Tag Archives: Somme

This collection of diary entries includes 1) Arthur Linfoot’s contemporaneous notes of his own experiences during active service at the Somme, and 2) other entries which mention news and rumours about the Somme which reached Arthur Linfoot while he was serving elsewhere.

28 September 1916; Thursday

Up at 7 o’clock. At work all day as usual. Managed all right. Kept busy all day. Received definite news of the fall of Combles1.

  1. Combles was on the extreme right of the British sector (in the Somme area), or possibly in the French sector; 10km due S. of Bapaume, 14km E. of Albert. It had been used by the Germans as a shelter for reserves, supplies and engineer stores and as a staging area for reinforcements during the Battle of the Somme. See also Capture of Combles at Wikipedia. 

17 September 1916; Sunday

Up at 7 o’clock. At 8.45 communion service. Busy all day in the ward. Went to service in the Y.M. at night and played the piano. Picked wrong tune for one hymn, and chose the new tune for Onward Christian Soldiers1 for the last hymn.

Received news of big victory by the British on the Somme.

  1. The “new tune” for Onward Christian Soldiers was probably the one most known today, composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1871 and named “St Gertrude” after the wife of his friend Ernest Clay Ker Seymer. The tune which had previously been used for Onward Christian Soldiers was a melody from the slow movement of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony in D, No. 15. Evidently “St Gertrude”, despite then being some 45 years old, was still considered new – at least by ALL. 

16 September 1916; Saturday

At the ward as usual. Busy all day. A lot of patients in. Football match in the afternoon and our team won. 5 – 1.

Received news of big fresh advance1 on the Somme.

  1. There was indeed a ‘big fresh advance’ on the Somme on 15 September, assisted by tanks, which according to the prevalent view (which ALL shared) were too few and too sparsely distributed to achieve a decisive impact; in other words wasted due to premature use. The push was in the centre (the old 34th and 19th Divisions area), astride the Albert – Bapaume road, initially as far SE as Delville Wood, and by the evening of 15 September it had reached Courcelette on the Albert – Bapaume road, some 2km beyond Pozières, but still 8km short of Bapaume. 

30 July 1916; Sunday

Up at 7 o’clock. Had breakfast. Marched down to the horse lines. Made big shelter with the big waggon sheet and the waggons. Hot day. Very tired. Finished writing little story. Germans shelled heavily to the right and left of us with big stuff. After tea a few squads went up in reserve to the 59th and the remainder of us came back to the château near Fricourt12. Told to be ready to fall in and go up the line any time. Slept with only Lavere again.

Gas alarm at night.

  1. Fricourt: This is the first time ALL mentions Fricourt by name although this château was very probably the same one mentioned on 7th July and again on several occasions since. Fricourt is between Albert and Mametz, about 2km from latter; map sq. I 7/8 in Michelin. The map accompanying this post shows the approximate location of the château. 

  2. Fricourt had been a salient in the German front line prior to July 1916 and was taken by the British on 1-2 July. It was presumably during this fighting that the château was ruined. 

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.

28 July 1916; Friday

Up about 5 o’clock. After sleeping very little. Read inscription in Testament on a heap of woundeds’ equipment, From your loving mother Dear Will read a verse every day and God will keep you safe. Mind you say your prayers.

Marched back to near the chateau and went to our old bivouacs. Weather still fine. Had bath in a horse bucket. Felt better after it. Newspapers from home and letter from Sandwith. Went to bed about 9 o’clock.

27 July 1916; Thursday

Had egg for breakfast then proceeded up to some dugouts near the A.D.S.1 Wonderful places with some long tunnels underground. Some Canadians in them and one sat and told stories. Were ordered up the line at 5 o’clock. Went to Captain King’s dressing station. Nothing for us to do. Sat in the cold all night and managed to scrape about 2 hours sleep. Felt pretty miserable and funky all night. Very few German shells over, but our guns bombarded fearfully all night and the noise nearly deafened us. The 6th Black Watch2 cut up a good lot in the reserve trenches. Lavere and I built a shelter, and then the side fell in and pinned me until I got Lavere to lift off the packs. 7 dead men lying on stretchers outside the aid post. Wrapped myself up in a wounded soldier’s overcoat and ground sheet. Kept awake with, *, guns, *, lice, German shells and nowhere to lie.

  1. “A.D.S.”: advanced dressing station. 

  2. The Black Watch’s own (on-line) newsletter says that their 6th (Perthshire) battalion was in the central sector at the Somme, but does not give dates. However according to information gathered from the Aberfeldy Museum by a correspondent to whom we are grateful, the 6th Black Watch had arrived at the Somme battlefield shortly after 20 July, and as ALL records, suffered considerable casualties. 

26 July 1916; Wednesday

Got piece of shrapnel out of the L† & Y1 shoulder2. Stayed up until 1.30, then lay down until about 7 o’clock. Had quiet night although the Germans sent over gas shells all the while. Were relieved at 8 o’clock. Marched down to dressing station, then to the billets near the chateau, after calling at an Army Service park. Got to know a big ammunition dump had been fired. Sergeant Jones killed and Sergeant Brown wounded about 8 o’clock. 2 men gassed the night before and a few men down the line. Fine day. Returned to old billets with Lavere. A dead German buried in the side of the trench and his foot sticking out and smelled horribly. Got to know a day or two ago that Ted Trim had got a DCM3 on July 2nd. Received parcel from home and letter from Joe. Had eggs and brown bread and butter to tea.

Two pieces of trench art (the matchbox cover engraved "The Great War"; the paper- knife engraved "Albert", and "Ancre" on the reverse; the handle is a spent .303 cartridge, for a Lee Enfield rifle or a Lewis machine-gun); and a piece of shrapnel preserved by ALL (exact origin not known but possibly related to the July 26 diary entry).
Two pieces of trench art (the matchbox cover engraved “The Great War”; the paper- knife engraved “Albert”, and “Ancre” on the reverse; the handle is a spent .303 cartridge, for a Lee Enfield rifle or a Lewis machine-gun); and a piece of shrapnel preserved by ALL (exact origin not known but possibly related to the July 26 diary entry).

  1. “L & Y”: the “L”, though unclear, seems corroborated by ALL’s transcription (but should be “Y & L”): the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment were in 70th Brigade, 8th Division – not the 34th or 19th Division, but nevertheless in the central sector of the front. 

  2. ALL wrote in his more detailed 1976 narrative that he had kept this piece of shrapnel as a souvenir – possibly though by no means certainly the one in the illustration accompanying this entry. 

  3. “DCM”: the Distinguished Conduct Medal was for Other Ranks; officers got the Distinguished Service Cross.