24 July 1915

Since the penning, or to be more accurate, the pencilling of my last effusion we have seen life.  We saw it yesterday evening between the hours of six forty-five & 11.30pm, it was a “do”.  As I think I may have mentioned to you before, the right end of that particular little trench occupied by my platoon is in close proximity to the enemy.  Under our parapet there has always been a tunnel running away into darkness; at tunnel from which sundry R.E. men, mud-covered, pick-carrying, burly little men emerge from time to time.  Great secrecy was preserved around it no one talked above a whisper when near it, no one was allowed to go down it.  Yesterday the time had come.   Several large boxes were carried down the tunnel followed by sand bags, & then several black cables also whose ends were left lying in the trench.  Everybody worked very hard & quite quietly until all was at last ready for us, & quietly we left the nearest corner of our trench & waited.  A shock, a shudder, the trench rocked & a column of earth went up into the air, huge pieces falling down on top of us.  This was the blowing up of a German advanced sap.  Five minutes later & then came another shake, another column of earth, & their main trench was wafted into the air on some 1500 lbs. of explosive.  It was a great success & the whole of the German corner redoubt was swallowed up in the vast crater which now takes its’ place.  Then of course, we shelled, & they shelled a, a little, not very much I thought.  As a rule after such a doing they shell our trenches to bits, this time they were comparatively quiet but we guessed they were up to something.  The reply usually comes sometime even though it is a bit late in coming.  At about 9.30pm it came.  I was sitting in my dug-out when for the third time in the day the ground rocked, not only rocked but positively heaved.  There was a roar & out I rushed to be met by showers of falling muck, & clods of earth.  No one knew quite what had happened.  Something had “gone up”.  On our right – we were not touched – our trench intact – no Germans rushing us – a few bombs – soon stopped all nonsense with our rifle fire.  I then tried to discover what had happened & found that the enemy had blown up a gigantic mine about 30 yds in front of the trench on my right.  Our parapet was practically undamaged, thought one or two men were buried as one would expect.  Either the Germans got frightened & imagined we were counter-mining, & so blew it up before it was under our trench; or what is just as probable, they knew they were far short & blew it up simply from spite, in order to pay us out for our show in the afternoon.  In any case it is just as well that they blew it up when they did, for the damage to us would have been infinitely greater, had they waited until they were well under our eligible dwellings.  However you can see that we had quite a little excitement.  Meanwhile the sun shines, the birds sing in the woods, the rats run along the parapet, & the flies fall in the gravy just as if none of these portentious things had come to pass.  We are now wondering what will happen tonight, something for certain.  We were to have been relieved but hear that for some reason or other that happy event has been postponed & we are therefore getting ready to spend some more blissful hours in the shade of these beautiful sandbags.  Major, or rather, Colonel Martin, has just paid us a visit, he seems very fit & quite undisturbed by the little jollity that he had last night.  His battalion is just on our right & they consequently felt it very nearly as badly as we did.  Considering everything no one can deny that everyone behaved with great coolness & in many cases great courage.  It was an absolute surprise & yet within three minutes of being blown up we had opened on their trenches with bombs & artillery fire, & had a digging party at work rescuing the buried men.

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