Conjecture and circumstantial ‘evidence’ .. it was all I had to show for my three days in Belgium.
On the flight home, I’d racked my brains for a source of information which might prove my theory. Contemplation is good for the soul but it can also be damaging to the ego.
A guy called Simpson spoke for all us idiots worldwide when he enunciated our stupidity with a multi-lingual ‘doh’.
Call me Homer.
It was back to the National Archives .. again. That’s where you get the service records of thousands of men who fought in World War One. Let me repeat myself for emphasis. DOH!
Thankfully, I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew the archive trail inside out. Which was how I found myself e-mailing a forum member called ‘Stilleto’.
A few hours later, I was multi-tasking. Well, to be honest I was washing the dishes while watching ‘The Weakest Link’ on the kitchen telly.
I’d just decided that a siezable portion of the nation’s population were imbeciles when the computer made that ‘incoming mail’ noise.
Hi Des, Stilleto here. McCallion B. and W. on their way. Hartley with you ASAP. Cheers. Still.
I could only wait for the postman.
In the meantime, however, I could fill in some details about the movements of the Muddies within the time frame.
Now I was back home, I could flesh out the hard facts with some accounts from the Battalion history and the old papers.
It would give me something to do. Like I didn’t have enough to do already. Doh!
Compiled from sources: War Diary of 7th (S) Bn. R. Mudshire RIF. May to September 1917; and, A History of the 7th (s) Bn. The Royal Mudshire Rifles; and, various newspaper accounts in the author’s possession.
The bn. was ordered to sector Q:2 (IF) for training on May ?. Officers and senior NCOs were thoroughly briefed as to the nature of the ground and all ranks were impressed with the need to (a) maintain close proximity to the barrage and (b.) the importance of swift consolidation of objectives.
All ranks were shown a large scale model of the ground to be assaulted. Training continued for a full week with the bn. ordered to take positions at sector Q: 7 (Red) on the evening of June 5.
Throughout this period strict secrecy was maintained and all ranks were confined to camp. No communication was allowed.
"F..king REs," snorted Rfn. Shaymen as the party of engineers packed up their gear and moved out of the communication trench and towards their billets. 'Extra pay and we do the bleedin' work for them half the bleedin' time!"
"Yeah, f..k off you lazy gits," sniped Shaymen as the last sapper in the column exited the trench.
The sapper turned: "Hey, you, ******** .. do yourself a favour and keep it shut. You’ll only wake the Gerries and they’ll give you a stonk for a welcome!"
His engineering comrades laughed and the little column disappeared out of sight whistling ‘the bells of hell’.
The Muddies shouldered their rifles and shuffled up the communication trench towards the front line.
Above them loomed the Messines Ridge. The Germans had been sitting pretty on that piece of high ground for the best part of two years and tomorrow the Muddies would have to attack it.
"I just hope that old git Plumer knows what he’s doing," whispered Jim Clay.
"Who the f..k’s Plumer?" asked Rfn. Shaymen.