse, halting when a
shell burst in the trench itself round the next bend, sending a ghastly
blast of flame and choking fumes full in my face. At one point I halted,
hardly knowing which way to go; my guide was crouching as low as
possible on the ground. The further I went, the worse it got; shrieking,
splitting shells seemed to envelop us. I looked back. The same. In
front, another burst; the flames swept right into my face. If I had been
standing up it would have killed me without a doubt. To go back was as
dangerous as to advance, and to stay where I was--well, it was worse, if
anything. Truth to tell, I had gone so far now that I did not like
turning back; the picture of our men in Sunken Road attracted me like a

"Go on," I shouted to the guide. "We'll get through somehow. Are you

"Yes, sir," said he.

We ran round the next traverse, and had to scramble over a heap of
débris caused by a shell a few moments before.

"Look out, sir! There are some dead men here, and the parapet has
practically disappeared. Get down on your stomach and crawl along."

Phut-bang! The shells crashed on the parapet with the rapidity of
machine-gun fire.

I went down, and crawled along over the dead bodies of some of our lads
killed only a few minutes before. It couldn't be helped. Purgatory, in
all its hideous shapes and forms, could not possibly be worse than this
journey. It seemed years getting through that hellish fire.

"How much more?" I yelled out.

"We are quite near now, sir; about twenty yards."

"Rush for it, then--rush."

I did, and my guide pulled up quickly at the entrance of what seemed
like a mine.

"Incline in here, sir," he said, and disappeared. I followed. Never in
all my experience had I welcomed cover as I did at that moment.

"Hold on a bit," I said, "for five minutes' breathing space."

The tunnel was no more than two feet six inches wide and five feet high.
Men inside were passing ammunition from one to the other in an endless
chain and disappearing into the bowels of the earth.

The shaft took a downward trend. It was only by squeezing past the
munition bearers that we were able to proceed at all, and in some places
it was impossible for more than one to crush through at a time. By the
light of an electric torch, stuck in the mud, I was able to see the men.
They were wet with perspiration, steaming, in fact; stripped to the
waist; working like Trojans, each doing the work of six men.

The journey seemed endless. I could tell by the position that I was
climbing. My guide was still in front, and letting me know of his
whereabouts by shouting: "Straight ahead, sir! Mind this hole!"

The latter part of the shaft seemed practically upright. I dragged my
camera along by the strap attached to the case. It was impossible to
carry it.

We were nearing daylight. I could see a gleam only a few feet away. At
last we came to the exit. My guide was there.

"Keep down low, sir. This sap is only four feet deep. It's been done
during the night, about fifty yards of it. We are in 'No Man's Land'
now, and if the Germans had any idea we were here, the place would soon
be an inferno."

"Go ahead," I said. It was difficult to imagine we were midway between
the Hun lines and our own. It was practically inconceivable. The
shell-fire seemed just as bad as ever behind in the trenches, but here
it was simply heavenly. The only thing one had to do was to keep as low
as possible and wriggle along. The ground sloped downwards. The end of
the sap came in sight. My guide was crouching there, and in front of
him, about thirty feet away, running at right angles on both sides, was
a roadway, overgrown with grass and pitted with shell-holes. The bank
immediately in front was lined with the stumps of trees and a rough
hedge, and there lined up, crouching as close to the bank as possible,
were some of our men. They were the Lancashire Fusiliers, with bayonets
fixed, and ready to spring forward.

"Keep low as you run across the road, sir. The Bosche can see right
along it; make straight for the other side." With that he ran across,
and I followed. Then I set my camera up and filmed the scene. I had to
take every precaution in getting my machine in position, keeping it
close to the bank, as a false step would have exposed the position to
the Bosche, who would have immediately turned on H.E. shrapnel, and
might have enfiladed the whole road from either flank.

I filmed the waiting Fusiliers. Some of them looked happy and gay,
others sat with stern, set faces, realising the great task in front of

I had finished taking my scenes, and asked an officer if the Colonel was

"No, but you may find him in 'White City.' He was there about an hour
ago. Great heavens," he said, "who would have believed that a
'movie-man' would be here, the nearest point to Bosche lines on the
whole front. You must like your job. Hanged if I envy you. Anyway, hope
to see you after the show, if I haven't 'gone West.' Cheero," and with
that he left me.

Packing up my camera, I prepared to return. Time was getting on. It was
now 6.30 a.m. The attack was timed for 7.20. As I wanted to obtain some
scenes of our men taking up their final positions, I told my guide to

"Duck as low as possible," I said, "when you cross the road."

"We can't go yet, sir; munitions are being brought through, and, as you
know, there isn't room to pass one another."

I waited until the last man had come in from the sap, then, practically
on hands and knees, made for the sap mouth.

"Cheer up, boys," I shouted to the men as I parted from them, "best of
luck; hope to see you in the village."

"Hope so, sir," came a general chorus in reply. Again I struggled
through the narrow slit, then down the shaft and finally into the
tunnel. We groped our way along as best we could. The place was full of
men. It was only possible to get my tripod and camera along by passing
it from one to another. Then as the men stooped low I stepped over them,
eventually reaching the other end--and daylight.

The "strafe" was still on, but not quite so violent. Our parapets were
in a sorry condition, battered out of all shape.

Returning through King Street, I was just in time to film some of the
men fixing bayonets before being sent to their respective stations in
the firing trench. The great moment was drawing near. I admit I was
feeling a wee bit nervous. The mental and nervous excitement under such
conditions was very great. Every one was in a state of suppressed
excitement. On the way I passed an officer I knew.

"Are you going over?" I said.

"Rather," he replied, "the whole lot of us. Some stunt, eh!"

"Don't forget," I said, "the camera will be on you; good luck!"

Bidding my man collect the tripod and camera, I made for the position on
Jacob's Ladder. But I was to receive a rude shock. The shelling of the
morning had practically blown it all down. But there was sufficient for
a clearance all around for my purpose, and sufficient shelter against
stray bits of shrapnel. I prepared to put up my camera. Not quite
satisfied, I left it about thirty yards away, to view the situation
quickly, as there were only twenty minutes to go. Hardly had I left the
machine than a "whizz-bang" fell and struck the parapet immediately
above the ladder, tumbling the whole lot of sandbags down like a pack of

It was a lucky escape for me. The position was absolutely no use now,
and I had to choose another. Time was short. I hastily fixed my camera
on the side of the small bank, this side of our firing trench, with my
lens pointing towards the Hawthorn Redoubt, where the mine--the largest
"blown" on the British Front--was going up. It was loaded with twenty
tons of a new explosive of tremendous destructive power, and it had
taken seven months to build.

Gee, what an awakening for Bosche!

My camera was now set ready to start exposing. I looked along the
trench. The men were ready and waiting the great moment.

One little group was discussing the prospects of a race across "No Man's

"Bet you, Jim, I'll get there first."

"Right-o! How much?"

"A day's pay," was the reply.

"Take me on, too, will you?" said another hero.

"Yes. Same terms, eh? Good enough."

"Say Bill," he called to his pal, "pay up from my cash if I 'go West.'"

"Shut up, fathead; we have to kill Huns, 'strafe' them."

I turned away to speak to an officer as to the prospects.

"Very good," he said. "I hope they don't plaster our trenches before all
the men get out. They are as keen as mustard. Never known them so
bright. Look at them now; all smoking."

Our guns were still pounding heavily, and the din and concussion was
awful. To hear oneself speak it was absolutely necessary to shout.

"You are in a pretty rocky position," some one said to me. "Fritz will
be sure to plaster this front pretty well as soon as our men 'get

"Can't help it," I said; "my machine must have a clear view. I must take
the risk. How's the time going?"

"It's 'seven-ten' now," he said.

"I am going to stand by. Cheero; best of luck!" I left him, and stood by
my machine. The minutes dragged on. Still the guns crashed out. The
German fire had died down a bit during the last half-hour. I glanced
down our trenches. The officers were giving final instructions. Every
man was in his place. The first to go over would be the engineers, to
wire the crater. They were all ready, crouching down, with their
implements in their hands.

Time: 7.15 a.m.!

Heavens! how the minutes dragged. It seemed like a lifetime waiting
there. My nerves were strung up to a high pitch; my heart was thumping
like a steam-hammer. I gave a quick glance at an officer close by. He
was mopping the perspiration from his brow, and clutching his stick,
first in one hand then in the other--quite unconsciously, I am sure. He
looked at his watch. Another three minutes went by.

Would nothing ever happen?



     A Mighty Convulsion Signalises the Commencement of
     Operations--Then Our Boys "Go Over the Top"--A Fine Film
     Obtained whilst Shells Rained Around Me--My Apparatus is
     Struck--But, Thank Goodness, the Camera is Safe--Arrival of
     the Wounded--"Am I in the Picture?" they ask.

Time: 7.19 a.m. My hand grasped the handle of the camera. I set my
teeth. My whole mind was concentrated upon my work. Another thirty
seconds passed. I started turning the handle, two revolutions per
second, no more, no less. I noticed how regular I was turning. (My
object in exposing half a minute beforehand was to get the mine from the
moment it broke ground.) I fixed my eyes on the Redoubt. Any second now.
Surely it was time. It seemed to me as if I had been turning for hours.
Great heavens! Surely it had not misfired.

Why doesn't it go up?

I looked at my exposure dial. I had used over a thousand feet. The
horrible thought flashed through my mind, that my film might run out
before the mine blew. Would it go up before I had time to reload? The
thought brought beads of perspiration to my forehead. The agony was
awful; indescribable. My hand began to shake. Another 250 feet exposed.
I had to keep on.

Then it happened.


The ground where I stood gave a mighty convulsion. It rocked and swayed.
I gripped hold of my tripod to steady myself. Then, for all the world
like a gigantic sponge, the earth rose in the air to the height of
hundreds of feet. Higher and higher it rose, and with a horrible,
grinding roar the earth fell back upon itself, leaving in its place a
mountain of smoke. From the moment the mine went up my feelings changed.
The crisis was over, and from that second I was cold, cool, and
calculating. I looked upon all that followed from the purely pictorial
point of view, and even felt annoyed if a shell burst outside the range
of my camera. Why couldn't Bosche put that shell a little nearer? It
would make a better picture. And so my thoughts ran on.

The earth was down. I swung my camera round on to our own parapets. The
engineers were swarming over the top, and streaming along the sky-line.
Our guns redoubled their fire. The Germans then started H.E. Shrapnel
began falling in the midst of our advancing men. I continued to turn the
handle of my camera, viewing the whole attack through my view-finder,
first swinging one way and then the other.

Then another signal rang out, and from the trenches immediately in front
of me, our wonderful troops went over the top. What a picture it was!
They went over as one man. I could see while I was exposing, that
numbers were shot down before they reached the top of the parapet;
others just the other side. They went across the ground in swarms, and
marvel upon marvels, still smoking cigarettes. One man actually stopped
in the middle of "No Man's Land" to light up again.

The Germans had by now realised that the great attack had come. Shrapnel
poured into our trenches with the object of keeping our supports from
coming up. They had even got their "crumps" and high-explosive shrapnel
into the middle of our boys before they were half-way across "No Man's
Land." But still they kept on. At that moment my spool ran out. I
hurriedly loaded up again, and putting the first priceless spool in my
case, I gave it to my man in a dug-out to take care of, impressing upon
him that he must not leave it under any circumstances. If anything
unforeseen happened he was to take it back to Headquarters.

I rushed back to my machine again. Shells were exploding quite close to
me. At least I was told so afterwards by an officer. But I was so
occupied with my work that I was quite unconscious of their proximity. I
began filming once more. The first lot of men, or rather the remainder
of them, had disappeared in the haze and smoke, punctured by bursting
shells. What was happening in the German lines I did not know. Other men
were coming up and going over the top. The German machine-gun fire was
not quite so deadly now, but our men suffered badly from shell-fire. On
several occasions I noticed men run and take temporary cover in the
shell-holes, but their ranks were being terribly thinned.

Still more went over, and still a stream of men were making for the mine
crater; they then disappeared in the smoke. The noise was terrific. It
was as if the earth were lifting bodily, and crashing against some
immovable object. The very heavens seemed to be falling. Thousands of
things were happening at the same moment. The mind could not begin to
grasp the barest margin of it.

The German shells were crashing all round me. Dirt was being flung in my
face, cutting it like whipcord. My only thought was whether any of it
had struck my lens and made it dirty, for this would have spoiled my
film. I gave a quick glance at it. It was quite all right.

Fearful fighting was taking place in the German trenches. The heavy
rattle of machine-guns, the terrible din of exploding bombs, could be
heard above the pandemonium. Our men had ceased to flow from our
trenches. I crept to the top of the parapet, and looked towards the left
of the village of Beaumont Hamel. Our guns were bursting on the other
side of the village, but I could distinguish nothing else as to how
things were going.

I asked an officer who was standing close by.

"God knows," he replied. "Everything over there is so mixed up. The
General said this was the hardest part of the line to get through, and
my word it seems like it, to look at our poor lads."

I could see them strewn all over the ground, swept down by the accursed
machine-gun fire.

A quick succession of shell-bursts attracted my attention. Back to my
camera position. Another lot of our men were going over the top. I began
exposing, keeping them in my camera view all the time, as they were
crossing, by revolving my tripod head.

Shell after shell crashed in the middle of them, leaving ghastly gaps,
but other men quickly filled them up, passing through the smoke, and
over the bodies of their comrades, as if there were no such thing as a
shell in all the world. Another spool ran out, making the fourth since
the attack started. I gave it in charge of my man, with the same
instructions as before. I loaded again, and had just started exposing.
Something attracted my attention on the extreme left. What it was I
don't know. I ceased turning, but still holding the handle, I veered
round the front of my camera. The next moment, with a shriek and a
flash, a shell fell and exploded before I had time to take shelter. It
was only a few feet away. What happened after I hardly know. There was
the grinding crash of a bursting shell; something struck my tripod, the
whole thing, camera and all, was flung against me. I clutched it and
staggered back, holding it in my arms. I dragged it into a
shrapnel-proof shelter, sat down and looked for the damage. A piece of
the shell had struck the tripod and cut the legs clean in half, on one
side, carrying about six inches of it away. The camera, thank heaven,
was untouched.

Calling my man, we hastily found some pieces of wood, old telephone wire
and string, and within an hour had improvised legs, rigid enough to
continue taking scenes.

I again set up my camera. Our gun-fire was still terrible, but the
Germans had shortened their range and were evidently putting a barrage
on our men, who had presumably reached the enemy's front trenches.
Nobody knew anything definitely. Wounded men began to arrive. There was
a rush for news.

"How are things going?" we asked.

"We have taken their first and second line," said one.

An officer passed on a stretcher.

"How are things going?"

"God knows," he said. "I believe we have got through their first line
and part of the village, but don't know whether we shall be able to hold
out; we have been thinned shockingly."

"Have you been successful?" he asked me.

"Yes, I've got the whole of the attack."

"Good man," he said.

First one rumour then another came through. There was nothing definite.
The fighting over there was furious. I filmed various scenes of our
wounded coming in over the parapet; then through the trenches. Lines of
them were awaiting attention.

Scenes crowded upon me. Wounded and more wounded; men who a few hours
before had leaped over the parapet full of life and vigour were now
dribbling back. Some of them shattered and broken for life. But it was
one of the most glorious charges ever made in the history of the world.
These men had done their bit.

"Hullo," I said to one passing through on a stretcher, "got a

"Yes, sir," he said; "rather sure Blighty for me."

"And for me too," said another lad lying with him waiting attention, "I
shan't be able to play footer any more. Look!" I followed the direction
of his finger, and could see through the rough bandages that his foot
had been taken completely off. Yet he was still cheerful, and smoking.

A great many asked me as they came through: "Was I in the picture, sir?"
I had to say "yes" to them all, which pleased them immensely.

Still no definite news. The heavy firing continued. I noticed several of
our wounded men lying in shell-holes in "No Man's Land." They were
calling for assistance. Every time a Red Cross man attempted to get near
them, a hidden German machine-gun fired. Several were killed whilst
trying to bring in the wounded. The cries of one poor fellow attracted
the attention of a trench-mortar man. He asked for a volunteer to go
with him, and bring the poor fellow in. A man stepped forward, and
together they climbed the parapet, and threaded their way through the
barbed wire very slowly. Nearer and nearer they crept. We stood watching
with bated breath. Would they reach him? Yes. At last! Then hastily
binding up the injured man's wounds they picked him up between them, and
with a run made for our parapet. The swine of a German blazed away at
them with his machine-gun. But marvellous to relate neither of them were

I filmed the rescue from the start to the finish, until they passed me
in the trench, a mass of perspiration. Upon the back of one was the
unconscious man he had rescued, but twenty minutes after these two had
gone through hell to rescue him, the poor fellow died.

During the day those two men rescued twenty men in this fashion under
heavy fire.

HAMEL, JULY 1ST, 1916]




     A Glorious Band of Wounded Heroes Stagger Into Line and
     Answer the Call--I Visit a Stricken Friend in a Dug-out--On
     the Way to La Boisselle I Get Lost in the Trenches--And
     Whilst Filming Unexpectedly Come Upon the German Line--I
     Have a Narrow Squeak of Being Crumped--But Get Away
     Safely--And later Commandeer a Couple of German Prisoners to
     Act as Porters.

The day wore on. The success of the fighting swayed first this way, then
that. The casualties mounted higher and higher. Men were coming back
into our trenches maimed and broken; they all had different tales to
tell. I passed along talking to and cheering our wonderful men as much
as I could. And the Germans, to add to this ghastly whirlpool of horror,
threw shell after shell into the dressing station, killing and wounding
afresh the gallant lads who had gone "over the top" that morning. They
seemed to know of this place and played upon it with a gloating,
fiendish glee worthy only of unspeakable savages.

As I was passing one group of wounded, I ran against my doctor friend of
the night before.

"Busy day for you?" I said.

"My word, yes," he replied. "They are coming faster than I can attend to
them. I am just off to see P----. He's caught it badly."

"Serious?" I asked.

"Yes, rather; in the back. He's in the dug-out."

And the doctor rushed away. I followed him. P---- was lying there on a
stretcher looking ghastly. The doctor was bending over him. Poor old
chap. Only that morning he had hooked me out to film the sunken road
scenes as full of life and hope as anyone could conceive. Now he was on
his back, a broken wreck. In the trenches there were hundreds of cases
as bad, or even worse, but they did not affect me. There were far too
many for the mind to fully grasp their meaning. But down here in this
dark dug-out, twenty feet below the earth, the sombre surroundings only
illuminated by a guttering candle in a bottle, I was far more affected.
It was natural though, for one always feels things more when some one
one knows is concerned.

P---- was the first to speak.

"Hullo, old man," he said in a husky, low voice. "You've pulled

"Yes," I replied. "But 'touchwood'! I'm so sorry. Anyway, you're all
right for 'Blighty,'" and to cheer him up I continued in a bantering
strain: "You knew how to manage it, eh? Jolly artful, you know." His
face lighted up with a wan smile.

"Yes, Malins, rather a long 'Blighty,' I'm afraid."

Two stretcher-bearers came in at that moment to take him away. With
difficulty they got him out of the trench, and grasping his hand I bade
him good-bye.

"I'm glad you got our boys, Malins. I do so want to see that film," were
his last words.

"I'll show it to you when I get back to England," I called after him,
and then he disappeared.

The fighting was now beginning to die down. The remnants of four
regiments were coming in. Each section was accumulating in spaces on
their own. I realised that the roll-call was about to take place. I
filmed them as they staggered forward and dropped down utterly worn out,
body and soul. By an almost superhuman effort many of them staggered to
their feet again, and formed themselves into an irregular line.

In one little space there were just two thin lines--all that was left of
a glorious regiment (barely one hundred men). I filmed the scene as it
unfolded itself. The sergeant stood there with note-book resting on the
end of his rifle, repeatedly putting his pencil through names that were
missing. This picture was one of the most wonderful, the most impressive
that can be conceived. It ought to be painted and hung in all the
picture galleries of the world, in all the schools and public buildings,
and our children should be taught to regard it as the standard of man's

I stayed in the trenches until the following day, filming scene after
scene of our wounded. I learned that nothing more was to be attempted
until later, when fresh divisions were to be brought up. Knowing this I
decided to leave this section of the trenches. But the ghastly scenes of
which I was witness will always remain a hideous nightmare in my memory,
though I thank God I had been spared to film such tremendous scenes of
supreme heroism and sacrifice in the cause of freedom.

I got safely back through the trenches to ----, where Brigade H.Q. told
me of an urgent message from G.H.Q. I was to report as soon as possible.
On my way I called on General ----, who was delighted to hear I had
successfully filmed the attack, the record of which would show the world
how gloriously our men had fought.

Reaching advanced G.H.Q. I reported myself. All were pleased to see me
safe and sound, and to hear of my success. I was told that lively things
were happening at La Boisselle. I heard also how successful our troops
had been in other parts of the line. Fricourt and Mametz and a dozen
other villages had fallen to our victorious troops. This news put new
life into me. At La Boisselle they said we had pushed through, and
fighting was still going on. I decided to leave for that district right

Passing through Albert, I halted the car at the top of Becourt Wood.
From this point I had to walk. In the distance I could see hundreds of
shells bursting, and guns were thundering out. I gave one camera to my
orderly and another had the tripod. Taking the second camera myself, I
started off. We threaded our way through the wood and out into the
trenches. Shells were falling close by, but by hugging the parapet we
got along fairly well.

The communication trench seemed interminable.

"Where the deuce am I?" I asked an officer in passing. "I want to get to
our front trenches."

"You want to go the other way. This trench leads back to ----."

This was anything but cheering news. I had been walking for about an
hour, always seeming to just miss the right turning. Truth to tell I had
failed to provide myself with a trench map, and it was my first time in
this section. The bursting shells were filling up the trenches, and I
was becoming absolutely fogged. So, in sheer desperation--for the
bombardment was getting more intense and I was afraid of losing
pictures--I climbed on to the parapet to look round. What a scene of
desolation. The first thing I saw was a dead German. That didn't help to
cheer me up overmuch. Making a slight detour I stopped to fix the Hun
front line if possible. Our own I could see. But no matter where I
looked the Bosche line was apparently non-existent. Yet our shells were
smashing into the ground, which seemed to be absolutely empty.

I set up my camera and started to expose. While doing so I happened to
glance down, for I must explain that I was on a slight mound. Which was
the most surprised--the Bosche or myself--I do not know, for less than a
hundred yards away was the German line. I stopped turning. Immediately
I did so bullets came singing unpleasantly past my head. I dropped flat
on the ground, which luckily for me was slightly protected by a ridge of
earth. I dragged the camera down on top of me and, lying flat, the
bullets whizzed by overhead. The Bosche must have thought he had got me,
for in a few moments fire ceased. I wriggled towards the trench and
dropped like a log into the bottom, dragging my camera after me. One of
my men had followed, and seeing me drop, did the same. He came tumbling
head first into the trench.

"That was a near squeak, sir," he said. "Yes, come on, they will
probably start shelling us. Cut through here. I noticed some German
prisoners coming this way. I must get them. Where's the other man? Keep
him close up."

Reaching a trench through which the German prisoners were being led, I
hurriedly fixed my camera and filmed them shambling in, holding their
hands up, their nerves completely shattered by the intensity of our
terrific bombardment. Some were covered with wounds, others were
carrying our wounded Tommies in on stretchers. It was an extraordinary
sight. Ten minutes before these men were doing their utmost to kill each
other. Now, friend and foe were doing their best to help each other.
Shells were dropping close by. One fell in the midst of a group of
prisoners and, bursting, killed fourteen and wounded eleven. The others
were marched on.

Whether I had been spotted or not, I do not know, but German shells were
crumping unpleasantly near. I was just thinking of moving when another
burst so close that it made me quickly decide. I looked round for my
men. One was there; the other was missing.

"Get into a dug-out," I yelled. "Where is L----?"

"Don't know, sir," he said.

He dived into a dug-out at the first shell which burst near. At that
moment another "crump" crashed down and exploded with a crunching roar,
throwing a large quantity of earth all around me. One after another came
over in quick succession.

"Where the devil is that fellow?" I said to ----. "He's got my
aeroscope. When brother Fritz has smoothed down this little 'strafe' I
will try and find him."

"He was in that section, sir, where Bosche crossed."

For over half an hour the crumping continued, then it practically
ceased. The Bosche evidently thought he had distributed us to the four
winds of heaven. I emerged from my shelter and hurriedly ran along the
trench to find my man. He was nowhere to be found. Several dug-outs had
been smashed in, and in one place the water in the trench was deep red
with blood, and wading through this was anything but pleasant. At that
moment a telephone man came up.

"Can you tell me, sir, if there is a machine-gun position hereabouts? I
have been sent to run a wire." I was just replying when a crump came
hurtling over.

"Duck," I yelled, and duck we did. I tried to cover the whole of my body
under my steel helmet, and crouching low on the ground, the crump burst
just on the parapet above, showering huge lumps of dirt which clattered
upon us.

"You had better get out of this," I said, and suiting the action to the
word I attempted to run, when another crump burst, this time in the
traverse close behind. Well, which of us ran the fastest for cover I
don't know, but I was a good second!

The non-appearance of my other man worried me. He was nowhere to be
found. It occurred to me that as he did not find me on emerging from
his dug-out, and as it was coming on to rain, he had returned to the car
thinking he might find me there. Packing up my camera, therefore, I
started off, passing more prisoners on the way. I promptly collared two
of them to carry my tripod and camera, and as we proceeded I could not
restrain a smile at the sight of two German prisoners hurrying along
with my outfit, and a grinning Tommy with his inevitable cigarette
between his lips, and a bayonet at the ready, coming up behind. It was
too funny for words.

When I reached the car my lost man was not there. I enquired of several
battle-police and stretcher-bearers if they had seen a man of his
description wandering about, and carrying a leather case, but nobody had
seen him. After having a sandwich, I decided to go again to the front
line to find him. I could not leave him there. I must find out something
definite. On my way down I made further enquiries, but without result. I
searched around those trenches until I was soaked to the skin and fagged
out, but not a trace of him could I discover; not even my camera or
pieces of it. The only thing that could have happened, I thought, was
that he had got into a dug-out, and the entrance had been blown in by
heavy shell-fire.

Retracing my steps I examined several smashed dug-outs. It was
impossible to even attempt to lift the rubble. With gloomy thoughts I
returned again to the car, and on my journey back left instructions with
various men to report anything found to the town major at ----. I stayed
the night in the vicinity in the hope of receiving news; but not a scrap
came through. Again next day, and the next, I hunted the trenches,
unsuccessfully, and finally I came to the conclusion that he had been
killed and decided to post him as missing. I had arrived at this
decision whilst resting on the grass at the top of Becourt Wood and was
making a meal of bully and biscuits when, looking up, I saw what I took
to be an apparition of my missing man walking along the road and
carrying a black case. I could scarcely believe my eyes.

"Where the devil have you been?" I asked. "I was just on my way back to
post you as missing. What has happened?"

"Well, sir, it was like this. When that shell burst I dived into a
dug-out, and was quite all right. Then another shell burst and struck
the entrance, smashing it in. I have been all this time trying to get
out. Then I lost my way and--well, sir, here I am. But your camera case
is spoilt." So ended his adventure.

Thinking that the films I had obtained of the Somme fighting should be
given to the public as quickly as possible, I suggested to G.H.Q.--and
they fully agreed--that I should return to England without delay. So
packing up my belongings I returned to London next day.

Little time was lost in developing and printing the pictures, and the
Military authorities, recognising what a splendid record they presented
of "The Great Push," had copies prepared without delay for exhibition
throughout the length and breadth of the land; in our Dependencies over
seas, and in neutral countries. They were handled with wonderful
celerity by Mr. Will Jury, a member of the War Office Committee, and put
out through the business organisation over which he so ably presides. It
is sufficient here to record the deep and abiding impression created by
the appearance of the films on the screen. People crowded the theatres
to see the pictures; thousands were turned away; and it has been
estimated that the number of those who have seen these Official War
Films must run into many millions.



The Somme Film has proved a mighty instrument in the service of
recruiting; the newspapers still talk of its astounding realism, and it
is generally admitted that the great kinematograph picture has done much
to help the people of the British Empire to realise the wonderful spirit
of our men in the face of almost insuperable difficulties; the splendid
way in which our great citizen army has been organised; the vastness of
the military machine we have created during the last two and a half
years; and the immensity of the task which still faces us.

His Majesty the King has declared that "the public should see these
pictures"; and Mr. Lloyd George, after witnessing a display of the film,
sent forth the following thrilling message to the nation: "Be up and
doing! See that this picture, which is in itself an epic of
self-sacrifice and gallantry, reaches every one. Herald the deeds of our
brave men to the ends of the earth. This is _your_ duty."

A thrilling message truly, and I am proud indeed to think that I have
been permitted to play my part in the taking and making of this
wonderful film.



     The Process Described in Detail--Developing the
     Negative--Its Projection on the
     Screen--Cutting--Titling--Joining--Printing the
     Positive--Building Up the Story--It is Submitted to the
     Military Censors at General Headquarters--And After Being
     Cut and Approved by Them--Is Ready for Public Exhibition.

In view of the immense and widespread interest aroused by the appearance
of the Somme Film, it may perhaps be permissible to depart for a spell
from the narration of my story, in order to explain briefly, for the
benefit of those interested, how such a picture is prepared, and the
various processes through which it must necessarily pass before it is
ready for public exhibition.

The process is technically known as "editing," and it must be admitted
that this part of the work more nearly approaches the art of the
newspaper editor than any other I know. Indeed, I am not sure that the
functions of the film editor--at least in the case of a picture such as
the Somme Film--do not call for a greater exercise of discretion,
diplomacy and tact; for so many interests have to be taken into account;
so much has to be left out, for so much is at stake.

Time and thought is doubly intensified in editing or cutting up the film
in all its various scenes and assembling them in their right order with
suitable sub-titles. Immediately films arrive in London they are sent by
the War Office to the works, and there in a long dark-room, with many
compartments, the film is wound upon wooden frames, about three feet by
four feet. Each section as it is unwound from the roll is numbered by a
perforated machine, to save the unnecessary handling that would
otherwise be caused if one had to wade through all the small sections to
join in the original lengths in which they are received.

The frames are then taken into the developing-room, where they are
placed in tanks of developing mixture, warmed to a temperature of about
sixty-five degrees. It is there that the technique of a developing
expert asserts itself; he can either make or mar a film. During
development the picture is carefully rinsed, and eventually it is ready
for fixing. It is taken out, washed in a bath of pure water, and then
dropped into an acid fixing bath and there allowed to remain until
fixation is complete, usually a matter of about fifteen minutes.

The films are then taken to the washing-room, where they are placed in
huge tanks, taking from fifty to one hundred frames, and each one
holding one hundred and twenty feet of films. Jets of water run
continually over them, and in an hour they are taken out and sent to the
drying-room, where the film is rewound whilst wet upon very large drums,
about thirty feet long and seven feet in diameter. An electric motor is
then started, and the drum revolves at an ever-increasing speed. Drum
after drum is loaded in the same way, until the whole of the film is in
position and the whirling continues until the negative is perfectly dry.

Cleanliness in every possible respect is absolutely essential during the
process of development, until the film is dry once more. The most minute
speck of dust or foreign matter might adhere to the wet emulsion
permanently disfiguring it. Therefore to avoid this the utmost care must
be maintained throughout, and the negative is now ready to be projected
on the screen for the first time in order to see that it is technically
perfect in quality, and to decide upon the possibilities of a big
feature film, or a series of short ones.

For simplicity's sake we will assume that we are dealing with a subject
such as the Battle of the Somme, approximately five thousand feet in
length. As the film is projected, notes are taken of each scene in
strict rotation. The negative, as in the ordinary process of
photography, is quite the reverse to the film shown in the picture
theatre. The black portions of the picture as we see it on the screen
are white, and all whites are black. It therefore calls for a highly
trained eye to be able to follow the film.

Only now do I find out whether the scenes I have taken live up to my
expectations. Sometimes yes--sometimes no. One great drawback is that
the sounds are not there! When the projection is finished the whole of
the negative is taken to the cutting and joining-room. I take every
reel, and each scene is cut out separately and titled by means of a
label fastened to the section by an elastic band.

So the process goes on until I have the whole of the film cut up and
registered. I often go through each scene again separately and closely
scrutinise it, cutting out all blemishes, black stops, uninteresting
sections of the scene, and many other faults which unavoidably present
themselves. Before going further I should say that the film is "taken"
in lengths of four hundred feet, and they are always kept at that length
and in a separate tin box. Even when they are cut up the sections go
back into the same tin. Each box is taken in turn and numbered one, two,
three, four, five, six, and so on. Number one contains ten sections,
representing ten scenes. Each is labelled and every title is copied on a
sheet of foolscap, and each section numbered and credited to box one.
The process continues in this way until the whole negative is

Meantime I am mentally building up my film story. In story form it must
grip the interest of the general public, and yet I have to keep to
strict military correctness. I think of my main title. That in itself is
a great thing. It has to epitomise the story of the whole film. It has
to be short and it must "hold." The title once decided upon, the first
reel must deal with preparatory action. I then take the lists prepared
as described and call for my sections. For instance, number twenty
section, box fourteen; number twelve section, box six; and so on,
gradually building up the first reel. The sub-titles must be appealing
and concise, and in phraseology that can be easily understood by all.

Eventually reel number one is finished. All the sections are joined
together, with spaces marked for the titles. The same process continues
with the other reels. Number two must finish their story so far as
preparatory action goes. You are then ready for the thrill, and the
harder you can hit that thrill into reels three and four the greater the
ultimate success of the film. Reel five finishes the story. But after
seeing a battle film through full of suffering and agony, as it
unavoidably must be to be genuine, you must not leave the public with a
bitter taste in their mouth at the end. The film takes you to the grave,
but it must not leave you there; it shows you death in all its grim
nakedness; but after that it is essential that you should be restored to
a sense of cheerfulness and joy. That joy comes of the knowledge that in
all this whirlpool of horrors our lads continue to smile the smile of
victory. Therefore the film must finish with a touch of happiness to
send you home from the picture theatre with a light heart--or at least
as light a heart as circumstances permit.

The film is now edited, and it goes into the printer's hands. A positive
print is made from it on film stock, and after the printing the copies
are returned to the dark-room and the process of developing is gone
through again, as in the case of a negative.

The print is then dried and joined up in its right order, and so divided
that it makes five reels. The titles by this time have been corrected
from the military point of view by the War Office, and are printed for
insertion in their appropriate position. The length of reading matter
controls the length of the title to be printed. In some instances it
will take ten seconds to read a title. Ten feet of film is therefore
necessary for insertion between the scenes to explain them. In other
cases three feet of titling suffices.

The film is then shown to the War Office officials, and once they have
approved it, it is packed in a safe and sent to General Headquarters in
France. Here it is again projected in a specially constructed theatre,
before the chief censor and his staff, and it may happen that certain
incidents or sections are deleted in view of their possible value to the
enemy. These excisions are carefully marked and upon the return of the
film to London those sections are taken out and kept for future
reference. The film is now ready for public exhibition.



     Three Times I Try and Fail to Reach this Stronghold of the
     Dead--Which Has Been Described as "Hell on Earth"--At a
     Dressing Station Under Fire--Smoking Two Cigarettes at a
     Time to Keep Off the Flies--Some Amusing Trench
     Conversations by Men who had Lost Their Way--I Turn in for
     the Night--And Have a Dead Bosche for Company.

I have just come from England after seeing the Somme Film well on its
way to the public. It has caused a great sensation. I really thought
that some of the dead scenes would offend the British public. And yet
why should they? It is only a very mild touch of what is happening day
after day, week after week, on the bloody plains of France and Belgium.
Bloody? Yes, inevitably so. There never was such dearly bought land
since creation. The earth in the Somme district has been soaked with the
blood of men. Sit out on a field a mile or two from our front line any
morning early, when the mist is just rising. Sit out there on the ground
which our boys have fought for and won. The place reeks with the
horrible stench of countless decaying bodies, and every minute adds to
their number.

But the British public did not object to these realistic scenes in the
film. They realised that it was their duty to see for themselves. They
had been told by the press; they had been told by Parliament; they had
been told by lecturers what was happening, but to no purpose. They must
be shown; they must see with their own eyes. And the kinematograph
camera performed this service. Has it justified itself? I put that
question to all who have seen the film. What effect did it have upon
you? Did you realise till you saw it what this vast battle-front was
like? Did you realise what our Army was doing; how our wonderful
soldiers--your husbands, your sons, your brothers--were driving the Huns
back; how they were going to their death with a laugh upon their faces
and a cigarette between their lips, fighting and dying like true
Britons? That those who came back wounded and broken still had that

Yes: the truth has at last dawned upon you. With that knowledge new
resolutions were born within you; resolutions that bade you never to
slack for an instant in your endeavour to bring success to our arms.

Trones Wood! That name had been drummed into my ears for days. It seemed
to have a fascination for me. I asked several men to describe the place.

"Quite impossible, sir; there baint anything like it on earth, and if
hell is at all like it then I have been there. It's dead; just
dead--dead--dead! And the smell--awful."

"Is Fritz strafing there much?"

"Yes, sir, he's at it all day: there's not room for a cat to hide in, so
why Fritz is dropping his souvenirs there heaven knows; I don't."

From the description the place seemed rather satisfactory from a scenic
point of view, so I made up my mind to try and film it, as I wanted
scenes of heavy bombardment which I could get if Fritz was concentrating
upon the wood, for the Hun is a tolerably safe person to deal with if he
has a target to fire at; he is so methodical.

Going up by my car as far as the top of Camoy Valley, I left it there
near a dressing station.


"Strafing!" I was out for "strafing," and by all appearances I was
likely to get it hot and strong before long. I had only just stopped
when a shell came hurtling overhead, falling about one hundred and fifty
yards behind the dressing station. I went over to a doctor who was
tending some wounded men--our own and Germans.

"Has Fritz been sending you these souvenirs very often?" I enquired.

The doctor rose, and mopping his forehead, grinned and replied: "Yes;
the blighter won't let us alone. Why doesn't he play cricket? He must
know this is Red Cross. That sign there," pointing to a large Red Cross
lying on the ground, "is large enough to be seen by the men in Mars.
Only this morning he put one bang through the roof of our dug-out,
rewounding a lot of our chaps lying there. By the way, are you leaving
your car there?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Well, you had better say good-bye to it; several of our ambulances have
been strafed there."

"Well," I said, "can't be helped; it must take its chance. I'm going to
take a few scenes of you at work. Where did these Bosches come from?"

"This morning, from Guillemont; our boys had a bit of a stunt on and
landed a few of the beggars."

I filmed various incidents showing the treatment of wounded prisoners.
They received the same careful attention as our own men; whatever they
asked for they had. Several padres were kneeling down beside our boys,
taking down messages to be sent to their relatives.

Stretcher after stretcher with its human freight of Briton and Hun was
deposited on the ground. Immediately doctors and orderlies were upon
their knees tending to their wants with a gentleness that was
wonderful. While I was there several shells fell and exploded only a
short distance away.

I left the dressing station and paused upon a mound near a tree stump,
the top of which had been carefully split off by shell-fire. I stood
looking in the direction of Trones. The Bosches were "strafing" it
pretty thoroughly. Away across at Montaubon village the same thing was
happening. They were fairly watering the place with H.E. and shrapnel.
Our guns were rattling out as well, and I am glad to say that it sounded
to me as though ours were at least ten to their one.

Well, the scenes had to be obtained. I admit the job looked anything but
pleasant. "Well, here goes!" I said, and putting on a cigarette, I
trudged off with my apparatus across the open, making a bee-line midway
between Montaubon and Bernafay Wood. I gave both places a wide berth,
thereby steering clear of possible Bosche shells. How hot it was.
Perspiration was literally pouring from me. I kept on over the ground
captured from the Germans. The smell in places was almost unbearable. I
puffed away at my cigarette, thereby reducing the stench to a minimum.

Several shells came whizzing overhead in the direction of the dressing
station I had just left. With a grinding crash they exploded. "Shrapnel,
woolly bears," I said under my breath. They seemed to burst right on top
of them too. I thought of all those poor wounded Tommies lying helpless
on their stretchers. Another--then another--came hurtling over. The
splitting crash of the burst can only be appreciated by those who have
been in close proximity to a German H.E. Woolly Bear exploding. It gives
one rather a sickening sensation. Another came over. This time it burst
nearer. "Gee! they're dropping the range." I hastily grabbed my tripod
and hurried off at a tangent. Proceeding for a distance of about five
hundred yards I turned off again and made tracks for my original point.

In front, at a distance of about seven hundred yards, one of our forward
field batteries of 18-pounders opened fire. I at first thought they were
French 75 mm. owing to the extreme rapidity of fire. From my position I
could not see the guns, but stretching across the country a rough line
of brown earth was thrown up, which I afterwards found out was one of
the old German lines. The guns were cunningly concealed in the trench.
Thinking that it would make rather a good scene I decided to film it in

I may add that I have previously been rather wary about having much to
do with forward artillery positions. On three previous occasions I have
been badly "strafed" by brother Fritz. He has the uncommonly irritating
habit of putting his whizz-bangs much too near to be pleasant, with the
result that I have more than once been compelled to take my camera and
self off to the more congenial quarters of a dug-out, from which place,
you will agree, one cannot obtain very interesting pictures.

Reaching the batteries I unlimbered myself of my gear and approaching
the C.O. in charge told him who I was and what I wanted. He was quite
pleased to see me and said that he was just about to give Fritz a good
dose of "iron rations," firing in salvos. Quickly fixing up my camera I
filmed the scenes from various points of view. The men were stripped to
the waist, jumping out the shells as fast as they could be handled.
While I was filming the scene brother Fritz replied with whizz-bangs
thick and fast. They are perfect devils, and it is practically
impossible to hear them coming until they burst. I turned my machine
round upon the spot near which they were dropping. Several times they
got within the range of my camera, and I continued to turn upon them
until two came much too close, so thinking discretion the better part of
valour, I hastily disappeared into the doubtful shelter of a broken-down
Hun trench. Then they came over, several smothering me in dust as they
exploded close by. Having obtained all the pictures I required I thanked
the C.O. and went on my way.

My clothes were absolutely saturated with perspiration as I shambled
away towards the top end of Bernafay Wood. I looked back at the battery.
Bosche was still "strafing." I vowed I would never go near any forward
guns again; but good resolutions are made to be broken, and my lust for
pictures is too strong within me.

Moving was now difficult. The weight of my camera outfit seemed to be
getting heavier. I could only get along at a very slow pace. The strap
around my chest seemed to squeeze the very breath out of my lungs. But
worse was to come. The Huns began shelling the section with shrapnel in
a searching manner, and several times I collapsed into a shell-hole, in
the hope of obtaining a little cover. But there is very little shelter
from shrapnel. On several occasions I felt like throwing away my steel
helmet; the weight seemed abnormal; but prudence warned me and I clung
to it.

The fire was now too bad to proceed in the open. If there were any
trenches or ditches I availed myself of their protection. The heat in
the trenches was terrific, and to add to the horrors of the stench and
heat there were millions of flies. Filthy brutes! They seemed to cling
to one like leeches, and, my arms being full, I could not keep them off
my face. Several times I almost decided to turn back, asking myself if
it was worth while. But when I looked at Trones Wood in the distance,
and the heavy shells bursting all round, I gritted my teeth and decided
to push on.

Thinking that more smoke might help to keep off the flies I lighted two
cigarettes and puffed away at them, one in each corner of my mouth. I'm
sure I must have looked a most extraordinary specimen of humanity at
this moment. Loaded with kit, perspiring like a bull; my steel helmet
cocked on one side of my head; puffing away like a chimney at two
cigarettes, and millions of flies buzzing all around me. Picture me if
you can.

I was proceeding like an automaton along the trench when suddenly I came
upon an officer who, I afterwards found out, was going up to fix his
next gun positions. He was sitting on a sandbag swearing like Hades, and
trying to disperse the clouds of flies which were settling upon him. He
looked up as I approached, then suddenly burst into a peal of laughter.
I stood still and grinned, not daring to open my mouth to laugh for fear
of losing my cigarettes. Then I dropped my tripod and leaned against the
trench side to rest. His laughter suddenly developed into a coughing and
spluttering, spitting and swearing, which in itself was strong enough to
drive all the flies in existence away.

"Bust the things!" he spluttered. "I got a mouthful of them! They might
have just come off some dirty Bosche. Got a drink on you?"

"Yes," I said, and handed him my water-bottle.

He rinsed out his mouth.

"I do believe it's worth risking shrapnel rather than tolerate these
vile things!" he remarked. "But excuse my laughter; you did look funny
coming along there."

"Yes, I expect I did," I said, still puffing away at my cigarettes. "I'd
smoke a dozen at once if I could. Anything to keep the flies away."

"Well," he said, "I'm stumped. Have you one to spare?"

I handed him my case. He lighted up and both of us, puffing as hard as
we could, made quite a healthy volume of smoke. From above it must have
looked as if a small fire was raging.

We had sat there alternately puffing and chatting and killing flies by
the hundreds for about ten minutes. I told him I wanted to get some
scenes of Trones. He politely told me I ought to have brought my keeper
out with me, but as he was going in that direction he would help me on
the way to being killed by carrying my tripod.

We started off. The shelling was getting unpleasantly near. Phoot-bang!
We both ducked, my head getting a nasty knock against the tripod top.
For the moment I thought I had been struck by the whizz-bang. Presently
we reached a junction in the trench, and as my friend's road lay in an
opposite direction we parted, and I trudged on alone.

I was brought to a standstill by a mound of earth which completely
blocked the way. By all appearances the shell that had caused it could
have only come over a few minutes before, for a thin wisp of smoke was
still curling up from the débris. "Well," I thought, placing my kit on
the ground, "it's got to be done; so over I go." Here the air was
completely free from flies. Evidently the gas from the bursting shell
had choked them off for a time. Jove! I was glad. It was like heaven;
and my tongue was beginning to burn rather badly through fiercely
smoking two cigarettes at once.

Cautiously I crept up to the top of the parapet! What a sight! Shells
were falling thick and fast over Trones and towards Baentin-le-Grand. I
must film this, Bosche or no Bosche! So hastily fixing up my tripod, I
fastened on the camera and began exposing. "Excellent," I thought;
"I've got it." Another shell came along. This time it was evidently a
5.9, and was right in the centre of my view, about one hundred and fifty
yards away! Another one. Rotten! Just out of my limits. Phut-bang!
Phut-bang! I grabbed my camera and fell with it on the opposite side of
the mound. I let it lie there, and dashing back into the other section
of trench grabbed my bags and returned. Whizz-bangs followed;
whizz-bangs in front and behind! I crouched as low as possible and
replacing the camera in its case hung it over my back and, still bending
low, hurried away dragging my tripod behind me.

The trench was blocked by a batch of men returning. They were crouching
down for cover. The officer in charge asked me what in the world I was

"Thunder," he said, "if I knew the 'movie' man had been here I would
have gone the other way. You've evidently drawn fire by that contraption
of yours. Where are you going?"

"To Trones Wood," I said.

The look of blank amazement on his face was amusing.

"My dear chap," he said, "are you serious?"

"Well," I replied, "I had intended going there till a moment ago, but
the strafing seems to get worse."

Shrapnel was now bursting overhead, a piece hitting one of the men close

"Where's he hit?" enquired the officer. The poor fellow was lying down.

"In the shoulder, sir," one of the others shouted back. "Seems rather

"Two of you bring him through and get ahead to the dressing station as
quickly as possible. Keep your heads down." Then turning to me the
officer said: "Look here, I've just come from the Wood, and, by gad,
it's fair hell there! The place is a charnel-house. It's literally
choked with corpses; heaps of them; and we dare not bring them in. We've
tried even at night, but the shelling prevents us. The place reeks. And
the flies! They're awful. It's more than flesh and blood can stand! To
put your head up means certain death and--well, you see what your camera
did here. You can imagine what it would be like over there, can't you?"

"Yes, I see, but of course if I had known any men were about I wouldn't
have put my machine up. I know there is always the possibility of
drawing fire. It has happened quite a number of times to me!"

"If you respect your life don't go any further. The shell-fire is
impossible, and the sight over there is too ghastly for words."

So I decided to relinquish my visit for the time being.

A call was made to proceed. "Half a minute," I said, "the trench had
been blown in about fifty yards down, wouldn't it be better to clear it
away rather than take these men over the top?"

The officer decided that it was. The men worked away with a will, and
quickly replaced the earth in the hollow of the trench wall from which
it had been blown.

Again we trudged on. The flies were beginning to annoy us once more. I
put on a couple of cigarettes. All the men had ransacked odds and ends
from their pockets, and the result was a line of men smoking as hard as
they could, and enveloped in a haze of bluish white smoke. But the flies
refused to budge. Smoke had no effect on them, and I'm inclined to think
that nothing short of a 5.9 would do the trick. Not until we were out in
the open were we free from them.

On two further occasions I tried to enter Trones Wood, and both times
the conditions were if anything worse. The merest sign of a camera put
up over a parapet would have instantly brought a host of shells
clattering round; therefore, on the third try, I decided to abandon the
trip until a later date. But those attempts will always remain in my
memory as a ghastly nightmare. The essence of death and destruction, and
all that it means, was horribly visible everywhere.

I have been there since. I reached the place just before the final
cleansing, and brother Fritz, just to let us know that he existed, and
that he had a spite against us, persisted in flinging his shrapnel
around, thereby keeping me well on the run. He did not give me the
slightest chance to get pictures, nor to meditate on the surroundings;
in fact the only meditation I indulged in was to wonder whether the next
shrapnel bullet would strike my helmet plumb on the top or glance off
the rim. Then thinking of George Grave's remark, I called Fritz a "nasty
person," with a few extra additions culled from the "trench dictionary."

Being a fine night I decided to stay in the vicinity. An officer of a
pioneer battalion kindly offered me a share of his dug-out--one of
Fritz's cast-offs. I gladly accepted, and over a cup--or rather a
tin--of tea, we exchanged views on various subjects. About ten o'clock I
went above to terra firma and watched the shells bursting over the
German lines. Myriads of star-shells or Verey lights shot high in the
sky, lighting up the whole country-side like day. The sight was
wonderful, and silhouetted against the flashes I could see countless
bodies of men tramping on their way like silent phantoms.

Here and there I watched a shell burst. I could see and hear that it had
dropped into a section of those men, adding to the number of that great
army of heroes who had already "gone West." But into those gaps,
through which the blasting shells had torn their way, stepped other men.
A sharp word of command was rapped out, then on again to take up their
battle position, leaving the dead behind to be reverently buried on the
morrow. The wounded were brought away by the stretcher-bearers, and as
one lot passed me I heard a voice from the darkness murmur, "Bill, it's
a blighty."

I wandered on in the direction of our line. Near a junction of by-roads
I heard some funny remarks passed by ration parties trying to find the
way to their sections. To pick one's way in the dark over strange ground
littered with débris is not an easy task. The exact language I heard
would hardly bear repeating.

One party had evidently bumped into another. "D---- and ---- who are
you? Cawn't yer see, mate, I'm taking up company rations? Blimy, but 'ow
the 'ell I am going to find the way--blowed if I know. Do you know where
---- Company is? I'm taking up sandbags. Lost me ---- way. 'Ave yer
passed a dead 'orse? I knowed I passed it coming up. Good night, mate."

Both men went off into the darkness, swearing like troopers. Another man
came up. He was whistling a homely song, but it came to an abrupt
conclusion, for he evidently stumbled over some obstacle. Compliments
began to fly, and he told the Bosche in plain language what he thought
of him for leaving it there. His remarks were too pointed for expression
in cold print.

The next to come along was an engineering officer. He could faintly
discern me in the darkness.

"Hullo," he said. "Are you the ----?"

"No," I replied. "I'm sorry I can't help you. I haven't the least idea
where they are. What's wrong?"

"I have to run out some wires to-night, but bothered if I know where
they are. Missed my way near the wood. Some silly ass sent me wrong."

"Well," I said, "most of the troops I have seen have gone in that
direction," pointing the way. He disappeared.

Apparently he was held up a minute or two later by some one else, for in
the distance I heard a voice, "Do you know where ---- Company is, sir?"

"No, I don't," in a rather irritated tone. "I can't find my own blooming

This sort of thing went on for over an hour; first one then another.
Whether all of them eventually found their various points Heaven only

I had wandered so far, owing to my interest in other people, that I had
some difficulty in retracing my steps to the dug-out. Eventually I
arrive there about one o'clock. I had been given up for lost.

I told ---- of my experiences.

"That kind of thing happens practically every night. They manage to find
their way somehow. Come along; let's turn in. Look out for your head as
you crawl through. Don't mind the rats. Cover your head well up. They
won't touch your face then."

I crawled in on to my bed. Then I noticed a peculiar and decidedly
unpleasant smell.

"Have you got any corpses here?" I asked him.

"Yes, I believe so," he said. "You see the other entrance has been blown
in. It's the other end of your bed, and I believe some Bosches were
buried in the débris. Never mind, stick it; they won't bite."

"Pleasant dreams," I mumbled as I drew my blanket well around my face;
in a few minutes the presence of dead Bosche ceased to trouble me. I



     Looking for "Thrills"--And How I Got Them--I Pass Through
     "Sausage Valley," on the Way to Pozières--You _May_ and you
     _Might_--What a Tommy Found in a German Dug-out--How Fritz
     Got "Some of His Own" Back--Taking Pictures in What Was Once
     Pozières--"Proofs Ready To-morrow."

Things, from my point of view, were slackening down. Plenty of
preparatory action was taking place, and here and there small local
engagements, but the fact that they were local made it very difficult
for me to get to hear of them. None of the Corps Commanders knew exactly
when or where the nibble would develop, or, if they did know, they were
naturally chary of giving me the information. On occasions too when I
did know I had not sufficient time to make my arrangements, I had to be
content with scenes which unfolded themselves after the action had taken

This was getting rather monotonous. The aftermath of one attack was to
all intents and purposes an exact replica of the previous one, except
that the surroundings were different. There was the return of the
attackers; the bringing in of prisoners, the wounded, the dead; and to
vary these scenes to make my pictures generally interesting required a
lot of thought and a careful choice of view point.

In the course of the "push," which began in July, there were hundreds, I
might almost say thousands, of incidents that to the eye were of
enthralling interest, but to have filmed them with the idea of
conveying that interest on the screen would have been so much wasted
effort. Even the kinematograph has its limitations.

Over my head all the time, like a huge sword, hung the thought of
British public opinion, and the opinion of neutral countries. They would
accept nothing unless there was great excitement in it; unless the
pictures contained such "thrills" as they had never seen before, and had
never dreamed possible. Once I had secured that thrill I could then--and
only then--take the preparatory scenes, depicting the ordinary life and
action of the men and the organisation which are necessary to run the
war. Such scenes--interesting as they undoubtedly are--without that
"thrill" would have fallen flat, would have been of no use, from the
exhibition point of view, and I had always to bear that fact in mind.

I have spent many sleepless nights wondering how and where I was to
obtain that magnetic thrill, that minute incident, probably only ten per
cent of which would carry the remaining ninety per cent to success. One
that would positively satisfy the public.

I had been filming a lot of stuff lately, but when I looked through my
list, excellent as the scenes were--many of which I would probably never
be able to get again--they struck me as lacking "thrill." That was what
I required. So I set out to get it.

The Australians had just captured Pozières, and hearing that the Bosche
were continually "strafing" it I decided to make for that quarter with
the object of getting a good bombardment. If possible, I would also get
into the village itself where there ought to be some very good pictures,
for the capture had only taken place two days previously.

Pozières then it should be. Leaving my base early in the morning I made
my way through Becourt Wood and beyond, up "Sausage Valley"--why that
name I don't know. The whole area was crowded with men of the Australian

As there was no road I took my car over the grass, or rather all that
was left of it. The place was covered with shell-holes. Driving between,
and more often than not into them, was rather a tiresome job, but it
saved several miles of tramping with heavy stuff. "Sausage Valley"
during this period was anything but healthy. I was warned about it as I
left an Australian battery where I had stayed to make a few enquiries. A
major told me the place was "strafed" every day, and I soon found that
this was so when I arrived. Several "crumps" fell in the wood behind me,
and two on the hill-side among some horses, killing several. If I saw
one dead horse I must have seen dozens; they were all over the place.
But everyone was much too busy to bury them at the moment. The stench
was decidedly unpleasant, and the flies buzzed around in swarms. I soon
had a couple of cigarettes alight. What a boon they were at times.

After much dodging and twisting I halted the car close to a forward
dressing station. While I was there several shells dropped unpleasantly
near, and I could not restrain my admiration for the medical staff who
tended the wounded, quite oblivious of the dangers by which they were
surrounded in so exposed a position. I obtained several very interesting
scenes of the wounded arriving.

I waited awhile to watch the Bosche shelling before going over the ridge
to Pozières. I could then tell the sections he "strafed" most. I would
be able to avoid them as much as possible. I watched for fully an hour;
the variation in his target was barely perceptible. On one or two
occasions he "swept" the ridge. I decided to make a start after the next

Strapping the camera on my back, my man taking the tripod, we started
off. There was a light railway running towards Contalmaison. I followed
this until I got near the spot brother Fritz was aiming at, hugging a
trench at the side of a by-road. The bank was lined with funk-holes,
which came in very useful during the journey, and I had to seek their
shelter several times, but the nearest shell fell at a junction between
that road and a communication trench. Just this side lay a very much
dead horse. The shell came over. Down I went flat on my stomach. My man
dived into a hole. The shell exploded, and the next thing I remember was
a feeling as if a ton of bricks had fallen on top of me. I managed to
struggle up and make quickly for the trench, my man following; and you
may be quite sure I took care that I was well out of line of the next
before I eased up. Beyond a few scratches on the camera-case and a torn
coat, I was quite sound.

I was told of a Hun battery of 77 mm. guns on the left-hand side of the
valley leading to Pozières, so I decided to make for that spot. I
enquired of a man as to the whereabouts of them.

"Well, sir," he said, "you may come to them if you keep straight on, but
I shouldn't advise you to do so as you have to cross the open. Bosche
has a pretty sharp eye on anyone there; he knows the lay of the battery
and he just plasters it. You _might_ get round at 'Dead Man's Corner,'
on the Contalmaison Road. It's pretty bad there, but I think it's the
best place to try, and once you are round the corner you _may_ be all

"Well, which way do I take?"

"Down this way, then turn to your left at the corner; the battery is
about two hundred yards along on the hill-side."

"But, man alive," I said, "they're strafing it like blazes. Look!"

They were, too, and 8-inch shells were dropping wholesale.

"No, I think I will take the risk and run over the open. Are there any
dug-outs at the battery?"

"Yes, sir, jolly good ones; forty feet deep; regular beauties. Evidently
made up their minds to stay the winter. Electric light, libraries, and
beds with real spring mattresses. My, sir, but they were comfortable.
And what do you think I found there, sir?"

"Heaven knows," I replied.

"Well, sir, several ladies' fringe nets and hair-pins."

"The devil you did. Well, Fritz knows how to make himself cosy."

With that remark we parted, Tommy having a broad grin on his face.

"You will see the place where you get out of this ditch, sir," he called
out; "a shell has blown it in; strike off on your left straight ahead.
You'll see them in front of you."

The shelling was getting very unpleasant, and I had to keep low in the
trench the whole of the time. At length we reached the point where we
had to get over the top.

"Well, come on, let's chance it," I said to my man. I saw the battery in
the distance before getting over.

Up we went and bending low raced for the spot. On the way I passed
several dead bodies, all Bosche, and numbers of pieces blown to bits by
our shell fire. A whizz-bang came over whilst we were crossing. Down we
went into a shell-hole. Another, and another came over. Murderous little
brutes they were too. Seven of them. Then they ceased. We immediately
jumped up again and reached our objective. Then getting under cover of
some twisted ironwork, which once formed the roofing of the
emplacement, I took breath. "Anyway," I thought, "here I am."

In a few minutes I had a look round. What an excellent view of Pozières,
about eight hundred yards away on my left. On the right was
Contalmaison, which had only been taken a short time previously. The
Bosches were shelling the place pretty frequently. I set up the camera
and waited. Away on the opposite hill shells were falling thickly. I
started filming them and got some interesting bursts, both high
explosive and H.E. shrapnel.

Now for Pozières. The enemy must have been putting 9-inch and 12-inch
stuff in there, for they were sending up huge clouds of smoke and
débris. I secured some excellent scenes. First Pozières, then
Contalmaison. My camera was first on one then on the other. For a change
Bosche whizz-banged the battery. I could see now why he was so anxious
to crump it, for lying all around me in their carriers, were hundreds of
gas shells. I was in fact standing on them. They were all unused, and if
Fritz got a good one home, well good-bye to everything.

One time I thought I would seek the shelter of a dug-out, but the fire
swept away in the opposite direction. By careful manoeuvring I managed
to film the German guns there. Every one of the four was quite smashed
up. An excellent example of artillery fire, and by the date upon them
they were of the latest pattern.

In all there were three batteries in that small area, making twelve
guns. But out of the twelve sufficient parts were found intact to make
one good one, so that Fritz would get "some of his own" back in a way
that he least expected; for there were thousands of rounds of ammunition
found in the dug-outs beneath the gun pits.

How to get into Pozières was the next problem. I had, while filming,
been making mental notes as to the section which Fritz did not
"strafe," and that place, by all that's wonderful, was the actual thing
he was undoubtedly trying for--the road.

By hugging the bank-side, along which here and there I could spot a few
funk-holes, I managed to get into the chalk-pit. Here I filmed various
scenes, but Bosche, as usual, kept me on the jump with his shrapnel,
forcing me to take hurried shelter from time to time.

There is one thing I shall always thank Fritz for, and that is his
dug-outs. If he only knew how useful they had been to me on many
occasions I am sure he would feel flattered.

From the chalk-pit to Pozières was no great distance. The ground was
littered with every description of equipment, just as it had been left
by the flying Huns, and dead bodies were everywhere. The place looked a
veritable shambles. Believe me, I went along that road very gingerly,
picking my way between the shell bursts. Just before I reached the place
the firing suddenly ceased. The deadly silence was uncanny in the
extreme; in fact I seemed to fear it more than the bombardment. It
seemed to me too quiet to be healthy. What was Bosche up to? There must
be some reason for it. I took cover in a shallow trench at the roadside.
Along the bottom were lying several dead Bosches, and a short distance
away fragments of human remains were strewn around.

The place was desolate in the extreme. The village was absolutely
non-existent. There was not a vestige of buildings remaining, with one
exception, and that was a place called by the Germans "Gibraltar," a
reinforced concrete emplacement he had used for machine-guns. The few
trees that had survived the terrible blasting were just stumps, no more.

Fritz's sudden silence seemed uncanny, but taking advantage of his
spell of inactivity I hastily rigged up the camera and began exposing.
In a few minutes I had taken sufficient, and packing up I hurried down
the road as fast as I could.

I reached the chalk-pit safely and then, cutting across direct to the
gun pits, I took up my original position and awaited Fritz's good
pleasure to send a few more crump to provide me with scenes. But not a
shell came over.

Before leaving this section I thought I would film Contalmaison, a name
immortalised by such fighting as has rarely been equalled even in this
great war. To get there it was necessary to go to "Dead Man's Corner."
The road was pitted with shell-holes, and dead horses lay about on both
sides. Bosche was still uncannily quiet. I was beginning to think I
should just manage to get my scenes before he interfered with me. But
no! Either he had finished his lunch or had some more ammunition, for he
started again. One came over and burst in the village in front of me,
with a noise like the crashing of ten thousand bottles. I took shelter
behind a smashed-up limber, and waited to see where the next would fall.
It burst a little further away. Good enough, I thought. Here goes before
he alters his range.

Jumping up I ran and scrambled on to the ruins of a house, and took some
fine panoramic views of the village, first from one position then from
another. Some of the scenes included a few of our men in possession.
Altogether a most interesting series, including as it did both Pozières
and Contalmaison. It was the first time they had been filmed since their

At that moment I heard another crump coming over. It seemed to be
unpleasantly near, so I made a running dive for a dug-out entrance, from
which poked the grinning face of an officer.

"Look out," I yelled.

Crash came the crump.

"Near enough anyhow," I said, as a piece flew shrieking past close

"Are you the 'movie' man? I'm pleased to meet you," he said. "Did you
get me in that last scene?"

"Yes," I said. "Proofs ready to-morrow." And with a laugh I hurried down
the road.



     His Majesty's Arrival at Boulogne--At G.H.Q.--General ----'s
     Appreciation--The King on the Battlefield of
     Fricourt--Within Range of the Enemy's Guns--His Majesty's
     Joke Outside a German Dug-out--His Memento from a Hero's
     Grave--His Visit to a Casualty Clearing Station--The King
     and the Puppy--Once in Disgrace--Now a Hospital Mascot.

That evening I reported at headquarters. "Well, Malins," said Colonel
----, "I have a special job for you. Will you be on the quay at Boulogne
to-morrow morning by twelve o'clock? Captain ---- is going down; he will
make all arrangements for you there; he will also tell you who it is
that's coming. Start at eight o'clock to-morrow morning. It is very
important; so don't fail to be there."

Leaving the Colonel I met Captain ---- outside. "Who's coming?" I asked.

"Don't know," he said. "Tell you to-morrow."

"Is it the King?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "as a matter of fact it is. He arrives to-morrow. I
shall have the full programme in the morning, and will give you a copy."

What a film! My first thought was whether he would visit the
battlefield. What scenes I conjured up in my imagination. To see
Britain's King on the battlefield with his troops; to see him inspecting
the ground; to see him in trenches lately captured from the Germans. My
imagination began to run away with me. No, I thought, it will be just
the ordinary reviews and reception.

But I was wrong. The scenes that I had pictured to myself I was soon to

On the morrow the Captain, the still picture man and myself, left G.H.Q.
for Boulogne. Arriving at the quay I looked around for any signs of
preparation, but the whole place was as usual. The Captain called at the

"Do you know what time the King is due?" he asked.

The A.M.L.O. in tones of amazement ejaculated a long-drawn-out "What;
never heard of his coming."

"Well, he is," said the officer. "He's arriving at midday."

"I was never informed," said the other. "I will ring up the M.L.O." He
did so, and after a short time the information came through. "The King
will not arrive to-day; he will be here to-morrow at 9 a.m. His sailing
was altered at the last moment."

That night I turned in at the Hôtel Folkestone, making arrangements for
my car to take me and my apparatus to the quay at 8.30 in the morning.

The morning fortunately was beautifully bright. I sincerely hoped it
would continue. What excellent quality it promised in the films. I
compared it with the weather during the last visit to France of the late
Lord Kitchener; unfortunately it rained all the time.

I arrived at the quay. The French officials were gathered there, and
lined up was a guard of honour, formed by the North Staffordshire
Regiment. Every man had been through many engagements during the war.

I fixed up the camera. The boat had already drawn up by the quay-side.
There was a hushed whisper from several officials standing by: "There he
is." I looked and saw the King gaily chatting to the Naval Officer in


I wondered whether His Majesty would like being photographed, therefore
I carefully kept my camera under cover of a shelter close by. At that
moment the King's equerry came ashore. I asked him what time His Majesty
was due to land.

"Another half an hour yet," he said, "the Governor of Boulogne and other
French officials are just going aboard to be introduced."

I arranged some wheeled railings in such a manner that the opening was
close by my camera, thereby making sure that the King would pass very
near me.

The moment arrived. My camera was in position. At that moment the King
came down the gangway--he was in Field-Marshal's uniform--followed by
his suite, including Lord Stamfordham, Sir Derek Keppel,
Lieutenant-Colonel Clive Wigram, and Major Thompson. I started turning
as he stepped on the shores of France. He gravely saluted.

Passing close by he reviewed the guard of honour, giving them a word of
praise as he went. I filmed him the whole of the time, until he reached
his car, bade adieux to the many officers present, and drove away to

I had made an excellent start. The landing was splendid. Now to follow.
The King was going to G.H.Q., breaking his journey to lunch with Sir
Douglas Haig on the way. I knew I should have ample time therefore to
get well ahead and film the arrival at General Headquarters.

Arriving at G.H.Q. I took up my stand near the entrance to the building.
The Prince of Wales and other officers were there. I noticed that the
Prince, as soon as he saw me, turned and said something to a friend near
by. He evidently remembered my two previous attempts to film him.

His Majesty arrived. The Prince of Wales came to the salute, then His
Majesty--not as a king, but as a father--embraced his son. I should
have obtained a better view of that incident, but unluckily an officer
side-stepped and partly covered the figures from my camera.

I obtained many scenes during the day of His Majesty visiting, in
company with General Sir Douglas Haig, various headquarter offices,
where he studied in detail the general position of the armies. I noticed
that Sir Douglas did not look upon my camera very kindly. He was rather
shy of the machine, though latterly he has looked with a more
sympathetic eye upon it.

On the second day of the King's visit I started out and proceeded to an
appointed place on the main road, where the King's car would join us.

The weather was very dull. It was causing me much concern, for to-day of
all days I wanted to obtain an excellent film.

The cars pulled up. We had about fifteen minutes to wait. I fixed up my
camera ready to film the meeting with General Sir Henry Rawlinson. While
waiting, the General came over to me and began chatting about my work.

"I hear," he said, "that you filmed the attack of the 29th Division at
Beaumont Hamel on the 1st July, and have been told of the excellence of
the result."

He seemed much impressed by what I told him of the possibilities of the

A patrol signalled the King's arrival. His car drew up; His Majesty
alighted and heartily greeted the General. I filmed the scenes as they
presented themselves.

All aboard once more--the King leading--we started on our journey for
the battlefield of Fricourt.

Having hung about until the last second turning the handle, it was a
rush for me to pack, and pick them up again. My car not being one of the
best, I had great difficulty in keeping up with the party.

The news of the King's arrival and journey to Fricourt seemed to have
spread well ahead, for everywhere numbers of troops were strewn along
the roadside, and even far behind as I was, I could hear the echoing
cheers which resounded over hills and valleys for miles around.

Finally the cars came to a halt at an appointed place near the ruins of
the village and once beautiful woods of Fricourt, well within range of
the enemies' guns.

The spot where the King alighted was known as the Citadel, a German
sandbag fortification of immense strength.

It was arranged in the form of a circle, with underground tunnels and
dug-outs of great depth. In various sections of the walls were
machine-gun emplacements, and the whole being on the top of the hill,
formed a most formidable obstacle to the advance of our troops. I may
add that the hill is now known as "King George's Hill."

The King and his party had already alighted when I arrived to set up my
camera, and hurrying forward was very difficult work, especially as I
had to negotiate twisted masses of enemy barbed wire entanglements. But
eventually, after much rushing, and being very nearly breathless, I got
ahead, and planted my machine on the parapet of an old German trench and
filmed the party as they passed. To keep ahead after filming each
incident was very hard work. It meant waiting here and there, jumping
trenches, scrambling through entanglements, stumbling into shell-holes,
and at times fairly hanging by my eyebrows to the edge of trenches,
balancing my camera in a way that one would have deemed almost
impossible. But I am gratified to think that I managed to keep up with
the King, and I succeeded in recording every incident of interest.

At a point on the hill-top the King halted, and General ---- described
the various movements and details of the attack and capture of the
village, the King taking a very keen interest in the whole procedure.

I continued turning the handle. I did not allow a single scene to pass.
Such a thing had never been known before. Throughout it all the guns,
large and small, were crashing out, and the King could see the shells
bursting over the German lines quite distinctly.

The guide, who was a lieutenant in the Engineers, suddenly called
attention to an old German trench. The Prince of Wales first entered and
examined from above the depths of an old dug-out.

With a jump I landed on the other side of the trench and sticking the
tripod legs in the mud I filmed the scene in which His Majesty and the
Prince of Wales inspected the captured German trenches.

The party halted at the entrance to another dug-out. The guide entered
and for some moments did not reappear, the King and the General
meanwhile standing and gazing down. Suddenly a voice echoed from the

"Will you come down, sir?"--this remark to the King.

His Majesty laughed, but did not avail himself of the invitation.

All the party joined in the laughter, and all those who have seen that
picture on the screen of His Majesty's visit to his troops, will recall
the incident to which I refer. Many of the London papers in their
articles, referring to the film, wondered what the joke was that the
King so thoroughly enjoyed outside a German dug-out.

The party passed on, but some difficulty was experienced when they tried
to get out of the trench again. The King was pulled out by the Prince
of Wales, and another officer, but some members of the party
experienced a difficulty which provided quite an amusing episode.

At times I had to stop and change spools. Then the party got well ahead,
and on several occasions His Majesty, with his usual thoughtfulness and
courtesy, hung back and debated on various things in the trenches, in
order to allow me time to catch them up again.

His Majesty passed over old mine craters, and stood with his
deer-stalking glasses, resting against a tree which had been withered
during the fighting, watching the bombardment of Pozières. He made
sympathetic enquiries by the side of a lonely grave surmounted by a
rough wooden cross, on which the name and number of this hero were
roughly inscribed. A shrapnel helmet, with a hole clean through the top,
evidently caused by a piece of high-explosive shell, rested upon the

The King stooped and picked up a piece of shell and put it in his

It was now time for His Majesty's departure. Gathered near his car was a
crowd of Tommies, ready to give their King a rousing cheer as he drove
away. I filmed the scene, and as the car vanished over the brow of the
hill, three more were called for the Prince of Wales.

Hurriedly picking up my kit I chased away after them. On the way masses
of Anzacs lined both sides of the road, and the cheers which greeted His
Majesty must have been heard miles away. The scene made a most
impressive picture for me. At that moment a battalion of Anzacs just out
of the trenches at Pozières were passing. The sight was very wonderful,
and the King saw with his own eyes some of his brave Colonials returning
from their triumph, covered with clay, looking dog-tired but happy.

His Majesty was now going to view some ruins near the front, but
unfortunately, owing to burst tyres, I could not keep up with the party,
and by the time I got on the move again it would have been impossible
for me to reach the place in time to film this scene. Therefore, knowing
that he was due at No. 18 C.C.S. or "Casualty Clearing Station," I made
hurried tracks for it. A most interesting picture promised to result.

I arrived at the C.C.S. and was met by the C.O. in charge.

"Hullo, Malins," he said, "still about? Always on the go, eh? The last
scenes you took here came out well. I saw them in London on the R.A.M.C.
film. What do you want now?"

"Well, sir," I said, "I am chasing the King, and some chase too, my
word. I lost him this morning when my old bus broke down. But up to the
present I have obtained a most excellent record. Topping day yesterday
on the battlefield of Fricourt. I wouldn't have missed it for anything."

Half an hour later the royal car drew up. The King and the Prince of
Wales alighted, and were conducted around the hospital by the C.O.

I did not miss a single opportunity of filming, from His Majesty's talk
to some wounded officers, to his strolling through the long lines of
hospital tents and entering them each in turn. At one point my camera
was so close to the path along which the King passed, that the Prince of
Wales, evidently determined not to run into my range again, quickly
slipped away and crossed higher up between the other tents. An officer
standing by me remarked with a laugh, "The Prince doesn't seem to like

A touching incident took place when the King was on the point of
leaving. He stooped down and tenderly picked up a small puppy, and
gently caressed and kissed it, then handed it back to the Colonel. This
scene appears in the film, and illustrates His Majesty's affection for
dumb animals.

I had just finished turning, when an officer came up to me and said in a
low tone: "That's funny."

"What's funny?" I asked.

"Why that incident. Do you know that dog only came in here yesterday,
and he has done so much mischief through playing about, that at last the
C.O. determined to get rid of him. But we won't now. I shall put a red,
white, and blue ribbon round his neck and call him George. He shall be
the hospital's mascot."

Before I had time to reply His Majesty prepared to leave, so running
with my camera I planted it in the middle of the road and filmed his
departure, amid the cheers of the officers and men of the hospital.



     An Historic Gathering--In which King and President, Joffre
     and Haig Take Part--His Majesty and the Little French
     Girl--I Am Permitted to Film the King and His Distinguished
     Guests--A Visit to the King of the Belgians--A Cross-Channel
     Journey--And Home.

I heard that night that the King was going to meet M. Poincaré, the
French President, at the house of Sir Douglas Haig, and very possibly
General Joffre might be there, as well.

In the morning there was an excellent light, the sun was blazing; and at
9 a.m. sharp we started off, the royal car leading. By cutting across
country I was able to save a considerable distance as I wished to get
there first, in order to film the arrival.

The château was a typical French one, not very large, but situated in a
charming spot, seemingly miles away from such a thing as war. Everything
was as peaceful indeed as if we were at home in the midst of the
beautiful Surrey Hills.

Yet in this scene of profound peace the rulers of England and France,
with the leading Generals, were meeting to discuss the future policy of
the greatest and most bloody war of all time.

I took my stand on a grass patch in a position that commanded views of
both the main gates and the entrance to the house. Lining the drive from
the main gates were men of Sir Douglas Haig's regiment, the 17th
Lancers, standing to attention, their lance points glistening in the

The sentries at the gates came smartly to the salute as the royal car,
in which were the King and Sir Douglas Haig, drew up. I started turning
as he entered the gates. At that moment a little French girl ran out
with a bunch of flowers and presented them to the King, who, smiling,
stopped and patted her cheek, passed a remark to Sir Douglas, and then
proceeded down the lines of troops, and entered the house, the Prince of
Wales following close behind.

Shortly afterwards a signal was given. His Majesty and Sir Douglas came
down the steps and reached the gates as the car, bringing M. Poincaré,
the French President, and General Joffre, drew up. What a scene it would

M. Poincaré came first, and was warmly greeted by the King. He was
immediately followed by General Joffre, and an incident then occurred
which took "Papa" Joffre unawares. For the moment he was perplexed. The
same little French maid ran out with another bunch of flowers and
offered them to the General.

"No, no," he said, "not for me, give them to the President."

But the child thought otherwise. She intended that Papa Joffre, the idol
of France, should have them. He must have them. But no; the General,
taking the child gently by the arm, led her to where M. Poincaré was
speaking to the King and Sir Douglas Haig, and drew their attention to
the child. They all smiled, and were greatly amused by the incident.
Then the little one gave her flowers to the President, who taking them,
stooped and kissed her forehead, and the little one satisfied with her
success ran away.

The President, not knowing what to do with the flowers, looked around
for an officer to take them to his car, but General Joffre, anticipating
the desire, called up his A.D.C. who took them away. The party then
moved into the house. General Foch also entered with the Prince of

After the lunch and conference, word was sent in to Colonel Wigram who
endeavoured to persuade the King and M. Poincaré to pose for a short
scene on the balcony. Word came back that they would do so.

To fix my camera up on the balcony was the work of only a few seconds.

The King came out through the French window, followed by M. Poincaré.
They were both smiling and seemed to be very interested in the coming

"Where do we go?" said the King.

"Would your Majesty stand over there?" I said, pointing to one end of
the terrace. They stood there side by side, King and President laughing
and chatting. While I turned on them, General Joffre came out.

"Come along, Joffre, you stand here," said His Majesty, "and you there,"
he said laughingly to General Foch. Sir Douglas Haig then came out and
stood at the end of the line.

For fully a minute they stood there, making a scene, the like of which I
had never dreamed.

King, and President, and Generals, who held in their hands the destiny
of the world. I continued turning, until His Majesty, thinking I had
enough, withdrew, laughing and chatting by the camera, followed by
General Joffre, Sir Douglas Haig, and General Foch.

By this time my spool had run out, so quickly changing I got round to
the front of the house to film the royal party leaving.

After they had all gone, I heard that Mr. Lloyd George was on his way up
from Paris. How late he was, one officer was saying: "We expected him
before this." Hearing that I decided to wait. About half an hour later,
up he came in a great hurry, and I just managed to film him as he left
his car and entered the building.

To-day was Sunday. His Majesty attended Divine Service with some of the
troops stationed near by, in a small country church perched high up on
the hill-side. Quiet and contentment pervaded everything; not even the
sound of a gun was heard.

A visit to His Majesty, King Albert of Belgium, was the next item on the

The King and Prince of Wales and their suite entered their respective
cars and, amidst the cheers of the civilian populace, we left the
village on the hill. The red and gold of the little Royal Standard on
the King's car glittered bright in the morning sun.

Away we went. How my old "bus" did go; every ounce was being obtained
from it; she fairly rocked and roared on the tails of the high-power
machines ahead. I knew the road only too well; many a time in the early
part of the war had I traversed it, and passed through these self-same

On we tore to where, in an unostentatious little villa, lived the King
and Queen of the Belgians.

By the time I arrived King George had alighted, and the Belgian Guard of
Honour was playing the national hymn. I hurried through the villa gates,
ignoring the guards stationed there who tried to hinder me. I wanted to
film the meeting. But I was too late, for by the time I had my machine
on the stand the two Kings had passed along the line of troops, crossed
the sand-dunes and entered the villa. I had unfortunately missed the
meeting by a few minutes, but I vowed I wouldn't move far away from them
during the afternoon. I heard that after lunch King George, assisted by
Prince Alexander of Teck, was going to award decorations and medals to
Belgian officers, and during the afternoon I obtained many good scenes.
The Queen was there, and with her the two Princes and little Princess
Josephine. They were all most interested in the proceedings.

I filmed the King visiting a 6-inch Howitzer Battery. I noticed
specially how keen he was in enquiring about every little detail. Not a
single thing seemed to miss his eye, from the close examination of the
gun's breech, to inspecting the dug-outs of the men. He then left, and
knowing he was going to inspect the Canadians I hurried off in order to
get there ahead.

When I arrived the Canadian Generals and staff were there waiting. Here
I met many old friends of the St. Eloi battle and, curiously enough, it
was at this very spot that I filmed the scene of the Northumberland
Fusiliers, or Fighting Fifth, returning from battle, fagged out, but

General Burstall was there, and as soon as he saw me he came up and

"Hullo, Malins, you here? Why I thought you would have been killed long

"No, sir," I said, "I don't think I am much of a corpse, though really
Brother Fritz has tried very hard to send me West."

"You must have a charmed life," he said. "Have you come to film our

"Yes," I replied. "The King will be along shortly. Ah! here he comes

And down the road, stretching away in the distance, a line of cars came
tearing along in our direction. Everybody came to attention. I got ready
my camera. The King drew up, and from that moment, until he passed
through the camp, lined with thousands of cheering Canadians, I filmed
his every movement.



The five days' continuous rush and tear was beginning to tell on me. I
was feeling fagged out. But to-morrow His Majesty was sailing again
for England. That night, through a member of the Headquarter Staff, I
enquired of Colonel Wigram if it was at all possible for me to accompany
the King on his boat across the Channel. It would make a most excellent
finish to my film, I pleaded, and it would show the people at home and
neutrals that the British Navy still held the seas secure, and that our
King could go on the seas where and when he liked, and to film His
Majesty on board, among his naval officers, what a splendid record to
hand down to posterity.

Colonel Wigram immediately saw the possibilities of such a finish, and
agreed to allow me to accompany them.

Very jubilant, I thanked him and promised to be at the boat by midday.

In my hurry and anxiety to obtain permission I had entirely forgotten to
enquire at which port the boat was sailing from--Calais or Boulogne. I
rushed back to find Colonel Wigram, but unluckily he had gone. I
enquired of the Intelligence officers present, but they did not know.

I therefore decided that the only thing to do was to start off early in
the morning and go to Boulogne, and then on to Calais, if the boat was
leaving from there.

Early next morning, with my kit, I rushed away to Boulogne, but on my
arrival I found out that the King was not leaving from there, but from
Calais. Off to Calais I went. How the time was going. Ill luck seemed to
dog me on the journey, for with a loud noise the back tyre burst. To
take it off and replace it with a new one was done in record time. Then
on again. How the old "bus" seemed to limp along.

"How many miles is she doing?" I asked the chauffeur.

"Nearly fifty to the hour, sir, can't get another ounce out of her. I
shouldn't be surprised if the engine fell out."

"Never mind, let her have it," I yelled.

Down the hills she rocked and swayed like a drunken thing. If there had
happened to be anything in the way--well, I don't know what would have
happened; but there would have been "some" mess! Anyway, nothing did
happen, and I arrived at the dock in due course. No, the boat had not
gone, but by the appearance of every one there, it was just on the point
of moving off. To get on to the quay I had to pass over a swing bridge;
a barrier was across it, and soldiers on duty were posted in order to
send all cars round, some distance down, over the next bridge. Knowing
that if I went there I should be too late, I yelled out to the man to
allow me to pass.

"No, sir," he said. "You must go the other way."

Well, what I said I don't know, but I certainly swore, and this
evidently impressed the fellow so much that he removed the barrier and
allowed me to pass. I literally tumbled out of the old "bus," and
shouting to L---- to bring along my tripod, I rushed to where the boat
was lying against the quay.

All the French, British, and Belgian officials were lined up, and the
King was shaking hands as a parting adieu. Whether it was right or not I
did not stop to think. I swept by and rushed up the gangway as the King
turned with a final salute.

So close a shave was it that I barely had time to screw my camera on the
stand ere the Prince of Wales saluted the King and went ashore. The
gangway was drawn away and, amid salutes from the officers and allied
representatives, the boat left the quay. I had filmed it all. Not an
incident had passed me.

The King with the Admiral in charge of the ship, entered the cabin, and
only then did I have a moment's respite to realise what a narrow squeak
I had had.

We were just leaving the harbour. The sea looked very choppy, and just
ahead were seven torpedo boats waiting to escort us across.

I went up on to the top deck, and obtained some very interesting scenes
of these boats taking up their positions around. Then the King came up
and mounted the bridge. How happy he looked! A King in every sense of
the word. Who, if they could see him now, could ever have any doubts as
to the issue of the war? I filmed him as he stood on the bridge. In
mid-channel the sea was getting rather rough, and to keep my feet, and
at the same time prevent the camera from being bowled overboard, was
rather a task, and this compelled me at times to call in the help of
some blue-jackets standing near by.

At last the white cliffs of old England hove in sight, and to make my
film-story complete I filmed the cliffs, with Dover Castle perched high
above like the grim watch-dog it is.

And then, as the boat drew into the harbour, I got near the gangway in
order to land first and film His Majesty as he came ashore. I managed to
do this, and entering the royal special (by which I was permitted to
travel) I reached Victoria in due course with what, in my humble
judgment, was one of the finest kinematograph records that could
possibly be obtained of an altogether memorable and historic journey.



     Something in the Wind--An Urgent Message to Report at
     Headquarters--And What Came Of It--I Hear for the First Time
     of the "Hush! Hush!"--And Try to Discover What It Is--A
     Wonderful Night Scene--Dawn Breaks and Reveals a Marvellous
     Monster--What Is It?

I had been busy in London preparing the film of the King's visit to his
troops in France, when I received an urgent message to report
immediately at General Headquarters--most important. I reported to
Captain ----.

"Can you get away in the morning, Malins? The boat train leaves early."

"If there is something doing I wouldn't miss it for worlds!" I replied.

"It's quite evident there is," he said, "or they wouldn't want you so

"I've only got to get my supply of film stock," I said; "I'll manage it
during the night somehow, and meet you at Charing Cross in the morning."

No, I certainly was not going to miss a fight, for undoubtedly another
offensive was about to take place.

That night I managed to get sufficient film stock together. In the
morning we proceeded to France. The following morning at General
Headquarters I got the news. Reporting to Colonel ----, he told me of
the coming attack. "Do you want to get it?" he said.

"DAPHNE." SEPT. 15, 1916]

"Yes, sir, I do; and from the first line if possible. I want to
improve on the Battle of the Somme film. What time does it come off?"

"I don't know; but if you will call on--mentioning a captain at the
Headquarters of one of the corps--he will be able to put you right on
the section of the attack." With that information I left, and packing my
apparatus left for Headquarters. The captain was there.

"You are the 'movie' man, eh? Come in. Now tell me what you want."

"Where is the attack taking place, and at what time?" I asked.

"Look here," he said, unfolding a map, "this is our objective," pointing
to a certain place. "We are going to get up to the yellow line, and I
suggest that you go to ---- Brigade Headquarters. They are in a wood
just below ---- Redoubt. I will ring up the General and tell him you are
coming. He will give you all the information and assistance you require.
They know the ground more intimately than we do back here. You are
prepared to stay up there, of course?"

"Of course," I said. "I always carry my blanket with me."

"Well it comes off on the fifteenth, rather early in the morning. The
General will give you zero hour."

"Do you know the exact time?" I said. "Do you think it will be too early
for me--so far as the light is concerned?" I added hurriedly, with a

"Well no. I think you will just manage it," he said.

Thanking him I hurried off to Brigade Headquarters. They were in an old
German dug-out of huge dimensions. There were three distinct floors or
rather corridors, one above the other. The galleries wound in and around
the hill-side, and the bottom one must have been at the depth of eighty
feet. Scottish troops were in the trenches, which were being held as
support lines. I entered the dug-out, and around a long table was seated
the General and his staff.

"General ----, sir?" I enquired.

"Yes," he said; "come in, will you? You are 'Movies,' aren't you? They
have just rung me up. Have some lunch and tell me what you want."

During lunch I explained my mission.

"Well," he said, "I am glad you are giving us a show. There is no need
to tell you what the Scottish battalion have accomplished."

Lunch finished, the General with the Brigadier-Major went into details
as to the best position from which I could see the show.

"I want, if possible, to get an unobstructed view of the Brigade front."

"'---- Trench,' is the place," he said. "What do you say? you know it."

"I think, sir, that's as good as anywhere, but it's strafed rather

"How far is that from the Bosche front line?"

We measured it on the map. It was eight hundred yards.

"Too far off; I must get much closer," I said. "Isn't there a place in
our front trench?"

"There's a machine-gun position in a sap head," said an officer. "I am
sure that would suit you, but you'll get strafed. Bosche cannot fail to
see you."

"What time is zero hour?" I asked the General.

"At 6.20," he said.

Great Scott, I thought, 6.20 summer time--real time 5.20, and in
September only one chance in a million that the sky would be clear
enough to get an exposure. Certainly if the mornings were anything like
they had been during the last week it would be an absolute



Anyway there was just a chance, and I decided to take it.

Therefore I suggested that I should go up very early in the morning to
our front line, getting there about four o'clock. There would just be
sufficient light for me to have a look round, that is if Brother Fritz
wasn't too inquisitive. I could then fix up the camera and wait.

"What time does the barrage start?" I asked.

"Ten minutes to zero. It's going to be very intense, I can tell you

"Well, sir, there is one special point I would like you to clear up for
me if possible. What the deuce is the 'Hush! Hush!'?"

At that question everyone in the place laughed. "Hush! hush! not so
loud," one said, with mock gravity. "You mean the Tanks."

"I am just as wise as ever. Anyway, whether they are called the 'Hush
Hushers' or 'Tanks,' what the dickens are they? Everyone has been asking
me if I have seen the 'Hush! hush!' until I have felt compelled to
advise them to take more water with it in future. At first I thought
they were suffering from a unique form of shell-shock."

"I haven't seen them," he said. "All I know is that we have two of them
going over with our boys. This is their line; they will make straight
for the left-hand corner of the village, and cross the trenches on your
left about two hundred yards from the point suggested. They are a sort
of armoured car arrangement and shells literally glance off them. They
will cross trenches, no matter how wide, crawl in and out shell-holes,
and through barbed wire, push down trees and...."

I turned to the General. "I certainly suggest, sir, that ---- should go
to hospital; the war is getting on his nerves. He will tell me next that
they can fly as well."

The General laughed. But quite seriously he told me it was all true.

"Then I hope I shall be able to get a good film of them," I said,
"especially as this will be the first time they have been used."

Finally it was agreed that ----, who was going up to the front line to
observe for the division, should act as my guide, and take me up in the
morning at three o'clock.

"We shall have to start about that time," he said; "it will be possible
to go there for quite a good distance over the top of the ridge. It will
save trudging through '---- Trench,' and there's sure to be a lot of
troops packed in it. In any case it will take us about three-quarters of
an hour."

"And I want at least an hour to look round and find a suitable spot; so
three o'clock will suit me very well."

"Hullo!" I said, as I heard the crack of a 5.9 crump burst just outside
the dug-out. "Can't Bosche let you alone here?"

"No," he said, "he strafes us sometimes. He put quite a lot in here the
other day, and one went clean through our cook-house, but no damage was
done, beyond spoiling our lunch. If he anticipates our show in the
morning, he will be sure to plaster us."

At night I watched the effect of the flashes from our guns. They were
rattling off at quite a good pace. What a gorgeous night! Dotted all
round this skeleton of what was once a wood, but now merely a few sticks
of charred tree trunks, and in and out as far as the eye could see, were
scores of tiny fires. The flames danced up and down like elves, and
crowded round the fires were groups of our boys, laughing and chatting
as if there was no such thing as war. Now and then the flash of the big
howitzers momentarily lighted up the whole landscape. What a scene!

Having seen as much of the war as I have done, and having been
practically through the campaign from the very outset, it may surprise
you that I had not used myself to such sights. Possibly I ought to have
done, but the fact remains that I cannot. These night scenes always
appeal to me. Every scene is so different, and looking at everything
from the pictorial point of view I wished with all my heart I could have
filmed such a wonderful scene. But even had I been able to do so I could
not have reproduced the atmosphere, the sound of the guns, the burst of
the shells, the glare of the star-shells, the laughter of the men--and
some of them were swearing. The impenetrable blackness was accentuated
by the dancing flames from the fires. It was a sight to dream about; and
almost involuntarily reminded one of a scene from the _Arabian Nights_.

It was now midnight. My guide told me to follow him. "We'll go down
below and find a place in which to snatch a little sleep." Down a long
flight of stairs we went, along corridors, then down another flight and
round more corridors. The passages seemed endless, until at last we came
to a halt beside the bunk-like beds fastened on the wall.

"What an extraordinary place; how deep is it?"

"About sixty feet," said my companion. "The place is like a rabbit

"Well, I'm glad you are with me, for I should never find my way out
alone." And I rolled my blanket round me and went to sleep.

I was awakened by my guide. "Come on," he said; "time we moved off."

I quickly got out of my blanket. Jove, how cold it was! My teeth
chattered like castanets.

"It's like an ice-house down here; let's go out and see if any of the
men have any fire left. Might be able to have a little hot tea before we
go. I have some biscuits and odds and ends in my satchel."

"Will you let me have a man to help me with my tripod?"

"Certainly, as a matter of fact I arranged for one last night."

Up we went. Along the corridors men were lying about in their blankets,
fast asleep. Holding a piece of guttering candle in my hand, and shaking
like a leaf with cold, I stepped between the sleeping men; but it was
anything but an easy task.

During the journey I missed my companion. By a lucky accident I managed
to find an exit, but it was nowhere near the one I entered last night.
Ah, here's a fire, and quickly getting the water on the boil, made some
tea; then shouldering the camera, and ---- helping me, by taking one of
the cases, we started off.

It was still very dark, but the sky was quite free from clouds. If only
it would keep like that I might just get an exposure.

We proceeded as fast as the innumerable shell-holes and old barbed wire
would allow, and made straight for the ruins of ----, then crossing the
road we followed the communication trenches along the top.

It was still pitch dark. I looked at my watch. It was 4.30.

The trenches were full of life. Men were pouring in to take up their
positions. Bosche put a few shells over near by, but fortunately nobody
was touched. He was evidently nervous about something, for on several
occasions he sent up star-shells, in batches of six, which lighted up
the whole ridge like day, and until they were down again I stood stock

[Illustration: OVER THE TOP AT MARTINPUICH, SEPT. 15, 1916. I


Day was breaking in the east. A low-lying mist hung over the village.
I hoped it would not affect my taking.

We were now in the trenches, and daylight was gradually beginning to

"It's got to light up a lot more if I'm going to be able to film," I
said. "But thank heaven the sky is cloudless. That's the one chance."

All at once it seemed as though the sky lightened. Actinic conditions
improved considerably, and I was just congratulating myself on my good
fortune when----

"What's that, sir?" said the man at my side, who had been peering
through a periscope.

Gingerly I raised myself above the parapet and peered in the direction
in which his finger pointed.

For a moment I could discern nothing. Then, gradually out of the early
morning mist a huge, dark, shapeless object evolved. It was apparently
about three hundred yards away. It moved, and judging by the subdued hum
and a slight smoke which it emitted--like the breath of an animal--it

I had never seen anything like it before. What was it?



     A Weird-looking Object Makes Its First Appearance Upon the
     Battlefield--And Surprises Us Almost as Much as It Surprised
     Fritz--A Death-dealing Monster that Did the Most Marvellous
     Things--And Left the Ground Strewn with Corpses--Realism of
     the Tank Pictures.

What in the world was it?

As we stood there peering at the thing, we forgot for the moment that
our heads were well above the parapet. We were too fascinated by the
movements of the weird-looking object to bother about such a trifle as
that! And the Bosche trenches were only two hundred yards away! For the
life of me I could not take my eyes off it. The thing--I really don't
know how else to describe it--ambled forward, with slow, jerky,
uncertain movements. The sight of it was weird enough in all conscience.
At one moment its nose disappeared, then with a slide and an upward
glide it climbed to the other side of a deep shell crater which lay in
its path. I stood amazed and watched its antics. I forgot all about my
camera, and my desire to obtain a picture of this weird and terrifying
engine of destruction. Like everyone else, its unexpected appearance on
the scene first surprised and then held me under its strange influence.

So that was the "Hush! hush!"--the Juggernaut Car of Battle. One of the
Tanks, the secret of whose appearance, and indeed of whose very
existence, had been guarded more carefully than all the treasures of the

Truly Bosche was in for a big surprise.


All this time I had scarce taken my eyes off the ugly-looking monster.
It waddled, it ambled, it jolted, it rolled, it--well it did everything
in turn and nothing long--or wrong. And most remarkable of all, this
weird-looking creature with a metal hide performed tricks which almost
made one doubt the evidence of one's senses. Big, and ugly, and awkward
as it was, clumsy as its movements appeared to be, the thing seemed
imbued with life, and possessed of the most uncanny sort of intelligence
and understanding. It came to a crater. Down went its nose; a slight
dip, and a clinging, crawling motion, and it came up merrily on the
other side. And all the time as it slowly advanced, it breathed and
belched forth tongues of flame; its nostrils seemed to breathe death
and destruction, and the Huns, terrified by its appearance, were mown
down like corn falling to the reaper's sickle.

Presently it stopped. The humming ceased. The spell was broken. We
looked at one another, and then we laughed. How we laughed! Officers and
men were doubled up with mirth as they watched the acrobatic antics of
this mechanical marvel--this Wellsian wonder.

Now the metal monster was on the move again. It was advancing on the
German position. The Bosche machine-guns got busy and poured a very hail
of shells and bullets upon the oncoming death-dealer. It made no
difference. The Tank pursued its way, unperturbed by all the racket of
the exploding metal on its sides. Shells seemed to glide off it quite
harmlessly. Bullets had no effect upon this extraordinary apparition.

Fritz must have thought the devil himself had broken loose from hell and
was advancing to devour him. The Huns scurried to their funk-holes and
craters, their hiding-places, and their trenches like so many rabbits.
Still the Tank advanced, pausing now and then, astride a particularly
wide crater, and sweeping the surrounding pit-scarred ground with its
machine-guns. Up popped a German head. Zip went a bullet; and down went
the head for the last time. How many Germans were crushed in their holes
in that first advance goodness only knows.

Presently the monster stopped again. There was a pause. Nothing
happened. A minute--two minutes went by. Still nothing happened. The
Germans began to regain their courage. Heads popped up all over the
place. Enemy troops began to edge nearer and nearer to it, in spite of
the hail of bullets from our trenches. Then they began to swarm round
the strange creature the like of which they had never seen before. To
do them justice, these Germans showed exceptional courage in the face of
unknown and altogether exceptional danger.

Mr. Tank meanwhile was not a bit disconcerted by their attentions, and
continued to breathe forth flames of fire, which did great havoc in the
ranks of the sightseers. But once their curiosity was satisfied the Huns
did their level best to damage the brute. They fired at it; they
bombarded it; they shelled it; they clambered over it. All to no
purpose. Presently that ominous humming, snorting sound reached us
again, and the monster began to move away. Where it had stood the ground
was strewn with the dead bodies of German soldiers, and I was told
afterwards that over three hundred corpses were counted to the credit of
the first Tank that ever crossed "No Man's Land."

Meanwhile our boys had been busy. Following in the wake of the Tank,
they had cleaned up quite a lot of ground, and all the time, with my
camera on them, I had secured a series of fine pictures.

I don't think I ever laughed so heartily at anything as I did on the
first day that I saw the Tanks in action, and officers and men all agree
that they never saw a funnier sight in all their lives. But whilst they
amused us they put the fear of the devil into Fritz, and whole parties
of men ran forward, hands up, waving their handkerchiefs, and shouting
"Kamerad," and gave themselves up as willing prisoners in our hands.

The Tanks have been one of the big surprises and big successes of the



     An Awful Specimen of War Devastation--Preparing for an
     Advance--Giving the Bosche "Jumps"--Breakfast Under Fire--My
     Camera Fails Me Just Before the Opening of the Attack--But I
     Manage to Set it Right and Get Some Fine Pictures--Our Guns
     "Talk" Like the Crack of a Thousand Thunders--A Wonderful

After the battle of Martinpuich the nature of my work brought me in
contact with many stirring incidents, which, if put on record here,
would be merely repeating to a certain degree many of my previous
experiences, therefore I do not intend to bore my readers by doing so.

From one section of our front to the other I was kept continually on the
move. On the 25th September an attack was timed for twelve o'clock noon
for Morval and Lesboeufs, and the Guards, London Scottish, Norfolks,
Suffolks and many other regiments were to take part. The day before I
visited our front in that section to obtain preliminary scenes. The
London Scottish were preparing to leave to take up their battle
positions. From one front to the other I hurried, obtaining scenes of
the other regiments on the way up. I stayed during the night with an
officer of an 18-pounder battling on the left of Guillemont. The Bosche
was "strafing" the place pretty badly. I will not say I slept
comfortably, for shells came crashing over much too closely to do so; in
fact, I was up all night.


On several occasions I really thought my last minute had come. The noise
was deafening, the glare and flash although beautiful was sickening.
Our guns were pouring out a withering fire, and the ground quivered and
shook, threatening to tumble the temporary shelter about my ears. One
shell, which came very near, burst and the concussion slightly blew in
the side of the shelter; it also seemed to momentarily stun me; I
crouched down as close to earth as possible. I will admit that I felt a
bit "windy," my body was shaking as if with ague; a horrible buzzing
sensation was in my head, dizziness was coming over me. I dare not lose
control of myself, I thought; with an effort I staggered up and out of
the shelter, clutching my head as the pain was terrible. I dropped down
into an old German trench and sat in the bottom. In a few minutes my
head pains eased down slightly, but my nerves were still shaky. At that
moment one of the battery officers came along.

"Hullo! you got clear then?" he said.

"Yes, only just, by the appearance of things."

"I saw it drop near by where we left you and felt quite certain it had
done you in. Feel all right?"

"Yes," I said, "with the exception of a thick head. I will get my camera
stuff down here. Lend me your torch, will you?"

I took it out and found my way back to the shelter.

Fritz was now jumping over shrapnel, so, believe me, I did not hang
about on my journey. Our guns continued their thundering and fire was
literally pouring from their mouths. I got down in the trench, as close
as possible, sat on my camera-case and so passed the remainder of the
night, thinking--well, many things.

Towards dawn the firing gradually died down until, comparing it with the
night, it was quite peaceful. I got out of my trench and sat up on the
parapet. My head was still throbbing from the concussion of the night,
and having no sleep made me feel in rather a rotten state.

"How's the head, old chap?" asked an officer I knew who came up to me at
that moment.

"Better," I replied, "but needs improvement."

"We are just making some tea; come and join us."

"Jove, rather! It may stop this jumping."

A slight mist was hanging over the shell-pocked ground, it was gradually
rising, as I had seen it on previous occasions, and the horrible stench
from the putrifying dead seemed to rise with it. As far as the eye could
see in every direction the ground had been churned up by the fearful
shell-fire. The shell-holes met each other like the holes in a sponge.
Not a blade of grass or green stuff existed; the place which once marked
a wood was now a space with a twisted, tangled mass of barbed wire and,
here and there, short wooden stumps, slashed, split, and torn into
shreds--the remains of once beautiful trees.

The village of Guillemont literally does not exist, in fact, it is _an
absolute impossibility to tell where the fields ended and the village
began_. It is one of the most awful specimens of the devastating track
of war that exists on the Western Front. The village had been turned by
the Bosche into a veritable fortress; trenches and strong points,
bristling with machine-guns, commanded every point which gave vantage to
the enemy. But, after much bloody fighting, our troops stormed and
captured the place and the German losses must have been appalling. Many
had been buried, but the work of consolidating the ground won and
pressing on the attack does not permit our men thoroughly to cleanse the
square miles of ground and bury the bodies and fragments that cover it.

Unknowingly, when I had hurried for cover in the trench, the night
before I had been within twelve feet of a party of five dead Bosches,
and the atmosphere in the early morning was more than I could tolerate,
so picking up my camera, etc., I took up fresh quarters.

A snorting, crunching sound struck my ears and looking on my left I
observed a Tank ambling forward to take up its position for the coming
show. It was emitting clouds of bluish-grey smoke from its exhaust which
gave it a rather ghostly appearance in the mist.... Now and again as it
came to a very deep shell-hole it stopped to poise itself on the rim and
then gently tipped its nose downwards, disappearing, to rise like a huge
toad on the other side, and then continue its journey.

More troops were coming up in platoon to take up their position in
supports, ammunition carriers were taking up fresh supplies of bombs,
Red Cross men were making their way forward--not a sound was to be heard
from them and the whole place was now a line of silent movement. All the
main work and preparation was to finish before the last shadow of night
had been chased away by the light of the rising sun, before the setting
of which many of the boys would lay down their lives that justice and
civilisation might triumph over the false doctrine of blood and iron and
barbarism--_German Kultur_.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Come along, Malins, your cup of tea is ready," shouted an officer.

I left my camera under cover of a fallen tree trunk and crossed to a
covered shell-hole which answered to the name of dug-out. Anyway, apart
from shrapnel or a direct hit from an H.E., we were comparatively safe,
being below ground level. Along the centre was a rough plank on two
boxes and grouped either side were several other officers of the
battery. We all of us soon forgot about the previous night's efforts of
Fritz in a gorgeous repast of _bacon_, fried bread, and tea.

Bosche was now fairly quiet; he was "strafing" the ridge in front with
an occasional H.E.; some of our batteries on my right were still at it.
It was now quite daylight; our aeroplanes were flitting across the sky,
diving low to obtain better observation of the enemy, and incidentally
getting "strafed" by his anti-aircraft guns which did not interest them
in the least.

"What time is zero-hour?" I asked.

"Twelve-thirty," was the reply. "We start our intense at twelve o'clock,
every gun we have in this section is going to fairly give Bosche jumps;
in fact he will have to find a 'better 'ole.'"

This remark caused considerable laughter.

"I am going to get my scenes from 'Ginchy Telegraph'; it seems a very
likely spot by the map. Shall I get there about eleven o'clock and fix

"Good," said one. "I will lend you an orderly to act as guide if it's
any benefit to you."

Thanking him, I gladly accepted the offer.

Breakfast over, I collected my apparatus and stood to watch the sections
which Fritz "strafed" the most. By practising this method it has made it
possible for me to do my work in comfort on previous occasions. I
noticed there were one or two points which he "strafed" methodically,
therefore I judged it safe to make direct for my point over the top,
then enter a communication trench just on this side of the ridge.

By this time my guide came up, so sharing my apparatus, we started off.
The distance to Ginchy Telegraph was about one kilometre. Shrapnel was
playing upon both roads leading from Guillemont, H.E. was bursting on my
right in Lueze Wood, or "Lousy Wood," as it is called here, also in
Delville Wood on my left. After a very tiring tramp over shell-holes
and rubble I eventually reached my post. From this point I could see
practically the whole of our section between Lesboeufs and Morval, but I
immediately found out to my annoyance that the slight breeze would bring
all the smoke back towards our lines. The resulting effect would not be
serious enough to in any way hinder our operations, but photographically
it was disastrous, and even if photographed the effect would not be
impressive in the slightest degree, merely a wall of smoke which to the
public would appear unintelligible. But in that seemingly useless cloud
were falling thousands of shells of all calibres, tearing the earth into
dust, the German line into fragments, forming a living and death-dealing
curtain of blazing steel behind which our men were advancing.

But adverse wind conditions were not all, for when I had taken the
camera out of its case I found that by some means or other the lens
mounts had received such a knock as to throw it out of alignment. How it
happened I cannot think, for the case was intact, the only possible
explanation being that I must have dropped it the night before when I
took shelter in the trench and in my dazed condition did not remember
doing so.

It was quite impossible to repair it even temporarily in time to obtain
the opening attack, so I hurried away and took shelter behind some ruins
on the south-west side of the village. It was now close on twelve; our
intense bombardment would shortly begin, and I worked feverishly at the
repair to the camera, perspiring at every pore.

Suddenly, like the terrific crack of a thousand thunders, our fire on
the German position began. Bursting from the mouths of hundreds of
British guns it came, the most astonishing, astounding, brain-splitting
roar that I had ever heard. In a few moments it reached a crescendo;
everyone near by was transfixed with awe. Hundreds of shells went
shrieking overhead. The air was literally alive with blazing metal.

Imagine, if you can, being in the midst of five hundred drums. At a
given moment every drummer beats his drum with ever-increasing force
without a fraction of a moment's respite. Add to this the most
soul-splitting crash you have ever heard and the sound as of a gale of
wind shrieking through the telegraph wires. It will give you a little
idea of what it was like under this bombardment. It seemed to numb one's
very brain. What it must have been like in the German position is beyond
me to conceive. We were certainly giving Fritz a jump.

At last my camera was finished. Looking in the direction of Bouleaux
Wood I could see our men still pouring forward over the open. I raced
towards them as hard as possible and filmed them going across first one
section then the other; Bosche shells were falling near them, knocking a
few out but missing most, first one line then the other.

Bosche was dropping large "coal boxes" all along our supports. Two Tanks
coming up provided me with several interesting scenes as Fritz was
pestering them with his attentions but without injury. I obtained a
scene of two heavy "crumps" bursting just behind one of them, but the
old Tank still snorted on its way, the infantry advancing close behind
in extended formation.

Throughout the remainder of the day I was kept well on the move, filming
the many-varying scenes of battle, either whilst they were in progress
or immediately afterwards. Prisoners came pouring in from all
directions, first a batch of two hundred and then odd stragglers, then
further batches. The Guards seemed to have had a rather good bag, as I
noticed that most of the Bosches were brought in under care of
guardsmen. One Tommy came in the proud possessor of six.

From the immediate fighting ground I made my way towards Trones Wood,
upon the outskirts of which the Guards had their dressing station. Many
of our men were there, lying about in all directions on stretchers,
waiting to be taken away to the Casualty Clearing Station. I filmed many
scenes here of our wonderful men suffering their physical torments like
the heroes they were. One, in particular, sitting on a box making a
cigarette, had a broad smile on his face, though the _whole of his elbow
was shot completely away_. Another came in, helped along by two other
men; he was a raving lunatic, his eyes ghastly and horrible to look
upon, and he was foaming at the mouth, and gibbering wildly.

"Shell-shock," said the doctor, close beside me; "bad case too, poor
chap! Here, put him into this ambulance; three men had better go with
him to look after him."

"Do you get many cases like that?" I asked the doctor.

"Yes," he said, "quite a few, but not all so bad as that."

Wounded were still pouring in, both ours and German. The Bosche was
shelling the ground only a short distance away and I managed to film
several of our wounded men being dressed whilst shells were bursting in
the near background.

Another man was brought in on a stretcher. I looked closely at him when
he was set on the ground. He had been knocked out by shell-fire. A piece
of shrapnel was buried in his jaw, another large piece in his head, and,
by the bloodstains on his tunic, about his body also.

He was groaning pitiably. The doctor bending down had a look at him,
then stood up.

"It's no use," he said, "he's beyond human aid; he cannot last many
minutes. Place him over there," he said to the stretcher-bearers. The
men gently lifted the poor fellow up, and less than three minutes
afterwards one came up to the doctor.

"He's dead, sir."

"Just tell the padre then, will you, and get his disc and name and have
his belongings packed up and sent home."

And so the day drifted on. The sun was blazing hot; every man there was
working like a demon. Perspiring at every pore, each doctor was doing
the work of four; the padre was here, there and everywhere, giving the
wounded tea and coffee, and cheering them up by word and deed.

Towards evening there came a lull in the attack. It had been a great
success; all our objectives had been gained; the wounded drifted in in
lessening numbers.

An elderly doctor in his shirt sleeves had just finished binding up the
stump of a man's leg, the lower part of which had been torn away by a
piece of shell. He stood up, mopped his forehead, and, after bidding the
carriers take the man away, he lay on the ground practically exhausted,
dried blood still upon his hands and arms and scissors held loosely in
his fingers; he closed his eyes to try and doze.

"That doctor is a marvel," said an officer to me. "He snatches a few
moments sleep between his cases. Now watch!"

Another stretcher-party was coming in, and it was set down. An orderly
went up to the doctor and lightly touched him on the shoulder.

"Another case, sir," he said.

The doctor opened his eyes and quickly rose to his feet.

The wounded man's head was bound round with an old handkerchief, matted
with blood which had dried hard. Warm disinfectant was quickly brought
and the doctor proceeded to gently loosen the rough bandage from the
head, revealing a nasty head wound, a gash about three inches long and
very swollen.

"What do you think of that?" he said, holding out something in his hand
to me, "that's from this lad's head."

I looked and saw that it was a piece of his shrapnel helmet about two
inches square, it had been driven into the flesh on his head,
fortunately without breaking the skull. The wound was quickly dressed
and the doctor again lay down to snatch a few more moments' respite.

"This will go on all night," said the padre, "and all day to-morrow.
Have a cup of tea at my canteen, will you?"

Having had nothing to eat or drink all day I accepted the invitation. On
the opposite side of the wood was a small shack built of old lumber, and
every man before he left by ambulance received a cup of tea or coffee
and biscuits.

"I find the boys greatly appreciate it," he said.

I joined him in a cup of tea.

"Don't you think it's a good idea?"

"Excellent," I replied, "like heaven to a lost soul."

"Look round here," he said, pointing away in the distance. "Did you ever
see such a ghastly travesty of nature, the whole country-side swept
clean of every green and living thing, beautiful woods and charming
villages blown to the four winds of heaven, and _this_ might have been
our own beautiful sunny downs, our own charming villages. The British
public should go down on its knees every day of the week and thank God
for their deliverance."

The sun was now setting, and having obtained all the scenes I required,
I decided to make my way back. We were still shelling the German lines
very hard, and the Bosche was putting over a few of his H.E. and high
shrapnel, but fortunately none came within a hundred yards of us.

I bade adieu to the doctors and the padre.

"I hope we shall see the films in town," they said. "It's a pity you
can't introduce the sounds and general atmosphere of a battle like this.
Good-bye, best of luck!" they shouted.

I left them and made my way across to the battery to thank the Captain.
When I arrived I met one of the subalterns.

"Where's ----?" I asked.

"I am afraid you won't see him," he replied.

"Why?" half suspecting some bad news.

"Well, he and four others were killed shortly after you left."

I turned slowly away and walked off in the direction of Guillemont.

A hundred yards further on I came upon a scene which afforded some
relief to the tragedies of the day. A short bantam-like British Tommy
was cursing and swearing volubly at a burly German sitting on the ground
rubbing his head and groaning like a bull. Tommy, with a souvenir cigar
in his mouth, was telling him in his best cockney English to get a move

"What's the matter?" I said.

"Well, sir, it's like this. This 'ere cove is my own prisoner and 'e's
been giving me no end of trouble, tried to pinch my gun, sir, 'e did, so
I 'it 'im on 'is head, but 'e ain't 'urt, sir, not a bit, are yer,
Fritz? Come on." And Fritz, thinking discretion the better part of
valour, got up, and Tommy strutted off with his big charge as happy as a



     Inspecting a Tank that was _Hors de Combat_--All that was
     Left of Mouquet Farm--A German Underground Fortress--A Trip
     in the Bowels of the Earth--A Weird and Wonderful

After our successful attack and capture of Lesboeufs and Morval on
September 25th, 1916, beyond consolidating our gains there was
comparatively little done in the way of big offensives until the capture
of Mouquet Farm and Thiepval and the capture of Beaumont Hamel--that
fortress of fortresses--on November 13th, and I devoted the interval to
recording the ground won.

One interesting incident occurred when I filmed Mouquet Farm situate
between Pozières and Thiepval. Looking at the Farm from the strategical
point of view, I feel quite confident in saying that only British troops
could have taken it. It was one of the most wonderful defensive points
that could possibly be conceived, and chosen by men who made a special
study of such positions. The whole place was thickly planted with
machine-guns, so cunningly concealed that it was impossible to observe
them until one was practically at the gun's mouth.

To get here it was necessary to go down a long steep glacis, then up
another to the farm. The Germans, with their network of underground
passages and dug-outs, were able to concentrate at any threatened point
with their machine-guns in such a manner that they would have our troops
under a continual stream of lead for quite one thousand yards without a
vestige of cover. The farm had been shelled by our artillery time after
time, until the whole ground for miles round was one huge mass of
shell-craters, but the Germans, in their dug-outs forty and fifty feet
underground, could not be reached by shell-fire. I will not go into
details of how the place was eventually taken by the Midlanders--it will
remain an epic of the war.

The weather was now breaking up. Cold winds and rain continually swept
over the whole Somme district, invariably accompanied by thick mists. I
wanted to obtain a film showing the fearful mud conditions, which we
were working hard and fighting in and under. And such mud! You could not
put the depth in inches. Nothing so ordinary; it was feet deep. I have
known relief battalions take six hours to reach their allotted position
in the front line, when, in the dry season, the same journey could be
accomplished in an hour; and the energy expended in wading through such
a morass can be imagined. Many times I have got stuck in the clayey
slime well above my knees and have required the assistance of two, and
sometimes three men to help me out. To turn oneself into a lump of mud,
all one had to do was to walk down to the front line; you would
undoubtedly be taken for a part of the parapet by the time you arrived.
I asked a Tommy once what he thought of it.

"Sir," he replied, "there ain't no blooming word to describe it!" And I
think he was right.

On one journey, when filming the carrying of munitions by mule-back--as
that was the only method by which our advanced field-guns could be
supplied--while they were being loaded at a dump near ---- Wood, the mud
was well above the mules' knees, and, in another instance, it was
actually touching their bellies. In such conditions our men were
fighting and winning battles, and not once did I hear of a single
instance where it affected the morale of the men. We cursed and swore
about it; who wouldn't? It retarded our progress; we wallowed in it, we
had to struggle through miles of it nearly up to our knees; we slept in
it or tried to; we ate in it, it even got unavoidably mixed up with our
food; and sometimes we drank it. And we tolerated it all, month after
month. If it was bad for us, we knew it was far worse for the Bosche,
for not only had he to live under these conditions, but he was subjected
to our hellish bombardment continually without rest or respite.

Thus it was I filmed Mouquet Farm and other scenes in the neighbourhood.
I went to Pozières and then struck across country. On my way I passed a
Tank which, for the time being, was _hors de combat_. It naturally
aroused my interest. I closely inspected it, both inside and out, and,
while I stood regarding it, two whizz-bangs came over in quick
succession, bursting about thirty feet away. The fact immediately
occurred to me that the Tank was under observation by the Bosche and he,
knowing the attraction it would have for enquiring natures, kept a gun
continually trained upon it. I had just got behind the body of the thing
when another shell dropped close by. I did not stop to judge the exact
distance. I cursed the mud because it did not allow me to run fast
enough, but really I ought to have blessed it. The fact that it was so
muddy caused the shell to sink more deeply into the ground before
exploding, its effective radius being also more confined.

When I got clear of the Tank, the firing ceased. I mentally vowed that,
for the future, temporarily disabled Tanks near the firing-line would
not interest me, unless I was sure they were under good cover.

I continued my journey to the farm, but kept well below the top of the
ridge. At one section, to save my dying a sailor's death, duck-boards
had been placed over the mud to facilitate easier travelling. It made me
feel like going on for ever, after ploughing for hours through mud the
consistency of treacle.

Eventually I arrived on the high ground near Mouquet. Many of our
field-gun batteries had taken up their position near by: they had turned
old shell-holes into gun-pits--occasionally a burst of firing rang out,
and Bosche was doing his level best to find them with his 5.9 crump.
Here I managed to obtain several very interesting scenes.

The farm, as a farm, did not exist; a mass of jumbled-up brickwork here
and there suggested that once upon a time, say 100 B.C., it might have
been. In due time I reached the place. A machine-gun company were in
possession, and I found an officer, who offered to show me over the
Bosche's underground fortress. I entered a dug-out entrance, the usual
type, and switching on my electric torch, proceeded with uncertain steps
down into the bowels of the earth. The steps were thick with mud and
water; water also was dripping through all the crevices in the roof, and
the offensive smell of dead bodies reached me.

"Have you cleaned this place out?" I called to my friend in front.

"Yes," he said. His voice sounded very hollow in this noisome, cavernous
shaft. And it was cold--heavens how cold! Ugh!

"There was one gallery section; where it leads to we cannot find out,
but it was blown in by us and evidently quite a few Bosches with it;
anyway, we are not going to disturb it. There is a possibility of the
whole gallery collapsing about our ears."

"We are at the bottom now; be careful, turn sharp to the left."

"Why this place must be at least forty feet deep."

"Yes, about that. This gallery runs along to more exits and a veritable
rabbit warren of living compartments. See these bullet-holes in the side
here," pointing to the wooden planks lining the gallery. "When our men
entered the other end the Bosche here had a machine-gun fixed up and so
they played it upon anybody who came near; lit up only by the gun
flashes it must have been a ghastly sight. It must have been the scene
of devilish fighting judging by the number of bullet-holes all over the
place. There are plenty of bloodstains about, somebody caught it pretty

I followed my guide until eventually we came to a recessed compartment;
it was illuminated by two German candles stuck in bottles, and a rough
wooden table with two chairs, evidently looted from the farm when the
Bosche arrived.

We made our exit from another shaft and came out at a spot about one
hundred yards from the place we had entered.

This will give you some idea of the way the ground was interlaced with
subterranean passages, and this, mind you, was only one tunnel of many.

It was quite pleasant to breathe comparatively fresh air again after the
foul atmosphere down below.

Bosche was more lively with his shell-fire and they were coming much too
near to be pleasant. I fixed up my machine and filmed several very good
bursts near some guns. He was evidently shooting blind, or by the map,
for they dropped anywhere but near their objectives. Anyway it was his
shoot and it was not up to us to correct him.



     A Choppy Cross-Channel Trip--I Indulge in a Reverie--And Try
     to Peer Into the Future--At Headquarters Again--Trying to
     Cross the River Somme on an Improvised Raft--In Peronne
     After the German Evacuation--A Specimen of Hunnish "Kultur."

Since I left France in December many changes had taken place; tremendous
preparations for the next great offensive were in progress. We shall now
see the results of all our hard and bloody work, which began on the
Somme on July 1st, 1916. I think I can safely say that we have never
relaxed our offensive for a single day. Granted the great pressure has
not been kept up, but in proportion to the weather conditions the push
has been driven home relentlessly and ground won foot by foot, yard by
yard, until, in February, 1917, the Germans retired behind their Bapaume

Just how far they are going back one cannot decide. The fact remains
that the enemy is falling back, not for strategical reasons, as he is so
anxious for his people and neutrals to believe, but because he is forced
to by the superiority of our troops and our dominating gun-power. The
beginning of the end is at hand, the eve of great events is here; the
results of this year's fighting will decide the future peace of the
world, the triumph of Christianity over barbarity, of God over the

I received instructions to proceed again to France. "The capture of
Bapaume is imminent, you must certainly obtain that," I was told, "and
add another to your list of successes." So I left by the midday
boat-train; the usual crowds were there to see their friends off. A
descriptive writer could fill a volume with impressions gathered on the
station platform an hour before the train starts. Scenes of pathos and
assumed joy; of strong men and women stifling their emotions with a
stubbornness that would do justice to the martyrdom of the Early
Christians in the arenas of Rome.

I arrived at Folkestone; the weather was very cold and a mist hung over
the sea, blotting everything out of view beyond the end of the
breakwater. The train drew up alongside and it emptied itself of its
human khaki freight, who, with one accord, made their way to the waiting
steamboats, painted a dull green-grey. All aboard: quickly and
methodically we passed up the gangway, giving up our embarkation tickets
at the end and receiving another card to fill up, with personal
particulars, as we stepped on board. This card was to be given up upon
one's arrival at Boulogne.

Gradually the boat filled with officers and men; kits and cars were
hoisted aboard, life-belts were served out; everybody was compelled to
put them on in case of an accident.

Everything was aboard; the three boats were ready to leave; the two in
front, one an old cross-Channel paddle boat, the other one of the later
turbine class--but still no sign of leaving.

"What are we waiting for?" I asked a seaman near by.

"We must wait until we get permission; the mist is very thick,
sir--going to be a cold journey." With that he left. I buttoned my warm
great-coat well round my throat, pulled my cap firmly down over my ears
and went to the upper deck and peered out into the thickening sea-mist
towards the harbour entrance.

I went to the deck-rail and leaned over. Crowds of sea-gulls cawed and
wheeled round, seemingly hung suspended in the air by an invisible wire.
The gulls fascinated me; one second they were in the air motionless on
their huge outstretched wings, then suddenly, seeing either the shape of
a fish coming to the surface, or a crumb of bread floating, one of the
birds would dart down, make a grab with its beak at the object, skim the
surface of the water, then gracefully wing its way upwards and join its

I turned my gaze again seawards: the mist was drawing nearer,
threatening to envelop our boats in its embrace. How cold it was! The
upper deck was now full of officers, busily putting on their
life-belts--I had secured mine to my kit-bag, ready to put it on when
required. At that moment an officer came up to me.

"Have you a life-belt?" he said, "if so would you mind putting it on? I
have to go all round the boat and see that everybody has one."

"Right," I said, and so I donned my life-belt, and passing along the
deck stood underneath the Captain's bridge and gazed around. The men in
the two boats ahead of us were singing lustily, singing because they
were going back to the land of bursting shells and flying death,
laughing and singing because they were going again out to fight for the

As I stood there, gazing into the mist and hearing the continuous roar
of the sea beating upon the rocks behind me, a review of the events
passed through my mind which have happened to me, and the countless
scenes of tragedy and bloodshed, of defeat and victory that I had
witnessed since I first crossed over to France in October, 1914. I
recalled my arrival in Belgium; the wonderful rearguard actions of the
Belgian troops; the holding up of the then most perfect (and devilish)
fighting machine the world had ever known, by a handful of volunteers.
The frightful scenes in the great retreat through Belgium lived again;
the final stand along the banks of the Ypres canal; the opening of the
dykes, which saved the northern corner of France; the countless
incidents of fighting I had filmed. Then my three months with the French
in the Vosges mountains, the great strain and hardships encountered to
obtain the films, and now, after eighteen months with the British army
on the Western Front, I was again going back--to what?

How many had asked themselves that question! How many had tried as I was
doing to peer into the future. They had laid down their lives fighting
for the cause of freedom. "But, although buried on an alien soil, that
spot shall be for ever called England."

I was quickly recalled to the present by the flashing of a light on the
end of the harbour jetty. It was answered by a dull glare seawards;
everybody was looking in that direction; and then....

A sudden clanging of bells, a slipping of ropes from the first boat, a
final cheer from the men on the crowded decks, and, with its bow turned
outwards from the quay, it nosed its way into the open sea beyond. The
second boat quickly followed, and then, with more clanging of bells and
curt orders to the helmsman, she slid through the water like a
greyhound, and, with shouts of "good luck!" from the people on the quay,
we were quickly swallowed up in the mist ahead.

The boats kept abreast for a considerable time and then, our vessel
taking the lead, with a torpedo boat on either side and one ahead, the
convoy headed for France.

The journey across was uneventful. It was quite dark when we backed into
harbour at Boulogne; flares were lit and, as the boat drew alongside the
quay, the old familiar A.M.O. with his huge megaphone shouted in
stentorian tones that all officers and men returning on duty must report
to him at his offices, fifty yards down the quay, etc., etc., etc. His
oration finished, the gangway was pushed aboard and everybody landed as
quickly as possible. _I_ had wired from the War Office earlier in the
day to G.H.Q., asking them to send a car to meet the boat. Whether
_they_ had received _my_ message in time I did not know--anyway I could
not find it, so, that night, I stayed at Boulogne, and the following
evening proceeded to G.H.Q. to receive instructions.

Here I collected my apparatus and stood by for instructions. News of our
continued pressure on the German line of retreat was penetrating
through. First one village, then another fell into our hands. The fall
of Peronne was imminent. My instructions were to proceed to Peronne, or
rather the nearest point that it was possible to operate from.

I journeyed that night as far as Amiens, and arriving there about
midnight, dog tired, went to my previous billet in the Rue l'Amiral
Cambet, and turned in. Early next morning I reported to a major of the
Intelligence Department, who told me our troops had entered Peronne the
previous night. Rather disappointed that I had not been there to obtain
the entry, I made tracks for that town.

I took by-roads, thinking that they would be more negotiable than the
main ones, and, reaching the outskirts of the village of Biaches, I left
the car there and prepared to walk into Peronne. I could see in the
distance that the place was still burning; columns of smoke were pouring
upwards and splashing the sky with patches of villainous-looking black

Strapping my camera upon my back, and bidding my man follow with my
tripod, I started off down the hill into Biaches. Then the signs of the
German retreat began to fully reveal themselves. The ground was
absolutely littered with the horrible wastage of war; roads were torn
open, leaving great yawning gaps that looked for all the world like
huge jagged wounds. On my right lay the Château of La Maisonnette. The
ground there was a shambles, for numerous bodies in various stages of
putrefaction lay about as they had fallen.

I left this section of blood-soaked earth, and, turning to my left,
entered the village, or rather the site of what had once been Biaches. I
will not attempt to describe it; my pen is not equal to the task of
conveying even the merest idea of the state of the place. It was as if a
human skeleton had been torn asunder, bone by bone, and then flung in
all directions. Then, look around and say--this was once a man. You
could say the same thing of Biaches--this was once a village. I stayed
awhile and filmed various scenes, including the huge engineers' dump
left by the Germans, but, as the light was getting rather bad, I hurried
as fast as possible in the direction of Peronne.

I wandered down the path of duck-boards, over the swamp of the Somme,
filthy in appearance, reeking in its stench, and littered with thousands
of empty bottles, that showed the character of the drunken orgies to
which the Huns had devoted themselves.

I reached the canal bank. Lying alongside was the blackened ribs of a
barge. Only the stern was above water and it was still smouldering; even
the ladders and foot-bridges were all destroyed; not a single thing that
could be of any use whatsoever had been left. I trudged along the canal
bank; bridge after bridge I tried, but it was no use, for each one in
the centre for about ten or twelve feet was destroyed--and, stretched
between the gap, I found a length of wire netting covered over with
straw--a cunning trap set for the first one across. Not a bridge was
passable--they were all down!

Peronne lay on the other side and there I must get before the light
failed and while the place was still burning; if I had to make a raft of
old timber I made up my mind to get there.

Returning to the bank I placed my camera upon the ground and with the
help of three men gathered up some rusty tin cylinders, which, earlier
in the campaign, had been utilised as floats for rafts.

I had fished out of the river three planks, and laying them at equal
distance upon the cylinders, I lashed them together and so made a raft
of sorts. With care I might be able to balance myself upon it and so
reach the other section of the bridge and then a rope at either end
would enable my man and tripod to be pulled across.

The idea was excellent, but I found that my amateur lashing together
with the strong current that was running made the whole plan quite
impossible, so, after being nearly thrown into the river several times,
and one of the floats coming adrift and washing away, and then doing a
flying leap to save myself being hurled into the water upon a trestle
which collapsed with my weight, I decided to give up the experiment and
explore the river bank further down in the hope of getting across.
Eventually, after going for about two kilometres, I reached the ruins of
the main bridge leading into the town. This, also, was blown up by the
retreating Huns, but, by using the blocks of stone and twisted iron
girders as "stepping-stones," I reached the other side.

The old gateway and drawbridge across the moat were destroyed; the huge
blocks of masonry were tossed about, were playthings in the hands of the
mighty force of high explosives which flung them there. These scenes I
carefully filmed, together with several others in the vicinity of the


The town was the same as every other I had filmed--burnt and
shell-riven. The place as a habitable town simply did not exist.
German names were everywhere; the names of the streets were altered,
even a French washerwoman had put up a notice that "washing was done
here," in German.

Street after street I passed through and filmed. Many of the buildings
were still burning and at one corner of the Grande Place flames were
shooting out of the windows of the three remaining houses in Peronne. I
hastily fitted up my camera and filmed the scene. When I had finished it
was necessary to run the gauntlet, and pass directly under the burning
buildings to get into the square.

Showers of sparks were flying about, pieces of the burning building were
being blown in all directions by the strong wind. But I had to get by,
so, buttoning up my collar tightly, fastening my steel shrapnel helmet
on my head, and tucking the camera under my arm, I made a rush, yelling
out to my man to follow with the tripod. As I passed I felt several
heavy pieces of something hit my helmet and another blazing piece hit my
shoulder and stuck there, making me set up an unearthly yell as the
flames caught my ear and singed my hair. But, quickly shooting past, I
reached a place of safety, and setting up the camera I obtained some
excellent views of the burning buildings.

Standing upon a heap of rubble, which once formed a branch of one of the
largest banking concerns in France, I took a panoramic scene of the
great square. The smoke clouds curling in and around the skeleton walls
appeared for all the world like some loathsome reptile seeming to gloat
upon its prey, loath to leave it, until it had made absolutely certain
that not a single thing was left to be devoured.

With the exception of the crackling flames and the distant boom of the
guns, it was like a city of the dead. The once beautiful church was
totally destroyed. In the square was the base of a monument upon which,
before the war, stood a memorial to France's glorious dead in the war of
1870. The "kultured" Germans had destroyed the figure and, in its place,
had stuck up a dummy stuffed with straw in the uniform of a French
Zouave. Could ever a greater insult be shown to France!

Not content with burning the whole town, the Huns had gone to the
trouble of displaying a huge signboard on the side of a building in the
square on which were these words: "Don't be vexed--just admire!"

Think of it! The devils!



     Exploring the Unknown--A Silence That Could be Felt--In the
     Village of Villers-Carbonel--A Cat and Its Kittens in an Odd
     Retreat--Brooks' Penchant for "Souvenirs"--The First Troops
     to Cross the Somme.

Lieutenant B----, the official "still" photographer, and I have been
companions in a few strange enterprises in the war, but I doubt whether
any have equalled in strangeness, and I might say almost uncanny,
adventure that which I am about to record. In cold type it would be
pardonable for anyone to disbelieve some of the facts set forth, but, as
I have proved for myself the perfect application of the well-known
saying that "truth is stranger than fiction," I merely relate the facts
in simple language exactly as they happened, and leave them to speak for

It was early morning on March 17th, 1917, when the Germans began their
headlong flight towards their Cambrai, St. Quentin, or "Hindenburg"
Line. When B---- and I hastened along the main St. Quentin Road, troops
and transports were as usual everywhere. We passed through the ruined
villages of Foscaucourt and Estrées and brought our car to a standstill
about two kilometres from the village of Villers-Carbonel, it being
impossible owing to the fearful road conditions to proceed further.

We left the car and started off to explore the unknown. On either side
of the road I noticed many troops in their trenches; they were looking
down at us as if we were something out of the ordinary, until I turned
to him and said:

"Is there anything funny about us? These chaps seem to be highly
interested in our appearance, or something. What is it?"

"I don't know," he said, "let's enquire."

So, going up to an R.A.M.C. officer, who was standing outside his
dug-out, I asked him if there was any news--in fact I enquired whether
there was a war on up there, everything seemed to be so absolutely

"Well," he said, "there was up to about three hours ago; Bosche has
fairly plastered us with 5.9 and whizz-bangs. These suddenly ceased,
and, as a matter of fact, I began to wonder whether peace had been
declared when your car came bounding up the road. How the devil did you
manage it? Yesterday evening the act of putting one's head over the
parapet was enough to draw a few shells; but you come sailing up here in
a car."

"This is about the most charming joy-ride I have had for many a day," I
replied, "but let me introduce myself. I am Malins, the Official
Kinematographer, and my friend here is the Official 'still' picture man.
We are here to get scenes of the German retreat, but it seems to me that
one cannot see Bosche for dust. That is Villers-Carbonel, is it not?" I
said, pointing up the road in the distance.

"Yes," he replied.

"Right," I said, "we are going there and on our way back we'll tell you
all the news."

With a cheery wave of the hand he bade us adieu, and we started on our

The once beautiful trees which lined the sides of the road were torn to
shreds and, in some instances, were completely cut in half by shell-fire
and the trunks were strewn across the road. These and the enormous
shell-holes made it difficult to proceed at all, but, by clambering
over the huge tree trunks, in and out of filthy slime-filled
shell-holes, and nearly tearing oneself to pieces on the barbed wire
intermingled with the broken branches, we managed at last to reach the
village. Not a sound was to be heard. I turned to my companion.

"This is an extraordinary state of affairs, isn't it? In case there are
any Bosche rearguard patrols, we'll keep this side of the ruins as much
as possible."

The village was practically on the top of a ridge of hills. I stood
under the shadow of some tree-stumps and gazed around. What a scene of
desolation it was. I got my camera into action and took some excellent
scenes, showing what was once a beautiful main road: broken trees flung
over it in all directions like so many wisps of straw, and an
unimaginable mass of barbed wire entanglements. Then, swinging my camera
round, I obtained a panoramic view of the destroyed village. Dotted here
and there were the dead bodies of horses and men: how long they had lain
there Heaven knows!

While examining the ruins of a building which used to be a bakehouse I
received a startling surprise. I was bending down and looking into an
empty oven when, with a rush and a clatter, a fine black cat sprang at
my legs with a frightened, piteous look in its eyes, and mewed in a
strange manner. For a moment I was startled, for the animal clung to my
breeches. The poor creature looked half-starved. In its frenzy, it might
bite or scratch my leg or hand. Blood-poisoning would be likely to
follow. I gently lowered my gloved hand and caressed its head. With a
soft purr it relaxed its hold of my leg and dropped to the ground.
Feeling more comfortable I unfastened my satchel and, taking out some
biscuits, gave them to the poor brute. It ravenously ate them up. My
second surprise was to come. A faint scratching and mewing sound came
from behind some bread bins in a corner and, as I looked, the black cat
sprang forward with a biscuit in its mouth in the direction of the
sound. I followed and gently moved the bin aside. The sight there almost
brought tears into my eyes. Lying upon some old rags and straw were
three tiny kittens. Two were struggling around the mother cat, mewing
piteously and trying to nibble at the biscuit she had brought. The other
was dead.

The mother cat looked up at me with eyes which were almost human in
their expression of thanks. I took out some more biscuits, and breaking
them up in an empty tin I picked up from the floor, I poured some water
from my bottle on to them, placed it beside the starving group and,
leaving a handful near the mother cat, I made their retreat as snug as

Making our way again to the main road I stood by some ruins and looked
away in the distance where the Germans had disappeared. What a
difference. Here were green fields, gorgeous woods, hills, and dales
with winding roads sweeping away out of sight. It reminded me of the
feeling Moses must have experienced when he looked upon the Promised
Land. Here were no shell-torn fields, no woods beaten out of all
semblance to anything, no earth upon which thousands of men had poured
out their blood; but, here in front of us, a veritable heaven.

"Come along," I said, "let's explore. If there are any Bosches about
they'll soon let us know of their presence. Let's get on to that other
ridge; the Somme river should be there somewhere."

We left the village and cautiously followed the road down one hill and
up the next. The Germans had disappeared as completely as if the earth
had swallowed them up. Not a soul was to be seen; we might have been
strolling on the Surrey hills!

I gradually reached the brow of the next ridge. The sight which met my
eyes was the most stimulating one I had ever seen from a picture point
of view. There, in front of us, at a distance of six hundred yards, was
the river Somme--the name which will go down to history as the most
momentous in this the bloodiest war the world has ever known.

There it glistened, winding its way north and south like a silver snake.

"Come along," I said, "I shall get the first picture of the Somme," and
we raced away down the road.

In calmer moments at home I have admitted that we were mad. Nobody in
their right senses would have done such a thing as to rush headlong into
country which might have been thick with enemy snipers and machine-guns.
But the quietness of the grave reigned--not a rifle-shot disturbed the

Evidence of the German retreat met our gaze as we ran down the road. On
either side were discarded material and, in a quarry on the left, a
German Red Cross sign was stuck up on a post, and several dug-outs were
burning--smoke was pouring up from below, showing that the Hun was
destroying everything.

I was brought to a standstill at the sight of a mass of wreckage near
the river. Smoke was issuing from it. I looked on my map and saw that it
was the village of Brie; a small section was this side of the river, but
the main part was on the other side. The whole place had been completely
destroyed, partly, I ultimately found out, by our gun-fire, and the
remainder burnt or blown up by the Germans.

The river had developed into a swampy marsh; in fact it was very
difficult to say precisely where the river and canal finished and the
marshes began.

I again got my camera into action and filmed, for the first time, the
Somme river which was directly in our line of advance.

The bridges were blown up; huge masses of stone and iron, twisted and
torn and flung into the morass of weeds and mud and water, forming small
dams, thus diverting the river in all directions. Several scenes on this
historic spot I filmed, then, wishing to push forward, I attempted to
cross the broken bridges. By careful manoeuvring I managed to cross
the first, then the second, but a large gap blown in the roadway about
forty feet across, through which the water rushed in a torrent, brought
me to a standstill, so reluctantly I had to retrace my steps.

Except for the sound of rushing water the quietness was almost
uncanny--the excitement of the chase was over. Then I began to realise
our position.

We were in a section of ground which the enemy had occupied only a few
hours before and had apparently abandoned--vanished into thin air! We
were at least two kilometres in _front_ of our infantry, in fact we had,
of our own accord--keen on obtaining live scenes for the people at
home--constituted ourselves an advance patrol, armed, not with
machine-guns, swords, or lances, but with cameras. There was every
possibility of our being taken for Germans ourselves by our men from a
distance; the real advance guard coming up would undoubtedly open fire
and enquire into credentials afterwards. The ruins across the bridge
might hide enemy rifles; they might open fire any moment. I explained
the situation to my companion, who had also presumably reached a
decision very similar to my own, which was to return to the village of
Villers-Carbonel as quickly and as carefully as possible.

Keeping to the side of the road we trudged back, and half-way up the
hill we ran into one of the things I expected--an advance party. An
officer came forward and said in astonished tones:

"Where the devil have you fellows come from?"

"We've been getting photographs of the German retreat," I replied.
"We're the official photographers and have been half-way across the
Somme, but owing to the bridge being blown up we have come back. The
Germans seem to have vanished entirely, not a sign of one about

"Well, I'm ----," he said, "this is the funniest thing I've ever known.
Will our advance patrols constitute the official photographers for the
future? If so, it will save us any amount of trouble."

"Well?" I said, "you can go on--devil a Bosche is over there anyway."

"Well," he said, "these troops I am taking down will be the first across
the Somme."

"Right," I said, seeing immediately the scoop it would be for my film.
"I will come back and film your men going over; it will make a unique

With that we retraced our steps, and laughing and chatting about our
adventure, we once again reached the Somme river.

I fixed up my camera, and, when all was ready, a rough bridge was
hastily made of several planks lashed together to bridge gaps in the
fallen stonework, and I filmed the first troops to cross the Somme
during the great German retreat.

The light was now failing, so, packing up my apparatus, and waving
farewells to the C.O., I turned back again. B---- joined me; the day had
been a great one for us, and we mutually agreed that it was a fitting
sequel to the first British battle that had ever been filmed which I
took at Beaumont Hamel on July 1st, 1916.

Weary in body, but very much alive mentally, we returned via
Villers-Carbonel to our car.

On my way back I wondered how the cat and her kittens were getting on.

The black cat had certainly brought me luck.



     The Enemy Destroy Everything as They Go--Clearing Away the
     Débris of the Battlefield--And Repairing the Damage Done by
     the Huns--An Enormous Mine Crater--A Reception by French
     Peasants--"Les Anglais! Les Anglais!" Stuck on the Road to

To keep in touch with all the happenings on that section of the front
for which I was responsible, and to obtain a comprehensive record of
events, it was necessary to keep very wide awake. Movements, definite
and indefinite, were taking place in scores of different places at the
same moment. To keep in touch with the enemy, to work with our forward
patrols, to enter upon the heels of our advance guard into the evacuated
villages--and, if possible, to get there first and film their triumphal
entry, film our advance infantry and guns taking up new positions, the
engineers at work remaking the roads, building new bridges over the
Somme, laying down new railways and repairing old ones--the hundred and
one different organisations that were working and straining every muscle
and nerve for the common cause. Only the favoured few have the remotest
idea of the enormous amount of work to be done under such conditions.

The road (which was No Man's Land yesterday morning) to the village of
Villers-Carbonel was now swarming with men clearing away the accumulated
débris of the battlefield. Tree trunks were moved off the road,
shell-holes were being filled up with bricks and branches, trenches,
which crossed the road, were being filled in, a Tank trap at the
entrance to the village, the shape of a broad, deep ditch, about thirty
by twenty feet wide by fifteen feet deep, was being loaded with tree
trunks and earth. I filmed these scenes; then hurried as fast as
possible in the direction of Brie to cover the advanced work on the
Somme, and then to cross to the other side and get in touch with our
cavalry patrols.

What an extraordinary change in the place! Yesterday a ghostly silence
reigned; now men and material and transport were swarming everywhere. I
reached the river. The engineers had thrown up light, temporary
bridges--six in all. Huge iron girders had arrived from back behind;
they had been made in readiness for "The Day." Our H.Q. had known that
the Germans in their inevitable retreat would destroy the bridges, so,
to save time, duplicates were built in sections, ready to throw across
the gap.

I managed to arrive in time to film several squadrons of the Duke of
Lancaster's cavalry hurrying forward to harass the enemy. Cyclist
patrols were making their way over. I hurried as fast as possible
through the ruins of Brie and on to the ridge beyond. In the distance I
watched our cavalry deploying in extended order and advance towards a
wood to clear it of the enemy rearguards. Motor-cyclists, with their
machine-guns, were dashing up the hill anxious to get into contact with
the flying enemy. I filmed many scenes in this section.

I looked along the road which was the main one into St. Quentin; it
stretched away as far as the eye could see. The condition is certainly
excellent, I thought. There would be a greater possibility of obtaining
exciting scenes if it were possible to proceed in my car; the only
question was whether the temporary bridges across the Somme were
capable of sustaining the weight. The possibility of getting into
villages just evacuated by the Germans spurred me on, so retracing my
steps, I reached the river again.

"Do you think the bridge will take the weight of my car?" I asked an
officer in charge of engineers.

"What is it?"

"Daimler," I replied.

"Well," he said, "there is a risk, of course, but our G.S. wagons have
been across and also the artillery, so they may take your bus--if you
don't bounce her in crossing."

"Right-o!" I said. "I will get it down." Hurrying across I had just
reached the last bridge when, with a sudden snap, one of the main beams
gave way. All traffic was, of course, stopped, and engineers quickly got
to work replacing the broken girder.

"It will be at least another hour, sir," said a sergeant in answer to my
enquiry. So there was nothing for it but to curb my impatience and wait,
and I stood my apparatus down and watched the proceedings.

At that moment a car came to a standstill alongside me.

"What's wrong?" called out one of the occupants.

"Broken bridge," I said. "I'm waiting to cross with my car to get films
of the villages and the occupants."

"That's good," said the speaker, a captain. "I am going up to them as
well. Intelligence I heard from our airmen this morning that they saw
civilians in one or two villages a few miles out--so I'm off to
investigate. Would you care to come? We shall be the first there."

"Yes, rather," I replied. "It will be a fine scoop for me to film the
first meeting of British troops in the liberated villages. I will follow
in my car."


The bridge was again complete, so, dumping my camera aboard, I followed
in the wake of the captain. Up the hill we dashed and spun along the
road at the top, passing beyond the outskirts of Brie. We were now
beyond the extreme limit of the shelling which we had subjected the
Germans to during their months of occupation.

I was now beginning to see the sights and view the atrocious system and
regularity of wilful destruction which had obviously been planned months
before by the Huns to carry out Hindenburg's orders and make the whole
land a desert. Not a tree was standing; whole orchards were hewn down;
every fruit tree and bush was destroyed; hedges were cut at the base as
if with a razor; even those surrounding cemeteries were treated in the
same way. Agricultural implements were smashed. Mons en Chaussée was the
first village we entered; every house was a blackened smoking ruin, and
where the fiends had not done their work with fire they had brought
dynamite to their aid; whole blocks of buildings had been blown into the
air; there was not sufficient cover for a dog.

The car suddenly came to a standstill; my driver jammed on his brake and
I hurried forward. There, at the middle of the village cross-roads was
another enormous mine-crater--one hundred feet across by about sixty
feet deep. It was quite impassable, but the sight which astounded me was
to see about twenty old women and children running up the road the other
side of the crater shouting and waving their arms with joy. "Les
Anglais! Les Anglais!" they yelled. I got my camera into position and
filmed the captain and his companions as they clambered round the jagged
lip of the crater and were embraced by the excited people. For the first
time since their captivity by the Germans they had seen "les Anglais."
Liberators and captives met!

Several scenes I filmed of the enormous crater and of the cut-down fruit
trees. Not a single tree, old or young, was left standing. To blow up
roads, and hew down telegraph poles was war, and such measures are
justified; but to destroy every tree or bush that could possibly bear
fruit, wilfully to smash up agricultural implements; to shoot a dog and
tie a label to its poor body written in English:

     "Tommies, don't forget to put this in your next
     communique--that we killed one dog.

     (Signed) THE HUNS."

To crucify a cat upon a door and stick a cigar in its mouth, to blow up
and poison wells, to desecrate graves, to smash open vaults and rob the
corpses which lay there, and then to kick the bones in all directions
and use the coffins as cess-pools--these things I have seen with my own
eyes. Is this war? It is the work of savages, ghouls, fiends.

I wondered where these people had come from and where they had been as
the whole village was burnt out. I enquired and found that the Germans,
two days before, had cleared the village of its population and
distributed them in villages further back, and had then set fire to the
place, leaving nothing but a desert behind, and taking with them all the
men who could work and many girls in their teens to what fate one may

These few villagers had wandered back during the day to gaze upon the
wreckage of their homes and arrived just in time to meet us at the

"We will get along," said my companion. "I want to visit Bovincourt and
Vraignes before nightfall, though I am afraid we shall not do it. By
making a detour round these ruins I believe we shall strike the main
road further down."

I followed him through the ruins and, after bouncing over innumerable
bricks and beams, we reached the main road. We passed through
Estrées-en-Chaussée. One large barn was only standing; everything was as
quiet as the grave; columns of smoke were still rising from the ruins.

Another jamming on of brakes brought us to a standstill at a
cross-roads; another huge mine-crater was in front of us and it was most
difficult to see until we were well upon it. There was nothing to do but
to take to the fields--our road was at right angles to the one we were

I examined the ground, it was very soft, and the newly scattered earth
and clay from the mine made it much worse.

"If we get stuck," I thought, "there is nobody about to help us out."
The captain tried and got over.

I yelled out that I would follow; they disappeared in the direction of
Bovincourt. Backing my car to get a good start I let it go over the edge
of the road into the field. It was like going through pudding. The near
wheels roared round without gripping. Then it happened! We were stuck! A
fine predicament, I thought, with prowling enemy patrols about and no

"All shoulders to the wheel," I said. By digging, and jamming wood,
sacking and straw under the wheels we managed, after three-quarters of
an hour, to get it out. Jove! what a time it was! And so on the road

"We will get into Bovincourt," I said. "Let her go; I may meet the

The feeling was uncanny and my position strange, for all I knew Bosches
were all around me (and later on this proved to be the case).

Night was falling, and ere I reached the village it was quite impossible
to take any scenes.

At the entrance to the village I ran into several people who crowded
round the car, crying and laughing in their relief at seeing the British
arrive. Old men and women who could barely move hobbled forward to shake
hands, with tears in their eyes. They clambered in and around the car,
and it was only by making them understand that I would return on the
following day that they allowed the car to proceed. The sight was
wonderful and I wish I were able to describe it better.

I could not find the other car, so, assuming it had gone back, I decided
to return as far as Brie and stay the night. As I was leaving the
village a burst of machine-gun fire rang out close by followed by
violent rifle-shots.

"Let her go," I said to my chauffeur. "I am not at all anxious to get
pipped out here. My films must not fall into enemy hands."

The car shot up the road like a streak; the mine-crater was ahead and
the possibility of getting stuck again whilst crossing made me feel
anything but easy. Full tilt, I told my driver, we must trust to speed
to get across. On went the lower gear; a right-hand twist of the wheel
and we were on the field; the speed gradually grew less, the back wheels
buzzed round but still gripped a little.

"Keep her going at all costs," I yelled, "if the car sticks here it will
have to be left." To lighten her a little I jumped out and pushed up
behind for all I was worth. Mud was flying in all directions; we were
nearly across; another twenty yards. With a final roll and screech she
bounded off on to the road. I jumped aboard again and up the road we
shot towards Mons. If the Hun patrols had been anywhere near they must
have thought a battalion of Tanks were on their track, for the noise my
old "bus" made getting across that field was positively deafening. On I
went through Mons, into the ruins of its houses, still glowing red and,
in some places, flames were licking around the poor skeletons of its
once prosperous farms.

One more mine-crater to negotiate; then all would be plain sailing. It
was now quite dark. I dared not use lights, not, even side lamps, and
going was decidedly slow and risky in consequence. I sat in the bonnet
of the car and, peering ahead, called out the direction. Shortly a
lightish mass loomed up only a few yards distant.

"Stop!" I yelled.

On went the brakes, and only just in time. We came to a standstill on
the outer lip of a huge crater. Another two yards and I should have been
trying to emulate the antics of a "tank" in sliding down a crater and
crawling up the other side. In my case the sliding down would have been
all right, but coming up the other side would have been on the lap of
the gods. A hundred men with ropes and myself--well, but that's another

"Back the car to give it a good run," I said, "and let us lighten it as
much as possible," and soon all was ready.

"I will go ahead and put my handkerchief over my electric light; we must
risk being seen--you head direct for the glow."

I went into the muddy fields.

"Let her go," I shouted. With a whir and a grind I could tell it had
started. I stood still. It was coming nearer. Ye gods! what a row. Then,
suddenly, the engines stopped and dead silence reigned.

"It's stuck, sir," came a voice from the darkness.

I went to the car and switched my lamp on to the near wheels. The car
was stuck right up to the axle.

"We shall never get out of this unaided," I said. "Put all the stuff
back inside and get the hood up; we shall have to sleep here to-night."

Then, to add to the discomfiture of the situation, it began to rain, and
rain like fury, and in a few minutes I was wet through to the skin. The
hood leaked badly and had convenient holes in alignment to one's body,
whether you were sitting lengthways or otherwise inside. I had resigned
myself for a dismal night out. Two hours had passed when I heard the
clatter of hoofs coming towards me in the distance and, by the direction
of the sound, I could tell they were our men. I tumbled out and ran as
fast as possible to the other side of the crater and reached there just
as the horsemen arrived.

"Hullo!" I shouted.

"Hulloa!" came the reply, "who is it?"

"I am badly stuck, or rather my car is--in the mud in the field here.
Can you hitch two or three of your horses on and help me out on to the

"Certainly, if we can, sir."

"I will guide you with my lamp--by the way, where are you going?" I

"We are trying to get into touch with the Bosche."

"I have been in Bovincourt," I said, "but there are none there, though I
heard a lot of rifle-fire just outside the village."

We arrived at the car and, quickly hitching on a rope, the engine was
started up and, with a heave and a screech, it moved forward and was
eventually dragged on to the road.

"Thank Heaven," I thought. Then, thanking the men, and warning them of
the other delightful mine crater further down, I started off again,
sitting on the bonnet.

As I neared Brie I switched on my lamp as a headlight and got held up by
two sentries with their bayonets at the ready. They did not understand
why a motor-car should be coming back apparently from the German lines,
and their attitude was decidedly unfriendly till I assured them I was
not a German, but only the Official Kinematographer out for pictures.



     Possibilities--Food for Famished Villagers--Meeting the
     Mayoress of Bovincourt--Who Presides at a Wonderful
     Impromptu Ceremony--A Scrap Outside Vraignes--A Church Full
     of Refugees--A True Pal--A Meal with the Mayor of Bierne.

To keep hard upon the heels of the retreating Germans and so obtain
scenes, the character of which had never been presented before to the
British public, was my chief aim. I had no time for sleep. I arrived at
my base wet through, the rain had continued throughout the whole of my
return journey. Changing into dry underwear, I refilled my exposed
spool-boxes and packed up a good surplus supply, sufficient to last for
several days, then packing my knapsack with the usual rations, bully and
bread, condensed milk and slabs of chocolate, I was ready to start out
once more. My clothes had by this time dried. Daylight was breaking, the
car arrived and, with all kit aboard, I started out again for the Somme,
wondering what the day would bring forth.

I stopped on the way to pick up the "still" photographer.

"Where for to-day?" he asked.

"Bovincourt and Vraignes," I replied, "and, if possible, one or two of
the villages near by. I must get into them before our troops, so as to
be able to film their entry. Does that suggest possibilities to you?" I
said, with a smile, knowing that he, like myself, would go through
anything to obtain pictures.

"Possibilities," he said, "don't, you make my mouth water. How about
food? Shall we take some to the villages?"

"Excellent idea," I said.

We stopped on the way and purchased a good supply of white bread and
French sausages, thinking that these two commodities would be most

Through Foucacourt Estrées and Villers-Carbonel the roads were lined
with troops, guns, and transport of every description, all making their
way forward. Engineers were hard at work on the roads; shell-holes were
filled in and road trenches bridged. Work was being pushed forward with
an energy and skill which reflected great credit upon those in charge;
traffic controls were at cross roads which forty-eight hours before had
been "No Man's Land." Hun signboards were taken down and familiar
British names took their place. The sight was wonderful. En route I
stopped and filmed various scenes. Arriving again at Brie on the Somme
the change in affairs was astounding. The place was alive with men; it
was a veritable hive of industry; new lines were being laid to replace
the torn and twisted rails left by the Germans; bridges were being
strengthened, roads on both sides were widened, and, to make it possible
to continue the work throughout the night, a searchlight was being
mounted upon a platform.

Crossing the bridges of Brie we mounted the hill and were once again
upon the ridge. Great gaps had been made by our men in the huge line of
barbed wire entanglements which the Huns had spent months of laborious
work to construct. It stretched away over hill and dale on both sides as
far as the eye could see.

To pick up further information I stopped a cyclist officer coming from
the direction of Mons.

"Any news?" I enquired. "Where is Bosche?"

"We were in touch with his rearguards all last night," he said. "They
have made several strong points round the villages of Vraignes,
Haucourt, and Bierne. They were scouting around Vraignes, but we quickly
put the wind up them," he said, with a smile. "Several villages were
seen burning during the night and the enemy put a little shrapnel around
some patrols near Pouilly, but no damage was done."

"Vraignes, of course, is quite clear?"

"Yes, as far as we know. Our patrols reported it clear late last
evening, but possibly Bosche returned during the night. We captured
three Bosches and they have an extraordinary tale of seeing two armoured
cars yesterday evening near Bovincourt, and they insist upon it although
I am quite aware there were none at all near there. They say that about
six o'clock they were on the outskirts of Bovincourt when two armoured
cars came in sight. Not having a machine-gun with them they decided to
hide and so took cover in the ruins of a house. Later on they say they
saw only one car leave in the direction of the main road. That's their
tale and they seem quite serious about it."

"Well," I said, with a grin, "do you think this car of mine would look
like an armoured car at a distance?"

"Well, yes, possibly, in a failing light. Why?"

"Well, this must be one of your excellent prisoner's so-called armoured
cars, because I was in Bovincourt with ---- of the Corps Intelligence,
hence the two cars. I missed him through getting stuck in the mud, and
entered Bovincourt about six o'clock and left by myself later as a
skirmish was taking place somewhere near by, and not being armed with
anything more dangerous than a camera, I decided to quit. I am much
obliged to the Bosche for taking this bus of mine for an armoured car."

With a laugh and a cheery adieu the officer bade me good luck and
pedalled off.

I could not help thinking that I had had a lucky escape.

On again, and reaching the first mine, the scene of the previous night's
adventure, I put the car to the field at a rush and by some
extraordinary means got her round.

I was just entering the village when, with a shriek and a crash, a shell
burst near the church. I stopped the car and, under cover of the ruins,
reached a distance of about three hundred yards from where it fell. If
any more were coming over I intended, if possible, to film them

Carefully taking cover behind a wall, I fitted up my camera. Another
shell came hurtling over and dropped and burst quite near the previous
spot. Showers of bricks flew in all directions, liberally splattering
the wall behind which I was concealed. The débris cleared, up went my
camera, and, standing by the handle, I awaited the next.

It came soon enough, I heard the shriek nearer and nearer. I turned the
handle and put my head close behind the camera with my eye to the
view-finder. Crash came the shell, and, with a terrific report, it
exploded. The whole side of a house disappeared, and bricks, wood, and
metal flew in all directions. I continued to turn when, with an ugly
little whistle, a small piece of something struck my view-finder and
another my tripod. Luckily nothing touched the lens. I awaited the next.
It was longer this time, but it came, and nearer to me than the previous
one. I was satisfied. I thought if they elevated another fifty yards I
might get a much too close view of a shell-burst, so scrambled aboard
the car, and made a detour round the mine on to the road beyond.

"Those scenes ought to be very fine," I said. "It's one of those lucky
chances where one has to take the risk of obtaining a thrilling scene."

By the balls of white smoke I could see that shrapnel was bursting in
the near distance.

"That's near Pouilly," I said. "We are turning up on the left, let's
hope the Huns don't plaster us there."

Reaching the village of Bovincourt, the villagers were there eagerly
awaiting our arrival. They again crowded around the car, and it was with
difficulty that I persuaded them to let us pass into the village.
Cheering, shouting, and laughing they followed close behind. I stopped
the car and asked an old man who, by his ribbons, had been through the
1870 war:

"Where is the Mayor?"

"There is no Mayor, monsieur, but a mayoress, and she is there,"
pointing to a buxom French peasant woman about fifty years of age.

I went up to her and explained in my best French that I had brought
bread and sausages for the people, would she share them out?

"Oui, oui, monsieur."

"I would like you to do it here, I will then take a kinematograph film
of the proceeding, so that the people in England can see it."

"Ah, monsieur, it is the first white bread and good French sausage we
have seen since the Bosches came. They took everything from us,
everything, and if it had not been for the American relief we should
have starved. They are brutes, pig-brutes, monsieur, they kill
everything." And, with tears in her eyes, she told me how the Huns shot
her beautiful dog because, in its joyfulness, it used to play with and
bark at the children. "They did not like being disturbed, monsieur, so
they shot him--poor Jacques! They have not left one single animal;
everything has gone. Mon Dieu, but they shall suffer!"

I changed the painful subject by saying that now the British had driven
back the Bosche everything would be quite all right. With a wan smile
she agreed.

I set up my camera, and telling my man to hand over the food, the
Mayoress shared it out. One sausage and a piece of white bread to each
person, men, women, and children. The joy on their faces was wonderful
to behold. As they received their share they ran off to the shelter of
some ruins, or up into the church, to cook their wonderful gifts. I
filmed the scene, and I shall never forget it.

The last of the batch had disappeared when up the road came hobbling a
woman whose age I should say was somewhere about forty-five. I could see
she was on the point of exhaustion. She had a huge bundle upon her back
and a child in her arms, another about seven years clinging to her
skirts. They halted outside the ruins of a cottage, the woman dropped
her bundle, and crouching down upon it clung convulsively to the babe in
her arms and burst into tears.

I went up to her and gently asked her the cause.

"This, monsieur, was my house. Two days past the Germans drove me away
with my children. My husband has already been killed at the front. They
drove me away, and I come back to-day and now my home, all that I had in
the world, monsieur, is gone. They have burnt it. What can I do,
monsieur? And we are starving."

The babe in her arms began to send forth a thin lifeless wail. I helped
the poor woman to her feet and told her to go to the church, and that I
would bring her bundle and some food for her.

God above, what despair! The grim track of war in all its damnable
nakedness was epitomised in this little French hamlet. Houses burnt,
horses taken away, agricultural implements wilfully smashed, fruit trees
and bushes cut down, even the hedges around their little gardens, their
cemetery violated and the remains of their dead strewn to the four winds
of heaven. Their wells polluted with garbage and filth; in some cases
deliberately poisoned, in others totally destroyed by dynamite. Their
churches used as stables for horses and for drunken orgies. All the
younger men deported, and the prettiest of the girls. In some cases
their clothes had been forcibly taken away from them and sacks had been
given in exchange to clothe themselves with. They were robbed of every
penny they possessed.

But when the wonderful sound of the British guns and the tramp of our
soldiers crept nearer and nearer, terrifying, relentless, and
irresistible, the Germans left, fleeing with their ill-gotten spoil like
demons of darkness before the angels of light, leaving in their trail
the picture I have unfolded to you.

Wishing to push on further I scouted round the outskirts of the village.
In a wood a short distance away it was evident that our patrols were in
contact with the Huns. Volley after volley of rifle-fire rang out, and
now and then a burst from the machine-guns. A horseman was heading
straight for me. Was he British or Hun? In a few minutes I could see he
was one of our men--evidently a dispatch-rider. He swept down into a
hollow, then up the road into the village. He was riding hard; his horse
stumbled, but by a great effort the rider recovered himself. He dashed
past me and, clattering over the fallen masonry, disappeared from sight.

I looked around. Not a sign of life anywhere, so I decided to make for
Vraignes about a kilometre distant south-east of Bovincourt. I had
previously heard from one of the villagers that there were about one
thousand people left there.

Strapping my camera on my back I tramped away, my man following in the
rear. The "still" man, who had left me after feeding the villagers, had
been prowling around getting pictures. Accidentally he ran into me, so
together we trekked off.

Taking advantage of every bit of cover possible, as German snipers were
none too careful as to where they put their bullets, we eventually
reached the outskirts of Vraignes. Not a sign of Germans, but crowds of
civilians. Things here were the same as at Bovincourt, but a few more
houses were left standing owing to the fire not completely doing its
work. The people were in the same state. We had just got into the
village, and near the Mairie, when a commotion round the corner by the
church attracted my attention. The men and women who had crowded around
us shouting with joy, turned and rushed up the road.

"Vive les Anglais! Vive les Anglais!" The cry was taken up by every one.
Hands and handkerchiefs were waving in all directions. "Vive les
Anglais! Vive les Anglais!"

"Our boys are there," I said.

My camera was up and turned on to the corner where the crowd stood and,
at that moment, a troop of our cyclists entered, riding very slowly
through the exultant people--the first British troops to enter the
village. I turned the handle. The scene was inspiring. Cheer after cheer
rent the air. Old men and women were crying with joy. Others were
holding their babies up to kiss our boys. Children were clinging and
hugging around their legs, until it was impossible for them to proceed
further. The order was given by the officer in charge to halt. The men
tumbled off their machines, the people surged round them. To say the
men were embarrassed would be to put it mildly. They were absolutely
overcome. I filmed them with the crowd around. And then an order was
given to take up billets. Patrols were thrown out, sentries posted, the
men parked their cycles and rested.

On a large double door of a barn the Huns had gone to the trouble of
painting in huge letters the hackneyed phrase "Gott strafe England," and
immediately our men saw it one of them, with a piece of chalk, improved
upon it.

They gathered the children round them and formed a group beneath the
letters with German trophies upon their heads; I filmed them there, one
of the happiest groups possible to conceive.

I left them and went to find the officer in charge, and asked him for
the latest news from other sections.

"I couldn't say," he replied, "but my men were well in touch with them
early this morning, but you seem to know more about it here than anyone
else. When on earth did you arrive in the village?"

"Just before you," I replied. "I came from Bovincourt."

"Well, you have got some job. I certainly didn't expect to find anyone
so harmless as a photographer awaiting our arrival."

The conversation was abruptly stopped by a warning shout from one of the
observers on a house-top close by.

"Germans, sir."

The officer and I rushed to a gap in the buildings and looked through
our glasses, and there, on a small ridge a thousand yards off, a body of
horsemen were seen approaching, riding hard, as if their very lives
depended upon it.

An order was immediately given to the machine-gun company who had taken
up a most advantageous position and one that commanded most of the
country near by.

I placed my camera in such a position by the side of a wall that I could
see all that was taking place and if seen myself I could easily pull it
under cover.

Nearer and nearer they came. They were too far away to photograph.
Excitement was intense. Were they coming into the village? If they did,
I thought, in all conscience they would get a warm reception, knowing as
I did the arrangements for its defence. My eyes were fixed upon them.

The officer close by was on the point of giving the order to fire when a
burst of machine-gun fire rang out in the distance.

"Our cavalry have got them," said the officer. "We have some strong
posts just here, Bosche has fairly run into them. Look! They have their
tails up."

And they had, for they were running back for all they were worth in the
direction of Bierne.

Our men were positively disappointed, and I can honestly say I was
myself, for the possibilities of a wonderful scene had disappeared.

The tension relaxed; most of the men returned to their billets and
quickly made themselves at home with the people.

Noticing people going into church, I went up the hill to investigate. As
I entered the outer gate an officer clattered up on horseback, swung
himself off and walked up to me.

"Hullo," he said, "I am the doctor. Anything doing here?"

"Well," I said, "there might have been just now."

I related the happenings of the last ten minutes.

"Have you been to Bovincourt?"

"Yes, but the poor devils are too ill for me. I haven't sufficient stuff
with me to go round."

Another officer ran up, "I say, Doctor, for Heaven's sake look in the
church here. The place is packed and half of them are ill, God knows
what with, and one or two are dead."

"Well, I will look, but I can do nothing until this evening. I have no
stuff with me."

We went into the church. Heavens! what a sight met our eyes; the
atmosphere was choking. It was like a charnel-house. Crowds of old men,
women, and children of all ages were crowded together with their
belongings. They had been evacuated from dozens of other villages by the
Huns. Women were hugging their children to them. In one corner an old
woman was bathing the head of a child with an old stocking dipped in
water. The child, I could see, was in a high fever. There must have been
at least three hundred people lying about in all directions, wheezing
and coughing, moaning and crying.

The doctor spoke to one old woman, who had hobbled forward and sank down
near a pillar. The doctor bent down and told her that he would bring
medicine in the evening. Everybody there seemed to hear that magic word,
and scrambled forward begging for medicine for themselves, but mostly
for the children. The scene was pitiable in the extreme.

I asked one women where they had come from. She told me from many
villages. The Bosche had turned them all out of their homes, then burnt
their houses and their belongings. They had walked miles exposed to the
freezing cold rains and winds, they had been packed into this church
like a lot of sheep without covering, without fires. She was begging for
medicine for her three-months-old babe.

"She will die, monsieur, she will die!" And the poor woman burst into a
flood of tears.

I calmed her as much as possible by telling her that everything would be
done for them without delay, and that medicine, food, and comfort would
be given them.

I turned and left the building, for the air was nearly choking me.
Outside I met the doctor, who was arranging to send a cyclist back for
an ambulance.

"They cannot be treated here, it's impossible. I've never seen such a

I left him and went into the house where the cyclist C.O. had made his
temporary headquarters.

"I want to get on further, is there any other village near by?"

"Yes," he said, "there is Haucourt, but I believe Bosche is in part of
it, or he was this morning. It's about two kilos from here. I shouldn't
go if I were you unless you get further information; I am expecting
another patrol in from there. If you care to wait a few minutes you may
learn something."

I agreed to wait, the "still" man came in just then, and he agreed to
come with me.

"We may as well risk it," I said. "I will take my old bus into the
place. If Bosche sees it he may mistake it again for an armoured car."

So, packing the cameras aboard, I waited for the expected patrol to turn
up. Half an hour passed; no sign. Daylight was waning.

"I am going on," I said to the "still" man, "we cannot wait for the
patrol, there's not time. Will you come?"

"Yes," he said.

I told the C.O. of my intention.

"It's thundering risky," he said. "You're going into new ground again."

I left Vraignes and advanced at a cautious pace in the direction of
Haucourt. Rifle-fire was proceeding in the distance, which I judged was
the other side of the village. A destroyed sugar refinery on the left
was still smoking. It had been blown up by the Huns and the mass of
machinery was flung and twisted about in all directions.

In the village I stopped the car close by a crucifix, which was still

"Turn the car round," I said to my driver, "and keep the engine going,
we may have to bolt for it."

Then, shouldering the camera, I made my way up the main street. The
place was a mass of smoking ruins; absolutely nothing was left. A huge
mine had been blown up at a cross-road; all trees and bushes had been
cut down. A piano, curiously enough, was lying in the roadway; the front
had been smashed, and no doubt all the wires were hacked through by some
sharp instrument, and the keys had all been broken. The Huns had
evidently tried to take it away with their other loot, but finding it
too heavy for quick transport had abandoned, then wilfully destroyed it
to prevent its being used by others.

The place was as silent as the grave. I filmed a few scenes which
appealed to me, and was on the move towards the further end of the road
when two of our cyclists suddenly came into view. I hurried up to them.

"Any news?" I asked. "Where's Bosche?"

The men were half dead with fatigue. Their legs were caked inches thick
in mud, and it was only by a tremendous effort that they were able to
lift their feet as they walked. They were pushing their cycles; the mud
was caked thick between the wheels and the mudguards forming in itself a
brake on the tyres. Fagged out as they obviously were they tried to
smile at the reply one made.

"Yes, the Bosche is about here outside the village," said one. "We had a
small strong point last night over there," pointing in the distance,
"myself and two pals. We were sitting in the hole smoking when nine
Bosches jumped in on us. Well, sir, they managed to send my pal West,
but that's all. Then we started and six Fritzes are lying out there now.
The other three escaped. It made my blood boil, sir, when they did in my
pal. I'm going to make a wooden cross, and then bury him. We had been
together for a long time, sir, and--well--I miss my pal, but we got six
for him and more to come, sir, more to come before we've finished."

I thanked the man and sympathised with him over his loss and
complimented him on his fight.

"But it's not enough yet, sir, not enough."

The two then struggled away, bent on their errand of making a cross for
a pal. And as they disappeared among the ruins I wondered how many men
in the world could boast of such a true friend. Very few, worse luck!

       *       *       *       *       *

The sharp crack of a rifle quickly brought me back to earth. A bullet
struck the wall close by. I dived under cover of some bricks dragging my
camera after me. Another came over seeming to strike the spot I had just
vacated. I decided to keep the ruins between myself and the gentle
Bosche. Scenes were very scarce, no matter where one looked it was just
ruins, ruins, ruins.

I wandered on until I came to a long black building, evidently put up by
the Huns. It was quite intact, which to me seemed suspicious. It might
hide a German sniper. I put my camera behind a wall then quietly edged
near the building. Not a sound was audible. In case anyone was there I
thought of a little ruse. The door was close to me and it opened
outwards, so picking up a stone I flung it over the roof, intending it
to fall the other end and so create a diversion. With a sudden pull I
opened the door alongside me, but with no result. I peered round the
door; nobody there. I entered and found the building had been used as a
stable. Straw was lying all over the place; feed-bags had been hastily
thrown down, halters were dotted here and there, and a Uhlan lance was
lying on the ground, which, needless to say, I retained as a souvenir.
The rearguard of the enemy had evidently taken shelter there during the
previous night and had made a hasty exit owing to the close proximity of
our boys.

Evening was drawing on apace, so I decided to make my way back to the
car. The "still" man was awaiting my return.

At Bovincourt I met an Intelligence Officer and told him of my
experiences. He seemed highly amused and thanked me for the information
brought. I told him that wishing to be on the spot if anything
interesting happened during the night or early next morning I had
decided to sleep in my car in the village. I was going to hunt up a
place to cook some food.

"I will take you somewhere," he said. "There is the old Mayor of Bierne
here. He has been evacuated by the Bosche. He's an interesting old
fellow and you might have a chat with him. He is in a house close by
with his wife. Come along."

We found the old man in one of the half-dozen remaining houses left
intact by the Huns.

We entered the kitchen and my friend introduced us to Paul Andrew, a
tall stately French farmer of a type one rarely sees. He had dark curly
hair, a shaggy moustache and beard, blue eyes and sunken cheeks, sallow
complexion and a look of despair upon his face, which seemed to brighten
up on our entrance.

I asked him if his good wife would cook a little food for us, as we
wished to stay the night in the village.

"Monsieur," he said, "what we have is yours. God knows it's little
enough--the Bosche has taken it all. But whatever monsieur wishes he
has only to ask. Will monsieur sit down?"

I bade adieu to the officer who had brought us there, had the car run
into the yard, and then returned to the cosy kitchen, and sat by the
fire whilst the old lady prepared some hot coffee.

"These are more comfortable quarters than we expected to-night," I said.
"I must make a note of all my scenes taken to-day. Have you a light,
Monsieur Andrew?"

"Oui, Monsieur, I have only one lamp left and I hid that as the Bosche
took everything that was made of brass or copper, even the door

He brought in the lamp, a small brass one with a candle stuck in it. I
proceeded with my record, then we supped on bread, sardines, and bully,
sharing our white bread with Andrew and his wife. They had not seen or
tasted such wonderful stuff since the Bosche occupation, and their eyes
sparkled with pleasure on tasting it again. I had brought copies of the
_Echo de Paris_, _Journal_, _Matin_ and other French papers, and these
were the first they had seen for two years. The farmer declared it was
like a man awakening from a long sleep.

"We'll turn in," I said.

Gathering up my coat I opened the door. The freezing cold seemed to
chill me to the bone, and it was snowing hard. I flashed on my torch and
we found our way to the car. Quickly getting inside, I unfolded the
seats which formed two bunks, and struggling inside our sleeping-bags we
were soon asleep.


I awoke with a start. It was pitch dark. I rubbed the steam from the
door window and looked out; it was still snowing. I had an extraordinary
feeling that something was happening, that some danger was near. If
anybody had been there near the car I should have seen them; the snow
made that possible. But there was not a sign of movement. I got out
of my sleeping-bag, thinking that if any prowling Bosche patrol ventured
near I should be able to do something. Nothing happened, and for quite
half an hour I was on the alert. Several rifle-shots rang out quite
near, then quietness reigned again, and, as nothing else happened, I
wriggled into my bag again and dozed.

In the morning I told one of our patrol officers of my experience.

"You were right," he said. "Uhlan rearguard patrols sneaked in near the
village, and must have passed quite close to your place. My men had some
shots at them and gave chase, but owing to the confounded snow they got

I decided that if I slept there again that night it would be with a
rifle by my side.



     The "Hindenburg" Line--A Diabolical Piece of
     Vandalism--Brigadier H.Q. in a Cellar--A Fight in
     Mid-air--Waiting for the Taking of St. Quentin--_L'Envoi_.

Still the great German retreat continued. Village after village fell
into our hands; mile after mile the enemy was relentlessly pursued by
our cavalry and cyclist corps. Still the Germans burnt and devastated
everything in their path although, in some instances, there was evidence
that they were shifted from their lines of defence with far more force
and promptitude than they imagined we would put up against them in this
particular section. The enemy had arranged his operations, as usual, by
timetable, but he had failed to take into consideration the character of
the British soldier, with the result his schemes had "gone agley." To
save men the German high command gave orders for a further retirement to
their Hindenburg defences, a fortified line of such strength as had
never been equalled.

If this line was not impregnable, nothing could be. It was the last word
in defence system and it had taken something like two years to perfect.

The barbed wire, of a special kind, was formidable in its mass; three
belts fifty feet deep wound about it in an inextricable mass in the form
of a series of triangles and other geometric designs. The trenches
themselves were constructional works of art; switch lines were thrown
out as an extra precaution; in front of the most important strategical
positions, machine-gun posts and strong points abounded in unlimited
quantities. It was the Hun's last and most powerful line of defence this
side of the Franco-German frontier. This "Hindenburg" line stretched
from a point between Lens and Arras where it joined the northern trench
system, which had been occupied for the past two years, down to St.
Quentin, passing behind the town at a distance of about five kilos, with
a switch line in front to take the first shock of the Allies' blow when
it came.

Behind this trench the Huns thought they could safely rest and hold up
the Allies' advance. But, with their wonderful and elaborate system of
barbed-wire defence which they anticipated would keep us out, they
probably forgot one point--it would certainly keep them in--tightly
bolted and barred. Therefore, under such conditions, it was the side
which had the predominance in guns and munitions that could smash their
way through by sheer weight of metal, and force a passage through which
to pour their troops, taking section by section by a series of flanking
and encircling movements, threaten their line of communication, finally
cracking up the whole line and compel a further extensive falling back
to save their armies.

Against the front portion of this line we thrust ourselves early in
March, 1917, and our massed guns poured in the most terrible fire the
world had ever known. Lens was practically encircled--the Vimy ridge was
taken by assault, and dozens of villages captured, resulting in the
capture of eighteen thousand prisoners and over two hundred guns.
Hindenburg threw in his divisions with reckless extravagance; he knew
that if this section gave way all hope of holding on to Northern France
was gone. Time and again he sent forward his "cannon fodder" in massed
formation--targets which our guns could not possibly miss--and they
were mown down in countless numbers; his losses were appalling. In
certain places his attacking forces succeeded for a time in retaking
small sections of ground we had gained, only to be driven out by a
strong counter-attack. His losses were terribly disproportionate to his
temporary advantage.

I moved down to the extreme right of the British line; St. Quentin was
the goal upon which I had set my mind. In my opinion the taking of that
place by a combined Franco-British offensive with the triumphant entry
of the troops would make a film second to none. In the first place the
preliminary operations pictorially would differ from all previous issues
of war films, and in the second place it would be the first film
actually showing the point of "liaison" with the French and their
subsequent advance--making it, from an historical, public, and
sentimental point of view, a film _par excellence_. Therefore in this
section of the British line I made my stand.

I left my H.Q. early in April, 1917. I intended to live at the line in
one of the cellars of a small village situated near the Bois de Holnon,
which had been totally destroyed.

I proceeded by the main St. Quentin road, through Pouilly into
Caulaincourt. The same desolation and wanton destruction was everywhere
in evidence; but the most diabolical piece of vandalism was typified by
the once beautiful Château of Caulaincourt, which was an awful heap of
ruins. The Château had been blown into the Somme, with the object of
damming the river, and so flooding the country-side; partially it
succeeded, but our engineers were quickly upon the scene and, soon, the
river was again running its normal course. The flooded park made an
excellent watering-place for horses. The wonderful paintings and
tapestries in the library on the Château had been destroyed. As I
wandered among the ruins, filming various scenes of our engineers at
work sorting out the débris, I noticed many things which must have been
of inestimable value. Every statue and ornamentation about the grounds
was wilfully smashed to atoms; the flower-pots which lined the edges of
the once beautiful floral walks had been deliberately crushed--in fact a
more complete specimen of purposeless, wanton destruction it would be
impossible to find.

I filmed the most interesting sections; then continued my way through
Bouvais on to see the General of a Division. This Division was working
near the French left. After a very interesting conversation this officer
recommended me to call on a Brigadier-General.

"He is stationed at ----," he said. "I will ring him up and tell him you
are on the way. He will give you all the map references of the O.P.'s in
the neighbourhood. Anyway, you can make your own arrangements, I
suppose, about views?"

"Oh, yes, sir, certainly, so long as I can get very near to the place."

"Right. You go into all these details with General ----."

Thanking him I hurried away. I found the mines which Bosche had exploded
at all cross-roads very troublesome, and on one occasion, in
endeavouring to cross by way of the field alongside, I got badly stuck;
so I had to borrow a couple of horses to get me out on to the road

I duly arrived and reported to Brigadier H.Q. It was the cellar of a
once decent house by the appearance of the garden. I went down six steps
into a chamber reeking with dampness about six feet high by ten feet
square; a candle was burning in a bottle on a roughly made table, and,
sitting at it, was the General closely studying details on a map.

He looked up as I entered.

"Are you the Kinema man?" he enquired. "General ---- told me you were
coming; what do you want?"

"Well, sir," I said, "I want to obtain films of all the operations in
connection with the taking of St. Quentin; if you have an
observation-post from which I can obtain a good view it will suit me

"I am sure we can fix you up all right. But we are just going to have a
meal; sit down and join us. We can then go into details."

Lunch was served in primitive fashion, which was unavoidable under such
conditions--but we fared sumptuously, although on a rough plain table
with odds and ends for platters, and boxes and other makeshifts for

During the meal I went into details with the General about my
requirements. He quite understood my position and thoroughly appreciated
my keen desire to obtain something unique in the way of film story.

"The taking of St. Quentin by the Allied troops, sir, would be one of my
finest films."

"Well," he said, "the French are bombarding the suburbs and other
places, so far as damage is concerned, to-day; our batteries are also
giving a hand. I should advise you to go to this spot"--indicating a
position on the map. "What do you think?" he turned to the Brigade
Major. "Will this do for him?"

"Yes, sir, I should think so."

"Anyway, I can soon see, if you can put me on the road to find it. But a
guide would save time."

"You had better take him," said the General to the Brigade Major; "you
know the place quite well."

"Right, sir," he said.

So, getting hold of an extra orderly to help carry my kit, we started
off, up through a wood and then for the first time I viewed St. Quentin.

"We had better spread out here," said my guide. "Bosche can observe all
movements from the Cathedral tower, and he doesn't forget to 'strafe' us
although no harm is ever done."

"He is crumping now by all appearances," I replied, noticing some crumps
bursting about three hundred yards away.

"Yes, they are 'strafing' the place we are going to! That's cheerful,
anyway. We will make a wide detour; he's putting shrapnel over now. Look
out! Keep well to the side of the wood."

We kept under cover until it was necessary to cross a field to a distant

"That's our O.P. We have some guns there, worse luck."

"Hullo, keep down," I said; "that's a burst of four."
Crash--crash--crash--crash! in quick succession, the fearful bursts
making the ground tremble.

"Very pretty," I remarked. "I will get my camera ready for the next

They came--and I started turning one after the other; it was an
excellent scene; but, as the enemy seemed to swing his range round
slightly, the pieces were coming much too near to be healthy. So,
hastily packing up, we made straight for the copse on the quarry top.

High shrapnel was now bursting, several pieces whistling very
unpleasantly near.

"Let's get under shelter of the trees," said the Brigade Major, "the
trunks will give us a lot of cover."

We made a run for it, and reached them safely, and, gently drawing near
the outer edge, I was in full view of St. Quentin.

The Cathedral loomed up with great prominence--and shrapnel was
exploding near the tower.

"That's to keep the Hun observers down," he said. "We are not, of
course, shelling the place to damage it at all. Those fires you can see
there are of Bosche making; he is systematically burning the place as a
prelude to retreat. My Intelligence officer says that the Palace of
Justice and the theatre are well alight, and airmen declare the town
quite empty; they flew over it yesterday only about two hundred feet
above the house-tops and they were not fired at once. Seems to me
they've evacuated the populace entirely."

"Jove," I said, "the French are letting them have it over there,"
pointing in the distance.

"That is, of course, south of the town, very nearly running due east and
west--it's an excellent barrage--and all H.E., too."

I soon got my camera into action and, carefully concealing the tripod
behind a tree trunk or rather a little to one side, I began exposing.

The firing was very heavy. I continued exposing on various sections
which gave me the most comprehensive idea of barrage fire.

"The French are bang up against the 'Hindenburg' line there, and it's
pretty deep in wire--as you know," said my guide, "but I think they will
manage it all right; it's only a matter of time. Hullo! they are
'strafing' their confounded guns again with H.E. Look out! keep down!"
And keep down we did. "Those 5.9 of brother Fritz's are not very kind to
one; we had better stay for a few minutes; he may catch us crossing the

Ten minutes went by; things were a bit quieter, so, hastily packing up,
we doubled back to the road.

"I never did like getting near forward gun position," I said, "but,
curiously enough, my best view-points compel me on many occasions to fix
up in their vicinity."

We got on to the road without casualties and in time to see the H.L.I.
forming up to leave at dusk for the front line, or the series of strong
points which comprised it in this section.

They were having the operation orders read out to them by their officer
in charge. The scenes made very interesting ones for me--the men, alert
and keen to the last degree, stood there in line, listening intently to
the words until the end.

The next morning I had a wire from H.Q. asking me to take charge of two
French journalists for a day or two; they were most anxious to see the
British troops in action before St. Quentin. Towards midday they
arrived--M. Gustave Babin, of _L'Illustration_, Paris--and M. Eugène
Tardeau, of the _Echo de Paris_. I presented these gentlemen to the
General, who kindly extended every facility to them.

I took them up to the observation post from which they could look down
on St. Quentin.

"It will be a great moment for me," said M. Babin, "to obtain the first
impression of the Allied entry in the town."

For myself the day was quite uneventful, beyond obtaining extra scenes
of the preparatory work of our artillery. The heavy bombardment was
continuing with unabated fury, the horizon was black with the smoke of
bursting high explosives, huge masses of shrapnel were showering their
leaden messengers of death upon the enemy. Towards evening the weather
changed for the worse. It began with a biting cold sleet, which quickly
turned into snow.

That night we slept in an old greenhouse which was open to the four
winds of heaven. The cold was intense. I rolled myself up tight in my
bag and drew my waterproof ground-sheet well over my body. It was a
good job I did so for the snow was blowing in through the many fissures
and cracks and settling upon me like fallen leaves in autumn.

The heavy shelling continued throughout the night. Several Bosche shells
came unpleasantly near, shaking my rickety shelter in an alarming

The next day the weather continued vile and the operations were
indefinitely postponed. Therefore there was nothing further to do but to
return to H.Q.

St. Quentin, for the present, was to me a blank, although I had
continued for some time preparing all the scenes leading up to its

The weather was changing, the ground was drying. Our line, just north of
the town, was being pushed further forward. Holon-Selency,
Francilly-Selency, Fayet and Villerete had fallen to our victorious
troops, but the main attack was not yet.

To obtain scenes of our men actually in the front line trenches facing
the town, I made my way through Savy and Savy Wood, in which not a
single tree was left standing by the Bosche. Through the wood I
carefully worked forward by keeping well under cover of a slight rise in
the ground. I met a battalion commander on the way who kindly directed
me to the best path to take.

"But be careful and keep your head down. Hun snipers are very active and
he is putting shrapnel over pretty frequently. Although it doesn't hurt
us--it evidently amuses him," he said, with a smile. "There is one
section where you will have to run the gauntlet--for you are in full
view of the lines. Keep down as low as possible."

I thanked the C.O. and went ahead. The weather was now perfect--a
cloudless blue sky flecked here and there by the furry white balls of
our bursting shrapnel around Hun aeroplanes, keeping them well above
observation range.

I noticed a flight of our men winging their way over enemy lines. I
could hear the rapid fire of the Bosche anti-aircraft guns, and see
their black balls of shrapnel burst. But our birdmen went on their way
without a moment's hesitation. I recalled the time when I was up among
the clouds, filming the Bosche lines thirteen thousand feet above mother

Suddenly a sharp crack, crack and whir of a machine-gun rang out. A
fight was going on up there; our anti-aircraft guns ceased, being afraid
of hitting our own men, but the Bosche still kept on.

It was impossible to see the progress of the fight; the whole flock was
now directly overhead. Watching the "strafe" with such keen interest,
this point quite escaped me until pieces of shrapnel began to fall
around in alarming proportions, causing me to beat a hasty retreat out
of range, though I still hung about in the hope of a Bosche machine
being brought down, thereby providing me with a thrilling scene. But it
did not happen. The airmen disappeared in a southerly direction, still
fighting until the sharp cracks of the guns droned away in the distance.

In a few minutes I came in full view of one of our strong points in the
shape of a disused quarry. Around the inner lip our Tommies had made a
series of funk-holes, which looked quite picturesque in the bright

Machine-gun parties were there ready for anything that might turn up; in
the far corner a group of Frenchmen were chattering volubly to a knot of
our men.

This certainly was a most interesting scene--the point of "liaison"
between the two great armies, France and Britain. I noticed by fresh
shell-holes that Bosche had a rather bad habit of annoying the place
with his pip-squeaks, but generally they only resulted in scoring a
Blighty for more or one of the occupants--and, for others, they were a
source of amusement in the shape of gambling on the spot the next one
would fall.

I filmed various sections here, then, having partaken of a little tea, I
wended my way to the trenches. I kept low, as the tower of the Cathedral
was in full view. I had previously covered the aluminium head of my
tripod with a sandbag to prevent it glistening in the sun. As I drew
nearer to the trench, which I could now see quite distinctly, more and
more of St. Quentin came into view. Such a picture gives one rather a
queerish feeling. If a keen-eyed Hun observer spotted me, with my load,
he would take me for a machine-gunner or something equally dangerous.
But, fortunately, nothing happened.

I dropped into the trench of the ---- Worcesters who were amazed and
amused to see me there, as one of them said:

"Well, sir, I always thought all the War pictures were fakes, but now I
know they're not.

"Will you take us, sir? We expect to go over to-night. Please do, sir;
our people at home will then in all probability see us. Don't suppose I
shall. I have an idea I shan't--but," he said, pulling himself together,
"I hope so, yer know, sir."

I liked the man's spirit. It caused all the others to smile. I carefully
fixed up my machine and filmed them, holding our front line.

"How close is this to the town?" I asked.

"About nine hundred yards, sir."


Whether or not Bosche had seen movement I don't know, but suddenly a
group of four 5.9 came crashing over. Everybody ducked--wise plan,
rather, out here--they fell and burst about fifty yards behind us. I
awaited the next lot; they came very shortly and fell in almost the same

"Before he shortens the range," I thought, "I'll move," and suiting the
action to the word I moved out towards the Bois de Savy and was half-way
there when another lot burst in my direction. This time I made for the
Bois de Holnon, and fortunately the shells ceased.

As I reached the furthest side of the Bois de Savy several tear shells
came whistling over and burst just behind me. Needless to say I had
fallen flat, and, as I arose, the sweet smell of tear gas made itself
evident. Not intending to risk a repetition of my previous experience at
Beaumont Hamel, I closed my eyes and ran like--well, you couldn't see me
for dust.

Yard by yard we continued to press back the enemy. For me the film story
of the taking of St. Quentin is an obsession. It holds me as a needle to
a magnet. And in this section, at the present, I remain--waiting and

My leave is fast running out, and I am nearing the end of my story. In
all the pictures that it has been my good fortune to take during the two
and a half years that I have been kept at work on the great European
battlefield, I have always tried to remember that it was through the eye
of the camera, directed by my own sense of observation, that the
millions of people at home would gain their only first-hand knowledge of
what was happening at the front.

I have tried to make my pictures actual and reliable, above all I have
striven to catch the atmosphere of the battlefield, and whilst I have
dwelt as little as possible upon its horrors, I have aimed at showing
the magnificent spirit which imbues our fighting men, from the highest
in command to the humblest unit in the ranks.

I am proud to think that the task of doing this has been mine, and in
doing it, I have tried "to do my bit" for the land that gave me birth.




Albert, 172

Albert, King of the Belgians, 217

Alexander of Teck, Prince, 217

Amiens, 254

Andrew Paul, Mayor of Bierne, 289, 290

Anzacs, the, 211

Armentières, 108

Arras, 83, 108, 293

Aubers Ridge, 114

Australians, the, 197, 198


Babin, M. Gustave, of _L'Illustration_, 299

Bailleul, 52

Bapaume, 250

Basle, 41

Beaumont Hamel, 124, 129, 165, 208, 245, 265, 303

Bécourt Wood, 172, 176, 197

Belfort, 42

Belgians, Queen of, 217, 218

Bernafay Wood, 186, 188

Besançon, 42, 47

Biaches, 254

Biel, 41

Bierne, 277, 284, 289

Bizantin-le-Grand, 190

Bois de Holnon, 294, 303

Bois de Savy, 300, 303

Boulogne, 205-7, 253, 254

Bouleaux Wood, 240

Bouvais, 295

Bovincourt, 270, 271, 274, 275, 277, 279-84, 289

Brie, 263, 267, 269, 272, 274, 276

Brooks, Lieut., Official "Still" Photographer, 259-65, 275

Burstall, General, 218


Calais, 219-221

Cambrai, 259

Canadians, the, 52-60, 218

Camoy Valley, 184

Caulaincourt, 294

Cavan, Earl of, 63, 76, 77

Clarendon Film Co., the, 5

Contalmaison, 199, 201-203


Delemont, 41

Delville Wood, 238

Dieppe, 48

Dijon, 47

_Dinorah_, S.S., the, 48

Dixmude, 31

Dunkirk, 111


Estrées, 259, 271, 276


Fayet, 300

Festubert, 108, 114

Foch, Gen., 215

Folkestone, 251

Foscaucourt, 259

Foucacourt, 276

Francilly-Selency, 300

Fricourt, 171, 208, 209, 212

Fromelles, 114

Furnes, 6, 8, 13, 15, 21, 29, 30, 38


Gaumont Co., the, 5

George V--
  his approval of Somme film, 177
  arrival at Boulogne, 206, 207
  attends Divine Service, 217
  on Battlefield of Fricourt, 208-211
  being filmed, 216
  his departure from France, 220, 221
  greets Sir H. Rawlinson, 208
  at hospitals, 212
  inspects Canadians, 218
  meets M. Poincaré and Gen. Joffre, 215, 216
  and puppy, 212, 213
  visits King of the Belgians, 217, 218

George, David Lloyd, Prime Minister, 177, 216, 217

Givenchy, 108

Gommecourt, 123

Gouerment, 122

Goumiers, the (Algerian Arabs), 15-17, 21

Guards' Division, the, 61, 63, 65-71, 76-79, 234, 241

Guillemont, 135, 234, 236, 238

Gully Ravine, 136


Haig, Field-Marshal Sir Douglas, 207, 208, 214-16

Haucourt, 277

Hawthorn Redoubt, the, 141, 159

Hill 60, 113

Hill 63, 56-58

Hindenburg, General, 293

"Hindenburg Line," the, 259, 292, 293, 298

Hohenzollern Redoubt, the, 108

Holon-Selency, 300


Joffre, General, 214-216

Josephine, Princess, 218

Jury, Mr. Will, 176


Keppel, Sir Derek, 207

Kinematograph Trade Topical Committee, the, 51

"King George's Hill," 209

Kitchener, Earl of, 206


La Bassée, 65, 72, 114, 115

La Boisselle, 171

La Gorgue, 61

La Maisonnette, Château of, 255

Lancashire Fusiliers, the, 127, 152, 157

Lancers, 17th, the, 214

Lens, 293

Lesboeufs, 234, 239, 245

London Scottish, the, 122, 234

Loos, 104, 108, 114

Lueze Wood, 238


Malins, Lieut. Geoffrey H., O.B.E.--
  appointed Official War Office Kinematographer, 51
  arrested in Switzerland, 41
  at Battle of St. Eloi, 85-92
  on battlefield of Neuve Chapelle, 72-79
  with Belgian Army, 6-13, 30-39
  in bombardment of Furnes, 31
  with Canadians, 52-60
  his description of preparation of film, 178-182
  experiences in aeroplane, 107-120
  films Battle of the Somme, 121-177
  with Goumiers, near Nieuport, 15-21
  with Guards' Division, 65-71
  his life before the War, 5
  narrow escapes of, 93-106, 142-146
  at Pozières and Contalmaison, 196-204
  and Prince of Wales, 77, 207, 212
  at Ramscapelle, 32-34
  reported dead, 38
  spends Christmas at the Front, 62-64
  and Tanks, 222
  on tracks of retreating Huns, 254-303
  in Trones Wood, 183-195
  views battle of sand-dunes, 22-29
  visits ruins of Guillemont and Mouquet Farm, 234-250
  on Vosges Mountains, 40-48
  on Western Front with the King, 205-221
  at Ypres and Arras, 80-84

Mametz, 171

Martinpuich, battle of, 234

Messines, 52, 54, 113

Middlesex Regt., the, 152

Mons, 136

Mons en Chaussée, 269, 272

Montaubon, 186

Morval, 234, 239, 245

Mouquet Farm, 245, 247, 248


Neuve Chapelle, 72, 73, 108, 114

Nieuport, 15, 31

Nieuport Bain, 22, 23

Norfolks, the, 234

North Staffordshire Regt., the, 206

Northumberland Fusiliers, the, 218


Oost-Dunkerque, 22

Ostend, 111


Peronne, 254-258

Perrontruy, 41

Petite Douve, 56, 58, 60

Ploegsteert, 108, 114

Ploegsteert Wood, 53, 56

Ploegstrathe, 52

Poincaré, President, 214-216

Pouilly, 279, 294

Pozières, 197, 198, 201-203, 211, 245


Ramscapelle, 6, 12, 31-33

Rawlinson, General Sir H. S., 136, 208

Remiremont, 42

Richebourg, 108

Richebourg St. Vaaste, 55

Royal Engineers, West Riding Field Co., 136

Royal Fusiliers, the, 136, 137, 152

Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the, 65


St. Dié, 40, 42, 43, 47

St. Eloi, 108, 113

St. Eloi, Battle of, 89-92, 218

St. Quentin, 259, 267, 293, 294, 296-303

Savy, 300

Somme, River, 255, 263, 265-267, 275, 294

Somme Battle, film of, 176-178, 183, 223

Stamfordham, Lord, 207

Suffolks, the, 234


Tanks, the, 225, 229-233, 237, 240

Tardeau, M. Eugène, of _Echo de Paris_, 299

Thiepval, 245

Thompson, Major, 207

Tong, Mr., 51, 52, 64

Trones Wood, 184, 186, 190, 192, 241


Uhlans, the, 32


Vernilles, 132

Villerete, 300

Villers-Carbonel, 259-266, 276

Vimy Ridge, 293

Vosges, the, 40, 47, 51

Vraignes, 270, 275, 277, 281


Wales, Edward, Prince of--
  his anxiety to avoid camera, 77, 212
  attends service on Christmas Day, 63
  cheered by Tommies, 211
  and General Foch, 216
  in German trench, 210, 211
  inspects gun-pits, 77
  meets King George at Boulogne, 207
  takes leave of King George, 220

Wigram, Lieut.-Col. Clive, 207, 216, 219


Ypres, 55, 75, 80-83, 111, 112, 253


  | Transcriber's Notes                                          |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 59: "Wall, sir..." _sic_                                |
  | Page 68: afther _sic_                                        |
  | Page 203: Boche amended to Bosche                            |
  | Page 268: Closing quotes added ("I will get it down.")       |
  | Page 269: Chaussé amended to Chaussée                        |
  | Page 273: axel amended to axle                               |
  | Page 277: was amended to saw ("Later on they say they        |
  | saw....")                                                    |
  | Page 279: if amended to it ("To take it off....")            |
  | Page 281: evidently amended to evident                       |
  | Page 285: moniseur amended to monsieur                       |
  | Page 293: kilos _sic_                                        |
  | Page 295: beeen amended to been                              |
  | Page 305: Becourt amended to Bécourt                         |
  | Page 206: Les Boeufs amended to Lesboeufs                    |
  | Page 306: Reboubt amended to Redoubt                         |
  | Page 307: Vaast amended to Vaaste                            |
  |                                                              |
  | Illustration facing page 12: skies amended to skis           |
  | Illustration facing page 184: Poincarie amended to Poincaré  |
  | Illustration facing page 206: Poincarie amended to Poincaré  |
  | Illustration facing page 290: liason amended to liaison      |
  |                                                              |
  | Hyphenation has generally been standardized. However, when a |
  | word appears hyphenated and unhyphenated an equal number of  |
  | times, both versions have been retained                      |
  | (earsplitting/ear-splitting; everyday/every-day;             |
  | selfsame/self-same).                                         |

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