16 APRIL 1921, Page 19


THIS stately and fascinating volume is modestly described on its title-page as " a regimental' record written and illustrated for the most part by artillerymen while serving in the line during the. Great War." It has been skilfully compiled by Mrs. Ambrose Dudley—with whom the idea of such a record originated—and Major-General Sir H. C. C. Uniacke, with advice on editorial matters from Sir Owen Seaman and the generous co-operation of the publishers. " No claims to literary merit are put forward, nor does the work profess to be anything in the nature of a military history." But the admirably simple and direct writing of the gunners from whose letters and diaries the greater part of the book is compiled has the highest of all literary merits— the merit of presenting remarkable scenes and actions so that the reader seems himself to be taking part in them, to be present once more where " The thundering line of battle stands, And in the air Death moans and sighs."

And, as- regards the most diffioult and attractive side of military

• Tha-Royal Artincry War Contatentaration PUbUthed nett. Behalf of ths BA. War Commemoration Found by G. Bell and-Bons. VA 46. 1 history, scarcely even the battle-pictures of Caesar. or Napier are more vivid and unforgettable than some of these extracts from letters and diaries, written by the light of a flickering candle in a fetid dug.out. Here, for instance, is the beginning of the late Master of Belhaven's amount of the battle of Meesines:- " At exactly 2.10 a.m. the battle of Meesines began. The timing of all batteries in the area was wonderful, and to a second every gun roared in one awful salvo. At the same moment, the two greatest mines in history were blown up—Hill 60• and one immediately to the south of it. I had cleared every one out of the dug-outs and was watching for it Never could I have imagined such a sight. First, there was a double shock that shook the earth here fifteen hundred yards away like some prodigious earthquake. I was nearly flung off my feet. Then an immense wall of fire that seemed to go half-way to heaven. The whole country was lit with a red light resembling that in a photographer's dark room, and the battle began. The noise surpasses even the Somme ; it is terrific, magnificent, over- whelming. It makes one almost drunk with exhilaration, and one simply does not care about the fact that we are under the concentrated fire of all the Hun batteries_ Their shells are bursting around now, as I write, at 3.40 a.m., but it makes one laugh to think of their feeble efforts compared to the ausgszsich- nee Ausstellung that we are providing. It is now beginning to get light, but the whole world is wrapped in a grey haze of acrid fumes and dust."

Here, again, is a specimen of Lieut. A. S. G. Butler's work— a description of a young battery commander's share in a minor operation :-

"About six the telephone rang and interrupted ' A Perfect Day ' in the middle of its fourth encore. A serious- voice at Brigade sent me a single word of warning which meant a lot. If the wind kept up as it was we would attack the enemy with gas in half an hour. The battery would bombard thorn simul- taneously. "' Quite sure you know what to do ? ' it asked. ' Perfectly,' I answered rather coldly, and took the official time to the fraction of a second. Twenty minutes later everything was ready. Fuses were set on several hundred shells, other hundreds of the- newest high explosives were neatly piled ready for instant loading. The detachments ware in the gun-pits, sitting and waiting silently, except for a word or two from the sergeants. The guns were concentrated on a small strip of the enemy's trenches where the gas would hit them, ready loaded♦ and the sight bubbles levelled. The section-commanders knew their orders by heart. One word from me and the Germans would die. The wind was still blowing faintly from west to east, and the damp mist still hung over the innocent fields in front of us. There wee very little sound anywhere, except the faint rumble of some distant traffic behind us—probably the rations and the mail. I wondered if my hair-wash would arrive. . . . Two and a-half more minutes yet. I stood by the telephone dug-out. Not a word from the Brigade. It can't be cancelled. . . . Then the dull blackness of the night in the east was suddenly broken by the upward stream of rockets in coloured groups-- lines of fire, blue and red and gold, rising silently- beyond the ridge, to flicker and fall and rise again in wild confusion. They are the German SOS. The gas is on them. Now well smash them—and I give the word. The men leap to it. The guns go off in a salvo, and as they fire, other batteries round us join in the uproar, rending the sky and the earth and the night all at once. More than a hundred rounds a minute are blasting that plot. Thinl‘of them running now—those who yet live— diving and dodging for shelter, blundering in their masks into dug-outs, choking, sobbing, shouting, bleeding, cursing and dying. . . . We lengthen our ranges and search and sweep their surroundings. None must escape the guns . . . It was

very soon over. The enemy retaliation was weak ; so, after tidying up and mounting the guard for the night, we went in to dinner. I enjoyed it after my ride to the wagon-line, and the new port was quite good. Then the letters were brought in, including my yesterday's paper. We looked at the news for a bit, and discussed the murder case that is making rather a stir in London at present. We thought on the whole it was rather a brutal one."

We do not give these extracts, poignant and picturesque as. they are, as anything more than fair samples of the kind of writing with which this handsome quarto is packed. It amply fulfils the ambition of the editors, " that the volume shall present, in a more or lees consecutive narrative, the human' side of the war by means of typical incidents and happenings in the smaller formations of the Regiment—those which bore the heat and burden of the day—and that it shall exemplify the reality of the Regimental motto, Ubique." The narrative covers the whole of the war in time and space—from the retreat from Mons to the victorious march into Germany, from France to East Africa. It is interspersed with many vigorous poems by some of the young soldier-poets whom the war brought to utterance, and illustrated with a large number of attractive drawings, many of which are excellently reproduced in colour, like Mr. Septimus Power's spirited " Artillery Advancing before Harbonnieres," and Lieut. E. H. Sheppard's pathetic " Zille- beke." The perusal of this beautiful and deeply interesting book leaves us, as Lord Haig writes in his foreword, " with a profound - sense of the extraordinary success with which all ranks of the Artillery—whether Regular, Territorial, or New Army—rose to the demands made upon them, and of the unfailing gallantry they displayed in so doing." Even if infantry be still the queen of battles, her reign would be short without the guns for her outriders and tiring-maidens. " With less constant and loyal co-operation on the part of both field, heavy and siege batteries," as the Commander-in-Chief wrote in his Order of the Day dated May 9th, 1918, " the great bravery and determination of the infantry could scarcely have availed to hold up the enemy's advance." The shells must ever breach the way in attack and safely veil the stubborn retreat. This book is a worthy record of the skill and courage with which the Royal Regiment still presses, as of old, quo fas et gloria ducunt.