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. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grandfather's journal March 13 -17 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 13th to 15th

[It was] rather quiet, done little firing. Collins had a squeak on 14th whilst going along [the] wire, a shell bursting near missed him, but caught a Garhwal, and cut him clean in two.
    
I went into RICHEBOURG to have a look round; I went all over the deserted and desolate piles of ruins that had a little time before [been] a pretty little town.

The church had suffered severely, only parts of the walls and tower remaining. The churchyard was pitiful to look at, graves and tombs absolutely heaved up skulls and bones lying about everywhere. The top of the steeple had been caught fair by a shell and had fallen off and the top stuck firmly in the ground just by the door. It was as if it had been planted there. Everywhere was a hopeless mass of wreckage, which can hardly be described and wants seeing to actually believe.

March 16th

Marched to PAQAULT and billeted, orders to move before dawn. [i]



March 17th

Marched and dropped into action near LAVENTIE. This town was deserted and partially in ruins. Were busy all day laying our line to a ruined house in rear of our trenches, from where we could observe the German lines and AUBERS, a town in their possession. Whilst doing this, we went into an establishment, which was not damaged, and had only been abandoned the day before. It was beautifully furnished and in the attic were [an] abundance of women’s clothes. We secured plates and cooking utensils, several things that would be handy to us, and took [them] back to the guns.

 In a field near the establishment were a good number of graves of our chaps, quite a miniature cemetery, and every grave head a cross and name upon it, etc.  It was fenced in. I thought it will [be] a consolation one day perhaps, for some woman to visit the spot where someone dear to them was laid. This was a very unhappy day for me, for my thoughts were far away, and I slept but little at night, more due to my thoughts than the cold.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Grandfather's journal March 12,1915 Part I

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


March 12th

[We] kept up steady rate of fire throughout the night, raising a little at dawn, and throughout the morning [we] engaged various targets. The enemy commenced to bombard RICHEBOURG (which was about 400 yards to our left) with salvos from their 8.2 Howitzers (nicknamed coal-boxes or Jack Johnsons).
    
In the afternoon my communication broke down; consequently the battery had to stop firing. I went along the line and whilst crossing a main road, shell[s] were falling pretty thick, although the majority were going into the village. I found the break in the wire; a shell had hit it square and chopped a piece out. I took our now favorite cover and got in the hole made by the shell. [I] repaired the line, [then] tapped in and found everything alright. Another line running in the same direction was also broken like mine, so I repaired it, tapped the line and asked who they were, it was the 9th Brigade. They were profuse in their thanks for it had saved them an uncomfortable job.
    
Was still pretty hot when I reached the battery; the guns were very lucky for nothing fell between us and the village.


They were bombarding the poor old church fiercely.  Three of us (two telephonists and myself) were watching the effect of the fire and speculating which would be the next to go in the air.       

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Grandfather's journal March 1915 Part II

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kendle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon

March 11th

We opened at dawn on the BOIS-DU-BEIZ, which was still held by enemy. We learned that the 7th Division had advanced as far as possible on our left, but had failed to take the AUBERS RIDGE. So to cooperate, our Division (Lahore) was ordered to consolidate the position we had won, and to hold it, which we did in spite of numerous counter attacks.
    
It was awful to see the Germans mowed down by our guns, for they made attack after attack in close formation, and were literally blown to pieces. Every attack, leaving the ground in front of our trenches more thickly covered with bodies.

A column of their reinforcements were caught plumb by our 15’  Howitzer. One round made a gap in the column of about 60 yards – men, horses and vehicles going in the air. In a confused mass, this our most mighty gun, did some terrific work.
    
My line, marvel of marvels, still held, only being broken once by shell fire. The day was much the same as yesterday – continual firing.
    
A stream of wounded and prisoners, as one batch, was coming through the RUE-DE-BOIS. Three of their own shell[s] came long into them, [which] killed or wounded about 20 of the prisoners. Strangely enough [they] never touched any of the natives who were escorting them.      

Our artillery observers in the vicinity [said that] it was funny to see the niggers laughing at the Germans, the thought of them being outed by their own chaps seem to amuse them greatly. They made the Germans walk slowly and keep to the road, for it was evident the scared prisoners would have liked to have run across country. 




March 12th

[We] kept up steady rate of fire throughout the night, raising a little at dawn, and throughout the morning [we] engaged various targets. The enemy commenced to bombard RICHEBOURG (which was about 400 yards to our left) with salvos from their 8.2 Howitzers (nicknamed coal-boxes or Jack Johnsons).
    
In the afternoon my communication broke down; consequently the battery had to stop firing. I went along the line and whilst crossing a main road, shell[s] were falling pretty thick, although the majority were going into the village. I found the break in the wire; a shell had hit it square and chopped a piece out. I took our now favorite cover and got in the hole made by the shell. [I] repaired the line, [then] tapped in and found everything alright. Another line running in the same direction was also broken like mine, so I repaired it, tapped the line and asked who they were, it was the 9th Brigade. They were profuse in their thanks for it had saved them an uncomfortable job.
    
Was still pretty hot when I reached the battery; the guns were very lucky for nothing fell between us and the village.

They were bombarding the poor old church fiercely.  Three of us (two telephonists and myself) were watching the effect of the fire and speculating which would be the next to go in the air.      

Several splinters [were] whizzing over our heads at every salvo, but we took no notice, until one small piece hit me in the muscle of my right arm, but [it] did not penetrate.
    
The next salvo, a good sized piece, just grazed my cheek and went about 2 inches into the ground at my feet.  I scratched it out, [but] had it been a couple of inches more near, it would doubtless have given me a nasty knock. 

We thought we had watched the fun long enough, so we went into our little house and had ‘ tea’  – nothing short of an earthquake would make us miss that at this time, for some cows near bye [sic] kindly supplied us with milk, and milk in tea is ‘ bon’ .
    
In the evening the Manchesters caught 5 spies in RICHEBOURG. They were found in underground cellars and must have been there months. They received scant ceremony, and no doubt were soon put out of the world quickly. For spies, either man or woman, were promptly dealt with, especially by the French.
    
The night was rather more quiet, only doing little firing; we had gained and consolidated our objective and the Germans seemed glad to keep quiet, as long as we would let them.







Thursday, February 19, 2015

Grandfather's journal - March 1915 Part I


His entries in March are many and therefore I decided to start early and continue through March.

March 4th – 9th

Preparing for the big bombardment, Batteries were everywhere. Under almost every tree there was a gun, and our giant 15’  Howitzer was to make her debut, as well as quite a few of our new 9.2’  Hows.

 We laid out double lines to our observing station, as well as lines to various parts of the trenches. [Supply] dumped a large amount of ammunition [so that] every preparation was made to give the Germans the biggest shock they had yet received at our hands.

March 10th

The bombardment of NEUVE CHAPELLE commenced at 7:30 am. It was horrific to hear the tons of metal going through the air; in all we had 476 guns on about a four mile front. The 18 pounders were cutting the enemy’s wire embankment.
The heavy artillery were all concentrated on the enemy’s line of trenches and the fierce fire was kept up for ¾ hour.
   
We then lifted to the BOIS-DU-BEIZ to enable our infantry to attack. Our trenches were lined with Garhwals , Purchase,  and several other regts of native troops. The Leicesters made the first charge, taking the German trenches in grand style but were held on the edge of an orchard outside NEUVE CHAPELLE. A regiment of Territorials  came to their assistance. A terrific hand-to-hand fight ensued, especially at a spot we called, ‘ The Street of Hell’ . Eventually, after fighting that can hardly be described, we gained the village about midday. Many prisoners were captured. They were brought in batches and they all seemed terrified and glad to be captured.

The natives advanced on the right and captured the trenches in front, but were held up by machine guns in a redoubt by the left edge of the BOIS-DU-BIEZ.

The Gurkhas did grand work, especially with their wicked little knives, which accounting for many German heads. As the Germans ran from the trenches, the little Gurkhas were after them, and many of the little chaps clambered on the backs of the big Germans [with] the knack [of] Sweeney Todd for throat cutting.
   
The Seaforths were brought to assist the natives at this point, and in a splendid charge, (which according to our officers and many old campaigners who were observing with us), was the finest sight they had ever witnessed. They went into the murderous fire as if they were going on a picnic. In spite of the enormous losses they incurred, the[y] captured the redoubt and its contents of Germans and machine guns.      

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kendle