Spent most of day packing waggons and overhauling equipment. Went out at night to Westoutre1. Over main road. Called at Johnny’s and had custard and coffee. Fine night. News from the Somme slightly better.
Up about 7 o’clock. On the double1 as usual. On parade and put on the competition squad. Spent afternoon writing and made good progress with French. Heard of victory on the Somme.
British advance on Cambrai 2. 8000 prisoners and many guns.
The Battle of Cambrai (commenced 20 November) is best known as the occasion when tanks were first used in adequate numbers; the few available in 1916 having had their secrecy blown by being tried prematurely on the Somme, and in 1917, still in small numbers, having been largely wasted in impractical ground conditions at Passchendaele. ↩
Up at 7 o’clock. Fed tent and cleaned up. Had some trouble with a CCS man, who had violent pains in his abdomen. Managed pretty well and finished about 6.30. Got a bit of a letter written to Franchie. Started in a new tent.
Newspapers mention slight advance on the Somme and capture of 350 prisoners.
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.
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. ↩
At work as usual in the hospital. Rain all day. Had afternoon and evening off. Received letter and parcel from home also one from Ranald MacDonald. Walked round by Y.M. at night. Called in at the village church. Very beautiful church and some splendid stained glass windows in it. Rumour that we are going back to the Somme at the end of this week.
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.
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. ↩
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.
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. ↩
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.
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. ↩
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.
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.