Night Raid by the Royal Munster Fusiliers

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Night Raid By the Munster Fusiliers  (1916) 
by Daniel Desmond Sheehan
Extracts from a letter the Irish Times newspaper received from the trenches of World War I published 11 July 1916. Also published in the Cork Examiner on 12 July 1916.
From the trenches of WWI
Newspaper articles
Why I joined the Army
In the Front Trenches
What they Think in the Trenches
The Resiliency of Mr. Atkins
Night Raid by the Royal Munster Fusiliers
How a Trench Raid V.C. was won
The Munsters at Mons
Father Gleeson and his Alter-Boy

AT THE FRONT

NIGHT RAID BY THE MUNSTER FUSILIERS


I can speak with confidence and justness of the boldness and daring of the Irish regiments. Trench expeditions are trying, but they never seem to mind them. They are the most cheerful and contented lot I have ever seen. They can joke at the best, or the worst that the Germans send across. I overheard the complaint of one of our men the other saying that the Boche was a very nasty kind of fellow, and no sportsman, since he could not understand the pleasantries of an Irish raid across “No Man’s Land“ which, of course, was all “for the fun of the thing“ and to relieve the dullness of trench life.

We had such a raid the other night. The scheme was carefully and capably planned. Volunteers of officers and men were called for, and, though there is no more dangerous duty for which a soldier can engage, nevertheless there was not an officer or man in the regiment -- one of the Munster Fusiliers – who was not ready and eager to go.

The men were at their places waiting the word from their officers to go over; but first that stout arm of preparation, the Artillery, had got to do its work. Both sides had been active during the day. On our side trench mortar and the lighter field guns were playing intermittently. The Germans were making what I thought to be rather an ineffective attempt at retaliation. During the winter months they used to give us shell for shell, mortar for mortar, grenade for grenade. Whether they were able or not I cannot say, but the fact is they were not doing so now, and their ranging was utterly at fault.

As evening approached it grew quieter on both sides, and when twilight came we shut off steam, so to speak, completely. Then, suddenly, after darkness had set in, one of our guns was heard to go off, and scarcely a second after a tremendous roar and burst went up from nests of concealed batteries behind. I had seen something of war, but never had I seen a more magnificent and more appalling sight. The heavens were alive with shells of every sort and kind. The earth beneath us shook and trembled and quivered as if in agony from the pounding and smashing and awful battering it was getting. There, across the way at the other end of No Man’s Land, what a catching of the breath, what a tightening grip of the heart, there must have been as the lurid flame of war burst upon them. Wherever it touched, Death, swift and sudden, made its call.

There were bombardments by our artillery - on our right and left, but nothing like what was concentrated on our immediate front. Our bombardment was not long in motion when the Germans got their big guns under way. The cross-play and the reverberations, the crash and clash of contending guns of every calibre was simply frightful. At this point language fails to give any accurate idea of what was happening. Bullets from machine guns began to whiz around us where we were looking over the parapet: Our sentries in the fire trench had a dangerous duty to perform, but it was a duty from which they never flinched. A sixty-pounder from a trench mortar came over and exploded on the parapet right behind us. We saw it coming and were able to dodge it. It is wonderful how alert one becomes under the impulse of immediate danger.

The time had come for the dash of our raiding party. They had a good one hundred and fifty yards to cover, but silently and swiftly, without noise or fuss of any kind, like the brave men they were, they covered the intervening space. What need to dwell on what happened ? They got to the German trenches, notwithstanding a murderous rifle and machine gun fire amid bombing and grenading and other divilment.

For the next half-hour these trusty soldiers from the South of Ireland tasted to the full of the excitement and glory and the adventure of war. They were at grips with the enemy; they met him face to face. They bombed him in his dugouts, where he rushed for shelter. It was grim work while it lasted. No quarter was asked for or given. Their duty done they returned with many trophies and souvenirs, and much that was useful from the military point of view, to their own lines. The Munster Fusiliers had added another illustrious chapter to the long tale of their battle honours.

Peace be with those who have fallen – all honour to those who remain. Our General, in glorious words, spoke his appreciation of their conduct and bearing on the following day. English and Scotch regiments belonging to our Division take off their hats to the Munsters.

    • This is a report on the Lievin raid mentioned by
      Martin Staunton M.A. in his 1986 U.C.D. thesis:
      The Royal Munster Fusiliers (1914-1919).
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1948, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.