World War 1914 - 1918 A Pictured History Part 26

Photos: Im perial War Museum KEPT IN RESERVE Behind the lines n ear Fricourt this detachm ent o f the 6th Dragoon G uards are resting while their horses feed. The lot of the cavalrym en during the Som m e b attles w as a dull one, consisting in the m ain of spells of w aitin g behind the lines for the chance that so seldom cam e I end, blue with cold, mud-clogged and terrible. Chretien's corp s...........were going to sell their lives dearly.” After the German patrols came the second line, compact masses of men, followed by a third and supporting wave bringing with them machine-guns and trench mortars, but by the time dark­ ness fell only the foremost of the French trenches had been occupied. The first attack surged round the Bois des Caures, the Bois d’Haumont, Herbebois and the Bois de la Ville, isolated from the rear by an intensive barrage. Towards 5 p.m. the Germans penetrated into the Bois des Caures, but they were met by the heroic resistance of the 56th and 59th battalions of chasseurs, led by that same Colonel Driant who had pointed out the weakness of the Verdun defences. With 1,200 men he withstood the assault of four regiments of the German 21st divi­ sion, numbering over 8,000 men, sup­ ported by seven batteries of field-guns and 40 heavy batteries. The chasseurs, though surrounded, held the wood for nearly twenty-four hours. It is invidious to single out for special mention any one detachment when the exploits of Driant’s men were being emulated everywhere. Petain wrote : The soldiers of the 30th corps gave proof of astonishing and almost incredible valour. . . . Officer and simple soldier alike, aware of the grandeur of their task, went through with it stoically. Lost in a furious sea, knowing that none could hear their signals of distress, they strove to stem the tide which engulfed them one after another, preferring death or horrible cap­ tivity to the freedom they could have found in retreat. Our men suffered and endured beyond all efforts of the imagination; they did their duty with simplicity and without boasting. When the attack ceased on the 21st the Germans had gained but little ground, and their small advance had been dearly bought. But the battle was only beginning, and the pressure upon the French lines was to become greater and greater as time went on. M e a n w h ile , rein­ forcements were being rapidly rushed up the Souillv— Verdun road in lorries, while columns on foot were marching towards the front line by vai'ious itineraries. But, hindered by the constant shelling of the back areas, by the evacuation of the wounded and by the constant stream of supply convoys, it was a question as to whether they would arrive in time. JOY RIDES Freed, after two and a h alf y ears, from the G erm an yoke, the in­ habitants of the village of Vraignes give a w arm w elcom e when the British pass through in M arch, 1917- The jo y of one little girl is o b vio usly m arred, how ever, b y a n x ie ty for her safety 710 , ..V *
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