November 19th 1916

Seeing the long lists of those killed or wounded, which appear daily in our newspapers, one could be forgiven perhaps, for wondering what good it is doing. There has been no real break-though on the Somme; indeed the gains seem small.

One of our Old Boys has laid his hands on a captured diary written by a Lieutenant of the 2nd Company, 180th Infantry Regiment of the German Army. This entry indicates that the enemy is clearly suffering as badly as our troops (or perhaps worse?)

Aug 25th: “Thiepval and Hill 141 represent a hell that no imagination can picture. Shelters are destroyed and uninhabitable; trenches exist no more. One lies in shell holes which change hourly, no, each minute. The heaviest shells come whistling in, close this one up and unearth the dead.

All communication is above ground, therefore the losses are startling. In 2-3 days and nights at most, a company is wiped out. Wax-yellow, without expression, the stream of wounded passes. Warm food is not to be thought of; one takes iron rations, which the stomach can scarcely digest.

Today we had a tremendously heavy bombardment, which surpassed anything I have ever experienced. Who can say if it was our own or the enemy’s artillery? Our own artillery has always shown an inclination to shoot short. We stand here under the most severe artillery fire ever seen by the world; directed so accurately by 29 captive balloons and about 30 aviators that bring under fire every shelter and every junction of a trench.

Against that, we have 6 captive balloons, which venture up a bare 600 ft high for fear of the enemy’s aviators… they are so far behind (our trenches), in order to get out of range of the naval guns, that our artillery can scarcely be said to have aerial observers. Even though the infantry observers do their duty to the uttermost, that is insufficient compensation.”

This can be said to be encouraging, but it was written back in August, and here we are in November…






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