Fresnoy and Riquerval woods.
5th Oct., 1918. 11th Oct., 1918.
One night was all we spent in Etricourt, bitterly cold but quiet and unmolested by the enemy. The following day, the 5th of September, was bright and warm, so we at once set about improving our surroundings, started to bring some of our stores from Magny La Fosse, and were just beginning to think we might make the place fairly comfortable, when orders came for another move. There was going to be another battle, and, though we were not taking part, our area was wanted for a Support Division, so we were to go back across the Canal, and take over some shelters in the old front line trench on the Ridge. This sounded rather cold, but at all events we were going backwards to that long expected rest; not too soon, for at midday an observation balloon made its appearance, and its section chose Etricourt for their home, with the result of course of annoying the Boche to such an extent that he fired some shells over the village. At 5-0 p.m. we fell in and marched by Riquerval Bridge over the Canal and up to the Ridge, passing the Brigadier on the main road by the Canal, and found the Brigade we were to relieve, sitting very comfortably in their shelters and huts. Unfortunately they had no intention of moving until the following morning. It was now 6-30 p.m. and would soon be dark, so we were faced with two alternatives—one to sit on the road, send for the Staff, and wail loudly, the other to help ourselves.
The other two Battalions chose the former; we, being now very old soldiers, chose the latter. An open patch of ground with some good large shell holes was before us, we had a tool cart with us, and here and there might be seen a sheet or two of corrugated iron. Long before it was dark a thin curl of smoke coming out of the ground, a snatch of song, or someone grousing in a loud voice, were the only indications that there were four Companies of Infantry living there. The officers were a little less fortunate; knowing that there were bell tents coming on the limbers, they waited for them. At last they came, and very good tents, too, but someone had forgotten to bring the poles. In spite of this, we were soon all under cover, and in Headquarter Mess were actually having a hot dinner when the Staff arrived and informed the other two Battalions that they would now (in the dark) have to make the best of whatever cover they could find.
The following morning our tent poles arrived, and, having planted the red, white and black flag outside the C.O.’s, tent and mounted guard, we felt quite respectable again. By the afternoon we had so far increased in pride that the Drums not only blew “Retreat,” but gave us an excellent concert while the guards were changed. We expected every hour or so to get orders to go back to some