On July 1st, I was not yet twenty. When the whistles blew for the assault, the bagpipes started and we advanced towards the Crater side by side, we didn’t want to look like cowards. There were enormous losses. Out of a thousand men there remained only one officer and two hundred men.
Later there was one event that remains etched in my memory. During the attack we moved along the German front line where I saw one of my best friends sitting at a German artillery position. He called me over and when I got to him he asked me to sit down. I protested, telling him we had other things to do. He said it wouldn’t take long and asked me if I could hear music. I could hear absolutely nothing.
He described to me what he could see: “The whole sky was opening up. Orchestras were playing, choirs were singing, and all the ancestors were there telling him to come and join them”. He held his arms out. “There’s my old father” he says, “they’re waiting for me”. He fell forward and I saw he had no back. A piece of shrapnel had gone through his chest.
These things shake you. But it was a momentous experience for me, and in spite of the shock, it gave me the courage to do my duty as a soldier.’