On the home front, the Vienna-conceived fundraising exercise of building giant wooden nail figures to raise money for war widows is rapidly spreading to Germany. Today, Berlin opens its “Iron Hindenburg” for the public to hammer nails into. Similar statues are going up across the nation, from Aachen to Zwickau. Some municipalities are following Berlin’s lead and raising statues of von Hindenburg, or the Kaiser. A variety of symbols, either national (like the Iron Cross) or local (such as an element of the local nobility’s heraldic arms) in nature, are also proving popular.
On opening day in Berlin, 20,000 citizens take their turn at hammering a nail into a war hero. By the end of the war, the figure will have doubled in weight. There’s certainly no danger of war-weariness here, yet.
After considerable haggling about ways and means between Generals d’Urbal, Foch, and Joffre, a plan has finally been finalised for the Third Battle of Artois. The plan calls for a modest advance, and I can best describe it as a triple-headed envelopment. The French 10th Army is to launch a double-headed envelopment of Arras. The main force of the assault will again be on Vimy Ridge, taking Souchez and then driving towards Givenchy and Vimy village on the far side of the ridge.
If this goes well, they’ll have advanced to the far north-east side of Arras. Once the Germans begin rushing reinforcements to Vimy Ridge, there’ll then be an attack south of Arras, and they can encircle the city to liberate it with a minimum of house-to-house fighting; ideally the Germans will retreat rather than trying to fight and can be pursued, hopefully over open ground. At the same time, the left wing of the attack on Vimy Ridge will then be south-east of Lens. And that’s where the BEF and the Battle of Loos comes in; they’ll have pushed past Loos to threaten Lens from the north-east. Germans retreat, Entente troops pursue them across the flat Douai Plain, and they’ll have proved that it’s possible to break out of the trench deadlock.
A day of funerals. I started with a 10th Manchester, a grand little lad of 18, sniped while out digging. Buried him on Gully Beach. Went up to get second inoculation against cholera. Then hearing that the Birdcage had been blown up by Turks, I went up Gully. One 9th Manchester was being brought down. He had been buried from noon to following morning, yet still alive and cheery. Three Engineers brought down dead. Buried another 9th Manchester behind trenches. Still at least two missing.
One other dead soldier we could see over parapet by means of periscope, but could not of course fetch him in. A pity we did not tell our men first. We could hear the pick-pick of Turks mining for some time, but left it too late. I was in the Birdcage the day before – at the time of the explosion, too. We are now very short of men. Every man is a prisoner, tied to his post. Those a few yards away hardly knew what happened, though of course they heard the explosion. Some men had limbs broken by falling debris.
Met Hassall of Moravian College against whom I played footer, now an officer of the 10th Manchester. Got back to bury another man of the 9th. Had lunch at Battalion HQ. Steak, rabbit, and pineapple macaroni. Excellent repast.
Meanwhile, in those same trenches, the blokes are finding it impossible to eat the regulation up-the-line meal of army biscuits and jam. In the interval between opening the jam-tin and getting it onto the biscuit, the jam is thorougly besieged and plundered by flies, to the point where there can be more fly than jam on a biscuit. It’s a wonder that there’s any men fit for duty at all, it really is.
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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.)