Lieut. Arthur Egerton, late of 3rd West Yorks and 11th Hussars, is now with the Royal Artillery and is in charge of a trench mortar battery in France, where the winter conditions are as much the enemy as the Boche:
4/12/15. “Nearly all our dug-outs are swimming in water and we have to pump hard every day to get the water out by big hand pumps and also dig pits for it to drain off, but these fill in no time…
Some of our guns were nearly under water and our bomb stores, so we must dig new emplacements and ammunition recesses. There is very little trench fighting now, it is nearly all artillery (situated a mile or more back) – as you can barely walk about in the thick slimy clay and infantry can’t move at all. Under half a mile an hour (a bit slow for a charge!), but there is a good deal of mining going on, on both sides. Several have been exploded and the thing is to occupy the empty craters (if they are between the lines) as soon as possible, before the enemy can get there first.
Several deserters told us of mines that were to explode on our front on particular days and we were able to take the necessary steps in time. We get a good deal of information from prisoners and deserters, especially about the state of internal affairs in Germany. These are circulated to the officers in intelligence reports marked ‘confidential.’
Our snipers account for a good many of the German ones each day; we have those hyposcope rifles by which you can aim in safety without showing your head in the fire trenches.”
In more recent correspondence Arthur added:
“The water is now four or five inches deep and above my ankles on the floor of my dug-out, but I can sit with my feet on a shelf and it hasn’t reached the level of my bed yet! We are having to abandon several of our dug-outs and places, but it is the same everywhere, let us hope with the Boches too.”