28 July 1915

Ouderdom

All has turned out wrong again, & we are to have no rest after all.  Back once more to the old routine of physical drill, route march, & rifle exercises – a little hard on the men who are getting only six days rest in twenty-four.  I don’t know who is causing all this extra work, but I do know that it’s possible to try some men too far, & that well disciplined though we may be, the day will come when there will be an almighty row, & then of course trouble, someone shot, a few penal servitude – & all the blame is really on the man who sets the task.  I feel sure I can rely on my own platoon to work until they drop – quite cheerfully too, however useless the work may seem to them, but there are others of us who won’t say as much for their men.  I suppose you saw the account of our mining experiences in the paper – it is very nice of them to say the enemy’s mine did no damage, & that we occupied the crater, & so gained a little ground.  All that is quite true but the twelve new crosses in the Field Cemetery, & the thirty odd men in hospital perhaps they could tell of just a little damage to life & limb, if not to actual trench property.  However we don’t grouse, & above all the Hun must be made to believe that no damage was done.

At present I am sharing a large hut with the Doctor, there ought to be other occupants also, but the Padre is ill, the Transport Officer has sprained his ankle, & the Q.M. prefers to sleep with his stores.  Unlike other huts in Flanders this one has a tarred felt roof, & so kept us dry during the most torrential downpour that I have ever seen; it occurred this morning at 7.30am.  It has now cleared up somewhat, & a bright sun & strong wind (anti gas) are doing their best to dry the camp.     By the way there are one or two things about that mine show which will never appear in any paper, but which none the less ought to be told because they are greatly to the credit of the company concerned.  It was an absolute surprise, a very large shock indeed & the falling debris covered an area of about six acres.  Yet no one left his post, no one lost his nerve.  The Coy. Commander was in his dug-out-long before the pieces had stopped falling he was out clawing, crawling, scrambling his way along the choked communication trench to free his men.  The Dr & Stretcher bearers were on the spot very soon afterwards, & digging parties, mending the parapet, rescuing the buried & clearing away the mess, were at work within five minutes of the blow up – all this too in spite of the bombardment by trench mortars which the Germans kept up, steadily throwing 130lb bombs into the crater & round about.  There was a machine gun in the section of the trench – buried – & when they came to dig it out they found the whole team standing to the gun, nearly all wounded, all buried, & one killed.  The 5th may not have been in a charge, we may never have done anything great – but with men like that I think there is hope for us, thought I say it who shouldn’t.    Yesterday afternoon Petch & I went for a very jolly ride together all over the country – went also to call on the H.A.C. but found that at present they are in trenches, so just did a cross country ramble.  The transport Sergeant sent me round a strange nag that I had never seen before, it proved rather a trial.  To start with it would jump nothing, not even the smallest of ditches.  If, on the other hand, we met a motor lorry, it leapt straight up six or seven feet into the air.  I managed to stick on somehow much to my surprise, more than once I came very near to doing gymnastic exhibitions on terra firma.  It is time for our route march so must get my kit together.

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