The latter either waver when the front line is checked, or crowd on to it, moving forward under the orders of their officers, and the mass forms a magnificent target. Prisoners have described the fire of our troops as pinning them to the ground, and this is certainly borne out by their action.
When the Germans are not heavily intrenched no great losses are incurred in advancing against them by the methods in which the British Army has been instructed. For instance, in one attack over fairly open ground against about an equal force of infantry sheltered in a sunken road and in ditches we lost only 10 killed and 60 wounded, while over 400 of the enemy surrendered after about 50 had been killed. Each side had the support of a battery, but the fight for superiority from infantry fire took place at about 700 yards and lasted only half an hour. When the Germans were wavering some of them put up the white flag, but others went on firing, and our men continued to do the same. Eventually a large number of white flags, improvised from handkerchiefs, pieces of shirt, white biscuit bags, &c., were exhibited all along the line, and many men hoisted their helmets on their rifles.
In the fighting behind intrenchments the Germans endeavor to gain ground by making advances in line at dusk or just before dawn, and then digging themselves in, in the hope, no doubt, that they may eventually get so near as to be able, as at manoeuvres, to reach the hostile trenches in a single rush. They have never succeeded in doing this against us. If by creeping up in dead ground they do succeed in gaining ground by night, they are easily driven back by fire in the morning. A few of the braver men sometimes remain behind, at ranges of even 300 or 400 yards, and endeavor to inflict losses by sniping. Sharpshooters, also, are often noticed in trees or wriggling about until they get good cover. The remedy is to take the initiative and detail men to deal with the enemy’s sharpshooters.
A few night attacks have been made against us. Before one of them a party crept up close to the British line and set alight a hayrick, so that it should form a beacon on which the centre of the attacking line marched. Generally, however, in the night and early morning attacks, groups of forty or fifty men have come on, the groups sometimes widely separated from one another and making every endeavor to obtain any advantage from cover. Light balls and searchlights have on some occasions been used. Latterly the attacks have become more and more half-hearted. Against us the enemy has never closed with the bayonet. The German trenches I have seen were deep enough to shelter a man when firing standing, and had a step down in rear for the supports to sit in.
As regards our own men, there was at first considerable reluctance to intrench, as has always been the case at the commencement of a war. Now, however, having bought experience dearly, their defenses are such that they can defy the German artillery fire.