Letter; 25th September, 1914.

Dear Tom,

I have not had much chance of writing to let you know how I am getting on but I have sent you a few postcards. I do not know if you got them, as I have received no word from you.

We are not allowed to say what we are doing, or where we are, and all our letters are supposed to be read by our Commanding Officer, but I am going to send this letter home with one of the wounded. I hope you will get it but you might not as it is very hard to get a letter sent home.

The only thing they allow us to send home is one of these printed postcards which I am sending with this letter.

I never thought when I left home we were going to come through what we have come through. We were all told off to our different jobs before we left Aldershot and I am one of the Stretcher Bearers of the R.A.M.C. No.3 Field Ambulance, First Division, Expeditionary Force.

We were made into teams just the same as in the shipyard-five in each team, four and a No.4 in charge. Our duty is to go out and collect the wounded and bring them back to the Ambulance Wagon. The wagons then take them to some clearance hospital, or the train to go to the base or home.

So you see I am nearer the firing line than I thought I would be. In fact, we were nearer than we should have been last week for we lost our No.4 killed but let me start from the beginning when we landed in France.

As everybody knows we went right into Belgium on the train, and the next day (A Sunday at that) we were under fire, so you see we had not much time to think about it.

If you follow the doings of the First Division or hear anything about them you will know we are there. The Guards are in the First Division also the Black Watch, Cameron Highlanders, South Wales Borderers, the Welsh Regiment, the Gloucester Regiment and one or two others. So if you see anything about them you will know we were there.

We were only one day in Belgium and we had to retire right back through France till we were into a town 271/2 miles off Paris-Meaux they call it. Then we started to advance again. We had to do some terrible marches when we were retiring about 30 miles a day under a scorching sun and sometimes we were very short of rations and had to sleep anywhere.

One day when we were being pressed by the enemy (28th August), the 12th Lancers and the Scots Greys made a great charge at the enemy’s cavalry and one of the 12th Lancers captains was wounded, Captain Mitchell. I was one of the Bearers that went back over the battlefield for him but he was dead and had been taken away in another ambulance.Another day the Gloucester regiment was shelled in the trenches and about 30 wounded and 3 killed. A Captain Shipway being one of those killed. We had to go into the trenches for them so you see we are seeing something.

This was nothing to what we went through on the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th of September. In fact, we are still in the same place as we were on the 13th and the battle has been going on all the time but the first three days were terrible. The First Division lost a terrible lot of men, every regiment in it lost heavily. I cannot give you any figures, the sights I have seen I hope never to see again.

We don’t know how the rest of the Divisions got on but the First Division lost a lot and the enemy lost three times as much. The enemy's dead were piled up in heaps and the dead and the wounded lay out in the open for days before anybody could get near them.

On the 15th, 23 of us in ‘C’ section were in a village called Chivvy. Every barn in that village was filled with wounded. We were bringing them in every time we had a chance. But on the 15th we went out in front of our own firing line to try and get some wounded in, when we lost 2 men- killed and 3 wounded. The No.4 of my squad was killed a chap named Price also a chap named Duncan. Ross, McGill and Abre were wounded all inside half an hour. We went out too far and the rest of us had to run back for cover and leave our men lying but we got them in after it was dark. We were not allowed to go so far out again as the enemy was shooting at everybody they saw.

Their shells have been bursting round us every day since we came into contact. We are getting used to it and have some fine laughs at some of us running for cover, or watch a duel in the air between two aeroplanes.

The sights on the hillside are awful. The Germans are fine equipped in fact they could not be better. Everything they have is up to date and all made of the lightest. Half their things are made of aluminium and everything was new.

However hundreds of them have surrendered-new kits and all- and hundreds more are lying dead on the hillside. We are looking after their wounded as well as our own.

We had a very busy time but we are getting it quieter now. One or two a day, nothing like what we have had. My old regiment (The Black Watch) fairly got it, I counted 28 of them dead on the top of one hill alone about 5 yards apart.

I am trying to give you an idea of what it is really like out here. If ever I manage to come through this War I hope I will never see another. Some of the men here have been all through South Africa and say that the worst battle there was nothing to this.

I wish it was all finished till I get back to work again. Tell Jim Pye I cannot manage to write to him just now. I am only chancing this letter getting through to you but hope to see you all again soon.

From your old pal

J. McFarlane

P.S. Drop a note and let me know how you are all getting on.


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