31st August (1918)

The countryside is alive with troops.  We are right under one balloon and its crew are billeted close at hand.  The big captured guns were dragged out by “caterpillars” yesterday.

Everything is riddled with shell splinters – if you sit down you always find a piece or two within arm’s reach.  A ‘hot shop’ when they are flying!

All around are evidences of the Hun’s intention to winter here – huts, earthworks, and deep tunnels, or ‘funk holes’ slanting down sometimes twenty or thirty feet to underground chambers.  The more canny fellows are occupying the latter; but most prefer the fresh air – anyhow it would be better to be blown up than buried alive.

Visited Y.M.C.A. and heard of exciting adventures of other batteries, some of which have suffered considerably.  One gun was run up until they were laying with open sights, their officer watching the result through his glasses.  Each evening at the Y.M.C.A. a Tommy N.C.O. with intense earnestness stands out between the queues of purchasers filing into the stalls and harangues them in salvationist style.  He has long-service stripes, and two wound-stripes, so has gone through the mill, preaching his gospel in his spare time.

I saw in the distance part of the town (Bapaume) under bombardment against the sky – great geysers of brick-dust spouting upwards as though the whole place were in eruption.  Hereabouts, three days ago, was nothing but a torn and tattered solitude.  Today it is a mass of life and movement – we make our homes in the habitations we have wrecked; amid the ruins of a desolate country.

nlnzimage 1-2 013561-G view of Bapaume from Citadel after capture by NZers, 30 Aug 1918

[Image: A general view of Bapaume taken from the Citadel after capture by the New Zealanders in World War I. Shows extensive damage to buildings from bombardment. Photograph taken 30 August 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref. 1/2-013561-G]

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