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.