We know that there’s a new push coming at the Isonzo. General Cadorna is so determined to do something with Fourth Isonzo that some of the wrecked units who’ve just fought Third Isonzo aren’t being rotated out of the line; they’re just getting reinforcement-drafts and they’ll be expected to fight again. For some reason, his conception of the battle of Italian numbers vs Austro-Hungarian morale doesn’t leave any room to consider that his own men are also subject to morale. And in regiments such as that of Colonel Viola, who haven’t been taken out of the line, there’s precious little morale to go round. Lack of food, shelter, and sleep will do that to anyone.
Trooper Clarke, who we heard from a while ago, is back up the line squelching about on sentry duty, when he runs into an old friend.
Looking over the top through the periscope we could see Jerry’s line about fifty yards in front. I thought, “Blimey, that’s in bombing range, isn’t it?” We had to keep our eye on him all night. Me being the left-hand man there was no-one at the side of me, so I had to go through a lot of trenches to make contact with the infantry on our left. Blow me if I didn’t come across the dead Welsh Fusilier again! Only there was hardly anything left of him by then. I felt responsible for him, don’t know why. So I popped him back in the side of the trench again. That was the last I saw of him.
Try to hold onto your lunch.
The mess in Greece continues. King Constantine I’s latest wheeze to keep former prime minister Venizelos out of office is to appoint Stephanos Skouloudis to form a grand coalition, attempting to split Venizelos off from his supporters and thereby avoid fresh elections that might grant Venizelos a renewed democratic mandate to take power. We’ll see how that one goes. In the meantime, the Entente governments have just agreed a large loan to be offered to the Greek government as long as they play nicely and don’t mess around in Salonika. This ain’t going away, yo.
Lieutenant Bernard Adams is going back up the line, and takes us in detail through the process of taking over a position.
We marched off at 9am and halted at 11 for dinner. Luckily the weather was fine. The piled arms, the steaming dixies, and the groups of men sitting about eating and smoking made for a pleasant sight. Our grub was put by mistake onto the mess-cart, which went straight on to the trenches! Edwards, however, our Company mess president, came up to the scratch with bread, butter, and eggs.
Off we went to our HQ. There we got down into the communication trench, and in single file were taken by guides to our part of the trenches. These guides were sent by the battalion we were relieving. All the trenches have names, which are painted on boards hung up at the trench corners. The first thing done was to post sentries along our front. Until this was done, the outgoing battalion could not out-go. Each man has his own firing position, and he always occupies it at stand-to.
Each officer was on duty for eight hours, during which he must be actually in the front trench. My watch was 12 to 4 AM and PM. Work that out with stand-to in the morning [at dawn, usually about 4:30AM in winter or thereabouts] and evening [at dusk, about 5PM or thereabouts], and you will see that consecutive sleep is not easy! On paper 6 to 12 midnight looks good, but remember: dinner at 7 or 7:30, while you may also have to turn out at any time if you are being shelled at all. One night I was just turning in early at 7, when a mine went up on our right, and shelling kept me out until 9:30, after which I couldn’t sleep. So at midnight I was tired, turned in at 4, out again for stand-to, 8 breakfast, 9 rifle inspection, and so it goes on!
Nothing of importance has occurred, of course, but it’s still a worthwhile insight. More to follow.
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