Thursday, 11 February 2016

More from the Yeomanry Part II – Day to Day Life in the Trenches

Friday 11th February 1916: Lieutenant Hargreaves of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry is home on leave and gave a talk in Bedford on the Regiment and its recent exploits, going into the front line trenches for the first time in January. Probably the audience, said Mr Hargreaves, had formed a wrong impression about trench life, but he had found it more interesting, exciting and full of incident than he had expected, even when no operations of first-class importance were in progress. One was apt to think that except at the time of an actual attack by the enemy there was little going on, but this was a mistake, as from the first moment of entering the trenches  to that of leaving, there was incessant hard work and almost continuous “bickering” with the Germans. During the day-time there was a steady, though not violent, bombardment going on, and during the night there was an exchange of rifle grenades and trench mortars and incessant sniping. The sort of work done is the constant repair of shell-fire damage to the trench, cleaning and scraping the floor-boards, strengthening the weak places in the trench and heightening the parapet. For this purpose the men were divided into shifts, with sentries actually on duty, men resting for the next duty and those who are used for fatigues.

It is each man’s duty to keep his equipment and rifle clean, but this is no easy matter where water is scarce and difficult to obtain. The first turn of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry in the trenches was marked by brilliant moonlit nights and this enabled them to witness a spectacle which was wonderfully dramatic. The lines of trenches curling away in the distance to the left and right, picked out by the flashes of the snipers’ rifles, illuminated by the Verey, or star(1), lights fired into the air and on the ground before the trenches to enable the sentries to get an efficient look-out and the flash of the artillery fire on the horizon, all continued to make the scene a most impressive spectacle.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 25th February 1916

(1) Verey pistols for discharging flares and star shells

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