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Trench Warfare

Heroes Remember

We were up around Arras most of that time and there wasn't much doing you know. We, we conducted raids you know, from a, from a, the trench. Over to their trench and you'd grab a prisoner or two and drag them back, you know. That's the trench raid. I, I never took, took part in one of those. Being a signaller I had, I had to attend to the communications you know. Yeah. Interviewer: During, while you were a signaller what types of things would you do when you were at the front? Oh mostly telephone, telephone. We, we, we learned on the, the telephone signalling and the other (Morse Code?) morse code signalling with the flag, but you never use that in the war because it's too obvious you know. (Inaudible) You couldn't stand up and start waving flags around, you'd get a bullet in the head or something. Yeah. Yeah. Interviewer: So your job was to keep communications (Yeah.) between the various companies (Yeah.) and the headquarters? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah we had to raise the wire that's used to run along the ground and any places out of site of the enemy line. We sometimes put them over up in trees crossing cross roads, you know, to another tree down the other side. So that you were, weren't in the sight of enemy line. We used to do that. Interviewer: And what would happen if there was a break in the line? We had to go out and run those wires through our, had to be, cable at the end of it and we always went in twos one fellow held the end and the other fellow scouted back and forth across till he found the other end and then we, we repaired it then. Mostly in the night time. You couldn't do that in the day time because it's, it's too obvious. Interviewer: What would cause the breaks in the line in the first place? Oh, sometime a shell would... would land on the line and cut it and, or bit of shrapnel. Something like that. I don't know what else would do it. Maybe the enemy saw the line on the ground and they just snipped it. Make sure that they break communications. Interviewer: Now, you tell me that at first you were stationed up near Arras (Yeah.) and it was fairly quiet in the spring of 1918 (Yeah.) except for trench raids and the like. (Yeah.) What, what were the conditions like in the trenches as you saw them first? Well, I wasn't in the, in the Somme or those other places they were, were up to their britches in mud you know. I didn't have any of that. It seems to me just all the time I was over there we had good weather and their was no mud to slug through or any of that kind of stuff. So we had it a lot better then than the couple of years earlier in 1916, but never at the Somme up to their belly in mud. Interviewer: So, but when you were there how many days in the front trenches would you be? Well, that depended on, when the reinforcers were available, about 2 weeks at a, at a stretch, but it would be good timing, they were relieved by somebody else. Interviewer: And you'd be relieved and how far back would you go? Oh, we, we, we, we'd go back far enough to live in villages where there's still civilians. See the civilians didn't leave so we were that far back anyhow. (Okay.) Although they still used to lob the odd (inaudible) shadow way back there, but that was just (inaudible). Interviewer: And how long would you be back in those billets? Oh, 2 weeks. Interviewer: And then 2 weeks back in the front? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Interviewer: After, after Arras where were you moved? Where did the 4th Division go? Down to Amiens. That was the greatest battle of the whole war. That was the beginning of the end. The last hundred days. Yeah. Interviewer: Do you remember the preparation that went in to getting ready? Oh, it was, it was the most sacred offensive of the whole war. All the move was done at night. We left Arras in the middle of the night, boarded a train and went away on orders the next morning where the hell we were going, you know. We had maps, we were trying to trace where the railway line was going. There was just one line that we missed. That's the one that took us down to Amiens. That's where we ended up. That was the most important battle of the whole war at Amiens. Interviewer: What do you remember about that battle in particular? I remember, remember the number of tanks we lost that day. They had completed a new anti-tank weapon. You must remember it was all wide open fields, open fields around, but you'd see a tank gun fire here, there, all over the place. They shot out a hell of a lot over our tanks that day. Yeah. Interviewer: What did you think of the tanks? What did you think of tanks? Oh God, we depended on them. Oh yeah. Yeah. Oh Yes, they were, they were great things. Interviewer: How far, the battle of Amiens was on August 8th through to the 11th. August the 8th yeah. Interviewer: Do you remember, do you remember entering the town? No, no. I never saw the town of Amiens. No, it was all open country where we were. That was, must have been near the town of Amiens. That's why they called it that. All broad, wide open field after we got them out of their first... trench system, you know. We followed the tank commanders across wide open fields. Interviewer: How far did you go? Oh 10 miles that one day. Yeah. Interviewer: Which would be? The German High Command called it a black day of the German army. We called it the beginning of the last days hundred days.

Mr. MacDougall entered France in March of 1918. He describes here his duties and the experience of trench warfare at the front in Arras. He goes on to recall the important battle of Amiens in August of 1918.

Alec MacDougall

Alec MacDougall was born on September 12, 1896 in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. His father was a coal miner and also had a small farm. Alec quit school after completing Grade 10 and went to work in the Glace Bay Foundry. He remained there for three years before joining the Canadian Army in 1916. He enlisted with the 185th Cape Breton Highlanders and took basic training in Brampton, Ontario followed by advanced training at Camp Aldershot, Nova Scotia.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Alec MacDougall
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War
185th Cape Breton Highlanders

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