Albatros fighters by Ray Rimell

By Ray Rimell

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Half an hour later, another man in our company had his cheek laid open by infantry fire. On 29 November our battalion moved back for a fortnight to the little town of Queant, in the back area of the division, which later was to achieve such bloody renown, to drill and indulge in some of the blessings afforded by the hinterland. During our stay there, my commission as lieutenant came through, and I was posted to the 2nd Company. In Queant and its environs, we were often invited to drinking sessions by the local commandants, and I was given an insight into the near-absolute authority these local bosses exercised over their subordinates and the local populations.

Some cats have moved in with us from the ruined villages around; they love the proximity of humans. One large white torn with a shot-off front paw is frequently seen ghosting about in no man's land, and seems to have been adopted by both sides. Of course, I was telling you about trench duty. But one loves these digressions; it's an easy matter to start nattering, to fill up a dark night and the slow hours. I would many times stop and listen to the tales of some character from the front, or a fellow NCO, and take in his chatter with rapt attention.

In the morning, the sentry on our left flank was shot through both cheekbones. The blood spurted out of him in thick gouts. And, to cap it all, when Lieutenant von Ewald, visiting our sector to take pictures of sap N barely fifty yards away, turned to climb down from the outlook, a bullet shattered the back of his skull and he died on the spot. Large fragments of skull were left littering the sentry platform. Also, a man was hit in the shoulder, but not badly. 19 October. The middle platoon's section of trench was attacked with six-inch shells.

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