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The War Diary Of Clarence Richmond

Episode 4

German Artillery Fire Begins
Late June, 1918

On several occasions I went on details for rations, water and ammunition. Our kitchen was back about a mile or a little farther, and well protected from overhead observation. It seemed that we were always lucky in selecting a time when there was but little shelling going on.

There was a one pounder located in front of us somewhere, that bothered us a great deal by firing point blank at us. The instant you heard the report of the gun, the shell exploded. There was no time to duck. Several times the shell went right over our heads, and it was not wise to have your head above the trench. We never were able to locate the position of the gun. Luloff and I located some German batteries that were annoying another section of our line. Our particular section of the line was never shelled very much. We seemed to be more fortunate than some of the companies.

It was decided to extend our lines, from the edge of the woods where we were now, some distance out in the wheat field. Two nights in succession, a line of trenches was dug, extending our lines. The fresh dirt was camouflaged with wheat, so as not to be discovered by airplanes. There were still several dead lying out in the wheat field. A person did not dare show himself during the day and the dead could not be located at night.

The third night after our lines were extended, our company went out to relieve the one then holding them. We went in single file, a few yards apart-this for safety. We had just gotten to our place, when for some unknown reason, one of our 75's began to drop some shells just a few yards in front of us. We were not long in ducking. This may have been done to mislead the enemy or it may have been the work of a spy among our artillery. It was reported to us that one had been detected in our artillery and had been disposed of. Just a few shells fell so close to us, and then the range was raised,

We worked the balance of the night enlarging our holes. Some were large enough for two, but I had one all to myself. I dug it just long enough for my length, and wide enough for my body. Some of us had picks and some shovels, and we would exchange one for the other when needed. After going down about two and a half feet, I tunneled into one side that I might have protection from above. This was pretty hard work, as we had to do all of it at night. When morning came we would cover up all our fresh dirt with wheat and grass, put our shelter half over the hole, and cover it with something green. We would leave just a small opening to go down into the dugout. During the night, we were all awake, but during the day only one about every hundred feet kept watch, giving the rest of us a chance to get some sleep. The day watch was required to keep his head below the parapet, and to disappear all together if an airplane came over. One fellow showed himself during the day and went back to the hospital with a bullet through his leg. It was very inconvenient to have to lie in that small hole all day without getting out and stretching a little, but I figured that it was better to do that for a day at a time than have to lie there till the end of time. About the third day I started to light my can of alcohol, but found that I had no more matches. I was intending to fry a piece of bacon, and then fry some boiled potatoes, which we received as rations during the night. My neighbors on both sides seemed to be out of matches too. I lost all interest in the war, and began to try to find some means of getting that can lighted. A fellow on my right had a cigarette lighter, one that you strike a flint and set a string afire. He lit a cigarette and thre the "butt" over to me. I nearly had heart failure when it fell a few feet away, making it necessary for me to expose myself to get it. But I got it. Extracting the bullets from some cartridges, I made a fuse with the powder. But all my efforts to coax the fuse to burn sufficient to light the alcohol proved futile. The cigarette was in danger of going out, and I had to take a pull now and then. I did so with an uneasy feeling, each time. My cigarette was nearly gone and no fire so something had to be done. The fellow on my left and I had previously tried to connect our trenches, as there was only about eight or ten inches separating us. He advised that we finish our connection as quickly as possible, and he would light a new cigarette. We made dirt move, and soon had an opening large enough to pass our hands through. He proceeded to light a fresh cigarette from the old one. I tried a different method this time. Putting some loose powder on a piece of paper, I succeeded in lighting the alcohol. I soon had my last piece of bacon sizzling, and then fried the potatoes in the grease. Under the circumstances it was a pretty appetizing lunch, and I considered it well worth the trouble.

A very famous dish known only to those in the lines was "trench pudding". This consisted of water, or canned milk if you had it, either bread or hard tack, and sugar. We did not always have sugar, but we were usually issued enough to last several days if proper care was exercised in the use of it.

If the Germans knew that we were out there in the open field, they never shelled us, although it seemed to me that they shelled everywhere else along the line.

I went back on a water detail about midnight on the night of July 1st. On the night before I had sent two canteens to be filled, but had gotten back only one. Thought that while I had a chance I would keep an extra one in place of the one I had lost. But I found that soon after we got hack that one fellow did not get a canteen, so had to give up my extra one.

I somehow enjoyed watching the German observation balloons even though I knew that when they were up, they were directing artillery fire or observing our movements. These balloons, or sausages as we called them, were the eyes of the army. One end of them looked something like an elephant's head. Our artillery seemed to have the advantage as we sent over more shells than the Germans did. During the night some of our 75's would move up close behind us and fire all night, then move back before day. There was always more artillery fire at night than during the day.

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The War Diary of Clarence Richmond
Posted April 16, 1997 by Robin Richmond