\ Duds That Did The "Babblers" Great Oversight j
The enormous quantity of shells thrown at each other by the opposing forces at the battle of Paschendale in 1917 probably constituted a record in warfare up to that period.
From Ypres, right along the Menin - road, on a wide front to the ridge, there was hardly a square yard of ground not torn by shells. In conseauence of the deep mud thc number of dud shells which fell also constituted a record. No-matter how the gunners sensitised the fuses, duds prevailed, much, on several occasions, to the profane wrath of the advancing infantry.
Miraculous escapes from being blown to pieces, owing to dud shells, were of hourly occurrence. Not far from the "Lille" gate a company sergeant-major and two sergeants were snugged down in a small dug-out near the cemetery (yes, digger, they were drinking rum), when a 5.9 shell plunged through the roof and buried itself in the ground
without exploding, lieyond thc spilling of a pint of rera the occupants were
Another incident of luck, combined with the essence cf bad luck, was that of 13 mon under a tarpaulin shelter. One of them-he must have been the 13th man-stepped outside for a min- ute, when a shel! swept through his body, killing kim instantly, and, fall- ing right in th« shelter, failed to ex- plode. Th; on!; comment by th? sur- viving 12 men was that "Hill's blanky numiier was on that shell all right."
The Menin-road during that battle was littered with more de-ad men, dead horses and mu!«; than the average disger had in his mest exaggerated mood ever thought possible. An ammu- nition driver, plodding along through the rain leading-two mules loaded with lS-pounder shells, had first one mule and then the. other killed by di-.d shells inside two minutes, without the slight- est injury to himself or the ammuni- tion. But, at that particular moment, he had been forced off the road and
was floundering ii-, the mud. hauling on his mules at tho full length of thc; reins. His principal worry seemed to be as to whether the "basket" cf a ser- geant would count it as a blanky trip to the battery.
Just one more-the biggest dud of the lot. A battalion quartermaster was asleep in his tent near the cook carts one night when a dud 8 in. shell crashed in the opening, shaking the fear of seven hells into him to that extent he fled into Ypres seeking the deepest cellar he could find. A jar of rum was knocked clear of the tent, and lay, neck down, intact in the mud. For three hours after daybreak the bat- talion "Babblers," who would sell their souls for rum, worked and yarned in full view of the derelict jar of joy with- out taking the slightest notice of it.
It was an amazed quartermaster who retrieved the rum and told the cooks that he reckoned they were the greatest blanky dud "baskets" in the division. And the "Babblers" fervidly and luridly agreed with him.