Lieut. Treffry Thompson (RAMC) is currently attached to the 18th Hussars as their Medical Officer and can vouch for all the horrors currently being endured by our troops at Ypres.
May 13th 1915. “Marched in evening north of Ypres across Canal to Bryke, then guided by guides who didn’t know the way, through much barbed wire to Wieltje.
We stopped on road near trenches. Enemy’s flares very active. Somebody told us it would be just as well to get into the ditch as a machine gun covered the road. We did so and the machine gun started at once.
When it had finished, we took over trenches on each side of the road. We were disgusted at the rotten condition of the trenches, but we discovered the reason next day: it was very wet and mushy and we started to repair trenches, but found remains of Frenchmen in the mud, and couldn’t go any deeper. We got one dug-out built before dawn and the trenches repaired a bit. Started to go to sleep at dawn, but inferno of shell-fire started and lasted from 3.45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At the very beginning the telephone dug-out was blown in, removing our luncheon basket and my box of cigars. Three very frightened telephonists suddenly tried to get into our dug-out.
The shelling was appalling. For hours on end the whole place rocked, and afterwards we heard that the trenches had been invisible owing to dust and smoke. Dozens of wounded began to come in to our part of the trench where ‘C’ squadron were. The Major went along to ‘A’ squadron and there was wounded and then killed.
‘A’ squadron retired, with their trenches blown in, across the open to some alleged trenches further back. These they could not find and had to advance again across the open to their blown-in trenches. There was a complete gap of 40 yards blown in and covered by a machine gun on the right of ‘C’ squadron, which made it impossible to get along to see anybody.
I had the dug-out and a portion of protected trench filled with wounded and when they got so thick that we couldn’t turn round, told them they had better take their chance and go. I pointed out the position where there was less shell-fire in the direction of Bryke and at the end of day heard that 100 had got through all right.
After about four hours, the German fire occasionally slackened and we expected an attack, but could only see a few Germans looking over their trenches. The shelling, chiefly groups of 4-6 exploding ‘crumps,’ continued to blow in our trenches, and about mid-day the Captain decided that we should move to the left where there was less shelling. He did not go, but some of us moved across the road to a support trench filled with East Lancs…
Starting down a communication trench I suddenly found myself on my hands at the other end, as a ‘crump’ seems to have gone off just behind me. I got across the road, but the man behind was caught by the machine gun through the chest, but we carried him down to the support trench, where I did him up and it took two grains of morphia to quieten him…
During all this shelling we could actually see the ‘crumps’ before they hit the ground. They looked just like pointed cricket balls, and really stand about 2.9 high and are 8.2 in diameter.
Towards evening, the shelling died down and I tried to find our dressing-station. Couldn’t find any trace, but heard that the Cavalry had been wiped out. Wandered back to chateau west of Ypres, got some more dressings, heard that remnant of the regiment had gone up again under one of the Captains, so bolted after them on a bike. Raining hard; wandered half the night trying to find them. Went back to chateau and slept. Three officers, practically untouched through this awful day, as a result of the nervous strain of the shelling, had the jumps so badly that they had to be sent sick.”