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Royal Garrison Artillery

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1914 entries

17 - 19 August

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23 - 24 August

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28 August -
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3 - 5 September




35th Heavy Battery R.G.A. (aged 27 at time of writing)


MONDAY, AUGUST 17th , 1914.

We marched out from Fort Fareham about 4 p.m. on Monday Aug 17th, our mobilization being quite complete. The Fareham populace did not wax enthusiastic over our departure, and it was easy to see that no one realized that we were off to the greatest war of the world - especially ourselves. We were told to halt for part of the night at Shedfield, about half way between Wickham and Estley. A field had been kindly put at our disposal by Lady "Somebody". I went on to make camping arrangements. The battery got into bivouac about 6 p.m.

The local people showed great interest and did the men very proudly, fruit chocolate and cigarettes. I met a Mrs. Peller whom I had known at Plymouth and we all received pressing invitations to go into dinner but refused on the plea of an early start and desire to turn in at once. The other two batteries of our brigade had been in the same place previous evenings and we were rather pleased to be told that ours were the best lot of horses of the three.


TUESDAY, AUGUST 18th

I started from Shedfield at 1 a.m. with an orderly to go ahead and report for orders for the battery which followed an hour later. It was a pitch dark and rather foggy night and it was all I could do to keep to the road. My route was via Setlay and then Northam Bridge. I knew the way to Cobden but was doubtful of Northam Bridge and eventually reached the river somewhere near the floating bridge - not a soul about.

I eventually got to the bridge and reached my destination "The Cowherds" on the Common soon after 4 a.m.. Here I was supposed to receive orders from the adjutant of the rest camp, but there was not a soul to be found in the way of an officer and only a few particularly sleepy and dull telephone orderlies, however I got hold of a telephone directory and rang up the adjutant's number for half an hour without success - I then tried to find his house but his address being merely Rose Villa, Highfield, I failed again. There was nothing to do but to try and find somebody else so I got hold of the telephone numbers of all the military offices in Southampton and started to ring them up and at the second effort got as far as finding someone who thought he could get hold of an officer in about 20 minutes.

During that 20 minutes I rather impudently turned over all the papers in the Commandant's table to see if there was anything interesting and came across exactly the information I was after, namely the ship we were to embark on and the time of embarkation. I sent the orderly back to meet the Major with this information and a message to say I was waiting to get it confirmed and find out if everything was going up to programme time: this I was able to do after about half-an-hour, and after riding into the A.S.C. camp further up the common and rousing an irate officer out of bed on a matter of supplies, I rejoined the Major at Northam Bridge, the battery having halted on the Bitterne side.

I went on again with the Major to the docks and found out our ship and made arrangements for the embarkation or rather learnt what the arrangements were, as everything was splendidly cut and dried and well done without any hitch at all by the embarkation staff. The battery entered the docks at 7.15 a.m. and 8.15 a.m. half battery at a time, as if we had come by train in which we should have divided up into two trains. The Major did well for breakfast, as, after being ejected from the refreshment room at the beginning of the Express dock because we wore British uniform and were "out of bounds", a party of ladies nurses took pity on us and gave us a rattling good breakfast in the hospital (temporary) close by: time was rather cut short by the battery arriving and the Major sending me to guide them - I did not think it quite right for him to be left with all the nurses.

Our transport was the "S.S. Armenian" about 8,000 tons; she was berthed S. W. corner quay alongside the "Oceanic" which was fitting out as a cruiser and which I am sorry to see has since been wrecked. Going on the same ship was the 44th Howitzer Battery R.F.A. and part of the Divisional Ammunition Column with a total of about 1,000 horses. The horses were got on board up a covered gangway, but a few who refused to go up and sat down deliberately at the bottom end had to be slung on board. All our horses and vehicles were on board at about 11 a.m., but the men did not actually embark till 6 p.m.

We then had the King's message and Kitchener's read out to us and left the quay about 8 p.m. The horses were packed pretty tight as you can imagine and watering and feeding was a combined obstacle race and acrobatic performance - also the atmosphere was not of the best seeing that the ship had already made several trips with a similar number of horses and there had been very little time, if any, for cleaning up. We all turned in pretty early thinking we had better make the most of our probably last night in a bed for some time. I stayed up till we had cleared Spithead forts to see what the lights looked like from the sea. It was a perfectly calm and fine night and as far as I know no hitch occurred during the voyage.

All this time we had been told absolutely nothing of our destination or even probable length of voyage though I had a shrewd idea from the papers I had looked through, our destination being shewn as "B".


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 19th

Woke up to hear an unmistakeable voice in equally unmistakeable language enquiring "why the ... the horses had not been fed and watered - suppose all those ... subalterns are in bed" - a perfectly correct supposition and one which would have been equally correct half an hour later only by that time the invitation of a torpid liver had been somewhat appeased by hot cocoa and a report of "All feeding" from the officer on duty.

Lovely morning, arrived off Boulogne about 7 a.m. and spent some time waiting outside for pilot and also for another steamer to clear out. Eventually got berthed inside about 9.30 a.m., rather tricky work getting a large steamer in through such a very narrow sharp turn. Everybody soon at work unloading and everybody anxious to be first away but everything was taken as it came and a naval officer was in charge of the disembarcation - curiously enough a fellow I knew at Plymouth and a friend of the Polkinghornes. About twelve o':clock Hitchcock, a subaltern of 108 Battery who had left a day earlier than us, came down and I got leave to go off with him into the town on a foraging expedition - he volunteering to do the talking " but before had gone far he was sent for from his battery and I was left to carry on.

I was very successful at the bank and managed to get all the money changed. I had a "Tommy" servant with me who thought it was the best entertainment he had ever had in his life. I managed to secure an enormous market basket with which I armed him and then walked into a shop and helped myself to what I wanted and then asked "how much" - this I found required less talking than any other method. I was rather defeated over "bacon" and "mutton chops" but got them all right and finished up with a fine basket full topped up with two bottles of Scotch. As the basket got fuller the joke seemed less entertaining to "Mr. Thomas Atkins".

Before we had got many yards back towards the ship we saw the battery coming along so we joined up. We marched through the edge of Boulogne, up some pretty stiff hills till we reached a rest camp about 3 miles out, where we were delighted to find we were to have the luxury of a tent. All the men in great spirits and very much amused at the jabber of the French people.

Found 108 Battery in camp alongside us but just preparing to move out and entrain which did in the middle of the night and made a devil of a noise about it much to our annoyance. We have not seen them since, but have heard tell of them occasionally.

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