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A SOLDIER'S NARRATIVE

ATTACK BY NIGHT.

"AT THE BAYONET."

The following narrative is quoted from a French soldier's letter received by a compatriot residing in London : " Our strength was about 400 infantry men. Towards midnig'ht wo broke up our camp and marched off in great silence; of course, not in closed files, but in open order.' W© were not allowed to speak to each other or to mako any unnecessary noise, and as we walked through the forest the only sound to be heard was that of our steps and the rustling of the leaves. It was a perfectly lovely night; the skywas so clear, the "atmosphere so pure, the forest so romantic, everything seemed so charming and peaceful that I could not imagine thai we were on the warpath, and that perhaps in a few hours this forest would be aflame, the soil drenched by human blood, and the fragrant herbs covered with broken limbs. "Yet all those silent, armed men. marching in the same direction as I did, were ever so many proofs that no peace meeting or any delightful romantic, adventure was near, and I wondered what thoughts were stirring all those brains. Suddenly a whisper passed on from man to man. It was t.he officer's comnv-ind. A halt was made, and in the same whisper we were told that part of us had to change our direction, while another part had to march in another direction &o that the two directions would form a V. A third division proceeded slowly in the original direction.

—The Enemy Sighted.— "I belonged to what may bo called the Ml 'eg of the V. After what .seemed Uy bo about half an hour, we reached the edge oi tho forest, and from behind the trees wo saw an almost flat country before us. with here and there a tiny little hill, a mere hump four cr five feet high. On the extxemo left-hand sido the land seemed to be intersected by ditches and trenches. "Another whispered command was passed from man to man, and we all had to Ho down on the soil. A moment afterwards we were thus malting our way to t!ho above-mentioned ditches and trendies. It is neither the easiest nor the quickest way to move, but undoubtedly the safest, for an occasional enemy somewhere on tJhe hills at the further end of the field would not possibly be able to detect us. I don't know how long it took us to reach the ditches, which were, for the greater part, dry; nor do I know how Jong we remained there or what was happening. Wo were perfectly hidden from view, lying flat or. our bellies, but we were also unable to see anything. Everybody's ears were attentive, every nerve was strained. The sun was rising. It promised to be a hot day. Suddenly we heard a shot, at a distance of what seemed to be a mile or so, followed by several other shots. I ventured to lift my body up to see what was happening. But the next moment my sergeant, who was close by me, warned me by a knock on my shoulder not to move,, and the whispered-order ran 'Keep.quiet! ..Hide youweOfl' Still, the ehorfe glance

had been sufficient, to we what was- going on. Our troops, probably those who had been left behind in the forest, were crossing the plain and shooting at the German:; on the crest of the hill, who returned the fire. —lnsistent Questions. — '" The silence was gone. We heard thv rushing of feet at a short distance; then. suddenly, it ceased when the attacking soldiers dropped themselves to aim and shoot. Some firing was heard, and then again a swift rush followed. This seemed to last a long time, but it was broken by distant cries, coming apparently from the enemy. I was wondering all the time why we kept hidden and did not share in the assault. The ritlo fire was incessant. I saw nothing of the battle. Would cur troops be able to repulse the Germans? How. strong were the enemy? They seemed to have no guns, but the number of our soldiers in that- Held was not so very large. A piercing yell rose from the enemy. Was it a cry of triumph? A short command rang over the fold in French, an order to retreat. A swift rush followed ; our troops were being pursued by the enemy. What on earth were we waiting for in our ditches? A bugle signal, clear and bright. We sprang to our feet, and 'At the- bayonet!' the order came. We threw ourselves on the enemy, who were at the same time attacked on tho othor side by the division which formed the other 'Jeg' of the V, while the 'fleeing' French soldiers turned and made a savage attack. It is impossible to say or to describe what one feels at such a'moment. I believe one is in a state of temporary madness of perfect rage. It is terrible, and if we oauld see ourselves in such a state I feel sure we would shrink with horror. In a few minutes the field was covered with dead and wounded men. almost all of them Germans, and our hands and bayonets were dripping with blood. I felt hot spots of blood in my face—of other men's blood—and. as I paused to wipe then, off I saw a narrow stream of blood running along the barrel of my rilie. iSiich was the beginning of a summer day in August."

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141106.2.74

Bibliographic details

A SOLDIER'S NARRATIVE, Issue 15643, 6 November 1914

Word Count
928

A SOLDIER'S NARRATIVE Issue 15643, 6 November 1914

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