8 May 1917

France
8/5/17

Dear Dad,

The stunt has "been and went" as we used to say and still I am whole and undamaged. It was the stiffest fight my battalion has had yet and our own losses were proportionate but the men were splendid. We went out into No-Man’s Land in single file and formed up in lines 500 from the Bosche Line. Fritz expected us and showed it by the numerous flares, the intermittent chatter of his machine guns as they searched for us and by the two search-lights which played over the ground every now and again. As we were in the lead we had to be out some little time to allow the rest to form up also, but this part of the operation went on smoothly and except for a little shelling without hindrance. After seeing that the men were in position and knew their direction we lay down and waited for the moment to advance. Five minutes before time word was passed down the line to get ready. Almost before it reached the last man the sky, low down, behind us, burst suddenly into a flickering blaze of light as the guns behind us woke suddenly to life. In a few seconds a torrent of shells screamed overhead and burst like a sparkle of jewels in front. We rose and moved slowly forward, fixing bayonets as we went. No one hurried as there was plenty of time before that deadly hail was shifted back behind the first line trench, our objective. We overtook the barrage near the wire, but within a few seconds it shifted on and was now concentrated on the famous Hindenburg line, a hundred yards ahead.
Before this the slowly advancing waves had been seen by the defenders and a continuous crackle of machine gun bullets whipped and tore the air around us. But not for that would the advance stop. Calmly and coolly the men picked their way through the blasted wire and absolutely ignored the frantic machine guns. Once through the wire we were supposed to lie down and wait until the barrage lifted, but with the enemy so close in front few thought of anything but getting at him and so they pressed on through our own barrage and were fighting in the front line three minutes before the barrage lifted. As soon as the trench was cleared up we pushed along to both flanks to connect up with or assist the people attacking on either side. We soon found that except for a certain distance to the left where part of a battalion had got in, we were the only successful part of the attack and in a few minutes bombing operations were in full swing on both sides. Meanwhile the waves had passed through and soon the success signal was seen from the second line. Following the slowly advancing barrage, the last wave of our battalion steadily advanced and at the scheduled time signalled its occupation of our furtherest objective. So far we were completely successful while on our right and left partial success only had resulted.
On our right the attack was twice renewed but each time it wilted and failed at the wire. The light had increased as daybreak approached and as the barrage had gone on advancing the Boche machine guns and automatic rifles were undisturbed, except on the extreme end of their defence where our bombers were at work. However, the attack had left us numerically weak for the length of line we held and we could do little more than hold our own. As the day advanced and it was seen that there was no chance of bringing the line up level with our furtherest advance, we had to withdraw and be content with holding both lines of trenches. This we did, bombing almost continuously and holding off his desperate efforts to nip us off. During the night Bert’s lot came in and relieved us. I didn’t see him but my C.O. did and told him I was O.K. We moved back to support and then to reserve and are now on our way out for a spell (we hope). Bert was OK the day after we were relieved, as I heard from the Q.M.S. of his company. As soon as I get time I’ll hunt him up, but that won’t be until we get to a place where we can stay a day or two.
The Heads are particularly pleased with the fact that we got in and held on and the Bde and Batt. Have been congratulated by very high up. The C.O. will probably get, as he deserves, both promotion and a decoration out of it. Various other honours will be flying about too and not a few rises will take place. Well I must close this scrawl now. Hoping that the account has not been too meagre – but we must respect the censor. How are all at home and how are things generally. I am in the best of health and am no more miserable than I have ever been at home. In fact I’m getting so callous now that very little is able to affect me. Didn’t think I could become so cold blooded. Still its necessary here or one would go mad. Goodnight and good luck to you all.
Your loving son Viv.

 

 

 

 

NEXT    >>

top
Advertise with us