Diaries; 20th – 31st October, 1916.

Friday 20th to Monday 30th October: Vergies

Still resting here, weather is improving.

Tuesday 31st October: Vergies

There was a parade of the whole Division today. Practice for the inspection by the Duke of Connaught tomorrow.

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Diaries; 1st – 10th October, 1916.

Sunday 1st October: Bronfay Farm/ Mericourt/ Bellay/ Frettecuisse

We left Bronfay Farm at 7am and marched to Mericourt where we were joined by the whole of the 3rd Brigade of Guards. At 12 mid-day we all got into French motor buses and after travelling 70 kilometres, passing through the town of Amiens, we halted and got out of the buses at a village called Bellay then marched to another village called Frettecuisse where we billeted for the night.

Monday 2nd October: Frettecuisse/ Vergies

We stayed here in this village all day till 5pm then we packed up and marched to another village called Vergies where we again joined our Headquarters who had marched here. We are to rest here for some time.

Tuesday 3rd October: Vergies

This is a small village about 18 miles from Abbeville and all our Division is in villages around here. We are well behind the line here and can’t hear the guns and we are all getting new clothes as our clothes were all torn.

Wednesday 4th October: Vergies

We are still here in Vergies and leave has started for the Division and we have been
reinforced by some more men.

Our total casualties, on the Somme for our Ambulance, were 5 Killed, 15 Wounded and 10 Shell Shocked and we were only 80 strong up there all told. Two men received the Military Medal.

Thursday 5th October: Vergies

This part of the country is not unlike parts of Scotland and it is a very quiet country district.

Friday 6th to Tuesday 10th October: Vergies

Still here resting but we are getting rotten weather.

Diaries; 24 – 30 September 1916.

Sunday 24th September: Ginchy

We were out carrying wounded all night from Ginchy Ridge to Frooms Wood owing to the wagons not being able to get up; the roads being too bad. After breakfast we went out and finished the dugout at the support trench, a German aeroplane spotted us and the Germans strafed us but we got it finished alright.

The attack is coming off tomorrow and the Tanks are working their way up to the first line today. Three of our aeroplanes are now lying in the open between the support trench and Ginchy Ridge having been brought down this last week. The pilot of one of them is lying beside his machine having been burned to death.

Monday 25th September: Ginchy

The attack is coming off between 1 and 2pm today; we are all ready for it and have
everything ready. It has turned out a fine day and everything seems to be in our favour. The guns have been hard at it all night and are going at it harder than ever.

The last of the Land Dreadnaughts are passing on up to the first line.

We are standing by ready to move up to the front line as we are to follow the infantry over the top. A few German shells are passing over our heads and dropping in Frooms Wood and a fight between two aeroplanes is going on over our heads.

We moved on up to the support trench and there had to crouch down in funk holes for at 12 o’clock every gun seemed to break into one great roar. The noise is terrible and the Germans are strafing this trench for all they are worth.

We did not have to stick this for long as the German fire lifted as our troops were now advancing. The Guards having already taken Lesbeoufs and the prisoners are coming down in droves.

We can also see our Cavalry coming up on our left near the village of Flers but we did not have much time to watch anything now as we had our share to do. As we went over to our old first line we could see our infantry moving out of the other end of the village and advancing up the slope in front.

We now had to work our hardest and though the Germans strafed us heavily we still had to keep on. We have lost few of our Ambulance and are working short-handed.

Tuesday 26th September: Lesbeoufs

We were at it all night bringing in the wounded and are still at it. About mid-day the Germans strafed us very heavily when we were out collecting and we lost three of our bearers killed and three wounded, two of those killed have been with us since the start of the war.

The Division on our left the 21st did not get their objectives yesterday but after a short bombardment got it today with the aid of the Tanks and from the ridge we were on we could see the Germans in the wood in front and also our Cavalry trying to find a way through.

I don’t think it was much of a success with the Cavalry though they brought back some prisoners with the Germans shelling them all the way back.

Wednesday 27th September: Lesbeoufs

We were at it all night again but had them all clear by daylight when we were relieved by No. 9 Field Ambulance bearers who had gone back yesterday for a rest.

After being relieved we came back to Ginchy ridge for a rest and lay down in shell holes near our old Dressing Station there. In the afternoon we were shelled by the Germans very heavily but they only managed to wound two of our bearers though one was serious. At 7pm we went further back to the other side of Frooms Wood where we lay down and slept in a trench for the night.

Thursday 28th September: Carnoy

After breakfast and after burying three of our bearers ”who had been killed with a shell two days ago” we marched back to Carnoy where we billeted in a field.

Two German aeroplanes were over here last night dropping bombs; killing 70 horses and wounding over 200, only one or two men were hit.

Friday 29th September: Bronfay Farm

After staying in Carnoy nearly all day we packed up at 5pm and marched to the Corps Dressing Station at Bronfay Farm near Bray and joined our Headquarters there. We are out of action for a week or two now and the Division is going back for a rest.

Saturday 30th September: Bronfay farm

All our transport and Headquarters left here today, the remainder of us go tomorrow by bus.

Diaries; 17 – 23 September 1916.

Sunday 17th September: Ginchy

We were at it all night again getting the wounded in from the front line and by daylight had everything very well cleared.

The battle ground is a hell of a sight, dead lying everywhere and dugouts full of German dead. The German dead are about eight to our one all around here.

About mid-day we were relieved and after some dinner we packed up and marched back to Happy Valley, about 5 miles behind the line, where the whole Guards Division have come back for a rest.

We lay down in the open for a good night’s sleep.

Monday 18th September: Happy Valley

We were roused by the rain battering down on us so had to get up about 6am; wet through; cold and fed up. The rain came down harder than ever as the day wore on, so we set out and found a few sticks and made a bivie to protect us from the rain. It was still raining when we lay down to sleep at night with our clothes a little drier with the aid of a fire.

Tuesday 19th September: Happy Valley

We had a better night’s sleep though it is still raining but not as heavy. We were expected to move from here tonight but did not do so.

This is a big camp all around here with all classes of troops. Some in bivies, some in tents or huts and some in dugouts. It is called the Citadel.

Wednesday 20th September: Happy Valley/ Carnoy

Another rotten day and it is still raining. The French have been hammering away from early this morning and are still hard at it.

We received sudden orders to move back into action again, another attack coming off, so we moved off from here at 5pm and marched to Carnoy which took us over three hours to reach as the roads were knee deep with mud.

We lay down in a field in Carnoy and slept there for the night.

Thursday 21st September: Carnoy/ Frooms Wood

We marched off from Carnoy at 7am and marched to Frooms Wood then 16 of us were told off for duty in the support trench on the top of a ridge overlooking the village of Morval and Lesboeufs. The Regimental Aide Posts are in this trench and the first line is about 300 yards in front of us.

We have a fine view from here of the German lines. We can even see their observation balloons rising from the ground and the town of Bapaume in the distance. Through glasses we can also see Germans walking about and their transport on the Bapaume road. Shells are dropping all around them.

This is the finest view of a battlefield one could wish to see though one has to be careful and keep your head down as the snipers are knocking about and our Artillery Officers observe from here.

We had very little to do all day as the wounded can only be brought down from the first line at night.

Friday 22nd Septemeber: Frooms Wood/ Ginchy Ridge

We had a terrible night last night carrying wounded from the support trench back to Ginchy Ridge. It was so dark one could not see a yard in front of him. Every squad that set out with a case got lost and had to lay down in a shell hole with the wounded man and stay there till daylight before they could find out where they were. Every squad was the same, it was impossible to find the way in the dark.

Walking over shell holes and dead, on slippery ground in the dark, is rotten work and there are shells dropping round about all the time.

We were relieved at 10am by another 16 men and came back to Ginchy Ridge where our Dressing Station is now. After some breakfast we were out helping to make a road for the Ambulance wagons up to the ridge in front for the next attack.

At night a party of us went down to Guillemont road to bring up the rations and were again lost in the dark but managed to get back to Ginchy Ridge about midnight.

Saturday 23rd September: Lesboeufs

We were out all day digging a dugout out of a shell hole just behind the support trench on the ridge overlooking Lesboeufs so as to be ready for the next attack. The Germans were dropping a good many shells around us but most of them passed over our heads.

Diaries; 10 – 16 September 1916.

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.

Diaries; 3 – 9 September, 1916.

Sunday 3rd September: Mericourt

Heavy artillery fire here all day. We are under an hour’s notice to move.

Monday 4th September: Mericourt

Heavy artillery fire all last night and our troops advanced this morning. Our Corps the 14th took Guillemont and 500 prisoners; the French also advanced.

We are still under an hour’s notice to move though I think they are keeping the Guards Division for a critical moment.

Tuesday 5th September: Mericourt

Heavy artillery fire all day and word came through at night that the French had advanced on the right. We are under orders to move at a moment’s notice.

Wednesday 6th September: Mericourt

We were awakened at 4am and had orders to stand by, but after standing by all day it was cancelled at night. The French have again advanced.

Thursday 7th Septemeber: Mericourt

We left Mericourt at 7.30am and marched to the village of Ville-sur-Corbe about 3 miles from Mericourt and nearer Albert. We are staying for the present with our Brigade. A terrible bombardment started in the afternoon and lasted all night with a continuous roar.

Friday 8th September: Ville-sur-Corbe

The artillery are at it again all day and were still at it at night.

Saturday 9th September: Ville-sur-Corbe

We left here at 6pm and after about 3 hours marching we halted and lay down to sleep in a field at Bronfay Farm the other side of Bray-Sur-Somme. We have just been told the 16th Division have taken Ginchy.

Diaries; 27 – 31 August 1916.

Sunday 27th August: Mericourt

We, the bearers are staying on here as our Division has not gone into action yet. The big Corps Dressing Station, which our Nursing Section has joined, takes in stretcher cases only; all sitting cases go straight down to the Clearing Station at Corbe.

Hundreds of wounded are passing down the roads every day here.

Monday 28th August: Mericourt

Everything here is worked on a big scale: instead of a field Ambulance looking after its own Brigade, the 14th Corps Field Ambulances look after the whole of the 14th Corps and when our Division goes into action, the whole of the stretcher bearers of the Guards Division along with the regimental stretcher bearers will collect the wounded.

The R.A.M.C. bearers of the Field Ambulances have all lost heavily up here since the
offensive started on the 1st of July. Up to this week, I have been told the R.A.M.C. have lost 3,000 casualties and taking the strength of each unit the R.A.M.C. have lost as heavily as any of the infantry regiments.

Tuesday 29th August: Mericourt

I had a walk last night up the road to a hill behind and to the south of Albert.

There one can see one of the finest sights, but I know when one goes further up; one of the worst sights of a lifetime.

From where I watched, except where a small hill rose here and there and obstructed the view, I could see our guns firing and the German shells bursting as far as the eye could see.

To view it from this distance it looks impossible for any living thing to remain there alive for long and yet we are going up there in a day or two and hope to come back alive. We are still making headway but our casualties must be very heavy and only those that have seen this can realise what it is.

I have been in every big engagement with the British Army since Mons but they were nothing to this; as far as I can see from here.

Wednesday 30th August: Mericourt

The weather has broken down this last two days and it has been raining very heavily spoiling the operations and making everybody miserable.

We have just heard that Rumania has joined the Allies; “good luck to her”

We are still waiting here till our Division goes into action, the 20th Division, which is in our Army Corps, is in action so I expect our Division to relieve them in a day or two.

Thursday 31 st August: Mericourt

We are still staying on here at Mericourt.

Diaries; 20 – 26 August 1916.

Sunday 20th August: Bertrancourt/ Saton

We left Bertrancourt at 9am and marched to a village called Saton about 8 miles away and near the town of Doubliers, we billeted here for the night.

Monday 21st August: Saton

We stayed here all day in this village but expect to leave here tomorrow for Albert.

Tuesday 22nd August: Gezaincourt

We left Saton at 9am and marched to a village called Gezaincourt about 8 miles from our last billets and further away from the firing line and the other side of the town of Doubliers.

We billeted here for the night.

Wednesday 23rd August: Gezaincourt

We stayed here at this village all day but expect to leave here tomorrow. This part of France is not unlike Scotland with its hills and dales.

Thursday 24th August: Gezaincourt/ Vignacourt

We left Gezaincourt at 8am and after marching about 15 miles we halted and billeted at a village called Vignacourt about 12 miles from the town of Amiens and about 24 miles west of Albert.

Friday 25th August: Vignacourt/ Mericourt

We entrained at Vignacounrt along with our Brigade at 10am but our transport went by road. We dis-entrained at Mericourt at 3pm and billeted there for the night.

We are now 6 miles south-west of Albert.

Saturday 26th August: Mericourt

We, the bearers of the Ambulance have been told off in squads for collecting the wounded when we go up the line. Our Headquarters and Nursing Section have gone about 4 miles further up and along with all the other Nursing Sections of Ambulances of the 14th Army Corps have formed one big Dressing Station.