Sunday 10th September: Bronfay Farm/ Guillemont
After a sleep in the field we were up at 5am and after a hurried breakfast we marched off up the line and after arriving at Frooms wood we formed a Dressing Station there. The remainder of us went up to Guillemont and started to carry the wounded from there to Frooms wood.
The sights between Guillemont and Frooms wood were awful; dead lying everywhere. One could hardly walk for shell holes and shells were dropping everywhere. Two squads of us were bringing down two wounded cases from the front line of trenches at Ginchy, about 9pm at night, when the Germans started an attack. We were caught in the barrage fire along with a party of Scotch Guards who were taking up bombs to the front line.
A few of the Scots were killed but after a terrible struggle through shell holes and over dead bodies we got our wounded to Frooms wood. A hot and exciting time and a narrow escape.
Monday 11th September: Frooms Wood
After carrying wounded from Guillemont to Frooms wood continually for 24 hours we were relieved by No.4 Field Ambulance bearers and we went back to Bronfay Farm for a rest.
The most of the wounded we had carried down belonged to the Irish Division that had taken Ginchy two days before.
Our first visit up to the Somme front has given us an idea what it is like. The village
Guillemont is nothing but a heap of rubbish; there is not even the wall of a house left standing.
It is a hard job carrying wounded up there especially in the dark as the ground is riddled with shell holes and the dead are lying everywhere. Some of them have been there for weeks.
It is the worst sight I have seen all through the war and the worst battlefield I have ever crossed.
The Germans are continually shelling but we send over 50 shells for their one. The noise is terrible at times and a great many men are going down the line with shattered nerves or shell shock as they call it. A man’s nerves has to be like steel to stick this for long.
We are resting in a field at Bronfay Farm.
Tuesday 12th September: Guillemont
After a night’s sleep in the field at Bronfay farm we were up at 6am and after some
breakfast went up to the Brickery near Frooms Wood and lay in reserve to No.9 Field Ambulance.
In the afternoon we went out and started to dig a dug-out for a new Dressing Station on the Guillemont road about half a mile the other side of Frooms Wood and nearer Guillemont. We worked all afternoon and all night except when the Germans were shelling too heavily then we had to get under cover in a trench.
Wednesday 13th September: Frooms Wood
After working all night we finished about 5am and at 6am relieved No. 9 Field Ambulance and started to carry wounded from Guillemont and Guinchy to Frooms Wood. There was not nearly so many wounded today so had a little rest in a dug-out in Frooms Wood now and then. About night time things began to get lively and we had to turn out in full strength.
Thursday 14th September: Guillemont
Last night the Irish Guards went over the top in the dark on a bombing raid. We were turned out and had a hard night’s work bringing in the wounded, but though there was not a great many; we had double the work owing to the rain; as it is hard work keeping your feet on a greasy ground. After floundering about in the mud and shell holes all night we managed to get them all in by 7am and were relieved by No. 4 Field Ambulance. About 10am we went back to Carnoy for a rest but have to go up tomorrow again as there is a big attack coming off.
Up till now we have only had one of our bearers wounded and two down with shell shock so we have been very lucky.
Friday 15th September: Ginchy
We were awakened at 3am after a cold night’s sleep in a field, in our overcoats, and after a hurried breakfast we set off to march back to Frooms Wood, arriving there just after the bombardment opened at 6am.
After a short bombardment the Guards went over the top from Ginchy ridge with the 6th Division on their right and two or three Divisions on their left, the Coldstreams leading and accompanied by the new land ships or Tanks.
We had in the meantime marched over to Guillemont road just outside Guillemont where we had made the new Dressing Station and after throwing off our packs and equipment we each took a stretcher and a sandbag full of shell dressings and set out for Ginchy ridge.
When we reached there the Guards had already taken the second line of trenches which was in a sunken road and the slightly wounded and prisoners were coming streaming down.
Where the Guards first line had been on Ginchy ridge the Germans were keeping up a terrible barrage fire, right along this part, about 200 yards in front of where we were now standing.
Two sections of bearers of our Ambulance had been left in reserve at Guillemont road but when we of “C” section reached Ginchy ridge No. 4 and No. 9 Field Ambulance bearers were already bringing in the wounded.
Still carrying a stretcher each we were told to go out and bring in the wounded who were lying about in shell holes in what was no man’s land this morning. We set off and after passing over our old first line, on the top of Ginchy ridge, we came under the German barrage fire and could see our infantry advancing up the crest of the next ridge; towards the Hun’s third line of trenches.
We were ordered to extend out, three to a stretcher, and search the ground for wounded, before we could carry out this order a big shell burst five yards behind us almost burying half the section, nobody was hit owing to the soft ground though it scattered us quicker than the order given.
The shells were now bursting all around us and bullets whistling about in all directions. Three of us got together and made off to our right front and after covering about 150 yards; by dodging from shell hole to shell hole; we came across two wounded of the Coldstreams in a shell hole.
After a hurried dressing of one of them my two mates set off with him. I stayed to dress the other one and wait till they came back, to give me a hand, to get him back to the Aide Post behind Ginchy ridge. After staying with the wounded man for over half an hour, with shells bursting all around us and bullets still whistling around us, I began to think my mates had been killed or wounded as three of No.9 Field Ambulance Bearers were lying dead only about 50 yards from where I waited.
However luck was with me as I saw a party of German prisoners under escort running in my direction and hurrying to get out of the shell fire. I shouted to the escort and soon had four of the prisoners giving me a hand back with the wounded man. After seeing the wounded man safely to the Aide Post I found my mates who were bringing in another wounded man they had found on the road out to me.
While I was lying in the shell hole with the wounded man one of our aeroplanes “of which over a hundred had been flying over our heads” came down about 20 yards from me and though it turned right over the airmen were uninjured. They got out of the machine and leaving it there they hurried off the shell swept ground.
We kept on going out and bringing in wounded all day and going further every time as the Guards had driven the Huns right over the ridge in front of us and the Irish Guards were having a hand to hand fight in the village in front called Lesboeufs but after taking the village they had to retire and dig themselves in two hundred yards in front of it, as the 6th Division on their right and a Division on their left had been held up. Our other two sections of our Ambulance had come up and after biscuits and some tea we were all hard at it, the whole of the bearers of the Guards Division.
I was put in charge of 4 Germans and was taking them out and bringing in wounded as hard as they could carry. Every time we went out we had to go through the barrage fire but there was not so many bullets as the Germans had been driven fight over the ridge in front.
Along with an officer and the 4 Germans I went out to the 1st line of trenches at about 2am and brought in two officers of the Guards who had been seriously wounded, we landed back about daybreak.
Saturday 16th September: Ginchy
We were at it all night and at daybreak I handed over the Germans, who had been in my charge, then we had a hurried breakfast and out again, looking for the wounded we had missed in the dark. About 10 of our bearers had been wounded yesterday and one killed but the other Ambulances of our Division have lost heavier than us.
We were at it all day bringing in wounded who had been missed and others who were holding the line. The Guards had advanced about two and a half miles yesterday so we had a good piece of ground to search for wounded and being heavily shelled all the time. The 6th Division who had been held up yesterday pushed on today and were now in touch with the Guards. Over three villages had been captured on our left and had not the 6th Division been held up the
Guards could have advanced another two miles.
We were assisting the 6th Division to get in their wounded till the 20th Division came up and then their Ambulance, the 62nd and others started to clear them.
One Officer of the 20 th Division put a Red Cross flag up on Ginchy Ridge but the Germans very soon made him take it down by sending over 50 shells all around it.