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.
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.
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. ↩
Got piece of shrapnel out of the L & Y & L1 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 château, 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.
Y & L: ALL first wrote “L & Y”, but corrected this to “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. ↩
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. ↩
“DCM”: the Distinguished Conduct Medal was for Other Ranks; officers got the Distinguished Service Cross. ↩
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.
“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. ↩
[Above the printed date – ] Heard that Pozières1 had been captured.
About 1 o’clock a shell struck the road about 6 feet off our trench and blew the side in burying Denham and Hughes. A machine gun played over us the whole time and we had to dig them out with our hands. Like a nightmare. Spent a few hours in the proper dug-out. Took down two stretcher cases before breakfast and then got some tea in Captain Newton’s dug out. Duggins and Gibson sent up to relieve Bascombe and I. Received orders later to go down. Paddy and I carried a case to the relief and then came down. Passed an 8” battery. A tremendous number of guns. The bombardment through the night was deafening. Some hideous sights in the wood. An Engineer sergeant badly wounded left to die and was breathing when I saw him last. Also decomposed bodies stirred up with the shells.
The Battle of Pozières was a two-week struggle for the French village of Pozières during the middle stages of the Battle of the Somme. Pozières is primarily remembered as an Australian battle and ended with Allied forces in possession of the plateau north and east of the village. ↩
Up at 5 o’clock and marched off. Felt pretty jaded to start with. Walked up by Mametz Wood1 and to Hardecourt Wood2. Bascombe and I left at the East Lancs aid post. Had our break fast (cooked ourselves.) Other two of our squad there. Took down a man on our backs. Ran some messages to the very heavily shelled sap at night and a machine gun fired over our heads all the night. Took down 9 wounded cases. Carried one on my back. Under shell fire and machine gun fire all the time. Met a Jock with a bad wound in the thigh. A Coal Box3 burst a few feet away from us and nearly blinded us with dirt and fumes but didn’t hurt us. Got him to the King’s Own4 aid post by myself. Returned to rest. Waited until shells eased off. Returned to rest place. Tried to sleep in garments† by position. Shells falling all round us.
Mametz (A) and its Wood are on the bottom limb of the “L”-shaped front line , some 5 – 6km east of Albert, in square I8 of the Michelin map. ↩
“Hardecourt Wood”: there is a Hardecourt-aux-Bois (B), 5km E. of Mametz, but the shorthand is unclear, and I don’t know whether Hardecourt-aux-Bois, or its remains, were yet held by the British. ↩
“Coal Box”: Another name for a German heavy artillery shell used by British troops, seemingly interchangeably with “Jack Johnson”, which ALL had also used in a diary entry on 9 July. ↩
“King’s Own”: the 7th Battalion of the King’s Own Regiment was in the 19th Division, but in the 56th Brigade (ALL’s 58th Field Ambulance was attached to the 57th Brigade). But so was the (7th) East Lancs. ↩
Up at 8 o’clock. Had breakfast. Watched aeroplanes. Glorious morning. Read The Passing Show1, and a couple of chapters in Corinthians. Received orders to move at 12.30. Hunted for lice and found over 20 in my shirt. Left our camp about 1 o’clock. Arrived further up road near a battery of 60 pounders and made a dug out for a first aid dressing station. Got down for the night with Bascombe, Piggy Wood and a few others with orders to be up at 5 o’clock. Very cold and damp all night and a terrible noise with the guns. The 5” gun over the way and some 8” guns quite near made an awful noise. Troubled a lot with lice too. Germans shelling the road. Watched aeroplanes fighting and being fired at. Beautifully fine.
Up at 7 o’clock. Dull and damp in the morning. Received rumour that 4 of the 104th Field Ambulance men were killed in the château we left1. Killed by a shell bursting in their billet. Received orders that we were not to stand by after dinner. Went to Ribemont at night with Walsh and Lee and had eggs. Got wet in going. Went to bed at about 9 o’clock. Big dispute with Forrest and others about football until about 11 o’clock. Watched the rats playing about in the rafters all day.
“The château we left”: Probably Fricourt Château again; see map on 7 July entry. ↩
Up at 7 o’clock. Still standing by and no church service. Rumours of Germans’ retreat up the line. Wrote to Willie Whittaker. Fine morning. Service in the field in the afternoon but it rained and so we stopped before the sermon. Rained a bit at night. Wrote letter home in reply to one received and also to Willie Whittaker and Franchie Inwood. Went to bed early at night. Lay awake with toothache, but generally slept well.
1 killed and 9 wounded of the 57 Ambulance at La Boisselle.
Called up at 6 o’clock. Had breakfast shortly before 8 and was relieved then. Wrote letter to Joe and one to Charlie. Went on at 12 o’clock. Was relieved shortly before 2 o’clock. Just beginning dinner when we received orders to go to our billet and pack our kit. Packed kit in 20 minutes and paraded by the A.S.C. park. Had tea and waited. Received orders to go back to the billet and wait there. Beautiful afternoon. Wrote to Ernie. Turned in at the usual time.
Up at 7. No bread and rotten dinner, boiled bully. Got hair cut. Physical drill at 11 o’clock. Wrote to Gertie. Received two copies of the Daily News from home. Rain in the morning but fine in the afternoon. Got new cap two sizes too small. Paraded at 6 o’clock with the guard. Went on from 6 until 10 o’clock. Got two blankets and slept with Lee on a fairly comfortable bed in the hospital barn.