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Monday, 5 November 2012

Diary Entry - 5th November, 1917

I went up to the guns for the day as Cruikshank was at the OP and the Major had a working party of twenty men from the wagon lines. As I got off my horses and went down past the dressing station, they began to shell, so I went into the Brigade pillbox, got onto Claudet's telephone and asked for a guide to take me to the gun position. They said Br Bales (a signaller) would come down and guide me but, knowing what he was like when there were any shells about, I thought I should be left there all day. A little later I rang up and asked who was coming and they said Webb was on his way. By the time Webb arrived, shells were falling thick and fast everywhere and he said it was too hot to go by the railway and that St Julien Road would be better. Just as we left the pillbox, a shell burst at the crossroads leading into St Julien, wounding two mules tied to some ammunition dump there and the boxes began to smoulder. We wasted no time getting past the smouldering ammunition and, as we went, had the earth thrown over us from several shells. The pluck of some drivers is amazing and coming down the road past us was a driver with hat off, blood streaming down his forehead, leading his two packhorses along, quite as if it was an ordinary day affair and several GS wagons jolted past us at the walk, men sitting quite quiet on their horses with shells exploding all round them, never knowing whether the next minute they might be blown to atoms. Well, we had enough to do to get to our pillboxes - they seemed to be paying special attention to these concrete houses which are dotted about the country. There was no sign of the Major there but as they were expecting him back any minute I thought I had better wait and see if he arrived. After being inside for about ten minutes and there being no sign of him I thought he must be waiting at the gun position for us so sallied forth with Sgt. Keegan to the guns. We did not meet him but as Sgt. Keegan knew what work was to be done I told him to get on with it. About half an hour later Cruikshank wandered down from the OP, which was on the crest in front of the guns, and told me the Major had been wounded outside the Mess - in the arm - along with Br. Anderson and Gnr. Birtwhistle, the former in both hands the latter in the leg. The other men arrived up from the pill box, and we went on carting ammunition along from the plank road on a decaville railway which was laid as well as possible under the conditions one has to compete with in so shelled an area. By lunch we had moved all the ammunition so after the midday meal at the pill box I sent them out to scrounge for timber to hold up bivvies with and they carried on till the evening while I sat waiting for Siggers, expecting him or a note of some sort. The note eventually arrived by Br. Bartholomew about eight p.m. and Siggers said that he had seen the Colonel and that he was to take command and would be up in the morning.


  1. The 'Gnr Bertwhistle' mentioned as wounded in the leg would seem to be Gunner Joseph Leon Birtwistle [116089]. Wounded in the thigh he was hospitalised to UK and did not return to France.

    1. Will try to remember to change spelling in the morning, many thanks once again.