[The Battalion in the line at Hamel—’…enemy sent over three or four whizz-bangs near our cookers…casualties one man wounded…’—and Lieutenant Colonel Blacker on a course of instruction at Flixecourt.]
A spring-like day, which is now turning to rain. Snow going, and everything slushy. We had a lecture on sanitation at 3.00 p.m., and now a hiatus till 6.00 p.m., when we have another lecture on ‘An attack by Canadians’ by one of them. The School is very well run. Capable instructors and Kentish, a good schoolmaster, and does most things well himself. I hear the French are holding the Huns all right, but they themselves acknowledge to heavy losses. Repington seems to think we are going to see a big German attack by land and sea. I expect they’ve got some big guns and a lot of new ships. The ‘Maloja’ is a sad business. Here they say we’ve got a 3,000 ton submarine, which we’ve captured! A 4th Army now under H. Rawlinson. We still remain in 3rd I think. Three Canadian officers came over from 70 miles and gave us an account of a cutting out expedition they made into Hun trenches in November last. They were only thirty strong. They killed 30 Huns and brought in 12 prisoners. A thrilling story, told quite simply. A really well managed show, well practiced and well carried out. From British Columbia they all were. Rain stopped this p.m. We are in Flixecourt.
The Canadians are credited with the idea and early development of the ‘trench raid’—a small, deliberate attack into the enemy lines to gather intelligence, conduct reconnaissance and kill and capture enemy soldiers. The first such attack had taken place in February 1915 and the raid described by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker took place on the night of 16/17 November 1915 at La Petite Douve Farm, a fortified German position on the road one mile south of Messines. A short account may be found in the Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 by Colonel G W L Nicholson CD, Army Historical Section, at pages 107-110. A more detailed account may be found at If Ye Break Faith.
The 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers will find itself in the same sector after leaving the Somme in the summer of 1916 and will raid the same farm in the early hours of 12 October.