Saturday 12th September: Villeniurestur-Fere/ Loupeigne/ Thays/ Mont-Notre-Dame/ Mont-Ne-De/ Vauxcere
We marched off from here at 6am passed through the village of Loupeigne then Thays and halted at one called Mont-Notre-Dame after marching for 6 hours.
The Germans are on a hill in front of us and our Artillery are all around us. Some are galloping into action a little on our left and all are keeping up a heavy fire. Our Brigade are advance today and as I write this I can see the Infantry of our Brigade skirmishing up the hill in front of us. We have to wait till they clear the enemy off the ridge in front. I am thinking of the people at home. They will be watching a football match as it is almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon while I sit here and watch our Infantry skirmish up the slopes of the hill and dodging the shells at the same time. I prefer a football match to this.
We are advancing again, our Infantry having taken the ridge. It is raining very heavy now though it has rained for 3 days. We passed through the village of Mont-Ne-De. It is a hell of a night, the rain is coming down in torrents and it is as dark as hell. We had to assist the horses to get the wagons up the hill which was 2 feet deep in mud. About midnight we billeted in a schoolroom in the village at the top of the hill, the village is called Vauxcere.
A German Battery, who were supposed to be drunk, were captured here by our Brigade. We are all glad to get under cover tonight, out of the rain, as we are all wet through.
Sunday 13th September: Vauxcere/ Lengreceval/ Bourg-et-Comin
We were up at 5am but there is no word to move off yet, the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. We are all glad to see a change in the weather after 3 days rain. We all had a good wash and (shave) the first for a fortnight. Then we had some tea, biscuits and bacon for breakfast.
I have just heard that the bridge over the river in front of us had been blown up by the enemy. That was why we were waiting here. After waiting nearly all day we received the order to advance at 3pm in the afternoon but we made very slow progress. After advancing about a mile we halted for about an hour then on again, then halt and all the time our guns were hard at it. All around us a great Artillery duel was going on.
Darkness came down but we still pushed on and the guns kept covering our advance. We passed through a village called Lengreceval then round by the canal bank, keeping along the canal bank for some distance as the bridge over the river further on had been blown up. After going through some private grounds, we passed over a bridge where the canal crossed the river and then across cultivated land we managed to reach a road at last.
It was a terrible job getting the wagon over the fields in the dark and along the canal bank and all the time we could see the enemy had their searchlight on the bridge they had blown up. We took the wrong turning after getting over the river and canal and almost landed in the German lines but found our mistake in time.
The guns are hard at it and shells are bursting all around but after finding the right road we reached a village called Bourg-et-Comin.
It quietend down a bit after we reached here, so we slept in the square alongside the South Wales Borderers. The river we passed over tonight is called the River Aisne.
Monday 14th September: Bourg-et-Comin/ Vendresse/ Bon-Chivy/ Chivy
Awakened at 5am with the rain battering in our face, wet through we had some breakfast then we had the order to advance. The 1st Brigade as advance guard, the 3rd Brigade supports and the 2nd as reserves. The firing was getting very hot as we advanced but as it was very misty we could not see what was going on. A slight drizzle was falling and we had our waterproof sheets over our shoulders. After about a mile along the road, which we took about an hour to cover, we halted. Then the word was passed along the line that some German prisoners were coming along and we were not to say anything to them as they passed. About 2 minutes after between 1 and 2 hundred passed up the hill which we had now started to descend.
After a few minutes along came another message, everybody to take his waterproof sheet of his shoulders as our troops had been taking the waterproof sheets in the mist for the green uniform of the enemy, the result being they were firing on their own men.
The mist started to lift and the sun was trying hard to break through, the clearer it grew the faster the shells burst around us. The Germans had the range of the road, we were advancing along, to an inch and shrapnel was bursting above us in showers. A few of our Ambulance were hit but none dangerous. The Batteries on each side of the road were keeping up a heavy fire though shells were bursting all around them.
We reached a farm at the foot of the road and got our wagons behind it. No.1 Field Ambulance was in the farm and the wounded were coming in wholesale. The bullets were whistling over our heads and we keep down as much as possible. Having a look around I saw our infantry advancing up the hill in front in extended order, the shell fire and rifle fire were growing fiercer every minute. The wounded were flowing in, some walking and some with assistance.
We were not long idle, our Brigade wanted our assistance, 30 men went off with stretchers under an Officer and shortly after another section went off then came our turn. We advanced up the hill till we came to the village of Vendresse then Captain Worthington who was in charge told Captain Dale we had to find the 3rd Brigade and collect their wounded. They are in a village called Chivy. Night was creeping down but the guns on both sides were still hard at it though it was quieter than it had been all day.
We set out to find the village of Chivy, wounded seemed to be everywhere, every barn or house we stopped at to enquire our way seemed to be full of wounded who had crawled there for cover from the shells and bullets. Some we picked up on the roadside, dressed, and put under cover.
We passed a Staff Officer who had captured 50 Germans with 7 men. We also passed one of the Black Watch and a Cameron with a German officer. We reached the village of Bon-Chivy about midnight. A farm there was full of wounded but as they had been dressed we had to push on to Chivy where we were urgently required. We reached it an hour later but as nobody seemed to know where we were wanted we threw ourselves down in a barn amongst some straw for an hours sleep till daylight.
Tuesday 15th September: Chivy/ Bon-Chivy
About 4am we were up and out looking for the wounded as we knew there was a great amount lying on the hills round about. Shells were dropping everywhere and bullets are pinging past us, there must be thousands lost on both sides owing to the amount of dead lying about. We went off to search a wood on the side of a hill but only found 2 wounded. A great amount of dead and rifles and all sorts of equipment lying about.
We went up another hill and a little in front of our own trenches we found 2 wounded Germans. There were 30 Black Watch dead and a great amount of Germans. We thought we were quite safe here but the outpost told us to keep under cover but the Germans spotted us and sent a few shells and bullets after us. We took away their two wounded though their shells followed us all the way back to the village.
We had just got in when we were sent out again to bring in some wounded in front of the Glosters*. They were holding the ridge on the right of the village. As we passed along the road which led up to their position we were met with a shower of bullets but we kept on till we reached a wood on the side of the hill. We were now under cover so kept on till we came out on the other side where we found the Glosters firing line lying a few yards in front of the woods. A good many Camerons were lying dead in the wood. We lay down beside the Glosters firing line till we were told it was safe to go out to bring in the wounded who were lying on the crest of the hill in front.
After a few minutes we were told it was alright so the first squad went off to the right and the second squad went straight in front. The remainder of us were told to wait where we were till we were wanted. One man came back a few minutes later and told us another squad was wanted but before we could move one of the Cameron scouts came running back and told us some of our men had been killed. We wanted to go and assist them but a Captain of the Glosters would not allow us till he had the Germans shifted.
Shortly after two men of one squad crawled back with one of their squad wounded through the mouth, the other man of the squad being killed. The squad on the right-one man crawled back; he was wounded through the arm. I dressed him and took him back to the village. He told me another of the squad had been wounded and had crawled back with him but had been wounded again so could not go any further. Another of the squad had been killed and the last man of the squad lay out till it was dark and brought in the wounded Coldstream they had gone out for.
We made another attempt to go out for the wounded as it was getting dark but too many bullets were coming over and the Officer would not allow us. About 8pm we had to go to the village of Bon-Chivy and load the wounded into the wagons. We had to stay there for the remainder of the night as the wagons could not hold all the wounded there.
*The Gloucestershire Regiment nicknamed the Glorious Glosters as they carried more battle honours on their colours than any other regiment.
Wednesday 16th September: Bon-Chivy/ Chivy
After two hours sleep I was awakened by shells bursting all around us. We looked after the remainder of the wounded till the wagons came back in the afternoon then we managed to clear all the wounded from the village, the last load getting away under a heavy shell fire. After the last load had gone we went back to Chivy where we had every house and barn full of wounded to get away but we have just to wait till the wagons manage to get through to us.
We are all now very hungry as we have had nothing to eat but German biscuits we had taken out of dead Germans kits.
It is a terrible sight to see the wounded lying about in all the barns here but we are doing our best for them, if the wagons would only come so as we could get them away from this nerve wracking shell fire.
The names of our ambulance killed yesterday were Duncan and Price, wounded McGill, Ross and Abre. The others got safe back.
Thursday 17th September: Chivy
After a few hours’ sleep we awakened as dawn broke as one cannot sleep with the terrible noise the guns and shells are making. They are at it as hard as ever again. It is just like the wind howling on a stormy night, starting slowly with one gun it gradually increases till every gun round about is going its hardest then it gradually dies down again then starts all over again till you think your head was going to burst.
Nowhere in this village is it safe, bullets and shells are dropping in every street, one just has to trust to luck. We went out and brought in some more wounded but they would not allow us to go far in front of the trenches this time and we all got back safe with the wounded. In the afternoon a convoy of French Motor Ambulances and some of our horse wagons managed to get through to us and we worked liked Demons to get the wagons loaded and away but the Germans seemed to know we were getting our wounded away for they shelled the roads like the Devil. We stuck in and managed to get a few hundred away. The Cars all getting away, full up, without being hit. Our luck was in; we just have to wait till the cars can manage to come back again for the remainder. A great many wounded are lying out on the hills yet but we cannot get out to them. The Regimental Stretcher Bearers are doing good work at nights bringing in all they can find in the dark also burying the dead. We have had a great many German wounded to look after too.
Friday 18th September: Chivy
Another day of the same as yesterday, we had more French cars here today and managed to clear nearly all the wounded away, some of the poor chaps have been lying here for days.
The farm we are staying in the Farmer and his Wife are still here. I don’t trust him; he is always looking round and is not frightened at the shells though one burst against the side of the house. We are living off his hens, biscuits and potatoes. He is always shouting at the top of his voice.
The cars and Ambulance Wagons are only going to come at night as it is too dangerous for them in the day time, they are doing good work. We have been praised for the way we have got away the wounded from here. The German wounded we brought in have also been trying to show their thanks to us by kissing our hands and doing everything they could to make us understand. We did our best for them but always see to our own men first.
We were nearly left behind last night as the Brigade were ready to move off and we did not know.