This one gave me a panic attack when I remember it. I haven’t had one this traumatic since the first one.
I remember after the battle at Bellewaerde Ridge, we were at a rest point deeper into the Salient, in one of the redoubts or more developed trench systems around the city. I remember those trenches were a fair bit more modern than the ones immediately at the front, or in the area around Armentieres; they’d spent more time and effort refining the ones at Ypres.
We were all tired and sitting on a bench in an area we’d been given for a break after getting back from the front line. This officer came by, grinning and waving and said “Ah, there you are, boys! Draw any fire from them Boche over at the ridge?” I could have strangled that man then and there. We took substantial losses in our brigade in that attack, it was my first time in battle and I was horrified beyond words. To see someone treat it that way just made me terrified and nauseated; I came to understand what hell really was that day. To have someone laugh and wave… any good Anglican should surely be able to spot that man as the devil himself? (for I was indeed Anglican in that life).
The words “draw fire” sent me into a deep sense of dread when I heard them. I’m horrified again. I feel the sharp bristling of shock in my spine, just the same as when I saw those boys blown to bits.