12th. Up the line to see the new sector. Everything very quiet. Looked almost as though the Huns were going back. Gas cloud alarm in early morning.
14th. Moved to front line again. Left Bn. of the right Brigade sector.
15th. Busy day. Round line, working hard at O.P. Deuce of a mistake with a Power Buzzer message. Not encoded.
16th. Round line with Major G.L.Wilson, and then later again with the C.O.
'A' Company's Raid
17th. 'A' Coy. carried out a raid under J.L.Stewart. I was in front line at the time, watching, but our guns put up a splendid barrage, only one battery made a mistake in zero time and peppered away over our fellows' heads for four long minutes. Three men missing. Practically not a Boche seen, unless at a distance, when they were driven into our barrage. We lost three men. Remained in front line during the night.
19th. Bn. relieved. Back to Stirling Camp.
20th. Orders ready for action in event of a Hun retiral. Our offensive has opened on the South.
Last Of The C.O.
23rd. Had to go back for F.G.C.M. in the morning. Strafer Campbell back! What a sensation! No more news about Boche going back! Back to line at night.
24th. Busy day. Made out a report on our front line wire for Bde. who, with Division, seem to expect a Hun attack. They don't seem to know their own minds for a day. Sometimes, in the one despatch from Bde. we get "G" instructions in the event of Hun attacking and "Q" information on where dumps will be formed in the event of Hun retiring. In the end we remained steady until the end of March 1918! Did duty with 'A' Coy. at night as they were short of officers. Dirty night but very quiet.
25th. Went to 'A' Coy. again.
26th. Nov. Bn. relieved. C.O. ordered to base as physically unfit.
Note from RLM, 1972: By this time, the morale of our Bn. had reached such a 'low' that in the Bn. H.Q. dugout, where only a canvas screen separated officers from men, our cook, mess waiter and servants were singing out loudly the most foul obscenities about the C.O. These choruses were known and sung throughout the whole unit. Officers and men shared the same feelings.
Back to Arras.
We Relieve 61st Division
27th. Just as we have settled down in Arras we are told to go up the line again - for what? - no one knows as orders came in at midnight. We are to take over from 61st. Div. on our left.
28th. Another F.G.C.M. C.O. to go to base as "physically unfit". Major G.L. Wilson in command meanwhile - Hurrah! What a difference! Battalion moved up in buses. What a luxury! Guides led everyone astray. Glorious view of Hun lines. This is a new piece of the Arras sector for us. Owing to the pressure in the South our brigade has taken over a whole divisional sector. It extends from South of Gavrelle to the vicinity of the Scarpe.
A Hun Raid - Caught In Their Barrage
29th. Nov. Roaming about the line, getting to know the countryside. Saw lots of smoke in the Boche lines, coming from the coal pits which he was working. In afternoon, I took a walk with Wright, my runner - found ourselves on way up to centre Battalion. Suddenly a terrific local box barrage fell around us. M.G.s, 4.5"s and 5.9"s. At the same time he raided (4.15 p.m.) a sap held by the 6/7th. R.S.F., the battalion whose front I was visiting. Wright and myself got completely caught in this barrage - first we got driven out of a communication trench by the M.G. fire into the open. Then we got into separate shell holes.
Hun put a barrage of 4.7"s in a line about 100 yards in front of us and of 5.9"s about 50 yards behind us, so that we got the 'overs' of the former, and the 'unders' of the latter around us. Then they dropped the range of their 5.9"s and both of us sprinted forward to a half-dug dugout in the midst of the 4.7" barrage. We just had to take the risk and it paid! Hun made a bad mess of the trenches! When things got quiet we went along the front line to the sap which was in a very bad way, and I went out along it to see the end. Quite a nasty mess - a large number of Boche hand grenades in it. I then found the man who had been on sentry and asked him for details. He could give none as he "had run for it" along with his friends - so he said.
30th. We got, with the necessary alterations, the true, official story of the raid in which 10 Huns had taken part.
It says a lot for the energy and resource of the Huns that they should have spotted our relief one day (they couldn't help spotting it) and should have raided next day - for identification purposes of course.
Busy day. Kept clear of barrages which are not intended for me. Mock Court-martial at night on Macleod. Charge was 'aggressive optimism'. Was found guilty. Great fun!
1st. December 1917. Relieved in afternoon by 8th. Seaforths. Came out early in order to get orders out. Weather breaking down but life is more comfortable than it was last year on the Somme at this time. A Boche master-stroke just South of Cambrai push. Heavy loss to the British.
2nd. to 7th. A quiet life.
8th. O.C. Advance Party to trenches opposite Roeux. In line, (front or support) until the 23rd. Acting as Intelligence Officer, but feel it is a job I am not suited for. Very busy tour. Had an amusing rencontre one day with the Divisional General, Reed, V.C. whom I took to be a 'super-American tourist officer', and to whom I spoke with some blaséness. We had a gas attack at 4 a.m. on the 19th. and had to wear our respirators for about an hour. The smell was very strong.
23rd. Relieved by 7th. Camerons and went for a Bath.
24th. Atmosphere in Arras becoming Xmas-y.
25th. Christmas Day. Rose at 8.45, feeling very pleased with life. Church. Grand morning. Heavy lunch at Officers' Club, then wrote a few letters. Colin Mitchell to be Lewis Gun Officer, and Strathie, Intelligence Officer. I'm to go on a six week signalling course. Tremendous Christmas Dinner at H.Q. We killed several fatted calves. Adjourned to 'B' Coy. where we found the rest of the battalion in grand form (some in too good form!). Rather a jovial time. Bed 1 a.m.
26th. Dec. Plenty of snow.
27 - 31st. Routine work out of the line to keep one busy.
31st. We move to Simencourt tomorrow, taking over from 3rd. Grenadiers. The Guards Officers are very snobbish. They will scarcely reply to an infantry officer's "Good morning" when they meet. Very nice quiet dinner at night. Tobermory Maclean as guest. Round to 'A' Coy. at 12.30 a.m. J.L.Stewart keeping things lively there. Left at 2 a.m.
Our New Colonel
Major James Mitchell, D.S.O., late of 13th. Royal Scots (in same Bde.) is now in command of the Battalion. He was an original 'sub' of ours, and is tremendously popular, and is acting as a general tonic. We feel it is a pleasure to work for such a man. His efficiency, his sense of duty, combined with common sense and his good humour are making us a new lot of men - for the late C.O.'s presence undoubtedly lowered our spirits.
1st. January. Battalion moved back in the afternoon to Simencourt. Roads iced and very slippy. Passed the Guards' transport column en route. Have never seen any transport in such a filthy condition. We took over billets and huts from the Guards Division. Their discipline must have been knocked out of them by the Cambrai show for their huts were in a shocking state - in many cases the planking of the roofs had been taken off and used as firewood. In some the walls had been similarly treated, and the huts were consequently useless.
2nd. - 4th. Training resumed. When will we be able to consider ourselves 'trained'?
5th. Colonel Mitchell had all the officers out this morning. He took us over a lot of ground, pumped us with questions and shook us up splendidly. G.O.C. lectured to us at night, and then came to Bn. H.Q. for dinner. Frost still keen. Things really going well.
Haute-Avesnes - XVII Corps Signal School
6th. Up early - 6.30 a.m. and got stuff packed for transport. Walked over to Haute-Avesnes to XVII Corps School, where I am to take a course in signalling - my first course since coming to France sixteen months ago - a rather long period for a sub. to go without a course. Glorious winter day. Photo taken at Habarq. Got settled down in a somewhat cold looking hut.
7th. Test exams for entrance. Made P.M.C. being the only Scotch Officer in the signalling line. Am in with a lot of gunners and English officers. Met Mather Campbell of Hillhead School on the course. He was in the Seaforths. Last time I saw him was at H.H.S. in 1909, when he threatened to punch my nose, and I his. And both being somewhat prudent and probably a little frightened of each other we decided to call the fight off until a more convenient season! (Note from RLM, 1972: I don't remember him) And now I meet him in this 'Crystal Palace' of a camp in France! Poor Campbell was killed very soon after the school broke up.
8th. - 12th. Cold weather. I am not enthusing over the work.
12th. Along with Burgess I walked over to Donald Simpson's grave at Aubigny.
13th. Meant to go to church, but couldn't find it, so had a fine lazy day instead. Read Browning.
15th. Pay raised by 3/- per day.
19th. Rode to Arras. Am having too easy a time - tends to be boring.
22nd. Guest night at the School. Quite a good orchestra. Great scenes after dinner. One of the last scenes before breaking up was the Colonel of the School with the G.O.C. Corps "Hooching" in an eight-some reel!
23rd. Went to "The Follies" at night at Etrun. (Note from RLM, 1972: Not what you think, dear Reader, but an Army concert party!)
25th. January. BURN'S NIGHT! The Sassenachs who run this show organised a dinner, ostensibly in honour of the Bard, but really for one magnificent 'blind'. C.O. and all the staff of the school plus guests (from the corps - Archie Whyte of Hillhead H.S. was among them) were all present and music was provided by the Household Battalion. Quite a good dinner. Band and pipers not very successful as the former knew no Scotch music and the latter only played laments and slow marches. Proceedings ended noisily at 11 p.m.
26th. Rode to Arras with Burgess.
27th. Indifferent sermon on the miracles from a padre who had lost all his breath cycling up the hill to Haute-Avesnes.
29th. Finished the Browning Letters - one of the biggest feats of the war! It has taken a tremendous effort of will on my part to get through them. Felt that if I had been in love I could have written better letters than those!!
31st. Jan. Hockey with the NCOs.
Feb. 2nd. Another exam. Didn't shine in it. Went over to Aubigny to see about a cross for Donald Simpson's grave.
3rd. Breakfast in bed. Some luxury!
5th. Saw most exciting smash of an aeroplane against the buildings and tents of the 13th. Squadron R.F.C. Machine turned turtle and nose dived. Pilot unhurt. Am doing a fair amount of reading. Enjoying "Ann Veronica" by H.G.Wells.
6th. Over to Arras for bath. Heard that the battalion was just moving into the line from Wilderness Camp. So I haven't missed any trench tour during my absence at this signalling course.
Am somewhat disgusted with the way this signalling course is run. The chief instructor is a weak-kneed pliable individual who can be wangled into anything.
To Aubigny on 9th. Cross for Donald Simpson's grave finished.
12th. Capt. Liddle the instructor, informed me that the C.O. of the Signalling School had applied to Corps H.Q. to have an extra officer instructor sent to the school and that he had asked for me. I told Liddle to get the thing withdrawn at once. He told me it was too late, so I wrote strongly to the battalion to get them to stop the business. I don't want such a job as this. The chief instructor is a sufficient nonentity himself, and there is no excuse for an assistant nonentity to him.
Guest night at the School. Breezy.
13th. Lecture by G.O.C. Corps. - Sir Charles Ferguson. Quite good and well delivered. Infantry school broke up.
15th. Exams. all day. Did fairly well. Had average of 99 1/2% in all my messages and reading. Guest night. Liddle and an American doctor to dinner. Made short speech.
Saturday 16th. Told to remain on at the School. Went up to the battalion which I found in the support trenches. Saw C.O. who was angry at the School trying to keep me - but he refused my application for leave! Visited 'B' Coy. Dinner at Details with Major Wilson. Gib. Mitchell back. Walked back to Haute-Avesnes at midnight.
Sunday 17th. Am pretty sure I will get back to the Battalion soon. Went to St. Pol, had lunch, bought some books. Stopped a staff car, and got back to Aubigny for tea. Shifted into a fine comfortable hut with a fire. Finished "Mr Ingleside".
Monday 18th. Arras for a bath. No word yet.
19th. Feb. Word to rejoin the Battalion. Hurrah! Back at 6 p.m. and slept the night at Details.
20th. Played about with a rugger ball.
22nd. Bn. came out of the line to Wilderness Camp.
Sunday 24th. Church. Rugger afterwards. Football match between 'A' and 'B' Coys. Latter won by a corner. Jock Stewart of 'A' lost 100 francs on the game.
Monday 25th. Up to see 6th. Camerons.
26th. Relieved 6th. Camerons in support. Fine night. Moved across the open.
27th. Off again. Round line in morning. Hun crumping our batteries with 8 inch. Macleod back from leave. Told I could go on leave. Hurrah! Dinner at Details. Wet night. Train at 11 p.m.
Thursday 28th. Feb. Reached Boulogne at 7 a.m. Boat at 10 a.m. Rough crossing but fortunately not sick. Tea at the 'Troc' with Stannard. Left for Glasgow at 8.50 p.m. and got home next morning at 8.50 a.m. On the go at 10 a.m. Round the town. Then the fun began!
Wednesday 13th. March. Leave finished - Damn! My morale is very high, however! Reached London 11 p.m. Slept at Belgrave Mansions Hotel.
Thursday 14th. Train 7.30 Victoria. Did not, of course, see the Leave Party of which I was nominally in charge! Didn't worry either. Left England 1.30 p.m. Got to France at 3.30 p.m. Not sick fortunately. Tea at Officers' Club, Boulogne. Dinner at Meurice, where I stayed.
Friday 16th. Grand Day. On move again. Arrived Arras 5.30 p.m. Back to the old life. Bn. just coming out of the line. Place quiet, but evidence of 'wind up' everywhere. Dined with Bradshaw. Slept at "Chateau Strafer".
16th. Blew up to Bn. Found all well. Big two company raid in preparation. Hope young M. won't be in it. Would like to go myself! (Note from RLM, 1972: Honest?) Heard that as I was the only subaltern who had been 12 months continuously with the battalion I may get home for six months rest. At any rate my name had to be submitted for it, but with the recommendation that I do not go. Don't know whether I will go or not. Don't know whether I'd like to go or not!
Appalling 'wind up' all along tour front on account of possibility of Hun attacking. Quiet night, of course!
Sunday 17th. March. Rose at 5 a.m. as 'stand-to' representative at H.Q. Artillery very noisy. Bed again at 5.45 a.m. Church. Glorious day. More preparations for the raid. Young M. is in it. Wish I could get in. May manage it, somehow, if I go over on the sly. Football in afternoon - very enjoyable.
18th. March, 1918. Out with the signallers. Played soccer against the corporals of the battalion. A good game. Dined in Arras with some of 'B' Coy. officers. Back by 11.30 p.m.
Tuesday 19th. Took over H.Q. for Support Battalion. Front coys in shell holes, and very uncomfortable. Fairly quiet night.
20th. 'Stand to' at 5 a.m. Round line in morning. Very wet. Fine afternoon however. Bn. H.Q. shifted to Feuchy Chapel Cross Roads.
Boche Offensive Begins
Thursday 21st. March 1918. Wakened at 5 a.m. by terrific bombardment. Shells of all calibres coming over us in hundreds, many of them gas shells. All our wires to companies broken early on. Two signallers out repairing them, returned 7 a.m. were no sooner back than the wires were broken again.
Went out with the signallers Stirton and Stark. Had a very thin time. We stood right in the middle of a barrage of gas shells from one battery, wearing respirators and mending the wires. Sometimes the shells came within 8 yards. This continued for 1/4 hour. Seemed like centuries to me. I would have run like billy-oh to get out of it, if I had not had these two signallers with me. They didn't seem to care, either.
The line went disc. as soon as we got back. Two more men out with little effect. After breakfast, as the bombardment still continued heavily, I rummaged for wire, and by using small pieces, I got on to a buried cable where I got three companies. Visited 'B' and 'C' companies. Did work party in afternoon for latter company. Glorious afternoon. Thank the Lord I always have time to note the weather. Sun warm. Shelling now not so bad.
Evacuation Of Monchy
On this day, the Hun attacked to the South of Arras and along the Somme district, and made tremendous progress. Village after village was taken, and our 5th. Army received a terrible hammering.
Tuesday 22nd. Pretty busy day. Our quarry at the cross roads, Feuchy, strafed heavily. Good weather, but muddy.
Saturday 23rd. March. Ordered to withdraw from Monchy, withdrawal to 3rd. system to be completed by 3 a.m. Reconnoitered 3rd. system (in front of Feuchy Chapel cross roads) and got companies in by 2 a.m. We thus became front line battalion - a very fortunate circumstance, as we were to discover later.
Saturday 24th. March. Boche attacked Monchy to find it completely empty, except for a company of Camerons who were rear-guard, and did little other than guard themselves. The two men in Monchy (Camerons) who looked after the gum boot store were taken prisoner. Jimmy Flind did a very good show coming back slowly and keeping his Lewis gun busy. We 'stood to' early. Felt a little tired. Watched Boche come over the ridge.
Fosse Farm evacuated. Some amusing scenes there, as the occupants did not know about the withdrawal there was some difficulty in persuading them about it. An R.E. officer there was awakened from sleep in his pyjamas! We were in contact with the Boche all along our front line at midday, and there was plenty of sniping. 'A' and 'C' Coys. in front line. No shelters practically, but fine deep trenches - too deep in fact, in places. Few shells. Men fed up at leaving Monchy. Got signals going fairly well. Later on, the Boche bombarded us fairly heavily, and we had a few casualties.
At War Again
Monday 25th. Boche had been busy all night, although we had patrols out. He had got his big trench mortars up and was using them prettily. Stewart had a very narrow escape from one. Round line as usual. Shelling more intense, and bursts more frequent. The whole atmosphere more tense. Our rear areas got well shelled. Our Bn. H.Q. was in a large pill-box beside Feuchy Chapel Cross Roads. They were large and cold, but pretty safe, being old Boche ones. I visited the Seaforths on our right several times.
Note from RLM, 1972: Then follows an entry in my diary under the day of Monday 25th, which seems a repetition of the incident of wire mending under gas shell fire of the previous page, except that I mention Serjeant Mitchell's name in addition and also say we clipped our respirators over our noses but without putting the helmets on our heads. My memory now does not help me to be clear on the number of incidents.
Brigade Reserve At Tilloy
26th. March. Busy day. Relieved late at night by 13th. Royal Scots who came into front line. Camerons went back to support, and we to reserve - about 2 a.m. on 27th. - in the Army Line in front of Tilloy-les-Moufflaines. Rotten H.Q. in most difficult place. Easy to spot from the air but difficult on the ground. Got signals going again. Round line again. Kept busy, and so got very tired and sleepy.
Bombardment By Boche
March 28th. Thursday. Wakened up after two hours sleep at 3 a.m. by deuce of a bombardment. The very earth seemed to tremble, just as at Ypres last year. Gas shells in hundreds came over, and the back areas got a big share. In the darkness we could do nothing, but wait on the dawn. All our lines, both forward and back, became broken. Bombardment of our lines kept up by Boche for three hours. Those poor devils of runners - who, I think, are without doubt and with no exceptions the finest and bravest men in the services - had a bad time, for they were called upon for tremendous exertions.
Their Attack Begins - Arras 28th March 1918
About 6 a.m. the bombardment became even more intense, and we all stood to, for dawn. Meanwhile Boche attacked our front lines. Things were very nasty with shelling for an hour. It became rather unpleasant moving about. The C.O., Colonel Mitchell, buzzing about everywhere without worrying, was wounded about 7 a.m. and Captain Wilson therefore took command. He was very soon blown up and had a lucky escape from death. Macleod therefore became C.O. now.
Bombardment did not become any easier. I went along to see the Seaforths once or twice, and knocked around generally. The Boche at this time did not come into contact with our Bn. as we were in reserve. All our casualties were from artillery fire, and a few from M.G.s. The Camerons and Scots in front fell back a bit in some disorder, the latter having a poor time of it. Their front lines had had a tremendous strafing in the morning from heavy trench mortars and gunfire. The Boche attack was admirably conceived and executed. He used a lot of 106 Fuse - i.e. instantaneous burst. From what we saw in these two days or so his men, either as individuals or as a body, were most excellent soldiers. They seemed to be able to think for themselves in attack.
Kelly of the Royal Scots did very fine work, but the Camerons simply broke and ran. (Note from RLM, 1972: I don't blame them.) Their H.Q. came down beside us. I managed to do good business, however, as I got one of their Lewis guns which they had cast aside, and a telephone, and added them to the Battalion store. We have about 4 Lewis guns now in addition to our normal establishment, and also a number of extra phones!
And Carries On
There was a lot of confusion all morning as the Boche bombardment was perfect. He burst everything and we never knew where his shots would land next. Everywhere our wires were burst. Our 'D' Coy. on the left, had a bad time, about 40 casualties. Their skipper did well - Billy Irvine - his men afterwards recommended him for his gallantry.
Our left flank was very weak and exposed, and I went along to have a look. Our fellows occupied their whole frontage to the Arras-Cambrai Road, which was exclusive to us. The Scottish Rifles should have been astride that road, but I had to go fully a quarter of a mile before I found them. Watched one of their companies leave for a counter-attack - poor devils. I felt glad that I wasn't in that little episode.
I found the Rifle's C.O. Stanley Clarke, pointed out the gap between our battalions and asked him to occupy his ground (Cheek!) as we wanted to keep in touch with him. All very interesting work. He was not much perturbed. I walked back slowly in order to see them start but the blighters went about so much in the open that they brought the Boche guns down upon them, so I shifted my position a little!
We had 4 officer casualties - the C.O., Col. Jim Mitchell (wounded, died later), Capt. Wilson (Emma) a splendid fellow, Stewart and Christie, all wounded. Of the men, there were 80 casualties, including about a dozen killed. We got a number of cyclist R.E.s up at night to support us. They were a bit amusing. There were no reserves on our part of the front, behind us - except the Divisional General and his staff. I heard they were even roping in the Divisional Dustman from Arras!
The 44th. Bde. had a bad time. The 7th. Camerons had only 34 men left, so I heard, so our luck was in compared with that. The Boche got up to Bois de Boeufs, about 100 yards or more from our front line.
Christie (who became a Church of Scotland Minister) ran a very good show. He went out, either alone or with a man, picked off every member of a Boche M.G. team, then got up, walked over to the gun, lifted it on his shoulders and came back with it. Very good it was, but the poor fellow got a very nasty head wound at night, from which he recovered very slowly later. This show of his was just alongside Bois de Boeufs.
Major G.L.Wilson came up at night to take over command, and we re-organised a bit, doing a bit of side slipping.
29th. We formed a thin chain of outposts along the Eastern edge of Bois de Boeufs. Very interesting work it was. Things were quietening down now, and I think Boche had shifted his reserves or else thought that we were holding the Arras front too strongly.
At the same time, his great attack was going on in the South, on the 5th. Army, and he was driving our fellows back every day. We, in the 3rd. Army, were just on the edge of this area, and the Boche movement pivoted on Arras. Hence as long as Arras was held he could not extend to the north since Vimy is easy to hold from the front, but difficult to hold from the Scarpe Valley direction. So I suppose the 15th. Division paid its way again at Arras!
30th. Still in line.
31st. Also in line. It is all quite interesting to look back upon. The C.O. Major Wilson, is in good form. We had as usual to move fairly slickly once or twice on account of shells, but Fritz was, on the whole, very quiet. It seems to me that though his attack was perfect in its organisation and execution, Boche had gone wrong on one or two points (1) They had underestimated the strength of our resistance (2) They had overestimated the numbers of our reserves - we had no reserves. All three brigades were in line. There was nothing to support these three brigades except an odd cyclist battalion. If Boche had known that fact I'm sure he would have pushed until we were broken. As it was he merely pushed us back about 1 1/2 miles, but did not break up our formation, or break through
April 1st. 1918. We came out of the line at night. Back to Arras. H.Q. in cellars in the Hotel de Ville, or Town Hall. Poor Arras! It is in a worse condition than ever before. All our new erections, Y.M.C.A., huts, transport lines, and canteens and officers club are no more. I salvaged a copy of Jones' "Life of R.Browning" from the wreckage of the Y.M.C.A. Library. Our quarters are damp, and they smell. There are also rats, and the place is dark. Some of the Tommies had had a good time. There has been a bit of looting of such wine cellars and estaminets as previous bombardments had left.
2nd. Walk out by Roclincourt with McElwee.
3rd. Busy in Orderly Room. Went to "Jolly Boys" Concert at night.
4th. April. Wet day. Had to go up the line to take over, but back to Arras at night. Up to H.Q. of Camerons and Gordons where I found my 'crook' (stick). Colonel Anderson had 'souvenired' it from my side, the bounder! Kept at the H.Q. until 2 a.m. on the 5th. Fed right up. Fell in shell hole. Lost my pipe and got covered all over with muck.
Boche Raid Jimmy Orr
5th. April. Enemy opened a heavy bombardment on the back of our outpost company astride the Arras-Cambrai Road. He also hit our rear areas. He attacked on a front of about 150 yards, but did not get nearer to us than 50 yards. 'B' Coy. were in the line in front, under Jimmy Orr, with Kerr and young McElwee. Attack easily repelled. There were three killed in 'B' Coy. and several wounded at Coy. H.Q. and in the other companies. Barrage pretty heavy in the rear areas, but our artillery opened up well.
Still the 5th. Out at night, laying wire. Got back tired, wet, hungry, fed up, late. Lost my way completely in utter Egyptian Darkness, the first time I have ever been lost. I walked hard with Stark across country, up and down shell holes, and through mud, and after half an hour's 'hard' landed back at the telegraph pole from which I had started. Got back somehow, had a good dinner and began to feel better. Jimmy Orr in this raid got a beautiful bullet hole in his helmet.
6th. Barging around all day and a good part of the night. Awful mud. A bit tired.
7th. More 'wind up' at 'Stand to', but it was a false alarm. Shifted H.Q. in afternoon to Devil's Wood. Busy, but got things going. Round line at night with Major Wilson. News of death from wounds of Col. Mitchell. Very grieved about it, for he was a fine, noble fellow. Had fearful cough and got little sleep.
8th. Nothing new. Relieved at night by 8/10th. Gordons. Reconnoitred the tunnels down to Arras, with several officers. They were interesting for the first 100 yards, but very boring after a mile or two, as I am rather tall for them.
9th. Back to the cellars.
10th. Easier day. Getting going again. Still 'standing to' at 5 a.m. Most damnable to have to do this when we need a rest. "Jolly Boys" at night.
11th. Work party in morning. Memorial service for Col. Mitchell in the caves. Fine summer day. Major Turner of Royal Scots to dinner at night. Boche took Bois de Boeufs from 55th. Division. Fancy!!!
12th. April. Route march with the company to Dainville in morning. Glorious day, blue skies, warm sun, mild breezes. Felt 'A.l.' and not at all warlike. In afternoon went along to a stagnant pond near the Scarpe Canal for a swim with Strathie. Enjoyed it immensely, although it is a bit early for bathing.
13th. Boche making great headway up North. A dry rot appears to have set in among some divisions. Tends to get disheartening as his gains are being obtained at small cost, as some of our fellows are not putting up the sort of fight they should. 4th. Division on our left has been taken out and sent up to Hazebrouek. Expect we will be out again soon, and sent up to another part of the line. It is all very feeding up. We don't mind fighting in the least provided others get a share! We go into line tonight to take over from the Seaforths. Left Arras at 9 p.m. and got up easily and quickly. Back in Devil's Wood again.
14th. - 18th. Usual routine of work in the line. Up late and early. Weather not so bad. Our part of the line is very interesting, and its defence, on account of Battery Valley which cuts it at an angle, is a bit of a problem. 'B' and 'C' Coys. in line till 17/18th. when 'A' and 'C' Coys. took their places. Rigged up pretty fair signalling by lamp from Coys. Lines O.K. and quite interesting.
17th. Battalion told to do a raid. Visited Canadians on our left. They are a rum lot!
19th. April. Very busy day. Round coys. in morning, fixing up for the raid. 'D' Coy. are to do it, with 2 officers and 20 men - to take and hold two battery positions one of which is known to contain three machine guns. Collected a lot of salvage wire for the show. Went to Canadians again after dinner.
Then went out on patrol with Billy Irvine - along a low bank in the valley to a shell hole some 50 yards from the position we are to take in the morning. Saw Hun party in front of us, digging. So Billy went back for a Lewis gun, while I kept watch from the shell hole. Billy came back out again with a gun, and gave the Hun a good dose of stuff.
Went back and got Sergeant Mitchell. Together we laid a wire out to this shell hole, so that the signallers in the party would have to run out only some 50 yards of wire. Had signal stations stations all over the place. Simply a glorious night, one of the finest of my life. Went back to Bn. H.Q. at 3 a.m. for brekker and then went forward again.
The C.O. would not let me go forward with 'D' Coy. so I had to watch them from the front line. The boys went fine, and moved quickly to their objective, which was taken in three or four minutes. By the time our men had reached the gun pits there had been only machine gun fire, the enemy's barrage then began to fall, but it was not deadly. Went to dugout in front line, to which I had a wire attached, and within a few minutes we were in telephonic communication with Irvine in the captured gun-pits. C.O. thus got right through to Irvine. Lieut. Robertson of 'A' Coy. wounded shortly afterwards in moving his line forward to keep touch with Irvine.
Our Morale Very High
Soon Irvine phoned to me to look out for a Boche M.G. which was worrying his men. I found it. It was firing from a bare area, with no distinctive features other than shell holes. I got a compass, marked the spot carefully, calculated the map reference, and wired through to our H.Q. to get the gunners to deal with it. In ten minutes or a little more a dozen shots landed exactly where I had seen the gun with its two men. One shot, I am sure, was a direct hit, for that gun never fired again during the day.
Lieut. Smith wounded. Billy Irvine took 31 men plus one officer, prisoners. We had only one or two slight casualties, except Lieut. Robinson who died. Back to H.Q. at 1 p.m. and began to feel a bit tired. Orders for relief by Seaforths to hand. Told to look after the guides for the relief. Left at 9 p.m. for the junction of Cemetery and St. Patrick's Lanes. Boche began to shell. Guides late. Seaforths arrived before time. Our S.O.S. went up at 10.06 p.m. and our guns began to reply at 10.10 p.m. I kept the Seaforths for a bit, as it looked like a counter attack on the captured gun pits, until 11.30 p.m. Went back to the Battalion at midnight instead of to a comfortable bed in Arras. At 12.30 a.m. sent up line.
The Counter Attack
21st. With a carrying party with bombs. Heavy M.G. fire down Battery Valley. Nasty job. 'C' Coy., under Hood, had their right post raided. Lt. Stewart, a fine fellow, killed in going forward to take it back. McElwee sent forward. Lt. Brown of 'A' Coy. killed and Kerr of 'B' Coy. wounded. Little progress on Boche part, except for the one post. Our casualties were 15 killed and 20 wounded, including the five officers. Very expensive this, for a day's outing. Relief completed in hopeless confusion. Back to Bn. H.Q. at 3.30 a.m. Arras at 4.45 with Stark. Bed at 6 a.m. Really tired.
Wakened at 9 a.m. and told to go back again up the line to show G.O.C. 44th. Brigade round the line and to explain to him the situation. Went round the bloody line with him. Back at 2 p.m. - damned tired. Had some sandwiches and went to bed.
Capt. Cook, meanwhile, went for a tub bath in the next room. We were located in a house in the town. Cook made a noise bathing and kept me from sleeping. Then a shell burst in the courtyard of our house, and another in the next courtyard. To crown all, another shell knocked over the chimney of our house, above Cook's room. We were on the top floor, and bits of mud and plaster fell on him in his bath. Gave up the sleep business in disgust. Rose and laughed at Cook and cleaned myself 3.30 p.m. By 6 p.m. we were on the march to Asnez-les-Duisans. Got there by 8.30 p.m. Not damned tired. But bloody tired! Dinner. Bed at midnight. Slept till 8 a.m. Tired still.
22nd. I had scarcely any rest or sleep for a week. Indents taken on parade. This was the date for the Divisional band to come and play to our battalion. It played "This is the End of a Perfect Day" or whatever it is, and I prayed that I would never see a day that was imperfect. While we were at dinner word came for us to be ready to embus in the morning "for God knows where"!!! Wet night. Bombardment somewhere. Went to bed early at 10 p.m.
23rd. April, 1918. What an anniversary! I remember this time last year. Rose at 3 a.m. and dealt with orders from Brigade till 6 a.m. Pretty tired still. Battalion embussed at 9 a.m. at Larisset for Marles-les-Mines. Did the embussing myself. Have got completely fed up with McClure, our second in command. He is an impertinent devil.
We Move North
Motored up with Prosser in column of 130 lorries through very nice country - Arg, Estré, Conché, Houdain, Marles to billets in Lozinghem (and very comfortable too!). We are in mining country now, quite different from the South and more densely populated. Wonder what is going to happen to the old Division now. Nothing good, I expect. Fixed up in billet with very obliging people. Bed at 10 p.m.
24th. Good sleep. Checked signal stores in morning. Superintended football at night. Dined at night with 'B' Coy.
25th. Visited Marles-les-Mines and Auchel, on horses, with Fred McElwee. He is not much of a rider. The Division is now in reserve to the Army, to be pushed in at any old spot. We are having a pretty fair time now. Weather not at all bad. We are very short of officers.
27th. Went up in an aeroplane in the afternoon, an F.E. 8., with J.C.Irvine, who was with me in 13th. Argylls at home. He is just out to France! Wore my kilt for the 20 minutes flight, in an open cockpit. A glorious experience and it seemed more like 20 seconds. Not worried by the height, and did not feel dizzy. Irvine to dinner at night. Heard of the death of John McIntosh. It is terribly sad for them all.
Sunday 28th. April. Old Sorley has gone home. The poor chap well deserves a rest. He has done more than an ordinary man's share of the fighting and of the dirty work. In afternoon rode out with Prosser and Orr via Fleringhems and Permes to Tangry where we had omelettes in the house we had been billeted in during our march north to Ypres last year. The good lady said she remembered me, but I am sure she did not.
Monday 29th. April. 1918. Wakened up after midnight by orders for a move in the morning to Arras. I was put in charge of the advance party and left at 7 a.m. for Marles where we got two buses to take a party of 20 officers and 40 men of our division. Although I was one of the last to arrive I managed to 'snag' a place in front, before all the others. A rare morning.
Proceeded in the usual way to the vicinity of Acq and of Mont St. Eloi where we reached H.Q. of the division we were to relieve. Our arrival there was the first intimation they had of their impending relief!! Ye Gods! The Staff must have been drunk last night. For sheer, downright-go-as-you-please give me the staff of the British Army. They are the limit. Here was the whole of the 15th. Scottish Division, transport, artillery, ambulances and men half way on the road to relieve another division who didn't know they were to be relieved! So we 'about turned' and came back to our billets in Lozinghem.
Verily We Are The People!
Have the idea just now that our intelligence staff haven't the foggiest idea where the Boche has concentrated, or where he intends to attack. Cycled to Lillers in afternoon. Found the place utterly deserted. Tea in Auchel.
30th. Brigade Major dined with us. We pulled his leg a bit, accusing him of being in love. Football in afternoon.
We Move South Again
May 1st. 1918. Battalion in training in Bois de Dames, near Lapugnoy. Got signallers going fairly well. Finished Stephen McKenna's "96 Hours Leave".
2nd. Word came for us to move South to Arras on 3rd. Felt very sorry. Dined at R.A.F. mess with Irvine.
3rd. Train at Calonng-Riquart to Acq from which latter place we had a somewhat wearying march to Arras. Roads dusty. Difficulty getting into mess owing to the Scottish Rifles being billeted there.
4th. Knocking about all morning. Went up line in afternoon for a look round. Tea with the Canadians. We take over from 16th. Bn. 1st. Canadian Division. They look good fellows. Cook going to be O.C. 'B' Coy. - Lord help 'B' Coy! McClure going up in command, as C.O. is taking a rest. Easy day on the whole. Expect resumption of Boche offensive in a day or two.
We Relieve Canadians
5th. Rain and heavy firing during the night. Took things easy all day. Moved off at 8.20 p.m. to relieve Canadians in Chanticler Sector. Good relief for H.Q. Coy. but late for the coys, owing to trains, of course.
6th. May 1918. 'Stand-to' at 4 a.m. Round forward companies in the morning, going over the lines. Easy time for remainder of the day.
A Bad Relief
7th. Tuesday. Rather tiring walk over the area we have to go to tonight. We only got a warning order. The executive order came at 8.55 p.m. and we had only time to read it, write our operations order, send out to companies, and get them to act upon it at 9 p.m. AND Corps H.Q. being only a mile away! Thank God we had a certain amount of foresight. Night very dark and rain falling heavily. We have to take over from 10th. Scottish Rifles, and 13th. Royal Scots. There is a mile or two of open ground, devoid of all landmarks, and criss-crossed by thousands of trenches. Our whole battalion lost its way.
I left old Bn. H.Q. at 10.45 p.m. and got to the new H.Q. at 3 a.m. Poor little Hurrell, after wandering about along a trench called Effie Trench for two hours, was overheard saying to himself, from the depths of the trench "Well, I'll be damned, if I ever have a daughter, if I call her Effie."
Note from RLM, 1972: This was the occasion when, in this darkness, one of our senior officers coming along the top of a trench stuffed with blaspheming troops shouted out "What's all the delay?" and from exactly below him came the reply "Cafe au lait! Cafe au lait! You bugger!"
8th. Slept from 4 a.m. till 10 a.m. Very muddy and tired but not fed up. Encountered the Brigadier and the G.O.C. Divn. outside my dugout. I was in shirt sleeves, minus tin helmet, box-respirator, and everything else, but I gave them such a cheerful "Good Morning" that they quite forgot to tick me off! Went round line in morning, knee deep in water. Back for lunch at 3 p.m., covered all over with muck, but not at all displeased with life. We might be worse off! Reconnoitring for new H.Q. in the evening. Laid a wire to our O.P. at night.
9/10th. Usual trench life. 'Wind up' on 9/l0th.as Staff expected an attack. Tea with 'C' Coy. on 10th. McClure doing damned badly as C.O. and fast losing the respect of the officers. (Note from RLM, 1972: I had quite forgotten about McClure. Perhaps I should not have written about him, but I must have felt very badly at the time about it. To erase it?). He was particularly drunk on the 10th.
11th. May. C.O. didn't rise until 12.30 p.m. Fed up with him. Being relieved by 6th. Camerons tonight. Round line as usual. Got back to cutting at midnight. Buzzing around until 4 or 5 a.m.
12th. Major Wilson now promoted Lieut. Colonel. Thank God! He is a magnificent fellow, a splendid gentleman and a born soldier. We are back in Brigade Reserve in Railway Embankment.
15th. Finding out all the troubles of a Mess President in H.Q. Mess. Out with 'B' Coy. officers for a swim in the morning.
16th. Royal Scots raided and took three prisoners.
Amalgamation Decided On
Official Information received yesterday states that the 11th. Bn. Argylls is to be absorbed by the lst/8th. Bn. Argylls who are in the 51st. Division. Everyone terribly angry. "H.Q. Officers have to go to 39th. Division, remainder, surplus to base". Think I will transfer, myself. Awful lot of swearing being done these days. This seems a most foolish move on the part of the G.H.Q. It will completely destroy the esprit de battalion of a good mob. Several other amalgamations going on too, e.g. 4/5th. Black Watch to absorb the 9th. Black Watch, and the 6th. Camerons absorbing the 7th. Camerons.
16th. Camped at Roclincourt. Swimming again.
17th. Did not do much. G.O.C. Division paid us a visit. He explained that owing to the difficulty of re-enforcing all the Scottish units, some, like our own, are to be broken up. Rumour that we are to train Americans. (British Brigades would now consist of three instead of four battalions) Glorious weather these days.
18th. Took a work party to forward area at night. Went by train! Back at 4 a.m. on 19th.
The Vimy Ridge
20th. Rode up to top of Vimy Ridge on "Black Nan". Had ticklish time passing our batteries which were in action along the road, as "Black Nan" got very nervous. Left horses near Canadian Monument, and went on until we saw the other side. View glorious. Simply grand - the woods around Lievin, Lens in ruins, and being shelled continuously, the grey embankment of La Coullette, the Lens-Arras Road, the brick heaps at Petit-Vimy, the railway station at Vimy, the railway, Mericourt, Acheville, Drocourt, Rouvey, Bois Bernard, Fresnoy, Arleux, Willuval, Harvus and Vitry. I have never seen a view such as this before! A complete thrill!
Two Farewell Dinners
The Farewell Dinner of the 11th. Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at 8 p.m. 30 at Dinner, speeches, songs, stories. Who was drunk and who wasn't? Bed at 1 a.m. Out with Signallers, H.Q. Coy. won the cleaning up competition, 5 francs per man. Up to Bois de Maison Blanche at night. Wonderful show. Enjoyed myself at "Balmorals" at night. Jove! Scotsmen are the people! Heavy bombardment of Roclincourt in morning. Heavy artillery at night.
'B' Coy. had 10 bottles and 'D' Coy. 2 bottles of whisky stolen last night.
22nd. May. General Allgood and Brigade Major to dinner. The G.O.C. is going home for a rest. Very sorry as he is a popular and efficient commander. O.C. Coys present. Fine dinner for the line! "The Cabby" (G.O.C.) very cut up at leaving. I think he always seemed to 'draw' to our battalion. Bed late.
Trench Life As Usual
24th. Into line at night. Shelled slightly on road up. H.Q. in Cam Valley. Battalion along left bank of Scarpe Canal. Laid wires to forward H.Q. of 'C' Coy., then took walk round the line, which runs through Fampoux. Back to H.Q. at 3.30 a.m. "No Man's Land" here is very strange, in one place it is a canal, in another it is a ruined village, while just next it is of the normal kind.
25th. Stirton, my favourite signaller wounded. He was a fireman on a locomotive at home. He is the toughest, dirtiest little devil I've ever met, but with a heart of gold.
Things Liven Up A Little
26th. Hun guns very active, all calibres strafing all over our areas. It looks very like a covering for a demonstration elsewhere. Cam Avenue got a bad hammering. My lines burst everywhere, but kept going by the linesmen who are fine lads. At night we laid a line by a different route to forward coys. in Fampoux. Held up for an hour in Fampoux by trench mortar and grenade strafing. We had about 5 men killed and about 20 wounded. Then we were nearly gassed at night.
27th. Back at 2.30 p.m. knocked about in afternoon. Had to stay in at night. Hell of a row at intervals. S.O.S. at 12.50 away to right. C.O. and Macleod round line. Bn. H.Q. getting a good share of the row. Wrote letters.
28th. Wire in to say that Boche's second offensive has opened in two places, one North and one South of us. In the midst of this, they, G.H.Q., propose absorbing us! Lively night, but uncomfortable. Very busy after midnight phoning Brigade, Artillery and Coys. This is a perfect life!
29th. Slept from 3 till 8 a.m. Heavy bombardment opened at 10.30 a.m. all over our area. Was out on the lines from noon till 3 p.m. with Sgt. Mitchell. We got put through it near Cam Avenue. I object to a shell bursting three yards from me, one on each side. They were gas shells, fortunately. Mitchell didn't seem to mind. Hell of a mess-up around our test boxes. Had nothing to do in afternoon, so went to the nearby artillery and fired a dozen rounds from an 18 pounder gun. General to dinner at night.
29th. Rose at 10 a.m. Tired. Read a novel. Out at night. Round coys. and back at 2 a.m.
30th. Easy day. Quiet. News from South very bad. Laid more wires. Nearly got it in the neck from M.G. fire as bullets were spurting up the ground all round us while mending 'C' Coy's lines at Dingwall Trench.
31st. Practised revolver shooting. Black Watch on our left carried out a raid, but did not get any prisoners. Trenches empty! Good policy!
1st. June 1918. Took life easy. Revolver practice. Word to effect that 1/8th. Argylls are arriving tomorrow. Good thing they have come at last. Wonder what will happen. Am really not caring very much now. One loses interest when one's friends are taken away in this manner. Relieved at night by 13th. Royal Scots. Proceeded to Stirling Camp in support.
2nd. June. Wakened at 2 a.m. by gas shells falling in and around the camp. Had to wear respirators for an hour. Took over Macleod's job, temporarily, as Adjutant, while he went with the C.O. to 'details' to fix up matters with the lst/8th. Argylls. Noisy night with us.
3rd. June. Cold day. Not much doing. Swimming in Blangy Lake with Tobermory Maclean and Brownjohn, the Bde. Signals officer. Usual work parties. Less 'bumph' in from Brigade. They must be busy with amalgamations.
4th. Conference with G.O.C.s Division and Brigade and O.C.s 11th. and 8th. Argylls to settle the question. Wonder how things will go.
5th. to 8th. Carried on as adjutant in the line. Had a fine time as Bde. were not worrying us much with 'bumph'. Round line occasionally and went for a swim in Blangy Lake. Preparations for forming the new 8th. Argylls. Hood and Prosser left on the 7th. to go to 39th. Division to train Americans.
Incident of the seventh of the eight new Seaforth Officers! (Note from RLM, 1972: I cannot recollect about this)
8th. June 11 p.m. About 6 officers and 24 men of the Royal Scots blew up on us as an advance party, and pretty nearly swamped us. Got them fixed up, however.
9th. Bombardment for Cameron's patrol. 2 a.m. to 2.30 a.m. Boche raid near "The Snout", an old advanced coy. H.Q. near Camel Cross Roads. Heavy artillery strafe on both sides till 3.30 a.m. Then gas drifted over on to us 3.30 to 4.30 a.m. Heavy strafe near the embankment. About 400 shells, 5.9" and 8 inch, fell in half an hour at 8.30 a.m. Fine easy day. Relieved at night by 9th. R.S.F.
10th. Back to Wakefield Camp at 2 a.m. and bed at 3 a.m.
AND HERE ENDS THE HISTORY OF THE 11th. SERVICE BATTALION OF THE ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS. 10th. JUNE, 1918.
DIARY WHILE SERVING WITH THE 1st/8th. (T.F.) BN. ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS.
10th. June, 1918. Lieut. Colonel G.L.Wilson is to command the new Battalion. That is the G.O.C. Division's choice. About 2 p.m. nearly 400 of the 11th. Bn. Argylls set out for 'details' camp in order to make room for an equal number of the 1st/8th. who were remaining to form the new battalion. It was terribly sad to see fellows - old 11th. men with whom one had been so long associated, marching away from us. Poor old Sergeant Donachie, who had cooked practically every meal which the battalion had ever had, was particularly cut up. Capt. McIntosh, who used to be in the 13th. Bn. has now arrived. We will see what he can do.
About 4 p.m. the lst/8th. began to roll up. The C.O., Colonel Wilson, made the remaining old 11th. fall in on the ranks of the lst/8th. to show the new arrivals, that from now on, the Battalion was 8th. ARGYLLS, and that the old 11th. was dead. A fine, understanding gesture. It was a splendid gesture, and well worthy of the man, for it showed that he, at any rate, was burying prejudices and accepting the situation. The lst/8th. men look good and fit. Most of the officers, however, are new to the lst/8th., and new to France, though there are a number of senior lieutenants some of whom have a great deal of hard service to their credit. Don't know how I will stand for seniority amongst them.
11th. June. Getting settled down. Up line in afternoon, reconnoitring with new officers.
12th. Knocking around, cleaning up. Amalgamation is a complicated proceeding. Am quite pleased at the moment to be staying on in the line.
13th. Took signallers up to Vimy Ridge for map reading. In evening had a grand ride to Maroeuil with O.C.s Coys. to Counter Battery Office there. Rode all out. Champagne afterwards. Met Robertson, late 13th. Bn.Signallers. A good ride, home at the gallop. Sing-song at night.
14th. Signals in the morning. Work with contact aeroplane. Aeroplane late as usual. Things are working very smoothly just now in the battalion. All ranks pulling together, and there have been no quarrels or fights such as the Black Watch - not altogether without cause - had on their amalgamation. Expect we will have a very good battalion ere long. It is rather difficult to catch and keep up the 8th. spirit, for, after all, my heart was with the 11th.
15th. General inspection. Rode to Vimy Ridge near Souchy and Givenchy with Capt. Pollock (later at the University with me). Wonderful view again. Dined with 'C' Coy.
16th. Church. I stayed in camp in the afternoon as O.C. Bn. as the C.O. and O.C.s Coys. were all out reconnoitring.
17th. Up the line again at night. Had heavy weights to carry. Relief not complete until 1.30 a.m.
18th. Round the line. Busy.
Take Trench Fever
19th. Busy day. About 2 or 3 p.m. going round the front line as usual, I began to feel wobbly all over and it was only with the greatest difficulty I could get back to H.Q. Went into the beastly dugout where we slept. Did without meals. Got sick. Then a temperature. I had to go down the line next night, absolutely and completely limp and useless. Trench fever. For the first time, I couldn't see any humour in life. Could scarcely get down as far as the dressing station. Have never experienced such complete weakness before. Got into an ambulance.
21st. Wretched journey to 33rd. Casualty Clearing Station at Ligny, near St. Pol. Heavy rain. Arrived late, and after passing through what seemed dozens of receiving and other rooms, and turning and tripping over hundreds of duckboards at last reached a tent or ward where we were to be put up. About 2 a.m. with the arrival of two nursing sisters, though still very tired and far from well, and with a temperature well over 100, I began to see the humour of it. From that time began to get better. Got into bed somehow.
22nd. Tried stout for lunch. At 10 p.m. had stout and strawberries and cream given me (after it was dark) by two of the sisters. God bless them! "P.U.O." seems rather a good illness. (Pyrexia of unknown origin, an army classification). There are 12,000 cases of it just now in the First Army. Very cheery, but terribly weak in the back. Read some novels. McDougall of the lst/8th. is in the bed next to mine. R.K.Drummond of the Camerons is in the bed opposite. Hospital crowded out.
23rd. and 24th. Up each day for an hour.
25th. Up all afternoon. Good day. My pins still wobbly.
26th. Went to St. Pol for an hour. Am beginning to pull round.
27th. Fed up with doing nothing, want to get back to the battalion.
28th. Motored to Avesnes and Augibny.
29th. Went to Le Quesnoy where the 11th. rested last year before going into the line at Ypres Salient. Revisited my old billet. Found that the curé had died. Motored back. Met manager of one of the mines at Mazingarbe. Got into his car. He appeared decent but I loath foreigners.
Meet Duke Of Connaught
30th. Visit to hospital by Duke of Connaught. I was sitting outside the tent reading when he came up and spoke to me. The last time I saw him was in 1908 or 1909, when, on the occasion of his unveiling a South African War Memorial to the Scottish Rifles, in Kelvingrove Park, I ran away from school, and climbed a lamp-post in order to see over the heads of the soldiers on parade.
I sent for my batman (Wright) and told him to get my valise and meet me at a certain road junction nearby. I then discharged myself quietly from the C.C.S. We rejoined the Battalion 'details' at Verdun Camp, Agnez. Glad to get back, but am certainly not fit. Was warmly welcomed. However, this place is better than the C.C.S. Glorious weather.
lst - 3rd. July 1918. Quiet life at 'details'. Bn. came out of the line about 3 a.m. on night of 3/4th.
The Canadians' Sports
6th. Rose early, like Job, and proceeded to Tincques with our pipe band, to take part in the sports of the Canadian Highland Brigade. A great show and a grand day. Saw Currie, the G.O.C. Canadian Corps, with a little French girl. Spoke for 5 minutes with Gen. MacDonnell, the G.O.C. 1st. Canadian Division, who was disappointed that I hadn't the Gaelic. He advised me to get up enough of the tongue to pass St. Peter at the Gate. He seemed a good fellow.
Our band came out second. Usual events, dancing, tug-of-war, etc. Tossing the caber - this was brought on to the field by four men! There was a funny mule race. The staff were well represented. Met A.G.Cameron. Met lots of 16th. Canadian Bn. whom we relieved some six weeks ago. They gave us of their hospitality - they had engaged a special 'estaminet' for this show. Aubigny for dinner. A merry party. Cangicks were there. Orr, McAinsh, Forrester, McElwee, Elliott. Difficulty in getting some of them home. A really good day. Major Moir (Bobby) is leaving us to command 5th. Seaforths.
7th. Very hot. Church. Played "Vingt et un" at night. Won 16 francs.
8th. Out with my signallers. Contact aeroplane work. The machine acknowledged all our signals, but got into an awful mess with them, and dropped an indecipherable message at Brigade H.Q. This, by some error, was sent on to Division, who at once got the wind up and wired to us.
10th. Very nice quiet life so far as the war is concerned. Boche shells the road on which we live, but fortunately his shells land a little to our north.
12th. Left Wakefield Camp at 9 p.m., and got, after a rather tiring march, to Marqueffles Farm Camp, near Bouvigny, about 3 a.m. on the 13th. Men in fine spirits. Slept till noon.
14th. Church. In afternoon rode with McIntosh through Noulette and over the Ridge at Notre Dame de Lorette. The old French trenches still exist there, and we had considerable difficulty in getting the ponies over them. Glorious view from the top. Could see the Tower of Wingles, near Loos. Conference at Bde. H.Q. Chateau de la Haie, for sports for the men.
Off To The South!
15th. The maps issued yesterday were suddenly withdrawn today. Sure sign of a shift. Confirmed later. Frantic preparations at night for a move to the South. Thousands of orders coming in, accompanying or followed by thousands of cancellations. Hopeless situation. Shows up the staff in a bad light. All preparations show that we will soon be in action - with the French Army - and perhaps at VERDUN! Men in glorious trim. I'm sure we will do well there, and I am glad it is out of the British line - if only for a change of venue.
14th. Very warm night. Rain, thunder and lightning. More orders and counter orders. We leave at 4.45 p.m. Will be going into action with the signallers - delighted - hope there are no trenches and that we get open warfare.
Heavy march in evening to Aubigny, where we arrived at 8.30 p.m. Entrained at 9.30 p.m. and left at midnight, as we thought, for the vicinity of Paris. Slept fitfully en route. Reached Amiens in early morning. Saw the broken Cathedral Tower. We passed it by on the West side. Halted at Romascamps for half an hour, where we had breakfast, lunch and tea combined. Then on to Beauvais. 3 p.m. where our instructions were changed again, and we were ordered to get out at Liancourt-Ratigny. Interesting march through the village whose inhabitants had never seen Highlanders before (Just fancy!). Jove, how our band played to them! The pipers nearly bust!
The Chateau Of Bethencourt
Marched to Bethencourt where H.Q. and two coys. were fixed. Very pretty country. Had to do billeting on my arrival. Got fixed up myself in a beautiful chateau and with very nice people too.
18th. For some unaccountable reason my watch went two hours fast in the night. So when I found myself awake at what appeared 7.30 a.m. I got up. Went down to the little pool in the grounds - an idyllic spot - the kind I have always associated with fairies - and plunged headlong into it. Reached the house via the strawberry bushes.
Bathed again at midnight with Flind. Great fun. Macleod came out in a boat, and we almost succeeded in pulling him in. As soon as we came out of the pond, (1 a.m. on 19th.) we got word that the Battalion was to move at 5 a.m. Damn! Went to bed. Rose at 4 a.m. No breakfast. Bn. moved to embus at Bethencourt by 5 a.m. Good work. Not a man late. French embussing methods very fine - Moved via Clermont, along Compeigne Road, crossed River Oise, Arsy-Elincourt, Pierre-Font to Haute-Fontaine where we debussed at 2 p.m. I never want to see a bus again! My liver and spinal column severely tested by eight hours continuous jolting. Had hell of a headache.
Met many French and American wounded coming down. French Red Cross arrangements poor compared with ours. Wounded in good spirits. French seemed pleased to see us. This part of the country has not suffered much, and apparently there has never been any great concentration of troops in it. We are the first Scottish troops to come to the district.
Saw about 2,000 Boche prisoners coming down - a mixed lot. Many boys amongst them, but also a fair number of older men. They all looked dour, glum and fed-up. A few had exceedingly ugly faces. People in the villages delighted to see us. Great welcome. Villages cleaner than up north. Many delightful woods and hills - but fighting in them would be difficult. And marching hard. No dirty ponds to be seen. Fields beautifully kept. Can't understand how the French manage to look after them. The French soldiers we met appeared clean, active and useful. They all looked happy.
Got awfully hungry en route. Bus broke down several times. No shop to be seen. Bought some tomatoes for ten francs, of which my share after distribution amounted to two. Saw some Italians, a lousy looking mob! After debussing we walked downhill in glorious country. Rested for an hour near Orva and bivouaced amongst the trees. Dinner consisted of 'bully' and potatoes which we dug along the roadside. Slept comfortably under a tree until 8 a.m. Cold, but not a bad night. Am enjoying myself.
20th. Lazed about in morning as we are at half an hour's notice. Short walk with men to top of a hill in afternoon. They are in splendid form in spite of heat which is intense. Each cooks his own food, finds his own vegetables etc. as our transport folk are not yet with us. In H.Q. we had 'souvenired' potatoes, carrots, rhubarb and turnips in one meal. Mosquitoes bad.
Ordered to move at 6 p.m. Orders changed to 9 p.m. probably because Boche would see us crossing the ridge in daylight. I questioned if they would have seen us, but the staff might have though it out earlier. Move put off till 3 a.m. on the 21st. Heavy rain began at 10 p.m. so we had a thorough soaking to prepare us for the 3 a.m. march. Move changed to 4.20 a.m. Changed again to 6 p.m.
Finally moved at 8 p.m. through Montigny, out on to main road and up until we came to the top of the ridge at the bottom of which lies the village of Coeuvres. The road winds tortuously down into the village, the houses of which seemed, big, bright and then shadowy in the moonlight. It was a glorious night. Marching was easy and peaceful, and the roads empty except for our columns. The whole division was on the march, and our own battalion was leading.
Midnight Bombing - A New Experience At Coeuvres
Just as the head of the column was clearing the village, and my lot were still in it, we heard an aeroplane above. We saw it next, big, black and flying very low. In an instant from seeing it, it had dropped a bomb just to the left rear of H.Q. Coy. which I was with. Hell of a noise. The effect on many would have been most demoralising, but our ranks kept absolutely steady. The men didn't even quicken their pace.
The plane, like a black bird of prey, in the moonlight, turned and began flying back again along the road to meet us. I watched it coming - very slowly it seemed until it was right exactly over my head. Then I stopped looking up, and simply walked on for 5 seconds, at the end of which there was a hell of a crash, and a series of eight terrific explosions took place just in our rear about 100 yards along the road - so we kept on marching. Men came along alright, tho' a bit fed up.
The battalion was halted clear of the village. Lieut. Moffat was wounded badly. Sgt. Kinsells and three others killed and some 20 or so of the men wounded. Rotten luck. Don't like bombing. Lord knows what it must be like on the other side of the line, for our chaps do far more night bombing than the Boche.
So we continued our march along a low dark road, for the moon was now hidden, below St. Pierre Aigle and then along between a river and a high wood which we entered, 3/4 mile short of Vertefeuille Farm, where we bivouacked for the night. Felt tired and rather rotten. Had a cold in the head. Our destination had been changed at the last moment.