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Friday, 19 October 2012

Diary Entry - 19th October, 1917

We march to temporary wagon lines north of Vlamertinghe, Siggers, Cruikshank and gun detachments going on in motor buses about seven thirty a.m. I again went on ahead, this time with Hoyland, the latter to do the billeting and I to reconnoitre a road for the brigade. We had a rotten march as the roads were packed with traffic, as was only to be expected getting so near the push area. We got in about three p.m. in the pouring rain, a thunderstorm breaking over us. The officers shared a Nissan Hut with the brigade and the men slept in tents. A feature which struck one most on first coming into this area was the way splinter proof walls had been put up two foot six inches high round the tents and huts, to keep the bomb splinters out. We turned in early and as I was dozing off to sleep Cruikers strolled in to say that two guns had been put out of action. Cpl. Beech and Gnr Sandalls both of my section had been killed, Br. Francis had his leg blown off and Br. Dempsey badly wounded in the stomach. It seemed they had just taken over and were out of the guns when the Hun started shelling and cut a lot of them off from the pill box (a concrete shelter) on the right so they took shelter in a tank. By this, shells were falling very fast, both five nines and four twos, and one hit the tank, killing four in all, but two belonged to the 9th Division. The Major, on hearing that some wounded men were isolated in a tank, set out with Gnrs. Bullimore, Smith and Sgt Keegan to the rescue. The Major was wonderful and set a magnificent example to the party by going straight through the awful wall of shells, never flinching once and they got all the wounded out of the tank into shelter. Of course, Sandford is being put in for the DSO and, if anyone deserves it, he does for what he did and the brave way he went about it. Poor Br. Francis had his leg blown off at the knee and his only remark was 'No more football for me' with a broad grin. Poor chap, he was being put through for a commission and was a really good fellow. We did not get much sleep that night as there was a lot of activity and the Hun bombed all night but never put any very close.

Corporal Beech DCM and MM - killed - left section
Gunner Sandalls - killed - left section

Br. Dempsey - severely wounded
Br. Francis - severely wounded
Gnr. Campbell - wounded (slight)

2nd Lt Greatwood of D36 also killed by a shell.

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