[Editor’s notes: When writing the diary White did not always use the notebook pages sequentially, at times switching from front to back or starting again in a new section. The transcription, divided into three sections, follows the diaries chronological order (not physical page order). Transcriptions of the pages used throughout the notebook for recording addresses, or other such information discreet from the content of the diary entries, have been included at the end of section three. Please also note that punctuation, spelling, etc., has been transcribed as written.]
[section 2 of 3: April 22 - 25, 1915]
Germans in large numbers make attack using gas, many lads fall, Still holding fast waiting supports.
22.nd April Ypres
Terrible battle going on. Germans have brought up 100,000 men, the French on our left retreating, the shelling is terrific. Theres a great smoke coming up, I cant get my breath eyes are watering. Orders to Canadians to stand fast, great masses of Germans moving towards us French still running, they are pretty nearly mad with fear, I, have just fired off rounds till my rifle is pretty nearly red hot, This is terrible men are on their faces scratching and clawing up the ground, Our officers say it is poison gas, J. Henderson has just died, I have put my handkerchief over my mouth after wetting it with my water bottle, it helps a lot, God how long has this unequal fight going to last, shells are bursting in our trenches some more boys gone, Our bayonets are fixed they are getting closer, We have given them some more rapid fire, I got four of the mass, One is laying four yds in front of me, on a little hill, he is pointing towards me with an outstretched hand as if to say you killed me, I hope God will give me a steady hand and a clear eye so I can revenge those women and children I found in Ploegsteerte Barn. I have not wrote anything for four hours, We have had a charge in a wood for four guns belonging to 12 London [T. Rnt.?], It has been successful but our losses are heavy. I saw one of our Colonels, killed dont know his name Struck two more in the back, they are on the run, I cant see Hamilton among the boys, I want to shake hands with him, Teddy Brown has just told me he bayoneted a fellow who made smash at my head with a rifle butt. This is terrible sitting in this dug out, they are getting blown up one by one, Teddy James is gone, Brown hit in the jaw Whitelock through the neck, how long is this going to last, I wonder where our guns are I cant hear them shooting any more. I am glad to take up my attention with this diary, men are falling down suffocating I must have good lungs it isnt bothering me too, bad, its beginning to get dark, so I will have to stop.
No releif the British troop have not come up in the night, we have made our minds up to hold to the last man, if the Germans get our trench it will be full of Canadian dead, called the roll this morning 500 out of action, not many officers left. Good old eighth they have gone out and met a German battalion with the bayonet its a safe bet on Canada Our trenches are all getting blown up. I think some of our boys are eticing death I must stop writing, theres a large mass coming again –. God must be helping me it has been an awful scrap, I am still on top they have gone back quite aways. I wonder when its going to end, if it last much longer we wont have many of this bunch reach home, they are shooting at us from piles of dead, I think we are going to hold out they are trying to come up to us, but I see they cant get them out the trenches. Word has come in to hold trench till tonight, I am hungary and very thirsty, the brutes are killing our stretchers bearers as they take our wounded out the boys has passed it down the line take no prisioners, its getting dark again, thank God maybe some help will come to night then I can get a drink, Well I have had a long stop from my diary the trench has been blown in on me and I have got hit on the head, I was buried, but thanks to some of our boys they dug me out, my head is pretty sore but I think I am good for one or two yet, Its dark now and a runner has come, also relief 8th Durhams Terrt. 11 hundred strong, we are told we cant leave the trenches these troops being green and in for the first time, I dont care much for them they seem afraid I see great numbers of them who dont put their heads up, well maybe I am judging too quickly, they seem just like boys compare to our fellows. The night has been exciting terrific shelling of our position. Theres another shell burst, and 7 dead 21 wounded its a coal [box?],
Germans must be coming I hear the bugler calling them to a charge, I wonder if this diary is goining to finish here, no I believe God will see me through something says so. The Durhams has beat it and we are only 300 strong, Our officers shot some trying to stop them, Tuxfords voice could be heard above that awful noise Canadians stand fast, there was no need to tell us no one moved We have promised Alderstone we will never lose a trench. The colonel has told me to write my last note for home The Germans are not coming they are afraid of us if they only knew how many there was they would finish it up, but its only a matter of time the shells are doing there work, What has gone wrong with our guns this has been a slow murder, repelling attacks, and then laying in this hole in the ground waiting to be killed, Captain [Dud?] Dyer has gave me a [Karhir?] cloth to put on my head as my white bandgage makes too much of a target, poor old Hamilton I did not get thanking him he has had the eye taken out of his head with shrapnel and gone crazy word has come along Adjutant has gone down, our two majors, and [Les?] simpson has gone mad, Well I see where we finish in this trench we are about 15 yds apart now, with a trench full of suffocating and dying men,
Will the finder of this book Kindly send it on to James White 58 Preston St Bridgeton Glasgow
[new page, possible date continuity issue]
I cant think of the date, Dad. All is in Gods hands Theres only 100 of us out of a battallion but they will not take me alive, God bless you, you can tell them, Canadians die with their face towards the foe, God Protect my Soul Alex White 13693, 1st Canadians
[reverse-side of previous page, continuing April 24th]
This is the 24th and one of the regulars has come up, hold a hour more the Buffs has come to take our place, I have not wrote much for hours, I have had something to eat and a drink, The Buffs gave us three great cheers and shook hands with all thats left of the fith, I feel like crying, I guess I am for Hospital all right, my head is very sore and theres a sickness inside. We are going out now its dark, so I will have to leave this till I get more light
This morning we are away back from the line, but the gas is still coming, and the sound of the guns has been continuous The reinforcements are coming thousands of Tommie regulars and Terries with Gurka’s, Punjab, and other black troops, they must know of our terrible struggle as they all cheer as they pass us. Gee I am glad to see all those guns going and shelling Mr German wont get it all his own way now. Our Colonel addressed us today, it has been a day of sorrow he has cried, and every man has a lump in his throat [?] Page and the Colonel is all that is left of our officers thirteen being killed and the others wounded while the men number 110, the Colonel did not have much to say, Men of the Western Prairies I gathered you from the far Western points and in doing so I knew I had men second to none, We have left more than half our boys laying north of there in trenches, which were only scratches in the ground, smashed for 3 days, and nights by the Enemy Guns, and attacked 9 times in all, and each attack repeeled by the finest kind of bravery, I cant thank you Gentlemen but General [Alder.?] has told me to tell the men of the fith they have made a page in Canadian history that will stand for all time. I dont suppose you men knew what you were up against but from information at hand, we were outnumbered by 5 to 1. I am sorry there is only 110 men at this roll call, but they are this morning answering the call of a great Generall the call we will all answer You will get a long rest men untill the Battallion is made up, again I thank you for your stand it was magnificent, but my heart is too sore to say more, good morning Gentlemen Just got word I will have to go to hospital my tempeture is away up
I thought I would just take a note of this we are on our way to Rouen hospit. and I have saw a funny thing on the train, a wounded Canadian Highlander and a German soldier have been laying on the floor, and the Canadian has kicked him in the stomach, and the orderly has had to shift him by hisself, great excitement. French soldiers called out, Canadian wounded attack German prisioners at the docks, and the Germans have to go to hospital It seems as though our boys are trying to live up to the name the tommies has given us the white Gurkas, getting great attention here, French lady bringing flowers, they are taking buttons badges and pieces of our clothes, I suppose I will have to give my socks away next they all want to kiss you, Canada Bon Good, I suppose they must think we have killed old Kaizer Bill or worse than that drank his beer supple