Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Alfred ("Alf") Henry FEAVER, M.M. (of Teynham)
d. 3rd September 1918. Aged 34
Remembered with Honour
Ligny-St. Flochel British Cemetery, Averdoingt
Plot 4, Row B, Grave 9
Died of Wounds
The Society is very grateful to Annie's grandson, Eric Lawrence, for permission to use his family photographs and personal recollections that have helped us picture this Teynham (and Hampshire) man. We have woven these threads into the narrative that follows. Eric tells us that "Alfred Feaver is mentioned on War Memorials at Thorley Church near Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, St James Square, Newport, Isle of Wight and Barton Village, Newport Isle of Wight where he was born, as well St Mary's Church Teynham."
Alfred Henry Feaver came from what were mostly labouring families with roots in the Isle of Wight (father) and South Wales (mother). His parents were George William and Sarah Jane (née Moroney); they married in Pembroke on 18th December 1875. Alfred was one of six surviving children, the eldest of whom (Caroline) was the only one born in Wales. His older surviving siblings were James W., Sarah J., and Walter Samuel, while his younger siblings were Annie J., and William J.; all were born in Whippingham, Newport, Isle of Wight. When George died early at the age of 33, Sarah Jane married another Hampshire man, George Henry Hobbs on 15th October 1893, with whom she bore another three children - Emily, Lily and George Hobbs.
Alfred's father, George, had also served a term in the Army with the 103rd Regiment (could be 108th), based at Wadden Heights, Plymstock. George died of tuberculosis.
After enlisting for six years as a Militiaman (19th February 1901) into the Hampshire Royal Garrison Artillery, Alfred found himself in Teynham and soon married Annie Maria Worsley on 19th August, 1911. That year, Alfred appears in the 2nd April 1911 Census as married and living with his in-laws in Marsh Lane, Teynham; some four months before his actual marriage. Bans had been read in St Mary's Church on 30th July, 6th August and 13th August 1911. Annie does not appear in the Census at her parent's home.
A curious but revealing coincidence, separated by several decades, is explained by Annie's grandson: "At the time of her marriage to Alfred, my Gran, Annie Worsley was working as a cook at Hempstead House, Bapchild. Now a hotel which holds functions, we recently attended a reception there following the funeral of my cousins husband but no one was aware that over one hundred years earlier she had worked there prior to her marriage to Alfred." This is a landmark very familiar to those living locally.
We are told by her grandson, Eric Lawrence, that "Alf" and "Nancy" (Annie) had no surviving children but suffered the tragedy of still-born twins (thought to be buried to the left side of St. Mary's lych gate in an unmarked grave). After the war, Annie was living in Deerton Street, Teynham, where she was married to George Lawrence with whom she raised two children.
Eric Lawrence recollects how Annie spoke very fondly of both Alfred and George. "George also had a torrid time whilst serving with the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) having been wounded and then gassed. He never fully regained his health and died at the age of 39." As was so often the case, those who returned carried an awful burden of physical as well as emotional damage.
Alfred's Effects were sent to his widow, Annie, who received outstanding pay of £6 11s. 11d and War Gratuity of £26 10s. (an amount consistent with Alfred's long service from the outbreak of the war.) A total of £33 1s. 11d - roughly £1,800 in today's money.
Local newspapers recorded the loss of Alfred.
On 5th October 1918 - Faversham Times: "SERGT A H FEAVER, MM HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT. Much regret is felt over the death in action of Sergeant Alfred Henry Feaver, Hampshire Regiment of Deerton Street, Teynham . He held the Mons Medal and the Military Medal and had been wounded five times. He had nearly completed seventeen years of service."
5th October 1918 – East Kent Gazette: "FEAVER. September 3rd, died of wounds, in France, Sergeant A.H. Feaver, M.M., Hampshire Regiment, the dearly loved husband of Mrs. A. Feaver, Deerton Street Teynham, aged 34 years."
Mrs Feaver received the following letter from Captain May of the deceased's company:-
"I cannot tell you what loss his death is to the company. He was not only a splendid NCO, but a staunch comrade. Always cool and cheerful, one of the small band of splendid men who have been fighting with the battalion ever since the beginning of the war, and one who helped to save England - or for that matter the whole civilised world, in the first few months of the desperate fighting. He was hit by a piece of shell in the back and died of wounds on the 3rd of September. He was acting as company sergeant major and his last thoughts when I saw him in the field hospital were for his company - his duty before all else. Having known your husband since July 1915 I feel his loss personally very much, and the whole company join me in sending you their deepest sympathy.
Alfred is buried at Ligny-St-Flochel British Cemetery, Averdoingt Pas De Calais France"
Alfred's remains were buried with a Cross bearing the added dedication from his wife - "LOVED BY ALL". By 1919, Annie had remarried, so she appears on the record as Mrs A.M. Lawrence, Deerton Street, Teynham, Kent. Together with his Military Medal (awarded in 1917), Annie received the posthumously awarded 14-Star ("Mons Star"), British War and Victory medals.
Eric Lawrence added:
As a reservist, [Alfred] was called up for service during WW1 and promoted to Sergeant. He was wounded three times and gained the 1914 Star and Military Medal in 1917. Our family had in possession a glass crucifix given to Alfred by a French peasant family in gratitude for the heroism he had showed in rescuing them from oncoming enemy troops. This survived until 2007 when unfortunately my late father accidently dropped the crucifix whilst clearing out a cupboard.
Very sadly whilst taking part in the Battle of Arras he was mortally wounded and died on 3rd September 1918. He had been due to return home on leave but his relief had been delayed. A very sad and tragic ending to his life and very much a case of "what might have been" to my Gran.
I am proud to be the recipient of Alfred's War Medals and the unfortunately named "Death Penny" still in it's box address to my Gran as well as a touching citation from Alfred's junior officer."
On 19th February 1901, Alfred enlisted for six years into the Hampshire Militia Royal Garrison Artillery as Gunner, 2221, when he states he was employed as a Labourer by the Gas Company, Newport. He went on to serve in the "Hampshire and Isle of Wight Artillery".
Eric Lawrence explains that "Alfred Feaver joined the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Royal Garrison Artillery around 1900 with his brother Samuel Walter who was two years older. They then joined the Hampshire Regiment as regulars around a year or so later and Alfred served in the Boar War as a gunner. I remember discovering a bayonet in a bamboo case and some spent rifle cartridges in my Gran's spare room cupboard which were obvious souvenirs from his service in South Africa."
On 21st February 1901, his Medical Examination describes Alfred as "Fit", 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing 119 lbs. His chest expansion range was 32-34"; his complexion "Pale", eyes "Grey", hair "Brown". His faith is shown as Wesleyan. His character is remarked as "good".
By 14th September 1901, he had moved from the Militia to enlist into the Hants Regiment. These short records infer an uneventful time for Alfred during this time - although we do know he served in the latter period of the Boer War (1899–1902). On discharge, he returned to civilian life in Teynham - not so surprising as, very close by, there was a major Artillery training range used by many Regiments. Perhaps, he first met Annie Maria Worsely during training periods in the nearby Oare range? With both Alfred and his brother in the same Garrison Artillery, this may explain how it was that the three brothers married into the same local family - the Worsleys. A rather touching coincidence of destinies.
Earlier links with Teynham came from a remarkable series of family links. We learn from Eric Lawrence:
"By some quirk of fate, three Feaver children from Newport on the Isle of Wight married three Worsley's from the same family in Teynham. Not sure how this initially came about but Alfred's oldest sister married my Gran's uncle, Arthur Worsley in 1892. Next to follow was Alfred's second sister Sarah who married my Gran's cousin Jesse in 1902, followed by her own marriage to Alfred in 1911."
Only three years later, the First World War broke out and, in keeping with conditions of his earlier service, he was mobilised out of the Reserve and then to France with the Hampshire Regiment as one of the "Old Contemptibles" (the first wave of men to form part of the British Expeditionary Force). The 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment formed part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, 4th Division. Alfred is one of those distinguished men, who survived from the very beginning of the war until very close to the Armistice.
The 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, was stationed in Colchester at the outbreak of the war but quickly moved to Harrow before starting its term in the theatre of war - mobilising from 23rd August 1914; Alfred's medal record states that he joined the Battalion a few days after, on 31st August 1914. This difference may reflect the need for Alfred and other Reservists to play "catch-up" - something those already serving would not face. The War Diary for the 1st Battalion includes an agonising personal diary of Private F.G. Pattenden describing, in plain English, the Battalion's part in the Retirement Operations across the River Oise - see below (Additional Documents). These were the first experiences of the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Battalion.
The first occasion was reported in the Weekly Casualty List issued by the War Office from 10th May 1915. This places Alfred as one of those injured under fire close to VLAMERTINGHE in the Ypres Salient during April/May. The exact date and location rather depends on how quickly injuries were reported back to London to be Gazetted. For example, the Weekly Casualty List that reported Alfred as "Died of Wounds" on 3rd September 1918 was not Gazetted until over a month later, 10th October 1918.
The Weekly Casualty List for 21st August 1917 reported Alfred as on the list of 17th August 1917. The Battalion was experiencing a period of relative calm in the Arras area, although there were occasional raids. The nature of his injury cannot be determined.
The third time that he was injured, probably on 2nd September 1918, he died a day later from shell shrapnel wounds. This happened at the close of the Battle of Arras.
This Medal was awarded for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire or for individual or associated acts of bravery.
The Supplement to the London Gazette (of Tuesday, the 17th of JULY, 1917), War Office announcement, dated 18 July 1917, page 7278, contained the following: "His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Ladies, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men." .... Sergeant A H Feaver.
The War Diary for 29th to 31st May 1917 contains the following entry: "Military Medals have been awarded to the undermentioned for work in connection with recent operations:-
No. 6301 Sgt. A.H. Feaver
No. 23298 L/Cpl. E. Coundley
No. 19235 Private F. Gosney"
It is not clear which action is being referenced here. During May, there were occasional sorties, Chinese Attacks and artillery exchanges. In May, the 1st Battalion took part in a "consolidating" attack.
On 2nd May, the Battalion emerged from billets in ARRAS "to ground West of Railway embankment in H.13.d. via BLAGNY and the tow path North of the River. We bivouacked on the ground until evening, when the Battalion marched up to the 4th German System and occupied trenches immediately North of the FAMPOUX-ATHIES Road. Major F.W. Earle commanded and the Colonel went back to the Transport lines in accordance with instructions from the Division. "C" Company were attached to the 11th and 12th Field Ambulances in equal proportions to augment R.A.M.C. stretcher bearers.
3rd May: The 4th Division attacked with a view to establishing itself on a line running through the western outskirts of PLOUVAIN. The 10th Brigade were on the right, supported by the 1st Rifle Brigade. Zero hour was at 3.45 a.m. The Bosches were apparently waiting for us, as his S.O.S. went up all along the line immediately our barrage opened. Very little information could be obtained of the results of the battle, but the situation seemed to be that although some parties had got on, our general line remained the same. In the afternoon the enemy made a counter-attack on the left of the Divisional front, but this was beaten off by our artillery fire.
At 4.30 p.m. we were ordered to move forward to take up a position so as to be able to support the Rifle Brigade in an attack they were to make on the Chateau, North of RŒUX. The Carrier Company ("A" Company) were left behind with the other Brigade Carrier Companies in the Fourth German System South of the FAMPOUX-ATHIES road. This attack was to take place at 11 p.m., but owing to various delays, the Rifle Brigade and our "D" Company who were supporting them were not in position before 3 a.m. The Rifle Brigade attacked about 3.30 a.m. without artillery support, but could not get on owing to machine gun fire.
Casualties for the day:- 1 Other Rank and 1 R.A.M.C. attached Wounded."
The Front thereafter quietened down.
It is more likely that the Military Medal was earned during early April when the Hampshires took part in the attack that led to the Allied occupation of the 4th line of German trenches close to ARRAS.
The INTENTION of the Operation in which the 4th Division took part between 9th and 16th April was three-fold:-
"(a) To capture the German Third system of Trenches, which runs from the River SCARPE, East of ATHIES through LE POINT DU JOUR – MAISON DE LA CÔTE – COMMANDANT'S HOUSE. When this line has been captured a further advance will be made South of LE POINT DU JOUR to capture the Southern portion of the VIMY RIDGE, and the Fourth System of trenches West of FAMPOUX.
(b) The German Third system of trenches on the front of the XVII Corps will be captured by the 9th, 34th, and 51st Divisions (from right to left in the order given) the 4th Division being in Reserve in rear of the 9th Division.
The 4th Division will pass through the 9th Division, capture the Fourth German Trench system and the village of FAMPOUX and establish itself on the Green Lone (vide map). The 12th Brigade will be the Right assaulting Brigade will be in Reserve.
(c) Starting from Zero the 9th Division will capture the BLACK, BLUE and BROWN line according to the time table in Appendix "A"."
The actions of April 1917 were costly.
"Killed – 2/Lieut. J.P. Gilbert.
Died of Wounds – 2/Lieut. G.H. Hobson; 2/Lieut. F.R. Seeley.
Wounded – Capt. J. Walker (remained at duty). 2/Lieut. B.F. Soward. 2/Lieut. F.C. Man. Capt. A.F.C.V. Prendergast. 2/Lieut. R.C. Foster. 2/Lieut. A. James; 2/Lieut. J.A. Stannard (remained at duty).
42 Killed. 4 Died of Wounds. Wounded 122. Accidentally wounded 3. Missing 5."
The War Diary for this Battle reads:-
"9th April 1917. The day dawned with slight rain falling and the weather conditions did not appear promising. Reveille in Camp at MARŒUIL was at 4.45 a.m. and breakfasts were served before the Battalion marched off to its Assembly position, in accordance with Battalion Operation Order No.1 of 2/4/17.
On arrival at its Assembly Area about 7.30 a.m. the Brigade had dinners from cookers which had accompanied Battalions. It was now 2 hours since Zero hour (5.30 a.m.) and no definite news had been received as to the progress of the attack, but an encouraging sign was the large number of prisoners which was being brought in. A steady drizzle at the Assembly Area made the ground a little sticky. The Brigade marched off at 10 a.m. from the Assembly Area and followed the route as laid down in Operation Orders. From the CANDLE FACTORY (H.16.b) the Battalion marched by compass on a bearing of 90 degrees true, until its arrival at the original British front line. At this point direction was changed to a bearing of 62 degrees true. The march was continued in column of route up to the Battalion Assembly position in the BLUE LINE. At this point a fair number of enemy shells were met and one pitched in the middle of "B" Company inflicting 17 casualties. After about an hour at the BLUE LINE the Battalion advanced at scheduled time in Artillery formation to its Assembly Area in rear of the BROWN LINE. There were a few hostile shells falling, but it was evident from the lack of Machine Gun and Rifle fire that the 9th Division had captured the BROWN LINE.
During the hour's halt at the BROWN LINE the weather alternated between sleet showers and sunshine. On the South of the River our troops could be seen advancing in line more or less with ourselves. At 3.3 p.m. the Battalion advanced from LADLE Trench to attack the GREEN LINE, a barrage of Heavy Artillery preceding it. The enemy offered but slight resistance, and when he saw our troops advancing in force he turned and fled from his position. Although our guns had not touched the thick wire in front of the enemy's line, our men had time to cut the wire and get through before the enemy could open fire. That portion of the garrison which had not managed to get away, at once surrendered and about 80 prisoners, 2 machine guns and three 8 inch howitzers fell into the hands of the Battalion.
Companies reported their several objectives taken at the following times:-
"B" Company at 3.50 p.m.
"D" Company at 3.58 p.m.
"A" Company at 4.5 p.m.
Our casualties were very slight, amounting to only 6 other Ranks in the actual assault. 2/Lieut. B.F. Soward, 2/Lieut. F.C. Man, and 2/Lieut. G.H. Hobson were wounded in the assault. The enemy put up a slight barrage for some time after his position had been taken.
The captured position was a good one, commanding most of the country lying to the East and North East, and good observation was obtained of the enemy's movements from the time of his withdrawal. He apparently retired to the line of the RŒUX – GAVRELLE Road and dug in about 200 to 300 yards West of the road.
The Rifle Brigade were successful in their capture of the HYDERABAD REDOUBT, and we were in touch with them on the right and the East Lancashires on the left by nightfall. During the night "B" Company captured 5 more prisoners who ran into one of our patrols.
Casualties for the day:- Capt. J. Walker, R.A.M.C. Slightly wounded and remained at duty. 2/Lieut. F.C. Man, 2/Lieut. B.F. Soward, and 2/Lieut G.H. Hobson.
Other Ranks:- Killed 12; Wounded 47.
10th April: During the night snow fell sufficiently to leave the ground all white. The enemy was watched very carefully all day. He seemed to be taking guns and transport back, judging by the amount of traffic on the roads. Many small parties of Germans were observed dotted all round the country and it appeared that the enemy was taking up a line of resistance. Although it snowed intermittently throughout the day, we made further attempts to push forward. The Somersets tried to push out patrols to the RŒUX – GAVRELLE Road, and the Battalion was instructed to keep in touch with connecting patrols. This idea had to be given up owing to the heavy machine gun fire to which our men were subjected as soon as they tried to leave our trenches.
About 7 p.m. small parties of the enemy were observed making towards our lines and it appeared that a counter attack was imminent. A Barrage was called for, and eventually obtained and Rifle and Lewis Gun fire opened on the enemy. For about two hours the situation was obscure, but matters eventually became normal. During this time Captain A.F.C.V. Prendergast was wounded. It appeared that the enemy had made a reconnaissance in force, but finding our line strongly held, retired, leaving many casualties behind. During the night there were no further incidents.
Casualties for the day:- Captain A.F.C.V. Prendergast, Wounded.
Other Ranks. Killed 2. Wounded 11. Missing 1.
11th April: The event of chief importance during the day was the attempt of the 4th Division to secure the low ridge lying about 1,200 yards to the East of the Fourth German System. The Somersets were detailed to secure the objective of the 11th Brigade. At 12 noon they pushed out patrols from the HYDERABAD REDOUBT behind a barrage of shrapnel and smoke shells. The order was for these patrols to get into the RŒUX – GAVRELLE Road and then push on to the ridge in front. The 10th and 12th Brigade to our right were operating similarly, and if they were successful the cavalry were to go through. The enemy, however, was holding his general line of defence strongly with machine guns and though some patrols succeeded in getting forward a few hundred yards it was not possible to push the whole line forward. As this scheme failed the next one was to advance our left flank. For this purpose "B" Company had to bomb up the two trenches they were occupying for a distance of about 150 yards. This operation was successful and three prisoners were taken. 2/Lieut. J.P. Gilbert was killed whilst leading his platoon. 2/Lieut. R.C. Foster was wounded in the HYDERABAD REDOUBT. "D" Company had relieved a Company of the Somersets in the HYDERABAD REDOUBT during the morning to enable them to carry out their morning operation.
Casualties for the day:- 2/Lieut. J.P. Gilbert, killed. 2/Lieut. R.C. Foster, Wounded.
Other Ranks:- 11 Killed. 16 Wounded.
12th April: The 9th Division attacked the RŒUX – GAVRELLE Road at 5 p.m. in the afternoon, the idea being to bring the whole of the Division forward. To assist in this operation we were required to bomb down "B" Company's trench again to try and push forward our bombing posts. This, however, we could not do as the enemy had a very strong point across our path. As regards the attack by the 9th Division they were apparently unable to go forward owing to heavy machine gun fire. Lieut. G.R.D. Moor, V.C. and 2/Lieut. J.A. Stannard joined the Battalion from the Transport Lines.
Casualties for the day:- 2/Lieut. F.R. Seeley Wounded.
Other Ranks:- 11 Killed, 15 Wounded.
13th April: A day without incident, except for fairly heavy shelling during the day to the rear. A lot of enemy gas shells were put over on our Artillery. All posts were improved during the night.
Casualties for the day:- 2/Lieut. F.R. Seeley, Wounded 12.4.17 (Died of Wounds 13/4/17).
Other Ranks:- 1 Killed. 6 Wounded.
14th April: A fairly quiet day except for heavy shelling, most of the day on the trenches behind us. The ground dried up a bit and though the men were very tired they improved their posts a lot by digging. The Battalion relieved the Somersets, thus taking over more line in HYDERABAD REDOUBT.
Casualties for the day:- 2/Lieut. G.H. Hobson Wounded 9/4/17. (Died of Wounds 14/4/17).
Other Ranks: 1 Killed. 3 Wounded.
15th April: A dull day with a drizzly rain. During the afternoon "B" Company made another attempt to bomb up HUDSON and HAZARD Trenches to Point H.6.a.4.1. Our heavies bombarded the enemy's end of the trenches for 3½ hours and at 6.30 p.m. "B" Company tried to advance, but the enemy was holding HILLY trench strongly with machine guns and bombers. Furthermore, our artillery had blown in the trenches to such an extent that our men had to go over the top and were fired at by machine guns from the flanks. 2/Lieut. A. James was wounded. After two attempts it was realised that it was impossible to reach our objective by means of a bombing attack.
Casualties for the day:- 2/Lieut. A. James Wounded. 2/Lieut. J.A. Stannard Wounded slightly and remained with the Battalion.
Other Ranks:- 8 Wounded. 3 Missing.
16th April: A day of heavy shelling by the enemy on our position generally. Relieved by 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers and went back to Divisional Reserve in H.7.d., the old Second German line. Unfortunately "D" Company were unable to get out as daylight came on before they could be relieved. They perforce had to remain in the HYDERABAD REDOUBT till nightfall.
Casualties for the day:- Other Ranks:- 4 Killed. 9 Wounded. 2 Missing.
17th April: Our shelters are in a railway cutting, and while they would be fairly comfortable in decent weather, the snow and rain made things somewhat uncomfortable."
18th April: A very wet day spent in reorganising.
19th April: Another day in Divisional Reserve on the BLUE LINE.
20th April: Battalion marched to Huts in AGNEZ-LEZ-DUISANS (about 6 miles West of ARRAS). Transport and details rejoined."
Alfred died from wounds that were probably inflicted on 2nd September 1918 (see tables below) at the same time as Lieut. R.E.S. Gregson [A/Adjutant] and Captain G.S.H.R.V. de Gaury - both of "B" Company - I infer from this that Alfred served in "B" Company (?) and may have been one of those pinned down by Machine Gun and Artillery fire. The Battalion diary sums up casualties for the whole of September as follows:-
"HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS DURING MONTH:- 2/Lieut. A.V.G. Brownsey, 5/9/18. And 76 Other Ranks.
Hospital Discharges during month:- Other Ranks 7.
CASUALTIES DURING MONTH:- Lieut. R.E.S. Gregson, Wounded 2/9/18, Capt. G.S.H.R.V. de Gaury, M.C. wounded 2/9/18, 2/Lieut. H.W. Halls, gassed 21/9/18, 2/Lieut S.C. Coleman, M.C. Gassed 21/9/18. 2/Lieut. D.R.V. Williams, Gassed 21/9/18, 2/Lieut. R. Grey, Gassed 21/9/18.
Other Ranks:- Estimated
|Date||Killed||Missing||Wounded||Wounded and Remained||Gassed||Total|
|24th September||2||1 Wounded and missing||1||4|
Alfred doesn't seem to appear in Hospital Records, which suggests he succumbed fairly quickly after injury, perhaps in a Field Ambulance or in a Casualty Clearing Stations. For this reason, it is less likely Alfred receive his injuries earlier, even though there were many "wounded" Hampshires earlier in the attack that began on 28th August. Wounded Other Ranks in this earlier period were:-
|Date||Killed||Missing||Wounded||Wounded and Remained||Gassed||Total|
So, the attack that closed this Battle of Arras on the Scarpe River was costly and difficult. As revealed in the official Report that we have transcribed below to help readers understand the circumstances in which Alfred faced his final days.
The War Diary entry for 2nd September gives a sense of conditions faced:
"Companies moved up to assembly positions in P.13.c. No casualties resulted from the enemy's retaliatory bombardment at 5 a.m.
At 5.30 a.m. an advance was made, covered by a good barrage, no opposition in crossing DROCOURT-QUÉANT Line as far as the second Trench line. The advance was maintained but was checked at this point by Machine Gun fire especially from left flank. The advance became more difficult as the enemy had the gaps in the wire covered by Machine Guns, through which we had to pass to make the DROCOURT QUÉANT support trench. By short rushes "B" Company gained the trench, losing Capt. G.S.H.R.V. de Gaury, M.C. who was wounded in the leg (several men giving their lives trying to bring him in). Two tanks were operating with us, but one was damaged as soon as we arrived. We secured co-operation with the other, and indicated enemy Machine Gun Nests. Some of these were dealt with, but not the worst, a concreted pill pox on on the cross roads P.10.b.2.8. Further advance was decided on, but it was found that the left Flank was exposed, with no troops to deal with the Machine Guns. "B" Company suffered at this point and the Adjutant (Lieut R.E.S. Gregson) was wounded. Troops were withdrawn to Trench where "A" and "B" Companies held the line in the DROCOURT-QUÉANT support Trench. "D" Company being in immediate support."
"On 28/8/18 the Battalion moved to the ARRAS district in busses and later marched up to BOIRY NOTRE DAME and took up a position covering N.E. and E. approaches to the village. "C" Company establishing a line of posts from road in O.5.a.9.9 to Railway on its right; "A" Company prolonging line in S.E. direction to LADY LANE, "B" and "D" Companies were in support in the village and Southern edge of it. A considerable amount of shell fire was directed on the village but few casualties resulted.
As the result of a forward movement by the 1st Somerset Light Infantry, a further advance was made on the following day and touch established, the line now running from SAILLY LANE just North of CORNER COPSE to about P.1.a.central held by "A" Company with "C" Company bent back covering the left flank. As the 1st Somerset Light Infantry again went forward "B" Company took over their left Company front; this placed 3 Companies in front line with "D" Company in support. Orders were then received that the 39 M.G. Battalion would take over frontage as far as the grid and Companies were withdrawn to area S.E. of village bounded by LADY and BOIRY LANES. Here they remained in reserve to the Brigade and "B" Company acted as escort to the Machine Guns taking up a position on a line slightly to the South of KASHMIR WOOD and CORNER COPSE. In the evening the Battalion again moved through LONG WOOD to Southern slope beyond in O.12.c. Later that night orders were received to relieve the Rifle Brigade who together with the Somersets had attacked and made good a line in front of the village of ÉTERPIGNY.
"A" and "B" Companies only effected the relief that night, "C" Company having more than half its strength away carrying rations for another unit was unable to move at once and "D" Company failed to find its guides and was heavily shelled in the Sunk Road on its way up, 2/Lieut. G.B.R. Abbott, M.C. O.C. Company was wounded at this point and later Lieut. I.F.H. Jones gassed.
The position in P.12.c was under direct enemy observation for troops moving over the slope and for some of the way for small parties dribbling round by low ground and Sunken Road. Our movement had already attracted attention, and the enemy was shelling the area with gas and 5.9 shells. The idea of a daylight relief by these two Companies was abandoned. It was decided to move off at 7 p.m. that evening the 31st. The enemy continued gassing the low ground and shelling the wood and sunk road, but fortunately the companies got through and the relief was completed that evening – Battalion Head Quarters was at this time established in GORY trench on East Side of REMY LANE.
On the evening of the 31st orders were received that we should be relieved forthwith by the ESSEX Regiment and on relief move to trenches South of BOIS DU VERT preparatory to attacking on following day.
The same difficulty with regard to the light was experienced on this occasion also, and "B" Company only was relieved that night. The other 3 Companies were relieved on the following evening and withdrawn to a fairly safe area in neighbourhood of BOIRE LANE BRIDGE where they were given a hot meal.
On the morning of the 2nd, Companies moved up to ASSEMBLY position in P.13.c. No casualties resulted from the enemy's retaliatory bombardment put down at about 5.7 a.m.
At 5.30 a.m. an advance was made to the RED line. Covered by an intense and very well sustained barrage, no difficulty was found in gaining and crossing the DROCOURT QUÉANT line as far as the 2nd trench line previously captured by the 12th Brigade.
By this time the protective barrage had rolled on to the RED LINE and remained there till 8 a.m.
The line of advance had kept a good direction and was fast moving forward up to this point, here, however, it was checked by the barrage, and troops waiting to get forward were exposed to a galling fire from Machine Guns, especially from the Left Flank. I am unable to definitely say if the enemy had retained these forward Machine Gun positions through our barrage fire, or whether he had moved into them from the direction of ETAING on realizing the barrage had halted and that our troops were unable to get forward.
The advance from this point on was a difficult one, as the enemy had covered with Machine Gun Fire the gap through the wire through which we had to pass, in order to make the DROCOURT QUEANT support trench. However, advancing by short and rapid rushes "B" Company gained this trench, Captain G.S.H.R.V. de Gaury, M.C. was wounded in this advance. On our right were Companies of the Somerset Light Infantry and Rifle Brigade. A patrol was sent down the trench to the left and a post established.
Two Tanks were operating slightly forward of this trench, but one was damaged immediately we arrived, with the other we secured co-operation to some extent and indicated certain enemy Machine Gun positions. No very noticeable cessation of enemy fire resulted and we subsequently found that the most dangerous post was a concreted Pill Box situated at the Cross Roads in P.10.b.2.8.
It was decided to make a further advance from here to the RED LINE and to support a company of the Rifle Brigade who were reported to be well forward of the trench and on the far slope. In conjunction with the Somerset Light Infantry, "B" Company left the trench and continued the advance. Immediately on leaving a concentrated Machine Gun fire was opened on the troops and it was realized that a further advance was useless with the Left Flank completely exposed, and with no troops available to deal with the enemy Machine Guns, and cover our advance. "B" Company suffered rather heavy casualties at this point and the Adjutant (Lieut R.E.S. Gregson) was wounded. They were withdrawn into the trench and re-organized. The trench was consolidated for defence.
The situation for the remainder of the day was as follows:- "B" Company in DROCOURT QUEANT SUPPORT Trench with one platoon in shell holes thrown back on left where trench ceased, covering that flank. "D" Company in immediate support trench and "A" and "B" Companies in front line trench.
The attack planned for the following day at Dawn was cancelled and owing to a further enemy retirement, a force composed of Somerset Light Infantry, Rifle Brigade and 2 Companies of the Hampshire Regiment, together with 2 Companies of Seaforths under the Command of Colonel Majendie was detailed to follow up the enemy. "C" and "D" Companies moved forward at about 8 a.m. on the 3rd in the direction of L'ÉCLUSE. They passed through the Somerset Light Infantry at about P.11.central and continued down the slope towards the village with orders to establish on the line of the final objective as far as L'ÉCLUSE and cover the crossings of the SENSEE RIVER. The situation with regard to ÉTAING was then obscure, but shortly afterwards the enemy was seen to be shelling it, so it was assumed that the Left Flank was more or less secure. "C" Company on the left, very shortly came under heavy shell fire but made the ÉTAING-RECOURT Road by section rushes. On passing this road the advance continued in a Northerly direction as far as the road in about P.4.b.1.9 when heavy Machine Gun fire was opened from ridge across the SENSEE RIVER. Direction was then changed and the Company wheeled to the right under heavy Machine Gun fire from long range, a doubled along the road about J.35.d.3.6 eventually getting into a ditch along the side of it.
A patrol of 1 N.C.O. and 10 men was sent out to reconnoitre L'ÉCLUSE WOOD and village. Both were reported clear and the Company entered the village in single file. At a point about J.36.d.3.5 Machine Gun fire was opened and the Company scattered into houses and side streets. The enemy Machine Gun responsible for the fire was afterwards located at MONT BEDU approximately K.25.a. The Company then took up a position in L'ÉCLUSE WOOD and established a post covering bridge at J.35.d.8.8 and also main road at J.36.d.4.6. After dark a line was established between these 2 posts running approximately from J.35.d.8.8 in front of L'ÉCLUSE WOOD to main L'ÉCLUSE-TORTEQUENNE Road, touch was gained with "D" Company on the right. This Company proceeding along the road in P.5 and South of it was out of touch with the troops on the right, but pushed on to investigate the small trench system in P.6.a which was found unoccupied. From this system 3 patrols went forward into the village. About this time the Rifle Brigade were seen in the Sunken Road in Q.1.c.
It was found impossible to consolidate position covering bridge by daylight, so this was done at dusk, the bridge being kept under observation from the village. The Bridge at J.36.b was secured. Later in the evening the Company received orders to hold another bridge head at K.31.c owing to the Seaforths being relieved early.
These bridges were held by Lewis Gun posts, the remainder of the Company being in trenches in rear of village. The line was handed over about 4 a.m.
During this operation, although both Companies had been exposed to heavy Machine Gun fire and considerable shelling the casualties resulting were unusually light.
Dated 7th September 1918 – Lieut-Colonel, Commanding 1st Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment.
Click on image for larger version
- Through Eric Lawrence, we learn that Alfred's wife, Annie, married to another soldier (Eric's direct ancestor) - who survived but who was badly injured. "After WW1 my Gran married again this time to George Lawrence, who also had a torrid time whilst serving with the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) having been wounded and then gassed. He never fully regained his health and died at the age of 39."
[Lynsted with Kingsdown Society transcription]
Extract from the diary of Private F.G. Pattenden,
1st Bn. Hampshire Regiment 11th Infantry Brigade 4th Division. B.E.F.
- 24th August to 14th September 1914 -
August 24th 1914. (Monday). We are now waiting at Havre Station to begin our 12 hours ride to somewhere. It is very hot here. We started at 12 p.m. and after 16 hours of grinding and bumping, roar and rattle we have now reached the town of Le Cateau about 30 miles from the frontier. We do not know where we move to next.
August 25th 1914. (Tuesday). After a hurried breakfast during which we stood by for orders we moved off through Le Cateau. We have now retired and at 11.50 a.m. we are waiting for the Germans to appear. All the poor refugees are going by us, crying bitterly, also a few of our wounded. What a terrible thing it is at present, what will it be like later on. We all have good brave hearts with us and all are prepared to help our good friends the French. What a fine country this is, they would give you their shirts. We get a lot of rotten tales told to us. I am acting as C.O's orderly. A heavy thunder storm has just ended for a time. Have seen a few of the effects of a shell on a house. We are in range of the German guns now in Briastre. We marched all night. I have a rifle and 25 rounds. All my equipment is gone on the wagon, and where they go to no one knows. Have also seen a shell burst. I lost the whole of my equipment and bike here.
August 26th 1914. (Wednesday). Written at 5 a.m. after 2½ hours of well-earned rest by the road side. We done a night march from about 7 p.m. to 2 or 3.15 o'clock. We are in Beauvais waiting for work to begin. Our march was illuminated by the flare of burning houses fired by Germans. de are having our baptism of fire. We began fighting at 5 a.m. It is fearful and we have a few wounded, the shrapnel shell is the chief cause. I have just been to Ligny for ammunition at 9 a.m. Still fighting hard, our guns have silenced the enemy for a while. We are now waiting for the 10th and 12th Brigades to support us. The noise at times is fearful. We marvellously escaped annihilation, we had to retire and they caught us with shrapnel, it was nearly a wholesale rout and slaughter. Poor old Kennard is dead. We also just managed to sneak from Ligny, the French arrived and saved us.
August 27th 1914. (Thursday). Slept in the Curé's house and at 1.30 began to retire towards Longwy across the country. At 8.30 we are in a small village named Bullecourt and are having three hours rest and we have well earned it. War is a thing one can't picture till you are in it. We stayed in Bullecourt and had to flee from there being shelled out by Germans, more nerve testers. I got lost and we walked miles from our Division through Vermand and are now in Caulincourt resting for a while. My boots are beginning to draw and pinch me. de had a rest for tea and rum from 8 to 10.30. I had charge of four French soldiers, two of whom were wounded. Name of village unknown. Troops taken on wagons.
August 28th 1914. (Friday) 6.30 a.m. After marching all night again I find myself lying in Buvy which is our base. This is a rest camp perhaps, we passed through Batigny at 5.30 a.m. My God, the battle is raging again here now, when will it end. I am too full for words or speech and feel paralysed as this affair is now turning into a horrible slaughter. We are in a small village name unknown and have just made some soup. We have another long march before us, all night again, we go towards Paris, reasons unknown. Very tired, hot weather again. We marched away at 5 a.m. after laying in a ditch all night and expecting to be attacked at any moment and marched 12 miles, and have now just had breakfast and beer. We thank God again for plenty of food and a friendly nation. We had a clear day from firing yesterday. Written at 10.a.m.
August 29th 1914. (Saturday). In the village of Sermaize there has been a heavy duel with the artillery of the Allies and news has come in that thousands of the Germans are dead. We have caught them in a trap and fearful execution has been made. We are getting a few hours good rest. (Written at 2.40 p.m. 29th).
We saw an aeroplane fight in mid air, it was a thrilling sight, one many people have never seen or may do again. At 7.30 we left to go to a village (fortified) at 5 miles distance. We had to march 14 miles and it was awful, we were fearfully tired.
August 30th 1914. (Sunday). Written in neighbourhood of Mont du Tracy. This is supposed to be God's day of rest and we have been marching since 5 a.m. de had three hours sleep and are now just going to have breakfast, we are still retiring. My God it is heart breaking this weary slog, slog on the roads. Peace or even a wound would be better. We are all done up, heart sick and weary. We had a long halt in Mont du Tracy and cooked our breakfast, it came out very hot, made things much harder for us. We left at three o'clock for our billets and are bivouacking in a small field. 6.20 p.m. we have had a day free from attack and are now in Breuil, 50 miles from Paris. We hope to advance tomorrow for retiring is sickening for all. My feet are jolly bad and I can hardly walk. We had nearly settled ourselves when we had orders to shift again, this was the last straw and we done 7 more miles all up hill and reached our new billets at 12 p.m. Entered at 5 a.m. the 31st. Village Pierreford.
August 31st 1914. (Monday). Have just awoke and got out from my bed, 1 waterproof cape, 1 sheet ditto and for a mattress a lump of breeze or dirt. It is very cold and foggy again. We have had five hours sleep, but this can never last, this is over a week of this. We are in the village of Pierreford and are now waiting to be given our daily march. We left Pierreford at 9 a.m. to march to St. Saveur, which we have now reached. All billets had been arranged for and we were hoping for a sleep and now news has come in of a force of Uhlans coming towards us. 5 p.m. the 31st. We, in consequence, are watching all the roads and shall do so all night now, there is no rest for us at all. Will God in his goodness soon give us peace, we all were feeling so safe and were quite our old selves after our Monday's battle and now we are in for it again, it is real heart breaking, we have now been retiring for a whole week, day and night snatching sleep whenever possible, thank God again we have plenty of food, the populace are splendid to us but the poor creatures go in fear of their safety day by day. Many a family has followed us, eaten and slept in safety and glad of the protection that is given them, and we cheer them up to our best but their hearts are full of fear. I could write a book of all these scenes that war means but I cannot spare the thoughts.
September 1st 1914 (Tuesday). The clock of St. Saveurs church has just chimed 5, this clock chimes twice. de had to act as an escort to two chaps who were found in our lines and of course it was a good walk to the General's house and when we returned we were stopped and not allowed to proceed to our own lines as the whole place was in a ferment, so we slept in the shadow of the church. My feet are very painful I can just manage to shuffle along now. We reached our own lines at about 8 a.m. again and from here we had to run again, it is too terrible, one feels absolutely done up in heart soul and spirit, this is the ninth day of it, oh! I wonder if we ever shall finish at all. We are still retreating back towards Paris. The awful box up of movements cannot be described, we have no good officers left, our N.C.Os. are as useless as women, our nerves are all shattered and we don't know what the end will be. Death is on every side and to meet it I am not afraid, because it will all be ended then. No one can describe how one feels, it is an empty void in oneself and care is forgotten. To get away from the guns is our effort and to do this one must walk, walk hard, hour on hour, this is written at 12 p.m. on the hillside, heavy guns are firing salvoes, but whose they are we don't know. May Peace soon be here and we poor unfortunate 11th Brigade safe at least for a time behind fortified walls. 4 p.m. - We have seen a fearful sight in Verberie, a whole battery of artillery and cavalry wiped out, dead men, wounded, horses blown to rags, yet we gazed without hardly a shudder because death is so often now beside us. We have stolen a half hour's rest and have changed our clothes i.e. shook them out and had a rub down. We are just off again still going southwards. We wandered round many miles and passed through Rully at 6 p.m. We were the last of the infantry to go through here and we stood and watched a great artillery duel between the French and Germans. We slept in the straw with the S.L.I. till 2 p.m. when we had to leave.
September 2nd 1914. (Wednesday). We are now in a village and are just going to have some tea. We have had a quiet time as yet but every minute we expect to be disturbed. My feet are so bad I cannot walk much farther. We are still hanging on in this place sitting still, hearing all kinds of rumours, putting all nerves in a jangle, which is worse than anything else I have ever experienced. It is strain, a minutely expectation for to hear the whizz and burst of shrapnel. How we all hate this stuff we will face anything else, but this stuff is rotten. We our-selves think we are hard done by but what must it be for the Germans who it is reported are losing hundreds daily. There is a terrific rapid cannonade going on on our right. There is a report of a division of cavalry and two batteries of German R.H.A. round here which have been cut off. The report is quite true we are still waiting on them now at Beaumartin at 7.5 p.m. Have just had a spanking feed up of all sorts, we have to do another night march now. We left Beaumartin at 10 a.m. and marched to the transport. No shots fired at us all day.
September 3rd 1914. (Thursday). Have just had our dinner in a field south of Ligny. We marched from 10 a.m. last night to 12 p.m. to-day. We have had enough of this. The first gun has just gone and here around this place will be fought a great battle and let it soon finish. Before we reached this town we passed thousands of poor refugees fleeing towards Paris in all sorts of conveyances and drawn by oxen, mules, dogs, goats, horses and by donkeys, pitiful scenes and they believe all is lost for France again. England has never seen war in her own land and let us hope we never shall. I had a great treat to-day, a bathe in the moat of the chateau where we camp. It is the first time I have been fully undressed from August 9th. I made pals with the French troops who are here, they are grand men and kind, would give you their lives. The battalion arrived very tired and weary, all are pleased to get away to a place of peace for even a few hours.
September 4th 1914. (Friday). Have had two cups of good French coffee from the soldiers of France. Have had a good night's rest and are now waiting for breakfast. We hope we are staying here for a day or two. We shift again at 4 p.m. to-day to a place nearer the forts, it is very hot again. I am battalion postman and there are plenty of letters to deal with. We marched to our new camp and reached there at 7.30 p.m. and had all great hopes of a good rest till 11.45 when they said "get dressed" and away we had to go.
September 5th 1914. (Saturday). We are halted here by the roadside and have been since 12 a.m. we don't know where we are or where we go we are worse off than sheep. Written at 2.30 p.m. in the town of Gritz-Armainvillers after 9½ hours marching. We have once more been deceived again. For a fortnight we have been fed on lies, lying tales buoying us up with false hopes as to mileage and results of battles. They have told us our marches have been strategical, all lies it is nothing more or less than a complete retreat and for a fortnight we have had to flee, because we fear to be utterly outclassed and beaten and now if we are attacked what hopes we have we could not run a dozen yards and the result would be a bloody slaughter. Has the British public been told of our movements, of the disgraceful mistakes made by regiments, not much I guess. August 26th we began to retreat and have not finished yet, can flesh and blood stand this, no there is even a limit to human endurance and I have reached my limit and to go farther for a time I cannot. We are alone here in this place as reserves. I hope all will be safe.
September 6th 1914. (Sunday). 11.30. For the first time we have made an advance and have come back to where we began yesterday via Gretz, Ferrières and Jossigny. There is a great battle in front of us, guns are now booming far away and we believe we hold the river against advance. It is very hot here makes our marching much harder. There is an army corps in front of us and I suppose we shall soon begin to fight again. More heart aching foot slogging till 6 or 7 o'clock. This is the hardest part the marches and counter-marches. We are in Villeneuve.
September 7th 1914. (Monday). Villeneuve. Have had a very good night's rest here, plenty of straw and the only thing which spoils a sleep is the very heavy dew which wets you through, but war is no picnic so we have to bear it. We stood to arms from 4 a.m. to 4.30 and are now waiting for rations and breakfast. The Allied Armies had a victory yesterday. At 10.30 a.m. we are still resting in the town of Villeneuve le Comte and have just received some pay, 20 francs between three men, but I am afraid we shall not be able to change it. It is again very hot, the sound of guns are silent, we heard them early this morning but now all is quiet. The General told us of a victory last night and the retirement of the Germans, we trust this is true. We are still anxiously awaiting news and all eyes and hearts are longing for a definite engagement with Russia and France. We marched off at 11 a.m. and passed through the town of Crecy. Here, a poor old girl gave me a slice of bread, perhaps the last she had, it was very welcome and quite a change from biscuits. I had to come back to the transport as I can no longer walk and keep up. I steal a ride on the pole when I can now. le have halted till 3.40 now. The Germans passed through Crecy this morning. The heat and dust is awful. Africa could not have been any worse and I am positive no harder. We came in striking distance again with guns and have taken up an outpost line. Went to kip at 7.30 lost our tea but slept well on the edge of a wood.
September 8th 1914. (Tuesday). Rose at 4 a.m. again and stood to arms at 4.30 a.m. Have just put the water on for a drop of tea. Was much warmer sleeping where we did, no dew, have at present heard no guns. At 9 a.m. we are resting in the village of Le Haute Maison. Guns are booming away to our right front. The French are again in touch. I have passed blood in quantities just now. I must be very careful now or I shall be bad, which I hope will not be. There is a marvellous sight all round us, troops everywhere, coming in all directions, wagons, supplies, guns everything. What a deal of brains must be needed to move even our little army, wheels working in wheels all doing their own small piece and in perfect unison. We get plenty of food thank God, and the French people will give you the last crust. Our diet is varied, apples, pears, biscuits, water, wine, whisky, bully beef, tea, plums, all sorts raw carrots and potatoes. A French family told me that for four days they had lived on potatoes. I gave them a few of my biscuits and in return they gave me whisky for my inside, which has done it good. We are now in reserve right in the rear of the whole army and are having a fairly easy time, but we are always ready for instant action and have put our trust in God. It is surprising how men have realised how they stand and how close death walks with them. Vie are now just outside Signey-Signet. I am with the transport again. Am unable to keep up. We have passed over a battlefield, many of our wounded have gone by us. The Germans are said to be in retreat and we hope it is true. My inside is none too good now. We had a slight engagement again in the neighbourhood of Jouarre and our artillery gave it them very heavy. I saw a house which had been looted by Germans, they had torn and stripped and smashed everything, cruel devils. I hope Russia is doing the same there in their own land. We slept under cover of a barn roof and it was fairly warm. Rained hard.
September 9th 1914. (Wednesday). Arose 3.30 and left the village as we were in danger of being shelled out. I am with the Company as signaller, we are escort to Brigade Transport, we are in touch still all round with the enemy. We are now resting in La Feresous Jouarre and have been told we stay here all day. The battle still continues and we are in pursuit. I am spitting off my best French for to benefit everybody once again, officers and all and we are again enjoying the kindness of the French people. I am again with the transport owing to foot troubles. 3 p.m. we are still resting here and shall do so by all appearances. They are making a bridge over the river for our troops to pass over. Things are fairly quiet at present. A party of ours has just come in from St. Lazaire to join us. Captain Connellan made Major and now takes over the Battalion. We remained in the village all night and I done picket for a time. Had a good feed up of food and wine for which we have all benefitted. A good sleep would work marvels now with us.
September 10th 1914. (Thursday). passed over the pontoon bridge at 9 a.m. to-day and are now on the German line of retreat. The state of the place is awful. It is impossible to describe the state of affairs, houses upside down, bottles in thousands it is impossible for anyone to describe the state this place is in. They have blown up a new bridge and delayed our advance but we are over the river now and are going after our battalion. We have passed through La Ferte-sous Jouarre but still the line of retreat is blazed plain. In my idea the Germans must all be drunk for wine must have been poured out. The Battalion had halted here for an hour and motor cycles are flying by us as if on a speed trial. It is all haste and speed. War is now a game of haste, big guns powerful motor cycles and aeroplanes. If one could only sit and put in writing the ever changing scenes of this war he would have a wonderful tale to read over. I myself cannot put even a small idea of how it is and will not try to. It is all for one thing to kill quickly and as many as possible and to gain something else, money and land, all for greed of gold and supremacy is the sole cause of the whole of Europe flying at each other's throats. Then the word "peace" is told us how glad we all shall be and roll on that day. We rested in the Chateau at Cocherelle under a barn roof.
September 11th 1914. (Friday). Rose at 3.30 fought amongst our-selves for food till 4 a.m. ran from the village and are now through Coulombs, still passing German camps and the same sights. Cold day and rainy, just halted for 30 minutes. Now at 12.40 we have halted here for breakfast. What a hell this Regiment is getting. You are driven here, bullied there, chased, moaned at till your temper is like fire and one swears and curses and you are nearly in tears with rage, how I hate this blasted lot, it makes one damn miserable with everyone. We are now in Passy which is on the hill tops; it has rained heavily and all is very cold, wet and miserable. We have just had a spoonful of rum and we need it very much. The guns have begun again, the French it sounds like and we hope it is. Oh this is awful, no one can imagine war till they are at it, every living thing suffers by it. Where I sit to write this, sheep with lambs in hundreds are starving, crying loudly without ceasing. The Kaiser may be accursed for ever, may he never sleep peaceful again, the mad fiend, may he never find rest even after death. If only the people of England could see the red ruin which is marked after his trail they would re-echo my words. One cannot describe the state of affairs here in this land of France and how we all burn to crush the cur and his ideas. We must finish him, for if not, we shall never be safe. To-day as we plodded along weary, foot-sore, wet and dirty, we imagined our homes in England, the return home of the man who is lucky enough to remain at work, his return home, a fire, a bed, a cup of tea, if wet a change of clothes, all comfort, and we compared our own personal condition here, day by day, an hourly nay a minutely walk with death, he as your companion always grimly walking by you. de are only soldiers, hired assassins as per dictionary, and mealy-mouthed politicians who, before danger is near, cries shame on us, but now, who sends us forth to defend him and his home, to this. Oh God, give us peace and soon, flesh and blood has even its limits and we all are very near. Darkness is here now. I can no longer see and my heart is heavy. I put the closing words to this entry at 5.30 a.m. on the 12th.
September 12th 1914. (Saturday). After a pretty fairish rest we arose at 2 a.m., got our rations under much better conditions than yesterday and stood to arms at 3.30. Have just received three letters dated 23rd August. I must have a few more to come I am sure. We have no orders as yet for to-day and we are hoping for a rest even for a few hours. We left at 7.30 a.m. and marched till 1 p.m. and are now halted till 2 p.m. It is raining again and there is a heavy duel again on the left. We are still in the dark as to our movements and I am nearly fed up again. We marched all day passing through several villages and had plenty of rain all day and at night it poured right throughout. We had to go all night and I collapsed and laid up in Venizel.
September 13th 1914. (Sunday). God's day of rest. Again on this we are engaged in a great battle, we are after a German convoy, having made a flank march all night. I could not complete it, so fell out and am now in with B. Company's ammunition party and having a well-earned meal. We are still wet through, my clothes are full of sand and mud but, thank God, I am still alive. The guns have quite spoilt all the sunshine here. I joined the Battalion again at La Montaigne Ferme which is on the hill side overlooking a long fair valley. We are on the right of the line and our position we have a good view of the whole battle line. Guns all round us everywhere, the boom and rattle shake the place and the valley has become a stretch of death. There are two towns on my left and houses are burning in each from the German shell fire. As to what the position of affairs is we private soldiers know next to nothing. We live in hopes of it being favourable to us but the issue of all things is in higher hands than ours, we are but units in the terrible game of war and count but little singly yet we all have our hearts and souls which live and love to do so. How we all do long for peace what will happen when it does come I cannot say, but for myself I shall, if saved, thank God for His providence and mercy because if ever death is nearer to any man than the soldier on service, more often he is in a most terrible state. Written at 1 a.m. or thereabouts under a straw rick in front of our line of trenches. We laid beneath this rick till dark and during the afternoon we were shelled many times and we were very glad when darkness again covered us. We lost two men and a few wounded. This is the 3rd Day of this battle.
September 14th 1914. (Monday) 12.15 p.m. The battle began at 4.30 a.m., has raged till now, without cessation and for miles around us the roar of guns is heard. We have neither gained or lost ground. To my knowledge we appear to be doing most of the firing at the present time. We are also waiting for the French to appear on the left. We hear the roll at times of the mitrailleuse it is raining a little again. 3.30 a.m. still hard at it. We have made no advance or retreat, we are holding our own well. The Seaforths have got it hot and have many wounded, I have just had some spuds boiled and one onion with a little bread crumbs, my word 'twas like a feast. I did not lick the pot out, but very near, it did not want washing much I can tell you. We kept up signalling communication with the S.L.I. and Dublins till 6 p.m. when we came in and cooked supper and retired for a few hours.