Ward diary, 6 October 1914 - 28 July 1915 / Eric Harford Ward - Page 27

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[Page 27]

Tues. May 11 – Dearth of matches, 8 & 10 cigarettes lit from one match. About a week ago our little trench received its most severe bombardment. The Turks turned their howitzers on us & plonked eighty odd shells in & around us, 37 ploughed up the earth in front of trench, knock down sand bags, half filled the trench with sandbags & earth & almost suffocated us with vile smoke. We also gathered up some pounds of shrapnel balls. I stuck it until a sandbag lobbed at my feet with a shell through the middle & still smoking – I moved ten yds. – a couple more shells arrived & they ceased. This little stunt lasted one hour & we literally "smelt hell". No one was hit, although some of my men were half buried in dirt. The trench was half full of smoke ½ the time in which we choked & spluttered & cursed. although I attribute this to the cure of my cold. The shells have a horrible sound exactly like the rip of tearing a starched collar & the whistle of a railway engine mixed. You hear them coming – you bob down - & wonder with every muscle tight & lips closed, will it land on our bit of trench this time or not – Then the whistle goes over or finishes in front with a hellish crash & much flying dirt & stones & you are a little safer for another minute or so. Our first day was like hell itself – we had to advance through low scrub exposed to heavy shrapnel & rifle fire – we don't want it again. At the end of those 4 terrible days (April 25-6-7-8) we totalled only 421 out of 1100 odd – gradually we have entrenched & we now have very fair cover. We have been in this trench since night of May 1st. The last 10 days work has been in the trenches – it is rather nerve-racking especially at night when a bold Turk creeps up with an armful of grenades to heave at us. The Turks are digging in on both our flanks – we watch them all day & do much potting. They often wave us a "wash out" (miss) with their spades. They delight in pinging at our Hypo-scopes which have been more or less improvised – to-day we received an issue of real ones. People who work in the gardens all day Sunday have no idea what War is like – its horrible – the awful sights of dead & wounded become every minute occurrences. The first minute after leaving our transport was sufficient to harden me for what was ahead – we stepped into the small boat to be towed ashore & my seat was near a great pool of blood in the bottom of the boat & much blood stained equipment lying about this combined with a few breezy remarks concerning the dead & wounded lying about the shore had the peculiar affect of keeping my spirits up. Still war has its comic sides & we laugh to split our sides at the many close shaves in a bombardment such as above. Most of the old South African men say we saw more fighting our first 4 days than lots of them saw all through the Boer War. Our casualties totalled 4000.

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