Heroic Wal becomes a Great War prisoner

Battle of Crozat Canal PNL-140205-220335001
Battle of Crozat Canal PNL-140205-220335001

Last week we brought you Walter Young’s recount of his role in the horrific Battle of Ypres in September 1917.

Now, in the fourth extract from Wal’s War, the Great War soldier describes the Battle of Crozat Canal in March 1918, during which he was made a prisoner of war...

‘Our side of the canal was being plastered with shells. We stretcher-bearers had a place in the ruins of a house.

There were many wounded about. Two men I remember in a dugout had their legs almost torn to pieces. Yards of bandage alone seemed to hold them together. I should say at least their legs must have been amputated. They were only two out of many.

I remember seeing reinforcements. They just walked slowly forward, rifle on shoulder, heads down, in as it seemed to me a sort of fatalistic mechanical way. They gave the impression of no enthusiasm and yet no turning back.

We had got to the field when a bullet flicked by very close to our heads apparently aimed at us. We dropped to the ground at once and lay still. Nothing happened and we started to crawl along dragging the stretcher with us. At once several more bullets flicked by our heads again. This happened several times.

I looked round desperately for some sort of cover. There was none to be had. I had a wild thought of getting up and rushing full speed to the road, but I believe barbed wire between us and the road put me off that idea.

A few yards away there was some long grass about two to three-feet high and we managed to get to that, and then, getting up to a stooping position we essayed to get along at a half run. We had scarcely started when a volley of bullets whizzed by our heads.

But one bullet went clean through the base of my steel helmet leaving a small hole one side and a jagged one the other, yet somehow missing my head. I had the feeling that my head was split open. I raised both my hands to my head, I think with the idea of holding my head together, when another bullet tore my left hand open.

I dropped to the ground and called out: “Oh, I’m hit.”

As we started to crawl back I saw some figures with rifles. I could not believe that they were German soldiers for only about five minutes before we had come almost past the spot where they now were.

I shouted out: “I say” as loudly as I could. Then the figures began to come towards us. I could hardly believe my eyes. “They’re Germans,” I gasped.