The Diary of Major H G Paris
Royal Garrison Artillery
17 - 19 August
20 - 22 August
23 - 24 August
25 - 27 August
28 August -
3 - 5 September
35th Heavy Battery R.G.A. (aged 27 at time of writing)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 20th
The Major had to go to headquarters for orders and took us with him - we went down in a car driven by a French officer, who drove at a frantic pace over the cobbled roads and we were both thankful to get out. Having got our information we did some shopping and walked around a bit. It seemed a pretty dirty hole but perhaps it was unusually so owing to the amount of dust and dirt kicked up by the large number of troops that kept moving about.
It was rather interesting to sit in a café and watch the people - all types of soldiers and sailors. We heard tell of some place along the beach where in spite of the war, barmaids were to be seen disporting about 4 p.m., but we had to get back to camp before then.
We took the opportunity to have a really good lunch at the best hotel and very good it was too. We met some fellows whom we had seen leaving Southampton just before us and who were very fed up because they had been kept out in the Channel for 24 hours waiting for a berth to get vacant. This was the only case of any delay I heard of, and I believe otherwise every train and shipload was despatched about dead on scheduled time which speaks pretty well for the organization.
I think our battery train number from Fareham to Southampton was 1039, I saw 1038 which was from Brighton enter the docks about 20 minutes before we marched in by the dock gate.
FRIDAY AUGUST 21st
We were not timed to start until 2.30 p.m. so that we had 1½ hours to wait and we got leave to divide the time and two of us go off for ¾ hour and get some lunch. Shedden and I were most successful as besides lunch we found a place where we actually unearthed some real bottles of Bass (not the size of those Mr. Hight used to have at "Jelmonis"). Needless to say we made the most of our farewell. They did us very well in the way of accommodation as two of us had a first class compartment between us.
We left punctually at 2.30. Although we were towards the last and troops had been going up every day for a week or more, the people gave us a great send off, flowers were showered on us and fruit and cigarettes. Cap badges were in great demand as well as buttons, shoulder plates etc. as souvenirs and if you weren't jolly careful they tore them off you. I was told by a staff officer that the first regiment to go through happened to be a Highland one and they looked like "rag and bone" men by the time had got through the street each being mobbed by crowds of girls. Every station we went through was packed with people who mobbed the train if we stopped - our carriage was covered with flowers and full up with pears, apples, cigars, chocolate and picture postcards with "Vive L'Angleterre et Sauve La France". It was really more like a school treat train and utterly unlike troops going off to war.
No mention had yet been made as to our destination or how long we were to be in the train though we understood we were on the line to Amiens. What chiefly struck me about the country was its general untidiness after England - the railway itself being particularly noticeable with grass and weeds all over the line and the stations very ramshackle affairs compared to ours.
We eventually reached Amiens about 7 p.m. and were boarded by a staff officer and learnt we were to go straight on up to the front at once which meant about nine hours more in the train. From this time all noise and singing etc. was stopped and we began to take things more seriously - most of us got what sleep we could. The train rolled slowly on but I do not know what stations we went through as I slept pretty well.
SATURDAY AUGUST 22nd
(Entered Southampton Docks 7 a.m. Tuesday, on march in concentration area 7 a.m. Saturday, i.e. 96 hours. 46 hours in rest camp leaves 56 hours in moving. Pretty good).
We had breakfast at Oisy and I might also mention a wash - I might say that through the whole time that we have been away, I have been agreeably surprised at the extraordinary desire of all ranks to wash - the shortest halt somebody is at it if there is any water available, in fact at times it became a real nuisance as the men wasted time and water on washing themselves which should have been given to the horses.
Our breakfast halt was quite short as the Major knew we had a long march in front of us and we did not want to have to take it too strenuously at first. The day got very hot and the dust was bad. Our route lay through La Groise - Landrecies (which we little thought at the time was to be the scene of a desperate fight) - Moyelles to Leval.
There were practically no other troops on our road until we got close to Leval. Nothing of note occurred on the march, the people in the villages seemed quite unconcerned and gave the troops plenty of water and apples - which grew all along the road. We got to Leval about 5 p.m. and went into bivouac.
Rooms in two houses close by had been allotted to the officers, but while we were having a clean up and preparing to make up comfortable beds, we received orders to be ready to move at an hour&'039;s notice as our patrols were already engaged: so we left our rooms and settled ourselves out in the bivouac field. (Personally except in bad weather and given decent ground (not a root field or plough) I am not certain that bivouac is not better than billets - it certainly is easier to get away from more quickly as the men sleep round their guns and horses, whereas in billets they may be scattered round many houses and take a good deal of routing out).
The summary for the day was Wassigny to Leval - 19 miles.Next Entries
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