Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Frank Hurley war diary, 21 August-28 October 1917
MLMSS 389 / Box 5 / Item 1
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France & Belgium
Diary of Capt. F. Hurley
Official War Photographer
1st Anzac Australian Hdqtrs
from 21st August to 28th Octr 1917
or Daily Chronicle 12 Salisbury Square London
21st August to 28th October 1917
[The notes on this page have been crossed through].
21st August, 1917
The day has at last arrived & I have left London. After an early morning's packing & visiting Administration offices, I caught the Staff train from Charing Cross at 12.50 PM. Never had I dreamt there were so many Generals, Colonels & Majors engaged on staff work. The train was packed with them. I had a delightful conversation with two Colonels, muchly travelled men, who occupied the same compartment as myself. A couple hours brought us to Folkestone, where the Princess Victoria, laden with returning troops & the Staff Steamer were waiting. The large amount of equipage carried by myself, gave me an anxious time keeping it from getting mixed with the ponderous amount of baggage dumped promiscuously
in the vessel's hold. Whilst waiting, several aeroplane scouts treated us to a magnificent display of diving, turning & manoeuvring. So apparently easy & graceful were their movements, that there appeared no more danger in their evolutions than if they had been birds on the wing. I met Wilkins on board; & so we left the shores of dear old England for the grim duties of France. The weather was beautiful, & our vessel convoyed by two destroyers did her 17 knots without a movement. Soon the french coast came in sight & the details of Boulogne gradually became more distinct. We had a particularly fine view just before entering the port, of the beach, where great numbers of folk were bathing. Nothing seemed more distant than war, & had it not been for the great number of troops embarking & disembarking, every thing
was serenely peaceful. At Boulogne Capt. Bean was awaiting us with two cars & we conveyed all our goods to safe storage. After an excellent meal - by the way the French bread is far superior to our British War loaf - we left for Headquarters, which are situated at Hazebrouck. Even here one is scarcely conscious of a war, except for the great numbers of transports & Khaki men. To me the ride was filled with interest. Everywhere tiny villages were surrounded by closely cultivated lands, & the golden grain, partly mowed, lay in long rows of sheaves, with here & there great conical ricks. The roads were in excellent order & planted on each side with long rows of poplar & other trees. Darkness soon came on & before reaching St. Omer we took a wrong turning
& rushed into a flock of sheep. These scattered at our unexpected visit & fortunately we only damaged two. Bean endeavored to arrange the damage with the herdswoman without success. Naturally she assessed the damage exorbitantly. After much haggling we proceeded on our way & as we wended our way towards Hazebrouck, the sky gradually grew brighter with the flickering quiver of hundreds of guns in action. It was the most awesome sight I have ever seen. As we neared Hazebrouck the guns could be heard - almost synchronising with the flashing. We took up our quarters with a number of the headquarters’ staff beneath canvas.
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So much passes, so much seen, & such unprecedented happenings that to enter them at length would take hours. Here it is 11 Pm. & I have just returned from the Artillery on hill 60, & as weary & tired after 60 miles jolting that I feel like dropping off to sleep. In the morning I went in my service Car, which by the way is a Ford, accompanied by Wilkins, to the large centre St. Omer, to buy a camp bed. This I have found essential as the great amount of condensation, even on the grass under the tents, makes ground sleeping decidedly unhygienic. The Twenty mile ride out was delightful; the grain has all been harvested & now stands in sheaves ready for "ricking". The beautiful Avenued roadways & quaint villages, with the troops billeted & drilling therein offer pictures at every turn. At Ballieul I saw great numbers of our infantry who are now recuperating,
just preparatory to taking up active work again. I will never forget the beauty & glorious color contained in this country. The
huts tents surrounded by wheat-fields & great hayricks, with occasional gay tiled cottages set in their midst & everything just alive with Khaki-clad figures.
The roads too are thronged with transports (motor) teams & riders. A feverish activity strangely out of contrast with the country & the leisurely methods of the peasantry, husbanding the grain with a sickle or making tiny furrows with a small push plow. Tedious & slow as are their methods, the entire country is closely under agriculture. St. Omer, we discovered to be quite a large town, & after numerous enquiries in pigeon French & calls at various shops, I managed to secure a camp bed. I am now pleased with my purchase, which cost me 40 Francs, (a little cheaper than in London) it being
delightfully comfortable & a safeguard against getting flooded out. We had a good lunch back at our little hotel in Hazebrouck & called for Bean at his office at 2.30. Bean, who is the Australian official war correspondent, has a remarkable knowledge of the maze of roads & is a veritable walking dictionary of events, an excellent fellow & not afraid to be in any of the stunts in which our fellows take part. The road runs through Kemmel, near where we viewed the battle from yesterday, thence through Dikkebus to Voormezele. The way was an endless procession of vehicles, transports, horses and men, which were keeping up the supply to the front lines or relieving. The village of Voormezeele is a mass of ruins & stumps of houses and here the luxuriance of vegetation ceases & the shell-swept battlefield properly begins. Trees, villages & even contours of the landscape have been
altered by the incessant bombardment of three years. Around this region the enemy have been forced back but two or three miles!
Putting on our shrapnel helmets & carrying our gas masks we walked across this desert, whose outskirts are already becoming green with grass, past myriad sandbagged dugouts to Lock 7, once an old canal, but now just a swampy depression. Here the awfulness of the battlefield burst on one. The great howitzer & batteries were in full operation & the ear-splitting din was followed by the scream of a hail of shell which swept over our heads to the enemy lines. Things were very quiet however, & our harassing fire was only lightly replied to. We plodded through shell craters & shell-torn ground littered with fragments of burst shell & shrapnel, torn equipment & smashed entanglements, over the blood-drenched battlefield till
we arrived at the Famous Hill 60. Here the Australian Batteries were in full operation, bombarding the enemy lines at 4,000 yds. Capt. Bean, Wilkins & myself were hospitably received by Col Shelshire at the headquarters, situated in a series of dugouts linked together by a series of underground tunnels not unlike catacombs. Soakage trickled in through the roof or oozed through the walls, & the blackness seemed to be made blacker still by a few spluttering candles. These candles gave a convulsive jump as the reverberating shock of a near heavy gun was fired. The continual rumble & boom of artillery shook the ground violently, so that one might liken it to earthquake sensations. The Colonel explained to us the intricate yet beautifully planned scheme by which the batteries were operated. All orders are given either by telephone or wireless. The whole
place is just a network of telephone wires, which are constantly being destroyed by shell-fire and almost just as speedily repaired. In one dugout I had a pleasant surprise, by meeting an old friend, Capt. Thompson. A still greater one on meeting my old chum, Leslie Blake. We were both together in the Antarctic with Mawson. Going to another dugout who should I meet but Capt. Ikin of Hobart, an old Friend. Blake & I visited the batteries & I was much Interested in their firing. After, we climbed to the crest of hill 60, where we had an awesome view over the battlefield to the German lines. What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away: only stumps of trees stick up here & there & the whole field has the appearance of having been recently ploughed. Hill 60 long delayed our infantry advance, owing to its commanding
position & the almost impregnable concrete emplacements & shelters constructed by the Bosch. We eventually won it by tunnelling underground, & then exploding three enormous mines, which practically blew the whole hill away & killed all the enemy on it. It's the most awful & appalling sight I have ever seen. The exaggerated machinations of hell are here typified. Everywhere the ground is littered with bits of guns, bayonets, shells & men. Way down in one of these mine craters was an awful sight. There lay three hideous, almost skeleton decomposed fragments of corpses of German gunners. Oh the frightfulness of it all. To think that these fragments were once sweethearts, may be, husbands or loved sons, & this was the end. Almost back again to their native element but terrible. Until my dying day I shall never
forget this haunting glimpse down into the mine crater on hill 60, - & this is but one tragedy of similar thousands & we who are civilized have still to continue this hellish murder against the wreckers of Humanity & Christianity. From the start of the battlefield proper to the bosch lines is about 5 miles - 4 miles of this or less have taken us three years to win! Around this small mound (Hill 60) on which we stood, hundreds, nay thousands of lives have been lost. What was it worth before the war? - just a pound or two; & after the war ? probably less. Looking across this vast extent of desolation & horror, it appeared as though some mighty cataclysm had swept it off & blighted the vegetation, then peppered it with millions of lightning stabs. It might be the end of the world where two irresistible forces are slowly
wearing each other away. When the resources of one begin to fail then the end of the war is in sight. At present they look illimitable.
We returned across the battlefield half deafened by the booming howitzers & screaming shells to where we left the Car at Voormezeele. Here we were very kindly invited down to dinner in a red cross post, by the Colonel. This very spacious dugout was the basement of a brewery & is all that remains of it. I never thought a basement could be so comfortable. The booming guns were deadened by the thick walls, whilst the interior was scrupulously clean. We had a glorious dinner and congratulating the Colonel on his cuisine, was taken to see the chef. This latter dignitary was once Chef at Trinity College Cambridge & had prepared the whole meal for 7 persons on a single Primus stove.
In the dusk of the evening we began our return, feeling the way in the dark, as we
dare not show lights owing to hostile air craft. The battlefield in the night was a wonderful sight of star shells & flashes. The whole sky seemed a crescent of shimmering sheet lightning like illumination. It was all very beautiful yet awesome and terrible. We returned to tents in Hazebrouck at 11.30 p.m. dog-tired & wiser men.
During morning Bean, Wilkins & self motored out to see the St Omer Aerodrome of the Royal Flying Corps. This great aerodrome consisted of many large hangars & more resembled the extensive edifices of a great Central Railway Station. We expected to see the 69th Australian Flying Corps land here, but as the weather was very gusty & windy & army arrangements are so variable, we were disappointed. They were to fly
across from Salisbury plains. In the afternoon I visited my new prospective quarters at Steenvorde. Here I am having a dark room erected with living quarters. I found six men on the small job all asleep: & on questioning their lieutenant was informed they were held up for materials. I subsequently learned that two stoves had been dumped at the dark-room in place of ruberoid & a fight nearly ensued with the workmen, who attempted to remove the ruberoid from the transport. The workmen were compelled to take the stoves and the ruberoid carried on. Oh! the mismanagement & rottenness of Military organisation. Steenvorde is about eight miles from Hazebrouck & in a much more central position to the various fronts. Returned to Camp at 10.30Pm. The guns very active this evening.
In the morning I did the rounds of the "red Tabs" (Staff officers) endeavoring to make arrangements for the transference of the men's rations & for sundry affairs to Steenvorde. What absurd & unnecessary formalities I had to go through & now I am further off than ever. My Contempt & disgust for army administration increases with every trifling matter I have to see headquarters about. Things that could be settled in 5 minutes take usually 10 days! And why? Because it has to pass through a score of unnecessary channels that seem to have been created to find soft jobs for "string-pullers".
Morning interviewed the red tabs and made further arrangements for transference to Steenvorde. Went again to
Steenvorde & discovered the stoves had at last been exchanged for the Malthoid. The work is now progressing & I am taking possession in a few days.
Afternoon to Renescure, where the 7th Field Engineers are quartered & there found my dearest old chum Azzie Webb. What hand shakes & heart throbs. Azzie looks very thin, but is still that same indefatigable & admirable old character. Never have I met a more solid, capable and excellent fellow than Webb. Also met another friend from Wellington. I dined at Webb's mess with his coterie of enthusiastic officers who loudly applauded my mimic effects and the "fistaxophone Solo". Azzie had often spoken of me to them, so I was more or less an identity. The surrounding country is in glorious condition, the harvesting is nearly at an end, & the golden sheaves are being built
up into great cone shaped ricks. The winding roads are dark with the deep shadows of poplars & other trees & are just alive with endless processions of transports coming and going from the battlefield. Collectively it's the most beautiful rural country I have ever been in. To Camp at 10.30 pm.
26th August Sunday
[Some notes – working notes - appear on this page but have been crossed through. At the side of the notes the word “Epitome” is written.]
Rushed out to Steenvorde & opened up cases from England, loaded cameras & returned to Hazebrouck for lunch. Afternoon: Bean, Dyson, Lindsay, Wilkins Self (& Batman) motored out in the two
cars to Voormezeele (about 20 miles) & with my rather too numerous Equipage made our way up to Hill 60 on foot. From Voormezelle there is absolutely no cover: all vegetation & villages being absolutely swept away by the fire which has continued over it for over two years. It is about two miles up to hill 60, a miserable, desolate, shelled waste, over which shells scream & the heavy artillery, with the roar of a thousand thunders, belches them forth in an endless stream. The bursting of bosh shells in one's immediate vicinity added to the excitement of the Tramp, but rather detracted from one's admiration of the surrounding desolation. We were highly gratified on reaching Col. Shelshire’s dugout in safety, & more so to deposit our loads, which had grown to a prodigious weight. During
the afternoon Blake & I strolled out to an advanced position in front of hill 60 , over the recently won ground. What a devilish sight it was. Everything to the horizon has been shot away.
Took picture interior dressing station on Hill 60. This has been excavated in the famous tunnel excavated by the 1st Aust Tunnelling Coy. for the mining of hill 60.
Also photographed the interior of the Elephant Iron dugout of the o/c Major Morris of the 105th Howitzer battery. Blake on left, Ikin centre & Major Morris right.
Blake was member of the Mawson Xpdtn went right through the war with the artillery & was killed
the morning the Armistice was signed.
No. 30 [Referring to photographs mentioned on previous page]
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29th August 1917
With Bean, Murdoch & Gullet I went to Campaign (near renescure) to photograph the 2nd Division Aust Infantry being reviewed by Sir Douglas Haig. The event took place in an uncultivated farm & looked a trifle incongruous with the surrounding Haystacks & quaint rustic spectators. These men are in great condition, having been out on furlough for three months. The review, doubtless, is the preceding inspection to these men being placed in the active line. They look well fitted for it but heaven help them in the frightful conditions & privations they will have to endure during the harshness of these severe winters.
Later I also attended the inspection of the 5th Division, which took place in a recently harvested wheat field. It is hellish to look on this flower of
our country as just so much food for the guns. How many of these brave fellows will survive the privations of the coming winter, or impending battles in which they will very shortly be engaged? Afternoon went to Steenvorde. The darkroom and living quarters are nearly finished & I intend taking them over tomorrow morning. Weather just as bad as it can be. Incessant rains & wind, & the roadways quagmires with the grinding of the continuous procession of transport lorries & troops.
Morning packing, & forwarding my equipment to Voormezeele. Afternoon, went to the [blank] with Major Gibbs to take photographs for instructive purposes. This section of our forces has an enterprising Major, who is always on the alert for new & original methods
by which light transport may be facilitated. The animals used are practically all mules, on account of their remarkable staying powers & their being able to undergo great privation. The Major has devised many ingenious schemes for quickly loading & unloading, whilst at the same time making the load comparatively flexible. I anticipate leaving Hazebrouck tomorrow for my new quarters at Steenvorde. I regret to some extent having to withdraw from our mess, at which interesting discussion always took place, & more to the point, the meals are excellent and only cost us an additional 3 francs a day. We pool all our rations, the cook prepares the excellent dishes & the insignificant expenditure covers vegetables & miscellanies. At Steenvorde I intend that the cooking shall be done on the premises.
Great artillery activity this evening.
31st August Friday
Last night the periodic roaring of the Artillery kept me awake - until the small hours when it died away.
Moving to Steenvorde. At last my Hut is finished & I have christened it the Billabong. It could have been easily erected in 4 days. But it took ten men three days & 6 men another seven. Oh! it's shameful the way both money & men are wasted here. Far better they had been at home on the land than idling their time away here through mismanagement.
Afternoon went again to the pack transport & took more photographs, then to Steenvorde which is now my home. Did much developing and satisfied with the results. The light here is extremely slow, as there is very little sunshine just now. To bed at 12.30 A.m. Extremely busy getting things in order.
1st September Saturday. Sleeping
under a roof lost night - was quite a welcome change as the past week has been thoroughly damp & unpleasant under canvas. My new Quarters lay about ¾ mile from the picturesque little village of Steenvorde, directly adjacent to the water tower which supplies the town. The construction is of curved iron - known as the mission Hut. A type which is housing many of the staff and administration officers. [Drawing of end of hut is shown.] The length is 25 ft x 15 ft & comprises a dark room, Two living rooms & a workroom.
The plan shows the arrangements. [Drawing of layout of the hut included] The room is lined with matchboard and is as comfortable a little bungalow as I could wish for. I have my own Ford car & driver with the garage at the door step, my other assistants sleep in the
tent. We draw our rations & cook on the premises in a little cookhouse we have erected. My assistants are Lieut Wilkins, who has charge of record work, Sergeant Harrison, Field assistant, Martin Darkroom & generally useful, Dick my driver & Harvey, the batman. They are all an excellent crowd of fellows & enthusiastic. I am learning Sergeant Harrison to act should occasion so arise to take my place. Without the car it would be absolutely impossible to move about over the country as I cover some 80 miles per day. This morning I went & photographed some anti-aircraft guns near Hazebrouck & dined with two charming fellows, the O.C. and his assistant. I met there the Capt of the searchlight company who invited me to photograph his battery which I am keen to do. Bad weather of which we are having a wretched spell came down so we returned
to Steenvorde. One develops a great appetite in this beautiful fresh country, & Martin concocted a fine stew made from the ration meat & some vegetables grown on the adjacent farms.
The rations issued are 1 ¼ lb. bread 14 ozs Meat, Jam, cheese, tinned milk, tea, sugar, Bacon. We pool together 6d each, I pay for the car driver, who is on British army pay, & with the 3/- a day buy eggs & dainties. We live like fighting cocks, good & plenty. One requires here but plain food for hunger is after all the best sauce.
2nd September. Sunday
Last evening & during the night we had a turn of fine weather & moonlight so Wilkins & I had a walk to an adjacent farm house & inspected the windmill. We found the folk very hospitable & the owner expounded to us in French, of which I understood not a word, the intricacies of his primitive mill.
The weather promising favorable Wilkins & self went to Bailleul & visited the 11th Brigade 4th division Artillery. The roadways were crammed with artillery and transports. The former was partly made up of the 54th Battery Australian Artillery evidently migrating to another part of the line; these heavy 9.2 in howitzers were drawn by curious tractors which were impelled forward by an endless belt arrangement. [Sketch of tractor pulling gun inserted]
The bulk & unwieldiness of the equipage, & baggage that must be conveyed from one sector to another, when divisions change their positions, Is appalling & one simply looks & wonders how it is to be done. On the main roads there are frequently as many as three lines of traffic; troops, motor cycles, cars, ambulances, huge motor transports & an occasional rural. These vast masses & conveyances produce many glorious effects as they move along the cobbled road-
-ways which are avenued by beautiful long, slender trees & poplars. The traffic is conducted by our own men, who police the corners, direct affairs & facilitate the passage of the congested traffic.
The Brigade, 46 Battery No 2, we visited at Bailleul were encamped midst pastoral surroundings, which owing to the rains of the last week, were stamped into a million puddles & deep in mud. Lieut Macpherson assisted us in every way & I drove round in a four wheeled buckboard from which lofty vantage secure many fine plates & films. In the afternoon we continued our way to Voormezelle & visited the advanced dressing station of the red cross, in the bowels of a cellar. There is no lack of dark-rooms in these dingy abodes & here we changed plates. Voormezelle is a chaos of ruins; absolutely blown to fragments. A beautiful moonlight night favoured us, so that we had no difficulty in arranging our gear amidst the ruins of the church, which we intended to flashlight. Whilst waiting for the darkness
"Fritz" began shelling the batteries immediately on our right & left. The result was rather discomforting as the shells burst only a few hundred paces away, sending up high columns of mud stones & shell fragments. The waiting seemed an Interminable time under these circumstances, but as a fair number of Fritz's shells were "Duds" (failed to explode) we got off Scott free. I however got rather badly burned by my own flashpowder prematurely exploding.
We returned to Camp, thoroughly enjoying the cool moonlight evening & arrived at camp 9.30 p.m. We finished developing at 2.30 AM, but were many times interrupted by the anti-aircraft guns opening fire on the Bosch aeroplanes, which now drop bombs on the neighbouring Towns & villages at every opportunity.
Fortunately we are ¾ mile from town & not likely to be a mark. The whole night this thing continued, & the explosions of the bombs could be felt for they shook
the very ground. Aeroplanes are far more numerous here than birds. They fly the skies at all times. In gale, rain, day & night the buzz of the engines can be heard like the buzzing of innumerable bee hives: above this buzzing one hears the occasional, crackle, crackle, crackle, of their Lewis gun, & looking up is spellbound, watching a duel between a Bosch & British plane. These however take place more over the German trenches, as it is extremely rare in the daytime to observe many of the enemies machines over our side.
3rd September. Monday
It is evidently a pretty warm Corner we have had our darkroom erected in: being kept awake most of the night by the enemy's machines raiding & bombing the town. A number of people were killed in Steenvorde last night, ¼ mile away, & the main road bombed.
This caused a frightful congestion in the heavy traffic, which had to make a lengthy detour. We left at 9.30 a.m. for Ypres but an hour later found us advanced only a mile! It became wearisome sitting in a car watching the endless procession of troops & their equipage, for the road would only take two lines of traffic (like most of them) & the outward traffic was held up by a motor transport having taken the ditch, which runs along the roadside. Eventually we succeeded in eluding the congestion by taking divers obscure roads & joined into the main Ypres road near Poperinghe. The run was particularly pleasant. The country peasantry were making hay & ploughing, heedless of the rush & roar of transport traffic or the not far distant voices of heavy artillery. After leaving Poperinghe the main road to Ypres runs through charming country, which
now is absorbed by military camps & dumps. A mile before entering Ypres, one enters a magnificent avenue of fine old trees, which bear the scars of shell & shrapnel, many being shot, away altogether. It is a noble approach to Ypres. Here & there on either side are small hamlets - the outskirts of the town, demolished by shell fire. Up high in the sky, is the line of sausage balloons, which "spot" on our artillery, fire & report its effect. They Trail in a long line across the sky, parallel with the front line & out of range of Fritz’s shrapnel. Like great horseflies circling & flashing in the sun, are numbers of our scouting aeroplanes. On the road toiling through the dust, march on the endless procession of men & munition transports. But here we are at Ypres, & the traffic sentry warns you to put on your "Tin Hat" (steel helmet) & have your gas mask slung at the ready position. He sees our camera gear
in the car & we produce our passes. It was a good move insisting on securing a Captain's rank, for had I not done so, it would have been practically impossible to move with freedom. Now, however, my three stars are an introduction everywhere, whilst the rankers are amusingly obsequious. It has its drawbacks, for one is ever saluting & looking for salutes.
But this Is by the way, & we are in Ypres. To drive the Bosch from Ypres, it was necessary to practically raze the town; & now that we hold it we are shelled in return, but shelling now makes little difference, for the fine buildings & churches are scarce left stone on stone. The car alighted as just near the ruins of the famous Cloth Hall & regulations compelled it to remain without the ruins of the town. Our big guns which are situated near the city, maintain an endless bombardment on the Bosch
lines & trenches & shot for shot is returned. Frequently these fall short or are deliberately fired into the ruins by the bosch, & then with deafening boom comes the explosion; Bricks stones & debris fly skyward, shell splinters whizz past & then a cloud of brickdust fills the air for a few minutes & then comes another fizzing scream, & boom, boom, boom, goes on eternally. Sometimes they land on the road, sometimes on a team of horses & sometimes on a group of men: Whether they land on ruins, horses or men is a matter of comparative indifference so dulled have our susceptibilities & finer instincts become by custom.
Wilkins, myself & Seargt. Harrison wandered through the ruins, pathetic though awesome in their demolition. The main roads have been cleared of most of the debris, & instead of the fine buildings that were, hideous gapings & breaches in shot away
remnants remain. In many cases the roofs & top stories have been blown away & the fronts shorn off, so that the smashed up rooms gape into the street. In other places there are just heaps of broken bricks & a few standing pillars. Roaming amongst the domestic ruins made me sad. Here & there were fragments of toys: what a source of happiness they once were. Bedsteads broken & twisted almost into knots lay about, almost hidden with brick dust. A stove riddled with shrapnel. Roofs poised on almost shot away walls, & walls balanced in every impossible fashion, that seemed to defy all laws of equilibrium & gravitation. Down in the cellars, quite a number of Royal Artillerymen had their billets, & it made me grin to see their cooks with funny improvised ranges, concocting stews from their army rations in some hovel which admitted as much light through
the roof as be gaping walls. But most regrettable of all is the ruin of the famous Cloth Hall. This magnificent old church is now a remnant of torn walls & rubbish. The fine tower is a pitiable apology of a brick dump, scarred & riddled with shell holes. Its beautifully carved facades are "small-poxed" with shell splinters, not a vestige of the carving having escaped. The figures are headless &: the wonderful columns &: carved pillars lay like fallen giants across the mangled remnants of roofs &: other superstructures. Oh! its too terrible for words.
Returning to the car In the evening over the shell-cratered roads we came upon an enormous crater, - God knows what did it, but pacing round the lip it measured 75 yards round, its depth about 25 to 30 feet! I Then we came to a tiny courtyard, which had escaped for some time the ravages of
Bombardment. The straffed trees were coming back to life & budding, & there beside a great shell crater blossomed a single rose. How out of place it seemed amidst all this ravage. I took compassion on it & plucked it -The last rose of Ypres.
The Bosh increased their shelling at dusk, so that we gladly evacuated Ypres, awed and wiser men. Dust! Why Australian storms are not in it. The roads clawed up by the heavy traffic were like passing through a smoke barrage & delayed our speed so that we did not get back to camp till 9.30 p.m. & as tired as dogs.
I'm afraid that I'm becoming callous to many of the extraordinary sights and sounds that take place around me, and things which astounded me when I landed, now seem quite commonplace. We again left for Ypres this morning and passed the house which
had been bombed about ¼ mile from us on the 2nd. It has been entirely swept away and with it the occupants. Traffic has been resumed along this route & much of the congestion removed thereby. I appreciate to the full the magnificent scenery of the surrounding country, the avenued roads & the ripening grain fields; so that, although at Steenvorde I live twelve miles behind the lines, the ride is always enjoyable and enthuses one before getting to work.
At Ypres I made the acquaintance of two officers of the R. Artillery, with whom we lunched. Their abode was in the basement of an old ruined house and considering billets on the whole, it was quite comfortable. I am never amiss for dark rooms, these cellars answering admirably.
After lunch we again took the cameras through the ruins out by the Menin Gate & along the ramparts. In bygone
days, The city was surrounded by immense ramparts & a deep moat. Even the great brickwork wall has withstood remarkably well the battering of the shell fire. Here & there, however, great breaches are being & have been made in the wall, & the Menin Gate absolutely demolished. The surroundings are very unhealthy as regards shell fire, the bosh sending over a great many of the famous 5.9s. We returned through laneways heaped with fallen walls and debris, over places where houses once stood, through gaping walls, till we came to the Post Office. This once fine edifice remains still 5 storeys high. The roof has gone & one entire corner has been blown in from top to bottom by a single shell. The fine oak ceilings have been ripped
to matchwood & the walls deeply pitted by shell splinters. It is just recognizable as a building. Climbing to the topmost story through torn floors & shot away walls, we had a transcending view of the ruined city.
Not a building stands intact; most are just brick heaps & unrecognizable dumps of debris. Behind us, one of our 12 inch Guns fired with such a boom, that it seemed the building must give way under the concussion. Over there, clouds of dust & brick fill the air; the bursting of German shells.
It is a weird, awful & terrible sight; yet somehow wildly beautiful. For my part, Ypres as it now is, has a curious fascination & aesthetically is far more interesting than the Ypres that was.
I took some photographs from the Post Office, which have since developed
very successfully. There is a touch of pathos & sadness in these new ruins; little patches of clothing & domestic things ,each speaks its own tale of suffering, of homes wrecked, of death & ruination.
Many walls are blood splashed & tell the most pitiful tragedy of peaceful folk swept into eternity during their sleeptime. Everything tells of the horror of War, of unspeakable agonies & wanton murder. People of Ypres may you one day be revenged upon those who have demolished your city & filled your lives with agony and suffering. We returned to Camp at 7.30 p.m. Oh!, the dust! Talk of our duststorms! We almost had to feel our way through the troops & transport packed streets, that were obscured by an impenetrable cloud of the earth, which is dust in the dry season & mud in the wet.
Whilst looking at the ruins of the Cloth Hall, I noticed a flock of pigeons rise from the ruins & after circling around for some time returned to their homes in the lofty ruins. They seemed to be thoroughly accustomed to shell fire.
Remained in Camp all day, except for a short trip to Cassel to see the Censor. Harrison is an excellent fellow & I have set him to building a small kitchen. Harvey is doing the cooking and he does it well. Martin I have placed in the darkroom to look out after printing & titling. Wilkins will attend to the records & I myself to publicity pictures & aesthetic results. Collectively we are a contented little unit; absolutely isolated at Steenvorde & ½ a mile from the town. We are in immediate touch with all fronts.
Cassel, where are the General Headquarters is a fine little town, built on the crest of a lofty hill, which overlooks the surrounding lands of agriculture. Like all other roads, in Nth France. The ways to Cassel are lined with stately poplars & other trees.
The headquarters are stationed in fine old residences, with magnificent lookouts - just in the ideal situations for shelling or Aerial bombing. This, however, never takes place. Some attribute it to the fact that we would retaliate by bombing the German headquarters, & they value the desirability of courting our respect. Whether or not this is so, that Cassel escapes bombing whilst the circumjacent towns suffer.
Last night, Bosh Aeroplanes again kept up their infamous reputation, by bombing Steenvorde again. Our 1st Anzac Headquarters have been removed to Hoograaf so as to be nearer operations. Our Infantry & artillery are active & it looks as though they will be going into action in a few day's time. They have been resting for several months recuperating, & as always
happens, when there is any objective which other troops cannot take, the Australians are sent in to do it. I must say that although our fellows have the reputation of being unkempt and undisciplined, they always achieve their object, have the dash & resource & are unsurpassed.
I had a long talk today with Capt Bean over affairs generally and the best method of running this dept. Wilkins will be operating practically separately, & will be at headquarters most of the time. It is therefore necessary he should have separate equipment & so I have advised that he go to London & have gear overhauled & lay in a stock of materials. I therefore run him down in the Ford to Boulogne, the Embarkation
Port a distance of about of 55 miles. We had dinner together a Boulogne & I returned to camp where I arrived at 10.30 p.m.
I visited the Australian Mining & Boring Corps this morning & lunched with Capt Hunter. I secured from him a mine exploder & Electric Cable.
Afterwards to Renescue & made arrangements to take pictures of the 2nd division tomorrow at Routine drill. Thence by way of Cassel, through the beautiful tree groves to Camp. We then went to Hoograaf where are our headquarters. On the way, we passed the engineers of which my dear friend Major Webb is O.C.
Also immense columns of transports & artillery trains drawn by caterpillar
tractors. It is appalling the fiendish amount of money that is wasted on this hellish business of killing each other. These great masses of iron & steel, just to throw explosive missles to destroy one another, block the roads in an endless train. What deplorable waste of men & material. Our tremendous surplus of guns, munitions & men appear to assist us to no great extent, & if there is difficulty in the transport just now, what will it be in the coming wet season?
At Headquarters I was introduced to General White. I found him a charming man, sympathetic, enthusiastic & wholehearted in the cause. He expressed himself keenly interested in my work & welfare, which in its turn has added to my enthusiasm.
Last night & this morning a terrific drum fire was maintained on the Bosh positions.
8th September. Saturday
All day with the 28th Brigade, 2nd Division, near Renescue. Col. Reid gave me every assistance in his power and arranged routine drill for the camera & Cine. The men are practically all W. Australians. Their training reflects credit on their commanding officer, the men are well disciplined, their evolutions resembling a great machine. They performed exercises with the bayonet, Physical drill, Lewis gun exercise, & Signal Exercise etc. with a perfectness only attained by continued training & rigid discipline. The men are in fine fettle & will give an account of themselves in the very near future. Wintry conditions are beginning. The leaves are turning Autumn tints & the atmosphere is assuming the typical fogginess of winter. The Hay is being stacked & the ground retilled. The country looks beautiful.
9th September Sunday.
Went to Reminghilst to the 54th Australian siege battery. The batteries & infantry are all now concentrating around the Ypres, Messines sector & will be in action in a few days time. The battery are 8in siege Howitzers, six in number & are hauled by caterpillar tractors. They will be placed in position at Lock 8 near Vormizelle & about 5,000 yds from the Bosh lines. Whilst l was inspecting the battery, a number of Bosh Aeroplanes came over flying at about 7,000 feet. Our anti-aircraft opened on them & they and became the centre of little white puffs of bursting Shrapnel - familiarly called "Archies". They made off successfully & dropped a number of bombs killing a number of horses. The Bosh machines are superior to ours in speed & climbing capabilities. A few shells passed over the battery fired by the Bosh at long range.
It was amusing to notice all the men immediately stop work & lustily cheer.
10th September Monday
I cannot help writing of the beautiful evening of yesterday. Lately we have had a few good days, but their aesthetic charm has been lost by hostile bombing. Yesterday evening was unusually calm, & the sun set like a great golden halo. From my hut there is a charming view up the hill, through a long avenue of fine trees & on the hill brow stands the mill of which there are great numbers in this locality.
The surrounding lands are in full cultivation & the gathered in wheat is standing in long rows ready for ricking. For some unusual reason the guns are quiet this evening, & the whole outlook is one of serene peace. Now & then a rustic or country maid passes along the road, done up in their Sunday best, and over that ridge the greatest battle the world has ever seen is raging! Good heavens! Although I
am writing here, but a few miles from it, it is just as calm & natural as if I was sitting in a small hut in my own land, 15,000 miles from the war!
10th September Monday Morning Went to Arques to the 5th Brigade but unfortunately they had received orders to move quickly towards a concentration centre. So I proceeded to Fauquembergues to the 3rd Divisional Headquarters. These are situated in a glorious old chateau, surrounded by fine avenues & glades with grass lawns. Most in fact of the large chateaux are taken over by the Military. I met Capt Bean, our Official Correspondent & thence to Ralenscourt, where we interviewed the Photographic Censor. His duty is to examine all photographs likely to convey any information to the enemy - seemingly in most cases a most absurd proceeding
as the enemy is already aware of most if not all the negatives held up. I shuddered when I saw the careless manner in which negatives are handled & shuffled like packs of card - to think that mine must go through the same procedure! However I found the Censor sympathetic, & I have no doubt that they can be taught how to handle them. Bean and I then motored on to Montreuil - to the General Headquarters. I have never seen any country so heavenly, & well tended as Northern France. The undulating lands are like great wavy carpets of agriculture & the roads through them leafy avenues of gold. For it is autumn and the Elms & Poplars are taking on their Autumn tints, the Hay is being stacked in big conical ricks, mostly by women and old men: for every eligible man is fighting for La Belle France or has died for his country. And it
is a country for a patriot to die for. Montreuil is one of those romantic old towns built on a hill, surrounded by a great wall, and looking far out over the rolling lands of "Cires". Long dark lines intersect the landscape in every direction & indicate the well kept avenued roads. I returned to Ralenscourt and had afternoon tea in the Chateau - in a fine old room, with oak panellings, on which hung ancestral paintings. What tales of romance & tragedy this same old room could speak of, for it lived through the great revolution. I left Bean at Fauquenbergues and returned to Steenvorde, after having done nearly 100 miles. As we neared Steenvorde, we noticed a great bunch of searchlight converging on one spot & at the apex glittered something
like a great moth- A Bosh Gotha Aeroplane. The sky was bright with bursting stars of shrapnel, but evidently unsuccessful for we noticed them following him away to the horizon.
11th September Tuesday
The car having to go into workshop for overhauling, I remained in Camp all day writing & fixing up generally.
12th September Wednesday
Early start for Voormezelle to visit the 54th Battery Aust. Siege Artillery. The road to Voormezelle was in a state of great activity, with transports & men moving towards concentration centres. Great numbers of Australian troops are converging on the sector between Ypres & Voormezelle, & there are every evidences of a great "push" or blow being dealt against the Bosh very
shortly. Immense dumps of munitions are accumulating, & it is gratifying to see that there is a great abundance of them. Voormezelle has greatly altered since my last visit there. The roadway is practically lined on one side with heavy naval guns. In Voormezelle itself I saw one enormous Howitzer of 15 in Calibre. This ponderous beast, for there is something hideously lifelike about it, fires a projectile weighing 1120 lbs! Great numbers of projectiles lay by it looking like a litter of fat pigs. The circumjacent country is crowded with guns of all calibre, from 18 pounders in the advanced positions up to the 12 inch in the retired. The Artillery complain there is insufficient ground on which to place their machines. The country in every direction along this sector is a tremendous
concentration of ordnance & ammunition dumps. If the weather will but hold favorable we should be able to deliver a crushing blow, as there is no limit to guns or ammunition. All are keenly anxious and alert for the coming battle. I reached the 54th Battery of 8 in Howitzers, Major Macdonald, & took a series of pictures of his battery. [No 14] One realises the impossibility of rapid advance, [No 49] even should be able to break through the Bosh lines: for the weight of these titanic weapons makes them so cumbrous as to be practically regarded as fixtures.
Whilst I was overlooking the battery a number of the enemy Gotha machines came over on the scout & we immediately opened fire with our anti-aircraft guns. As far as I could see they escaped, the sky being very cloudy so that they were able to play hide & seek amongst the clouds. Aerial activity again this evening.
13th Septr Thursday
The roads from Steenvorde right up to Dullbush are almost one continuous line of Australian troops, marching on to take over the front line, which they will do tomorrow. I followed them along in the car, photographing & cineing. Fiendish dust at times almost obscured the men, who laden with full equipment & sweat & dust begrimed marched on cheerfully as only Anzacs can. I received a great amount of banter from the troops & retaliated in equally cheerful way which the men approved of. Later I visited Major Williams of our 55th Battery & took a fine series of his great howitzers in action. [No 26, 27] The amount of ammunition & supplies being brought up are stupendous. The whole back area is covered with dumps and ammunition stacks. Our resources are illimitable & there appears to be sufficient shells around to pave a way to Berlin. I wonder how many
of these brave fellows will live to be photographed, or how many Bosh those shells, fired for my cinema pictures, will have been killed by them. The whole surroundings convey the impression of bustling & preparing & that a great battle is imminent within a very few days.
With our men in the front & unlimited artillery & resources in the rear, we should have little trouble in breaking through the enemy's defensives. The Boch is perfectly aware of our great preparations for his planes come over very frequently to Spot out our doings.
14th Septr /17
Morning Threatening rain which conditions improved during afternoon. I took a number of route & cinema films along the Poperinghe Ypres road of the endless streams of men going & coming. Unless one sees, it is impossible to convey a pen impression of the throngs of troops,
baggage & transports which cram these roads. Forces are concentrating for the battle which inevitably must come off in a few days, that is, if, as is customary, we don’t delay operations until the rain sets in. We followed along the Ypres road, which is being metalled and corduroyed in places for the coming winter, & visited Ypres. Wilkins & I had a potter about the ruins & took a few pictures. We left the city by the Menin gate, or rather where it used to be, & I left Wilkins & proceeded on foot along the Menin road to our advanced batteries. This is a distance of about two miles - the liveliest two miles I have ever walked. It is along this way that all our supplies & ammunition must go to the Ypres front. It is notorious & being enfiladed by the enemy's fire is decidedly the hottest ground on the whole front. The way is strewn with dead horses - The effect of last night's shelling, - [No 28]
& battered men's helmets - that tell of the fate of the drivers. The boch was very active around Hellfire corner & his 5.9s were bursting [No 32] around there in rare style. His Spotting balloons could be very clearly observed & doubtless his remarkable precision was due to their observation. The trees along the Menin Road are avenues of shot away stumps & the surrounding lands, ploughed up with Shells like a sieve. The stench is frightful, & even the old stagers dodge this charnel like thoroughfare. I saw the boch put out of action one of our batteries, & explode the ammunition dump by a direct hit; I had to seek shelter in an adjacent dugout owing to his barraging the road, shells dropping along it in a long trail like succession. The horrible side, as well as the exciting, surrounds one everywhere. One lives every
moment in anticipation of being blown skyward & to drive down on a limber, racing from shellfire & bumping over a shell torn road is Keener excitement than even I relish. I visited one of our batteries, the 37th, where I had numerous friends & discovered two had been killed & the Major wounded, the previous evening, the battery had been "straffed" & it is imperative that its position be changed.
Owing to the Menin road being bombarded I had to return via Zillebeck Lake; & jolly pleased I was to arrive safely at Ypres. Arrived at Steenvorde at 10 pm.
15th Septr Saturday
Suitable weather prompted me to again visit our 54th Battery of 8 in howitzers, which lies in front of lock 8, between Zillebeck & Vormezelle. I was just in time to film them sending down a practise barrage. All the guns in the vicinity, hundreds in number, opened fire precisely on the
stroke of 4 p.m. The effect was terrific with simultaneous burst hundreds of shells went screaming & hissing away to the enemy's line. Then independent firing continued for half an hour. The din & roar kept up of the concentrated fire from the massed cannon & screaming projectile is beyond me to describe.
Our aeroplanes hovered by circling over the battery groups, & sent down wireless reports of the results & also directed the fire & ranges. The Bosh returned the fire on one of the heavy batteries with wonderful precision. Our artillery men speak in high terms of the enemy's gunnery. While though we send over much greater quantities of projectiles, his precision is admittedly superior. A number of Gotha machines came over our lines & did some serious bombing whilst I was there. Later in the evening I went down to our 55 Battery & was just in time to witness one of our guns shooting on a concrete
dugout far away somewhere on the german line. Our batteries of course are hidden by "camouflage" (mimicry coloring and mimicry generally) as much as possible & never see the object on which they are firing. This
being is all directed from group headquarters (generally a strong dugout), by telephone to the various battery Commanders. Group headquarters which controls a number of batteries, obtains its range & direction information from aeroplane photographs & maps. The accuracy of their fire is reported by baloon, or plane. Each battery has a small sector for its activity & only operates on that sector. The value of aeroplane photography is indispensable. Our machines pay dally visits over the bosh lines, & takes these photographs, which are forwarded in very short space of time to the batteries. These photographs, show exactly the results of the fire, & battery positions, without these magnificent records, accurate work would be both tedious & inefficient. I was much interested
with the aeroplane control which was directing our 55th Battery. The object was some 5,000 yards away & very close to our own front line - a machine gun dugout which was
effecting hampering operations. The infantry was removed for the firing, owing to the dangerous proximity & in case of our own fire falling short. The calculated range was telephoned to one of the guns, the Aeroplane wirelessed fire, to the group hea which was again telephoned from the control dugout. Then the gun boomed. A minute later the wireless message came down, stating so many yards long & so many to the left. Orders were telephoned to the gun to shorten range by ½ a degree & a suitable correction to counteract the elevation left was put on. The Aeroplane Wirelessed fire, again boom & so on until the object was hit. As soon as a hit would be recorded, fire would be kept up until the object would be pounded out of existence. The whole setting of the gun is purely mathematical calculation. The result is established by Aeroplane or balloon.
We returned to Steenvorde at 10 pm. Motoring
on the road having to be conducted in darkness is slow, & one is ever on the alert for collision with the streams of transports & men which throng the road.
To 1st Australian Tunneling Coy at Dranoutre. Major Henry of this Coy, I last met in the bed of the Dougall River, Nth Qsld, where he happened to be stranded in his Cadillac Car. Their billet camp is extremely well laid out, with small surrounding garden plots & replete with every convenience - even to a theatre! The work done by this company has been specially commented on by Sir D Haig. They were instrumental in the excavation of the famous Hill 60 mines & the "Caterpillar", [See No 30.] as well as the wonderful system of
caterpillar catacomb dugouts on hill 63. Major Henry gave me some Interesting information concerning
their operations, which rank as some of the greatest achievements in mine Engineering. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day with the Major & his officers, & made arrangements to visit the works now in hand by the Company, at Hooge, tomorrow.
17 September/17 Monday
I was up at 3 am & by 4 o'clock we were on our way to Dranoutre where we arrived at 5 am. It was necessary that we should make an early start, as the Boche generally sends over a barrage on the Menin road about 7.30 am which holds up all traffic & makes it impossible to proceed by that route. At sunrise we were in Ypres. I never saw ruins look so majestic or imposing as when silhouetted against the beautiful sunrise this morning. We visited Lille Gate, particularly beautiful in the calmness
of the new day, with the torn trees & ruins reflected in the placid mirror like moat. Of course everything is so blasted & shelled, that had one not known that before him lay Ypres, it would have been mistaken for a great brick dump.
We took the car via the Menin Gate, & left it a little out of Ypres, as the road was being shelled & unsafe for transport. The way had been shelled the previous night & was littered with broken limbers & horses. In the centre lay a motor lorry almost cut in halves & burnt by a shell hit. The Menin Rd is one of the, if not the, most ghastly approach on the whole front. Accretions of broken limbers, materials & munitions lay in piles on either side, giving the road the appearance of running through a cutting. Any time of the day it may be shelled & it is absolutely impossible owing to the congested traffic
for the Boche to avoid getting a coup with each shell. The Menin road is like passing through the Valley of death, for one never knows when a shell will lob in front of him. It is the most gruesome shambles I have ever seen, with the exception of the Sth Georgia Whaling Stations, but here it is terrible for the dead things are men & horses.
We arrived at Hooge, where the Tunnellers are excavating a series of underground dugouts, which will be occupied by the headquarters of our infantry. It is a wretched job as they are working 25 feet below the surface level & most of the time knee deep in mud. From the roof trickles water & mud, which they jocularly term "Hero Juice" on account of it percolating through tiers & tiers of buried corpses. Most of these
men are miners, & here they are applying their knowledge to supreme advantage whilst the Boche shells whizz & burst around them. We were held up here for a couple of hours during the bombardment of the approach, but subsequently made a detour & reached Ypres In safety, where only occasional long range shells were bursting. Went to Kemmel in afternoon.
18th Septr. Tuesday
Weather corning up bad, - I went to Ralencourt (45 miles distant) to the censor & passed through a batch of 80 negatives. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, a pleasant relax from my arduous spell of developing & field work. On our return we made a number of detours through the small villages to the fine town of Aire. Aire puts me in mind of Boulogne. Like all other French towns it has a magnificently spired church.
We passed on our way great numbers
of Australian troops being conveyed to the front in motor busses. All forces, reserves & transports are converging on the Ypres sector, & as the Artillery is already in position, it would seem as if the battle will come off in a few days.
Headquarters acquainted me late last night that the Battle will take place tomorrow, so Bean, Wilkins & self set off at 1 pm to take up suitable positions for the great event tomorrow. Bean who learns all information at Headquarters informed me that we are undertaking a new system of attack. At 5 am the Artillery will all simultaneously open a barrage on the front Boche lines for a period of an hour or so. This is intended to engage his artillery & demoralise them: the machine guns will play on his infantry. At a specified time the barrage will be lifted & our troops will dash over into the enemy's lines.
This objective secured, a second barrage will take place, & the second wave of infantry will again move forward over the area controlled by this barrage. The third & final barrage will take place about 9.30 am. It will isolate the third section of the Enemys lines & our infantry will advance at 10 am. The barrage will be maintained for some time so that our position may be consolidated. Altogether we expect to advance 1,500 yards over a frontage of about 15 miles.
Our way lay through Ypres, which we reached at 3.30 pm. I secured several pictures of our forces camped in small dugouts excavated in the surrounding ramparts. We took the car through the Menin Gate as far as [blank] from where further transport is inadvisable; the Menin road beyond this point being enfiladed & at uncertain intervals heavily shelled.
Bean left us at [blank] and went on to the Brigade Headquarters at Hooge. Wilkins & I secured lodging for the night in the advanced Red Cross Dressing Station. As there are a large number of batteries in the surrounding ruins, we hardly expect to obtain any sleep. We are apprehensive for the weather as a light shower has set in, & the whole success of the attack is dependent on suitable "ground" conditions. We all anxiously await the morrow.
[No 34. 35]
20th September Thursday.
It has been a glorious & frightful day. The Battle is over & we have achieved our objectives. Fortune has favored us with weather which in a very great measure attributed to our success. All last night a heavy bombardment was maintained on the enemy's lines; & from where we were at the Dressing Station we had a magnificent view of it. The whole country
viewed from the 3rd story of an old ruin, was so alive with gun flashes, that I can only liken them to looking over the twinkling lights of a city, & during a violent thunderstorm. The flash of the heavies in our immediate vicinity lit the landscape up & moving masses of troops, with the fitful gleam of a continuous succession of lightning bursts. Naturally we got neither sleep nor rest amid this pandemonium & right glad we were to be amove at 4 am. A large number of casualties were coming in when we left, as the Boche artillery instead of duelling with our artillery opened up on our storming infantry. Those that came in & were not over seriously wounded, expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.
We were just walking along the Menin road in the twilight, near Hellfire Corner, when our barrage began. Simultaneously from a thousand guns, & promptly on the tick of five, there belched
a blinding sheet of flame: & the roar - Nothing I
have heard in this world or can in the next could possibly approach its equal. The firing was so continuous that it resembled the beating of an army of great drums. No sight could be more impressive than walking along this infamous shell swept road, to the chorus of the deep bass booming of the drum fire, & the screaming shriek of thousands of shells. It was great, stupendous & awesome. We were glad notwithstanding to reach the more or less sheltered site of the mine crater at Hooge, wherein are the excavated dugouts of the brigade headquarters, some 25 feet below the level of the ground. Here we met Bean who introduced me to General Bennet, the director of operations on this front. [No 43] Last nights rain had made things frightfully sloppy & muddy: the dugouts being no exception, as the soakage percolated through the roof & oozed through the walls. This filthy liquid had to be
incessantly pumped out, but even then it left the passage ways deep in slime - anyhow it was shellproof & I was grateful to be inside for a brief lull from the frightful din without. At 7.30 a.m. a message came over the wire that the first objectives had been won with very slight casualty. A large number of prisoners were captured & sent in. This body of men which came into the crater a little later were in extremely poor condition, haggard, emaciated & dejected. Many were mere boys & shadows of men. One could not help feeling regret for these wretched prisoners, forced into the front line no doubt on account of their inferiority & intended merely as buffers: whilst the finer troops were held in reserve. It was one of the most pitiful sights to see the wounded coming in. Many of our men being carried on
stretchers by the Hun prisoners, others with their arms around each others necks, being assisted by friend or foe & all eager to get away from the horrors of the combat. Bitternesses & hatred were forgotten; for after all we are all but men, & this frightful scene of carnage seemed to bring each other back to the realities of humanity and to hold them spellbound by the horror and terribleness of their own doing.
We learned the second objective was also gained & more prisoners & wounded followed. The Artillery duel raged fiercer than ever but as the daylight began to improve I decided to push on & reach the infantry in the advanced positions. Whilst leaving the crater a 5.9 shell landed in
the crater six or seven paces away from us: fortunately it failed to explode. I pushed on up the duck board track to Stirling Castle - a mound of powdered brick and from where there is to be had a
magnificent panorama of the battlefield. The way was gruesome & awful beyond words. The ground had been recently heavily shelled by the Boche & the dead and wounded lay about everywhere. About here the ground had the appearance of having been ploughed by a great canal excavator, & then reploughed & turned over and over again. Last nights shower too made it a quagmire; & through this the wounded had to drag themselves, & those mortally wounded pass out their young lives.
The shells shrieked in an ecstasy overhead, & the deep boom of artillery sounded like a triumphant drum roll. Those murderous weapons the machine guns maintained their endless clatter, as if a million hands were encoring & applauding the brilliant victory of our countrymen. It was ineffably grand & terrible, & yet one felt subconsciously safe in spite of the shell burst & splinters & the ungodly wanton carnage going on around.
I saw a horrible sight take place within about 20 yards of me. 5 Boche prisoners were carrying one of our wounded in to the dressing station, when one of the enemy's own shells struck the group. All were almost instantly killed, three being blown to atoms. Another shell killed four & I saw them die, frightfully mutilated in the deep slime of a shell crater. How ever anyone escapes being hit by the showers of flying metal is incomprehensible. The battlefield on which we won an advance of 1500 yards, was littered with bits of men, our own & Boche & literally drenched with blood. It almost makes one doubt the very existence of a deity - that such things can go on beneath the omnipotent eye. I greatly admire the magnificent work of the stretcher bearers who go out in the thick of the strife to succour the wounded. Germany is done & it is heinous cruel & pitiful
that their & our own young lives should be wasted by the thousand, when their object can never be obtained. The sooner this hellish barbarism is ended God be praised for few can see what real good can be gained.
Our Barrage was a magnificent sight, from Stirling Castle (now a brick dust heap) & our accurate & unlimited fire so disorganised & demoralized his batteries, that he replied very desultorily. We captured between 3 & 5000 prisoners. One of the most glorious days in the Annals of our Australian History.
We were mighty glad to return to the Crater, & home via the Menin Road, which was for a wonder free of shelling. It was a stupendous sight. In place of the transports bringing up rations & ammunition, the Red Cross Coaches were returning packed with wounded. The Menin Road was a wondrous sight; with [No 34 & 35] stretchers packed on either side awaiting transport & the Centre, crowded
with walking wounded & prisoners.
On returning via Ypres I saw a large number of these latter enjoying a great meal of white bread & cheese. The poor devils were ravenous & I am pleased to say our fellows treated them kindly - not as enemies, but as fallen heroes: for indeed these men were; for our mighty artillery bombardment fairly tore the earth into furrows & literally combed it. God knows how anyone could escape it unless in the safety of the impregnable Pill boxes. We returned to Steenvorde at 7 pm; but It was nearly one oclock before we had developed our records of this glorious day a day that shall never die in the Annals of our history.
21st Yesterday I should have made mention of the magnificent work done by our aeroplanes, which kept on bombing & harrassing the enemy & preventing him from coming over our
lines. Returning home I saw one of our machines catch fire, & like a great streaming rocket come to earth. It was evidently shot down by a Boche Tracer bullet. Wilklns & I went out over the newly won field taking Hooge Crater (at the top of the Menin Road) as the starting point from Hooge Crater the ground has be turned over & over by shell fire & presents the appearance of a great field of small mounds & craters recently thrown up. [No. 58] Already there was great activity to consolidate the position & the artillery moving up into new positions. It was wondrously quiet, only an occasional shell was fired - the aftermath of the storm, & it sounded for all the world like the occasional boom of a roller on a peaceful beach, with the swish of the water corresponding to the scream of the shell.
Westhoek was alive with men, digging in
gun positions for the 18 pounders, running up communication cables, restoring & remaking the roads & all the other industries of war. Wounded & prisoners continued to occasionally come in, but the dead were unburied. I went along a trench communicating with a pillbox lookout & there I found several partly buried, their feet protruding through into the open trench. Actually several dead lay in front of a captured pillbox in which a number of our men were living, & though they had to pass in & out over them they took no more notice of these dead than if they had been but earth itself.
Our new ground gained gives us control over the german lines, being the highest ridge for miles & practically impregnably fortified with pillboxes. How ever such a place fell is inconceivable, for these
pillbox fortifications commanded a sweep over the entire positions occupied by us, but we did it & Australians played the greatest part. The Menin Heights command the country ahead for many miles & it would not be surprising if the Boche made another "strategic" retreat to higher ground.
His Gothas became very audacious during the afternoon & a whole squadron came over & bombed one of our cross roads near Westhoek. Our machines took to flight on account of the superior capabilities of the Gotha, which is a far superior machine to ours. He also shelled heavily the Menin Road putting many dumps ablaze. We were compelled to make a considerable detour & reached Ypres in safety. Both of us nearly got hit, however here by a 5.9 which blew up a ruin alongside. A great squadron of 15
Gothas came over in the evening & did considerable desultory bombing. I visited, near, the entrance to Ypres, the wreck of two Aeroplanes, ours, which had met head on in mid air. They were with their pilots "pulped up".
The Boche I learned made several severe counter attacks on our positions last night, but we repulsed him with great loss, our new positions remaining intact.
We are absolutely sick of the sight of the battlefield, so we decided to have a safe "Cushy" reviver by motoring to the censor & Ralencourt & then on to the old Somme battlefield, a distance from Steenvorde of about 80 miles. We enjoyed to the full this delightful run through old time villages & along
perfect avenued roads. The peasants - the old men & women - were all busy in the fields, sewing & tilling & burning off the stubble - It so reminded me of home. Along the roadsides poppies & marguerites bloomed in profusion. We arrived at Ralencourt 5 pm & after transacting our business, made for Albert. Here we arrived at 9 pm & put up at the ruins of an old alms house, which the expeditionary force canteen has converted into an officers rest. Quite a comfortable abode if it had a roof on, but as hesian now replaces this essential covering, we found it rather breezy.
23rd Sept I slept well in spite of the cold and breezy nature of our abode & we got an early start on at 8 am with glorious weather favouring. We viewed
& photographed the famous leaning Madonna & child on the ruined Cathedral - a truly miraculous sight. [No 61]
24th With Wilkins to Battery.
25th 1 Am of 26th When I make this entry - just developed - tired as the devil. Been at it since 8 this morning. Went to Anzac Heights - had hell of a time in the midst of heavy shelling - Battlefield terribly torn, like a heavy sea - Boche sends "Barrage terrific" on to Inverness Kops & Glencorse Wood - great many casualties. He evidently anticipates our next stunt & is amassing great reserves & concentrating artillery - on the eve of a great battle - Boche Shells our communication ways all day - smashes up the Menin road - Wagons, dumps & everything ablaze - dugouts smashed in - Wilkins & I nearly blown up by a dump which exploded only 100 yards away - hit with flying wood & mud - Thank God we are unscathed - Gothas come over & bomb. Altogether the hottest affair I have been in - shells bursting everywhere -Battle comes off
tomorrow - great uneasiness & anxiety -Things seem unsettled & a trifle demoralised by the superb Boche shelling - We are off to Cine affairs at 7.30 & wish the day was well over. I must have a few hours sleep - frightfully busy.
Yesterday we damned near succeeded in having end made to ourselves. In spite of heavy shelling by the Boche, we made an endeavour to secure a number of shell burst pictures. Many of the shells broke only a few score of paces away, so that we had to throw ourselves into shell holes to avoid splinters. A barrage fire he also concentrated on the head of the Menin Road, & there about eight motor transport, ammunition dumps, timber for corduroying the roads, etc. were in flames. I took two pictures by hiding
in a dugout & then rushing out & snapping. We eluded shells until just about 150 yards, away when a terrific angry rocket like shriek warned us to duck. This we did by throwing ourselves flat in a shell hole, half filled with mud. A fortunate precaution for immediately a terrific roar made us squeeze ourselves into as little bulk as possible, & up went timber, stones, shells, & everything else in the vicinity.
A dump of 4.5 Shells had received a direct hit, the splinters rained on our helmets, & the debris & mud came down in a cloud. The frightful concussion absolutely winded us but we escaped injury & made off through mud & water as fast as we possibly could. Egad, I've never heard such a row in my life.
(26th) What a relief to be home again, I am grimed with dust & mud & to get into this little hut is like a touch of heaven.
Harvey – my batman, estimable lad, is like a mother & has arranged a great bunch of flowers on my table. It is a pleasant, calm & peaceful reaction after a day amidst guns & battle.
A great battle has been fought today & the Australians have again carried their objectives. The casualties have been heavy, but out of proportion to the important advance & great number of Boche prisoners. I'm sick of being amongst killed & wounded & hearing that hellish din of cannonade & dodging shells. One becomes a fatalist & I am convinced its no good shell dodging. We have even a worse time than the infantry, for to get pictures one must go into the hottest & even then come out disappointed. To get War pictures of striking interest &
sensation is like attempting the impossible. One hears nothing beyond what is doing in the immediate confines of his visible horizon, but rumor & heresay have it that we have been greatly successful & that the Hun has been given another hard blow. I also hear that numbers deserted & his own machine guns had to be trained on his own infantry.
I'm dead tired: but as the artillery is being rapidly advanced to support our new gains in the morning, I must get some sleep & get off by daybreak. Had a great argument with Bean about combination pictures. Am thoroughly convinced that it is impossible to secure effects - without resorting to composite pictures. [No 76]
27th September Thursday
Yesterday's Battle has been a brilliant victory. Our troops supported by the Argyles on left & Tommies on our right flank
drove back the enemy & advanced over a front of 6 miles, 1500 yards. Owing to the enemy directing great pressure on our right, the British troops did not link up the defensive line with the Anzacs. The position was one of intense tension for some time, until our fellows assisted by the English & Scots consolidated the weak position. The village of Zonnebeke is in our hands & also Cameron House [No 53] - both piles of splintered bricks. Our artillery is superb & accounts in a great measure for the brilliant successes of our troops. The Barrage is so terrific that it sweeps the ground like & with a rake of steel & combs out the greater number of the foe, whilst the remainder are so terrified with its terribleness that little fight is left in them. Still many gallantly hold out in the concrete pill boxes & other strong points, until our bayonets thrust through the loop holes or a mills bomb dropped down the ventilator
announce that we have arrived. The Australians are superb. They take everything cheerfully & collectedly & altogether are a magnificent set of troops. Nothing can or will stand up to them. They are a little too eager perhaps, as they are inclined to go beyond objectives & so sustain unnecessary casualties. I had a rare tour in our advanced positions, especially as the enemy sent down a heavy barrage. I had all the excitement I wanted snapping shellbursts from a shell crater. Walking through a barrage makes one feel their very enormously great insignificance; for the impression is that the entire cannonade of the Boche is being turned especially in ones direction. His artillery is so organised, however, that it is possible to circumvent his aims by skirting the fringe of the barrage. I went into several of the captured pill boxes & was surprised at their solidity. These are really nothing more than fortifications in commanding
situations. The roof is proof against almost any shell: being generally five to six feet thick of solid reinforced concrete; the walls, about three to four feet. A shell hitting them, just flakes off a small slab. We captured 1,600 prisoners.
Went with Wilkins again over our advanced positions. After passing through our artillery, things were pleasantly quieter on both sides. This lull only lasts, however, for a day, in which time the enemy has retreated his artillery & we have advanced ours. All sections were busily engaged, road making, extending light rail tracks, advancing artillery, registering the artillery fire, erecting communication lines & the thousand & one details connected with an advance. In the front the infantry were entrenching themselves & strengthening their position.
I had the questionable excitement of being potted at by a sniper; the ping of his shot whizzing past only a few yards away. This did not deter me getting a fine series of pictures of how our chaps live in the trenches. I also came across a weird individual, whose sole mania is collecting souvenirs. He goes into all positions & dives with a whoop on new prisoners & "acquires" the proprietorship of all their unprisoner like trinkets & possessions. I took a photograph of him surrounded by a heap of watches, chains & innumerable miscellanies.
In our back area great activity goes on. The ammunition dumps grow and appear endless - Shells - Shells - millions of Shells - Gad! Theres enough to make a roadway to Berlin: & still they come.
On the roads endless processions of men come & go. Transports in trains raise an endless volume of dust & one wonders
how eight millions sterling a day covers expenses. I took 18 1/1 [whole] plates, all of which were successful.
After the gruelling of the past week I decided to stay away from the front & clear affairs up with the censor. With this end in view I took Wilkins with me & we went to Ralencourt. Later we motored on to Albert, to take a series of pictures of the leaning Madonna. We both thoroughly enjoyed the trip. France is indeed beautiful - Such roads - Such avenues - Glorious now in their changing hues of Autumn - & a veritable leafy tunnel from town to town. It is a heavenly place. Mile after Mile we reeled off absorbed in contemplating the wondrous
play of sunshine through the trees, & the changing tints over the landscape as the autumn mist veiled the sun. There can be no finer roadways or more beautiful sweeping lands of cultivation than North France.
The French too go in for reforesting extensively & the wooded areas are a sight - resplendent in Autumn tints. We arrived at Albert just after 7 pm & put up at the officers rest Club. After Dinner I went & took a combination moonlight flashlight study of the leaning Madonna. The unexpected explosion of ½ a lb of Flashlight powder quite "Put the wind up" the near inhabitants who anticipated a bombardment - They were much relieved to discover a camera enthusiast to be the sole cause.
30th Septr Sunday.
Wilkins & I pottered around various ruins in the vicinity of the Church ruins (Albert) to fossik out unique standpoints from which to take photographs. We found no scarcity of vantage points, as the entire surroundings dominated by the fine spire & famous leaning Madonna, compose one vast picture from any outlook. I took half a dozen from various ruins, & vistas, through shell holed walls. As the Church is out of bounds to troops, we had some difficulty forcing a way through a meshing of barbed wire & of finally entering the building. This latter we accomplished through a shell hole. The interior is a very pitiable sight. The roof in most places has been shot away & many of the great supporting columns. The rest are so torn & mutilated by shell
fragments as to be irreparable. Whilst the architecture of this great edifice does not compare with other of the famous French cathedrals, it is magnificent nevertheless. It has been constructed almost entirely with brick & the interior lavishly decorated with gold leaf & mosaic. The marble images & altars are all broken up as well as the oak furnishings & linings. These latter strew the floor in a deep pile of broken & splintered remains. After completing my work at Albert, we ran down to Amiens to view the Cathedral there. This superb edifice is an odyssey in stone. Its pure gothic gracefulness & elegance surpass anything I have yet seen in architecture. The interior, unlike most other similar edifices, is exquisitely lighted. The light filtering through harmoniously colored windows
which at once fills one with a pleasant sense of peace, rest & quietude. It is glorious,
grand & impressive. The whole exterior facades are finely carved & one is immediately impressed by the graceful & slender needle-like minarets. Much of the lower portions of the building are sandbagged up to preserve them against hostile bombing. The rest of the town is not up to the Cathedral standard. Having very few imposing buildings or avenued streets - (Typical of other Nth France towns).
We left Amiens & proceeded to Ballieux where we visited the Australian 68th Flying Squadron. This squadron which has just recently arrived In France, is undergoing a scouting & training course, preparatory to more offensive work. We had a glorious run home through Doulens, St. Pol & Hazebrouck. It being a fine Sunday afternoon, the peasantry were not working in the fields, but arrayed in their regalia "togs", flocked the villages & towns. Here one was beyond the
War afflicted zone - (it being only about 30 miles away!!) & there was nothing whatever to convey any warlike impressions. Everything was so quiet & peaceful. We arrived in Camp 8.30 p.m.
Being bright moonlight last night there was the usual lunar visit of the “Gothas" only this time they raided in larger numbers. Our concentration camps immediately behind the lines, also the waggon lines were severely bombed & there were many casualties. Hazebrouck, Poperinghe & our own immediate vicinity of Steenvorde were also visited. The bombs used must weigh up to 250 lbs. - they cause great havoc & literally shake the ground with their fearful detonation. I spent some time around the roads during the day, which are very active with traffic. Our 3rd Division is taking up the place of the 2nd which has been through the past two
battles of the 20th & 26th Inst. The roads are very dusty which produces some exquisite effects.
I dined with Generals Birdwood, White & Carruthers this evening. Had a lengthy discussion with Bean re pictures for Exhibition & publicity purposes. Our Authorities here will not permit me to pose any pictures or indulge in any original means to secure them. They will not allow composite printing of any description, even though such be accurately titled nor will they permit clouds to be inserted in a picture. As this absolutely takes all possibilities of producing pictures from me, I have decided to tender my resignation at once. I conscientiously consider it but right to illustrate to the public the things our fellows do & how war is conducted. These can only be got by printing a result from a number of negatives or reenactment.
This is out of reason & they prefer to let all these interesting episodes pass. This is unfair to our boys & I conscientiously could not undertake to continue the work.
I sent in my resignation this morning & await the result of igniting the fuse. It is disheartening, after striving to secure the impossible & running all hazards to meet with little encouragement. I am unwilling & will not make a display of war pictures unless the military people see their way clear to give me a free hand. Canada has made a great advertisement out of their pictures & I must beat them. If I am unable to do so, then I would be quite willing to accede to the Military wishes.
I went up with my new assistant - a lad of promise –
named Joyce, from Rushcutters Bay Sydney, to Westhoek. It was very quiet & there was no great artillery activity. I noticed all the artillery is ready for another "stunt" & they are all registered & have great supplies of ammunition on hand. I am getting to know the areas where the Boche are most likely to shell & avoid them. It was Joyce's first day on the battlefield & his comments & dodging when shells came over rather tickled me. I have become a fatalist. I took over 400 feet Cine film of glimpses on the Menin Road. The effects being extremely fine on account of the frightful dust. We appear on the eve of another battle & the roads on the way home were just streams of men & transports.
Went to headquarters & photographed the 1st Anzac Staff. I met General Birdwood who spoke with me re my resignation & he said he hoped to fix matters up. I am however, inflexible, & if my end be not obtained under no consideration will I retain office.
I remained at Steenvorde all day, taking a rest cure. The battle is to come off tomorrow when we intend taking the ridge in front of Zonnebek. The weather is becoming very wintry & considerable rains fell during the night. Given two fine days & we will gain our objective beyond doubt. The mass of artillery is appalling & nothing can withstand against it. Our supplies of shells & munitions is endless & one cannot but feel sorry for the wretched devils on the Boche side. Germany cannot win & might just as well give up,
without further slaughter. Nothing can withstand our artillery, for when we intend taking a position, we simply blow it to pieces with the guns & then scour it with infantry.
4th October 1917
[Photo Nos 36, 41]
.Punctually at 6 a.m. our infantry attacked along an eight mile front after first it had been battered by our artillery barrage. By a remarkable coincidence the Boche had also planned a counter attack at precisely the same hour: but our frightful barrage descended & absolutely demoralised & almost annihilated his attacking line. Our infantry followed up in three waves, the barrage being lifted for each attack & carried all objectives. We pene-
trated his line over 1000 yards ahead of Zonnebeke & gained the commanding ridge, which places us in a very gratify position. The enemy are now on the slope of the ridge immediately ahead & we look down on him. About 3,000 prisoners were captured & several machine guns. Our casualties regrettably were higher than usual. The battle was fought in a misty rain - heavier falls having taken place overnight, so that the entire battlefield was a great quagmire of mud. It’s marvellous what conditions our fellows can & will fight under. There are no troops in the whole fighting force equal to the Australians for storming troops. I went into Zonnebeke during the day to try & get pictures but
it was being so heavily shelled that we (Joyce & myself) were fortunate to escape injury. The entire country is ploughed into waves of pulverised muddy earth, the craters being filled with water, so that it is extremely difficult to move about. During a battle the whole back area is abustle with fatigue parties & stretcher bearers, streams of prisoners under escort, Supply Columns, etc. Shells burst in places where the Hun knows there are likely to be numbers of men: but the work goes on & the whole process continues, as though some great game was being enacted. I dont know whether one becomes callous or turns a fatalist, for the wounded & dead scarce make any impression, & one is absolutely
heedless of the fact that his turn might be next instant. It's a damnable business. I wake up in the morning as though I had passed through some weird wild dream. Its impossible to realise that men are just murdering each other around you, & that you are in the heart of a great battle. The frightful roar of artillery & scream of shell though brings one to reality, but even it passes off as soon as you leave the scene of battle, & when I am back again in my cosy room at Steenvorde, I quickly forget the horrible doings of the day & after a good dinner, develop my plates & then turn in with no more thoughts for the day, than if I had been at business all the while, & had just returned from a late evening working overtime!
5th October 1917 Friday
Morning visited a 15 inch howitzer battery near Hellfire Corner. (Capt. Cummins in charge). This ponderous weapon fires a projectile weighing 1,400 lbs. It has a range of 11,000 yards! I was delayed here owing to heavy rain which cleared off during the afternoon. As is generally after a battle, things were calm, & we were able to plod a way through the mud to Zonnebeke in fair safety. The guns were being brought up under frightful conditions. [Photo Nos 75 and 56] Sometimes they would sink to the axles in mud, & the mules would be hidden from sight in the depths of the treacherous shell craters. But still we do it, & the same work goes on, but the men work in deep mud & even then hail a cheerful parsiflage at the photographer. Our fellows are
superb. Round Zonnebeke, the battlefield is now a succession of miniature ponds – pitfalls for the unwary, as they are as treacherous as quicksands. It is a fair hell of a prospect if our fellows or any others have to pass winter in this muck. [Photo No 54]
Early morning I visited the "Birdcage" at Hoograaf; where about 600 prisoners are interned from yesterday's battle. Mostly they are mediocre physique, though one notices an occasional fine specimen. They appear right glad to be in our hands, & their general opinion is that Germany is done. They expressed great wonderment at our vast artillery resources & so they might, for the guns stretch in lines over the country & the ground is paved with shells. I took a number of photographs amongst them & they willingly submitted; except a brigadier, who turned his back on the camera. I did not press the point out of courtesy.
6th October Saturday
Stayed in quarters all day having much printing to do - whilst Martin is engaged indexing. I am sending in 150 negatives this week. Headquarters have given me permission to make six combination enlargements in the exhibition! so I withdrew my resignation. They must at least appreciate my efforts, as they were dead against this being done. However, it will be no delusion on the public as they will be distinctly titled, setting forth the number of negatives used, etc. All the elements will be taken in action. The weather is unsettled & very cold.
7th October Sunday
Left Steenvorde at noon to pay the usual weekly visit, in the Ford, to the censor at Ralincourt. The weather which has been very unsettled, broke & came down in
a deluge the whole way. The wind was biting cold, & the squalls which swept over the open country near Bruges made things extremely unpleasant. Winter is coming fast & already the fine leafy avenues are shedding their leaves & gloomy skies be dismal the landscape. I decided that we should visit our 69th Squadron at Savy aerodrome & spend a few days photographing amongst them. As our Car began to give trouble, I willingly took advantage of a proffered passage in Capt. Castle’s Cadillac (whom I met at the censors) & made for St Pol. Castle very kindly found Wilkins & I billets & here I intend to stay until the weather is sufficiently good to enable me to photograph the flyers.
Wretched, weather continues. Wilkins & I visited the Aerodrome at Savy where our
Squadron the 69th are housed. They have 18 machines R.E. 8 Class & are at present doing observing work for the artillery near Arras. I met several friends amongst them & spent an enjoyable, though unprofitable day. The weather was too bad & windy to even take the machines from their hangars. We returned at 6 pm to our Billets (15 Kilometers from Savy) it pouring in sheets with driving rain the whole time. Dined with Castle at Hotel France. Quite an excellent meal which cost 20 francs for 3 of us.
Gale all day but with weather otherwise good. Went to the Squadron (69th) again at Savy. The weather, however, was too bad to bring the machines from the Hangars, several of which
had been ripped up during the nights severe wind. We lunched there & as nothing was doing had a look round & a "Yarn". Afterwards to the St Pol Trench mortar school, which teaches in all branches pertaining to this branch of ordnance. I was particularly interested in a number of Captured German weapons, marvels, of ingenuity & of exquisite workmanship Some of our latest mortars are capable of throwing 200 lb of H.E 1,000 yards.
There was also a very interesting collection of various types of bombs, aerial torpedoes - bombs to be dropped from Aeroplanes both British & Boche. Rain set in again during the night & we returned to our billet, where the good lady had quite an excellent dinner prepared.
Day broke with appearances of being fine
so went to the Aerodrome again. It turned out evilly, however, so I had to abandon my object & decided to return to Steenvorde. As usual - it cleared up on the return, & we had the displeasure to come home with a bright setting sun. Tomorrow, however, I intend being off at 6 a.m. & tackling the job again. The weather is turning out extremely cold & it is evident the winter is with us. God help the poor devils in the trenches.
But the best laid schemes of men & mice go astray, & so instead of going back to St Pol Flying Squadron, I found myself "lured" back to the battlefield (great emphasis
on the "lured", for there is no place in eternity that is more hellish). My enthusiasm & keenness, however, to endeavour to record the hideous things men have to endure, urges me on. No monetary considerations or very few others in fact would induce any man to flounder in mud to his knees to try & take pictures. The past rains have made the place great slough. One dares not venture off the duckboard or he will surely become bogged, or sink in the quicksand like slime of rain filled shell craters. Add to this frightful walking a harrassing shellfire & soaking to the skin, & you curse the day that you were induced to put foot on this polluted damned ground. A few bursts of sunlight allowed me to take a few pictures in the trenches of the Broodseinde Ridge. [Photo No 22]
a heavy barrage of 5.9s were coming over at the time, so that I had a devilish tight time for an hour or so. Then the six & a ½ miles tramp back through the slush & mud to Ypres, where the car has to be left just about beat me. Soaked through & mud to the thighs, I fervently thanked God when I was aboard the Ford & bound back for Steenvorde.
12th October. Battle of
Last night I found a letter awaiting me from Capt Bean, telling me of another battle which is to come off tomorrow. Our objective is Poelcapelle: about 800 yards advance. God knows how those red tabbed blighters at headquarters (60 miles from the front) expect our men to gain such a strong position when they have to drag them-
selves through mud. Curse them! I'll swear they were not within 20 miles of the firing line when this attack was arranged, the ground is impassable, & though it is essential that we should gain the "Key ridge" & put the Boche in the low hollow for the winter, I fail to see how it is possible to achieve the end without great loss & then being evicted again, owing to the Artillery being in the unhappy position of getting bogged if they move up.
Owing to Joyce (my Camera lumper) funking it, Wilkins & I set out in the Car for Hell Fire Corner (Menin Rd. 20 Kilometers). Here we got onto the Zonnebeke railroad which has been shelled & blown to fragments during the past two years of straffing. It is now a raised bank of mud
& bits of scrap iron rails. Already we are starting to rebuild it, & about 1,000 labourers were at work rail laying. It will be of incalculable value to support the front lines & artillery, as the roads will be impassable during the winter. Its a bloody work however, for it is being constantly shelled & numbers are daily killed. It is littered with bodies both of our own men & Boche.
Things were reasonably quiet till we got near to Zonnebeke - But the mud! trudge, trudge. Sometimes to the Knee in Sucking, tenacious Slime - A fair hell of a job under ordinary conditions: but with a heavy camera up & being shelled, I hardly thought "the game worth the candle". Nearing Zonnebeke we got Into the Boche barrage, & as he was paying particular attention to the railway line,
(or rather what once was), it being the only possible means of communication with the front line about here; we had more than an exciting time. Shells lobbed all around & sent their splinters whizzing everywhere - God knows how anybody can escape them: & the spitting ping of machine gun bullets that played on certain points made one wish he was a microbe under these conditions one feels himself so magnified that he feels every shell the Boche fires is directed for his especial benefit. This shelled embankment of mud was a terrible sight. Every 20 paces or less lay a body. Some frightfully mutilated, without legs, arms & heads & half covered in mud & slime. I could not help thinking as Wilkins & I, trudging along this inferno & soaked to the skin, talking & living beings, might not be the next moment one of these things – Gee, it puts the wind up one at times. We pushed
on through the old Zonnebeke Station (now absolutely swept away) up to Broodsende & entered the railway Cutting near the ridge crest. Shells began to fall just about a hundred paces ahead & their skyrocket like whizz, without cessation, passing too close overhead & bursting all around, induced us to retire. The light too failed & rain set in. We got no pictures but whips of fun. I felt great admiration for the stretcher bearers, who slowly plodded on with their burdens, trudging through mud & presenting a tempting target, for the enemy observation balloons had eyes on everything. It was impossible to bring in many wounded under these conditions, & many poor devils must perish from exposure. I noticed one awful sight: a party of, ten or so, telephone men all blown to bits. Under a questionably
sheltered bank lay a group of dead men. Sitting by them in little scooped out recesses sat a few living; but so emaciated by fatigue & shell shock that it was hard to differentiate. Still the whole way was just another of the many byways to hell one sees out here, & which are so strewn with ghastliness that the only comment is:- "That poor buggar copped it thick" or else nothing at all. Our fellows, 3rd division & the N. Zealanders obtained their objective, Poelcapelle, but were driven out again. We captured a number of prisoners though not many. We left the embankment near Zonnebeke Station & took to the Duckboards for home. These slippery-slidy ways are the only possible routes over a vast slough of rain filled shell craters. It took us two hours solid walk to return & it was not
until we actually got on the Menin Road
that we felt & clambered on a passing lorry, that we felt secure frp, we had again cheated the Boche of his wishes & intentions.
Arrived at Steenvorde 7 p.m. after a slow passage & bumping a number of midroad walkers our head lights having failed. Sighs of relief & a good meal.
13th Saturday. It rained like hell & blew a full gale all night & damned cold in the bargain. Thank heavens we are not in the trenches - it must be frightful. To-day I am setting out on an unpleasant task. Shackleton has not met his obligation to me for £530, an amount he promised faithfully to meet already several times. He also ignored my letter concerning it, & as he is leaving for South America in a few days, I see his intention
is to take advantage of me being In France to slip off. This has compelled me to go to London, drop important events here - where every day counts & pursue him. It is my intention to make the unprincipled blighter sweat for this, & if he has not already eloped with my cash, I guess I'll collect it or stop his trip. Colonel Wynter, the Deputy Adjnt. General attached to Hdq became a passenger in my car as far as Boulogne. We had an interesting couple of Hours chat, but the weather made the trip fairly miserable, Cold, rainy & muddy. On the boat across Channel I was made an adjutant - purely nominal duties, to see my seven duty officers attended to various routine matters concerning the men & also the sentries. The passage was fairly rough, last
nights gale having stirred up a nasty cross sea. At Folkestone we caught the usual waiting Train & arrived at Charring Cross 7.15 pm Colonel Wynter came with me & we put up at the Imperial Hotel, Russel Square. It is quite like home being here again. I have my same room, & as most of the same staff are here still, things are more pleasant.
14th October 17 Sunday
Oh! the delights & Comforts of a warm bath & comfortable bed. So much so that I slept through until 9 a.m. Breakfast with Col Wynter at 10 am. After which I went for a stroll in Fleet St, up to Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, & then back in time for lunch. Afternoon out to Enfield to visit friends whom I found out. Dinner at Hotel & joined a pleasant little coterie
of quests & had a sing song.
15th October. Another year gone & I am to-day 31 years. Morning at Military headquarters, where I spent in contracting indents for supplies. Afternoon to Chronicle, where I met Perris & Shackleton. The latter has agreed to pay me the amount due to me in the morning.
Met Ozzie Webb who is over on leave, dined together, & afternoon at Australia House. Lieut Smart is giving all attention to the preservation of my negatives, & am pleased to see my pictures are receiving great publicity in the press at present & I am receiving many congratulations. Evening with Webb, & several friends to see "The Boy" at the Adelphi. It was delightfully funny & a pleasant relaxation.
16th October. 1917 Tuesday
Met Shackleton & he paid up like a man. I might say though, that had I not been over to collect the amount I would have been a poorer & wiser person. Afternoon to Military Headquarters, where I met Colonel Griffiths, Colonel Hurley & Major Gowing. All give me every assistance in their power. Evening to Arlette [Musical theatre production] at the Shaftesbury with "Sunshine" which we enjoyed thoroughly. Weather is extremely wintry, it raining without Cessation.
Running round after a panorama Camera & other materials for winter. Lunched with Philmore & Curtis. Afternoon on arranging various matters re registration of negatives, Cinema films & exhibition. To bed at 8 pm being dog tired.
18th October. Thursday.
Goods accumulated & have decided to return by the Staff train leaving on Saturday.
Had a look over the various places which have suffered the effects of the recent bombing. There is great talk of reprisals at present & it really does appear as if our phlegmatic Govt are going to make an effort to satiate the strong public opinion.
Lunched with Sir Douglas Mawson & Lady Mawson at their flat & had slack afternoon, having a look around. During the evening a raid warning was given & most of the folk made for the tubes or basements. With a large party of visitors, I remained in the dining room of the Imperial Hotel & had a very pleasant concert. I subsequently
learned that a number of enemy Zeppelins bombed the East end & also Piccadilly way. A number were killed [20th October] & this morning I saw from the train several of the places where the bombs had fallen. The houses were blown to heaps of broken bricks. It looks as if London is going to pass through a severe time during this moon, & it is sincerely to be hoped, that a retaliation will be made in the form of overwhelming & indiscriminate bombing reprisals. If this course is pursued vigorously, then it might so affect the morale of the enemy population as to materially shorten the war. At present the outlook is a pretty miserable one, & it
look seems as if things might go on as they are indefinitely.
Left Charing Cross Station at 11.50 am
& joined at Folkestone the Channel ferry. Arrived at Boulogne 4.30 pm where I found Wilkins waiting with the car. We reached Steenvorde at 10 pm.
21st Octr. Sunday. [Photo Nos 62, 66-70]
Went to Ypres & made several pictures of the Cloth Hall. A great number of Canadian troops are now parsing through to take over the section held by the Australians & New Zealanders. As the town is under balloon observation by the Boche, it received a heavy shelling, especially the Poperinghe gate. Here he dropped shells throughout the afternoon & killed some 40 men, as well as holding up traffic. On my way home I had to motor by this way, & raced the car through the shell fire. Fortunately there was room around the shell craters & no other traffic. It was
a few minutes of great excitement as the shells lobbed on both sides, & spattered us with debris & splinters. At the top of the road, stood a cheering crowd of Anzacs. I thoroughly enjoyed the run, but it rather unnerved the driver, & my timid & always scared Camera bearer. During the night Bombs were exchanged from both sides.
Weather unpropitious Wilkins & I went to Savy to our 69th Squadron (Flying). We enjoyed the two hours motor run, though it was infernally cold. The avenues & foliage are taking on those wondrous shades of Autumn & the whole country is a riot of marvellous colorings. The leaves are falling & winter is fast coming. We took a couple flashlight pictures,
at the hangars & returned to St Pol where we put up at the comfortable Hotel de France.
Rain continued, so we returned Via Arras. We had a good look around Arras, which has suffered severely through bombing & shellfire. Many of the streets are just heaps of ruins, others are scarred & spattered with shrapnel. A cold Wintry journey splashing through mud brought us to Houdain, where we went to a small Hotel for lunch. The good lady knocked us up an excellent little meal in a few minutes. Its chief course was the all universal omelette. We arrived at Steenvorde at 4.30 pm.
24th Octr /17
Left Steenvorde 8 am & with good
weather favoring took the car to Birr Cross roads. The shelling of a few days past has all been again repaired, & the roads though suffering from the rains are in reasonably good condition. Ypres is fairly quiet. At Birr Cross roads we left the car, & walked over the duckboards right out to Zonnebeke. The shell craters are filled with water & the battlefield is a vast quagmire. One of the most pitiful & heroic sights is to see the ammunition pack horses bringing up shells & charges. Their drivers leading & often going up to the thigh in slimy mud. The horses stumble through, sometimes falling into shell craters, from which they have to be hauled. Oh it is a wicked agonising sight. Here & there lay dead half buried in mud, horses & broken waggons all cogently telling some tragedy &
horror: but one is immune to all these, & passes by as unperturbed, as though they were just pieces of rock.
Colonel Shellshear called during the evening, & is going to spend the evening with us. Outside it is blowing a gale & pelting rain. The distant sky shimmers with the reflection of the Artillery, which is in action day & night. My pity is for the poor wretches in the trenches, who are freezing & soaked to the skin.
Visitors are a confounded nuisance. Col Shellshear stayed the night & though perfectly welcome, delayed an early start. My results suffered, as the days are now short & today was of rare sunshine. I visited various waggon lines around Dickebush, also a concentration Camp where I met the 58th. Batallion. The 58th.
are moving up into line
tomorrow this evening to take part in a push which is to come off tomorrow. Fortunately today has been fine & windy, so that the frightful mud has dried up sufficiently to prevent one sinking in deeply. The Canadians have taken over the line immediately behind Paschendale & this place is the objective.
Fiendish weather heavy rain all day. Capt. Castle (The Canadian photographer) & his assistant Liet Ryder stayed with us last night & we all made for the Menin Rd just after breakfast. The Australian 2nd Division were moving up in a vast Concourse of Motor Lorries & Omnibuses, so that the roads were choked with Transports & men. Mud splashed in a continuous spurt from thousands of wheels whilst
soaked & weary men heartily cursed the weather, the war & even their existence. Its terrible that these poor soaked wretches have to go up into the front trenches this evening, & there be subject to the wretched weather & the hellish shelling. The misery of it all is too terrible & appalling for words. Photographs of Second Division going up on busses.
27th Octr. Saty
Early move at 8 am & arrived at Ypres 9.30 am. The road much congested with traffic & muddy. The Boche is now settling down to winter positions, & as we can no longer push forward on account of the frightful mud, he has had time to register his artillery. This has had the effect of jeopardising all points where traffic is busy & also traffic routes & salient places. Ypres is still being harassed & last night was bombarded with his long range guns & Gothas.
27th Octr. We took the car to the head of the Menin Rd. & I decided to leave it there on account of shelling. We were locked in a congestion of traffic & unable to move anyway, when a large fleet of 16 Gothas came over & fairly put "the wind up us". We opened fire with our "Archie" (Anti-air craft guns) but without effect & we fully expected to be bombed. They hovered over our observation balloons & the observers not being able to be hauled down quick enough jumped out in parachutes. Why the balloons were not set on fire is beyond me, for the boche had it all his own way. One of our machines within range of this formidable fleet made a magnificent nose dive of about 500 feet & escaped disaster. The Gotha fleet gave a fine demonstration, but apparently were only bent on prying
into our doings & photographing.
I went with Joyce & Wilkins on an ambulance lorry to the Hooge crater, & had considerable excitement on account of the Boche shelling the road. Afterwards we went through the infamous Chateau Wood & up the enfiladed road to Westhock Ridge. This region always suffers heavy shelling & we passed through nearly a mile of straffed limbers & waggons & dead horses. I have not seen a more terrible scene of desolation, waste & destruction than hereabouts on Westhock. The Boche observation on his area is superb, & the least congestion invariably brings shelling. We returned over the duckboards by a safer route to Hellfire Corner, & thence on to Ypres. A fine sunset beautified these solemn ruins, that awakened feelings of awe & made one sorrow for the things which war has done. Took 18 plates.
28th October Sunday
My premonitions of a windy day were amply fulfilled. To start with, my driver who has a holy fear of shell fire, is absolutely regardless of reckless driving gave me many qualms on the way to Ypres. The traffic was congested & the road mud sticky. Rushing for narrowing openings & scraping the wheels of the up & down traffic make me more windy than actually being in a barrage. Anyhow we got to the head of the Menin Road in Safety & left the car. Then we walked the length of the road up to Hooge, an occasional shell lobbing none too far away. The day was foggy so that the Boche balloon observation was bad. Under these conditions he shells on registered & favorite points & also does a considerable amount of area firing. We succeeded in reaching the infamous
Chateau Wood without incident, when a fleet of 14 Taubs & Gothas came over us. The dropped their bombs vigorously a few hundred yards away & peppered the roads with machine gun fire. We took refuge close beside a big tree stump & escaped the machine gun fire, the bullets pelting a few yards off. Our safety was but momentary, however, for a 5.9 shell lobbed only 15 paces off & showered us with mud. A narrow squeak.
Chateau Wood must have been a glorious spot, with its lake on one side & heavily foliaged timber. It is now so lonely & desolate that one feels as if death alone dwelt there. The trees are smashed & splintered & only stumps; the ground is heaved up into wave like ridges with shelling & here & there along the lonely duckboard track lies a stricken soldier
one does not linger more than necessary in this place over which hangs the pall of gloom & death. Guns boom all around, yet everyone dodges the awful loneliness & hazards of Chateau wood. Just in front of Chateau Wood I came on a 9.2 howitzer battery: three guns had been knocked out before they were set up in position. Westhock ridge was fairly quiet for the moment till I got near the crest. Then the fun began. I took shelter in a thin sandbag dugout, & had the cinema trained on bursting shells of which there was ample sufficiency. They screamed overhead like a flight of rockets. One fell a little short & threw mud over the dugout & fell but a yard away. I owe my life to it being a dud.
The position became so unhealthy, that with Joyce I decided to run the gauntlet & get out of the barrage if possible, as it seemed fatal to stay in our
[Noted at the top of this page –
Major W.H. Ffrench. Mc[indecipherable]
21st Aust. M.G. Coy.
1st Aust. Div. ]
position. We therefore dodged from dugout to dugout, having the excitement of our lives. We were puffed & sheltered for a few minutes behind Kittenkat. Wizsh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh & a shell lobbed so close that had we been a few paces out we must have been hit direct. This shell also was a dud! Of all the scores that whizzed over our heads I counted but four that failed to explode. Three times today has my life been miraculously spared. We returned with all speed out of the shelled area, but it was not before we left Ypres that we felt safe,The Boche sending over a great quantity of "HE" on to our back areas. It was a boche day.
Miss D Bucker
50 Shelgate Rd
London SW 11
Miss B Hurt
97 Alberta Rd
Bush Hill Park
Mrs A E Keurick
Casilla 495 Valparaiso
Sir E Shackleton
Expdtr. Effingham House
Strand London W.C.
Cpl W Hannam No 6946
2nd Aust A.S.P. A.I.F.
Ms F Gent
171 Wardour St
Capt J G Huniter
9th Aust Field Amb
Capt S. D Mawson
Russian Govt. Committee
London WC 2
R W Hedges
Box 1113 Sydney
Frank A Kinmare
The place names referred to in the diary have been transcribed as written by the diarist.
In order to give some order to the spelling of the place names referred to in the diary, reference has been made to the published extracts of the diaries (The diaries of Frank Hurley, 1912-1941) and noted below is a list of the place names spelling used in that book.
Poelcappelle - spelling used by Hurley
Broodseinde - spelling used by Hurley
[Transcribed by David Lambert and Rosemary Cox for the State Library of New South Wales]