The Great War, I was there - Part 8

5/* February 4,1915 WHAT HAPPENED to MEat ‘PLUG STREET9 by Rifleman Aubrey Smith, M.M. Quite early in the war drafts to the fighting regiments were sometimes allowed to make their acquaintance with the front byline easy stages. Rifleman Aubrey Smith o f the London Rifle Brigade spent his first days in a barn near Ploegsteert Plug‘( Street ’)on fatigue duty. He survived four years o f the war, and in simple telling language recorded his day today adventures. The bewildered recruit was to become the hardened veteran, but here the wonder o f new impressions is set down with an observer’s genius. The scene opens at Ploegsteert on February 4,1915 HE TWICE WON THE M.M. The gallant young rifleman whoso graph­ically describes his experiences at “Plug Street” in February 1915, was awarded the Military Medal in August 1917 and a bar to the medal in November 1918. This photograph was taken just after he had received the second decoration. C. J . Summerfield Last night [Feb. 3,1915] we came to a barn, about three-quarters of a mile from the trenches, and 1 found myself billeted in aloft. After dark our section had to uptake rations to a support-farm nearer the trenches. It was very dark, and it is marvellous that anyone can remember the route. Leaving a lane, we turned into afield (needless to say that all the way we trod in very thick mud) and sloshed along beside a wide ditch of water, which was the only thing 1 could see, except the outline of the man in front. Can’t you picture i t '?Field after field separated by ditches occasionally we across small stream boarded by a couple of planks, and the party slows up to allow all to crossover then on again. We turn to the left and tread through some water, abut flare goes up 011 the horizon and we are able to pick our way for a few seconds. A muddy field, all glistening with water, and the outlines of short, stumpy trees are visible against the sky. c"W spot a narrow brick path, which we follow, and presently have to jump a stream. One man stumbles and the party has to wait for him another, overburdened with a rather heavy sack, calls out “losing touch,” and the pace is shortened. My package is a sack and a huge piece of bacon tied on top, which nestles confidingly against my neck and hair and makes me feel 1 am not alone. Soon we tread avery muddy turnip field and have to duck apiece of wire overhead, which the first man dis­covered at the price of his hat. Iu is very interesting and weird and the flarvs serve to make it still more unusual. The flares go up frequently, sometimes three at a time. A few bullets whistle over our heads, but, strangely enough, we don’t seem to notice them. At last we approach our destination— a dark farm. We tread a cinder-path leading up to it and enter to see a platoon of men comfortably settled down there 011 straw, with a nice blazing fire. After depositing our loads we turn back, and, by this time, having grown more accus­tomed to the light, are able to see some­thing of our path. I find that what I had taken to abe ditch of water, which I carefully avoided, is really a wet path WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE !The heavy rains that deluged the countryside of Flanders in the autumn and winter of 1914-15 added terribly to the misery and discomfort of the troops, as this chapter suggests. This photograph shows a man of the 2nd Scots Fusiliers near La Boutillerie doing his best to drain a flooded reserve trench with an improvised pump. Imperial ll'ar Museum 299 H1
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