They gave us a quiet day, so we guessed they had something special for us
Another account of war from the letters of Lance-Corporal John Gutteridge to the Bromley & District Times.
“Our regiment started out for the trenches on Friday, October 22nd, at 4 pm, arriving in the trenches at 7 pm to an easy time, but afterwards we found that we were in for a hard time.
We had only been in the trenches a short time, when the Germans started shelling us, and we at once got on the telephone to our artillery to shell them back, which they did within thirty seconds, and dropped their shells nicely into the German trenches. Well, after that we passed a pretty quiet night, building up the parapets which they had destroyed.
At daybreak we found they had planted our regimental colours outside their trenches, so they very soon found out who we were. They did the same to-day (Saturday), a few shells knocking over our parapet, as they did last evening, and on Sunday they gave us a few more shells with a mixture of shrapnel.
On Monday, they gave us a quiet day, so we guessed they had something special for us, and we knew all about it later. I had just retired the night (the first time I had seen the bed since Thursday), when there was a loud explosion, and I felt the ground shake. Getting up, I grabbed my rifle and gas helmet, rushed outside, and found the trenches had been made higher, caused through the mine which the Germans had blown up and the ground giving in, so our fellows had to pack up sand-bags to stand on. Well, we soon got to business and got the artillery to help us, and found the Germans had blown up their mine, hoping to cause a confusion in our trench, so that they could advance, but directly our fellows opened rapid fire on them they fell back, rather to our liking, as we were not looking for trouble just at that minute, because we wanted time to build up the trenches and dug-outs that the mine had destroyed.
We had some more shell fights till Wednesday night, when we were relieved. It’s a good thing to have some laughs in these times; I had a narrow shave the last day. A shell exploded over my head, and a piece went bang on my shoulder. I said to the Sergeant-Major, who was by my side, “I’ve got it, a special pass for England.” He had a look and found it had only bruised my shoulder, so my special pass has got thrown out till some future date. We are back in the rest camp for five days, then we return to the same trenches, and I can see some more mines going up.
They told us, before we went in the trenches that we were to have a quiet time, as the Germans had left their trenches in charge of caretakers, but I am looking for the fellow who told me that. We have had plenty of rain here, and if anyone would like some Belgium soil that we have taken from the Germans, I will send it on to them, on conditions that they sell it, and give the profits to some fund, but they will have to wait till I take it off my clothes, as it takes a long time. I hope Bromley is sending a few more men here”