Item 04: James I. Marshall diary, 24 November-12 December 1916 - Page 6

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Well for our first night out on patrol, Mr Hill and Mr Waite tossed to see which would go out and Mr Waite won. There were twenty of us altogether, so felt pretty confident if we should meet Fritz. It was a brilliant moonlit night and with the snow on the ground, it was very bright indeed. We had hardly started out when we realised the great effect of our 'whale oiled' tin hats in the light. After wandering around for about an hour or so, we de[c]ided on a definite course of action. Mr Waite went one way with most of the party and Frank Cooling took four of us with him.

We had barely gone 50yds when we saw a blaze of light in front of us and felt machine gun bullets in dosens around us. I was in a shellhole very quickly (before the bullets had time to reach us I think) and found Frank on the edge hanging on to the Hun rifle we had souvenired from a sniper earlier,; I tried to get him into the hole with me during which time our faces were about nine inches apart. Fritz firing at our radiant headgear was lobbing his missiles right between us, & it was mighty unpleasant feeling too. One scratched the top of my helmet, & another went through the back of Frank's tunic. He soon opened up on the others though, who were attempting to get away, and so we took advantage of our chance, only to run into a 'flare king' about 50yds away. The rest of the patrol then saw us and we got out of a nasty position thanks to them. As the gunners saw the lot of us by the flare, we soon went home, and very quickly too.

Another night we went out and found a party of men in a trench whom Mr Hill challenged, all of us thinking that at last we had some Huns at our mercy. Imagine our chagrin at getting our own password back from each one of the party. It was one of our own outposts who had started out to come home an[d] got lost. Another night though, we did bag a Hun party and left an officer & a couple of men there. The next morning as it was very misty we decided to go out and collect any papers or souvenirs on them. Tom Lucas and myself went out and found them, collecting various maps and papers, also a watch. I took an Iron Cross ribbon and on shewing it to Mr Hill was much surprised when he told me that they carried the Cross with them. he got out first and collected a brand new Cross of the 1st class. I had to be satisfied with a helmet badge which I got later.

During all this time I did no post or sentry work. With Bob Logan, a stretcher bearer, I used to keep a good fire going all day and night for anybody to cook on, or warm their toes at. Up to then my feet had kept pretty well, but about the third trip in I had a bad gum-boot and had very bad feet in consequence. On account of the long trip out Captain Ramsay gave orders for me to go out before the Battalion. I started off from the post alright to go to Coy. Hqrs. to report in company with two others. It was then at the muddiest period of my experience, and we had not gone far before I got stuck up to my armpits in a big shellhole. As Fritz was making it very hot with big 'coal boxes' and had several aeroplanes up, I told the others to go on and wait at HQ. if they liked. After a good deal of trouble I got out minus one boot, which on account of the suction would not come out. I managed to grope around and get my rifle out though, and then made my waty to Coy. H.Q. I will never forget what I felt like, and have a good idea of what I looked like. When Captain Ramsay saw me he just put his hands on his hips and laughed rather too much for my liking. However as soon as he had given off steam, he fixed me up very well. He got out a dry pair of sox and gave me a good nip of rum which was very welcome and I started off again, carrying about a ton of mud as well as my pack. My overcoat and trousers had to be dumped and it was no good fun in that weather.

One night early in March we got some Hun papers which gave information of an intended evacuation. Anyhow a bit of a stunt was to come off and we were going to be in Heaven Trench before Fritz intended to leave.

After a long and weary crawl through the mud we arrived at the objective and almost the whole Battalion lined up along the wire in front of the trench. The small party I was with was isolated from the others and only that I knew the ground so well I would have felt very uncomfortable. For over an hour and a half we lay there with a flare king about five feet in front of us, and dosens of Huns further back promenading the parapet. Naturally we were all more or less glad when we had heard the aeroplane go over and signal the cancelling of the event. During our wait, there was a strafe on the other flank but where we were it was very uneventful except when one of the N.C.Os who was very shortsighted asked the Fritz in front of us "Is that you Frank?" Naturally we got no answer. Why we were never fired on I do not know as the Hun certainly knew we were there. The word to go back came at last and instead of getting up quietly and going away everybody made a wild bolt and got away certainly, but with the row of a herd of elephants. We were then gathered in the gully further back and lay in wait for Fritz patrols. I went to sleep then and do not know what happened. It was near daylight when they woke me and we went in. Something similar happened the next night, but on the third occasion we got in and took the trench. That morning we found that Fritz was 5 mile or more away. The 8th Bde followed him up and then the 15th who met him at Beaumetz and had a stiff fight,.

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