Ten dud thuds

26th November 1914

There was heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the Germans in the night which had died down by the morning. But no attack was made. This pattern of rifle fire at night rising “to a roar on both sides” is recorded in The History of the Dorsetshire Regiment 1914-1918.

More orders were received from 14th Brigade about counter sniping. Frank, as a marksman, would surely have been involved in this activity. The trenches were so close that I imagine not having sights didn’t really make much difference.

I have a hand drawn map signed by Major Fraser that I am currently redrawing (I’m not sure of the copyright issue with Public Record Office scans) which shows the German lines as close as 50 yards in places (46 metres in new money). I am not sure of the date but it looks like it was copied from one drawn by the East Surreys on the 20th November so it can’t be too far after today’s date. Later Dorset trench maps change orientation from landscape to portrait.

Although little shelling was reported along the 14th Brigade’s sector, at around 2pm a large amount of shells landed over the Dorset stretch of the line. 10 out of the 16 shells didn’t explode – or were “blind” as the 14th Brigade’s diary puts it. This is also recorded in the Dorsets’ diary in less detail.

3 Dorset men were killed with 4 wounded. The CWGC records more: 6 men died, although one of them is buried up in Balleuil so may have died of wounds. The Dorsets’ diary records “situation quiet”. I think quiet is a relative term here.

Snow rest for the wicked


19th November 1914

At 5am the Dorsets formed up to the west of Ploegsteert wood at Petit Pont, exactly where they had stood sixteen days ago. Although their experience in the woods had been fraught and miserable with danger, cold and damp, it must have felt like a holiday compared to La Bassée.

Now the Dorsets were on the move again and into the care of 14th Brigade. They marched at 7am, this time four miles to the northwest, via Neuve Église to Dranoutre (now Dranouter*), into billets and rest. Major Fraser resumed command of the Battalion. Heavy snow fell that day, which settled and froze solid by 4pm, according to the 14th Brigade’s diary.

* I’m using the old French terms for these towns. From 1921 onwards, Belgian place names changed into Dutch. For instance Neuve Église is now Nieuwkirke and Ypres is Ieper.