Diaries; 29th – 31st May, 1915.

Saturday 29th May: Fouquieres

Everything quiet. Three of the Drivers of our cars left for England, the driver of the car I am on being one of them. I have two new mates on the car now.

Sunday 30th May: Fouquieres

Still here at Fouquieres everything quiet. Weather splendid. A few aeroplanes overhead.

Monday 31st May: Fouquieres.

Still here doing nothing.

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Diaries; 22nd – 28th May, 1915.

Saturday 22nd May: Bethune/ Fouquieres

The Germans shelled here last night again very heavy and we had to shift our hospital outside Bethune. The weather is still splendid and the artillery duel is still going on. We left Bethune in the afternoon and went to a village a mile and a half to the south called Fouquieres. We can still hear the guns hard at it.

Sunday 23rd May: Fouquieres

Had a very quiet day here and the weather is still good. We can still hear the guns hard at it.

Monday 24th May: Fouquieres

Another quiet day for us.

Tuesday 25th May: Fouquieres

The guns a terrible din today we can hear them very plain even though we are over 5 miles behind the line.

Wednesday 26th May: Fouquieres

We were called at 4.30 this morning to assist the London Terrier Division to clear their wounded; they had made an attack at Chivency taking three lines of trenches. They had managed to clear all their wounded away before we got there so we were not needed and went back to Fouquieres.

Thursday 27th May: Fouquieres

Things are very quiet after yesterday though our guns are hard at it.

Friday 28th May: Fouquieres

Things are still quiet except the guns.

Diaries; 15th – 21st May, 1915.

Saturday 15th May: Bethune

Things are still quiet except for the guns in the distance and one or two wounded coming in.

This has been a heavy month of casualties for us. The 2nd Division is going to attack tonight.

Sunday 16th May: Bethune

Called out at 4 am to assist the 2nd Division with their wounded. They attacked last night at Richebourg and made some headway but have lost heavily. We are helping to clear their wounded from Windy Corner at Richebourg to our hospital at Bethune. The Germans are shelling the roads; our car having some narrow escapes. Our troops have advanced and a good many German prisoners have been brought in.

We have been kept running all day without a stop and likely to be all night.

Monday 17th May Bethune

Still, at it getting the wounded down to Bethune, we have not stopped all night but about mid- day we had cleared them nearly all away. In the afternoon we went back to Bethune for a rest but had only been there two hours when we were called out again. Our troops again advanced taking some more trenches and more prisoners.

It is raining like hell and the roads are being cut up under the traffic. We have an all-night job in front of us again; the wounded are flowing in.

Tuesday 18th May: Richebourg

Still hard at it and have not stopped all night having a good many of the Irish Guards. They made a good charge over 600 yards of open country last night at 9 pm. The advance has been stopped owing to bad weather, we were working all night up to the knees in mud and it is still raining.

Wednesday 19th May: Richebourg

We were at it all last night again though we were not as busy as the last three nights but we got in some of the Munsters who were wounded on the 9th, they having lay out there all this time. Mid-day we are now resting 1000 yards behind the 1st line of trenches and the Germans are shelling us heavily though none of us has been hit. They are also shelling Bethune but doing little damage.

The Canadians are relieving the 2nd Division and it is still raining as hard as ever, mud everywhere.

Thursday 20th May Richebourg

After standing by all night in case we were needed we were sent back to Bethune at 2 pm.

The weather is clearing and a heavy artillery duel is going on, the Germans sending over a good many heavy shells.

Friday 21st May: Bethune

The Germans shelled Bethune last night again and have done so every night this week past.

A heavy bombardment is going on and the noise is heard here very plain. The weather is splendid today.

Our Bearers were relieved at Beuvry today and came back to Bethune. They had a very quiet time up there.

Diaries; 9th – 14th May, 1915.

Sunday 9th May: Richebourg St. Vaast

Awakened at 5 am and our artillery opened the bombardment at 5.15. At 5.30 every gun was firing as quick as the gunners could load it. The noise was terrible we could hardly hear ourselves speak.

Before our airmen had flown over the enemy’s lines without a shot being fired at them but the first one of ours that went over this morning they fired shot after shot at it in rapid succession but did not hit it.

After about an hour and a half of the bombardment, our guns quietened down for a few minutes then started over again, our infantry having charged when the guns quietened down.

Only a few minutes after this and the wounded started to stream towards our temporary hospital. They were soon walking down in hundreds and our car was being used for dressing them while the other cars were taking them down to Bethune as fast as they could. Our Bearers went out to bring in the stretcher cases and as I was not needed at the car I went out with them and we started to carry wounded down to our hospital which was a good mile.

One of the first wounded I helped was my own Best Man at my marriage.

By the forenoon, we were working at high pressure with the rush of wounded as we were not allowed to use the main roads for our cars. They had to be kept clear for the ammunition and reinforcements.

The attack was not a success and the 2nd and 3rd brigades got a severe cutting up. One of our officers of the R.A.M.C. attached to the 4th Royal Welsh was killed while dressing the wounded. While we were carrying our wounded down to our Advance Dressing Station we had often to jump into a ditch on the roadside with the stretchers to let the ammunition column past. One had to be very smart as they were going at the gallop as a few shells were dropping about. One coalbox dropping only 15 yards of us when we had a wounded man on the stretcher, it was a good job it was soft ground it dropped into.

By mid-day, we had cleared almost 1000 wounded and still, we could not cope with the rush, there being a hundred or two stretcher cases at Windy Corner.

The General ordered another bombardment for the afternoon. I happened to be up at Windy corner at the time and at 3.15pm the bombardment started. From where we were we could see our shells dropping in the enemy’s lines, our 9.2 making great holes in the enemy’s trenches. After about an hour and a half, the guns shifted their fire onto the second line of trenches and our infantry charged. The Black Watch and Camerons of the 1st Brigade and two regiments of the 3rd Brigade with the London Terriers Division on their right.

The Black Watch and Camerons managed to take the 1st line then part of the second but had to retire back to their original trenches at night owing to the troops on their right being held up and not having taken the 1st line.

We now had our hands full again, what with the wounded left over from the first attack and the wounded from the second; we had to work harder than ever. After the attack had died down we were allowed to get our cars up to Windy corner and it allowed us to get the wounded away much quicker but as hard as we worked it took us till 10 am next morning before the last wounded man was sent off to Bethune.

Our casualties must have been between 2 and 3 thousand in the 1st Division alone, we having passed through our hands about 2000 wounded and we never advanced an inch.

We are not downhearted as the General told the Division they had done all that was required.

Monday 10th May: Richebourg

We were just going to have a wash and a sleep when we were told that the 1st Division had been relieved for a rest, the 2nd Division relieving them. Everybody was well pleased the way we had got the wounded away our C.O. telling us we had done splendid. We are not downhearted but all tired and sleepy. We were relieved at 2 pm and went back to Bethune to our main hospital where we all lay down and had a good sleep. The Nuns in the Convent we were billeted in being very good to us.

Tuesday 11th May: Bethune

We are all feeling better after a good night’s rest and the weather this morning is still splendid. There is word the 1st Division is going into action again tomorrow at Cuinchy but we are not certain. There seems no rest now, we have got to advance.

Wednesday 12th May: Bethune

We are still in Bethune but our Division has moved up La Bassée way near Cuinchy. The guns are still hard at it and a few wounded are coming in from the 2nd Division.

Thursday 13th May: Bethune

One Section of our Bearers has been sent off to take over the Advance Hospital at Beuvry, the Division having taken over some trenches of the French on the right of Cuinchy. Three cars have gone up with the Bearers but we have been left in Bethune.

The Germans dropped about a dozen shells in Bethune last night killing two women and two children but very little damage done.

Friday 14th May: Bethune

Everything is very quiet here today. Still, a few wounded are coming in.

 

 

Letter; 8th May, 1915.

Letter 8th May: Richebourg St. Vaast

Dear Tom,

I am writing you a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health and getting on all right.

I have been wondering if you received my last two letters and have come to the conclusion that you have not, so I am writing this, as I think I would have heard from you had you received my letters.

In my first, I was telling you I had a walk through the village of Neuve Chapelle where I picked up two German 13lb shells. These I sent on to you, also some German cartridges and a French dart. Both shells were in separate parcels as we are only allowed to send a parcel weighing 11lbs. I had, therefore, to send them in two lots, I also told you in that letter about receiving your parcel for which I thank you all. I did not send the letter in one of the shells; I sent it home by one of the wounded.

My second letter I sent in answer to your letter asking if I had received your parcel and stating you had received one of the shells. You ought to have received two parcels and two shells. I also mentioned in my second letter that I was sorry the parcels had gone off without my paying postage on them as I did not know they were away until it was too late.

I am now going to tell you something else. We are in the village mentioned at the head of this letter and this is the night before one of the big battles which will drive the Germans back to Germany. It is at the same place as we made the last attack; which was half a success and half a failure. I mean Neuve Chapelle.

We have more guns and ammunition than we had at the last attack. I heard we had about 1000 guns in this position and the number of troops is enormous – mostly Highlanders and Indians.

The bombardment and advance was to have commenced this morning but was canceled last night for 24 hours, so does not come off until tomorrow.

We are expected to make good headway and everything is prepared. My opinion, Tom, is that it will be a much bigger success than anyone here thinks. I believe we will surprise ourselves in the progress we will make and I still think the war will finish by August.

I have not much faith in the Russians. I don’t think they will get much further than where they are at present.

You will know if this advance of ours comes off or not if you get this letter, as I will send it home with one of the first wounded in the Advance.

The Motor Ambulance Car I am on has been made into a Travelling Operating Theatre and we are going close up to the trenches the first thing in the morning, as we know there will be few houses left when we advance and we will be right in the thick of the fighting. The rest of the cars are not allowed as far up as us, as the roads have to be kept clear for guns and ammunition coming up.

Don’t forget, it will be a bloody job and I hope to be able to do my duty, as I think it will be the worst we have been through yet. We will most likely be met with poisonous gasses, but that won’t stop us.

I expect it will be in the papers by the time you get this letter so you will know I am in it, and well to the front of it too. I might not get the chance of writing for a few days now as we will be very busy.

The Germans have most of their troops round Ypres way but I don’t think they have many here. They will get a big shock let us hope and I hope to get some good souvenirs in this affair.

I sent a photo to Bob Wyse which we had taken in Bethune. I thought we would have managed to get half a dozen at the least and we only got one each till he got the paper for them. It was a priest in Bethune who took it and he now says he cannot get any more paper at present so we are stuck for the rest. Ask Bob if he got it to let all the boys see it, then give it to Mrs. McF. I am sorry to ask him to do this but we were so certain of getting more and she is wanting to know how I am looking after nine months of it. If I get any more I will send one on to Bob in place of it.

Hope everybody is keeping well and tell them all I was asking for them. No more at present; will write later.

J. McF.

Diaries; 1st – 7th May, 1915.

Saturday 1st May: Bethune

The car I am orderly on made into an Operating Car to be used as an Advance Dressing Station when we advance.

Sunday 2nd May: Bethune

We are getting everything ready for a big advance.

Monday 3rd May: Bethune

We are still here in Bethune practicing with our car and the Bearers.

Tuesday 4th May to Thursday 6th May: Bethune

Still in Bethune standing by.

Friday 7th May: Bethune

We moved off from here at 2.30pm and marched to a farm near Richebourg St. Vaast. The big bombardment and advance comes off tomorrow. We are getting everything ready as there will be a great amount of wounded.