Tag Archives: Shell Shock

These are diary entries which either mention shell shock directly or which allude to it, for example mentioning men losing their nerve or trembling with fear &c.

24 September 1917; Monday

Up about 7 o’clock. On fatigue for a short while and then told off to go with the American doctor to see the Divisional column sick. Ernie called for me at noon and I got the afternoon off. Went into Locre. Called at the Y M and had tea and a tune; had tea in a house and then walked in to Mont Rouge. Called in at the Follies and started back shortly after 7 o’clock. Left Ernie about 8.30 near to La Laiterie1. The longest stay yet that we have had together. Enjoyed the day immensely. On return found that Driver had come down with shell shock, and that Holman had taken his place. They had wanted me but I was out. Nick Stack sleeping above me and drunk. He fell out of bed and spent the night on a stretcher on the floor.

  1. La Laiterie: A military cemetery begun in November 1914 and named after an old dairy farm which, perhaps, had previously occupied the site. La Laiterie (B) is located about 1km NE of Kemmel (A) on the N331 road to Ieper/Ypres. 

29 July 1916; Saturday

Slept well. Up shortly after 5 o’clock. Marched up but stayed at the big Canadian dugouts. Went to A.D. station at 8 o’clock. Stayed all night. Built bivouac in the big open dugout. With the stretcher cases and a few walking cases from artillery. Didn’t get down until about 4 o’clock and then slept badly from noise of guns and German shelling. Felt a bit “windy”. Bascombe with me.

25 July 1916; Tuesday

Slept badly from lice and a big naval gun. Up at 6 o’clock. Marched up to Captain Johnson for breakfast and had it there. Marched off about 7.30, up to the trenches. Our squad (Bascombe, Houghton, Hall and I) in the aid post near the Bosantine [sic] Wood1. Not much to do all day excepting a few slight wounds and sick cases. About 9 o’clock at night a man walked in with an ugly shrapnel wound in his shoulder, a man with his skull smashed and one with a knee wound besides two smaller cases. Carried the worst ones to the dressing station on the road. Germans shelled all day but stopped while we were down. Had two cases of shell shock in all day. Very heavy journey down with the stretchers. Dark, heavy ground. Only 3 to a stretcher. Got back safely. Sergeant Fraser and Hall went with a walking case and found the German using gas shells. I stayed up until half past one.

  1. “Bosantine Wood”: There are two woods near the village of Bazentin, about 10km NE of Albert. These are shown on old maps as Bazentin-le-Petit wood (A) and Bazentin-le-Grand wood (B). ALL could have been referring to either of these although Bazentin-le-Petit wood (A on the map and, somewhat counter-intuitively, the larger of the two woods then as it is now) seems the more likely as it is more easily accessible from the road. It seems quite likely that ALL had never seen the name Bazentin in writing, at least up to the time when he wrote his diary entry for 25 July, and this could account for his spelling. 

10 July 1916; Monday

Up at 7 o’clock. Spent morning cleaning up. Paraded at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with full pack and had good inspection. The C.O. read letter from General Head Quarters thanking us for our services in the most impossible conditions and also stating that the men appreciated our work. Walked to the next village Y.M. and looked round. Received newspapers from home and read them. Beautiful night. Everything so peaceful away from battlefield. Rather cold.

I lost service cap and sunshade at the trench.

Had sergeant and 6 men in our ambulance down with nerves and shell shock and 2 men slightly wounded. Noticed larks singing above the trenches while the battle was in full swing.

9 July 1916; Sunday

Lay down on stretcher to sleep as Germans were putting Jack Johnsons1 into the wood a few hundred yards away and we were in easy range. They were trying for the batteries behind us. Hurt knee on barbed wire on the night before and it was very painful. Marched down to Albert. Germans commenced to shell the town again. Were all done up, and were taken back to Laviéville by our motors. Got decent billet in a barn. Scraped clothing and cleaned up generally. Had a bathe and shave. First wash for 3 days. Plenty of tea. Bully again. Bread ration served out and I used some fresh butter received from home. Turned in early and slept well. Notes on front. Most horrible sight – men dying on top of dead. Coolness of some soldiers. Two soldiers trembling with fear who were to go over the top last Sunday morning. Our aeroplanes complete mastery of the air. German artillery not to be compared with ours.

  1. Jack Johnsons: German 150 mm heavy artillery shells, which burst with characteristic black smoke. After the boxer Jack Johnson (1878-1946), the first black American world heavyweight champion (1908-1915). 

7 July 1916; Friday

Called out of bed at 7 o’clock and told that we should have been on parade at 7. Hurried up, packed our kits†, and grabbed breakfast as best we could – biscuits and tea. Marched up to château1 where we found * bother†. Some very heavy bombardment going on most of the while. * * *. Sat in the ruined château in ruins. Marched up the line. Got lost as usual and squads were hopelessly mixed up. I kept with Paddy Graham and we carried a case along with some regimental bearers. I assisted a man who was suffering from shell shock. Returned and carried a man, he died as I was carrying him. Had violent convulsions, tried to vomit, and then died. Beautiful sunset. Night worse than in nightmare. Rained heavily later. Troops passing up trench made stretcher †pair miss†. Sat down steps on dug out until done. Wet through, cramped and too crowded <to> sleep. Horrible night. Nearly * dead in trench * *.

  1. “Château” and “the ruined château”: very probably Fricourt Château (approximate location shown on map), just north of the village, known to have been ruined by shelling. 

5 July 1916; Wednesday

Got up 8 o’clock. Breakfast and paraded at 9.15. Marched back to trenches. Went up about 12 o’clock. Arrived about 2.30 after being shelled on the way up. Waited a bit and then came down with a walking case. Had some tea. Very heavy shelling on both sides. Turned out bright and fine. Trenches in fearful condition and I was wet through all the way in wading up and down again. Scraped off clay but horribly wet. More bodies in the trench than last time I was up and a bad smell. Man in stretcher squad in front of us lost his nerve for a few minutes but recovered again all right. I felt ever so fit and quite happy. Arrived at dressing station. Was sent back with some walking cases. Got up to the waist in watery mud and took off boots and scraped trousers after getting to the dressing station. Squads formed up again at night and returned about midnight. Went across the open. Had to fall flat several times on account of Germans’ star shells and snipers and * * * [too faint to read].

3 July 1916; Monday

I fell in with Jolly and other two. Got lost in trench again. Were shelled and had some very near escapes. Jolly and another chap wanted to go back and dump the stretcher. The other men and I won. Found a N.F.1 in a dugout, been there since first charge. Brought him down. Parapet blown in a few yards in front. Very narrow escape. Went back to dugout and waited until bombardment ceased. Brought him down safely. Had to drop out. Fell in again and went up with Sergeant Brown. A lot of wounded and about 70 squads helped. Piles of dead men fearfully mutilated in the trench. Had to step over them with the stretcher. Man on our stretcher had privates shot off. Still advancing slowly. Awful heavy bombardment by our guns. Sergeant More and two privates’ nerve broke down. Received orders to return. Waited until nearly midnight. Lying on the side of the road †commenced first aid for a man with a thumb gone† in his hand. Saw some German prisoners [continued at top of 4 July page – ] Used part of field dressing to bandage man’s hand, injured with explosive dart. Too many things to note.

  1. “N.F.”: Northumberland Fusiliers; the 4 battalions of the Tyneside Irish formed the 102nd Brigade, and the 4 battalions of the Tyneside Scottish formed the 103rd Brigade; these, with the 101st Brigade, formed the 34th Division. The 102nd Brigade was the body specifically designated to capture La Boisselle (see 1 July.) The 102nd and 103rd Brigades sustained higher casualties than any other brigade in the first assault.