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Trench Warfare vs Open Warfare

Heroes Remember

Trench Warfare vs Open Warfare

It was an absolute complete difference. In the trenches you don’t show yourself, you know, or when you were up forward. You stay in the trench, you’re living thirty feet down in the ground. And we had the OPIP there, and we were given some time. I was an observer for two or three weeks. So then there would be something else for something else. Then I’d be with the guns for a while, and so on. So you had a lot of different things to do. But it was all static. You were always on that front, and you lived under different conditions. If it got muddy, it got real muddy. And the trenches, they got shot at quite a bit. But you a also had to replace them again, fix them up, you know, they were getting shelled. Well, once the open thing happened, there was none of that. We were out in the open. We went in over big open fields at that gallop with our horses. And we didn’t consider that necessary. Then we got in and one or two places went in, we were not doing the correct thing. When we got our guns into position, one or two of them were firing across from each other, which was wrong. We knew that, which, of course, we corrected it. We were wide open, absolutely wide open. But the Germans were not bothering us too much because they were retreating and they lost an awful lot of guns. But as time went on they were getting stronger. They were bringing more people in and we were advancing then. The first couple of days we made about eight miles the first day, about, I think, six or seven the second, then it slowed up quite a bit. We never used open sites on the actual Germans. We never got close enough or either there was hills or something between us and them, and we couldn’t see them. But we did open up on, once or twice, on low flying planes. Now, of course, that’s kind of hopeless because they fly pretty fast, although the first, at that time, they were not nearly as fast as the Second World War. But when we saw our own arches (sic) were not there and these things were flying over us … you could see them coming, you see. So we’d get our guns and mount up as far as we could go and fire at them, but we never hit them.

Mr. Pitcairn describes the difference between trench warfare and open warfare from the artillery’s perspective. He describes a unique target practice.

James Pitcairn

James Pitcairn was born in Kirkintilloch, Scotland on May 3, 1897. The second of four children, he moved to Vancouver with his widowed mother in 1911. At the age of thirteen, he was working as an elevator boy when a truancy officer sent him back to school, which he attended for five years. In Vancouver, Mr. Pitcairn was twice denied enlistment because of his small size; however, he joined friends in Kingston, Ontario and was accepted there as a member of the 50th Battery, Queens Artillery on March 7, 1916. He trained as a horse artilleryman at Petawawa. Mr. Pitcairn sailed for England aboard the SS Olympia in August, 1916. He had further training at Camp Whitley and was finally sent to France as a member of the 52nd Field Artillery, 5th Division. Mr. Pitcairn’s service saw him in action at Lens, Vimy, Hill 70, Amiens, Drocourt-Queant and Valenciennes as the layer on an 18-Pound artillery gun. One hundred and two at the time of his interview, Mr. Pitcairn’s clear voice and photographic memory offer some very informative descriptions of the Artillery’s role in the First World War.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Pitcairn
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War
50th Battery

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