Tag Archives: Front Line

Diary entries written about Arthur Linfoot’s experiences during front line engagements. Because opportunities to write in a diary would be rare in front line conditions, most of these would have been written up from memory some days later.

13 June 1917; Wednesday

Up pretty well all night. A machine gun sweeping round outside the dugout. Relieved unexpectedly in the morning by the 59 Field Ambulance about 5 o’clock. Marched down to P & O trench1 with wheeled stretchers. Had breakfast there. Marched on to La Clyte with an officer called Captain Marsh. Marched from there to Berthen with only one officer and two men fainted on the way. Packs carried supplies. My heel gave me some trouble through my socks being worn out. Everybody mad with Captain Marsh for his foolishness. After dinner the Bailleul party ordered to return and we went back in the motor ambulance. Had a bath and a walk round the town at night. Slept in the old billet at night.

  1. “P&O trench”: See note on 7 June

12 June 1917; Tuesday

Up at 6 o’clock. Marched off about 6.30. Relieved men at first relay post. Saw an aeroplane go down in flames. Proved to be ours. Had a pretty hot time and the dugout was once filled with smoke from a shell. Not much to do and I only helped with two stretcher cases and one walking case. Shelled just to our left as * and I took down a walking case. Lee spent most of the day telling us his usual silly yarns.

Arthur * in place of Harry Bascombe.

11 June 1917; Monday

A shell just missed us again about 6 o’clock in the morning. Were relieved at 7 o’clock. Harry Bascombe ordered down to La Clyte and Arthur Lyne to take his place. Turned in to kip1 and slept exhausted after dinner until about 6 o’clock. Had tea and shaved and washed. Received word from Franchie Inwood to say that she is in hospital and to go through an operation to have a growth removed from †her finger† this summer. Also received a letter from home. Went to bed about 9 o’clock.

  1. “Kip”(if correct), meaning “sleep”: a word which ALL occasionally used in speech in later life, but apparently too colloquial for the diary until now. 

10 June 1917; Sunday

Up about 4 o’clock. Had breakfast and marched off at 5 o’clock. Arrived at Stafford wood, and stayed with our squad in a German concrete dugout. Did nothing all day. Sergeant MacDonell moved us out at night about 9 o’clock. Just missed by a big shell as we came down. Heavy counter-attack at night and Germans shelled terribly. Blew our front line in and inflicted pretty heavy casualties upon our men. We were carrying all night from about 2 o’clock until 6 o’clock.

9 June 1917; Saturday

Started work at about midnight and carried 3 or 4 cases from the Blue Line to P & O trench1. Absolutely tired out in the morning. Relieved about 8 o’clock. Went down to brasserie. Slept until about 1 o’clock, when we were turned out and called up to P & O trench. Turned in there and slept till tea time in the sun. We were told we were not to go up until 4 o’clock in the morning. Turned in and slept well.

Saw one of our aeroplanes shot down by German anti-aircraft guns.

  1. “Blue line” and “P&O trench”: See notes on 7 June

8 June 1917; Friday

Lay in the dugout until about 2.30. Went back to the relay post. Up to the Blue Line1 twice. The front man very heavy and almost crocked us up. Went down to the brasserie, had breakfast and then got down to it2. Slept very little. Up to the relay post again at 5 o’clock. Felt a bit groggy at first but it wore off after a while. Lay in the advanced post on our original front line until about midnight. The Germans counter-attacked and our artillery barrage was terribly heavy.

  1. “Blue Line”: See note on 7 June

  2. “Got down to it” seems to have been a phrase increasingly in use at this time, meaning “lay down to sleep”. See also “got down” on 6 June

7 June 1917; Thursday

[Written above date:] Messines – Wytschaete1

Awake at 3.15 am with the mines going up2 and shaking the ground. The barrage commenced then and continued until 9 o’clock. Most intense bombardment in the world’s history. A man on the battery behind got his heart smashed with the recoil of the gun and we brought him round to the aid post. Bascombe, Driver, Lee and I in number 8 squad from 2 parade. Went up the line about 9 o’clock. Brought our first case from the Red Line3 post. German trenches absolutely knocked out of existence. A fair number of Germans dead, but not many injured. A good number of German prisoners, who carried down wounded as they came. Worked from the relay post (our old front line) to the P & O4 line most of the afternoon. The first party went down at about 9 o’clock. We stayed on for the night. Called out before midnight to go to the blue line. A long walk and we were shelled most of the way down. Had to go round to P & O trench and were shelled very heavily at the new dugout.

  1. Messines village (Mesen; A), on the crest of the Messines Ridge, is 9km due S. of Ypres (Ieper), about half-way to Armentières; Wytschaete (Wijtschate; B) is 2km N. of Messines: Michelin square J3. 

  2. “The mines going up”: This was the beginning of the Battle of Messsines Ridge, which started at 3:10 am with the detonation of 19 large mines under German army lines, still said to be collectively one of the largest non-nuclear explosions of all time; see note on 22 May. It is interesting that by the time ALL wrote up this date in his diary – which would necessarily have been a few days later – it was already known (or at least being said) that this had been (in ALL’s own words) the “most intense bombardment in the world’s history.” The mines are well known to have been heard as far away as London. 

  3. The Red Line, Blue Line etc were targets set for the British advance on specified days of the attack. 

  4. P&O is the correct reading. Other contemporary records speak of a P&O line or trench, but none appears to offer any clue about the derivation of the name. See contemporary map (with “P&O trench” clearly visible) and associated discussion at this page on the Great War Forum. This P&O trench is said to be to the South-West of Sint Elooi (a.k.a. St. Eloi; C on the map), which would put it somewhere to the North of Wytschaete. 

6 June 1917; Wednesday

Up at usual time. Grand day. Received orders quite suddenly to go back to headquarters. Went into town and bought a towel, a soap box and some other things. Charlie’s birthday.

Returned from town and found that I had to pack at once. Hurried to La Clytte in a car. Everything ready for the push. Big guns in the valley firing. Marquees† up and all ready. Fritz1 shelled La Clytte regularly for the last few nights. Had a bit rest and then marched up the line with our stretchers and everything. I picked a wheeled stretcher. No shelling as we came up but signs of recent shelling and dead horses. Arrived at Ridge Wood and the brasserie about 11 o’clock. Got down2 in the brasserie but had to go out again into the little R E signals dugout.

  1. Fritz: a name given to German troops by the British and others in the First and Second World Wars. 

  2. “Got down” meaning “lay down to sleep”. 

23 January 1917; Tuesday

Received orders that we were to be relieved at 11 o’clock. Relieved shortly after midday and marched off to Maily. Maily1. Had tea, left a few packs and a few of us marched round to Acheux2. Slept in a marquee. Very cold.

  1. Maily: Mailly-Maillet? (A). 

  2. Acheux: Acheux-en-Amiénois? (B), Michelin square H7, 11km NW of Albert on Doullens road; 6km from Mailly-Maillet.