Wish you weren’t here

10th January 1915

Regrettably, yet inevitably, the Dorsets left Dranoutre and relieved the Bedfords in Sector D during the late afternoon. The rain continued to fall.

The Bedfords had endured a fairly awful time in the trenches with continued rain causing the edges of the trenches to collapse, with murderous sniping (six killed on the 8th January), regular shelling, and an irritating mobile gun shelling them from various points along the Messines-Wytschaete Road (or at least west of Messines) causing several casualties. The 5th Division describes the gun as being a light gun. The Bedfords’ diary goes further and suggests it’s a “quick-firer (probably motor-gun)”. It was probably a standard FK96 7.7cm artillery piece attached to a horse-drawn carriage or motor vehicle. The troops couldn’t respond with small arms due to a bulge in the land between them and the road so it must have been extremely frustrating for all concerned.

The author of the Dorsets’ diary remains taciturn. I don’t think they were enjoying themselves.

They’re shelling the bathroom!

11th November 1914

At 9am the Dorsets report “considerable shelling by German light guns”. So much so that D Company withdrew from their positions. No casualties were reported. The shellfire died away in the afternoon.

The German light gun was very possibly the 7.7cm FK 96 n.A. It was light and mobile and saw much action during the early stages of the war. It couldn’t compete with the heavier French 75 and British 18 pounder on range and so fell out of favour as trench warfare took hold. Here’s one with some early Movember crew members.

7.7cm Feldkanone 96 n.A. with crew
7.7cm. Feldcanone 96 n.A. with crew
I’ve missed old Gleichen. He’s holed up at Château Beukenhorst in Zillebeke slightly to the north. He tells a lovely story today so I am including it here:

The 11th November was a typically unpleasant day. It started with a touch of comedy, Weatherby arriving stark naked in my room at 6.30 A.M., just when I was shaving, saying, “I say, sir, may I finish my dressing in here? They’re shelling the bathroom!” He had a towel and a few clothes on his arm, et præterea nihil*.

*A Plutarchian phrase meaning here, I think, a threat not carried out.