Diaries; 1st – 2nd October, 1914.

Thursday 1st October: Vendresse

This day also opened very quiet but before mid-day, the guns on both sides were hard at it. It is almost deafening at times. The Engineers buried the shell that came through our billet as it had not exploded and somebody might set it off. It was 29 inches long, 8 thick and weighed 220 lbs.

Two would be poets of our Ambulance wrote and stuck up over the place where it was buried the following verses

Here lies poor old Coalbox Bill
To hear him speak makes one quite ill
He came uninvited from Germans afar
Whistling and singing Yah, Yah, Yah
In the barn, alongside he made quite a dent
But no one stopped to pay the rent.

Here lies a shell of German invention
To do us great harm ‘twas his intention
And in striking a barn it caused great alarm
Whilst the troops were singing the 100 Psalm
Don’t be alarmed the danger is o’er
But if it goes off will say Au Revour
So now will conclude with love and affection
Sincerely trusting there will be no resurrection.

As we were ordered down the cellars before the shell came, the Parson held a service and at the service we sang the 100 Psalm.

Friday 2nd October: Vendresse

This day opened very quiet owing to the thick mist but later on it cleared away and along with my chum had a walk up to the fire trench of the Black Watch and had a talk with Cooper. He has come through it so far alright. I was glad to see him as I thought I had recognised him amongst the dead in front of the trenches.

About 7pm the enemy opened another heavy artillery fire on us then tried to advance but were driven back. Then everything grew quiet for the night but 4 of us had to do guard on one of the Camerons who had turned insane*. It is a wonder we don’t have more cases of his kind.

*By the end of the war, the British Army had dealt with 80,000 cases of what was eventually termed shell shock. One of the standard books on it made the point that a soldier who suffered such a neurosis had not lost his reason but was labouring under the weight of too much reason: his senses were “functioning with painful efficiency”.


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