Letter 31st October: Allouagne
Just a few lines to let you and the boys know how I am going on; I hope you received my last letter all right. I told you in that letter that the Guards were going to take the Redoubt on the Sunday, but owing to circumstances, and the weather breaking down, the attack did not come off.
To go back to the beginning-On the Wednesday when we were having a rest the 1 st Brigade of Guards were in the 1 st line when the Germans made a counter-attack to try and get the whole of the redoubt. After a hard fight which was mostly by bomb attacks they were driven back with heavy loss, and the 1 st brigade counterattacked and took the trench on the right of the Redoubt. The day after the weather broke down. It is almost impossible to charge in wet weather so all attacks were cancelled for the time being. So now we have two-thirds of the Redoubt, the Germans holding the other third, or the trench on the left.
Owing to the smartness in which the Guards move, and also owing to their strict discipline, they have not had the casualties that other Divisions have had. We know that as we have to get away the wounded. The 3 rd (our) Brigade, took over the 1 st line on Saturday and stayed there till Tuesday night when the whole of the Guards Division were relieved and sent back for 14 day’s rest, as they had not had 48 hours out of the trenches since the start of the Battle of Loos.
I was up with the 3 rd Brigade for the 4 days they were up this time, but everything was very quiet, having only 20 wounded the whole time. We were very glad, as it was a terrible trench to bring wounded down, it being so narrow and with so many turnings. There was also the rain, the trench in some parts being a foot deep with mud and water; other parts falling in with the rain, while other parts were knocked in by shells.
This trench is called Guys and is two and a half miles long from the quarry to the railway line. This is not the trench I referred to in my last letter but another on the left of that, nearer Cambrin. The trench I referred to in my last letter was called “Bart’s Alley” and the one next to it is “Gordon’s Alley”.
The way we are having so far to carry the wounded through the trenches here is owing to the flat country and also owing to the advance the old trenches are linked up with the new and make one long trench. When I was up that last time I was left up in the dugout in charge of 5 other men. I was having a walk round at 7am to see if any of the regiments had any wounded when I ran up against one of the Kingston boys, an Iron Driller named Kincaid. Jim Pye will know him. He is a Sergeant in the 2nd Scots Guards, having listed after the war broke out. He told me he had been out here since February and is keeping well and getting on all right. I am going to see him and have a long chat now we are back resting.
On Thursday past we were to be inspected by the King. Everything was ready when it was all cancelled. We did not know what was wrong till night when word went round that he had had an accident.
Things don’t look bright round the Balkan’s way, but though we are slow to move, I think when we do move round that way, we will move to some tune. It looks like prolonging the war, but personally, I think the bigger it gets, and the more countries that come in, the quicker it will be finished.
I think the fiercest fighting to come and what will have a big say in this War is going to be in poor old Serbia. Troops are leaving France for there; the 28th Division having left a few days ago and there is some word of the Guards going, but I won’t build up hopes on that, but if it comes true I will try and let you know as soon as possible.
They can afford to send troops from France, as there are thousands of troops out here who have not yet been in the trenches, but simply doing training-what others are doing at home.
They can’t send all fresh troops to Serbia as they will have to send some of the regular Divisions to steady them up, so I expect there will be as many troops leaving here for Serbia as there will be leaving home.
One thing that is very satisfactory I have noticed of late is that we are using ammunition freely; for every shell, the Germans send over-and they send a few over at times- we send 20 for their one. As far as I can see for myself the German troops must have a hell of a time in the trenches; our guns never stop. They are continually working at their trenches.
They attempt to build and repair their trenches by night and next day our Gunners knock them all down again. It must be hell for them as I know what like it is when they shell us very heavily.
I don’t know what more I can say at present, only we are resting here for 14 days. It is a village between Bethune and Lillers. I have not seen Kirkwood or any other of the boys, but hope they are all keeping well, also all the boys at home. Tell them I was asking after them all and hope the class is doing well.
From your old Pal, Mac.