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1915: Christmas Eve in the trenches

Sussex Agricultural Express - Friday 24 December 1915


—Writing to Mr. Hayden of Haywards Heath, last week. Corporal M. Anscombe, of the 8th Royal Sussex Pioneers, said : " I thought you would like to know how the Cuckfield boys in the Pioneers are getting on out here. Well, I'm glad say 'All right.' They are keeping well and fit. But the weather is awful now. Winter has set in very early this year, and for several days the ground has been covered with snow. Much rain has fallen, and the trenches are in awful condition. Nearly everywhere the knees of the men are reached by water and mud. It is nothing to see some poor chap up to his waist in the mud with his full pack on, waiting for some one to come and dig him out.

Of course, the worse the weather is, the more work it makes for us. as being Pioneer Battalion, it our job to repair all the trenches, and keep them in as good condition as possible. We have had plenty of exciting times lately, and some narrow shaves.

8th Sussex Royal Pioneers - Belgium 1917

The other day a party of us were working on a trench a few hundred yards from the Germans, when they started to shell us. They landed whizz-bangs all round us, but, fortunately, no one was hit. The following day we were clearing the earth back from the top a trench to save it from falling in. when a machine gun started sweep the parapet. Most of the men managed to get down in time, but our Brigade-General, who happened to be there at the time, was not lucky. A bullet hit him right in the thigh. We have been out here nearly five months, and we have held this line for four months, so we ought to relieved soon. Things are quieter along the front than when took the line over. I suppose the Germans, like us, find plenty to do in keeping their trenches in decent condition without troubling much about the strafing business. The trenches are so close together that a lot of mining goes on. Nearly every day or two a mine goes one side or the other. Just lately the Germans have been strafing us with a lot of old tin canisters, paint drums, etc. They fill them with stones or bits of old iron, and fit a detonator, time-fuses, and some gunpowder in them. What power they use to send them over I do not know; perhaps some large catapult or other.

All the boys are wondering what will happen on Christmas Day, and whether the Germans will come out and have Christmas Day off as they did last year. I hope they do, so that we shall able to have a decent look at them. We don't see much of them now. If you put your head up for more than second a sniper cops you. Our regiment have started their leave, so we are looking forward to having a few days at home. Of one thing we are certain —the Germans will never break through on this part, whatever they elsewhere. Our lot have got them properly set here. It's only a question of time for driving them back, and I do not think much will be done before the spring. The Kaiser might just as well chuck up now. as the longer the war lasts the worse terms he'll get at the finish. He is bound to lose in the end."

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