Last night I finally had the courage to sit and watch some documentaries about the Battle of the Somme, as one of my friends suggested.
What it revealed is that some of my memories contradict some of the things I’ve found, but not all.
Consider that Pvt. J. Harris, whose grave is the closest match to my vision to date, died in 1915.
This would be potentially consistent with the memory of a brothel where lonely soldiers of the various armies would come in secret. According to one of the documentaries I saw, the drive for “total war” didn’t really hit the enlisted soldiers until the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Before then, they said, it was not uncommon for British and German soldiers to pass one another between battles and not bat an eye.
However, my visions of being under constant anxiety from German shells actually suggests a much later date in the war, more consistent with my intuition of being around 1917. By all accounts, the Germans didn’t rely on artillery as much as the British did until much later in the war, when they introduced high-explosive rounds. Air-burst rounds seem to be mentioned more in literature from the second world war than the first one, but all that proves to me so far is that they were more widely used; I haven’t seen anything that completely contradicts their use in the First World War.
I suppose it’s too soon to say there are clear contradictions because I’ve only scratched the surface. I haven’t pulled Pvt. Harris’ service records yet, nor have I done a great deal of research on firsthand accounts of the early battles, and I know almost nothing still about the common ordnance of the time period.
What I do know is that I’m not going to believe every vision I have just because it’s mine. I fully expect there to be some contradictions, and only by learning as much as I can about the verifiable facts can I have any chance of determining which is which.