11 December 1914

Extract from the diary of Lt Charles Brockbank, 1st Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

charles brockbank

Friday. We moved on again today to a place called NEUVE EGLISE which is about 5 kms from BAILLEUL, just across the Belgian Frontier, so that means another medal for those who come through, a handcart will be needed to carry all our medals if we go on collecting them at this rate. We are really billeted about 1 km from NEUVE EGLISE at the actual Belgian Frontier, half the Batt[alio]n being in France & our half in Belgium at an estaminet called “Au deux Nations” and our men all speak of the place as “Au deux Nations” as I don’t think the village has a name. We were told that we were to have about a week’s rest but almost before we had “fallen-out” word came round that two companies were to go up to the line immediately, ours was one of the unlucky ones. We set off with full packs up to about a mile past NEUVE EGLISE when we were met by a guide and had to take to the fields. We slipped all over the place when trying to keep up with the leaders as the fields were all under watery mud from 3 inches deep on the level to three feet deep in the ditches. It was an awful job, everyone haunted by the fear of getting lost from the man in front of him, heaving a sigh of relief at every check. It poured with rain the whole [time]. We arrived at our destination about 11.30 p.m. and then discovered our cooks had got lost, so I was detailed to go back and find them. We were in a ruined farmhouse near the trenches, one company was to be here and one in the line, ours was to be the reserved one. The guide told us there were some dugouts in the field for us so we went to find them. We could not see any until a man went in up to his waist in water & the guide said “There you are, just bale ´em out & you will be O.K”. My idea of a dugout was an underground room about 30 feet long, 6 foot deep and about 10 foot wide, these were 6 foot long 4 foot broad & about 2 foot deep, made “safe” with a gate or similar thing with some straw & earth on top. It was a moment of horrified disillusionment. We went up into the “trench” proper later on which was merely a series of “grouse butts” joined together, with a narrow trench behind, filled with water, for when they started shelling. I got my bit of trench baled out first thing. When daylight arrived I discovered we were only 150 yards from the Germans, which was a bit of a shock. One man killed, shot through the head through the parapet. He was crouched up against the parapet & I thought he was asleep so shook him. There was no mistake about his being dead. The other man was hit in the ankle whilst walking about trying to get warm.

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