The following are first hand quotes and diary extracts of artillery bombardments during the First World War. They are taken from Paul Allens book "Neath a foreign sky."
Extract:1918 - They belched forth fire
attack the third, a section of the enemy's line running along rising ground to the east of the railway line running between Arras and Albert. Eighteen tanks had been allotted to the Guards; some had never arrived due to the thick fog and a heavy British barrage of smoke. Lieutenant Carstairs once again takes up the story;
"Six minutes to five and one felt the proximity of the hour like a near presence. Suddenly a gun, like the mighty slamming of a door in a sleeping house, broke the stillness. The hour arranged by friend and man had come and hell stepped up on to the earth. Every one of the myriad guns crowding the area behind took up the signal and belched forth fire and noise. The battle had begun. Our objective lay south. The battalion fell in and marched down a road parallel to the enemy lines until they reached a certain point, where they left faced. I went a short distance with the company and saying goodbye, stood and watched the men as they quickly mixed with mist"
Extract: Trench collapse
News of their son's death had initially reached the Devlin's via a letter written by his Company Commander, Captain E.H. Weighill, which John Devlin senior had received whilst on leave at the family home at No.13 Bedford Street. The tidings had subsequently been transmitted in 'The Scarborough Mercury' of Friday July 27TH 1917;
"Killed by trench collapse - A letter from an officer has been received by his father, Private John Devlin, Yorks Regiment, and formerly a gunner in the R.G.A. [Royal Garrison Artillery], 13 Bedford Street, that, Corporal H. Devlin, Yorks. Regiment, died in action on July 19TH. The writer says; "we were in support trenches ['Mallard Trench'] and about dawn were subjected to a heavy bombardment. Parts of the trench were blown in, and I regret to say your son was buried. We rescued him as soon as possible and applied artificial respiration, but without success. Corporal Devlin was only 19 years of age, and went to France with the 5TH Yorks. Regiment in April 1915'
Extract: Intense bombardment on the Somme
... As planned at 3-20 am the hurricane bombardment of the German front lines began. An Officer not involved in the attack would later describe the onslaught in a letter to his wife:
"It is now 5-35 am and we have been up since about 3. A big assault, on our right came off at 3-25 with an intense bombardment which lasted five minutes and which was a sight to be seen. The whole horizon seemed to be bursting with shells in front of us and behind us flashing guns. No news of the assault has yet reached us, but we think the Boche must have had rather a disturbed morning'
Extract: Endless bombardment : Somme July 1916
...With a tremendous roar the bombardment duly began at zero hour on the 24th of June 1916. The noise we can today only imagine, [at times the bombardment was to be heard across the channel in London] but an insight can be gathered from:
"Day and night the bombardment went on, and the next day, and the day after that, but still no attack took place. To those in the gun pits, the whole life seemed to merge into one clanging, clashing roar of sound. Covered with sweat and grime, the slaves of the gun toiled and laboured, ate, lay down and slept, and toiled and laboured again, to the roar and rush and scream of hundreds of hurrying shells. Their horizon was bounded by the vast and insatiable engine, which they continually fed. Their minds were numbed and deafened by the never ceasing clamour of their gods'
Extract: Germans safely underground
...Unknown to the British most of the opposing German Second Army were at that moment safely riding out the storm in deep underground bunkers impervious to all but the heaviest of shells, however the psychological effect of the bombardment must have been devastating. A soldier who was there wrote:
"culminating point was reached which was never again approached. What we experienced surpassed all previous conception. The enemy's fire never ceased for an hour. It fell night and day on the front line and tore fearful gaps in the ranks of all the defenders. It fell on the approaches to the front line and made all movement to the front line hell. It fell on the rearward trenches and battery positions and smashed men and material in a manner never seen before or since. It repeatedly reached even the resting Battalions behind the front line and occasioned their terrible losses. Our artillery was powerless against it'