Life in the trenches - mud, shells and rats


Sapper Harry Newman, Royal Engineers, of 208 Park Street, Luton, serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France, writes: "We are having much better weather her now, but the trenches are very wet and muddy in places.

"We are on night work as we cannot do anything in the daytime or we should soon be shelled out. We had to dig three of our chaps out of the mud as they went in up to their waists, and the mud here is as bad as glue.

"The trenches are very close here in places, only 30 yards apart in some instances. There are a lot of trench mortars used here. We have one that you can easily get the tenth shot in the air from before the first one lands.

"Fritz is very busy with his machine guns at night. He was worrying us very much the other night until one of our trench mortars dropped on top of him.

"We are constantly digging up dead bodies, as we are making a new support line, but they are not British as our chaps who fall are properly buried.

"The dug-outs here are quite 30ft to 40ft deep, with two landings, and that's what is wanted under heavy shell fire. We measured a German shell last week - 2ft 4in long. I think they still have plenty of shells, by the way they send them over at times.

"It takes us two hours walking down the trenches, and then we haven't reached the firing line, and where the boards are bad it's quite fine sport to see first one and then another go down in the water. But the worst of it is when we have to be in it when they are shelling. We are surrounded by our big guns.

"We are sleeping in a village down a cellar five minutes' walk from the trenches, but there's not much of the village left. The church is nearly down to the ground. The rats here are awful, they skip about over us as we lie in bed at night.

"I have seen the North Midland Brigade that were billeted in Luton at the beginning of the war. They say they wish they were back in old Luton again."

[The Luton News: Thursday, April 27th, 1916]