We went on a working party at 11 PM Jan.2 and got soaking wet. Before I turned in I made coffee on my canned heat stove.
The sun came out Jan.3 1916, and we felt better. Our spirits were further improved by being relieved by the 7th at 4 PM and being sent back to Bulford camp about 3 miles back.
After a day's rest when we got paid we started to drill. Our belated Christmas dinner was held on Jan.5. After dinner I remained in camp and read.
On Jan.6 I went to the Expeditionary Force Canteen (E.F.C.) at Romerin and got refills for my stove and had a feed of eggs and chips. At night the battalion put on a concert. Vest day we started drill again.
On Jan.8 1916 I started my climb for promotion by getting a form of application for commission from Col. Rattray, filled them in and gave them to Lieut. Art Pattinson of the 8th to sign. In the summer of 1915 I had discussed the question of a commission with Bill Richardson and decided I wouldn't take the responsibility but Col. Bedson of the 8th advised me to get out of the mud by way of a commission and I decided to try it. I had no idea it would take a year to do it as it turned out.
Our rest ended on Jan.9 and I went back to the winter trench i charge of the sentries and kept the job the whole tour. I went gallons of coffee on my canned heat stove. At first the boys made fun of it but they were glad to drink the coffee. We had a lot of shelling by day but no casualties. A rumor spread that stunt was to be pulled off but nothing happened during the tour. A Co. relieved us and we went back to tents. We did working parties from there. At night we were ordered to sleep with out boots on. The shelling had got the wind up of the Brigade a bit and they thought it better to have us ready.
On Jan.15 we were relieved and marched back to Grande Monk Farm (directly behind Hill 63.) We slept in the barn. A big Canadian mail arrived and my share was an oversized parcel.
On Jan.16 I saw the M.O. for the medical examination for my commission. I recall Doc. Shannon saying, "I haven't seen you on sick parade" and that was all the exam I got. Tunics were issued out but as they were British tunics they didn't have Canadian buttons. We cut the buttons off the old tunics and sewed them on the new ones.
Jan.17 was a red letter day for I was notified that my pass was thro'. Next day I got cleaned up--putties, pants, buttons, boots and paraded to the paymaster who gave 20 pounds. I slept in the stores and at 3 AM on Jan.19 I wakened by the guard. It was cold as charity and that's mighty cold). Bill Bailey (now of Winnipeg) was my jehu[?] as I was driven in the wagon to Steenwerck where I caught the leave train at 5.30. After 8 months to the day of duty with the battalion I was at last going on leave, with all that it meant--good beds, good eats and pretty girls. Roll on Blighty!
It took from 5.30 AM to 12 noon to do the 80 odd mile trip to Boulogne. We were jammed like sardines. Our equipment was in the way. We were fully equipped, rifle and all. At Boulogne we expected to go right on board ship but no such luck. We were lined up and marched thro' the town and up the hill to St. Martins Plain. At 6 PM after spending the day hanging around we fell in only to be told the boat wouldn't leave till next day, but we got a day added to our pass.
At 5.30 AM on Jan. 20 we fell in again and after along wait in the wind we finally left camp and went on the boat at 8 PM. the boat finally pulled out at 9.05 and arrived at Folkstone after a good crossing at 11 AM. We promptly were put on the train and rushed up to London where I missed the of the gang. I took a taxi and went to the Pay and Record office to cash my cheque from the paymaster. I had an argument with the R.S.M. on duty as to the way I should endorse my cheque. He insisted on my rank being signed. I was glad to sign anything to get the 20 pounds. At 4 PM I boarded a train at Kings X for Grimsby. Uncle Dixon met me at the train and we went to 44 Wellowgate. I stacked my rifle and equipment in the shed and forgot it till I left. Next day I cabled home, got my watch fixed and at night went to Clarkes to see Allie. Had a great night. Next day I looked up the Blythes and the Frances and I took the Blythe kids to the Lyric picture show. I can still see Charlie Chaplin throwing bricks at someone. The kids enjoyed it but I remember bricks being thrown around by shell fire at Irish Farm and I didn't get much kick out of the comedy. At night we couldn't go to a show as they were full up so Allie and I went home to her house.
Sunday I went to Flattergate Church where my Mother used to attend and went to dinner with Allie. After dinner we cooled up the Hewins and had tea and at night I went to George St. with Allie. Monday it was arranged I should go to stop at Cleethorpes with Mrs. Frances. I went to a barristers and prepared an affidavit covering the death of Ed. Rankin and sent it off to his Mother. Apparently his body was never found. At night I went to Blythes and I got a lot of kick out of the Blythe kids. They reminded me of the Goodman twins who had been with me at Gimli just before I enlisted. Next day I had breakfast in bed--service I'll tell the world. In the afternoon I went with Mrs. Dale to Thoresby and saw the Townsends. I remembered it rain and she wanted me to carry an umbrella. Can you tie that--A Canadian after 8 months in the wet using and umbrella. I didn't!
At night Allie, Aunt Lizzie and I took in a show at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
I had my picture taken the next day and then had dinner with Allie. At night I had dinner with Allie and then took her to Frances for the evening. I remembered how well she handled the conversation. I certainly was proud of her. We rode home in the taxi and I told her so. We were too excited to say much and I haven't yet got to the stage where I dared to kiss her.
I gave Mr. Frances 6 pounds of the 20 pounds and also $50.00 in American gold that I had been carrying in a belt around my waist.
Leave ended too soon and on Jan.27 I took the train back to London. I went out to Durrell Road and stopped with Allie's Uncle. Edith, May and Les. were all home. I had met Bert before at Grimsby. We had a fine night of it and next day at 9 AM I reported to Victoria Station. The taxi I had ordered was late but I just made it. We left Folkstone at noon and arrived at Boulogne at 3 PM. there was a good fog in the channel which accounted for the slow trip. We were herded up to St. Martins Plain again. If any wind blew anywhere in the world you got it at St. Martins Plain. I met Scotty of the R.S.F. who was with me at the 2nd Army N.C.O. school in Nov. He was also returning from leave with mud still on his clothes. when I asked him if he didn't clean up while on leave and he said, "No I didn't want to be taken for a home guard, I'm a fighting man." We were put on fatigue in the AM and at 5.30 PM we fell in and marched to the station, entrained at 7.30 and arrived at Steenwerck at 1 AM. Jan.30 at 1.40 AM I was back at Bulford and the war was on once more. I reported to the Police at breakfast and got my mail. I was then put on gas guard. It was cold but I was able to get a little sleep at night.
Feb.1 was pay day but I had money left over from leave and I drew none. I hadn't had to apy board on leave and $70.00 goes a long way in buying incidentals. I wasn't buying silver for Allie at this stage. I never came back from leave with money again.
I was put on gas guard at Petit Point Corner (a 12 hr. guard) till relieved by the 5th Batt. and then I went to the huts in the woods back of Hill 63 where the Battalions were now located.
The Hun did a lot of shelling that night and got a bunch of the C.M.R.'s but none of ours. On the evening of Feb.4 a party of the Bat. made a raid along the pollard trees leading up from 132 towards the Messines. The boys were all blackened up. They had been training for this for some time. The raid didn't succeed and Corp. West and Warnacott (of my platoon) were killed. Our platoon and in fact the whole Co. was very much worked up for this raid. they felt it was a useless waste of life and that it was put on for the glorification of the C.O. and to show he could do as much as the 7th. We were joshed over this for weeks. Every time we went in, the 7th would say, "Are you taking a machine gun this trip?" The avowed aim of our raid was to get a machine gun.
On the night of Feb.5 I was in charge of the listening post but the night was quiet. The Hun was content with repulsing our raid the night before and with strafing our billets by day. We went to the front line at night but owing to the mud we came back to the winter trench by day. Lythe was shot thro' the throat but not killed while on the trench end of the listening post wire. Otherwise things were quiet on our front. Next night the Hun turned his machine gun on our listening post but didn't hit anyone. We pulled in our post as the artillery were laying down a practice barrage.
At the stand to the Hun shelled the Winter Trench in retaliation and caved in a dugout. The 7th listening post was late relieving us on the night of Feb.6 and when we got back to Grand Monk Farm all the available room was taken up and I had trouble getting a place to sleep. Next day I was detailed orderly Corporal and took my first sick parade. The M.O. bawled me out for the state of my sick report.
On Feb.10 all our guns opened fire but the Hun didn't reply.
On Feb.12 I was warned for a gas course at Bailleul and on Feb.14 at 8 AM 4 of us left by wagon for the town. We reported to the First Field Ambulance who were putting on the course and were billeted in an estaminet (?). We did "the town" and as I recall it, it was a nice little town. the course opened Feb.14. We had lectures on gas, the practice with our gas helmets went thro' a gas chamber. The course lasted 5 days from Feb.14 to 18 incl. We all passed the exam and were declared to be gas instructors. At night we went to shows in the Soldiers Theatre at the YMCA. The Air Force put on a good show. I had a chance of meeting a lot of fellows I knew, Corp. Robinson, Dobson, Boardman, Geo. Hepburn, Riley (Harold), Sid Jackson (all of the 27th), Nobby Claire of the 10th. We enjoyed ourselves, swell feeds and good shows. We were kicked out of one restaurant because our clothes smelled of the gas we had been thro that day. Our buttons were all discolored by gas and it took a lot of work getting them cleaned again. The gas used at this time was "chlorine". We were taught defensive measures, the offensive use of gas didn't come till much later.
At 1 PM on Feb.19 we left Bailleul, caught a Machine Gun Limber and reported to the Quartermaster. We got our mail and went up with the ration wagons to dugout behind Hill 63. I was put on gas guard for 24 hours when we were relieved by the 7th and went back to Bulford Camp. Next day was pay day and at night we went up on a working party and I caught cold. I got a ride back. Next day it snowed and I slept till noon. My cold was a bit better but I still felt tough but at night I obliged with "Sam McGee" at the Batt. concert. I was becoming a star turn at the concerts--shades of Wm. Boath?
My second inoculation for tetanus was given Feb.23. I had a sore arm and body for 2 days. We were off duty for 48 hours and the Sergt. brought me my rations. I was promoted to acting Corporal on the same day as inoculation but even that didn't help the sore head and arm I had.
The Germans were using a Flammenwerfer (Flame Thrower) about this time and a demonstration was put on to show that if we kept low it would hurt us in the trench but they couldn't get enough pressure on the oil used in it to get a decent flame.
On Feb.25 I was detailed for the Guard of Honour for the boys who won decorations in the abortive raid of Feb.4 and 5. It was cold and windy and it was no fun. Genl. Alderson was present and did the decorating. It snowed at night. At 3 AM on Feb.26 I was sent ahead of the Batt. to take over 132. It was slippery owing to the snow and we took 2 hours to make the trip. I checked the stores and spent the day with the N.C.O.'s of the 7th. the Co. came in at night and I slept in Bay 13 of the Winter Trench. It must have been unlucky because I was called on the mat because I had signed for a food warmer that wasn't there. In taking over a trench from another unit at that time, you signed for so many shovels, rubber boots, food containers, bombs, boxes of ammunition, etc. We got a bit slack and would sign for anything to let the other fellows out without checking. I had followed the usual custom and got caught. I got out of the trouble, however, without getting reverted. We had sprayers for gas in the trench. As Gas N.C.O. I checked these. At night my namesake P.E.Andrews, an American, was sick so I did his trick at listening post. It rained and generally miserable. The second night I had a hard time keeping awake and didn't go off to sleep twice while out on post.
We were relieved by Don Co. of the 10th on Feb.29 after I had taken out the first listening post. We went back to huts near the YMCA behind Hill 63. We were pretty crowded and there was always a fight to see who could toast his bread on the red hot stove in the AM.
The Hun started to strafe us a bit and working parties were off. On March 2nd we stood to at 5.30 for fear anything came of the strafe but nothing happened. It had one good effect, we had no working parties for two days. then I was sent to man the post, (ironically called forts) at the top of Hill 63. We slept in a summer house (part of the Heunessy estate) on the top of hill 63. It had a stone floor and the windows covered with sand bags, not a very warm billet. It snowed during the 3 1/2 days we were on duty. We had three corporals--Hasler, Webb and myself--and twelve men and divided into three shifts. We had a hard time getting our meals cooked owing to the wood being so wet. We were relieved at 2 PM but the three of us who were N.C.O's remained to check over trench stores. We had a merry set to with the new guard. the refused to sign for the trench stores we claimed but finally we rustled some extra store and got our clearance.
On March 6 the sun came out strong and snow all melted. That day I paraded to the orderly room and signed an application for a commission.
On March 9 we were relieved by the 5th Batt. and moved up to the brow of Hill 63 into the dugouts which Major Andrews had dug on the rear slope of the Hill. They were simply a long notch dug in the slope and trees put over the top covered with earth. Massey and I bunked together. Massey was a great big, good natured chap, a fine N.C.O.
Sonny McLeod was up for court martial for refusing duty and I had been asked to appear for him. I was a bit backward about doing so and went to see C.S.M. Bayfield. He advised me not to interfere so I let it go. I can still see that interview in the S.M. hut--the runners, Quartermaster staff, smoky candles but more comfortable than our dugout.
At night I went on a working party with Sgt. Tomlinson (Davey). We had cocoa when we returned. A new draft arrived and we got one or tow reinforcements in 12 platoon. We had been getting very cold nights but it eased up on the 11th. During the day (Sunday March 12) the Hun shelled us and also the 8th who were on our left, three men were killed. At night I took in No.3 listening post to trench 134-135. We had a quiet night, towards morning it got cold and misty. Massey got hit during the night.
On the morning of March 13 we came back to the more comfortable Winter Trench and I slept till 3 PM and woke to find the day was warm and bright. At night the 1st Divisional Pioneers came in for training and we went back into the front line. My particular sector was an angle of the trench closer to the German line than the rest and was within range for their aerial torpedoes. every night about midnight they put over a barrage of these. They were the smaller torpedo sometimes known as pineapples owing to resemblance to that fruit. As usual this night they put over the usual quota. I would have given a lot to run back to the Winter Trench but I was lance corporal and it wasn't done. One of the pineapples burst so close behind me that a piece of it grazed my leg and brought blood. I reported to the stretcher bearer who put some iodine on it and sent me back to my job.
Capt. (afterwards Col.) Eric MacDonald put on a show early on the 14th of March. At stand to in the morning he took out a party who blew a couple of gaps in the German wire by using long iron tubes filled with [?]. They then returned to the trench and things were quiet all day, at night he went out again and waited at the gaps they had made till the Germans came out to fix the damage. They bombed them and killed one and wounded others. Eric stripped the equipment off the dead man and brought it in for identification . We were subjected to a young bombardment with torpedoes and one of my listening posts reported seeing a Hun patrol and lost nerve. The regular relief got the wind up and didn't want to go out. I called for a volunteer and old McKenzie volunteered and he and I went out and finished the night on listening post. I hadn't done a shift on listening post for so long it got my nerve a bit but I daren't admit it. That was one penalty of responsibility.
The fine weather kept up and after one more day and night with more rifle grenades, we were relieved on the night of March 15 and marched back to Bulford camp with its tine huts and wooden floors, We got in at 1 AM and were asleep at once. Lytte returned to duty while we were there.
Next day was pay day and the boys celebrated and as a result the night was pretty noisy. I ran across Jack Rutlan who was with the Pioneers. Red Ferguson borrowed 20 fr. to finance a crown and anchor game.
March 17 was fixed as the funeral of Heslap who had been killed in the show put on by McDonald. We had an old R.S.M. of the 5oth who reverted to come over and who had been reduced to lance corporal for drinking. He was expert on ceremonial and altho we had a Lieut. in nominal command this old campaigner was really in charge of the parade. After the ceremony we started back for Bulford, the Lieut. leading the ex.R.S.M. and I bringing up the rear. As we passed an estaminet, some on held up a glass of beer and the old soak fell out to get it. I fell out with him to get him back but failed to report to the officer. It took me 1/2 hour to get my private parade moving by which time he was full to running over. We got into camp to learn that we were wanted. The old chap had enough beer in him to make him brazen so he stopped the Lieut. and suggested that as the Lieut. undoubtedly had had a drink of liquor when he came in, he should overlook our misdeeds. He bluffed it out and we got off without being reported to the C.O.
Next day the company put in all morning at drill and after lunch the N.C.O.'s had a special drill as it was felt we knew nothing about drill (which was true). At night I was in charge of the gas guard.
Sunday March 19 was a big day for the unit. We were paraded while the D.C.M.'s were presented. After parade we got our mail including one from Allie Dixon, from which I gathered that I stood ace high in that quarter.
We received a new draft including some 78th (MacDougall was among these.)
Next day we had company drill and afterwards a lecture by Capt. Fisher and the R.S.M (Stewart) took the N.C.O.s and gave them a bit of arm drill. Hostile aeroplanes became active in the fine weather we were having.
It started to rain on the 21st of March so we started back for the line and camped in the huts behind Hill 63. We stayed there till th 24th doing working parties and guards. The 9th Sussex relieved the 13th on the 23rd.
We relieved "A" Co. in 132-133 at 7 PM on March 24. The rain turned to snow. I was put in charge of the guard at the barrier on the Messines-Ploegsteert road. Wes Cooke was wounded during the relief.
March 25 was a cold windy day, the snow had stopped and the sun shone fitfully but with no warmth. Fritzy used incendiary shells on Irish Farm and set it on fire. We got a new draft at night. The Hun bombarded the 8th and the 3rd Brigade at night with little reply. We escaped.
March 26 was rainy. My tour of duty was 6-6. At noon we had a bombardment on our lines and 8 men were hit. We had another close at night but no casualties tho one party coming from 133 had a narrow escape when a shell made a direct hit on a bay they had just left. Next day it was quiet and the artillery shifted to the St. Eloi area. We were relieved on the night of the 27th and came back to Grand Monk Farm thro a rain storm. We soon dried out in the huts.
Next day we had a general clean up and a bath. The rain continued.
Our tour of duty in the Messines area was now over. There had been rumors of a move for some time. On March 29 we left Grand Monk Farm at 11.30 and marched thro Baileul and Meteren to a farm near Eecke. The total distance covered was 14 miles. We stood the march well, considering the fact that at this stage our largest march was less then 4 miles. We had a good billet with lots of hay. It was cold at night. Next day it was windy. A couple of us went into Eecke for supper and then home to sleep. Next day we had a muster parade and had our boots repaired. We went into Eecke again for supper and at 6 PM I was put on guard. We were all billeted in the one farm, the officers in the house and the men in two large barns. We had a great time, no shelling and lots of beer and very little parading.
April 1st brought another pay day. We expected a visit from General Alderson but he didn't arrive until the following day. In the meantime we cleaned up as well as could be expected. After dinner we had a baseball game against the details but lost 7-6. At night there wasn't a soul in camp except the guard. General Alderson arrived after dinner on Sunday and we had a combined church parade and inspection. The weather had now turned hot. At night the Co. was full. "Chief" Tomlinson gave an exhibition to show how he got his name. He put a ring in his nose and was led round the loft by a rope. Next morning by way of sobering up we had a 8 AM parade. After dinner we had a sports day. Our Co. (C) won the football game. After the game word came that one of our men had been killed at Godeswearveldt by a train. I was detailed to go in and identify him. When I got in I found that it was old Chief Tomlinson. There were only two things I could tell by, one was the hole in the nose where we used to put the ring and the other was his disc. He had been dragged by the train and horribly mangled. His face was flat and his body had been assembled from various points along the railroad and shoveled into a box. I t wasn't a pleasant job going thro his pockets but it had to be done. I reported to the R.T.O. who he was and they buried him at the station.
I saw Gordon Lough and hailed him by name much to the surprise of an M.P. who couldn't understand a Corporal of the Lance calling a Captain by his first name. Gordon took me to his billet and we had along talk and something to eat. I reported back to the Battalion and saw the Adjutant and Capt. Fisher and between us we decided on a story to tell Tomlinson's people. The Chief was "thug" of the first water but in reading a diary I found on him I saw reference to a girl in Yorkshire that showed a different side to this nature. As official "condolencer" of the platoon I was delegated to write to this girl. She later wrote and asked if the Chief was drunk at the time. I hope I"ll be forgiven for the facts I gave her in my letter. I don't think she believed me. However, she wrote me and sent me parcels for months. I can't at this stage recall her name.
On April 4th we fell in and marched thro Boescheffe to a large factory in Poperinghe. After a good night's rest we had a short drill parade and were then dismissed. I drifted down town and hung around the YMCA and a couple of estaminets that promised some entertainment but failed to make good.
On April 6th orders carried information that I had been promoted to full Corporal. In the afternoon the officers staged a rugby game. At night we all went down street again and listened to tales of of the Ypres salient where we were bound for.
Next day (April 7) we had a bath parade in the rain and after dinner more drill. I stayed home at night and answered some of the Canadian mail that had arrived.
On April 8th we boarded a train at Poperinghe at 9 PM and rode to the outskirts of Ypres. We felt as if we would be shelled any minute. We got off and marched through fields and at
2 AM we arrived at Hill 60 and went into support in a fort "R7". It was a series of trenches made in a circle in place of a straight line and so called a fort. On the way we passed thro farm yards that had a peculiar stench, the hot weather and decayed vegetation and old manure combined to give it a smell that seemed afterwards to be peculiarly "Ypresian". At Shrapnel Corner we were shelled but without casualties. Our ration party got lost but eventually turned up.
Next morning I had my first view of Ypres as I looked back at stand to. We could see the ruins of Cloth Hall. It gave me a queer feeling of unreality as I looked at it. Here I was in front of Ypres! I spent the day on trench duty. The weather was glorious. The Hun shelled heavily in the St. Eloi area on our right. It was a grand stand seat. St. Eloi was on the next rise of ground and we could see each shell land.
On April 10th after doing a morning of trench duty, relieving sentries, etc., I was put in charge of a party to help the tunneling Co. at the Berlin Sap, so called because of its length. It started in the railway cutting at Hill 60 and ran under Hill 60. We carried out sand bags and piled them in the cutting. (At that time this railway cutting was 40 or 50 feet deep, whereas now it is little more than 15 feet deep. The railway simply leveled off the earth that blew in when the mine went up and laid their track over it.) Sonny McLeod was with me on this job and at 3PM the Hun shelled the mine head and Sonny got a piece in the stomach. Poor chap! He died hard. We gave him morphine but couldn't deaden the pain. I never saw any one in such pain as he was. I stayed with him till my relief came and then went back to my dugout. I had bunked with McLeod and the place seemed empty without him. He died during the night and was buried at Railway Dugout Cemetery. I felt the loss of McLeod so much that I made up my mind I would never pal round with anyone after that, losing the, hurt too much and I never did. I was friendly with them all but never made a mate of anyone.
I got into trouble next day for failing to report some members of my party who soldiered on the sandbag carrying job at the mine. It rained heavily and my party got very wet. Being a Corporal I took full advantage of my rank and stayed in the mine out of the wet and shells. The miners of duty had bunks inside the tunnel near the entrance.
At 11 AM on April 12th we stood to because they were blowing a camoufle (or a mine that doesn't break the surface but is used to blow in enemy workings. For fear it was too heavily charged and made a crater we had to be ready to rush the crater to consolidate it. This mine was 100% a success. It blew in the Hun gallery but didn't crack the surface. We felt the earth tremble and put out our hands to steady ourselves on the parapet, only to find that it too shook. It was a peculiar feeling.
On April 13, 14 and 15 we remained in R17 and did working parties and ordinary trench duty. Sniping was pretty brisk and we were subject to periodic bombardments but without casualties.
On the 15th we went thro Yellebeke for the first time on a work party.
After being in R17 from April 8-16 we were relieved by the 5th and marched back to Dickebusch Huts. It rained during the relief and we all arrived soaking wet. On the 17th I saw Eber Lough, Bob Whitehead (an old footballer of Winnipeg) and a bunch of old Winnipeggers who were with the 43rd Batt.
We went back into the front line on a working party on April 18th and Cpl. Hodges got hit. Next night we started out again but the Hun was putting on a straf so we turned back. We didn't mind, we weren't in the line.
On April 20th we marched to Poperinghe for a bath. It was my turn off duty so I wished the rest of the boys the best of luck as they left for a working party, and turned in. Next day was also a blank so far as work went but we slept the clock round except for meals.
April 22 was a quiet day but it rained all day and we felt pretty miserable. A concert was arranged for the evening and I undertook to recite some Service poems but I forgot the last part much to the delight of the boys.
Sunday, April 23, we had a church parade at the YMCA hut. Aeroplanes were active, no work party for me at night so was able to read the papers that came in the Canadian mail the day before.
Next day we had aeroplanes over all day. One dropped a bomb as I was crossing a field. I could have sworn it was going to land right on my head but as a matter of fact it landed 33 yards away. Bombs were always hard to judge. At night we stood to expecting trouble but nothing happened and later we were relieved by the 3rd Batt. and went to Scottish lines, a little nearer the front.
On April 25 two Corporals and 13 men were detailed to act as "Battle stop" at a point near Dickebusch. Our orders were to stop all men coming back from the line and collect them. A Hun attack was expected and posts were located on the roads to collect stragglers in the event of a break thro. We stayed on the job from April 25 to May 2nd. At first we were all billeted in a large barn an d had two posts, the two of us doing 8 hours each, relieving our posts every two hours. We had trouble getting rations at first but we detailed one man to look after the rations, one as cook and the other 16 worked the posts.
On April 26 in the early morning we sighted a Zeppelin and so reported it but it was doubted. When the papers came we learned that there had been a Zepp attack on England and one had come back our way. The scrap at St.Eloi was on and every night we watched the bombardment. We weren't bothered tho a battery near us started firing and we expected retaliation. After the first two days we split the posts each Corporal handling his own post. It worked better. the weather was fine. On the 29th and 30th of April we had gas alarms at intervals. These were given by pounding on a piece of steel rail or a bell hung by a wire. The alarm would start at the line and each post would hear the one in front and pass it back and in a few minutes (like signal fires) gas gongs would be sounding all over the area. The result was you would get an alarm tho there might be no gas in your area but no chances were taken. Towards the end of our tour the artillery became more active and I was glad I was at the post and not in the barn. It was too darn close in to our own battery.
On May 2nd the 16th Batt. sent a guard to relieve us and we returned to Scottish lines. On arrival there we went by motor to the railway from Poperinghe to Ypres and then took the train to the outskirts of Ypres and marched into the line and took over trench 34 from the 15th Batt. It had been raining and the march was a hard one.
We were now in the front line in front of hill 60 and as the trenches were very close together we wore our smoke helmets (the old flannel pull over affair) rolled up on top of our heads ready to pull down at the slightest provocation. The day was fine and I did my trench duty. At night the Hun bombarded us with trench motors and wounded Haid and Barrett, our company cooks.
On May 4th the trench motors and sausages continued and at night we were pulled out of the front line for a trench motor duel.
On May 5th the Hun threw minenwerfers (giant trench mortars) over on the 7th on our right. Fortunately we were too close for them to use them on us. They messed up the 7th front line pretty badly. Fortunately the minenwerfer is such a big thing and goes up so high that the men were able to get out of its way before it hit but as the trench got blown in, snipers got a bunch during the day. We were pulled back at night to the support line as they feared an attack at night, nothing happened, so we returned to the front line at midnight. It was a pitch dark night and no attack could have done much.
Next day was quiet, the weather was fine.
Sunday, May 7, was fine and till 6 PM everything was quiet, then all at once the Hun opened on our trench with whizbangs. They cut the top of the trench but fortunately the land fell away a bit behind and then exploded harmlessly behind the trench. We had lots of narrow escapes and for the hour the bombardment lasted we were pretty scared. We spent the next three nights building a shell trench behind our front line.
On May 9th some one started a rumor that the Hun had a mine under us and might set it off any time. Stout fellows these that start rumors of that kind! Imagine waiting for the earth to blow up under you at any time. It was ticklish sensation. It was a false alarm.
On May 10th at 11 PM we were relieved by the 5th and marched back to Green Dugouts (beyond Dickebusch) and arrived there at 1 AM all tired out.
Our division didn't go into the line thro Ypres while we held this sector but followed a wooden trench mat path to the south of it.
On May 11 we got cleaned up and laid around all day in the sun. We enjoyed these warm days. At night we went on a working party and got home at 3 AM. We all had a slug of rum and slept till noon. Next day was my turn from a rest from working parties (A Corporal missed about one out of four. I went to see the signalers and we had some music.
On May 13 it was wet but warm. At night I was on a work party at Hedge Row near the famous International Trench to the right of Hill 60. International Trench got its name from the fact that earlier in the year (March I think) some fierce hand to hand fighting took place there and one day it belonged to the Hun and the nest to the British till finally the British advanced the line 1/4 mile and consolidated the new position. We were soaking wet when we returned but after a ration of rum we went to sleep in our clothes and they dried on us. We woke up feeling fine.
Sunday, May 14, we got a new style smoke helmet, two to each man. I missed working party three days in a row and loafed and played cards all day. The weather was beginning to get hot.
May 17 I was again on a work party behind International Trench. I was in charge of one party without a senior N.C.O. or officer. We had a machine gun turned on us but escaped without injury.
On May 18 we were relieved by the 3rd Batt. and took the train to Poperinghe and marched to Connaught lines south east of Poperinghe where we were billeted in tents. The weather was very hot.
May 19 was pay day and after the parade I went over to the 3rd Causalty cleaning station and saw Ralph Gale and a bunch of fellows from Winnipeg. I missed Bill Mann. I also ran into the Alberta Dragoons and saw a bunch of the old Fort Garrys.
Next day was hot and we had a bath parade. By the time we got back we felt as dusty and dirty as we did before we went and as there were no clean undershirts we counted the bath a wash out.
Sunday, May 21, we had a church parade and the Quartermaster issued clothing. I drew a pair of infantry pants--and wore them. Up to now I had bought cavalry riding breeches from artillery Quartermaster Sergeants who had a little graft. The boys joked me about wearing infantry pants but I told them I'd been with the unit long enough to qualify as an infantryman.
On May 22 the anniversary of Festubert (my first show) we inspected by General Currie.
Next day we played baseball and I had to give the company a talk on gas as I was gas corporal for the company.
Next day I went to Reninghelst and saw Sergt. Gow of the Postal Corps, also saw Cowan who was with a machine gun outfit.
Next day I hunted up Jimmy Keith (our Armourer Corporal). While we were out of the line we were always running into fellows we knew.
On May 26 we relieved the 15th Batt. in trench 41 to the left of the Railway Cutting at Hill 60. I was attached to the 10th platoon for duty.
Next day I did usual trench duty. The Hun threw, what we called rum jars, at us. They were mostly made of old stove pipes filled with bits of iron, glass, nails and scrap generally with a charge of some kind. Browing and Barrett were hit later in the night by bits of a shell.
Sunday, May 28, was quiet. I got a touch of stomach trouble and was doubled up with cramps all morning but felt better after dinner and was able to continue.
Next day was hot and the flies bit. We lay in the trench with papers over our heads. At night we worked on a sap they were running under the German line from the trench and carried sandbags. A chap called Barton was killed by a sniper. We also were kept on the hop by rifle grenades.
On May 30 we were relieved by my own platoon (12) and went back to support. I had an off night.
Next day a whizbang broke in a communication trench called Bensham Road and I was detailed to take a party to fix it up. At midnight we were relieved by the 5th Batt. and marched back to White Chateau. I was then returned to my own platoon.
We all slept in next day but about noon the Hun put on a bombardment of an artillery position near the chateau and we had to leave our huts and go into a field. Old man Dodd of 12th platoon was wounded. At night we went up to bury a cable.
Next day, June 2nd, we were again bombarded and chased into the woods. The Hun started using tear gas shells. We did not know it but the Hun had launched an attack on Mount Sorrel and driven over the C.M.R. Brigade. At 6 PM we fell in and marched to various positions as orders came thro. We finally halted at Wood Gate Farm on the Ypres-Messines where we took to the ditch and got what sleep we could.
At day break, June 3rd, we fell in and carried rifle ammunition to support the 7th Batt. at Maple Corpse to the left of Hill 60 near Sanctuary Wood. The Hun had filled the low lying ground with tear gas. You could see it like a mist close to the ground. We went with our overcoats and full packs. Two of my men kept lagging behind with a box of ammunition. I got mad and said, "Give me that ----------- box and take this rifle" and I threw the box on top of my pack and carried it into the line. I was pretty tired by the time we got into position and was pretty peeved when they told us to dig in. However, I dug in at the left of the platoon. About the time I had finished Sergt. (Daddy) Richardson came along and ordered me to the centre of the platoon because he wanted the bombing Corporal at the left. I was very profane but moved to the centre near a chap called Gray. A few minutes after word came down the line that they had got a direct hit on my old hole and killed Daddy Richardson and the Corporal. I found that the water was running into the second I dug and after more profanity I moved to the right and dug in again.
I hadn't been at the new location long before a shell landed on poor old Gray and cleaned out the centre of the platoon, including my second hole--and then some say there is no Providence watching over us.
Shortly afterwards Capt. Fisher called a N.C.O. conference and told us we were to follow up the 7th when they reached their objective consolidate. I never saw a man so obviously frightened as as Capt. Fisher was but he never faltered. He was "game". After a few minutes I noticed our men moving. No word had been passed down to me as there should have been because of the gap caused by the shell that "got" Gray. As soon as I saw the movement, I called to men on my right and we filed across the road and joined up with 10 platoon who were going up to the front line. Machine gun bullets hit the earth along our trench and I remember wondering what it would be like to be hit by one of them. I had great difficulty from standing up to find out. Curiously enough, once we started to move I wasn't afraid, I was curious. Here I was in an attack and I wondered what would happen. As I was near 10 platoon I thought we were in our proper place but when we got to the front line I found that Capt. Fisher had taken Sergt. Rayfield, his headquarters, and all of 12 platoon that weren't with me and had "gone over the top" after the 7th Batt.and they had all been killed or wounded. The 7th Batt. attack had not reached its objective owing to intense machine gun fire and Capt. Fisher, according to the instructions he gave us, should not have gone forward when he did. My personal opinion was that he was afraid that he would funk and had forced himself to go over in the teeth of a withering machine gun fire. He was almost cut in two by bullets. That was the third narrow escape that morning for me.
We sat huddled in the trench while the Hun slowly battered in the trench. Now I was afraid. The suspense was awful. How soon would one hit our little bit of parapet. His artillery were so thorough they would level the whole trench. Our officer was "bugs" with the shell fire. About
11 AM a shell came over and exploded behind our trench and sprayed shrapnel back on us. Three Corporals were sitting together Massey, myself and another whose name I've forgotten.
The shrapnel got all three of us. Massey got a piece in his back, I got one in my right leg above the knee and the other chap got some on his hands and knees for a moment and collapsed--dead. I can still see him, a look of surprise on his face and then he passed out. He was lucky! I tore open my trouser leg and saw I was hit and reported to the stretcher bearer. He put a pad on it and told me to get out while I could. I reported to the "Bugs" officer and he didn't know what I was talking about. Poor chap he didn't know what was going on--clean crazy. I knew this and knew my report was only a matter of form. I felt a bit like a piker going out at this stage when I knew there was to be an attack. Had I been an officer and not a N.C.O. I wouldn't have had the face to go out under the circumstances altho staying in might have meant gangrene. However, I salved my conscience by recalling the stretcher bearer had told me to go back to the dressing station. I'm afraid I limped more than I needed to on my way out. The shrapnel had numbed the flesh and the wound didn't hurt me for some time. Gradually the leg stiffened up and my limp became real. I passed a lot of fellows coming in who called me "lucky dog", etc. I came up to one fellow with a broken leg hobbling out with his gun as a crutch and I helped him back to the dressing station at Railway Dugout. When we got there they put a shot of anti-tetanus into me, painted the wound with iodine and tied a tag on me and told me to get on my way to the clearing station. All walking wounded got back the best they could. I started back and had to run thro a couple of bad spots. I got to the advanced Field Ambulance and after being checked over was told to wait outside as there wasn't room inside. The Hun was shelling the area and it wasn't particularly healthy outside. The Ambulance drivers told of heavily shelled roads and we didn't look forward to our ride. After all the stretcher cases were sent, the walking wounded were loaded and away we went--bump bang over shell holes. The driver paid no attention to the complaints of the passengers but stepped on the gas. We were walking wounded and didn't count. Finally we arrived at railhead and were loaded unto a train and started for Boulogne.
We arrived at Boulogne at 11 AM June 4th and were taken by ambulance drivers to No.8 Stationary at Wimereux. I was first put in hut "S". They dressed my wound and I had a good sleep. I felt a little guilty about being in hospital--my card said G.S.W. leg (gun shot wound in the leg). I looked at other fellows cards and they had more troubles than Job but next morning a lot of them disappeared to the convalescent camp. They weren't wounded at all, only scratched and shaken up. I felt a little better.
On June 5 a bunch of the chaps were marched for England. They were a happy crowd. I had lost all my kit including my razor and some souvenirs--one was a sheet from the police court record at Ypres that I was afraid to send home for dear it would be taken out by the censor. The barber at the hospital shaved us, so I went and had a shave. We were getting good meals.
On June 6 I was changed to hut "R" and was marked :Convalescent Camp when fit". I was one of the few chaps with a leg wound and "R" and had to cut the other fellows meat, wash dishes and work round generally. We played cards but the matron wouldn't let us sit on our beds in the day time. We were always in trouble over playing cards on our beds.
On June 7 a lady from Canada came and took our names but that was all we heard of it. I wrote Allie and let her know I was O.K. My wound was still running. The matron was an old "battle axe". She and I were at logger heads all the time. She said I talked too much and I told her I worked too much and if I couldn't talk I couldn't work. We had a Red Cross girl ( a V.A.D.) who had a rough time of it with the matron. The matron was eternally rowing the poor girl and I interfered once when the girl was getting "hops" for something that wasn't her fault. The matron turned on me but she was an Imperial and had no authority over me so I worried--I don't think.
Next day when the Dr. came round the matron said I think the Corporal (which was me) should be sent to the Convalescent Camp but the M.O. said I wasn't fit as the wound was still discharging. The Red Cross V.A.D. said there was a gramophone in one of the huts we could have so I went after it. The matron of the other hut came out and I didn't salute her and promptly was told off by a Red Cross Sergt. I got the gramophone after a lot of trouble.
On June 9th (after 5 days in hospital) I was marked "Convalescent Camp" and marched to No. 5 Convalescent Camp at Wimereux and put in "K" Co. I stayed there till June 15 (1 week). I paraded before the M.O. and was put in "C" class, no duty. Corporal Massey was in the same camp and we played checkers together. He only had a splinter but it was in his backbone and was giving a lot of trouble. The fomented my leg to take down the inflammation. At night (June 11) we had a concert. I tried my hand at reciting but didn't make out very well. I paraded to the M.O. each day. We had a concert at YMCA each night. When I came to the camp I asked if stripes were any use and they told me "No", so I didn't put them up. A Sergt. looked into our tent and said any Corporals here. I kept my mouth shut and a couple of fellows said they were and promptly found themselves detailed for jobs. I got out of fatigues for 5 days this way. Then I heard there was to be a pay parade so I sewed on my stripes. One chap said "That's a good scheme". I said "You have to have it in your pay book, boy".
We had sports on June 14.
On June 15 I was detailed as Canteen Corporal altho I was supposed to be "no duty" category. I paraded to the M.O. and he said I was walking too much and my wound wasn't healing. I suggested there was a piece of shrapnel in the leg but he said they had probed and couldn't find any.
We had a pay parade on June 15. I drew 20 francs and met a bunch of fellows from Winnipeg.
On June 16 I was marked "No.1 Con. Camp Boulogne". We marched to the camp with our new outfit of clothing and equipment and were put in "P" Co. We put our things in our large marquee tent and went for tea. While we were there the fire alarm went and we fell into line and passed water buckets. After it was over I decided to go to my tent only to find that it was our tent that had burned and we again lost all our things. The Quarter master seemed to blame me for the fire as I was the only N.C.O. in sight. I was put on guard over the burnt tent.
Next day the Q.M. put me thro a third degree examination to find out who was responsible but I knew nothing. He insisted I was shielding someone.
On Sunday we got a new issue to replace the burned things. The rest of the day was spent at the YMCA hut letter writing, drinking coffee and eating and listening to a concert at night.
June 19th was pay day. It was decided, as I was a corporal, I should ask for 20 fr. instead of the usual 15. I did and in place of 20 the paymaster gave me 10 and all the other Corporals 15, so I got penalized 5 fr. for being elected spokesman. My wound was still discharging 16 days after I received it.
Next day I was in charge of the laundry fatigue. They had washing machines that turned by hand. The equipment was alright for normal times but not when there was any activity on the front. After our job was done I took my detail up to the Church Army hut and had tea and cakes. At this camp (which was an Imperial camp) there were two organizations looking after our comfort. The YMCA with a large hut and concert parties, and the Church Women's League with a small game room and lunch counter. The YMCA had mostly men working while the Church Women's League had good looking girls. Naturally we all went to the YMCA---not much. I wrote a lot of letters while at camp--each day about 6.
On June 22nd they cleared out the Camp in preparation for the Somme offensive which was due July 1, altho we didn't know it. I was retained in connection with the enquiry over the burned tent and with the help of Corporal Wright 13th Scottish (Canadians)( now with the Marlboro Hotel as accountant), I was given the job of Post and Laundry Corporal. My job was to get the mail for the company and send on any for those who had left for their bases, and also look after washing the company clothes. I held this job from June 22 to Aug.7, the longest time I ever had a bomb proof job. It was the softest job I ever had good bed, good meals, off down to Boulogne when I wanted, enough money, little work, no bombs, what could be sweeter!
On June 23 the fire enquiry was held but they never called me after all.
From June 23 to July 6 the routine was the same-- had leg dressed every couple of days, got the mail, washed clothes and distributed them. A new bunch would come in from time to time, the first batch on July 1st.
On July 6 I took my bandage off, the leg had been sore to the touch for some time but by the 6th it was healed over and the tender didn't hurt to walk, so it took one month and 2 days to heal. The Quarter Master complained that I wasn't washing enough clothes. I found that in a big wash the dirty clothes of fellows fresh from the line dirtied the cleaner clothes of fellows from hospital and they wouldn't send them, so I conceived the plan of salvaging old shirts and sox and washing them week after week and assigning them in my washing report to different chaps so that a check up would show each fellow getting his things washed. I couldn't report more washing than was actually done because the chap in charge of the wash house had a report as well and he wasn't going to chance losing a good job for me. I kept the extra supply of clothes under my bed boards so no one knew except the chaps in my tent and they didn't care.
We had a lot of Australians in the camp and the Sergts used to get my goat days I was Orderly Corporal. It was part of my job to report absentees at last post. These chaps wanted me to report them in and I wouldn't do it. I had a job to keep as well as the wash house chap. Besides if I reported them in and they were caught at the gate or by the picket where would I be?
Sunday, July 9, I went down to Boulogne, looked the town over had tea and saw a show.
July 14 a new bunch came in which meant making a new list for the mail. I had no parades to attend so each day was much like the next except for the occasional concert such a one by Lena Ashwell on July 17. It was a good one. Some of them were not so good but most were above average.
On July 18 I was sent in charge of a party to No. 3 Canadian General. It made a bit sore to think I had been in an Imperial Hospital being rowed by an old battle axe while I found Imperials in No.3 with all sorts of liberties and a bottle of stout three days a week.
On July 20 we had another of Lena Ashwell's parties at the YMCA. She wasn't in this one but it was very good.
On July 21 with 25 francs drawn the day before I went down to Boulogne, saw a picture show and had a feed at one of the swell restaurants. We had received no mail for 3 days so I had pretty easy time.
On July 23 I took Wright's job to let him get away. Next day I went down to Boulogne and saw the pictures at the Kursaal, a large picture show.
Our camp was on a hill above Boulogne, the opposite way from St. Martins Plain and we had a very nice walk down into the town, either by the cliffs or down the main street. I went down town again to a picture show on July 27, the time in between the tow visits being put in the usual routine and a game at the YMCA or the Church Women's League or reaching with an occasional kick at a ball. Owing to the continual change of personnel no attempt was made at organizing games. The men drilled a bit but I didn't have to attend. The weather had been mostly fair tho there were some rainy days. We had a bath house in the camp and I was able to get a bath whenever I wished.
On Aug.1st I saw another picture show and got back to find a new bunch had arrived.
On Aug.5th the Quarter Master met and said "Corporal, don't you think it is time you were moving on?" I saw there was only one answer to that so I said "Yes, Sir. You kind of vegetate here, don't you?" He then told me to look up someone to take my job. I wrote everyone that I was on my way again. I suggested several chaps for my job but as they were all Australian Corporals (of whom we had a number just then) they were turned down. The Quarter Master said he had had enough trouble with Australians and he wouldn't have one on his staff. I finally recommended a good chap in the South Africans. I handed over to him on Aug.7 and bequeathed to him my pile of surplus washing and explained my system but he said he would not do what I had done. I told him he wouldn't hold the job long--and he didn't, about one week, and then because he couldn't get enough washing to do he was replaced.
On Aug.8 I was paraded before the C.O. and was marked "Fit to go out in two days". I went down at night with a couple of Imperials and had a good time.
Next day I got a special pass and spent all day down town. I went to the plage (beach) after dinner and watched the bathers. I was a gay scene--with colored umbrellas and fancy bathing costumes. At night I went to a picture show.
On Aug.10 I had a bath and at 2 PM we left the Convalescent Camp for the Details Camp where we were to be sorted out into our various bases. They came to this camp from various convalescent camps in the district. We were put in bell tents, 10 to a tent. After sleeping on bed boards and palliases for two months sleeping on the ground on a ground sheet seemed a bit tough.
On Aug.11 we had an early reveille and at 11 .30 we left the Details Camp. At 3 PM we entrained from Boulogne and changed trains at Abbeville. We were put in 3rd class carriages, 4 to a compartment and were able to sleep well. We traveled all night and at 11 AM on Aug.12 we arrived at Harfleur (near Le Havre). We marched to Report Centre and the Canadians were sent to the Canadian Base. Here I met Cpl. Massey, Cpl. Smith, and Bobby Cairns.
On Sunday, Aug.13, I was examined by the M.O. and marked "fit". I then drew my kit.
I stayed in the Canadian Base at Le Havre form Aug.12 to Aug.25 during which time I held a job in the orderly room. It was only a nominal job and was just any routine they cared to give me. I had a pretty easy time of it and did no fatigues or drill.
It was decided that I should attend the Cadet School in June but as I was wounded, I missed the chance. Being at the base I thought that I would try to get to the school direct so I paraded to the adjutant and told him the situation. At his suggestion I wrote the O.C. of the base asking to be sent to the Cadet School direct.
On Aug.16 I went down to Le Havre, Harfleur and Rouells and spent the day looking over the towns.
On Aug.17 I mailed my diary to Allie.
On Aug.18 there was a job going in the 4 Division and I put my name in for it. Nothing came of it.
On Aug.20 we moved the location of our tents.
On Aug.21 a big draft arrived from England. Galbraith who used to play with the Vics was among them.
On Aug.24 I again paraded to the Adjutant and he told me they could do nothing but I would be sent to my unit as soon as possible. That was something I wasn't enthusiastic over. I'd been bomb proof so long I began to like it. I managed to get meal in the Sergts. mess. We ate fairly well in the ordinary dining hall. The favorite tea was a couple of slices of bread and a Spanish onion (raw) and a cup of tea. The weather was fine all the time I was in the camp. The new drafts drilled hard all day but the casualties dodged these parades on one excuse or another. I never attended a parade while I was there. I wrote a lot of letters and my mail began to catch up to me.
On Aug.25 I left with 6 of a draft for the 1st Divisional Entrenching Battalion who were in the Ypres area. The train was sidetracked somewhere most of the night and next day we traveled very slowly arriving at Abbeville at 3.30 PM. We passed thro some lovely country. We slept in the train at Abbeville and at 5.30 AM arrived at Poperinghe.
We marched to Dickebusch huts and were attached to No.1 Entrenching Battalion under
Col. Dingwall (and old Fort Garry and 10th Batt. officer). Here I met a bunch of the old boys. The unit was made up of casualties from the 1st Division who were on their way back to their units. They were doing working parties for the 4th Division. On Aug.28 we were drilled pretty strenuously. It hurt my shoulder after such a long lay off. After parade I saw Col. Dingwall with regard to my commission and he said the only thing to do was to send me to the Batt. as soon as possible. So by applying for my commission I hastened my return to the front without intending to. At night we went on a working party. I found it much quieter than when we were holding the line. This was accounted for by the fact that there was strenuous fighting in the Somme area. We began to run into rain and our working parties were canceled a couple of nights.
On Aug.31 I went into Averdown for a feed of eggs.
On Sept.1 we went to Ranges and I discovered I was lousy again. I had been free of them for 21/2 months and I didn't like renewing acquaintance.
On Sept.2 I was warned for a draft and passed the M.O. as fit. At night we had a gas alarm--false.
Sunday, Sept.3 we drew our rations for the trip and attended church parade.
At 3 AM on Sept.4 (after 1 week with the Entrenching Battalion) I left with a draft for the 10th Batt. We marched to Poperinghe where we entrained for Calais at 11 AM. On our arrivals there we slept in our cars (40 hommes and 5 chevals). I was put in charge of the picket. It drizzled all night.
On Sept.5 we arrived at Abbeville where our train was held up all day and at night they moved us into a siding and held us there all night.
On Sept.6 we finally arrived at Puchevillers back of the Somme area and marched to a Prest camp, where we spent two days. It was a mud hole. troops were passing thro it to join their units every day and things were pretty rough.
On Sept.8 we left the camp and after a hard dusty march of 15 miles, we arrived at Albert and reported to transport. We found the Batt. was up forward just going in so we stayed at the transport for the night. I had been away from the Battalion from June 2 to Sept.8 and only missed about three trips in the line, altho one of the trips was about the middle of June when they took back the trenches the Hun took from the 3rd Division. I paraded to "Soapy "Sid" Sydenham, the orderly room Sergt. and asked about my commission. He said they had lost my papers.
On Sept.9 I rejoined 12 platoon at Laboiselle in front of Albert just as they were preparing to go into reserve. We went further up the line to the left of Pozieres and dug in. We were shelled all night. After 3 months peace I didn't relish the shelling. They were using fairly heavy guns and every time one hit near it seemed as if I had been hit on the head with a hammer.
On Sept.10 it was misty and we were sent up on a working party to dig out an old trench that had been blown in. At night I was on guard. The Hun attacked "A" & "B: Cos who were holding the line (near Moquet Farm) but our boys drove them back. Our Co. "C" was always lucky. At Festubert we were in support and now at the Somme the Hun chose to attack when another Co. was in the line.
On Sept.11 we slept all day, very quiet for the Somme, and at night we brought out kits of killed and wounded that had been collected. The 2nd C.M.R.s relieved us that night and we marched back to Albert and bivouacked on the brickfields. It was fi9ne night and we slept under ground sheets made into what the Americans called pup tents.
On Sept.12 we had a muster parade and cleaned up. The rest of the day was spent writing and sleeping.
On Sept.13 the R.C.R.s arrived and we went over. I found Lel. Naylor a Lieut, Cruice, now of the Tribune, was among them. Fritzy shelled the brickfields so I got out of sight. He made a direct hit on our horse lines. We fell in and marched back to Warloy. We stayed there all night and next morning at 7 AM we marched thro Contay and Rubempre where we were billeted in a barn. I at once wrote home and to Allie.
On Sept 15 we had a route march. It was a fine day.
Next day we marched to Contay and took buses to the brickfields behind Albert. Her I saw George Dobbyn and Ralph Gale.
On Sept 17 after church parade Major Thompson who was then acting as O.C. of the Batt. sent for me and asked me if I still wanted a commission. I told him I did. We expected to go into the line but it rained and the relief was changed.
Next day we moved into Albert and were billeted in an attic of a house. We went thro the town and I went into the Cathedral. They started shelling and I climbed out of the cellar where I had found some pictures of the Cathedral and a lead virgin (which I still have). I climbed back over the ruined bridge over the River Avere.
Next day we were drilled and the rest of the day we spent writing and sleeping. They shelled the town at night and some of the boys went into the cellar but I felt safer in the attic.
On Sept.20 Geoff. Benbridge signed my commission papers. He was then a Company Commander. Later in the day I paid another visit to the Cathedral. I had apparently been a magnificent place. The figure of the virgin overhung the street. The story was that when she fell, the war would be over. That prophesy was not fulfilled. The church was pretty well shelled but the walls still stood.
On Sept.21 I saw Brigadier Loanis with regard my commission. He questioned me as to my occupation in private life and didn't seem to believe me when I told him I was barrister.
On the night of the 22nd of Sept. we went into the line to relieve the 52nd Batt. On the way in we were caught in a barrage and they couldn't seem to get us either in or out so we sat and cursed the officers responsible for the mix up. We had a lot of new officers and they didn't know their job. We lost a few of our men from shell fire but considering the intensity of the shelling we were lucky. When we got in we found we were in a horse shoe trench in front of the regular line. The Huns shelling fell behind us. I asked the Sergt. (Jones) who was to do trench duty first. He said he was going to have a sleep. About this time the Captain who was in charge of our platoon came along and asked what the argument was about. I told him and he said "A matter of internal arrangement" and passed on. I had my opinion of him. As the Sergt. wouldn't do anything I took the first shift. After I was relieved and was just settling down to a good sleep, Sergt. Jones came along and detailed me to go back and carry wounded. There was nothing else for it so I went back and carried wounded till I ready to drop. I tied the stretcher handles to my wrists with handkerchiefs. When we got thro some one said, "There is a wounded man in that hole". I shouted down and the man said he had rheumatism. That made me mad. said. "You walked this far, you can walk out" and went back to the company. It was pitch dark and when I left the trench I nearly missed it and walked into No Man's Land. If our sentry at the other end of the trench hadn't challenged me, I'd have been a goner. We had a good trench and spent a quiet day. Our officer caused some amusement by asking his batman if he thought it was safe to sit down where he was.
We spent all of Sept.23 in the line and at night the 7th Batt. relieved us. As they were coming in, the Hun saw them and their S.O.S. went up and they laid down their barrage, behind us. The officer wanted to go out but I refused to go with the men till he got relief for one of our posts and also told him we weren't going into that barrage again. We had been caught coming in and as we were relieved there was no hurry to go out. He finally got a relief for our post of the two N.C.O.s and 4 men but still insisted that I lead the men out. I refused to do it and told the men to stay where they were. The Captain put me under arrest and then proceeded to go out with his batman, leaving us in the trench. After the barrage died down I started out with my platoon. No one knew where we were to go but we figured we would strike for Albert. On the way we met the officer. He paid no attention to us but followed along. He had fallen into a shell hole and broke a rib and was evacuated. I heard nothing more of my arrest. The officer never came back. We found the Batt. at the chalk pit near La Boiselle. We slept in the open and the next day went into the chalk pit for meals but went back to our holes in the open and later went into the chalk pit and slept under bevys.
On the 25th we loafed all day and at night we marched into supports and dug in. It was a cold night.
On the 26th of Sept. we were told the 5th were to attack and we were to support them. Capt. Eric MacDonald was in charge of our Co. About noon we found that we were to file up the trench to the left and go into a deep dugout. The three N.C.O.s were at the right of the Co. I suggest we should spread out. Sergt. Jones agreed and he and Sgt. Bellingham went to the left and told me stay at the right. that made them first in and me the last. When we finally kicked off at 12.30 non we rushed forward to our dugout. When I got there I found it full but someone announced there was another entrance, so I rushed round and slid down the steps with about 8 fellows after me. I landed at the bottom and the others crowded in so that we couldn't move. I was sitting on a piece of a nail but couldn't get off it and there I stuck till dark. In the meantime Sergt. Jones was in the main dugout in a very comfortable position. It got my goat. At dark 12 platoon with Sgt. Jones in charge was sent out to reinforce A Co. of the 5th. We passed a Yallern trench that had been taken earlier in the day and struck off into the blue. Jones was for digging in as we were lost. I said, "Dig in if you like, you're in command, but up there where you see star shells in the front and that's where we are supposed to be." He decided to dig in so we did. I should have taken the thing out of his hands but he was a Sergt. and I was a Corporal.
On Sept.27 we moved up and joined the 5th. Jones had partially redeemed himself by finding the way. The 5th Batt. boys cursed roundly for coming in in daylight and giving away their position. We spread out thro the 5th. I was in Capt. Hick Abbott's Co. but I didn't see him. He was killed later in the show. I found myself near a chap who had just joined the 5th. When he found I'd been out since Festubert he thought I knew my stuff. The Hun started to shell and after four shells it seemed to me he had swung to our left and I told the boys we wouldn't get any more shelling. No sooner had I said this than--bang--and the trench caved in, burying me to my shoulders and the lad altogether. One our chaps who received a medal for it, climbed up and dug us out. When the 5th Batt. lad had mud cleaned from his mouth, the first thing he said was, "You are a hell of a guesser". I found that a shell had landed just in front of us and blown in the trench. the concussion hurt my ears quite a lot. He asked me how I felt and I said "fine" but as the day wore on my nerves started to go and by the time we were relieved by the 1st C.M.R.'s on the morning of Sept.28 I could have screamed my nerves were so bad. It was the reaction from being half buried alive I guess. I was buried at about 8 AM and we weren't relieved till 6 AM next day and during the interval there was nothing to do but sit and take whatever shelling there was and there was plenty. We expected a counter attack at any time but none came. Lots of time I felt like getting up and running across country. When we were finally relieved we straggled back as best we could. There was no organized march out but each man for himself and believe me we didn't loaf once the word came to get out. I understand that that was the way the Australians always carried out a relief. On the way out I met Sergt. Bellingham with a jar of rum and I drank a glass of it raw and didn't seem to feel any effect. When we got to the Pozieres road a Church Army man had a lot of hot tea. It tasted better than the water got by Gunga Din. I caught a ride into Albert and found that the boys thought I'd been killed. I was the last one in. I had a good meal and then marched back to Bouzencourt where we spent the night.
On Sept.29, 1916 we marched back to rubempre and after a night's sleep we marched to Montrelet, only about 20 miles behind the lines as the crow flies but 30 to 35 miles by road. My feet were very sore. We spent two days at Montreletand during that time had a church parade and a G.O.C.' inspection, also a pay parade but I drew no pay as I still had funds. Sergt. Nuttal was given his commission while we were on this rest, one day a Sergt. and the next a Lieut., a little too sudden a change. We were billeted in an old barn. Montrelet seemed very run down at the heels, the houses smelled musty and the barns worse. Still we were away from the line. I saw the O.C. Major Thompson, about my commission and told him I would prefer to go to a cadet school.
On Oct.3 we marched about 10 miles in the rain to a little farmlette called Val de Maison. I was feeling pretty sick with a severe cold.
On Oct. 4 we marched a further 10 miles to Vadencourt. My feet were very sore after this march. We marched with full packs during the Somme show. At night we had a concert and again the following night as we were kept at Vadencourt 2 days.
On Oct.6 we marched to Bouyincourt on the Albert Boullen road about 2 miles north west of Albert. Here we were billeted in a barn. the next day was fine and I wrote letters to Allie and Sgt. Gow. I also sent Allie one pound and my diary to that date by Crpl. Doody who was going on leave. We weren't supposed to keep a diary and I wanted to get mine away.
On the evening of Oct.7 we moved into Albert. Next morning we were all ready for the line but it was called off. It was raining all day so we were glad to stay in the dry quarters at Albert.
J.B. Andrews of the C.M.R.s called to see me. He was going in for the first time and obviously worried.
On the night of Oct.9 we marched to the chalk pits near La Boiselle on the Boupoume Road. I was in charge of 12 platoon, no Sergt. and no officer directly in charge of our platoon. We stayed all day, Oct.10, in the chalk pit where we were joined by a new draft, mostly old First Division men who were being shipped out of bomb proof jobs in England and very few being old veterans. I saw Fairbairn who was with the Red Cross. At night we marched into the line to the north of Courcellette where we were in the support line. Going thro Coursellette I had a narrow escape. A shell landed in the soft earth, exploded deep down and blew the officer and I separate ways without hurting either of us. We got up out of the sunken road that ran thro Courcellette and took the high ground and went down a steep bank into what was called Death Valley. On the north slope of this depression our trenches were located. We only remained in the line 24 hours when we were relieved by the 44th Batt. I was continuously on duty the whole 24 hours as I had no senior N.C.O. or officer and only 1 Lance Corporal. The men were all new and jumpy and we were shelled continuously I had to keep going up and down the shallow trench keeping the men's courage up. One thing it kept me doing something and that helps in a bombardment. It is sitting and taking it that is hard. One of the new men dug a hole about 8 feet deep. He kept digging all the time just to keep occupied. Fortunately we had few casualties as the shells were being fired at random. We spent all of Oct.12 in some trenches near the chalk pit, no cover just trenches. Fortunately it wasn't raining but it was a bit chilly. At night we moved back to Albert and the next day we spent sleeping and cleaning up and writing letters.
On Oct 14 we had a bath parade and afterwards I was notified from headquarters that I was go to cadet school. I didn't leave Albert till Oct 16.
On the 15th I drew 100 fr. ($20.00) from the paymaster and saw Col. (then Major ) Bedson of the 8th Batt. and thanked him for what he had done with regard to the Commission. I saw the boys off to the line on what looked like a forlorn hope, glad I wasn't in it. However, the planned attack was canceled fortunately. I can still see Capt. (later Col. Eric MacDonald) going over the map with us and pointing out the wire and saying that we had to get thro no matter what the difficulty but admitting the impossibility of the task set us.
On the evening of Oct 16 I set off for Acbeaux which was railhead. On the way Higginbottom who was with Motor Transport Section of the C.A.S.C. picked me up and drove me to the station. I found from the station that there was no train till 6 AM so I found a vacant house and went in for a sleep. A private from the 2nd Torks[?] mistook my corporals stripes for good conduct stripes (10 years). The Canadian wore their rank stripes on their great coats at the cuff on the left arm in place of above the elbow and as I had my great coat on they looked like good conduct stripes. There were not stores or canteens open and we had no bread so we had only bully beef. It was a cold night, no windows in the house.
On Oct 17 promptly at 6 AM we left on a narrow gauge track and at 8.30 arrived at St. Pol where we changed trains and finally arrived at Bethune. It was a bit of a shock to get off the train thinking that we were well behind the lines to find the station shot up and to see it was Bethune. On going to a restaurant to see something to eat I saw a Kiltie and discovered he was going to the school as well. He was Sergt. Bert Robertson 16th Scottish (Living on McMillan Ave.) After a dinner of eggs and chips we took the train and arrived at St. Omer, much better, no shelled station. It was late at night and the M.P. on duty took us to a hotel where we slept and had a good breakfast.
On Oct 18 we took the train to Arques where we were given a bath, had out clothes fumigated and set off for Blendecques. We reported to the R.S.M. who bawled us out for coming by ourselves and not being paraded. It was the first time we had heard of any parade. However, we were duly enrolled in Beresford House and as there was a course in progress we were sent to some huts near the Bloquin river. It appeared that when the Somme show started they found that the schools were starting with a small number of cadet, so they decided that the cadets would be collected in advance and kept in these huts till the courses opened and in the meantime used as troops by the cadets who were taking the course, were being drilled a bit, did odd jobs and were getting the "trench" out of their systems so they would be able to get the most out of the course. It was kind of a preliminary course. I spent from Oct. 18 to Nov. 15 in the huts before I went up to the House I was assigned to There were three houses, Beresford (my house), Marlboro and Somerset. Each had it own staff of instructors, mostly officers who had seen much service. We had a very fine major in charge of us while at the school. At the huts we were under a regular major who had a peg leg. He was a martinet in some ways but at heart a good chap. The first job we had was to dig a chain to the river so that out camp would be kept dry. We were the first ones in the camp. They had a canteen in the town and there were a couple of nice restaurants, one run by the wife of a French soldier which we patronized mostly. We played football.
On Oct 22 I saw Charleson and Dudley (old Ft. Garry Horse men) who were with the Alberta Dragoons and we all went to Omer, about 3 miles north, where Charleson took us to his favorite restaurant.
The next two days were spent in fatigues around the camp. It rained both days. Every night there was something on, a dance, a whist drive or just a beer up.
On Oct 25 we were marched to St. Omer for a bath.
On the 26th we were used as troops in a rear guard scheme, came home all mud and profanity.
Next day we had a field day with one of the cadet houses and at night a concert was arranged. We had to pay mess dues at the camp out of which was bought fruit and other extras. We lived in a big tent and were waited on by C3 men. The food was good.
Sunday Oct 29, I was orderly man and stayed in the hut to put it in shape. It rained so I got a break. At night I went to Blendecques for supper.
Next day we were out on a scheme with Somerset House. Owing to rain we only stayed out till noon.
On Oct 31 our mess tent blew down. We soon got it up and then went up to Somerset House and played them at football. I played right half but found I was in pretty poor condition. We had a good game and won 2-1.
On Nov 1 we had a route march. I felt a bit chafed after it. The Major put us thro it. at night we held a whist drive in the canteen.
Next day was a fatigue day and the following we were out on a stunt with the cadets from Beresford House. Saturday after a route march I went to St. Omer with Dudley and Charleson. Sunday I went sick with my ears.
Next day we were out on a field day with the cadets from Marlboro House. At night we had a 500 drive at the canteen.
On Nov 7 our little creek overflowed with the rain we had been having and came right up to the hut doors.
On the 8th we marched to St. Omer for a bath and the following two days we were out with the cadets from Marlboro House. We had two lectures from a man called Atkin, one on the Balkans and the other on general topics.
Sunday was a fine day. We had a church parade in the morning and after I stayed in my hut and read.
The next two days were spent as troops for the cadets at Marlboro House. This was our last day in the camp and on the whole it was very pleasant but we weren't treated as cadets. No one wore any rank badge and we didn't know each others rank.
On Nov 15 we fell in and were marched to Beresford House to take our course. I was put in Division 13 along with Robertson. Beresford House was a large house on the side of a hill. We used the down stairs for our mess room and lectures rooms and lived in the 2nd and 3rd floors.
Next day a crowd arrived from Etaples to take the course. We were give a lecture by the Col. who was in charge, setting out the traditions of the school, what would be expected of us and the general scheme of things.
On Nov 17 the routine began and lasted till Dec 29. We has an early morning drill by the R.S.M., road map making, contouring the land in the district, drill, map reading, sketching outpost and advance guard work, compasses marches, reconnaissance, defense of positions, attacks outpost, bridge building and lectures. We were taught to drill a platoon, a company and a battalion and we spent a lot of time learning the proper time to give the various commands. We also had Lewis gun work but not much. Football and hockey (ground) filled in our spare time. We went to St. Omer on our days off and spent most of our evening either in the House or at a restaurant. Being cadets we didn't frequent the canteen so much as we had other places to go. We wore an arm band with cadet on it but no rank badges and just our tommy tunic. The beds were good and the crowd was very congenial, a lot of Honourable Artillery Co. fellows and some marines. Our food was good. We were waited on by C3 men. We did no fatigues and this was where we were different from the boys in the camp. Our beds were iron hospital beds in place of bed boards as at the camp. Part of the course consisted of a trip to the line and I was sent to the 1st East Surreys. We got our orders before we left. We were to do trench duty and any other duty assigned to us by the Battalion and to write a report on the sector held, including location of aid posts, machine guns, relief evacuation of wounded, ground of fire, etc, etc.
We left St. Omer on Dec 6th and detrained at Bethune. As we got on board I saw Bert Loyd who was with the C.K.S.C. at St. Omer. Ernie Watson was there but I didn't see him.
On arriving at Bethune we took a bus to Le Touret and then marched into the line. we found things very quiet. We reported to the C.O. who sent is to a com. Some of the cadets had told of being kept at Batt. Headquarters but we had no such luck. The company commander called in the C.S.M. and handed us over . He proved a good scout and gave the four of us a dugout in an old house and assigned a man to act as batman. We did expect that the Captain would invite us to dinner but no such luck. In discussing what we would take in with us, some of the boys decided to take in liquor. I voted for cigarettes and when I found we were not being looked after by the officers I was glad I had decided on cigarettes. I didn't see anything of the Captain from the time I went in till I left but I did see the platoon officer once or twice. I found the E. Surreys had been in the line and supports 16 days and they were glad to get my cigarettes. We were 48 hours in the line and by the time I left I knew more of the front than the officers. In fact I found trench stores the officers didn't know of. The first night in I was sent out on patrol. The R.S.M. gave me instructions as to what I should do when a flare went up. It was a joke to me as I had been 18 months in the line before I came to the school. I didn't let on to the R.S.M. but listened to his instructions. Three of us crawled out in front and found there 2 lines of wire. The Corporal never left his first line. He kept crawling back to me to tell me what to do. I got a bit fed up and told him I'd been 18 months at this sort of thing. He admitted he had only 6 months service and he didn't see he could teach me much. About halfway along the front the German line became white with star shells and a great cheer went up. The Corporal was afraid of an attack, but we had seen the same thing at Messines after a German victory on the eastern front and I told the Corporal they wouldn't make a row like that if they were going to attack. The cheering died down and it became quiet again. At one point the Corporal called for 10 rounds rapid by a sentry stationed just over our head while we lay at the foot of the parapet. That gave me the wind up because if the German had retaliated he probably would have hit us. I was glad when the patrol was over and we climbed into the trench at the other end of the Batt. sector. I went back and reported to the other three, all of whom had nearly as much service as I had and one an M.M. They all agreed they would not do that kind of a stunt.
On Dec 7 I was on trench duty. The Brigadier came thro the line and jumped on me because one of the fellows had a dirty rifle. I went with the platoon officer while he inspected the men's feet. I noticed that every man had his boots off at the same time and kept them off till after the inspection. With the 10th we took ours off in groups so that if there was an attack most of the boys would be ready. It was a shock to find a regular unit so careless. I discovered that we were in trenches near Richebourg 1' Avoue just north of Festubert where I first went into the line on May 19, 1915. During the 48 hours we were in the line only one shell went over and that was one our stakes guns. I never was in a quieter sector.
We got out report made out and on Dec 8th at 8 AM we left the line and returned to Bethune by bus. The trip was a bit of a farce because as N.C.O.s we had been thro it all dozens of times but it appeared that when the course was first opened cadets came directly from England without any "line" experience. We had dinner at Bethune and picked one chap who never went into the line at all but wrote his report from one of ours. He had been having a good time in Bethune. We took the train to Arques and had a bath and then reported to Beresford House in time for supper.
Next day we spent in polishing up our trench reports and cleaning up and answering the Canadian mail that had arrived.
Sunday Dec 10, we played football against the staff but were beaten. At night we all had dinner down town.
From Dec 10 to 16 was taken up with usual routine including building a bridge over the river. We all had our pictures taken on it afterwards.
On Dec 16 we put in a list of the units we wished to be posted to. As I was sent by the 10th and was to come back with them, it was only a form so far as I was concerned.
On Dec 18 the General commanding the 1st Army inspected us.
On Christmas Day all parades were off. At night we had a concert. I recited Service's "Man from Athabaska" and sang a couple of songs.
On Dec 27th I drew 200 francs in preparation for my return to my unit. At night I went to No. 7 Hospital to hear a concert they had put on.
On Dec 29th the Col. in command of the school gave us an address on our general conduct as officers and impressed on us the added responsibilities we were undertaking. Afterwards we paid a visit to the aerodrome and had a talk on liaison between the air force and the infantry.
On Dec 30th we went by motor to St. Omer and got our kit. I bought tunic , trousers, Sam Brown shirt, collars, ties, cap, revolver, compass, great coat and rain coat. When I got back to the school I found the pants too long and the Sam Brown was too short. The tunic came nearly to my knees. That was one trouble with getting from ordinance, you had to take what you got. I had one of the C3 men at the school color my Sam Brown , it was white when I got it.
On Sunday Dec 31, I left St. Omer, a full blown Lieutenant. I forgot myself and saluted a second Lieut. using my left hand, thereby giving the game away. The Canadians had no second lieuts. so we who were Canadians were a step ahead of the fellows who went to the Imperials.
We weren't supposed to put up our stars till we joined our units but everyone put the stars up. We didn't want to advertise the fact that we were cadets. We entrained at 9:05 and went to Bethune. I found our brigade was in the Brvay sector, so I took my bed roll and caught a lorry and arrived at Brvay where I reported to Brigade and saw one of the McVey boys. I found I couldn't run in to and egg and chips place as they were not reserved for officers and we weren't supposed to eat with the men. I found our battalion at Division. Col. Ormand was in command and he detailed me to B Co. under Capt. Black, M.C. In the same Co. was Capt. Stewart, Win Thompson, Alex Black, Moore and myself. I was assigned to 8 platoon. I found that I gone thro orders as a Lieut. on Oct 18 and had been shown as an officer at a school. I later went thro orders as of Dec 31 and the first order was automatically cancelled. I would have been an officer if I had been sent back from the school. They used to threaten us with a return to our unit and I used to say I didn't care as I would get my commission at any event. I didn't know how true my words were. Apparently till we joined a mess and a joining Cert. was forwarded to Brigade, we were counted as officers. I felt fairly confident in my ability to hold down the job as Lieut. as the school was thorough and I had the actual trench knowledge to start with.