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.
Relieving The Americans And French
Have been much impressed on these marches by the salutes and greetings of the American and French soldiers. The former were fascinated by our bag-pipes. Lord! How we held our heads up high and stepped out when THEY were watching, just to show them that we - WE - were winning the war - and then the Americans would fall behind - and we would carry on for another ten bloody miles without speaking.
22nd. July. 1918. Advance parties sent off early to 1st. Brigade. 1st. U.S.A. Division. C.O. away all day. He returned at 4.30 p.m. and immediately called a conference of officers for instructions. There is to be a push forward on both sides of Berzy-le-Sec, and we are to put out patrols to keep touch with the flanks. These patrols are to cross the River Crise, and the Railway Embankment and push on to the village of Noyant which lies on a steep hill just east of Berzy. H.Q. to be of a moving nature. Visual signalling alone to be employed. 'B' and 'D' Coys. in front. 'A' in support and 'C' in rear. This is how it worked out.
The Bde. and Bn. H.Q.'s. boundaries were as shown on the map (Map 12 of Buchan's History). Our 'B' Coy. on left should have included the whole village of Berzy while 'D' Coy. was to occupy the curved upper half of the steep bank South of the Village. We were to relieve French troops.
Scarcely saw a Frenchman to relieve. Information re. ground, there was none: A French O.C. coy. met one of our forward coys. and standing still, in the darkness, pointed: "Mitrailleuse lˆ, et lˆ, et lˆ. Boche lˆ. Moi. Je vais". And he went.
No other information was given over; no posts indicated or relieved. They had all relieved themselves before our men arrived, without guides, and for the most part without maps. As a result one of our platoons walked onto the top of a Boche post who immediately opened fire upon them. Doubtless they saw the kilts, and then spotting the relief, a tremendous bombardment of artillery and M.G. fire began to sweep the ridge over which our troops were coming. Our movement forward began shortly after the post incident, and carried on continuously thereafter, greatly increasing our casualties. The men of the front coys. had arrived near the front line about or shortly after midnight - but no "relief complete" messages came from either front company. Things went quiet at midnight and the men appeared in very good fettle until the relief was discovered.
I have never found out exactly how the time was spent during the bombardment prior to the advance by the two front coys. 'B' and D. I know that because of the lack of shelter we suffered many casualties - 30 or more dead - at the bend in the bank S.W. of Berzy. These casualties I saw myself.
Meanwhile, lack of proper information and more still, the absence of "handing over", plus the continued shelling and casualties prevented our forward companies taking up their proper position or alignment. They had to move about in the half light on an exposed sky line, easily seen by Boche, and without even a trench for shelter. We got word that the show was to start at 5 a.m. At 4 a.m. the Boche guns were working our back areas in addition to the front. As soon as we got operation orders from Bde. H.Q. we got our own orders ready, and issued without a moment's loss of time. These were sent out to coys. at 4 a.m. Zero was 5 a.m. Thus there was scarcely time for the orders to reach coys. The runners did not know the way - as none had come back from the front coys. 'B' and 'D' to report relief complete.
The Ball Opens And Turns Out Badly
To complicate matters I heard that the French on our left have not to move at all. As a matter of fact, flanking communication was not made on the left until I made it myself in the afternoon with a French post at the extreme North end of Berzy. Operation orders did not reach both front coys. - but only one, I think. I came across Kinniemont, one of my best runners, lying dead on the road up, near Berzy, and I think he bore one copy. He lay with some others near the cemetery. 'C' Coy. in reserve, lay all day in line, and suffered few or no casualties, although firing was brisk.
A bombardment of sorts - provided by guns of the 1st. U.S.A. Division, was opened at 5 a.m. Those in front told me afterwards that they didn't or couldn't see it - it was useless!
At 5.30 a.m. I got permission from the Colonel to go to 'C' Coy. to fix visual signalling. On the road up, I intercepted a message from 'A' Coy. to the effect that they had withdrawn a little, and that 'B' and 'D' Coys. had heavy casualties. So I let 'C' Coy's visual signals go to blazes, and went up to 'A' Coy.
I found 'A' Coy's men scattered in holes or on the grass in very open, exposed country, on hillside sloping down towards Boche, i.e. on the sky line without a bit of cover. They had taken up a position about 100 yards forward, but had come back a bit to avoid shell fire. It was very unhealthy, even while I was there, and poor McIntosh - it was his first show - was in an anxious state. He knew nothing about 'B' and 'D' Coys. I went forward near the upper edge of the wooded ridge but saw no traces or 'B' or 'D'. Absolutely no movement, either on the ridge or below it. Got some more information and went back to H.Q. The Colonel then went forward with Flind (later a psychiatrist!). The latter was wounded. The C.O. returned. He had gone to 'C' Coy.
Off On Patrol
About 11.15 a.m. I went out again, taking Corporal Langridge with me. My orders were to establish, if possible, a bridge head over the Crise River, on the Eastern side of the Railway, and to collect information, and to help things on. As soon as Langridge and I got to the top of the ridge we were machine gunned at long range, so there was nothing for it - some of the shots were very near - but to bolt in the direction of the firing which was coming from the Sucrerie. This we did in a slightly zig-zag course until we reached lower ground when the firing became more intense. So we lay down in a shell hole to consider the situation. I had not met a single Argyll of 'A' or 'B' or 'D' Coys. on this journey.
'A' Coy. by this time, with McIntosh and several others killed, had fallen back north west about 200 yards to some very slight cuttings or banks which gave some degree of shelter from the machine gun fire. I noted 'A' Coy's disappearance, but thought at the time that they had gone forward (and might be in front of us). 'B' and 'D' were non-existent, and there was not a 'B' or 'D' casualty to be seen on the ridge or on the ground below on the right half of the battalion front. From what I had heard, our front line as it had been "handed over" ran from Berzy (inclusive) S.W. to the corner of the steep ridge, and then S.E. along the front of the ridge in the direction of L'Etang.
I watched the areas being shelled by the Boche, and concluded he had given up the ground West of the Railway. So with Langridge I worked along until I came into the Cameron's area at the very S.E. corner of the ridge, got down, turned, and came back as towards Berzy at the foot of the ridge, on level ground. Not a single casualty, or sign of life could I see. The whole southern half was untenanted. We therefore made a bolt across the open for the little wood S.E. of Berzy village - and searched it, its edges, and its centre. Found no one.
Then I decided to work over to the Railway Embankment which was some 200 yards further on. As we were moving over, I saw the first sign of life - a small post of Camerons - 2 - 3 of them, holding a part of the embankment 200 yards south of the river. They told us we were the first Argylls they had seen. By this time I was sure that our fellows must be behind in Berzy or else had lost their direction of advance, and gone through the village in a North-East direction. Langridge and I therefore worked our way along the Railway, northwards. Boche was quieter now, although he machine gunned the top of the Railway Embankment from time to time, as from the Sucrerie.
We entered an orchard near the crossing of the road and railway, and I filled my pockets with peapods. I then searched a house nearby. Then we spotted some Camerons across the road alongside the Railway, and one or two dead Camerons in the road. They had been shot from under the railway bridge. Therefore we made a detour back and crossed the road at a point hidden from enemy view, came up again to the Railway and found Pat Fraser of the Camerons. His position was well inside our battalion area, and yet he had not seen an Argyll! I got some information from him about his own battalion, the 6th. His was the left hand flank post of the 6th.
I then went a bit north towards the station which contained a number of broken wagons. I did not enter, but the place was quite untenanted, apparently. I therefore came back and worked up the roads behind but parallel to the Crise. Found a dead horse and nothing else. (Note from RLM, 1972: Apparently I did not feel like "establishing a bridgehead across the river Crise" with only one corporal, even although he was a good one, beside me!)
I then determined to climb the hill on which Berzy stood, and which, while still receiving attention, was moderately quiet compared to what it had been in the morning. I came back to it and approached it from the road leading from Noyant - a very steep road - and entered the village. It was still being shelled, and the streets were piled high with masonry which I had to clamber over. I searched the front edge of it, and found a post of two or three Frenchmen at the North East corner. They told me that some French and Scots were behind in the Village, but where they did not know. They did not know who was in front, or on their flanks. So therefore there was a thousand yards gap between Pat Fraser and this post! (Note from RLM, 1972: and incidentally some 600 or more yards between Pat Fraser and the nearest post to the South of him!).
I began to search the village, and found a French Artillery post in the centre of it, and in it a big crowd of French, and our own Argyll wounded. I then came upon a sort of cave, and found in it a number of unwounded and wounded Argylls. At the Western corner of the village was a big crowd of our dead - caught obviously by shell fire.
I then went downhill at the bend of the ridge and found little Sandy Miller and his platoon, all properly placed at the bottom of the ridge, but less a number of casualties. He had managed to keep his men together better than the others, but he had never received operation orders! When caught by the shelling he had gone forward with his men, and although he was in a rotten hole, by this judicious action he had succeeded in keeping down the number of his casualties. Of his immediate situation and surroundings he knew absolutely nothing, except that he himself had been over a certain amount of ground. His men had seen Langridge and me cross round in front of them, but had not told him. Of the remainder of his Coy. ('B') and of his O.C. Coy. he knew nothing, and so, of course he could only stay where he was.
I came back up again to report and found 'A' Coy. in their new position, minus a good many casualties. 'A' Coy. had received their orders alright. On the way back to Bn. H.Q. to report we came across several more casualties - one or two of them runners, poor devils. Battalion H.Q. were relieved to get my news. Neither Battalion H.Q. nor Bde. H.Q. nor Divisional H.Q. had the foggiest idea about what had happened.
Things began to quieten down a bit. Had a yarn with the C.O. (Colonel Wilson). He wants me to take a company - told him I would be delighted.
Relieved By Royal Scots
Word came in for relief by the 13th. Royal Scots. Had to go up again with orders, as no one knew the way. I took them up, carried out the relief, and found Bradshaw and McElwee. Finished somewhat late. Lost my skean-dhu. Very sorry about it.
24th. When the relief was completed, I was told to remain behind to show Col. Turner of the Scots over the ground. He was an original 11th. Argyll. They were very good to me, the Scots. Went up to Bradshaw's cave with Col. Turner in the morning. The Boche sniped at us with pip-squeaks and shrapnel for nearly 500 yards as we were coming over the open ridge. I got a rare view of Soissons through my glasses. Glorious country for fighting. I took it as a compliment on the part of the Boche that they should turn a couple of field guns on two men like Turner and myself. Lunched with the Scots. Rejoined my battalion in the afternoon.
Then I was informed that I have to go down with reserves (or 'details') for a rest - not sorry, for I needed it. Left Missy-aux-Bois, our Bn. H.Q., before dark, and almost got lost on my way back as I came by Dommiers. Arrived late, and slept with the sky for a covering.
Col. Turner Killed
26th. News of the death of Colonel Turner and his signal officer, Sgt. Shaw, Signalling Officer of 13th Royal Scots. The poor fellows had occupied the same hole in the ground for their H.Q. as we had had on the previous night, when an odd shell came in and killed them. Heavy rain. Whole place swimming.
27th. Fourteen hours sleep. God! It was fine. Attended funeral of Colonel Turner and Shaw. Heavy rain. We buried them on a green hillside.
We have been living in a sort of rustic bower - such as the poets sing about - until they have had to live in one during a rain storm. This one of ours let in everything, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and RAIN, in buckets.
28th. Played bridge badly.
29th. Word of more casualties to the Bn. who are in the line and doing well. I do hate the Hun now.
30th. July 1918. My birthday! Aged 22!
1st. August, 1918. Heavy bombardment all morning, the big guns around us going all out, and making a hellish row. Boche dropped a few bombs around us during the night. I am still at the transport lines.
2nd. August. Rejoined the battalion in a railway tunnel near Lechelle - found everyone choked up with 'colds' or with poison gas. Moved forward to Villemontoire at night, the scene of previous day's attack. Many dead lying about, many much decomposed. Put up in the caves - the whole Battalion! It was like prehistoric times! These caves were in a deep hillside, and were very big. We found some Boche machine gunners near by, chained to their guns - dead! The division is pushing on! Royal Scots at Villebain.
During the previous two or three days our Battalion, and especially Lieut. D.T.McAinsh gave most distinguished service at Buzancy, earning great commendation all round from French and British. The Battalion got well beyond its objective.
August 3rd. Our men out 'souveniring'. I bought a nice pair of prismatic glasses from a Royal Scot for 60 francs. Sent it home to Father as a present. Word came to move at 1.40 p.m. - a perfect hell of a march to Longavesnes, behind Montgobert - fetched up at 11 p.m. Men glorious, not one fell out. Q.M. supplied grand soup on arrival. Slept like a log. We are all finding open warfare more tiring than trench warfare.
August 4th. Anniversary of something or other - I believe, of the start of the war! On the move again, by bus, to Liancourt area. Embussed at 12.30 p.m. - Viviers - 3 hours late in starting - passed via Coeuvres where we had been bombed, Haute-Fontaines, where we hadn't slept, felt rotten in bus, so played bridge - Pierrefond - Morienval - Buissy - Arsy - and over the Durcq - Rivecourt - Canly - Cleremont - slept a bit of the way, debussed about 10.30 - where, at Bethencourt, we billeted in the same houses as before. Inhabitants very pleased with us. Paris papers lauding the Scottish Divisions - the 9th, 15th, 51st. and 52nd. to the skies. Very tired. Slept till 10 a.m.
5th. Rain in morning. Gee! I am pleased with my men. Rain in afternoon. Got soaked. McAinsh strongly recommended for the Military Cross. Hear I am recommended for a bar to my M.C. myself. MacLeod should get something for this - he has worked like a Trojan.
6th. Wrote letters of sympathy.
Our Servants Amuse Us
7th. On the move again. Marched to Laigneville to entrain. Sorry to leave the district. Entrained about 9.30 a.m. Moved off 2 1/2 hours later, the men being in dirty, filthy cattle wagons - Hermes - halt for lunch - Beauvais, Amiens, Doullens. Detrained at Frevent at 11 p.m. Waited 3 hours on buses - very tired - reached Grand Rullecourt about 5 a.m. and had breakfast. The Colonel's, Adjutant's, 2nd. i/c's and my own servants were all paid before we left Bethencourt. They had a monumental binge there. They have not recovered yet! They probably all thought they were going to lose their jobs for this morning each has fluttered round us for hours, trying make us comfortable. Very funny!
Soissons - Points Learned
My experiences on the Soissons Front have been most valuable, and I've been thinking deeply over the lessons to be learned from them. Points learned:- (1) Value of cover and camouflage. (2) Necessity of minimising daylight movement. (3) Uselessness of our Divl. M.G. Battalion in attacks in open warfare. Only weapon is the Lewis Gun. (4) Importance of accurate and rapid map reading. I saw several officers make bad mistakes. (Note from RLM, 1972: But some of the maps, French ones, were old and inaccurate) (5) Necessity for not accepting verbal reports, unless first hand from reliable men. (6) Necessity for reconnaissance by commander. (7) In event of bombardment - never go back!!! (8) Need for closer liaison with gunners - there were too few forward observation officers (F.O.O.s). (9) Closer co-operation in transport in Divl. Units. (10) Some odd points re. ammunition and its supply in the field. Ditto re. food and water. (11) I have seen too that a company in action in this kind of open warfare is too large to be directly controlled in everything by one man. The unit is the platoon. (12) The value of woods, valleys etc. for concealing movement. (13) Use of gas in valleys. (14) Value of M.G. in defence. (15) Need for aerial supremacy in a stunt. (16) Effectiveness of good night bombing. (17) Need for reporting H.Q. positions. (18) Value of good visual signals. (19) Need for two intelligence officers for each spread-out battalion in a big show. (20) Correct "handing over". (21) Above all I see how great is the need in this type of war to have men - even privates - who have enough initiative to act on their own. Our present training fails here.
Good points noted were:- The rapidity of movement of all units when 'put to it'; the efficient Battalion food supply. We had excellent Q.M. and Transport Officers (Johnnie Dusseldorf, and Davie Barbour, from old 8th. Bn.); keenness of men and officers; ability to take over quickly; great work by runners and stretcher-bearers; value of work by mere individuals; value of surprise; value of a good adjutant like Macleod.
9th. August. 1918. Large draft of new officers. Capt. A.C.Welch back.
10th. Col. Wilson is receiving the Cross of the Legion d'Honour, and Macleod the Croix de Guerre, both well merited. Corporal Langridge who had been out with me got the Medaille Militaire plus Croix de Guerre with palmes - the highest French award for gallantry.
11th. Out revolver shooting with C.O. Am beginning to wonder when I'm to get the company promised me.
12th. Lectured the signallers and runners on the lessons I had learned down South.
13th. Brigade Parade to receive the French Awards from our Divisional General. Rather an amusing show.
Off To Coy. Commanders' School - 1st Army
16th. Left for Tinques - train to Boulogne where I stayed the night. Then out to the Army School at Hardelot at night.
18th. School splendidly situated in midst of sandhills. Glorious sea breezes. This is a school for Company commanders. There are a great many captains and not a few majors attending it.
19th. Grouped into platoons. Lectures. Finished "Soldier Poets".
20th. Played rugby after a busy day.
25th. A swim! A fine busy life, plenty of exercise, odd visits to Boulogne. Good feeding and fine Company. Am feeling fit. Good war news continuing. Monchy has fallen! Hurrah!
30th. Received a nice letter from General H.L.Reid, V.C. Commanding the 15th. Division, congratulating me on my Bar to the Military Cross.
The War Is Splendid!
1st. September, 1918. This is a fine war - at Hardelot Plage! Football in morning (Sunday) against No. 2 platoon - a draw. Put up my 'rosette', so had an embarrassing time. Church at night.
2nd. Monday. Played against No. 4 platoon and won by 2 goals to 1. This brings us to the final.
7th. Boxing - and so on - a rare life of sport and fun.
15th. September. Anniversary of my first show, two years ago, at Martinpuich on the Somme.
16th. Boxing. Was beaten by Pullen, an R.E.
19th. Fine dinner at PreChatelaine with Neame, our O.C. Platoon, a major in the Artist's Rifles.
Friday 20th. Guest night at the School - terrific scenes - the band - the champagne - the speeches - Burnet - Neame's promotion - rushing the band - dancing on the tables - chairing the Commandant - the names of those who weren't drunk easily counted.
Learned that my name had been singled out several days before from amongst the 150 officers at the school for retention as an instructor. It was submitted to Army H.Q. but Army would not allow it as the 15th. Div. is no longer in First Army. Am quite glad. Also heard that I was being very strongly recommended for Staff duties. Seems to me there is no chance of this happening as there are so many senior captains in my own battalion now that I can't even get a company for myself.
It has struck me that our instructing officers at the School here are, with a few exceptions unable to inspire any confidence in one. So few of them have ever seen any actual fighting. Some have never been in the trenches for more than a week.
Sunday 22nd. Early train. Up to St. Pol with Bob Semple and Brown, two pals at my school. Reached Calonne-Ricquart at 8 p.m. and billeted with Green of our regiment.
An Old Story
Monday 23rd. Rejoined Battalion details at Noeux-les-Mines. All well. Found Bennett, our old Q.M. and Major Kirsop. Battalion is now in the line at Hulluch and Loos, near where it was in September 1915. Sgt. Mitchell, my dour, old, trusted signaller sergeant, has been killed in a raid on 19th., after 3 1/2 years very active, courageous service. Poor beggar! A few officers wounded after a successful raid by the Bn. Coogan and McAinsh did well. Prosser gone away for instructional duties. I wonder what they will do with me!
I heard from Bennett, the late Q.M. of the 11th. Bn. that after I had come out of the first show at Ypres last year (where I was with the stretcher parties) that a deputation from amongst the men, headed by Sergeant McQuarrie of 'D' Coy. waited on the C.O. at Orderly Room (i.e. Colonel Duncan) and said they had come to ask if I might be recommended for gallantry while with them, as they thought I deserved it thoroughly. Duncan, of course, said this was too irregular for anything. This now brings back to my memory many complementary and sympathetic remarks by officers which I did not quite understand at the time. Well! It was better to be thought well of by the men than to receive any decoration at the hands of Colonel Duncan.
24th. Took a cycle run up to the Battalion in the morning - H.Q. in the village of Loos. Stayed for the tour. Had a walk round companies. Very interesting place. Am to be signalling officer in the meantime. Played Vingt et un at night. Don't see any chance of promotion yet. Am full of beans and itching for work. I'd almost like a battle (Note from RLM, 1972: pseudo-euphoria?).
25th. and 26th. Round line a lot. Now know it backwards. Great rumours that Boche is going back. We are going to try to hurry him.
Saw figures for our casualties at Soissons - pretty high, but not half as bad as at Ypres. For the Division, figures are 165 officers and 3351 other ranks, of which 34 officers and 441 men were killed.
27th. Conference. All excitement. Hope the Boche will move.
28th. and 29th. More conferences and preparations. Camerons did a raid on our left but took no prisoners.
30th. Am taking over from Captain Macleod as he is going on leave.
October 1918 - Loos Again
1st. October, 1918. Fairly quiet day. Began again as acting Adjutant. Boche patrols pretty active at night. Got no sleep owing to continued calls. About 9.20 a.m. word came that Boche was going back in front of Hulluch. Our companies, headed by patrols, were moving forward an hour later.
We encountered resistance from Bois de Dix-Huit and Bois de Quatorze but made very good progress by manoevring. Our first and second objectives taken by 2 p.m. 'B' and 'C' Coys. in front, 'D' and 'A' in support. Mens' spirits rampant. Lord! How I have longed for this time. Kept splendidly busy. C.O. at advanced H.Q. Very few casualties.
Boche Retiring Along Whole Front
At 6 p.m. I went along to fix up food, and then opened a new H.Q. in the old front line at 7 p.m. Busy night again. Messages coming and going. Water, food and ammunition parties. Very dark. No moon. No sleep. Our patrols worked into 3rd. objective during the night, chiefly owing to Nairn, who was topping. It was apparent in many ways that the Hun meant to hold his third line but our early move where we broke in and rolled up his flanks, upset him. Nairn's work was 'A.l.'. We got 12 prisoners, 7 machine guns, and killed 27 Boches. By 8 a.m. on 2nd. Oct. the 3rd. objective was ours all over, and patrols were working into Vendin. 'A' and 'D' went through 'B' and 'C' at 11 a.m. Lord, it was grand!
Much sniping. Capt. Billy Irvine on the right simply in his element. People further to the right somewhat slow - opposition from a switch line held them up slightly. Bn. H.Q. to Bois de Quatorze at 11 a.m. Relieved at night by Royal Scots. Our total casualties 5 killed and about 20 wounded.
Back to Loos on 3rd/4th. Grand feed on arrival at old dressing station. Bed at 1 a.m. on 4th. Slept like a log for 8 hours. Bumph all day.
6th. Boche asked for armistice. Hurrah! Hope we don't give it until we reach the Rhine.
7th. to 9th. Having a good time.
10th. Bn. relieved in Loos by K.O.S.B. Came down to Mazingarbe in daylight to a fair billet.
11th. Discussed staff appointment with C.O. and Bde. Major. Will probably remain with the Bn. especially as war is near an end.
13th. Colonel Wilson's birthday! - a big splash. (Note from RLM, 1972: He never disclosed his age to anyone. I guess he might be 2 or 3 years older than myself.). Bed very late.
14th. Busy day. Dined with 'D' Coy. Billy Irvine is going home for six months rest.
15th. Warned to go up the line. Inspection by General Birdwood, G.O.C. 5th. Army. Was introduced to him afterwards. Moved off at 6 p.m. in hell of a hurry, via Vermelles, Hulluch, to Bienfontaine. Arrived at 9 p.m. Cold night. 44th. and 46th. Brigades are moving forward.
16th. Oct. A day of tremendous rumours. One order followed and contradicted another in quick succession. Finally it was decided to march via Vendin-le-Vieil and Pont ˆ Vendin where there was a great block in the traffic. Bridges broken. Dead horses. Huge mine craters. On to Estevelles and Evinoy which we reached at 4 p.m.
17th. Passed through 44th. Brigade at dawn - through Bois d'Epins - Libercourt - then Wahagnies where I got bitten to death by mosquitos.
War As I Like It To Be
18th. On again. Camerons in front, forming advance guard to Division. On again, always just failing to see Boche by two or three hours. Then to Doeux Ville, Loffrande and Chateau de Bloc, where we spent the night. Some machine gunning. Camerons held up.
19th. Our turn for advance guard. Passed through Capelle, and several other places. Some opposition on the right, but on the whole it was child's play. Am enjoying this immensely. Am bang full up with work, but it's fine. I've a horse too, and I use it! H.Q. in the huge castle at Genech. Rode round the front line on horseback. (Note from RLM, 1972: Did I?).
20th. Rested at Genech.
21st. Off again at noon via Bercu to Mourchin, just short of the Scheldt Canal where evidently Boche was prepared to fight. Guns busier again.
22nd. Easy day. Played football against the sergeants. Won by 5 goals to 2.
Refugees Flocking In
Pitiable scenes outside H.Q. with refugees. Appalling beyond all description. I feel bitter against the Hun, as never before. Our village is full of white-haired women, pale faced girls, and little mites of babies. Lorry after lorry has been passing through, with refugees, each piled high with a mass of suffering humanity, shawl-less women and babies. Some of the latter were even gassed. There were young women too who had been forced to work in the mines, and others who had been outraged. It was a never ending procession of the hungry, helpless, homeless and tired.
I have seen some aspects of life since my last leave!
I arrived back in France on March 14th, 1918, just in time to be in at the beginning of the Hun offensive on 21st. March, when he attacked us in great numerical superiority with more guns, and a heavier concentration of men, and materials, and aeroplanes than we had. I was then present when the evacuation of Monchy was ordered. Then again, I had the luck to be in it when the 3rd, 15th. and 4th. Divisions stopped his road to Arras, when we had no other reserves than the Divisional Cyclists and R.E.s - and even they were in the line - when everything looked black, and every Boche gun pointed to Paris (Note from RLM, 1972: Oh!).
I was there when he made his last bid for that city, when the Division was hustled down to Champagne, and pitched into line at Compiegne, and where we had to carry out our counter-attacks on July 23rd. and succeeding days, which, carried on at every point of the line, have sent the enemy back over his much-vaunted Hindenburg line, cleared the coast of Belgium, and taken us into territory we have not seen since August, 1914. Now we have pushed forward over the Loos Battlefield of 1915, past Lens and Lille, and up to the gates of Tournai. In all my experience there has not been such an eventful period. It has been great for a mere schoolboy like myself to be present during these great shows.
At night, in the midst of a tremendous argument about the League of Nations, Macleod suddenly blew back from leave.
24th. Handed over to him. Left Mouchin at 3 p.m. Stopped a corps car which took me to Corps H.Q. at Thurmerses, got a corps car to Carvin, and then obtained an R.F.C. tender to Petit Sains, near Mazingarbe, where I had dinner.
Leave Begun - And Ended
25th. Fine sleep. Walked to Noeux-les-Mines, via Bracquemont. Very few soldiers about. They have all gone forward. Car to Bethune. I'm now pretty good at stopping cars. Bethune is a pitiable spectacle - in ruins - like Ypres, a City of the Dead. One would think a destroying angel had passed over the town. A lorry to Lillers. An ambulance to Aire. R.F.C. tender to St. Omer where I had a fine lunch. Lorry to Guines, tramway to Calais which I reached about 4 p.m. Pretty good going for 24 hours! Got a room in Sauvage Hotel. Met Fyfe, Mackie, Eric Duncan, and best of all, Bobby Semple who stayed the night with me.
26th. Embarked at 7 a.m. Changed the date of my leave warrant so that I got over the day before. After all I had signed it myself! (Note from RLM, 1972: I think!). Crossed over with all my souvenirs, and reached Dover at 11 a.m. Wired L.M.M. to meet me in London, but she went to the wrong place. Bath at Euston Hotel. Gati's for dinner. Chin Chin Chow at night. Nearly lost my train. Travelled up with Bob Semple to Carlisle. Arrived home at 9.20 a.m. on 27th. and met Father.
9th. November 1918. Leave finished and it was good.
10th. Met L.M.M. in London. Stormy day at Dover. Good tea as usual. Good dinner too! Great shouting in streets of Calais at night. News of Armistice.
11th. November. Mobs rushing singing through the streets of at night. News of Armistice confirmed - Thank God!
I set off again for the battalion, but stopped en route to give me a chance of finding the grave of my friend, John McIntosh, a gunner, killed at Neuve Chappelle. Found gun pits. No graves nearby.
The End Of The Great War
11th. NOVEMBER, 1918.
Note: by Robert Lindsay Mackay, 11th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
This Day in History
Edward I defeats the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar.
King George II wins the battle of Culloden.
American forces capture York (present-day Toronto), the seat of government in Ontario.
The Army of the Potomac begins marching on Chancellorsville.
German bombers of the Condor Legion devastate Guernica, Spain.
The German army enters the Greek capital, signaling the end of Greek resistance. All mainland Greece and all the Greek Aegean islands except Crete are under German occupation by May 11. In fending off the Axis invaders, the Greeks suffer the loss of 15,700 men.
North Vietnamese troops shatter defenses north of Quang Tri and move to within 2.5 miles of the city. Using Russian-built tanks, they took Dong Ha, 7 miles north of Quang Tri, the next day and continued to tighten their ring around Quang Tri, shelling it heavily.
Saigon is encircled by North Vietnamese troops.
Afghanistan President Sardar Mohammed Daoud is overthrown and murdered in a coup led by procommunist rebels.