You were between the devil and the deep blue sea. If you go forward, you'll likely be shot, if you go back you'll be court martialled and shot, so what the hell do you do? What can you do? You just go forward, because that's the only bloke you can take your knife in, that's the bloke you're facing.
We were sent in to High Wood in broad daylight in the face of heavy machine-gun fire and shell fire, and everywhere there was dead bodies all over the place where previous battalions and regiments had taken part in their previous attacks. We went in there and C Company got a terrible bashing there. It was criminal to send men in broad daylight, into machine-gun fire, without any cover of any sort whatsoever. There was no need for it; they could have hung on and made an attack on the flanks somewhere or other, but we had to carry out our orders.
But there was one particular place just before we got to High Wood which was a crossroads, and it was really hell there, they shelled it like anything, you couldn't get past it, it was impossible. There were men everywhere, heaps of men, not one or two men, but heaps of men everywhere, all dead. Then afterwards, when our battle was all over, after our attack on High Wood, there was other battalions went up and they got the same! They went on and on. They just seemed to be pushing men in to be killed and no reason. There didn't seem to be any reason. They couldn't possibly take the position, not on a frontal attack. Not at High Wood.
Most of the chaps, actually, they were afraid to go in because they knew it was death. Before we went in, we knew what would happen, some of the blokes that had survived from previous attacks knew what they'd been through. It was hell; it was impossible, utterly impossible. The only possible way to take High Wood was if the Germans ran short of ammunition, they might be able to take it then. They couldn't take it against machine-guns, just ridiculous. It was absolute slaughter. We always blamed the people above. We had a saying in the Army, 'The higher, the fewer.' They meant the higher the rank, the fewer the brains.
W. Hay, Private*
There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on.
G. W. Bush, Commander in Chief
*Source: 1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War, Lyn Macdonald