Friendly Fire And The Wounded

"Our raiding party crept out from the company line and waited for the artillery to finish the breaking of the wire. A wind had risen during the afternoon and was now blowing across the front. The trench mortar fired; but the registration had been carried out when there was no wind. The breeze caught the bomb, carried it down the line. It exploded a few yards from the attacking group.

Gwinnell staggered up, with three wounds in the leg, Perkins hit in both arms; but Batty lay still. A splinter had gone straight through his brain. Eight other men were hit, and there was no more to be done with the raid. Gwinnell, bleeding from his wounds, shepherd the man back and brought in Batty's body.

The catastrophe wrenched many of us as no previous death had been able to do. Those we had seen before had possessed an inevitable quality, had been taken as an unavoidable manifestation of war. But this death, at the hands of our own people, through a vagary of the wind, appeared some sinister and malignant stroke, an outrage involving not only the torn body of the dead boy but the whole battalion."

"Just before daybreak, an engineer officer out there, who was hopelessly rattled ordered us to go. All the time the enemy flares were making the whole area as light as day. We got away as best we could. I was again in the rear going back, and again we were cut off and lost. I was buried twice and thrown down several times - buried with dead and dying. The ground was covered with bodies in all stages of decay and mutilation, and I would, after struggling free from the earth, pick up a body by me to try to lift him out with me, and find him a decayed corpse I pulled a head off - was covered with blood. The horror was indescribable. In the dim misty light of dawn I collected about 50 men and sent them off, mad with terror on the right track for home. Then two brave fellows stayed behind and helped me with the only unburied wounded man we could find."

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