Saturday 5th September: Rozay(-en-Brie)
We marched off from here at 6am. A great many of our troops had passed along the road throughout the night. We are still going south-east but are getting it a bit easier today though it is just as hot. In the afternoon we reached a place called Rozay(-en-Brie) where we halted and we have been told we are to spend the night here.
We found a place to sleep; it is under a Guillotine and is shaded by trees. Having a walk around before turning in, we found the place full of refugees, women and children, cattle, carts and wagon loads of furniture. We went off to sleep as we might be on the move early.
Sunday 6th September: Rozay(-en-Brie)/ Dagny
7am We have not left Rozay(-en-Brie) yet, there is some big move on today. We did not leave here till 10am then we started to advance. I don’t know yet what the new move means but we are all cheerier than we have been from the start. We are advancing in an easterly direction and had only gone about 4 miles when we halted. Heavy firing is going on in front.
‘We have got them on the run” was the word passed back along the line to us. After waiting about 6 hours on the roadside we then marched on, singing quite happily.
We halted at night outside a village called Dagny, going round the field we were billeted in, looking for some straw for a bed; we came across some dead Uhlans which we buried. They had been killed in the fight earlier in the day.
Monday 7th September: Dagny
We did not leave here till mid-day, heavy firing is going on in front. We marched off at mid-day and marched on till 8pm. Advancing almost due north all day. All the villages we passed through today we saw the German’s work, shops broken open and the contents strewn across the road. We were billeted outside one of these villages about a mile away in a field. I could not get the name of the village.
Tuesday 8th September: Dagny/ St.Ledger/ Homdgvillies
We moved off from here about 6am after having some tea and biscuits. We are advancing in a north-easterly direction. The Germans are retiring very fast; we can hardly keep touch with them.
There is a great amount of aeroplanes up today, British, French and German all flying over our heads.
Our guns are hard at it in front again. We rested at mid-day at a village called St. Ledger. After one hours rest we set off again on a forced march as the Cavalry were being hard pressed in front and the Infantry and Artillery were hurrying to their assistance. After 4 hours hard marching we had to go out with the stretchers and bring in the wounded. Some Black Watch, some Cavalry and some German wounded.
A great many Germans were lying about dead, we had a wounded German officer too and there was also an R.A.M.C. Officer and a Private killed.
We marched on again in a thunderstorm but billeted at last in a field outside the village of Homdgvillies after doing well over 30 miles not counting going out for the wounded. It was still raining as we lay down but covering ourselves with our waterproof sheets; we went off to sleep except for those on duty.
Wednesday 9th September: Homdgvillies/ Charly/ Le Thiolet
We were awakened at 3am and advanced at 4am as the Germans had retired in the night. The sights the enemy is leaving behind them are awful. The roads are strewn with broken bottles and shop doors and windows are all smashed in. Every empty bottle we see someone shouts “Another dead marine” (one of Tommy’s* jokes). We are advancing at a good pace and a good many of the troops are falling out owing to the hard marching.
We passed over the river Marne and through a village the Germans had only just left this morning, it is called Charly. The people here were almost in tears with joy; they cheered us and pressed fruit of all descriptions on us.
We had to climb a steep hill after going through the village but halted in a field on the top next to the Black Watch. I went over and had a talk with a few of my old friends. Cooper was telling me they lost 2 killed and 30 wounded the other day when we had to go out and bring in their wounded.
After 2 hours rest we were on the move again passing a great amount of British and French cavalry. I have never seen so many Cavalry before. It was a great sight just as the sun was beginning to set and they were forming up on a wide stretch of open country.
We billeted in a field in the next village called Le Thiolet. It is about 45 miles north-east of Paris. We took a number of German prisoners today, they have just passed us. A German aeroplane is flying over our heads and our guns are firing at it but did not hit it.
*Tommy Atkins (often just Tommy) is slang for a common soldier in the British Army. A common belief is that the name was chosen by the Duke of Wellington after having been inspired by the bravery of a soldier at the Battle of Boxtel in 1794 during the Flanders Campaign. After a fierce engagement, the Duke, in command of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, spotted the best man-at-arms in the regiment, Private Thomas Atkins terribly wounded. The private said “It’s all right, sir. It’s all in a day’s work” and died shortly after.
Thursday 10th September: Le Thiolet/ Courchamp/ Priez
We had a long rest in bed this morning and would have enjoyed it only the rain came down that hard we had to get up or be washed away. After breakfast we moved off at 9am and had advanced about 5 miles when we received a shock. Our advance guard, losing touch with the Cavalry scouts, ran into a trap laid by the Germans.
The Sussex* were the advance guard and lost 20 killed and 40 wounded. The Northamptons** also lost a few. It was here also that General Findlay was killed. All this happened between the villages of Courchamp and Priez. We billeted for the night at Priez after assisting with the wounded. One or two men of another Ambulance were also wounded with shell fire.
*2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment part of the 2nd Brigade 1st Division
**1st Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment part of the 2nd Brigade 1st Division
Friday 11th September: Priez/ Coiney/ Recourt/ Villeniurestur-Fere
Marched off at 6am, still advancing, our Artillery having driven them further back and revenged yesterday’s loss. We are being told some terrible stories by the people left in the villages of German cruelty and outrages on girls and women.
We came across a lot of German dead, killed by our shell fire, then we passed through one or two villages called Coiney and Recourt and halted at mid-day at a village on the top of a steep hill called Villeniurestur-Fere. We billeted here for the rest of the day and night but did not enjoy the rest as it rained the whole time.