Tuesday July 25, 1916
Last night we were ordered to move from our comfortable dug-outs to the reserve trenches about 150 yards up nearer the front. We moved up a road straight to the trenches. On our way up there we ducked to the sides of the road as we heard the rattle of machine guns and the peculiar droning zing close overhead. We don't believe in this dead hero racket. The man who used to be a hero is now considered a fool in more cases than one. However, we reached our trenches in safety.
The front of the trench is called a parapet and the rear wall the parados. The strip of trench nearest to the enemy is called a bay. The bit of trench facing the rear is the traverse [sketch]. If the enemy persists in bombarding a certain part of the trench, a flying traverse is built. This flying traverse is nothing more than a bridge thrown across the top of the trench and padded up with sandbags about three or four sandbags deep.
We took our first trip up to the front trenches tonight. I mean all the new rookies when I say we for the "old guard" has been in the trenches for over ten months. The 26th is a fatigue party for eight days. We then spend eight days in the front trenches, then we spend eight days in the reserves.
Last night we took up about 400 sandbags and filled them up, and built in a part of the trenches blown in by the Germans. (When I say 'we' I mean #5 platoon as we are split up into working parties and sent to different parts of the line to work.) As we were working we were helped very much by the kindly neighbour Mr. Fritzie by his flares which he sent up many and often. In fact I believe if he knew how he lighted our working parties on their way to the trenches with material and in their work I think he would refrain from using them so much. A flare is simply a small fireworks fired from a special pistol. The small cartridge explodes in the air, lighting a fuse and burning a fierce white light. This fuse has a little parachute and it slowly decends, lighting up the country for three or four miles around before the three minutes elapse in which time it burns up.
Just a word about our communication trenches - they are dug in to a depth of four feet. Then walls of sandbags are built up on either side making a total height of about 6, 7 and sometimes 8 feet. They are elaborately built, and disguised on the outside. The ground is sloped to the top of the walls and then sodded if the surrounding ground is open. The The inside of the walls are stiffened up by long heavy stakes, 4 ft. long to which is nailed mesh wire, or strips of corrugated iron, solid cross-stick sidewalks are built, leaving a deep drain underneath for the water to flow away for nearly the whole country is low and the earth always very damp. The sidewalks are built like a regular cross-plank sidewalk [sketch]. These walks are carefully built and kept in good repair as they are used only at night and parties coming along with rolls of barbed wire, provisions, water, lumber, armour-plate, corrugated iron, sandbags, ammunition of all kinds, etc. must feel sure of their footing even if it is dark. Everything must be done rapidly and finished before daylight.
Three men were killed in the trenches not far from us. One dugout was blown in killing seven men in it by a bursting Fritzie rum-jug, as the heavy shells, 9.2 or 8.5 are called.
The communication trenches wander all over the field before arriving at the front trench. It is not safe for them to be regular or Fritzie would find them by aeroplane and blow them to pieces. They go something like this. Diagram overleaf of Brasserie dressing station and wood behind it in which we lived in dugouts and the front line with communication trenches leading to it.