The German artillery strove to pick up the plan of the attack, to beat down the torrent of our batteries’ fire, to smash in the forward trenches, shake the defense, open the way for the massed attack. But the contest was too unequal, the devastation amongst the crowded mass of German infantry too awful to be allowed to continue. Plainly the attack, ready or not ready, had to be launched at speed, or perish where it stood.
And so it was that our New Armies had a glimpse of what the old “Contemptible Little Army” has seen and faced so often, the huge gray bulk looming through the drifting smoke, the packed mass of the old German infantry attack. There were some of these “Old Contemptibles,” as they proudly style themselves now, who said when it was all over, and they had time to think of anything but loading and firing a red-hot rifle, that this attack did not compare favorably with the German attacks of the Mons-Marne days, that it lacked something of the steadiness, the rolling majesty of power, the swinging stride of the old attacks; that it did not come so far or so fast, that beaten back it took longer to rally and come again, that coming again it was easier than ever to bring to a stand. But against that these “Old Contemptibles” admit that they never in the old days fought under such favorable conditions, that here in this fight they were in better constructed and deeper trenches, that they were far better provided with machine-guns, and, above all, that they had never, never, never had such a magnificent backing from our guns, such a tremendous stream of shells helping to smash the attack.