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Royal Garrison Artillery

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1914 entries

17 - 19 August

20 - 22 August

23 - 24 August

25 - 27 August

28 August -
2 September


3 - 5 September




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


FRIDAY AUGUST 28th

Off again soon after daylight. Fine morning and rather fine views as we marched along above the river. About 10.30 a.m. I was sent for by General Percival C.R.A. 2nd Division, and he told me he wanted a reconnaissance made of artillery positions on the west side of the St. Quentin - La Fere road with a view to being able to fire on certain cross roads near Cerizy. I was rather pleased to have some little job of my own to relieve the monotony of the marching, though I was pretty tired. I was told I should probably be within the area covered by our flank guard.

I took two men with me and went off across the river and eventually got into the main road and started to look round the country. It was pretty open and rather difficult to find any artillery positions. On my way out I had seen our flank guard moving between me and the main body, so I kept a good look out for any strange cavalry.

About 3 p.m., having scoured the country and decided on the best place, I crawled on the top of a straw stack to write my report before going in. The straw stacks are all conical shape on the top, so that they are fairly easy to fall off. Well, I did write a few lines of my report I know, because I found them afterwards, but the next thing I knew was the voice of one of my gunners saying 'Rather a dangerous place to go to sleep, sir'. He had been holding me on while I slept.

Anyhow I got a bit behindhand with my report, so I determined to get back to a farm on the road to finish up and then get back to the column. On the main road I met a staff officer who said he had just been shot at by about 20 Uhlens further up the road, so I thought it was just as well I had woken up off my stack and left my report for a bit. We rode back along the main road and into La Fere, which I found full of troops and after much difficulty I found my own division had already passed through.

I eventually found the General about 6 p.m. and asked if I might report 'verbally as I could explain better'. He luckily agreed and said at the end that I had brought a lot of useful information and so all was well that ends well, but I might have got unpleasantly close to failing. The only thing I regretted was that I lost my pipe, but luckily Shedden had brought a spare one which he handed on to me. I found the battery with the rest of the divisional artillery near a place called Servais, in a flat valley bottom. The ground was beastly wet and soft for heavy guns and I had to jack my guns on to planks and wood for the night.

We had another slight incident during the night. We six officers were sleeping a little way from the bivouac under shelter of the edge of a wood. Just as I had got off to sleep I heard the Major saying in my ear 'Get your revolver, there's somebody moving through the wood'. I saw all the others were up and watching from behind trees. I found I could do my bit of watching without disarranging my blankets too much. I personally heard nothing, but the others all said they could and that they had been woken by a rifle shot. Nothing happened, however, and we all turned in again except one who was to remain on watch. My turn came at 3 a.m. - ugh! At daylight we made a search and all we could discover was a dog! Probably that was the cause of the trouble.

Day's march: 26 miles.


SATURDAY, AUGUST 29th

About 6 a.m. we marched out of bivouac, as we were rather in a hole in case of attack and shifted about 2 miles south to some higher ground, where we got the guns into position ready to fire, and then went into a fresh bivouac close by. This day was one to be really thankful for - our first day's rest since we left Boulogne 8 days before.

We were able to get ourselves and the horses groomed and cleaned up and sores dressed, besides stripping and softening all harness and doing various repairs to wheels etc. Also, as we found a garden close by, we had a good deal of fresh vegetables which was a great treat. All day long there was tremendous firing north of us, which we were told was the French fighting near St. Quentin, and the usual rumours of alternate victory and defeat came all day.

Day's march: 2 miles.


SUNDAY, AUGUST 30th

Today's march was a very long and tiring one. We started off about 6 a.m. and went plodding on and on all day. It was very hot in the middle of the day and in the afternoon we had some pretty stiff hills to climb. For a great part of the time we were going through large forest land and then in the afternoon we came out on the open high ground north of Soissons. We did not get into bivouac until just on dark, alongside the river Aisne on the northwest of the town.

Day's march: 23 miles.
Route: Avigny - Basse Foret de Coucy - Folembray - Coucy le Chateau - Terny.


MONDAY, AUGUST 31st

A short march as regards distance, but a long time on the road, owing to some field guns getting stuck on a hill. In consequence, we had to go round further and got jammed up against some of the other columns moving on another road. In one village we managed to get a good supply of bread and also some very good pears. We bivouacked about 2 p.m. in a good grass field and the horses had a good graze. Very damp and foggy at night as we were in a low piece of ground.

Day's march: 12 miles.


TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1st

Off at daylight and had breakfast about 9 a.m. outside Villers - Cotterets and halted by cross roads about 12 o'clock. Report received that hostile cavalry was approaching from the West. Guns rapidly moved off under cover and troops sent to reinforce rearguard. Received orders from General Haking to make reconnaissance as far as Ondreville and see if all was clear as far as there. I took six men with me and the major kept about a dozen outside village to cover me if I was chased back. I went along from cover to cover, climbing most straw stacks to get a view putting up plenty of partridges but no Huns.


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2nd

Marched off at 3.30 a.m. and had a very long and hot march. Country much more open - we could see other columns moving on our left and right. Nothing particular to note. Got into bivouac - Maux - about 3 p.m. alongside the canal and were very pleased to be able to indulge in the luxury of a swim and change of clothes - did some washing too. In the evening I went with Hyde Clark to forage and met with some success, returning with doz cider, doz beer - vin ordinaire - Kiasel bread and fresh meat. Gala dinner: hoped that at last we might be stopping for more than a few hours, but no such luck.

Day's march: 21 miles.
Antilly - Pusieux - Barcy - Meaux.

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