The Great War, I was there - Part 26

sudden standstill. Except for the stretcher-bearers, who were unfolding their stretchers and picking up the wounded, everyone was flat on the ground. The enemy was now obviously waiting for us. Was it wise to goon ?The second-in-command then suggested that I should togo the Colonel and report, but on second thoughts he got up to come with meas I left.| _ | e was an old ranker and rather afraid of blundering, but he had iron nerves. So off we went together, followed by a runner. We were busy talking and had not left the waves more than a few minutes when suddenly we saw a patrol of a dozen or more Germans spring out of the fog. Amazed, we immediately fell into a shell-hole, having automatically fired our revolvers. We oversaw the rim the tops of their black helmets and the steel of their yards I was swallowed up in the un­certainty of the opaque mist in search of a trench parallel with Serre, which the battalion on our left should then have reached. We walked on awhile and approached some gaunt, shapeless trees rising above dismal ruins. We were on the out­skirts of Serre. We went on carefully and came to a dug-out. I looked down through its gaping entrance and saw clods of mud freshly dropped from boots on every step. A smell of mildew rose from the bottom. All was still. C arther on we came to a shattered house, where I peeped through a broken window. Roof, bricks and furni­ture were as one. There was not a sound except the dripping of water from abeam punctuating the oppressive silence with a melancholy regularity. I had to pull myself together to advance a short way inside the village. I hated the look of it, and so did my guide. Something was urging tome get out of the place, and quickly. Every yard 1 took forward marked a moment. Was I walking into a trap 1 I felt the enemy must be watching us all the time. As a matter of fact, nobody at that time was in Serre. Anyway, after a nerve-racking time I turned back the fog lifted at that moment, and for a second or two I was able to define the shapes of some objects in the village before the fog inclosed on me again. A burst of musketry opened from the ridge, and we hastened our steps back to the battalion. By pure chance we struck Maxim Trench. No one was in it, but it obviously had been recently occupied THE GERMANS LEFT ONLY THESE DISMAL SCENES It was amidst such scenes of utter desolation areas shown in the two photographs above that the incidents described in this chapter took place. Topis a captured German trenqh at Puisieux, in March 1917 ,with the litter of tools, wire and equipment left by its occupants. Below is the village of Serre near-by with the “dismal ruins ”described in this page. Imperial War Museum fresh footmarks were all around it, but whether these belonged to our men or the enemy, I couldn’t tell. After awhile from the right the welcome sound of English voices coming from our advancing waves reached us. I joined themas they were debouching over the brow of the spur and found the second-in-command in a shell-hole nearby. A volley brought everyone to a 1022 bayonets emerging from the shell- holes into which they, too, had flung themselves. Probably out of sheer fright I shouted: “Advance, company, don’t show your­selves.” I said it distinctly and slowly so that the Germans might understand. Fat and fit, his finger on the trigger of his revolver, the Major stared before him, while the runner.
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