“We had a new man at the periscope, on this afternoon in question; I was sitting on the fire step, cleaning my rifle, when he called out to me: 'There's a sort of greenish, yellow cloud rolling along the ground out in front, it's coming!’
I trained my machine gun on their trench and its bullets were raking the parapet. Then over they came, bayonets glistening. In their respirators, which have a large snout in front, they looked like some horrible nightmare.
All along our trench, rifles and machine guns spoke, our shrapnel was bursting over their heads. They went down in heaps, but new ones took the place of the fallen. Nothing could stop that mad rush. The Germans reached our barbed wire, which had previously been demolished by their shells, then it was bomb against bomb, and the devil for all.
Suddenly, my head seemed to burst from a loud crack in my ear. Then my head began to swim, throat got dry and a heavy pressure on the lungs warned me that my mask was leaking.
The trench started to wind like a snake, and sandbags appeared to be floating in the air. The noise was horrible; I sank onto the fire step, needles seemed to be pricking my flesh, then blackness.
I was awakened by one of my mates. How delicious that cool, fresh air felt in my lush. They told me I had been ‘out’ for three hours; they thought I was dead.
The attack had been repulsed after a hard fight. Twice the Germans had gained a foothold in our trench, but had been driven out by counter- attacks. The trench was filled with their dead and ours. Through a periscope, I counted eighteen dead Germans in our wire; they were a ghastly sight in their horrible-looking respirators.
That night we buried all of the dead, except those in no mans land. In death there is not much distinction. Friend and foe are treated alike.”
- Arthur Empey recalls surviving a German gas attack and follow up infantry assault whilst serving in the trenches of the Western Front.
1 post • Page 1 of 1