24. PASSCHENDAELE, 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

* Live blog from the trenches, T-minus 1 minute *

20 September, 1917:

Midnight. Grandpa Bertie has taken shelter in a dugout in Imperfect Copse, Klein Zillebeke (36 on the map). The barrage of a German counterattack rains down on his position. A shell explodes in the doorway of the dugout, killing or wounding most of his men. Bertie staggers to his feet, but is buried alive by the next shell.

Soldiers manage to dig him out five hours later. The Battle of Menin Road is his last act in the war. Bertie will spend the next 8 months in hospital in Britain being treated for severe shell shock. He’ll be sent back to South Africa in June 1918.

A reconstructed dugout at Passchendaele today.

A soldier is dragged from the rubble after shelling. (photo: d.ibtimes.co.uk)

Imperfect Copse lies just to the left of the number 36 on this trench map, housed in the British Library, London.

I planted this cross of remembrance to Grandpa in a field outside Klein Zillebeke, near Ypres. The trees of Imperfect Copse are visible in the background.

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