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IN MUD AND BLOOD, Issue 15653, 18 November 1914
IN MUD AND BLOOD
HEROISM IN THE TRENCHES. "TOMMY" AT HIS BE>T. Like Henry V. before the battle <-f Agincourl, I have found myself wishing that some if our gentlemen now abed in Britain might be here in France to see what- work is being done by those who are fighting and dying for the honor of our name- (writes Mr Philip Oibbs to the ' Daily Chronicle ' from 'On the Road to Chalons'). It- is not pleasant woik. Last nkrht and on tho night before (no dates given) a great storm burst over the British lines round Soissons. Tlie wind, as though roused to anger by the guns, rose violently and roared in thunderclaps across tho wooded heights of our camps and shrieked through tho marshy valley of the Airiiic. Jt came tearing through the. forests of pines and -beeches on the rising .ground beyond Noyou, stripping the branches of their autumn leaves and hurling down old limbers. Thru the rain fell, savagely lashing down into our trenches, flooding those which had been dug upon the hillsides, and trying to wash down the work of men toiling with dogged haste all through the day and night to scratch up a little cover with pick and shovel in which to hnd shelter against the enemy's gunfire, which scattered bits of .shell'as though the sky were raining iron. Our men. have had during the past- two days the. most trying time since, the beginning of the war. It lias tried their nerves and their souls to the last point of human endurance. A. few minutes before writing these words 1 have been talking with .some of our soldiers who have just left- the trenches on a special mission. They are like men who have been through some torture chamber and suffered unforgettable ami nameless horrors. Covered in mud like carthmen, their very faces coated with a greyish clay, and chilled to the bones by the sharp, shrewd wind of the night," they could hardly stand, and shook in over'v linib and spoke with chattering teeth. —-Neive-breaking Shrapnel.— "I would not have missed it," said one of them, "but I don't want to go through it again. It absolutely infernal in those, t re lichee, and the. enemy's shrapnel breaks one's nerves." 'J hey were not ashamed to contest- the terror that etill shook them, and wondered like children at the luck—th". miracle of luck—which had summom-d tiiem from their place in the filing line and in the water line of the boggy trench to be an escort of an olh'T-i to another pent of the held with .-ofa t-eats in his motor car. One man was splashed with the Mood of his comrade, who had been blown in half by a piece of t-hrapncl a few liouia hef.ire. The butt end of his own rifle was chipped off by a broken bit of spent tsL-eLL He was glad of his escape,
"a, wiy near call," but wa* sorry for ilio | friend, "who had gone wc-l." as he called j | u. He was liiiiio sortv for those who! J still weie in the tienciies without such i jj luck as had come his way. And co it is j [ with all our men who are fighting in the. ■ | mud and the blood alon/ these, entrenched | lines on the heights about Soissons. They j do not nrctend to like the job. Tiny use -, extremely ugly words about it. Hut. also | ■ it) their own language, they have to "stick i it," and they are "sticking it" like llcmen. No one of these men is boastful of his courage. I have not heard a single word of swagger. They are quite frank and simple about, the 'misty pain below the belt which comes io them when they hear thnt whittle of the German shrapnel. j but never in British histoiy have our troops faced such a. deadly ii:t> with a nobW h-pToism of <nduranco than these j dear, dirtv Lids who arc now holding back the Geiman right- and pressing he pnomv from itts entrenched positions. They have'rh.ne well during the pa.-t four days, and once a:.':io; Eraiice owes a Lin debt--which she is ccix'rou* to acknowledge, as I know from many of the officer*--to I ho British force. —A Tribute to th.- Zoi ; rves.--Eor four day* up to tite time I write this despatch, 'when tho fire is slackening on both sides, there has been an incessant artillery duel, under cover ot which, both sides have been entrenching thcimeh-eslike j | armies of amn. and msliMig over open g gioun.l with rifle tire and bayonet chmys g in order to attain advanced positions for g further entrenchment's. It is in this baltic: g of the trenches, that we have shown our J superiority and trained <-00-« -roeuid, thong'.! n a- a. somewhat heavy < 0.-t. With the ex - perience of the Boer "War behind them, - our froops are far better than the enemy in taking advantage, of every scrap ot cov-'v and fighting in open formation. As a result of this we have been able io rapt me positions whi-h seemed .-ecuic to lie; enemy, aud with dogged pereis-tenee ami tine pluck our men bav on several ocasiona during the past -P3 hours taken ps session of trenches which according to a:i the rules of war wen.' impregnable fioin I infantry a.-.-auit. In this ■ arl of 'he fighting we have been assisted by tho rcc,lef* valor of ihe Zouaves. 1 have already described in previous the gallantly of this famous regiment, but m Hie i battle round Soissons yesterday tov- | crcd themselves with new glory. '1 hey ] charged again and again under a most, ] . deadly fiic\ imd wore successful repeatedly | in reuchim: the enemy's pcidtiou?-. Tho <in I man soldiers fled before them, bid noi- j . until lh" tienchcs were Idled with iher | . ■ drnii. hlain by :.hc l<*m: bayonets of th: i Vienrhmen, who tos.-ed tbe-n out of the'r , pits "as though limy wro haymaking "- - ' I repeat tho feaiful phrare which one ■-' them used—-and vetmn<d with twilled -ind broken weaporfi. j •-An Attack in tho Dark.- j Yesterday night, after an apparent lull j . in the fighting," the enemy made an atui'-k ] under the cover of darkness. It was directed against the British line-._ round . Soissons from Chaviguy and Nai/.y-Ie- | ■Chateau. General Von Kluck. command- : ing the enemy's right, ordered a genera: ! advame of hie infantry upon our torenv>-t . of trenches, while bis artillery agatu ! , searched cur po.-itions and endeavored to j j unnerve cur men. All night, attacks are ] , unnerving, and on this night, t :--■ ' } wind was howlin-g and the rain las:i- ; ; ing down, men needed all tlieii- coin- • age. The shratund was wlnsiiin- <lown | the wind, and" many men fell, hut the | enemy was not- made of the right stiiil to | turn 'our soldiers out of their entreuelu 1 | positions. ■ | —Plight, of the Wounded. ; ; One of the most tragic features ~-i the j ! present righting is the awtul plight of tne : \ wounded "on both sides. Owing to the j deadly hail of shrapnel it is very difficult.. I and. in many - •a.-c- absolutely impossible.! for the ambulances to gri into tench with , j the casualties, so that they lie on the field J of battle without, help. It i-, a. tragedy j j upon which J do not care to dwell, and j i only one of the inevitable honor,, of f war. I '
IN MUD AND BLOOD, Issue 15653, 18 November 1914
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