Were lost in trench all night. Passed through front line trenches where Cheshires and Welsh1 regiments were waiting to go over the top. After being under fire by a machine gun (and seeing many retreats†) we found our way to the dugout aid post. Germans shelling2, so we had to wait. Finally got a case. Took us until 5 o’clock to get it down through mud and crowded trenches. Had to wait for so long until Germans stopped shelling communication trench. Were nearly down when a regimental stretcher bearer followed us and asked us to go back. 3 went back and took over the stretcher. Lay about most of afternoon very much done up. No regular meals, only snatches of biscuits and cheese. Ordered to fall in at night. Frightened us a bit and Leaky suggested staying back. Orders about 3 o’clock to stand up with gas helmets. Lay down again. Met stretcher squads. Lay on side of trench part of the morning. Very heavy bombardment and fighting in front. Distances confusing.
[This (2 July) and the adjoining pages are very difficult to read. Along the bottom edge of the 2 July page there has been a further line of shorthand, even fainter and more smudged than the rest of these pages. The words “time”, “distance” and “making” may be there, but nothing else can even be guessed.]
ALL’s own records say that the 58th Field Ambulance was in the 57th Brigade. The 9th Cheshires, the 9th Welch and the 9th Royal Welch Fusiliers were also in the 19th Division, but in the 58th Brigade. ↩
“Germans shelling”: whereas the British artillery barrage had as pre-arranged extended its range as soon as the first infantry attack began, so as to leave the first lines of German trenches clear for the British infantry (whose progress, if any, was however much slower than foreseen, thus giving the Germans time to emerge with their machine guns before the British infantry got there), the German artillery fire was concentrated on No Man’s Land as soon as the British infantry entered it. In readiness for this, the German field batteries had delayed firing during the British preliminary barrage, thus escaping observation (and avoiding getting shelled themselves), and reassuring the British Staff that they had been silenced by the British barrage. ↩