Battle of Mont Sorrel
At the Battle of Mont Sorrel, the Germans are not overly concerned by another 30-minute Canadian artillery bombardment. Leaving only a few sentries, most of them take shelter in such dugouts as haven’t been pulverised by 10 days of withering fire and counter-fire from both sides. There’s still a good couple of hours to go before the danger hour around dawn. There’s nothing to concern them.
Or so they think. Just before 1:30am, the supporting artillery begins launching smoke shells into No Man’s Land. Even if some of the defenders work out what’s going on and call for support, it’s now no good their sending up flares. Light loses against smoke; the attacking Canadians achieve almost total surprise when they go over the top. By dawn, only a very few German strong-points on Mont Sorrel and Hill 61 are holding out; by midday, the line has been restored to more or less what it was on June 1st.
The Sunny Subaltern’s battalion went over. “A” Company lost several officers killed and wounded; and a Lieutenant Joyce, commanding several Lewis guns, wrote a letter to his brother nearly a year later in which he claimed to have found the bodies of a chaplain and several wounded men in a former aid post, all with fresh bayonet wounds. He also admitted that he subsequently ordered one of his guns to shoot down a lost party of “about 50” Germans, who were attempting to surrender. Lashings of war crimes aside, it’s been a most successful day all round. Not even the inevitable counter-attack can dent the Canadians’ enthusiasm.
If they keep this sort of thing up, both General Currie and Canadians in general might just earn a reputation for themselves. More soon.
Battle of Mecca
Brains are currently winning the Battle of Mecca against rebel brawn. The single battalion garrisoning Mecca has fought well and intelligently, fighting sharp delaying actions for as long as possible and keeping the rebels out of the town fort. They’ve just lost control of the government offices and the captured deputy Governor has just ordered them to surrender, but the (apparently unnamed) commander sees no reason to do so while there’s a chance of holding out long enough for help to arrive.
Hold out they will, with the rebels unable to get inside the fort while it’s defended by modern rifles and grenades. An appeal from Hussein bin Ali to the British will follow; and, at some considerable length, a few artillery pieces will wind their way from Sudan to Mecca via Jeddah. In the meantime, there’s an uneasy stalemate.
We travel by car and are put down at Nixeville, 6 kilometres from Verdun. We bivouac in a wood in a lake of mud. The guns fire angrily. It’s pouring down. At 3pm we are ordered to stand by to leave. We don’t. We spend the night and the day of the 14th waiting, in torrential rain, with mud up to our ankles. Our teeth chatter with cold. We are very uncomfortable. Although the troops have been stopping here for the last four months, there is not one single hut or shelter. We camp in individual tents in thick mud. You should hear what the men say about it!
Well, why not tell us what the men say, huh? Still, knowing Louis Barthas, I rather think I can guess.
Except for one or two violent spasms, things might have been peaceful. At 11:40pm a tremendous roar commenced, as every Hun gun along the whole front sprang to life simultaneously in a beautifully timed opening. A moment later a man dashed into my dugout to say that Number 4 gun pit had blown up. In 30 seconds Maclean and I were doing an unpleasant 1,000-yard sprint through the mud to the guns. I am not sure what was worst, the Hun shells coming pretty fast all round, or the scalp-raising blast of the French 75mm guns behind us, their shells only just clearing our heads by a few feet.
The pit hasn’t quite cooked off its shells yet, but it’s merrily on fire. Fraser-Tytler’s men spend the night alternately manning the three operational guns and slopping mud and slime down into the burning gun-pit. At one point a second German shell appears, and somehow turns out to be a dud, sinking without trace.
Georges Connes is still grinding along on a painfully slow journey to incarceration at Mainz. Now in Germany, they have a chance to observe conditions on the German home front.
Already they only sell “ersatz” items limited in quantity for each customer. We are not reated any differently from the other people. The waiters just politely refuse to sell us more than the regular ration. Certainly we are already far from the relative abundance of the canteens at the front, and these are hard times for Germany. Everything that is still edible is sent to the front and also to the metallurgical plants. Hunger, which will rarely leave me for several months, is starting to hurt.
Hard times, Georges Connes, are when the textile workers around this country are out of work, they got four or five kids and can’t pay their wages, can’t buy their food.
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