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Cuinchy trenches

Cuinchy trenches - Imperial War Museum

Blunden's War - Part 6: Cuinchy, the sullen sorcery


"There was enough to occupy a commanding officer in the Cuinchy trenches, without lightening raids."

Rapidly, Edmund experiences the full force of the war: he is under fire in the Brick Stacks, mines are exploded under the front lines - the thump and roar, the deluge of heavy shells - and Blunden is sent to the site of the explosion with stretcher bearers in the blackness, rocking with the crashing sound and flame. Rain as well...but they were not wanted at all.

He describes the remains of the houses there, as a 'tottering anatomy' which no specialist could have cured. Shrapnel bursts over the men, destroying several.

"Brothers should not join the same battalion" is his conclusion watching the misery of a crying boy over the stretcher of his brother. There we sixty casualties of the mine explosion - Cuinchy was a slaughter yard. He wrote:

"Jerusalem Crater, an enormous hole in brown exploded soil with a pool at the bottom. But our post was at the bottom of it too. One of our officers sent back a note to Lytton: Germans have thrown six bombs into Jerusalem Crater. Shall we throw any back?"

Here even EB's memoir writing becomes stuck with the sludge, like the mud in the crater, and stick bombs are being thrown down on to the sentry at the bottom of the crater, peering up at the Germans through a periscope.

And back comes the General:
'Have your men had Porridge this morning?'
'Have you your Gas Message in your pocket', and 'What is the number of Loan Boots in your company?'

As a German bomb bursts beside him.

EB then describes the strain of the sector making everyone exceedingly tired. Taking trench duty at dawn one morning, up and down the trenches, he had used up all his intended jokes, given encouragement to each group of sentries. He was in a little used 'sap', sat down on a sandbag listening to the bullets. Then heard nothing more as he slept a minute or two. He recognised his luck not to have been caught, and marveled at actually being able to sleep in a black hole under a Brickstack:

'the men must hunch and huddle on the firestep their legs pushed aside every two minutes by passers, the sky above perhaps drizzling or pouring, and nothing but hope and a mackintosh sheet between them and the descent of minenwerfer shells...'

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