The Zeebrugge Raid: Block-ships during WWI

“Ahead of her, as she drove through the water, rolled the smoke-screen, her cloak of invisibility, wrapped about her by the small craft. The north-east wind moved the volume of it shoreward ahead of the ships; beyond it, the distant town and its defenders were unsuspicious; and it was not till Vindictive was close upon the Mole that the wind lulled and came away again from the south-west, sweeping back the smoke-screen and laying her bare to the eyes that looked seaward. There was a moment immediately afterward when it seemed to those in the ships as if the dim coast and the hidden harbour exploded into light. A star shell soared aloft, then a score of star shells; the wavering beams of the searchlights swung around and settled to a glare; the wildfire of gun flashes leaped against the sky; strings of luminous green beads shot aloft, hung and sank; and the darkness of the night was supplanted by the nightmare daylight of battle fires.” [1] 

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“In this wilderness of flooded shell holes:” Canadians remember Passchendaele

“After a march all night, losing our way, falling in shell holes, slipping, and losing our tin hats in them, and having to fish them out, and the odd shells dropping around us. We were getting nearer to where we were supposed to dig in and hold the line. We couldn’t see much in the dark and picked out the best shell holes we could find and mounted our guns… Our guns were useless, full of mud and the water cooling barrel was punctured. The wounded officer told me he was going to see the other guns but as he left me a shell landed under him as he was crawling away. He was blown several feet away. I crawled after him, expecting any moment to share the same fate… After that terrible night, the mist of morning creeping over the sea of mud, my hands were covered with blood, steaming from the work of dressing the wounded…Eleven days and nights were spent under these conditions, which I have only covered briefly, in the cold and wet with no sleep. Haunted by the cries of those we had left in the sea of mud and torture, as it is now called- “Flanders Field where the poppies grow” – about 14 years ago.” [1] 

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