“I know you shall feel it if anything does happen to me, but I am willing and prepared to give my life for the cause.”
Such lives hang from hour to hour on the work that is done in the British factories.
THE NEW FIGHTING
France, August 20th.
It is a month this morning since Australians plunged into the heart of the most modern of battles. They had been in many sorts of battle before; but they had never been in the brunt of the whole war where the science and ingenuity of war had reached for the moment their highest pitch. One month ago they plunged into the very brunt and apex of it. And they are still fighting there.
People have spoken of this war as the war of trenches. But the latest battles have reached a stage beyond that. The war of trenches is a comfortable out-of-date phase, to be looked upon with regret and perhaps even some longing. The war of to-day is a war of craters and potholes—a war of crannies and nicks and crevices torn out of the earth yesterday, and to be shattered into new shapes to-morrow. It may not seem easy to believe, but we have seen the Germans under heavy bombardment leaving the shelter of their trenches for safety in the open—jumping out and running forward into shell holes—anywhere so long as they got away from the cover which they had built for themselves. The trench which they left is by next day non-existent—even the airmen looking down on it from above in the mists of the grey dawn can scarcely tell where it was. Then some community of ants sets to work and the line begins to show again. Again it is obliterated, until a stage comes when the German decides that it is not worth while digging it out. He has other lines, and he turns his energy on to them.
The result of all this is that areas of ground in the hot corners of battles like that of the Somme and Verdun, and especially disputed hill summits such as the Mort Homme or this Pozieres Ridge, become simply a desert of shell craters.
A few days back, going to a portion of the line which had considerably altered since I was there, I went by a trench which was marked on the map. It was a good trench, but it did not seem to have been greatly used of late, which was rather surprising. “You won’t find it quite so good all the way,” said a friend who was coming down.
Presently, and quite suddenly, the trench shallowed. The sides which had been clean cut were tumbled in. The fallen earth blocked the passage, and the journey became a switchback over tumbled rubbish and into the trench again. Someone had before been living in the trench, for there were tools in it and bits of soldiers’ gear. Here and there a shattered rifle stuck out of the terra-cotta soil. The trench shallowed still further. There had been little hastily scraped dug-outs in the sides of it. They were more than three parts filled with earth;