Monday Feb 11th, 1918
Stand to at 5:30am. Breakfast 6:30. Nothing doing in morning and had a walk to Minden Camp. Dinner 1pm. Worked in camp afternoon, three hours stand to 6 o’clock. Went to put wiring in dead man’s ravine till 10pm. Horrible hard work – glad when we got back. Johnny failed to see us. Wrote letter home. Johnny drops shells and H.Es (high explosives) in camp at tea time.
First day on the front line and Frank is immediately sent out to strengthen the wiring in ‘Dead Man’s Ravine’. We don’t know to what location Frank is referring. There is certainly no place on the map marked by that unfortunate name. It could be Jumeaux Ravine, a significant feature that appears on nearly all of the Battalion’s hand-drawn maps.
Maintaining and improving the lines of defence was one of the main activities for working parties, particularly when serving at the front. Indeed a footnote on the ‘Table of Works’, mentioned in the Battalion diary today, clearly states that, ‘Wire and trench maintenance parties to be found by all front line Companies.’
Such duties were described by Private Ernest Jones of the 8th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, 66th Brigade: ‘We had iron stakes like corkscrews and you screwed them into the ground and then ran the wire through loops on the stakes. The wire was carried by two chaps on a big wooden reel carried on a pole. We put up single strands. The big coils were sometimes put out by the Royal Engineers…The wire area would be about a foot thick. In most cases the main wire was back towards the trenches. We were usually out preparing forward wire. Shellfire would often blow big gaps in the main wire, repairing this was a specialized job for the Royal Engineers. There were no covering parties, we just took our gas masks and rifles forward with us.’¹
This photograph shows a wiring party setting out – complete with the corkscrew-like iron stakes described by Private Jones.
13th (Service) Battalion War Diary – 11th February 1918 – No 1 Sector, Minden Camp
Our heavy artillery was active all day with the result that the enemy artillery retaliated on all his usual targets throughout the sector in the afternoon. During the night Machine Guns were active on both sides. Enemy MGs firing on B2, B4 & B6. Usual patrols and special ones had nothing to report.
4OR struck off effective strength under GRO 1011 with effect from 11-2-18. 1 OR having rejoined is again taken on from 9-2-18. 1OR (reinforcement) having joined is taken on from 9-2-18. 1 OR (wounded in action) is struck off effective strength from 10-2-18. The undermentioned Officers having joined are taken on from 9-2-18 and are posted as under:- 2Lt CS Rushton, B Coy.
Table of Work No 1 Sector (Appendix No II) was issued. For Defence Scheme No 1 Sector see App V of December 1917.
References & Further Reading
¹ ‘Under the Devils Eye’ by Alan Wakefield and Simon Moody (Kindle location 3087)
* Field Marshall (Earl) Haig’s papers, National Library of Scotland