Armistice 100: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle describes trip to Front Line

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Dateline: October 3, 1918: ...

It seemed commonplace in 1918 for the Yorkshire Evening Post to carry reports of reports, that is: to relay the contents of articles from national newspapers, such as The Times, as it did with the subject of today’s report, which appeared on this day 100 years ago and concerns an account of a trip to the front lines by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), creator of fictional character Sherlock Holmes.

The story is entitled ‘Battle as seen from a tank’ and details a hair-raising trip to the very edge of battle.

He writes: “We thought we had done pretty well to get within 1,000 yards of the famous line but now came a crowning bit of good fortune, for an Australian gunner captain, a mere lad, but a soldier from his kawk’s eyes to his active feet, volunteers to rush us forward to some coign of vantage known to himself. So it was Eastward Ho! once more, still over a full, barren plain, sloping upwards, with little sign of life.

“Here and there was a quick fluff of a bursting shell but at a comforting distance. Suddenly, ahead of us a definite object broke the skyline. It was a Tank, upon which the crew were working with spanners and levers, for its comrades were now far ahead and it would fain follow.

“This, it seems, was the grand stand which our young gunner had selected.

“On to the top of it we clambered and there, at our very feet and less than 500 yards away, was the rift which had been torn a few hours before in the Hindenberg line. In front of us lay a village... Bellicourt... one could see rusty red fields of wire in front of it...” and “long white clouds of pale vapour behind.”