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‘Attack! But quietly, or they will wake up’

Walter Young wrote memoirs of his experiences during the Great War

Walter Young wrote memoirs of his experiences during the Great War

On Monday, it will be exactly 100 years since Britain entered the First World War.

And to mark the centenary anniversary, this website brings you another first-hand account of life in the trenches from a man who fought in them. Walter Young, whose tale is told in his Wal’s War memoirs, won the Military Medal for his bravery. Here he describes what happened after the Allies captured a German trench during the 1915 Battle of Loos…

‘The word went round that the Guards were coming up to take that hill at four o’clock. After a short bombardment they attacked, but though at first we heard they had been successful we subsequently found they had dug in just this side of the ridge.

‘Separating us and the Germans were two slagheaps known as the Double Crassier, each about 40ft high with a narrow path in between. I think it was on the second night that our Company was ordered to go on to the slagheaps to guard against a surprise attack. At dusk we started out. We went in two parties, the 1st to the near end and the 2nd farther to the left, as per sketch (right).

‘Our Platoon formed the 2nd party. We were cautioned to make the least possible noise. We crept out of the trench and stole across the open piece of ground to the foot of the 1st slagheap.

‘We had to climb to the top. Now to climb a slagheap in the dark, not knowing what awaits you at the top and with the knowledge that silence is imperative is a decidedly unpleasant job.

‘And try as we would to be silent we could not help but make what seemed an alarming noise. It was a steep climb and the slag was very loose and each step we took upward we slid nearly as far back again.

‘The further, or eastern end, was held by the Germans and from there a machine gun opened fire on us, sweeping the slagheap. We lay flat for a few minutes digging into the slag as much as possible while the bullets whistled over us.

‘Nobody was hit and we commenced cautiously to climb again. It would have been comic but for the exposed position we were in, for try as we did to avoid it there was a continuous rustling of slag rolling down the slope and every now and again a big piece would be dislodged and would go “bang”, “thud”, “crash” all the way down while everybody would murmur “sh, sh” and we would all hold our breaths for a moment wondering if anything would happen.

‘We reached the top at last and peeped cautiously over...’

 

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