Monday 14 August 2017

Fifteenth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres

Tuesday 14th August 1917

Today has been quite insufferable with temperatures approaching eighty degrees(1) and intermittent rain. Everyone at the front has been sweating profusely all day, whether engaged in moving to new positions, bringing up guns and supplies, manning the front line or lounging around behind it as a war correspondent.

There has been some action today, we have been told. 20th (Light) Division crossed the Steenbeek north-east of Ypres and managed to consolidate the far bank under fire. The whole battlefield is a morass of standing water and mud but at least they were assisted in crossing the channel of the stream by makeshift bridges they brought up with them. Four enemy strong-points at a place called Mill Mound (top right corner on the map above) have been taken.

The adjutant of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, spoke to me a little while ago. Early in the morning they received orders to relieve the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment, of 53rd Brigade, at Stirling Castle near the front line. Guides were at once sent up to arrange the relief. Orders were then received to make an attack in two days’ time on Inverness Copse where the Royal Fusiliers and 53rd Brigade failed on 10th August.

The adjutant said to me, in some bitterness: “We were surprised after what the general had said only two days before”. He referred to the divisional commander General Lee stating that the battalion would not be used in offensive actions unless absolutely necessary. Then, remembering himself, the adjutant went on: “but all are cheery and ready to do all they can”.

As you can imagine, I think twice about relaying this information as I have no wish to bring troubles on the officer concerned or give comfort to the enemy. Remember, however, that this battalion has been reduced to three hundred or so by severe fighting less than a week ago. If a unit with so good a reputation for attacking spirit as this has begun to grumble I feel it must send a signal to higher command.

Source: X550/8/1

(1) between 26 and 27˚C

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