The snow has thawed and the sloppiness baffles description. We have had an exciting day; at intervals of about ten minutes – beastly sudden high explosive shells – and lunch was cut short in order to get animals out, which we did, taking them to a large tract of open country and walking them about there all afternoon, watching the shells burst in the middle distance. A few of our men who were left there were wounded and other batteries lost a few men. We are all hoping to goodness they won’t open up again tonight, as we will then have to get up in the dark and take the donks out again. If it doesn’t freeze again the mud will soon be almost as bad as it was at “Wipers” – boot-wipers are what we want.
Note: Lieutenant J. R. Byrne, in New Zealand Artillery in the Field, 1914-1918 (Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1922, Auckland, p.213), describes German artillery bombardments of NZ Division artillery positions in January 1918 thus:
Hostile shelling was responsible for a number of casualties at gun positions, one unlucky shot on the night of the 9th January penetrating a dug-out in the 3rd Battery and killing all five occupants. Casualties and material damage were also inflicted at the waggon lines by periodic shelling from a long-range high velocity gun, which searched rear areas as far back as Poperinghe. The lines of the 1st and 3rd Brigades and the D.A.C. were concentrated in a confined area, and must have looked a tempting target to the German aerial observers, while the 2nd (Army) Brigade lines were unpleasantly close to the Engineer’s big dump on the railway line at Busseboom. The shelling usually started in the morning and continued on throughout the greater part of the day; a high velocity shell has an unusually disconcerting effect, owing to the frightful suddenness with which it shrieks down out of the sky, and one of these shells could inflict tremendous damage in a crowded horse line. The horses were promptly removed to a flank after the first shell in or near the lines, and were kept out in the open until the shelling had ceased; but casualties to men and horses were frequently suffered before the lines could be cleared.