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The Rock-itt : July 2012
in pouring rain, which effectively concealed any noise. It was miserable, cold and scary work. Occasionally the squad was somewhat larger as a raiding party would go out at the same time to distract attention from where important wire repairs had to be done. German wire shown in depth Wiring parties were employed prior to a big attack to cut some paths through the German wire. This was extremely hazardous as soldiers had to crawl across No Man’s Land and use the wire cutters on the wire entanglements. Squads might be out there for over 4 hours before dawn interrupted their efforts. As well as our Australian troops Many Horses and Mules used for dragging the cannons and supplies t hrough the quagmire, also perished on the barbed wire The key to success during these nerve wracking excursions, was to remove the cans in silence and then “capture” a standard (the iron spike or post that held the wire). As the war developed, the standards had corkscrew points which negated the need to hammer them into the soil. These were very hard to extricate and although a fine trophy, one which could easily cost a man’s life. For those days when an attack had been planned, there would be a very tragic outcome; inevitably there would be soldiers who had been wounded, who were strung up on the wire. It was virtually impossible to rescue a mate once he had struggled on the wire as it tended to snare him more the more he struggled. Often he was used as target practice by the Hun but there were terrible times when he would lie there for days until death took him. An emotive song doing the rounds of Commonwealth Troops at the time was this extract...... If you want to find the old Battalion They're hanging on the old barbed wire. I've seen 'em, I've seen 'em, Hanging on the old barbed wire. Our Diggers in the Great War ! 1914-18 with The Rockitt’s War Historian, Simon Lyon The Allies initially developed a strategy of one soldier laying on top of the wire and allowing his comrades to walk over him and thus enabling troops to advance at speed to the enem y positions but as the width of the wire increased, the prone soldier was a prime target for the machine gunners. The Charge across No M an’s Land must have been terrifying and also sickening. R otting corpses were strewn everywher e Wire cutters were also used but obviously the soldier was at immense risk. Most of the wire cutting was done under cover of darkness when No Man’s Land became alive with raiding parties. The British and Australian soldiers were exceptional at this particular type of warfare and the German defenders were often terrified at this type of Guerilla warfare. With no other intention other than to create fear in the opposing trench, and the occasional prisoner taken for information purposes, this tactic was extremely effective. However, there was other activity after dark in this eerie world. Under a cloudy night, parties of soldiers, often only under the command of a young Subaltern (2nd Lieutenant, often fresh out of one of England’s famous Public Schools) crept out over the parapet of their trench into this strip of soil, which no human would dare poke their head up to look at let alone walk. Armed with coils of barbed wire and wooden or iron pickets (stakes with loops wound into them at the factory so the belts of wire could be woven through), mallets and entrenching tools, this group of nervous soldiers would at first crawl out through their own wire and reinforce their defences. Often a metallic click would quickly be accompanied by a flare being fired from the German strong points and at its bright white apex, a stream of machine gun bullets would sweep the land in the general direction of the noise. Soldiers would hit the ground, lying as still as possible until the flare died out, and often for a while longer until the sentry satisfied himself that there was no-one there. Pitch black nights when neither moon nor stars could reveal these constant visitors to No Man’s Land, were the ideal opportunity to sortie. More often than not, soldiers were gathered several hours before dawn, at about 1am, .