Les Eparges | 06 Apr 1915

Let’s see what the French managed to achieve yesterday at Les Eparges, shall we? Elsewhere, the German Sapper continues trying not to die, the Friendly Feldwebel goes back up the line, and in Britain, Kitchener’s Army continues training.

Les Eparges

Once again, a major French attack has achieved very little. Their attack has come as something of a surprise to the defenders of Les Eparges. However, this is mostly because of how foul the weather has been recently. It’s been far too wet to dig any jumping-off trenches. The men have had to cross sodden ground to reach the enemy trenches; and they’ve had to cross far more of it than the 100 metres or so recommended distance.

When they arrived, they found that plenty of the shells have just sunk into the wet ground without exploding. Visibility is still poor, and the hilly terrain is making it very difficult for the artillery observers to see where the shells are falling. The barbed wire is almost entirely uncut, and they’ve spent the night lying out in shell-holes while a few brave souls go in with wire cutters.

By the end of today, a few lucky souls have captured about 500 metres of German trench, and are now looking around to find themselves disturbingly alone. Lots of the men have been cut down in No Man’s Land without catching sight of a German. General Dubail orders the assault renewed against the southern face of Les Eparges.

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Kitchener’s Army

Meanwhile, in Blighty, the training of Kitchener’s Army continues. The men are living on hearty meals. They’ve been drilling furiously. A large amount of their time has been spent digging practice trenches or going on endless route marches. They’d started with marches of five miles over easy ground with no packs. By now, many battalions are going for fifteen or twenty miles at a time. Their packs are often being loaded with slabs of lead to stand in for ammunition and equipment.

The slabs were known as “Kitchener’s chocolate”, and reputedly, the progress of the route marches could be tracked by following the trail of discarded slabs. (Naturally, being caught would result in an immediate carpet parade and plenty of fatigues for the hapless miscreant.) One captain also reports his men having trouble working out how to properly sing on the march. The issues are many, but some of the battalions have already progressed to making up their own songs. This one is to the tune of the then-popular tune “By the Side of the Zuyder Zee” (also known as “Diamonds in Amsterdam”).

I’ve seen maggots in Tickler’s Jam, Tickler’s Jam, Tickler’s Jam
I’ve seen maggots in Tickler’s Jam, crawling round
And if you get some inside your tum
They’ll crawl through til they bite your bum
So watch what you’re sucking
Next time you eat fucking Old Tickler’s Jam!

Tickler’s Jam was the standard accompaniment to Army biscuits. If nothing else, the New Army is starting to learn how to swear like soldiers. And there is one rather important thing they lack; rifles and ammunition. Both are in extremely short supply due to the appetite of the men on active service. Without rifles or ammunition, they can’t learn to shoot. If they can’t learn to shoot, they can’t pass the musketry training. And if they can’t do that, there’s no hope of them being ready for active service any time soon…

German Sapper

The German Sapper has been persuaded that it won’t be complete suicide to renew the attack in Vauquois. He gathers up his grenades, and lighting the fuses with the lit end of a cigar, he begins bombing a French machine-gun post while the infantry attempts to distract its defenders.

An infantryman close to me was shot through one ear, half of which was cut into pieces. The blood was streaming down his neck. I had no more material except some wadding, which I attached to his wound and bandaged with insulating ribbon, for insulating wires. In quick succession I threw six grenades at the machine-gun. I don’t know how many of them took effect, but the rags of uniforms flying about and a demolished machine-gun said enough. When we advanced, later on, I observed three dead men lying round the machine-gun.

It’ll be a while before he advances. One machine-gun is out of action, but more are being brought forward by the French.

Friendly Feldwebel

Meanwhile, the Friendly Feldwebel is back in the Devil’s Hole at Le Mesnil. Morale plummets precipitiously, and then…

We had hardly arrived when Rogge instructed us to prepare for a night attack. The men got a mixture of tea and ninety per cent alcohol. Our attack, which was met with no success, was led by Captain Baron von der Recke, who was seriously wounded.

Tomorrow, it’ll be the Feldwebel’s turn.

Kitchener, Hamilton and Maxwell

Lord Kitchener sends a cable today to General Maxwell, commander of the forces garrisoning the Suez Canal. It’s quite unambiguous. Maxwell must turn over any troops that Sir Ian Hamilton requests for use on Gallipoli. Maxwell must also tell Hamilton about the telegram. For some reason, Kitchener has not seperately informed Hamilton of what he’s told Maxwell. For some reason, this strikes me as completely, nonsensically bizarre. Why on earth would Kitchener not tell Hamilton? Morons.

Actions in Progress

Battle of Woevre

Further Reading

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

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