Up at 5.30. Breakfast at 6 o’clock. I was told off for a waggon. Put my kit up a motor ambulance and went with it to take some Worcesters† to Méricourt Station. Made our lot up and was told to follow them. Went back to Laviéville, got a pack and hurried to Mericourt Stn1 with the others. Entrained then in cattle truck at 10 o’clock. Passed through Amiens. Arrived Longpré about 1.30. Set off to march in the wrong direction. Marched for about 3 hours in the sun and was very much fagged out. Washed feet and legs. Terribly dusty and had a bruise under my right heel. Billeted in a field in a bivouac along with Duggins. Walked round village (Vauchelle2) at night. Had two eggs at one house and a feed at another.
Méricourt-l’Abbé (A) has a railway station where ALL could have boarded a train to pass through Amiens as he describes and travel on to Longpré-les-Corps-Saints (B). ↩
Assuming that Longpré is Longpré-les-Corps-Saints (where ALL had been on 8 June, a week or so after arriving in France), and taking the 3 hours’ march on 3 August into account, “Vauchelle” would seem to be Vauchelles-lès-Domart, 7km NE of Longpré (C); there is also a Vauchelles-lès-Quesnoy (D), on the outskirts of Abbeville (and a Vauchelles-lès-Authie, between Doullens and Albert, as well as a plain Vauchelles near Noyon.) ↩
Got up about 6 o’clock. Double along the road first thing. Breakfast dinner and tea as usual. Paraded 9.30 with skeleton equipment and overcoats and gas helmets. Marched about 8 miles. It rained heavily and the roads were fearful. Our coats wet through. Had to go to bed at night with nothing to cover us. Managed all right and had good night. Used newspaper to help me to keep warm.
Up at 6 o’clock. Shaved and dressed. Detailed off for water duties. Pump smashed so they had to go to town for water and I got off. Took pay books up for pay. Read a bit. Walked into Vignacourt at night. It rained as we were going up.
Snails†. Big spider. Charlie Ford and the lot of them drunk and had a sing song.
Up at 6 o’clock. Detailed off for fatigue and told to sweep up first and then had to wash out the hospital. Finished about 9 o’clock and did nothing further. Wrote letter in the afternoon. Meals as usual. ASC1 section returned and were pretty full of what they had seen. A lot of dirtiness talked. Went to a service at night in the village with Lee and La Vere2. C of E and enjoyed it very much. Sang “O Jesus I have promised.” Called in at the R.C. church. A soldier playing the organ and played all sorts of things. Pretty organ. Some missionary figures in the church. All coloured. Splendid windows. Big, high church. Met a chap who objects to swearing. Walked back with him.
“ASC”: Army Service Corps, later the Royal Army Service Corps ↩
ALL wrote this name as one word, Lavere, from 24 July onwards. ↩
Up at 6 o’clock. Shaved and washed in a bucket of pond water, – green. Scrambled through breakfast, dinner and tea. Got to know men a bit better . On fatigue in the morning and afternoon. Physical drill first thing in the morning – a short double. Beginning to get to know men better.
Paraded before a Captain Newton and told him that I had been a lance-corporal1.
See note on 31 May about ALL’s possibly mistaken demotion to Private while aboard Karnak. In an interview given in 1976, ALL recalled a conversation with an officer about his demotion shortly after his arrival in France. This may have been the same conversation with “Captain Newton” as is recorded in this diary entry, although ALL did not mention a name during the interview.
ALL said, “When I was made Lance Corporal in the barracks at Sheffield, I was full Lance Corporal with pay. I was moved up to Alnwick. We came back and we were there a month or two before I went to France. Now almost invariably Lance Corporal was acting rank and when he crossed overseas he took down his stripes and when I was on the boat there was a strange officer who didn’t know me at all and said ‘take your stripes down’ and I did as I was told. When we got to the unit in France where I was going to, I remember the officer who saw me, examined you when you joined up. He looked up at me and he said ‘but you were a Lance Corporal and now you are a Private’. He said ‘do you mind acting as a Private?’ I said, ‘no, not at all.’ He said, ‘alright’, but I had Lance Corporal’s pay.” ↩
Arrived Longpré1 and told this is end of our train ride. Had a wash at the engine-filling water crane. Got on to motorcars at about 3 o’clock and arrived at dumping place about 5 o’clock. Walked to ADMS2 office and were detailed off for Hallencourt3. Arrived about 6 o’clock. Had a drink of tea. (Had our rations for tea on the road side.) Were told off to sleep in a barn with the other chaps. Walked to the close† village – Vignacourt4 .
First impressions not very good, but hope for better things. Slept fairly well.
Longpré: Probably Longpré-les-Corps-Saints (A on the map marks the location of the railway station there); 14km SE of Abbeville, on D3; ref D7; written in shorthand, but can’t be anything else; this Longpré is the only one in the gazetteer of the Michelin map (see editorial note on Michelin map), but the nature of the overnight rail journey makes it impossible to confirm it by estimating its distance from Rouen. Consequently there is no way of confirming my transcription (Vignacourt) of the nearby village. The camp with the ADMS office was apparently 2 hours by motor transport from Longpré, but with the primitive nature of both transport and roads, the distance may not have been great. ↩
“ADMS”: probably Assistant Director of Medical Services. ↩
Hallencourt (B): transcription uncertain – but Hallencourt is in the right area – 8km WSW of Longpré-les-Corps-Saints, ref D8. ↩
Vignacourt (C) [14km NW of Amiens; ref F7] is the only identification I can make, reasonably – or remotely – plausible for the shorthand, for the village adjacent to the camp, and the distance could have been up to 20km before the modern roads were built. Vignacourt could be about the right distance from Rainnecourt (see 16 June); 14km as the crow flies, and there seem to be fairly direct small roads – where ALL says an 8-mile march. (DL) ↩