21 October 1914

At four o’clock this morning the hospital train arrived in Dunkirk. George could not name the town in his letter to Kittie of 23 October, but we know from his letter of 15th that this was his destination. He heads his letter of 23rd ‘At the Seaside’ and tells her that the ‘Hospital base’ he is now in is ‘lodged in a famous Casino’, i.e. probably at Malo les Bains.

A fine change after the nunneries and monasteries! A melancholy place, full of suffering. I and some of the other slightly suffering have taken our meals at restaurants. Imagine the great palms, and the egg-shaped ring of electric lights round the ceiling, its view of the bathing-machines and the sea; and it all full, from end to end, of wounded soldiers in rows side by side. […] and the operating theatre cut off only by a sheet.

On this day around Ypres the Germans attacked with renewed ferocity. Dick Sutton’s regiment was sent at first light to Zonnebeke to support the 7th Division, whose resistance was crumbling. Gun batteries further back eventually halted the massed German columns advancing upon it. In the northernmost section of the line, the Germans destroyed Langemarck with shelling, then poured waves of infantry through, day and night.  They fell in their hundreds to rifle fire from Haig’s 2nd Division troops.

The Germans’ Military Intelligence was poor, and as a result they consistently overestimated the Allied forces facing them at Ypres. On the other hand, Sir John French refused to believe the intelligence he was fed from aerial reconnaissance about superior German numbers, and had actually been planning offensive operations northwards and eastwards. He now gave the order to dig in. Both sides were discovering that in this new age of warfare the defenders could have certain advantages.

Next entry: Kittie


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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