SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 20th

Nothing has happened during the night, except a Zep. [Zeppelin] came over at midnight, but did nothing. About 150 men live in some deep caves cut into the hill, and sounds of mining under it have been heard. Patrol has discovered men working at what looks like a shaft, about 150x [yards] in front of us. I cleared all the men out of the caves back to the village. An expert miner is coming today to examine. We passed an anxious night expecting an explosion, which would, of course, have been the prelude to an attack. Clear frosty morning. Such a heavenly spring day, sunny and warm, and a peaceful day. Very little shell fire, and only occasional M.G. The mining expert came early, but is at present unable to make any definite statement. Noises there are, but he can’t determine what. He is going to stay till he can say definitely. We had another man, Patterson, from Cornascriebe, near Portadown, slightly wounded yesterday evening. A spent bullet just penetrated his arm, and was cut out by Berry. The only possible footwear for the trenches in their present state is the Government long gum boot, which comes up to the thigh. I find it very tiring to walk in, but when you come on water on your knees, and liquid mud of like depth, no other boots are possible. I trust now the worst of the weather may be over. Oh! I am so dirty; hands grimy, and feet and body dirty. Somehow I felt it more today in this beautiful sunlight.

An awful amount of work there is to be done to keep existing trenches in order, and then a lot of new necessary work to be undertaken, and few men to do it. Not a man of the 2¼ Coys. in front line can be taken from the line. It takes 80 men every night to bring in the rations from the dump 1½ miles away, from which it has to be carried with the greatest difficulty. I can raise 60 men for work at night. There is our main communication trench, 1½ miles long, which has to be cleaned (in parts 2ft. deep in solid mud and liquid slush), and each side of it riveted to prevent it falling in. It would take 500 men a fortnight to do it, and the earth removed from the top where it has been piled up from bottom when cleaning, and keeps tumbling in again. This can only be done at night. Then there is another communication trench of a mile, to the cookers, up which all the men’s food is carried for every meal. This keeps falling in, and being on low ground is full of water. The cookers themselves are in a horrible place, liquid mud and impossible to drain, or keep clean.

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