My Dear Uncle Charlie, October 4th 1914
I think the above date is right, but am not sure. The fog of war prevents me giving you any idea of what is going on. Even if I was allowed so - maybe you would be glad to hear a few of my personal experiences.
I have now been at the front a fortnight and there is so much to tell you, that I hardly know where to begin. The battle of the Aesine, as we suppose it is called, still goes on day and night. The thunder of the artillery is wonderful and when you are the wrong end of it, it is awe inspiring. I had four days and nights on end, in the trenches a few days ago, which was the time of my life.
The German's were digging a new trench 200 yards ahead of us during my first night and of course I reported this. But we could not do much to stop them. We could hear their picks and shovels going quite plainly and as soon as we fired in their direction, they opened up with Maximís ( A type of weapon.) and at close range, we had to keep our heads down.
As soon as it was dawn, I got a few of our marksmen, to pick off anyone they saw and they got five or six of the enemy by sniping. Our trenches were well-sighted and dug in and we more or less safe from shrapnel, as long as we kept well down. Of course a look-out man, every few yards was necessary to keep an eye on any movement. But with the exception of early dawn, we never saw anything of the enemy.
There was a cave near by, which was handy as a meeting place, so we could talk to other officers and take food in. This could be reached by running the gauntlet. One bullet struck the ground at my feet one time, but they missed me handsomely as a rule.
A little later a Artillery Officer came up to examine the German trench and ground in front of us, with the idea of shelling them out. I took him to my trench and was just showing him around, when ping went a bullet through the head of the man on my right, his cap being sent 10 yards in the air. The poor fellow must have died instantly as the back of his head blew right out by a dum-dum bullet!!! The man had been using my binoculars at the time, no doubt the sniper thought he had bagged an officer!
Needless to say the artillery officer had seen enough of the trenches, from my position.
The artillery officer asked me if I would like to come have a look at it from his look-out place. He had a snug little look-out on the top of our cave under some trees and branches and from there we could see the new trenches and the spiked helmets behind. Also some men in Khaki - a favorite pastime of the enemy right now. It was decided to shell the enemy trench in front of us, despite its close proximity to our trenches.
Before long, the shelling of the enemy trenches was being done from a battery 2,500 yards to our rear. The direction of the fire coming from my friend on the telephone at my side, and it was the finest bit of gunnery I have ever seen. After three shells, they put one right in, and you could see the fumes going right and left down the trench. I don't think there could have been anything living in there when we stopped.
After that, we went into the cave for breakfast! It was difficult to get back to my trenches, afterwards owing to the heavy shell fire of the enemy, but during a lull, it was easily done. That evening the Germans were again very active in their new trenches, cutting down trees in the vicinity, presumably to make head cover, but as we had our R.E. people out in front of us, improvising our wire-entanglements, so we had to leave the Germans alone.
After four days, we were relived at dusk by the Queens Regiment and while one of our outposts was being relived, one of our men was shot, because the enemy was so close, it was not pleasant. However the men keep in wonderful good spirits and one does all in ones power to keep their tails up.
We heard that Italy has declared war and that there are food riots in Germany. Let us hope that it is true.
When we were relieved, we marched down in single file to a village that was two miles off, where we met all the other companies of ours, in from the other trenches and posts and at midnight we moved to a town about 5 miles off, and then struck up the hills again to our new posts. I don'í think the changes had anything to do with reinforcements coming or not.
We arrived at our new trenches at 2;30 A.M. and we were in reserve to the S. Staffs Regiment.
We lay down in the open for a little sleep, but it was too cold. At 3:45 A.M., we stood to arms in case of a attack at dawn.
At 6A.M.,we were shown to our new Quarters, which were holes scooped out of the side of a steep hill. Since then, I have been here the last two days.
After two days on duty, the doctor took me back with him, as I had dysentery. I am better now, so do not be anxious about me, but I have been as weak as a cat and am not having solid food right now, hence this letter is cleaner. I have not had a bath or wash nor had my boots off for eight days. Its rather difficult to keep an account of time. Most of ones keep (food, toilet articles, ammunition, etc.) is gotten during the day, as all pools are closed at night. We get newspapers sent to us, but they are very late. The last one was dated September the 21st.
Our Colonel and eighteen of our officers are wounded and sick, but no deaths so far. Major Armytape is commanding the Regiment at present. The Colonel hopes to be back in a few weeks. We think that the war will last about another year! If so, we canít help, but win. We only hope that a premature peace will not be patched up in spite of our longing to be home again. We must beat them to a frazzle! While we are about it.
I hear that I am going down to Hospital this afternoon, as I am not fit for the trenches until the Regiment moves tonight, at least my company does. Battalion expects to be back in the firing line in 48 hours.
A tremendous artillery duel is going on as I write this letter Shells whipping overhead. There are a good many Germans helmets laying about, which I should like to bring one home with me, but it is quit impossible. I have too much to carry as it is. I will see if they can go by Parcel Post.
Many thanks for your offer of ammunition, but I can get what I want out here. and besides it would be, as you know quit impractical to send anything of the sort, by post. An air cushion makes my pillow at night.
With love to Aunt Fanny and yourself and hoping to see you before long.
Your affectionate nephewHugh Maynard
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