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Dad's Diary - Book One

4.2.1915 - 18.5.1915


Feb 4th
War carried on 6 months, been called up 6 months on the 5.2.15.
Feb 13th
Arrived Charlton Terrace after spending night at home, to find battery had moved off early in morning took up kit etc. and hurried off to Woolwich Arsenal station to catch them up got there in time alright (7,20am) to find nearly all horses wagons etc. packed on trains(2) ready for Southhampton. Left Woolwich about 8.30, after a roundabout journey arrived at S'hampton about 1pm. Embarked on the S.S. Kelvingrove. Stayed in dock all day Sunday leaving about 4pm for Havre. Woke up and found we were anchored off that port.
Monday morning pilot took us into Dock and was all day and best part of night getting horses, guns, wagons and all our gear on land.
On Tuesday we got ready to move off doing so by train about 5.30pm for some destination unknown. Travelled at a fair rate all night the weather was cold and stormy. We passed Boulogne, St Omer, Hazebrouck Dis-en-training about 6.30 to 9.0pm.
Wednesday we travelled by road to a farm about 2 miles from Vlamertinghe which was made our base.
On Thursday our heads went out to have a look for a position for the guns that night the left section guns were took up to the position chosen about 2 in the morning all hands were turned out to pack up two wagons with tackles, planks etc. with about 20 gunners to assist with guns which had got stuck in the mud, the country being in a very sodden state owing to the dykes being opened to flood country.
About 8 am on Friday morning some of our chaps came back with one gun "D" the other had to be left as it had sunk up to its axle. At 10 o/c an order came to harness up right section, we hooked in and started off passing through Ypres (which had been terribly battered about by the Germans, very little of the Cathedral being left (one thing I noticed particular was statue of the Virgin Mary amidst the ruins, which was untouched, a fact which is remarked upon by everyone seeing it) to a hill about 3 miles outside the city.
As we arrived near the position we were to take up we had to take cover as shrapnel began to burst over us luckily no one was hit, this being our first time under fire no doubt most of us were a bit funky having a stiff pull to get the guns in to position across a wurzell field we worked of steam. Shouting to get the horses along after getting right section in to the required spot "A" & "B" horses (18) were hitched into "C" gun which had sunk in the night before, just then German shrapnel started going over us, everyone got a move on I think even the old horses knew what was on anyway the gun came out without any trouble, we got it into its place and then returned to the farm, our base, nearly 7 miles away, I should think. Nothing extra occurred the next few days we did nothing except eat sleep and look after our horses, "D" gun was taken up on the 20th by its own section team.
And Cloth Hall where the Kaiser was going to be crowned King of Belgium.
3 kilo east of Ypres to the east of the city on the Menin road Hooge.
On Sunday we were served out with tobacco and fags. I got four pkts of cigs.
Monday 22nd
We got the orders to go with our gun teams, to live up with the battery. we fixed up the lines just behind the French reserve trenches, my kips is in the doorway of a draughty old barn, but I manage to eat all I can get which is most tinned bully & biscuits and can sleep fairly well. My feet haven't been warm since I arrived in Belgium. Having only one pair of boots and socks I always have wet feet.
Tue 23rd
Nothing extra occurred until 5o/c when 20 of us were turned out to dig an observation post. We guided by our Major across about 1 1/2 miles of fields full of Jack Johnson holes, old trenches, barbed wire entanglements, and not a few dead cattle to an old house on top of a small hill we had to dig an entrance trench to the cellar of the ruins in doing so we struck body of dead horse so had to start from a different direction. We successfully finished our job and trudged off home arriving there about 10pm The only casualty being the overcoat of a gunner which was pierced by a rifle bullet. We were all extremely lucky, as we were only 5 to 600 yards from German trenches, and shot and shell were whistling over us all the time.
Dusty Miller was struck by a piece of shrapnel while up at the "O" post Sgt Street got the seat of his pants blown out. The old man was hit by a spent bullet on coat sleeve. Dusty sent to dock wound on temple not serious.
Weds 24th
Had a trip into the farm for forage & ration 2 or 3 wagons make this trip every day so it runs me about twice a week I rather like the job as it vary's the monotony, and we have a look round Ypres. I have made several expeditions to ruined houses and old trenches, most of the latter are flooded as the weather has been so wet, a few yards from here there are a score or so horses lying just as they were cut down by shrapnel, nearly all belong to the First Dragoons
Thurs. 25th
Nothing special to write about today, had a look round some ruins after tea.
Fri 26th
Nothing occurred today guns fired a few more round at the Germans.
Sat 27th
Same as yesterday still beastly cold and wet.
Notes 28th
Saw a couple of German prisoners in Ypres poor looking specimens and very young.
Sun 28th
Went with wagons to Vlamertinghe barn for rations
Mon. 1st March
Received 10 francs pay. Usual salute of shrapnel from the Germans no serious casualties up to date
Tues. 2nd
Nothing doing fired a few rounds got a few in return, exercise water and feed for drivers
Weds 3rd
Started out for forage got stuck in hole by side of road pole broke trip, abandoned till new pole arrives. Spent evening watching Frenchies going to trench's, as queer a looking crowd as one could see anywhere, taking bikes, prams, barrows to get their kit into the trench's
Thurs. 4th
Heavy firing by the Arty: all day & night our guns nearly bury themselves in the soft ground its decided to put them on platforms
Fri 5th
Exercised horses went down to Quay on Yer canal to get planks for platforms, got wet through, firing very heavy all round
Sat 6th
Pulled guns out of holes ready for laying down platforms rather a long day getting up ammo: continued firing on both sides rec'd parcel sox etc. from home.
Sun 7th
Rec'd Barnet Press from office, got a free issue sox, shirt Pulling on guns again got one on platform and fired, great success
Mon. 8th
Out with wagons at 5.45 to get bricks for gun park & Bty. exercise, water & feed, usual firing from Germans all night.
Tues. 9th
All guns in action firing on Germans with great success, near us we have English & French Field Batteries.
Wed 10th
Vlamertinghe for forage saw Snowie, guns fired a great number of rounds, my pal Beadle got his foot squashed under gun wheel feared loss of foot, in dock, this makes third casualty since arriving here (Dusty Miller got knocked over by shrapnel on the 23rd) shrapnel also burst just outside barn and breaking through scared a few of our chaps inside none injured. distant gun and rifle fire tonight.
Thurs. 11th
Letters from home. Heavy arty: and rifle fire during the day. Bulletin posted up to say Neve Chapple & Givenchy taken by our people. Picquet tonight.
Fri 12th
Several aeroplanes went over very interesting to watch shells bursting all around them none hit, answer Poll's letter.
Sat 13th
Received parcel from home last night. Aeroplanes passed over (hostile) several times during day, one this evening dropt 3 bombs near our horse lines no damage our anti-aircraft guns chipped a bit off its left wing, we hear that our division (28) and the 27th has broken through the German lines letter from home.
Note 12th
Old man got a knock on the side of his head with a spent bullet, got a nice black eye and lump of skin off temple.
Sun 14th
Nothing doing today heavy bombarding during the evening hear we lost a couple of trench's Wrote home
Went for walk had to dodge a few shrapnel along the Menin road
Mon. 15th
Heavy firing all last night, got turned out 3 or 4 times to supply Bty with ammunition, rumoured our people lost some trench's, guns fired about 150 rounds, quiet evening B.Press
3 rounds struck barn broke down door and wounded 6 horses, lucky escape for the trumpeter.
Tue 16th
Very quiet all day went barn at Vlamertinghe for rations, saw Belgium cycle battalion enter Ypres. Typhoid fever broke out at barn (our base). General Comm: 27th division sent officer over to congratulate our heavy arty on its very effective shooting, old man very pleased of course several aeroplanes over here during the day no shooting
3 more rounds dropped in farmyard no one hurt.
Wed 17th
Ann: of Wedding
Quiet night nothing much doing all day. Germans take pot shots at barn everyday now probably in search of French batteries of which there are several in the vicinity, paid a visit to Zillibeke in the evening such a sight not a house in the village but what was roofless. Houses just as they had been deserted by residents. Had a good look round church absolutely battered to pieces and graves blown open by shell glad to get away from there after being potted at by snipers. Letter from home.
Thurs. 18th
Quiet night very little doing in the way of big gun fire the last few days. an occasional burst of shrapnel over our way to keep us from feeling to safe We are getting quite used to this sort of thing now Went into Vlamer: for forage and rations in evening back found a letter from Beadle who is in Lincoln hosp: going on as well as can be expected on picket tonight. Much rifle firing going, found Snowie alright.
Fri 19th
Heavy rifle fire all night. Beastly day intermittent sun and snow storms all day aeroplane went over very low during one storm to be German to thick to make certain.
Sat 20th
Quite night. went to Vlamertinghe for forage several aeroplanes over here during day anti: guns had pot shots but did no damage. Our lot fire about 70 rounds today.
Sun 21st
Lovely day, aeroplanes out quiet early this morning dropt bombs just round here. Bombarded by enemy guns afternoon and evening no damage
Mon. 22nd
Another lovely day aeroplanes out again repetition of yesterdays firing went to Vlam: for forage- wrote home
Tues. 23rd
Quiet night went to a village on Menin road to look for some curios got shelled by German's took cover in French dugout our infantry take over trench's in this district
Wed 24th
Very wet today went into Vlamertinghe for forage. Very quiet today no shells dropping round.
Thurs. 25th
Very wet again nothing much doing Battery fired several rounds different targets busted up German trench mortar parcel received from home piquet tonight.
Fri 26th
Quiet night French troops passing here in hundreds going into trench's. Lovely day quite a change to yesterday Bty did some more good shooting. Several aeroplanes flying around none apparently damaged buy the shooting of the antiaircraft.
Sat 27th
Vlamertinghe today for rations. Germans dropped several shrapnel just round our barn. Aeroplanes out again not fortunate enough to see a German brought down yet altho' the guns have a good few shots at them.
Sun 28th
Six weeks out of S'hampton today only 2 slight casualties to date. Got an issue of dates being Palm Sunday, half holiday went for a walk to Zonnebeke on getting back to barn found they had had plenty of excitement several shells dropping in vicinity of barn but not hitting it. Hooky our cook dropped a German Fuse he had picked up, it exploded and severely lacerated both hands and one leg, one finger quite off. A corp.: was also struck. one piece of fuse flew across farmyard and set fire to the thatch of no 2 barn Hookey carried off to hospital.
Our chaps picked up a Frenchie just outside Bty with his leg shot off and took him down to hosp: Germans shell the two roads which run past here quite regular lately we get plenty of excitement out of this, some come to close to be pleasant.
Mon. 29th
Vlamertinghe for forage and rations.Germans shelling Ypres with their big guns, had several pot shots at our barn no success, aeroplanes about this quarter are getting to familiar but I don't think they can spot our batteries Frenchies say they brought one down yesterday "Mittral Lewis" *Dusty Miller rejoins from hospital quite recovered from his wound.
*Could not decipher
Saw Capt. Bently's grave in Ypres cemetery killed in action on 29th October with Northampton Reg.
Tue 30th
Lovely day a bit nippy early on a few aeroplanes over here during day. Our battery blew up a trench several shells dropped in vicinity of barn.
Wed 31st
Another fine day good for aeroplanes can see 6 captive balloons or ships from our battery our guns blew up an empty house which turned out to be a German ammunition depot congrats' from General Com: Div: had several, chats with our infantry leaving trenches, heard some bloodcurdling yarns Frenchies erected a railway stn "Gare la Bomb" by our horse lines. Run to Vlamertinghe for forage and rations.
Thurs. 1st April
Lovely day warmest we've had up to now nothing extra doing a few aeroplanes around none hit. Went at 4.30 pm to Ouderbom with caterpillar wheels arrived back at 11.30.
Friday 2nd - Good Friday
Fine day Barn bombarded no casualties our troops getting ready to take over French trench's Gheluvelt direction of Piquet tonight.
Sat 3rd
Drizzly rain on and off all day heavy bombardment on and off several miraculous escapes of our chaps shells drop everywhere except on our barn or battery.
27th Div: British Infantry take over French trenches all round this district.
Sun 4th
Vlamertinghe for forage wet at times. Nobby Clark and Ellis get hit out at Zillibeke only scratches, still at work. Germans still make it lively round this quarter mostly about mealtime. Saw Cambridge Reg. & Mids.: in Ypres.
Mon. 5th
What a day, one continual drizzle all day. Germans give us a rest today, they shelled Ypres last night several casualties Lieut.: Street to hospital with appendicitis.
Tue 6th
Showery all day. Troops going into trenches last night to relieve French. Germans gave us another exhibition, no damage.
Weds 7th
Vlamertinghe for rations. Beastly showery today. Much fusillade from the Germans no damage. Several of our infantry passing here daily wounded from the trenches. Picquet tonight.
Thursday 8th
Very changeable and cold the usual salute from the Germans still no damage to us anyway. I pity the poor farmers someday they will be blown sky high as such a lot of German shells fail to burst. Edgeley and I have a walk to Zillibeke.
Friday 9th
Usual routine Vlam: for rations. Wind up in Ypres owing to Germans dropping shells into it now and again. Several killed daily.
123 Batty. arrives in district and takes up position. 122 also around here somewhere but I have not seen them yet. British have now taken over all trenches around here so perhaps now we will see a little bit of excitement.
Sat 10th
Nothing doing battery not fired a shot today, very slow, anti-aircraft section takes up its position in our farmyard, no aeroplanes about.
Sunday 11th
Vlamertinghe for rations. A.A gun fired a few dozen rounds at aeroplanes no damage. Barn was shelled no damage.
Monday 12th
Lovely day for aeroplanes lots flying around, believed to have brought down German, few more shrapnel dropped round our barn, our barn is still intact in spite of all.
Tues. 13th
Went to Vlam: for rations and found that a Zeppelin had been over during the night and dropt about a dozen bombs in the vicinity of barn put the wind up our fellows. The infantry turn the maxins and rifle on it but it disappeared several aeroplanes around again. Especially this evening.
Wed 14th
Squally today. Germans bombed all around here with little or no damage. /several aeroplanes up counted 7 one time none brought down. Piquet.
Thurs. 15th
Lovely day nothing much doing aeroplanes up again, our A.A.G. brought down second shot fell in German lines. Several more up again this evening fairly quiet otherwise.
Friday 16th
Vlamertinghe for rations usual shelling by Germans not quit as bad think they must be saving their ammunition. Went for stroll round some old trenches which were used in the battle of Ypres last year.
Sat 17th
Lovely day one of our aeroplanes came down near our horse lines owing to engine trouble. Tonight we were told to stand bye, gunners were to be on the guns all night. At 7o/c a furious artillery fire commenced a small hill on our front called 60 metre hill was blown up mines bombarded & take in 30 minutes our battery fire intermittently during the night getting rid of over a hundred rounds.
Drivers running up ammo: to Bty usual remarks passed, poor drivers
Sunday 18th
Continuous shellfire all day. aeroplane brought down near here it made a straight dive for the earth. Our barn was shelled tonight none was hurt. Standing by again as last night another attack in the trenches.
Monday 19th
Hear another aeroplane has been brought down this morning. Heavy bombardment of Ypres several killed. Our barn and the battery has several miraculous escapes, one shell weighing about 120lbs dropping just behind "B" gun.
Tues. 20th
Went Vlam: for rations whilst crossing the square at Ypres coming back a shell fell in a house a few yards on our left covering us with dust and small pieces of bricks and mortar 8 were buried in the ruins 5 soldiers 3 Belge: women, all I think were got out safely. Very heavy bombardment here tonight, great artillery dual going on.
Weds 21st
Heavy firing all night our guns fired over 300 rounds. Ypres still being bombarded and I here about 200 were killed, civilians were clearing out of town.
Thurs. 22nd
Steady firing all night by our Bty. went in Vlamertinghe. Several rounds dropt inside our battery, several narrow squeaks for the gunners. early this evening we heard a furious bombardment on our left, later we hear that the Germans have broken through the French using acid to clear them out of the trenches. Although 4 or 5 miles away we felt the effects of it, all around our quarter it making our eyes water and burn this is our worst night since we came here.
Friday 23rd
(Morning 11 a.m.) Got the order last night to harness up and standby we stood in a railway cutting towards Zonnebeke until 4.30 a.m. Heavy artillery firing continued all night with occasional fusillades of rifle fire. Ypres is burning in several different quarters. /we hear that the Canadians have drive the enemy out of the trenches that they had taken earlier in the evening before Ypres is still being shelled with some very heavy artillery believed to be 15 or 17 inch, houses in St Jan burning. Being on Picquet having a rotten time. Parcel from Mab:
French driven in by fumes, line restored by the Canadian who we hear are getting slowly pushed in towards Ypres. We are in a funny position being hotly shelled from 3 sides different directions, but have no casualties so far, barn struck several times, 3 prematures from field Bty on our front. No damage.
Friday 23rd
(Evening 7p.m.)
Sunday 25th
To busy last night to enter up. Furious arty firing yesterday morning everywhere in our vicinity was being shelled from 3 different directions North. East. & South. The Germans who have been fighting desperately on our left had broken through the French on Thursday evening the Canadians retook all that had been lost but were driven back by fumes of gasses thrown by enemy, they stuck it all Friday but had to give way, dozens got back to our farm where we fed and dressed their wounds etc. by what they told us the enemy were making use of some dirty tactics and all of them say they are the only ones left of their different companies. Our horse lines, ,Bty, and farmhouse had some very narrow squeaks during the day We had to stand ready harnessed up to move our position at any moment. "D" had gone to Vlamertinghe worn out on Friday night. "B" gun had also ceased firing worn-out. "A" & "C" the two guns left in action were turned round in the op.: direction to fire on the advancing enemy who were swarming over the country our Major turned them on his own and fired until the enemy were checked. The F. arty were rapidly changing their direction of fire to steady up the infantry. After tea we were told to bring up our horses and limber up as we were to go back to Vlam: for 3 weeks rest. Shells were dropping thick on the Menin road as we came along it one burst just over my off horse "Charlie" bringing him down stone dead, my other one was hit in two places, and two other horses in the team got small wounds, none of the drivers got a scratch, several more fell near us but did no damage, we were going along at the trot so that the breast collar, traces & loin strap came over the top of the horse as it fell, and rolled clear of the road. We kept on until we came to Ypres but we were not allowed to go through the town as it was being shelled by German 17 inch guns we came round across the fields, having a rare old time jumping ditches, over railways and ploughed fields, but we arrived safe at the old barn about 9.45 everyone thanking their lucky stars at having got through so easy Picquet tonight.
Sunday 25th
Our old man hopes to get the D.S.O. for turning his guns in the opposite direction to which he had been firing doing great execution among the enemy who were in the valley of St Jullien. Our barn was packed with stragglers Canadians and French colonial troops all day.
Note 2
Everyone congratulates me as being the luckiest man in the battery getting away with only a singing ear.
Monday 26th
Ordinary routine today at 7.30 tonight we got the order to harness up ready to take the guns down to the railhead somewhere in France
Started at 10 o/c
Tuesday 27th
Godewearsvelde, arrived here about 5 a.m. this morning, no guns here for us so start dismantling our old ones. Had a sleep the first decent one I've had for a few days. This is a nice quiet village, its a treat to get away from the crack and booming of the guns, and to see houses with roofs, windows etc in quite good order. The Germans have not paid this place a visit, the village is just under a hill which is called Mont Des Cats. Hear good news from the firing line, hundred of wounded going down by train from here mostly Indians. Paid 20 francs.
Weds 28th
Very quiet here had a fine old time feel a lot better for the change. Our guns are loaded up ready to go down to base no new ones here yet. 18 pounders here that was captured by the enemy but was got back by the Canadians.
Thurs. 29th
Left Godewearsvelde this morning at 9.30 for Vlam: passing through Abele and Poperinge got in about 1 o/c usual old routine when we got back this place was shelled tonight.
Friday 30th
Quiet today with the exception of a few Allemande souvenirs an aeroplane was brought down by our anti-aircraft guns
Sat 1st May
War starts today so people say. Two fresh divisions came in Yesterday about a dozen fell in our farmyard while we were on the 9 o/c parade. Nothing else occurred Heavy artillery fire going on.
Sun 2nd
Quiet day great artillery duel going on tonight 15 days fight has been going on now. Going down to rail head for guns in the morning.
Mon. 3rd
Godewearsvelde, staying here the night our new guns like old smooth bore and wont last a great while.
Tuesday 4th
Left Gode etc a 2.3 taking road over Mont Des Cats for home, good pull for the horses height 800ft. came through Boechepe and Westouter had to go up into position 2 k this side of Ypres got guns got guns into position and returned to Barn, making a good pull of about 16 miles for the horses.
Ypres 2 k. range hill 60 reinforcement trenches 6500
No 3 siege R.G.A. on our right near Dikkebus
71 Battery 4.7 on our left near Ypres
Wed 5th
Exercise this morning, met a lot of infantry who had been gassed by the Germans. Heard we had lost Hill 60 at 6.30. We got the order to harness up gun teams, which I suppose mean another all night job.
Thurs. 6th
Stood by harnessed up all night, this morning got order to Picquet horses under tree near battery as we were staying up with the guns. Thundering hot today. Went in Ypres tonight for souvenirs the place is absolutely battered to pieces the square is full of large holes you could put a horse in. A few shells fell in the town while we were looking round.
No2 mountain Bty are here with us.
Friday 7th
Exercise this morning. Hear lots of rumours about our losing Hill 60 went into Ypres it is still being shelled with high explosive
Sat 8th
Heavy artillery firing been going on all night, rumoured Germans advance broke through at Zonnebeke but we hear so many of these yarns that one does not know who to believe.
Sun 9th
Artillery fire all night, several aeroplanes about, shells dropped a few yards from our horse lines, went into Ypres tonight still burning
Our guns fired at 10850k
Mon. 10th
Stood by harnessed up all night ready for emergencies. Heard that Allies had advanced in 3 places along the line. Ypres is still burning
Aeroplane(G) brought down and burnt.
Hear that heavy and 123 have had heavy casualties the other side of Ypres (70) and guns busted up.
Tues. 11th
Another lovely day. Artillery duel still going on, plenty of aeroplanes about. Ypres still blazing. Had another run into the town for souvenirs. Heard of large capture of Germans (3,000 men over 30 guns) by the French
Wed 12th
Lovely day, rather quiet. 3rd division came in today. Gordons, R.Scotts, Suffolks etc. went into Ypres. Which is still burning got a few souvenirs.
Thurs. 13th
Exercise, a shell dropt just a few yards to our left, good job for us it wasn't shrapnel or there would be none of us left now. Began to rain about 12 o/c. Went into Ypres got a eiderdown, quilt and blankets.
Friday 14th
Very quiet lately Germans getting their second wind I suppose. Went into Ypres some houses still burning.
Sat 15th
Quiet again today, just an occasional shot or two coming over Ypres again.
Sun 16th
Picquet today. Heard our troops had captured some ground off the Germans Plenty of aircraft about. Went into Ypres
Mon. 17th
Rained today. Went into Ypres again this evening got a couple of souvenirs. A few rounds dropped over battery tonight.
Tues. 18th
Beastly weather today out for exercise in the rain, plenty of mud about again, occasional shell comes over to keep things moving.
Saw several Dover chap tonight belonging to 12 siege Coy: 9.2 Bty: heavy armament in district.
Note 2
Drivers turned out to give a hand with the guns, rain had softened bank in rear and there was danger of guns running back into ditch. Which is about 10 feet deep. Good the drivers, all the praise we get.

The " New York World" prints the following details relative to the famous German 42-centimetre (16.5) Howitzer.
Weight of Gun 97 4/5 tons
Weight of Platform 41 tons
Length of Barrel 16ft 5ins
Weight of Shell 885 lbs.
Length of Shell 4ft 2ins
Number of parts in gun 172
Railway cars to transport it 12
Depth of Foundation 26ft
Liege shelled from distance of 12 miles
Casualties from first shot 1,700
Casualties from second shot 2,300
Namur and Maubeuge held out 2 shots
Fort Speer, Huy, held out 1 shot
Putting up gun takes 25-26 hours
Adjustment of range 6 hours
Gun fire from 300 yards
All windows broken within a radius of 2 miles
Each shot costs 524
To serve the gun takes 200 men
The gun crew proper keep protectors over there mouth, eyes and ears, and lie on their stomachs to keep from being injured by the shock of the discharge. The entire gun emplacement is mined, and the engineer in charge is sworn to blow up the gun if there is any danger of capture.

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