The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918
This is the "land of the morning calm," but in , the mornings in this small Asian country were anything but calm. This we would see for ourselves in just a few days. We disembarked from the landing crafts at the Port of Pusan, one of the largest cities on the Southern Coast of the Korean Peninsula. This city had become the sanctuary for hundreds of thousands of South Korean refugees who had fled the North Korean invasion forces early in the war.
The city was a mass of hungry, dirty and homeless people living in despair.
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We boarded a narrow gauge train that would take us north to the war zone, somewhere near the 38th parallel, approximately miles. We quickly noticed the children of war that congregated along the railroad tracks. Whenever we stopped, we gave them C-rations or whatever food items we had to spare.
The kids were orphans, living day-by-day in cardboard or corrugated tin shelters or in caves nearby.
Some of the older ones were taking care of their younger brothers or sisters. It was winter and there was not a soldier on the train that was not concerned about the welfare and future of these children. It was too painful to even think about. Go to Page 2 - Memories of the Korean War: From Farm Boy to Soldier. Submit a Story Submission Guidelines. Idol with his Korean War Service Medal. We were in the front line for two days, in reserve and digging trenches for several days. It was not very busy then, although we lost a few men with shellfire and snipers.
After leaving there we went to the trenches at Fleurbaix on March 1. We were in the trenches at Fleurbaix until April 1. This is three days in front and three days in reserve. The trenches were knee deep in mud and water.
The Long, Long Trail
A number of our boys were taken out with rheumatism and frozen feet, but I was OK. During our stay in Fleurbaix we lost about men which was giving us a taste of the real war. We were relieved by a British division and went back to the town of Estaires for 21 days.
Estaires is a typical French town of about 30, population, which fortunately has not been ruined by shelling, although it is only seven miles from the firing line. From Estaires we moved to Steenvoorde, where we were located for three weeks in billets. We were reviewed by General Smith-Dorien and General Alderson on Sunday, April 10, who told us of the good work we had done, and as he was pleased with our work and excellent appearance he would send us to the most important part of the line.
Canada's History - A Letter from Ypres
We left Steenvoorde on the following Wednesday. Little did we know what was before us. On Thursday, April 14, we moved through the famous town of Ypres. Although Ypres had been shelled, the civilians were still living there, stores were open and lighted up the night as we passed through, and it looked real home-like. The Seventh and Tenth Battalions of our Brigade went into the trenches that same night and we remained in reserve. On April 15 we [5th Battalion, 2nd Brigade] relieved the tenth, and the 8th Battalion relieved the 7th.
The trenches had been held by French troops and were in very bad condition. The next morning at dawn, we had first view of our surroundings. Just over the parapet about 40 yards away lay over dead Germans, who had been lying there since last October and when the sun rose, believe me, the stench was simply awful. Also in our trench there were hundreds of Germans and French just buried about a foot deep and you could not dig to improve [the] trench without striking a dead body. The first two nights I slept on a grave containing a number of dead Germans and they were so near the surface that the ground would spring up and down like dough, and oh that smell.
That was the last sleep I had for seven days and nights. On the morning of April 22, as you know, the great German attack began. They turned the gas on the French [Algerian] troops, who held the trenches on our left, and they retired in disorder leaving 4, yards of the line open, and this left the Canadian division cut off.
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We extended at right angles to our line, and blocked the German advance. It was here that our boys were gassed badly, and it was here that 8, of us held 60, Germans for 22 hours without supports, and under the most terrific shellfire during this war. Just fancy shells of all kinds bursting over and around at per minute and you will have some idea of it.
It is marvellous how anyone ever lived under it. Our artillery was put out of action, and it was in the charge of the 10th Battalion to recover a battery that poor Joe Pinnette from Humboldt was killed. He was killed by a bullet through the brain within 20 yards of our trench. Poor Joe, he did not suffer though. Well, to make a long story short, we were there for five days and nights without food and when relieved some of the boys could hardly walk.
Our losses were terrible, and the sights I saw I shall never forget. We marched on to Wieltje, about three miles, and were given breakfast, then we were taken back in reserve in two days battle at Wieltje, where we were again cut up with artillery, but we advanced over two miles. To give you some idea of the slaughter, our brigade went in over 5, strong and came out 1, in number.
When we were finally relieved we marched back through Ypres to relieve trenches guarding the Yser Canal and bridges for six days. Here we lost 77 men by shellfire, and we were four miles from the firing line. When we came back through Ypres the Germans were shelling it and the destruction was something awful. It was an awful shambles. The dead were piled in houses and fired and burned. After six days here, listening to Jack Johnsons and Coal Boxes [high explosive shells] bursting and dodging shrapnel, we went to billets 4 miles the other side of Bailleul for 10 days, and then to Robaic and then down to again let me know any news you have of any of the rest of the Humboldt boys, as I am the only one from Humboldt in our battalion.
The war is still raging same as ever, and I think it will be at the very least one year before it is over. While veteran units of the Army and Marines brought experience to the AEF, conditions and fighting they had seen in Vera Cruz, on the Mexican Border, the Philippines, and other small conflicts were very different from rapidly changing conditions in Europe. Veteran units incorporated many new volunteers, with draftees soon to follow. With a force built primarily on brand new soldiers, the AEF needed to train men quickly and efficiently, and relied on the French and British to give practical training in trench warfare.
The first combat troops to arrive in France, the basis of the 1st Division, were a combination of recruits and veterans. Specialized schools and camps for artillery, infantry, and the other arms and services were established. French and British veterans provided training in these camps. Men learned to use gas masks, dig trenches and lay barbed wire. American artillery units were introduced to their new French field pieces and howitzers. When training was complete, battalions went into the line with Allied units in quiet sectors for a month of operational training.
During this first month assignment in the trenches, many early AEF combat casualties occurred. In the early hours of November 3, several companies of the 1st Division were in the front line trenches. Eleven Americans were taken prisoner, and Cpl.