‘We went, we were not fetched,’ quote from the War Diary of Chas. W .Simmons
Yesterday we posted our great uncle Charlie’s war diary ( Oct 1915 to Jan 1916 day) covering his enlistment and training
Chapter II Jan 1916 – April 1916
Sun Jan 30th 1916
After just over 3 months of training I am bound today for France. At least we think it is France. We know now it is not Egypt as we first thought because they have taken away our sun helmets and light clothing and given us clothing more suitable for cold countries. We have reveille at 4.0 and clean out our barracks. Some of the fellows write with chalk all sorts of things on the walls. “The 14 Gloucesters gone to ?” – “We went, we were not fetched”, meaning of course we were volunteers for Lord Kitchener’s army and not conscripts under the Military Service Act. Harry comes round to see me but we do not say goodbye as he says he will try and see me just once more at the last few minutes. He is not coming to France with us as being in the office he has to stay behind with several more as details. At last we have to go out on the square for the last time to march away. Harry did not turn up but perhaps it was just as well as it meant goodbye. The last few moments on the square will live forever in my memory. We all join with our Chaplain Canon Ross, in the Lord’s Prayer after which a brief pause for a silent personal prayer. How many of us will ever see England again[?] It is not of myself I think so much but my parents and sisters.
Full of excitement and the Band playing that dear old familiar “Keep the Home Fires Burning”. We start for Tidworth Station where are gathered several of the officers’ wives who make us presents of cigs, cakes and chocolates. Arriving at Southampton Docks at 12.0 I am warned with another Corporal (Smith who lives at Reading) to take charge of 70 men and we unload the mules and transport limbers from the trains on board the Materlon. It is a tiresome job. I meet an old school chum, Jacobs who is going out with the Army Service Corps attached to our Division. Of course we greet each other with “What are you doing here?”. I am placed Corporal of the Guard and we leave the Docks at 8.0 P.M. It was a lovely smooth passage and a bright moonlight night. I enjoyed walking about the decks watching the moonbeams on the water. Down below we were so very crowded, no room to lie down only on top of someone’s boots or legs and it was so very hot. Strange, no one mentions the word submarine.
Mon Jan 31st
Arriving at Le Havre at 7.0 A.M. we start to unload the mules etc and then march away to the Rest Camp out in a field. I notice rows and rows of tents and as there is snow on the ground I am just thinking how sorry I was for those fellows when we get the order to turn into this field and I find we are the ones who have to be billetted [sic] there. Being Jan[uary] and so bitterly cold I imagine that we keep each other warm. We are given our first Field Card and I hasten to send it home to let them know I am quite safe.
Thurs Feb 1st
Snow still on the ground when we get up and we have to wash from a huge wooden trough out in the open. I just dip my fingers in and freshen up my eyes and mouth. It is too bitterly cold to have a thorough wash. We are taken a short route march around the town which proves very interesting. Le Havre is very dirty. We hear little bits of broken English while several shout the old army cry “Are we downhearted”. We receive a payment of 5 francs and as there is a YMCA we buy cake and tea. We lie down for 2 hours rest and then at 11.30 P.M. we start for the station where we find a long train of cattle trucks in which we are packed like animals 35 and 40 in a truck.
Wed Feb 2nd
We leave Le Havre at 4.0 A.M. passing through Chafdefaure; Poix; Abincourt; Saloix; Longfure; Fauntaine; I realise there may be mistakes in these places but I had to write them down the best way I could. We are cramped up and stiff as there is only the bare boards to lie on and being so crowded you could not stretch out. Finally we finish at Andres just after midnight. We start off straight away.
We march to Renescure about 10 miles away. We are tired, stiff and the roads are so bad and the huge cobblestones prove very tiring. Scores of men fall out by the roadside absolutely done up. Pte Wellman from my section falls out with a damaged ankle and I have to stay behind with him and bring him along. It is pitch dark, practically midnight or rather very early morning and here we are in a strange country left behind by not knowing where the Batt has gone to or how far we have to go before we catch them up. We struggle along finding some of them at 6.30 A.M. Now we know the Batt has halted somewhere near we decide to snatch a couple of hours sleep. In an archway we see a farm wagon full of straw so we climb into that. How thankful we are to rest. Later we find the billet of the rest of our platoon which is an old farm. We are given our “Iron Rations” which consist of a bag of small biscuits and a tin of bully beef. It is cumbersome to carry as the corners of the tin will persist in hurting your bones. We are all given an extra gas helmet which means extra to carry. The army headquarters must think human beings are animals by the weight we have [to] carry with us. We are allowed to write our first letters and I tell them at home I am safe, happy with plenty of food which is far from correct but still we must not burden them with our trials. I tell them how very much I enjoyed the piece of rabbit Lily gave me when she came to see me before I left. This I ate on board as we were crossing the Channel. I also ask if the Rev R.B. Dickson had any of the Hymns for me that I had chosen for the day of our crossing as I had suggested to my sister that she should ask him to have either one or both of Hymns 277 and 595. My platoon officer, Lieut A.V. Justice has to censor my letters and when I taken him one addressed to his Col Justice, Speen Court, he says he thinks he can claim relationship with him.
We visit a small shop for coffee and I ask them for their autographs. Mde Godart Orbin; Mlle Alice Laurs and Mlle Maria Duyne. We can hear the roar of the guns in the distance.
A short route march during which we see the bombardment of an enemy aeroplane. The shrapnel goes all round but does not bring it down. I taste the cheap French drinks out here for the first time. Malager resembling English port; Citron sweetened water resembling lemonade and Grenadine which is like ginger wine. You can get any of it for a penny a glass. There [sic] also tell me one can get beer penny a glass but I do not want any of that.
Sun Feb 6th
A bitterly cold wind. Church parade in an orchard. We have to be in billetts [sic] at 8.15 and candles out at 9.0.
Mon Feb 7th
Route march in the morning when we caught in the snow and hail [sic] and although we return drenched we have to turn out again in the afternoon for another march for 2½ hours. At night I am Cpl of the Guard. This is distasteful as you are tired yet you have to keep awake all night to relieve the sentry every two hours.
We are again paid 5 francs and I do a lot of correspondence.
We march to Mollingham a distance of 14 miles away and on the way we march past our Comd in Chief, Douglas Haig. This is the most tiring march I have experienced. The cobble stones are awful. My feet are blistered, my back almost broken with the huge weight of the pack. I feel done and very low in spirits. The billet here is very comfortable, we are in an attic over a French cottage. I am interested in how they heat their rooms, not at all like England with a fire place. They have a stove which comes in the middle of the rooms with a long horizontal flat connection leading to the fire place and then up the chimney. Of course it has its many advantages. There is no smoke and of course you can heat several pans on the flat connection as well as on the top of the stove.
A glorious sunny day, so refreshing. A short route march.
Early Reveille and we march away to Arye [Aire], a distance of 6 miles to be reviewed by Lord Kitchener. It was pouring with rain and we had to parade in a huge ploughed field, ankle deep in mud so that when we had the order to “Form Fours” and “Present Arms” many fellows fell down. When you tried to lift your foot out of the mud the whole of your weight was on one leg and that leg went down so much that you could hardly move without falling. It was an absolute farce from a ceremonial point of view. When we eventually got out of the field on to the road where Lord Kitchener stood instead of going by him as a body of men we passed him in twos and threes. I never saw such a ridiculous sight in all my life. How I wish they could have taken a film of it so that in after years we could have enjoyed a hearty laugh. We return wet through and tired.
Sat Feb 12th
Such a lovely day, just the reverse from yesterday. Another route march. We find a YMCA Hut and indulge in a little singing. I am Cpl of the Guard again tonight. These are the items that make you curse the Kaiser, war and everything as you are up all night with no sleep.
Sun Feb 13th
We hold a voluntary Church Parade at the YMCA. We sing “Jesu Lover of my soul”, Fight the Good Fight” and “The Church’s one foundation”. A very remarkable sermon. On the evening I walk to Berguette where there is a large munition factory.
Another route march. Sing song in the evening at the YMCA. Such a very rough windy night.
The inevitable route march to Isbergues [Pas de Calais]. Another very rough night with the wind howling.
A pouring wet day but of course we have the usual route march. I wonder why all this tramping about.
A glorious day. No duties except gymnastics. I walk to Isbergues. We draw 5 francs pay.
We march to a railway station 3 miles away and for nearly four hours work in the rain wheeling gravel. We look like a lot of navvies by the time we have finished. The rations are working out very poor. Food is scarce and I know what it is to feel hungry.
We march away to Robecq [Pas de Calais] via Burnes [?] arriving about 11.0 and billit [sic] in an old barn which has almost fallen down belonging to Mde Gransant who says she is a Belgian refugee. It is so bitterly cold and we have no blankets but they give us a small issue of Rum. I find out the Church here and really it is the prettiest I have ever been inside. The paintings are simply lovely.
Sun Feb 20th
An early reveille at 5.0 but we are so cold and numbed that we are pleased to get up. We leave at 9.0 for Hinges which is a small village on the La Bassee Canal. It is a lovely day but nothing at all like Sunday as we are on the go all day. Food is very scarce but luckily I receive a nice parcel from Col Justice containing cake; chocolate, butter scotch also socks, mittens and soap. Capt Witherby and Harry also write to me and Miss A. Dunlop sends me some cigs and a charming letter.
A very cold day. The roar of guns is continuous now we are nearing the firing line. We have an alarm at 11.30 P.M. just to see how quick we can turn out. We are kept out until 1.30 A.M. It was bitterly cold waiting about in the middle of the night. I am Corporal of the Guard again. How we grumble and grouse at guards.
A lot of snow has fallen and it is so cold. There is a case for the NCOs to volunteer to go into the unknown. My Platoon Sergt and I offer to go. We do not know where we are to go or what we are to do. With several more NCOs we start at 1.0 in the blinding snow and sleet and follow the La Bassee Canal to La Hamel a distance of 3 miles where our unknown duty finishes. We are cold the object was to find an emergency road to Divisional Headquarters. We return wet and very tired.
Wed Feb 23rd
Bitterly cold again. We break the ice in the gutters by the roadside to wash and shave.
Snow has fallen again and we receive our fur coats also waterproof capes. Of course it all means extra weight for our poor backs to carry.
I am Cpl of the Guard again and it is snowing all day and night so we steal an old bucket from the farm, knock some holes in it and make a fire with some wood and coal that Pte Perfect has found somewhere.
The snow is disappointing but it is still bitterly cold. No food rations arrive so we eat our Iron Rations. Later in the day the post brings me a parcel. Oh how grateful I am for these parcels from home and my friends in England. The old lady at the farm here would not let us take water from her pump. She unscrewed the handle and took it in doors so at night for a little revenge Perfect steals several eggs and opens all the doors of the stables and barns so that the horses and cattle can get loose.
Sun Feb 27th
We leave Hinges and march to Lacouture [la Couture] (La-too-re) where we are billeted in a loft and attached to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Mon Feb 28th
We have squad drill, how ridiculous to treat us like recruits yet I suppose it all means discipline. We go on a fatigue party to the trenches passing on our way a large number of graves by the roadside. These “carrying parties” on fatigue work is very hard and heavy work especially through mud. You may be asked to carry rations; barbed wire; corrogated [sic] iron or water.
Squad drill again and 10 francs pay making in all 25 francs since I have been in France.
Wed Mar 1st
The weather has turned much milder. A parcel from home arrives containing some feet powder and strangely enough today they brought round a large tin of whale oil. We had to dip our hands in and then rub it on the bottoms of our feet. The say it hardens them and I only hope they are right as mine ache so after marching and get so tender.
Thurs March 2nd
We watch the bombardment of an enemy aeroplane. It is very exciting. We move off at 6.0 P.M. for the trenches at Festubert (Fes-too-bay). This is the first time we go into the trenches as a Battalion to hold the line. Naturally we are anxious to know what it is like. We work until midnight repairing trenches. It is so wet and cold and I feel so ill.
Fri Mar 3rd
Still snow and rain. Early morning “Stand To”. This means that just before dawn every man has to stand at his post in the firing lines ready to meet any surprise attack. I am trench Cpl from 9.0 A.M. until 6.30 P.M. changing the sentry on guard every two hours. The conditions are terrible, snow, rain and mud and so bitterly cold and I feel really ill.
Sat Mar 4th
Weather again terrible, nothing but incessant snow and rain and we are on heavy fatigue all day and until midnight. I feel I am almost dying, my bones ache and I have such a cough. Really Active Service is “No Bein”[sic]”.
Sun Mar 5th
Nothing at all like Sunday as we are working hard all day and until nearly midnight. How I think of the old Sundays in England and I picture the people going to Church. The weather is awful, snow and rain and I have completely lost my voice with my cold. It is the worst cold I have ever had. It must be influenza.
Mon Mar 6th
Just a little better weather today and we have an easier day but I feel quite done up especially as I have not had a wash or shave for 4 days. We leave the trenches at 7.0 P.M. and I am very thankful. Our first experience of the firing line has been a bitter one luckily our casualties have been few. We go back a little way to be in reserve and we are but in an old house that has been almost blown away with shells. There is only one room left and we try to squeeze nearly 30 men into it. We are too cold and too cramped up to sleep and are very thankful when at 6.0 A.M.
Tues Mar 7th
We move away to LaCouture [la Couture]. We have breakfast and then move to Robecq. It rained and snowed all the way and my feet ache awful. We have had so very little sleep that when we do eventually turn into an old barn we sleep so sound as the dead.
We do not get up very early, nearly 9.0 and I have a thorough good wash and shave, the first since last Thursday, nearly a week. I had grown quite a beard. Our Parcels are issued and I have one from home, also “Newbury News” which was so welcome. I write home to say I have come through safely my first taste of the trenches. I visit Robecq Church ands spend a few moments in prayer and thanksgiving for my safe return. This is the Church that I said was so beautiful. Such lovely paintings and statues. We have a short Service of thanksgiving in an old tin hut and we had one of my favourite Hymns “Lead Kindly Light”. It made me think so much of England and home.
Every man receives a tin of 50 cigs from “Uncle Jack” the Editor of a Bristol Paper so we are happy. We march away at 11.0 to Colonne [Calonne] a short distance of two miles. It is such a glorious day. We are taken to some baths where we have a rinse and a change of linen which we appreciate. Again I am Cpl of the guard so no sleep.
Fri Mar 10th
Anniversary of Neuve Chapelle 1915. I feel sick with my cold but the Dr says he has only some tablets that I am to gargle in water so I let things take its course. It certainly is improving and I am regaining my voice. Some more snow has fallen.
We draw 5 francs so I obtain a permit to go into Robecq where I but two souvenirs of the Crucifix to sent home. Parcels from home, Wash Common and Beaulieu. All are very acceptable as food is scarce.
Sun Mar 12th
1916 Early reveille and we march about 2 miles away to work on a sniper’s range. It is work, work, work every day out here. We do not recognise Sunday in France. Our food rations are very small and always the same, no change. We hold an Evening Service in a cow shed.
A real Spring day, weather quite mild. Two more NCOs and myself are detailed to go to Headquarters at Colonne [Calonne] [HQ 35th Div]. While there we have a look in the Church which is lovely. I write a letter to Lily for her birthday which is March 19th.
Tues Mar 14th
Reveille at 4.0 A.M. Marched 2 miles and caught the London General Omnibus which carries us to Lestrem. We then go to within a few miles of Laventie and Neuve Chapelle to fix wire entanglements. Quite summer weather. Caught the bus home. This is the first time since we have been out here (nearly two months) that they have given us a ride yet people in England think we are riding every day. Out here it is march, march, everywhere.
Reveille at 5.0 A.M. and marched to a firing range about 2 miles from Merville. We have a course of firing in gas helmets. Merville is the largest town we have been through since La [Le] Havre. I should liked to have had a look round.
Cpl of the Guard again. Gas helmet firing continued and then we leave at 12.30 to march back to Colonne [Calonne].
Fri Mar 17th
St Patrick’s Day but I am afraid I shall not be at the Annual Ball tonight. How one thinks of bygone days and here we are out here. We have an easy day so I try to get off a few letters.
Morning parades and a bath and a change of linen. We draw 5 francs. Such a glorious sunset the best I have ever witnessed. There is a great bombardment going on in the distance. The roar of the guns is awful. Several of us have a quiet chat and Prayer with our own Chaplain, Canon Ross.
Sun Mar 19th
On the move again. Strange we should always move on a Sunday but as I say Sunday is not recognised out here. This time we march to Zelobes and I have to take charge of Baggage Escort. Weather very warm and we find marching tiring. We are billited in a loft over an Estaminet (Es-tam-in-ay) which is the French word for public house. We hold a short service at 3 o’clock having Hymns “Sun of my soul”; “Fight the Good fight”; and “O God our Help”. Parcels from Col Justice; Canterbury and home. How I did enjoy the dairy butter my mother sent me.
Mon Mar 20th
Rapid firing in gas helmets. We hold a Holy Communion Service in a Hospital hut. It was [a] very strange holding it at 6.45 in the evening. About 30 of us receive the Holy Communion. This is the first Communion Service we have had since being in France. It was very impressive.
Tues Mar 21st
This is our Gloucester day. At the battle of Alexandra [Alexandria] in 1801 with the French a party of the Gloucester Regt were surrounded but by fighting back to back they saved the situation, and was given the honour of a back badge as well as in front. We are the only Regt allowed to wear it. The officers subscribe to give us all some cake for tea. This has been a very quiet day, not an aeroplane has been seen or a shot heard. At 8.30 P.M. we march to Locon where London General Bus carries us to Lacouture [la Couture] near Festubert for fatigue but we are not wanted and as the bus has gone we have to wait until 11.30 before we can return. There is a huge heap of stones by the roadside ready for repairing so I scoop out a hole in the stones and have a sleep. It was a bit uncomfortable at first but I was so tired I was soon asleep.
Still no firing to be heard. Surely peace has not been proclaimed. That is the question we are all asking. We have a lecture on gas attacks by Sergt Bartlett who has been away for instruction. Gas travells [sic] 4 yards per second. It can be detected by the hissing sound as it leaves the cylinders and by the heavy approaching cloud. In the evening I walk into Locon to visit the Church which is very large and beautiful. Really these Churches out here are wonderful.
After a great many sleepless nights and agony I go to the Dr to have a tooth extracted. He placed me on a box and asked the orderly to hold my shoulders and put his knee in my back. It was soon out and I felt very little pain. Still no firing can be heard. A very ridiculous order has just been issued, we have to polish our buttons and they have not been cleaned for over two months. We have no brushes or material for cleaning them as it was all taken away before we sailed from England. We had a sing song, the old “Homeland” song being sung over and over again. The chorus being –
‘Do you miss me in the homeland as much as I miss you,
I can picture you in the homeland with your face so fair & true,
Fond loving heart just across the ocean blue,
Do you miss me in the homeland as much as I miss you.
Homeland, Homeland, when shall I see you again,
Land of my birth is the sweetest place on earth,
I’m leaving you and all its calls with a sigh,
It may be for years, and it may be for ever,
Dear Homeland goodbye.’
Fri Mar 24th
A great deal of snow has fallen and as it is till coming down we have lecturers in the billits [sic]. Sat 25th We march away at 1-o’clcok and after tramping 9 miles arrive about 3 miles beyond Estair[e]s. Going through Estair[e]s I noticed it was a fairly large town with a theatre and a picture palace but of course they are out of bounds to us. We pass several heavy caterpillar engines also an observation balloon. We also march past our Div General, Maj Gen Pinney.
Sun Mar 26th
I have now been a Lance Corporal for over 3 months and have not crimed anyone but today I have to bring a charge against Pte Warner and Pte Carter for refusing to obey an order I had given. I explain to them the seriousness of the situation and gave them each three chances but my Platoon Officer says I must crime them. The trial is held at the Company Office before Captain Hancock and Captain Hillyer [Hillier] who after hearing the charge says it is too serious for them to deal with and remand for trial before the Col. It is pouring with rain but I take a stroll round the town. It is a heap of ruins. Streets; Churches; Cemetery; Hospital have all been shelled heavily. In the Cemetery the shells have uplifted coffins and bones and smashed headstones. In the evening we have a concert in the YMCA and I get “Scottie” (Pte Patrick Smith) to sing “Since you were sweet sixteen”. He has a lovely tenor voice. Capt Hillyer [Hillier] recites “The green eye of the little yellow god”.
The trial of Warner and Carter before Col Roberts and the Adjt[utant] who give them a severe lecture on discipline and they each receive 14 days No 1 Field Punishment which means they have to do all fatigues and every day for a certain time they are tied to a cartwheel. I feel very very sorry for both as they are only youngsters. At 5-o’clock I have to take 3 men to Headqrts and from there we are sent to guard an ammunition and bomb store which is about 6 huts out in the middle of a large field. Such a rough wild windy night but I manage to get 40 winks of sleep.
Such a glorious day after a rough night. We sit outside the hut with our coats off and enjoy the sun. We are wondering how long we are going to be left here, we hope it will be for a long time as we have a dry billit [sic] with a stove in case we want a fire but our hearts drop when at 6-0 P.M. a new guard comes to relieve us. In the evening we hold a concert in our stable billit [sic].
Thurs Mar 30th
Such a glorious day again which is more hopeful for the trenches tonight. We draw 5 francs and get in a little store of matches, cigs and candles. A few hours before we go into the line we hold a Service with the Hymns “Jesu Lover of my soul”; “O God our help” and “Oft in danger”. About 30 of us receive the Holy Sacrament. We march away at dusk and take over A.1. Redoubt at Laventie at 9-0 P.M. At once I am placed Cpl of the guard so no sleep for 24 hours.
A lovely summer’s day and how thankful we are for it. At 7-0 P.M. Cpl Munday and myself take charge of ration party going past “Jock’s Lodge” to the “Red House” where the ration dump is. In “Jock’s Lodge” is a party of our own machine gunners and just as we are going by they start firing. Naturally down we go on the ground thinking it is the enemy. How we laugh to ourselves when we find out our mistake. Returning with the rations we all have many very narrow escapes as the bullets are flying everywhere. We return safely at 10-30. Then at 11-0 I have to take a fatigue party back to the “Red House”. Bullets are flying everywhere and we crawl along on our stomachs. I hear an awful weired [sic] cry which sounds between the cry of a man or animal in distress. I wait listening and it cries again. I am dubious as I think it may be a German decoy cry. I have never before heard such an unearthly weired [sic] howl. (I was told afterwards it was probably a French owl.) Whilst we are lying down for shelter the bullets strike the wheels of our trolly that we are pushing along the rails containing our rations and fatigue material. We return at 2-0 A.M. and report all safe but we must thank God we had no casualties. It is the nearest I have been to being knocked over. We snatch 3 hours sleep.
Sat April 1st
The lovely weather still continues and our trenches are perfectly dry for which I am thankful. I take charge of ration party at 8-0 P.M. and again we have a hot time from the German machine gunners but thank God we all return safely at 10-0. I then take another fatigue party, this time it is a little quieter but still it was too hot from the enemy to be comfortable. We return at 1-30 A.M. and I am just going to get to sleep when I am called to guide a party to another sector of the front line and I do not return until 3-0. I am absolutely dead tired and get in just two hours sleep before we “Stand To” at 5-0 A.M.
Sun April 2nd
The weather is still glorious and we work with our coats off. At 2-30 P.M. we have to “Stand To” because of a very heavy bombardment. No doubt an enemy attack is expected. It proved very exciting, luckily we had no casualties. At 6-0 the enemy bombards us again with plenty of machine and rifle fire. The bullets are flying around us in hundreds. I go out at 8-0 with a fatigue party and I have the narrowest escape I have so far experienced. We were continually fired on and one of their heavy shells blew up our light railway on which we were pushing our trolleys. We have to go round a road about 3 miles farther to get back and on the way two of us get lost at some cross roads but I happened to remember a certain very large shell hole that I had stepped into on our way when we first went into the line and this gave me a guide as to which road to take. We eventually arrived back safely at 11-0 and I got 6 hours sleep.
Mon April 3rd
Weather still lovely and dry. Fatigue work all day and then in charge of ration party at night but this time it was much quieter.
Fatigue work all day as usual then at 9-0 P.M. we leave and take over Hugomont Fort which we are told we have to hold at all costs. Cpl of the Guard again so of course no sleep.
This is a very strong fort but we have a quiet day.
At last the weather has broken up and we have rain in torrents. Cpl of the Guard again.
Fri April 7th
The enemy gave us a terrible bombardment with their heavy artillery but we keep perfectly cool in fact. Cpl Jeoffard who was shaving a man when the bombardment started still carried on and finished his job.
Sat April 8th
We get another sample of their heavy shelling but we do not get excited. We leave this fort at 7-30 P.M. and take over Bond Street which is still in the Laventie sector.
Sun Apr 9th
The weather is still lovely and our trenches are dry so we are happy.
At 8-30 P.M. we open a strafe on the enemy with rifle and machine gun fire until 10-0. It was very exciting but we all kept wonderfully cool.
Tues April 11th
The rain has started again and we are kept busy pumping our trenches dry. Such a glorious sunset which to me always seems more beautiful out here but I suppose it is because have more time out here to notice them.
Wed Apr 12th
A wretched cold day. After spending 13 days in the trenches, only 3 of which have been wet, we leave at 8-30 P.M. and march to Sailly a distance of about 4½ miles. We arrive about 11-30 dead tired.
I take over the duties of Orderly Cpl which means I have to parade the sick for medical inspection, collect and deliver letters and parcels. I am running about all day. Sleeping in old tumble down barns as usual.
A very wet day.
We draw 5 francs which makes 45 I have had. We treat ourselves to eggs for dinner.
Sun April 16th
A day full of incidents. First we have Holy Communion at 8-0 followed at 11-0 by Morning Service and from my heart I thank God for bringing me again safely from the firing line. It was quite a hot day and our Morning Service was held several miles away from our billet so that on our return I am almost parched with thirst. We have no water so for the first time I drink some of the French beer. I am so dry I drink 3 glasses. In the afternoon we visit a picture place, fixed up temporarily for soldiers and we see a Charlie Chaplin film. This is the first time I have been to any pictures in France. We return to our billet and I find two lovely parcels from Col Justice and home so we have a good tea with plenty of cake. It was quite like home again. In the evening I go into Sailly again and we explore the town. We visit the old ruined Church and climb the tower and mark our names and Regt and afterwards visit the Churchyard. The Altars and Statues in the glass cases as headstones are beautiful but alas many are broken from shells. We buy souvenir silk cards.
Mon April 17th
Weather changed to rain and wind.
We march to La Fosse near Veille Chapelle about 8 miles. A cruel march and I am suffering from a billious [sic] attack. I visit the old ruined Church of which I am able to buy a post card view. We sleep in an old cow shed with no roof and as it is raining all night we get wet through.
We march to another part of Lacouture via Vielle Chapelle about 4 miles away. This place is a heap of ruins especially the Church.
Thurs April 20th
We move to another billit [sic] but still in Lacouture. I am not feeling at all well as I still am suffering from by billious attack [sic]. I think it must be having that French beer and not being used to it and also I remember on the top of the beer I ate very freely the cakes and chocolate from my parcels. I do not want to see a Dr. so I visit the Dr’s orderly and tell him I have lost my appetite. He gives me 3 tablets which I am supposed to take in my tea at intervals of 8 hours but I make some tea and take all 3 at once. I vomit very badly but I soon feel very much better.
Good Friday April 21st
What a lot of memories this day recalls. We have a bath and clean linen, the first change for nearly 5 weeks. The wretched rain starts falling again.
It is still pouring with rain. How very miserable.
Easter Sun April 23rd
Such a delightful change, the weather is glorious. Letters from home and Miss A.L. Dunlop, who encloses a nice Easter card and some cigs. We hold a Service at 2-30 followed by Holy Communion and then at 10-0 P.M. we move to take over the trenches at Richbourge [Richbourg] which are full of mud and water. How horrible it is in the trenches when there has been rain. It makes one utterly sick of the war.
Easter Monday April 24th
A little better weather and our trenches are drying a bit. I was Cpl of the guard all night so no sleep. It has been a very strange Bank Holiday when I have always been accustomed to a gay time with a dance to finish the evening.
Weather still dry. We have been working hard on very heavy fatigue work from 5-30 until 12-0 midnight.
Wed Apr 26th
Fatigue work again and then straight on to trench Cpl. I feel dead tired having no sleep. Oh to be back home again.
A glorious day. We leave the trenches at 10-0 P.M. and have a long rough march over ploughed fields to our rest billit [sic], arriving about midnight. Sleeping in old barns as usual.
We have a day of rest and we thoroughly deserve it.
Sat Apr 29th
Very very hot today. We get a bath which is more than welcome, also we draw 10 francs. I enter my will in my pay book in case anything happens but I feel confident I shall go back home again. We march to Grub Street for fatigue from 6-30 until 11-30. It is these fatigue jobs while we are supposed to be out resting from the trenches that causes us all to grumble and grouse about the army but I suppose it has to be done.
Sun Apr 30th
We hold our Morning Service in an orchard at 11-30 followed by the Holy Communion. I take over Cpl of the guard so of course no sleep again. I have been troubled with warts on my head and hands so today a parcel arrived from home entertaining some tincture with which I can burn them off. Also I received a few primroses from Canterbury.
On Sunday 9th we will post Charles Simmons battle diary
Copyright Ian Ashley & Richard Paczko 2014