Since my last hurried note dashed off in the early hours of Friday morning, things have been moving somewhat, & so have we. The din & noise that I spoke of was no mere play – on the contrary it was quite a serious effort on the part of the Hun, who after setting fire to our trench with blazing pitch & petrol, captured a bit of our line. The piece just on the left of our division. Since then there has been the most ghastly battle raging, bombs, mortars, & heavy shells, with the result that we have won back most, but not all of what we lost. Fortunately this Regiment has not had to take part so far in the actual scrimmage but we have been quite near enough. On Friday afternoon we were moved up to a position fairly near the line, & the same evening came up to where we are now, in a wood about a ½ mile in rear, waiting in case the Germans capture any more, then we take them back if we can. The Germans have made several attempts but all have been frustrated & thanks chiefly to our Artillery who blew the German trenches to pieces with high explosive, our position except for the last trench is pretty good. Our guns now seem to have an almost unlimited supply of shells & that it is that saved the day. I do not suppose that it is really intended to be a big “shove” by the Germans but at the same time, it was no mere joke; the Prussian Guard have been doing it and their losses must be simply appalling. Our own are severe, a great many men have been burnt. Talbot, I believe, is still safe but his battalion was one of the first to be attacked, & consequently suffered very heavily.
Here the noise & the suspense have been the worst. Shells & bombs all bursting within a few hundred yards, & then occasionally an almighty crash followed by falling branches or even a whole tree, shows that the enemy are putting shrapnel into our wood, in the hope of catching our supports. They have been doing this pretty frequently & quite a number of our fellows have got slight shrapnel wounds, just a cut nothing serious. Worse however than the noise is, as you might imagine the suspense. Here we are knowing that if there is an attack we may get rushed up into a most ghastly mess of shells, bombs, corpses & bayonets: we can see the awful battle going on: then for a few seconds silence, then rifle & machine gun fire show that the actual attack has started; then more shells & bombs. All that time we are in complete ignorance of what is going on, who is bombing, or even who is attacking. Three times last night all this happened, & as we hear today, three times did a German remnant try to attack only to be driven away & back by our guns. I say remnant because as soon as our infantry get shelled they ring up our artillery who at once open & after an hour or so there can only be a remnant of the enemy left. Now, thank goodness, everything is quiet again, & we are expecting to go back into our old trenches where everything is quiet & there are no attacks, & other such foolish things. In any case I am pretty certain of one thing, & that is that we shall not be wanted in this show, & shall never get further than our supporting wood. I think the Germans are just about done here for the present, so you need not imagine me doing anything else than my usual peaceful occupation of sitting in a dug-out censoring letters in a peaceful part of the line where a rifle shot is a rare thing from either party. I see from the paper that Noel Boosey has died of wounds. Will you convey my sympathy to Mr & Mrs & explain that with this battle in progress I have neither time nor material to write. I am afraid they will be dreadfully upset over his death but it can’t be helped. No time for more.