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The Canadian "Emma Gees"
A History of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps
by
Lt.-Col. C.S. Grafton

Transcribed by Dwight G. Mercer

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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.

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Transcript Copyright © 2003 Dwight G. Mercer - Badge Images Copyright © 2003 Ray Adams
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