Who would have thought that childhood games of “forts” at the OPS would take on such significance in this time of war? Treffry Thompson (RAMC) and his colleagues have been struggling considerably with the building of dug-outs – sometimes with disastrous results:
18/5/15. “Cold and foggy, which prevented any shelling. Went on improving trenches. Rain continued and ground very wet. In afternoon started building sumptuous H.Q. dug-out with great beams for roof with magnificent table and fine brocaded chairs out of neighbouring chateau. My experience at OPS in fort-building in the School hedge was of untold value.
Just before dark, Capt O was in his dug-out and saw a bit of entrance beginning to fall in. He started to walk out, shouting ‘Hi! Who’s walking on the roof?’ It was supported by a large iron bedstead, which collapsed and broke his neck. I was at the other end of our bit of the trench seeing the sick men, and of course he was quite dead when I reached him.
Had hardly got back to our dug-out when they asked me to go and see a subaltern who had apparently gone mad. I found L, who was one of the few who had come safely through the bombardment on the 13th and he was completely off his head from the shock of hearing of O’s death, on top of the previous strain. Gave him some morphia and got him quiet and put him in a dug-out.
No sooner back in our own dug-out than I was told there was a man with a broken leg buried in another dug-out. Went along and we got him out of the mud, and getting hold of some pieces of wood, fixed up his leg.
After this series of collapsing dug-outs, we turned everybody out of any dug-out that wasn’t absolutely sound. After much agitation over telephone, we managed to get the injured and sick away to an ambulance, but this was no joke as it was pitch-dark and the ground quite sodden. Of course the Germans must needs start shelling the Halte, just as we were getting the men into the ambulance on the road. However nothing happened.”