Witley, August 5, 1917

Sunday        C.P [Church parade] YMCA still more rain wrote letters this afternoon Milford church tonight

The Meteorological Office struggled to express how wet it has been:

“The excessive wetness of this particular disturbance will be better realised from the fact that for the week ending the 4th a number of stations had totals aggregating from ten to sixteen times the normal, Margate’s 144 mm being 1600 per cent of the week’s usual total.” (1)

It is no wonder that across the Channel, the Flemish lowlands have turned to mud. Writing after the war, and free of censors, Philip Gibbs described the terrains of the Third Battle of Ypres:

“Night after night the skies opened and let down steady torrents, which turned all that country into one great bog of slime. Those little rivers or “beeks,” which ran between the knobby fingers of the clawlike range of ridges, Passchendaele duckboards Auswere blown out of their channels and slopped over into broad swamps. The hurricanes of artillery fire which our gunners poured upon the enemy positions for twenty miles in depth churned up deep shell-craters which intermingled and made pits which the rains and floods filled to the brim. The only way of walking was by “duck-boards,” tracks laid down across the bogs under enemy fire, smashed up day by day, laid down again under cover of darkness. Along a duckboard walk men must march in single file, and if one of our men, heavily laden in his fighting-kit, stumbled on those greasy boards (as all of them stumbled at every few yards) and fell off, he sank up to his knees, often up to his waist, sometimes up to his neck, in mud and water.” (2)

The image of Australian soldiers walking a duckboards through a devastated landscape comes from the Australian War Memorial.

(1) Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, XXXIV (n.s.): 8 (August 1917). 1
(2) Gibbs, Philip. “Part Seven: The Fields of Armageddon. V.” Now It Can be Told. [published in the UK as The Realities of War]. 1920. Available from Gutenberg.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”



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