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The War Diary Of Clarence Richmond

Episode 10

Troops March Toward Lines
August 5-7, 1918

About one o'clock Monday afternoon Aug. 5th, we packed up, and to our great joy, put our packs in trucks and, with only rifle and belt, headed back and through Nancy again. It was something new to us, to have our packs hauled. Passing through Nancy, without a stop, we kept up a steady march, with the regular rest intervals, until about eight that night. Some other troops started to pass us during the afternoon, while we were resting, but Col. Wise, our battalion commander, cussed their officer out and would not let them pass us. Just before night, it began to rain, arid by the time we reached our billeting place, a small place called Loisy, we were wet to the skins, and without blankets. This place seemed to be correctly named according to our pronunciation, which was "lousy." We were lucky to draw a barn with plenty of hay and straw, so covering up with plenty of hay I managed to sleep fairly warm. By morning the heat from my body had dried my clothes. I soon located my pack, which had been covered, and was dry. We had two good warm meals, the "good" modifying warm more than meal. There wasn't anything in the town to buy; in fact I could not see why they had the town there for anyway. We did find one place where they had a few cans of plums and apricots.

At dusk we again took up the march on towards the lines. We knew we were going towards the front, because we could see the German's signal flares in front of us. At night they sent up four flares, one following the other, at regular periods. By them we could always tell whether we were going to or from the front. We somehow had a notion that we were going on into the lines that night. It was reported that this sector was very quiet, and that there was no activity going on at this time. The road was camouflaged on tine side all along to protect it from observation. To our right, perched on top of a high hill, was an old castle which the French evidently used as an observation tower. Once I thought I saw a signal light flash from the tower.

Passing through the town of Pont-a-Mossou, we soon entered a series of communication trenches leading up to the front line trenches. These trenches were covered over head and deep enough to allow us to walk upright. It was pretty dark in these trenches, and we had hard going. The duck boards in the bottom were in bad shape, and we got several falls. No loud talking was allowed, and we got to our places without any unnecessary noise. A Frog (French) sergeant took a corporal, another buck and myself to an observation post, and after pointing out in the darkness, saying. "Boche, la, Boche, la", left us. The Boche might have been five hundred yards or five miles, we did not know. The Frog didn't stay long enough to tell us anything. It was about midnight, and I was so sleepy, could hardly hold my eyes open. We arranged watches of one hour each, and put our hand grenades in a handy place, and our rifles in a read position. The rats made so much racket out in the barb wire, that we could not tell if it were the Germans coming over or what. All of the rats in that sector must have been congregated out in front of us. They sure did keep us on the lookout at times.

My watch seemed terribly long, but I could not sleep when I went off watch. The place to sleep was so small that we could not lay down good. One thing that kept me awake was the other fellow's snoring.

Morning finally came and we withdrew our post. Only about three were kept on watch during the day, not counting the machine gun crews. There were two crews in our trench. The balance of us were off the rest of the day. We had two deep dugouts to sleep in. They were connected underground, and were thirty feet apart. The dugouts were fitted up with crude double bunks, with hay mattresses, which were pretty dirty. It was rather damp underneath, water standing near my bunk. Rats were plentiful and could be heard splashing through the water quite often. After our watch in the morning, we slept till about noon, when chow was brought up to us. Out in the open, but protected from observation by small trees was a table, on which we ate. It was more like camping out somewhere, than warfare. There was quite a bit of shrubbery and plum trees covering the place we held. It was on the side of a hill, near the crest. Towards the rear was the old tower we saw coming into the sector, and which acted as a sentinel for this sector. The long gradual slope from the tower towards us was covered with- barb wire.

We spent the first day making ourselves familiar with our surroundings, the run of our trench, etc. The plum trees were full of plums and beginning to get ripe. The Moselle river flowed through the valley, the front lines being right angles with the river. Across the river within the German lines could be seen two small villages. The nearest one was the headquarters of a band. For we could hear it playing occasionally, and sometimes we could see the inhabitants working or could see their washing out on the line. This certainly was a bon sector. War wasn't so bad in some places. There must have been some mutual agreement between the French and Germans to make this a quiet sector, for the trenches here were so old that they were caving in, and had been unchanged for two or three years, possibly four.

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The War Diary of Clarence Richmond
Posted April 28, 1997 By Robin Richmond