Page 50 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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ARMENTI~RES-TRENCH
WARFARE-2nd YPRES
35
reserve. The latter had become all the more necessary as the arrival
of winter had brought with it an increase in the water which the
flat ground of Flanders collected and which found its way in ever
greater quantities into the trenches in which the troops were living.
Energetic measures were taken to improve drainage, not greatly
helped in one case by another unit of the 12th Brigade tapping a
sewer which flooded a large sector of trenches! By loth December,
the War Diary records that trenches were "impassable in places,
being chest deep" with water, and that a supporting trench had to
be abandoned owing to flooding. The battalion medical officer,
Tyrrell, prescribed forty-eight hours as the maximum tour in
trenches; whereupon, when the battalion was holding the line
at Le Touquet, "B" and "D" Companies would be in the trenches
for two days while "C" and "A" were in the village itself, and
vice versa.
The solution sought in some places was the building
of sandbag breast-works above ground, which were at first known
as "High Command" trenches. As some compensation for this
depressing state of affairs, a beginning was being made with
the organization of comforts in reserve areas, and the War Diary
records appreciatively on 26th November that the battalion had
hot baths in the brewery at Nieppe. As this village was barely three
miles from the front line, it is to be feared that the brewery's proper
activities had by then ceased. Entertainment was, however, pro–
vided for the troops by some excellent regimental concerts organized
by the medical officer and Second-Lieutenant M. P. Gamon. They
were copied by other units and soon after the 4th Division Follies
started their successful career. Gamon once sang a song representing
a soldier coming out of the line, for which he was hung about with
every conceivable object from a candle to a shell case: a photograph
was taken which later appeared in a fashionable London periodical
with the quite serious caption: "Soldier returning loaded with
material from captured trench.-N.B. Note shell case being used as a
candle stick."
Further signs of the acceptance of trench warfare as a semi–
permanent institution were the abolition of the carrying of swords
by dismounted infantry officers on 2"2nd January, 1915, and their
replacement by the ordinary web equipment and rifle as worn by
N.cOs. and men; the issue of orders by 4th Division on 4th March,
1915, for the organization of a grenadier company in each brigade,
based on one officer, one N.C.O. and 24 men in each company being
trained as a grenadier section; and the issue at about the same
time of a detailed syllabus of instruction in trench duties and tactics
to be given to new units freshly arrived from England.
If
a unit
bethought itself of some useful improvisation, such as a new method
of firing rifle grenades, carrying rations or making ingenious loop–
holes combining a better field of fire with greater safety, details
were collected and circulated by Army Headquarters. There was
need of ingenuity to balance the great inferiority from which the
British troops suffered in the matter of trench stores and munitions.