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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Diary Entry - 23rd March, 1918

We were informed before dawn that we had to be ready to cover Beaumetz which had been taken during the night and that the enemy were to be checked by us if they attemped coming down the valley from Beaumetz. This meant a 45 degree switch, which made us enfilade the position with No. 1 gun. However, we had to do the best we could and chance a premature as there was no room to move out to the right. About twelve, we caught a glimpse of the enemy crossing the ridge and got onto him with open sights at 3000 and continued to put down a barrage, searching behind the crest. Nothing appeared to happen of much importance till one p.m. when we noticed machine gun fire seemed to be coming from direction of Velu wood. Then things began to happen, shells fell in vicinity of position from direction of Velu Wood, our left rear, and machine gun bullets began to whistle over our heads. Fortunately, the wagon lines had kept a good eye on us and as they thought things seemed strange to the left had the limbers up. Orders came at one thirty to limber up and we were away in all haste in ten minutes with machine gun bullets fairly whistling around. No horses had come up for us and we footed it, meeting the Colonel near Bertincourt Sucrerie. He warned us to leave Bertincourt on our right, as the Huns were through Velu wood. Unfortunately, having no horses to guide the guns away, F subsection's gun went back the same way as they came, between Bertincourt and Velu wood and were soon under machine gun fire. The wheel driver, Dr. Davies, was killed with a bullet through the head and a centre horse hit, the team took charge but the drivers bravely stuck to their horses and eventually rejoined the battery back near Villers au Flos. The Major, Nicholson and myself in the meantime wandered off to the left of Bertincourt with our one gun and a few men getting along in haste from shells and machine gunfire. We eventually picked up a track to Ytres then proceeded by Bus and across country to Villers au Flos. The Major went on to meet the Colonel and when we got back we found the wagon lines to the northy of Rocuigny and the guns in action to the rear of Barrastre. The 9.2' gun was still searching and sweeping indiscriminately about the back areas and several lobbed close to the horse lines. The Major sent for me at the guns about five p.m. and he and self remained with the guns that night. We kept up harassing fire on Velu Wood all night. About eight p.m. the Hun was reported to have patrols in Bus and there was certainly a lot of machine gun fire coming from that direction but we could not make out what had happened to the 19th Div gunners who were on our right, as they remained absolutely silent. There was a certain amount of wind at ten p.m. and our wagon lines were ordered up to the guns in case we had to move off in a hurry. REs were busy just in rear of the position, digging a trench but all left when their task was finished at two p.m. Vosper and I had no kits up and spent the night walking about trying to keep the circulation going, as did most of the gunners.

Sgt. Beadle EW evacuated (not having got over the Beauchamp gas).

Fitter Shoesmith F wounded in action.
The abovementioned man was sitting on the gun as we came out of Bertincourt position and just behind that village as gun went off the road up a slight bank he lost his balance, fell under the gunwheel and had his leg smashed. We passed him off on a CCS at Bus, who were in the middle of packing up. It was his wish that he be put off there, but know I should sooner myself have been carried further to the rear as it is doubtful whether the horse ambulances could get away quick enough.

Dr. Davies G killed in action.

The large dump at Ytres commenced blazing about nine p.m. and was a really wonderful sight. Every few minutes there would be a huge flare lighting the sky to a dull red colour, then, a few seconds later, a muffled roar would reach us as a huge dump of shell - varying in calibre from 18-pounder to 15' howitzer - exploded. This dump burned on all night, periodically flaring up, giving off large explosions.

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