The War Diary of George Culpitt, Royal Welch Fusiliers

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Chapter 15 A Portuguese Guide

"The Same Old Moon"Next day a stroke of good fortune came my way in the shape of an order to parade in Marching Order to go back to Erquingingham which we reached about 11 a.m. As far as we know it was something to do with the Portuguese who were in the district. We met a Brigade Officer at 2 p.m. but he dismissed us for the day an hour later.

The next two days passed without incident except for the indecision as to whether we were going up again that night. But 2 days passed and we still remained out of the line for which we were very glad. One thing however, we had no money - the only drawback.

On the 10th after a wet morning, we were told to be ready to guide the Portuguese up the line where they were going to participate in the keeping of the line. The position was rather comical. We know no word of Portuguese, nor they of English. I found myself with two sections, one for Annie Post and one for Agnes Post. It was a very dark night but I managed by keeping in close touch with the section in front to get my lot safely to the communication trench, although it was more by luck than judgment. Here we were met by a Runner to take them to their posts. As it was quiet he suggested we should go by way of a road rather than by the trench. This we did and when midway between the available cover Fritz's machine gun opened out, one of its spasmodic bursts on the road. Then for a minute or two there was a scamper. When he had finished we got together again but by this time all the Portuguese had got mixed up and it was an impossibility to sort them out again. However there were no casualties - after a while we got going and finally arrived at our destination.

Or. the llth we were relieved by the 16th and returned to our old billets in Erquingham.

This rest lasted 2 days only for on the night of the 14th we went back again to the line. It now became noticeable that there was a considerable increase in artillery activity on our side, by the Divisional Artillery and this of course drew a vigorous reply from the enemy which is not at all to our liking.

On the 17th we moved from the Reserve Trench to the Front line post to Cissie Post. It rained very heavily for four hours during the night which was very uncomfortable to all of us. More heavy artillery during the day and to liven things up Fritz treated us to a special small trench mortar bombardment of about 10 minutes. During this we all took shelter in a concrete dugout which was more than sufficient to withstand to small trench mortars which came our way. These times, however, were always fraught with a sort of anxiety other than that arising from the prospect of getting killed.

Chiefly, when one particular post was treated to a 'do' of this sort all to itself one began to think that perhaps the enemy was going to raid the post and as this little lot, while it lasted, was too hot to allow anyone to go out and see what was taking place.

Luckily nothing of this sort happened and after a few minutes this April shower of trench mortars ceased and we emerged into daylight again. In the evening a few of us were told off for Brigade School and so made our way from the Post to the rear, and fresh evidences of Fritz's shelling were to be seen on every hand.

The next day was spent in preparing for the Brigade course to which we went about 4.30. Settled down with blankets and paliasses, with the prospects of air raids by Fritz. The course carried on to the 1st November and comprised ordinary drill and general studies. When it was over we were all very sorry for it marked another step on the apparently never ending road to Victory? We marched straight up to the trenches, into the front line and I went on the Eunice Post on which we did one hour on and two off.

At 11.30 p.m. we vacated the front post and retired some 300 yards to Hawley Road Trench. This we left at dawn for Company Headquarters.

At 5 P.M. the same evening we returned to Eunice Post again. It was quiet and we repeated the movements of the previous night.

On November 3rd we went to relieve and take over Eileen Post some 100 yards to the right and slightly to the front of Eunice. It was very bad going but not too bad when we got there. As on the last post so on this at 11.30, we retired again to the rear until 4.30 a.m. when we returned to the post which we held during the day. It kept fairly quiet during the day with the exception of a sharp strafe of trench mortars in the afternoon.

At 7.30 a.m. we were relieved and marched back to the village.

This 'rest' lasted for a week, during which we had the usual daily fatigues and parades, the evenings to ourselves to spend in the YMCA or in the coffee houses for warmth.

One morning the SWB's made a raid and report said that they took 18 premises. As far as we were concerned the guns were all we could hear of the 'do'.

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Chapter 16 Winter 1917