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   Chapter 24 XXIVToC

The Red Watch By J. A. Currie Characters: 33503

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"Stretcher for Captain Cory."

A cry went along the line of the trenches, and two stretcher bearers jumped up on the parapet and ran towards the Poelcapelle Road, along which Captain Cory's platoon held the trench.

A groan went up from the whole line. We all thought Cory had been hit. He was a universal favorite.

Only a few minutes before as dawn broke my officers in the front trenches came to me to report and have a cheery word. Captain "Bob" Cory, Captain Alexander, Lieutenant Barwick and Lieutenant Jones all reported and stopped for a moment's chat.

While we were at Cassel, Captain Cory had obtained leave of the general officer commanding, the blessing of his own commanding officer and the good wishes of his brother officers, and had gone to London for two short weeks and there married Miss Telfer of Collingwood, Canada. She reached England with her sister, Mrs. (Major) Porter, too late to become a bride before the regiment started for France. Captain Cory would not transfer and stay in England, so the first opportunity that came he was granted leave. Marriage had quieted him down a lot and I kept cautioning him, for the sake of the wife he had left behind, to be careful.

Barwick and Jones wanted leave to take their platoons down to the forward trenches to assist Major Osborne. Cory said that with the Turcos, and the other two platoons of the company, he could hold the trenches at the northeast angle of the village, so I consented to their leaving. It was a very brave offer, and it showed excellent spirit on their part to wish to go and participate in the defence of the peak of the salient which was considered the most dangerous part of the whole line.

As Captain Cory was on his way back to his position one of his men was hit with a machine gun bullet and they called for a stretcher. I started to go down the line to where he was, but was told he was all right, that it was one of his men that had been wounded.

My signallers reported to me that all night long the fighting had continued in front of St. Julien, the Germans trying to force an entrance at the northwesterly side between the village and the wood. The village had been shelled continually. During the night several limbers of artillery came clattering down the road, dodging shell holes, dead horses and men, followed by the wakeful German guns, as the gunners knew that these limbers held ammunition for the Canadian artillery in the first line. The Germans seemed to have a weird sense of what was going on on our roads. The 10th Battery under Major King was at the cross roads at Kersselaere. During the night Major King gallantly ran one gun by hand well forward on the left of the Royal Highlanders to try and stop the advance of the victorious Huns. It was Major King's ammunition that came rattling down the ruined streets of St. Julien during the night, and when the "coal boxes" fell at the concrete bridge over the Hannebeek creek where it crossed the road not far from the ruined St. Julien church, the horses and several of the riders fell to rise no more. Nothing daunted, the non-commissioned officer in charge returned for help to man-handle his precious load down to the guns at the trenches. Captain D.S. Gardner of the 7th took a squad of about thirty men and they manned the limbers, and amidst a perfect hail of shells and bullets drew the ammunition down to Major King, who lost no time in firing it point blank into the Germans that were advancing on Kersselaere cross roads. They were mowed down in heaps by the shrapnel. The German advance was stopped at this point and the gun was later taken out safely.

Throughout the battle no Canadian guns were lost.

As usual with the morning sun, there came from the east two large German aeroplanes with the ominous black crosses on their stiff outspread wings. They flew low and seemed particularly interested in our breakfast bill of fare. The warning whistle was blown as they approached and everyone lay down in the trenches as still as death. The Germans seemed to satisfy themselves that there was nothing in our trenches, for after they returned to their own lines they stopped shelling the church and graveyard close by which up till then had been their favorite target. When they stopped shelling the church and graveyard the scene was dreadful. The walls of the church and rafters were torn to pieces. But it was the cemetery that presented the most grewsome sight. Graves, ancient and modern, were torn open and coffins and corpses were strewn in all directions. Our dead had been disinterred a second time. I set a party to work under Sergt. Lewis to repair this damage.

We learned in the morning that some British troops had been sent to the assistance of our severely pressed left flank. This detachment was under the command of Colonel Geddes and consisted of the remnants of seven mixed battalions from the 27th and 28th divisions that had held the southern face of the salient. They were detachments of the 3rd Middlesex, the 2nd East Kents, the 1st South Lancasters, the 2nd East Yorks, the 9th Royal Scots, the 5th R. Lancasters, the 2nd D. of C. Light Infantry. The 5th Lancasters and Royal Scots were Territorials, the rest of the detachment were regulars. This brigade went to the assistance of the French remnant left at Pilken, and they helped to reconstitute the line after a gallant charge in which the French and Canadians joined, closing up a gap at this point.

Along towards noon, Colonel Loomis, who had his headquarters west of the village of St. Julien, sent for Captain Alexander. I told Alexander to take a couple of men with him in case anything happened to him as the shelling in the village was very heavy. He did so, and was gone about an hour. He returned alone looking very grave, and I asked him what was the matter. He told me that on the way out his men had fallen at his side, killed by a shell.

About eleven o'clock we noticed very heavy shelling and gas fumes rising in the direction of our front trenches east of Kersselaere. There was a pretty stiff breeze blowing, and shortly after we saw the gas our guns began firing and there was a terrific burst of rifle fire. We recognized the "chop" of the Ross rifle and knew that our men were in action at the extreme angle of the salient. Major Marshall telephoned me from his headquarters that the Germans were gassing and that they were following up the gas with an attack.

I was very anxious but soon learned that the German attack had been beaten off, for their artillery as usual began working off their spite on the farm houses in our rear. I also learned that although the shelling was very heavy we had escaped so far with very few casualties. About noon I began to realize that I had not eaten anything since breakfast the previous morning, when my meal had been disturbed by the German shells and the tragic death of the sentry at our headquarters. Some one handed me a tin of "bully beef," and I ripped the top off with the trusty hunting knife which had been my faithful companion on every expedition I had made into the unknown wilds of Canada for the past twenty years, and I finished that tin of beef with apologies to "Fray Bentos."

In the afternoon I started down for the front line of trenches to see how they were getting along there. Capt. Dansereau accompanied me. At first he insisted that I should not go down into the "devil's corner," as they called it, and said he would go down and look it over and come back and report to me. However, when he saw I was determined to go he got his revolver and insisted on coming along. I bade good-bye to Capt. Alexander and the brave lads that were holding the St. Julien village trenches. Many of them would "return to Lochaber no more."

We made our way down to commandant headquarters. On our way we passed in the rear of the 7th Battalion and noted that the British Columbians knew how to use their shovels and grubbers. They were busy in spite of sniping and shell fire fortifying the line of the Poelcapelle Road for some distance east of the St. Julien and in rear of Kersselaere village. Colonel Hart McHarg was there directing the men. When we got to headquarters we found Major Marshall quite cheerful. Lieutenant Shoenberger wore his customary grim smile as he told me how our men had driven back the attacking Germans a few hours before. The Germans had "gassed" them twice, but the wind was too high and it blew the deadly fumes over the parapets. The men waited till the Germans emerged from their trenches three or four deep to charge. Then our whistles blew, and hundreds of them were cut down and piled on top of each other before they broke and ran back to their trenches. One machine gun got about 200 of them.

They told me that Major Kirkcaldy of the 8th Winnipeg Rifles had come over from their headquarters on the Gravenstafel Ridge to reconnoitre. Orders had come through that after dark the 13th Battalion, whose left flank was much exposed to enfilade fire from some machine guns, were to retire, pivoting on our left flank at the Poelcapelle Road and linking up with the 7th and Buffs. They were to dig in, trenching the line in rear of Kersselaere. Part of the 7th Battalion, which was virtually in support of them, were to hook up with our supporting trenches, thus forming two lines. The orders were that the 48th Highlanders were to hold their original trenches and protect, and the 7th were to conform. We were all warned to hold our trenches at all costs.

The order to conform and to consolidate, which reached the 7th, sent Lieutenant-Colonel McHarg out to reconnoitre his front about five o'clock in the afternoon to find out the most favorable place to build the parapets. Lieutenant Matheson of the engineers had arrived and Lt.-Colonel McHarg, Lieutenant Matheson and Major Odlum proceeded down the slope from their lines towards some ruined houses in their front, which they entered, and from the back windows of which they immediately saw the enemy lining the hedges not one hundred yards away. When they started back uphill the Germans opened fire on them and Colonel McHarg was instantly shot through the stomach. Major Odlum made his way out and sent Captain Gibson, the battalion surgeon, down to attend to the wounds of their commanding officer. Gibson stalked fearlessly down to where his colonel lay, picked him up, got him under better cover and dressed his wounds, and that night after dark they got him out. There was much gloom and sorrow among the British Columbians that night for they all loved their colonel and they knew that there was very little hope for him. He died the following day at Poperinghe. Thus died one of the bravest of the Canadians, a splendid soldier, the champion sharpshooter of America, for that matter of the world. He had always displayed great coolness and daring, and British Columbia will always cherish and revere his name.

A Narrow Escape

A shell entered the tree above these officers' heads, but failed to explode.ToList

The command devolved for the time being upon a worthy successor, Major Odlum.

At dusk I checked up the casualties over the telephone and I learned that we had only a total of forty-seven for the strenuous twenty-four hours, and that most of these were in the trenches of St. Julien. Lieutenant Vernon Jones and Lieutenant Barwick came along with their men, and they helped to take double rations and ammunition to the left flank company commanded by Major Osborne. They were ordered to close the rear of the redoubts with sandbags so as to save their men from enfilade fire which they were sure to get in the morning, as soon as the enemy had discovered that the 13th had retired to take up a new line. During the attack at noon the 13th had their line pierced at one point and a machine gun belonging to the Germans was brought through and put into position in a farm house surrounded by a moat in the rear of their lines. From this farmhouse the Germans were giving them all kinds of trouble, and it was to relieve this pressure chiefly that they were ordered to retire. The suggestion to bomb the Germans out was not practicable. Our guns were too few to cope with the powerful German artillery, although well served.

Company Sergeant-Major De Harte came up from the trenches along with the ration party at eight o'clock and told me the story of the gassing and bombing in the morning. When the Germans sent their gas over the wind was too high and it blew over the top of the trenches. The 48th waited until it passed over, then as soon as the gas and shelling ceased they manned the parapets knowing that an attack was coming. The whistle blew and the Ross rifle rang out a deadly hail that tumbled the Germans in heaps and sent them scurrying like rabbits for shelter.

The Huns gave us no more trouble during the afternoon and the men were confident of their ability to cope with any force that might come against them. Word came through to be sure and hold our trenches at all costs as help was coming. This message was sent direct to the trench line. Major Osborne asked me what would happen if the ammunition ran out. I told him the standing orders of the trenches were that we must use our side arms. Our standing orders read as follows:

"All ranks must realize the exact nature of the duty they are called upon to perform for the moment and must not exceed this duty. This duty is to hold the trenches at present handed over to their care at all costs against all comers, and on no account to give up the line. If attacked the men must continue firing and remain at their posts. If the enemy endeavors to rush the parapets the men will use their bayonets. Any of the enemy who make their way into the trenches must be bayonetted. The regiment is provided with ample supports in the rear. Any of the enemy who gets beyond our trenches will be taken care of by the supports. Each man must fire low and steadily."

As the night closed down the heavens were lit with the German flares and the lurid flashes from their guns. I took a long look over the battle line and I confess I thought our chances of ever getting out were very slim. The German flares crossed each other in the heavens behind us. In our left rear, and all around to the right rear, I could see the angry red flashes of the thousands of guns they were directing against our devoted defenders. I began counting the batteries, but after I had reached a hundred I concluded they had enough. Almost every calibre of gun was being used against us, from the great seventeen inch Austrian siege mortars they were firing at Ypres and Poperinghe behind us, to the nine, seven, six, five, four and three-inch high explosive shells that were filling the air with their fiendish notes.

Bayonets, brawn and bull-dog courage were all we had to match against all the resources of chemistry and mechanics of our enemies. They might poison us, destroy us or take a bit of the line here and there, but take the city of Ypres-not that summer, not so long as a Canadian arm was left to defend the stricken salient.

At twelve o'clock that night I checked up my sketch of our position after having a bowl of soup in Major Marshall's dugout. The second brigade line was untouched. So was the 48th. The 13th were withdrawn from their trenches and were digging in along the slope on our left flank. One company of the Buffs, one of the 5th and two companies of the 14th were mixed up in the line here, along with the three companies of the 7th that were consolidating their trenches along the Poelcapelle Road towards St. Julien where they linked up with the 48th, 13th and 14th Companies of the garrison. From the left flank of St. Julien, the 3rd Toronto Regiment, two companies, joined up with the 10th and 16th at St. Julien Wood. Then came Geddes' British Brigade, and on their left the 13th British Brigade under Brigadier-General R. Wanless O'Gowan. This brigade arrived in the afternoon from Hill 60. It was made up of what was left of the tired 1st West Kents, 2nd King's Own Borderers, 2nd York Light Infantry, 2nd West Riding, 9th London, all from the 5th Division that had lost half their officers at the crater blown up by Captain Perry. Next came the 1st and 4th Canadians, and then the French troops held as far as the canal.

There had been little or no change during the day. The honor of holding the dangerous angle of the great salient at Ypres had fallen to the lot of the Canadians. The Red Watch held the danger point, the toe. It was our duty to hang on and die to the last man until help came and the French line was reconstituted as it was when the French Tur

cos broke before the deadly gas. Like typical Highlanders we were the "Forlorn Hopes" of the Empire.

It was away after two o'clock in the morning when the shelling died down a bit in our front. I threw myself down in the dugout and fell asleep. I slept with revolver ready and boots on and got in a few winks. I was awakened at about a quarter to four by loud talking and the roar of guns. I jumped up and turned out to get a glimpse of what was going on in the trenches in front. I met Capt. Dansereau, who told me the Germans were again trying to gas the 48th. True enough, in the grey dawn a heavy yellow pall hung over our trenches and there was a sweet pungent smell of chlorine in the air. The two platoons that were in dugouts were at once sent to their stations in the supporting trenches. Major Marshall and Capt. Dansereau went into the trenches with them, while Lieutenant Shoenberger and I remained at the dugout trench at the telephone. There was a slight lull in the cannonading for a few minutes, then the German guns began to speak in louder and more insistent tones. I looked around the salient, shaped like a man's right foot, of which we were the toe, and hundreds of batteries seemed to be turned on our trenches, both front and supporting. Again and again salvos of "coal boxes" fell in succession along the parapet. Talk about Neuve Chapelle, we were getting our own back with interest. All the German batteries were concentrated on our parapets and the trenches held by our regiment. Pandemonium reigned along the front line of trenches. The Germans followed up their gasses again with intense rifle and machine gun fire. Up and down along the parapets of the redoubts the shells kept dropping, throwing up huge pyramids of black smoke fifty feet in the air. These blasts resembled rows of black trees or fountains. How anything could live in that seething vortex, created by the bursting high explosive shells, is a mystery. Many a brave Highlander would see the lone shielings and the misty mountains of Canada no more. All this time the Germans were industriously shelling the dugouts and supporting trenches where our supports were located and along the Gravenstafel Ridge. Huge shells fell like hail. Those that failed to burst in the air exploded the minute they struck the hard untilled clay of the fallow fields and fragments flew in every direction. One fell on the roadway about twenty feet away from me. Two men who were standing under cover of the broken wall of the windmill crumpled up like green leaves in a forest fire. They were done for. They were giving us a double "curtain of fire" as well as the death dealing gasses.

A piece of the same shell struck Lieutenant Shoenberger, my signalling officer, who stood close beside me, and he fell. He said never a word, but in a trice had his knife out, cut off his puttee and looked at his ankle. The bone was broken. Before I could give him a hand he had his first aid bandage out and tied up the wound himself. I offered to send a man with him to the dressing station a quarter of a mile back, but he said he would crawl down on his hands and knees all right and that every man would be needed in the trenches. He was quite cool and collected and did not show any sign of fear. I felt very sorry for him.

Nearly a century ago Admiral Lord Cochrane, a man of wonderful scientific knowledge, advanced a project to the British Government for a terrible and unseen agent which could be used against an enemy, and which was so destructive and powerful it would render their armies helpless. That secret was asphyxiating gas. His plan was on the field of battle when the wind was favorable to build large fires with tar and damp straw behind which an attack could be prepared. Then sulphur was to be thrown on these burning piles so as to produce gas, which blowing over the enemy would render them helpless. This would not produce a poisonous gas. It would only be an asphyxiating gas that would knock a man out for a while. Still the British had refused to use this secret.

In 1913 German scientists at the German Headquarters Staff had experimented with sulphur, chlorine and bromine fumes. They reported on sulphur gas: "This gas thus produced acts as an irritant on the lungs and eyes, and thence it is adapted to render the enemy incapable of resistance, but is not poisonous, and in that way its use in war is not contrary to international right." They had in view Article 23 of the rules of conducting hostilities promulgated by the second Hague Conference to which they had subscribed, which specifically prohibits "the use of poisons and poisonous arms" and "the use of arms, projectiles and material destined to produce useless suffering." The Germans could have used sulphur gas just as well as chlorine gas, but sulphur was not poisonous, and would not kill; chlorine and bromine would.

We had just learned that they were using red phosphorus in their shells, and that any particle of that chemical that got into a wound would set up gangrene from which hundreds of soldiers died in terrible agony. We had surmised that they were in the habit of dipping their rifle bullets in red phosphorus solution because where they struck the men's clothing they invariably started even the wool clothing burning. That was the case at St. Julien Wood where, according to the stories brought back by the men, they had foully crucified a sergeant belonging to our brigade on a barn door. He belonged to our bombing section.

The sun was shining a red rim on the horizon in the east. The sickly green clouds of the gas appeared denser in some places than others. The wind was just right for the infernal curtain that gradually drew over the trenches. The thickest pall was blown against the right of our line between McGregor's company and the left of the 8th Battalion, where there was an open space protected only by a small trench and barbed wire. Of those on our right hardly a man was left to tell the tale.

All those who stuck to the trench and did not use wet bandoliers or handkerchiefs died. Some tried to get out, only to fall stricken with the deadly vapor before they had gone many yards. Among these was Lieut. Taylor, an Oxford scholar, one of the best athletes in the First Division. He won out of the trench only to die on the Gravenstafel Ridge. Company Sergeant-Major Hermitage and his brother Sergeant Hermitage were stricken down also but managed to crawl out. The latter lost the use of his vocal chords for some time. They were burned with the fatal gas. Lieutenant Mavor, who was in this section, fell, but they managed to get him out before he succumbed. Some of the men fell back to the left to a communicating trench which they held till the German infantry attack came when they rallied to the parapets and drove the Germans out with their bayonets.

A very dense cloud of gas was directed against the centre of our line and Captain McLaren was one of the first to fall. Some of his men succeeded in getting him out. For days his life was despaired of, and his lungs were scarred for ever. Lieutenant Maxwell Scott, of Abbotsford, kindred of the great Sir Walter, author of Waverley, one of the finest officers in our battalion, fell from the effects of the fumes. They succeeded in getting him out also. His life was dispaired of.

The only thing the soldiers had to stave off the poisonous gas were their wet handkerchiefs or wet bandoliers where they happened to have them. Pads and masks were not then known or issued.

My lungs were sore for months from the gas we got at the village of St. Julien and here, which was a second dose.

When the German attack came many of the men had fallen. Others were too weak to fight, but there were still some left and they counter attacked and drove the Germans out of the trenches with the bayonet. The fighting was very strenuous while it lasted. It was a case of butt or point whichever came handiest. I noticed a number of men straggling back through on our right and went over to see what was the trouble, thinking that they were retiring without orders. I found, however, they were all badly gassed and wounded so they could be of no further help. Those who were able to shoot were halted and put into the supporting trenches, over which the Germans were putting a curtain of fire filled with asphyxiating gasses which smelled like ten thousand "camphor balls turned loose," as one man said, as he turned sick with the gas and smell.

When the Germans were driven off they again turned their guns and rifles on the brave few who were hanging on. Captain McGregor went down with a wound in the head, but he still kept on using his rifle till a second bullet laid him low. Lieutenant Langmuir, revolver in hand, fell after he had killed eight of the foe. He had more than evened the score at the head of his platoon. Smith and Macdonald fought like lions. Again and again they charged the Germans with the bayonet. Lieutenant Bath, a quiet and mild mannered youth, greatly distinguished himself. Captain McKessock was operating his machine guns like mad. One of the guns he turned over to "Rolly" Carmichael, the tallest man in the regiment, a daredevil who did not know the meaning of fear. With a wound in his shoulder McKessock took one gun out of the forward line, mounted it in rear of a ruin about two hundred feet behind its original position and began ripping holes through the German ranks that were appalling. He was finally overcome from loss of blood. Major Osborne, badly gassed, fought on with a wound in the shoulder till a bullet caught him in the face. He was put into a communication trench from which he directed his men.

The line held against the first attack. Although the Germans broke through in several places they were driven back and paid a fearful price for their daring.

The gasses rolled to the supporting trenches and made life unbearable. The pungent smell was awful. Shells and rifle fire were forgotten in the scorching livid breath of the chlorine. Scores of men died where they stood. Some tried to crawl away. The bearers brought some out from the front line, but when I examined their pulses I found them dead. Poor fellows, their features were distorted and their faces livid. Blood-tainted froth clung to their lips. Their skins were mottled blue and white. They were a heartbreaking sight to behold.

Chlorine gas killed! No wonder the poor ignorant Turcos fled. But the indomitable "Red Watch" held on.

The sun rose from a lurid red sea in the east. It was now daylight and five German aeroplanes of the Albatross pattern rose in the German lines and started boldly across our territory. Our machine guns spoke against the flying observer, and I knew that Captain McKessock's guns had still a few kicks left. The stream of wounded and gassed men continued. Many of them could hardly make their way along on their hands and knees. The gas affected some of them so they did not recognize anyone. They afterwards fancied they had been in the front line for days.

The poisonous gasses affected the brain as well as the lungs. Then we realized the full enormity of the gas attack of the enemy. It was not a gas that would knock a man out that they were giving us, but a poisonous gas that would kill.

It was half past six o'clock before the German infantry again tried to force our redoubts.

The gas, shell fire, enfilading fire and machine gun fire they fancied had again done their work, and they ventured out of their trenches and charged against the centre of our line. They broke through between some redoubts in Captain McLaren's line, but the men rallied and drove them out again with the bayonet. The "chop chop" of the Ross rifle told us that there was still plenty of fight in the front line.

The Royal Highlanders on our left and the "Buffs" were attacked at the same time. The German machine guns in the farmhouse were playing havoc with the men in the shallow "dig ins" which they had made the previous night, but the Highlanders held on like grim death. Shells filled with asphyxiating gas were fired at us, and whole squads of men in the supporting trenches were wiped out at each salvo, which consisted usually of four huge shells.

A message from Major Osborne stated that there was a possibility of a shortage of ammunition and he asked for orders and supports. I was sorry to have to tell him that the 48th were to "hold on to the last, and if ammunition gave out to use the bayonet, to hold the redoubts to the end. If the Germans broke through to drive them out with the bayonet."

Orders were issued that the wounded were to get first aid, but were not to be carried out. We needed every rifle and man, and could no longer spare stretcher bearers.

Help was expected, but it was just as dangerous to retire as to hold the forts. We were holding the enemy back and any minute the British might come.

I do not know whether my message got through to him, but I do know that he and his fellow officers carried out the orders.

The Automatic Colt 45, which all the Canadian officers carried, is a good weapon at close quarters. Its bullet would stop an ox, but there is a limit to the rounds that can be fired. In a hard close scuffle, there is nothing like a stout rifle and a long sharp bayonet. I picked one up that had been dropped by a wounded man. It was an excellent weapon, better at close quarters than my claymore. The knowledge learned in the old Toronto Fencing Club of how to lunge and parry was to stand me in good stead during that awful morning. The arme blanche is not to be despised, and when you are at it hand to hand you are relieved from shell fire.

I afterwards gave the rifle to Sergeant Coe, the bravest of many brave men, who carried it when he fell at the head of his platoon in the immortal charge on the orchard at Festubert.

About nine o 'clock the German aeroplanes again came along and took another good look at our position. A white flare was dropped over the bit of trench held by Major Marshall, a platoon of forty odd men with a machine gun and crew, that had again and again raked the German trenches. About twenty howitzers immediately opened fire on that unfortunate trench, and how any of them escaped was a mystery, for they seemed to get the range to a dot. Company Sergeant-Major Vernon, one of my best non-commissioned officers, had his head completely blown off with a piece of shell. Sergeant Angus Ferguson, veteran of India, Egypt and Africa, was shot in the arm and leg. He was left for dead. Later the diabolical Huns captured him, and on his raising an objection to having his leg amputated gave him his choice of that or being shot. They amputated his leg above the knee without even administering an anaesthetic, but he lived to return to Toronto and tell the tale.

A number of the machine gunners were killed and wounded. Lieutenant Dansereau, my adjutant, was struck in the head with a piece of shell and everyone thought he was finished. Word was brought to me to that effect, and I felt as if I had lost my own son. Sergeant Flood of the machine gun section stood by his piece as long as possible, but finally a shell smashed the mount and this piece of trench became untenable. The pitiful remnant of the platoon, now consisting of seven men with Major Marshall, had to find a place to the right of the supporting trenches where they kept on fighting. The Germans had broken through on our left and were trying to force our supporting trenches.

Major Marshall and the few that were left with him spotted a platoon of the enemy advancing in their front about one hundred feet away, led by a man who they thought carried a white flag. He wore a blue coat and looked like a French soldier. They thought at first that it was a bunch of Turcos or of Germans wanting to surrender. They opened fire, and the man with the white disk turned and started running back and they saw that the other side of the disk bore the ominous black cross. He was a marker for their artillery. He did not run far. Marshall had a rifle and bayonet and knew how to use them. On our left Lieutenant Colonel Burland of Montreal took charge of the 14th and fought rifle in hand. He greatly distinguished himself.

All this time a miserable Hun was playing on our trenches from the left rear with a machine gun.

Between our forward position and St. Julien, a short distance northwest of the Poelcapelle Road, a number of farm buildings had been seized by the Germans when the Turcos fled the first night, and they had placed their Maxims in the upper windows and were trying their level best all the time to get us in the back.

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