There is something about the chaos of the battlefield that echoes long after the dead are buried. Just prior to Christmas Eve we look at a re-enactment of trench warfare that occurred at Arras, France, during the Great War.
TRENCH RAID BY SPECTRES.
GRIM WAR INCIDENTS RE-ENACTED.
For the third time in four years there has been played out near Arras a strange drama, in which the ghosts of those who took part in bitter trench fighting during the war re-enacted their grisly parts, telegraphed the Arras correspondent of the “Sunday Chronicle” on Christmas Eve.
At midnight last night a little band of watchers witnessed the strangest ghost drama on record.
They saw re-enacted an eerie tragedy of the war in which the spectral players were British and German soldiers who were killed in a trench raid in 1917.
For a few terrible moments the battle-scarred ghosts of the slain relived the horrors of the hand-to-hand fight which cost them their lives.
This uncanny drama took place in the marshes near Roeux, a few miles from Arras. Last night was the third time in four years that it has been played cut in the presence of human witnesses.
Just on midnight the watchers, who included a number of prominent spiritualists, suddenly saw streaming out of the night towards them a thin line of ghostly figures in German field-grey uniforms.
As they watched, fascinated, the phantom soldiers picked their way across the scarred and pitted ground. In a second the eerie line had reached and passed through them.
Then came the crowning horror of the strange scene. Of a sudden the pitch-black darkness in front of the advancing line was stabbed by vivid flashes of flame. There was no accompanying rattle of rifle fire, no sound at all, yet the watchers distinctly saw the glint of the defending bayonets and the gleam of pallid faces beneath steel helmets.
For perhaps five minutes the German raiders hurled themselves against the little force, then the flashes of flame dwindled and the grey wave swept on to engulf the garrison, and all was still.
“I’ve never witnessed anything like it,” one of the party told me afterwards. “I cannot suggest any explanation for it. Had I been alone 1 might have thought I had been the victim of an hallucination but we all saw the whole occurrence from beginning to end.”
Four years ago a French farmer returning from Arras to his home near Roeux saw the beginning of the strange drama, and fled without waiting for its climax. Since then the spectral raid has twice been played out in its full horror.
The scene of the drama is understood to be the site of an isolated British outpost which was successfully raided several times by a German officer of scouts named Adolf. It became a mystery how the enemy plan was executed.
The first clue came from a signalling section who, with instruments for tapping German messages, got one which when translated read: “Adolf has captured another twelve Seaforths.”
Apparently after each successful raid Adolf used to receive a gratuity and go on special leave to Berlin.
Auckland [NZ] Star, 26 February 1927: p. 30
These visions are reminiscent of the ghostly re-enactment of the Battle of Edgehill, which was witnessed by many just before Christmas, 1642, several months after the October battle. I’ve also written about spectral echoes of the Battle of Waterloo. Other battles re-enacted by the dead? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
This is my last post of 2015. I’ll return in early January 2016 with more fortean fun. Thank you for visiting.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com.