British infantry positions on the Western Front

German Troops on the West Wall, dated 2nd March 1940

Further extracts from the diary of Captain Twomey from 58 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, on attachment to the French Artillery for a week, in which he describes British Infantry trenches, following an earlier German attack:

The posts are one and all sited very poorly. I don’t think a single one can see another to give it support. All we saw are in the forward edge of the wood sited to fire directly to their front – they can’t see to the flanks to fire because of the trees – and they can see no further to their front than their barbed wire entanglements because of the convex slope of the ground.

Raids like that of the Germans on Tuesday (see 5th March 1940) is simplified with the posts so isolated and with the chance given to them to get right up to the wire and under coverof the supporting artillery fire to cut it. This is what they did on Tuesday and when the fire lifted they rushed in and found the platoon still taking cover because they were thoroughly frightened – and one can’t blame them – by the effectiveness of the bursts in the branches over their heads. The trees were well knocked about by the shell and behind the wood where the rounds burst on the second lift there were dozens of shell holes amongst some apple trees which also had had a good knocking about.

The shell holes were pretty bunched which shows that the concentration was pretty accurate, and they were no mean holes – about 6 or 7 feet across and about 2 or 3 feet deep.
The British Infantry tie tin cans on all their barbed wire and on the trip wires in the vicinity of their posts. These shine well in the sunlight and can be seen a long way off, they were quite glad to be told about it but hadn’t noticed it. The Germans probably know every one of our posts by this and other means; they are very enterprising and clever with their night patrolling and use dogs trained for police work.

This battalion gets relieved tomorrow night and will be glad to get out of it, they have had a good fright, so has the Infantry Brigadier. There are signs of feverish digging now and sandbags being taken up there, but the posts are still sited chiefly in the trees and not in mutually supporting pairs.

See TNA WO 217/7

Wargunner has much more on the 58 Medium Regiment and a full transcript of Captain Twomey’s Diary, together with images of the area described as it is today.

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