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Friday, 30 November 2012

Diary Entry - 30th November, 1917

This proved to be a more exciting day than it first appeared. On having breakfast soon after eight, noticed a rather heavy barrage going on in Bourlon wood and there seemed to be a lot of smoke coming out of the trees. About eight forty-five, the Huns put down a very heavy barrage north of the wood, mostly composed of five nines. Although this was all unusual, we went about our duties in the usual way. Siggers was coming down at eleven and we also expected the Colonel round the lines during the day, as he had just got back from leave on the previous day. Siggers told us the Hun was attacking and that they should need a lot of ammunition. However, before he left and as we were going up to communicate with the battery by phone, Armytage, who had field glasses on the front, remarked as we passed that he saw about a battalion running back from our front line and they looked very like our men. Almost immediately a mounted military policeman belonging to the 47th division came down the road and shouted that all transport was to move to the other side of the village at once. Well, things were beginning to happen. Barrett was sent out to locate a new spot for a wagon line and batteries higher up the valley were already commencing to move. In the midst of all this, a Hun plane was brought down just close by by a DHS and he landed quite well. Some despicable creature had taken our Mess cart in the night and we located it moving off with a 62nd divisional battery but did not have time to tell the OC what we thought of him as there was only a bombardier in charge. Siggers returned to the guns and a message soon came down ordering all limbers to be sent up to a crossroads quite near D 36 battery, so we got them under way. About twelve thirty p.m. a message came by dispatch rider ordering the 36th brigade wagon lines to the Place de St Hubert, a spot some two miles behind Roclincourt. I went on to reconnoitre the position, Driver Capstick, Barrett's groom, having come back in the meantime. Well, we eventually got into a fairly good position there at about dusk, with nice water troughs quite close by, but as we came up the valley the Hun was putting some big velocity shrapnel at its mouth and it was not too pleasant. There seemed to be a lot of 60-pounders looking for a resting place on this road and they eventually dropped trails on the roadside just below us. As the night grew later we gradually realised what a precarious position we were really in. To get out of our position there was only one road over which we could pass and that was by Metz and thence to Ruylcourt. The Metz Trescault Havrincourt road was already blocked as it was under shellfire. It appears the Huns had broken through the 56th division's front and they had taken Gouzeaucourt and advanced to a wood about one and three-quarter miles east of Metz and taken goodness knows how many prisoners and guns, including two 4.2 inch howitzers. Rumours were flying that he had taken at least 8,000 prisoners and 120 guns. Rumours had it that RA had moved, and the DAC, so no one knew what to do about filling up with ammunition. However, Major Claudet and Captain Hewitson went out scouting for the different two HQs. I eventually got into bed about midnight. The limbers got back soon after dark and both Shapland and Barrett turned up together.

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