Mexborough & Swinton Times, August 1917
The Mines of Messines
Denaby Telegraphist´s description
Mr Moses Soar, of Tickhill Street, Denaby main, has received from his oldest son a letter containing an interesting description of the opening of the battle of Messines on June 7th. Sapper Charles Soar, a wireless telegraphist in the R.E., writing on his 21st birthday says:
“Everybody knows now of the advances made last week, and I think I am at liberty to mention it. It is a week I shall never forget. I think I can say in all truth but it was my first battle, although I don’t use the term in the same way as the real “Tommy” would use.
We arrivedat the scene of operations on the Monday and began to prepare. Owing to the nature of the instruments we were provided with a dugout.
About 3 AM on Thursday we were fetched on top in case the mines disturbed anything below. All our watches have been synchronised.
Our artillery had been keeping up a ceaseless bombardment for the last few days. To us it seemed a quiet bombardment.
It was a moonlight night, and one wonders and hoped for the results of the next few hours. There was absolutely no excitement whatsoever, although there was a certain tension in the atmosphere. A few minutes after three either the artillery seized our minds who so impatient for the moment that we forgot it. Everything was still and suddenly a machine gun rattled out a few shots. Then someone whispers – although there was no need to whisper – “there is a plane!” Then he was shining in the moonlight directly overhead
It may sound callous to put it like this, for I knew that some of the enemy was but perishing at the moment, but the present time callousness seems a natural asset of the mind. There was no burst and flash, but a steady upheaval. Imagine a gigantic cauldron of molten metal, in which a plunger was been steadily forced down, and the metal was being forced out between the plunger on the side of the cold, rising up steadily falling just a steadily! By this standard of the mines on the right and left of the particular mine are described and all had gone up. Almost as soon as the first mine exploded with the first shouts of a break-in bombardment. And what a bombardment.! It was beyond description, speech was impossible.
Then the miners came and said all was okay below and so we will went down and set to work. Just after four o’clock somebody said “the boys are over” and after that every few minutes runners came running from forward to bring the news;
“The boys are in Fritz´s first line” – “the boys are in Fritz´s third line” – “the boys have got the ridge” – and so on
Fritz made several half-hearted attempts with his artillery, but he was soon silenced. Then one began to see the effects of the pre-advance organisation. Water pipes were speedily laid up and to and over our old frontline. Field companies were work making roads and laying light railways. Artillery was moving up and taking new positions.
Everybody, every section that one could name, was working at top speed and in perfect unison. Here came a stretcher upon which was a fellow with both legs badly mangled. He was smoking and whistling snatches of “take me back to dear old Blighty” and poking fun at soldiers less seriously wounded.
German dugouts were entered, and found to be masterpieces of ferro concrete. Many of the prisoners were starving, but on the other hand plenty of them were well fed, so that no conclusion can be arrived at in that direction. Many of this frontare Saxon, who I think constitute what might be termed the unwilling portion of the German Army.
On the day following the attack, roads that had been for months forbidden to traffic on account of liabilities to bombardment, were buzzing with lorries, ammunition limbers and transport of all descriptions. That night we sat listening to the tales of sundry infantrymen, which however, I will not repeat here, but will reserve for a future date.”