Letter; 31st January, 1915.

31st January: Beuvry

Dear Tom,

Just a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. I hope you received my last letter from Gorre as I sent it home with one of the wounded same as I will this one. But the other letter I sent you came through the Officer so I could not say anything about where we were or what we were doing as I can do in letters sent home with the wounded.

We left Gorre and went back to Bethune (about 3 miles) for a rest but we only had four days.

I was slightly wounded the last day at Gorre but I’m alright again. We came up to this place on the 15th it is only about 3 miles from Bethune and about 2 miles from the last place we were in Gorre- but nearer La Bassée. It is only 3 miles from La Bassée and on the La Bassée Road.

Things were just normal for a few days, not a shell coming near our Hospital but we had an Advance dressing Station about 500 yards behind the trenches in a place called Quiney.

We have new Motor Ambulances attached to our Ambulance and they are very handy; we can get the sick and wounded away in no time. The drivers felt a bit shaky the first time they went up to the trenches but they do not think anything about it now.

I have got a job on one of the cars and have to look after the wounded while they are in the cars. The cars which are attached to a Field Ambulance are the only ones that have to go near the trenches.

As I was saying things were just normal for a few days but on the 25th -two days before Willie’s birthday-the enemy made an attempt to breakthrough. They managed to drive the Coldstreams back for about 500 yards, by force of numbers, but the Black Watch who were lying in reserve beside our Hospital, went off at the double and as soon as they reached the trenches drove the Germans back though they lost very heavily doing so. The Guards also lost a few men but the Germans lost a terrible number.

 

They also dropped a few shells around our Hospital but did not hit it though the shells killed a few of the troops that had come up from Bethune. That same day all our reserves were in the reserve trenches, for it was a heavy attack, but we beat them back with heavy losses.

Our Motors were ordered out and we had a hard day and night’s work and a very risky one at that for the attack lasted all day and well into the night. The shells and bullets were sweeping the roads and we had to rush the cars through at high speed. Only one car was knocked out of action, a shell blowing a hole in the petrol tank. We had to take another car up and tow the disabled one back.

We brought in 492 British wounded (mostly Black Watch) and a few Germans. One of the London Scottish was telling me, one time I was up at the Communication trench with our Motor, that he had never seen Ambulances so near the Firing Line. I told him he was “blethering”, but they are very nice chaps and helped us all they could as we had a few of their wounded.

We have regained all the trenches we lost and things were quiet on Willie’s birthday. We are being relieved by the 2nd Division, all the 1st Division are going back for a rest and hope to get a few days leave home, though I am not building up any hopes. I would like home for a few days.

Excuse this short and badly written letter as we are leaving here in a few hours and I want to send it home with one of the wounded before we go back for a rest. Hope to be home in a week or two and tell you some more. We are going back to a place called Lillers about 12 miles from here.

I may say that La Bassée is still in German hands and the position up here is a very hard one for our troops to hold.

Will write you a long letter as soon as I can.

From your old pal

Mac

Tell all the Boys I was asking for them.

Diaries; 30th – 31st January, 1915.

Saturday 30th January: Cuinchy

Things are very quiet here today we only had a few wounded to bring down. We had a run up in the afternoon showing some Officers of another Ambulance around and passed Winston Churchill only 200 yards from the front line of trenches at Cuinchy; he was having a look around.

Sunday 31st January: Beuvry

A quiet day but terrible cold having a fall of snow last night and it is now hard frost. We were nearly frozen going up for the wounded and sick but after carrying a few wounded we got warmed up. We are expected to leave tomorrow going back for a rest. I expect it will be No.4 Field Ambulance which will relieve us as their officers were here yesterday.

Diaries; 24th – 29th January, 1915.

Sunday 24th January: Cambrin

The Germans were a bit more lively today with their shells. When we were up collecting wounded a shell knocked one of our cars out of action, knocking a large hole in the petrol tank. We had to get another of our cars up to tow it back to Beuvry. The driver had a narrow escape but all over the German artillery have been very lively today.

Monday 25th January: Beuvry

About 7 am the Germans opened a heavy bombardment on us, even dropping around our hospital in Beuvry and also sending shells over our heads into the town of Bethune. Word was then passed down from Cuinchy that the Germans had broken through after suffering heavy loss.

The Black Watch who were billeted beside our hospital went off at the double. Our ambulance and cars following not long after.

When we got up to the firing line it was still very lively. Though our artillery were gradually getting the German artillery quieted down, heavy rifle fire was still going on.

The Black Watch had done a fine charge when they reached here and regained a lot of the lost ground.

We had our hands full of wounded but working with a will and the aid of our 7 Ambulance Car we had cleared away 492 in 8 hours.

Our hospital in Beuvry being full and under shell fire, we had then to get them from there to Bethune. An Ambulance convoy came up to Beuvry from Bethune and we very soon after a hard day’s and night’s work had our hospital almost clear again.

All over it has been a lively day, just as hot as we have been in or even wish to be in.

In the attack by the Germans in the afternoon at Chivency, the working party of the Black Watch charged with picks and shovels.

The car I am on had our last run down at 6 am after all the dressing station and houses round about Cambrin, Chivency and Cuinchy had been cleared of wounded. We then lay down for an hour’s rest.

The Black Watch lost between 2 and 3 hundred.

Tuesday 26th January: Beuvry

After an hour’s rest, we were up and after snatching some breakfast we were off up to the firing line again as we knew as soon as it was daylight a great many wounded would be found that could not be in the dark.

As soon as it was daylight the Germans dropped a few more shells round about our hospital in Beuvry killing and wounding a few of the Sussex who were lying in reserve beside us.

We had a good many wounded to bring down today after yesterday’s scrap, over 200 in all and a good few Germans amongst them. A great amount of unwounded prisoners were also brought down.

The ruins of the church at Cuinchy are full of German dead where the Black Watch trapped them and revenged their comrades.

Wednesday 27th January: Cambrin

What a change from Monday, everything is quiet here today and it is the Kaiser’s birthday. I think the German’s got enough on Monday to last them to the Kaiser’s next birthday.

The car I am on is on duty from 9 am today till 9 am tomorrow. We had not much to do all day but had to turn out 3 times throughout the night. Once for 6 men being wounded outside our dressing station with stray bullets. It is terrible cold at night.

Thursday 28th January: Cambrin

The Germans have been dropping a few coalboxes around about Cambrin today but doing very little damage though they keep us lively dodging about for cover.

Friday 29th January: Cuinchy

The Germans made another halfhearted attack today after heavily shelling our trenches but they had no heart behind it and it died away. They lost very heavy over it and never reached our trenches. It was nothing like Monday and in the afternoon all was quiet.

Letter; 23rd January, 1915.

Letter (censored) 23rd January: Beuvry

Dear Tom,

I am very sorry you have not received my letter I sent you thanking you for your parcel. I expect it has only been delayed and it might reach you before this one.

I received the parcel alright and have to thank you and Jim Roberts for your kindness. I won’t forget you.

I am sorry but the flask was broken and I had to send it home to Mrs McFarlane to be repaired. Everything else was alright.

Glad to hear Bob Wyse received my letter. I hope Jim Pye also received his.

I am glad the class is still going on well. Hope you will have good sport in the Competition.

Tell Joe to put me down as a reserve. We have had a game or two out here when we are having a rest but we are up collecting wounded again.

My old friends the Black Watch are beside me. Things are very quiet but now and then they liven up.

Glad that Martin Williams and Kirkpatrick are alright again. Hope to see some of the boys out here soon. I am alright again and keeping in good health. Sorry to say I have not received the parcel the girls Ferguson sent me but as I told you in my last letter some take a few days to come and some a few weeks. I have never come across any Argyles yet but will let you know when I do so.

We have been getting snow and frost out here this last week or so. It has been frost this last two days but it is better than rain. Hope to write a long letter to you soon. Hope you will receive my other letter alright.

From Your Old Friend

Jim

Diaries; 6th – 10th January, 1915.

Wednesday 6th January: Festubert

Still the same old round from our advanced hospital at Chateau Gorre up to the trenches at Festubert. Bring any wounded or sick there is back to our hospital then send them on down to Bethune to our other hospital. Then we are finished for the day unless a serious case turns up then we have to go up and bring it down.

Continue reading “Diaries; 6th – 10th January, 1915.”