Following on from the Daily mail war postcard we looked at a few weeks back here, tonight we have another card form the series, this one showing ‘British Infantry practicing an attack’:This postcard is notable for the dramatic photography used in the image, with the image taken from a low vantage point in a trench whilst the men leap over. There is a nice contrast between the dark of the trench sides and the men in mid-leap above:The artistic standard of this postcard is unusual and makes an attractive image out of a serious topic.
Training was essential for trench warfare, but could never fully replicate real life in a front line trench which combined monotony with moments of true terror. William Albert Hastings was a Sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders and in 1915 he sent this letter to a friend describing life in the trenches:
Very pleased to receive your letter, like yourself I find my correspondence voluminous for me at times, especially since I have taken on the duties of Platoon Sergeant which takes up more time than one realises at first. We are still in the trenches and have been in action twenty four days consecutively and I don’t know long we shall keep it up. Had a dirty time yesterday morning dodging damned great bombs the blighters were presenting to us without exaggeration they were eighteen inches to a two feet long and made a hole about ten feet deep and fifteen feet diameter at least we did not wait to see them burst. They can be seen descending through the air and then a scoot is made to get as far as possible round the corner, the iron and dirt seem to be falling for a minute afterwards, they are disturbing. Dicky Gilson has not been with us the last twenty four days, he broke his glasses and would not buy new ones (went to the doctor and all that and worked the oracle and was left behind with the Transport, don’t know whether he worked the ticket properly and got a safer job farther back, should not blame him if he has, his nerves have been in a shocking state, he’d brood a lot as you know that is absolutely fatal when you have a dirty job on like this. I have not seen either Frost or Kemball out here, do not seem to meet anybody fresh as we are always in the same district and relieve the same crowds generally.
Private Frost of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was another who wrote home from the trenches:
It has been a quiet place for two months, until two days after our occupation, when the British exploded mines under some workings of the Germans near their trenches, to prevent them blowing our trench up. Well! That woke them up and the following Saturday they retaliated by opening rapid fire early in the morning.
However we were ready for them and quickly replied, so they then bombarded us, which to say the least of it was a noisy business. That eventually ceased and rapid firing was quickly in process again, followed by another shelling, which our guns again put a stop to. The whole affair lasted an hour and ten minutes, and although we believe an attack was intended, the Germans didn’t leave their trench, opposite to us. After putting our trench in order again which took some time, as the parapet was blown down for about three yards near me, and a shell burst amongst a lot of beef tins, scattering them and the contents in all directions, besides the bottom of the trench being littered with hundreds of empty cartridges, we proceeded with boiling water for tea, also to show the Huns by the smoke that we were still there. Only a hundred yards separated the two trenches, so it was always a case of “bob down” and the enemy were good shots, as we found out to our cost when they smashed the top glasses in two periscopes within half an hour one morning.