Wiring And Raiding

"We worked our way across no-man's-land without incident, and Pratt and Liddell began to cut the enemy wire. This was tough and rather thicker than we had reckoned. Even so we made good progress and there were only a few more strands left to cut, so we were right under the German trench, when suddenly, jabber, jabber, and without warning two German heads appeared above the parapet and began pointing into the long grass. We lay flat and still for our lives, expecting every second a blast of machine-gun fire or a bomb in our midst. But nothing happened.

We lay without moving for what must have been nearly an hour. There were no abnormal noises from the German line nor was the sentry on patrol. Less than four minutes of wire-cutting would complete our task and I had to decide what to do next. I touched Pratt and Liddell to go on.

The job was just about done when all hell seemed to break loose right in our faces. The German trench leapt into life, rifles and machine-guns blazed. Incredibly none of the bombardment touched us, presumably because we were much closer to the German trench, within their wire and only a foot or two from the parapet, than the enemy imagined possible. As a result the firing was all aimed above and beyond us, into no-man's-land or at our own front line."

- The diary of Anthony Eden, later to be British prime minister

"The party is twenty-two men, five N.C.O. and one officer, Stansfield. Twenty-seven men with faces blackened and shiny - with hatchets in their belts, bombs in pockets, knobkerries - waiting in a dug-out in the reserve trench. Then up to the front line. At the starting-point, Stansfield, Sergeant Lyle and Corporal O'Brien, loom over the parapet from above, having successfully laid the line of lime across the craters to the German wire. In a few minutes the men have gone over - and disappear into the rain and darkness - the last four men carry ten-foot light ladders.

It is 12 midnight. I am sitting on the parapet listening for something to happen - five, ten, nearly fifteen minutes - not a sound - nor a shot fired. A minute or two later a rifle-shot rings out and almost simultaneously several bombs are thrown. There are blinding flashes and explosions, rifle-shots, the scurry of feet, curses and groans, and stumbling figures scramble awkwardly over the parapet - some wounded. Black faces and whites of eyes and lips showing in the dusk. I count sixteen in."
- The diary of Siegfried Sassoon, August, 1915

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