The date is August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force is in France and You're in the Royal Field Artillery. You're riding alongside one of the battery's gun limbers on its way to the assigned position on the east side of Mons, Belgium. This begins your journey into the Hell they called World War One. To purchase this historical memoir go to https://createspace.com/3649268

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1914 September 11-20

Advanced to MONT NOTRE DAME and came into action with French Artillery on hill overlooking River VESLE. From [our spot we could see] wounded coming down, [so] things were warm[1] in front.

Everywhere are signs of the Germans flight, dead men and horses discarded equipment, overturned motors etc.

Everywhere the houses have been looted and the inhabitants seem overjoyed to see us, for they have suffered bitterly at the hands of the enemy.

Sept 13th    (Battle of the Aisne)

[We] marched at dawn [in the] pouring rain, no food, or time to get any.  
Took up position near PAISSY, from there [we marched] to CHIVY VALLEY to meet a German counter attack.
Our infantry suffered heavily, many wounded being near me.
The battery dropped into action, and we found an observing point on a high hill, directly in front. 

In running our wire, old George and I were very lucky to escape the bullets, for we were in full view of the enemy – they all but got us once, a bullet coming between our noses as we were deciding the best way to run our wire. 

We laid down, for they were shelling very heavy all around. This was in the afternoon and the sun was very warm. I couldn’t move, I must have been tired for I actually went to sleep, [until] a Staff-Officer later was talking near by [sic] he must have thought I got bowled over

We made our observing station under the shelter of a small rock, which undoubtedly saved us from getting completely wiped out of existence.

We fired heavy all day, and in the night the Battery moved a little to the right.

I remained on the hill on guard, and posted double sentries with order to shoot anybody, who approached without giving prompt reply to challenge. Towards dawn I lost two sentries and had very uncomfortable time searching for them, for the enemy was again very active.

Sept 14th

[There was] heavy fighting all day. Our little rock proved a haven of refuge, all day we were heavily shelled by ‘coal-boxes .

Major Johnson was killed near by [sic] and Major Madocks slightly wounded.

Some chaps dodged under our rock for shelter and gave us some tobacco; we were smokeless and foodless, my feast being that day a half biscuit, left from emergency ration.
Sept 15th

[Today was the] same as yesterday. The 113th and 46th Batteries on our left were heavily shelled [and had] many casualties, we were more fortunate.

[There was] very hard fighting all day – was by this time [I] quite used to the thunder like clap of the coal-boxes, and other a sundry missiles the Germans were flinging about wholesale.

Their artillery was superior, we had no heavy guns to compare to them, nor anything like their number – and we suffered greatly, for sometimes it was like Hell let loose.
Sept 16th

Heavy scrapping [all day].
 In the afternoon we took up another position on top of MOUNT GOURTONNE, which commanded a good view of the enemies [sic] lines.
 I galloped hard from our little rock and was sickened to see the dead horses lying around.
 As soon as the guns left the old position the enemy peppered it with shell[s], for we had been spotted by aeroplane.
 We took up position at night, [it] was raining hard [and I] was wet through, but had got used to that now. [I] slept under a gun limber [and] would have given anything for something hot to drink, and a good fire.

Sept 17th – October 13th

We have effectively formed our battle line known as the AISNE RIVER.
This long period of fighting all day and almost every night, seems to come to one as a second nature.
 We fire an average of 250 rounds per day – it is really siege warfare.
 Night attacks take place almost nightly [and] I have dug a hole at the back of a limber, as my home.
 All days seem to be alike [except that] some days the fighting is more severe than others. They shell us occasionally and it is never safe to move from one dugout or the shelter of the guns.
 Our wagon line are in the great caves,  which are a wonderful work of nature, but even there we have had quite a few men wounded, and several horses killed.
 At times when they shell us severely, we have had to desert the guns and take refuge in an adjacent cave, which undoubtedly has been the means of saving some lives.
 I slept in this cave one night, and on going to the guns before dawn next morning [I] lost my way and wandered towards the enemy’s lines. When it became light, I was lost and in a valley between us and the Germans. I was confused, and hardly knew what to do.
I could hear rifle bullets whipping uncomfortably near. The ground was full of great holes caused by the German heavy artillery. I knew that when it became light, [I] would be [in] a veritable death trap.
I was hopelessly lost and worse, unarmed, so I decided to take refuge in a shell hole and await throughout the day. [I would wait] until nightfall and try to make my way back. After a while, I decided I would chance it and rather get to our own lines or meet whatever came my way.
 After a deal of wandering and exciting moments, I met an officer who was forward observing, and he directed me to where he thought our guns were.
 I reached them without further mishap, and my off man and the others thought I had got swallowed, for nobody saw me go. Strangely the path I took from the cave, took me within 10 yds of the guns, by which I could see now daylight had well advanced – well! I laughed.

On the 20th
 I managed to get a bit drop of water to wash my face, for it had not seen water for 8 days and I had not shaved for over a fortnight. I looked at myself in somebody’s little pocket mirror – and thought what a picture I was.

Monday, September 8, 2014

1914 September 7 - 9

September 7th

Marched 3:45 a.m. joined [the] Advanced Guard to FALEYS.
 [On arriving we found that] engagement was in progress between our Cavalry and the enemy, but the enemy retreated before we could drop into action, [so we] continued [our] advance to JOUY-SUR-MORIN.

September 8th

[On our arrival at Jouy-Sur-Mor] fighting was in progress on our front. We turned to find a German [artillery] Battery [firing] at [us from] MONTSLAGIEL - [As the fighting continued], a thunderstorm [sprang up and] the Germans retreated.

[That night] we bivouacked in the rear of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. [There were] sounds of heavy fighting in front all night

September 9th

Marched at 4:00 a.m. with the Advanced Guard of 3rd Infantry Brigade to the river MARNE, and [the] Cavalry crossed the river. We finally stopped 2 ½ miles north of CHARLY.

Sir John French:
Our advance resumed at daybreak on the 10th, and we were opposed by the enemy’s strong rearguard. We were able to drive the enemy northwards and in the process we obtained thirteen guns, seven machine guns, about 2,000 prisoners, and a quantity of transports. The enemy left many dead.  

September 10th

Marched at 6 am, at head of [the] main Body, and was soon in the thick of the fight [that afterwards would be] known as the Battle of the Marne. 

We dropped into action in the open, my chum and I deciding to run our telephone wire, over a small ridge from our observing party to the Battery. [Doing so], a French Cavalryman galloped past me with blood running from himself and [his] horse.

I laid out my wire quickly to the guns, and as I was about to connect my instrument, [when] I heard a loud whining sound, [followed by] a horrific explosion, It was our christening of heavy artillery fire. [The bombardment continued] for two continual hours, it was Hell.

I crouched beneath a gun limber, and thought each moment was my last. I was like a jelly man, and must confess my nerves were for the time gone. I wanted to run anywhere, and it was only by the greatest effort of will power, I stood to my work and yelled out the orders to the Battery Leader, for the firing of the guns.

The Northampton and Sussex Regiments retired right through our guns, and drew the enemy’s fire on to us. Their retirement developed into a hopeless rabble and panic, our CRA Gen Finley and Colonel Sharpe with a few more Artillery Officers tried to stop them, and urge them to go forward, but it was no use.

While trying to stop them the genl[sic] was killed and two officers wounded, and both regiments lost very heavily. Nothing was between us and the enemy. The infantry in their mad rush broke my telephone wire [and] I thought my chum at the other end had got knocked over, he thought the same of me. So the Battery for a few moments was out of action, but the orders were passed down by Semaphore[1] by two more chums, and we set out to mend our wire.

 [In the] mean time the 60th Rifles advanced where the Northampton’s and Sussex retired, and the enemy continued their retreat, how thankful we [were]. 

[1] Semaphore Flag: Hand-held flags that are used to send visual messages

Friday, September 5, 2014

1914 September 1 - 6

[We] marched at 5:30 a.m. and [it was a] long march to MAROLLE Bridge. [We passed] COMPIEGNE [and found out later that] about a mile in our rear was attacked at dawn, L Battery H [indecipherable] getting knocked out. We moved just in time, but did not know how near we were to be out up, until later.
[Arrived] at 6:30 p.m. and I went to sleep by my saddle, [later] we were aroused by alarm at 11:30 p.m.

[We were asked] to move, for [the] Engineers were waiting to blow up the bridge. We got across, just in time and up went the bridge.

[The] German Cavalry were very close, [so] we marched through the night and halted on the roadside about 3:00 a.m. In less than a minute I was sound asleep on a friendly heap of stones.

Up again, marching again, how I longed for a sleep —anywhere. Continued retirement reached MEAUX at 5:30 a.m.

September 2nd

Marched via VARREDDES, GERMINGNY[1], and bivouacked near JOUARRE, [it was a] long and weary march - very hot.

September 3rd

Halted nearly all day east of SAMMERON [where] the rear guard was slightly engaged – weather hot.

September 4th

Marched to COULOMMIERS, [and] bivouacked early.  [I was able to] washed my underclothing. [i]

[I] thought we were going to have a day’s rest, but had to move quickly in the morning, and take up position SW of COULOMMIERS. We dug in and remained in action all night, leaving position at dawn; marched with Division to ROZNY

September 5th

In position at ROZNY, [but] no contact with enemy. 

We hear that the retreat is over, with the French we are to advance, how glad we were - anything but that continual marching

September 6th

We were advancing, occupied a position east of [the town] of VOINSLES [so that we could] cover advance of [the] 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades. [We] moved forward and occupied [the] line [between] Le PLESSIS, and ANDNOY. 

I dismounted behind the house and went inside, there I first saw house sacked by the Germans, [and] everything was destroyed. Outside I saw one of the Coldstream guards, killed by shrapnel, poor chap.

I thought then, I wondered if this means the breaking of a woman’s heart, or had he little children. It was my first close contact with a dead man, and it set me thinking. My thoughts were all with my dear ones at home. I shall always remember that hour, my real first initiation into the horrors of war. I cannot say I was afraid, it all seemed so strange, but we were advancing that was our cry we’ve got’em on the run, and we are going to have our own back. – bivouacked south of VOUDNOY.

[1] Perhaps is now known as Germingny-sous-Coulombs
[2] Perhaps renamed Rosnay-sous-Bois