Private Charles Ross Francis
A Soldier's Diary - 1916
My Personal Experiences and Impressions of the Great European War
Name: Chas. R. Francis
Regimental Number: 186114
Battalion: 90th Can Inf. battalion.
Date of Enlistment: Oct.24, 1915
Where enlisted: Winnipeg
This book is a semi-personal account of my experiences and impressions as nearly as I can record. It will contain mostly military matters, with just enough social affairs put in to show the restrictions and liberty, the pleasures and otherwise attached to the life. It may be read by anyone who is interested.
Saturday, January 1
Beginning of a New Year in Military Life. Stationed at the Broadway Drill Hall, Winnipeg. I hold the rank of Provisional Lance-Corporal at this date and hope for further promotion in the near future. I am fairly comfortably quartered as I sleep in the Sergeants' mess. Have a mattress, a pillow and two heavy blankets. I eat with the privates of course at the Good Street Cook house. Our meal consists of:
Bkt - Beans and bacon and coffee
Dinner - Baked meat, potatoes, a vegetable and tea
Supper - Jam, cheese and tea, and of course bread and butter at each meal.
Monday, January 3
The work goes on much the same from day to day. Squad drill, platoon drill, company drill and Battalion drill. It gets very monotonous and not varied a great deal except for route marches, or for squad duties such as orderly corp.
Wednesday, January 5
Wednesday being our usual route march day we took a tramp through Fort Rouge towards the city park and back again. It is very cold on the hands and feet and a number of cases of frostbite occurred.
Saturday, January 15
Usual parades today and dismissal at 11:00 am. Saw Dudley Achison of Saskatoon who is present in the city to take up an officers course. Although he is just starting on the course he wears the officer's uniform. While I do not refer to this case specially, this is the kind of thing which men who have been training for some time greatly dislike, that is, having to salute a person who knows little or nothing about the drill and simply dons the uniform to receive salutes.
Sunday, January 16
Parade dismissed at 10:30 am after service at Augustine Church. Was able to get out home at 1 pm and found Lyon and Dudley there. Pte. J. Nairn went out on the same car as I did so including Dudley there was 5 soldiers at the house. Looked quite military.
Tuesday, January 18
Tonight, the night of the big banquet of the 90th Battalion. in the Manitoba Hall. It turned out quite a success as it was well attended and the eats were good. I spent the most of the time looking after Harry Smith who was very much "under the weather". Such is the result of soldiering. Was rather disappointed this evening as I expected to receive sergeant's stripes and didn't. Lce Corp Dow was promoted to Corp. so I am not the Sr. anymore in the platoon. The recommendation went through from the Company O.C. (Major Black), but on account of jumping from Lance-Corporal to Sgt. the Battalion O.C. (Lieut. Col Munro) turned it down.
Wednesday, January 19
The Battalion made a long route march today starting at 9 am and getting back at 4:30 pm. Marched out to St. Norbert and back in all a trip about 15 miles. Hot dinner at the Agricultural college. Do not feel a bit tird and so must be getting into good condition. Was able to get to the Orpheum in the evening with Dale Tait.
Friday, January 21
Company drill in the morning and a route march through St. Boniface was the order of the day. We were dismissed early to hear a concert given by the band in the drill hall. In the evening I was at a good party given by Mrs. Angus Sutherland. All the men present were attached to something military. They included Lieut. Col Blanchard of the 90th Reg., Lieut Aiken of the 45th, Lieut Knox of the 101st, Lieut JRS Black and Lieut R.Ross of the 90th. I was the only one not an officer there. Met Miss K. D'Arcy, sister of Lieut D'Arcy. I returned to the barracks at about 1 am but was able to pass the guard on account of being accompanied by Lieut (Roderick) Ross.
Saturday, January 22
Spent the morning at Battalion drill and the parade was dismissed, or rather sent into Barracks for a kit inspection at 11 am and so it made a short day. I played in a football match against No. 3 Company but our comp (No.1) got beaten 1 to 0. It was rather a good game tho' the weather was cold for football. Went home about 4 pm and returned to Barracks about 10 pm.
Sunday, January 23
Parade dismissed at 10:30 am after attending All-Saints church. I was truly thankful for the early dismissal as I was tired and lame from yesterday's game. Went home and spent the rest of the day sleeping and eating at which I have become very proficient.
Monday, January 24
Today was spent in the usual duties. Squad drill over in Augustine Church, also a considerable amount of physical drill, so that I am feeling the effects of it. In the evening we had an N.C.O. meeting at 7:30 pm at which I was appointed Secty. At 8 pm a concert given by No. 2 platoon of No. 1 Company was held. I attended, accompanied by Jean Watson. For an amateur affair it was quite enjoyable and lots of fun.
Tuesday January 25
Was B.O.C. (Battalion Orderly Corporal) for the day, which passed without any excitement.
Wednesday, February 2
Route march today, mostly through Fort Rouge and St. Boniface. As we were starting out up Broadway, a street car came rushing up beside us and knocked into several of the fellows on the left flank and hit a drummer and dragged him on the fender until the car was stopped. Major Harris jumped on the car and put the motorman under arrest and had a Sgt and two men finish his trip with him and then put him in the Guard Room. I believe he was later dismissed.
Thursday, February 3
Usual drill today. In the evening I went to the dance in the Royal Alex given by the ladies of the 90th which was very good indeed. Saw there Lieut-Col Munro, Lieut D'Arcy, Lieut Parrish and other of the 90th. Did not get back to barracks until 12:30 am.
Friday, February 4
Came out on orders tonight that I am Corporal. It helps a little but does not make much difference to my work. Sgt Ivers is away on Course of Instruction but as Corp Dow was promoted ahead of me he has charge of the platoon. I think however it is only temporary and I believe I am to be senior. In the evening No 1 Company. went to the Orpheum en masse. The show was rotten but we had a good time.
Saturday, February 5
Parade being over at 11 am I left the barracks and had dinner at the Peacocks. I had to return in the afternoon to play a game of football with No.1 Company against the Details. We were badly beaten 5-1. In the afternoon I was able to get home and returned to barracks in the evening.
Sunday, February 6
Church parade over to Augustine Church and as we did not get back to Barracks I was not able to get the 11 am car. In the afternoon a small blizzard blocked the car and I was not able to get home at all. Lieut Aiken was out there and Lieut Acheson was coming out so I was sorry not to make it.
Monday, February 7
In the morning we had bayonet exercises for the first time as a platoon. The men seem to take an interest in it. In the evening No 1 Company gave their weekly concert in Augustine Church and the programme was made up by No 4 Platoon. It was very good indeed and there was quite a number attended. I went over alone this time as I had an engagement with Glenn Ruthruff in the evening, for supper.
Tuesday, February 8
As the weather was considerably warmer we had drill outside all day. A short route march in the morning and Battalion and platoon drill in the afternoon.
Wednesay, February 9
Route marching was the order of the day. We went for a nine mile tramp in the morning. We made it in 2 1/2 hours and as the roads were not too good it was one of the hardest marches so far. In the afternoon we only went about 4 miles and returning to barracks we had a band concert which is on orders as a Wednesday afternoon event.
Thursday, February 10
Nothing eventful today as we had usual drill including bath parade in the morning. The work appears to be getting easier, or I am getting more used to it, as it does not affect me at all. At 4:30 the Battalion marched to the amphitheatre and witnessed a hockey match between the officers of the 90th and the officers of the Strathcona horse. Very funny game as none were very good players. Result 7-4 in favour of 90th.
Saturday, February 12
Battalion drill and physical drill in the morning. In the afternoon the Battalion went recruiting over the city. Our platoon was sent up the north end and were not successful in getting any as we were among the foreigners.
Sunday, February 13
As I had an all night pass I stayed at home but a blizzard sprang up and the cars were blocked so I walked down as far as Sturgeon Creek P.O. (7 miles) with Russell and Lieut Riddle. Was not effected by the walk at all which shows that the army has done something for me anyway.
Monday, February 14
The weather changed remarkably and it has been very mild today. The drilling is quite different in the warmer air and everyone felt fine.
Tuesday, February 15
Weather still remaining lovely. We drilled for the first time today without our overcoats and it was warm even then. Met Lieut (Lyon) Aiken down town and we went to the Orpheum together with Miss P. and R. Graham. This shows how officers and N.C.O.s mix in this country, are not restricted from going out together.
Wednesday, February 16
Route march today in which we covered probably 12 miles all together. In the afternoon we returned to the parade ground about 3 pm and spent the balance of the day in Battalion Drill, much to the disgust of the men who are not at all fond of it and much prefer the route marching. We did not wear our great coats and did not need them.
Thursday, February 17
Drill parade and usual drill today.
Saturday, February 19
Battalion and Platoon drill in the morning and the day work was completed. Reached home in the afternoon but returned to barracks early (10:30 pm) to have a good sleep.
Sunday, February 20
Church parade to Knox in the morning and we were dismissed for the day at 11:00 am. I, of course, went home where I spent the day. Weather is still very mild and feels fine.
Tuesday, February 22
The Battalion was inspected by Brig.Gen John Hughes today. In the morning he was busy looking over the books and the barracks and in the afternoon he inspected the men. First there was Battalion drill by the various majors and then Company drill by the different Company officers. Each Company was then looked over. My conversation with him was very short. He said "Where were you born Sergeant" I said "Manitoba Sir" He said "Manitoba!" I said "Yes sir".
Wednesday, February 23
Battalion Route march today. We marched about 15 or 18 miles with great coats rolled. Weather is very sloppy and the roads were wet and muddy. Was not tired after the march and we went to a dance given by the 45th Battalion at Royal Alexander. I went as a guest of Lieut Aiken (Billy) and we had two of his friends. It was a military affair and I met several officers and men of the 45th.
Friday, February 25
Have been acting as Platoon Sergeant for the last week as Sgt Ivers has been out on a course of instruction but he is now back. Battalion drill in morning and some company drill and a band concert in the afternoon completed the day's work. Battalion drill is very tiresome and the band concert is a pleasant break in the day's labours.
Saturday, February 26
Today's drill was quite easy as we took instruction from Lieut Robertson on the sights of a rifle and had practice in loading the rifle (Mack 111 Ross) This occupied the morning and in the afternoon it was, of course, a half day off.
Sunday, February 27
Started in at 6 am this morning as Company Orderly Sergeant for the week. The work for the Company was practically nothing and there was no great event. In the afternoon the band gave a concert and tea and cake was served to the lady friends of the soldiers who had the nerve to bring them.
Monday, February 28
Was Sgt of the guard today starting in at 9:15 am Have got along alright so far and haven't been "balled out" by the Sgt Major yet. Turned out the guard twice, once to the 90th Batt and once to a small armed party. No incident worth recording has happened so far.
Tuesday, February 29
Came off guard duty this morning at 9:30 am and got along with it quite successfully. Had a good guard and they did not make any breaks. One of the sentries would not let Lieut Eddie out of the door until he came back for me and he was very wrothy but the sentry was right. As I had been up all night I went to bed and slept the rest of the day.
Wednesday, March 1
Was on duty as Orderly Sergeant again today but our gang on Garrison duty again tonight.
Thursday, March 2
Was on Garrison duty all last night down at the C.P.R. station. 20 men, myself and Sgt Bugler were there to welcome some returned soldiers. They were supposed to come in at 1:45 am but did not get off the train till 7 am so we were up all night. Saw Jock Norton who returned on account of ill health. He won a D.C.M. Was off for the balance of the day. Several of the men who came in were wounded but apparently none were very bad. Some were suffering from shell shock and nerves (which is apparently about the same thing). They were all taken into quarters in the Immigration Bureau where their cases will be dispensed with
Saturday, March 4
Was on duty yesterday and today as Orderly Sgt and am not sorry that night 10:15 pm this duty ends. The work is not hard but the hours are long. Have to be ready for work at 6:oo am and have to stay on duty all day long until after "lights out" ((10:15 pm) and not usually through until 11 pm or later.
Sunday, March 5
Got a weekend pass and staid [sic] out home overnight. Lieut (Lyon) Aiken [a relative of the widow of James Ross] came out also and as it will be his last Sunday for some time I was glad the weather was fine. Last night I was supposed to be on duty till 10:15 pm. I left at 9:55 pm so as to catch the car for home. I thought I was getting away with it fine, but just as I was getting in the car B.S.M. got off. I don't mind looking at him as a rule but did not want to see him at that moment.
Monday, March 6
Started in the morning recruiting. Am stationed at a booth in the Industrial Bureau. Have asked numerous men but they all have some apparently good excuse. Some are physically unfit, some working at munitions and some going to join shortly. A few however do not want to join and say so. The most annoying kind to talk to are those who pass right by and do not even look. These are the kind that make a soldier favor the idea of conscription. One man who looked eligible had a son killed at the front. He knew he was found and buried but in spite of all enquiries he could find no trace of where his son's grave is. He seemed to be very prejudiced against the Govt. Nothing was said about my leaving early Saturday evening.
Wednesday, March 8
Am still recruiting and find the results much the same. Only turned in two recruits but one of them was turned down. The 45th left tonight amid great rejoicing among themselves but sadness among their families. Saw Lyon (Lt Aiken) away and was right up to the train. He seemed to be glad to get away too
Thursday March 9
Back on parade again today.
Monday, March 13
Started a course of Physical Exercises and Bayonet Drill under Sgt Wardell and Sgt Kitchen. Just had physical drill today. It is rather strenuous but I do not mind it as I am rather used to it. The classes are held in a room in the new law courts. We amuse ourselves during "rest" period by having races down the banisters.
Tuesday, March 14
Continuing with physical exercise course. The work is very different from usual parades but rather interesting.
Thursday, March 16
As this is the day for "Bath Parade" for the 90th, we persuaded the instructor to let us off our class at 10:30 am and we all went to the Y.M.C.A. for a swim. The course is very interesting, and while strenuous when we are at it, the hours are short. 9 am to 11:30 am and 2 pm to 4:30 pm with 15 min intermission in each period.
Friday, March 17
Continuing the physical exercise course with bayonet drill in the afternoon. Makes it very realistic to learn how to stick a bayonet into a German and withdraw it again. We were dismissed at 3:30 to attend a band concert in the barracks. "Howard" the Ventriloquist from the Pantages entertained us singing and playing the bones accompanied by the Pipers. At 4:30 pm, the 90th and 144th played a game of hockey. The 90th won easily 7-3.
Saturday, March 18
Received a letter today from the Adjutant that I am to attend the "Infantry School of Instruction", namely the Lieutenants' course. I was very pleased to get the letter as I had almost given up the idea as had heard nothing more of it since I put in my application.
Monday, March 20
Reported at the Industrial Bureau to begin in the officers' course. In the morning we did nothing but give in our names and ages and other necessary particulars, and we were dismissed shortly after 10:30. In the afternoon we were issued with our new uniforms and were again dismissed early.
Tuesday, March 21
I feel like a post box. Donned the new uniform which consisted of a bright scarlet tunic, blue pants with a red seam at the side and a blue cap. We started our class today by being divided into squad and doing squad drill.
Thursday, March 23
Have continued with squad drill so far this week, interspersed with lectures. Our hours are short as we fall in at 8:30 am, drill till 1:30 with 15 min rest. In the afternoon we fall in at 2 pm and drill until 4:30 pm with 15 min rest. The work is of course easy for CRF now although the civilians who joined the class no doubt find it hard.
Saturday, March 25
The first week of the course over with no untoward event. Have not made very good progress as it has been mainly squad drill which the C.E.F. men had been all through.
Sunday, March 26
Sundays free in this class so I am able to be home for the day.
Saturday, April 1
They sprung an April Fool joke on us by giving us an exam in squad drill. I was asked by the Major to define, alignment, dressing a squad, when do officers salute and to detail slope arms and forming fours. I believe I got through it OK.
Sunday, April 2
Spent the Sunday at home. Herbert came home with news of a big riot by the soldiers in the city last night. It appears that the military police started a scrap with the civilian police over a drunk soldier. Some soldiers joined in and more police were called till there were several thousand into it and a lot of damage done.
Monday, April 3
The riot in town seemed to be quite serious on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Although no lives were lost, a number were hurt and all the windows in the police station were broken. The soldiers were out of control and were determined to release some of their comrades who were in the coop. They were dispersed after several hours with the help of the fire department and after some of the soldiers had been released,
Tuesday, April 4
As a result of the rioting all the soldiers in the city are enjoying O.C.B. We of the officers' class have had to obtain passes to allow us to appear on the street.
Saturday, April 8
Went to the Military Tournament and Assault-at-Arms given by the 90th in the Amphitheatre. The drilling and exercise put in by the 90th platoons was splendid and shows marvellous improvement in the last few weeks. Some of the horseback wrestling and melee put on by the Strathcona was also fine. The feature of the evening was the "attack on the trenches at night". It depicted the reconnoitring by the patrols and then the assault by the British on the German trenches showing how star shells are used. The machine gun failed to work but otherwise it was a success.
Thursday, April 14
Had an exam in Musketry today. I saw the Major put down my marks and believe that I have passed in that anyway as I got 94%. Did not find it very hard as it was just the work we have been used to such as, illustrate firing position standing, name the different parts of the rifle, describe the triangle of error, what are the common faults in aiming. Nearly all the class found it easy and no doubt passed.
Tuesday April 25
We had our first written exam this afternoon. I found the paper fairly hard but believe I managed to answer most of the questions approximately correctly.
Wednesday, April 26
Had our second written exam today and I believe I have managed to wiggle through. I found it a little easier than the first.
Thursday, April 27
Our exam on Company drill came off this afternoon. I got along alright as I have been pretty familiar with the work. Some of the fellows made some hideous mistakes and I don't see how they can expect to get through.
Saturday, April 29
The class has done some good work in the way of examining paper and the results were announced today. Am one of the fortunate ones and have succeeded in getting thro' so I now hold a Lieut's certificate. Do not intend getting an appointment at present but will go back to the 90th.
Monday, May 1
Returned to duty with the 90th this morning and am back in my place as Corp.
Tuesday, May 2
The N.C.O.s of the Battn had their photo taken today and just before they dismissed the Colonel stepped out and announced that he had official word to be ready in ten days to leave for the Old country. This probably means that we will leave about the 15th of the month.
Wednesday, May 3
The Battn went on an all day route march today. Leaving the Broadway Barrack at 8:30 am we marched to a place just south of the City Park. We reached there shortly after 11 am and bivouacked. We carried sandwiches and cheese in our haversacks. We left there about 1:30 pm reaching the University grounds about 4:10 pm where we dismissed. I found the trip rather hard as I got a little soft at the officers' course. In all it was not more than 15 miles. The morning was fine when we started walking through the Crescent and the familiar streets. I could not help but think that we would some day be looking back with pleasure at such an event.
Thursday, May 4
Was Battn Ord Sgt for the day and performed the duties without any difficulty. In the morning at 6:45 am I paraded the various fatigues and then attended the men's mess with Mr. Parker who was Ord Officer. After making the usual round of inspection with him at about 10 am there was nothing to do till the Battn Ord Rooms where I stood around and looked wise and dismissed the Ord Sgts when it was all done. In the afternoon there was only the inspection of the lines (which I did alone) and then the men's mess at 4:45 pm. As there was nothing to do after that until 10 pm I sneaked out (strictly against regulations) and visited some friends on Balmoral St. The day's arduous tasks ended at 12:15 midnight after we had inspected the sentries.
Friday, May 5
We have been granted 4 days "last leave" which looks as though we are going away alright. I left Barracks at 6:30 am city time and caught the train for Morden at 8:30 standard time. Was notified shortly before leaving that I am to be Sgt of the Guard on Saturday. I took it up with the Sgt Mgr however and had it switched to Sunday.
Saturday, May 6
Returned to the city this evening and proceeded out home to Headingly. Returned to the City tonight to report for duty in the morning.
Sunday, May 7
Got up at 7:30 am and reported for duty at the barracks. Found however that I am to be Sgt of the Guard tomorrow instead of today and so returned home. Was glad to have the day but annoyed to have my Sunday morning's sleep disturbed for nothing.
Monday, May 8
Reported for duty at the Barracks this morning but found it was an error in orders and that I am to be Sgt of the Guard tomorrow. Was glad to have the day off as I am still on leave but very much annoyed that my holiday should have been disturbed so much for nothing.
Tuesday, May 9
Written at 2:45 am Wed morn
At last have taken over the guard and have been on duty all day and until tomorrow at 9:30 am (May 10) as sergeant. The day was very easy as Lieut JRS Black was orderly officer and did not disturb us much and we did not have to turn out once. One of the "defaulters" did not appear when the bugle sounded his call but appeared later "roaring drunk". He was sent in to clean out the guard room and pretty nearly did. He started in by trying to burn his hat as he was going to "quit the army". I dissuaded him in this and so he threw his broom at one of the fellows that laughed. After arguing the point with me for a while he set to work to sweep (?). He raised the dust for a while and then did some more arguing as to the merits of the Colonel whose head he was going to split and also the Provost Sgt who he was going to "get". Evidently he was not much satisfied with his own sweeping for he remarked "what is worth doing is worth doing well" and he set to work. All he did well tho' was to raise a lot of dust. He finally beat it down town again and is at present "absent without leave". another crime sheet. Came off guard and slept for the balance of the day.
Thursday, May 11
A sequel to the "defaulter" who raised the fuss in the orderly room is that he went down town and ripped his clothes all to pieces and landed up in police court as he had enough "soldiering". "28 day" awaiting him.
Friday, May 12
Today No 1 Company marched out to Deer Lodge and then about 2 miles north (about 6 miles walk) and then we had a sham engagement with No. 4 Company. This consisted of scouting for a while, then crawling on our hands and knees for about 1/2 mile and then a final charge. Each Company claims a victory but I believe there was no decision. I captured a man's rifle but he says he shot me 4 times. We had dinner out in the field and marched back again in the afternoon.
Saturday, May 13
Got a "pass" for today and made a trip out to Morden. Could not stay long tho' as I had to be back for Sunday. Was told by Herb when I got back that I am to be Orderly Sergeant for the coming week.
Sunday, May 14
Reported for duty this morning as Company Orderly Sergeant for the week. Nothing very much happened today in barracks as there was no church parade on account of the "Decoration Parade". In the afternoon we fell in on the parade ground at 1:45. The 78th Battalion marched in on our right (we were in the s/e corner of the University grounds facing west). The centre of the square was empty but in the other side there was the Veterans, the Honour Guard, the Ladies Brigade and the Boy Scouts. We stood and waited until after 3 o'clock and listened to a sermon by Archbishop Matheson. Then we moved off in succession, marching up Broadway, to Main St. and up Main St. to Church St. Other Battns joined us on the way till the final procession was up to 15,000 men. We marched a column of platoons going up but in fours coming back. It is said to be the most impressive and the longest procession ever held in Winnipeg. The day was fine and the crowds were lined up on both sides of the street for the distance we had to go.
Wednesday, May 17
Was able to get away for the evening being relieved by Corp Pearson and went to a farewell supper at my brother Harry's. This is more or less of a joke as our departure has been postponed apparently indefinitely.
Thursday, May 19
Being the 27th Anniversary of the event of my birth I celebrated it by working as usual. Was able to get off in the evening however, as a special favour by the Sergeant Major. He was very loath to let me off as he said "Didn't you have Tuesday evening off?" "Yes sir", says I. "Well you shouldn't be off any time" he says "while you are on duty". I didn't tell him I was off Monday and Wednesday evening "without leave".
Friday, May 19
As the Battn were on an all day route march I staid around barracks and mostly reminisced with Corp Pearson (Geo) on the times we had when first joined. "Do you remember the time" he said "when we were at the Industrial Bureau, you were in the Orderly Room at Minto Barracks. The new recruits used to come to us at the Bureau and one night there were so many drunks we had to get a rig to take them up. Some fatigues were emptying mattresses at our end of the hall and so we just dumped the fellows on the straw, where they fell asleep. The fatigues did not notice them and they dumped in more straw and buried the group under it. One fellow, who had been slobbering over his face got up with straw and chaff stuck to his face and he was badly in need of a shave tool He sure was a funny looking recruit."
Saturday, May 20
This week's work is over and am glad to be off the "job" as it is a thankless one tho' a responsible one. Got thro it without any serious difficulties and without getting a crime sheet.
Sunday, May 21
Was able to get a pass and spent the whole day at home. It was a very enjoyable day and it was the last Sunday in Canada for some time. The whole family gathered in for the special occasion and we all had dinner together.
Monday, May 22
Was on parade today but there was not much doing as it was raining. We are not drilling these days it seems. Some day tho' we will have to drill every day rain or shine and will look back with longing at these good times. Was named for Sgt of the Guard for tomorrow. It seems to me I am getting more than my share of duties. I have been in parade only 8 days since the 26th of February.
Tuesday, May 23
Written at 4 am May 24th while the guard slumbered stertorously on the guard room floor and on (?). Came on guard relieving Sgt Wright and found everything in order. The only event at all out of the ordinary is that we had to turn out for a funeral. A Strathcona Horse man it was. We presented arms to the body in the usual way. It was preceded by an auto full of flowers and the "Kilties" band. In the evening Col Munro and Col Watson were in barracks and were challenged by the sentry in the usual way. The Sentry (W.S.Brown) would not let them pass unless accompanied by an N.C.O. of the guard as were his instructions. I was called out and the Col asked what instructions I had given and I explained as above. He asked if that applied to officers too and I answered "Yes, Sir". He said "To your C.O. too?" and I said "Yes, Sir". He then went on with some remark about seeing me in that morning. The sentry was right but a little scared. The guard was successfully dismantled at 9:30 with no further event. We turned out to the Colonel and gave him a good present. He did not say anything about the event last night.
Friday, May 26
Reveille was blown at 5 am this morning but there was no need as everyone was up. Late leave was given up to 2 am and it was taken advantage of by nearly all. Words can scarcely describe the restless excitement felt by all in the barracks at the thought of leaving in the morning, sleep was almost impossible and those who desired it lay on bare bunks as all mattresses and all but one blanket each had been packed. I don't think I slept at all and was all ready when the long dress sounded out at 5:45. All I had for breakfast was a sausage roll and an orange. The Battn fell in for the last time on the old grounds. Friends of the boys were allowed to come on the grounds, and there were many touching scenes there. At about 7 am we moved off in perfect order and marched to the GYP station. It started to pour rain on the way down and we got pretty wet but no complaints and the only remarks I heard were "Let 'er come". Everyone seemed happy in spite of the sad parting and the happiness was real and not affected. I saw a number of friends and relations at the train including Mother, Russell, Jim, Laura, Vyvian, Mr.Laidlaw. The train pulled out at 8 am amid shouting and cheering. We were settled comfortably as we had leather upholstered seats and not very crowded, 3 to a double seat. Breakfast was served on the train consisting of sausage, bread and butter, jam and coffee. 6 mess orderlies were picked from each car to serve the meals for their own car. Did not stop at all Friday for exercise.
Saturday, May 27
We stopped at the town of Grant (Ontario) and got out for a double. This was as enjoyable as it was needed. Everything was conducted as in barracks, the weather was bright and not too hot and everything conducive to comfort. The men occupied themselves by playing cards, reading and singing (mostly by ?). Reached Cochrane by 8 pm, detrained and went for a short route march, about a mile, to stretch our legs. Lights out at 10:15 pm.
Sunday, May 28
Reveille at 6 am. We got to North Bay about 7:30 am where we detrained and went for a church parade but did not go to church. The Band played on the station for a while and then we went on. The scenery up this far (North Bay) is very monotonous as it was all scrub pine and rocks. It has changed now and looks very pretty. The trees are well out in leaf, many fruit trees in season and the grass green. At Madawasaka we detrained after supper and went for a route march up a hill. The hill was steep, the day warm. and the pace fast, so we were very warm when the top was reached. Returning to the town we dismissed for an hour. It was here we saw the 2nd section of our train for the first time since leaving Winnipeg. Boarded the train about 9 pm and journeyed on
Monday, May 29
The most important event of the trip took place today, namely the inspection at Ottawa. Reveille was sounded at 5:30 and, again, there was little need as nearly everyone was up and excited as a bunch of kids. Breakfast at 6:30 and we detrained at 7:30 am. We lined up and marched about 2 miles to the grounds in front of the Parliament buildings, or what was left of them after the fire. They are just being built now. The streets of Ottawa are beautiful, lined with high basswood trees whose lofty tops intermingle from either side and with green boulevards under the trees. The houses are mostly of brick or stone, substantially built and add to the appearance of the street. The 88th and 89th lined up on the other two sides of the large square, all of us facing the front entrance. At 9:30 am the Duke of Connaught entered this gate and received the Royal Salute while a local band played "God Save the King". The inspection then began with the 88th. We stood easy and were allowed to be down while the others were inspected as it was very warm and some were beginning to drop out. The Duke came to our Battn last and was apparently well satisfied. He and I had a short converse together. He asked "Are you an Englishman?" To which I replied, "No, Sir, a Manitoban" "A Manitoban" he said. "Yes, Sir". We entrained again at the downtown station and so did not have so far to go. We certainly had a great send off as hundreds were there to see us and the Ladies of the Red Cross gave us oranges and cigarettes. Everyone was enthusiastic about Ottawa. Did not see much of Montreal as we stopped in the yards and could not see the city. The mountain looked good from a distance.
Tuesday, May 30
We travelled most of the day through Quebec but it was not very interesting. The farms look so small and the country does not look prosperous. At 9 am we passed through Monkton (N.B.) and received a splendid reception. A large crowd was at the station with two bands. Plenty of girls were there and took a lively interest in the men and the interest was many times reciprocated. A lot of fellows exchanged addresses with girls. N.B. is a better looking province in my estimation than Quebec. Looks more like B.C.
Wednesday, May 31
Did not see much of Nova Scotia as we passed thro' in the night and reached Halifax in the early morning. Reveille sounded at 4 am although it had been given out in orders at 5:30 am the night before. A Kit inspection was held to look for letters it was said. Breakfast was over at 7 am and we sat waiting for orders to detrain. We waited all morning and had lunch on the train and then about [blank] we received orders to fall in. We lined up outside the train, waited for some time and then marched down to the dock and saw our first sight of the "Olympic" which is to convey us across. After slight delay we were marched on board, receiving as we went in a ticket assigning our places. I can't say I was agreeably struck with our quarters. They are on "D" deck, the ceiling is not more than 8 foot high, tables are set as thickly as possible, enough to seat the whole Battalion and some of other Battalions. Hammocks are slung above the tables so we sleep and eat in the same confined place. Does not look very nice to see fellows standing with their bare feet on the tables.
Thursday, June 1
Spent the remainder of Wed. and all today in the harbor and still no signs of moving out. Spent last night very comfortably in my hammock in spite of everything as I was very tired. It has been rather a novelty to see the harbor but nothing interesting has happened today.
Friday, June 2
This morning at 8:30 am we pulled out of the harbor without any fuss and noise. Our boat blew us a farewell in Morse code but other than that it seemed no one knew we had gone. We have on board now the 88th, 89th 95th and 99th Battn, a draft of the 57th and a battery from Toronto. It was not very long till we were out of sight of land. The sea has been very calm and it does not seem as if we [are] bound for the Old Country. This evening I made an arrangement with one of the Stewards and am now occupying a bunk (?) in a bathroom with Harry Botton. We have mattress, pillow, and blanket, hot and cold water, bath, toilet and electric heating, so are comparatively quite comfortable.
Saturday, June 3
Reveille at 5:30 as usual. When we came on deck we found we were in a dense fog. The whistle had been blowing since about 4 am and we have been in it all day. Consequently the speed has been reduced and we are losing time. We had a drill on deck in the morning but nothing to do all afternoon. Could not see very much on account of the fog. Put on lifebelts today and have to wear them for the full trip.
Sunday, June 4
The fog was cleared this morning and we have been moving at full speed all day. Had a bath parade this morning for a plunge in the bath, of salt water. It was very pleasant. On that account I missed church parade. In the afternoon at 3 pm I was having a real bath in the bathtub when the fire alarm blew. We had a fire drill on Friday for which I was prepared, but not this one. I had to scramble to get out and into my clothes. I couldn't get my undershirt on and had to discard it. I eventually got [out] but couldn't get to my own Battn on account of the crowd so lined up with another bunch. Saw a whale this afternoon, it was a small one, only about 30 feet long. Saw a school of porpoises.
Monday, June 5
Reveille at 5:30 am. Drill at 8:15 am to 9:30. I then returned to my stateroom(?) and slept and read the rest of the morning. The sea is slightly rougher today but has so far been wonderfully calm. No one as far as I know of has been seasick. Learned yesterday that there are on board 5794 troops including officers. About 3:30 in the afternoon we passed a small French sailing boat which seemed to be crossing the ocean. It looked awfully small to be in Mid-Atlantic but was probably as big as the one in which Columbus crossed in.
Tuesday, June 6
A light rain came up this evening and one of the most perfect rainbows I ever saw came appeared in the eastern sky. The foot of each end of the bow seemed to rest in the water only a mile or so from the ship.
Wednesday, June 7
Sea is much rougher today and for the first time a large number of the fellows have been sick. We turned out for inspection at 8 am but were soon dismissed as every one was feeling so bad. Our first protector appeared this morning shortly after 11 am and the 2nd one in the afternoon about 2:30. Both of them torpedo boats I believe. About 4 pm land appeared which we learned was the north coast of Iceland. We travelled all evening with the land to the south of us so we infer that we are going down the channel between the land and England and land at Liverpool.
Thursday, June 8
This morning at 3:30 am Reveille blew and everyone turned out. We had breakfast at 5 am and some time about 6 am we docked at Liverpool. About 4 am I took a walk on deck but could not see anything but a lifebuoy and a lighthouse in the distance. New Brighton was on our right and Liverpool was on our left and they certainly looked good to us. New B. is a very beautiful place set on the hill. We fell in shortly after 7 am and marched off on to English soil about 9:30 am. We had to wait a short while for our train and it was nearly 11 am when we moved off. The trains struck me as awfully small and dinky, there are some very fine engines but the coaches are awfully small and the freight cars are ridiculous in a Canadian mind and they are only as big as a truck. We reached Shorncliffe station at 7 pm and marched up to our quarters at Dibgate. The march is about 3 miles and we found it very hard as we had had only 2 sandwiches since breakfast and were also very tired. We had a supper about 9 pm.
Friday, June 9
Did not have a very good sleep last night as we only had our one blanket and no mattresses of any kind. It was very cold. We had no heat in the hut. The hut, or rooms, as they are called are about 60' x 13' and hold 22 men each. We did not have any parade in the morning but had an inspection by some Brigadier General in the afternoon. After that inspection we were all inoculated in the arm and are now in C.B.
Saturday, June 10
Owing to the inoculation Reveille was not sounded until 6 am but as we were all cold and suffering from our arms we were almost glad to get up. We did not have any parade in the morning but in the afternoon we had a muster parade which lasted only about an hour and then dismissed. It has rained every day since we came and the weather has been rather cold. We have not had much to eat; we parade to the cook house with our mess tins and draw rations. We get bread with no butter, tea and jam, as a rule, for supper, for dinner meat or fish, potatoes and a vegetable but no bread, breakfast is generally bread (no butter) tea and bacon.
Sunday, June 11
Reveille at 6 am and there has not been much doing today except for an inspection by some Major-General which only took a short time. Spent the most of the time in writing letters, reading and sleeping.
Monday, June 12
This has probably been the most miserable day the 90th ever put in. We fell out on parade at 6:40 am in the rain. We started out to work at the School of Instruction and drilled all morning without even a recess in the pouring rain. One hour for dinner which consisted of boiled beef, potatoes and tea. Drilled again all afternoon in our wet clothes and in the rain. Dismissed about 4:30 pm. No heat in the shack, very little supper and the CB still on. The men have not been paid for nearly a month and they are far from happy.
Tuesday, June 13
Today the weather has improved slightly but it is still wet. Continued with the drill and we are working very hard. We find it especially hard as we have so little to eat. Supper consisted of bread, tea and a spoonful of jam.
Wednesday, June 14
Today we continued with the School of Instruction. In the morning we had physical exercise from about 7 am to 8:30 am. then bayonet fighting and a lecture on bombing. The afternoon work consisted mostly of bombing and throwing bombs. We dismissed at 4 pm. The weather has turned much finer, tho' not very hot yet, and the boys are in much better spirits. The C.B. was lifted for the first time since we entered camp and I was able to get out to see the surrounding country. Went to Seabrooke, Sandgate, Folkestone and Cherton [sp?]. Things are improving around camp as we ate at the cookhouse for the first time tonight, we now have two blankets upon a straw mattress.
Thursday, June 15
This morning we started off shortly after 7 am with full packs and rifles and marched about 2 1/2 miles to Shorncliffe camp and were inspected by two Major Generals. We stood on the parade ground until 11 am and as it was quite chilly, with the heavy packs, we did not feel too good. Returned to camp and drilled hard all afternoon. In the evening went over to the 45th camp to see if I could locate Lt Lyon Aiken. Found out he had gone over to the Front about 2 weeks ago with the 43 Camerons and that he had been in recent actions.
Friday, June 16
After drill Geo. Pearson and I took a walk down to Folkestone. Had a good meal and a good smoke and looked over the town. The stores look very funny in comparison with the Canadian stores as they are so small and very crowded. I have not seen any girls worth looking at yet but I presume there are some in England.
Saturday, June 17
Usual drill in the morning and in the afternoon we were all C.B. on account of some of the men not saluting officers. Rather a disappointment to all as it was to be our first free Saturday and we were going off for a good time.
Sunday, June 18
Here endeth one of the hardest days we, as a Battalion, have done so far. We were up at 5:30 am as usual, breakfast at 6 am, fell in for rations at 8 am and at 8:40 for a route march. We marched till about 1 pm, up hill and down hill with full packs and rifles. We then fell out for an hour and then had a service and marched back again, and reached camp about 5 pm. Our breakfast consisted of a lump of porridge, 2 small sausages, a hunk of bread and butter and coffee. Dinner was one sandwich of bread and butter and a small piece of bully beef. The sun was desperately hot and altogether we covered about 14 miles.
Monday, June 19
On account of our Company being the in-lying funget [sp?] for tonight we are all C.B. and are not allowed to go out of lines. As a sequel to the hard day's work yesterday about 75% of the Battn were sick last night. The doctor diagnosed the cases as diarrhoea caused by the long march on an empty stomach. This illustrates the way we are working as the 90th were noted for their ability to stand long marches in Wpg.
Tuesday, June 20
This morning the Capt. of the training team gave us rifle drill, and it proved to be one of the most interesting drills we ever had. He took the N.C.O.s only of 1 and 2 Companys. He can certainly handle rifles and has a way of exacting obedience and attention that I have not seen with anyone else. Under his command we should become very efficient.
Wednesday, June 21
This afternoon we had another inspection, this time by General Steele, on Sir John Moores Plain. There is quite a rumor of our going as a unit now, which is quite contrary to many other Battalions which came over recently. We are all hoping that this will be so.
Sunday, June 25
I was fortunate enough to get a weekend pass and made use of it by going over to Dover. I reached there about 5 pm and immediately called on Miss Emily Francis, my aunt, who is the only one remaining in my Father's family. Today we took a walk around the town and saw all that we could. The sightseeing is rather restricted on account of military regulations. We saw many places of interest, including Dover Castle (from a distance), hangers, and of course the great harbor which cost 7,000,000 pounds. The harbor was full of warships, from great battleships to small torpedo boats, but of course we were not allowed to go on them or very near them. I saw many places of personal interest, as, for instance, the old house my Father was born in, the place he went to school and the many sights he used to see. Dover cliffs looked lovely, especially as they are seen from the road which the motor bus takes from Folkestone.
Monday, June 26
Was Corp. of a piquet tonight as we could not leave barracks after drill. There was no work for the piquet to do, mostly form up at 8 am for inspection and at 10 pm for Last Post.
Tuesday, June 27
No 1 supplies the piquet again as last night's was for No 4 Company as they were without rifles. The rest of the Company was therefore confined to barracks and I was one of the ones in this.
Thursday June 29
Drills going on as usual. This evening I went for a walk by [Cherton?] to Folkestone and back by way of Seabrooke. I weighed myself at Sandgate and found that the military life must be agreeing with me as I weighed 10 stone 9 pounds.
Friday, June 30
This is one of the eventful days for the Company. This morning Sgt Ritchie of No.2 Company was found to have mumps and so the Sgts hut is now quarantined. This includes all our Sgts and the Sgt. Major. Corp. Pearson, who is orderly Sgt this week has to act as Sgt. Major and all the platoons are commanded by corporals. This makes it rather interesting and all the men are delighted at the change.
Saturday, July 1
Although it was Dominion Day, we had to work in the morning but were dismissed at 12 noon for the day. Unfortunately it was No 1 Company's turn to supply piquet, so we were confined to barracks and could not get downtown. I spent the afternoon sleeping, reading and writing. The Battalion is getting to be much more contented as we are now getting sufficient grub of a pretty good sort. The men are not worked too hard and the work is interesting. Also there is a prospect of going across the channell [sic] soon which is keeping up the interest of the men.
Sunday, July 2
Started in this morning as Company Ord Sgt for the week, and as the Sgt Major and all Sgts are quarantined, I had to act as Sgt Major and Corp acted as platoon commander. We were up at the usual time (5:30 am) but did not parade until about 8 am. The brigade then marched to Dibgate Camp, about half a mile away, and had a very enjoyable open air service. The morning was beautiful and warm, the scenery about very pretty and we had a good sermon from the chaplain. The march was not long or tedious and as we dismissed by 10:30 am the days work would have been very nice but unfortunately a Musketry Drill was called for the afternoon and this spoiled a perfect day. This was over at 3 pm tho' and the Company dismissed.
Monday, July 3
At 11 am today we marched down to the Hythe ranges to practice shooting. It is the first I had ever shot out of a rifle and I made a fairly good score considering (16 out of 20). We carry full packs and as the road is rather hilly it is quite a strenuous walk especially coming back which is more uphill. The Hythe ranges are supposed to be the best in this world. They are down by the beach so that we shoot towards the ocean. The ground is all shingle (pebbles) and while it is hard to walk on it is very good for wet weather.
Wednesday, July 5
We are continuing with the ranges. I have been coaching every day besides shooting, and while it is not hard work it is rather monotonous and some days very hot as we are now in the blazing sun without any cover. I am burnt as brown as an Indian.
Friday, July 7
We completed our course at the ranges this afternoon. The Battalion as a whole did fairly well but I was not able to keep my own score as I was too busy on the coaching. If possible I may be able to get it and will jot it down afterwards. We shot from ranges from 1 to 600 yards at targets like this,
1 - Bull = 4
2 - Inner = 3
3 - Magpie = 2
4 - Outer =1
For ranges to 1 and 2 hundred the targets are 6'x 6' and for the long distance 8'x8'.
Saturday, July 8
Today is an epoch in the history of the Battn, in fact, more than that as is practically the ending of the Battn as a unit. At noon a draft of 500 men left us and are now attached to the 11th Reserve Battn. I did not know I had become so attached to the men, and to walk around and see all the empty huts and see every thing so bare when all was life before, is almost heart breaking. all those attached to the Headquarters Company are left but few others, and as a great many are still in quarantine there are only about 75 (rough guess) around the camp.
Sunday, July 9
This morning we attended church parade and the Battn looked pitifully small. The service was held at lower Dibgate Camp and was very enjoyable as it was a beautiful morning again. When we got back to barracks we heard that an air-raid was expected and we were all confined to our huts. It did not materialize but it was the first scare (?) we had, as they did visit the county, as we learned later on in the evening, tho' doing no damage.
Monday, July 10
As we are on no drills, we spent the morning very pleasantly in sweeping and scrubbing out the huts. I took a hand at a mop and it is the first fatigue I have done since getting my stripe. I have also the honor of being canteen corporal for the week, that is, I see that the wet canteen is opened and shut at the proper times, and that no rowdyism goes on and that everyone gets their chance to get served.
Tuesday, July 11
Have started on a course of gas helmets and their use. Lectures given by a Lieut who has been over to the front and gassed so he is interesting in that he has had experience.
Tuesday, July 18
Have been instructing squads in the use of gas helmets for a week. Today, however, the course ends. Am rather sorry as it has been quite easy work.
Wednesday, July 19
"Last Post" has been sounded for the 90th Battalion, the final rites have been performed, and as a unit it is no more. Today the remainder who had been left at Dibgate Camp, marched over to the 11th Reserve Battn and we were attached to and practically absorbed by them. We are now located at St. Martins Plain.
Wednesday, August 9
Left the camp tonight about 4:30 pm for a six days leave. Landed in London about 7:45 pm and with Stan Churchward put up at the "Golden Cross" hotel in the Strand. We intended to put up at "Morleys" but got in the wrong door and got in the "Golden Cross". It is rather a funny thing as in looking it up I found it was the hotel Frank Peacock recommended before I left. Spent the evening in parading the Strand and looking it over.
Thursday, August 9
Called on the Peacocks in the morning and went to a Vaudeville in the afternoon with Mr. Peacock. In the evening Ted Peacock and I went to the Empire to see "We're all in it", a very dazzling Revue. The Empire is a gorgeous theatre, the seats we had were regular lounges, with lots of room between them and between the ones in front.
Saturday, August 12
Went down to Herne Bay with Ted. Like the place as it is quiet and the air is excellent. Spent a quiet day with the Peacock family and a most enjoyable one. It is not a very good place for bathing, and as the Peacocks did not go in the water, I did not attempt it.
Sunday, August 13
Took a walk to see Reculver [sp?] Tower with Theo, Ted and Ada Peacock. It was rather interesting on account of its age. In the morning I attended service with the Peacocks at the church which Mr.Peacock built.
Monday, August 14
Returned to London in the morning, went to Madame Tussauds in the morning and in the afternoon I joined Emily and Peggy and went to the Zoo. In the evening then Emily and I went to the Duke of York theatre and saw 'Daddy Long Legs". Mme Tussauds was very interesting and I enjoyed the Zoo immensely. They have a beautiful lot of animals and splendid specimens, in fact probably the finest in the world, certainly the best I have ever seen.
Tuesday, August 15
I spent the afternoon with Ted in looking over London. We had a taxi and saw Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls Cathedral, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham and Windsor Palaces and many more well-known places that I had often heard of. On the whole I was not disappointed in London, in fact it was even above my high expectations. It is a marvellous city which has attained the highest state of modern civilization and yet retained a great deal of the interesting past. For instance, in the heart of the city, surrounded by all the busy traffic, there is Temple Gardens into which we can walk and all the old buildings where Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith used to live, the actual church they went to and the houses in which they lived. In the evening we met Emily, had a lunch and went to "Some" at another theatre.. I then caught the night train for Shorncliffe.
Thursday, August 17
Returned to duty today and that is the hardest part of "leave". Find the work very monotonous and hard to endure.
Thursday, August 24
Have been on musketry and bayonet fighting. P.I. and squad drill and getting very much fed up on it. Tonight I was down in Folkestone and went to a show with Miss Thompson whom I met last Monday. When we came out everything was in darkness as Zeppelins were around. I did not see them tho'.
Friday, August 25
There was a Zeppelin raid in the near vicinity but no damage was done that I know of. A number of persons in Folkestone saw it when the searchlights were on it, and when the guns were shooting at it. The fire piquet had to "stand to" for a long time. I am Corp of the fire piquet tonight so hope there is no more raids.
11 pm No raids tonight so I did not have to "stand to".
Saturday, August 26
Had a preliminary lecture from the Med corp on first aid as I am in a class starting next week on first aid. Through at 11 am I went down to Folkestone via Seabrooke and Sandgate with Herb and Godfrey Mortlock. Met Miss Thompson at the Central Theatre, had tea with her and then went in to the picture. Tonight another draft of our men leave for the front, about 400 of them. I have been left out of this one but expect to go on the next.
Sunday, August 27
Attended church parade as usual from 9:30 am to 10:30 am. It was held in the Brigade Y.M.C.A. and we had a very nice service by the chaplain. In the afternoon I strolled down to Folkestone, met a friend (Miss B.French) went for a walk on the beach, had tea, went to church, had supper and came home on the bus with Herb. Got up about 2 am and went out and said "Goodbye" to the boys on the Battn parade ground, who are going with the draft to France. They left about 4:30 am, some for the 8th, some the 27th and some the 1st CMRs.
Monday, August 28
This morning I started on another class, this time first aid and stretcher bearer and it is to last a week (perhaps). In the morning we had some drill in the carrying of stretchers and completed the morning with a lecture from the Dr.
Wednesday, August 30
Owing to a heavy downpour of rain the "no parade" sounded, canceling [sic] the early parade. The first time I have heard it sound over here. At the second parade (7:30 am) we went into another hut and carried on with first aid. In the afternoon, to relieve the monotony anyone in the class was invited out to give a talk The topics led on to evolution and phrenology and it surprised me to find how much some of the fellows knew about it. One, a carpenter, gave a very interesting talk on evolution and knew quite a bit about it.
Sunday, September 3
The first thing I was greeted with this morning after awakening shortly after 6 am that I was to report for medical inspection and get ready for a draft. I therefore spent the morning getting ready and by 4 pm, with the others, I had been inspected in several different ways medically, kit, clothing etc. At 4:10 I was presented with a pass and a half fare warrant to London and so I caught the 5:15 train at Cherton. Arrived in London about 7:15 pm and proceeded immediately up to Cousin Emilys, where I spent the evening and stayed for the night. I am going with the 8th Battn which is the original Battalion of the 90th regiment and I was very glad to know that it was the 8th as I shall still be with the LDBs.
Monday, September 4
Spent the most of the morning in visiting some of the most well-known shops in London and did a little shopping, had dinner with Ted, Percy and Emily and made a short visit to the National Art Gallery afterwards. Had a hurried tea at Emily's and another with Ted and Emily at the Strand Corner House. I caught the 7 o'clock train for camp. Proceeded right to Folkestone where I said farewell to some friends and then returned to camp and learned that we would not be going out in the morning as anticipated. Coming down on the train I was with 3 French-Canadian officers who were rather pickled. They did not know when they had reached Shorncliffe and I had to look after them and order them about to make them get off in time. It was amusing to me because I am only a Corp and they were 2 Lieuts and a Captain.
Tuesday, September 5
Today was spent in musketry and bayonet fighting and was very monotonous. We have not been told definitely as to when we will be leaving.
Wednesday, September 6
A route march of about 7 or 8 miles with full pack in the morning and some bayonet fighting and a lecture on 1st aid in the afternoon filled the day. We were told on the coming off parade that we would be leaving in the morning. I therefore spent the evening with Herbert in writing letters and getting everything ready. Having been reduced in the ranks in order to proceed overseas I took off my stripes and am now a full Private.
Thursday, September 7
Reveille at 4:15 am today. As I was quite ready all I had to do was get up and dress and have breakfast which was at 4:45. I did not feel the least excitement in leaving, quite different to our departure from Winnipeg a little over 3 months ago. We fell in at 5:30 and with very little demonstration, only a little cheering, we moved off to Shorncliffe station, preceded by the band. Shortly after 7:00 am the train pulled out for Southampton. The trip to Southampton was uneventful. The country is much the same as Kent country and the Southampton harbor much the same as any other large harbor. We went on the boat about 4 pm and at 6 o'clock we sailed for France. It was a beautiful evening and we sailed away very peaceably. We passed a number of hospital ships lying in near the shore, but outside that and the fact that the boat was full of soldiers, we might have been on a pleasure voyage. The channel was smooth and I lay on the deck and slept soundly all night.
Friday, September 8
When I woke up this morning we were in Le Havre, the French harbor where nearly all the Canadian troops land. My first impression of France was a rather dirty port. Several hospital ships were docked close [to] us and there seemed to be a number of wounded men in the buildings in the docks. We disembarked at about [blank] am and marched up to the Canadian Base Depot, a distance of about 8 miles. We were marched through the poorest part of the town and did not see any respectable looking places. There seemed to be a good many poor people and we were followed all the way along by kids asking for pennys [sic]. After landing in camp we had a medical inspection and were left to ourselves for the rest of the day. The camp is situated in a rather pretty valley and the surrounding country looks not unlike England, tho' possibly flatter. The climate appeals to me more than the English climate as it is much drier and cleaner and lighter. To a certain extent it reminds me of the B.C. climate. It has been warm and mild and as far as I can judge, it would be a very ideal place to live as far as weather is concerned. The camp is overcrowded at present. It was built, I'd say, to accommodate about 4000 and I think there is about twice that here. We have to line up for everything, meals, canteens and even baths. There is always a line of about 2 or 300 at each of the 4 cook houses at meal times.
Saturday, September 9
Today we went to the training area but did not do very much just walked through a trench containing lachrymating gas to give us an idea of what it is like. It smarts the eyes like strong onions but it smells very much like pineapples.
Sunday, September 10
There was several church services for the various denominations. I attended the Presbyterian and enjoyed the sermon as the chaplain is very interesting, a good speaker and seems to have an attractive personality. These open air services are, of course, well attended as it is a matter of compulsion, but the boys seem to enjoy them very much and sing the old hymns with great fervour and apparently listen well to the short sermon for there are numerous criticisms afterwards.
Monday, September 11
Today was "Economy Day" in our Brigade, that is, we did not go on parade and had the privilege of doing our washing and cleaning up. I washed some of my things and then slept and read for the rest of the day.
Tuesday, September 12
We sleep 15 in a tent 12 feet in diameter which is very crowded. I thought at one time that I would never be able to do it, but in spite of the crowdedness I sleep very well. The eats are poor too. Generally for breakfast we have tea, bread (no butter), cold beans and a spoonful of jam - dinner, bread and butter, cheese and tea - supper, bread, or hard tack and mulligan. Rather poor to work hard on.
Wednesday, September 13
Reveille is at 4:30 at this camp but no one seems to get up until about 6 am. We fell in at 7 am this morning, reached the training camp on about 8:30 and spent all day at bayonet fighting. It is rather strenuous as we charge over trenches, entanglements etc with fixed bayonets. There is a German prisoners' camp in the centre of our training area and the Germans take a lively interest in our doings.
Thursday September 14
Today we went up on the hill again and spent the day on "Gas" and "gas helmets". We went through the poisonous gas with our helmets on. It is not a nice feeling as the effects of the gas on the chemicals creates some gas inside the helmet and produces a choky feeling in the throat and lungs. The gas was extra strong tho' and they say it is not quite so bad in the trenches, a person gets used to it. The gas effects all exposed metals and turns them black or green. We walked through a sort of covered in trench about 30' long with a curtain at each end and it seemed more like 30 miles.
Friday, September 15
Again we went up the hill to the training camp and spent the day in some musketry, squad and Battalion drill. We have had a number of lectures from the various N.C.O.s and officers and they are very blood-thirsty and all the way through their teaching is to have no mercy at all on the enemy, but kill every German that is possible. It is a teaching which we will no doubt put to a practical use in the near future, but at the present stage I really do not feel as if I could run a man through with a bayonet in cold blood. It is a good preparation for what is coming tho' and seems to inspire the men or perhaps rather it gets them more familiar with the thought of it, and they speak quite callously of killing men or "gouging their eyes out".
Tuesday, September 19
Last night it rained very heavily nearly all night, but we were dry enough in our tents and not too uncomfortable. Reveille as usual about 4:30 am but as usual we did not get up until about 6 am. In spite of the rain we fell in at 7 am but on account of the rain were sent back to our tents. In the forenoon we were paid our first pay in France, 25 fr. When lining up for breakfast I noticed the sky particularly and whether it is usual to France or not, I can't say, but it was rather different from any I had seen. On all horizons and up nearly to the zenith great billowy clouds seemed to be rolling in all directions. Some were dark, some slate colored, some grey or light blue and some pure white. There seemed to be a number of strata of the same kind of clouds and they looked to me like clouds which had been formed by the heavy firing. Up in the centre of the blue vault of the heavens where clear and directly above us the silver moon shone. Peeping out from over the heavy embankment of clouds the morning star looked very bright and was not hidden by the clouds but gradually faded under the light of the morning sun
Friday, September 22
The first period of today's work consisted of practicing the "final assault". We start from a British trench with "fixed bayonets", and from a slow "double" we go over a small wire entanglement and charge on a German trench bayoneting a German (sack of straw) on the edge of the trench, pass over this to another trench into which we jump, stabbing another German on the edge and one in the trench. Out we climb and make a final charge on some sacks over some thick entanglements. The second period was climbing all sorts of obstacles, vaulting high bars and scaling 8' walls. In the afternoon we practiced more bayonet fighting. On returning to camp we were warned to fall in for medical inspection which means we are to go to the front tomorrow.
Saturday, September 23
The most of the day was spent getting ready to move off in the evening, we paraded for our final equipment, such as iodine, 2nd gas helmet, grub bag etc. but did nothing but lie around in the afternoon. At about 7 pm we fell in with full equipment and lined up on the parade ground After the usual preliminaries about seeing that everyone had everything needed, the Colonel made a parting speech to us. With us were lined up the drafts of a larger number of other Battalions for the other divisions. The Colonel spoke only a few words about what was expected of us, how the Canadians had been doing such great work and it was expected of us to uphold the name. He then asked the Chaplain to speak. The Chaplain is a great favorite with the men, he is a very outspoken cheery and hearty man who is generally saying funny things but who can come to the point in everything he says. His words made me realize very much that we were actually going into it, for he spoke of the tremendous task that we were facing, the biggest that any of us had ever been up against in our lives, and when the thousand or so men stood with their bared heads bowed while he prayed for the safe return of all to their dear ones across the Atlantic it created a profound impression on me and I think on everyone in hearing.
Sunday, September 24
Last night we moved off from the camp about 7:50 pm and marched off to Le Havre where we got the train. The marching was rather hard as we had heavy packs, the equipment including the rifle weighing probably 60 lbs. It was rather dark and the roads were none too good and in one place we had to descend about 200 steps to get to the bottom of the hill so we were a rather tired bunch by the time we got to the station. When we got on the train we were put in box cars which might not have been too bad but we were very much overcrowded there being 35 in our car which was marked to hold 28. Scarcely could lie down and no one could stretch out without their legs stretching over two or three others. I managed to sleep a little but not very much. In the morning we found ourselves at Gavronne[?] which is about forty miles from Le Havre on the Seine River. We were taken to a rest camp where we had breakfast and dinner staying until 3 pm. Gavronne is a very picturesque place built well up the side of the hill as well as in the valley of the Seine. We were restricted to the limits of the camp but I would have liked to have taken a look around as there seemed to be some very beautiful old places to visit and some lovely and interesting looking churches. We then embarked again, but this time on carriages (3rd class) which were a great deal more comfortable. The train travelled very slowly giving us lots of time to enjoy the scenery. Although we travelled all of the afternoon we saw no signs of the devastation of war, but everywhere there were soldiers, French and British, and not a man of fighting age was to be seen in civilian, except they were cripples. Some times the train went so slow some of the boys would jump off and run into an orchard or garden and grab something and run back and one time when it stopped altogether a bunch of us jumped out and cleared out an apple orchard that bordered the railway. Sunday night we slept on the train again and towards noon Monday morning was arrived at the end of our train journey. We were glad to get off and march to the rest camp about a mile away where we are to stay overnight.
Tuesday, September 26
As I sit writing here this morning the sun is shining brightly, the sky is clear and the wind is soft and balmy. The men are lying about the tents read, writing or resting while some are playing horseshoe. Everything in the near vicinity is quiet and calm, but from the north east of us comes the sound of a heavy bombardment, the continuous roll of heavy artillery which sounds from here like a never-ending series of short thunder claps, heard at a distance. We are least 12 miles from the firing line and perhaps more, but last night we could clearly see the shrapnel and the star shells flaring in the horizon, and being the first sight of the actual war I stood some time and watched it. Later Shortly before noon we fell in and were marched off to another camp 6 or 7 miles behind the firing line. This was one of the hardest marches I have had to date, 11 miles with 60 pound packs in a blazing sun. We took it in easy stages, resting a number of times, but by the time I reached the end my pack felt like a ton, my legs were getting stiff and my shoulders were very sore.
Wednesday, September 27
This morning I am feeling fine again in spite of the heavy march. The camp we are now on is an instructing or working camp to which all drafts for the first division come and these drafts are used for working partys until they are called for by their various Battalions. It is situated nicely, having a shelter of trees around and on a level piece of ground high enough to be dry. Shortly before noon we were called out to go on a working party, and were marched about 4 miles away and near to the town of Albert. We could easily see the noted church where the statue of the Virgin Mary hangs at right angles from the top of the steeple over the street below, and it the belief of the people around that when this falls the war will be over. The town is terribly battered to pieces with shell fire and is only occupied now by troops and old women and little children. We worked all afternoon unloading wagons of chalk stone on to a new road. Not being used to such work my hands soon blistered. We returned to camp about 6:30 pm hungry for we had not been issued dinner, weary after our unusual work, footsore from our previous day's march, wet for it poured rain, but withal a merry crew.
Thursday, September 28
Took over the duties of Commander of the camp guard today and put up my stripes again in order to do it. There is only one post so my duties were very light as I only had 3 of a guard to look after. I had nothing much to do and had ample opportunity of watching the numerous aeroplanes circling about over the lines, bringing messages and dropping them at the various camps, and if they get too close to the enemy they are fired at by the anti-aircraft guns of the enemy. Puffs of smoke appear all around them, and how they escape is a marvel but I havenšt seen one hit yet. About one o'clock today the artillery all around opened up a terrific bombardement and we learned later it was a covering fire for an imperial brigade who were taking some trenches.
Friday, September 29
Dismounted guard successfully and just as we were to dismount, the 8th Battn passed on their way out of the trenches. They were badly smashed up but had had a successful innings in the trenches, having taken the enemy's trenches they were after and held them. Learned today that Hugh Black (8th Battn) has been wounded and learned that Lt(Lyn) Aiken had received a blight, but have not found out how serious either one. [Hugh Black was CRF's first cousin].
Sunday, October 1
No parade at all today
Tuesday, October 3
We had drill for a while this morning and on returning to camp at noon were told to be ready to move off shortly after dinner. At 1:30 pm we moved away with full marching order on the way to the rest camp. The roads were fearfully muddy and slippery, and to make matters worse, the officer in charge took the wrong turn at one place taking us a mile or more out of our way, and which necessitated our crossing a muddy field and over a hill to get to our road. The walk up this hill was very fatiguing and a good many of the fellows dropped out. We continued our journey on the road and reached the rest camp at Valdemaison (?) in the dark about 7 pm, a very weary bunch. My underwear, shirt and even uniform were soaking wet, not with rain but with perspiration. Every one was the same but we had to turn into bed as we were, tho' under canvas the ground was soaking wet, we had no blankets, nor did we have anything to eat except the rations we carried which were of course cold and we didn't even have hot tea.
Wednesday, October 4
Quite an eventful day as it marks the day we joined our Battalion. About 11 o'clock the draft fell in and joined with the Battalion as they marched by. Journeying with them we reached billets in ? about 5 pm. The billets are in barns and the one we have is quite large and roomy, quite easily accommodating the 22 men in it. The barns are crudely built of homemade rafters and studding plastered in the most primitive and rudimentary manner and, in most cases, thatched. The farmyard consists of a barn like this on one side, the house in the rear, and other outbuildings forming the third side, having the opening on the side of the road. In the centre is the yard where the vehicles are and where the chickens run. For billeting purposes inside the barn rafters are built, in our case, three tiers, the rafters being about 3 feet apart and over that is spread chicken wire, and thus the beds are made, quite comfortable and dry (that is, if it doesn't rain, the roof is full of holes). Rations are drawn from the Company 2 no 5 and we live, eat and sleep in this barn.
Thursday, October 5
A short drill today composed the day's work. I had the platoon for a little while, giving them a few commands in infty drill, apparently as a tryout to see if I should hold my stripes, or rather, regain them in the future.
Friday, October 6
2:30 pm. We arrived at 5:30 this morning and marched away at 7 am. At the present we are waiting further orders and are situated on the side of the road where we have been since about 9 o'clock. There is a Y.M. close [to] us and we have had a pleasant enough time as we have nothing to do but wait. A number of Can. Battn have passed and I saw George Jull who is now a sergeant (but was jr. clerk for me in the office in Calgary) and from another Battalion I learned the sad news of the death of Lt Roderick Ross.
Saturday, October 7
(Written October 7 chronicling the events of Friday evening and night) Shortly after writing the above, that is about 3 pm we were marched to buses which were lined up on the road and these took us on through Bougencourt, where we left our packs, through Albert and well out towards the firing line. Just as we were stepping off the buses, a big shell lit in the middle of a working party about 300 yards from us and as far as we could see, laid out a number of them. This one was followed by two others which did no damage but which gave us an idea of what they could do. This night I received my baptism of fire. We were on a working party and it was our duty to carry bales of wire up to the 2nd line of trenches. For about a mile we pushed them on small cars on a narrow railway and then carried them for a mile. Never, I think, shall I forget that carry. The bales weighed about 180 lbs and were carried by two, through slippery trenches, in and out shell holes, over broken wires, all making the worst roads possible. I thought my back would break many a time. Add to this the sight of dead bodies seen in the half light, shells falling, which although not close were near enough to green men, It was, to say the least, not a pleasant night.
Sunday, October 8
10 pm Sunday morning, it is pouring rain and so far no drills or movements have been called. I am sitting on my pack in what was the main room of a restaurant in the town of Albert. The windows are all gone and there is a large gaping hole on one side. Almost 40 of us slept on the floor of this room last night and the remainder of our Company were in other parts of the building. We arrived here last night at about 8 pm. Having arrived in Bougencourt about 3 am Sat morning after the night's work and an extremely hard march we were put on a working party making a road, I found it very hard on the hands using the shovel and on returning to billets, found it strenuous to get out and march over to Albert, even tho' it is only a distance of about 2 miles.
Monday, October 9
(The next 8 days is written after our return to billets, as I left it in my pack, not wishing to carry it to the front line). In the afternoon of Sunday we put away all our packs and marched out from Albert to what is known as the chalk-pits. It is a large place where chalk has been taken out for making roads, and in the sides of the pit which is about 30 feet deep the dugouts are let in. Some are not too bad, the one I had and shared with two other fellows was not very large, and we had to sleep on our sides and all turn over together as there was no room to lie on our backs. As we expected to go right to the front line we did not have our mess tins and ate out of any tin cans or anything we could pick up. We stayed in the chalk pits Sunday night and Monday evening moved off to the front line. Just as we landed on the road some large German shells began to come over. Only one struck very near us, somewhere in the rear of the Battalion resulting in one casualty as they killed the machine gun Corporal. The report came up that the Major was wounded also but it was not so. The march into the trenches was awful. We were laden with extra ammunition, bombs, and at one time I had to carry the machine drums which weighed probably 50 lbs. The trenches were narrow and by the time we reached our destination we could not have made much resistance if the enemy had come over. The perspiration was pouring off my nose and chin and I was nearly all in. It was moonlight and we could get a good view around us. The German trenches at that place were about 600 yards from us so we were quite safe in the moonlight from snipers. We were in a newly made trench about 4' deep, and our first move after the relieved Battalion got away, was to deepen the trench, make dugouts going to our new location. We were safe from artillery fire, with the exception of odd shells, whiz bangs and our shrapnel, which flies back. At first I had no idea which were our shells and which were the enemy's and even our own larger shells lighting 500 yards away seemed to me to be right on top of us. Gradually we got used to it and by morning we were quite at home. Major Wain would walk in the parados and as we were mostly new men it gave us confidence. The night passed and we stood-to at dawn. The shelling was not so heavy during the day and so we passed our first 48 hours with no special event. We could see some fritzes on stretcher bearing parties, but other than the artillery no shots were exchanged. On Wednesday night at about 8 pm we were relieved by the Battn and we returned to the reserve trenches at Courcelette without any casualties. After a few hours rest we went on a working party digging a communication trench. We were in no danger of being shelled, but an occasional "feeler" would land close to us and give us a scare. The working party was very hard, especially to one like myself who was not used to that sort of work and my hands soon got very sore. The worst part tho' was the thirst. We had little or no water brought to us in the front line and only about half a pint when we got back and it was mostly petrol as it had been brought up in petrol tins. I hadn't even brought my water bottle and I was never so thirsty before and hope I never will be again. My mouth dried up and I couldn't swallow. I chewed a little tea and it helped temporarily but it was awful. Our work finished about 2 am and we returned to the trenches. There was no promise of relief from thirst and I even prayed for rain, as it was a cloudy night. Then the thought came "the Lord will provide" and He did for some of the boys got away to another Battn carrying party and managed to get two or three tins of water. We stood in the Courcelette (reserve) trenches all Thursday, and though at times we were shelled some we only had one slight casualty which was not so bad as the night previous and then about 4 am Friday morning returned to the "chalk pits". A hot supper (or breakfast) was served to us. To illustrate how a person can get used to roughing it-when we got in I was so hungry and thirsty I picked up the first utensil I could set my hands on which happened to be the common mess tin. I don't know what it had been used for, I scraped as much of it out with my fingers as possible and got my tea in it and a chunk of cold ham and never did anything taste so good. I could feel the slime on my lips but it didn't matter, it was alright. We stayed in the chalk pits till Saturday night. It was quite a rest as we were fairly safe from shell fire, but not at all out of sound for an Australian battery of 9.v guns was located beside us and when they fired it shook the earth. They was a number of other batteries around us and several times they opened up a bombardment which was unearthly and I was truly thankful I was at the sending and not the receiving end of it. Our second trip in to the front line was uneventful and not too hard. We relieved the Battn and were soon settled for the night. It was still dry, just a light misty rain, but rather chilly, especially when standing a sentry. We were of course not allowed to sleep at night and I kept myself warm most of the time by improving my dugout. We had the usual stand to at daybreak Sunday morning but except for the occasional shell nearby nothing developed. The enemy's guns were of course firing all the time at our batteries and our own guys kept returning the fire three-fold so that there was little or no cessation of noise. There had been a German observation balloon up all morning (being about the 2nd only we had seen of these against about 16 of ours) and they seemed to have been watching us for about noon we began to get some heavy shells put over at us. About the 2nd one got a direct hit on the trench, lighting in a dugout it blew one of our boys to pieces, wounded another and temporarily buried two others. That was the 1st casualty in our coy, in fact Kennedy who was killed was on my section. The shelling continued and it is marvellous how so few were hurt. Major Wain was coming down the trenches to see what damage was done, a shell struck over the parapet beside him and he was hit in the arm and back. He was as cool as ever, and when I stood up and asked (for I was only 10 feet from him) "Are you hit sir?" He said, "yes, I am hurt, keep down everyone but the sentries", and he turned around and walked back. Shells were dropping all around us and a number of fellows had their dugouts cave in and were buried but they were rescued. We could hear the shells coming for miles, and when they were within a few hundred yards I could actually see them drop. They were falling on all sides of me and I really expected to have one drop beside me. I resigned myself to death at that time, leaving everything in the hands of the Maker. I give myself this credit that I felt no fear, I was prepared for any eventuality. The worst part was the nerve wracking waiting for the next shell. This lasted about an hour. It started again about 4 pm and we moved out of that portion of the trench where they had the range and no more casualties resulted. We were relieved at about 8 pm and returned to the "candy" trenches, just back of the road at Courcelette. Going out we had some whiz-bangs (a very fast and almost silent small shell) light close to us and we were sniped at but got safely through. We stayed in the "Candy" (Reserve) trenches all day Monday and though we were shelled quite a lot had only 6 casualties, all wounds caused by shrapnel getting a direct hit on a portion of the trench. About 6 o'clock we moved off and reached Albert with no further mishaps. We were met by our cookers about half way and had a good drink of hot tea. From Albert after gathering up our pack and all our belongings we marched away, and so ended my first experience in the trenches. I have taken a part in the great battle of the Somme, tho' it was a small part and we had a comparatively quiet time. We reached a camp near Worloy [sp?] Tuesday afternoon, where we were put in tents. In the evening we had the opportunity of having a Bath, the first since I joined the Battn [something overwritten here]. It was welcome, tho' rather crude. In an old wooden barn, poorly lighted were about a dozen wooden tubs and each man took his turn, splashing about for a short time. The water was warmed and the first one into a bath was the lucky one.
Wednesday, October 18
Leaving Worloy, we continued our march during the day, had our noonday meal on the road near the rest camp not far from Poucevilliers and then in the afternoon arrived at Talmas about 12 miles from Albert. We were quartered in an old house and were fairly comfortable as it had two fireplaces in it, which the fellows made use of by gathering some wood. Had some apples here also which seemed to be nearly the last of the season.
Thursday, October 19
Rested in Talmas. There was nothing to do so we were able to recuperate a bit from our work.
Friday, October 20
Left Talmas early in the morning, having to get up at 5:30 am. The march was about 8 1/2 miles and was not of any special interest. The villages we passed through were mostly a collection of farmhouses and most were in a dirty, neglected looking condition. The citizens do not look specially enterprising but this is no doubt on account of the fact that the breadwinners are away in the army.
Saturday, October 21
Owing to our having blankets last night we slept well, especially as the house in which we were billeted had a fireplace and glass in the windows. We left Fienvillier about 9 am and continued our march. We passed through the villages of Harduville, Hem and Sancherre (?) and arrived in Neuvillette about 12 o'clock noon. A distance of about 9 miles in all. The roads were good except for the last three miles where they were very wet and sloppy making it extremely hard to march. The country around this district is pretty, and although showing signs of neglect, has been well cultivated. It has not been "invaded" by the Germans and so is not cut up. We are billeted in a barn which is very open and prospects do not look good for a comfortable night.
Sunday, October 22
Spent the "Day of Rest" in marching a distance of about 12 miles Neuvillette to Maizenis, and a very hard march it was. We left about 10:30 pm and arrived about 5 pm, stopping only 1/2 hour on the way (with the exception of the usual 10 minutes in the hour stop). The country we passed through was very pretty, reminding a good bit of Northern Alberta, hilly with quite deep valleys and rather well treed. Some of the towns looked a little better and more prosperous than the ones we have been passing thro'.
Monday, October 23
In Maizenis 10 of us were in a granary and while we did not have our blankets owing to the transports breaking down we were quite warm as we burrowed into the straw stored there. The chief trouble I found was the chaff got down my neck and was very irritating. From Mazenis we went to Duval where we are now located in a large barn.
Tuesday, October 24
This morning we went for a short route march, about an hour and then dismissed for the day. The town we are in, Duval, is a little larger than the usual we passed through. There are a large number of "Estaminets" and little shops for the size of the town, and the most of the fellows make great use of the former.
Wednesday, October 25
Still continue our rest here. The weather has not been very nice, rainy, but as we are doing practically nothing, we stay inside. I occupy myself by reading and writing.
Thursday, October 26
On orders tonight I was made "Acting Lance-corporal without pay" That is at least a step towards "Field Martial". [stet]
Friday, October 27
Received a parcel from home tonight which was very nice as our rations do not come in as well while we are on the march as when we are stationed. It is a great pleasure, one of the finest things to receive a good parcel of eats.
Saturday, October 28
We continued our journey today marching from Duval to Gorey-Servino, a distance of about 11 miles (17 K). This (Gorey) is quite a place to some former ones. There is a "Chaplain" hut with a canteen and writing room. We are billeted in a very large barn which is in connection with a large chateau. The barn holds about 150 men, is clean enough, roomy, but rather drafty. Is built of stone walls about 3' deep, the roof of tile.
Sunday, October 29
Attended Service this morning for the first time for some time and afterwards attended Holy Communion. I was very glad to be able to be there and I felt a considerable help from it. This war has a roughening influence and it requires a good many reminders to keep one within bounds.
Wednesday November 1
Our stay here has been quiet, our time being taken up mostly in cleaning up and in having a few parades and short mile marches. There are a number of shops in the burg and we have been able to live quite high by buying extra eatables.
Thursday, November 2
This morning we were moved away from Gorey to the firing line once more. This time we are holding what is known as Vimy Ridge in the Souchez district. Owing to the situation we are able to enter the trenches in the daytime, which makes it 1000% easier. We are in the front line and have only fair dugouts. I saw a "Minnie" (Meiner-Weefer) for the first time. They can be seen in the air quite easily and make a very high explosion. We have them beaten with our Stokes Gun and nearly every time Fritz puts over a trench mortar, we return about six.
Friday, November 2
The dugout I have is quite small, about 10 feet high and about 6 feet square, it is wet and not very comfortable. It was to accommodate 4 of us but last night the galvanized roof slid off and filled it partly in with mud. We spent a good part of the night in fixing it up. It rained a good part of the night and it was almost a relief when stand to came in the morning, and I must confess the rum issue was very welcome as I was cold, wet, tired and hungry.
Saturday, November 3
Have been in charge of the sentries and had to get up every hour to change the sentries and so got little or no sleep. The weather is not very nice, rains a little and is rather cold and dull. The trenches are wet and it makes it rather uncomfortable. There are a great many rats around and they are very bold. We have to wrap our food well or they will run off with it and when we are asleep at night it is not an uncommon thing to have one run on the top of us.
Sunday, November 5
Was in charge of the sentries again last night and have had little or no sleep in the last 48 hours. Everyone seems to be the same tho' and are getting very little sleep. Was out in charge of a bombing post for two shifts of 2 1/2 hours each this morning and afternoon. We were about 50 yards from the front line and with the use of the periscope you could see Fritz occasionally.
Monday, November 6
Today we moved out of the trenches, back to Brigade supports in the town of Villiers-de Bori. Our billets here are fair. A larger hut accommodates the company, it has only a mud floor and the roof leaks. Art McBeath is billeted in this village with the Engineers. It is rather funny that we should be so close together, I had supper with him and we had beefsteak and onions, potatoes, bean, peas, jam, bread and butter, two kinds of cakes. Rather new for my life.
Wednesday, November 8
Last night it rained and leaked above my bed. I had to move and slept on the floor in the mud. It was dry enough as I had my rubber sheet underneath me. I sleep next to Corp. Eadie. He used to be a school teacher and taught in Hanley, Sask. where Charlie Bias in now teaching. It is strange and yet it shouldn't be considered so, how among the number one meets how one runs across so many connections at home.
Friday, November 10
Moved into the trenches this evening at about 5 pm and am in Supports. We have a very decent dugout, about 6 ft high and about 10' by 12' which is dry. It seems to be shrapnel proof and should be comparatively comfortable. Supports are only about 75 yards behind the front line but it makes a good deal of difference in the nervous tension to know there is someone between you and the enemy, even tho' you may be in a precarious position from the standpoint of being shelled.
Saturday, November 11.
Today was a quiet day for me as I was on a little work in the morning but had nothing to do all afternoon so spent the time writing and reading.
Sunday, November 12
So often it happens that Sunday is our busiest day. We were out on a working party all day fixing up trenches. The work was not so very hard as the trenches were not very wet, but rather muddy.
Tuesday, November 14
I was in charge of a working party today and did not do very much myself as last night did not get to bed till 12 o'clock being on a night working party digging a drain in the front line and also trying to clear out a portion of said front line. The muck was awful, ankle deep, and so sticky it would not come off the shovel. This morning quite a funny event happened, rather unique and worth recording. A large flock of geese, several hundred, started flying over the trenches. It was too much for the Canadian sportmen and they opened fire on them. I think only one was hit, but they dispersed and flew high in all directions. About 3 pm we moved out of the trenches and back to Brigade supports. My section got a poor dugout at our billets, an old cellar, so we had to get bricks from the ruins around and make a brick floor.
Wednesday, November 15
In spite of our wet dugout we slept well on our bricked floor. We built a fireplace which dries the place off a bit, tho' it made the roof leak. The place looks like an old wine cellar but has seen better days. The roof is about 6 feet high, but is round, sloping down on either side, it is about 12 feet long and 8 wide. We left our hole about noon and moved about a mile away to dugouts about a mile away. This time we are lucky in our choice and have a dugout, apparently a French one, about 20 feet underground. It has accommodation for about 20 men and it is very strongly built. I am N.C.O. of the guard, but there is nothing to it as I let them relieve themselves.
Thursday, November 16
Did not wake up this morning until someone yelled down to us that breakfast was up. It was a beautiful morning, slightly misty, but the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly and warm. It seemed a shame that such a lovely morning should be marred by War. Went for a little walk up an old communication trench and scared up a covey of chickens.
Saturday, November 18
Moved back to Gorey where we took up our former quarters in the barn of the old chateau. Our place is by no means what might be called comfortable but it seems rather nice to get back again to a familiar place. We have an easy time here, only a short drill in the morning as a rule, rifle inspection and kit inspection.
Sunday, November 19
Church parade this morning as usual. I enjoy these meetings and attend as much as possible. Our Chaplain is Episcopalian and naturally the service is C.of E. but it is low church, and easily understood and followed by all.
Monday, November 20
Perhaps here I can give the usual routine of the day, for while it has become so familiar to me it may be vague to anyone reading this. At Reveille which is usually 7 am we are wakened by the orderly Sgt or some one who was up. We get up languidly and dress (some scarcely undress, but in billets I usually take off all but my underwear). Breakfast is brought in by two mess orderlies for the platoon who are appointed by the day. They draw the meals from the mess kitchen wagon. After that we finish cleaning up, shaving, cleaning rifles etc. Then follows maybe a rifle inspection by the officer and maybe a drill or a short march which takes up the morning. There is rarely anything to do in the afternoon.
Tuesday, November 21
We sit around reading or writing or sleeping. Sometimes there is all day work parties for cleaning up the streets or digging drains. In the evening there is little to do in the way of amusement, sometimes a concert in the YM, but the fellows spend most of their time in the estaminets or walking about. As all have to be in by 8:30 pm the evening is very short.
Saturday, November 25
This is the last of our 8 days on reserve, and tomorrow we move into the line again. The stay here (Gorey) has been quiet and enjoyable enough.
Sunday, November 26
(the next 8 days are written after coming out of the trenches. For obvious reasons I do not take this into the line any more than I can help).
This morning the Battalion moved into the front line again, this time occupying a portion to the right of our previous position. In our trench there is a deep dugout which can accommodate most of the platoon. It is bomb-proof and dry, tho' rather stuffy. We are not allowed to stay in it in the night but can sleep there in the day.
Monday, November 27
This evening was the most exciting of any I have been on yet since I came over. The day was fairly quiet, but we were told that a mine on our left would be set off that night, the time 9:50 pm. As we were most of us new to this we hardly knew what to expect and the nervous strain when it got towards the time was rather trying. On account of it caving in, no on was allowed in the dugouts and at 9:30 we were ordered to "stand to". I was in charge of the sentries, and the orders were that 2 mins after the mine went up all except the sentries, myself and the sergeants were to go into the dugouts. (Monday continued) Presently on the given time to the left of us and on front about 500 yards we heard a dull thud, felt the ground shake, and with a noise more like a hiss than anything, a great sheet of white flame poured towards the sky, accompanied by smoke and great volumes of earth which seemed to rise 300 feet in the air. It lasted only a few seconds, but before it subsided our batteries opened up in all force. The noise was awful, nothing seemed coherent, it seemed to me our heavy and light artillery, trench mortars, stokes guns and machine guns, made a ceiling of rushing steel above our heads. Flares of all sorts were thrown up, making with the various explosions a strange and weird light. The enemy did not return fire for some minutes, but when they did the tumult increased and above all could be heard the crash of the explosions of their "Minnies" (Minen-Wefer.[sp?] a very heavy trench mortar). They somehow got a direct hit on one of our explosive dumps which exploded with a detonation louder than anything I ever heard. It seemed to rock the very earth and we thought that Fritz had set off a counter-mine almost under us. Debris of all kinds fell about us and on us, but none near me was hit, tho' when Mr. Mitchell, our acting O.C. was killed he was just up the trench a short piece. The bombardment lasted about 40 min and ceased and things resumed the semi-activity of previous nights. In our trench we had only 3 casualties, 2 killed and one wounded, tho' the wounded man, Corp Simmons, died later. The next day (Tuesday) we moved back to support and were glad to be away from the front line.
Thursday, November 30
We stayed in supports and had a fairly good trench. Had to do a few work parties but nothing heavy. This afternoon (Thursday) we changed places with "D" Company who had it heavy during the bombardment. This is not a nice corner we are in as they seem to have a direct range with their "Minnies". This afternoon they set up quite a bombardment with them, but no casualties resulted tho' they battered up the trenches in some places. I am in charge of a bombing post with 8 men during the day and 12 at night. As we have no dugout to retire into, merely a funk hole and as it is quite cold, the position of the men putting in an hour on the post and on a sentry and no place to go, is not an enviable one. I can move around enough to keep warm.
Friday, December 1
The night passed quietly without even a scare. About noon I had retired to a dugout on supports, having been relieved by another N.C.O. While in the dugout I felt and heard a shell or Minnie light close by and on coming out to go back to my post I found it had struck just outside the officers' cook house and killed 2 batmen. They were badly smashed up and the sight of them was not nice and made me feel shaky going back on duty. The enemy started up another trench mortar bombardment just after I got back in the line and he could register a hit on the trench every time. There was none lit closer than perhaps 30 yards but time and time again we at our funk holes were showered with the debris from the explosions. The machine-gun crew next us were almost wiped out, including Charlie Pacey, the A.B. who was standing with them, and H.G. Wilson, one of the 90th boys. Corp (Scotty) Brown and another fellow were wounded and another 2 were badly shaken.
Saturday, December 2
Continued on the bombing post with another platoon, owing to a shortage of N.C.O.s in the Company
Sunday, December 3
I am getting pretty well all in, 4 days in the front line with little or n sleep is no joke. I have no hesitation in taking the rum these days and I feel it is quite necessary under the nervous strain, sleeplessness, cold and dampness.
Monday, December 4
Came out of the trenches today after the worst trip I have yet put in. 8 Days is too long, as ones nerves get nearly to the limit, and the lack of sleep, regular food and exercise, and the long exposure tell very much. Nearly everyone was almost all in and need a good rest to recuperate.
Tuesday, December 5
Back to low grade [?] reserves. This time we are in deep dugouts near the town of Mont St.Eloy. They are safe enough as no shell fire has been near the place for some time and anyway they are practically shell-proof. The Sgt and I have wire cots and the men sleep on the floor.
Friday, December 8
Last night I was out with a working party at the front line. We have to march about 2 1/2 miles and it takes about an hour. The path is all in trenches. We got back about 11 pm. The work was not very hard but not pleasant.
Saturday, December 9
Did not do anything all day, but expect to go on a work party tonight.
Sunday, December 10
I could scarcely spend an easier day than I have done today. Did not get up until after 8 am, had a leisurely breakfast, consisting of grapenuts and (cond) cream, bacon, toast, jam and tea. Afterwards I cleaned up, took a walk to the canteen and then read until dinnertime. Spent the most of the afternoon sleeping and have nothing to do now until bed time. I was out with a working party up to the front line last night, but being an N.C.O. I do not have to go every night and am staying in this evening. The work last night was fierce. The trenches were extremely wet, almost impossible to dig and caved in about as fast as the boys could throw it out.
Tuesday, December 12
Left the trenches today and reached an old barn at the chateau about 5 pm tonight. I have been appointed Orderly-Corp so expect to have an easy time.
Saturday, December 16
Have been Ord. Corp. all week and have had an easy time as I did not go on any parades. All I have to do is parade the sick in the morning, see that the mess orderlies all get the meals, collect the mail and do odd jobs for the A.M. or Orderly Sgt
Monday, December 18
At last it has come, the long promised rest. We arrived in Bruay this afternoon and are to stay here for 3 or 4 weeks. The rest of course means a good bit of drill, but it will be a rest from the trenches. I am billeted with 18 other fellows in a house, that is we have 2 small rooms upstairs. The people do not seem very clean, but seem rather hospitable. It will seem strange to sleep in a room again. The rooms have practically no furniture but are whitewashed. There are two small windows on the roof.
Wednesday, December 20
A short drill this morning completed the day's work. We are apparently going to have it easy enough. The billets are proving comfortable, we can wash every day, and the people who are in the house, Prudhommes, welcome us in the kitchen to sit around the stove. There are 5 children, ages, girl 15, girl 13, girl 11, boy 3 and boy 9 months. They are not clean, but they are very honest. No danger of touching our stuff when we are out.
Thursday, December 21
All parades called off on account of rain.
Friday, December 22
Another short drill today, including physical exercises and a short route march.
Saturday, December 23
Bruay is a good sized mining town, a population of about 90,00 now, a great many of these being refugees. It has a theatre and several picture shows so we expect to have a good time.
Sunday, December 24
A number of us paraded to "Division" about 2 miles from Bruay to attend Presbyterian Communion Service. On the way over we heard a German shell light in Bruay, it did little damage, we found out, but it shows they can do it.
Monday, December 25
Xmas day. No parades today. In the evening a supper was given by the Company for the men. The supper consisted of soup, pork, cabbages and potatoes, plum pudding, rum and beer. I regret to say that the most of the men became so intoxicated on the beer and rum that little stock was taken of the dinner and all but 2 or 3 became very intoxicated. One of the officers attempted to make a speech but it was only a farce because he could hardly say anything and little attention was paid to that.
Thursday, December 28
Tonight "C" Company had their Xmas supper and I was in charge of a fatigue party getting it ready and waiting on the tables. It was well managed and they had a good supper and I also had a chance to get a good feed. They had a concert afterwards given by themselves and they have some good talent in the Company. Recitations "Cremation of Dan McGrew", "The Face on the Baroom Floor" and the Sgt.Company [?] played the bagpipes.
Friday, December 29
Took in a picture show tonight, the first I've seen since I left England. It was rather a good one (though I don't think Id have thought so in Canada) and I had a good laugh at it.
Sunday, December 31
The last day of the year. I am sitting in my billets, alone in the room, and have been writing letters. The day passed quietly. Church parade in the morning was cancelled on account of the flooded condition of the town, and in the afternoon the company was reorganized and that took up the time till nearly supper time. I went out to a cafe with 2 of the boys and had beefsteak and potatoes and coffee (3 fr).
Monday, January 1
Put in a very quiet New Year's Day. Did nothing but read and write.