'Fighting in the Ypres Salient in 1914'
by Frederic Coleman
from his book :‘From Mons to Ypres with General French’ 1916


A Visit to Ypres

Mr. Frederic Coleman and his automobile after several months of warfare


The author, Frederic Coleman was one of 25 volunteers of the Royal Automobile Club who put themselves and their motor-cars at the disposal of the British Army in August 1914. They were sent along with the B.E.F. to France and Belgium and saw action first-hand as drivers for General Headquarters Staff officers at the front.


the ruined church at Messines


While the fighting at Ploegsteert was growing daily fiercer, the Germans were pressing hard on our lines a few miles away at Messines.

On Thursday, October 22nd, the whole of the 1st Cavalry Division left Ploegsteert to the defence of Wilson's 4th Division. The Cavalry, with the Ferozepore Brigade of the Lahore Division of the Indian Corps in support, was assigned the task of holding the corner of the line that swung round Messines, where every day for a week and a half was sanguinary battle, culminating in the capture by the enemy of the Messines- Wytschaete ridge, and the consequent evacuation of Messines on November 1st.

In ten days of continual fighting against great odds in men and guns, one third of the 1st Cavalry Division was to fall, and the magnificent qualities of the British Cavalry were to be tried to the utmost. Tried in the fire they were with a vengeance, and never for a moment found wanting.

The closing days of October were well-nigh the bloodiest the world has ever seen. On the far right of Messines for six days Maud'huy at Arras held off an attack by Von Buelow in the hardest battle fought since the beginning of the war. Smith-Dorrien's 2nd Corps, facing La Bassée, was hurled back by the Bavarians in ten days of awful fighting, but held its new line in the face of hammering of a sort of which veterans of Mons and the Aisne had never dreamed. In front of Armentieres and Ploegsteert the Germans threw Battalion after Battalion in overwhelming numbers against our line. To the left of the Messines position Von Beseler and his Antwerp Army, on the coast, all but crumpled up the poor remnants of the Belgians, saved from utter destruction by the guns of British men-of-war, d'Urbal's 8th French Army, and by the flooding of the canalised Yser. To the south of the Belgians at Dixmude, Admiral Ronarc'h and his 8,000 French marines saw fighting that was almost superhuman in its intensity and pers1stence. The Ypres salient at its northern re-entrant was held by part of Dubois' 9th French Corps, the tale of whose casualties in the combat for Bixschoote ran high. But Ypres, in front and on its right to where de Lisle held Messines, was to see the greatest conflict of all. Haig's 1st Corps, the 7th Division, and the 3rd Cavalry Division were to suffer casualties unheard of in the h1story of wars.

Thus the battle of those last October days, over one hundred miles of front, raged with unparalleled violence. One million German troops, well towards half of them of the first line, strove to break the thin ribbon of less than a fifth of their number of the soldiers of France, England, and Belgium co-operating as if units of one army.

There was heavy fighting all along the line on the 22nd. Early that morning Briggs, in Messines, told us of an attack at dawn, vigorously pressed and beaten off with equal vigour. Our line ran well in front of Messines, and the 2nd Cavalry Division took it on north in front of Oosttaverne, past Hollebeke to Klein Zillebeke. News was brought from Armentieres of an unsuccessful enemy assault on that front, beginning at eleven o'clock the night before, continuing for a couple of hours, to be renewed at dawn. Before night 1,000 dead and wounded Germans lay in front of our line between Le Touquet and St. Ives.

An estaminet on the road from Wulverghem to Messines, about a mile from the latter town, was chosen as Divisional headquarters. The 1st Con-naught Rangers, part of Egerton's Ferozepore Brigade, were set digging reserve trenches not far from the inn. One of their officers ran to Messines to see the shell-fire, which was fairly hot that morning in the ill-fated town. He saw it. While he was in the square a shell lit on one side of it, killing four troopers of the 1st Cavalry Brigade. I stayed under the lee of a house wall near the square while he explored the town. I had no curiosity.

Coming from Wytschaete I met the first Indian troops I had seen in France. They were Wild's Rifles, North-West Frontier men, fine-looking soldiers. Their arrival on our front added to a motor driver's trials.

In Messines in the afternoon shells burst all about. A man who stood boldly in the streets, when cover was conveniently available, was foolish. He was likely to find a shell splinter mixed up with some part of his anatomy as a reminder of the proximity of German howitzers in considerable numbers. Spies were in the town. General Briggs was shelled from three houses in succession, finally repairing to a cellar to obtain peace and quiet. The manner in which the German gunners followed Brigade headquarters from one place to another could not have been due to coincidence.

Towards dusk I had another wait in Messines. I found the few troopers who were not in the trenches in front, or in reserve behind, were lying very close. A loose bull and an escaped canary were attracting marked attention. The bull was foraging and the canary apparently trying to find its home, perhaps also in search of food. M. Taurus was obviously ill-tempered, and was given a wide berth.

The General chose a spot at a corner near a barricade not far from the square, which we concurred was as good as any other in which to leave the car. Its good fortune during those days in Messines never wavered. Another headquarters car went by, its occupants continuing to the square, where two minutes later it was put hors de combat by a big shell. The passengers and driver had stepped from it and into safety but a moment before.

Machine-guns blazed away in front of Messines all the evening. As dark closed in the howitzers scattered huge "coal-boxes" all along the trench front, our guns flashing fitfully in reply. The 2nd Brigade relieved the 1st that night. At Gough's headquarters on our way to Neuve Eglise and a night's rest, I heard that during the day the enemy had launched strenuous attacks on FitzClarence's 1st Brigade at the extreme left of the British line near Bixschoote, on the 2nd Cavalry Division at Hollebeke and on the 3rd Corps front at Frelinghien. Smith-Dorrien had been fighting hard further south. The German struggle for a road to Calais had begun in earnest.

The interesting situation in front of Ypres so over-shadowed all else that I was glad to spend Friday, the 23rd, in touring the line. I ran to Ypres by way of Wytschaete and Voormezeele. The roads for the first part of the way were crowded with tall Indians, each group surrounded by its quota of admiring Belgians.

General Haig's and General Rawlinson's headquarters were in Ypres, and the square by the great Cloth Hall was full of the flotsam and jetsam of armies. The town presented a busy scene. Bulfin was attacking towards Pilkem with considerable success. Near Langemarck the 1st Division was repelling a furious push forward by the enemy, and the 7th Division, by that time beginning to feel the strain of continued fighting and heavy casualties, faced a strong assault near Becelaere. Proceeding past Klein Zillebeke to General Makin's 6th Cavalry Brigade headquarters and to General Byng's headquarters not far beyond, I found the German pressure on the Hollebeke front, which Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division had taken over from Gough, had been so staunchly met the day before that nothing had been heard of it since.

As I passed Ypres, long lines of French infantry were marching through the streets of the town to the eastward. Splendid troops, the 17th and 18th Divisions of the famous French 9th Corps, they ambled on leisurely to relieve the 2nd Division, so that the hard-pressed 7th Division could in turn be given aid and its front shortened.

Reports of the operations were so confused and varied that I obtained permission to return to Ypres on Saturday, the 24th. Passing Messines, Mullins said his brigade had repulsed two attempts by the enemy to break through to the town, one at seven the night before, and the other at two in the morning. At Haig's headquarters Bulfin's 2nd Brigade success of the day previous was declared to have been splendid. Six hundred German prisoners, a field strewn with 1,500 German dead, and the relief of the Cameronians from an isolated position were among the fruits of his victory. Little runs to points of vantage disclosed that the new French troops were advancing on the Roulers road and the 7th Division being pushed back, with severe losses, to the west of Becelaere and past the soon-to-be-famous Polygon Wood. Wounded poured along the salient roads in streams.

Ypres had not echoed to the crash of its first shell. The townsfolk were busy supplying the needs of their martial visitors, little dreaming of the devastation that was soon to visit every home.



Hardress Lloyd was beside me on our return homeward as we crept through Wytschaete, winding round chaotic Indian transport, then dashed on at a good pace towards Messines. Halfway, I heard a pop! behind. "Puncture," said Hardress. Pop! The second sound caused dismay. "Great Scott, another tyre," I groaned, as I released the clutch, and applied the brake. Pop-ping-g-g. Pop-ping-g-g. Punctures, indeed! Punctures of a sin1ster sort. Someone was plugging away at us at close range. The last two bullets came alarmingly near. Pop-ping-g-g! One went between our heads, close enough to make us feel the swish of it in passing.

Ducking low we sped on. A dozen more bullets came over us, but in a few seconds we were out of range unharmed. Still speeding, we discussed the situation, which had its alarming features. The shots had undeniably come from our right. The Germans were on our left and a line of our trenches in between. Could the enemy have won the trenches and got over the road? If so, we were properly "done."

"Are you sure you are heading for Messines? " asked Lloyd. "You don't suppose you are on the Warneton road by m1stake ?"

"Road is right," I answered. "For that matter there is the Messines church tower ahead. Maybe the Huns have taken Messines."

"If so, we will know it soon enough," and Hardress grinned.

We were certain Messines could not have fallen and we not heard of it, but there was the disquieting fact that rifle-fire had come from the west of the road. Consequently, it was with some relief that we drew near the barricade in the edge of the town and saw a khaki-clad figure beside it.

"Fresh Indian patrol, probably," laughed an officer from whom we invited a solution of the puzzle. "Took Hardress for a German, perhaps, from the red band on his cap. Seems their mark-manship has gone off, though, since I knew the Punjabis. I don't quite see why they didn't get one of you."

We left this comforting person to his regrets at the deterioration of the Indian markmanship, thankful to be whole of skin.

By Sunday, the 25th, Briggs was again in Messines and Mullins in support. Sullen days had been succeeded by a morning of bright sunshine. A pleasant breeze drove white clouds across a sky of pale turquoise. Before night the clerk of the weather had regretted this lapse. Rain was descending in torrents, promising an unpleasant night in the trenches, particularly for the Indians, who felt the chill damp of Flanders keenly. Casual fighting was the order of the day, no great change taking place for better or for worse.

On Monday Wytschaete was given its baptism of German shell-fire. We passed through not many minutes after. The roads near at hand were lined with fleeing inhabitants. Four or five shells had come into the town, killing a four-year-old child and wounding Colonel Grey of the 57th Wild's Rifles.

I saw Captain Sadleir-Jackson of the 9th Lancers, signals officer of the Cavalry Corps, in Messines. He had endeavoured to utilise a quantity of fine German field telegraph wire. His men had run it through the square at Messines. Four times that morning zealous individuals had cut it, thinking it an enemy line. He had it put up for a last time, but had no better luck. In an hour a passing trooper had severed it at some point, and Jackson gave it up as a bad job.

That afternoon at three o'clock a big forward movement along the whole line was ordered. We were the pivot at Messines, and were to hold the trenches with Briggs' Brigade and the Inniskillings. Gough's 2nd Cavalry Division with the 129th Beloochis at his disposal, and the 57th Wild's Rifles and Connaught Rangers in support, were on our left. Houthem, two miles and a half east of Oost-taverne, was Gough's first objective. Byng's 3rd Cavalry was to push south-east from Hollebeke and reach Kortewilde, just north of Houthem. The orders of the 7th Division, next to the left, directed their advance to the tenth kilometre stone on the Ypres-Menin road. Kruiseik, well in front of Gheluvelt, was the village they were asked to reach. Still further left, Haig's 1st Corps were to win Becelaere, after dislodging the enemy from the edge of the Polygon Wood.

Had that advance succeeded as planned, a great change would have been made in the line.

The atmosphere was charged with tense anxiety. Eagerly we awaited news of the progress of the work as the afternoon wore away. From the failure of the line to advance on our immediate left, we knew something had gone awry; but not until the following day did we learn that from daybreak until noon the enemy had struck blow on blow at the 7th Division front near Kruiseik. All that saved Zandvoorde and a bad hole in the line was a brilliant counter-attack by the 7th Cavalry Brigade.

Advance against such overwhelming odds was futile. The Hun was hammering for a pathway to the Channel forts, and for the next three days we had no thought, on our front, save that of holding the line against his threatened onslaughts. No day was free from fighting on some sector of the front, but not until the 29th did the full fury of the storm break on the Ypres salient.

On the 30th it was to spread to Messines. For seventy-two hours from the bursting of that tempest of mad fury, we lost all thought of operations on other battlefields. Each hour brought carnage and death; each minute was pregnant with action. All that could be done was hold the line intact, and that at times seemed well-nigh impossible, but never hopeless.

So the intervening days, viewed in the fierce light of that after-period of gigantic conflict, seemed tame indeed. Yet each bore its story.

Messines was becoming a death-trap. Shells had fallen in every quarter of the town, which had been cleared of inhabitants. One resident told me the village had surfeit of wars in bygone days, and was razed to the ground once in the eleventh century and again in the seventeenth. Its demolition in the twentieth bid fair to eclipse its former woes.

While waiting in Messines for de Lisle, who visited the town many times each day, I became quite accustomed to hot pieces of projectile falling within reach, and black, pungent shell-clouds drifting over and around me from the near-by explosion of a Black Maria. Experiences one afterwards deems narrow escapes are ludicrously plentiful in a town continually under bombardment. I have ducked nimbly round a corner to a doorway grown familiar as a shelter, and left intact but half-an-hour before, to find it choked with debris from the chaotic mass of wood and plaster to which a howitzer shell had reduced the interior of the dwelling. A walk across the square was never a leisurely procedure after I had seen a couple of shells light in it. But in reality no surer road to fatalism ex1sts than work in such surroundings. The futility of haste or loitering is demonstrated a hundred times each day. A power far more potent than mere human gunners and the engines of their ingenuity guides shells. 'Tis just as well to leave it to Him.

A deep approach trench in front of Messines enabled the change of troops in the front line to be effected with but very few casualties. The garret of a house at the outer edge of the town, close to the end of the approach trench, was used as an observation station for our gunners. I spent some time there, standing well back from the little gable window to escape the watchful eyes of the enemy. From the window I could see our own trenches, and the German ones not far beyond. Shells often came near, once setting the next house alight. One evening General Briggs was in the garret when a shrapnel came through it, passing both walls and entering the adjacent house before it exploded. He left the building, which was hit by eight shells in that many minutes, the first one coming as he walked out of the door.

On Monday afternoon German shells, which for days had battered the great square tower of Messines' eleventh-century church, fired the ancient pile. The eastern sky grew ominously black. The red flames licking at the roof were pictured fantastically against the sombre background. White smoke poured upward as the conflagration grew, a study for an art1st.

In the trenches in front of Wytschaete that night, a farm on fire near by, the great Messines church blazing hard in the darkness, bursting German howitzer shells lighting up the line, and the sudden flash of our batteries behind us made a pyrotechnic display of unequalled magnificence.

A couple of days later I accompanied Generals de Lisle and Briggs to the ruins of the church and the adjoining convent.

Inside the doorway the bare, unroofed walls rose to a grey sky. The masonry and stone of the sturdy tower had withstood the storm of shell and the fiery ordeal it brought. At the far end, under the noble blackened arch, a heap of debris marked where the altar had been. The devastating conflagration had devoured all save the walls of stone, except one figure which the fingers of the fire had left strangely untouched.

On the facia of a column under the tower hung a life-size Chr1st on the Cross. But for a small hole in the side, made by a falling bit of masonry, it remained intact, unharmed. No single object in the ruins ex1sted in its normal form save that figure.

A few townsfolk, allowed an hour in the town to collect belongings, stopped in the doorway. Their curious eyes were caught and held in awed homage. One group of garrulous women, chattering like magpies, stopped transfixed, on reaching the door, their voices hushed. Crossing themselves, they drew away whispering.

Major Hutchinson told us he stood as near the doorway as possible on the night of the fire. The interior was a seething mass. Shading his eyes with a bit of tin, he could see the figure of some saint of the church on the opposite facia, wrapped in smoke and flame, already almost ind1stinguishable. Across the floor, isolated on the bleak wall, the Chr1st on the Cross stood out in the clear light of the blazing fixtures that surrounded it, as if set aside by some hand that guided the tongues of flame away from it.

"Weird," the Major characterised it.

As I was standing in the doorway, knots of troopers, having heard the story, gathered to the ruins of the ancient church.

Pausing on the threshold, peering under the high, blackened stone arch above, each eye was raised to that commanding figure.

For a brief moment in the midst of turmoil, death and battle, many a mind was focussed, all-devout, on one great thought.

I saw more than one soldier, his head bared in respectful silence before that fire-spared crucifix, who plainly felt the Mighty Presence of the King of Hosts and Lord of Battles, whose cause, the triumph of the Right, was that for which he fought.

A major of Connaught Rangers reported after his initial experience in the front line the night before that his men had taken three lines of German trenches. His report attracted immediate attention. Questioned, he said: "The enemy had gone back before we arrived. The first line we got to was only waist deep. The second we fairly walked into. I noticed a funny thing about that line. The beggars had dug the trench just in front of a barbed wire fence. We had to cut through it. Devil of a job, too. The next line we had a bother with. Lot of sniping, though they got out of it as we came in. I didn't hold on to it; but went back into the second line, as it was a better position."

I listened attentively, wondering. Walking into abandoned German trenches sounded too good to be true. De Lisle said little, but grunted once or twice. Later developments led me to characterise the sound as a snort. Days later, I heard the correct version of the incident. The Connaught Rangers, in "taking over" had found three trenches not long vacated by the Tins. In his occupation of them the inexperienced major had cut up a most carefully arranged reserve wire entanglement. Just sufficient sniping had come his way to make him think the enemy were in the fore trench — a not unnatural error in the dark. The yarn went the rounds, gathering detail, until it assumed unique proportions, but it served to raise many a laugh where there was little enough over which to make merry.

A major of the Queen's Bays, in the trenches before daylight one morning, heard a party of Germans approaching. "Come here !" called out a voice from in front. "Come over here! "

"Hands up," responded a trooper, though little could be seen in the darkness.

"Send on one man," was the shouted suggestion of another Dragoon Guardsman.

Unintelligible words were mumbled in reply. Curious, the major raised his head and looked over the trench parapet. A volley at close range missed him, and our men pumped bullets into the adventurous Huns in quick time. When day broke half a dozen Germans lay dead a few yards in front in witness to the accuracy of our fire.

The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was sent south to Smith-Dorrien on the 26th. The next day I ran de Lisle to Smith-Dorrien's headquarters at Hinges, behind the La Bassée line. On the 28th the newly-arrived Indian contingent attempted the capture of Neuve Chapelle, which had been taken by the enemy the day before. The Indians faced German shells for the first time. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was in support. The 47th Sikhs bore the brunt of the work. The 9th Bhopal Infantry was in the fight, and two companies of the Indian sappers and miners.

The Sikhs charged magnificently. They got into the town, and the houses were the scenes of many a hand-to-hand fight. One big Sikh brought back three prisoners. He had cornered eight Germans in a room, he said, and went for them with the cold steel. Five of the enemy he killed outright. Asked why he stopped, he naively explained that his arm had tired, so he spared the remaining three and brought them back as evidence of his prowess.

Close-quarter fighting and individual conflicts in the buildings of the town scattered the Sikhs. Soon the Germans brought a couple of machine-guns into play at the end of a street, mowing down the big black fellows in squads as they came within range. Their officers were down, save one or two. No cohesive body could be formed to take the quick-firers, so back the Sikhs came, straggling and demoralised, the effect of their splendid charge largely nullified by their inexperience of this kind of warfare. Howitzer shells fell by the hundred. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade were sent into the scrimmage and fought hard till nightfall. They were relieved at daybreak next morning. Neuve Chapelle had been taken, lost, retaken and lost again. When night closed in the Germans were in possession of the greater part of the town. The cavalry suffered seventy casualties, a light l1st for that part of the world in those days.

Many of the 2nd Corps regiments on that front had lost all but a couple of hundred out of a full thousand. Men of that command had been fourteen days and fourteen nights in the trenches without respite, but the line had held, and the arrival of the Indians had greatly relieved the situation.

The enemy's plan of attack on the long front from Arras to the sea never varied. His guns shelled hard, preparing the way for his infantry, massed, often deeply, on a narrow front. Battalion came behind Battalion, regiment behind regiment. The foremost body repulsed, the reserve stepped into the breach and continued the attack. Should the first onslaught prove successful, and a foothold be gained, reserves were brought up without delay to hold, and, if possible, widen the breach in the line.

Hurling back the initial attack and pounding to atoms each front line that pressed on was of vital importance in those tense days. Every foothold had to be torn loose, no matter what the bloody cost. Easier far to expend at first that strength which lay beyond what man had learned to term the limit of human endurance. No limit bounded the endurance and effect of the British soldier save death itself. The impossible was achieved so often in front of Ypres that its performance ceased to cause wonder, and hardly attracted attention.

Fighting became mechanical. Men lost their identity as men. Rank assumed less importance. Each atom fought, and fought, and fought, until to fight became as natural to the savaged Tommy as breathing. No explanation will ever be forthcoming as to why the Germans did not win through to Ypres. Time after time they won a hole in the line, blocked by no reserves, because there were none. Companies faced Brigades of the advancing enemy, and somehow held them off. Never had so much killing been done. The dead seemed to outnumber the living at times. Yet the line held, in some way. It was beyond comprehension.

The Menin road and Gheluvelt, on the 29th, was the scene of an all-day battle, to be renewed at daybreak on the 30th. The storm centre drifted our way. Gough was driven out of Hollebeke De Lisle sent the 4th Dragoon Guards and 18th Hussars to Wytschaete to aid Gough, if he found help necessary to hold the new position in front of St. Eloi, to which he had fallen back. The day was big with action all along the line. Reports came of stubborn res1stance by the 7th Division at Gheluvelt, costly to us and trebly so to the enemy. New German units had been brought up, and the Kaiser was with them, we heard.

I noted a score of wounded Wild's Rifles, almost to a man shot in the left hand or arm. One of their officers told me this was due to the peculiar way the Indians shield their head with the left arm when firing. The Beloochis got home with the bayonet one morning, inflicting frightful execution and repelling a determined attack.

A message came from the nth Brigade at St. Ives that the enemy was advancing in great numbers. The nth line was broken that day, to be made good by the Somersets. With Gough on our left in need of reinforcements and Wilson's 4th Division on our right barely able to hold its own, the 1st Cavalry Division was faced with a grave situation at Messines, where showers of howitzer shells were followed by massed attacks hourly increasing in intensity.

Saturday, October 31st, was not two hours old when the German bugles were heard in a dozen places in front of the Messines line. Lanterns could be seen darting back and forth like glow-worms, in the black night. Shouted orders were borne on the wind to the British trenches. The rythmical cadence of German soldiers' voices in loud marching chorus told of singing columns moving forward to the attack.

The 9th Lancers were in the front trench. On their left were two short trenches facing the left front and left flank, occupied by the 5th Dragoon Guards. On the right of the 9th the trench line continued in a gradual curve to the southward, the 57th Wild's Rifles holding that section of the line.

The enemy reached the Indians before daybreak, pouring over their front like a flood, and driving the 57th back into the town in some confusion. Messines had been shelled all night long. Driven from their position by overwhelming hordes of singing Huns, whose ranks, mowed down, filled up with numberless others from the blackness beyond, the poor Indians found the path of their retirement led straight into an inferno of scattering earthquakes that spread death over the whole' d1strict like a mantle. The blinding flash and nerve-shattering roar of the big howitzer shells, ever punctuated by the dozens of wicked whirring shrapnel that searched every quarter of the town, might well have demoralised troops of much more experience of the new gun-cult of modern warfare.

In support of that part of the line was a reserve company of the 57th and a squadron of the 5th Dragoon Guards. These two contingents went into the Germans with the bayonet most gallantly, but were hurled back by overpowering numbers.

Every European officer of the Wild's Rifles wag killed, making a rally of that regiment impossible.

Also before dawn a column overran the 5th Dragoon Guards' position on the left. There pile on pile of German dead blocked the way of those who followed, after, never wavering until the trenches were won and the gallant regiment forced back inch by inch, dealing death at .every step.

The 9th Landers beat off the first attack on its front. As the night began to pale the German bugles were sounding and their lanterns flashing behind the 9th and towards the town on both right and left. With the first streaks of dull light began a fight on three sides of a square that was to cost the Germans dear. On came the enemy, steady as if on parade, a maxim at each end of the advancing grey line belching forth a stream of fire at every few yards. Every man in the 9th — cool as a cucumber and full of that glorious pride of regiment that makes the super-soldier — fired shot after shot into the oncoming mass, every bullet bringing down its mark. Once the pressure on a flank uncovered the end of the trench, but the enemy's brief advantage was won back by a hand-to-hand struggle.

Then the shells came. The air was one mass of rending flashes. Shock succeeded shock, and deadly missiles fell like hail — so fast and thick no living thing could remain long untouched beneath the torrent of metal that sprayed over the trenches.

Back came the 9th, firing as they retreated. Shrapnel followed them every inch of the way. The enemy's gunners never showed better markmanship.

At the edge of Messines, Francis Grenfell turned, and with some of his squadron started back down the approach trench. One trooper who went with him said to me an hour later, "I didn't know where the Captain was going, but he said, 'Come on.' It looked to me as if he was starting off to take the bally trenches back with a blommin' pistol." Grenfell had noticed the enemy were not advancing, and had heard a storm of fire from the trench ahead. He knew someone had been left behind and was still fighting hard, so back he went to get into the fight.

He found the lost trench momentarily re-won. A corporal in charge of one of the 9th machine-guns had placed a low bush above it to hide its position. When the regiment was ordered to retire by Colonel Campbell, the corporal had stayed in the trench by his gun. Waiting until the Germans were almost upon him — until some, indeed, were climbing the parapet not far on his left and piling into the trench — he loosed off his deadly quick-firer. He poured a thousand rounds into the enemy at such close range the execution was beyond realisation. Men were mowed down like grass. The surprise of the manoeuvre added to its effectiveness. Leaping back out of the death trap the Germans rushed rearward in a close crowd for cover, the machine-gun in the corporal's deft hands playing on them as they ran.

By the time Grenfell reached the trench the Germans had peppered the corporal and his bit of ordnance until the gun was pierced with a dozen Mauser bullets, six or eight of which had punctured its water jacket and rendered it useless. Not long afterwards the corporal passed me outside Messines. He was carrying the tripod of his abandoned gun and almost wept as he spoke of having to leave it, useless, behind him and in the hands of the adjectived Germans, who had again come on in force to the trench, not to be denied by the few of the 9th who were left to face them. The corporal was subsequently awarded a well-deserved V.C.

De Lisle was worried. He left headquarters for Messines that morning at an early hour. On the way he called on General Hunter Weston, of the nth Brigade, at Ploegsteert. Weston ordered two companies of Inniskilling Fusiliers to be so placed at once that his line would extend its left to near Messines. This gave de Lisle his own Division and four Battalions of 2nd Corps troops that arrived in Neuve Eglise during the night for the defence of the town and that part of the Messines-Wytschaete ridge which our line covered.

Reinforcements, without which the line could not be held much longer, were coming. Second Corps troops from the south and the French 16th Corps from the north, with Conneau's French cavalry as well, were on the way. The need was sore, and their prompt arrival a matter of more than life or death.

As we sped on from Ploegsteert, we tarried a moment by McCarthy and his guns. He nodded his grizzled head when asked to help. McCarthys were rare in any army. Oh, for a dozen of him in that war of guns!

As we came in sight of Messines, smoke-clouds rose from every quarter of the town. A dozen houses were ablaze, the flames leaping high in the light breeze.

Swinging up to our reserve trenches, narrow, deep, and so placed as to be well concealed, turbanned heads peeped above the level of the unharvested beet-field, for all the world like khaki cabbages in a row.

Straggling Indians were all along the road, many of them wounded. At one point a procession of the poor fellows were rapidly filling a convoy of horse ambulances gathered at the roadside. A big Punjabi, covered in blood, came up, pale and tottering, supported by a comrade. Most of the wounds were in head or arm, allowing the men to navigate rearwards under their own power. One passed, insensible, borne on a door by four of his fellows. The next was in a motor-car, half lying on the front seat, huddled with pain, a blanket between his set teeth: a brave chap, horribly wounded, but holding on with sublime courage and never a groan to tell of his awful agony. Many a hero tramped by among those black soldiers of the King so far from their own land. Their stretcher- bearers, with their incessant gabble, gabble, gabble, sounding like a flock of excited turkeys, did yeoman work in their own Oriental way.

As we entered the town, a German war balloon loomed high in the near d1stance, a line of gaily coloured flag-signals suspended from it.

The black cross showed clear from the under wing of a German aeroplane droning above.

I saw Basil Blackwood, attached to the 9th Lancers, taken past, shot through the shoulder. Francis Grenfell, an ugly bullet-hole in his thigh, was also sent back. The 9th had suffered heavily. Seventy-five per cent, of their officers and a third of their men had been hit that morning.

A moment in the edge of Messines, where the fighting had reached the barricades at the eastern edge of the town, and we were speeding back to our own headquarters' inn a mile behind.

A squadron of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry arrived that morning, and went up towards the front, a splendid looking lot. They were to take their places in action with the finest cavalry in the world, and to make a record of which the oldest veterans would be proud.

Coal-boxes began to search the country round more pers1stently. A dozen dropped on a ridge not far on the right of our estaminet. They were feeling for McCarthy's guns, and coming close to him at times. As I was watching the ridge I saw a waggon, loaded full of men, women, and children, leave a spacious farm and start for the rear. A sharp flash, a great black column rising, rising, and the double rumph-rumph of the howitzer shell, told of a hit in the road in front of the fleeing farm folk. Two seconds later another flash, again the mounting, tw1sting column of black, right over the waggon. Out from the shell-cloud galloped a horse. One or two scurrying forms dashed from the lane, and scattered like frightened rabbits over the fields. I turned from the sight with a shudder.

Clatter, clatter over the cobbles, the remainder of the Oxfordshire Hussars went up at a trot.

A dirty, cheery, devil-may-care motor-cycl1st pulled up with a message from Briggs's headquarters in the burning town.

"How is it up there?"

"Absolutely bloody."

But the Germans had not won the town. They were in an edge of it, but there they stuck, every sally thrown back at heavy cost. Every minute the firing grew heavier. More shells rained on the blazing buildings. The rattle of small arms rose to a high continuous note and hung, piercing the booming din of the howitzers and the racking fury of their bursting shells. At times the "coal-boxes" burst so fast, it seemed a fierce thunder-clap had spread itself over minutes which imagination lengthened into miniature ages of nerve- tension.

"Looks up there as though most everyone is hit or scratched," said the cycl1st as he started back. "Absolutely bloody, that damned Messines. So long !" A grin, a nod, and off he dashed, straight into the thick of it.

Ambulances full of wounded wheeled slowly back to Wulverghem, dumped their shattered freight at the dressing-station, and returned at a trot into the zone of shell-fire.

A couple of wounded troopers bumped and jolted about on a bundle of straw in the narrow box of an empty limber that rattled rearwards for a fresh supply of ammunition. An officer came slowly down the road, supported by his subaltern. He was shot through the shoulder. "Only a scratch," he said, with an attempt at a smile as he staggered on.

News reached us from Weston's headquarters of Germans massing in front of Frelinghien and Le Touquet for an attack in force. Too much was going on in Messines to allow even a passing thought of what might transpire elsewhere.

Two armoured cars, attached to the Oxfordshires, moved up, to retire discreetly shortly afterwards. Messines was no place for an armoured car. A healthy, full-grown Black Maria would scatter one to the four winds.

By ten o'clock the six-inch howitzers went slowly back, their attendant transport waggons following soberly. A couple of days before those howitzers had come up fresh from the base, the gunners eager to "get into it." The change in their position to the region of the Kemmel road meant that the enemy had come too close for the sixes to be used effectively.

The 9th Lancers filled the trenches of the reserve line not many yards in front of headquarters. If we fell back from Messines those trenches would mark the new line.

A hurried dash to Messines and back in the car was found to be unwise, and a stop was ordered at the bottom of the hill leading into the town. Bullets were singing overhead. The struggle for each street was a battle in itself.

Colonel Ludlow drove up. Two Battalions of Worcesters were in Neuve Eglise, he said, and the Scots Fusiliers, Northumberland Fusiliers and Lincolns had pushed on half an hour before for Kemmel. Good news that. Seventh Brigade and 9th Brigade troops of the well-tried 3rd Division. Reinforcements from Smith-Dorrien's hardened lot, well worth having, every man of them.

I chatted with Colonel Campbell and Major Beale-Browne of the 9th for a few minutes, then strolled back towards the headquarters estaminet. By dint of great persuasion we had induced the proprietress to send away her four-year-old daughter in charge of an elder s1ster that morning. The woman herself, her husband, and a girl of sixteen remained, though repeatedly advised to take up safer quarters.

I passed Pat Armstrong in the road. "Where away?" he queried. "Only to the car to sit and scribble," I replied.

The car stood by the inn.

"Bang !" went a Black Maria sixty yards from us. General de Lisle was in the roadway. "How far from us was that one ?" he asked. Pat and I turned to him to reply, both laughing as each paused, waiting to criticise the other's estimate.

Before the answer, a crash that beggars description came without warning, sudden as a thunderbolt. A howitzer shell had struck the house fifteen to eighteen feet from where we were standing.

I distinctly felt the shock of the concussion. Others by me did so and others, even closer, said they felt no shock.

My head was driven violently downwards.

I jumped the roadside ditch as I recovered my balance and ran for the shelter of a haystack a few yards away. I think my idea was to avoid a possible second shell. I hardly knew what had happened. My chin was bleeding, grazed by some flying bit. The air was choked with dust and debris. A black, stinking pall hung over the estaminet, a farm across the road, and all between.

Women's screams came shrill and high from the thick bank of smoke. I could not, at first, see the outline of the inn or what, if anything, remained of it. No voices could be heard for a second or two, save the heartbreaking shrieks from the women.

Leaping back to the road I saw the General standing on the bank. As I joined him the smoke drifted. The house showed dim, then clearer. Its eastern end was torn away. A skeleton-like frame of rafters remained where the roof had been. The interior was a confused heap of debris.

Major Davidson, of the R.A.M.C, who stood in the road a few yards beyond the inn, said it opened up like a stage house blown asunder by an explosion in melodrama, tumbling inwards and collapsing as a house of cards falls.

The screaming women were extricated. Though badly hurt they could both walk and were led off toward the dressing station. The aged owner of the estaminet was severely wounded.

Corporal Smallman, one of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade motor-cycl1sts, was in the kitchen. Both his legs were blown away, and he died in terrible pain on the way to the field hospital. His grim pluck never failed, though when he knew that both limbs were gone and no chance of life remained, he asked through set teeth for a release from the warping, frantic agony in the shape of a kind bullet to hasten the inevitable end.

Smallman was one of the very best of our motorcycl1sts. No finer epitaph could be given him.

We lost another motor-cyclist by that shell, killed in the road close to where I was standing.

When the shell came the largest of the two rooms in the front of the house was empty, for the first time any member of the staff could recollect. An occupant of that room would have met instant death. Colonel Home and Percy Hambro were in the smaller, further room. Both were buried in the falling debris, but clambered from the window unhurt after digging themselves from under a pile of bricks and mortar.

A chair Hambro had adopted as his own stood in the larger room. The explosion hurled it high in the air. Alighting on the ruined roof it hung there on a splintered rafter, mute evidence of the fate that would have met one who had been its occupant a few minutes before.

Captain MacFarlane, of the Queen's Bays, was the Divisional signals officer. As the black cloud over the scene lifted, MacFarlane came from the farm gates, black from head to foot. I thought some new form of Hun explosive had dyed him. "What's happened to you ?" I asked in amaze. "I jumped out of the signals office in the barn to see what was up," said Mac. "I couldn't see a foot ahead of me in the muck, and stepped plump into the centre of that stinking stagnant pond in the farmyard. However, I'm none the worse, bar looks."

I turned to my car. The raised hood was smashed under a load of brick and splintered beams, about which were wound a woman's bodice and odd bits of feminine headgear. Jagged holes in the panels showed where pieces of shell had torn their way through the sides. Pulling my muffler and Burberry from under debris that covered the front seat, I found each had been pierced in more than one place by shell-splinters.

The car was equipped with a self-starter, a mysterious device that sometimes started, sometimes not. Eager to get away, still fearful of another shell, a movement of the starting lever proved that it was to be a case of sometimes not. I went to the starting handle and gave it a swing. As I did so I heard a shout of warning, and involuntarily ducked my head. Close under the mud-guard I crouched. Swish, swish, swish came the shell. I strained forward, bracing myself for the crash. But swish, swish, swish was all that came. In a twinkling I realised that the half-hearted efforts of the self-starter were turning the engine slowly and jerkily. No shell was near. Guiltily I peeped under an arm and saw Ludlow, across the road, bent double in laughter. "That look of anticipation on your face, President," said he, "was certainly the real thing."

I moved my load of brick to Wulverghem, where I took stock of damage and cleaned the car. I strapped the broken hood, but otherwise the car's usefulness was unimpaired. A mud-guard was splintered and its general appearance marred, but it would run.

From Wulverghem I could hear the incessant din of the never-flagging battle.

A couple of German prisoners were brought back. Their uniforms were dirty and faded, but the men looked sound and fit. One captive said he had had no food for three days, but his appearance went ill with the story. Another German taken during the day told of orders received direct from the Kaiser that Ypres must be taken by Sunday, November 1st. A prisoner stated that his contingent had come from Verdun, via Lille. He told of eighteen German howitzers that he had seen in front of Messines operating in lots of three.

What a difference eighteen howitzers at our disposal would have made!

By early afternoon Briggs reported the Germans holding the eastern part of Messines, while he held the west side with his 1st Cavalry Brigade. The Inniskillings had regained their trenches on the right, and were within half a mile of Messines, firm as a rock. On the left, toward Wytschaete, the 4th Dragoon Guards and the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry held the southern part of the ridge, with the London Scottish, lately arrived, in the fields behind in reserve.

The heaviest of the street fighting fell to the lot of the Queen's Bays and nth Hussars.

The wounded poured through Wulverghem in a never-ending stream. One complete convoy of ambulances was filled with troopers of the Bays and a couple of their officers.

I asked one of them if he had seen any Germans.

"Loads of 'em," was the reply. "Brave beggars, that lot. Three of us were in a house facing the square. Close behind us, a few yards down the street, was our barricade. We saw the Germans start another charge from clear across the open. We pumped a few rounds into 'em, and as they came on we hooked it for the barricade. When those chaps came round the corner where we could get a pot at 'em, how many do you think they was? Just eight! It seemed a pity to kill the plucky mugs. Eight of 'em! Just think of it! Charging like as if they was a whole damn army. I wouldn't minded takin' 'em, but we couldn't. It wouldn't 'a done. Besides, maybe they wouldn't. So we wiped 'em off."

"But," — he shook his head sagely as he climbed aboard the ambulance — "they was plucky beggars, if they was Germans I don't want to see no pluckier. They've been killed off like pigs up there, in that town, and they keep on comin'. They fight stiff, that lot — they fight damn stiff! "

Weeks afterwards I read a letter, written by a German officer to a friend in Zurich, which paid a counter-tribute to that trooper and his comrades. It read as follows: —

On November 1st, Messines was stormed by our troops, with great losses on our side, for the English had erected wonderful barricades, which defied all attempts to break down.. As we went to the attack we were told to spare the village as much as possible, but this order proved easier to give than to obey, for the English had so ingeniously hidden themselves on all flanks that they were able to shoot down our men as they approached without our being able to locate their whereabouts. On finding that it was impossible to oust the enemy in this manner, we brought our heavy artillery to bear on the village, thus clearing the path somewhat and enabling us to move forward with less molestation from the enemy's deadly snipers. Still, even after two hours' bombardment, every house had to be stormed singly, and it was well into the evening before the place could be deemed anything like safe.

If we Germans were given to understand formerly that the English soldiers were not to be feared, then that idea may now be banished from our minds, for the general opinion of those who have fought against them in these d1stricts is that one Englishman is more dangerous than any two of the Allies.

After a luncheon of bread and black coffee, the best fare procurable in the Wulverghem inn to which headquarters had been shifted, de Lisle took the car to General Briggs's headquarters in the hollow behind Messines. As we reached the cover of the little valley a company of the King's Own Scottish Borderers trudged past and started up the hill toward the inferno above. The short d1stance to the scene of the conflict was emphasized by the frequent "Sing-g-g" of a Mauser bullet.

At dusk de Lisle had a talk with Mullins, whose 2nd Brigade was to relieve Briggs's 1st Brigade at dark. With the depleted 9th Lancers, 18th Hussars, and 4th Dragoon Guards, Mullins was to have the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. General Allenby wanted the position held at all costs, even if it became necessary to give up the town. "De Lisle could evacuate Messines, for that matter," said Allenby, "If he held the ridge from Messines north to Wytschaete." But to lose Messines, said de Lisle, would be to lose the ridge with it, so the town must needs be held.

The situation was bad. The Germans had a strong position on the eastern side of the town. A night attack was planned, the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on the right, the Cavalry in the centre and the King's Own Scottish Borderers on the left. Pulling up a field-gun to within a few yards range of a German barricade was discussed, and the idea abandoned. Curiously enough the Germans adopted that very procedure during the night, blowing away an old barricade behind which, luckily, only a couple of men were posted. Neither of them was hurt.

To the north of Messines the London Scottish carried the line along the ridge from the left of the 4th Dragoon Guards to the right of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, a part of Gough's 2nd Cavalry Division. The 4th Brigade cons1sted of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, the "Tins" (Composite Regiment of Household Cavalry) and the 6th Dragoon Guards (the Carabineers). The last-named regiment was on the extreme right, next to the London Scottish. The keeping of the centre of the precious ridge was chiefly in the hands of these two regiments.

On our return to Wulverghem we heard that the 1st and 2nd Division headquarters had been shelled near Hooge that day, Generals Lomax and Monro being wounded, and half a dozen Staff officers killed. Three Divisional headquarters struck by enemy shells in one day was certainly a record. During the morning I had overheard a Staff officer joking about Staff school teaching, that Divisional headquarters should be well out of range of interruption and d1straction of thoughts from the work in hand. A grim joke in the light of the day's events.

The line in front of Gheluvelt had been lost by the 1st Division, and regained by the 2nd, said the news from the Ypres salient. The 7th Division was holding on by the skin of its teeth. The French in front of Zillebeke were in like case.

Twice that night I ran to General Allenby's headquarters at Groote Vierstraat, and was greatly cheered by the sight of long lines of Conneau's Cavalry on the road. Reinforcements were close at hand. A French officer of cuirassiers told me of thirteen Battalions of the 16th French Corps well on the way to join hands with us on the morrow. Nevertheless, I went to sleep on a bundle of straw in a house in Dranoutre that night with anything but a light heart.

Could we hold the line?

What price could Germany pay to break it?

I was not the only one to ponder those questions that night in Flanders.

We rose at daybreak on Sunday, November 1st.

General de Lisle was at breakfast when General Allenby and Colonel Barrow came in.

"I hear things are much the same in Messines this morning as they were last night," said the Corps Commander.

"The night attack was only partially successful," de Lisle admitted. "We gained part of the convent, but could make no headway on the left. We have bettered our position in the town, though we were unable to drive the enemy from it."

"Well," I said to myself, "things might be worse."

The French were attacking in two places that morning between St. Eloi and Wytschaete to relieve the pressure. The 32nd Division of the 16th Corps, containing some of the finest soldiers of France, were pressing forward to the attack. The sacrifice of the past days had not been in vain. The line had held, and help was in sight — at least, so it seemed.

By six o'clock I had started for Wulverghem, de Lisle alongside and Colonel Home in the tonneau.

As we pulled into the town a grey-haired colonel, without a cap, ran into the road ahead.

"Is this General de Lisle?" he asked. "To whom do I report? I am Colonel Malcolm, of the London Scottish. The Germans are through," he went on, speaking with some excitement. "They are through the 4th Brigade. They came across the Messines- Wytschaete road, and broke through. My lot out there have stood an awful shelling — Black Marias, shrapnel, every kind and sort of shell we had — all outside any trenches, for we had no trenches to get into. We drove them back twice, and got into them with the bayonet; but they came on the third time in such numbers we could not stop them again. I lost my two majors and I don't know how many of my poor men."

“Where have the Germans got to ?" de Lisle broke in.

"They are right out there a little way," said Malcolm, pointing beyond the church to the northeast.

From the din of small-arm fire I thought he was right, and that they were "out there," but a very little way.

The General ordered me to push on sharply. He chose a lane by the church too narrow to allow the passage of the car. Leaping to the ground he seized a near-by horse and galloped across the field, sending Colonel Home post-haste to Neuve Eglise to bring up the good old reliable 1st Cavalry Brigade. No matter how battered Briggs's lot might be, it was a host in itself. In a short time we had finished that job, and had come back hot- foot to Wulverghem.

De Lisle returned. He had found a fair-sized contingent of the London Scottish, who had been driven well back by the heavy shell-fire, but were eager to take a further hand in the fray. They had seen severe fighting. While they inflicted heavy losses on the Germans at close quarters, accounting for many of the enemy when they "got in" with the bayonet, the rush of overwhelming numbers, their unfamiliarity with the position, the darkness and the awful storm of shell to which they were subjected at dawn, had pressed them back some d1stance from the line.

They rallied like veterans when de Lisle called on them. One of their number told me afterwards a wave of quiet laughter went over those of his comrades who heard their Major say: "The men have had no breakfast, sir." De Lisle replied: "They will find plenty of breakfast over that ridge in front. They look the sort that would thrive on that kind of food."

As they started off with two squadrons of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, dismounted, to give the enemy a further taste of their mettle, the Major said to de Lisle, " The Colonel and the other Major are dead, sir, I'm afraid."

"No, no," answered the General; "they will show up all right."

"But," ins1sted the Major, "the Colonel is gone. I have reported him dead."

"Now, Major," laughed de Lisle, "you will find it will take a lot more than that to kill him. I have just left him in Wulverghem, sound as a drum."

The London Scottish and the Oxfordshires were in support of the Lincolns and Northumberland Fusiliers for most of the day, and both acquitted themselves nobly.

At 7.30 the General decided to go towards Messines and find General Mullins. We lost no time on the journey. I bumped at good speed past the ruined inn that had been our headquarters. Just beyond we flashed past the 9th Lancers, grim and determined, in the reserve trench which was soon to be the front of the battle line.

When we reached the brow of the hill which stood across the dip in the ground on the western edge of Messines, the road was so swept by bullets that de Lisle ordered me to back quickly behind a heavily foliaged tree. Dismounting, he walked down the slope to Mullins' headquarters, where we had visited Briggs the day before.

That was a warm corner. Turning the car in the narrow road with bullets singing over me in dozens, was a nervous business. I could see the Germans coming over the ridge not far away on the left. The enemy held the north part of the town. Having broken our line on the ridge further to the north, they were starting to come westward past Messines, while our troops were still fighting hard in the south-west corner of the town.

The Mauser bullets came so fast and furious, it was not difficult for me to imagine I was the target, though more than likely I was merely sitting in the line of fire, unnoticed by an enemy busy with far more important game.

The whizzing pellets came lower. I took to the ditch, and from it watched couples and trios of wounded and stragglers trickling rearward along the ditch across the road from me. Sing-g-g! sing-g-g! went the little devils. Zip-p-p — zipp! as one cut its way through the leaves. Pawk! One hit the tree trunk. A sharp slap from across the road and a quick "Hi !" from a passing Tommy told of a bullet that had found a billet. The boy who was hit was helping a wounded comrade. He fell when hit, but rose and hurried on. He would not stop and let me bind his wound.

Still lower the fire came. One or two hit the cobbled road-bed. I lay on my back in the damp ditch. Twigs and leaves cut off above me floated down lazily. Of all that stream of fire only two bullets hit the car.

It was only 7.35 when the General walked up the hill to the car. It seemed as if he had been gone three times as long. I jumped into the seat in a hurry.

"No rush," said de Lisle. "Wait for the Colonel." A tall figure in khaki was coming easily up the rise, unaware of our delay on his account. I longed to shout an invitation to him to quicken his pace.

At last we were off, and soon back safely in Wul-verghem. Divisional headquarters was moved at eight o'clock to the Station Inn, on the Kemmel-Neuve Eglise road, beside which, in a field, a battery of 6-in. howitzers was making a deafening row.

I stayed in Wulverghem with Colonel Home until nearly nine o'clock. The wounded poured through the village. Many fine London Scottish lads were among them. An 18th Hussar officer went by, his jaw tied with a reddening bandage. He made as if to speak, spat out a mouthful of blood, then shook his head and waved his hand as he rode on. Two old Belgians made useful trips to the edge of the town, to return supporting tottering soldiers to the ambulances.

Indians appeared in twos and threes at intervals. Unable to speak English the poor fellows knew not where to go. One lay dead on a bank outside the town, a worn-out comrade crouching huddled beside him.

Crean, V.C., the R.A.M.C. officer with the 1st Cavalry Brigade, one of the bravest men who ever won the cross, was doing the work of a dozen.

Thinking Wulverghem would soon become unhealthy he started moving the wounded from a temporary hospital in an estaminet which faced the end of Wulverghem's main street. Inspired by some intuition, he hurried the ambulances up and filled them in unusual haste. The last wounded man was out of the house and the last ambulance fifty yards down the road toward Neuve Eglise when crash came a howitzer shell, crushing the estaminet like an egg-shell.

Major Wilfred Jelf, who had succeeded Colonel Drake as our Divisional C.R.A., did a good piece of work that morning stopping the fire of a battery of our guns that were hurling lyddite into a part of Messines occupied by the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

At 9.15 the General went up to the line again. McCarthy's batteries had been hard at it all the morning and the German gunners were searching madly for them. The enemy were within rifle-range of the left of our reserve line. Between the shells and the spent bullets no place held much security.

The ridge was gone. The enemy's success in breaking our line between the London Scottish and the 2nd Cavalry Division could not be gainsaid. Holding on to Messines meant a useless sacrifice of men's lives, for the town had been held only to make the ridge secure, so at 9.30 de Lisle ordered our troops back from the edge of the town.

We had to content ourselves thenceforth with holding our strong reserve line,.

Wytschaete had been captured by the Germans when the ridge was taken. The Beloochis on the left suffered heavily and fought like demons. A barn along the line became a point of vantage. The enemy drove the Indians from it. They rallied, charged, and retook the building, killing or wounding every German in it.

The 3rd Cavalry Brigade relieved the 4th Brigade, in turn to be relieved by the French troops.

Wytschaete that day saw a charge of the 12th Lancers, supported by the 3rd Hussars, in which scores of Germans were put to the bayonet.

There, too, the Lincolns and Northumberlands were caught by a tornado of German shell, which cost them many casualties.

The French attack, after one abortive effort, won the town at midday, and cleared it of the enemy. The place was rendered untenable by howitzer fire, and once more it was evacuated and a line taken to the west of the town.

Our new line of defence, since the incessant bombardment of Messines, Wytschaete, and the ridge between had won the ground to the enemy, ran from the west of Wytschaete, past a hill known as Hill 75 (from its designation on our maps), to our carefully prepared position to the east of Wulverghem. From there it circled round St. Ives and the Ploegsteert Wood to Le Gheer, and thence beyond to the trenches in front of Frelinghien.

At eleven the General took another spin to the line. En route we met General Allenby's car, and behind it General Wilson of the 4th Division. The three commanders held a roadside conference. When we arrived at the ruined estaminet, the enemy's shrapnel was bursting in dozens over the 9th Lancers in the trench line.

Germans could be seen digging in the open near a windmill on the Messines ridge. Major Hambro jumped into the car and told me to hurry him over to McCarthy, whose guns were provided a splendid target by the busily-entrenching enemy.

I dropped down the hill outside Wulverghem like a shot, and piled through the town at a rate of knots.

I did not expect to meet another vehicle in Wulverghem, but as I swept toward the corner a big car came toward me at good speed.

I tried to swerve to the right, but the slippery cobbles threw me round. The space between the houses on the left and the approaching car seemed small indeed, but no alternative ex1sted save a smash. I dived left and through, winning the passage by a hair's breadth. As I escaped I caught a horror-stricken look on the face of the driver of the other car, whom I recognised as Jimmy Rothschild, driving one of General Pulteney's staff.

At noon, returning to headquarters, we passed long lines of London's motor-buses debouching infantry near Neuve Eglise. Reinforcements in plenty had arrived. Though they came too late to save Messines and Wytschaete, they were in time to nullify the German gain and hold the enemy to the ground so dearly won.

Early in the afternoon airmen reported the enemy forming for attack at Gapaard, a village east of Messines. French guns and English guns hammered at them for an hour or so, and the threatened attack fizzled out.

Visits to the ruined inn on the Wulverghem-Messines road became more and more exciting. Wulverghem was shelled at frequent intervals. Coal-boxes dropped everywhere. No field was free from a miniature cellar or two excavated by the howitzer shells.

"If they begin shelling you, move out," was de Lisle's usual caution. Move out, indeed! Little would be left to move if a Black Maria came too near. Fifty yards from where I stood two great black fellows ploughed the turf. Yet not a splinter came my way.

A run to La Clytte late in the day, to General Allenby's headquarters, took me past innumerable French foot soldiers. They bred confidence in their sturdy appearance, crowding along swiftly in undulating lines. They looked eminently business-like.

Passing through Kemmel at dusk de Lisle saw a detachment resting in the ditch at the side of the road. Pulling up, he said:

"What troops are these ?"

"London Scottish," came the answer.

"Is one of your officers with you ?"

"Yes, sir," and Colonel Malcolm rose and came to the side of the car.

"Ah, Colonel," said the General, "you are on the right road. La Clytte, where your regiment is to re-form and get some rest, is only a couple of miles ahead."

"On again ?" said Malcolm. "My men have had no sleep for three nights, and we have had no rations to-day."

But before he had finished, word had passed from mouth to mouth along the line of sturdy youngsters that food, rest, and, best of all, the gathering of their comrades scattered in the charge, were but two miles away. Cheerily prodding sleeping forms, stretching weary limbs, they jumped into the road and were off in a jiffy. Their temper, when so completely worn and tired, was good evidence of the fine stuff of which they were made.

One day they were to be brigaded with the 1st Division, Haig's lot of seasoned heroes. In that collection of regiments, whose fame was one with Britain's greatness, I was, months later, to hear a veteran officer of the line say with feeling, "No better Battalion of soldiers ex1sts in the whole army than the London Scottish" — high praise indeed, and well earned before it was won.

So the battle of Messines ended. Our losses were great, and those of the enemy far greater. The 1st Cavalry Division had nearly forty per cent, of its numbers killed or wounded, and the Battalions brigaded with it suffered almost as heavily.



A French Attack

The Germans attacked the line of the Ploegsteert Wood and Le Gheer violently on the morning of Monday, November 2nd. The detonation of the heavy firing came dully through the rain to us. Early in the forenoon the noise of battle lessened, the rain ceased, and the sky brightened.

One who had been talking with Sir John French told of the conversation. "The war surely cannot last much longer," he reported the Field-Marshal to have said. "The butchery is too frightful. The losses in themselves will stop it sooner or later. The enemy cannot stand it long."

So it must have seemed to one who knew what price the enemy had paid to win the few miles of ground he had so far won on our front in Flanders.

The Germans were pressing hard on our line in front of Wulverghem to Hill 75, west of Wyt-schaete, and north to our positions before St. Eloi. The sound of the guns was incessant.

A cycl1st from the nth Hussars passed our headquarters on the Neuve Eglise-Kemmel road and told me of his regiment, which had been shelled out of its trenches. A First Brigade motor-cycl1st supplemented this information. A gap between our strong line of trenches in front of Wulverghem and Hill 75 led across soft ground that presented great difficulties. To prepare it for defence in the sodden state of the low levels was well-nigh impossible. The nth had been told to hold that part of the line, and had dug themselves in as best they could during the night. The German howitzers had torn the soft fields to bits in the morning, utterly destroying the trenches. Half of the nth were hit or buried, and the remainder of the regiment was withdrawn to save it from total annihilation.

The enemy tried to follow up the advantage thus gained, grey lines could be seen pushing west from Wytschaete. The French seventy-fives were in action, however, and our own guns were reinforced by batteries from the 2nd Corps. Shells rained on the front towards which the German attack was directed, and it soon fizzled out in front of the wall of fire and smoke that barred the way.

A Belgian staff officer drove past, pausing to tell us of the flooded Yser. From the sea southwards almost to Dixmude, he said, the land was inundated. Germans were drowned in hundreds, their guns were sinking in the all-enveloping mud, and the coast route to Calais was closed to the Huns.

A run to General Conneau's headquarters near Kemmel showed that the road would not long be passable for cars. Great cellars in the pave road had been dug by the Black Marias, which were falling at frequent intervals all about the d1strict.

The Kaiser had been in Hollebeke the day before, we were told. Incidentally came the news that our airmen had dropped one hundred and ten bombs on that village during the day in honour of His Imperial Majesty's presence. Who could hear such rumours without hope that one of the aerial missiles had found its mark and ended the mad career of the man responsible for the carnage he had come to engineer?

Tuesday morning I spent behind the ruined wall of the estaminet that had been our headquarters on the Wulverghem-Messines road. A house on the eastern edge of Neuve-Eglise had been dynamited out of ex1stence to clear the line of fire for one of our batteries thereabouts. As we passed the pile of debris that marked where it had stood an officer was trying to get a snapshot in the dull light. Later I saw the result of his efforts in the form of a picture in a London paper. Under it was the inscription, " The work of a German shell." A large amount was advertised to have been paid for the photograph.

Shells came so close to the ruined inn during my sojourn behind it that I took to the ditch, snuggling down behind the dead body of a red cow that had been thrown from the field to the ditch the evening before.

The 1st Cavalry Division held the Wulverghem line, the 3rd Corps on the right and Conneau's Cavalry on the left. Sir John French had sent a commendatory despatch to de Lisle's Command, asking us to "hold on." It might be a matter of days or only hours before support came; we were to keep the position at all costs until its arrival. The 2nd Cavalry Division was in billets, to be called upon by the 1st Division if its ass1stance became necessary.

While the day was young the enemy forced back the French line on our left. De Lisle ran to the headquarters of a French general, whose troops were bearing the brunt of the attack, and sent the 1st Cavalry Brigade up on his flank. French wounded littered the highway. The seventy-fives were firing with wonderful rapidity from a dozen positions near by. Kemmel came in for a rain of howitzer shells that made the vicinity a most unhealthy spot.

Foch attacked on Conneau's left, hoping to drive the enemy from Wytschaete, and then press on to retake Messines. .Excitement reigned. A wave of optimism engulfed everyone. Our 2nd Cavalry Brigade could see the French attack from their trenches. De Lisle moved up to the ill-fated estaminet. All eyes were on the French. When they could be seen approaching Messines de Lisle was to let the 2nd Brigade loose. The 1st Cavalry Brigade would also attack Messines from the south-west and the 3rd Army troops close in from the west.

The ceaseless roar of guns intensified in fury. Stray shells began dropping in threes and fours close to our headquarters. Pieces from one of them spattered the walls and rattled on the tiles of the roof.

At General Mullins's headquarters back of Wulverghem shells were falling in even closer proximity. One splinter came through a window of the cottage occupied by Mullins and his staff and found the slim form of Jeff Hornby, but fortunately damaged him so slightly as to wound his feelings more than his attenuated anatomy. The irrepressible spirits of the 2nd Brigade staff bubbled forth in unquenchable hilarity at this incident, and messages of mock condolence were showered on Hornby, as though the very war itself were one huge joke.

In the midst of the fun the laughter subsided abruptly on the arrival of Lieutenant Chance of the 4th Dragoon Guards. The boy was covered from head to foot with dirt, as though he had rolled in a mud bath. His hand had been painfully smashed by a shrapnel bullet. He came in to report that he had been compelled to pull his squadron back from the line to a position not far behind it.

Chance was one of the many junior officers who were in senior positions in those days of heavy casualties. His squadron had been on the right of our line, adjoining Conneau's Frenchmen on his left. His task was the holding of the soft sandy ground that had been so shell-swept the day before. Digging a deep trench line, his lot "sat tight" under a bombardment that had been terrific. A senior officer on the left of that position told me later in the day that for thirty-five minutes the bursting shells over Chance's squadron formed a curtain of fire that hid from sight the windmill just beyond.

Eight, sixteen, twenty-four, and then again eight, sixteen, twenty-four came the Black Marias in line. The ground in front of the trench was thrown up as by a series of mines. Then close behind the trench line, eight, sixteen, twenty-four, until the soft ground caved in in all directions and no trenches were left. Men were buried alive in squads.

Digging out those who had not been buried so deeply as to be hopelessly immured, Chance led his men back, through a hell of shrapnel fire, to the protection of a road-bank a little to the rear. Not a rifle was unchoked, and some time had to be spent in cleaning them. Wiping the sand and dirt from their mouths and eyes, they cheerfully followed the young officer up to the ruins of their trenches and began digging themselves in again.

Once more the German howitzers were turned on them, and once more they were buried in their obliterated trenches. Again Chance took the remnants of his squadron back to the road-bank. Realising the futility of further effort to hold the line where the trenches had been, he adopted the new position and improved it as best he could for defence. The wound in his hand, received during the early part of the morning, became so painful he came back to get it dressed, but before seeking the doctor he called on Mullins to acquaint the General of what had taken place, and to apologise for having to give up the part of the line that had been assigned to him.

Chance was only one of many youngsters who showed such mettle. Truly an army containing a multitude of youths of that mould may be well termed invincible. The lads among the officers were given full opportunity in the Messines fighting to show their worth. The few days on that front cost the 1st Cavalry Division seventeen officers killed and sixty wounded. The total Divisional casualties were not far from seven hundred.

It was evening before we gave up all hope of the success of the French "push," but it could not get on. Guns, guns, guns, all day. Aeroplanes sailed over friends and foes. The latter dropped streamers in the sunshine, and at dusk fire-balls, over us. Shells, shells, shells, till one wondered if the supply was inexhaustible. One of our airmen reported that our guns hit a German battery twice sure, and possibly three times. Our gunners said the Huns did our batteries no harm, in spite of the incessant shelling.

A G.H.Q. summary recorded that "the absence of men in the active l1st from amongst the prisoners captured during the last month is remarkable, and seems to point to the exhaustion of that class. Between the 14th and 20th of October 7,683 German prisoners have been interned in France, excluding wounded. News from Russia continues to be good."

That was the news from the outside world to us. Our news in return was no more or less than that we had "held on," and darkness had come on another day of continual struggle.

In the night the dismounted French cavalry filed past us in two long lines. On one side of the lane little fellows trotted along in red trousers, light blue tunics, and high-peaked blue caps to match, armed with short carbines and big sabres strapped to their backs, with a great blanket roll atop. On the other side marched the orthodox cuirassiers, tall forms in dark blue coats and capes, their helmets cased in cloth covers.

With every hour the enemy was to find our thin line growing stronger and his last chance of breaking through on that front fading away. The day cost the 4th Dragoon Guards two officers killed and two wounded and over thirty casualties among the men. Only seven officers in the 4th Dragoon Guards were left. The 9th Lancers, too, lost a couple of officers and several men from the everlasting shell-fire.

Conneau's attack brought his line 500 yards nearer the enemy.

Late at night the 2nd Cavalry Division took over our trenches, and we stood in support of them, the men gaining a momentary respite from five days of incessant battle, during which hardly a man, from general officers to troopers, had his boots off.

A sad incident marked the next day. Lieutenant George Marshall, of the nth Hussars, an aide on General Allenby's staff, and a universal favourite, went to Ypres with a fellow staff officer, as Cavalry Corps headquarters was resting. General Haig's headquarters were in a hotel in the square at Ypres. A big shell lit just outside, killing Colonel Marker of Haig's staff, and also instantly killing Marshall.

Our headquarters had been moved to a comfortable chateau — just in time, it proved. During the morning the Germans shelled Neuve Eglise, our former home, killing seven and wounding more, immediately in front of the house which had been our domicile for some nights past.

After a second day in support, our troopers again took over the trenches, which meant a night of hard work in the rain and mud. A night attack on the French position on Hill 75 had resulted in some success to the enemy, which made the connecting of our left with the French right a troublous matter in the wet darkness.

The morning of Friday, the 6th, was quiet; at least, judged by the standard of its predecessors. British optimism was at once forthcoming, as always, when given a ghost of a chance. A glimpse of the sun made all forget the mud underfoot. A G.H.Q. officer was authority for the rumour that the Germans were evidently preparing to "get out," and moving their howitzers back with that idea in view. All were willing to accept any cheerful interpretation that might be offered.

At noon the French gallantly attacked Hill 75 and won it nobly. With a trio of staff officers I tailed along across the fields ankle-deep in mud, watching the advance of the lines in blue. We could see little enough, but quick rushes up slopes not far ahead were now and then visible, and the rattle and roll of small-arm fire so close in front was inspiring. French troops charge over almost impassable ground with unbelievable rapidity.

Our first big 9.2 guns arrived, whereat there was unlimited rejoicing. For days after the arrival of the first one or two to be apportioned to our part of the front, marvellous tales of direct hits far inside the German lines were current.

Visits to the trenches near our old headquarters' inn in front of Wulverghem were daily increasing in interest, as that locality was never free from danger. A dozen howitzer shells fell round the ruined estaminet that day as we approached it, but luckily no more followed. The road beside the dead red cow, that I had adopted as shelter in the ditch, was torn by a great shell hole, and paving blocks had been scattered broadcast. Rifle- fire became an added d1straction while I was waiting on the hillside, stray bullets cutting leaves from the tall poplars that lined the roadway.



Heavy firing away to the north told of battle towards Ypres. We ran to General Allenby's headquarters on Mont Noir that evening and heard of fierce fighting in front of Klein Zillebeke. The French infantry had been violently attacked and driven out. The 7th Cavalry Brigade had been sent in to make good the line, as the retirement of the French uncovered the right of Lord Cavan's famous Guards Brigade. The 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Blues had won back the lost ground, but it had cost them dear. Colonel Wilson, of the Blues, and Hugh Dawnay, who had left French's staff to command the 2nd Life Guards, had been killed. Seventeen of the officers of the two regiments had been killed or wounded, and many of their men. To Lawford's 22nd Brigade also was due a good share of the glory of snatching victory from defeat.

Thus swung the tide of battle. One day, in one part of the line, it seemed the rush of onslaught had been stemmed, only to break forth with increased fury in another sector.

What would be the end?

We crawled home to our chateau through a heavy fog. The mud, the deep ruts in the broken pave, the great shell holes in the road, French troops and English along the way, horse and motor transport, an odd battery or two of guns changing position under cover of the night, motor-cars and motorcycles, all without lights, made such a run a trial of temper and of skill.

Colonel Seely called and provided some amusement to offset the strain.

Saturday, the 7th, came, wrapped in cold fog. All night the rifles had spat into the darkness, each side firing at the flashes when they showed dim through the m1st.

Once more we poked our way to the ruined estaminet that was our daily port of call. Just before nine o'clock Hardress Lloyd came back from the trenches, where he had gone with de Lisle. He said the General had walked down the line, and we were to make a detour through Wulverghem and meet him on the road to Wytschaete.

In the outer edge of Wulverghem we found a barricade across the street, which had been so solidly constructed that there was no question of pulling it down and getting the car through. Consequently Lloyd suggested that I should put the car under such shelter as I could find, while he walked down the road and explained to the General why we did not come further. I left the car in the lee of a wall while I went on a tour of inspection. I found no one in the village; at least, no one alive. There were four dead soldiers in the tartan of a Scottish contingent down one street, and three dead soldiers who had been laid out, with a sheet put over them. I discovered I was the only live person in the town, which was by no means consoling. A sharp burst of rifle fire started not far on the left, and I returned to the car. Our field-guns had been hard at it since daybreak, and so had those of the enemy, and the small-arm fire had also been heavy at intervals. The French were attacking, and the heavy high explosive German shells were going off with their double rrrumph-r-r-rumph not far away.

I sat on the step of the car, took out my notebook, and scribbled. My notes recorded the events of the next few minutes in detail that tells of effort to forget my nervousness.

"9 a. m. — Across the road from me is the convent building which was used as General Allenby's headquarters for some days recently. It is a sight. Every pane of glass in the first story windows is shattered, and many of those in the windows of the ground floor. A great gaping hole in the roof is surrounded by scores of smaller holes in the tiles. The roof as a roof is not of much further use.

"Bang! A shell has fallen in the town. Whizz! Bang! Another one just over me. To go on with my description of General Allenby's house (Bang! another), a big hole has been torn in the wall of the upper story (Bang! one has fallen closer still), and a s1ster to it appears in the side of the lower story.

"The four shells that last came this way appear to be shrapnel. The French guns are replying, and so are ours. Whizz! There went one that did not burst. Now for the other three to make up the quartette, as the German batteries are apparently firing in fours.

"9.5 a. m. Bang! That is number two. Close and just on my left. It exploded. Quite a shower of bits of debris and pieces of shell fell over me. Nasty sound. Bang! Number three. That was a good shell as well, also a bit to the left of me and a little further beyond. A couple of bullets from that one hit the convent. Whizz! and a crash just at my side. That was No. 4. Well over and in a fine position. Fortunate that it did not explode, as it could not have been more than eight or ten feet from where I sit, and just across the thin wall which is the best protection that I can find at this point. If it hadn't been a ' dud' they would have more than likely had to cart me out of this rotten town.

"9.8 a. m. Sometimes the German gunners stop after firing a series of eight, and sometimes after a series of twelve. Rarely with this itinerant shelling do they send more than two lots of four, or at the outside three lots of four. There are occasions when they keep it up for a long time. I wonder what will be their policy this morning as regards Wulverghem ? One more right where the last one lit would do the business so far as I am concerned.

"9.11 a. m. Beginning to feel better, for it looks as though the eight finished the salvo.

"9.13 a. m. The German shells are searching the vicinity of the town on both sides and in the front and all behind it, but the eight did finish that lot. What luck! They are looking for the French batteries which are firing steadily from quite a number of positions hereabouts. A French artillery officer has come up the road and greeted me with great cordiality. He asked me if I had seen another French officer in the uniform of his battery hereabouts. I have not, and told him so. We passed a joke about the fact. Wulverghem is a nice healthy spot at the moment, and I told him I thought the shell-fire had for the moment ceased. I was constrained to knock on a piece of wood beside me as I made the remark, which brought a curious glance from the Frenchman. Superstition apparently has no nationality.

"9.15 a. m. I dislike being the only occupant of a town that is being shelled. If I could have held the French officer for company I should have done so, but he has returned to his battery, after wishing me good luck.

"9.17 a. m. Here, at last, is the General, and I can get out of this place, and back to our headquarters, which I shall not be loth to do."

The General told me, as we returned, that he had been interested in watching the shelling. He, too, had been wondering whether the Germans had commenced a cons1stent bombardment of the town which would last for some time, or whether they were only dropping a couple of rounds of shrapnel thereabouts. He said, "When I saw they were shelling the town I knew that you would be having an engrossing few minutes, so I remained in the trenches a little while. It was quite as interesting to watch the shelling from that position as it would have been to observe it from Wulverghem, and I did not want to steal any of the enjoyment from you."

The K.O.S.B. and K.O.Y.L.I. went past us during the forenoon on their way to the line. The former regiment suffered -heavily during the last hours of the fighting in Messines. A captain told me all but two of his fellow officers were hit and the strength of the Battalion reduced by nearly 150 men.

French infantry moved to the right of our Wulverghem front and planned an attack on Messines for the afternoon. General de Lisle rode up to watch the progress of the French, and said I could come as far as our familiar ruined inn, see what I could, and bring him home when the show was over. At the French General's headquarters I learned that the attack on the slopes of Hill 75, where the line was swaying back and forth each day, was successful. A good length of trench was taken, the Germans leaving scores of their dead in it.

At the smashed estaminet howitzer shells were falling in sufficient numbers to dispel any illusions as to the withdrawal of the enemy's big guns from the Messines area. Odd rifle bullets hit a tree or a broken wall with a nasty smack, and the wicked zipp-zipp of the little fellows came every few seconds. Once a German machine-gun spattered that part of the hill, but the damaged house wall was good cover from any such missiles. The sound of Black Marias shrieking not far above and crashing into the pasture beyond was disconcerting, but they were doing no real damage.

By chance I discovered that a deep trench had been dug in the lee of a haystack that stood at the corner of the ruins of the farm across the road from the inn. There was safety. The field about the stack was littered with dead cows, and monster shell holes were thickly spattered in front of it.

I could see the French and German lines on the sides of Hill 75, not far across a ravine at the foot of the steep slope surmounted by my haystack.

The noise of the bursting German shells and the sharp barking of a number of batteries of seventy-fives behind me was painful. Black Marias fell near in search of the French guns. The noise really hurt me.

When under shell-fire, I have more than once tried to sense the pain of the constant banging as one might define physical suffering. My brain was sometimes numbed, sometimes made acutely sensitive to it. When the howitzer shells came in dozens and scores the sound waves have caused me positive agony of a mental sort. The sensation was indescribable. A tearing at my nerve-centres seemed like to wrench apart some imaginary fabric of feeling and sensibility. It grew unbearable, but generally subsided with a lull in the shelling, leaving me tired, as if having suffered physical pain.

The Oxfordshire Yeomanry were in our front trenches not far away, and one of their officers was on observation duty behind the stack. He saw a company of Germans file down a cross trench a couple of hundred yards in front of the French line on Hill 75, and at once told the French gunner who was observing in the trenches. Back ran the Frenchman to his battery, to point out the exact spot. In a moment the seventy-fives were sweeping the ridge in front of the French trenches. Back and forth and back again went the devastating shower of shrapnel. "Some observation," remarked the Yeomanry officer with a grin.

As de Lisle had suggested my going into the trenches and "talking to the boys" if I became lonesome, I crept along the roadside ditch that served as an approach trench. "Keep down," came the sharp order as I drew near. I stooped lower. In a tiny dug-out I chatted with a couple of Oxfordshire officers.

One of them, Lieutenant Gill, I had heard mentioned as having handled his men with great coolness on the morning we lost Messines, the first day the Oxfordshires were under fire. Shelled while lying in a beet-field, Gill had quietly moved his men a hundred yards from the path of the howitzer shells, which followed him to his newly-chosen position. Thereupon he as quietly moved the men back whence they had come, losing but few of them. Repeating this manoeuvre at intervals saved his squadron heavy casualties, and taught them that disregard of Black Marias on soft ground which is so hard to learn, but so comforting when once one has" thoroughly absorbed the idea.

The French attack on Messines "made some progress," but was stopped a long way from its objective.

News came at breakfast on Sunday the 8th of the heavy Ypres fighting of the day before. Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division and Lawford's 22nd Brigade were specially commended. Owing to them we regained practically all our lost line at Klein Zillebeke. The French on Haig's right had a terrific struggle and gained a mile.

On our immediate left Conneau reported that the enemy had evacuated some of the Wytschaete trenches, leaving their dead in considerable numbers. The attack on Messines was again to be pressed.

Taking advantage of the cool bright day, General de Lisle ran to the headquarters of the Indian Corps at Hinges. Twenty-three thousand of Willcocks' men were in the line, I was told. General gossip told of Seaforths, whose trenches had been invaded by Germans, only to be bayonetted to a man, and of Ghurkas who hated shell fire, and could not understand why they should sit still under it without retaliation of a personal sort.

The Germans pushed our 3rd Army troops back to the edge of the Ploegsteert Wood during the morning.

The French were confident night would find them in Messines, but were doomed to disappointment.

Waiting outside General Allenby's headquarters at Westoutre the next morning, a 3rd Cavalry Division officer told of a captain in his regiment, killed in front of Ypres, whose body had been found next day robbed of coat, cap, and boots. A l1stener retailed a story of a visit paid to a French battery by an officer in an English staff uniform. He spoke good French, and showed no less intelligence than interest in the position and the battery's work. Two other British officers came past. Noting the khaki, they called out a query as to the route to a near-by town, and were answered in French. Neither of them had any proficiency in the Latin tongue, and said so feelingly.

"What swank!" said one to the other; "the beggar must want to show off in front of the French chaps."

"Please direct us in English," he concluded to the staff officer. "Sorry to have bothered you."

But not a word of English could they obtain in reply. About to depart in mystification and somewhat ruffled in temper, one became suspicious.

A moment sufficed to prove the pseudo staff officer a sham. He was no other than a German spy in British uniform.

A subaltern of the Warwickshires rode up asking the way to Bailleul. The 2nd Royal Warwicks, the 2nd Queen's (West Surreys), the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and the 1st South Staffords composed Law-ford's 22nd Brigade, which had loomed large in despatches. We piled question on question. The Brigade was retiring from the line for rest, said the Warwick lad. Of its original 124 officers only fourteen were left, and its men were reduced to less than half the strength in which they had left England. When the enemy broke through between Cavan and the French the 22nd Brigade and the 3rd Cavalry Division were hurled into the breach. Out of the fourteen officers left in the 22nd eleven were killed or wounded, leaving only three, including Lawford himself, who led one bayonet charge in person. "The General," said the young officer, "Pegged on ahead of all of us, waving a big white stick over his head and shouting like a banshee.

There was no stopping him. He fairly walked into the Germans, and we after him on the run. We took the German trench in front of us and held it, but they mowed us down getting up there. How Lawford escaped being hit is more than anyone can tell. I can see him now, his big stick waving in the air, and he shouting and yelling away like mad, though you couldn't hear a word of what he said above the sinful noise. My Sam, he did yell at us! Wonder what he said? "

The boy rode off down the road in a brown study. It had just struck him he hadn't heard a word his chief had been shouting. He had come through that awful charge alive — one of few to do so. Yet he forgot all that. His own part in the fight never entered his head. "Wonder what he said?" And he rode away thinking.

Oh, such men! Could the whole world beat them ?

That afternoon I met General Lawford himself in Bailleul, looking fit as a fiddle. After great efforts I persuaded him to dine with us that night at our chateau, on condition that I should convey him there and back, and "not keep him more than an hour," as he was busy.

Someone from St. Omer told me the "Terriers" were coming out in increasing numbers. The ioth Liverpool, 5th Black Watch, and Leicestershire Yeomanry were across the Channel, soon to be followed by other Territorial Battalions.

General de Lisle had watched with increasing interest the splendid observation of the French gunners and the terrible execution of their seventy-fives. Taking Major Wilfred Jelf, our Divisional gunner, he ran to the ruined estaminet in front of Wulverghem to spend an hour or so watching French gun practice.

As I pulled up at the familiar spot I saw ample evidence that the Germans had been paying marked attention to our former headquarters since my last visit. Six or eight new and good-sized shell holes showed black in the soft earth of a nearby field.

The rickety old chair I had rescued from the debris a few days before and placed in the lee of the wall was smashed and tossed aside, A stretcher which had stood against the wall for some days was broken in pieces. The pave road was badly battered, the grey stones of the surface being spattered with holes of varying sizes and ground to white powder. Odd-looking little holes those, and sin1ster in appearance, telling of flying splinters of stone, not less deadly than pieces of shell.

As we crossed the road and entered what had once been the gateway of a farm, one of the buildings, a mass of ruins well burned out, was blazing fitfully.

Two partially burned rifles were mute evidence that some soldiers had been about when the building had been struck.

Of the two buildings that still bore some semblance of their original form, one had been as completely demolished by high explosive shell as had its fellow consumed by the flames. It had not caught fire, but shell after shell had passed through it till the mere skeleton of a building was left.


in the British trenches at Ypres


A signal corps man in a trench behind a haystack at the corner of the farm reported that his wire had been cut half a dozen times by shells that afternoon. While cut off from all possibility of communicating with his fellows, he busied himself by counting the German shells. During the first thirty minutes he had counted fifty that had fallen within a short radius.

The German gunners were evidently of the opinion that the French batteries were closer to the estaminet.

In order to reach the French observation officer we walked down the road in the direction of the front trench. The enemy trenches at this point were about four hundred yards from our line. It was growing dusk. We covered a quarter of the d1stance, when a shrapnel, followed closely by three more, burst almost over our heads. Had we been in the field on the other side of the hedge beside which we were walking we should have been in the direct path of the shrapnel bullets. All three of us stepped down into the ditch that ran by the roadway. I ducked as low as possible as we quickened our pace to the trench in front of us. Four more shells, closer it seemed than the first four, burst over us just as we reached the shelter of the trenches. The General and Jeff went into a tiny dug-out with two officers of the 2nd Life Guards, and I crawled on my hands and knees into the mouth of the main trench. This trench was fairly deep, and at the bottom the men had hollowed out a snug shelter underneath the front wall. The men, lying head to feet at the bottom of the trench, well under the cave roof, were quite secure.

The French batteries behind us began a fast and furious reply. The enemy's fire quickened in turn until shells were bursting with nerve-racking regularity over the roadway immediately behind us.

I could find no room in the bottom, so lay in the approach part of the trench. How I did wish for a foot or two more depth to the end of the trench that was left to me !

The French batteries continued to fire steadily. They were shelling a farm in the near d1stance in which the enemy had placed a group of machine guns. As dusk approached apace, the Germans were afforded an increasingly better target by the flash of the seventy-fives close behind us. After fifteen or twenty minutes of nerve exercise the General decided that he must return to the car. So many successive quantities of shrapnel were bursting over the road that to return by the way we had come seemed suicidal. The Germans now and again turned their guns on to the ruined inn and the farm. I told Jeff I was sure they knew we had to go back there for the car. But jokes fell a bit flat in that atmosphere.

Finally the General tried a detour. Walking down the road a few yards, we turned across it, when we reached our trench line on the further side. I glanced down in the trenches as we went behind them. The men were lying tight and close at the bottom. A French observer who was in the hedge by our side warned us to keep low on account of the French shells that were screaming over our heads.

As we turned back towards the car the French guns seemed to throw more vigour into their firing. The swift rush of the shells and the sharp bark from the muzzles of the seventy-fives so little d1stant made one think uncomfortably of prematures. Once in a while shells will burst before their time and scatter from the very mouth of the field-piece death and disaster to him who chances to be in the near foreground.

A bough from a low tree under which I was standing was cut by one of the French shells. I ducked and involuntarily jumped for a near-by trench. I was at once called back by the General, who was off across the open space before I could catch up. As I stepped through the hedge a rain of German shrapnel, from twelve to sixteen coming at once, burst over the part of the field just ahead of de Lisle.

We could not veer further towards the French batteries, as to cross their line of fire at any closer proximity would have been madness. It was equally unwise to stay where we were. To return to the trench which we had been occupying might very well have landed us in difficulties, and, at all events, would find us no nearer our objective — the car and "home."

The General walked steadily across the field, unmindful of the shrapnel. I was never more sure of being hit. I hardly know whether I was paying more attention to the French guns roaring away and their shells whizzing over our heads or to the enemy's shrapnel bursting in front of us, on our right, over us, seemingly everywhere about us. I kept my eyes strained in the dusk for shell holes which were deep enough to offer some shelter. Had I been alone I would have run, I think, rabbit-wise from burrow to burrow rather than walk so steadily and with such maddening slowness across that awful beet-field.

In the centre of the field we suddenly stumbled across an empty trench. Much to my delight the General suggested that we should retire into it for a moment. As I lay prone in the bottom of it the shells continued to come over, bursting not far above. We were quite secure unless a shell actually came into the trench and burst, in which circumstance we would have been, as Jeff said, "finished up properly and consequently beyond all worry." Turning their attention from the field for a moment, the Germans began to burst shrapnel over the ruined estaminet. Time and again the Major, after a particularly violent burst of shell, remarked, "That lot finished the car thoroughly, I think." De Lisle was of like opinion. I said that I hoped that the Germans would keep on firing at the car. It was much better than to burst big and little ones all around us. "But," said the General, "I certainly don't want to walk home."

"I do," said I. "I would be quite willing to walk home and walk back again to get out of this."

Once or twice we started to leave the trench, but each time the French batteries seemed to quicken their fire and the enemy shelled back violently in return. When it was almost dark we cut across to a line of trees, then up towards the road, leaving the tree line for the temporary shelter of a low haystack in an open field not far from the motor. I sallied forth to the car, losing no time. I started the engine, jumped quickly into the seat, and dashed away from the estaminet. Pausing a moment to pick up the General and Jeff by the haystack, I sped down the hill towards safety.

Inspection of the car on the following morning showed a couple of jagged holes in the sides of the body. A large piece of shell had gone through an empty petrol tin, and ruined a rug in the tonneau. So but little damage was done after all, save to my nerves.

We were gaining the belief that German high-explosive shrapnel defeated its own object. The propulsive power necessary to scatter the bullets was often counteracted by too powerful a bursting charge.

Lawford dined with us as promised, and told us something of the hard times that had fallen to the lot of the 7th Division, which had but forty-four of its officers left and only 2,336 of its 12,000 men.

The 1st Cavalry Division was once more in the trenches on the morning of Tuesday the 10th. General de Lisle started early for the front. We passed Neuve Eglise, running to the Brewery Inn on the Kemmel road. Marks of shell-fire showed this spot an enemy target, so it was voted unhealthy for headquarters. A point near Wulverghem was reconnoitred, but dead horses were near-by in such numbers and state that we returned to Neuve Eglise and settled in our old home. German shells came daily to Neuve Eglise, a fact that caused some thought to more than one member of the staff.

The location of headquarters for the day having been settled, we visited General Briggs on the Kemmel road, then ran to Wulverghem.

De Lisle rode in front, beside me. Hardress Lloyd was in the tonneau.

At the entrance of the town I glanced at the General questioningly. "Surely," I thought, "he is not going up to that unmentionable ruined inn again. The place is a death-trap."

"Straight on," said de Lisle. Yes, he was going to the estaminet after all.

I set my teeth and "let the car out."

Three seconds later, "Crash! " a shell exploded in our faces. The sound of splintered glass and of the shell striking the car mingled with the deafening blast of the explosion. Bullets whizzed past, striking on all sides. A French soldier close to whom we were passing dropped with a groan.

I felt a sharp blow in the chest and a twinge of pain as I caught my breath.

I reached for the brake. "The General," I thought, "must be hit. Lucky I appear to be all right. Now to back round and clear out before number two shell comes."

"Back out of it," came from de Lisle, with sufficient emphasis to show he was alive, right enough.

I tried to put in the reverse, a maddening process on my car at the best of times. Force! Force! the gear would not go in. Any moment number two and numbers three and four, for that matter, might arrive. At last the reverse grated home and I started back.

Turning, I saw de Lisle was sound and unhurt. But Hardress! His face was in his hands, his head bent. Hit! And in the head! I was sure of it. But no, a moment later he assured us he was all right bar bits of glass from the splintered screen that had got into his eyes.

Backing as fast as I could, I narrowly missed a French soldier who had fallen behind us, sorely wounded. Swinging the car round, I headed for Neuve Eglise. No need to stop for the French boy, whose comrades were close at hand. Away we dashed. "Crash !" came another shell as we tore out of the town. I never learned where it struck; all I know was that we were clear of it.

A good-sized piece of shell had hit the heavy plate-glass screen, shattered it to bits, and luckily glanced past the General and struck me in the chest. Had I known of its coming the night before I could hardly have been better prepared. Feeling the cold weather intensely, I had worn an unusual amount of clothing.

A heavy flannel vest, a thick winter khaki shirt, a weird sweater, double-breasted, annexed in Rheims, and my tunic were covered by a double-breasted Irish freize coat. This last had been sent out to me by m1stake, as it was dark grey in colour. So unorthodox a garment could not be worn along the lines without a plentiful display of khaki. Consequently I had wrapped round my neck a huge khaki muffler of thickly-knitted wool, tying its ample folds at the chin, and letting its double ends provide me with a wide front of the prevailing shade.

The piece of shell tore its way through the double folds of muffler and played havoc with the great coat. None of the remainder of my voluminous wardrobe suffered, but my breast-bone felt the shock. It was some time before I could believe that it or various ribs attached to it had not been broken. Time proved that a bad bone bruise was the extent of my injuries after all. As the General hadn't a scratch and Lloyd's eyes were none the worse, all ended merrily, save for the car.

A halt at a French headquarters along the road showed that a shrapnel bullet had penetrated the radiator, passing through it, and leaving a clean hole, from which the water was spouting.

"No water of any sort at this farm," said a French staff officer. I hurried on to Neuve Eglise, and from there took the damaged vehicle back to the base for repair.

A halting, limping run found me in St. Omer by afternoon, hors de combat, but hoping soon to be ready to return to duty.



The Battle in the Salient

Wednesday, November 11th, marked the onset of the great attack on Ypres by the Prussian Guard.

The Kaiser had spurred his Bavarians, Landwehr and Landsturm to superhuman efforts. No troops could have fought with greater bravery, but they fought in vain. Their failure to hammer a hole in the thin British line left William the War Lord but one arrow in his quiver — the Guard.

The onslaught of Germany's most seasoned veterans was in keeping with their proud name.

The enemy hurled itself simultaneously against the line held by Haig's depleted 1st Corps, the 32nd and 9th French Corps on his left and the 16th French Corps on his right. Heroic charges were repulsed with enormous loss to the oncoming Battalions, which dashed themselves in solid masses against men to whom fighting had become as natural as drawing breath.

Haig's troops met the brunt of the fight along the Menin road, in the vicinity of Gheluvelt. One Division of the German Guard Corps, a portion of the 15th German Corps and a portion of the 27th Reserve Corps surged forward indomitably, and drove our 1st Division from its first line of trenches, only to have the most of the ground gained torn from them by such counter attacks as warfare had never seen before.

The story was told simply and effectively by Haig's general order of the 12th. This read as follows:

"The Commander-in-Chief has asked me to convey to the troops under my command his congratulations and thanks for their splendid res1stance to the German attack yesterday. This attack was delivered by some fifteen fresh Battalions of the German Guard Corps, which had been specially brought up to carry out the task in which so many other Corps had failed, viz: to crush the British and force a way through to Ypres.

"Since their arrival in this neighbourhood the 1st Corps, ass1sted by the 3rd Cavalry Division, 7th Division, and troops from the 2nd Corps, have met and defeated the 23rd, 26th and 27th German Reserve Corps, the 15th Active Corps, and finally a strong force from the Guards Corps. It is doubtful whether the annals of the British Army contain any finer record than this."

De Lisle's 1st Cavalry Division came out of the line in front of Messines on the evening of the nth for a well-earned seventy-two hours' rest. For ten days little or no opportunity had been given to take stock of heavy casualties and refit.

The men left the trenches on Wednesday afternoon,, and at dinner on Wednesday night orders came to Headquarters that the Division must move to Ypres at once in support of Haig's men, to whom, after three weeks of constant battle, had fallen the task of repulsing the fiercest attack of the whole war.

The 1st Cavalry Brigade was on the road to the north by n p. m. and the 2nd Cavalry Brigade an hour later, all thought of the seventy-two hours' rest forgotten, eager to press on to the succour of their gallant comrades, with such strength as in them lay. That strength was not to be gauged by their attenuated numbers, for the troopers, who had held on to Messines till the ridge was lost and their withdrawal ordered in consequence, were equal to a force of the enemy outnumbering them by six to one.

The 12th they spent in the salient in reserve, and on the 13th, Friday, they took their places in the line and showed their temper to the Prussian guardsmen.

My shell-smashed radiator temporarily repaired, and my chest better for a few days' doctoring, I rejoined the Division on Friday evening, as it was going into action.

The days required for the repair I had spent in St. Omer, at G.H.Q. Rain fell unceasingly. The work on the car was carried on in the open, regardless of the storm, the mechanics standing ankle deep in a quagmire of ooze and mud. Efficient repair seemed well-nigh impossible under such circumstances, though the men worked like Trojans. Oftentimes they toiled far into the night, for no matter how diligently they strove, broken down cars surrounded them in droves, their impatient drivers clamouring ceaselessly. Poor Scott, the A.S.C. Captain in charge of the repair park, was vainly trying to do the work of ten men.

Hieing to the cosy Cafe Vincent I delivered myself to the tender min1strations of a pretty auburn-haired waitress, who had become the pet of junior officers at General Headquarters. The soup was excellent, and then came sardines. Heavens, was I never to escape them! Sardines, alternated with their more lowly blood-brethren maquereaux, had dogged our footsteps for months. Even in the most opulent hostelry in St. Omer they followed me relentlessly.

After a careful search of the town I found a yardstick marked with inches, the property of a local draper. From it I made a tape measure. With a friend's ass1stance careful figures were compiled and despatched to my London tailor. A winter uniform was a necessity. Aghast at such a falling off in my ample proportions, the man of scissors and thread in London town obeyed my behests. A month later the new clothes arrived. To my horror they were so small I could not get into them. Research showed the St. Omer yardstick to have been a delusion and a snare. Its inches were marked for profit, not for accuracy.

An evening in the Hotel du Commerce at St. Omer was great fun. Harry Dalmeny, Shea, Baker-Carr, Hindlip, and kindred spirits gathered at dinner. Marlborough was sometimes present. Jack Seely discoursed at length on subjects concerning all and sundry, Dalmeny ever joking him unmercifully. A stranger whose ears caught the conversation would have been shocked to hear Seely told that all ills of the Army were due to rottenness of the admin1stration of his office on the part of that Min1ster for War who held the portfolio the year preceding the outbreak of hostilities. But Seely was imperturbable. Nothing ruffled him. Not even Dalmeny's oft-told tale of Seely — "I am Colonel Seely. I have been directed by the Commander-in-Chief to receive and impart information." This, according to Dalmeny, was the invariable formula hurled at staff officers dashing past in the heat of battle or in the stress of frantic hurry at some critical moment of the retreat. It was all good fun. Every man present knew Seely as a very gallant officer. F. E. Smith's languid sarcasm glanced off the hardened front of this gay gathering like feathered shafts from a coat of mail. Freddie Guest and Guy Brooke were neither of them strangers to the party.

An unusually severe downpour made my departure from St. Omer for Ypres a wet business on Friday, the 13th. I missed the comfort of a hood. A new hood for my car had been ordered from England, but was to lie, mislaid, at Woolwich Arsenal for many a long week.

Past Cassel on its hill-top, the road lined with camions awaiting French reinforcements, soon to disentrain from the south, I sped to Steenvoorde and Poperinghe. A veritable nightmare, that run. Of all the maddening road obstructions the Algerian horse and cart column easily took first prize.

At Poperinghe application to Headquarters of Echelon B of Haig's Corps produced the information that the 1st Cavalry Division was "somewhere on the Menin road, east of Ypres." I was recommended to "proceed through Ypres and push on east a few miles, then enquire again." Cheerful!

A newly-fledged fleet of Red Cross ambulances worked its way autocratically on toward my goal, and I fell into its perturbed wake. At last, a block — impassable. West of Ypres, at the railway-crossing, traffic was banked up like a log-jam. French horse-transport, side by side with ubiquitous British lorry drivers in considerable force, tried to forge eastward over, around, or between a column of French cavalry and a Brigade of British field-guns, which were pers1stently disputing the right of way to the west. French officers shouted orders to English gunners, who swore softly, while a British officer ploughed through the sticky mud and drenching rain, urging reason on French cuirassiers, who politely wondered what in the world he wanted. A tired jehu behind the wheel of a lorry laughed loudly as a flare showed a mud-plastered sergeant who had lost the road, his footing, and his temper. At the roar of merriment his woe-begone appearance produced, he let loose a searing blast of reproof that was in itself a liberal education in expletive. The driver's laugh subsided to a chuckle, then died in wonder at the storm it had unwittingly raised.

Entranced, I watched the scene till I caught sight of Major Macalpine-Leny, of the 1st Cavalry Division Staff. Hailing him, I learned de Lisle's whereabouts, and pushed on, when the block cleared, to Divisional Headquarters on the outskirts of Ypres.

From Ypres the flash of guns showed through the pitch dark of the rainy night in front, to left and to right. German shells were falling in most unexpected quarters. No rule or reason seemed connected with their arrival, save to make night hideous with their din and chance a hit at bodies of troops or transport moving in the night.

Howitzer shells exploding near at hand, momentarily flashing from the blackness ahead, produce a picturesque effect for all their terrifying detonations.

The 1st Corps units our Division relieved were sadly cut to bits. One Battalion cons1sted of but two officers and sixty men. Another had only one officer left, and numbered less than two score all told. We found a Brigade headquarters with a major in command, whose brigade-major was a subaltern.

Oil all sides stories could be heard of terrible slaughter inflicted on the enemy. The Guard had come as if on parade, men said. Whole regiments had withered away under a stream of fire, and others relentlessly advanced over their dead bodies as if unmindful of their own certain fate. A gunner told me one Battalion of the Prussians had broken through our line and marched straight towards our guns. Coming within one hundred yards of his battery, they had literally been blown back from the very cannon's mouth, leaving 500 of their dead in ghastly heaps to mark the limit of their bold advance.

I saw half a hundred prisoners, huddled in the rain, examined by lantern-light. Fine, big men, broad-shouldered and tall. They looked defiance on their captors, as if to remind the hated English they were German Guardsmen still, though their teeth were drawn and their comrades littered the slopes they had thought to win.

Haig's heroes were generous in their tales of German bravery. Death held no terrors for the Guard, they said. I was often reminded of this as the days wore on. The German line would surge up to our trenches only to be swept away, the remnants staggering back from the withering fire. Recovering from the shock of the recoil, small detachments, twos and threes, dozens, or perhaps a score, would come trudging back where death was being dealt out with lavish hand. Some marched boldly, more came doggedly. Many were seen advancing with an arm across their eyes. These futile manoeuvres, always ending in the total annihilation of such a group, were inexplicable until a captured German officer gave the key. Men of some Battalions, he said, ever remembered that their regiments had never known and never could know retreat. Death, yes, but not retirement. There was no place at the rear for them, so they went on to join their fellow comrades in a glorious death.

It was better so, from our standpoint. Every dead German meant one less with whom to deal. It may have been magnificent, though none but Prussians would have called it war.

Haig's troops held men who never thought they would have an active role in the Ypres fighting. Cooks, orderlies, officers' servants, and transport men were called into the line to reinforce the thin Battalions.

I saw soldiers who had spent eighteen continuous days and nights in the actual firing line without respite or reprieve. No billets for them, save the water and mud in the bottom of the trenches, to which they were hanging by tooth and nail. Bearded, unwashed, Sometimes plagued with vermin, the few who remained in that front line were a terrible crew.

One of their officers, unshaven, unkempt and unbelievably dirty, told me the remnants of his command might be divided into three classes. One or two had succumbed to the frightful physical strain and were broken past all probable recovery. The rest were sullen or fierce, according to temperament, equally to be dreaded as fighting units. Whether they killed with a lustful joy, half-wildly, or with the deadly matter-of-fact calm of desperate determination, killing had become the one paramount business of the hour, and never ceased for long.

Such was the handful of bull-dog breed against which five to one and even heavier odds of the flower of the greatest Army in the world's h1story threw itself in vain.

No more glorious achievement rests to the credit of the British Army than that of Haig's sorely tried 1st Corps in the first battle of Ypres.

The fight was by no means over by the 13th. For four days more the struggle was waged with unvarying effort, on the part of the Germans, to break through.

The early morning of Saturday, the 14th, gave me my first sight of the destruction wrought in the ancient Flemish city. Great cavities in the streets and piles of debris, ever increasing in number, made Ypres barely passable for motor traffic. The Menin road was under constant shell fire, which made me thankful that our Headquarters were on the Zonnebeke road, between Potijze and Verlorenhoek. A room in a modest dwelling served as headquarters. A stream of wounded soldiers, French and British, rolled back towards Ypres. Ambulances passed and repassed, crowded with shattered forms. They had little room for a wounded man able to walk back to a dressing station.

The British line crossed the Menin road about a mile west of Gheluvelt. The irregular front followed the eastern edge of the woods on both sides of the road. The position was well "dug in," and tunnels and underground rooms were scattered here and there.

South of the highway, the opposing lines, a few yards apart, ran through the grounds of the Herenthage Chateau. The Chateau was held by the enemy. Our troops were in possession of the barn. By a fierce attack during the morning the Germans captured this barn, and we heard of the organization of a night attack to regain it.

The salient was alive with French and English batteries. The noise of their firing was ever with us, augmented by a continual shower of enemy shells. Sharp intermittent bursts of rain hourly spread a thicker covering of slimy mud over the road surfaces. The temperature fell rapidly, and night closed in cold and dreary.

The Northumberland Fusiliers made the attack on the Herenthage Barn. It failed, and the officer who led the assault was killed. A gunner officer volunteered to wheel a field piece to within a couple of hundred yards of the barn and smash it at close range. Five shrapnel were hurled into the stronghold, and a sergeant led the Northumberlands a second time to the attack. This time the charge was successful, and the position was won. The shattered building was a shambles. In addition to its defenders, it had contained a number of wounded when the five shells came crashing through it. Not a soul within its walls was left alive.

An effort to reach Ypres after dusk landed us in a hopeless tangle on the Zonnebeke road. A column of Yeomanry transport, badly handled and very badly driven, was the initial cause of the trouble. The mud in the roadway was ankle to knee deep, and the ditch alongside full of black slime. An R. E. lot from one direction and a long column of French cavalry from the other added to the confusion. One cuirassier became mired — his horse fell, and he disappeared beneath the mud in the ditch. The driver of a mess cart, who constantly reiterated that he was of the "'Erts," tipped his vehicle over in the midst of the melee. Hours passed before the tangled skein was unwound. A dozen shells had fallen along that road a few hours before. A dozen more would have caused trouble awful to contemplate had the German gunners known of the jam.

We dined to the accompaniment of bursting Black Marias, though none fell nearer than a couple of hundred yards from us.

Sunday brought a driving sleet. A run down the Menin road and back found it so torn and smashed as to be practically irripassable for a car. All day shells traced its length from the trenches back to Ypres. No man who traversed it in those days finished his journey without wondering he had not been hit. Hourly I "strafed" the respective shells that had smashed my hood and screen. The sleet made the work of driving bitterly cold.

Still the troops held back the German attacks, and piled up their dead in front of our trench line.

Our own part of the line saw less fighting than other sections that day. An attack by a party of sixty or seventy of the enemy was pushed on as if forced from the rear. One of our staff officers suggested that the German commanders might find it necessary to promulgate some sort of an attack each day, no matter how small its area or how remote its chances of success, "to provide the daily notes for their official diaries."

Numbers of German dead lay close to our trenches. An officer of the 4th D.G.'s was asked why he didn't clear away one corpse that could be reached by a bayonet from the trench. "Oh, sir," the officer replied naively, "he is quite inoffensive."

Lord Cavan was almost a demi-god in the eyes of his devoted men, whose position adjoined ours. What was left of the West Kents, Munsters, Grenadiers, Coldstreams, Irish Guards and London Scottish were in Cavan's force. His personality had figured largely in the stubborn defence of the line. No words could paint his services in too glowing colours.

The German snipers merited and soon gained our full respect. From thirty to one hundred yards from our line in their own trenches, or concealed individually in the wood, woe to the man who unduly exposed himself in front of them. Some of them had notorious records. One at a point in front of Cavan's force had hit nine West Kents, two Grenadiers and a Munster. None of our men could locate him.

Sniping at the Germans was most diverting work. An officer of the 9th Lancers took out a trio of sharpshooters, and in an hour was offered a target at one hundred yards, which enabled his men to "get" four of the enemy.

Monday one of our Brigades was in reserve. The men busied themselves in more or less futile efforts to dry out. The rain never ceased for long.

French troops arrived hourly, and the ferocity of the German attacks seemed to wane somewhat.

That night the 1st Cavalry Brigade was relieved, and sent back to billets in the Flemish farms north of Caestre and Fletre. The next night, Wednesday the 18th, the 2nd Brigade followed to billets in the Mont des Cats-Berthen area.

The ground was white with snow. Incessant rains had turned to freezing blizzards. The Prussian Guard had failed, and the line had held. The first battle of Ypres was finished.

The French troops took over the whole of the Ypres salient. To the British Expeditionary Force was assigned twenty miles of front, to be held by four Infantry Corps. The 1st Cavalry Division was promised four days' rest before a few days in the trenches in front of Kemmel.



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