24th August 1916 Thursday
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“On 24th August, we went into the trenches, relieving the 14th Welsh. I had a good Aid-Post on the canal bank, close to Battalion Headquarters, and with good sleeping accommodation – nice bunks. The artillery liaison officer shared the dug-out with me. This was my abode for four days in fine weather, but not too hot.
There were lots of dead bodies – British, Canadian, Bosche – lying buried, not too deeply, in the banks of the canal, and the canal itself with very little water in it was stinking with decaying flesh. It was a ghastly spot. Both sides of the canal banks (facing away from the enemy) were honey-combed with dug-outs of all sorts and sizes. Some were wonderful concreted palaces and others just tiny sand-bagged funk holes. Well-kept duck-board tracks made communication easy between dug-outs, and numerous wooden bridges erected by the engineers, crossed the stinking canal. Rats abounded in millions – great, fat brutes, as big as cats. They slunk about at night pinching our food and ruining our clothes.
One night I awoke with a feeling of weight on my chest. On putting up my hand a rat ran over my face! I got a creepy scare that time! The brutes even ate our playing cards and candles. We organised hunts at nights, and killed them with heavy sticks and revolver shots. Even terriers were sent up to help us.
During the four days in the line, I went up the communication trenches each day and visited the companies in the front line. I also had sick-parades each day and inspected dug-outs and the latrines on the canal banks. Some of the dug-outs had to be sprayed out with Cresol solution as they were verminous.
We had several casualties, mainly due to Hun rifle-grenade fire.”
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The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.
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