23 August 1915

50 Ypres

Work, work, work & consequently no letter.  We are now in huts again after the most strenuous six days that I have ever spent in my life.  We came into a trench dirty, broken down, shelled & uncomfortable.  By yesterday morning we had got it clean, repaired, dry, safe, neat & comfortable, & what is more, by steadily putting in iron-plated loop-holes each night we have been able to worry the enemy quite a lot for the past two days.  It is true that they knocked a good deal of the parapet down again yesterday but with one last final effort we managed to get it all tidied up & rebuilt by the time that the Lincolns came to relieve us.  Putting in loop-holes has become really rather a sport.  Before it can be done it is necessary to make a fairly large breach in one’s parapet, that is always supposing the enemy have not been obliging enough to do so beforehand for you with a whizz-bang.  All this week there has been a nice bright moon, which shone down full upon our trench from behind German lines, so that too much movement might be visible, they are only 80-90 yards away.

As soon as any such movement is spotted of course the Huns send over a great fat flare which usually drops quite close to one’s work & makes the whole place as light as daylight.  This is somewhat terrifying because one thinks one is bound to be spotted, whereas in reality they can see nothing unless someone moves.  Several times they knew of our existence, & opened several rifles on us but of course without success.  We always managed to finish our job before light, & got quite a lot of congratulation for our work.  While the Germans were quiet our parapet was quite a marvellous sight, like a young bee-hive.  Men were scrambling & walking along the top, hitting sandbags with shovels, mending bad places, cutting out old plates & scraping them clean, climbing out in front to put the last touches of concealment to their loop-holes, & in general showing that at last they had grasped the fact that unless the Hun can see both his man & his sights he is not dangerous.  They are at last getting confidence, & no longer have that dread of the German bullet which is so necessary by day.  The result is that my platoon are very rapidly becoming a very much more useful lot for fighting purposes.  A stray bullet may pick one man off on some unlucky occasion, but the confidence that they are steadily gaining will more than counteract the loss of one man, much as such a loss is to be deplored.

Poor old Knighton is at present hors de combat, he slipped down a sap & has strained a cartilage in his knee, so that I have a little bit extra work to do, but nothing very much to grouse about.  Mould is very much as usual petulant, selfish & tremendously absent minded, he makes the most appalling howlers in his speech.  We have also a new Subaltern by name Williams, young & innocent looking, but a thundering good soldier.

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