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

Diaries; 16th – 21st October, 1915.

Saturday 16th October: Barts Alley

We had to wait in the dugout in Barts Alley all night and when daylight came we got a few wounded to take down to Vermelles. We had very few cases all day but enough to keep us going as we never had a rest having over three miles to carry each wounded man.

We have to get all the wounded away as the Guards are going to make a bomb attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt tomorrow morning.

Sunday 17th October: Hohenzollern Redoubt

After working nearly all night taking a few wounded down, we lay down and had an hours sleep in a dugout in Barts Alley but we were up and ready when the artillery opened the bombardment at 5am.

After about an hour’s bombardment by the artillery, the Guards advanced over the barricade bombing the Germans out of their trench. It was a terrible fight and we only managed to hold about 50 yards of the trench.

The German artillery were now firing as hard as they could, sending over showers of coalboxes at once. The Guards held onto the trench they had captured though they were losing very heavily.

We were working hard getting the wounded away and shells were dropping all about us but being in the trench saved us a good bit. The Germans were sending a great many coalboxes over our heads and they were dropping in the town of Vermelles where our Hospitals is.

The attacks and counter-attacks lasted well into the afternoon and we were carrying the wounded away right through it. The Germans dropped three coalboxes in the bomb store in Vermelles which is next to and in the same building as our Hospital. The explosion knocked everyone in the hospital over but none were wounded. It killed one and wounded two in the bomb store; it also set of over 200 bombs which burst with a terrible roar and threw one box a hundred yards away.

It has been one of the warmest times we have had yet. None of our Bearers were wounded though when going up for the wounded, one shell burst close to 4 of our men lifting them off their feet.

It quietened down a little before night and as we had been getting the wounded away all throughout the attack we had the lot cleared by 8pm. Then we went back to our Hospital at Vermelles for a rest leaving 6 men on duty in the dugout in Barts trench.

When I arrived back at our Hospital in Vermelles the Officer asked me to show him the regimental aide posts, so I had to go out again and after walking through about 8 miles of trenches and seeing that all the wounded had been cleared away we arrived back at the Hospital about 2am in the morning. Then I lay down to try and get asleep, the first for about 4 nights.

Monday 18th October: Vermelles

After a few hours’ sleep and some food, we were ready for anything again. I went up to the Advance Post with three others and stayed there all day carrying a few wounded down to Barts trench where others carried them to Hospital. We were relieved well on in the afternoon when it was a bit quiet and went back to Vermelles to our advance hospital.

Along with a few others, those of us who had been up here the longest were relieved and went back to our main hospital in Sailly-Labourse then on to our billets at Labourse.

We can hear another attack going on just after reaching here. I expect it is a German counter-attack.

Tuesday 19th October: Labourse

We had a good night’s sleep last night and everything is very quiet today up to about 4pm when the Germans made another counter-attack but it failed as usual.

The rest of our Ambulance came back from Vermelles at night as our Brigade had been relieved.

Wednesday 20th October: Labourse

Things were very quiet all day and a few of our Ambulance are getting home on leave.

Thursday 21st October: Labourse

Everything quiet, our Hospital shifted from Sailly-Labourse where we have been billeted this good while. The two villages are close together.

Diaries; 9th – 15th October, 1915.

Saturday 9th October: Labourse

Things were again quite today till afternoon when the French on our right opened a heavy bombardment then our guns started but not nearly so hard as the French whose bombardment was one continuous roar.

Monday 11th October: Labourse

The French and our artillery have been hammering away all night and at times we could hardly sleep so great was the noise.

Just about 9am, we witnessed one of the greatest sights I have seen throughout the whole of the war. It was three of our airmen heading off and bringing to the ground in our lines a German aeroplane. The two Germans were made prisoners and the plane was hardly damaged in any way. The way our airmen brought the German down was a treat and the way they manoeuvred in the air was grand. The Prince of Wales was an interested spectator. The two Germans were taken away in a motor lorry.

Tuesday 12th October: Labourse

Things were fairly quiet last night and all this morning. In the afternoon the 12th and 46th Divisions moved up to the firing line, the Guards coming back but we are still staying on here. Something big is coming off soon in a day or two.

Wednesday 13th October: Labourse

We are still here and the guns were very quiet till the afternoon when they opened up a bombardment which was short and sharp. At the same time we used the gas then the 46th Division territorials made an attack and took the Hohenzollern Redoubt on the left of Hulloch but they lost very heavily and the Germans counter-attacked and re-took some of the Redoubt.

We, of C Section Bearers, were ordered out at 8pm to go up and assist the Ambulance of the 46th Division. We were working all night to 10am the next morning when we had cleared them very well away. The distance we had to carry each wounded man was about 3 miles through one long trench called Barts Alley.

We went back to Labourse but had just left when they made a bomb attack and again lost heavily.

Thursday 14th October: Labourse

We went down to Labourse but we just had time to get some dinner when we had to march back to Vermelles and take over the Hospital from the Ambulance we were up assisting last night. The Hospital is in a cellar in the Brewery and a bomb store is in the same building.

We, the Bearers went right up to the trenches and started to carry down the wounded. We had a terrible job as we had to keep to the trenches all the time and it was about three miles each time. Our knuckles and the back of our hands were all skinned with rubbing against the side of the trench.

The Guards Division having relieved the 46th Division we have to stay here.

Friday 15th October: Barts Alley

After being out all night we arrived back at Vermelles for an hours rest but had to go out again at 11am. We went right up to the trenches again and waited there to see if there was any wounded. After about 6 hours wait a shell dropped in the trench beside us and wounded two of our Bearers, the rest of us had a narrow escape. We took the wounded down to the Hospital at Vermelles. After another hours rest, we went out again at 8pm but owing to the Germans making a counter-attack we could not get right up and were ordered into a dugout to await orders.

Diaries; 1st – 8th October, 1915.

Friday 1st October: Labourse

It has faired up after a terrible night of rain and we are resting here for the day. The 23 rd and 24th London Divisions have taken our place at Loos. Things are fairly quiet today.

Saturday 2nd October: Labourse

We are still resting here at Labourse and our Hospital is at Sailly-Labourse.

Sunday 3rd October: Labourse

We are still here at Labourse but the Guards go into action tonight so expect we will go too. An attack by the Germans at Cambrin last night was repulsed and our artillery have been keeping hammering away all day. A 15inch gun just beside us makes a terrible noise when it fires.

Monday 4th October: Labourse/ Sailly-Labourse

Our Ambulance took over a school at Sailly-Labourse to make it into a hospital.
A terrible night last night, rifles and guns going all night and the Germans made another attack but were driven off with heavy loss. A party of our Bearers went up to Vermelles in case they were needed. The Germans made five attacks all night but each time they were driven back. The ambulance that relieved us at Vermelles had two shells dropped in their hospital killing and wounding a few.

Tuesday 5th October: Vermelles

A party of our Bearers went out at night up the Hulloch road outside Vermelles. It is terrible open country up there and this road is high up above the fields around. The bullets come across this road at night something awful. When we were up bringing down some wounded, one of our Bearers was hit in the ankle by a bullet and it was his first time up the line with us. The rest of us got back safe.

I was sent back again up this road, taking the place of the man who was wounded. We were on duty all night on this road.

Wednesday 6th October: Vermelles

We had a very lively and busy night as the Guards were being relieved and they had to come down this road. We had 14 cases all night and there were only six of us on duty there with two miles to take each case. Every one of the 14 was wounded on this road yet we went up and down it with every case and not one of us was hit. We had the luck of the Devil.

We had it fairly quiet all day after our busy night but in the afternoon the Germans dropped a great amount of shells around our dugout and we had to keep under cover.

We were relieved at 6pm by a party of the 38th Field Ambulance and we marched back to our Hospital at Sailly-Labourse and from there to our billets at Labourse. Our ambulance is still keeping on the hospital at Sailly-Labourse.

Thursday 7th October: Labourse/ Vermelles

We are still in our old billets at Labourse. In the forenoon, the Germans dropped a few shells around our Hospital at Sailly-Labourse but in the afternoon our artillery opened fire on the enemy. The noise of the bombardment was terrible. Something was going on. At 9pm we were called out to go up to Vermelles to see if we were needed as a great amount of wounded were coming down to our Hospital at Sailly- Labourse. We went up past Vermelles to near Hulloch but all the wounded had been cleared.

Friday 8th October: Labourse

We reached back to our billets in the morning and had a rest all day. It was the Prussian Guards who had made an attack on the left at Hulloch but our troops drove them back with heavy loss.

Letter; 29th September, 1915.

Letter 29th September: Vermelles

Dear Bob,

Just a few lines in a hurry as I am just going to snatch a few hours’ sleep. I expect you will have seen in the newspapers about our advance. Well, Bob, a good many of the Kingston boys were in this last affair and I do not know how they have got on, but I hope they are all right.

I was not in it at the start, but Kirkwood was, and I expect he will have an interesting letter to write you. The Guards Division did not get into it until Sunday, so I can just tell you what I found out and what I saw.

At 6 am on Saturday the 15th Division was in the trenches in front of Vermelles, on the right of La Bassée. Our Engineers pumped the gas at the Germans as the wind was in our favour.

Our Artillery had opened fire four hours before this; we could hear the bombardment from where we were (at Lillers about 24 miles away). We were there as reserves and so had to march all day and night on Saturday till we got here.

After the bombardment and gas course, the 15th Division hopped the parapet led by the 9th Black Watch, Lochiel’s Camerons 6th Battalion and Royal Scots Fusiliers. They did simply splendid advancing right through Loos and capturing Hill 70. They held this position till the 21 st Division came to their assistance, but through some misunderstanding, three regiments of the 21 st Division retired, leaving the 15th in the lurch, so that they also had to retire from Hill 70.

Part of the 45th field Ambulance (Kirkwood’s Ambulance) was in Loos and when the 15th Division retired behind Hill 70 they also had to retire and in doing so their Ambulance must have been very heavily shelled.

I saw four of their G.S. Wagons with their medical panyards lying on the road side with the horses lying dead beside them. I cannot say whether any of their men were killed but I hear a Section of their Bearers were gassed. I have not yet seen Kirkwood to get full details from him but hope to do so soon.

I am only judging what happened to their Ambulance by the position their Wagons were in when I got there on Monday night. It is very hard to understand the cause of their Wagons being left there, but I think they must have been caught in a heavy fire of gas shells. Their Wagons, of course, are now safe and can be brought back at night.

When the Guards Division reached here on Sunday night-Monday morning, the 15th Division were just in front of Loos. The Guards retook Hill 70 and are now ready to advance further but the damned weather has broken down. It has been raining since Sunday and still continues.

Our Artillery all around us here is still firing away as hard as they can and the Germans are dropping s few coal-boxes round about here. We are going to keep this advance up as soon as the weather gets better again. All over it has been a big success and we have taken a few thousand prisoners. I cannot say for certain but reckon about 10, 000. I have seen 14 Guns that were captured; two of them are still lying in the centre of Loos.

I will now give you a little of what I myself saw.

Our Ambulance reached Hallicourt on Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, and lay down in a field for a few hours rest, our Division being just in front of us. On Sunday night we moved on to Sailly Labourse, our Division moving up to the other side of Vermelles and the same night they relieved the Division holding the front line around Loos.

On Monday we, the Bearers of the Ambulance moved up to Vermelles followed by the Remainder of our Ambulance. The Bearers then moved up to Loos, as our Division was going to retake Hill 70. They took it all right and we had to work all night getting the wounded away. The road between Vermelles and Loos is a terrible sight to see-dead lying everywhere. The 9th Black Watch must have lost terribly as I saw hundreds hanging on the barbed wire. Yes! We have advanced but the 15th division suffered terribly. This road is a sight to see but I expect Kirkwood will be able to tell you more than I can as he was there when the first attack came off.

I won’t say any more at present but am trying to find out how all the Kingston Boys fared and will let you know as soon as I can. A good few of the R.A.M.C. have been lost but nothing to what the infantry have lost. You remember I told you we would lose a few before we got the enemy on the run.

The bombardment and the attacks are still going on; we are giving them no rest. I am now going to snatch an hour’s sleep as we have to go back to the village of Loos to bring in the wounded. We came down from there last night. The smell is awful. This has been a better success than Neuve Chapelle.

There is a big colliery in the centre of the village. I hope to write you of further successes shortly but it is hell in that village as the Germans are dropping coal-boxes in it every minute-day and night.

No more at present but hope to write soon.

Your old friend

Excuse the writing; I am so tired.

Diaries; 25th – 29th September, 1915.

Saturday 25th September: Lambres

We left here “Lambres” at 8 am and marched on till we came to a village called Ames at 10 am. We stayed here until 2 pm and while here were told the 15th Division had taken 4 lines of trenches.

We left Ames at 2 pm and marched on after the Welsh Guards. It was raining the whole time and the roads deep with mud and almost blocked by French and British Cavalry, there being thousands all going the same road as us.

After marching and hanging about the roads for hours we reached a place called Haillicourt at 1 am in the morning and were billeted in a field.

We were so tired we were glad to lay down on the wet ground and in the rain. What cheered us up was the news that we had advanced 4 miles on a 10 miles front.

Wounded were now passing along the roads in Ambulance cars as we went off to sleep.

Sunday 26th September: Haillicourt

We wakened up shivering with cold but are all anxiously waiting for news. Some say we have advanced a great deal, others that we have lost very heavily.

We are still here at Haillicourt at 2 pm but the sun has come out and brightened things up a bit. A great many French Ambulance Cars are passing here full of French wounded but everything is quiet.

Later on in the afternoon every gun around about opened fire. Another bombardment had started.

We, of the C Section Bearers, left here at 6 pm and marched on till we came to Sailly-Labourse where we billeted for the night.

Monday 27th September: Sailly-Labourse/ Loos

We slept in a barn here all night and everything is quiet this morning. We have just heard that the Guards will go into action today and we will follow them up.

The 15th Division seem to have lost very heavily by all accounts.

We marched off from here at 2 pm and marched on till we came to Vermelles station where we took over a dressing station in a Brewery from the 46th Field Ambulance and leaving 10 of our men there the remainder of us marched on nearer the firing line. After an hours march, we halted and formed an Aide Post at Fosse 8 just behind the village of Loos, the village our troops took from the Germans on Saturday.

As we halted here a heavy attack is going on to our left and the Cavalry are all standing by.

We then moved on up to the village of Loos where we were badly needed as a great many wounded had to be brought in as the Guards had advanced and re-took Hill 70.

Along the roads and in all the streets of Loos dead are lying everywhere. The place is simply covered with dead, the Germans being in the majority. It is a weird sight bedside some of the trenches to see our dead and the enemy’s dead lying opposite each other both with their gas helmets on.

The horrors of war, it being in the dark except when a star shell lights up the scene and the smell is awful. It is enough to turn any man’s head but plenty of work is before us and we have no time for thoughts, a good job too.

We passed on through the ruins of the village stepping over the dead and dodging the shells the Germans are now sending into the village, passed a German gun near the ruins of the church. This is about the 14th gun we have seen this last two days that have been left by the Germans.

At last, we were leaving the village behind and with the Tower Bridge on our right we came to a halt at the last house on the outside of the village. It is an Estaminet and has been made into an Aide-Post by the Regimental Doctor and his Stretcher Bearers. It is full of wounded and more are being brought in, so we start carrying away the ones he has dressed to the Motor Ambulance Cars a mile behind the village.

We kept on carrying away the wounded and by 5 am had cleared out all that could be brought in, we were then told to make our way back to our Aide-Post till further orders.

On our road back just at daybreak, we could see better the state of the battlefield and it was horrible to see. Two or three wagons of the 45th Field Ambulance were lying in a ditch on the side of the road with all the horses dead, also some of the Welsh Guards transport.

I heard that a Section of Bearers of the 45th Field Ambulance had been caught by gas shells and gassed. That is how their wagons came to be there.

I think we have made a good advance here, about 5 miles, and would have made a bigger one only the 21 st Division retired but we have lost heavily. A great many of the Highland Regiment’s dead are lying about.

Tuesday 28th September: Loos

After getting back to Fosse 8 we had a hurried snack and tried to snatch an hour’s rest. We managed about 2 hours sleep then were up standing ready in case we were wanted.

Parties are now going out over the ground we have captured burying the dead. This attack was started, here where we are, on Saturday morning at 6 am by the 15th Division with other Divisions on their right and left.

After hanging about and getting in one or two wounded now and then we were relieved by another Section of our Bearers. We went back to Vermelles railway station, to our hospital there where we were to billet for the night. We had just been asleep about an hour when we were called out to assist No. 4 Field Ambulance; but when we got to their place we were not needed so we had to come back.

Wednesday 29th September: Loos/ Vermelles

After a lively cannonade by both sides all day, we went up to Loos and cleared all the wounded from the Aide–Posts landing back about 2 am.

It was very quiet in Loos last night only a few shells dropping when we were there but the roads are in a terrible state owing to the rain. It rained all day but cleared up at night.

An attack seems to be going on all day to our left near Cambrin but all over things are fairly quiet. The Guards were relieved by another Division and came back to Vermelles beside us.

Diaries; 13th – 24th September, 1915.

Monday 13th September: Hallines

Still here at Hallines, another small route march.

Tuesday 14th to Monday 20th September: Hallines

Nothing doing except route marches on the 15th and 17th.

Tuesday 21st September: Hallines

There is some word of us leaving here soon.

Wednesday 22nd September: Hallines/ Ecques

We left Hallines at 6.30pm and marched on after our Brigade till we reached a village called Ecques at 9.30pm. We billeted in a field here for the night.

Thursday 23rd September: Ecques

We stopped here in Ecques all day but marched off at 6 pm and marched on till 9 pm in the rain when we halted and billeted in a barn in a village called Lambres. There is something big coming off as we can hear the rumble of the guns in the distance.

Friday 24th September: Lambres

We stayed at Lambres all day and night and we can still hear the terrible rumble of the guns.

Letter; 12th September 1915.

Letter 12th Sept: Hallines

Dear Jim,

Just a few lines to let you know I am getting on all right. I have written to Mr Allan and given him my new address; also mentioned how I came to be in this place. I expect you will have heard of it by this time. I had a letter from Tommy and he was saying you were very busy. I am glad to hear it as plenty of work means plenty of the “ready”, but as you know, out here we do not get paid for overtime.

Well, Jim, we are getting very little over time at present; thank goodness! We are simply resting or doing a little route marching or having a field day with the Division.

We have mostly been practising keeping in touch with Brigades and units when advancing. It is easy doing it now-miles behind the firing line, but I well remember how different it was at Neuve Chapelle. They have new ideas of how it should be done but when we get into the firing line and try it, only then will we find out it is workable.

It is very enjoyable at present, always out in the open and climbing the small hills round about. All are in good health and fine fettle. We were inspected by the General Officer Commanding the Division on Friday (Earl of Cavan). He is in command of the whole Guards Division.

We also had a letter read out to us by the Mayor of Fouquieres (which had gone to the French Army Headquarters then on to the British and then to our Ambulance). It thanked the Ambulance for its splendid work while in that village. This is the first time – we are told- that any unit of the British Army has been so mentioned when it was supposed to be resting. As the Commanding Officer said, it is good to get praise from the French for good conduct and work while back from the Firing Line.

When we landed in this village (Hallines) which is about 30 miles from the Firing Line and about 6 to 7 southwest of St. Omer, we were sleeping in a field beside a small river. This field lay in a hollow and when it rained for two nights and days we were flooded out. I got up on the second night as the water was running down my back and had a chill for three days afterwards. I am glad to say I am all right now.

We are now billeted in a paper Mill nearby and as the Mill goes day and night we make ourselves believe we are onboard a boat, as the throb throb of the Engine sends us off to sleep. There is one thing about it we have a roof over our heads and as the nights are getting cold we are glad to be billeted inside.

I don’t know how long we are to be here, or where we are going when all is ready. Some say, Arras, some Ypres and others that we are to make a landing at Zeebruge. This is all talk of course as none of us know where we are going till we get there.

Personally, I think we might go to Arras as the French have been bombarding round that district for 15 days, but the British are also doing a bombardment about Ypres as we can hear the guns at night, even though we are about 30 miles away.

I think we will go to Arras for another reason. As I said when at home we have been
gradually extending our line and relieving the French of a good bit of theirs. Up to the present, we have taken over about 35 miles of the French line since last June.

We have a Division of troops south of Arras but the French Army is still holding Arras itself, so I expect we will take over part of the line between the British Division south of Arras and the British troops further north. If this turns out to be the case, by the end of this month the British Army will be holding a line from Longemarch to a point 20 miles south of Arras, covering in all 100 miles of a front. I can only say that is why I expect the Guard’s Division will go to Arras, when
it goes into action, but I will let you know whenever the move comes off.

You can tell Tommy that the 1st Scots guards are in the 2nd brigade of this Division, so I should often come across them. They are in a village a few mile (I think) from here, so must be only two from St. Omer. I am going to try to get up there on Monday or Tuesday to see Sandy McDougall’s son and also Bill Whittaker. They are both there, I have been making enquiries off the Bombing parties in this village.

I don’t know what more to say at present but hope all the boys are keeping well. Tell Tommy to keep me informed about the “boys” of the class at the front and if I come across any of them I will let you know at once.

I don’t know if I need say any more at present, except that I sent my address to Mr Allan and put 3rd Guards Brigade in it. This is giving too full an address as you will only require “3rd Field Ambulance, Guards Division, B.E.F.” Tell all the boys I was asking for them and thank them for the splendid time I had when on leave. Roll on Berlin.

From your old pal, Mac.