Diaries; 19th – 25th September, 1914.

Saturday 19th September: Chivy

The enemy made a determined attempt to break through our lines here last night but was driven off. The night favoured the attack as it was as dark as hell and raining. It has been raining for nearly 4 days with a break now and then. We got in some more wounded that had been lying out there for 4 days and nights in the rain. You will have an idea what condition they were in when the troops in the trenches are wet through and covered with mud and we are not much better.

Our Artillery are on the hills behind us and the Germans when trying to find them drop the shells on us. Then they shell the whole village from end to end. We have to find the best cover we can as the houses are no good as they have almost all been smashed to hell.

Sunday 20th September: Chivy

All night long the rifles and machine guns were hammering away at it and as day broke the big guns took up the argument, this is the Germans favourite day-Sunday. They seem as lively as ever.

Along with another chap, I went out to a field to try to get some potatoes. A sniper was having a few shots at us but as he was a bad shot we worked away getting some potatoes for our dinner till a Jack Johnson* whizzed over our heads and burst only a few yards away to be immediately followed by another. We thought it was time to shift, the rest of the men had a laugh at us running with a sack of potatoes on our back to where they were under cover but we had a good dinner of potatoes and bully.

About 6pm we were told to hold ourselves in readiness as we were going to leave this position. It is costing too many lives to hold it. The 4th and 6th Divisions reinforced us in the battle yesterday but have already lost very heavy. We lay down for a short sleep, all ready to move off.

*Jack Johnson was the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion Johnson’s name was used by British troops to describe the impact of German 150 mm heavy artillery shells which had a black colour.

Monday 21st September: Chivy/ Vendresse

After a few hours’ sleep, we were awakened at 1am and as it was terrible dark we had a fine job getting a horse and cart off the old farmer to take our medical stores away in as we had no Ambulance waggon here. He kicked up a terrible row and most of the Brigade had retired back so we had to hurry or we were done for.

We managed to get away in front of the last regiment to leave and marched right back to where the rest of the Bearers of our Ambulance were at Vendresse, we reached them about 4am.This place is just as hot for shell fire but not for bullets as Chivy. They shelled here all day doing a lot of damage to the village.

Tuesday 22nd September: Vendresse

Another day of the usual shower of shells and all last night both sides were blazing away for all they were worth and as soon as daylight came the heavy guns started. Shells whizzed over our heads and are bursting all around. I don’t know how this house we have made into a hospital has escaped. We are quite used to the shells now and often count those that do not burst.

We received a free issue of newspapers today, the Daily Mail & Daily Sketch, the first English papers we have seen since we landed in France. They were dated the 11th and we are now beginning to understand a little of what we have been doing and what is going on.

We have been getting very few wounded today and the Germans have quietened down a good bit this afternoon but we witnessed a fight in the air between a French and a German aeroplane. The French one came down very fast in our lines but he seemed to land steady enough. The German flew back over his own lines dropping signals all the time, the signal is a set of bombs which burst in the air leaving a trail of crystal like smoke that marks the position of the British guns. The remainder of the day was quiet.

Wednesday 23rd September: Vendresse

This morning opened very quiet and the sun shone brightly so we took the chance to do a little cleaning up till the shells started to drop around us again then we had to get under cover. We are all fine and fresh now ready for anything or any sort of marching. Nothing of importance occurred today just the usual shelling.

Thursday 24th September: Vendresse

Another day of the same usual shelling, we had another issue of newspapers today and we offer our thanks to the people who are responsible for them.
One or two German aeroplanes over and our guns fire shells all around them then they fly back again to their own lines. The Germans are the finest equipped soldiers I have ever seen. Everything seems to be made for lightness. The day finished quiet.

Friday 25th September: Vendresse

Still another day of the same shelling, shelling, shelling but in the afternoon it grew heavier and heavier. They shelled the village we are in till it was like a reeking furnace. A few men and horses were wounded but only one man killed. They got lively just before dark again they have been dropping the coal boxes 7 amongst us today doing a lot of damage but very few casualties for the amount of shells.

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