18th March 1916 Saturday

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Douglas tells more of the now very active time taking place in a very hostile period of action including tragic death by friendly fire.

“ The Loos area was very active about this time (March 18th). Great artillery duels took place and one night a mine was exploded which shook us all up and put out all the lights in our dug-out.

One day Smith our Brigade bombing officer with three men were killed in a *sap. One of our shells dropped short amongst them and blew them all to pieces. We were all very much distressed. The funeral of Lt. Smith was most impressive. He was buried in the little cemetery close to my aid post and during the short service one of our aeroplanes flew overhead. The Huns ‘straffed” it heavily with ‘archies’ and bits of shell fell all around us, but fortunately none of us was injured.

The trenches hereabouts were mostly in good condition. The communications trenches, Hitchin Road and Caledonian Road were in excellent order and one felt very safe going up them. ‘Hilders Redoubt’ and ‘Wolfe’s Trench’ were the names of the trenches in this region.”

* a sap is a trench dug in an attempt to undermine the enemy’s stronghold and were the domain of the Corps of Royal Engineers whose men are known as Sappers (Spr.). They are the equivalent of the rank of Private in other units. The term is derived from the French military from which comes the old French word for a spade “sappe”.

Trench map showing places mentioned by Douglas

The points Douglas mentions can clearly be seen on this trench map. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. https://maps.nls.uk/index.html

The next post follows on 24th March.

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2 Responses to 18th March 1916 Saturday

  • Last Monday21st March 2016 I visited the CWGC cemetery at Windy Corner. I wanted to bring you more on the story of the unfortunate Lt. CH Smith and his men that lost their lives in the friendly fire incident, described by Douglas in the diary. The headstone is currently missing so I have asked the CWGC for an answer. I will bring you more on the story when I find out a bit more.
    He also mentioned some men in the cemetery at Vielle Chapelle and I will add a little more on them following my next visit.

  • Having received a reply from the CWGC regarding the missing headstone, there will be an update soon to look out for, regarding the whereabouts of Lt. C.H. Smith.