Home » 1916 » The beastliness of rotting bodies – July 1916

The beastliness of rotting bodies – July 1916

There was this occasion I was brewing up some tea in this dug-out.

I’d set up a bit of a fire with a couple of bricks and a canteen. You used your bayonet to scrape off a few shavings so that you didn’t make any smoke.

There was this dreadful smell

I pushed my bayonet into the soil and there’s a body. I don’t know if it was a Jerry or one of ours. I was burning a hole into their stomach


Single postcard depicting four ghastly images. Ca. 1916

Another one, at the Briqueterie – a whizz-bang went straight through a signaller called Walters – he was a range finder. Just ripped him apart. It was a dud otherwise there’d have been nothing left of him.

I turned twenty out on the Somme in August 1916

There was no day to remember though. You never knew whether it was Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

When they started the war, Jerry had those helmets with a brass peak.

One day I saw this spike sticking out of the side of this communications trench and I thought it would make a nice souvenir. I got my bayonet out and dug the earth away to get a hold of it. My fingers came away with the skin and hair and all the rest of it. Another time I had the helmet in my hands only to find there was a skull inside it.

We went swimming in the Somme when we were out of the line at Happy Valley.

We were taking over the line from the French bit by bit. About a mile at a time. We were at the extreme south of the line towards Caix and Peronne.

I remember these French soldiers pointing at me and having a bit of a laugh at my expense.

“Petit soldat,” they were saying. ‘Boy soldier.’


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