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.

13 July 1916; Thursday

Up at 7 o’clock after a bad restless night. Hunted in shirt and pants and found about 6 big lice. Paraded in the morning for cleaning waggons etcetera and then physical drill. Lay down all afternoon – no parade. Had some peaches for tea. Received some papers from Betty and also a letter from home. Went out at night with Lee and called at a village. Bought some chocolate. Afterwards met Leaky and Duggins and went with them to Ribemont1. Had eggs, coffee and cakes and bread. Walked round village and bought card for Gertie. Saw a few thousand cavalry go by our village and understand they are going to charge in the morning.

  1. Ribemont: presumably Ribemont-sur-Ancre, 7km SW of Albert, not Ribemont, SE of St Quentin. 

12 July 1916; Wednesday

Up at 7 o’clock. Church parade at 11 o’clock. Very nice service – C of E – and good hymns O God Our Help, Jesu Lover of my Soul etcetera. Read Bible a bit. Read British Weekly and enjoyed article by Claudius Clear1. Went to concert in the open by the Town Major’s house. Our C.O. and a captain took part in good dialogue. I dropped a 2 franc piece and couldn’t find it at a shop. Called again with Walsh and the woman recognised me and told me where she had found it – on the window sill. Washed shirt, pants and socks and wrote a few letters.

  1. Claudius Clear: alter-ego of William Robertson Nicoll (1851 – 1923), a Scottish Free Church minister, journalist, editor, and man of letters who founded the British Weekly, a Nonconformist newspaper. 

11 July 1916; Tuesday

Up at 7 o’clock. Physical drill at 11 o’clock. Orders to clean buttons. Turned out at 2.15 to clean waggons. Dirtied tunic and had to clean it at night, and also belt. Beautiful evening. Sat outside billet and cleaned belt. Read account of North Sea battle1 in Daily News received from home this morning. Also read some of British Weekly2. Wrote letter home in reply to one received. Had slight trouble with toothache. Had short walk with Lee. Cleaned grease off tunic and pants.

  1. “North Sea battle”: Jutland was 6 weeks ago, but reports were still coming through. The Germans’ next attempt to capitalise on what they claimed as a victory was a projected raid to shell Sunderland, on 19 August, but this was intercepted and defeated by the RN following Intelligence reports. 

  2. The British Weekly, a Nonconformist newspaper founded by William Robertson Nicoll (1851 – 1923), a Scottish Free Church minister, journalist, editor, and man of letters. 

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). 

8 July 1916; Saturday

Called out at 7 o’clock. Assisted with a case to the 59th bearers. Captain Johnson met me and told me to lie down. Couldn’t find any place to lie. Sat crowded in dugout and had some most welcome tea, bully and biscuits and jam. After the usual delay got a case and carried down to château. Had biscuits, jam and tea. Stayed all afternoon and had bully, biscuits and tea at 5 o’clock. Everybody tired out. I thought I was going to drop first thing, but felt better afterwards. Shoulders, back and feet tired. Everything mud, and in most awful condition. Appalling stench from dead men and horses. Captain Johnson made a speech and thanked us for the manner in which we had done our work in the most difficult circumstances and then asked for volunteers to bring in a few more men. I volunteered. We set out and were shelled terribly. Had marvellous escapes and were struck by pieces of flying mud. Two men of the 59 slightly wounded but we all got clear. Returned to château with no wounded.

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. 

6 July 1916; Thursday

[At top of page (pencil very faint) – ] A lot of dead bodies lying about and it was ghastly. Sat in the [continues below date-line – ] mud in our dug out all night. Very cold and legs horribly wet. [Pencil continues very faint; much of the following is surmise constructed around words which can be fairly safely deciphered, aided by ALL’s own free transcription.] Fell in about 7 in the morning and moved across to the village which the men had taken1. Passed more dead and some Germans. Saw a man lying on a heap of dead with the back of his head smashed in and dying. We were shelled on the open road on the way and returning. The squad in front of us had a very narrow escape. We had to forage ourselves for tea and my share was nearly† straight through. Very grateful when we arrived at dressing station. Returned to Albert. Had baths in a bucket. Returned to old billet in the wine shop. Went to bed after tea and after writing home. Heard that both the 57 and 592 had suffered† the loss of one† killed and * *3 injured.

  1. “The village which the men had taken”: possibly La Boisselle

  2. “57 and 59”: these may have been Field Ambulances; there is a reference on 8 July to “the 59th [what I read as] bearers”. 

  3. The shorthand appears to say “ninety four”, but is now too faded to be sure. Ninety four seems too high. 

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].

4 July 1916; Tuesday

Marched off about 2 o’clock. Back to Albert. Received tea at our hospital and then were taken to lie down by wall. Paddy Graham and I went together. It started to rain heavily. We got very wet. Captain Johnson came for us and took us to an old stable. I found a cab and lay curled up in it all night. Trousers wet and ground sheet soaked through. Just took off puttees and boots. Had good feeds of biscuits. Sent field postcard home. Received parcel with some cakes in. Rained heavily most of the day. A lot of men had German helmets. A rat ran up my sleeve as I leaned out of the barn window writing up my diary. Received first wash <and> shave since Friday. Heard that 10 thousand walking and 1 thousand stretcher cases and 80 German cases had been treated at our hospital. Went to bed in a broken down wine shop. Two fellows slept on billiard table. Washed feet in bucket. Slept well. Got *.