Relief but for how long?


15th October 1914

A Company once again held the factory. They were shelled all day but their experience in Missy had made them expert troglodytes and no casualties were reported.

At 7:20pm the Dorsets were relieved by the Devon Regiment. The bedraggled battalion marched via the canal to a location marked as Loisne. There’s a river Loisne but no indication of a village on modern maps. I’ve seen it marked on a later trench map and have marked its rough vicinity on the map.

The Dorsets went into billets for a period of rest and reorganisation.

The Dorsets left behind a killing zone. The 15th Brigade was to continue to try to occupy La Bassée over the coming days. The British were to remain in this spot for the next four years. Oceans of blood were spilled. The industrial landscape had insurmountable obstacles: the factories along the canal, the canal itself and the infamous brickstacks; a series of seemingly indestructible brickworks in which the two sides fought over with grenades, with mortars and hand-to-hand. The living eked out their miserable existence in trenches layered with the dead.

Robert Graves, in Goodbye to All That, recalls in 1915:

Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Welsh, a new officer joined the company… When he turned in that night, he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand.