In this week’s ‘London Gazette’ is the announcement that Jack Ruttledge, now a Captain in the Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment), has been honoured with the award of the Military Cross.
The citation reads, ‘For great coolness and gallantry on 19th December 1914, near Neuve Chapelle. When his company were moving over open ground under very heavy fire, many casualties occurred and Lieutenant Ruttledge remained to the last, helping the wounded away to cover.’
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An anonymous Old Dragon has written in to give us a glimpse on the sort of life being enjoyed in the trenches at present.
“In the Trenches
La Belle France
March 12th 1915
The last three days and nights were very noisy and a bit bomby and grenadey. On several occasions we had Brigade orders to open heavy machine gun and rifle fire at the German breastworks backed up by artillery fire at a certain time, and the row usually lasted for about half-an-hour. These unaccustomed bursts of activity were partly to make the Huns as nervy as possible, and partly to prevent them sending reinforcements while attacks were being made between here and * * * * * (censored).
I was rather lucky in not getting hit the other day. I was working with two men a few yards behind the parados, where one ought, barring accidents, to be pretty safe, when a rifle grenade suddenly dropped and exploded six yards from us. We felt the shock of the explosion and gust of hot air in our faces, but none of us got hurt. We have been sending quite a lot over into their trench (70 yards distant) lately, and they invariably send just the same number back. Some 15” howitzers have arrived at the front, and are apparently found to be a great success. They say that if one of these shells drops in a decent sized factory it absolutely levels the whole place.”
Whereas further south, in the region of the Somme, it is possible to dig deep trenches with underground dug-outs, we understand that in the Ypres area the water table is much higher and such trenches are nigh impossible to build.
“I don’t know if I have explained to you that we aren’t in actual trenches at all, but behind a parapet made of sand bags riveted up with sheets of corrugated iron, hurdles etc., with earth thrown up on the enemy’s side. This parapet varies in height, but I should say the average is between 6 and 7 feet.
This sort of breastwork is of course only of use when we are too near to the enemy to have much fear of artillery fire. The old earth trenches became uninhabitable long ago on account of the mud, but the men still have to dig in where they get shelled, as of course our parapets are no protection against shell-fire.”