The Diary of Lieutenant-Colonel McCarroll
11th North Auckland Mounted Rifles - NZMR
Diary part 3 Transcribed from long hand diaries by Steve Butler 2007
Still raining, went to Whitehead this afternoon, Aunt lives here in a very fine house. This is a summer place where people flock in their hundreds for bathing. The beach is covered with white sand and stones and looks very pretty, while at the end of the beach is a big black bluff called Blackhead, stretching inland is a gentle slope for miles, beautiful green cut into small fields by hedges, and as the shadows were chasing one another along it was very nice indeed. In the distance I could see Island Magee, the home of my mothers people, where they landed in 1672 from Scotland.
The country lanes are pretty with sweet smelling wild flowers and the hedges on the other side. There is a charm about them that we miss in N.Z. Good solid built farmhouses everywhere, in a few places the old thatched cottage is to be seen and they remind me of our Nikau Shanties.
Back to Belfast, mostly about town. Went to see Reverend Cochrane the minister for Sinclairs Seamans Church. It was here that Mother was baptised, then married.
Saw Carlisle Circus which is very good. Away in the distance the slopes of Davis Hill look well, and the green fields of Antrim are to be seen in the distance. Victoria Barracks is a big place and has accommodation for a large number of troops.
Found me still looking up my old haunts. I went to Bangor where I discovered I had an Aunt. I found her allright, and although 76, wonderfully bright. We talked a lot of old times, places and people. Bangor as I remembered it was just a place on the beach where we use to spend summer holidays, now it is an up to date town with some beautiful residences, and in the summer is very lively. Visitors have the advantage of the beach, while near by they can get into the fields and country lanes and enjoy life. Some beautiful parks and a splendid golf links are here.
Went to see great shipbuilding yards of Belfast. They are guarded by the military and I had to obtain a pass to get through. I saw a lot of things that I must not say much about as they are for the Admiralty
The two ships seen by James McCarroll in Belfast as they were being refitted - The Britannic was launched on April 26, 1914, just over two years after the Titanic disaster. Three months later World War One broke out in Europe. The British government began to commission passenger liners to serve as military vessels. The Olympic, the oldest of the three sisters became a troop ship. The Britannic was converted into a hospital ship in November of 1915. The ship was repainted white with red crosses on the sides of her hull. Her interior was refitted to carry over 3,000 patients. She was commanded by Captain Charles "Iceberg Charlie" Bartlett. There was also a compliment of 100 doctors and 675 crew members. On December 12, 1915 His Majesty's Hospital Ship (HMHS) Britannic was ready for service and made for Lemnos to collect the wounded from Gallipoli.
The Olympic and the Britannic are laid up, they are huge ships. They handle iron just like we would tin, cut strips off iron plates three quarters of an inch thick, and punch holes in them with perfect ease. Men have very little heavy lifting to do, all done with cranes and trucks. Then the steam hammers are great, they can hit a blow very light up to tons, huge machines for shaping the plates. Big long furnaces for heating bars which are brought into a stell floor full of holes, with these the bars are made into any shape. The slips where these ships are built have some very fine hydro cranes and not near so much scaffolding is required. It looks like a Forrest of timber looking under a ship in the making, huge piece of iron are handled with ease, and the system of launching seems perfect. Some very useful looking Monitors were built here of which more anon.
Men have been making a lot of money here, what with overtime and the war bonuses. Their lot is extra good. These works extend over a mile along the harbour, over 15,000 men are employed and it is a great sight to see them leaving at night. Ballamacaret where the most of them live is a closely packed den of houses and I should think the people are quite as tightly packed. Women and children abound and as dirty as the men.
Fine big dry docks are here to take the largest ships afloat, huge gantry and cranes to lift up to 200 tons everywhere. I had a good opportunity to see everything as I had a special permission from the military authorities and the managing director. Every ship they build is first built as a scale model and every part of her numbered, so that in the case of repairs they send for the plate number – and it I sent and fits into place. They pride themselves on their work and most of their ships are built on commission.
Nothing is wasted, all the scraps are sold, the engine building depot is a splendid sight, all their engines are set up and worked before putting them in. They make their own furniture here also. They had a ship on the slips partly built, the government wanted the slip so it had to be dismantled, and it is now stacked in heaps, how it will ever be assembled again is a mystery. Trams for conveying the material to different slips abound, huge traction engines pulling loads about, the whole place is alive with people and machinery. Dinning rooms for the workmen everywhere. Electric light everywhere. This place is quite modern, as thirty years ago it was small compared to now. This is one of the principle industries of Belfast. The Linen trade employs a lot of people.
Left Belfast for Dublin after a very pleasant trip. James Andis came to see me off as well as my relations. Dear dirty Dublin is in some ways a very fine city, there is wealth and poverty living close to each other. Some very fine churches indeed, public buildings are splendid. There is a dirty river that runs through the middle, I think a lot of people must wash in it. Its principal traffic is beer and stout, bridges cross it very often, strong plain structures.
Dublin can boast of its beautiful statues and monuments, one very fine one erected to the memory of Charles Stewart Parnell. Nelson’s is a splendid one.
Phoenix park is a splendid in extent and beauty, some magnificent flowers grow and the largest monument I have seen out of Egypt is there called the Duke of Wellington’s. Dublin has some splendid wide streets, and numerous population, children everywhere. I am sorry to say I saw a lot of young strong men going about without any care or worry about matters war.
The country about is beautiful grassland. I saw some very fine beef cattle, fine horses and some very handsome ladies. The jaunting car I still in evidence.
I left next morning for Kingston and Hollyhead. It is a short run to the pier and you embark on an up to date steamer, that leaves at full steam, and only slacks off when near the pier at Hollyhead. It does the 65 mile run in about two and a half hours. This was a smooth trip, and people tell me it can be very rough here. The Captain of these packets gets a big salary, and is fined so much per minute if late – as they carry the mails.
Numerous patrol boats are out watching for submarines and this traffic between England and Ireland is maintained.
Left Hollyhead about 12 noon, lunch on the train a big expense. I might mention here that Ireland as I found her does not encourage cleanliness as baths at the hotels are charged extra, generally one shilling – this is a custom in England I now find.
Hollyhead to Chester is a lovely run, the Welsh hills look very charming and the scenery from the train is beautiful. I would have like to have stayed here for a while but time did not permit. Saw quite a lot of cattle on this run, nearly all black.
From Chester I took another train to Liverpool arriving there at 3 pm.
Went to enquire for my cousin Mrs Janice Thompson, I was directed to a dock where he[?] was, but a disagreeable policeman barred my way. By the time I got in my friend had gone. So I had to wire Bangor for their private address. I spent an afternoon having a look at the docks. These extend for eight miles along the Mersey, and will accommodate the largest ships afloat, every convenience is provided for handling cargo and passengers.
The Mersey is like our Northern Wairoa, and quite as dirty, numerous ferry boats ply about, small boats everywhere.
There is a huge population here and I think they were mostly in the street. The streets and shops were simply packed with women and children – a good deal of evidence of poverty is to be seen in places where people are packed like sardines.
There are some very fine buildings in the City, an overhead railway, up to date trams, and trains everywhere that bewilder the stranger. A very up to date and big hotel is run by the railway company, where all priced accommodation is procurable. Good wide streets with fine monuments at the intersections, lots or narrow roads too, and the trams generally run along these.
The people have a frightened look about them in the streets, and they are constantly dodging the trams and wheeled traffic.
Amongst the working people the drinking habit is very bad. I saw children waiting outside public houses while both their parents were inside drinking. It is a common sight to see even young women in the open bar drinking with the men. This is in contrast to New Zealand I am glad to say.
Sunday 25th July 1915
Quiet here no trams until 10.30 am I went for a run out to the suburbs and it is very nice, some fine residences and a lot of workman’s homes are being built. I found my cousin in one of the suburbs. She is a fine big handsome Irish woman, the sort that grows in the north. I spent a very pleasant time with them, they have one girl of thirteen years.
Liverpool is fairly level and there are few places that one can get a view of the city, but by taking the trams to different parts it is possible to see something of it.
The surrounding country seems good agricultural country, plenty of excellent crops, while a large proportion is producing milk for the city.
Liverpool is sending its gusto into the war, but the recruiting committee were hard at work trying to induce the young men to volunteer before conscription came along. Numerous eligible looking young men are to be seen not in uniform.
I should think this was a cheap place to live in, there is a huge market place where the housewife can go and buy stuff for very little, less than a decent shop keeper will deliver them for. I went to this market and the din was deafening, everybody crying out about the quality of their wares, children crying etc. I went into a big shop where you can buy nearly anything, they were doing good business. The people seemed to have plenty of money.
Left to go to Birmingham, but the train did not stop, so I went onto London, arriving at 1.30 pm.
This was a fast train and one gets a good run through beautiful country.
Went to the Record Office and found they had been trying to find me since Friday. I was to go to France for a week to have a look around. I was traced as far as Chester, but they were unable to find me in Liverpool, this was unfortunate as I expected a good time, I may get another chance.
I was now on my own and I had to find a place to stay with such a choice I had a job selecting a suitable place. At last I decided on Horrex Hotel, a very decent place in the Strand. There is no doubt London is the city of them all, there is a fascination about it, beautiful parks, public buildings, monuments, residential quarters are all very fine. Still besides the wealth there is a great deal of poverty.
Went to see Westminster Abby, that wonderful old church which is the resting place for the Kings and great men of the nation. It is indeed a beautiful and wonderful building with its great lofty dome and solid walls. I saw the chair in which the Kings are crowned, a very plain looking thing. There are some beautiful statues and tombs too numerous to mention and very trying on the memory – its all in a book I sent you.
Service is held here every day at 12 noon – that is since the war.
Went to the Continental Club, a very big place, the home of the Conservative Party politically. Evidences of great wealth abound, almost every paper printed is to be seen here, lounges and smoke rooms everywhere.
A run along the embankment is interesting, the river is confined in banks formed of solid masonry.
Numerous small boats in the upper reaches. The docks are marvellous works, great facilities are provided for handling cargo.
Like all English rivers, the Thames is dirty.
Visited a lot of places immortalised by Dickens in his novels – the same characters are to be seen today.
The town has greatly improved in these parts of late years, big streets having been run through. There are two churches left standing in the middle of the street as a consequence. London streets are free from telephone and tram car wires which adds greatly to her appearance. One blot is the numerous recruiting posters stuck up everywhere. They are sickening to the soldiers and a source of mirth to the ones who don’t want to go to war. Of course I saw Piccadilly Square, Leister Square etc., where the ladies promenade, some good looking ones and some well painted, quite works of art
Thursday 29th July 1915
My leave is up today, so I had to go before a medical board who found that I was not fit for active service abroad and so put me on “General Duty” in England. This was very disappointing as I was wanting back to my own friends and Regiment. They said they would not send anyone out unless they were absolutely fit. In my case I disagreed with them, as I think I am fit.
Went to see the Royal Academy where all the fine pictures are – to one with no artistic turn it must appeal. But I admire the patience and the skill that these people devote to produce these pictures. IN lots of cases the picture does not appeal. Some of the best ones were put out of reach of the suffragettes.
I went to see Whitehall Museum where all the old firearms, guns, military and naval curios are kept. It was interesting, there you can see the most ancient and the most modern in war implements.
Some of the Draper’s shops are a marvel in colourising. Regent and Bond Streets are very fine in this respect.
It is quite the thing for people here to live in flats and dine out, it may be expensive, but it saves trouble. I met Mr and Mrs Harding here, they are enjoying a holiday. The New Zealanders here interest themselves a good deal in the soldiers from New Zealand. The war contingent has opened a convalescent home at Walton on Thames for our boys.
Went to the Theatre but was not greatly impressed by the acting, I think the London audience are easily pleased.
The buildings are very fine indeed, and now perhaps this is my last day in London as tomorrow I have to leave for Weymouth to join camp there.
Friday 30th July
Left London to report to the Australian and New Zealand Depot at Weymouth. The Officer Commanding is the Honourable Sir Newton Moore, a practical Australian who takes a keen interest in his work and understands the colonial soldier. As I am under orders to rest, this place suits me.
The train journey was full of interest through topping country, if New Zealand was populated to the same extent what a country it would be.
Endless hedges and trees cover the landscape with villages here and there, good sized towns every few miles. Numerous factories close to the railway are all making munitions day and night. Soldiers all along the line guarding it.
The Camp here consists of numerous huts, they call them here, but they are wooden houses (small), holding 25 men with a stove for heating purposes.
I have a decent room with a stove in it, so I am quite comfortable, a very good mess is under way and the respective governments have furnished it so I think we should be all right.
Had a look round, found men in all stages of repair, some quite fit others with arms off., they will be sent back home, all looking well and eager to get back. There are 100 New Zealanders, but only one I know.
Went for a motor drive this afternoon and visited a swanery, there are over 1,000 swans and they look very pretty all together in the water, as they are all quite tame they come close up. They have been nesting here for over 500 years. The gardens look nice, there is a duck shooting ground here, great expense has been used to produce some five weeks shooting, but it provides work for a good many.
Went further on and saw a very fine garden and grounds where innumerable trees and shrubs have been planted, quite a lot of New Zealand trees also Australian. Saw the ruins of a very old church built by some Abbotts, the quaint old thatched cottages add to the charm
Sunday July 31st 1915
There are three church services here – Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Church of England so that the soldiers here have a choice. The Church of England man was late and the Colonel started by singing the first hymn. The Parson came and started all over again.
Went for a ride on a horse, the first for three months. We went through some very old villages, hundreds of years old with thatched roofs. Chickwell is very old. Saw some fine herds of cows, had tea at a very old Inn, returning along roads where the trees met across the road overhead.
Monday August 1st 1915
In Camp, wet day, not much doing. Saw Captain Price yesterday, told me he was married. Had a talk with the New Zealand boys, they are all eager to get back, but they are enjoying themselves here, sea bathing and Hot and cold water baths. Plenty to eat and not very hard work, plenty of leave and any amount of girls. This place has a great number of girls and children
Tuesday August 2nd
On a Court Martial nearly all day. Went for a run in the late afternoon, nothing of note, saw a bit of Weymouth.
This is a watering place, where women and children spend their holidays, it is a beautiful beach, summer shelters and tents are packed on the beach, where one could camp for the night, or all day. Numerous Café – porridge – excellent refreshments.
Wednesday August 3rd
Left for Bournemouth at 6 am per motor car, this is a very fine town about thirty five miles away. Through fine country, beautiful avenues of trees, hedges on both sides of the road, green fields stretching for miles, it is a glorious county Dorsetshire is one of the finest counties in England. The town of Bournemouth has particularly fine hedges and trees trimmed, streets clean, very fine houses – this is a watering place and great tourist resort and everything accordingly. Beautiful well kept gardens abound one particularly on the top of a cliff, some old buildings are to be seen about.
We returned via Dorchester a very old town, quaint old buildings are to be seen in the town yet, a very old Inn is still going, and the courtyard is still used. Portions of Roman walls still stand. Huge old trees everywhere, very narrow streets, big long avenues lead into the town.
It was market day and I had a good opportunity to see the farmers, there is no mistaking them, quite different from the dapper well dressed crowd that attend our sales. Their pigs were the centre of admiration, few cattle and fewer sheep.
Through some old villages, more thatched roofs – these villages are very old, and families have lived here for generations, a lot of them own them. There are plenty of people in these villages that have not been further than the next town, and in a lot of ways they are very much behind in things worldly.
In some, they don’t seem to know much about the war. In several cases I saw the farmers at the old ways of farming, moving hay by hand etc.
Thursday 5th August 1915
I forgot to tell you a lot of us went to the sports of the Royal Artillery yesterday, they did things well and gave us a good time. From a hill near their Camp a splendid view of Portland is got. The big long breakwater encircles a splendid harbour. Portland is nearly an Island. Some very strong forts protect the harbour, as the fleet stay here a good lot.
There was a very interesting officer, a Lieutenant McCullah came here, he was a war correspondent in Russia, and in the Russia-Japanese War, also the Balkan War. Most interesting man to talk with. An Irishman from Tyrone, his descriptive powers are good and he tells of his experiences in a very interesting way. He is going to the Dardenelles, so I next expect to meet him there.
Very wet day, so not much doing. If this is Summer I don’t want to be here in the Winter, it must be very cold and bleak.
After the weeks rest I feel all right now.
I have been enquiring into some complaints in a hospital here – like most complaints they seem to vanish when opened to the daylight. There is an excellent staff and the nurses are devoted to their work.
Saw C. Finlayson who has just reported here, I got the first news about New Zealand and the squadron from him, he looks well.
Had a look round Weymouth, there is a very fine beach covered with bathing boxes and tents, this is a very popular watering place where women and children spend their summer holidays.
I went to see the “Belle of New York” here, but it was a bit tame.
People here seem to put in their time in the sea and walking on the beach and promenade, and some interesting sights are to be seen. The latest fashion in bathing dresses and afternoon attire basks in the sun.
There is no industry here, so I think the town thrives on the visitors, everything is dear in consequence
Saturday 7th August
Very heavy fog blown in from the sea – hanging about.
The High Commissioner for New Zealand visited the depot today and inspected the men and camp. He talked with all the New Zealander boys in a sensible practical way. He lunched here, also Mr McK and Lady Moore and her daughters.
We went for a run to Lulworth core a pretty little bay along the coast about ten miles. It is strongly guarded as being a likely place for a landing by a hostile force. I was privileged to get on top of the hill where a splendid view was obtained, Lady Moore was with me.
A long stretch of coast runs towards Weymouth, this is very steep and rough, much very pretty rock scenery is visible, big white cliffs, blow holes, little caves etc makes this a very interesting run. We passed through some very old villages, I saw one roofed with slabs of stone – others with the thatched roofs. Beautiful roads everywhere
Sunday 8th August 1915
I got some letters this morning – first for over three months.
Went for a ride with Doctor Lewers through some old villages and pretty country where farming carried on by not too up to date methods.
Had tea at a very old farm house some 600 years old, an old lady quite 60 years old entertained us with some old history. She showed us lots of things that had been in the house over 200 years, beautiful old china and crockery.
A very old church still stands, it was built about 1200 and is still in use. Near by is the wishing well where an old dame gives you a glass of water, you have to drink and wish, then throw the remainder over your left shoulder. It is a beautiful spring in a glorious situation. She says King George III use to go there for a drink and they show you the steps that were put in for him to get at the water.
Other buildings indicate antiquity and this makes a very pleasant run. This village is called Upway and is nice. It nestles in a valley and we rode up the hill and looked down on it, it makes for a very pretty view.
A run in the motor car to Dorchester in the evening is pleasant. We went through a avenue of Elms about a mile long, it is said these were planted by the French prisoners, that would be about 100 years ago. It is one of the finest avenues I have ever seen.
Monday 9th August
In Camp. We are sending a draft away tomorrow, so there is a little excitement. We had a smoke concert here to farewell the men that are leaving. The officers went in at 8 pm, all the men stood up and sung “For they are jolly good fellows”. Well I think they must have started (on the beer anyway) before we got in, for from then on the fun was fast and furious. Great difficulty to get anyone to listen. Quite a lot wanted to sing, threats to close up bought peace for awhile – it was a great turnout. The men enjoyed it, some excellent turns were given, one particularly good, an artist on the mouth organ. We sang “Auld Lang Syne” then cleared the room – then peace.
We gave a dinner the other night, we had two Generals. Our waiters were a bit original – one of them taking round the vegetables to a General brought no spoon – so he was sent to get one, on his return he said to the General “Have another go!” he had one, and I suppose he did some thinking.
This is the first decent day for some time and it gets quite enjoyable. I had a run into Weymouth two miles from Camp and the beach was packed with women and children enjoying the sea. This is a splendid place, as there is no much break, and a long shallow beach.
There are quite a lot of old Inns here, one that King George use to live at – it is quaint and much patronised.
Tuesday 10th August
In Camp all day sorting out the fit and unfit. Arranging for the permanently unfit men to be sent home.
Draft leaving here tomorrow for Egypt. Spent the afternoon in Weymouth, the YMCA gave a very good concert here, the first half was by interesting ladies, one lady sang “Home sweet Home”, quite inappropriate I thought, but even if she had sang it well we might have forgiven her. Another sang “Till the boys come home” very well. The second half was by the men and some really splendid items were given. We entertained the ladies to supper afterwards, which was enjoyable. Some theatre people visited this afternoon and bought some cigarettes for the men who where going away.
A Regiment of Yeomanry has come into camp, alongside in physical size they don’t compare to our fellows, but they should be very useful men.
Sent the draft away this morning, there was a big crowd to see them off, quite a lot of girls. The Colonial is quick to make friends with the girls of Weymouth – the girls are not slow to appreciate these boys.
Men are arriving here in all stages of unfitness – Henry Cartwright of Matakohe amongst them, one of the Hawkins from Maungatapere [also].
Went for a ride to see the farms. Mostly doing farms here with mixed herds, in no way are they better than ours. I find that they have to manure heavily here to get decent crops. Basic slag is used considerably on the grass pastures, root crops require very heavy manuring. Saw two very old Inns, one called the “Elm Inn” was very quaint, no bars but the bar parlour consists of rough walls with an odd old print on it, very rough table with wood seats, all round stone floor. The beer is kept in another room. Some very old pictures adorn the walls, also the dresser or cupboard is covered with old crockery. The people have been in this house for generations, and a lot of old customs prevail yet.
I visited the home of Mr Richardson who was a great collector of old china to old animals, he has beautiful and rare things in glass, china and crockery ware, he has collections of moths and butterflies of over 2,000 - some as big as sparrows some as small as a flea, beautiful colouring is the outstanding feature of these. Some rare birds, among them the Kiwi.
He has a skeleton of some very ancient animal, it is nearly 12 foot long, it was found in the clay in a brickfield, and must have taken months of patient work to catalogue and assemble the parts. He told me only one other one was known to exist. Old books by the hundreds, he has a copy of the first Bible printed – in fact it is a small museum of particularly rare articles. His wife collects also and they both have this hobby of collecting wine glasses, they are particularly fine dating a long way back.
Mrs Richardson paints on crockery, and she has some splendid work, pottery of very ancient origin fills a huge case. Unique boxes, old furniture, this is a most interesting house I have ever been in and Mr and Mrs Richardson are justly proud of it.
I was just off to see another farm when I received a telegram to proceed to France, so had to cancel my ride as I had to make arrangements to get away. I find I will not be able to get away until tomorrow. We have a scratch concert in the mess tonight.
Sunday 15th August 1915
Went up to London today by another route through beautiful country, stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel close to Victoria railway station.
Monday 16th August
Left with Colonels Chaytor and Plugge for France, a fine run through Kent to Folkstone, we arrived at Boulounge by a very fast steamer, and at last we are in France. An officer on the pier gives orders through a megaphone – civilians forward, military aft.
Folkstone - today
Colonels Chaytor’s party will be met at the gangway. We are met by an officer who instructs us how to proceed, and a very fine motor car is waiting for us. We have dinner at Boulounge at a very good hotel run on English lines, then we have to travel about 45 miles per motor car to St Omer, the Headquarters of the British Army in France.
On the outskirts of the town we found the road very solidly blocked with wagons and sentries, but on presenting our passes we are allowed to proceed, soon we reach G.H.Q. where all the lights are shaded and a quietness prevails. We see the G.S.O (General Staff Officer) – everybody is known here by letters describing their official position.
In a business like way he tells us the programme drawn up for us, then directs us to report early next morning to another officer. He then directs us to a hotle were rooms are engaged for us. This is a French Inn, and I was deputised to get some whisky and soda. It was after hours but my French prevailed.
We report early at G.H.Q. and we are given our directions on a map, also a guide and soon we are within the sound of guns. We arrive at Army H.Q. who in turn pass us on to Corp H.Q. who pass us on to Divisional H.Q., they pass us on to Brigade H.Q. who take us to the seat of the war, each place we stop at we are asked a lot of questions to about the Dardenelles. At last we are within sight of the flank of the guns and soon we are in the trenches under German fire. We went to Fosse No.9 a lookout and observation point where a fine view of the trenches is obtained. This is a very prominent point and has been repeatedly shelled, huge holes in the ground remain as evidence of the size of the shells. It is reported that our men use them as swimming ponds when they get full of water. Villages close by have been completely wrecked by shell-fire.
From another point we get a splendid view of La B----- then we reach the village of Vermelles where the French put up one of the best fights of the war, taking house after house. These trenches were very wet, over the boot tops so you can guess what they will be like in Winter. The front trenches are a wonderful creation, plenty of underground shelter for the men, Bethune also shows signs of war, quite the latest in boon throwing is to be seen here. The men are very keen and alert with fed and happy.
“Festubert” and Anniquinn also show signs of shell-fire. I saw and heard a lot that I can’t fairly write about.
Wednesday 18th August 1915
Very early start after our late arrival last night. I tried the waitress for breakfast, she could not understand my French, Colonel Plugge had to come to my aid.
We motored over 120 miles to reached what proved to be an interesting place, where Mr German had plenty of shell to throw about.
We met numerous Generals who were very eager for news of the Dardenelles.
We were at 3rd Army H.Q. at Bucane, B ruay, Hinincourt Canary, very strong substantial trenches are constructed. Crops growing close up to the trenches being harvested by the women and children. Beautiful country such a shame that war is spoiling it, we spend a lot of time in these trenches. I talked with the men and they are in good heart and feel sure they can stop the Germans, and given plenty of ammunition would drive the Germans back. I can’t tell you all that I would like.
Thursday 19th August 1915
To day we went to that section of which Ypres is the centre. Soon we are in the part that has been pounded by shell. This is magnificent agricultural country growing splendid crops, I saw hops over 12 foot high, maize, oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, tobacco in fact everything.
The villages are completely wrecked. The towns of Poperinge and Vlamertinge are completely ruined, some of the people still live in the cellars and try to keep on their farms. It is a sad sight to see them with their homes ruined. I with Colonel Chaytor and Plugge spent a lot of time here as this is the one place the Germans are trying hard to break through. The trenches are very substantial, we were under fire here very much and very close by the German lines. They shell this section very much, at least 300 shells were sent over us, some very big ones, making big holes in the soft ground.
Ypres - today
As we walked around the trenches they spotted us looking over, soon they were at us, quite a fusillade, hitting the bank. They were firing salvos and it was quite weird hearing them going screaming overhead. I had tea in the trenches here.
We saw several aeroplanes flying about and witnessed a dual in the air. Our machine gun or men managed to bring down the German.
We could not resist a visit to the town, or rather the ruins of Ypres. The road was not considered safe for motor cars in day time, but we risked it and got into the town just as a big shell dropped. We saw the church and clock hall and other fine buildings in ruins. One would think there had been an earthquake.
When we were leaving we saw a shell drop about 150 yards ahead and about 50 yards off the road. Just as I thought we were clear another one burst quite close to us. Two bullets went into the engine, two in the front tyre, one through the spare petrol and one into the back tyre. A shower of dirt and stones came over us and a few scratches was the result.
Fortunately the engine did not stop and the driver kept his head, and we ran on until we got behind a farm house, repaired damages and waited until the friendly darkness helped us away.
We decided that this was not a healthy place, so we were not sorry to leave this section a few miles behind.
We saw the flares of the Germans use to light up our trenches, then they throw their bombs. They were using them a lot tonight. We got a slight whiff of their gas also.
We were very late getting to our Inn and it took my best French to get the girl to give us any dinner. The sound of the guns could be heard a long way off.
We had a good look around the ancient city of St Omer which possess a very fine old church, a priest very kindly showed us round, explaining the difference in the architecture of each century etc. They have some very fine paintings and statues. I saw another very fine church turned into a garage. We spent some time in the historic town of Baulounge, saw a lot of hospitals there and a very fine beach covered with women and children.
We took a ship for Folkstone, train to London, arriving there late at night, tired but happy to be back once more in England.
One cannot have a trip like this without meeting some outstanding features, the pluck and determination of the men who will stand up and attack in the face of the hellish devices that the Germans have ready for them. First to be racked by shell, then liquid fire and gas. Then when they show themselves above the trenches, the deadly machineguns thin their ranks, and yet they face all this. Thousands of men in England don’t know what their soldiers are suffering and enduring.
Then petrol is another feature, not to speak of aircraft. The road transport is extensively being run by petrol, thousands of motor wagons carrying three tons run along the roads with precision of railway trains. I saw them in lots of 150 cars parked all along the road. There are thousands of motor cars carrying staff officers and other people, all on petrol. Petrol everywhere, the organisation of the transport is a triumph. Of course horses are used near the lines, I saw thousands of fine animals all in splendid condition. Food is carried right up to the men in the trenches, and the food is excellent, bread butter jam beef (fresh) bacon vegetables etc. Good water everywhere.
Then I think above all is the medical services, there is no disease and very little sickness, wounded men are rarely seen except on the move, or in hospitals.
A man is wounded and operated on in a London hospital the same night before he is conscious.
Splendid motor ambulances by the hundreds, doctors devoted to their work.
One of the wonders of the whole thing is not some huge picnic. Lots of people run down “red tape”, but when one sees the thousands of men, wagons, cars and animals that is moved about by a small staff in a dingy office at G.H.Q. the obsulate need of systematic training is evident.
The maps at G.H.Q. are a sight to see. They can tell where every unit is at a glance. Fighting troops, Reserves, ammunition parks, stores, medical all connected up by telephone. Even if a transport column stops on the road, they are immediately connected up.
In our case better arrangements could not have been made for us. We travelled at a great pace, but they knew where we were all the time, and cars met us at every point, where we had to walk through trenches the Generals we meet were delighted to see us and spoke in the highest praise of New Zealand and Australian troops, and of their work in the Dardenelles.
These same Generals have enormous responsibilities and they face the same dangers as their men. And what can I say of the men – it is their love of England, their homes and the knowledge that they are fighting a just cause that will help them overcome the damnable devices invented by the Germans. They will soon be able to write “Victory” in big letters, and the flags of France and Belgium will float over their countries once more.
What struck me most in France and Belgium is the way the women and children are carrying on the agriculture of the country, everywhere we went and as far as we could see, splendid crops all ready for harvest.
They have a beautiful type of farm house here, all white, magnificent animals. I did not see any fences, the land is cropped close to the road and seems to be held in small farms. Farewell beautiful France and may your troubles soon be over.
I spent in London, got some letters from the High Commission and also saw a big casualty list. Had dinner with Colonel Chaytor and went to the theatre and saw a poor performance.
Air raids are fairly common now. There seems to be any amount of young men about here, how I would like to go round with a gang and gather them all in, quite a lot wear badges now to avoid joining – but they will all be got yet.
Went to see Devonshire, the journey down is fine through splendid country with beautiful Devon cattle dotted about.
I stopped at the old town of Exeter, a very nice place, there is something interesting about the place. I stayed at the Globe Hotel, a place with a not very imposing exterior but on getting inside a very beaming lady makes you feel at home, and the house is very fine nice indeed inside. This is quite an historic house, near by is a fine Cathedral. I saw one building marked 1269 and there were lots like it. This one was between two modern ones. There is something about this town that attracts one, and although I did not know anyone I liked it very much. A sluggish river runs through the town
Monday 23rd August 1915
Spent my time running round Exeter, leaving in the afternoon by slow train to Weymouth, en-route I had a look at Taunton another Devon town. I saw some very fine Devon cattle about. Plenty of fruit is grown here and a stay in the country just now is very nice indeed. I get into Weymouth by a different way, it is through fine country all the way.
Tuesday 24th August
We had an “At Home” here today; we invited the ladies that have entertained the men with concerts etc. They had a great time.
Mr and Mrs Richardson living opposite gave us use of their gardens, and they are beautiful, very choice flowers and shrubs, so we passed the time quite pleasantly and sent the ladies home well pleased.
And now my book is finished and nearly my trip to England