Friday, April 17, 2015

Grandfather's journal end April 26th beginning of 27th 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

A couple of days previous the Canadian Scottish were ordered to retire, but refused to do so. They charged the enemy on their own. It was a mad thing to do and they lost over 500 men, but captured some trenches and captured 100 prisoners or more; not one of these prisoners were brought down.
We were fighting as they - no quarter, and the Canadians gave none. Just in the rear of our guns, there was a Prussian Guardsman (a fine fellow, fully 6' 3" in height and big with it) pinned to a tree with a bayonet. He had a post card stuck on his forehead with the words, 'Canada does not forget.'
The byword of the Canadians were, 'we'll give'em crucify.' The happenings around of this period would fill a book with horrors of this description.
Word spread of the splendid fighting of the Canadians and the Indian troops who were with us.
Truly enough the Canadians had served Ypres, as did the 7th, 5th, and 1st Divisions in November.

April 27th
Much the same as yesterday - continual shelling and firing, the enemy also sending over their great 17' Howitzer shell (the real ones) into YPRES (a mile in our rear), as well as at artillery and the trenches.
The enemy must have been preparing for this for months, for their ammunition expenditure was enormous and unceasing.

We found another observing post near ST JULIEN, a wrecked house about 200 yards in rear of our trenches, but it was almost useless as the wire was continually getting broken, and it was impossible to signal. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 26th 1915 Part 3

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

We were shelled for quite an hour, 13 to the dozen; it was awful.
Just a few yards from us was an artilleryman and his horse lying dead. A motor ambulance smashed, the driver was killed and burned to a cinder by the petrol which ignited.
A nigger was lying dead in the ditch, and round the end of the building were several others.
After a time it abated a little and we started again. I met George, he had been in a much-like stew as I. We went through the village and it was terrible. I managed to get a drink of water and after a while I decided to go back to the guns, if I could get there.
I hadn't gone far when they started again, and we ran for our previous little shelter, and gained it just in time. Shells burst very near, and I said to Collins, 'What a stink, and strange smell.' My eyes were watering and we all three began coughing and decided to chance it anywhere else. After an exciting half-hour we got to the guns. I felt bad and sick.

We learned from an officer that it was due to the gas shells the Germans were using. It was very lucky we decided to get out of it or undoubtedly the three of us would have been gassed properly, instead of partially, but it was bad enough, sufficient to stop me eating anything for three days. 

April 26th
The guns were getting it pretty warm, but we started firing in good style.
The wire broke three times, but by arrangements we raised the range, while out of communication.
Twice during the afternoon I went through ST JEAN and each time thought I should never get back. I felt quite alright and thought I was bound to meet it somewhere, so I took it easy, but at nightfall I thought I must have been very lucky.
The enemy kept up hard shelling everywhere; it was one continual roar, shells frequently bursting over us and bullets and splinters knocking lumps off my dugout. I really thought it was the finishing touch, for of all the places I had been through in the campaign, this was by far the worst; it seemed impossible for one to live long in it.
I had a few hours sleep, awakening now and again when a large shell burst somewhere near. At daylight we were at it again; the first thing that met my gaze was a shell dropped just the other side of the hedge. It fell among what was left of a Canadian Battery Wagon Line, (most of the men had been killed when the Germans broke through the previous week). They bayoneted them whilst they slept and hung the Ferrier to a tree. Then they crucified a Sergeant of the Canadian Scottish to a barn door with bayonets. This wagon line had about a dozen horses left of 200 - the guns were captured by the enemy, but were afterwards regained by a magnificent charge by the Canadian infantry.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 26 1915 Part 2

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

We found a likely position, where some old trenches and dugouts were, about ½ mile in rear of ST JEAN. Shells were bursting right over, but everywhere seemed to be the same.
The Captain didn't like it, for there was practically no cover, so we went a little more near the town. A Canadian officer asked what we were wanting, and when we told him that we thought of bringing the battery into position there, he said - ' For God's sakes, don't bring them here, this corner is Hell itself. Get out of it as quick as you can.'
Shells were dropping all around and it seems marvelous that none of us have got hit. I afterwards learned that this part was called 'Dead Man's Corner', and it deserved the name, for many dead were thereabouts. We had just left and decided it would have to do, for all places seemed alike.
While the battery was coming up, we started to lay out a wire to a likely spot to observe. George took a couple of men to start from the place they found, and I took Collins and Billison with me.
We ran a wire from the position through the village of ST JEAN.

We reached the village alright, and as everywhere else, it was being shelled. As I jumped a small stream by the church, a large shell burst almost on us, so we took shelter behind a building. We could not move for shrapnel bullets. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 26, 1915 Part 1

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

April 26th

Marched about 8:30 am with Battery and halted outside Vlamertinghe.
George, Collins and I went with CO to Ypres to reconnoiter a position for the battery. As we neared Ypres, we could see the hellish bombardment going on.
On all sides of the road were dead horses, overturned lorries and discarded equipment. Hundreds of wounded were being carried down, or hobbling along the best way they could.
As we galloped through the town, some awful sights met our eyes, men and horses blown to pieces. Every few yards along the road was something dead, and bits of men and horses were everywhere.
We found the Artillery Head Quarters and the Captain went for orders.

The shells were absolutely falling everywhere - it was an inferno. Every second man we met was wounded, and we said to each other, 'I reckon we're on the last lap this journey.' 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 5th 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

April 5th - 23rd

Remained in this position firing on enemy's trenches and guns, but aeroplanes were very active and often stop us from firing. Very little night doings. Our observation station in the brewery was a veritable trap, for it was continually shelled.

In spite of this we stuck it for four days, until one shell hit direct on the little cellar, wounding Grogan and Smith, (the two telephonists on duty). Lt Richie had a marvelous escape, but poor Grogan died afterwards, and Smith was so shook up, he was sent away. We now used the remnants of a house, which we called the green house, for the observation post. It was shelled often, but we had no further casualties and nothing out of the ordinary happening; just the usual give and take.

The batteries in rear were shelled occasionally, but nothing came within harming distance of our guns.

Can hear sounds of continual heavy fighting far away to our left towards YPRES and on our right by LA BASSEE; some pretty hard scrapping was in progress on the French front,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Grandfather's Journal April 4th 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

April 4th
Collins and I proceeded to CROIX BARBETTE to take over wires and communications of 35th Battery, which we were to relieve. We arrived about midday, and went along observing line to the observation station, which was what little that remained of the brewery in Neuve Chapelle.
It was interesting to go over all the ground that we had won in the big scrap on the 10th March. Everywhere was hapless ruin and the old German trenches were in a very battered condition.
One could not walk for shell holes and graves; many of the graves had been ploughed up by shell and the remains re-buried. There were still scores of dead Germans between the trenches, and the smell was not pleasant.
The church and churchyard was utterly destroyed, but strangely enough, a large crucifix was standing intact and apparently untouched, while everything else within a mile from it had been battered to pieces. In the whole village, there was not a house standing.
Rifle bullets were plentiful as we wired, at times in full view of the enemy trenches. However we fixed up the line without mishap and on the way back we came across the grave of a telephonist of the 35th that had been killed. We felt sorry for we knew him quite well, and worse still he had been killed by one of our own 6" shells which fell short. A 6' Howitzer had also blown up in a field in front of the battery, killing 3 and wounding several.
We were told that it was not so quiet here, as it was when we were here before. From the sights around, it was quite evident, but still the little farm was still intact.

All the inhabitants of the village in the rear had been cleared out. I got a woollen mattress, which made a grand bed, and was much preferable to the straw we got; it was firm and warm. The battery came in rather late, and things seemed a little noisy in front, but it was only a 'wind' attack from the batteries in our rear firing slowly all night on barring. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Grandfather's Journal March 18 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

March 18th to April 3rd
This period was very quiet. We were firing for registration only, by observation and by aeroplane. I find this very interesting, signaling to the aeroplane by means of a very powerful light. We were credited with doing damage to German gun targets.
Hostile aeroplanes were very active, but invariably our 13" pounder anti-aircraft guns gave them a warm reception.
The Germans brought down one of our aeroplanes, which fell between our fire trenches and theirs. We destroyed it with our guns to prevent the enemy getting any of the remnants.
The enemy aeroplanes frequently drop bombs on ESTAIRS, some 5 miles from us. Almost every day they drop a few shells in LAVENTIE. As in every place, the church, a beautiful old structure, is utterly destroyed.
I came through the town one day at a stretch gallop, as it was being shelled. Stopped a little way outside and watched the fire, which always seems to have a fascination for me. They did some grand shooting and repeatedly hit the church, one shell clearing off clean the one of the four pinnacles that remained.
I learned that the 37th Brigade, including my old battery, the 55th, were in action near us. After a deal of scouting and a ride on my old charger, I almost rode up to the trenches, when I was chased back by the infantry. Eventually found them and spent a pleasant afternoon. All my old comrades were Sergeants; Sergeant Majors and two others had got their commissions, for great changes had taken place during the last 3 years.
All the old officers, excepting one, had gone. I learned that several of my old chums had been killed and felt very sorry about one of my old friends named Hayman. The last time I met him was on Christmas Eve 1913, when I was shopping with my dear wife. I little thought then that the next time I heard of him he would be 'blown to bits, as we only found his legs'. He married a girl living in Battersea, only two weeks before the war.
On Good Friday I was interviewed by my CO. he told me he would forward a strong recommendation for old George and I, that we both should be granted commissions and advised us to take promotion which we had previously refused.
I had several rides to wagon line through ESTAIRS and LAVENTIE and enjoyed this period of what was practically inactivity; during the whole time only two shells came near the guns.

The bombardment of AUBERSs was postponed and we received orders to take up an old position at, CROIX BARBETTE.