Page 52. " The gun-emplacements are camouflaged with bushes against aerial observation, and look like a kind of military Feast of the Tabernacles "
Prayers at the Western Wall during Sukkot
Creative Commons AttributionPrayers at the Western Wall during Sukkot - Credit: ארכיון הצילומים קקל, הצלם יעקב שיין

The Feast of the Tabernacles is a Jewish feast in the seventh month of the Jewish Calendar, which falls approximately between September and October. It is also called the Feast of Booths, or Sukkot, after the sukkah, a temporary structure topped with leafy material in commemoration of the dwellings built by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.


Sukkot Booths
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSukkot Booths - Credit: Yoninah



Page 52. " Beside us stream the munition-columns in long files "

A munition-column is a line of military vehicles carrying ammunition for artillery and for small arms.

Page 53. " The Tommies are firing already "

Tommy Atkins (or just Tommy) was a generic name for British soldiers.

It was in use in the 19th century but its origins are unknown.

Page 58. " French rockets go up, which unfold a silk parachute to the air and drift slowly down "

Parachute shells, also know as star or illumination shells, were non-lethal artillery shells that released a magnesium flare connected to a parachute.  The flare would float down and illuminate the battlefield below. They would be used most often to light up No Man’s Land and expose enemy troops on patrol. 

Colored flares without parachutes were fired to transmit orders.  For instance, a red flare might be a signal to commence a bombardment while a blue flare meant cease fire. 


Page 59. " the great coal-boxes and the heavies "

A coal-box was any shell which, on exploding, caused a cloud of black smoke to appear.

A heavy referred to heavy artillery.

Page 64. " I tell you it is the vilest baseness to use horses in the war "

When war broke out in 1914, horses and cavalry units were widely deployed. Horses were primarily used for transport of supplies and artillery rather than battlefield combat. The animals were highly valued on both sides, and the Allies' success in blockading Axis horse imports had an impact on the course of the war.

Yet the use of horses had drawbacks. Sanitation posed a major challenge as disease was rampant. Equine influenza, sand colic, sores from fly bites, ringworm, and anthrax led to the death of many hundreds of thousands of horses throughout the war. There was also the issue of feed: Britain sent more horse fodder to the Front than any other commodity.

As the war progressed, and technology with it, horses faired less and less well against the modernized weaponry of artillery and machine guns. Eventually, they were replaced by tanks for shock tactics, but the horse continued to play a significant part in the war. 

A memorial in St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, reads: “Most obediently and often most painfully they died - faithful unto death.”



Page 68. " Gas-Gaas-Gaaas-Pass it on "

Germany was the first state to develop the technology of gas mass-production. Mustard gas was prepared by combining sulfur dichloride with ethylene.

The effects on the human body were atrocious. A British nurse commented:

"They cannot be bandaged or touched. We cover them with a tent of propped-up sheets. Gas burns must be agonising because usually the other cases do not complain, even with the worst wounds, but gas cases are invariably beyond endurance and they cannot help crying out."

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibited chemical warfare, including the use of mustard gas, although it was occasionally used by the Germans in World War II.

Page 75. " Killing each separate louse is a tedious buisness when a man has hundreds "

Body Lice
Public DomainBody Lice - Credit: CDC

Lice infestation was the norm in the trenches. It is estimated that up to 97% of officers and men who worked and lived in the trenches were afflicted with lice.  It was decidedly a trench phenomenon.  Men who returned home on leave were not similarly affected, and the end of the war in November 1918 brought an end to the problem of infestation.