The firefly lamps were lighted yet
As we crossed the top of the parapet,
But the East grew pale to another fire,
As our bayonets gleamed by the foeman’s wire.
And the Eastern sky was gold and grey,
And under our feet the dead men lay,
As we entered Loos in the morning
This is one of the most vivid accounts of a battle I have read – the Battle of Loos. The author was a well known writer before the war in which he served as a stretcher-bearer with the 1/18th London Irish Rifles in the 47th (2nd London) Division. As he says in his introduction practically the whole book was written in the scene of action, and the chapter dealing with the battalion’s night at Les Brebis prior to the Big Push, was written in the trench between midnight and dawn of September 25th. This is powerful stuff, the descriptions of the scenes on the battlefield, the pulverizing bombardments, the horror of it all. The enemy snipers on Hulloch copse were busy, and probably the dying were being hit again. Some of them desired it, the slow process of dying on the open field of war is so dreadful. As a stretcher bearer who went over the top with the battalion MacGill had plenty of experience of dealing with the wounded and the dying: Now he lay close to earth hugging an entanglement prop, and dying…..I knelt down beside him and cut his tunic with my scissors where a burnt hole clotted with blood showed under the kidney. A splinter of shell had torn part of the man’s side away. All hope was lost for the poor soul. And yet there was humour in spite of the carnage, and some of the dialogue brings this out. This is the reality of war on the Western Front and you won’t find it more convincingly described, anywhere.