Passchendaele: The fourth week

Continuing the transcript of the diary kept by Gunner Ferguson Hamilton during the battle of Third Ypres.

Tues 21 Aug. Night firing task on roads and road junctions to the south of Zandwoorde. Such work means a restless night for us, but we hope it is harassing the enemy. Very little firing during today,  yet I was kept very busy all day preparing for NF calls (“guns firing in positions known to us”). We have all hostile batteries whose positions are known tous mapped out, so that we can open fire within a few – very few – minutes after receipt of the call from our wireless operator who has picked it up from an airman, who has spotted the hostile guns actually firing. All available batteries are supposed to open fire, but only one, arranged beforehand, continues firing after nine minutes from the receipt of the call. Our batteries soon got on the mark today and plane gave as his second observation “mostly O.K.”  I was too tired to think of having another wander tonight.

Wed 22 Aug. very warm indeed today. A most refreshing wash. Balloon shoot today. I should have said Counter Battery Shoot with Balloon Observation. A very successful  shoot causing two fires and an explosion. Tonight on my turn of duty we have night firing on roads and road junctions as we had two nights ago. German aeroplanes are giving us trouble at night. They come over our lines on bomb-dropping expeditions. There is one near now. We hear the throb of its engine and our searchlights are vainly trying to spot it.

Thurs 23 Aug. Night firing on roads during last night. No firing today though weather fine.

Friday 24 Aug. Had a turn on our canteen lorry today. Went by La Clytte after passing Dickebusch. Then Westoutre to bailleul where an hour or two was spent. Then on to Poperinghe by St Jans Cappel. Bertham Boeschape and back by Oederdom. It is good to get away for even a few hours. Still inactive.

Sat 25 Aug. Counter Battery shoot at almost our extreme range in a strong wind. Ranging difficult but shoot very successful. We are receiving less attention from hostile artillery. Peaceful nights are enjoyable.  Of course bombs are still being dropped from aeroplanes. Wander with Watson forward, but saw nothing apart from rockets being sent up.

Sunday 26 Aug. Still little activity apart from night firing.

Monday 27 Aug. Night firing on roads. Very wet during night, water pouring in through the roof. A year ago, yesterday, our battery was formed in the King’s (Holyrood) Park, Edinburgh. Today’s rain reminds us of the condition of the King’s Park a year ago. Little did we dream that by today we would still be in France with no immediate prospect of the War coming to an end. Our huts and shelters are all leaking in various degrees. Fortunately our little dugout (curved corrugated iron) is very snug and can be easily made rainproof. Apart from some small concentration shoots we are strikingly inactive. German artillery are not, for the time being, troublesome and our nerves are getting a bit of a rest.

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