Captain Rose War Diary 4 Oct 1914: Period of recuperation ends

Stand to arms as usual, not feeling so well. Fancy a rather bad cold, however, appetite still quite good. Church service at 10 a.m. outside village by chaplain.

Guns, some quite close, going all the time. What a coup the Germans would make if they could send a message from ‘Whistling Sarah’ into the middle of our square. The men call the high explosive shells ‘Coal scuttles’, as they give off a heavy black smoke. Went for a walk with Lee.

Lessons of the War. I was quite wrong about rapid fire. It is invaluable. Most of the German attacks have been washed out in 10 minutes, and it would seem that the stereotyped form of attack which one has been led to believe could take place will be very rare.

Defence positions are now taken up with very small fields of fire, the enemy can get fairly close, but the last 100 yards or so are impossible against rapid fire. If fire superiority be gained, which necessitates artillery fire do., then attacks may be successful, or a long infantry do. (In which case ammunition supply will come in.) The German attacks have been attempted, without fire superiority, which we have always heard are fatal.

Troops here face each other at 80 yards, but cannot advance.

Entrenching is most necessary. Deep narrow trenches are best. Head cover is not liked. Without trenches you would stand no chance.

On the Aisne here there are 3 rows of trenches, the 1st if rushed, just lie down and take their chance. No 2. now open fire, and if this were rushed, No. 3 would take it up. The 4th Platoon is allowed complete rest.

At night men stand up, alternately, all night in the trenches.

Communicating trenches to the rear are most valuable, and in our trenches extra rooms etc. have been dug in supporting trenches. During day time more sleep can be obtained.

Much firing is going on to-day. Go walk with Lee after tea.

Went with Lee for our usual evening walk, and found an aeroplane, which had come down for some minor adjustment. Motor cars follow our aeros., and watch for their coming down. In the cars are spare parts, and mechanics, who form the R & F [rank and file] of the flying corps. The chief mechanic looked very intelligent. The aviator’s name was Lewis. He was flying a B. E [Blériot Experimental] biplane. It was fitted with wireless. L. [Lewis] said he was unable to take an observer, as the wireless weighs too much, therefore, he had to work his machine, send wireless m.s.s. [messages], and observe.

He did not seem to think much of the French air service. He said the men who could fly had no discipline, and no military knowledge, and those who were soldiers knew little about flying.

He seemed to think that the Germans were good flyers, but they always turn tail if our airmen appear.

One of our men was shot, and badly wounded from a German aeroplane. I examined the machine. It had a 70 horse 8 cylinder engine. When the machine is started, the exhausts became red-hot almost at once, it was dark by the time he flew off. He said they would put out flares for him. It looked very pretty with the red-hot pipes, and the coils sparking. The wireless ariel [sic – aerial] is worked by letting down a wire from a reel.

Hear rumours we will leave to-morrow night. Blankets issued to men, all sorts.

[Photograph, © South Lanarkshire Council Museums Service, from first album in Capt Rose collection 2008.142.031 with inscription "Sunday after Church Parade at Septmonts. Chaplain, R-W, Hewitt, Col Ratcliffe R.W.F, the Colonel"] [R.W.F. - Royal Welsh Fusiliers]

[Photograph, © South Lanarkshire Council Museums Service, from first album in Capt Rose collection 2008.142.031 with inscription “Sunday after Church Parade at Septmonts. Chaplain, R-W, Hewitt, Col Ratcliffe R.W.F, the Colonel”] [R.W.F. – Royal Welsh Fusiliers]

After a short pause with the BEF facing German Forces on the Aisne, there followed a race to the sea. Each side endeavoured to outflank the other by pulling out forces from various parts of the front and redeploying them on the open flank. Ultimately the line was extended to the Belgian coast. The BEF was relieved on the Aisne at the beginning of October 1914 and redeployed to the area of Ypres where they were engaged in fierce fighting until mid-November 1914. At this stage an unbroken battle line stretched from the sea to the Swiss frontier and the opposing forces engaged in three and a half years of trench warfare.

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