The Great War, I was there - Part 20

I crouched into" a corner and fell fast asleep, and must have slept for about an hour when Hansen woke us all up and told us it was time to get the men ready. Once outside, to our sur­prise we found very few shells over.coming Lieut. Dean got his men together very quickly and moved off welland he did, for his guide lost himself and they reached the hop-off trench, Post 3 just as it was time togo over. K/1 y party was very slow in assembling, and when the boys were all lined up and numbered off we found that Private Porter was missing, and all the N.C.O.’s had a final hunt round to find him. He could not be seen anywhere, so we moved off without him. He was about the sleepiest fellow in the battalion, and this made him always an annoyance to N.C.O.’s but, anyway, he woke up just as we were moving and ran after us, every bit as game as anyone. The officer in charge of my supporting platoon came along with tome the place— A on the map— where we were to climb out of the trench, and assisted us out, as the trench at this particular place was very deep. When word was passed up tome that all the bombers were out, we got into our proper formation, two bayonet men in front, one bomb thrower, one carrier, and the rest spare !HEADmen. THE RAID A comp any section’s was in front with Sergeant Myers in charge. He was going to the far end of the enemy’s post, Band Company’s section, under Corporal Smith, was to enter the near end of the post. A corporal from the infantry with eight men was to followup close behind and attend to the Hun dug-outs along the bank. Special signals had been arranged between us and company headquarters red:one ground- flare would abe call for reinforcements, and two red flares would mean that the post had been captured. I looked at my watch (or rather, at Hughie Stock’s, for I had had to ex­change mine with him, as mine was not illuminated). It was ten to twelve, and I decided to move up a little closer and wait for the trench-mortars to open. When we started to move, the Huns must have seen us from the top of the bank, for the flares they put up were quite out of the ordinary. Two red, then some greens, and goodness knows what else. As we were in single file and hugging the bank, it was impossible for them to fire onus, and I began to thank my lucky stars that we had come this way. I felt certain we were in for a and as I was in the lead I knew the chances were that I would bethe first to collect. Once 1 saw some objects leaning out of a shell-hole, and I got into a hole and watched them, not caring to fire unless they moved. With an effort I crept up to them and found out that they were logs. We advanced about half-way and then settled into shell-holes to wait. Every time I looked round I could seethe long line of men following behind, alike snake. Flares were still going up, and it looked more like daylight than night. I glanced at my watch, and it wanted seven minutes to twelve. Two minutes more, and the show would open. The interval was not long in passing, and as I was looking at my watch again I heard a swish as a Stokes mortar shell came tumbling through the air overhead. When it burst on or near the German post we crept forward again. The bursting shells were a good guide, and they were overcoming very quickly— one in every four or five seconds. AS THE LAST SHELL BUR ST\Y/e crept up until we could feel the force of the explosion, and then lay down. It was a wonder some of us were not hit, but we knew that our only chance of salvation was to getup close while the barrage was still on, and then inrush before the Hun could get his head up. I watched the minute hand until it showed twelve, and we then rose as the last shell burst in the post, and the rest of the shells began to fly farther onto the back of the position. Sergeant Myers filed by with his men, while B section turned to their left and mounted into an opening which looked as if it might have been a branch road. I went up herewith this section, as its leaders were not quite as good as those of A.We had only penetrated about thirty yards when the Huns commenced to show themselves, but we were then far enough into have them on all sides of us. Somehow or other I had got a little ahead of the others, and between me and the rest a Hun officer stood up, and no doubt he Intended to drop me. 1 myself knew nothing about it till next day, but little Billy Mayne saw him, and put a bomb at his feet which blew him over. Poor kid, Billy lost his life at Bulle- court, but I always feel that I owe mine to him. He was one of the nicest little fellows we had, and as game as a bull-ant. This was as far as we got. Some Huns showed up in front and we pelted bombs into themas hard as we could throw, and they ran for their lives. On our right others appeared, and they also ran before the bombs, downright 780 into Myers’ party, and he and his crowd were thus surrounded for awhile. One man shot a Hun who was almost falling on him. Anyway, he had captured this part of the place but when I looked round I discovered that I had only about four men left. I had already seen Corporal Smith staggering out, wounded. The rest had vanished. I accordingly went out to the bottom of the bank and lit my red flare for reinforcements, and then, to my disgust, saw my supporting platoon digging a trench a hundred yards away and making no effort to get to us. I turned togo back whereto the surviving bombers were fighting, and, as I turned, I found that the Huns were coming back, pelting bombs at us. One almost hit my foot, and I had barely moved a yard when the bomb went off. I had the impression that someone had stabbed me with hot pins along my legs, and I felt blood running down my hand. It knocked the breath out of me, and I remember staggering around for awhile. But the fight became so killing that we had to get out, and just as we reached the bottom of the bank we met Sergeant Myers and the remnant of his party clearing for dear life also. My ears were ringing with the row of the bombs, but above it all I could hear the Huns yelling“ Ja ! Ja !”as they heaved them. WOULD THEY BOM BUS TOUT \Y/e all ran back about fifty yards and got into shell-holes. We were out of range of the Hun bombs, and there did not seem to be any rifle-fire to speak of, although some of the boys after­ wards said that at times they had to keep their heads down in the shell- holes. Captain Hansen’s orders were to dig inclose to the place if we could not take it, but I was sore perplexed what to do, for we were under the bank and the Hun coming along the bank could soon bomb us out. The supporting platoon commander came up at this juncture and I asked him what he thought of it. He said, “No good,” and I thought— “Well, if he’s not going to take the risk, I ’ve had enough.” Ail the time his party was instill the same place watching the show. Captain Hansen told us afterwards that the Hun had opened up with his artillery just as soon as the S O S flares of his infantry went up but in the excitement of it all we had not noticed it. When we were getting back to the Quarry, however, the shells caught quite a few more of the lads. As soon as we reached headquarters, I went straight to Captain Hansen. “How did you get on ?”he said.
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