WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
Being a record of the doings of the 44th. FIELD AMBULANCE
INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 7
FOREWORDS BY LIEUT.-COL. EGAN AND MAJOR CREAN. 9
I. TRAINING AT TWEEZLEDOWN AND CROOKHAM . II
II. YPRES, 1915 17
III. THE SOMME, 1916 . 29
IV. THE BATTLE OF ARRAS 40
V. YPRES AGAIN. 47
VI. THE MARCH '18 RETREAT AND AFTER 52
VII. THE FINAL TREK 60
VIII. TOURCOING-POST-ARMISTICE AND DEMOBILISATION 64
IX. CONCERNING THE A.S.C. .. 69
ROLL OF HONOUR. 74
APPENDIX-FOOTBALL MATCH, COOKS v. M.T.'s 77
ORDERS FOR 'THE' DAY. 78
NAMES OF OFFICERS AND MEN WHO PASSED
THROUGH THE UNIT 79
YPRES, 1914-18 25
THE SOMME, 1916 33
ARRAS, 1917 42
THE SOMME, MARCH-APRIL, 1918 . 54
DIAGRAM, EVACUATION OF WOUNDED. 76
At the 1921 Reunion of members of the 44th the wish was strongly expressed that some permanent memorial of the doings of the old unit might be prepared. This record is the outcome of the Committee's endeavours to meet that wish. The basis of a large part of the narrative is from the pen (or, more correctly, typewriter) of one of the original members, one always enthusiastic and keen over the unit's activities. The Forewords by Colonel Egan and Major Crean, and the reminiscences of Major Morris, are especially welcome; while the list of those who passed through the unit will help to call to mind many old faces, some of which have passed beyond mortal sight.
The historian of the 14th Division has not yet appeared; but it is to be hoped that the splendid doings of the K.R.R.'s, R.B.'s, and the light infantry units of the old Division will one day be fully chronicled. Sir A. Conan Doyle, in his' British Campaign in France and Flanders,' pays many generous tributes to their work. The following pages are drawn from memory, aided by sundry notes (we dare not say diaries, or we shall be for the orderly room !). They do not profess to be history, but just an account of things as seen from the inside. Here and there historical footnotes have been added in explanation of the narrative.
Like all non-combatant units, the R.A.M.C. was the subject of numerous jibes on the part of the worthy infantryman. Field Ambulances, at any rate, could afford to smile at such epithets as ‘poultice-wallopers’ and ‘linseed lancers’, while the Rob-all-my-Comrades stunt, though true, alas ! at times, of us, was equally applicable to all units, infantry included. 'Tis true that field ambulance bearers did not, with one historic exception at Arras in 1917, have to attempt that most trying of all war experiences, going over the top; but theirs was ghastly, heavy, and dangerous work, done mostly away from the protection of trenches. The tablet in Westminster Abbey to the memory of 6873 of the R.A.M.C. shows that the corps did not have a soft job. Saving and patching men, instead of drilling holes in them, or blowing them to bits, was in itself noble work, as many realised at the time.
The 44th was always remarkable for its esprit de corps, and the record will recall to mind what partnership in that great organisation, the British Army of 1914-18, meant, despite the petty tyrannies, the disagreeable incidents, and the sordid transactions which we can all call to mind. None would suggest that the machine was perfect, or that the individuals were necessarily of the true knightly breed. War conditions bring out the worst in man: selfishness and the grosser vices, of which much was seen in all ranks. But there was also extraordinary unselfishness, amazing bravery, cheerfulness, and the 'saving grace of humour amidst conditions previously deemed to be insupportable. To have seen such characteristics displayed, to have formed part of a most wonderful machine, built up and shaped for a worthy end-let the cynics say what they will is surely to have made life worth the living.
The four plans are reproduced by kind permission of the London County Council.
The charming pen and ink sketches are by W. M. Hendy. The Old Comrades Association of the 2/2nd City of London Field Ambulance generously granted the loan of the blocks.
In order that casualties, etc., might be checked, the War Office allowed an inspection to be made of the unit's Field Returns (A.F. B 213S).
I. By LIEUT.-COL. W. EGAN, D.S.O.
ON being asked to write an introductory note to the record of the 44th Field Ambulance, many thoughts assail me. In the first place, the assurance of our Reunion gatherings, which has made the publication of the book possible, is foremost in my mind. We have now tided over four years of post-war struggle-a struggle in many ways more strenuous than our four years in the field-and I am delighted to see that my old comrades of the 44th have still the power of sticking together, a characteristic for which they were always famous. May that characteristic continue till the last of us goes over to the best of us!
In the following pages a general survey of the life of the unit, from its formation to its demobilisation, is most excellently produced by the Committee, and I heartily congratulate them on their success.
Situated many thousands of miles from the scenes where these achievements were enacted, I can picture some of them as vividly as when they occurred. The mud and drudgery of the 'Salient' are almost forgotten; but memory still clings to the football matches we won and the races we pulled off.
Who can forget that memorable day at Ecquedecques, when the Ambulance was broken up, and the cadre moved off, leaving those who stayed behind with lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes, unable to do more than wave a sad good-bye to their departing comrades? With what joy we all met again at Bournonville, a few weeks later, on the unit's re-formation! The memory of Noyon, where we left so many of our best, will always be a sad one; but, after all, death but joins us to the great majority.
I wish this record every success. It should be treasured by each and every one of us as a souvenir of the bad old days; as a glorious record of the deeds of our brave dead; and as an inspiration in the days to come.
May 24, 1922.
II. By MAJOR CREAN, V.C., D.S.O.
I have very happy recollections of the old 44th Field Ambulance, and I look back on those days as the happiest in my experience of campaigning. I have only one regret, and that is-that my time in command was only eight months. I wish I could have been with them to the end. I never served with a more efficient unit, and I certainly say that they were in 19I6 second to none of the Field Ambulances in France. It was indeed a pleasant duty to be in charge.
I shall not forget the kindness and help I received from the officers, most of whom had been trained in the Ambulance and had been with it from its early days. The men, like their officers, were a splendid lot, and carried out their work in the field regardless of their own safety. This was the testimony of two infantry commanding officers, who wrote to me after the attack and capture of Delville Wood, on the Somme: That never before during the war had their wounded been evacuated so promptly, and that at all times officers and men of the 44th Field Ambulance loyally answered to the very many calls made upon them, and carried out their work under heavy fire, regardless of personal danger.'
It would require pages adequately to express all my admiration and affection for the officers and men who served with me in the old 44th. I should indeed like, and hope, to meet them again; that is, those who are left.
T. J. CREAN.
Mayfair, W. I,
11 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
Training at Tweezledown and Crookham
On what .day did the 44th commence its separate existence? Records, Woking, would, of course, show; but with many units of the New Army in those stirring days of .1914, the moment when a collection of recruits, with a few old soldiers, became the starting-point of that unit was unrecognised by those in the thick of training. So it was with us. We had come, in August and September, from all parts of the country into the Stanhope lines and Redan Hill, Aldershot, being known as .D' Company. Each had begun to pick out his particular chum for the long trail ahead; but it was not until we moved to Tweezledown Racecourse Camp, on 13th September, that we felt that we had a separate life of our own-a life, too, with no long Army traditions behind it : we had to shape our own.
Our number was not then 44; and it is strange now to realise that we might have been the 26th all through our 4¾ years of existence. The 14th Division was originally the 8th. A division was subsequently formed in France from odd battalions, mostly from India, sent there direct, and this became the 8th. By this time Kitchener's Army consisted of the 8th to the 13th , so we became the 14th, and our unit the 44th. And a very good number 44 is -does not its French equivalent, quarante-quatre, have a rich, full sound about it ?
Recollections of these early days are aroused by the following note by Captain (now Major) Morris, our O.C., who was very popular with all the ‘old originals':-
One afternoon at the R.A.M.C. Depot, Aldershot, in the beginning of September, 1914, I was ordered to take over
12 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
( D ' Company. On inquiring where my new command was to be found, I was told that it consisted of a sergeant and myself. An easy job, on first thought. Some thirty-six hours later, on a misty morning, I came on early parade, and saw before me an array drawn up in two lines. Its flanks were invisible in the fog, and, to my astonished gaze, it looked like an Army Corps, at least. This was (D' Company, 1,200 strong, and growing every minute. The limits of the Depot could not compete with such expansion, and so, a few days later, the Company was moved to the Racecourse at Tweezledown. Here the 44th Field Ambulance was soon born, as well as other promising infants, who formed the first of the New Army units.
These were difficult days; trained N.C.O.'s were almost non-existent; tents and blankets were few and hard to come by; and,. although there was plenty of food, the means of cooking it were scanty, and the supply of knives and forks still more so. Still, the men of the First Hundred Thousand, unlike the Israelites of old in similar circumstances, were no grumblers, and their invincible keenness and good humour saved the situation. Luckily, the weather was fine, and, as time went on, things improved little by little. Grey-back shirts were, I think, the first to arrive, and gradually, after months of hope, the varied garbs of civil life, representing almost every calling known to man, were discarded, and we emerged as complete soldiers.
These months of training were monotonous and very trying, especially as we had little, or no, instructional equipment to give an interest to the work. Weeks of stretcher drill, for instance, with make-believe stretchers are apt to blunt the keenest enthusiasm. Week-end leave, varied by leave on (urgent family affairs' (?), did much to brighten our existence; particularly when the new uniforms came to gladden the eye of many a best girl.
13 TRAINING AT TWEEZLEDOWN
The conduct of the men was beyond all praise; and even the local police, who, for some unknown reason, regarded us with a none too friendly eye, were forced to admit that the most serious crime they could discover was that of riding a bicycle without a lamp across the road dividing the two portions of the camp.
In April, 1915, I was superseded in command of the unit by a Lieut.-Colonel; but that mattered little to me. I still hoped to go to France with my old comrades, and the severest blow I have ever had was when I was ordered away to another division.
The corporeal body of the 44th has dissolved, but its spirit lives on in the hearts of those of us who had the honour to serve with it.
Of first recollections, those connected with Mr. Foster are the most enduring. He was then Q.M.S., soon to be Sgt.- Major. Strict in discipline, he was not very much liked at first by men unaccustomed to Army methods, but none really had the interest of the unit more at heart, though shown, at times, in strange ways. Lieuts. Flood, Atkins, and Roberts were with us in the very early stages. Squad drill, stretcher drill, and lectures, relieved by route marches, formed the greater part of the training. The officers who gave the lectures found them, one may safely say, more boring than drill or field days. Most boring of all was the periodical reading of the Army Act, with its familiar ending to each paragraph- 'As is in this Act mentioned.' We were grateful to Lieut. Roberts for one bright episode. He started his first lecture with' Gentlemen'! 'No gentlemen in the Army, sir,' was the curt reminder of our wonderful S.M.
What hours we spent in bandaging, splinting, and learning the bones of our wonderful body! How many of us could now give the number of bones in our spines, or state the peculiar features of the second and seventh vertebrae? The people of
14 WITH THE FORTY FOURTHS
Fleet were very good to us in the matter of baths, and in many other ways, and more than one lasting friendship was formed. To those with no 'home from home' the tent life was rather weary, the' North Horns' and the' Wheatsheaf' being a bit too boosy for all but hardened sinners.
In November we moved from tents to huts, at Crookham, where for six months we made ourselves very comfortable, all things considered. One hut could even boast of a piano, and, after the daily drill, singing and dancing were indulged in. Who will forget' My Old Shako' and the' Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago' line, sung with great gusto? Passman showed us a few steps in dancing, and often a merry crowd was careering round the shaky army tables. To see' Derby' Pearson and , Dago' Cross doing the barn dance was a sight for the gods. The hut which boasted of such characters as McIntyre, Lackin, Fox, and Co., every morning presented a sorry picture. Another character was Cpl. Macpherson, who, as Lieut. in the A. & S.H., was killed before we left England. The inevitable nap and banker schools started, and the usual ups and downs experienced. A surprising thing happened one night. The Sgt.-Major stepped in quietly, and took up all the money, and went out without saying a word. We didn't know how much was in the pool, and we hope that it went to a deserving charity, but Guthrie was understood to say that it was the first time that he had had a decent card up.
To A2 hut belonged the distinction of smuggling a 9-gallon barrel of beer off the wagon outside the Sergeants' Mess, in broad daylight. Sherlock Holmes himself would have been left guessing had he attempted to trace it. The elite thought they would like to celebrate the feat by being photographed. In due course, when the group was nicely in position, but before the photograph could be taken, the S.M. came on the scene. He asked the camera man if he had a pass, and when he said' No,’ the S.M. promptly ordered him off the premises, and us to our quarters, vowing all manner of vengeance.
15 TRAINING AT TWEEZLEDOWN
Our representatives in the various branches of sport were a credit to the unit. The football team, as always, carried off the honours, winning the challenge medals for the Training Centre by beating the 45th F.A. in the final by 4-2. Team: Raines, Turton, Atkinson, Townend, Bury (capt.), Breckell, Chalke, Harrison, Tree, Ayre, Rimmer, Dunham, and Wright did well at boxing, under the instruction of Lieut. Atkins. That wizard of the chessboard, Sgt. Richardson, gave many lessons to his chums, and, thanks to this, the unit had quite a number of capable players, who won matches against strong opponents. From then onwards, chess was played on the march, in camp and billet, and tournaments arranged. The late Sgt. Richardson's skill, in playing one or two opponents while he was blindfolded, was a feat not soon forgotten.
Lieut. Barton joined us in January, and Lieuts. Broster, Brown, Dudgeon, and Smeall in February. On 22nd January, 1915, there was a review of the New Army divisions on Laffans Plain, and we moved out in what togs we possessed. Before we reached the plain, it commenced to snow and rain, and continued so until after we reached our position, where we stood for five hours, getting wet through. We hope that we impressed the French magnates, who had come over specially to see whether the New Army was actually in the flesh, and not merely on paper, as they feared. When we went for a route march the next morning, it was only in tunic, boots, and trousers. By accident or design, we went very near to the Plain, and Capt. Flood, who was leading the column, made as if to go there, but turned back in the end. This ruse was greeted with much shouting and laughter.
On 8th March the King and Princess Mary inspected the whole camp, each unit parading on its own parade ground. On the 15th we fetched our transport from Aldershot.
16 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
Considering the pace at which some of the vehicles came back, it was not surprising that there were many casualties-in fact, a dressing station at Caesar's Camp would not have been out of place. The arrival of the horses and mules resulted in much riding, and, incidentally, in upsetting the telegraphic communication with the outside world. A detachment of the A.S.C. arrived, and things began to look like business. All became busy, sending home surplus kit. Some even, without authority, took it home in person, as a reference to Sgt. Martin's book of crimes would show. The last entry in England stands: 'D. Harmer, H. P. Slade, E. J. Tree, and A. J. Griffin-7 days C.B., and forfeit 1 day's pay under R.W.'
Capt. Morris, to both his and our regret, was not to take us out, Major (acting Lieut.-Col.) Simson being detailed. Mr. Foster became Quartermaster, in place of Lieut. Rapson, and Sgt. Martin became Sgt.-Major. All sorts of rumours were now prevalent-and Army rumours never suffered from lack of imagination-but the great day at last arrived. All were keenly looking forward to the fray, but it was with some pangs of regret that we parted from our familiar haunts and friends of eight months. We had already rehearsed loading transport at a local station, and the 20th of May, 1915, saw the unit move out of Crookham. We had a cheery send-off, and, though loaded with equipment, everyone seemed to step with a swing to the music of a splendid band. At Farnborough station we were soon detailed to the coaches, and the train steamed out, to the strains of ' Auld Lang Syne ' from the band, 'Comrades in Arms' from Stan Davies' Glee Singers, and a general salvo of cheers. The rough way to war had been entered upon.
At Southampton we gave a hand at loading on to the ship, but we were not all on the same boat. We were delayed for a night through fog and fear of submarines. In the morning two of our signallers were very proud of themselves, as the boat's captain had asked them to get into communication with the escort for instructions.
Chapter II Ypres, I9I5
CROSSING to Havre was quite enjoyable, and most of us had our first sight of France about three in the morning of 22nd May. A pretty sight it was, too, the lights of the town and the rays from the lighthouses showing up beautifully. We landed about 9 a.m., and marched to a camp just outside Sanvic. The sun was getting powerful, and we got tired climbing up a seemingly never-ending hill. These never-ending hills were a feature of our bases, and a nightmare when going on leave. On the march up we saw the temporary seat of the Belgian Government, beautifully situated on the cliff-side. Arrived at the camp, we were not long in getting our first overseas pay, but the many restrictions imposed were irksome. One couldn't go out into the town, and the scores of 'Red Caps' and the like were guaranteed to prevent the nervous ones from attempting to leave camp. Some of the more daring spirits managed to get into the town, but nearly everyone stayed in camp, visiting the Y.M.C.A. hut, where the much-abused Field Cards were in great demand for sending home news of arrival.
Next morning we marched down into Havre again, and entrained at the station in an ordinary goods train. How soon these trucks with' chevaux en long, 8 ' and' hommes, 32-40' became familiar! The fitting in of men, as a human mosaic on the floor, was usually quite a work of art. Though it was a long journey (troop trains were not expresses I), we had a most enjoyable time going towards the front, getting a splendid reception all along the line. The chief words that we could distinguish were' biskee' or 'souvenir '-nearly every youngster we passed shouted out' Biskee,' and what spare biscuits we had were thrown from the train. We reached St. Orner (memories of Hereward the Wake and Torfrida) the next day, where the sight of so many women dressed in black was pathetically noticeable.
18 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
We detrained and marched along a road by a canal to Watten, where we were billeted on the hill, in the old chateau, and it was here that the troops had their first tobacco ration. For the first time we could hear the rumble of the guns, and, though not many questions were asked, there was always a great curiosity to know exactly how far we were from the trenches. We marched away from Watten on 26th May, and the mechanical transport (five Sunbeams and two Fords), which had joined us there, went on ahead. The day being very hot, it was a trying march to Coin Perdu, near Noordpeene. On arrival, many were glad to get away into some odd corner for a sleep; some slept in their equipment. The unlucky ones hadn't the chance to sleep, as the usual fatigue parties had to be made up-stores, cooks, officers' mess, and sanitary fatigues, to say nothing of the guard.
Next day found the unit on the move again, and our next stop was Fletre, on the main Bailleul-Cassel road. This had once been occupied by the Germans, and the people who were left there told many tales of hardship, loss, and suffering. A night's rest, and then on again next day towards the line. It was as well that we had plenty of route marches at Aldershot, as it prepared us somewhat for these long treks, which were very trying on the hot and dusty pave roads. After doing seemingly endless (20?) kilometres, we arrived in Locre, one silent company, except for the tramp of feet. The desire for song had left us-we were just about tired of the day's march. Just as we were passing the church in Locre, a band, as yet unseen, started playing a most stirring military march tune, and the effect upon our fellows was electrical. Backs straightened, heads were thrown back, and there was no need for an order' Eyes right! '-everyone turned involuntarily, and one had the feeling that one could march for ever. It was a real tonic. Millions of us thought before the war that military bands were just a show. Sad experience has since shown us how mistaken we were.
19 YPRES, 1915
We marched into a yard at the convent, and the' blue eyes' went inside, where cigarettes could be bought from the nuns. Actually, we were allowed to go inside a convent, I-we could hardly believe it. There were a lot of refugee women and children inside, being cared for by the nuns, but, even so, they allowed the unit enough space for the reception and treatment of wounded, and it was here that the first dressing station was established. We worked jointly with a 2nd North Midland Field Ambulance (46th Division), and they put us 'through the ropes.' Tent subdivision men started to work the dressing station. Bearers went up each night for 24 hours' duty, and wounded were brought back nightly, dressed at the convent, and thence dispatched to C.C.S. So within seven days of landing the unit was doing the real thing.
The bearers who went with the first party in front of Kemmel at night came back the next night, full of information, and the men were patiently listened to, especially Tree, who .attended the Notts and Derby man who had his ear torn off by a ricochet bullet. The first gas attack had been made by the enemy at Langemarck on 22nd April, famous as the occasion when the Canadians stepped into the breach made in our line. Another attack was made at Ypres, when we were at Locre, and to meet the emergency, hastily improvised respirators reached us in a day from England, and everyone was drilled in the art of tying on, over one's mouth and nose, a black veil containing cotton wool soaked in sodium bicarbonate. All took this new feature gamely, except the animals, who evidently thought it was feeding-time, seeing that their respirators resembled nose-bags. The mules had no doubt whatever- with them digestion came before respiratory troubles
We had a special affection for Locre as our first real billetin Flanders, and not a few of us felt sorry for its fate in the furious fighting there in May, 1918. When we saw it in October, convent and church had vanished.
20 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
On 6th June we marched to La Clytte, and fixed a small dressing station there, the troops bivouacking in a field at the back of the village towards the line. We had many parades here, chiefly for the purpose, it seemed, of reading out the result of Courts Martial and the execution of sentences. 'And this sentence was carried out at 4.15 a.m. on the 4th instant,' etc., had the desired effect on the troops, perhaps. All the same, it was disquieting, and a few of us thought that' Cowardice in the face of the enemy' was a harsh term to use.
Not a great deal of work was done during the day; most of the wounded were brought in at night, and, where necessary, were operated on immediately. Nearly all of them were bullet wounds. There were a few people left in the village, and white wine could be obtained at a franc a bottle, with the result that one of our own men got hurt and another court-martialled. Our French was improving, and we could manage' combien,' 'vous fashy,' 'vin blanc,' and' nah pooh' quite well. Letters and parcels began to arrive regularly from England, and the mail was always anxiously awaited. The A.P .0. organisation was truly wonderful all through. News and parcels alike were shared. Outgoing letters were censored by officers of the unit, until the advent of the green envelope gave a little more liberty. The trafficker in this commodity then arose-what was the highest price ever paid? Most of us will remember Dougherty's tale of the green envelope. He once said that a recruit, in writing under cover of an ordinary envelope (liable, of course, to censorship), said, 'Dear Mother, we have got a new Sgt.-Major. I cannot say much now, but I will tell you all about him when we get our next issue of green envelopes.'
We left La Clytte and its windmills on 14th June and went to the brickfields near Pop. We dabbled about with mud bricks for four days, the only result being 5 francs debit in all our pay books. An observation balloon or two floated in the distance, now definitely proved to be observation balloons, and not a Zeppelin in halves, as a 'Hilaire Belloc' had suggested
21 YPRES, 1915
at Locre. We heard shells dropping into Pop. at different intervals, but the whining sound then had no terrors for us, as with all, novices i and very little notice was taken of the sound, except by the older and wiser hands. Mepham was injured here by a G.S. wagon going over his foot, and was evacuated.
We then marched to a village near by, called Hillehoek, and opened a divisional rest station under canvas, where we received the sick of the division. It was here that a Mr. Vanderzarren refused to sell any more rum to some fellows, and a rather bad row was the result. Compensation and a few sentences of First Field Punishment were supposed to settle the matter; but the New Army N.C.O.'s did not take kindly to the tying-up of comrades to trees and wagons, and one of them, to his credit, promptly refused to do it. In this camp we laid the foundation of a decent hospital, and the horse lines, ablution places, baths, and lavatories were skilfully erected by the men.
We spent most of our leisure moments at football and cricket. In the inter-section football tournament Lieut. Brown, who was an English Rugger captain, apparently played his first game of soccer, much to the discomfiture of some of the opposing small players.
By this time we had learnt a little how the Field Ambulances of the division were operating, and their position. One Ambulance was in rest, one working the line, having the main dressing station at Pop., and the remaining Ambulance was running the D.R.S., each doing a turn at the various stations. After a month at Hillehoek, we moved to the Rue de Boeschepe, Poperinghe, where we relieved the Ambulance that was working the line. The building which we used as H.Q. was a boys' school, and was very suitable for the reception, treatment, and dispatch of wounded. On arrival our blankets were all called in to Q.M. stores, and an issue of one blanket between four men was made. This was our first real taste of campaigning.
22 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
We were working at the college from 17th July till 16th August, and a great many wounded were dealt with, including civilians. Advanced posts were established at the prison, Ypres, and Reigersburg Chateau, Brielen. Parties of R.A.M.C. bearers were attached to the R.A.P.'s of battalions in the line. The whole of the bearers used to leave Ypres at dusk, and were taken by motor ambulances with an officer in charge to, say, 500 yards from the R.A.P.'s. The bearers were divided into two parties -one under Sgt. Eastham, the other under Sgt. Watson. Eastham's party worked Sanctuary Wood, Watson's party Railway Wood and the famous tunnel at Hooge. Clearing wounded from Sanctuary Wood was not very difficult, as we were able to make full use of wheeled stretchers. The most trying time was carrying from the R.B.'s R.A.P. through Sanctuary Wood to the K.R.R.'s R.A.P., on the outskirts of the wood. From this point we were able to use the wheels to carry wounded to M. T. ambulances, a distance of, roughly, 500 yards. Urgent cases were at first evacuated during the day, but this was afterwards stopped, as we were in full view of the Germans, who used to open fire on us. Walking wounded were evacuated once a day, during the afternoon, a bearer acting as guide taking wounded to the A.D.S. at the prison, a distance of, roughly, three miles. This journey used to take as long as five hours, a rest being necessary about every 100 yards. Many of the wounded were not proper walking cases, but, in their anxiety to get down, they used to minimise the character of their wounds.
Tomlins was killed by a whizzbang on 22nd July, while on duty with Capt. Atkins in the line, and, being our first casualty, we felt it keenly.
On the morning of July 30th a dispatch rider came with the following message: 'Enemy retaken Hooge Chateau. Prepare for heavy casualties.' This message was to be repeated to the other Ambulances of the division. Extra men were sent up the line, and everything was got in readiness for the reception of wounded, who soon commenced to come in.
23 YPRES, 1915
All available motor and horse transport was used in bringing them down from Ypres, and the whole of the unit worked almost continuously for the next forty-eight hours, dealing with all sorts of cases with wounds that were beyond description. The enemy had used liquid fire for the first time, and this, after and during a terrible bombardment, in which the Chateau was retaken ¹) (The 6th Division retook the Chateau the next week.) Most pitiful of all were the fellows who had been blinded, and as they were brought in from the cars, with the whole of the face wrapped in cotton wool, with just an opening for breathing, one felt ready to cry. Arms and legs were at this time amputated at Field Ambulance Headquarters; later, it was done at the C.C.S.'s, but these at this time had not sufficient staff to cope with a rush of casualties. The surgeons were working hard all the time, but the men, though most of them conscious and with the most awful wounds, were very brave. The yards at the back of the hospital were full of stretcher cases that could not be looked after or dealt with inside the building. In one yard alone there were waiting for treatment three rows of stretcher cases, fifty in a row, most of whom had no dressings at all. The enemy did not shell Pop during this time, or else the work of getting the wounded away would have been seriously interfered with. Ayre and O'Hara were' mentioned' for bravery shown during this liquid fire attack.
At the end of two days the casualties slackened, but the last cases to come in sickened everyone but the strongest. Mr. Barton and a party of voluntary bearers managed to bring in on improvised stretchers the men (mostly 9th K.R.R.'s) who had lain out in the open for a long time.
¹ At 3.20 a.m. a mine exploded under the parapet, and jets of flame followed, the trenches being only 20 yards apart. A shower of aerial torpedoes completed the havoc. A counter-attack by the 41st Brigade, supported by the 9th K.R.R.'s and 6th Cornwa1ls, failed, the 41st Brigade being mown down by machine-gun fire. The 41st alone lost 60 officers and about 2000 men. It was thus that' the division had the distinction of being the first unit of the New Army to be seriously engaged' (Conan Doyle).
24 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
The wounds had been exposed to the onslaught of flies, with the consequence that they were alive with maggots, the sight and smell being appalling. One saw a broken leg, with the flesh round the broken ends a moving mass of white. The chest and head cases were especially gruesome. A few cases had also developed that scourge of the battlefield, gas gangrene. Some of the orderlies, after two days' continuous work, gave way, physically sick. It is astonishing to record that some of the cases actually recovered. During these operations Hindley, Bill Wykes, J. Edwards, Pearce, and D. H. Jones were wounded.
It was hard work bringing cases through Ypres, as the enemy constantly shelled it. The M. T.'s found it no easy matter to get a carload of wounded through safely; and all the cars, when they finally came out, bore marks of shell splinters. In one case a splinter passed through the steering wheel, without wounding the driver. On 6th August an 8-inch shell burst in one of the prison basements, and caught fifteen of our men who were sleeping there. Bill Robinson, who was the only one standing up, caught the full effect of the concussion and was killed. Moulton, Tinto, Austen, A. Roberts, and Joe Pearson were wounded and evacuated; while nine others, slightly affected, were sent to D.R.S. to recuperate. Preston had a lucky escape. He was pinned down by a mass of masonry, but after a few days at the D.R.S. returned none the worse.
The town was used extensively as a billeting place, and the Ramparts, Prison, and Cloth Hall were always full. Whenever a shell had found its mark, a call was made on the other units near to help in the rescue work. In 1921 the Press announced that, following upon excavations at the Cloth Hall, the bodies of about thirty infantry were found, and various correspondents asserted that they were present at the original catastrophe on rescue work. No mention was made of R.A.M.C. casualties; but it was while trying to rescue, on 12th August, the very men whose bodies were found in 1921, that some of the 44th got hit. McCallum and Vine were brought back to Pop. and buried, but poor Alf Williams was never found: only his arm with the brassard still on.
26 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
McIntyre was wounded. Who can forget the awful explosion of the huge shells which plumped into Ypres? The gun, when in action, fired every fifteen minutes, and was timed by our officers, so that we usually had seven or eight minutes in which to work, and then had to scatter to avoid the next shell. Buildings were demolished wholesale, and the roads, after a little attention from this monster, which lay hidden in Houthulst Forest, looked a pretty sight.
One strange thing happened about this time. Bailey was accidentally bayoneted by one of the Cornwalls in Sanctuary Wood. Hawker won his V.C. round here on 25th July, by attacking three Taubes. The one he shot down crashed near the R.A.P. in the wood. A party left the Prison on 16th August, and, while waiting the order to come up from the cellar, a dusty and blood-bespattered messenger announced that' one' had dropped into the Ramparts. So near, and yet so far! Away went the bearers, not with smiling faces (vide the Press, 1915). Fortunately there were but few wounded, and they were soon in the cars sailing back to Pop., where, with transport already loaded, the unit was ready to move off. For a unit not long out we had had a rough month in the cursed salient.
St. Jans-ter-Biezen was our destination, where we 'rested.' Scabies and infectious cases of the Division had, however, to be dealt with. Sports were arranged, boxing not being forgotten; and the troops had a good time. We moved on 17th September, and took over the D.R.S., which we had started at Hillehoek in June. Here we stayed for seven weeks, treating the sick, and sending parties of bearers up the line. A holding attack¹ was made in front of Ypres on the 25th, when the battle of Loos started farther south, and this gave us some work.
¹ The action was across the old Bellewaarde area. The 42nd Brigade, consisting of the 5th Ox. and Bucks., 5th Shropshires, 9th R.B.'s, and 9th K.R.R.'s, took part. The German trenches were reached and occupied, but the counter-attack was too strong, and we had to fall back to our original line. The losses were heavy; good material thrown away.
27 YPRES, 1915
Turton, Edkins, F. Cox, D. Robertson, and Joe Pearson were wounded. Leave (that one bright star on our Army horizon) started. One every third week-oh ! generous allowance. We drew lots for the first coveted places.
On 1st November we again moved into Pop., and occupied the familiar College. The troops round much frequented the old town, for good drinks and suppers were always to be had, even though there was occasional shelling. Capt. Marshall joined us here. We were interested in him, as being one of the three who accompanied Shackleton on the wonderful Furthest South journey in 1908-9, and got within 100 miles of the Pole. The weather at this time was very bad, and the continuous rain made the evacuation of wounded very trying. Trench-feet cases were a daily occurrence. Our own bearers were issued with thigh gum boots, which, while they kept some mud and wet out, were a hindrance when stretcher-bearing -as most of our men testified
There was joy in the 14th Division when news spread that we were bound for Egypt; and, as most of the units were making preparations for a move, it was taken for granted that we were really leaving the area. The infantry round Pop. used to come into the town at night and parade the streets arm in arm, singing lustily at the prospect of going to a land of sunshine which knew not mud. Our transport was packed and stood outside the College doors, ready for the move. While here, a shell burst and wounded Mr. Foster. Cpl. Wright and Freebody, of the M.T.'s, were also wounded, and wagons and equipment were damaged. Our motor transport actually got almost to Hazebrouck; when, sad to say, on the afternoon of Christmas Day, the move was cancelled. There was to be no Egypt for us. Another move in the great game of war decreed otherwise; and the whole Division was terribly disappointed at the prospect of continuing life in the mud and shell holes. Nevertheless, those at the College managed to have a good Christmas. Puddings and other luxuries were issued, and even bon-bons came up with the rations.
28 WITH THE 'FORTY-FOURTHS
Those at the advanced posts did not all receive the Christmas fare, and when they did, pudding, mince pies, and bon-bons could not possibly come out of a sandbag clean, after being hauled through Union Street trench. During January some Prussians came through the hospital, one with a club foot. We had some innocent amusement on one P .H. helmet parade. Some wag in the Stores had put a handful of soot in one of the helmets to be issued. Justice saw to it that this particular helmet was issued to Bill Le Marinel, of the Stores. The condition of this 15-stone of humanity, after doubling in the said helmet for ten minutes, may be imagined.
Captain Crean, V.C., now took over command, and we learnt that the Division was at last moving from Ypres. On 12th February' B ' section was sent to Winnezeele, this being the day that Jerry made an early morning bombing attack on our trenches. Pop. was bombed and shelled more than ever it had been, and Church, of the M. T .'s, was wounded. One of the N.C.O.'s of the relieving Ambulance astonished us by saying that, on the sector they had come from, they had not heard a real gun for months. They heard some that day !. We were billeted in barns and houses at Winnezeele. A small M.I. room had already been formed, and this was always done in future, when on the march. The sick, like the poor, were ever with us, even if there were no wounded.
Chapter III The Somme, I9I6
On 21st February, 1916, we left Winnezeele, and, with the transport, marched to Bavinchove, near Cassel, where we entrained. A night in the usual trucks, and dawn saw us at Longeau, just outside Amiens, which was lit with huge acetylene flares. We got the transport off the rail; horses, but not men, were fed, and off we went. Amiens was a wonderful city to us, as, since detraining at St. Orner, we had seen no town larger than Poperinghe. We reached Flesselles, and moved towards Doullens on the 24th. As it had snowed the previous night, the conditions for marching were wretched. We were billeted in Doullens that night, which was bitterly cold. Next morning we struck the main Doullens-Arras road, and, after a while, turned north. It again began to snow hard, and there was great trouble with the transport. Parties of men were continually being detailed to help the wagons up and down hill. The snow was now about a foot deep, and, darkness coming on, we began to wonder whither we were bound. Flashlights belonging to the officers were turned on the signposts, proceedings which filled us with gloomy doubts. It was soon evident that we were lost, so we stood or lay down in the snow for three hours, awaiting orders. We sang and joked, but felt quite disconsolate. An attempt was made to turn the transport round, but this was only partly successful. Just then, cries coming from the wilderness of snow led to the discovery of an exhausted French workman, who was trying to locate his own village (there was, therefore, some excuse for not finding ours).
30 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
He was a very old man, and, after a drop from an officer's flask, he was sent back the way we had come. By ten o'clock billets had been found, 5 kms. away, and a guard (unlucky guard, under Cpl. Edwards!) was placed on the wagons. It was one of the worst nights we had ever experienced, as regards cold. We had no blankets, as permission had been given to place them on a motor ambulance, which had gone on in advance. The ration wagon, too, did not come up, and the order was given for the emergency rations to be eaten - rations which, if the truth had been told, had been eaten long before. We discovered, two years later, that the name of the place near which we had halted was Oppy.
Never shall we forget that name. During the night, a case containing twelve bottles of whisky fell off (?) the officers' mess cart. It must have fallen off in the snow. There was no court martial afterwards, and the night guard, in spite of their trying experiences during the day, did their duty conscientiously. A ration wagon, under Cpl. Breeze, arrived next morning unexpectedly, and, the snow having stopped, the cooks produced a good breakfast. We moved on with difficulty, doing about one mile in three hours, and, after passing all sorts of derelict transport, motor lorries overturned, limbers, G.S. wagons, and dead horses, we arrived at Sombrin. Here we found the motor transport and the fortunate billeting party. 'We are billeted at a farm,' as Bairnsfather used to say, and, seeing that the troops had regained their blankets, they slept fairly comfortably. It was here that Maloney injured his head badly when, in letting down a bucket, he was hit by the well handle. We moved off on 1st March on a very bad road, and, passing through Barly, reached Fosseux, where a chateau was taken over to be used as a hospital. We were billeted in long, comfortable huts, having bedsteads fixed up, a la francaise- i.e. wooden frames, with ordinary wire netting stretched over. Later on, paillasse covers and straw were drawn.
31 THE SOMME, 1916
The Ambulance running the line had its headquarters in Arras itself, at the Ecole Normale. The hospital we formed at Fosseux accommodated over 200 cases. By this time that mysterious complaint, trench fever, had become very common, and we had a great many cases. Major Crean and Capt. Barton put their experience into a paper which was published, after much delay, in the R.A.M.C. Journal. All the Division's blankets were sent to be fumigated, many being literally alive with lice. How soon we got accustomed to our little friend,' the' chat' !
To him some assigned the cause of trench fever. Leave, which had been stopped for a month, now began again, and one more fortunate being started for home. Two of our heavy draught horses bolted with a G.S. wagon here, and dashed over a wall round the village pond. Both horses were drowned before they could be got out of the harness. On 9th May the unit moved to Liencourt, away from the line. Here was a rest station on the lines of that at Fosseux, but it was better equipped and situated. A party of our men went to Duisans, by Arras, to work at an R.E. dump, and to prepare dug-outs. Another party went to Arras to strengthen the cellars for occupation by troops. As to Liencourt, the garden became especially productive of good things, under the direction of George Beaver. We, in turn, became experts with the whitewash brush, having continually to lime wash the trees, under the guidance of the Q.M. Rest stations were very nice, but what labour-making establishments they were! Col. Prynne now became A.D.M.S., and stayed with us until January, 1918.
Bill Wykes, who had been wounded at Ypres, returned on 22nd June. A party of bearers went up the line on the 24th, and rumours of a big scrap coming off were prevalent. The first issue of steel helmets was made, and, from now onwards, had to be worn in the forward areas. During the latter part of the unit's stay at Liencourt, parties of bearers were attached to the infantry battalions in front of Arras.
32 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
Many were the splendid billets made and occupied by us, e.g. the Aid Post at Rue de Cambrai, which contained a bedroom and sitting-room, both exquisitely furnished. There was fruit, too, in the garden. These were periods of rest for bearers, as the battle front was at this time very quiet. Towards the end of June we had daily visits from Taubes, who received the usual shelling, with the usual results-nil.
The continuous bombardment south of us had become terrific, this being in the days when prolonged strafing was fashionable. It culminated in an extra burst on the 1st of July, when the Battle of the Somme began. With us, however, nothing worth chronicling took place. One officer and several nursing orderlies were attached to a C.C.S. at Avesnes-le-Comte, but it was not until 29th July that we handed over the rest station.
On the 30th we moved towards the Somme. It was very hot, and the first stop was Ivergny. Barly was reached next day, after frequent halts. Each of us wore full pack and steel helmet, and all did the march splendidly, despite the heat. It was sad to see so many from other units fallout on the march. Some of the poor fellows were dead-beat, and a few died afterwards, being buried at the next stopping-place. Barly lies in a valley, with very steep hills on either side, and, in leaving the next morning, the transport had difficulties with their heavy loads. It was here that one of the guard, an Irishman, called the corporal cook during the night, to tell him reveille was at six o'clock! The transport was overhauled at Gouzeaucourt, and all the buckshee stores taken off, so the troops had a feast of tinned peas, fruit, and the like; while the Maltese cart, after the officers' kit had been reduced by the Quartermaster to the exact ounce allowed, travelled much better. 'It is an ill wind,' etc. We spent a pleasant week in an orchard, in delightful weather.
Transport left by road for the Somme on 6th August, and the next day the men marched to Candas, but did not entrain until midnight.
34 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
We spent six hours in an orchard; and who can forget the big gathering who came to listen to our glee party, giving of their best to while away the lingering hours? Amiens was reached next morning, and we detrained at Edgehill, near Mericourt. All was bustle here, and it looked very much like work, when a party of us were sent up to a place called Buire, to 'Y' Corps Main Dressing Station. The remainder marched to Dernancourt, where Sgt. Naylor, who left us at Crookham for dental treatment, paid us a surprise visit. Most of our spare time vias spent bathing in the Ancre, close by.
The King and the Prince of Wales passed through on the 10th. We left on the 12th, and soon got to the actual scene of recent events, just beyond Becordel. By the time we had reached what was left of Fricourt, we realised what a wilderness had been made. It seemed impossible that our infantry could have got through such a maze of barbed wire. At Mametz a battery of howitzers was in action, and gave our A.S.C. drivers a lively time. There was an ominous stench, and, about two
kilometres past Mametz, we stopped on the top of a hill. A battery close by was being shelled, so the transport was sent back to Becordel, and stretcher parties made up. The A.D.S., just off the Montauban-Gueudecourt road, was taken over from the 51st Division Field Ambulance.
The unit now had a stiff time. The 14th Division had cleared the N.E. corner of Delville Wood, and held it until relieved by the 21st Division. Incessant shelling made the work of getting the wounded away hard and dangerous, but our men stuck it like heroes, and there was always a good report of the 44th. The names of Delville Wood, Trones Wood, and Crucifix Alley will live for ever in the memory of those of us who worked there. It was at the N.E. corner of Delville Wood that our bearers had their first experience of picking up wounded between the two firing lines. During this stay of three weeks in action on the Somme, the bearers were divided into two parties, each doing twenty four hours duty.
35 THE SOMME, 1916
One party evacuated wounded from the line, while the other was resting at Pommiers Redoubt, near Mametz. We recall the terrible damage done by two enemy shells to the Manchester Pals Battalion, while passing our redoubt, on their way into action. The casualties totalled between 70 and 80. We, of course, during these days, did not pass unscathed. Sgt. Eastham, who had gone down to receive his decoration for bravery shown at Ypres, had not long been back when, on 19th August, he and Billy Britton were killed in Angle Trench by a trench mortar missile. Gorringe was wounded on the 15th, followed by Hector, T. J. Johnstone, Banks, Smirfitt, Graham Atkinson (at first reported missing), and Burkhardt. The last-named was saved by his steel helmet, in which a piece of shrapnel made a large hole.
It is worth recalling one amusing incident, though far from amusing at the time. Sgt. Corbishley was with a party of bearers attached to the 5th K.S.L.I., at Crucifix Alley. They were awaiting a relief party from the 21st Division, and rations had given out, as the relief was overdue. About two o'clock, on a terribly wet and cold morning, a post arrived with a few parcels. Cocoa was made for the whole party of twelve, and brought to the flooded dug-out, when, on tasting, it was found that the two cooks (no names) had put a tin of Cerebos salt in the cocoa instead of sugar. Nothing else was available. -! -!!
One day a dog was brought in to the A.D.S., with a crushed foot, and duly attended to. For dogs were good pals, and did their bit in the war. On 30th August all came in from the different posts, and marched down to Becordel. It was an awful day of wind and rain, and by the time we reached Buire we were wet through. In this condition all had to sleep in an open field, getting what protection waterproof sheets, and sheaves of wheat, afforded. This was really a rough night for us, just out of the line, and the fact that nothing could be cooked added to our misery.
36 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
We left the transport behind the next morning, and marched to Mericourt station. The 6th Somersets were in a wheatfield, and we joined them. The sun then came out brilliantly, to cheer us after our night in the open; and jackets, trousers, and puttees were taken off to dry. To add to the pleasure of these memorable hours, the band of the Somersets gave a few selections. What with the music, the lovely sun, and the feeling that we were out of that hell on the Somme, we could not but feel serenely happy. Souvenirs were handed round, and some of the fortunate possessors of German helmets were already asking fabulous prices, especially of Staff Cook.
We reached Arraines about seven o'clock, looking a ragged, sorry lot. Everyone was covered with a coating of dry mud; but we were content to be away from the line, even if we had to march a long, long way to a place strangely named L' Arbre á Mouches, where were very decent barns. The usual M.I. and A. and D. rooms were opened, and quickly used, owing to a German bomb exploding while being carelessly handled in a bucket. While at this village, rum and coffee were the order of the day, and, in some estaminets, our men were allowed to fill their glasses from the French beer tub-with the usual result. Crown and Anchor schools flourished, despite Army Regulations, and many visited Amiens. Sgt. Swinn went off haymaking one morning, and, after helping the farmer, or his wife, all day in the fields, returned suffering from what appeared to be excess of sun. It was a peculiar brand of sunstroke, for the patient could be seen early next morning drinking in his normal manner.
Transport moved on 9th September, and the next day, Sunday. we were taken in French motor lorries through Amiens, back to Dernancourt, occupying the same billets as before. There were rumours of something big coming off, and an A.D.S. was formed at Bernafay Wood, and bearers sent out again to their posts. A bombardment preceded the attack on the 15th, and we saw the tanks going into action for the first time.
37 THE SOMME, 1916
A wonderful sight it was, and no one knew what they were, or what to call them.
Our Division did well, and was reported to have taken Flers, though some of the Guards boasted they had done it¹ Who can forget our treks to and from Bernafay Wood, and the famous sunken road just before Flers? Then there was that terrible broken-wrist feeling, through having only two bearers to a stretcher. The worst experience, though, was having to pass each journey the sadly disfigured bodies of our own chums. We longed to carry them in, and bury them, but the orders were 'No.' We did, in the end, manage it. Those we lost were Ayre, Bealch, W. Huntington, McDade, and P. Hall, all knocked over by shell fire while bearing. The brothers Huntington were both sheltering in the same shell hole. The elder was killed, but the younger, Jack, escaped, and stayed with us to the end. Derby Pearson, Cooney, Ted Barratt, A. Hall, Carter, Curtis, Crossley, and Mathieson were wounded, but the record of these sorry days was hard to keep. What little one remembers was pieced together afterwards, and it is impossible to write clearly. It was some consolation to know that the operations were very successful. In these earlier days of the war, one sometimes got downhearted at appalling casualties in obtaining what, in our hearts (despite' Eyewitness '), we knew were meagre results.
It was always sad, after big pushes, to see at R.A.P.'s and A.D.S.'s bad cases, such as abdominals, put on one side to die, in order to give those less badly wounded the chance of recovery. The feeling aroused by these cases is so well portrayed in Abadie's' Wounds of the Abdomen' as to be worth setting down :-
One abdomen, one laparotomy, means a whole hour devoted to an altogether uncertain result; it means, at most, half a chance of saving one man.
¹ The 41st Division took Flers. Apparently, what happened was, that detachments of the 14th joined up with the 41st, who were on their left, and with them followed the tanks into the village. The Guards were on our right.
38 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
An hour given to other severe wounds (heads, limbs, etc.) means that you will save three at least. Therefore, as the stream of wounded increases, one has to make a choice among the abdominal cases. ...At last an hour comes when one hesitates no longer, when one abandons to their uncertain fate all those with abdominal wounds, hoping, in order to calm the revolt against one's own helplessness, that the very refusal to operate may be rewarded by some cures.
Poor abandoned ones! We trust that God especially covered you with His wings, and that your people at home never knew the tragedy of your last hours.
For good work during our stay on the Somme, Watson got the D.C.M., and Atkinson and Rimmer the M.M. Details of deeds, or work, which won decorations have been purposely omitted from this little history, which is not meant to be one of self-praise . It may not, however, be out of place to say that the Ambulance, in size less than a company of infantry, secured in all I D.S.O.,4 M.C.'s, I D.C.M., 18 M.M.'s, and I Croix de Guerre.
On 19th September the bearers, after doing their duty with their own Division, were sent to the 21st Division. Fox was killed while with this Division. We were all put aboard French lorries on the 20th, on the Albert-Amiens road, and nearly every-one was fast asleep before ever the journey commenced. We had a long ride to Doullens, the place with the peculiar belfry, and stopped outside Grouches. We eventually reached Barly, and took over, from the 38th Field Ambulance, the rest station at the chateau. Gradually the unit was re-equipped and better clothed. Lieut.-Col. Egan joined us here, Major Crean having, unfortunately, to give up the command on account of ill-health. Although there was a good deal of nursing to do, all appreciated the time we spent at Barly.
39 THE SOMME, 1916
The divisional concert party, 'The Fuzee Springs,' gave some excellent entertainments. Box, the comedian, was a great favourite, and right merrily did the boys join in the chorus of his best song. The words were not exactly appealing, but the tune caught on, and that was what mattered:
‘ Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! said Carrie,
Oh! Oh ! Oh ! said Harry,
Don't be so contrary, let us go to town.
Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! my girlie,
Mind you meet me early,
Meet me when the sun goes down.'
The unit left Barly on 27th October, and reached Sombrin the same day. Hereabouts every unit of the Division seemed to be, and strict training commenced. ew drafts arrived, and there were many new faces in the 44th. The first issue of leather jerkins was made, and promptly withdrawn, but issued again later.
We were at Ivergny from the 2nd to 10th November, when we went to the old D.R.S. at Liencourt, and settled down there for the next five weeks. The people in the village were pleased to see us, and the boys were quickly frequenting their former haunts. By routine orders, all men had their hair cropped short, and Pete McKinlay did overtime, with an old pair of horse clippers, at the modest charge of half-a-franc. Sgt. Richardson, to our regret, left us on the 11th, to take up a
commission in the R.G.A., and he was with them when he was killed.
CHAPTER IV THE BATTLE OF ARRAS
We moved to Wanquetin on 18th December, 1916, and took over from the 36th Field Ambulance two or three badly constructed huts. A party was sent to Arras, to assist the 42nd, who were running the line, where, happily, things were very quiet. Some of those at Wanquetin were billeted in a very tall barn, fitted with the French wire-frame bedsteads. It was christened' The Good Ship Lucknow,' and was confoundedly breezy and cold; and the Stores were stingy over blankets. Hindmarch and Harrison could give emphatic views on this subject. Christmas, was spent quietly, both at H.Q. and up the line. There was a concert at H.Q., in the village, which was well attended. Ted Broomhead's songs were splendidly received, but most of the items were a bit flat.
On 11th January the Durhams went over the top at Arras, in a bombing raid, and some of our bearers followed them over. A dog named Duke, which had been befriended by the unit, belied its name by having four puppies, much to the astonishment of the crew of the' Good Ship Lucknow.' The weather, while we were in this district, was intensely cold; in fact, it was the coldest period we experienced in France or Belgium. To shave in cold water was impossible, and as for the usual wash in the open-ugh!
A sensation was caused on the morning of 7th February, when Frank Adams was found dead in his blanket. It was thought that fumes from a coke fire caused his death. He was buried in Wanquetin Cemetery. That day all at Wanquetin moved up to the convent at Arras, with the exception of Q.M. stores and transport, which went back to Barly.
41 THE BATTLE OF ARRAS
During our stay in Arras many' cushy' jobs were found. One party was running the divisional baths, and the officers' baths (where a dump of wine was found); another party, the divisional laundry. As interludes in this beautiful life, there were wonderful fights between our own and the enemy airmen. But working parties-horrible words-had to be made up, so off we went to do explorations in the wonderful caves in the chalk under the town.
An event which greatly impressed itself upon the minds of the nursing orderlies occurred on 2nd April, at about 8 a.m. A crowd of men walked in, and said that a gas shell had dropped in their billet. They were put on stretchers and oxygen administered, but all were dead shortly after noon. Two days later we buried them; and, while we were in the cemetery, Fritz treated us to a small bombardment of gas shells, so we had to finish the burial with masks on. Col. Egan, by the way, got a whiff of gas a short time before; and on 25th March we lost Sgt. Philip, wounded.
Preparations were now being made for an advance at Arras, and, as usual, the weather interfered with the operations, snow falling heavily for a week or more. A tent subdivision was ready at the convent, and parties were detailed to act, in the event of an advance. Our unit prepared a very fine A.D.S. at the brewery at Ronville. We also made a road (the Rue Quarante-Quatre) across the railway, for the use of motor ambulances. The huilerie, on the Achicourt road, was also transformed into a supplementary A.D.S. We were surrounded by batteries, but had no casualties. One shell, however, burst right in the stores, and destroyed about a hundred stretchers and several cases of milk-and' Ideal' milk, too! The Stores were as much upset over this destruction of good milk as if a hundred men had been killed.
Thousands of cavalry were in the vicinity, but, owing to the snow, they did not do much. The bombardment which preceded the attack on Easter Monday, 9th April, was a terrible one, as those at the post at Ronville found to their cost.
43 THE BATTLE OF ARRAS
The 14th Division's primary objective on that day was Telegraph Hill, which was very quickly negotiated. The ultimate objective, Wancourt, was reached, but not cleared, as the troops on our right (the 56th were on our right, and the 3rd on our left) were not able to gain the ridge over Heninel. Casualties, which were dealt with at Ronville and the convent, were not so heavy as had been anticipated; but we were kept going fairly hard, on account of the number of posts held by us. The collection of wounded, too, was extremely difficult, owing to the deep snow and the very long distance to carryover broken ground. Boche prisoners were much used for carrying. It was in these operations that Chaffey was wounded. Percy Slade, Ted Broomhead, and' Smoke' Cox were also casualties (slight).
For the fortnight previous to the attack the whole Division was without bread, Army biscuits alone being available. We would have given anything for a slice of bread, but it could be bought only in Arras, and there at very few places. The unit did not move forward with the infantry, but returned to Berneville, and later joined the transport at Barly. While at Berneville, congratulations for our good work from the powers-that-be were read out to us on parade.
On 24th April we moved to Bellacourt, and, through an error as to time, we had no breakfast. The tea was actually thrown away in front of us, while on parade-an unpardonable sin, this. Crossing the railway by the Arras-Doullens road, we saw a clever imitation of a railway engine which had been used to draw shell fire. Bellacourt was quite close to the original line, and there were plenty of German hand grenades about, which many exploded for fun. One was brought into a billet, and, on examination, was found to be smoking. The only casualties were caused, not by the bomb, but in the rush to get outside the billet.
44 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
On the 26th we crossed over the original trenches, and, passing through what was left of the village of Ficheux, arrived at Mercatel, where we took over a Corps Walking Wounded Station, consisting of a marquee and several bell tents. The roads had been mined, and the R.E.'s were busy putting things right. At the cross-roads at Mercatel a great crater, some fifty or sixty feet deep, had been made by the explosion of a mine. The trees had all been methodically cut down, those on the main Arras-Bapaume road being laid across it. On this road was an abandoned German steam-roller. Some wag had chalked on it ' Not to be taken away.' We did not get many wounded through our station. Our bearers, installed in a collecting post in the sunken road between Wan court and Henin-sur-Cojeul, assisted the 42nd, who were at the A.D.S. at Neuville Vitasse. At this place we saw a native return to the ruins of his home and dig out his cash-box. We kept our eyes open for treasure, but had no luck. H. A. Hall was wounded round here.
A general attack was made on 3rd May, the fighting with us being round Cherisy. Good progress was made by our Division on its right sector (8th R.B.'s and 7th K.R.R.'s), but it had to fall back, to conform with the 18th Division, who could not hold Cherisy. The 42nd Brigade, on the left sector, was strongly opposed. The 5th Ox. and Bucks. were almost wiped out in an unsuccessful attempt to retain New Trench.
The unit dealt at Mercatel with' walking wounded' only, and, roughly, two thousand casualties passed through our hands on the day of the attack. An enormous amount of equipment was left behind, and memoranda poured in afterwards inquiring for field-glasses, revolvers, personal belongings, etc. Considering the opportunities for' winning' things on occasions like these, it is, perhaps, surprising that so much safely found its way back. Lound was hit at Wancourt on the day before the attack, and died two days later. Frapswell and Coveney were wounded. Rimmer, Jack Warren, and Hadden were also casualties, but' remained at duty.'
45 THE BATTLE OF ARRAS.
On the 20th the railhead at Flcheux, 2 kms. behind us, was subjected to bombardment by H.E. shrapnel, which caused many casualties. Many of our men had bivvies at Mercatel, and one day a horse bolted with a G.S. wagon, and made for these little homes. Happily, a fallen tree trunk caught the axletrees, and brought the runaway up just clear of the place where two night orderlies were peacefully sleeping under their waterproofs. We also recall how a hare was captured by one of us, after a long chase by scores of men. She was found to have been hit in several places by shrapnel. Let it be added that we enjoyed marvellous weather.
We moved from Mercatel on 4th June, and reached Agny the same day, being greeted by a spattering of shrapnel on the roofs of the houses. After staying here a week, we marched back to Monchiet, and then on to Saulty-labret. We reached Vauchelles on 13th June, and, hereabouts, the whole Division rested for nearly a month and re-equipped. An event, remembered with gratitude, was the arrival of Sgt.-Major Gawthorne, in place of Sgt.-Major Martin, 'sent down to the base for dental treatment.' We had not many sick to deal with, and the unit had a splendid time
We shall always remember Vauchelles for the beautiful cherry orchard in which we lived. Sports were arranged by a capable committee. The divisional brass band attended, and we were blessed with lovely weather. The winners of all the events may not be remembered, but Willie Traill achieved the quickest time in the sprint, and Sgt. Swinn got the most water out of the trough during the second round of the pillow-fight with Sgt. Lusty, who, in turn; got knocked in by the never-to-be-forgotten Sammy Gore. Dunham, Traill, and Griffin did well for us at the divisional sports meeting. Then, prizes were offered for the two most smartly dressed soldiers on parade, and these were won by Percy Slade and Bob Haslam. We even beat the 43rd at football, by 2-1, the only time out of five attempts. Oh ! these were glorious days.
46 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
The horse that bolted at Mercatel repeated the manoeuvre, this time with unfortunate results, for Driver Wicks was severely injured and the wagon smashed. The horse was struck off the strength and transferred elsewhere-to artillery we hoped.
CHAPTER V YPRES AGAIN
It was with real regret that we left our beautiful Vauchelles on 10th July. We stayed at Beauval for two days, were photographed, and then moved into Doullens. Here we entrained for the old Ypres sector, where the long-delayed operations were about to commence. We detrained at Godewaersvelde, and took over a small station near Boeschepe, almost at the foot of Mont Noir and Mont Rouge, now quite quiet after the capture of Messines ridge on 7th June. Many and various were our duties here. They included the installation of a drainage system, cutting grass and gardening generally under George Beaver, and distempering the walls of the huts. Shorty Blanchard instructed us in the use of the brush; also, as to the right side out of the distemper.
Hearing that our late Sgt. Richardson was buried at Dickebusch, our worthy carpenter made a cross, and a party of us paid homage to his grave. Others visited Major Redmond's grave, which was in the small cemetery facing the Convent at Locre, of which we have memories.
The unit left Boeschepe on 6th August, and marched to Hondeghem, near Hazebrouck. A few sick were dealt with. Hondeghem will best be remembered as the place where a lady at a certain estaminet could swear in any language. Some of our men visited a neighbouring aerodrome, and one, on returning, was able to tell the exact location of the Prussian storm troops, having been invited by the Squadron-Commander to accompany him in a B.E. tractor. On the 17th a move was made to Waratah Camp, on the Poperinghe-Reninghelst road. This was a large station, accommodating as many as four or five hundred sick cases, and the tent subdivision worked the place.
48 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
The bearers went up into the line in front of Hooge, to Clapham junction, clearing from Glencorse Wood and Inverness Copse-names of hateful memory. The second phase of the battle had commenced on the 16th, but Fritz had elaborated his pill-box system of defence, and our division had a warm reception. On 22nd August they' attacked astride the Menin road, and after six days of continuous local fighting, established themselves in the western edge of Inverness Copse' (official dispatches). Our bearers had a rough week. Broomhead and Cole were killed, and Breckell died of wounds. Moore, Levett, Lawson, Scales, Miller, Southern, Groves, Hargreaves, and Jenkinson were wounded and evacuated, and there were nine minor casualties, including Alf. French, -Knowles, Taylor, Aspland, and Sgt. Watson (gassed). In this record, reference to casualties is made in a seemingly heartless fashion. We find it hard, however, to refer at all to the sad incidents which cut off old chums from those who had, in most cases, been associated with them, in duty and pleasure, since the days of the Crookham hutments. We were, after all, just one large family, and the loss of one after another struck hard at us.
We left Waratah Camp on 31st August for Bailleul, and barely four days had elapsed before the unit which relieved us suffered heavily from two big shells which dropped in the camp. What wretched weather we had in this sector for the next four months! One might have guessed that a British offensive was on. Our first meeting with the Australians was at Bailleul. They were fine fellows, but a rest area which had been visited by them was henceforth spoiled for other British troops. The Auzzies had too much money, and, to put it mildly, too free and easy manners. We relieved an Australian Field Ambulance at a chateau in Bailleul. The night bombing, which was lively enough at Waratah, was continued here with greater intensity, probably on account of the aerodrome in the vicinity. Bombs of very heavy calibre fell, so that great damage was done.
49 YPRES AGAIN
On 7th September the unit moved up the Ravelsberg slope to the east of the town, opposite the aerodrome. We took over two or three large huts and received cases during the next month. We had a fair share of footer and cricket, including the great game of cricket with the 14th Divisional Head-quarters eleven. They had three county amateurs, but we dismissed them for 15, and won by about 50 runs. October the 6th saw us on the move again, to Westoutre; and on the 9th we shifted to La Clytte. The village and its surroundings now seemed very strange to us, owing to the large number of troops there. It was a quiet little place when we knew it in ' 15.
On 12th October we took over a station at Woodcote Farm, on the Lille gate side of Ypres, and had posts at the ecole, on the Menin road, at Zillebeke, and at Clapham Junction. Pack mules were used to carry rations and equipment to our men in the line, as the condition of the ground was so bad. H.Q. had the wind up one night, when a miniature engine broke down and left eight trucks of ammunition on the line all night. The shells that fell near us missed the ammunition, but one exploded among our cars and destroyed a Ford and a Sunbeam.
The bearers worked very hard in this sector, although the heavy fighting was on the Passchendaele side. The carrying was in long stages, and very difficult and risky. The posts had curious names-Tank View, Stirling Castle, Clapham Junction, Jackdaw Lane, and so on. On the first day that the bearers went up, the 12th, Bill Wykes and Fry were killed. Poor Bill! there was no worthier fellow. Douglas, Barnett, Churchland, Geddes, and T. Jones were wounded and sent down. There were nine minor casualties, including Humphrey, Blyth, Storey, A. Marshall, and Collup. On 24th October we moved back to Godewaersvelde, which had good Flanders mud right enough, but, of course, was heaven compared with the line. The unit entrained at Caestre on 12th November, and made its way, by Wizernes, to Hallines. This place endeared itself to us by reason of the warm welcome received on all sides.
50 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
It also introduced us to the first W.A.A.C.'s we had seen in France. Then,' Chinks' were numerous here. It was no joke when these worthies fell sick, for a G.S. wagon was required to take just one man's kit. As for 'us, we were scattered all over the village: Q.M. stores down one road, dispensary about half a mile from the M.I. room, and the men billeted here, there, and everywhere. On 28th November we had what proved to be our last football match with the 43rd- those old rivals of ours. We lost 2-1. The amount of francs which were supposed to pass between the officers on these occasions, assumed the magnitude attached to all myths.
Hallines was left at the end of November, with many regrets, especially as we knew that we were again bound for the salient. The transport went by road, via Arques and that hill-town Cassel, the remainder by rail to Brandhoek, for the Red Farm on the Pop.-Vlamertinghe road. The Old Prison at Ypres, and the insatiable Passchendaele beyond, soon claimed most of us. The conditions up the line had by this time become disgusting, and Rat Farm, Waterloo Farm, and Somme Redoubt were dirty holes. Happily, the fighting for the famous ridge, from which it had been hoped to bombard Ostend, Bruges, and Zeebrugge, had died down. We had only one casualty, but one whom the unit was loath to part with-' Barney' Flood. It was about now that one of those general feelings of depression (happily very uncommon with us) came down over the Army. Russia had packed up, Italy had been overwhelmed, and we knew that our losses had been terrific, with apparently meagre results. Was not our own unit sharply divided between the' bitter-enders' and the' peace-at-any price' party? Strange as it may seem, it was the March, 1918, reverse that turned most of the latter into' bitter-enders ' !
51 YPRES AGAIN
By Boxing Day we were on the move back, some by rail and some by road, from Brandhoek-and, luckily, to Hallines. December had been a cold, snowy, miserable month, as the number of trench-feet cases which passed through the Ambulance showed, but it ended up with our cheery, big Xmas celebration. Which of us does not remember the enormous early ration of stewed rabbit, and then the late dinner in the P.U.O. ward, with roast beef, brussels sprouts, plum pudding, nuts, dates, etc.? (Let the veil be drawn over certain other happenings.) P .U.O. reminds one how fond the Army was of abbreviations. Our medical ones, I.C. T., D.A.H., N. Y .D., and all their relations, not forgetting M. and D., will always remain dear to us. Oh ! unfortunate M. and D., how you have stood in the minds of hundreds of thousands as a symbol of indifference, harshness, and worse qualities. It is only a partial answer to say that men often fancy they are ill, and that' lead-swingers' were not unknown in the Army. Before the next war, it would be well if the B.M.A. and the D.M.S. devised a brand of sick parade, which would not send multitudes back into civilian life permanent enemies of the medical profession.
It was at Hallines that a classical example of Army' flogging' occurred. A bright spark' acquired' from the Q.M. stores a drum of paraffin and flogged it-to whom, think ye? To the Madame in whose house the Quartermaster himself was billeted.
CHAPTER VI THE MARCH ’18 RETREAT AND AFTER
From Hallines we marched on 3rd January to St. Orner, where we entrained for Edgehill railhead (Dernancourt) . It was a freezing night, and a 10 km. walk over glassy and hilly roads to Sailly-le-Sec (Sally-in-the-Sack, it la Dougherty) awaited us. What merriment our flounderings about on the slippery surface caused! A quiet three weeks of cold and snow followed-trips to Amiens, walks to Corbie, sliding on the frozen Somme Canal, scrounging for wood in the old trenches. Little thought we that within three months those trenches would be used, and that Sailly-le-Sec and Sailly Laurette would be obliterated. Most will remember the incident here of the wooden bedstead and chest of drawers, confiscated from an unoccupied house, the owner's chase in search, and the pacification of the enraged Frenchman by a 100-franc douceur from our ever-gallant O.C.
On 22nd January we started a four days' trek to an area new to all. The British had agreed to take over a further portion of the French line, and it was to this new southern extreme of our line that we, as part of the Fifth Army, migrated. It proved an enjoyable march, in good weather, over the devastated area which Fritz had evacuated the previous spring. First to Fresnoy-en-Chaussee (24 kms.), then to Arvillers (5 kms.) only, no billets being available in poor, battered Roye, which had, though, plenty of American farming implements. Truly, a desolate region this. Then by Solente to Tirlancourt and Bethancourt-36 kms., a good march. Who said there was cider in our water-bottles? Then a final 16 kms. Through Flavy-le-Martel to what was once Jussy, on the Crozat Canal, where we promptly indulged in boating.
53 MARCH '18 RETREAT AND AFTER
We settled down comfortably for two months in the French huts and dug-outs south of the canal. Fritz left us alone; the periodical trips up the line to the A.D.S. at Benay and the R.A.P.'s at Moy and Cerizy were almost enjoyable; the weather was AI, and leave went well. Under Townend's direction, Rugger caught on. Agriculture flourished as per G.R.O.'s, and we looked forward to eating beaucoup lettuce. But-there is always a but in the affairs of this mortal life-we knew from the home papers what activities were going on just behind those ridges on the other side of the Oise. The lack of preparations on our side, the way his airmen were allowed to reconnoitre and to bring down our balloons, the large number of boys who came streaming into our old seasoned infantry, all showed that we were entreating Jerry to break through on our sector. And on Thursday, 21st March, he duly complied: the fun began at 5 a.m., and by evening the majority of the 14th Division infantry had gone west.¹ Our quarters, being near the bridgehead, caught the shelling rather heavily. Happily none of our men was higher up than Montescourt, and only Lidgett of the M. T .'s got nabbed; but the poor old 43rd, who were up the line, caught it hot, having 61 killed, wounded, and missing. Montescourt was evacuated only when no more wounded came through.
Back, back, back we went by degrees, doing what we could for the wounded at hastily extemporised dressing stations at Flavy-le-Martel (Tom Mossman was wounded here), Villeselve, Beaumont-en-Beine and Guiscard. Shall we ever forget the packed state of the roads, the ebb southwards of the mauled units, and the coming through of the reliefs, especially the
cavalry? It was a grim satisfaction to know that the cavalry-men put up such a fight round our old quarters along the canal, that the channel was literally packed level with German dead.
¹ The 41st, 42nd, and 43rd Brigades were all in the line from Moy northwards, holding a front of over three miles (18th Division on right, 36th on left). The advanced battalions, 8th and 9th K.R.R.'s and 6th S.L.I.'s, were' sacrificed almost to a man' during the first rush. By the 25th, when the remnants were taken out at Noyon, the Division had suffered 5880 casualties.
55 MARCH '18 RETREAT AND AFTER
And yet amidst all this confusion, one of our sergeants could be seen trundling along a perambulator, containing a case of champagne taken from an abandoned E.F.C. canteen. Truly, a wonderful war! We will not dwell on the grim side of the picture, of the thousands of wounded brought down to Noyon and the difficulty of dealing with them promptly. Didn't those hefty cavalrymen take some carrying? On the last day alone, when the centre of the town was being shelled, the 46th C.C.S. evacuated successfully about 2000 wounded. A pitiable sight, too, as we got farther back, were the refugees, pushing along their few valuables in barrows and trucks. One thing a Frenchwoman sticks to like grim death is her mattress.
The retreat had one tragic episode for us. Coming by the same roads as the' Old Contemptible' 2nd Corps took in the retreat from Mons in August 1914, we had nearly reached Noyon¹. We were congratulating ourselves that we were almost outside the maelstrom, when a Fritz airman managed to plump a bomb right in the middle of us as we halted by the roadside. As bad luck would have it, the bomb fell on the hard road, with disastrous results. It killed eight of our lot, including the French interpreter, Marius Chastel, and wounded eleven, two subsequently dying. The 43rd had four killed and seven wounded. Our killed were Q.M.S. Cattrall, S.Sgt. Hegarty, Sandy Gordon, and Billy Raines (all old originals) ; and of the A.S.C. Sgt. Harvey and Strang, and Simmonds (M.T.) . It was with sad hearts that we dug their graves in the little cemetery beyond the C.C.S. The wounded included Paul, Rose, Gawman, Bowcock, and Parkin.
From Noyon we extricated ourselves westwards to Lassigny and Ressons-sur-Matz, then round to Compiegne, and by devious ways to Amiens. We opened a dressing station at Blangy, the suburb of Corbie.
¹ If ever I join the Church of Rome, I shall stipulate to be Bishop of Noyon, on the Oise' (Stevenson's An Inland Voyage). Lovers of Stevenson will recall how he came paddling down the Oise to Moy (' sweet was our rest in the' Golden Sheep' at Moy') and La Fere .of cursed memory,' past Chauny to Noyon, and so on to Compiegne. Poor R.L.S.! what would he have said to the present desolation along his beautiful Oise ? Noyon also boasted the house in which Calvin was born.
56 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
A more advanced post at Fouilloy had to be abandoned on account of the heavy shelling during the enemy's final bid for Amiens on 5th April. A S.R.D. jar labelled' Eusol' was found at Blangy, but the contents were eagerly mopped up by those on duty, much to the astonishment of the M.O.'s. This brand of Edinburgh University Solution Of Lime came from Jamaica.
We reached Ecquedecques, after a series of marches, on 21st April, and here we settled down in the farm buildings and orchards, content after our weary wanderings. A party left behind with the 58th Division at Chauny, under S.Sgt. Smith, reached the unit on 5th April; but it was not until 3rd May that a larger party under S.Sgt. Cook and Sgt. Corbishley reached Ecquedecques, after various vicissitudes with the 46th C.C.S. at Noyon, Amiens, Picquigny and Crouy.
Officially we were real orphans, as our Division, with seven other of the badly mauled divisions, was written down to cadre strength, being in process of re-formation in England. So the authorities attached to us the Portuguese (known familiarly, of course, as the Pork and Beans), and they afforded us some amusement, especially when they got excited at football. We had, however, two historic games with the Canadian Black Watch, who were out on rest close by. At the first match our men had no proper togs, all having been abandoned in the March retreat, and the Canadians must have thought us a queer lot as we took the field in all kinds of attire. We drew 1-1 none the less, and despite their old Scottish international centre-half. For the return match we managed to borrow outfits. Excitement had day by day increased in both camps, and it was a very worked-up crowd which flocked to the ground on 17th May. They were fully rewarded, for a better match one could hardly have wished to see. Our chaps were really magnificent, and by 2-0 gave the famous Canadians one of the very few defeats they sustained in France.
57 MARCH '18 RETREAT AND AFTER
We must not mention individual deeds (printing is dear), so we give the whole team :-Griffin, Morris, Atkinson, Tree, Bury, McKenzie, Chalke, Southall, Hindmarch, Traill, Johnstone.
'All this is magnificent, but it is not war,' says some one. Is it not? Jerry lost the war by concentrating on such silly things as Hymns of Hate. We won it by playing, and laughing, and doing things in the spirit of the 18th Londons, when they dribbled their football across No Man's Land in the attack on Loos.
Our farm buildings were typical of those in which we were so often billeted. In the form of a square, on one side are Monsieur and Madame's quarters. Barns, cow houses, stables, and lofts form the other three sides. In the centre is the spacious manure dump. In one corner of the yard is the big wheel, lightly built and well balanced, which the dog turns in order to churn milk. The dog lives in state in the centre of the manure heap, in a circular stone kennel with conical roof. As to lofts, 'A' section's at Ecquedecques was the envy of all. Milk was plentiful and cheap, so our bergoo was quite tasty.
Probably Major Barton can recall the placing of a guard on an unofficial entrance to the camp, so as to waylay two N.C.O.'s who were thought to be keeping late hours and ruining their health. Fortunately for the latter, they were very friendly with the sentry. It was here that L. Atkinson went away on duty with the R.A.F., and was killed in a bombing raid.
Rumours of the unit being broken up became prevalent. At a concert held in our orchard on 6th May, when' Spoutie 'gave us his wonderful football oration, the most popular item on the programme had been an announcement by Major Barton that the unit was not to be dispersed. We knew that the Army, quite rightly, did one week what the previous week it had said it was not going to do, but we were, nevertheless, fed up when told on 27th May that the 44th was to be no more.
58 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
Sixteen were to go as a cadre to an American division. 'C' section had gone to Crepy, and it was only' A ' and' B ' sections who paraded on 28th May to hear the O.C. say farewell. We all (even the comparative newcomers) felt the position acutely, none more so than good old' Bluffer.' One cannot snap years of comradeship without emotion. The next day we entrained at Lillers station, and we caught sight of a tear in Major B. 's eyes as he waved farewells.
Etaples and Rouen followed, but we were at the base six days only, one of which was spent at the famous' Bull Ring.' By 8th June we were in the orchards of Affringues, near Lumbres, with the 103rd Field Ambulance, on our way back to the resurrected 44th. A few were left behind, either having been made' B' category, or having acquired temperatures. On the 14th we were all united once more, amid rejoicings, at Bournonville, to which the cadre had come. This district, with Desvres as centre, was the training ground for .the Americans. We had an Ambulance attached to us for instruction, with the result that we 'guessed' and' calculated' and greeted one another with 'Say, bo.' With the lovely woods at the back and a fine bathing pool in front we had a good time. Spanish influenza, however, kept the nursing orderlies busy, and pot.-permang. parades were a nuisance. On 6th July we marched 2 kms. beyond Réty. The Division was now back again in France (under Major-Gen. Skinner), a 'B' division this time, composed of battalions with strangely high numbers. We were on the move again by 10th July, when we went by Hardinghem to Licques (mem. the stiff hills), and via Clerques to beyond Gueny, arriving at Watten on the 12th.
Watten had seen us in May 1915, and we now had a very happy five weeks there. Our swimming improved wonderfully, with the canal so handy, and we ventured upon a swimming gala for the unit, followed by an inter-ambulance gala. Nick Gearty won the 100 yards, with the S.M. second, and in the inter-ambulance relay Braithwaite, Lusty, Bowcock, and Hopkins carried the 44th to victory
59 MARCH '18 RETREAT AND AFTER
. There was also fishing for bream, for which consult Bill Knight, Tubby Eaton, and George Harbard. Then Ferdie Chalke got to work on a sports meeting, which went off well. Traill, as usual, distinguished himself, and Sammy Griffin did well in the long-distance race. The mop fighting, and the sack football between the sections, caused much merriment. Lest it should be thought that all was holiday, it is as well to mention that we were running a hospital in a disused shoe factory overlooking the canal.
Watten also gave us the opportunity of some games of cricket, and, incidentally, enabled Capt. Graham to break his nose, and Chalke to have three teeth knocked out, in the process of slaying, on a matting pitch, our old rivals, the 29th C.C.S. Let us chronicle the names of our cricket team: Wolfe (capt.), Capt. Graham, Watson, Corbishley, Hellrich, Rimmer, Chalke, Lusty, Hindmarch, Atkinson, Townend, Harrison, Traill, and Johnstone, H. and A. M.
Sgt.-Major Gawthorne left us on 5th August to take up a commission with the 141st Field Ambulance, and Q.M.S. Penney, mercurial and cheerful, appeared upon the scene. On the 20th we entrained for Proven, via Bergues. Then a march through the hopfields, for a week's stay in a nice little camp at St. J ans-ter-Biezen, where we took in a few sick. On the last morning, just to hurry us up, Jerry put a 4.9 shell in the middle of our field, and seven others in the turnip field adjoining. He was still very close in round Ypres, being on the S. W. side up to Dickebusch lake and in full possession of Mt. Kemmel. A little toy railway took us from Proven to Bollezeele, where we settled down to run the Corps Rest Station on the top of the hill. 'B' section, however, went off to the Abbe Farm, near Pop. We had a quiet time in our Nissen huts, and the nice hot baths were good. The fields of flax and tobacco were very noticeable all round here. A hockey team was started, and met with great success, being unbeaten.
CHAPTER VII THE FINAL TREK
In the Ypres sector the position had by now much improved. Bailleul was found unoccupied on 30th August, and on 6th September Mount Kemmel was captured. Everything pointed to the Ambulance doing something active again, after its five months' enforced quiescence. Some of us would have liked to have been in the wonderful battles which commenced on 23rd August across our old March '18 area and on to the Hindenburg line. We started at Ypres in May' I 5, and, as it turned out, we were to finish active service by taking part in the last push, which completely freed the much-battered town. On 16th September we left our comfortable Rest Station -let a grateful note be made of the way in which the B.R.C. supplemented the material comforts at such places; comforts, dare one add, of which Field Ambulances had a due share.
Poperinghe was our destination, whence we went to the Abbe Farm, beyond the strange town of little wooden and biscuit-tin huts which had now sprung up on that side of Pop. On the 19th nine squads and a tent subdivision went to Ouderdom, to get ready the M.D.S. at that place, and the A.D.S. at Dickebusch, for the coming' do.' On the 21st, the remainder of the unit went to the old Rest Camp at Abeele, then being run by the 42nd, and soon all moved up to Ouderdom. Sandbagging was the order of these days, with trips to the laiterie and brasserie. Round here the little propaganda balloons of Lord Northcliffe could often be seen sailing away over to the German lines.
On 28th September, at 3 a.m., the bombardment started at the coast. 5.30 was our zero time, and after a short but intense burst of firing (ah! the beautiful crack of the 18-pounders!) the Division went over with the 35th. 'A brilliant success,' said the dispatches. Fritz was shoved miles down the Comines road to Kortewilde, while northwards he was rolled right over the farther slope of Passchendaele. All in one day, too!
61 THE FINAL TREK
Thus ended in our favour the Homeric strugglefor Ypres, which in all cost us 300,000 killed and about a million in wounded. If our Ambulance missed the great battles in the south, it was some consolation to take part in the finale of the doings in the dreaded salient. Comparatively few wounded came through to us, and of these a fair proportion were German. The A.D.S. was quickly moved up to Voormezele, but the fighting had gone far beyond, and on the 30th all packed up and went back to Ouderdom. Four M.M. 's came to the Ambulance, none being more popular than Dan Harmer's.
Three days later we had a hot, sunny march, in full pack, through the remains of Locre, then by Crucifix Corner, on to the slopes overlooking the Bailleul-Armentieres road, where we pitched camp. Jerry had some deep dug-outs at the top of the slope. During our first night he came over, bombing disgustingly low, with machine-gun going. Geoff Whitaker talked to us, on .the Sunday, on Crucifix Corner. By this time we had all got to like' old Geoff' and his pack so fearfully and wonderfully made; we were proud of our own parson, who stuck it as a private for nearly four years. A great deal more good would have been accomplished if all the younger clergy had followed Geoff's example, and enlisted as chaplains in the ranks, and not, by becoming officers, cut themselves right off from the fellows they wished to influence.
The 8th-13th October was spent at Vlamertinghe, near the old mill. Then, by Reninghelst and Locre, to Hoogenacker, for a few days' quiet in small shacks and glorified dog kennels. Good news was coming through all the time, and the peace-at-any-price party lost its last member. We left our hamlet of shacks on the 17th, and in three hours we were in Messines village. From the mass of ruins of the church, one got a fine view over the historic ridge on to the plain beyond. The Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing industrial area was clearly outlined in the background. Fritz had hopped it very quickly, and, from now onwards, it became a question of tramp, tramp, all the time.
62 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
The descent over the farther slope of Messines ridge was interesting. The roads soon began to get quite good, the trees were not blasted and had leaves on, then real fields, with crops in them, came into view. We reached Comines, a good deal knocked about, and, by the afternoon of the 18th, an advanced party got to Blanc Four, on the outskirts of Tourcoing. Jerry's rear guard had left the previous afternoon, and our Division was still pegging away after him up to the Scheldt. All the people were delighted to see us, and were very grateful for the food we gave them, the good old Army stew being especially appreciated.
The next day, 19th October, was an extraordinary day, one which those who took part in its happenings will never forget. The triumphal entry into Tourcoing, let it be called. We left Blanc Four, with transport complete, at two o'clock, and by three we were in Tourcoing. The enthusiasm in the streets on the outskirts was infectious, but as nothing to the outburst which greeted us as we got nearer and nearer the Grande Place. The women and children came rushing out of the houses, shaking hands with us, pinning favours on our tunics, dancing and shouting, and even kissing the more handsome of us ! Major Barton, who led the column, twice had bouquets presented to him-we all hugely enjoyed the blushes with which these tokens were received. Probably there were few of us who did not feel a tugging at the heart, at all the genuine demonstrations of joy and gratitude. Even some of the hardened old originals were heard to say, at the end of the day, that it was worth while to have stuck it so long, in order to be able to participate in such proceedings. We drew up in the Grande Place, and had tea, to the great curiosity of the crowds. The bread was deemed to be très blanc, and while they would not drink our tea, they sampled our jam, butter, and cheese-articles they had not tasted for years. Didn't the kiddies look small and thin, too. And the able-bodied had practically disappeared. We soon heard many tales of the petty, mean tyrannies imposed during the enemy's four years' occupation.
63 THE FINAL TREK
That same afternoon we went on to Wattrelos (the unit's historian asserting that Wellington here won his victory), and made a woollen mill our billet for the next three weeks. An A.D.S. was established in a working estaminet in. the village of Dottignies, 6 kms. away over the Belgian frontier. It was strange to have such a post surrounded by real cultivated fields, and with shell-holes far away. Jerry had taken all the horses, cattle, pigs, and even poultry, and all metal and wool, with the result that the poor people were in a sorry plight. The danger zone was along the left bank of the Scheldt, where the little villages of Pecq, Marcoing, Espierres, and Helchin suffered much damage. Bob Nichols got his Belgian Croix de Guerre by his work of evacuating people from this zone.
Things were quite quiet, machine-gun fire and gas shelling being the main activity. On Saturday, the 9th, Jerry retired; so the pursuit was commenced again on the other side of the river. We moved the A.D.S. up to Espierres, to the chateau of the Baron of that place, but had nothing to do, as the 14th Division soon gave up the chase to two other divisions. The men and youths, taken for forced labour in Belgium, now came streaming back, an interesting, but sad, sight. On the Monday morning there appeared on the board the notice, so long looked for and so often despaired of, ‘Hostilities will cease at 11 a.m.’
We lounged about the chateau grounds until the magic hour arrived, heard a few cheers, watched the R.E.'s send up a few flares, and so, too tamely, ended with us the Great War.
CHAPTER VIII TOURCOING REVELS AND GOOD-BYES
The cessation of hostilities found most of us with feelings hard to analyse. The change came so quickly, and we were out in an odd corner of Belgium, with few other troops and with no civilians to rouse us up to work off our feelings. It was hard to realise that slime, mud, and blood would cease to be part of our life, or that timber and concrete would no longer be our normal environment. No more washing in water already' twelve thick'; back we were going for good to real beds, clean sheets, and clothes that knew not lice. Hurrah! Some regrets popped up, though. There were past failures and lost opportunities, e.g. why had we not handled that wounded limb more tenderly, why had we not spared a smile for that poor chap in pain on the stretcher, or had we done enough for that dying lad? But the Army is no place for over-much thinking, so off we went to drag out the baron's piano for song and dance. After a thanksgiving service we settled down to ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag’; ‘Three cheers for the old civvy suit,’ and ‘If the Sergeant drinks your rum, never mind.’ Before we grow old and memory fails, let us put down the words we were so fond of shouting at the three-striped folk:
If the Sergeant drinks your rum, never mind.
If the Sergeant drinks your rum, never mind.
He's entitled to a tot,
But he sups the b---y lot.
If the Sergeant drinks your rum, never mind.
During that evening innumerable bottles of whatnot (what were they not?) were discovered in a cleverly hidden lair, and most of the unit was laid out.
65 TOURCOING: REVELS AND GOOD-BYES
. The doings of G., H., and B. made the few sober split their sides; and who was it that at midnight embraced the pump as his dear friend?
On the 15th we marched back to Tourcoing, and settled down in the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Fritz had used it as a hospital and the beds were most welcome, likewise the many coffins we found in the cellars. Not to bury our patients in, but to stoke our fires! Our rooms were very comfortable. 'B' section's' hardskins had a specially comfortable room, various efforts to dislodge them being invariably repulsed with loss.
We now had a real holiday. It is true that the Base sent us, rather late in the day, a Sgt.-Major, who tried to make us peace-time soldiers, but the Quarante-Quatre were not having any. Fatigues were few, in spite of the transport having to be cleaned every few minutes by a perspiring (?) fatigue party, and turned round every other five minutes. By the way, when the party dispersed, it was always noticed that Geoff Whitaker was the last in. The sick, of course, had to be attended to, and these included civilians during the first few weeks. Foreseeing the possibility of early demobilisation, many dental, eye, and ear cases appeared, and a special Demobilisation Room had to be opened to deal with disability cases. Hence the M.I. Room prepared for work on a far larger scale than ever, so that the old Primus stoves worked merrily, if the nursing staff did not. One nursing orderly even asked the Q.M. if it were possible to obtain a Soyers stove. Ah! there was a good deal of mystery about the needs of the sick. The indents for aspirin, quinine, lint, and so on, were enormous, and one can only suppose that private patients abounded.
There were many outlets for our energy. At football we vanquished all in the brigade. We must not forget Hindmarch's suspension by an irate Brigadier-General, in the 12th Suffolk match. The R.A.M.C. team won the Divisional competition, beating the 47th R.F.A. by 10-1 in the semi-final, and the Loyal North Lancs. by 4-0 in the final.
66 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
As this is the last reference to sport, Ferdie Chalke's summary of the unit's activities in games is interesting:
Played Won Lost Drawn Goals for,
Football (Soccer) . 137 123 7 7 311 ;
" (Rugger) .8 4 4 - against, 96
Cricket. .43 27 13 3
Hockey. 6 6 - -
Someone revived cross-country running, in which Jock Burleigh found his long legs useful. Huitt introduced table tennis, which caught on. A debating society ventilated views on such vital themes as 'Should bachelors be taxed?' 'Is civilisation worth the price?' 'Town v. Country.' There was rinking to be had, and boxing matches to be seen, in the town; we had Army joy trips to Bruges, Ostend, and Brussels; while, next door to us, stood a good bathing place. Who' won' a bundle of new shirts one dark night? Cinemas were numerous, and the Divisional concert party occupied the Municipal Theatre and gave some good shows. Our old friend, 'Oh I oh I oh I said Carrie,' had to give way to :
'Give me a 'aporth of 'undreds and thahsands,
And please pick 'em aht all white.'
Tourcoing will, however, probably be remembered most for its dancing. We had a splendid hall in the Ecole and a good floor, which, by the time we left, was in fine condition, thanks to the voluntary fatigue parties, Sgt. Freeborn's floor polishers, and the candles which came up with the rations. Gordon's lighting effects, too, were much admired. Under Charlie Lusty's capable management and instruction we were able to introduce several new dances, which always took well with our friends, who were wont to speak of ' les belles danses anglaises.' This, with the help of a good band from the Loyal North Lancs., spread the fame of our dances. We could have filled our hall over and over again, and it was quite an honour to receive a ticket for the Quarante-quatre Danse.
67 TOURCOING: REVELS AND GOOD-BYES
A very capable committee saw to it that affairs were select, and we had , our own caterers, the old firm of Rumball and French. The French mazurka was a very popular item. The first programme, by the way, was printed the same size as the copy supplied to the printers-the ladies called it 'le journal anglais.' Each fellow had his Marie, Eugenie, or Yvonne. On looking up one's engagements for the dances, one would find something like this: No.5, Louise; No.9, Red blouse; No. 16, Blue hair ribbon; but we soon got to know the names right enough.
In short, Tourcoing, for most of us, was just one round of pleasure; and, seeing that the war was over, we enjoyed it to the full. A good many men had billets in the town, or at Wattrelos, or had the houses 'of their best girls to go to. There was one mysterious set called the' Inner Circle.' This had in its ranks a few musicians, and we believe that the Circle spent many happy times at different house parties. Christmas was duly celebrated in the great hall, and the sergeants had an extra special affair on Boxing night. We are sorry that we cannot print Q.M.S. Penney's contribution to the concert, ' My idea of a perfect day.'
Ah ! these were great days. With so many delights available, one would have supposed that men would be reluctant to return to hard work and rising prices. Many, however, clamoured to be demobilised at once, and there were heated discussions as to who really were pivotal men. Major Barton and the miners were the first to go to St. Andre. After the miners, their country seemed to need most the policemen and teachers. By March, 1919,many a link with the past had been .severed, for the unit was now only at about half strength. Colonel Egan left in March for India and Major Graham assumed command.
68 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
The transport moved to Estaimpuis in March, and, with a few details from the ambulance, settled down comfortably for three months in the boys' school.
By May we were a much reduced company, with Capt. Foster in command. Sixteen of the sixty-three' old originals' who came to Tourcoing had offered to stay on to the end, but orders came for all 1914 men to return, so, on June 4, off they went to St. Andre, Staff Cook at the head. Gillespie's reluctance to leave Mr. Foster was most touching. We missed John Rimmer's canteen after this. In these last days Hullah was running, on his own, both M.I. and A. and D. rooms; Jimmy Brown and Rice were cooks; Bamford was post corporal; and so on.
The cadre left Herseaux station on June 18, Major Bonham-Carter, of H.Q., and Major Dunlop giving the official farewells. Eleven pleasant days followed at Antwerp at the dock camp run by the Liverpool Scottish. There were few fatigues, and permanent passes were given for the town. Peace terms were signed while here, and the 44th duly joined in the gaieties down town. The finale now came quickly. All the wagons and equipment were swung on to a capacious barge by huge electric cranes, we leave it to the reader to picture Capt. Foster's feelings on seeing his beloved equipment disappear for ever. One more Field Return sent in, censorship stamp No. 3488 returned to store, and, with the band playing' Auld Lang Syne,' the 44th Field Ambulance moved off, on June 29, for Boulogne for dispersal, and so became a thing of the past.
In that happy land, where the ghosts of disbanded units recount old difficulties, and glory in old triumphs, may the spirit of the 44th, its long wanderings over, find rest.
CHAPTER IX CONCERNING THE A.S.C.
So many references have been made in the foregoing pages to the activities of the A.S.C. attached, that there is no need to emphasise how intimately they were bound up with those of the unit proper. Although the H.T.'s opinion of the bearers was often expressed in lurid language, it was mostly a case of working off harassed feelings, and many good friendships were formed.
As has been truly said, one's general impressions of the horse variety of transport are mud and language, and of the mechanical variety, Primus stoves and broken springs.
The H. T. were often the envy of the bearers, particularly when trekking; but a horse or two to look after takes the gilt off the gingerbread. Especially as it was always a case of 'Horse first concern, driver second.' Still, the transport boys had many good times together in their little section. Occasionally, some did not see quite eye to eye as to the extent horses should be groomed, harness cleaned, stables and lines cleared up, or the numbers necessary to go on stable picquet and fire picquet. (Fire picquet, by the way, was the greatest farce ever introduced.) Despite the long hours, the mud, and the temper of animals, fun was not altogether absent from the horse lines.
S.S.Mjr. Corps directed from January, 1916, to finish; and Sgt. Bowmar endured right from the start to the end. It would be a reminder of old days if we could persuade the S.M. to emerge from his Sussex retreat, and again sing us his own, 11-15 p.m. version of ' The One Man Band.' Who does not remember him with a large Glaxo (Builds Bonnie Babies) tin, suspended by a string round his neck, and, by means of two sticks, providing his own accompaniment?
The transport, of course, were always renowned for their scrounging and' acquiring' qualities
70 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
If, as has been noted, the M. T .' s had their Primus stoves, the H. T .' s rarely lacked a good supply of coal, coke, and wood. Whence came the supply was a standing puzzle to the Q.M., and it is doubtful if even that acute soldier ever knew the whole truth. Then again, how the Q.M., the Q.M.S., and Charlie Lusty would cast suspicious eyes on the new riding pants, which periodically graced the legs of the drivers! We may as well own up now, that kind friends at 14 D.A.D.O.S. and 39 D.A.D.O.S. did not fail the poor transport.
Who can forget that little incident of the civilian heavy cart, as the unit was on the move from L' Arbre a Mouches? Either honestly or dishonestly, the unit had become possessed of this cart on the morning of the move from Liencourt. On arriving at L' Arbre, it was found that the near wheel was in a state of collapse, and, receiving orders to move next morning, action was necessary . Fortune smiled on us that night, and we had a really good wheel, all in its place, when we set off. Before we had done a dozen kilos a D.R. caught us up, with a message from Brigade H.Q., and both wheel and cart had to be sent back to the farmer to appease his wrath. A. Taylor took the wheel back, and the old farmer was so overjoyed on finding that he was to have not only his own wheel, but the remainder of the vehicle for nothing, that Taylor was lushed with so much cognac and vin rouge that he felt it his duty to remain under the roof of his host until the morning.
Of the personality of mules and horses much could be written. Of mules, Brownie takes us back to Tweezledown days. On the night before the 42nd moved, our stable picquet reported the loss of a mule. Orders were issued that something had to be found, with the result that Brownie came to us. Originally he was issued to the 42nd, but none ever regretted the transfer, for he was, without doubt, the best all-round mule that we ever had. He stuck it like a hero right to Tourcoing. Here he was classified CZ, and went to Linselles to be sold, so now he is probably working' down on the farm.
71 CONCERNING THE A.S.C.
Of quite a different type were those with which J. Simpson was burdened. One was named Johnny, who, apart from being very ugly, had a great dislike to anyone approaching his head, except with a nose-bag. Simpson used to pass most unchristian like remarks about him, as also about Jaegar, his other mount. Jaegar must have joined up when he was about twenty years old. His sunken eyes, his crocky knees, and loss of teeth made a doleful sight.
Some of the horses would have made good mascots for Barnum and Bailey, or Bostock and Wombwell. Charlie Willmott usually seemed fated to have charge of one or more of them. One of the first he had was a black gelding, with a star on forehead, and all' skin and grief.' This one was known as Nigger, and referred to by Charlie as 'my big horse.' His other at this time was Darkie, or ' Charlie's little horse.' Presently Nigger took a turn for the worse, becoming remarkably like a clothes-horse, and was cast. Charlie's next capture was a grey mare, and, in keeping with the traditions of Camberwell, S.E., he christened her Liza. Some' horse, too, a picture of grief, and (dare we say it ?) as old as Charlie himself. Finally, in her place, came a bright article of seventeen hands, and aged thirteen. This ugly brute looked like a cross between an elephant and a rhinoceros. He had a pace of about two miles an hour, and finally went as a remount to the' British Army on the Rhine,' there to ruin the soul of some honest British soldier.
The transport had happy memories of Ravelsberg, especially of the days before the section was combed out. It will be remembered that a number of drivers had to be sent away to other arms of the service, and, in their place, came P .B. men. Some of the P.B.'s were really good chaps, and some were-well, not so good. Two were an especial nuisance, one being known as Dan Leno.
One day at Ravelsberg, Bowmar's sharp eye espied an R.F.C. man bringing a parcel and hiding it in some old bean straw in our camp. Investigation disclosed a brand new pair of officer's fur-lined knee boots.
72 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
In due course they came into possession of Capt. Weir, C.O. of the 26th Mobile Vet. Section. By a strange stroke of fortune the first time he wore them was on the line of march, and he was pulled up by the A.P .M. for being in possession of Flying Corps boots. Bowmar could doubtless describe in choice language his next meeting with Capt. Weir. The captain, however, was a real gentleman and a good sport. Once, at Fosseux, he stayed up all night with one of our horses, which was very ill with colic, and kept Moxon, A. Taylor, and Bowmar in good humour with funny .stories-and rum.
One last incident. One of the officers, who shall be nameless, certainly had one attribute, and that was the ability to put the breeze up all and sundry, not even excepting such imperturbables as Mr. Foster and Dougherty. On one of his visits to the transport mud camp outside Poperinghe, it happened that we had a horse ambulance hopelessly stuck in the mud. Drag ropes were on, for the lads to pull the vehicle out, when this officer turned up in a more than usually bad temper. We were watching his feet carefully, though, and noted with joy what was coming. Plump ! He had stepped off the only solid stretch of ground in the camp, and sunk up to his knees in mud. The expression on his face was fiery enough to have exploded cordite. He never visited the lines again. The lady who did Cooley's washing was an onlooker, and whispered, Petit officier, plenty fashy, no bon monsieur, eh ?' With which sentiment-
Turning to the' Emma Tocs,' one cannot but regret that our Sunbeams and Fords had no personalities like horses and mules. The drivers' work was no sinecure. Evacuating wounded along treacherous roads, mostly at night, was trying to nerves, and a strain on the eyes; and one often marvelled at the skill with which ugly obstacles were negotiated. The M. T. certainly carried his house about with him, but he never knew when he might be called up to take a case to hospital or C.C.S. And it was often the case, when on the march, that Bob Nicholls or George Wright would be sent back to the late billet to fetch something along that those wretched bearers had left behind.
73 CONCERNING THE A.S.C.
So the M. T. deserved his comfortable' kip' and the Primus stove. Many, too, have been the lifts given, out of kindness of heart, to tired trampers. After the Armistice, M. T .' s, generally, figured in many 'frontier running' episodes, when valuable cargoes of sugar, rubber, and leather were smuggled through as Army stores.
The 44th could probably tell some strange tales. The game was not always safe. A driver was brought into the Ecole at Tourcoing one day, with a bullet through his thigh, the sequel to refusing to stop, when challenged by a French gendarme, who wished to examine an undeclared cargo of sugar. Well, here's to all the A.S.C., attached! We are sure that most of them were' attached' to the old 44th in more than the Army sense of the word, and were proud of the work which, with their help, the unit accomplished.
They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
ATKINSON, L. A. McCALLUM, C.
AYRE, H. McDADE, H.
BEALCH, T. PAVELY, C. T.
BRECKELL, H. RAINES,
BRITTON, W. RICHARDSON, A. S. SGT
BROOMHEAD, E., L.-CPL (afterwards Sec.-Lieut. R.G.A.)
CATTRALL, J. E., Q.M.S ROBINSON, W.
COLE, W. TOMLINS, J. H.
EASTHAM, R., SGT VINE, F.
FOX, W. WILLIAMS, A.
FRY, E. J.
HALL, P. A.S.C. (attached)
HEGARTY, A., LIEUT. HARVEY, A., SGT
HEGARTY, M., S.-SGT SIMMONDS, E.
HUNTINGTON, W. SMERTHWAITE, W.
LOUND, G. STRANG, J.
‘The fever of life over; and our work done.’
The following documents were rescued from destruction from among the Ambulance records. They had evidently been intended for 3rd Echelon, G.H.Q., but,
by a lucky chance, were saved from such a humdrum ending.
A SPECIAL ACCOUNT OF THE FAMOUS FOOTBALL MATCH AT ECQUEDECQUES, COOKS v. M.T.'S:
Bull (capt.) A. N. Other Padley
Lee Hall Thomas Loasby Nicholls
Clist ; Smith Parkin Lenton Bowcock
McGregor Prescott Maloney
Parkin kicked off, but the game had not been in progress many minutes, when the cooks discovered that they were a man short. The difficulty was solved by Clist making his appearance. He was somewhat unsteady, and it was obvious he had .plonker 'knees. The cooks now made headway, but pressure was relievedby Bruce, who with a huge kick set his forwards going, and from a pass by Nicholls, Loasby beat Duggan, who was sharing a bottle of vin blanc with Clist.
Several of the cooks' supporters now climbed over the railings, and were to be seen remonstrating with their goalkeeper. It was evident that they were talking about yesterday's dinner. Not until each received a tin of bully would the crowd go back. Strange to say, the referee had not stopped the game, and the M. T. 's notched two goals. To make matters worse, the Sanitary Squad took down the canvas which was being used as netting, saying it was required for other purposes. When the referee threw down the ball, Padley got a kick on the shin, and went off for a spare tube. Lenton next, with a brilliant dribble, beat the linesman and put past Pickin with a great shot. The goalkeeper could not be blamed, as he had his goggles on, examining some dirty plugs. End to end play followed, and for the remainder of the first half there was no fighting of importance to record.
In the second half, from a throw-in (by one of the spectators) Bull got a nasty knock in the eye and had to be assisted off the field. Combination by Prescott and the cooks' right wing was stopped by Wright sneezing, and that player placed the ball nicely to Loasby, who fumbled a glorious chance of scoring by stopping to look at his map. Nicholls made another trip up the line and forced a corner off Maloney. From this Thomas made a terrific first time shot. Duggan fell over Clist, and the ball hit him full in the face. Prescott and Clist, who helped to carry Duggan off the field, stopped at a Pontoon School and did not return. After this Bowcock went back to keep goal and made some miraculous saves. One from Loasby he just managed to tip with half a franc, for a corner. The bugles now sounded .Defaulters,' so the team to meet Chelsea in the final is not known.
78 WITH THE FORTY-FOURTHS
ORDERS FOR THE DAY.
ROUTINE ORDERS BY PETER McKINLAY
Misunderstanding 44 Field Ambulance
Orderly Officer for the day Capt. Blaylock.
Next for duty Capt. Walsh.
713 Strength. Pte. W. Guthrie has been transferred to the 5th Batt. Bally
boggan L.I., Irish R.A., and has been struck off the strength.
714 Offences. 28976. Pte. C. G. Whitaker (Irregular conduct). ' Trying to
obtain a pass into Amiens under false pretences, and
creating a disturbance in billets.' 14 days C.B.
31202. Pte. W. H. Brunsdon and Pte. R. J. Ratcliffe (39685).
' Giving No. 3's instead of No. 9's.' Forfeit 7 days' B.R.C.
38976. Pte. A. Haslam. 'Wearing a dirty belt at Clapham
Junction.' 21 days C.B.
310874. Q.M.Sgt. C. Lusty. ' Striking a match in a front line
trench.' Forfeits a day's pay under R.W.
27658. Pte. S. Gore. ' Destroying an indent for stout.' 14
days C. B.
26333. Pte. T. Lackin. 'Interfering with the lighting arrange-
ments at the College, Poperinghe.' 91 days First Field
715 Transport. All N.C.O.'s and men acting as brakesmen will in future be
, issued with running shorts, and may ride down hills.
716 Agriculture. Pte. Beaver will devote his attention to the production of
rhubarb, and troops coming in are requested to watch
717 Rest Stations. N.C.O.'s and men proceeding on leave from D.R.S.'s will not
take with them any bedsteads, pianos or Spencer-Wells
forceps. This order must be strictly carried out, and not
the articles mentioned.
Lost. Near the Q.M. Stores on December 8th, a few articles of kit
French Lessons. Mlle. Esperance,3 Rue de Menin, 5 francs for a class lesson;
20 francs for a private lesson.
Wrestling. 678994 Pte A. Flexon is prepared to wrestle anyone in the Fifth
Army at ten stone.
Boxing. Wanted, a man with thorough knowledge of boxing. The
articles to be boxed need very careful packing, and only
those men who have a long crime sheet need apply.-
Address applications to : Souvenir Dept., 44 F .A.
List of Those who passed through the Unit, 1914-18
† indicates killed while with the unit.
*indicates wounded while with the unit.
‡indicates transferred to Infantry September 1917
Note.-Those who stayed with the unit less than one month are, as a rule, excluded.
Capt. (now Major) C. R. Morris, D.S.O., Officer Commanding, Sept. 1914 to April 1915.
Lieut.-Col. H. Simson, O.B.E. " " May 1915 to Jan. 1916.
Major T. J. Crean, V.C., D.S.O. " " Feb. 1916 to Sept. 1916.
*Lieut.-Col. W. Egan, D.S.O. " " Sept. 1916 to Feb. 1919.
Atkins, Capt. R. R. G., M.C. †Hegarty, Lieut. A.
Barton, Major B. H., M.C. Lindow, Capt. E. D
Britton, Major T. C. Marshall, Capt. E. S., C.B.E., M.C.
Brown, Capt. (afterwards Lieut.-Col.), Munro, Capt. H.
L. G., M.C. Penny, Capt. C. H. G.
Broster, Major L. R., O.B.E. *Roberts, Capt. C. D.
Denyer, Capt. (now Major) C. H., M.C. Scott, Major A.
*Dudgeon, Capt. (now Major) C. R., M.C. Scott, Capt. W. L., M.C.
**Flood, Capt. F. G., M.C. Smeall, Capt. J. T., M.C.
*Foster, Capt. Qmr. G. Taylor, Capt. J. M.
Graham, Major D. S. Marsham, the Rev. A. F.
Gilbertson, Lieut. (afterwards Capt.) Martin, the Rev. J. H.
H. M. McCann, the Rev. I.
Adams, F. (died while *Bailey, E., Sgt. Bennett, G.
with unit). *Bailey, G. W. Berry, H.
Aitkin, R. Baker, T. Bird, A. G.
Alcock, H. Bamford, A. Bishop, C. W.
*Anderson, J. *Banks, T. Blacklaw, P.
Armes, F Barlow, A., Sgt. *Blake, G.
Arthur, A. *Barnett, J. Blanchard, J.
*Aspland, B. *Barratt, E. W. Blaylock, H. R.
Atkinson, F Barrett, F. T. *Blyth, G.
*Atkinson, J. Graham, Bartlett, A. A. Boucher, F. J.
L.-Cpl., M.M. †Bealch, T. *Bowcock, G.
†Atkinson, L. A. Beaver, G. Bowditch, H. R.
*Austen, W. H. Bell, A. Bradburn, G.
†Ayre, H. Benjamin, L. Braithwaite, H. E., Sgt.
Branchflower, C. F. Croasdale, H._ Freeborn, J. B.
†Breckell, H. Crook, T. Freeborn, W. J., Sgt.
Breeze, J., Cpl. Cross, C. M.S.M.
Brickell, W. E. *Crossley, H. *French, A., Cpl., C. de G.
†Britton, W. Cummings, E. (killed †Fry, E. J.
†Broomhead, E., L.-Cpl. 19-10-16).
Brown, J. Cureton, G. Garrett, J., Sgt.
Brown, W. F. (after- *Curtis, W. H. *Gawman, W.
wards Lieut., R.F.A.). Gawthorne, S. M., Sgt.-
Bruce, E., Cpl. Davies, E. Major (afterwards
Brunsdon, W. H. Davies, H. S., Cpl. Lieut.-Qmr.).
Bryant, G. W., Sgt. Dickens, A. F. *Gazeley, S. E.
Bullock, J. Donaghy, J. *Gearty, N.
Burgess, H. Dougherty, W. D. *Geddes, W.
**tBurkhardt, G. A., M.M. *Douglas, A. Geeleher, L. W.
Burleigh, T. H., M.M. Duggan, W. G., Cpl. George, A.
Burnard, F. C. Dunham, J. Gillespie, J
Bury, J. A., L.-Cpl.,M.M. Dyson, C. F. Gilmore, T. B.
Butler, G. H. Girvin, J.
Calder, N. R. †Eastham, R., Sgt., M.M. Gordon, J. M.
Cameron, D., Cpl. Easton, W. (since died). Gore, S.
Carberry, J. (since dead). Eaton, H. *Gorringe, A.
*Carter, W. L. *Edkins, T. Green, J.
†Cattrall, J. E., Q.M.S. Edwards, A. *Greenwood, S.
*Chaffey, H. Edwards, G. *Griffin, A. J.
Chalke, F. G., Cpl., M.M. Edwards, G. A., Cpl. Griffin, S.
Chambers, L. *Edwards, J. *Groves, C. H.
*Churchland, A. B. Eke, P. F., Cpl. Guest, W. H.
Clark, J. M. Elliott, J. J. Guthrie, W., M.M.
Clarke, F. Elliott, R. Guy, J
Clist, M. Emery, H. A.
Cocking, F., Sgt. *Hadden, D.
Cohen, P., Sgt. Fairfield, W. H. C. *Hall, A.
†Cole, W. Fearon, R., Cpl. *Hall, H. A.
Collett,C. Fildes,F. †Hall,P.
*Collup, F. G. Flamank, W. D., M.M. Harbard, G.
Cook, T. F., S.Sgt. Flanders, M. Hargood, L. W.
Cook, T. W. Fletcher, A. W., L.-Cpl. *Hargreaves, E.
*Cooney, E. Fletcher, F. N. Harmer, D., M.M.
Cooper, J. Fletcher, J. H. Harris, B. V.
Corbishley, J., Sgt., M.M. Flexon, S. Harris, J.
Cosser, G. E. Foreman, B. Harrison, A.
Cotton, R. J. †Fox, W. Harrison, A. E.
*Coveney, J. *Frapswell, S. J. Harrison, R.
*Cox, F. Fraser, D. Harvey, G. A.
*Cox, H. Fraser, G. Harwood, R., L.-Cpl.
Haslam, A *Lackin, T *Moore, G.
*Hector, A. M. Lamb, A. Morgan, J.
†Hegarty, M., S.Sgt. Lawrence, N. Morris, W.
Hellrich, V. E. C., Sgt. *Lawson, W. Moss, C. J.
Hewey, L. F. Laxton, P. *Mossman, T.
**Hill, W. R. Lees, F. *Moulton, S.
Hilliger, W. Le Marinel, W. H. Mullineau, J. E.
*Hindley, J. W. Lenton, B. C. Murray, A. P.
Hindmarch, J. M., M.M. Lester, B. A.
Holden, W., M.M. *Levett, W. Naylor, H.
Homes, E. H. Lewis, A. Neilson, W.
Hoyle, J. W. Lill,C. (afterwards Lieut., Newman, A. J.
Huitt, H. R. R.F.A.). Newsham, E. (since died).
Hullah, F. C. Lintern, H. J. Newton, A. W.
*Humphrey, E. C. F., Livsey, R. H. Nuttall, H.
Cpl. Lloyd, E. C.
Hunt,H.J. Lloyd,F.T. O'Grady,T. J. A.
Huntington, J. Lobenhoffer, A. C. *O'Hara, J. A.
†Huntington, W. †Lound, G.
Isaac, R. Lusty, C. W. H., Sgt. Page, W. G. C., Sgt.
Painter, T., M.M.
Jackson, F. C. Macdonald,J.,Sgt.,M.M. Parker, G.
Jackson, T. S. †McCallum, C. *Parkin, T. A.
*Jenkinson, J. W. McClure, J. A. Passman, H.
Johnson, L. Y. †McDade, H *Paul, G. E.
Johnstone, A. M. McGregor, D. †Pavely, C. T.
Johnstone, H., M.M. McKenzie, A. *Pearce,T.(killed 24-7-I6).
*Johnstone, T. J *McIntyre, J. *Pearson, H.
*Jones, D. H. (Wales). McKinlay, P. **Pearson, J.
Jones, G. (Wales). McLaren, D. Fells, J. T.
Jones, G. A. (Shrop- Machin, W. Penney, E. A., Q.M.S.
shire). Mackrill, C. Perry, C. W., Cpl.
Jones, H. H. (Rickmans- Maddison, H. *Philip, J. B., Sgt.
worth). Maloney, J. Philip,S.C.(killed I2-4-I7).
Jones, T. W. (London). Manuel, M. Philipson, C. M.
Jones, W. H. (Liver- *Marshall, A. Pilling, A.
pool). Marshall, E. Prescott, T.
Martin, A. J. *Preston, E.
Keegan,W.,Sgt. Martin,C.H.,Sgt.-Major. Priestnall,C.L.
Keen, A. H. *Mathieson, J.
Kennedy, J. Mepham, A. J. *Rafferty, J.
King, W. S. Michael, J. †Raines, W.
Knight, W. Millward, W. J. *Randall, E. L.
**Knowles, T. Mobbs, C. A. Ratcliffe, R. J.
Kynaston, A. H. (after- Moir, E. C. Reddle, R.
wards Lieut., R.F.A.). Moore, A. E. *Rees, W.
Reynolds, P. Sutton, F., Sgt. Willis, W. A.
Rice, G. T. A. *Swinn, C., Sgt. Wilson, A.
Richards, F. Wilson, W.
Richardson, A. S., Sgt. Tapping, G., Sgt. Wood, J. H.
(†afterwards Sec.- *Taylor, F. W. G. Woolner, J. W.
Lieut., R.G.A.). Thomas, J. Worrall, W.
Richardson, R. H., Sgt. Thornton, H. Wright, F. H.
Rigby, W. J. *Tinto, J. *Wright, P. W., Cpl.
*Rimmer, J., Sgt., M.M. Tootall, R. †Wykes, W. E., M.M.
*Roberts, A. † Tomlins, J. H.
Roberts, R. W. *Townend, A. Young, H. (' George
*Robertson, D. Traill, W. Robey').
Robertson, R. (Leeds). Tree, E. J.
Robertson, R. (Preston). Trow, A. J. R A S C., H.T.
Robinson, C. W. Trow, C. , ..
Robinson, J. R. *Turton, H. V. Abbott, T.
†Robinson, W. Acland, J.
Rose, J. J. N. †Vine, F. *Ashford, E.
*Rose, W. Astin, W.
Rotherham, W. H. Walden, H.
Rumball, P. Walker, F. W. D. Bowmar, C. S., Sgt.
Russell, A. S. Walsh, J. ‡Boyes, R. J.
Russell, R. Ward, A. Broad, C. H., Sgt.
Rutter, H. Ward, E *Brown, J.
Ryder, J. Warner, H. H., Sgt. Bull, W. A., Sgt.
Warren, F. H. Button, E.
*Scales, A. *Warren, J. H.
Senior, J. Watkins, H. Capon, W.
Sheehan, T. *Watson, W. D., Sgt., Carroll, T.
Sherris, F. D.C.M. Carter, C. E.
Sherwood, A. J. Waugh, C. Cattell, A.
Shuttleworth, W. Weatherhead, S. E. W. Cooley, E.
*Slade, H. P. Webb, F. A. (afterwards Corps, W. F., S.S.Mjr.,
*Smirfitt, F. Lieut., Essex Regt.). M.S.M.
Smith, W., S.Sgt., M.M. Westin, W. Cox, A., Sgt. .
Smith, W. P. Whitaker, C. G.
Southall, H. White, W. Dolphin, A. E.
**Southern, G. Whitecross, J.
Southwell, F., L.-Cpl. Whitrow, W. H. Farmer, A. E.
Squirrell, E. E. Whyte, T. Flynn, J.
Steel, H. †Williams, Alfred.
Stevens, C. R. *Williams, A. E. Gorman, J.
Stewart, A. *Williams, D. S. Griffiths, A. J.
Stewart, J. Williams, E., Cpl. ‡Griffiths, D.
Stockley, E. Williams, E. W.
Stokes, H. Williams, S. C. Hansell, F., Sgt.
**Storey, W. S., M.M. Williams, Trevor. Hart, A. J.
†Harvey, A., Sgt. † Smerthwaite, W. Fawcett, G. F.
Hayden, P. Snead, J. C *Freebody, G. W.
Henman, A. J. Snell, C. W.
Hogg, A. Stewart, F. Gentle, R. J.
Hopkins, A. †Strang, J.
‡Hutchinson, W. Stuart, A. F. Henton, W. H.
Hyde, H. A. Hodgkinson, A., Sgt.
Taylor A. G.
*Jones, W. T. Taylor T. Killingley, H.
King, J. Thompson, J. Lee, T. L.
Treble, W. H. Lidgett, A. K.
Lambert, R. H. Turley, W. Loasby, H. W.
Lewin, F. G. ‡Virgo, G. S. Lundy, W. J.
‡Louden, W. Warlow, W. Nicholls, D. H. R., C. de G
Lowe, V. Waterhouse, H. V.
‡Miller, H. Whittaker, H. O'Neill, B.
Moxon, A. E., Farrier- Wicks, P. J.
Cpl. Williams, J. Padley, P.
Mushett, F. Willmott, C. E. Pickin, T., Cpl.
Wingham, W. Pound, R.
Olerenshaw, J. Wolfe, J. C., Farrier
Owen, P. Wray, H. Rogers, G.
Preston, E. †Simmonds, A.
R.A.S.C., M.T. Smith, J. E.
*Raeburn, A. Allaby F. Smith, J. P.
‡Ricketts, F. ' Spencer, G. W.
Sanders, G. H. Baptie, R. Thomas, C. I.
Schofield, W. D. Bruce, F. Todd, J.
Scudamore, G. R. Bull, G. H., Sgt.
Shuttleworth, S. F. Wright, G. H.
Simpson, J *Church, G. W. *Wright, J. W.
Simpson, W. S. Cole, A., Sgt.
Sims, F. Cook, W. Vesey, G.
An Old Comrades Association, with Col. Egan as President, has been formed, with the object, mainly, of ensuring an annual reunion of members. The Committee consists
(1922) of Messrs. Bartlett, Brunsdon, Foster, Hargood, Hellrich, T. W. Jones, Lidgett, Perry, J. Simpson, Storey, Sutton, Tree, and Watson. The Hon. Secretary is F. T. Barrett, 55 Spencer Road, Wealdstone, Middlesex.
Printed in England at THE BALLANTYNE PRESS
SPOTTISWOODE. BALLANTYNE & Co. LTD.
Colchester, London & Eaton
Back to William Egan Page