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War Stories: World War I

War Stories published under this topic are as follows:

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World War I July 11, 1918
Left Camp Custer
July 21, 1918
Left Camp Mills Sunday morning, 4 o'clock, for depot. Took ferry boat up Hudson River to pier. Stayed in New York harbor until Monday morning 9 o'clock. Sailed with a fleet of 16 boats, some torpedo boats and a lot of submarine chasers. Saw 3 observation balloons out in the ocean anchored on ships. Had calm weather for 5 days - got a little stormy then. Was awful sick the entire trip.
Note: by Paul Rademacher  8073 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I In writing this, my object is to try and give some idea of my experiences in France and Belgium. Well, I land at Boulogne on February 2nd 1917. It was then bitter cold and snowing, and went on to St Martinís Camp for the night and then my first real experience of hardship commenced.
Note: by Charles H Rooke, 1/5 Border Regiment  13519 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I We had a new man at the periscope, on this afternoon in question; I was sitting on the fire step, cleaning my rifle, when he called out to me: 'There's a sort of greenish, yellow cloud rolling along the ground out in front, it's coming ---
Note: By Arthur Empey, an American enlisted in the British Army.
First introduced by the Germans, gas warfare was soon embraced by all the combatants. By the end of the war, one in four of the artillery shells fired on the Western Front contained gas.
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World War I Dear Captain Gunyon: Replying to your first series of questions, concerning the 76th. Brigade of Royal Field Artillery: The 76th Brigade was supporting the Canadian Infantry which was holding the line in front of Vimy. The brigade consisted of four batteries of 18 pounders (field guns) and one battery of 4.5 inch Howitzers. The cover of the guns, while poor was, I suppose, as good as that usually occupied by field guns in position only a few days, and the quarters of the gun crews were in cellars near the guns, but the shells thrown at us were eight inch, and armour piercing. At least the artillery men said that they were armour piercing, and after viewing the effects of their explosions I was in no position to argue with them. After several dugouts had been blown in, some of the uninjured personnel set to work digging out the injured while the bombardment was in progress and it was this rescue work which was carried out under scanty or no cover. The bombardment lasted from 1 p.m. until 10 p.m., with a few periods of lull, and was apparently counter battery work on the part of the enemy. Our guns were not in action. As you surmise, the gun crews had taken refuge in cellars, not anticipating a bombardment of such intensity with heavy stuff. Gas shells and high explosion were intermingled. My work consisted in dressing the wounded, checking hemorrhage, giving a hypo of morphine when necessary and seeing that the injured were evacuated to the rear. The gas used that day was the deadly sweetish smelling phosgene. It was my first experience with gas in warfare and I wore a mask part of the time and instructed the men to do so whenever there was a dangerous concentration. You ask about my own reaction: It was of course very disconcerting to endeavor to dress wounded while shells were showering debris about[,] and the possibility of being in the next few seconds in the same plight as the terribly wounded men I was dressing, occurred to me every now and then. The whole thing seemed rather unreal, particularly when it occurred to me, busy as I was, that the killing was being done deliberately and systematically. I felt particularly sorry for the young artillery men, (and many of them were about 19) who were being subjected to the ordeal. I remember one man who had a ghastly wound which would obviously prove fatal in a short time, pleading with me, amidst the turmoil of the explosions, to shoot him. I heard that same request several times later while serving with the infantry. Every soldier who has seen action since knows that it requires the highest type of stamina and bravery for troops to lie in a trench and take a heavy shelling without being demoralized and panic stricken, therefore I shall always remember the orderly rescue work carried on by the officers and men of the artillery in the face of the concentrated shelling that occurred that afternoon. You ask about the work of the artillery officers. They very bravely and ably directed the men in the work of rescue and tried to keep gun crews intact as nearly as possible, in order to fire at any time, should orders to do so, be received. During the trench tours in front of Lens, I usually had a deserted gun pit or cellar communicating with the support trench as a dressing station. The actions about the G[um] Crossin and La Coulotte, though attended by heavy casualties, were more in the nature of raids or diverting attacks, than holding attacks, therefore, I did not accompany the attacking parties. During a trench tour I stuck close to the dressing station if the enemy was active, in order to look after the injured, if things were quiet I visited the different headquarters of the platoons and companies holding the line. Going into the line was sometimes the most disagreeable part of the tour, because of the darkness, danger of getting lost, the mud, and the shelling of the roads just behind the line. The Passchendaele Campaign was carried on in a sea of mud. I have never seen a drearier sight than the salient in front of Ypres--churned up mud with mucky shell holes and never a tree as far as the eye could reach. It was necessary to march single file on duck walk because of the mud for a distance of five or six miles when going in for a tour. We were machine- gunned and bombed from the air and subjected to a terrific shelling on the way in and nothing like a real trench system was possible, the line being held by a series of posts in shell holes. My dressing station was located beside a concrete "pill box", an old German strong point. Captain Dunlap, medical officer of the 102nd Battalion, who was later killed, shared the dressing station with me. I had never met Dunlap before and when he appeared at our rendevous, with four days growth of black beard on his face, a torn tunic and string like remnants of puttees, he looked so much like a stage hobo that I burst out laughing in his face. He was a fine chap and we became good friends. The stretcher bearers had a very difficult time. The whole area was subjected to continuous shelling by the enemy. The pill box afforded shelter on one side for the dressing station and sheets of camouflage and canvas formed the roof. When no wounded were coming in Dunlap and I would crawl into the pill box for greater security. We kept no enlisted personnel with us as there was literally no place where they could stand without sinking to their knees in mud and the number of wounded men was not so great but that the two medical officers could do all that could be done. When we were relieved by the medical officer of the English unit that took over[;] Dunlap, and I, with Captain A.A. Gray, adjutant of the 75th, started back towards Ypres, over the duckwalk. The different platoons of our battalion had trickled back as they were relieved. The two way duckwalk was, as usual, shelled heavily. We were passing the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders coming when a shell got a direct hit among them about 200 feet ahead of us. Their dead and wounded, lying in grotesque attitudes, were being cleared away by their comrades with feverish haste as we dog trotted past the smoking shell hole. We did not stop because their own medical unit was on the job, they had plenty of help and each unit was supposed to take care of its own casualties. Regarding the citation for the Military Cross: "The open ground" mentioned consisted of the wheat fields and other flat unwooded ground through which we passed between Beaucourt and Le Quesnel on the immediate left of the Amiens-Roye road. As we advanced we were frequently under direct observation by enemy balloons directing artillery fire. When one shell landed half a dozen others were pretty sure to land in a very short time within a radius of 50 yards or so of where the first one did, consequently when the first few caused casualties they had to be attended in a shower of debris caused by the explosion of succeeding shells. It was necessary to pass through the streets of Le Quesnel several times during the barrage in order to find the wounded who were scattered throughout the town. I supervised their collection, during lulls in the shelling in a cellar I used as a dressing station. The platoons furnished stretcher bearers. My medical section, consisting of a sergeant, corporal and two privates were with me part of the time, or were in the dressing station when I was out, or they themselves were engaged in looking for wounded. As the 4th C.M.R. and tanks pushed through the village the shelling again became intense. The Germans were about 240 yds. outside the village. As Corporal Adnitt, and Private Marigold and myself were attending to some wounded in a d[inur]y near a street corner that was being heavily shelled, a company of the 4th C.M.R. went by. As the hind of the company reached the street corner about a hundred feet away a shell landed in their midst. About six men went down. As they were going into an attack they could not stop to take care of their wounded. Adnitt, Marigold and I ran to them. The Company Commander lay on his face with the back of his head sheared off. I recall that he had the rank and name of "Captain MacDonald" written on some of his equipment. Three other men were killed and lay beside him. The Company Sergeant Major had his leg blown off just above the knee and several men had less severe injuries. We put hurried dressings on the wounded and got them off the corner, which was a very hot spot, into shelter as quickly as possible. One of the men who had been killed was evidently carrying phosphorous smoke bombs. These set his clothing on fire. We tried to extinguish the fire, but his clothing and body seemed shot through with the phosphorous and it was impossible to put it out. The nature of his wound made it evident that he had been instantly killed and as shells were falling about at a lively rate, we left him. Later in the day when the enemy had been pushed back and things had quieted down I saw his body again. He was almost incinerated. I dressed very few enemy wounded in Le Quesnel, as they had evidently been able to evacuate them before we took the village. A day or so later we came across a temporary tent hospital of the Germans full of wounded. These my men and I dressed until they could be evacuated as a matter of ordinary humanity. I might add that they were very grateful. I am attaching a very rough sketch of the Sept. 2nd attack. The Germans did not use very much gas that day in our sector. I do not think they used the bayonet much either, though I was not in a position to know. I kept no copy of the notes that I sent you and do not know what details concerning Sept 2nd. I gave to you. My medical detail and I worked along the crest attending to the wounded when the battalion was held up short of its objective. The rifle, machine gun and artillery fire was intense. We got to the wounded by crawling or running in a stooping position and when the fire became too hot flattened out on the ground like limpets on a rock. My Sergeant, Harry Munnell received the D.C.M. and my Corporal, George Adnitt received the M.S.M. for work done that day. I cannot speak too highly of their gallantry and devotion to duty. Concerning Capt. Dunlop (who by the way, is to be distinguished from Capt. Dunlap the M.O. of the 102nd Battalion previously mentioned): He was first hit in the abdomen by a rifle bullet, as he led his company over the crest. He had advanced in the face of a [wither]ing fire, swinging his walk- ing stick nonchalantly. There wasn't much chance for conversation as I dressed him but he did ask if we were having many casualties. Twenty or thirty minutes later when I was near him again he told me that he had been hit in the thigh as he lay there. We put him in a shell hole. His first wound being in the abdomen it was advisable to get him back to the C.C.S. for opera- tion as soon as possible, so Sergeant Munnell and I stopped three or four German prisoners to press them into service as stretcher bearers. An enemy field gun about a mile away, ahead and to our right, began firing at us and the first or second shell landed among us, or so it seemed to me, I was knocked into the shell hole with one of the Germans on top of me; Munnell was knocked to the ground, a wounded man who was lying near had his ear nearly taken off and the other two Germans, wounded and shrieking, ran toward our lines. As I struggled out from under the German, he was groaning and crying, and I spoke to him sharply to get him to remove his weight from me. Dunlop said "He's badly hit Doc. Look at his face." I looked, and the face was gray. At the same time I saw a wound in his thigh with the blood spurting from a severed femoral. As I put a tourniquet above the wound he moved a little and I saw that the whole side of his chest was torn out. He expired in less than a minute. Meanwhile the field gun continued to fire at us, about every 10 or 15 seconds, I should say, landing its shells usually within 15 or 30 yards. As the four of us, Munnell, Dunlop, another wounded man and myself lay in the shell hole the din was terrific, with machine gun and rifle fire ahead, our low flying planes swooping to within 50 feet of the ground and firing at the enemy and shell explosions all about. Someone remarked that it was no place to sit and read the paper and another observed that there would be an awful mess if Fritz ever got a direct hit on our shell hole. In a short time the enemy fell back and the fire abated, and we were able to get Dunlop and the other casualties scattered along the crest, back a couple of hundred yards or so, to a trench in which we were collecting our wounded. You ask regarding the circumstances under which aid was rendered to the Sergeant mentioned in the V.C. citation: He was Sergeant McCullogh of the bat- talion scouts. As I recall it, at the time mentioned I was lying on the ground near our colonel, who was of course directing the attack, the adjutant, McCullogh and several others. The firing just ahead had subsided to desultory machine gun and rifle fire and McCullogh was dispatched by the Colonel, to find out I believe, what progress was being made by the right flank. Things were quieter and it seemed that the enemy was falling back. He stooped and ran forward and to the right about 200 feet, when there was a single shot fol- lowed by a burst of machine gun fire, and he fell. The enemy was, I estimate 100 to 300 yards ahead in the sunken road. I ran to him and dressed his wound, which was a dangerous one through the pelvis. I do not recall our con- versation and do not remember if he was placed in a shell hole. With slight undulations in the terrain one was sometime fairly well [protected] if one lay very flat on the ground. I lay beside him for 5 or 10 minutes, then crawled away and went about my other duties. We got him back a short time later. I am attaching an extract from "a History of the 75th Battalion", which describes briefly the battalion movements from Sept. 2 till the Armistice. As there stated, I was on leave during the action of September 27th to October 4th when our casualties were terrific. I did not want to go on leave at this time as I was endeavoring to get my leave postponed until I could get off at the same time as my brother, who was a lieutenant in the infantry of the American Rainbow Division. It was just as well, probably, that my leave came through when it did. In compiling these notes I have dwelt rather lightly upon my experiences from a purely medical standpoint. You have a copy of an address which I delivered dealing to some extent with this phase of my service. Like most regimental medical officers I was at great pains in endeavoring to be just to the men in assigning them duty or in sending [them] into the line if they professed to be sick or disabled. I was never wounded. On Sept 2 1918 I was knocked to my knees when a machine gun, or rifle bullet, deeply scored my steel helmet. In November 1917 as we were going up to Passchendaele a fragment of shell from a high velocity gun knocked me down as we were marching past the Cloth Hall in Ypres and the back of my rain coat and tunic were torn out, but I sustained no injury other than a severe contusion. You ask concerning my motives for joining the Canadian army: They were rather mixed. In the first place, I was in great sympathy with the Allied cause, secondly I am chiefly of English descent: my great grandfather served under Lord Nelson and lost an eye in the battle of Trafalgar and my paternal grandfather came to the U.S. from England in the 1840's and was Captain and adjutant on a New York regiment during the Civil War. The third factor was the desire for surgical experience and adventure which I felt war service would afford. Please do not quote me in your narrative. I feel sure that I can rely upon you to give no highly colored version of events I have related. Concerning my reference to the Encyclopedia Brittanica which you state that you were unable to trace: The reference is to pages 952 to 959 in Volume III of "The Three New Supplementary Volumes, Constituting with the Volumes of the Latest Standard Edition the Thirteenth Edition". Copyright 1926. You will find in those pages a very accurate and detailed account of the actions of Aug 8th and Sept. 2 1918. There are also two very good maps.
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World War I

1st. May. To Arras for money.

2nd. to 4th. Sunday rides around the area. New officers have arrived, including Willie Haldane who played in the school rugger team with me.

Note: by Robert Lindsay Mackay, 11th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  7514 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I The visit of an English squadron for the Kiel Week in June, 1914, seemed to indicate a desire to give visible expression to the fact that the political situation had eased. Although we could not suppress a certain feeling of doubt as to the sincerity of their intentions, everyone on our side displayed the greatest readiness to receive the foreign guests with hospitality and comradeship.
Note: by Admiral Reinhard Scheer  10056 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I I should have mentioned that it was Lieut. A.S.Miller whose company caught most of the bombs, and from what I learned later, Sandy Miller behaved like the little gentleman he was.
Note: by Robert Lindsay Mackay, 11th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  6772 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I 1915 AUSTRALIA
BROADMEADOWS -- AT SEA
March 17 Left MILDURA for BROADMEADOWS camp. Was in P1 Coy. for 5 weeks thence in signallers of the newly formed 24th Bn. Spent Easter at Wrays GEELONG.
Note: by Thomas Reginald Part, H.Q.D. 24th Bn. 6th Inf. Bn. 2nd Div., AIF  21212 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I In the early hours of the morning of March 22nd, 1918, our own front-line troops retired through us. At the time we were occupying a shallow trench forming the support line before Marcoing, in the Cambrai salient, and a little later we also withdrew. Our first halt was on the slope of a hill. We could not see the attackers, but their artillery plastered the hillside with shrapnel, and we were not sorry to get orders to move again.
Note: by Private R. G. Bultitude, 1st Battalion Artists Rifles   7345 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I Somewhere in France Dear Mother; Just a line to let you know that I am still alive and well, hoping that this will find you in good health. Well mother, I told you last time about wining the Military Medal. Since then I have been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Not so bad for a Foxbrook lad, what do you think? Why don't you write oftener? I must have written five letters and no answer. Well, I must close, hoping to hear from you soon, love to all George.
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World War I September, 18, 1916 Dear Mother:- I suppose you have received my card by now saying I was wounded, I just got a piece of shrapnel in the chest, am doing fine. Expect to be out of the Hospital soon. We were all in the reserve trench when a shell burst and hit ten of us. There was only one badly hurt and he will be in the Hospital for a couple of months. I will send the piece that hit me home so as you can see it. Well Mother, this is all for now so will close. With love to all I remain Your Loving son, Bill
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World War I 15/8/14. War declared on August 4th. 1914, so went to depot and enlisted. Told them I had my parent's consent, so was passed to go into camp the following week. I then thought it was time I told Father and Mother. Father was very angry, and had me rejected, as I was only 19 years old. Also he thought I was not strong enough, having a weak shoulder. I waited until September 25th. 1915, and then enlisted again. Being of age, I did not need any consent, and all my pals were going way, so I signed on for duration, and four months after. - I got through the medical test O.K. and was told to report at Sturt St. on 2nd. October 1915.
Note: by Kenneth Sydney Day  13127 Reads  Printer-friendly page



World War I Bramshott 2/7/16 Dear Folks-- Received your letter OK on Friday & was glad to hear from you, also to get the picture of Norine. She is getting to be a big girl now, isn't she. You didn't say who the other girl in the picture was; were you afraid I might write to her? Well, we didn't get tangled with any Hun subs on the way over. Of course, we were pretty well protected. A battleship came with us until we were within 2 days of land & then 2 submarine destroyers came out to meet us & escorted us into Liverpool. They are some little boats, only about 200 ft long but they can certainly travel--about 50 miles an hour & they can turn around in about their own length. We are having some good weather now, a little rainy but not so bad as it was a couple of weeks ago. We are celebrating the 1st of July here today, all kinds of sports. I expect there will be some crowd here this p.m. The King was down near here yesterday inspecting the troops. It was about 8 miles from here so I didn't go. Our Battalion is all broke up now. We sent 750 men to France on the 8th of June & then about 150 to another Batt. here in camp. They kept nearly all the Headquarter staff here & we are still here & they have made the 51st Batt a base Batt & are filling it up with all the medically unfits in the camp. We have some here from about a dozen different outfits. It is certainly some outfit. We have some here from the 71st. I think some of them were in Stratford last winter. I don't know what they will do with us, but I expect we will stay here for some time. The Pioneers have an easy time now. We have done nothing since 2 weeks ago. Our boys that went to France were put in the front line of trenches about 24 hours after they landed & had a charge to make about midnight. We have not heard the official casualties yet but there are 8 killed that we know of & about 30 wounded. I suppose the list will swell when we hear the official. I only hope it is reduced though, for we certainly had a good bunch of fellows, & good soldiers. They made a record at the ranges, they beat all the troops that have been there including the imperials (British). They seem to be putting the Canadians in the toughest places & saving the Englishmen. I was up to London for 5 days & had a good time. It is quite a city. There are a lot of historical places there, but as a city it is years behind Canadian cities. It is very dark there at nights. Nearly all the lights are out & those that are burning are painted black on top so as to throw the light down. They have about a dozen search lights playing over the city every night looking for zepps. I didn't get any souvenirs, but I am going up again in a short time & will send you some then. I will also send you a 51st badge. I intended sending one before but forgot about it. I got a letter from one of our fellows in France & he said it was certainly hell over there & I guess from all reports it is, but it looks to be going in our favor now. I think they must intend making a drive at Verdun soon, as they are sending troops over there by the thousand. I don't care how soon it ends, as I am fed up with this country. Of course I am having a good enough time but I don't like these damned blokes. They are a poor bunch. Canada is good enough for me & as soon as I get free I will be back there in a hurry. Got a letter from Jack Hassard last week. He has been sick again but is getting better now. I hear from Lottie & Herb regular. Lottie is going to Edmonton for a month in holidays. I just got a letter from Mrs. Cranston where I boarded in Edmonton today, so it keeps me busy writing letters, but it is good pasttime. Well, I guess I will close & go out to the sports. Be sure & write soon. Love to all, Alex.
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World War I Dear Mr. Hunter:- I write these few lines to you in answer to your letter. I received it on July 11th, so it was 36 days in coming over. I am very thankful for the trouble you are taking in looking after my wife, and glad to hear she is some better, but I think she will improve when the warm weather comes. Well, Mr. Hunter, we are in the thick of it now. I am lying in the dugout with the shells and shrapnel flying all around. You can hardly hear one another speakfor the noise is something awful. At night, to put it in strong language it looks like hell up on earth. Some of my pals are wounded and are in England again. You should see the boys when they mount the parapet to go have a look at Fritz. The machine gun is the worst we have to put up with. I think all the boys will be glad when it is over. They are never so happy as when they are running after Fritz. I can tell you one thing, it is different soldiering out here to what it is in Canada and if they could just see the ruins about here which are most shameful, there be a lot more enlist than what there is at the present. But thank God, I am glad I came to do my little bit. The sights sometimes are awful-enough to send one crazy, but I have pulled through safe so far. You should have seen the advance the boys made awhile back. It was something grand. But I am sorry to say there are lots who will never come back to Canada, but they died for a just cause. We will never give in. The Germans call the Canadians the "White Gurghkas." That is, they don't show them any mercy at all with the bayonet, which they don't like to see in the hands of our boys. I have seen some sights which I hope never to see again but you never think about that when you are in the thick of it, for you are simply crazy with excitement. The only thing you want to keep is a cool head, a clear mind and a quick hand, for if you don't get Fritz he is going to get you, so the best one still lives. I have had some near shaves but pulled through somehow which I am hoping to do till the end of the war. Just remember me to the boys and give my kind regards to them and tell them I am hoping to be back with them by Christmas, that is, if I am spared to see it through. France is a fine country in the summer--the most beautiful scenery. The main roads have a beautiful avenue of trees along them. The crops look fairly good in the country. Most of the work is done by women for you hardly see a man about out of uniform. I have been transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. I left England in less than 36 hours notice. That was quick work but we got over safe. Remember me to Gordon when you write to him. I guess he will soon be coming over to England. I have not heard from Bill Near at all. Don't know whether he is over here or not for the 33rd were all broken up, too. I think this is all this time so give my kind regards to all enquiring friends and to Mrs. Hunter and Hally, also Mrs. Richardson. So I conclude with best wishes to all. So Good-bye, From Your Friend, ED. E. PERRELL No. 126608, A. Company, 1st C. M. R. Batt., 8th Inf. Brig. 3rd Can. Div., B. E. F., France
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World War I July 19th, 1916 Dear Mr. Lofft:- I have been notified that "The Men of South Perth," through you, have contributed $1000 dollars towards a Lewis Machine Gun for the use of this Battalion. This is a splendid and useful gift, and on behalf of the Officers, N. C. O's and men of the 71st Overseas Battalion I desire to heartily thank the Men of South Perth for thus helping to make this Battalion as efficient as possible for it's work at the Front. J. C. MASSIE, Lt.-Col., O. C. 71st Res. B'n., Can. Inf. Oxney Camp, Bordon, Hants, England July 19th, 1916
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This Day in History
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