Liévin, March 6, 1918

Wednesday        Very warm today tho’ visibility is none to [sic] good Fritz threw some stuff around this a.m. this afternoon our planes nearly brought down two Heinies both nose dived, lots of sniping this evening. Am on guard, the night is clear, am well

Solomon fight over Lens IWM.jpg

Before he left the sector yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Gault McCombe, commanding officer of the 14th Canadian Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment, wrote to General Dodds (in command of the Fifth Divisional Canadian Artillery) to express his appreciation for the artillery support provided to his infantry by the 13th Artillery Brigade over the previous eight days: “I can safely say that never during any tour which the Battalion has done have we had more satisfactory support from the Artillery.” (1) General Dodds passed along the message of thanks, together with his congratulations on the good work they had done. (1)

Such messages of confidence would have been the more appreciated by the Fifth Divisional Artillery, which sometimes came in for ignorant criticism. “There was a report, generally believed by the infantry at that time,” wrote McArthur about early 1918, “that the Fifth had shot short* at Passchendale [sic], a dastardly offence, surely, had we not been on the Lens front all the time. But every new division had its share of ‘kidding’ to take, its share of lying rumours to live down, and we were no exception.” (2)

 To shoot short is to misjudge the firing of your shells in a barrage, so that, instead of  obliterating enemy lines and protecting an advance, you injure or kill your own soldiers in so-called friendly fire. Shooting short was not always the result of gunners’ inaccuracy, but could result from faulty or worn equipment and defective shells.

The1918 oil painting by Gilbert B. Solomon is entitled “The Mist Curtain: RE 8 (16th Squadron) attacked over Lens, 1918.” The British RE 8 biplane is under attack by two German aeroplanes, not quite the scenario Percy describes today. © IWM ART 2659

(1) War Diary of the 13th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. Vol. 14: 7. Appendix A.  Copy of letter dated March 5, 1918. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) MacArthur, D.C. The History of the Fifty-Fifth Battery, CFA. 1919. 25

Copyright 2018. See “More about this project.”

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