Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Grandfather's journal May 1st - 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.


May 1st to 4th
We were still in same position. The hostile shelling never ceases, day or night.
We fire mostly by aeroplane wireless - attacks and counter attacks twice daily.
Batteries on our left seem to get it jolly hot, but in spite of the gases and their preponderance of artillery, we are informed that we have stopped the march on CALAIS.
We were ordered to move with Lahore Division, (which was now sadly depleted in numbers) to move on the night of the 4th.
I was billeting and Mr Donahue and I left about 5 pm, and eventually, after a hard ride, found billets some 1.5 miles from Ypres in a village I never knew the name of. I left at midnight to conduct the Battery.
It was raining all night and I tied my horse to the railings of a churchyard, determined to get a drink somewhere and something to eat. After a while I came on an establishment and vigorously knocked, which was opened by a Staff Officer. I told him I wanted something to eat and drink. He was very good and took me inside and fixed me up.
I left refreshed, While it was still raining and cold; I eventually met the Battery about 6 o'clock.

I got some breakfast from the Officer's cooks of the Ammunition Column and then had a sleep about 10 am. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 28th - 30th 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.

We went back, while shells of large caliber were continually passing right over the guns, but only one burst near, about 20 yards from where I had made my dugout at the foot of a large tree - it did no harm.
The night passed uneventfully, except for the continual shelling, and during the night, two batteries of French 7.5's took up position about 50 yards in our rear.

April 29th
Was impossible to fire from observation, as we could not get to the observing point and the wire was broken in many places by the continual shelling. We fired by map and wireless from aeroplane.
Hostile aeroplanes were very active and one must have spotted us, for they gave it to us warm in the afternoon and evening.
The officers had made a bivouac beneath a large tree, a few yards on my left.
A few shells, and they were real coal-boxes, burst very near. They moved over to the left and lucky they did, for a few minutes later a shell hit the tree and snapped it off like a match. Other shells followed and we had to leave the guns for a while. When it was over we went back; the officer's huts had been blown to pieces. Two coats that hung on a tree were absolutely in ribbons; almost everything there was irrevocably ruined. One of them had been sitting on a box of biscuits; this box was blown yards away and not even a biscuit that was inside remained. The tin box was like a piece of twisted tin. Everything was almost unrecognizable.
Dowling, one of the servants got both arms badly splintered. They were continually shelling roads to our rear and right all night.

April 30th
We fired in the morning by wireless, bombardment to support attack by the French, which was said to be successful.
In the afternoon, we were again heavily shelled as we expected.
The 57th got it worse than us, about 50 yards on our right. One shell pitched into a dugout, killed 4 telephonists and several men were wounded.
They got it so fiercely that they were compelled, as we were yesterday, to desert their guns, but they were soon back again.
One 17" dropped by the French guns and they nipped (as per usual). Several fell in front of us and one 30 yards to, and in direct line with, our left gun, just where I was.
It is impossible to describe these monsters coming through the air. The nearest it is like an express train going through a tunnel and the burst is like a terrific clap of thunder.
The earth sways as if it were an earthquake. We measured this hole at night and it was 25 foot deep and 43 foot across; great lumps of earth, like rocks, had been scattered many yards. It seems impossible, even to one who understands artillery that this great eruption could have been made by a shell. We picked up several splinters going anything from a few ounces to several pounds.

The attack was repulsed and towards dark it became a little more quiet, just the usual nightly dozen per hour. The 17" must have put the wind up the Frenchies, for they had moved during the night and never came back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Grandfather's journal end April 27 & start 28 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

They seemed to lengthen the range a little on to the road where we had to go to get through Ypres. We resolved to go for it and we did. It was the maddest gallop I had ever had; my old charger never moved so quickly as when he galloped round ' Dead Man's Gulch' and through the town itself.
The only ones we met till through the town were the dead ones lying about.
Our troubles for this night were not over yet. I had only a faint idea where the battery was going to, and instead of following the right road, we took the wrong.
Eventually found ourselves just on the left of Hill 60, which was being subjected to a fierce bombardment from all directions. We had another mad ride back and tried another road. We found a reel of wire which must have fallen off one of the wagons, and knew we were on the right track. We were, and eventually caught the battery just as dawn was breaking.

April 28th
Went into action on the edge of a wood on the left of Ypres; this seemed more quiet than the place we had vacated.
In the afternoon we ran our wire to a point for observing, just over the canal. Everywhere about here was a scene of desolation, half- starved cattle roaming about, pigs, and all sorts of farm commodities; many were lying about dead.
The French Infantry held this front and just in the rear of the trenches were 4 of their Howitzers, which showed how far the enemy had advanced. We stopped to observe some big shell bursting near, a kind we had never seen before, and promptly named it ' Black Jack' on account of the great volume of black smoke they gave off. While we were watching one burst directly over the heads of a few Frenchman, they scattered and I didn't think any were harmed

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 27, 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 27th
Our Captain was a perfect brick and stuck it grandly, his hat being carried away once by a shrapnel burst.
He had just left the house and was running to the fire trench when a 17" came right into the house. It threw it almost bodily into the air - after the smoke cleared off, the house was a pile of wreckage. Several natives had been killed, Lt Donahue having a lucky escape - three natives were horribly wounded and pinned down under the wreckage. An officer mercifully shot them to put them out of their misery.
We kept up fire by map all day. Several shells burst upon us and one pitched right against the trail of Jerry's wagon, and funny enough hurt nobody.
The thought struck me in the afternoon that it was my birthday - Gee! It was a very grim and bloody one.
Old George and Collins had an exciting afternoon. While going along the wire, they had to take refuge in a shell hole, They had to stay in it for a long while, and they eventually got back alright.
About midnight we got orders to move at once, for the position was absolutely suicidal to hold. The battery got away alright; I remained with my horse holder to wait for George and Collins, who were with the Infantry Head Quarters. They were reeling in what remained of our wire.
Shelling was still going on, and the burst of shells, firing of our own guns, and the rockets from both side's trenches always lights up the Heavens like a gigantic firework display.
I waited a long time behind the shelter of a building for them to come, and I thought that they must have got knocked over. I resolved to go and look for them; it was a nasty job for the road and the village of ST JEAN was still being heavily shelled. The road was deserted as I crept from tree to tree. But every here and there were dead horses and occasionally a dead man.
As I got to the village, two infantry chaps were coming down from the end of the village. I asked them if they had seen anything of my chums, but they told me they had not seen anybody, and advised me to go no further, if I wanted to live.
So I returned to where I had left the horses, thinking that George and Collins were 'goners'. I was greatly relieved when I got there to find them back. They had come back a different way, as it was too hot through the village and road.

I had hardly been back 10 minutes when a shell struck the roof of the building, or rather, shed. We were inside and tiles and bricks fell in a shower on top of us. Collins got a whack in the shoulder, but it was not serious. Another shell followed; 19 burst all within 40 yards of us and not one of the four was touched. 

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.