|Here and there in the midst
of routine details a report will be varied by conclusions as in the case
of a Divisional Company which had used trench slits. Of these it says:
"Trench slits again proved
satisfactory, although the men suffered more hardships than would have
been the case if the trenches had been utilized, chiefly owing to the fact
that they were unable to move about. After moving into slits before zero
hour, camouflage was spread over positions and no movement was allowed
during the day. During the 10 days these slits were occupied batteries
suffered only two casualties and no direct hits were obtained. On the other
hand, a unit of the Division on our left in a trench some 150 yards from
the slits suffered many casualties in two or three days."
In these hurrying post-war
days machine gunners who grow impatient at the momentary delays of life
should have an effective brake on such growing impatience if they cast
back in memory to the cramped vigils of days and nights in these slits,
when only a minimum of movement was possible and that minimum only at the
cost of many slow contortions.
In this same report, also,
a little esprit de corps creeps in.
"In all cases," this report
mildly exults, "batteries answered SOS signals from one to four minutes
ahead of the Artillery."
This indicates that the machine
gunners were beginning to feel far from apologetic about their role as
a light artillery in the barrage schemes.
On August 23rd, just before
dawn, the Canadians launched their attack on the Green Crassier, giant
slag heap which barred their entry into Lens from the south. The huge pile
was a labyrinth of trenches and machine gun emplacements, but the Canadians
carried these with a rush. The slag heap was a maze of tunnels, too, down
which the Canadians bombed their way. It proved a fitting climax to the
siege of Lens for there was no quarter asked or given. However, after holding
on all night the Canadians were forced to relinquish what they had won
next day, as a German counter-attack swarmed over in such strength that
it forced a stubborn retreat back down the smashed trenches.
This brought to a close the
Canadian attempts to wrest Lens from the Germans. Casualties for July and
August were now listed at 10,746. In addition, the nature of the fighting
had imposed a heavy strain on all ranks.