27 July 1915

Ypres

We have got out at last & are now in huts again.  We bivouacked for one night &  then came to our eligible dwelling houses again.  We can now look forward to six days rest broken only by a digging party or two, that is a walk of some six miles, then digging or rather shovelling slush somewhere in the area where stray bullets begin to come to earth, & then a march back again.  Altogether a very tiring performance, & by no means restful.  However we are all feeling very elated at a letter sent round by the G.O.C. our division congratulating the officers & men of the 5th Leicestershires on their splendid behaviour in very difficult circumstances, namely the explosion of an enemy’s mine close to their parapet.  Reference to the silly old mine reminds me that our six or seven days tour kept up its reputation for excitement even to the very end.  It is true there were no more mines, nothing indeed so stirring as that, but we were fortunate enough to witness at no great distance a very thrilling little duel in the air.  During the afternoon a German aeroplane had been flying very low down over our trenches, & in spite of our rifle & machine gun fire had the impudence to continue this proceeding for some time.  Shortly after tea however he came over again, flying this time a little higher.  Suddenly from above & behind him came another machine going at a most tremendous pace.  In a few seconds he had overhauled the Hun.  Suddenly there was a burst of flame just under the enemy machine, followed by half a dozen maxim shots.  The upper machine swerved aside & went off, the lower now almost enveloped in flame tried to plane down into its own lines.  But it was no good the bullet must have entered & fired his petrol tanks & the machine turned over.  Even then the pilot kept control & managed to keep his engine running somehow.  He could not reach his own lines, but upside down as he was he kept going to within about 100 feet of the ground & then fell, a blazing wreck.  The German was picked up dead, but a finer aviator I have never seen, & in a way we all felt sorry that he hadn’t managed to get down whole.  So much did the men admire his work that there was none of the cheering that one usually hears on these occasions.  The Germans of course were wild, & in marvellously quick time they had a battery slinging big shrapnel over the place where he fell, in order, I suppose, to catch any of the inquisitive who happened to be examining the wreck.  “D” Coy were really very fortunate in the trenches this time.  In the last six days we had neither killed or wounded, tho’ as you may have guessed from my letter there were a good number sick.  There seem to be quite a lot of K’s Army about all over the place but still we go on holding a very large piece of line, & get little rest compared to the amount of work we have to do.  We shall only get six days rest in every twenty-four, & if we get very wet & dirty weather we shall be jolly tired of trenches.  However no need to worry yet.

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