Strumica | Sava | Salonika | 23 Oct 1915

Serbia

Before we get onto the events of the day, someone has just made me aware that 1,001 years ago (give or take a couple of months), the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires fought a Battle of Strumica, which is of course where we now find the increasingly-overstretched French force trying to defend against the Bulgarian Second Army. Yet more proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anyway. The situation continues to deteriorate. The French are still sitting at Strumica. Soon-to-be-outgoing minister of war Millerand is nevertheless manfully lobbying for the British troops at Salonika to do something, anything useful that might free up Frenchmen to go and fight. And the parade of conquests for the opposing alliance continues unabated. Skopje is now firmly in Bulgarian hands. Austro-Hungarians are now advancing on Palanka and Petrovac. Men are flooding almost unabated into Serbia from north, west, and east.

The only crumb of comfort comes on the River Sava, where the best Austro-Hungarian monitor blunders into a Serbian mine and quickly sinks. It’s a tiny, easily-overlooked crumb. The conflict is, of course, rapidly moving away from areas where monitors can easily provide support. And if that weren’t enough, a far more critical intervention comes from a German submarine, U-35, which has been lurking outside Salonika along with her mates U-33 and U-39. U-35 has sunk the SS Marquette, a British liner now doing service as a troop transport. Most of the self-loading freight survives, with help quickly available, but less fortunate are 491 critically important mule carriers and 50 horses. In addition, a significant number of the dead were New Zealand medics, sent to set up a field-hospital.

Third Isonzo

The Italians have achieved something on the Carso! After three days’ hard fighting on Monte Sei Busi, Six (Hundred) Holes Mountain, they’ve, er, captured the Austro-Hungarian front line. And they’re now scrambling to turn the trenches round to resist the inevitable counter-attack. Which falls on them after night comes. But it’s something!

Meanwhile, on Mount San Michele, Hill 124 is attacked again, and the attack is repelled again.

Gallipoli

Across the way, the steady toll of attrition continues, never mind that there’s very little actual fighting going on. Private John Gallishaw, a Newfoundlander, has recently left Suvla Bay, too weak to move.

The eyes of the man next to me were large with pain. I smiled at him, but instead of smiling back at me, his lip curled resentfully, and he turned over on his side so that he could face away from me. As he did, the blanket slipped from his shoulder, and I saw on his shoulder strap the star of a Second Lieutenant.

I had committed the unpardonable sin: I had smiled at an officer as if I had been an equal, forgetting that he was not made of common clay. Once after that, when he turned his head, his eyes met mine disdainfully. That time I did not smile. I have often laughed at the incident since, but there on that boat I was boiling with rage. Not a word had passed between us, but his expression in turning away had been eloquent.

I cursed him and the system that produced him.

British Empire sources can often be rather reluctant to criticise their officers; where Louis Barthas is happy to recount all the details of Commandant Quinze-Grammes’s latest blunder, a British source (whether officer or soldier) will often discreetly elide the stories of the idiots and emphasise the admirable. Nevertheless, there’s a reason that the Wipers Times once published a semi-famous cartoon of a chinless subaltern pondering the question “Am I as offensive as I might be?”, a genuine question posed by higher command to its junior officers to encourage them to organise frequent trench raids and patrols of No Man’s Land by night. Keeping the balance up to reflect this is not easy.

Louis Barthas

Speaking of the newly-minted chief of the grenade section, Louis Barthas is complaining again.

On October 23, at 6 in the evening, we went to billet at Agnez for four more days. This time we were lodged not at Niessel’s château but at another one in the middle of the village. They bunked us in piles of hay with, for our pillows, bunches of straw where legions of ticks and fleas swarmed.

This château was a true nest of shirkers for the whole division: telephone operators, stenographers, stretcher-bearers, gendarmes. All of these folks naturally occupied the best spots, and looked upon us with visible disdain.

He’s spent the last few days dutifully attempting to train his new charges by having them throw stones; they all now have sore and aching shoulders for their trouble.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Morava Offensive
Ovce Pole Offensive
Third Isonzo

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Railway trouble | 20 Oct 1915

Serbia

In the south, General Sarrail is now deploying the division and a half that he’s already got ready to fight. Bad news soon arrives in the form of a message from yesterday’s advance guard. The Bulgarians are well dug in on the east bank of the River Vardar. The railway line to Nis is cut. This message arrives at almost the same time as news that a strong Bulgarian force has attacked Veles, halfway between Strumica and Skopje, even further north.

Sarrail is rather stuck between a rock and a hard place here. They need to get into the fight, but with a substantial body of Bulgarians in the region and no cavalry or aeroplane recon available, he has very little idea of their actual strength or deployment. If he were to advance in force towards Krivolak and then the Bulgarians were to attack at Strumica, that division and a half could be very easily cut off from Salonika and the French foothold in Serbia would be lost at a stroke; along with a division and a half of men and guns, and his own personal reputation into the bargain.

Sarrail seems to have been stuck in a position not unlike that of Sir Ian Hamilton. He’s been sent on a mission far from home with an entirely inadequate force (even if the British component were minded to leave Salonika, their combined strength wouldn’t be much against the combined Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Bulgarians) to carry out an extremely difficult job over highly difficult terrain and in rather hostile weather. Sarrail does lack one important thing, however; and that’s Hamilton’s blind, unquestioning faith in his minister of war. If a victory is not possible, he’ll be happy to settle for not losing, and to hell with the political consequences.

The north again continues as before; pockets of hard fighting, some success for the Serbians in some areas, but they just can’t bring enough strength everywhere on the entire front to stop the invaders dead in their tracks for a few days, which is what they need.

Louis Barthas

Louis Barthas is out of the line and back at Maroeuil. The powers that be have a new scheme in mind for his blokes.

Each company had to form a section specialized in throwing grenades. It was understood that preference would go to young, vigorous men. In our section, Sublieutenant Malvezy, who was assigned to choose the grenadier-section’s corporal, quickly chose me, despite the fact that of the four corporals I was the eldest. That was no doubt to teach me a lesson for having finer binoculars than his own.

I could have complained. But I told myself that up at the listening posts, where the grenadiers would be located, I would be more favorably posted—more exposed to grenades and to surprise attacks, but less exposed to shells and mortar rounds, than I would be farther to the rear. So I left my good comrades in the squad, and joined the grenadier section.

Grenadiers and bombers

This is an interesting point that deserves a little more investigation. As the French army is now doing, the BEF has been forming bomber sections (so named to protect the delicate sensibilities of the Grenadier Guards) for some time now. Their role is a very interesting point that’s often overlooked. Combat in the First World War is often thought of in terms of Lee-Enfield rifles, Frenchmen with Rosalie the bayonet fixed, Germans behind their machine guns. Perhaps during the first six months of the war, there was some accuracy to this. Now new ideas are taking hold, and by the offensives of 1916, the most fundamental building blocks of how an attack is carried out will have changed.

It’s all about explosives. Artillery shells, trench mortar bombs, and now hand grenades. Formerly, the artillery destroyed barbed wire and killed the enemy so that riflemen could push through and take the trench. Now, the concept is that artillery destroys defences and suppresses enemy machine guns so that the bombers can get across No Man’s Land and kill the enemy with grenades while they’re still down in their dugouts, which then allows the mortars to move forward and immediately provide easily-obtainable artillery support for the new position while the guns interfere with enemy reinforcements as they move forward. The rapid introduction of light, portable machine-guns (the Lewis for the BEF, the Chauchat for the French) will also vastly increase the defensibility of a new position. The role of the rifleman has now changed from simply attacking the enemy to defending the bomber, the mortar-operator and the machine-gunner as they attack the enemy.

The other benefit of the hand grenade in trench-fighting is of course that it’s critically important when counter-attacks come in and you’re in a trench that zig-zags to prevent shell explosions or rifle fire being transmitted all up and down the trench. A rifleman can only fire or use his bayonet in the fire-bay that he personally is in. A bomber can throw a grenade over the top of the trench into the next fire-bay, and so make the enemy’s life rather more eventful without any of his mates needing to expose themselves to fire.

Bernard Adams

Lieutenant Bernard Adams and his blokes are out of the line at the moment, so he takes a moment to write home.

Our company is billeted in a big prosperous farm. The men are in a roomy barn and look very comfortable.

Pause for sarcastic comments and flatulence from the general direction of the barn. Possibly, forty miles away, Louis Barthas looks up, idly curses an officer, and then suddenly realises that for once he doesn’t know why.

We are in a big room, on the right as you enter the front door of the farm. Outside is a yard animated by cows, turkeys, geese, chicken, and ducks. Also a donkey and a peacock, not to mention the usual dogs and cats. At 5am, I am awakened by an amazing chorus.

I have just paid out, all in five and twenty-franc notes. In the field, every man has his own pay book which the officer must sign, while the company quartermaster-sergeant sees that his roll is also signed by Tommy. We had a small table and chair out in the yard. In an atmosphere of pigs and poultry, I dealt out the blue-and-white oblongs which have already in many cases been converted into bread.

That is where most of the pay money goes, there and in the estaminets. The bread ration is always small, the biscuit ration overflowing. Bully beef, by the way, is simply ordinary corned beef. I watched cooking operations yesterday, and saw some fifty tins cut in half with an axe, clean hewn asunder, and the meat deftly hoicked with a fork into the field-kitchen, a range and boiler on wheels. This was converted into a big stew and served out to the men.

More to come on billet life, although nothing of importance has occurred.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Morava Offensive
Ovce Pole Offensive

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Strumica | 19 Oct 1915

Serbia

The third invasion of Serbia continues unabated as Field Marshal Putnik orders a general retirement to a more easily defended line while he waits for the French to pull their fingers out. In the west, the Austro-Hungarians have crossed the Drina and returned to Sabac, which they’d so bitterly defended at the arse end of the first invasion; the next target for them, once again, is Valjevo. In the north, allied forces occupy Vranic, and cross the River Ralja. It’s all going about as smoothly as any multinational operation over difficult terrain could have done in 1915.

Meanwhile, as the Bulgarians in the south are starting to head in force towards Skopje, General Sarrail finally has enough men in theatre to consider doing something. (There’s still plenty more to be landed, mind you.) He orders one regiment forward as an advance guard towards Krivolak, about 25 miles up the railway line from Strumica, where his main body is now both trying to concentrate for an advance. Not easy when they must also help the Serbians as they scrap periodically with their Bulgarian opponents outside Strumica.

Hmm, Krivolak. That name sounds familiar…

Louis Barthas

Louis Barthas is being favoured once more with the august presence of General Niessel (this time as Niessel inspects the trenches), who begins with a jolly good rant at a sentry who apparently failed to be adequately deferential. It seems that his Occitan nickname “I’m-Going-To-Beat-You-Up” is well-earned; and he continues in this vein when he happens to cross paths with Commandant de Fageoles, who only recently refused Niessel’s order to attack. (Barthas’s squad is on the extreme wing of his company, which is in turn on the wing of his battalion; they’re in contact with de Fageoles’s battalion.)

“Look at the Boches, commandant, what work they’ve done over the past two weeks, and we’ve done nothing! Nothing! And I mean to change that. Every day I want a detailed report on all the work that’s done, and I’ll come verify it myself.”
At a humble interruption by his interlocutor, Niessel shouted so loudly that the Boches must have heard him:
“I’m not asking for your advice, I’m giving you an order! And tell your men that we have to get the Boches out of here. We have to attack, if not today, then tomorrow. You’ll get the order.”

And then, casting a scornful eye on the ragged, muddy, dirty men who had gathered around him out of curiosity, he said, “Look at these outfits, you’d think they were a bunch of militiamen. I could have done more with a section of my old Zouaves than with your whole regiment!”

Niessel then turns his attentions upon our hero, who deftly avoids his wrath.

Brusquely the general turned to me and said angrily, “Have you passed the word that I am here? It’s been twenty minutes, and no one has come to meet me.”
“Excuse me, general. I told my sergeant that you were here.”
“So that’s how your captain takes care of business. We’ll go have a look.”
But as for me, I couldn’t go have a look, which was too bad. Our captain, Master Cros-Mayrevieille, had to take the heat, according to his rank. This devil of a general mistreated his officers like simpletons, with no regard for their stripes.

Almost as soon as Niessel has shouted his way out of the trench, fresh orders arrive. Not only has the offensive been terminated, but after nearly a year’s fighting, their regiment will soon be allowed home leave. So much for “we have to get the Boches out of here”.

Kenneth Best

Kenneth Best is healing well, but has been dispatched back to Blighty to recuperate, and here his published diaries end with his return home. They won’t be able to keep him out of France too long; he’ll serve most of the rest of the war closer to the sharp end than most staff officers and will eventually be asked to consider a combatant’s commission (which he’ll refuse). The war will stay with him the rest of his life, and will play a part in the eventual loss of his faith.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Morava Offensive
Ovce Pole Offensive

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Vranje | Sir Ian Hamilton | 16 Oct 1915

Serbia

The weather has calmed itself a little, and the northern German/Austro-Hungarian offensive continues making slow, steady progress, never pausing for enough time to allow the Serbians to dig themselves some decent trenches. They are running into one familiar problem, however. Heavy mortar batteries have been brought forward, but as we’ve seen before on the Western Front, many of their bombs are simply being swallowed without an explosion by the sodden ground.

General Sarrail has just received a desperate communication from the Serbian minister of war, begging him to advance to Skopje in force as soon as possible. “Otherwise it will be too late, and the catastrophe inevitable.” It’s all very well to say that the Entente is sending 150,000 men to Salonika, and that “they arrived on the 5th”. No, they started landing on the 5th. You can’t just dump 150,000 men ashore in 24 hours. Sarrail has no intention of simply sitting at Strumica while the rest of the country falls to the opposing alliance, but with the best will in the world, he doesn’t have that many blokes to send forward at the moment.

They’re already being out-manoeuvred. Today the Bulgarians’ northern offensive reaches Vranje, with fast-moving cavalry units slipping past the Serbian Army and occupying the town, which is on that railway line to the south of Nis. Unless the relief force can get moving soon, they could well be stuffed.

Gallipoli

Sir Ian Hamilton is determined to face his defenestration with dignity. He refused to get out of bed for the news; he’s instead ordered the special telegram and the code-book brought to him when he wakes up.

When I had given this order, my mind dwelt awhile over my sins. Through my tired brain passed thought-pictures of philosophers waiting for cups of hemlock and various other strange and half-forgotten antique images. Then I fell asleep.

He’s finally been pulled under. The message, of course, is from Lord Kitchener, recalling him to London immediately. He’s been sacked, but he remains defiant to the last.

One thing is sure: whenever I get home I shall do what I can to convince K. that the game is still in his hands if only he will shake himself free from slippery politics; come right out here and run the show himself. Constantinople is the only big, big hit lying open on the map at this moment. With the reinforcements and munitions K., as Commander-in-Chief, would have at his command, he can bring off the coup right away. He has only to borrow a suitable number of howitzers and aeroplanes from the Western Front and our troops begin to advance. Sarrail has missed the chance of twenty generations by not coming here.

He goes on like this at some considerable length, before finally getting over himself; those final sentences are perhaps emblematic of this slow-motion months-long tragedy. “He has only to borrow…”, indeed. Hamilton might as well have asked him to drain the Dardanelles dry so the Army could march along the sea-bed. (They could use the wrecks of their own ships for cover! It’s foolproof…)

Dined on the Triad. De Robeck and Keyes were all that friends can be at such a moment.

There’s just enough time for the final irony, he’s to be replaced by General Charles Monro, just the sort of experienced man he’d requested to take charge of the landings at Suvla. (Monro currently commands 3rd Army on the Western Front but his rank of full general is only temporary; his substantive rank is Major-General, and Sir Bryan Mahon, now exiled to Salonika for his pains, was a substantive Lieutenant-General…) Braithwaite too is for the chop; Monro will bring his own chief of staff with him.

Louis Barthas

Back on the Western Front, Louis Barthas continues watching men go out into No Man’s Land under cover of fog, sure that he won’t be tempted to do anything so stupid…

The abbé Galaup was haunted for some time by the desire to find a German rifle with a sawtoothed bayonet attached, to take home as a souvenir. The Germans had one of these in each squad, in case it was needed to cut a branch, saw up a wooden plank, etc. Of course they would occasionally put it on the end of a rifle, to cut through a thorax or a belly. It served double duty.

Father Galaup, in search of this combination weapon-tool, went out into the fog each morning, at the risk of intercepting a bullet along the way. One day, he told me that if I wanted a revolver and a nice pair of binoculars, he would point them out to me. Accepting this offer, I went to the place he indicated, where an enormous shell had exploded right in the middle of a group of French soldiers mounting an assault, decapitating and frightfully mutilating a dozen men, who were now nothing more than bloody scraps. I spotted the binoculars and the revolver on the ground, still in their leather cases. I quickly grabbed them and fled, appalled by the horrible scene.

Why did they never have any priests like that when I was growing up?

Bernard Adams

Bernard Adams’s story of life in a mid-trench strong-point continues, after a mortar bomb drops far too close for comfort.

I make an effort and crawl out of the dugout. I go round the sentries, standing up by them, looking over the parapet. It is cold and raw. The sentries are looking forward to the next relief.

Ping-g-g-g-g-g, goes a stray bullet singing by – a ricochet, by its sound.
“A near one, sir.”
“Yes, Evans. Safer in the front line.”
“I guess it is, sir”.
Then the sentries change. I turn back again to my dug-out. Sleeping with revolvers and equipment requires some care of position.

“Half-past four, sir”, comes after a pause and some sleep. Out I get, and everybody “stands to” for an hour along the fire platform. At 5:30 “Stand down and clean rifles” is the order given, and the cleaning commences, a process as oft-repeated as washing up in civilized lands. And as monotonous and unsatisfactory, for a few hours later the rifles are a bit rusty and muddy again, and need another inspection.

7:30. “Tell Sergeant Summers I’m going down to Company Headquarters.” “Very good, sir.” Then I take a long mazy journey down the communication trench, six feet deep at least, and mostly paved with bricks from a neighbouring brick-field. There an amazing lot of mice about. They fall in and can’t get out. Most of them get squashed. Frogs too, which make a green and worse mess than the mice. Our C.O. always stops and throws a frog out if he meets one.

Tommy, needless to say, is not so sentimental.

While his men make do with bully beef, biscuits, and jam, Lieutenant Adams gets bacon and eggs with coffee. By 9:30 he’s starting up the latest working party, and on goes the day; sentries take turn and turn about, the rations and the rum are brought up, pioneer troops appear to scatter chloride of lime as a general disinfectant. Nothing of importance has occurred.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Morava Offensive
Ovce Pole Offensive

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Serbia and Italy | 15 Oct 1915

Serbia and Italy

The Third Invasion of Serbia continues, albeit rather slowly due to violent rainstorms. Rivers everywhere are flooding, or else flowing so fast that engineers can’t work, pontoon bridges are washed away, boats can’t make headway against the current. In the south, the French advance guard has laboured its way forward to Strumica and helped the Serbian garrison repel some Bulgarian scouts.

Meanwhile, in Italy, it’s not good news. General Cadorna’s telephone has barely stopped ringing as all and sundry get on his case to demand he attack the Austro-Hungarians immediately, if not sooner. Attack there must be. The main thrust will be an attempt to bite off Gorizia, in the middle of the front; but this will be very difficult if the enemy can move all his reserves into the area. So clearly this means that what’s called for here is another general offensive. In the Alps, against Gorizia, on the Carso. Even failed attacks away from Gorizia will at least pin men in place, right?

Cadorna is quickly proving himself Sir Ian Hamilton’s superior in the field of self-deception and doublethink. It’s not that he didn’t have doubts about another general offensive, you understand. He’s still an intelligent human being. He can see how difficult a job it’s going to be; and he’s consciously deciding not to pay any attention to that.

(Incidentally, when Sir Ian Hamilton goes to bed tonight, he’s soon awoken by a messenger; again, a “secret and personal” cable from Lord Kitchener has arrived, instructing him to decipher the next message personally…)

Louis Barthas

Louis Barthas is back up the line, and it’s about time for one of my favourite funny stories of the entire war. I wonder what the blokes are doing to occupy themselves?

Under cover of the thick fog which covered the landscape each morning, some of us went out to find rifles, revolvers, et cetera. A few of the less scrupulous went through the pockets of the dead men.

This is the tale of Corporal Cathala. Buckle in: it’s truly amazing.

One morning Corporal Cathala, of our company, out in the open on such a mission, was hit by a bullet which wounded him gravely in the thigh, leading to a subsequent amputation. He dragged himself back to the trench, where they staunched his wound. He was lying on ground soaked in his own blood. All of a sudden, here was General Niessel, whom we saw often in the trenches at daybreak—when all was calm.

“Ah!,” said the general, “Where was this corporal wounded?”
We couldn’t tell him that he had been pilfering the pockets of dead men. So we said it was at an observation post.
“Find me the captain! Are you satisfied with this soldier’s conduct?” he asked our Captain Cros-Mayrevielle, who had quickly appeared on the scene.
“Yes, very satisfied,” stammered our captain.
“Very well. He will be commended, and will get the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Militaire.”

And that’s how Corporal Cathala became a hero.

This is also just one of many reasons why I don’t go in for stories of derring-do and medals. Of course, Cathala is not the only man to enjoy forays into No Man’s Land. More soon.

Bernard Adams

A gentleman like Lieutenant Bernard Adams of the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers does not, of course, go in for such lootings and pillagings. He’s back up the line near the Hohenzollern Redoubt; he’s been detailed to occupy a strong-point in between the fire trench and the support trench.

For three days and nights I was in command, isolated and ready with stores, ammunition, water, barbed wire, bombs and tools, to hold out a little siege for several days if necessary. I used to leave it to get meals in the support line; otherwise I always had to be there, ready for instant action.

Here is a typical scene in the trench. A dug-out, 6ftx4ftx4ft. Smell, earthy. Time, 2:30 AM. Voices outside [belonging to the sentries]:

“What’s the time, kid?”
“Dunno, about 2 o’clock, I reckon.”
“Past that.”
(Long silence.)
“Rum job this, ain’t it, kid?”
“Why?”
“Well, I reckon if the fucking Huns were coming over, we’d know it long afore they got ‘ere. I reckon we’d hear the boys in front firing.”
“I dunno. Suppose there’s some sense in it, else we wouldn’t be ‘ere.”

As Adams is a gentleman, he has helpfully censored the swearing. This is a Regular battalion; it’s safe to assume that its language would have been to the point, so I’ve filled in the likely words. The sentries themselves do also have at least half a point; they’re not in the fire trench, so why do they need to be standing out there in the cold looking at nothing? (The answer is in case of raids, or something else; it’s all very well to know that they’d hear something from down in the trench, but if they’re already up and looking out, they may well see what it is and be able to let people know details. In theory, at least.)

“Fucking cold on this fucking fire step. Guess it’s time they relieved us.”
(Long silence.)
“Don’t them flares look funny in the mist?”
“I guess old Fritz uses some of them every night. Hullo, there they go again. ‘Ear that machine-gun!”
(Long pause, during which machine-guns pop, snipers snipe, flares light up the sky. Trench mortars begin behind us. The Germans reply, sending two or three over which thud behind. The invisible sentries have now become clearly visible as I look out of my dug-out.)
(With a sudden thud, a trench-mortar shell drops fifteen yards behind us.)
“Hullo, Fritz is getting the wind up.” This stolid comment from a sentry is typical of the attitude adopted towards Fritz when he starts shelling. He is supposed to be a bit jumpy!

It seems hard to realize that Fritz is really trying to kill these sentries. The whole thing seems a weird, strange play.

Nothing of importance has happened. More tomorrow.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Morava Offensive
Ovce Pole Offensive

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)