The War to End All Wars? October 1917

After being pulled back to refit in September, the following month found 11th DLI heading off to another front. They were transferred from the newly formed 5th Army to 3rd Army, at first by train to Bapaume, then on to Barastre and Ytres by route march. They took over a Pioneer Camp from the 12th Yorkshire Regiment and were immediately engaged constructing huts, making tramways and working in the forward trenches. There was some unusual movement of manpower. As new batches joined (for example 220 on 9 October), wholesale numbers were struck off (176 on the following day). It is not explained whether these were weeded out from the new recruits as unacceptable for Pioneer work, or whether such large numbers had been too badly mauled by their experiences in previous months.

The work on trench improvements was relentless all month: duckboards, revetting, boarding, building shelters, dugouts, communications trenches, forward trenches, day in day out.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty (or somewhere), the ‘powers-that-were’ had already started their plans for the post-war world, not that our Pioneers had any part in these discussions. That would not have been their place, would it? There was an interesting piece of correspondence from A.J. Balfour to Lord Rothschild, outlining British Government support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine on the understanding ‘that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. This of course followed on from secret agreements the previous year between the French and British worked out by the diplomats Sykes and Picot, to carve up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire between the British and French Empires. One hundred years later these are examples of how the ‘powers-that-were’ and now the ‘powers-that-be’ have ensured that our forebears in WW1 fought ‘the war to end all wars’! Never mind, lads, just keep digging.



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