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The British armies as a whole were not gloomy at the approach of that new phase of war which they called "The Great Push," as though it were to be a glorified football-match. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to know the thoughts of vast masses of men moved by some sensational adventure. But a man would be a liar if he pretended that British troops went forward to the great attack with hangdog looks or any visible sign of fear in their souls. I think most of them were uplifted by the belief that the old days of trench warfare were over forever and that they would break the enemy's lines by means of that enormous gun-power behind them, and get him "on the run." There would be movement, excitement, triumphant victories -- and then the end of the war. In spite of all risks it would be enormously better than the routine of the trenches. They would be getting on with the job instead of standing still and being shot at by invisible earth-men.

"If we once get the Germans in the open we shall go straight through them."

That was the opinion of many young officers at that time, and for once they agreed with their generals.

It seemed to be a question of getting them in the open, and I confess that when I studied the trench maps and saw the enemy's defensive earthworks thirty miles deep in one vast maze of trenches and redoubts and barbed wire and tunnels I was appalled at the task which they were being asked to do.

They had not seen, then, those awful maps.

View of Combles.
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment parading for the trenches. See larger image.

We were at the height and glory of our strength. Out of England had come the flower of our youth, and out of Scotland and Wales and Canada and Australia and New Zealand. Even out of Ireland, with the 16th Division of the south and west, and the 36th of Ulster. The New Armies were made up of all the volunteers who had answered the call to the colors, not waiting for the conscription by class, which followed later. They were the ardent ones, the young men from office, factory, shop, and field, university and public school. The best of our intelligence were there, the noblest of our manhood, the strength of our hearth, the beauty of our soul, in those battalions which soon were to be flung into the explosive fires.

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