Private William Ralph Mitchell

A Soldier's Diary

William Ralph Mitchell spent months at the Beaufort War Hospital, Fishponds, Bristol, England recovering from his head injury (he lost his left eye). This photo was taken at this time: he is in the back row, fourth from the left with the eye patch. While recovering, William was assigned to push the dressing trolley for the nurses, who nicknamed him "Right Mitchell". The following diary recounts his time in the Great War, from embarkment to the time of his injury.


Mon. 9/16- Left home on last pass for C. B. at 6:20 PM. Farewell M.J.

Tues. 10/16- Arrived C.B. from last pass

Wed. 11/16-

Thurs. 12/16- Sam Hughes on CB ceremonial parade. Rain.

Fri. 13/16- Snow

Sat. 14 thro' Wed. October 26/16- no entries

Thurs. 26/16- pay day

Fri. 27-

Sat. 28/16- Left Camp Borden at 4 PM. Arrived in Tor. at 7 PM. Left at 10. Good sendoff. Changed trains via GTR. Buffs taking down tents.

Sun. 29/16- Arrived Montreal 10 AM. Left 11 AM. March to All Saints. Shake hands with all people.

Mon. 30/16- Route march- Campbellton. Newcastle

Tues. 31/16- Truro. Route march. Welcome. Halifax...on Empress of Britain at 8 PM.


Wed.1/16- Anchored in stream. Pulled out at 5 PM. Told of duty on bridge. 4:25 left.

Thurs. 2/16- Sick. Saw two boats. Fellows sick.

Fri. 3/16- Feeling better; kit; good weather; messages.

Sat.4/16- Done watch. ------ weather. [remainder not legible]

Sun.5/16- Sick. ------- Rain. Meals, 3 down, 4 up.

Mon.6/16- Better. Storm. Waves over the top.

Tues.7/16- Storm. Sick. Stayed in bed.

Wed.8/16- Better

Thurs. 9/16- Better.

Fri. 10/16- Landed at 6:20 AM. Looks like Ireland. Green.

Sat.11/16- welcome-------- Seaford 11:30 P.M.

Sun. 12/16- Beach, band, parade, vermin. Misty.

Mon. 13/16- Inspecting by GOC Medical inspection. Misty.

Tues. 14/16- Misty. Lamp reading, station work.

Wed. 15/16- Nice weather. Station work.

Thurs. 16/16- Route march. Five letters. Filled ticks. Wrote 4 letters home. Invitation to Mrs. Brock's. [Brother-in-law's Mother]

Fri. 17/16- Very cold and windy. Buzzer in officers' mess.

Sat. 18/16- Snow, cold. Half holiday.

Sun. 19/16- Rain. Church parade to Y.

Mon. 20/16- Met Sgt. Major Morris, Signal School at 114th.

Tues. 21/16-

Wed. 22/16- nice weather

Thurs. 23/16- rainy

Fri. 24/16- rainy

Sat. 25/16- Pass. Around in London.. At National Hotel, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, supper at Cosmo.

Sun. 26/16-

Mon. 27/16- Breakfast, Abbey, Buckingham, St. Paul's, Horse Guards, P.O., Houses of Parliament, Bridge, Army P.O.

Tues. 28/16- Hull. Zepps. Arrived at 2:30 PM. Left for Hull at 10:10 arrived 2:30. Met Brock. [Brother-in-law]

Wed. 29/16- Parks, wrecks, city, lady police.

Thurs. 30/16- Fish market, Xmas presents, visiting.


Fri. 1/16- Wilberforce House. Left Hull at 1:45. New Central

Sat. 2/16- St. Pauls, London Bridge, Tower, Tower Bridge.

Sun 3/16- Miss Brock. Arrived home at 8 PM

Mon. 4/16- Feeling blue. Wrote home.

Tues. 5/16- Cold & windy.

Wed. 6/16- Moved to the 117th.

Thurs. 7/16- Instructing.

Fri. 8/16- Rain, station work.

Sat. 9/16- Rain. Half holiday. Seaford.

Sun. 10/16- Church parade.

Monday 11/16- Instructors' class broken up. Back to 7th grade.

Tues. 12/16- Instructing grade.

Wed. 13/16- Musketry course.

Thurs. 14/16- Reported sick. Dental exam.

Fri. 15/16- Musketry

Sat. 16/16- Musketry exams.

Sun 17/16- Firing ranges. Nose bleed.

Mon. 18/16- Went to ranges but too foggy. Signalling in PM.

Tues. 18/16- Ranges in AM. Signalling in PM.

Wed. 20/16- Finished ranges. Fired 50 shots. Hut on C.B.

Thurs. 21/16- Rainy. Fellows on Xmas leave. Parade in huts.

Fri. 22/16- Got laundry at Seaford.

Sat. 23/16- Trouble with bunch. Reporting absentees.

Sun. 24/16- Bunch left for front.

Mon. 25/16- Xmas dinner, 159. Down to Seaford, fed Sig. Section 159. Imperials, Pat.

Tues. 26/16- Half holiday. Received parcel from home.

Wed. 27/16- Bunch left for units. Bed partner gone.

Thurs. 28/16-

Fri. 29/16- Rain. Buzzer all day. Dr. Abbott, dentists.

Sat. 30/16- Men going back to batt. and back to 159.

Sun. 31/16- Downtown. Wrote home.

January 1917.

Mon. 1/17- Half holiday. Station work in AM. 7 letters.

Tues. 2/17- Physical drill in AM. PM station work.

Wed. 3/17- Sent mail home. PT. PM off. Report gg -------

Thurs. 4/17- Sta. work. PT. Route march.

Fri. 5/17-Went to Signal Base in AM. PM off.

Sat. 6/17-Brighton. Arrived 3 PM. Albion House. Slept at Old Ste---

Sun. 7/17- Dinner Albion. Supper Albion. Evening ----- arrived back 12 mdt.

Mon. 8/17- Sig. School, Buzzer & tests. No class.

Tues. 9/17- Buzzer, lamp, flag disc. Flag drill by O.C. ------ Parcel from M.J.

Wed. 10/17- lamp, flag disc, buzzer , sta. work, flag drill.

Thurs. 11/17- lamp, flag, buzzer, disc. switch board.

Fri. 12/17- switch board..... busy.

Sat. 13.17- flag drill, dinner downtown.

Sun. 14/17- ----- notebook. Church parade.

Mon. 15/17- lecture, sta. work, flag, lamp, buzzer, bought a & m book

Tues. 16/17- notes, sta. work, lectures, buzz.flag, lamp, disc.

Wed. 17/17- lamp, flag, disc., buzzer, lecture

Thurs. 18/17- flag, lamp, disc., sta. work

Fri. 19/17- lamp, flag, written exam. Can. mail

Sat. 20/17- Tests

Sun. 21/17- Church parade. Wrote home. Worked on book

Mon. 22/17- Results exams. lamp, buzz, flag, disc.

Tues. 23/17- Laying cable. Cold.

Wed. 24/17- Laying cable. Cold.

Thurs. 25/17- Bivouac, sta. Slept in 19 3 nights.

Fri. 26/17- Come out cold. Can't get comf. 2 sweaters.

Sat. 27/17- pay day.

Sun. 28/17- Battalion preparing to leave. Drunks in lines. Mon. 29/17- Left at 6:30. Moved 144th lines.

Tues 30/17-

Wed. 31/17-

February 1917

Thurs. 1/17- work on book

Fri. 2/17- tests. lecture, work on book

Sat. 3/17- scrubbed out.

Sun. 4/17- Worked on notebook all day. Supper downtown.

Mon. 5/17- Flag drill. Dismissed at 3:30. ---- ----- to shoot. Work on book.

Tues. 6/17- Flag drill, reading. Sgt. Green.

Wed. 7/17- Exams, oral & reading. Finish book.

Thurs.8/17- Written. Shoreham at 4:30 PM. 8 Reserve. ----- draft.

Fri. 9/17- draft. Left for front (looks like 159). Clothes parade. Down at night.

Sat.10/17- ------ from Allie. (brother) Downtown

Sun. 11/17- downtown to picture show.

Mon. 12/17- Inoculated. Day off. Wrote home.

Tues. 13/17- Day off. Sick and sore. Downtown at night.

Wed.14/17- Still sick. Buzzer in AM, Buzzer PM. Wrote home.

Thurs. 15/17- Sick with itch. Off parade. Saw Ken Turney.

Fri. 16/17- Off parade.

Sat. 17/17- Off parade

Sun. 18/17- Downtown. Hut on CB

Mon. 19/17- Moved to 8th Reserve Bn. Signed trans slip

Tues. 20/17- i e (?) hut. Good bunch. Downtown.

Wed. 21/17- Beat if off parade. In qualifying class. Downtown.

Thurs. 22/17- Wiring. Wrote home. Pay book.

Fri. 23 & Sat. 24/17- no entry.

Sun. 25/17- downtown

Mon. 26/17 to Saturday March 3/17- Lineman (same entry each day)

March 1917

Sun. 4/17- Wrote home. Went to town at night.

Mon. 5/17- Switchboard. Learning how to run.

Tues.6/17- Switchboard......learning how to run.

Wed.7/17- [no entry]

Thurs. 8/17- Off all day. Downtown. Switchboard duty all night.

Fri. 9/17 & Sat.10/17- lineman

Sun. 11/17- Fri. 23/17- no entries

Sat.24/17- night shift

Sun. 25/17- Night shift. Slept all AM

Mon.26/17- Afternoon shift.

Tues. 27/17- Morning shift. Off for 6 hours.

Wed. 28/17- Night work. On all night.

Thurs. 29/17- Night work. Off duty at 12:30 PM. 4 kids singing. Pay day.

Fri. 30/17- [no entry]

Sat. 31/17- Guys off phones.

April 1917

Sun.Apr. 1/17-Tues.Apr. 10/17- no entries.

Wed.11/17- Off to Brighton. Mikado.

Thurs. 12/17- [no entry]

Fri. 13/17- night shift

Sat. 14/17- Draft for 3 pounds. Downtown.

Sun. 15/17- Switchboard duty. Downtown.

Mon.16/17- Switchboard duty. GG to Brighton. Payday.

Tues. 17/17- [no entry]

Wed. 18/17- Brighton

Thurs. 19/17- [no entry]

Fri. 20/17- Brighton

Sat.21/17- On night duty. Brighton. Parcel from Allie.

Sun. 22/17- Notified for draft. On night duty.

Mon. 23/17- Down to 23rd Res.

Tues. April 24/17 to Wed. May 2/17- no entries.

May 1917

Thurs.3/17- Left Shoreham arrived Southampton. Took boat.

Fri. 4/17- Arrive at Havre. Up to camp.

Sat.5/17- Up to Bull Ring. Sat. afternoon off.

Sun.6/17- Concert

Mon.7/17- Bull Ring down to Havre. Rue des Galions gang in trenches.

Tues.8/17- Interior economy day.

Wed.9/17- Bombing. BF final assault. Wrote home.

Thurs.10/17- Bullring musketry.

Fri. 11/17- Holiday

Sat.12/17- Bullring. PM off. Slept outside.

Sun.13/17- Beat if from C Parade. Played cards. Slept outside. Rain. Drafts.

Mon.14/17- Bullring. Rain.

Tues.15/17 & Wed. 16/17- no entries

Thurs.17/17- Bullring

Fri. 18/17- Bullring

Sat. 19/17- Fatigue.

Sun.20/17- no entry

Mon.21/17- Marched from base to sta. Left at 4 PM

Tues.22/17- Got off train at 10 AM. Marched 12 kilo. Arrived billet at 5:30 PM

Wed. 23/17- Kit inspection. Drill, lecture. Shining.

Thurs. 24/17- Inspection, lecture, guard drill.

Fri.25/17- Bath parade. Pay parade.

Sat.26/17- Full marching order. Inspection.

Sun. 27/17- Church parade.

Mon. 28/17- PT, drill, inspection.

Tues. 29/17- BF guards drill.

Wed. 30/17- BF Gen. Byng

Thurs.31/17- Guards drill.

June 1917

Fri. 1/17- Guards drill. Games

Sat.2/17- Inspection. ------- platoon on parade.

Sun.3/17- Church parade. Wrote home.

Mon.4/17- Pt. ranges. Hip firing. Getting ready to move.

Tues.5/17- Started for the 24th at 6:30 AM. Full pads. Very hot. Bivouaced at Houdain.

Wed.6/17- Arrived at 24th 11:30 AM. Good bunch. Signal section.

Thurs.7/17- Signalling recruits drill. Met old Pioneers.

Fri.8/17- Signalling medics at inspection. 19 letters.

Sat.9/17- Signalling

Sun.10/17- Church parade.

Mon.11/17- Wed.13/17- Signalling.( repeated daily)

Thurs.14/17- baseball ....20 bn. 17-0. Dunc, Nancy, Cy Winter

Fri. 15/17- Inspection by OC. Indoor bball. Received 9 letters.

Sat.16/17- Started pigeon course. ----- sports. Got colours.

Sun. 17- Mon. 18/17- no entries

Tues. 19/17- Saw Mac.

Wed. 20/17- Finished pigeon course.

Thurs. 21/17- [no entry]

Fri. 22/17- No parade. Pay day.

Sat.23/17- Divl. sports. Received parcels.

Sun. 24/17- OC inspection. Wrote home.

Mon. 25/17- Fri. 29/17- General routine. Rainy weather. (written crosswise over the days)

Sat30/17- Nothing doing.

July 1917

Sun.1/17- Moved from billets. Bougirogy (?) ruins.

Mon. 2/17- Slept all AM. Church parade. Gang split up. Came to Bullygrenay.

Tues.3/17- Shelling. Mail.

Wed. 4/17- [no entry]

Thurs.5/17- Moved to Moquet Farm.

Fri. 6/17-Mon. 9/17- [no entries]

Tues. 10/17- Moved from Moquet Farm. Fellows out of line.

Wed. 11/17- Slept all day. Phone duty.

Thurs.12/17-Sat.14/17- Signalling [ repeated each day]

Sun. 15/17- Church parade. Wrote home.

Mon. 16/17- Moved up to Moroc. BB sent to B Coy.

Tues. 17/17- On phone duty. Shelling. Greenwood, myself, Gralley.'

Wed. 18/17- Phone duty. Went up to the line.

Thurs. 19/17- To Bde Hqrs. Pigeons. C Coy

Fri. 20/17- Bde. Hqrs. Pigeons. C Coy

Sat. 21/17- Lines. Bde Hqrs. Shelling. Out ėtil 3 AM.

Sun. 22/17- Bde. Hqrs. Straffing.

Mon. 23/17- Came out of the line. Came to Noulette. Huts. Pay.

Tues. 24/17- Over the tapes. [I was told in later years by Dad that 'over the tapes' meant planning the attack to take Hill 70. BMB]

Wed.25/17- Bully Grenay for flags. Mail.

Thurs.26/17- Winding wire. Mail.

Fri.27/17- Barrage. R.F.C. canteen. 1st & 2nd Div. tapes.

Sat. 28/17- Pounded our ear.

Sun. 29/17- Barrage.

Mon. 30/17- Gen. routine.

Tues. 31/17- Rain, rain.

August 1917

Wed.1/17- Sick. Phone duty.

Thurs.2/17- Reported sick. Fellows to go in cancelled.

Fri. 3/17- Phone duty. Rain. Feeling tough.

Sat.4/17- Mail. 15 francs. Ken Buchan.

Sun.5/17- Church parade. Concert at Y (?). Buchan. Notified about RC

Mon. 6/17- Over the tapes. Phone duty. Payed.

Tues. 7- Thurs. 9/17- Tapes ( repeated each day)

Fri. 10/17- Gen. routine.

Sat.11-Sun12/17- [no entries]

Mon. 13/17- Up the line to St. Pierre.

Tues. 14/17- Phone duty. Left at 12 for the front.

Wed. 15/17- Over the tapes.

Thurs. 16/17- [No entry but we now know he was out between the lines and hit by gunfire at 8 PM. He was dragged back to the line by 'Red Noxon', an American who had enlisted in the CEF.BMB]

Fri. 17/17- RN dressing stat. IV Can. Atr. 23 CCS. Operation.

Sat. 18/17- To Etaples. Arrived at 8 PM. ( I understand this was to a Base Hospital behind the line. )

Sun.19/17- Told about my eye. Birthday (his 20th) Confined to bed.

Mon..20/17- X-ray.

Tues. 21/17- Bed. Wrote home.

Wed. 22-Sat.25/17- Bed (repeated daily) [In later years, Dad recalled a Dr. Matthews, a Canadian Opthamologist from Regina, who attended him at this time. Apparently other Drs. wished to attempt brain surgery to remove shrapnel but Dr. Matthews advised Dad to decline as it was experimental & too risky. Dad was grateful & followed his advice. B.M.M]

Sun.26/17- Got 7 francs.

Mon.27/17- Left Etaples for Calais. Arrived about 2. Taken on board.

Tues. 28/17- Stormy. Stayed at rest camp.

Wed. 29/17-Left Calais at 3 :00 O'clock. Arrived Dover at 5:30. [In later years, he spoke of lying on his stretcher on the open deck & remarked what a beautiful & welcome sight he remembered feeling when he saw the Cliffs of Dover. B.M.M]

Thurs. 30/17- Arrived Bristol 10 o'clock. M 1 Ward. Wrote home.

Fri. 31/17- Confined to bed. Wrote home.

September 1917

Sat.1-Thurs. 6/17- Confined to bed .

Fri.7-Sat.8/17- Up in PM.

Sun. 9/17- Got money from paymaster.

Mon.11/17- Drew clothes. Down to Bristol.

Tues. 12-Sat.15/17- Downtown in afternoon.

Sun. 16/17- Received cable from Allie. [his older brother at home]

Mon. 17/17- [no entry]

Tues. 11/17- Thurs. Oct. 4/17- Trolley job. Hospital routine.

October 1917-

Thurs.4/17- Received ck. from pay office.

Fri. Oct.5/17-Thurs.11/17- Hospital routine.

Fri. 12/17- Letters direct from home.

Sat.14/17- Out to tea at Bryant's.

Sun. 15/17- Saw Mrs. Hunt.

Mon. 16/17- Received book of snaps from Griff.

Wed. 17- Wed.24/17- General routine of hospital life.

Thurs.25/17- To Bryants for tea. Inspection.

Fri. 26-Sun.28/17- [no entries]

Mon. 29/17- downtown.

Tues.30/17- Centre 6 PM. YMCA. Wrote six letters. Rain. Convoy.

Wed.31/17- Out to Bryant's for tea. Beasley off.

November 1917

Thurs.1/17- Mon. 12/17- Hospital life.

Tues. 13/17- Told to draw kit. Down to Bryant's.

Wed. 14/17- Arrice Folkeston - goodbyes. Bristol 2 London.

Thurs. 15/17- Down to Folkeston

Fri. 16/17- To the pictures. Eye ordered.

Sat. 17/17- no parade.

Sun. 18/17- Church. Cards. To 8th Res.

Mon. 19/17- No parade. Dr. downtown.

Tues. 20/17-Dr.

Wed. 21/17- Dentist. Dr. No parade.

Thurs. 22- Wed.28/17- [no entries]

Fri. 29/17- Eye was no good.

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