The Spectator

All quiet on the Western Front

An average day in a soldier’s life, April 1916

From ‘Observing: an average day’, The Spectator, 15 April 1916:

5.10 a.m. The signaller on duty at the telephone has just said cheerfully, ‘5.30, Sir.’ I agree, and ask him if the wires are all right. They are!

5.50 a.m. Unroll the mufflers round my head and the blankets and kick off the sandbags. Then get off the bed sideways into the water.

8.30 a.m. They have begun. Four ‘whizz-bangs’ have just burst very prettily over a communication trench to our right. Then silence again.

10.25 a.m. We have just had a little excitement. I suddenly saw a German — a rare thing — through the telescope.

2.15 p.m. They are shelling a trench on our left rather persistently, and the batteries behind have begun to retaliate. It is quite a ‘strafe’, so I ring up the battery and suggest joining in, and in about a minute the guns are reported ready on a wood which we know has enemy trenches in it and ought to be full of Germans.

3.30 p.m. One of those ‘crumps’ landed on a dug-out with eight men in it. A fluke shot of course. It is quite near, just a heap of wood and earth in the dull light. The signaller notices an arm and points it out, and I try to see and not to see at the same time. That must have been the scream we heard… We go off into the trench again.

5 p.m. It is pouring and the water is rising. We pretend not to notice. Have a pipe.

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