The Great War, I was there - Part 27

village. 1 was in the valley below Observatory Ridge on the morning of Uth April when cavalry was massed on that ground, waiting for orders togo into action. The Headquarters of the Cavalry Division was in a ditch covered by planks and the cavalry generals and their staffs sat huddled together with maps over their knees.“ 1 am afraid the general is busy for the moment,” said a young staff-officer on top of the ditch. He looked about the fields, and said, “It’s very un­healthy here.” I agreed with him. The bodies of many young soldiers layabout 5'9s were overcoming in a haphazard way. It was no ground for cavalry. But some squadrons of the 10th Hussars, Essex Yeomanry, and the Blues were ordered to take Monchy, and rode up the hill in a flurry of snow, and were seen by German gunners and slashed by shrapnel. Most of their horses were killed in the village or out­side it, and the men suffered many casualties, including their General— Bulkeley-Johnson— whose body I saw carried back on a stretcher to the ruin of Thilloy, where crumps were bursting. It is an astonishing thing that two withered old Frenchwomen stayed in the village all through the fighting. When our troopers rode in these women came running- forward, frightened, and crying,“ Camarades !”as though in fear of the enemy. When our men surrounded them they were full of .joy, and upheld their scraggy old faces to be kissed by these troopers. Afterwards Monchy was filled with a fury of shell-fire, and the troopers crawled out from the ruins, leaving the village on the hill to be attacked again and captured again by our infantry of the 15th and 37th Divisions, who were also badly hammered. LIe e o ic folly !The cavalry in reserve below Observatory Hill stood to their horses, staring up at a German aero­ plane which came overhead careless of our“ Archies.” The eyes of the German pilot must have widened at the sight of that mass of men and horses. He carried back glad tidings to the guns. One of the cavalry officers spoke tome. “You look ill.” “No, I’m all right. Only cold.” The officer himself looked worn and haggard after a night in the open. “Do you think the Germans will get their range as far as this! I’m nervous about the men and the horses. We’ve been here for hours, and it seems no good.” I did not remind him that the aero­ plane was undoubtedly the herald of long-range shells. They came within a few minutes. Some men and horses were killed. I was with a Highland officer, and we took cover in a ditch, not more than breast high. Shells were bursting damnably close, scattering us with dirt. “Let’s strike away from the road,” said Major Schiach. “They always tape it out.” We struck across country, back to NOT QUITE UP TO CON CERT PITCH The unfailing good humour and love of a joke which were characteristic of the British troops on any and every occasion, were just as noticeable in the men who came from distant parts of the Empire to fight. Below is a happy episode at Blangy, about a mile and a half from Arras, on May 3,1917. Some men of the 4th South African Regiment have got hold of the remains of a grand piano, and one of them is giving an unmelodious demonstration of the possibility of using it as a harp. Imperial War Museum
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