CAPTURE OF BOOM RAVINE.
HOW BRITISH ATTACKED' IN FUU AND DARK BEFORE DAWN.
With the British Arnriesi in the Field,
Tlie heavy fighting, which took place on the morning of February 17 across the deep gulry called Boom itavine, and up the slopes towards Miraumont, deserves ,to be told more fully.
"It was very dark, the pitch black before dawn, and heavy in fog. A thaw had just set in and the ground was soppy. In spite of the thaw, ib was horribly, damply cold. In utter darkness, unable to make any glimmer of light, lest the enemy should see, the brigades tried to get into' line. Two companies lost themselves, but got into touch again in time. A great fire of high explosives burst over our assembly lines. The darkness 1 was lit up by the red' flashes of these bursting shells, and men fell wounded and dead. One bat-j talion was specially tried,, and 1 their brigadier wondered whether they would have the spirit to get up and attack when the hour arrived, but they rose arid went '"forward, and fought to the last goal, splendidly and wonderfully^ They were -the first .to -get to the Grand-, court trench, which lay between them and Boom Ravine. The wire entanglements were not cut, and there was the hammering of machine guns and the^ swish of machine gun bullets. ALL 'OFFICERS' LjOST.
This battalion had already lost a U officers? who had gone forward, gallantly^ leading their men and meeting the bullets first. The sergeant-major took command, shouting to the men to keep, steady, and found a gap -through the wire. They forced their way through, passed the Grandcourt trench, and, with the other men, dropped into Boom Ravine. It was a ravine of death. Our shell fire had smashed down all the irees, and the tall trunks lay at the bottom of the gully. The banks had been opened out by shell craters, and. several of the German .dugouts, built into the sides of them, were upheaved or choked with dead bodies or human fragments which lay among the branches and broken wood work.
A shell of ours which entered one dugout had' blown six men. out of its doorway, and they sprawled there at the entrance. Inside were six others, dead. From the dugouts not blown up came groups of German soldiers, pallid and nerve broken, who gave themselve^ up quickly enough. One man was talka ; ! tive. He said in perfect English that he had been coachman to an English 1 earl, and lie cursed our artillery, and said if he could get at our blinking gunners he would wring their blighted necks, or words to that effect. Another! man was .an ex-waiter of the Trocadero, and after the battle he was kept for making coffee, which he did as though he loved it.
HUNTING. OUT SNIPERS.
But the battle was not over yet. It had ortly just begun. While Boom Ha* vine was being cleared of living inhabUarfts by the iirst wave o'f Einglish soldiers (they were men of London and the southern counties), other waves wei ; 4 coming up, or rather riot waves, but odd groups of men, dodging over shelj craters and hunting a§ they went for. German snipers who lay in their holes firing until they were pinned by our bayonet points. Their bpdies lie there now, curled up. Some ofythem pretend^ ed to be dead when our men came near. One of them lay still with his face in the moist earth/
"See. tha.t man is properly dead," said an officer, and the> soldiers with him pricked the man. H© sprang up with a scream and ran hard away— to our lines: Six prisoners came, trudging- back from the ravine with a slightly wounded man as an escort. On the way back they found themselves very lonely, with him, and as they passed some rifles lying ii> their way they seized the rifles and became fighting men again, until a little Welsh officer met them and killed every one of them with his revolver. .'