9th July (1918)

Last night’s experience was a curious mixture of the tedious, the comical and the thrilling.  Some of our guns are in advance of the others, i.e,. the firing battery is split up, and it was to the advanced position we had to go.  Leaving camp at a little after seven with an ammunition wagon ahead of us, carrying an N.C.O. supposed to know the way, we started out towards the lines.  As we proceeded, the shell holes in and near the roads grew more numerous, some of them enormous craters made by the heaviest guns, until we at about 9 p.m. reached the rear part of the battery situated near a village.  Here we had to wait to let it grow darker.  Whilst we waited we saw the road we had recently travelled being handsomely shelled and a couple of vehicles, nearly caught by it, turn tail and bolt.  We then drove up through the village, which had been pounded to pieces and reminded one a bit of Ypres.

By this time, a few gas shells had landed not far away and projectiles of a more noisy nature.  We halted for some time in a sunken road whilst the N.C.O. reconnoitred.  At last he returned with the tidings that we were on the wrong road.  Back to the battered village.  The flashes from our artillery and the glare of the Hun’s multitudinous flares, rockets and star-shells helped in showing the pitfalls in the road.  At the village our N.C.O. was put on the right road and we battled on once more, seeing nothing but the dark mass of the G.S. wagon ahead and shattered trunks and limbs of a famous wood (Gomecourt) which has changed hands again and again during the war.  Indistinct forms of infantrymen and machine gunners moving about their trenches often gave us warning of shell holes to be avoided and telephone wires to duck under.  So we proceeded until it seemed we were extremely near the front line.  Rifle bullets whizzed by occasionally and a machine gun did a little spurt here and there.  Then we stumbled into a trench cut through the road, and over it with a bang.  Then we pulled up with a jerk.  The wagon ahead had fouled a wire entanglement across the road.  A machine gun officer started to make sarcastic remarks.  If it hadn’t been for the wire we would probably have been addressed in German in another 5 or 10 minutes.

Rain has now reduce the dust to a super-mud like half-cooked welsh rarebit.  Stick!  This evening out of a clear sky Fritz dropped hundreds of ineffectual shells, right onto one of our balloons.  In a trice a couple of parachutes left the latter; just in time too, for with incendiary or “tracer” bullets he set it aflame with pausing in his career and made off.  As one of the chaps said, “If we’re fighting fellows with a nerve like that, its no wonder the (adjective) war has gone on so long”.

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