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Transcript of Letter from Lieutenant Catford, 25 September 1916
Please remember that all transcripts show what is written on the page; spelling and grammatical mistakes are not corrected.
September 25th 1916.
Surely truth is stranger than fiction!! Last night I
had a most excellent sleep in No Mans Land, during a fairly
heavy bombardment such as is practically continuous in this
the greatest battle of the War!!
Had I not the testimony of some of the most gallant fellows
who ever walked God's earth, even to you, I should hardly care
to relate the facts of an episode which sounds so improbable
of having occurred. There was another big attack yesterday.
After it was over my Battalion had to go up to the front line -
we were in reserve - and dig what is called a "jumping off trench"
for another Brigade to attack from this morning. This trench had
to be dug in advance of our own front line mid-way between that
trench and the Germans. Arrived in No Mans Land after a most
tiring march, including many falls into "Crump" holes etc, we were
absolutely unable to find any Officer, N.C.O. or man of the Brigade
in the front line who knew exactly where the trench had to be dug.
The Adjutant roamed about until challenged by Boches and it is a
thousand wonders we were not all wiped out by Machine gun fire.
Tired of waiting and rather exhausted after the long march I must
have fallen off to sleep as the next thing I knew was that one of
my Sergeants who was lying next to me woke me up and told me that
we had to return as the exact location of the site of the trench
had not been defined!!
I am pleased to say that I got the whole Company back with-
out a single casualty. As a matter of fact up to the present
my Company, "Y" proverbial for their luck in the Battalion have
had only 15 casualties whereas other Companies have lost at least
50 per cent of their personnel!
Of course since it has been so stated in the papers, there
is no harm in my telling you that we were in the great attack
on the 15th. Our Division did exceptionally well and not only
reached all objectives but even advanced beyond them in some
places to a distance of 800 yards. The whole show is very ghast-
ly. Our Artillery simply blew the Germans to bits and naturally
their Artillery which is both powerful and very efficient was
not at all pleasant. We were to have made a second attack, but
as the kindly Hun walked away and obligingly gave up what was to
have been our objective we simply took possession of it without
any fighting. Would that the Bosch always did this! It comes
to the same thing in the end and he may as well give up his
ground to us as fight for it.
Having seen the famous "Tanks" both before going into
action, when I inspected them very minutely, I am very much
amused at the illustrations of them in the Press.
There is very little to say about this big show except
the Artillery is awful and the flies are worse, whilst conditions
of living are worse still. All the same we are exceptionally
cheerful. We bear everything I hope like good soldiers proud to
have beaten thoroughly the reputed "Invincible German Army" The
men are absolutely wonderful. My Company are in the best of spirits
I think you might send out 1000 Woodbines [cigarettes] for them.
Well I think I have given you some idea of what it is like
out here. Men live and die like heroes and face with the greatest
of courage that which no men ought to be called upon to face, I
can say no more.