April 1915

April 1915

Saturday 17 April

5.30 pm commenced loading wagons and horses then entrained. The train moving off at 7.30 pm en-route for Southampton where we arrived at——–

Sunday 18 April

8.00 am Then had a busy time unloading horses and wagons, shipping horses, watering and feeding them and getting to our own quarters. Dock labourers attended to the shipping of wagons etc.   8th and 9th Batt.[1] arrived just before RFA[2] Durham late. 6.30 pm moved off from dock thus commencing our journey to take an active part in the World War.

Monday 19

4.00 am cast anchor just off Havre until tide suitable to enter harbour. 9.30 am took up anchor and steamed into harbour numerous search lights could be seen when crossing the Channel. 1.00 pm arrived at dock side and commenced to unload cycles, forage and assisted in getting wagons etc. ashore, I was first man ashore.  Remainder of time drawing equipment until 8.00 pm marched off and camped on road side, had first bite since breakfast at 9.00 pm turned in after seeing to horses etc.

Tuesday 20

Reveille 2.00 am moved off to Havre station at 3.00 am where we arrived about 4.00 am and commenced loading wagons and horses, had a very rough time since leaving N/c[3].  Hope it improves from now onwards although it is new therefore interesting. Train left Havre at 8.15 am arrived Balyour[4] 2.10 pm nothing to record en-route one hour here had tea .  ??? which spoiled my dinner. Left Balyour at 3.15 pm 10 mins later saw ruins of buildings done by the Germans.  Passed Abancourt.   Arrive Abbeville 9.05 pm placed six men on picquet duty left again 10.57 pm slept all the remainder of journey. Capt. told me we passed Boulogne through the night.

Wednesday 21

Passed through Boulogne at 3.00 am arrived at Cassel at 5am unloaded and marched about 4 miles to the Chateau D’Iffs and had breakfast at 11.00 am never enjoyed a meal better spent the rest of the day reorganising equipment and putting billets in order, Roll call at 8.00 pm lights out at 9.00 pm so far D. W. Buckley has been the comic of our section.

Thursday 22

Reveille 6.00 am tapped into Div’l.[5] line and laid out to 7th DLI started at 10.00 am returned at 2.00 pm. distance 2 miles commenced at 3.30 pm and laid line out to 6th DLI,[6] a very difficult line, distance 3 miles. Saw a few of my old friends looked for T and I Venn but could not see them. Returned to billet at 7.00 pm for tea. German airplane within a few miles let fall two bombs chased by British and French airplanes but got safely away. First letter from came as a pleasant surprise.

Friday 23

Heavy firing heard in the distance all night. Order from Div. HQ about 1 am to stand to arms. Report that British have fallen back three miles from Ypres.  Artillery fire still going on.  Set out to reel up Batt’s. lines at 11.30 am finished at 1.30 and 1.45 pm H.Q. moved off at 1 pm ? Packs at 1.40 and 1.50 pm caught up to HQ at 2.30 pm.  Marched  through  Steenvoorde, L’Abeele,  Poperinghe and billeted at Vlamertinge at 2am.  Every ??? very serious fighting going on troops marched  up to front in hundreds of ???

Saturday 24 [7]

Reveille at 6 am breakfast by 7.30 am heavy bombardment went on all night in fact never ceased for 5 days streams of wounded, some terrible to see,  also refugees moving to the rear any direction to get away from the heavy firing. 7 pm moved out and relieved Shropshires as supports, got up to trenches, lost touch of first line transport and hunted until 2 am for them. Passed through Ypres on our way up. We were very lucky that night as enemy were shelling every blessed road in the district

Sunday 25

[illegible notes] awakened by our own artillery starting a very heavy bombardment we were under shellfire from 7 am until 3 pm when we were ordered by Bde. Maj.[8] to retire out of guns way with one shell we had six killed and three wounded which occurred about 7.30 am lost a number of horses also had great trouble in getting horses unyoked and out of danger. Returned and got waggons away later.  Only 2 cycles left out of 7.  Intended having a good night’s rest but were again ordered back to Potijze arrived 12.45 pm to get a pleasant night’s sleep but were shelled out of billets about 9.30 am

Monday 26

12.45 pm eleven men with phones advanced to Bde. HQ[9] and laid out to 6th & 7th DLI got back at 4.30 attack on enemy positions commenced at 7pm we have landed into the heaviest battle of the campaign. Our Bde. have lost heavily we are now at Verlorenhoek[10] and two more men in the staff wounded seriously. 7th and 9th to make a feint attack 6th and 8th were in attack on enemy trenches.

Tuesday 27

Very little sleep again better food but eating under very rough conditions sent men out to examine Batt. cables also limber tags (?) back through the streets of hell (Ypres) to bring up remains of baggage and men. Still working short handed and under terrible circumstances. Lines continually cut with shells.  Now heavy shelling going on also rifle fire seems as though another attack that progress.  Fine day, lads singing as though nothing wrong.  Very uneasy about remainder of section who have not yet arrived.  Had a wash + shaved without a mirror.  Felt A1 after it.  Pulled out of dug outs to prepare men for remainder of the section who have not yet arrived.

Wednesday 28

Again shelled heavily.  I had a near thing.  A shell burst within the six yards third one since coming up.  Aeroplanes gave the range then the guns opened up on a farm and fired it destroying a lot of  SAA[11] German aircraft very busy this morning 4 men belonging my section arrived 11am 4 still behind.  Suffolks[12] shelled out of trenches and lost heavily. German aeroplanes directing the fire resulting in another farm being burnt. 3.30 pm sent three men back for more telephone equipment  ? shelled for 3 hours it was hell let loose. 7pm German airplane brought down by rifle fire.  Pilot shot  ?????????????????

Thursday 29

Germans again shelling village at 6 am.  First one fell 10yds from dugout.  Had splendid breakfast ??+ bread.  A farm 200 yards to our left fired with German shells. Ordered to be in readiness to move at a moment’s notice 5 pm no idea where we are for.  10 more made it.  Was presented an order to stand  to arms. 10 pm. received a long looked for letter from home.  Motor came at about 10 pm for airplane (Ger) brought down previous night but the Germans had wrecked it during the day with shell. Detailed to issue rations while up here. I would rather have had any other job.

Friday 30

Foggy morning we took advantage and commenced to dig a large dugout at HQ.  Fog lifted about 9 am  village again shelled very heavy mostly shrapnel  another near squeak about 9 am heavy shelling continued all day Cpl.[13] J R and three men sent to assist moving GS[14] wagon left at  Potijze on Sunday last. Bro.[15] placed under arrest not getting wagon out. Enemy shelled village very heavily 5pm until 8pm.  It is a wonder any is left.  10 pm another wash and shave, a real ? No light, shaved in the dark.


[1] Batt. = Battalion

[2] R.F.A. = Royal Field Artillery

[3] Newcastle

[4] Balyour=where?

[5] Div’l = Divisional

[6] DLI = Durham Light Infantry

[7] 24 April – 4 May 1915: Battle of St. Julien as part of the Second Battle of Ypres

[8] Bde. = Brigade Maj.= Major

[9] Entry is Hdq but I’ve typed HQ for Headquarters

[10] Hard to decipher

[11] SAA = small arms ammunition

[12] Suffolks possibly?

[13] Cpl. = corporal

[14] GS = general service

[15] Bro. = brother thus referring to either 47091 Gunner Benjamin Rowlandson RA or 1803 Private John Robert Rowlandson RE (formerly 347 Durham Light Infantry),