Diary During My Service with the Australian Imperial Forces - 1914-15-16-17
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The Diary of Kenneth Sydney Day, Australian Imperial Forces: 8 August 1914 - 9 November 1917© Ken Crow, June, 1997
This document was donated to World War I Document Archive by the grandson of Mr. Day. His account of it is presented below.
The diary that follows is for all interested persons who have a wish to read and understand the exploits and experiences of people who served their time in the conflict of the First World War. All typing and references are 100% genuine.
Please find enclosed a diary that my grandfather wrote of his experiences that he encountered throughout the war at 1914.
His name was Kenneth Sydney Day and served from 15/08/1914 through to the 11/09/1917.
I have re-typed this diary -word for word - phrase for phrase - not adding, deleting or rephrasing any words or phrase(s) that the original contains. All sentences that you are about to read are his own thoughts as of the day that he quickly noted down in the duty pad that he carried throughout his time in the war, he returned home and wrote the diary from his duty pad that he carried on his person through out the conflict that he endowed.
It contains some 9000 words of which I believe is not a bad effort considering what he went through at that time not to forget the social circumstances that effected all our people back here in Australia.
He lived in Melbourne, Brighton before the war started at. His family operated a Printing and Publishing business of which he was employed. After returning home from the conflict, the family moved to Sydney where he then met a girl whose name was Leana Day. They married and had two children one of which is my mother.
Ken Crow, Australia, June, 1997
My Diary During My Service with the Australian Imperial Forces - 1914-15-16-17
15/8/14. War declared on August 4th. 1914, so went to depot and enlisted. Told them I had my parent's consent, so was passed to go into camp the following week. I then thought it was time I told Father and Mother. Father was very angry, and had me rejected, as I was only 19 years old. Also he thought I was not strong enough, having a weak shoulder.
I waited until September 25th. 1915, and then enlisted again. Being of age, I did not need any consent, and all my pals were going way, so I signed on for duration, and four months after. - I got through the medical test O.K. and was told to report at Sturt St. on 2nd. October 1915.
2/10/15. From Sturt St. I went to Albert Park Artillery Camp, and reported to Capt. St.Clair. From there I was sent to the Kit Store, and received my equipment, and then went to my tent, to sleep on the hard ground. It felt like H--- at first, but I soon got into the way of making a hole for my hip and shoulder.
CAMP ROUTINE: First parade, 7a.m. Feed, water and groom the horses. Dismissed 8a.m. Have breakfast, which consist of stew and strong tea. Fall in again at 9.15. Harness teams and go out drilling. Get back 11.15. Groom and dismissed at 12.15. Have lunch, which also consists of stew; and fall in at 2p.m. Drill until 4p.m. Feed, groom and rug horses, then dismissed at 5p.m. From then on, we have open camp until midnight. If you prefer to stay in camp, you have bread and jam or cheese and tea. Lights go out at 9p.m.
7/11/15. Fell in at 6.30a.m. Cleaned harness and groomed horses for our final march through Melbourne. Dismissed at 8a.m. Had breakfast (Stew) and fell in at 9a.m. Lined up on parade, and given a stiff lecture regarding the crime of speaking to anyone while on our march through.
We left Albert Park at 10a.m., started along St.Kilda Road, went up Swanston St., Collins St,. to Spring St. where we took the salute from the Governor General. We had a slight stoppage there, and just my bad luck, a friend (Miss Minnie Love) came past my wagon and stopped to talk to me. We then moved on, down Lonsdale St. to Exhibition St., Bourke St.
then back down Swanston St., St.Kilda Road, then to camp.
The next morning I was paraded before the O.C. for talking whilst on the march through Melbourne, and was servery cautioned against future occasions.
18/11/15. Fell in at 6a.m. Each took two horses and marched down to Port Melbourne, and put the horses on our boat (The "Wiltshire" 14,000 tons). Waited there until 9.30 and then the balance of our brigade came aboard. At 11.30a.m. visitors and relatives were allowed on the pier. Marge Doc., Joe, Cass, Allen, Harris and Aunt Tet were there to see me off. Mother stayed at home. At 12 midday we sailed from dear old Melbourne and friends to "God knows where". We are never told where we are going, so just have to take pot luck.
We had a fine trip as far as the Heads, but as soon as we went outside, she put her nose into it. It was very funny to see a lot of the boys (bush whackers mostly) rush for the side and go all colours of the rainbow. But I must not laugh, as I am not the best of sailers myself. Well I am not going to get down hearted over this small matter.
At 5p.m. we fell in and fed the horses. They are cooped up in the hold of the ship, with hardly any room to lie down. Dismissed and had tea (Stew). This sent most of the boys back to the side of the boat. But I went down and had a look over our sleeping quarters. We are each given a hammock and two blankets, which we hook to beams across the roof. When all the hammocks are slung up we look like a lot of dried meat. It is not bad in one way, because when the boat rolls our hammocks go the other way, so that we do not notice any roll. The only rotten part is that men go along underneath with long pins and stick them into you.
19/11/15. TROOPSHIP ROUTINE. Reveille! 6a.m. Fall in 6.30. Feed, groom and water horses. Dismiss 7.30. Breakfast 8a.m. (Stew) Fall in again 9.15 Gunners - gun drill; drivers look after there horses. Smoko! 11a.m. continue work and dismiss 12.30p.m. Lunch at 1p.m. (Stew). Sometimes for lunch we get boiled mutton, but very seldom. Fall in at 1.45 and drill until 4 o'clock. Smoko! Continue work and dismissed between 5 and 5.30. Tea 6 p.m. - bread, jam and cheese, sometimes rice. After tea, play cards or walk about the decks. Lights out at 9.30p.m. This routine goes on every day, so there is not much to write about. On Sundays we have Church parades and no drill.
We did not call in at Adelaide, but stopped at Albany to drop off three Measles cases at 9p.m. on 22nd. November. Left Albany 9.30 the same night.
1/12/15. One of our horses died to-day, and was cut up to feed the sharks.
2/12/15. Had rain for first time since we sailed. We still have the same routine, so there is not much use writing every day.
So far, we have a flat calm trip, and it has been a great voyage. During our trip to the Red Sea we have not seen a boat of any kind, no escort even.
9/12/15. Entered Red Sea, and see plenty of land for the first time since we left Albany. Also there are some fishing smacks manned by niggers. There are also plenty of very large sharks about as well. I forgot to mention that while we were in the Indian Ocean we saw large quantities of whales.
14/12/15. 2a.m. pulled in at Port Tufic, three miles from Suez. It is a small port, also it is the entrance to the Suez Canal. At present it is full of war ships and troopships. There are English, French and also one Jap. Warship, and the Troopers consist of Indian, Tommies and Australians; so you can imagine it is a fine sight to see. There are also two Hospital ships painted white with a big red cross. These crosses are lit up at night. We took 27 days from Melbourne to the Suez.
We anchored in the bay for two days, and on the 16th. pulled up to the wharf. As soon as we pulled in, thousands of niggers came up to the side of the boat singing out "Bucksheesh", so we put some pennies in the fire and throw them down. We had some great fun watching those niggers catching the hot pennies then yelling out, when they found they burnt.
We unloaded our horses and guns and the brigade entrained for Zeitoun. 20 of us were left behind to guard the ship while the balance of the guns were taken off. I forgot to mention that we had 300 infantry and 25 sailors on board. These sailors were reinforcement for our ships in the North Sea.
17/12/15. Had leave in the Suez for five hours. Talk about the streets of Sydney being dirty! They are nothing compared to those of this town. I did not notice many English living here; they are mostly French and Egyptian and are a disgraceful lot at that. The niggers are all the time cadging pennies.
18/12/15. Packed up and said good bye to the "Wiltshire" and were put in some cattle trucks at 9 a.m. When we were leaving the "Wiltshire" they were sandbagging her bridge on account of Turkish Snipers along the Canal. We left Suez and had a very sandy trip, to a place called Zeitoun, where we arrived at 11.30p.m. We unloaded what goods we had on the train, and as there were a couple of bikes a Corp. Betts and I thought we would scheme out of marching, so we offered to ride them. Well we left the station at 1.30a.m. and were told to go to the Aerodrome which is outside Heliopolis, about five miles from Zeitoun.
We kept on riding along the main road as we thought, but luck was out, and we took the wrong road. We went to the end of this road, and came to sand. This was at 2.45a.m.. We spotted some lights of a village about two miles across, so we pushed our bikes (it being too sandy to ride them). When we arrived at the village we only found Light Horse camped there, so as we arrives at 4.30a.m. we thought it was up to us to have a sleep, both feeling done up. We slept in the Guard Tent until a ? to 6a.m. and were then directed to our camp, which we had passed on our way there.
Arrived at the battery at 6.30a.m. - so altogether had a pretty rotten night (all in). We got there just in time for drill, and had to do work until 4 in the afternoon. I then got dressed and went into Heliopolis for tea, and had a look round until 9.30. We only had leave till 10 so I got back to camp, to another cold bed. We did not get blankets for three days, and talk about cold! I did not think I could be so cold at night, as it is so terribly hot in the day time.
Sunday. Went in to Cairo and had a look around. There are some very fine buildings in the European quarter, and very clean compared with those of the Native quarter. Had afternoon tea at the Grand Continental - a very swagger place, as they know how to go the pace. We were supposed to have a pass to go into Cairo, but I always went in on the nod.
Xmas Eve. At 6.30a.m. we lined up in final marching order and went on stable picket. At 1 o'clock we left camp leading two horses each, and there was not fun in it. The first relief walked to Cairo (11 miles) and the second to a place called Tourah (13 miles). From the time we left Cairo it rained all the time, and we had no overcoats, so got wet through.
Well, we arrived at 1a.m., cold and very down-hearted. I was on stable that day, so had no lunch.
About 10.30p.m. we lined up and were issued with tea and a small tin of sardines each. These tins consist of four sardines. We also given two army biscuits, commonly known as dog biscuits. So we had just about nothing all day. They did us a good turn and let us stay in bed until ? to 7 next morning, which was very welcome.
Xmas Day. Worked all day straightening up the camp, and had Bully Beef and Biscuits for each meal. Lived on this for three days and then got 8?d worth of food per day, which is allowed by the Egyption Government (not by ours). I managed to live until we got a good feed in the town of Ma?adi.
New Year?s Day. Only had dry bread and tea to eat, and was put on picket down at the Nile Cafe, Tura. This picket is put on to stop any fighting amongst the soldiers and natives, and is not a very pleasant job.
5/1/16. While on afternoon parade, an orderly came up and told me that Capt. Ray of the D.A.C. wished to see me after parade. Not knowing what he wanted me for, as I had not heard of him, I went up that same afternoon. It appears he is a distant relative of mine, and I was very pleased to meet anybody who knew my people in Australia. I also looked for Les. Irwin, but he was still at the front (Gallipoli).
10/1/16. Pulled out of bed 2.30a.m., and harnessed up ready to leave camp at 4.30. We cleaned up our wagon lines and went by road as far as Cairo. From there we entrained to Tel-el-Kiber, 60 miles outside Cairo. Arrive at new home at 5p.m. and pitched camp. Placed on stable picket that night, and all had to work like niggers the next day. I was put leading driver on a six mule team, and worked up to 11.30p.m. and then wen to bed tired out.
On Saturday the 4th., 5th. and 6th. Field Artillery Brigade were inspected by Brig. Gen. Morrison (there are about ten letters after his name) - and unharnessed at 5.30 that night.
20/1/16. Met Les Irwin to-day. He is in camp alongside us, so it is very handy to see each other at night time. It is 2 hour?s train journey from Cairo, so we do not go into town much.
21/1/16. Saturday. A day of rejoicing. We were told that we are going into action in a week, so we are all getting very anxious.
28/1/16. Saturday. There is not much to tell about this camp, only that it is on the battle field where Kitchener fought in 1882. The trenches, also skeletons of men and horses are still there, also old fashioned bullets and other things.
5/2/16. Thursday. Went for a bivouac, and had our first casualty with our battery. We got out into the desert and tied our horses in a ring. (The reason for tying them this way is to stop them from bolting).
Two men went up to an old trench about 6 ft. deep, and slept in this to dodge the wind. There is a terribly cold wind comes across the desert every night.
One of the boys had to go on picket and while he was away, the side of the trench fell in on top of the other. His name was Bomb. J. Toup.
6/2/16. Went to Military funeral for Toup.
13/2/16. On guard at watering place at Tel-el-Kebir. There is a canal running right alongside our camp. While on guard there, 2,000 camels passed by on their way to Ismalia, for the Australian Camel Corps.
19/2/16. Thursday. Took a young Infantry horse to water. He gave me a rough time going there, and when coming back down the hill, I gave him too much head room, and he let out and caught me on the left side. It felt as if he had pushed my side right in. There was one of our men in the rear, and he took the horse on to camp for me. I got along about three quarters of the way, when they sent a wagon for me (pill box). I was taken straight to the Doctor, and got my side bound up. The Dr. said I was only bruised, (this was at 12a.m.) and told me to go and lie down in the tent and he would see me in the afternoon. Well, I suffered agony till 5.30p.m. when he came down and told the Capt. to send me to hospital. It was then I had my first ride in a stretcher (and I hope my last). They were rotten things to get about in. I was put on a G. S. wagon and driven about 3 miles to the 3rd Field Ambulance Co., and put in a ward at 6.30p.m. I went to sleep early that night, thank goodness!
29/2/16. Thursday. Discharged as fit for duty. The meals were very good, and the orderlies very attentive. I was on light diet for three days, which consisted of Breakfast 7.30 - Porridge, bread and jam and tea. 11.30a.m. - Soup, bread and jam. 4.30p.m. - Sago, boiled eggs, bread, jam and tea. 8.33 - Cocoa. After that I was put on full diet, which is the same as light, only you get bacon and roasts.
10/3/16. Friday. Men were picked to join the 19th Battery. They picked them all except 13, and I was one of the unlucky ones. Being a gunner I did not know what to do, so I applied for a drivers job on H. Q. Staff. I got a job driving wheel on the telegraph wagon. I was up there for three days when my side went crook again, so the M. O. sent me back to the B. A. C.
14/3/16. Packed up and left camp at 2 a.m., each leading two horses. We put the horses on the train and left Tel-el-Kebir at ? to 3 a.m. We had a rotten journey to Alexandria, where we arrived at 10 a.m. The train went on to the pier, and we were not allowed to go in to the town to look round - so we walked our horses and sat down until 3.30 p.m. Then we loaded our horses on to two boats - one called the ?Minniopolis? (12,000 tons) and the other the ?Knight of the Garter? (6,000 tons). We have 500 horses on board and 300 men. We got our whole brigade on the two boats. Thank goodness I got a job as Q. M. assistant for the voyage, so did not have much to do.
Our boat is very dirty and we are cramped for room. We have to walk about with life-belts on all the time, as there are fear of submarines. There are plenty of warships passing all the time, but I do not think there is need to worry about ?tin fish?.
We arrived in France on Sunday 20/3/16 at 7 a.m. and pulled into the wharf at 12.30 p.m. the same day. I floated while they unloaded the ships, and had a look around Marseilles for an hour or so. It was here I saw the first German prisoners - about 200 of the famous Prussion guards.
They were very big men, and well made, but very square in the top knot. At 7.30 p.m. we marched to a cattle yard and slept there the night. It rained all night long and we had to sleep 18 in a tent. What a change from Egypt - one as hot as H---, and France just the opposite.
21/3/16. At midday we boarded a train for Le Havre. We were put in cattle trucks, two men and 8 horses per truck. We are having a lot of snow, and it looks fine on all the stations and hills surrounding them. We arrived at Havre at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, after sleeping two nights in trucks, and freezing all the time. From Lyons it rained all the way through, and the ground was awfully muddy.
Havre Railway Station. I have got a job guarding the luggage to-night, and it is no fun, as we did not get any sleep in the trucks, owing to our horses pawing all night. This is a very long railway station, and contains, I suppose thousands of pounds worth of war material, etc. We stayed at Havre for a week to get our equipment. While here, being new chums, we thought the war was over, as one day a brigade of ?Froggies? marched past all cheering and singing; but we soon found out our mistake, when speaking to someone, they told us they were going up to the Line.
Havre is a very nice city, and the lady in charge of the Y.M.C.A. is a West Australian girl.
We left Havre on Wednesday night at 11.30 p.m. on cattle trucks as usual for a place called Eyre. Arrived there at 5 p.m. Thursday and drove eight miles to a small town called Lynde. This place is about 15 miles from the firing line, and we can here the guns all day and night. Left Lynde at 7 a.m. Saturday and took the wagons to a big ammunition factory in Eyre and got them loaded up with Shrapnel and High Explosive Shells, and then went back to Lynde.
Monday, left Lynde at 5 a.m. and set out for a place called Armentieres. This place is only one mile from our support trenches, and is a town between Lille and Ypres. It is well within the range of the german guns, and they are always sending shells into it.
On this march we saw our first german aeroplanes - some big Taubes. It was a great sight. They were being fired on by our anti-aircraft guns. Talk about narrow squeaks! They fire shells all around them. One of these planes got hit, and it caught fire. The pilots and observers do not have much chance of saving themselves as they are several thousand feet in the air.
10/4/16. Monday. The Australians went in to the trenches to-day. I have not heard how they got on.
13/4/16. Thursday. 4th. Brigade went to action so we are kept pretty busy now, taking up ammunition and rations. The Tommies have a great craze of polishing all the chain work on the harness, so our drivers have got to start polishing theirs. We are under British Army orders now, and therefore, we have to copy the Tommies.
The camp where we are at present is mud up to our knees and we have to sleep in tents, which are very damp and muddy. We have only seen the sun a few times since we have been in France so far. It has been raining or dull grey weather all the time. It is here that I got Lumbago and was admitted to hospital at Steinwerk - went in on 18/4/16.
21/4/16. Good Friday. Not feeling too good, so the Dr. gave orders for me to be sent to the C. C. S. (Casualty Clearing Station) in Bailleau, a fair size town 6 miles from Steinwerk. We are not allowed out to see the town, So I cannot write anything about it just yet. The C.C.S. is full of chats so we get a lively time. We wait here to be examined by the Doctor. The minister has just come in and is starting a sermon on account of the day. On Easter Saturday we had three services, and I can tell you I was asleep in the last act.
21/4/16. At 4.15 a.m. there was an Air Raid made on Bailleau. There were eight of them altogether, and they kicked up plenty of row with their bombs, which they dropped everywhere. They did not do much damage, only destroyed twenty motor ambulances and a few buildings. Several bombs were dropped in the grounds of our hospital, but thank goodness, did not hurt anyone. Our anti-aircraft guns brought one done during the raid. Being in one of these hospitals, brings the war right home to you. There are motor ambulances coming in all day and night, with wounded; some with legs off, some minus arms and some blind.
The boy in the bed next to mine has lost half his face with a bit of High Explosive shell. It is very hard at first to see all these fellows suffering agony but after a while we do not take much notice of it.
25/4/16. ANZAC DAY. Has a service in honour of the fallen on Gallipoli - it was also held for the Tommies (29th. Division) who also landed on that day.
2/5/16. Left hospital at 12.15 p.m. and walked eight miles back to camp, a fair walk when you have a kit to carry. Thank goodness, I was on my own so could take my time. I arrived back at camp at 4.30 p.m., and then took on my usual duties.
There is not much to put down for the next week or so, only we see plenty of aircraft; but do not worry much about them as they have to fly very high to dodge our shells. The weather is improving, and the mud is getting hard, so it is not so bad.
We go down and have a hot bath once every two weeks, and wash every day from the drains at the sides of the streets. This water is not very clean but is all we can get. It is here that I broke my promise, and took on the drinking racket. It is not always safe to drink water in the
estaminets, as the germans have so many allies amongst the civilian population, so that we drink wine and English beer (bottled mostly) I do not drink much, as I am not shook on it - yet.
While in Armentieres an English officer told me not to mix up with the Belgian civilians, that 75% of them are against us, which afterwards I found out to be correct.
During the next week or so, we made a good many trips with ammunition. We do these trips at night, as it is very dangerous to go about in the day time.
Left La Menengate (this is where our wagon lines where) at 3 p.m. for a new camp four miles away, called Le Petit Mortier (umpteen miles from anywhere). Arrived there at 4 p.m. and were put in billets. Each sub has one of its own. Our sub has a very clean one. The barn next door to us was burned down that night. We were all pulled up to get it out, but nobody was hurt except an old woman.
8/5/16. All the B.A.C?s were turned into D.A.C?s, as the former were not much use to us. They have mules to drive now, and have plenty of kicking matches.
Left Le Petit Mortier at 5 p.m. on 4th. July 1916, and drove five miles to a camp called Neuve Eglise. Arrived there at 11 p.m. the same night. It is a very large camp with plenty of grass round it, by way of a change from mud. This is a place pretty near the front, and there are plenty of shells flying about. On the second day I had my first experience with death. There is a 12" Howitzer Battery each side of us, that roar all night. The germans send back 5.9s. trying to hit them. I was standing near the road watching them, when a shell landed 100 yards from me, and went in between some A.C.C. men. They can thank their lucky stars that it hit a tree first. It cut the tree into matchwood (a very tree at that). Two men were killed and two were wounded. Two of us carried one of the dead men down to their camp, and I must say I never thought a dead man could be so heavy. All this time they were sending over shells pretty thick, and when you are in the middle of the road, carrying a man that you cannot drop too quickly, you feel just a bit shaky in the knees.
Our Battery is in action at a place called Ploegsteert. There are some fine woods round here - one of them is called La Hutte Wood. The Battery had several casualties at this place, but nothing very serious.
It got too hot for us at the camp, so next day we left at 5 p.m. We marched through the towns Bailleul, Cassel (where our Australian head quarters are) and finished up at a place called St.Marie Cappel at 11.15 that night. It is beautiful country, and well cropped. Stopped there four days and then pushed on to St.Omer. This is a fine town about the same size as Bendigo, with a fine river running through it. While at this place they took our blankets from us, and left us with nothing but a water-proof sheet and overcoats. I do a perish every night.
16/6/16. We entrained at 11.30, and passed through Aire, Lillers, St.Pol, Doullens, Domart and arrived at Amiens at 8.30 a.m. the following day. This town has one of the best cathedrals. We stayed there for one day and went on to a place called Argoe, a small village just outside the town.
19/7/16. At 9 o?clock I was called out to be transferred to the 11th. Battery, so packed up and walked to Picquigny, five miles away. Two days before that they called volunteers to go into the trenches with the Trench Mortars, a job the Infantry call sudden death, as six out of ten get killed. There were three of us stepped out, and we were told to be ready to join them; but I had hard luck, and was sent to the 11th Battery instead.
24/7/16. Went up to the hospital, and had a talk to some of the wounded. The Australians have been chopped about on this front, and the hospitals are full up to the top. There are a lot of german wounded coming in also. We read about the german soldiers being starved, but so far all of them that I have seen are rather on the buxom side and carrying plenty of rations with them.
28/7/16. Moved on to-day to a place called Contalmaison and the Infantry went into Pozieres. Our guns are in a place named Sausage Gully (where the name came from I do not know). There are hundreds of guns in this place; there is also a big chalk pit or crater. There are Canadians and English batteries as well as our own, so we have a great variety of swear words.
2/8/16. Gunner Taylor was hit in the temple to-day, and is not expected to live.
3/8/16. Gunner Taylor died, and was buried in the afternoon.
12/8/16. Met some Tommies to-day and they were saying that they did not like the way we advanced so much, they like trench warfare the best. I do not think much of them; they are a dirty lot - taking them on the average; the Scottish are far the best, they take far keener interest in their work.
16/8/16. At 2.30 we came out of action after a stay of 19 days, we are getting very sick of living in the mud and the noise of the guns; went to the other side of Albert for the night, and then went to a rest camp just outside Contay, �called Vadencourt Woods. Stopped there for six days and then went back into action again to the Somme and mud. We took over the same gun pits as before and stayed there for 12 days, came out and then marched to a place called Hem, stayed there for the night, and then to Dullens, where we entrained, left there at 9 a.m. and passed through St.Polaire, Hazebruck and disentrained at Poperinghe, drove to our wagon lines at Renninghelst, 5 miles from Ypres; our guns went into action the same night; it is seven miles between our wagon lines and Gun Pits, we average two trips per night, and drill all day, so there is not much rest for the wicked.
Ypres has been a very fine city but there is not much left of it now, they have very wide streets and also a beautiful Cathedral. It is at this Cathedral that the Kaiser said he would be crowned King of Belgium, but I am afraid it will not be there when the war is over. (On the Somme where we were last in action the villages of Frigcourt, La Boissille, Contalmaison and Pazieries are all blown level with the ground or thereabouts, I know I would not like to pay for the rebuilding of them).
24/10/16. Packed up and left camp at 9 a.m. and drove through Poperinghe and stopped outside Cassel for the night. Cassel is the Australian H.Q., a very quiet township on the top of a fairly high hill, moved on the next morning at 6a.m. and passed through Balemberg, Lederzule, Watten, Muncq and stopped at Polincove for 3 days.
26/10/16. Went to Tim Wares 21st birthday, we had a fine dinner at a farm close by, we had music and there were three very nice young ladies to dance with, so everything went off very well; our party was made up of Bob Buchannan, Bill Brake, Bill Gayer, Tim Ware, Jack Fenton, Billy Kilpatrick and self. Went home at 4 a.m.
27/10/16. Left camp at 6.30 a.m. next morning for Andriucq, where we entrained, passed through Nortkrque, Colonge, Calais, Frithem, Pihen, Lividrithun, Froses, Wimeren, Boulonge, St.Lenard, Carty, Neufchater, Etaples, Berck, Rue Novilles, Port Abberville, Amiens and disentrained at Daours. (I am not to sure if these names are spelt correctly). From there we drove to Corbie, a fair sized town made up of one long main street and drove on next morning at 12 a.m. through Merincourt, Dernancourt, Albert to our wagon lines at Montauban. Our guns went into action at Longueval. Stayed there for two weeks and then went to the Brickfields just alongside Albert.
10/11/16. Went back into action again; on our way in we passed through Contalmaison, Freicourt, Nametz, Montauban, Bazentin and finished up at a place called Flers. It is a very hot corner and we had to leave our guns several times as the germans got to know where our battery was located. We also had a good few killed and wounded - horses included.
24/11/16. Moved out at 7 a.m. and drove back to the Brickfields again, six miles away, as we only had half our horses left and they were in poor condition.
25/11/16. Moved on the next day, and as I had a cold they put me off at the 38th C.C.S. (and like a goat I did not find out where our men were going for a spell). Went to a ward and wrapped myself up well in chatty Blankets for four days.
28/11/16. Went up for my discharge and left hospital at 2 a.m. Tuesday with 2d. in cash and a tin of Bully, two dog crackers and no pass to go into towns (This is the beautiful way we are treated in Tommy hospitals). Anyway that is neither here nor there.
Started out and walked to Amiens (about 19 miles) and reported
to the R.T.O. who sent me by train to Albert where I arrived
at 11 p.m., slept at the rest camp and made enquires at 6 the
next morning, where I was told by the O.C. that they were at a
place called Douers, 10 miles from Amiens. Left Albert at 6.30
a.m and went to Douers, 25 miles from Albert. Got a ride some
of the way and arrived there at 5 p.m. where I was at once
arrested for not having a pass. Kept in the clink until 1.30
a.m. and was then taken before some Tommy officer. After I
explained my case he sent me to Vadencourt, about 8 or 9 miles
from Albert, it is 35 miles between Albert and Amiens, and all
I did was to get to and from each place. I found the 2nd Div.
H.Q. at Vadencourt, after making enquires I found it was best
to go back to Amiens as the 4th. F.A.B. were about there
somewhere; trudged back 35 miles once more and finished up at
the Canadian Y.M.C.A. at 10.30 p.m. where they were very good
I had not had much to eat since I left hospital, only what they gave me there, and I had no cash; slept there all night and all the next morning. I could not go in to Amiens as the M.P.s are waiting to grab anyone without a pass, in the afternoon I met one of our boys and he told me our Batteries were at Naours, 13 miles out, so walked out and arrived at 6 p.m. where I had a good feed and sleep, after being on the road for four days.
22/12/16. After a stay of a few weeks we went back into action, to a place called Ginchy, or just alongside. We are on the main road between Flers and Ginchy. There are a good few 9.2 and 8 inch Howitzers, and a bit further on there are a few 15 inch Naval Guns, so there is plenty of row (noise) going on.
25/12/16. Christmas day, raining up till 9 a.m., and then by way of a change we had Sun for the first time in two weeks (we usually have grey days). We worked all day on Bully stew and strong tea, and got a Xmas box of an extra dose of rum.
I forgot to mention that I joined the Signallers last August, and my work consists of trench observing, laying lines and Telephone work at the Battery, so we are kept very busy as we are very short handed.
1/1/17. New Year?s Day. Like last New Year?s Day, nothing to eat and very cold and muddy. We got a good bit of snow now which is not so bad after you get used to it.
18/1/17. I do not write every day as there is nothing to put down. We have a few killed or wounded now and then, but that is nothing to write home about, after you have been in the trenches for a few months you don?t take any notice of it. Had a very heavy fall of snow to-day, it is past your knees, off the beaten track, but not very cold. We came out of action and went to our wagon lines for a couple of days.
20/1/17. Left wagon lines at 11 a.m. and went to Burie for five days, from there went to Rainville, where we stopped for one week; all these French Villages are the same, most of the houses have thatched roofs and they all have sort of dams for watering the horses and cattle. The fields are very nice in the Spring, as amongst the corn and wheat there are a lot of red poppies, which is a fine sight to see.
All women work in the fields and can plough very straight, up and around Ypres; they go in a lot for vineyards, and make some fine wines.
2/2/17. Went back into action once more to a place called Martinpuich, not very far to the right of Mouquet Farm, where the Aussies got pretty well cut up a little while back. We are firing on a place called Le Sars, at a range of 5,000 yards. Our Battery has what is known as a Tank Gun; it is one of our 18 pounders, but it is put just behind the lines, in case of Tanks (german) attacking us. We sleep all day and work all night. Why this is so, is because we are on top of a rise to get a clear sweep at anything, and you can see the german trenches, so if we started firing in the day time, we would be getting nipped in the bud. The german line extends through Le Sars, Butte de Wattencourt and Beaulencourt on our sector only.
28/2/17. Germans retired back 2,000 yards to straighten out their line, to a place called Grevillers.
29/2/17. Moved our guns between La Sars and Walencourt. There is one thing we notice, the germans are very well equipped, every town that they are in, they build deep dug- outs; some go done as far as 40 to 50 feet, but it is very depressing to stay there long; in each of these they have special stoves supplied to them with coal, and a special top to the stove for fitting their Mess Tins, which I must say, is more than we get. We stayed in this position for a few weeks, having a few wounded every now and then.
13/3/17. Germans retired to within ? a mile of Baupaume, so we moved our guns up to La Coupe Goul so that we would be in range of the germans.
18/3/17. I am not too sure if this is the exact date because I am in a bit of a haze as regards to actual dates, during the next three weeks. Germans left Baupaume and we went in at 4 a.m.. The 23rd Battalion were the first I think, to enter; it is all in flames and nearly every house is mined or painted with tar and set fire to. Baupaume is a fair sized town (about the size of Ballarat or Bendigo) and is very old. All the fine trees along the main road have been destroyed by the germans and left there to rot. Trees that have taken years and years to grow
There is also a fair sized sugar factory and a very large railway workshop. There was only one place left standing intact and that was the Town hall which our smart Red Tape Staff (thinking they were smart and not smelling a rat) took for their H.Q.. Every other building had been destroyed, also an Australian Comforts Fund Canteen had the window in the same building. After they had been there for about two weeks, UP went the whole building, and everyone inside.
I had just left the Canteen a few minutes before. It was a fine sight to see and a thorough job. The whole place was swept clean. From Baupaume we moved our guns to Beugnatre for four days, and then to Vaulx. All these places are small villages and are in ruins.
8/4/17. Three of the signallers were picked to go to a school and I being one of the mugs started out for a place called Flessells, 47 miles away. We had to march all the way with our packs, so took 2? days to do the trip, arriving there very footsore. At Flessells there is a big underground tunnel made for the war in 1810, and will shelter several thousand people - a very fine piece of work and leads 7 miles to Amiens. From the 8th to the 27th there is not much news to tell as we were having signalling lessons all day and loafed about the town in the evening.
28/4/17. Reveille at 6 a.m. Breakfast 7 a.m. Fall in 8 a.m. and then marched to a rest camp at Albert where we stayed for two days.
30/4/17. Went on to our Battery which is now at Noreiul, just on the left of Lagnicourt, where the germans broke through our lines, but we drove them back in four hours from the time they came through. I had to go on duty straight away, for nearly a month and we are very shorthanded. Reinforcements seem very scarce nowadays, so all the work drops on a few. Went up on Battalion work and came back from the trenches on the 2nd at 5 p.m. Issued with new clothing as mine were in rags, and then went to bed. I have not had any sleep for two days.
3/5/17. From this date on I write from memory as I met with the misfortune to stop one. Called at 3 a.m. to do observing with the Infantry, as they were having a shot at a village called Bullecourt. Got dressed in my new clothes, and looking like a prize packet, but feeling rotten, we started for the front line (Humphrey Thomas, Lieut. Rees and I). I had a fairly heavy load, consisting of a reel of telephone wire and a very rotten feeling that something was going to happen to one of us. What it was I know not, but somehow that ill feeling was there.
Arrive at 3.45 a.m. and sat down for a spell and waited for the first shot or signal, which came on the tick of 4 a.m. It is wonderful to see a Barrage of shells. People out in Australia cannot imagine what it looks like, and you think to yourself ?how in the devil are men coming out alive?. I went on observing first until 4.25 a.m. and then sat down for a spell, as it is trying on your nerves and eyes. (It is times like these that your thoughts turn home). I was thinking of several things when there was an explosion just at the back of me, and then my left leg went numb. I looked down and along my thigh I saw a nose cap smoking. I went to knock it away, but before I could, it went off and the top of it went into my leg and made a clean hole about the size of a small cup, which thank goodness, hit the nerve, so I lost all feeling in my leg. Lieut. Rees laid me out in the trench, and Humphrey Thomas went for stretcher bearers, who came at 5.15 a.m. Four came for me, but one got killed, Humphrey helped to carry me away. (Lying there, waiting for help, is the worst time in any man?s life - shells bursting and machine gun bullets flying around, is not too nice, I must say). Anyway, they carried me to the dressing station, but there were hundreds waiting there turn, so they carried me on to the horse ambulance.
Humphrey and the bearers went back to help others, so as soon as the cart was full, we drive off to the other side of Vaulx to the 3rd Field Ambulance. By that time I was pretty near done in, so they put some stuff in my chest, which bucked me up a good deal. I was then put on a Motor ambulance, and sent to Guevillers line just outside Baupaume, where I was at once taken to the Operating Theatre.
The operation must have knocked me up, as I could not be removed from the C.C.S. for two days. The Sister told me they were going to take my leg off, at first, but thank goodness I still have it.
5/5/17. Put in a hospital train on the bottom bunk. On the top bunk there was a German Officer who could not speak English. He was talking to himself all night and kept a lot of us awake.
6/5/17. Arrived at Rouen at 4.30 p.m. where I was driven in an ambulance to No. 11 Stationary Hospital (Scottish Section) I was bathed and taken into the Operating theatre again, came �out feeling very crook, and tied to the bed, where I am not allowed to move off my back. I forgot to mention that just before I went into the theatre a Padre came and asked me if I wished a wire sent home to my people. He then wrote a cable home for me, and said a short prayer - anyone would think a man was going West; all he did to me was to give me the blues.
There is not much to tell you while in this hospital. A Red Cross lady comes once a week and gives us smokes and a few flowers.
Apart from that the routine of the hospital is as follows:- Woken up at 3.30 a.m. (with a full ward) and 4 a.m. when things are slack - have a wash, 5 a..m temperature taken and a cup of broth, 9 a.m. breakfast, 11 a.m dressing and beds made, 1.30 p.m. lunch, from then on talk to yourself or go to sleep until 5.30 p.m., tea, and at 8 p.m. a cup of coffee or cocoa and a biscuit - lights out at 9 p.m.
This routine goes on from day to day, so there is not much news to write .
25/5/17. A fair number of Australians and Americans came into hospital with cut heads etc. to-day. It appears that the Yanks started boasting that they were going to do in three months what we had taken three years to do - needless to say, cut heads, etc.
13/6/17. Left Rouen at 10.30 a.m. in a boat called the ?West Australia?, a very fast racy kind of boat, and went down the river to Havre; it is a very pretty trip up the river, woods and small villages along. Arrived at Havre at 4.30 p.m., waited in the harbour until 10 p.m. and then sailed for England. It was very cold trip across, but a nice fresh morning. We arrived at Southampton at 7 a.m. the following morning and passed a boat called ?Marnatainia? 48,000 tons, a very fine ship and she was well guarded by destroyers and a light cruiser. She is waiting for American wounded from Southampton Railway Station.
I went by train to the British Red Cross Hospital - Netley Hants - No.7 Australian Hut. This hut is put by Australian money given by the Red Cross and is a very fine hut. We are right opposite the Army and Naval Hospital - by all descriptions given by the wounded Aussies, it is a h--- of a place, so thank goodness I am not there. The Red Cross place where I am is full of Voluntary Workers, and they treat you fine. Stayed there for a few short weeks, which picked me up a lot.
5/7/17. Was put on train at Netley, went to Harefield Park, where lady ambulance drivers drove us 4 miles to an Australian hospital; was then put into No. 13 Ward for luck. This is not a bad place, but does not come up to any previous hospitals where I have been. I had to wait here for a board to go to good old Aussie, which I went before on 10/7/17.
15/7/17. Was put on a stretcher and driven back to the Station. Miss Birdwood gave us all a send-off at the hospital, and Boy Scouts gave us one at the station. 9.15 a.m. train left Harefield Park and finished up at Avenmouth at 2 p.m. where we were put on a hospital ship ?HMAHS Kanowna?. She is painted white and has a green stripe with a Red Cross in the center. I was put down in G Ward in the hold - 65 in a ward. Pulled out at 5.30 p.m. on the 15th July 1917, saying good-bye to England and the War. We travelled without any lights while in the danger zone, as far as Sierra Leone, where we stopped for two days; Left there and had a calm trip to Durban.
There is no news to write on a hospital ship - all cases like mine are in swinging cots. Routine consists of; Woken up at 5 a.m., wash and temperature taken. Breakfast at 8.30 a.m. Beds made and dressings done at 11 a.m. Lunch at 1 p.m. Think what you like, and tea at 5.15 p.m. Talk and argue the point about Sydney and Melbourne until 8.15 when you get cocoa and a biscuit. Lights out at 9 p.m. I got up the day we arrived at Durban to see what it is like. When we were a long way out, we could see a figure on the Breakwater, signalling to us for all it could.
When we got closer we could see that it was a girl (Miss C.E.Campbell) - I must say one of the smartest I have seen with the flags. DURBAN - not a bad town at all but only has one main street (West Street). It has a very fine Esplanade with good swimming baths, etc. Bought a fur rug for my sister, then a young lady (Miss England) took me for a drive around the suburbs. Arrived back at the ship at 5 p.m. The next day we had leave again. It had been raining during the night which made me nervous, being a new chum on crutches. Anyway started out and had lunch at the Anzac Cafe, left there and while crossing the street , my crutches slipped on the tram line and I went down. Several people picked me up and put me in a rickshaw, and sent me back to the boat. These rickshaws are pulled by Zulus with big horns sticking out of the side of their heads. The more weird the head gear the more proud they are. Left Durban the following morning for dear old Australia.
1/9/17. Arrived back at Fremantle on my birthday were some Red Cross cars took us for a run around Perth, etc.
3/9/17. Left Fremantle at 9.30 p.m. on a very dirty night. Had a very rough voyage to Port Adelaide where were we given a day off. (I might mention that in Durban, Perth, Fremantle and Adelaide all the Hotels are closed while returning Troops are passing through and anyone selling drinks to soldiers are up for a heavy fine). Went straight to see Mr. Butrose at the Adelaide & Suburban Advertising Company where I rang up Melbourne and had a talk to Mr.Cass. We sailed the next day with a very nice send-off by a Concert Company at 9.30 p.m. and arrived at Melbourne on the 10/9/17. We were not allowed to disembark that night as it was 6 p.m. when we got up the bay to Port Melbourne, so anchored off Gellebrand Light House until 9 a.m.
11/9/17. Pulled into a new Pier which was not built before I left to find a line of cars to drive us through the city. My word, what a treat to be home again, and see faces that you know, and to be with your own people.
People who stayed in Australia during the War do not know what it is to go away to foreign countries to fight., and then come back wounded. It is a feeling of joy and sorrow combined, but anyway, every man who goes to War and gets back, is a damn lucky man and should not complain.
Arthur Riley drove me home to ?Jumna? where all my family were waiting for me.
So thus ends my Diary, and closes my chapter, of
the best experience a man can ever have, with the A. I. F.
P.S. This Diary is subject to correction, as I may have made
a few mistakes in the dates, etc.
Kenneth Sydney Day.
WWI Document Archive > Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences > Diary During My Service with the Australian Imperial Forces - 1914-15-16-17