Diaries; 11th – 17th December, 1915.

Saturday 11th December: Epinette

We are back at our Advance Dressing Station at Epinette, everything quiet.

Sunday 12th December: Epinette/ Epinette Farm

Everything quiet. Two of us went up and relieved other two at Aide Post.

Monday 13th December: Epinette farm

On duty at Aide Post, everything quiet no wounded.

Tuesday 14th December: Epinette Farm

The 3rd brigade relieved by the 2nd but we are still keeping on the Advance Dressing Station. We were relieved by two others at the Aide Post.

Wednesday 15th December: Epinette Farm/Bedford Aide Post

Another quiet day, another party came up from La Gorgue but I stayed behind up here and went on duty at another post “Bedford Aide Post”.

Thursday 16th December: Bedford Aide Post

Two of us are on duty here, nothing doing, weather dull, sleeping in an old stable.

Friday 17th December: Bedford Aide Post/ Epinette

Another quiet day, more rain, relieved by other two at 6pm, everything quiet.

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Diaries; 4th – 10th December, 1915.

Saturday 4th December: Epinette

Another quiet day and more rain, roads flooded also trenches knee-deep with water.

Two of us were relieved by another two and went back to Epinette.

Sunday 5th December: Epinette

A quiet day up till afternoon when the artillery were very lively and the Germans replying dropped a shell 20 yards from our billet but did no damage. Weather a little better but not much.

Monday 6th December: Epinette

A quiet day, more rain, the roads are awful.

Tuesday 7th December: Epinette

Nothing doing except the artillery having a go now and then.

Wednesday 8th December: Epinette/Epinette Farm

A better day, less rain but more artillery fire. Two of us went up at night and relieved two of the men on duty at the Aide Post.

Thursday 9th December: Epinette Farm

On duty at Advance Aide Post, a few shells dropping near. We sleep in a cellar at this farm.

Friday 10th December: Epinette Farm/ Epinette

Another day of rain but very little doing except the artillery battering away also a few shells dropping close. A dugout fell in killing one of the Welsh Guards and injuring two that we took down to our Advance Dressing Station. We were relieved by two others at 6pm.

Diaries; 1st – 3rd December, 1915.

Wednesday 1st December: Lagorgue

Weather still mild, not much doing.

Thursday 2nd December: Lagorgue/ Epinette

Eight of us marched from Lagorgue to our Advance Dressing Station at Epinette and relieved eight of the men there. Our Brigade goes into action tonight.

I went up from Epinette to our Advance aide post about three hundred yards behind the firing line where 4 of us are on duty to bring any wounded down to our Advance Aide Post at Epinette Farm.

Friday 3rd December: Epinette/ Epinette Farm

Had a quiet night only one sick man to take down and one of the 2nd Scotch guards wounded today. Weather rotten, raining heavily, everything quiet.

Diaries; 20th – 26th November, 1915.

Saturday 20th November: Lagorgue

I had a walk up to near Laventie to the 62nd Field Ambulance and seen a few of the Kinston Ambulance Boys, Mooney etc.

Sunday 21st to Tuesday 23rd November: Lagorgue

Everything still quiet here at Lagorgue.

Wednesday 24th November: Lagorgue

Have not been feeling well all day, excused duty for the night. Mooney and a Pal paid me a visit at night.

Thursday 25th November: Lagorgue

I am alright again and am now on day convoy, very few wounded coming in.

Friday 26th November: Lagorgue

Still here at Lagorgue, nothing doing.

Diaries; 13th – 19th November, 1915.

Saturday 13th November: Lagorgue

Still here and the weather is still stormy with plenty of rain.

Sunday 14th November: Lagorgue

The 3 rd Guards Brigade has gone into action today and a party of our Bearers went up to Epinette near Laventie and formed an Advance Dressing Station there. The weather has improved, hard frost setting in but the sun is shining; a splendid change from yesterday.

Monday 15th November: Lagorgue

The remainder of us are still keeping on this Hospital at Lagorgue. Our Advance Dressing Station is just on the right of the village of Laventie.

Tuesday 16th November: Lagorgue

Some more of our Bearers went up the Advance Dressing Station today.

Wednesday 17th November: Lagorgue

Everything is very quiet here, very few wounded coming in. This is a very quiet position. I am on night duty at our Hospital here.

Thursday 18th and Friday 19th November: Lagorgue

Still the same everything quiet.

Diaries; 1st – 12th November, 1915.

Monday 1st to Monday 8th November: Allouagne

Still here resting, nothing doing.

Tuesday 9th November: Allouagne/ Merville

We left here at 9am and marched on north till we came to the town of Merville at 3pm. We billeted in a farm on the outside of the town.

Wednesday 10th November: Merville

We are still staying at this farm outside Merville

Thursday 11th November: Merville/Lagorgue

We left here at 9am and marched to village called Lagorgue about a mile from the town of Estaires. We billeted in a school here making it into a Hospital. The weather is cold and stormy.

Friday 12th November: Lagorgue

We are still here in Lagorgue and the weather is terrible: stormy with plenty of rain.

Letter; 31st October, 1915.

Letter 31st October: Allouagne

Dear Tom,

Just a few lines to let you and the boys know how I am going on; I hope you received my last letter all right. I told you in that letter that the Guards were going to take the Redoubt on the Sunday, but owing to circumstances, and the weather breaking down, the attack did not come off.

To go back to the beginning-On the Wednesday when we were having a rest the 1 st Brigade of Guards were in the 1 st line when the Germans made a counter-attack to try and get the whole of the redoubt. After a hard fight which was mostly by bomb attacks they were driven back with heavy loss, and the 1 st brigade counterattacked and took the trench on the right of the Redoubt. The day after the weather broke down. It is almost impossible to charge in wet weather so all attacks were cancelled for the time being. So now we have two-thirds of the Redoubt, the Germans holding the other third, or the trench on the left.

Owing to the smartness in which the Guards move, and also owing to their strict discipline, they have not had the casualties that other Divisions have had. We know that as we have to get away the wounded. The 3 rd (our) Brigade, took over the 1 st line on Saturday and stayed there till Tuesday night when the whole of the Guards Division were relieved and sent back for 14 day’s rest, as they had not had 48 hours out of the trenches since the start of the Battle of Loos.

I was up with the 3 rd Brigade for the 4 days they were up this time, but everything was very quiet, having only 20 wounded the whole time. We were very glad, as it was a terrible trench to bring wounded down, it being so narrow and with so many turnings. There was also the rain, the trench in some parts being a foot deep with mud and water; other parts falling in with the rain, while other parts were knocked in by shells.

This trench is called Guys and is two and a half miles long from the quarry to the railway line. This is not the trench I referred to in my last letter but another on the left of that, nearer Cambrin. The trench I referred to in my last letter was called “Bart’s Alley” and the one next to it is “Gordon’s Alley”.

The way we are having so far to carry the wounded through the trenches here is owing to the flat country and also owing to the advance the old trenches are linked up with the new and make one long trench. When I was up that last time I was left up in the dugout in charge of 5 other men. I was having a walk round at 7am to see if any of the regiments had any wounded when I ran up against one of the Kingston boys, an Iron Driller named Kincaid. Jim Pye will know him. He is a Sergeant in the 2nd Scots Guards, having listed after the war broke out. He told me he had been out here since February and is keeping well and getting on all right. I am going to see him and have a long chat now we are back resting.

On Thursday past we were to be inspected by the King. Everything was ready when it was all cancelled. We did not know what was wrong till night when word went round that he had had an accident.

Things don’t look bright round the Balkan’s way, but though we are slow to move, I think when we do move round that way, we will move to some tune. It looks like prolonging the war, but personally, I think the bigger it gets, and the more countries that come in, the quicker it will be finished.

I think the fiercest fighting to come and what will have a big say in this War is going to be in poor old Serbia. Troops are leaving France for there; the 28th Division having left a few days ago and there is some word of the Guards going, but I won’t build up hopes on that, but if it comes true I will try and let you know as soon as possible.

They can afford to send troops from France, as there are thousands of troops out here who have not yet been in the trenches, but simply doing training-what others are doing at home.

They can’t send all fresh troops to Serbia as they will have to send some of the regular Divisions to steady them up, so I expect there will be as many troops leaving here for Serbia as there will be leaving home.

One thing that is very satisfactory I have noticed of late is that we are using ammunition freely; for every shell, the Germans send over-and they send a few over at times- we send 20 for their one. As far as I can see for myself the German troops must have a hell of a time in the trenches; our guns never stop. They are continually working at their trenches.

They attempt to build and repair their trenches by night and next day our Gunners knock them all down again. It must be hell for them as I know what like it is when they shell us very heavily.

I don’t know what more I can say at present, only we are resting here for 14 days. It is a village between Bethune and Lillers. I have not seen Kirkwood or any other of the boys, but hope they are all keeping well, also all the boys at home. Tell them I was asking after them all and hope the class is doing well.

From your old Pal, Mac.

Diaries; 22nd – 31st October, 1915.

Friday 22nd October: Labourse

Both ours and the German artillery have been very lively all day. We are expecting to go up the line again tomorrow, another attack is coming off.

Saturday 23rd October: Labourse/ Annequin

We marched off from Labourse and marched to Annequin in the afternoon where we opened an Advance Dressing Station for receiving the wounded. Eight of us went up to the trenches to a dugout in the quarry on the right of Cambrin. We stayed on duty there. Everything fairly quiet having only two wounded of the Welsh Guards to bring down all night. It took us about 3 hours to bring down each case, the trench being almost as bad as Barts trench only this one was called Guys Alley.

Sunday 24th October: Annequin

After being on duty in the dugouts for 24 hours we were relieved by another eight men and we went back to the Advance Dressing Station at Annequin. Everything is very quiet and the attack did not come off owing to the weather breaking down. It is raining very heavily.

Monday 25th October: Quarry Fosse 8

I went up in charge of eight other Bearers to the dugout in the Quarry in front of Fosse 8. The trenches are very treacherous with the rain and it is very hard work getting the wounded down but we only had 5 cases.

Tuesday 26th October: Annequin

We were relieved by other nine men at 9am and went back to Annequin. The Germans dropped a few shells around our hospital here today but our artillery were also lively. We were relieved by another Ambulance of the 12th Division, the Guards Division all being relieved and going back for a rest. We marched back to our main Hospital at Labourse and billeted there for the night.

Wednesday 27th October: Allouagne

The whole Ambulance marched off from Labourse at 9am and marched on till we came to a village between Bethune and Lillers called Allouagne.
We are here for 14 days rest and the King is going to inspect the whole Guards Division tomorrow.

Thursday 28th October: Allouagne

We are still here in Allouagne and it is raining like the Devil. We were all ready for the inspection by the King when it was cancelled. The King having met with an accident.

Friday 29th to Sunday 31 st October: Allouagne

Resting here in Allouagne, nothing doing.

Letter; 21st October, 1915.

Letter Thursday 21 st October: Labourse

Dear tom,

Just a few lines to let you know I received your welcome letter, also your splendid parcel for which I send my best thanks. I enjoyed the contents all right and the candles are coming in very handy now we are back in a billet for two days rest.

I am glad Bob Wyse received the letter I sent as it was the first time I have tried to send a letter home that way as it is very risky, but All’s well that ends well.

As you will be aware, I told what I knew and what I had seen at Loos, and I may say I did not think I was going to have so hot a time so soon after. I have hardly been 48 hours away from the trenches since I wrote that letter, but we have still got Hill 70, though I see some papers are not certain about it.

As you will see by the papers we have been after the Hohenzollen redoubt on the left of the village of Hulloch, we have not got it yet but the Guards will take it. The Guards have hardly been out of the trenches for a day since Loos. I think they are wanting them to do too much.

We have been in the trenches around Hulloch, on the left of Loos. On Wednesday afternoon we used the gas for a few hours and after an hour’s bombardment, the 46th Division (Terriers) went forward. They took the Redoubt and two lines of trenches quite easily but could not hold them. The Germans counter-attacked and the Terriers retired. Again another Regiment of the same Division bombed the Germans out, again the Germans attacked, and they also retired. As one of their own Officers said that no Division could have taken it better, but they
could not hold it.

Don’t think Tom that I am blaming the Terriers one minute, but had that Division had a sprinkling of old soldiers and old Officers to steady them, it would have been all right.

Another thing is this Division had just come down from Ypres where they had been in the trenches (Reserve) for about seven months and as some of them told me themselves, they had never been in a big charge before.

The only thing they managed to hold was the centre trench of the Redoubt-the Germans holding the other two trenches, one on each side, so it is a very hot position. That is what we still hold.

On Wednesday night we had to go up and assist the Ambulance of that Division as they had lost terribly. Then the Guards relieved them the next day, so we had to stay on, leaving our Hospital in Vermelles. We had to work up in the trenches from Wednesday night until Monday afternoon with only two hours’ sleep when we were sent back for a few hours rest. We had been getting wounded down every day and night. We were up there without a stop, but what the trouble was; and the way we took so long to get the wounded away was; the distance we had to carry them, and as soon as we brought one in we had to go straight back out for more.

We had to carry the wounded from the second line of trenches back to our Hospital in Vermelles, a distance of three and a half to four miles. Three miles of that through the trenches, the other mile was down the road to the village. Carrying wounded on a stretcher through a trench three mile long is a thing that nobody could have the slightest idea until they had to do it.

In the trench there is a sharp corner nearly every 10 yards, going round these corners one’s hands get jammed against the side of the trench. It took us nearly two hours to go from our hospital with an empty stretcher to the dug-out where we picked up the wounded and it took us four hours to carry a wounded man back. So you can see Tom we couldn’t make many journeys in 24 hours.

I am going to say this Tom; I never throughout the whole of the war had so hard a job and so hot a job as we had up here. The Germans every now and then bombarded us and attacked but they can’t get through. They are losing heavily. On Saturday night, when I was not far from the 1 st Line, the Germans made an attack with gas bombs but the Guards gave them bombs and it very soon died down.

At 5am on the Sunday morning (17/10/15) our Artillery opened the bombardment as the Guards had orders to take the Redoubt. It was mostly a bomb attack but the Germans were too strong. We only managed to take 50 yards of the trench on the right of the redoubt and were held up on the left. A few hours later the 50 yards captured by us was levelled flat by the German guns and the men who held it buried under it, but we still hold it.

That day Sunday the 17 th was one of the hottest days I have ever put in out here. If the Germans are running short of ammunition they were not short on Sunday. They shelled us the whole day with coalboxes, they were coming over in showers of six at a time, but we never stopped getting the wounded away.

We were the only Field Ambulance that went through the village of Loos without losing a man, but this last time up here we were lucky to get away with only three of our Ambulance wounded. Two were wounded in the head by a shell and the other received a bullet through his ankle. They will now be home in England. I think Tom our luck was in again, for every time we went up on Sunday, I never expected to see the half of us coming back, but again all’s well that ends well.

The Germans must have wasted a terrible amount of ammunition as they were very quiet next day but the trenches are so close to each other up there that bombing is continually going on, at one place only a barricade separates them. Of course, Tom, don’t think our Artillery were doing nothing; for every shell, the Germans sent over, they sent over two and the din was terrible. So we have the satisfaction of knowing the Germans were getting a hotter time than us, though to us that seemed impossible.

While I was up in trenches once on my own, looking for wounded, I got in touch with the 1 st Scots Guards and asked about Sandy McDougall. They told me he had been slightly wounded at Loos but did not think it serious enough to go down the line. Three days after that he had to go sick and was sent down. So tom I have not had the chance of seeing him yet but expect it won’t be long before he is back again. I expect you will have heard about it by this time.

Yesterday the 6th Camerons went past here and I made enquiries about William Clark, son of John Clark, and they told me he had been wounded at Loos and they expected he would lose his arm. I don’t know if that is true or not; it is only what they told me.

Duncan Allan’s (Mr Allan’s nephew) Battalion, the 1-6th Black Watch is south of Arras-a Division away on its own, with the French, that is as far as I have found out about the boys. I have not yet met Kirkwood, but might run into him any day. They are not far from here.

The Guards are going up to the redoubt on Friday (tomorrow) and the General has told them they have to take it. I think it is on Sunday at all costs. He also told them the Germans have received orders to hold it at all costs so I expect we will have another hot Sunday. I will let you know how we get on as soon as I can.

You were saying in your letter that Mr Lithgow was expecting to go to Service. Well, tom I wish him the best of luck and hope he comes through it safely.

I think I will now finish but would like to tell you that I witnessed one of the finest sights out here I have ever seen. Three of our aeroplanes bringing down a German. It was on 11/10/15; we brought down four that day but this one was brought down near our hospital. I will tell you more about it later.

I hope everybody is keeping well and that you have had good news from all the boys and hope they are all keeping well. I am very glad that the Class is doing so well, also the Swimming Club. Tell all the boys I was asking for them.

From your old pal, Mac