Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Dene B. Fry diary, 21 August 1916-26 January 1917
MLMSS 1159/4/ Item 3

[Transcriber’s note:
Dene Barrett Fry was born at Lewisham, NSW. At the time of his enlistment he was 21 years old and a demonstrator of biology at Sydney University. He initially enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps on 14 May 1915 and served on the Hospital Ship "Karoola" until 22 Dec. 1915 when he transferred to the 3rd Infantry Battalion (19th Reinforcements).
He attended various training schools, including Duntroon, with the objective of commissioned rank, and was promoted Lance Sergeant.
His diary begins when the Battalion sailed from Sydney for England aboard the HMAT Wiltshire on 22 Aug. 1916.
He describes at length the warm hospitality they received in Durban.
On arrival at the training camp in southern England, he and the other NCOs, reverted to the rank of Private.
On 16th October he learnt that his younger brother, Alan had died of wounds some weeks earlier.
After training at Perham Camp, he sailed for France on 16 Nov. 1916.
He describes the routine of fatigues and spells in the front line trenches near Flers during the bitter winter weather.
His diary ends abruptly on 26th January 1917, although he continued to write regularly to his parents until his death in action on 9th April that year, aged 23.]

[Page 1]

[Page 2]
Dene B. Fry. Sgt.
19th Reinf.
3rd Battn.
1st Inf. Brig..

Next of kin:-
J.A. Fry Eq.
Northcote Road
New South Wales

[Page 3]
We moved off from Liverpool at midday Monday 21st Aug, the Reinforcements next to go lining up along the line of huts and giving us a good cheer. We made many short & sharp hand shakes and many quick good wishes as we recognised amongst the sea of soldier faces our many friends. There were pals who had toiled through the "schools" with us, some fortunate & wearing their stars, and others like ourselves, not so fortunate, and there were many good friends in the ranks, starting where I had started 15 months ago, and who will end as many of us will, under the sod in France.

Well, anyway, its worth all the risk and all the hardship just for moments like these, when a man thrills with the emotion bought of a sense of real duty and comradeship.
Stuart, Wilkins, Biden and many others were there, who will soon join us in the big fight, and who we realise are separated only for a short time.

[Page 4]
The train trip down to Sydney was most uncomfortable, and some of the men needed a good deal of looking after for they had been drowning, in every sense of the word, their troubles. We marched to the show ground between a packed line of mostly feminine faces, but here and there were scattered the returned men on their crutches & sticks, looking thoughtfully on the passing fours of the great uninitiated. I could look on our column in much the same way too, but not quite in the same light as these Gallipoli lads.

There was a big tedious review, and then we marched to our quarters in the poultry shed in the Grounds. Leave till 11 o’clock was given but most of the boys stayed up all night and came in just before reveille at 3 a.m. The scene then was one of animation as the thousand men rose and hurridly put on their putties. We were soon away, and at 3.30 a.m. the gates of the show ground opened and we passed through. The crowd outside was a wonderful sight. Women & children who had waited all night in the cold were scurrying here & there inquiring for their husbands, asking in eager voices for a man who no one knew and few of the weary men cared about. They became nearly frantic as the column moved on but every now & then a cry of joy showed that some sweetheart or wife had located her man. They forced themselves into the lines & marched with the column, some of the wives taking their soldier husbands white kit bag the husband taking the child.

We stumbled along in the dark the crowd growing & growing. Along Bourke St. doors and windows opened, gas & lamps were lit and many people scantily clad streamed into the road & and onto balconies to give us a cheer. It was the most romantic march I have ever taken part in. All the conditions were strange, and I have never seen so many sad farewells before. The children simply clung to their fathers and some of the small girls collapsed absolutely in a heap and their sweethearts

[Page 5]
had to take the opportunity to tear themselves away while the girl was unconscious. I saw in the dim light many a man give his pack a determined hitch, toss his head & walk briskly, through he wharf gate on to the wharf. Inside the wharf, with the dismal scene behind us we sat the men down and awaited perhaps the most dismal dawn of many of these men’s lives. Some of the single & indeed some of the married men too, were gloriously drunk, and they gave a lot of trouble.

A tough hardened little man who for weeks was our Sergeant’s Mess orderly hailed me from his position in the seated line. He was sitting on his pack with his head on his hands. "Sergeant" ! So I came over and said "Well Bill it’s a dismal business, hope the wife took it well?" "By Christ Sergeant" he said "I can say good bye to the missus, but the kiddy clung like glue – by the living Christ I nearly squibbed it dinkum." He was overflowing with tears and was showing an affection you couldn’t credit some of these lads with. So I just said to myself – well Bill Holman, you’r a man at the bottom of your soul, although you have a dirty tongue and you can show your Sergeant many an old soldier’s trick. But there’s a lot worse than you.

We embarked alright and the crowd were let onto the wharf about 8 a.m., just as we commenced to draw out from the wharf. Streamers were thrown and the same sad hopeless scene commenced all over again. I never want to see so many hopeless despairing womens faces again. It is an apparition still, and always will be. Ruben’s representation of Dante’s "Pergatorio" is a mere instance beside it. Well, perhaps the men going now have a heavier task to face than those who hurried away before our big casualty list started to remind the public of the deadly earnestness of this campaign.

We left Sydney harbour

[Page 6]
at 2.30 p.m. on Aug. 22nd 1916, 1 year, 1 month & 8 days after I set out for the scene of action in the A.67, H.M.A.T. "Orsova" my feelings this time were very different to last. I did not feel the excitement of a new venture drawing to such an extent my feelings of regret for those left behind. This time the excitement was nil. The other emotion had full consideration.

To day, 24th Aug. we passed Cape Otway Vic, at 11.30 a.m., and rumour has it we are not to call in at any Australian port, but go on straight to Durban South Africa. The weather is calm, and very few are sick. The men are fast getting into the swing of things, and the old fun of the troopship is again entering my careless self. I’m happy to be again wandering, and I can see how much of the nomad I really have in my clay. Life is worth fighting for, or should I say, the country is worth fighting hard for that gave us our national characteristic of light heartedness

Well, we have hit the West Australian coast somewhere about Albany,
Monday 28th Aug, 4 p.m. This looks like calling at the West. Well, I’m not surprised for we have about 30 case of mumps and several measle & a doubtful enteric, as well as a bad concussion case.
Tuesday 29th 4 p.m. We are doing about 7 knots p.h. and have been all day. Evidently we are not wanted at Fremantle till early morning. An hour ago we passed Leuwin, a fine old cape with a small settlement around the large lighthouse. The sea is not very rough but it has been miserably cold and the wind brings showers of fine spray all over the decks, making things uncomfortably wet and cold.

My third time in Fremantle Harbour (Wed 30th Aug.) and no chance of seeing the town. However, it doesn’t look interesting, with the exception of a few old buildings which look like goals. But I would like to see Perth, which

[Page 7]
everybody says is very pretty. A little while ago the 35 mumps cases were sent off. Very hard luck for the lads who in some cases have brothers remaining on board. Coaling is in full swing & we are no doubt going out to day.

We left Fremantle yesterday Wed 30th at 5 p.m. The people along the streets all cheered us and all the ships cock-a-doodle-dooed. A young girl has been semaphore signalling from the wharf all day. She signals with very clear angles and the lads are sending messages back from three or four parts of the boat at once. Just what she sees in spending her days signalling to men on troop ships I cant see, but she is a well known identity here, and was at the same game when the "Orsova" A67 was in this part 13 months ago. She gives her name as Dulcie, and by jove she wont stand any nonsense. She concluded with "God speed, look out for me when you return. I’m always here" .

This is one of the most perfect days (Sunday 3rd Sep.‘16) I have ever experienced at sea. We are of course well south of the course we took last time when we made for Suez, and only an occasional Albatros and Flying fish is seen. The big lazy roll of the ocean, and the Indian Ocean is a beautiful ocean to me, gives us all a dreadfully lazy feeling. It makes me think of Leigh Hunt’s "A Now" where he so brilliantly puts on paper the little peculiarities of the "great vulgar" on a hot enervating day. This is not a hot day, it is a real Manly Autumn day, but there is a balancing force in the effect of this great oceans weary swell.

The Sergeants have a deck to themselves and I wish you could see them all now. Some are fast asleep (its 3.30 p.m.) in the most fantastic positions, for the deck is Oh so hard, and sleep was ever a great leveller. The Provost Sergeant (Bennett) was in such a beautiful attitude that Lockrey & I photographed him. I wish I could develop it.

[Page 8]
The lads are getting well used to the routine now. The O.C. Troops, Colonel Burnage V.D. is Alan’s old Col., the Colonel of the original 13th Battn, who was responsible for their first fine work on the Peninsular. His left arm is badly paralysed but he has a well deserved soft job now. The men think he’s over the odds tho’, with some of his sentences. One man got 144 hours cells for being late on afternoon parade! How’s that? Still, they must realise that they are on active service now.

We have a Sergeant’s mess which they say is supplied with regular 2nd class fare. But its not too good. We always sleep on deck, and very nice it is too. One of the Sisters on board (there are three, and all are returned) went over with us on the "Orsova" last year. We were refreshing memories of that eventful trip yesterday, and she remarked on the romance of "Australia Day" night on the A 67. There’s not doubt about it, we should have had a Kipling on board to describe the fantasy of that scene. You remember, I wrote about it.

But things get monotonous. We parade from 9.30 – 12 every morning and from 2.30 – 4.30 every afternoon, and do the same deadly old exercises and stunts every day. Sunday comes like a lazy day amongst 6 dreary ones, instead of a day of rest after 6 of toil. We don’t need sleep and yet sleep comes. Hanging over the rail only produces sleep –
"When the waters countenance
Blurrs ‘twixt glance and second glance;
When the tattered smokes forerun
Ashen ‘neath a silvered sun;

"When the engines’ bated pulse
Scarcely thrills the nosing hulls;
When the wash along the side
Sounds, a sudden, magnified
When the intolerable blast
Marks each blindfold minute passed"

But no doubt will spend many more Sundays in this unsettled way, "Questioning a deep unseen" , and I only hope a little more resignedly. So, for a while good by, "Cook house" will blow soon and I’m Orderly Sergeant.

[Page 9]
Having left South Africa I sit down to write my impressions of it. After leaving Durban we were so universally unanimous about the open heartedness of the good British residents there (and I should add the Africaners too) that, had I sat down to write at once I would have "extolled to the skies" the South African Republic. But after Cape Town experiences I can now write a little more reservedly regarding some things, and I think with a little less blind enthusiasm.

We arrived at Durban about midday Thursday 14th Sept. The Bluff, as the entrance is called, has a fine noble appearance, and reminded the Gallipoli lads of the Peninsular hills because of the steep sides and close scrubby vegetation. The harbour is long and river like, and the town lies on the right side, and behind it lies a high ridge known as the Berea, resembling the highlands of Mosman & Middle Harbour at Sydney. To our surprise the people were in crowds on all points of vantage & gave us a hearty cheer as we entered. This was certainly calculated to gladden the hearts of the boys after the long dreary trip, especially as there were many nice looking girls amongst the assemblages.

Next day, Friday 15th Sep., we were given general leave about midday, & catching a ferry we soon crossed the harbour from the coaling wharf near the Bluff, and started to march up town. The column was a long one 1600 men, and as the boys were rather stiff, the marching was not too good. We reached the Town Hall, about a mile & one half from the ferry, and then were dismissed. Before being dismissed however, the Mayor of the City extended to us the Freedom of the City and announced to us that there would be a Civic welcome to the overseas troops that evening, when he would preside! All trams were free and they refused to let us pay for many things in Restaurants & cafes. There were many Church societies with Buffets & writing rooms and conveniences, all ever ready to do anything possible for the old slouch hat, and in which we met some of the most whole hearted and genuine women it has ever been my pleasure to come in contact with, associated with War work. Hotels were all closed, so that the lads behaved splendidly, and really one felt proud to be wearing the Australian uniform with the pretty streets so full of disciplined & well behaved "Wallabies" , who compared so favourably with the garrison troops of the towns.

[Page 10]
The lads were very taken with the Rickshaw boys, fine big Zulus painted all over, wearing large horns & feathers on their heads. They spent their time running round the city drawn by these great good natured niggers who, to attract your attention when passing, prance and bow like a fine blooded well conditioned race horse. Without a doubt they are the finest race of men physically that I have so far seen. I can realise now what Rourke’s Drift was, and can conjure these docile chaps really in earnest, led by Unslopogaas, Charka or Cetewayo. Thank goodness we are fighting the Germans!

Many of the boys were taken about by Civilians in buggies & motors. Leave was granted the whole of Saturday, and as the half holiday was observed there, the lads came in for a good deal of attention, as did the local young ladies, by way of a return compliment. A mile from the Post Office is the Beach, laid out exquisitely, infinitely superior to Manly. Down here the elite promenade on the Saturday afternoons, & needless to say this is the locality where most of the men found themselves. All kinds of amusements were there, White City turns & bathing. Deck Chairs were free & could be dragged into a sunny possie & left there. Really the Municipal authorities seem to me to be miles ahead of Sydney, tho’ of course we must not lose sight of the difference in size and the conditions of the building of the two cities. The eating houses were very clean everywhere & were very well patronised by us. In fact, as "Come and have a drink" was out of order, it was come and have a feed, my shout.

But the part which has left a deep impression on everyones mind was the individual kindnesses shown by people on all sides. Ladies gave us cigarettes, lollies, novels and invariably took our addresses with the object of sending regular packets of dainties. I suppose I have given my military address to half a doz. people of this kind. I make a wager that every man on the boat received an invitation during the two days there, to come and dine with a family! The open heartedness of these brother colonials is something which I will never forget. Two Ladies took Q.M.S. McComas, C.S.M. Clayton, Sgt Moran, Sgt Swan, & myself home to a grand residence and sat us down to a spanking feed. They had prepared the meal and then gone

[Page 11]
up town to procure the eaters if it! Absolutely laid themselves out to do what was possible for the Australians. I can tell you we enjoyed it. They were two married ladies so goodness only knows what their hubbies will say eh. The lady whose house they took us to was a grand old scotch dame who called us wee laddies, or Sodger boys, and who shook hands with both hands. At the finish of the meal she first impressed us with the danger of being found supplying men in uniform with liquor, then took us into a room where she had poured out a glass of stout each. I don’t think anyone could have been kinder to their own relatives. They trusted us about the fine old house and invited us to come again. Well, we were entertained in England and in Colombo, but this is hospitality I will never forget and which could not possibly be surpassed. This is only my experience, and I dont exaggerate when I say that, during the two days we were there every man of the units on board tasted more than once just the same hospitality from some source or other.

In Durban as in Cape Town we were surprised at the number of young men, eligible for active service, who paraded the streets in whites with Tennis Rackets. Had we not enquired concerning this from some English residents we would have gone away with the impression that the men folk were rather of the wrong kind. The truth of the matter is this. There is really an undercurrent of anti-British feeling in this colony still, and many of the citizens are at present times even if not pro-German, they are anti British to a certain extent. Old Boer war scars remain open. Those deeds of the British which it is British policy to hush up, the rounding up of Boer farming families in scurvy stricken compounds, the isolation of the men, the burning of the farms, the liberation of these non-combatant farmers to find their families – wives & children – all dead of the fateful disease due to overcrowding of human beings, has left a feeling in these men’s minds which will take generations to blot out. British Rule they have thrived under, and they admit it, but British they are not, nor will they stir to help Britain. These are facts I gathered there & facts perhaps unknown to people in Australia, and

[Page 12]
certainly are facts which need to be ferreted out of the residents of the South African cities themselves. But there is a big population of British residents & Colonial Africanders who are loyal to the backbone, and who have been supplying the splendid troops who are fighting at present in German East Africa, and who, led by Botha, ran de Wet to earth & silenced the Huns in German West. I was speaking to wounded lad in the streets, and he told me he was shot in the shoulder in German East as they call it, and that his Brother was killed in German West, adding that tho’ he fought with the British Empire now, his Father was one of the Boer families who opposed the British in 1899 – 01. His name was van-Weye, and he said "Well why shouldn’t I, they gave us our own land back after we lost it in fair fight, and we now have our own men in our own parliament: and look here brother he added, although we can never forgive the British many things they did, and although we cannot help but smile and to an extent despise their method of waging war against us, we all know only too well that under British protection we are better off than fighting our way amongst the grasping nations of Europe.

So there you have the gist of the South African situation. We are all British in Australia, and we cant imagine anyone in the streets or other public place openly questioning British justice. But here one can raise an argument by raising his voice above a whisper. But remember what the loyal South Africans have done, and give the taint of the British short sightedness of British soldiering of the Boer campaign time to die down, and South Africa will emerge from her chrysalis a true red white & blue butterfly, as true to the Union Jack as we are ourselves.

Some rich colonial girls of Durban who gave lots of their time supplying the lads with dainties while on the ship on guard or other close duty, told us of one transport of Australians who behaved very badly here, and who did a great deal of harm to the prestige of the Anzac troops in general. But they broadmindedly looked at this, and in reply to some scoffing in the papers concerning the short sightedness of the residents being kind to the "drunken irresponsible sons of convicts from Australia" , the following poem was written. One of the boys

[Page 13]
was presented with a printed copy from Miss Ethel M. Campbell, who may have been the Authoress.

Dedicated to some of the " elite" of Durban after hearing their opinions of the Australians
"We are not cotton spinners all, but some love England & her honour yet"

We stand on the shore of Durban
And watch the transports go,
To England from Australia,
Hurrying to & fro,
Bearing the men of a nation -
Who are heroes to the core –
To stand or fall by the Motherland,
And they are sending thousands more.

We’ve watched the ships returning
With the cripple and the maim,
With limbs that trail and falter –
Theirs an immortal name!
The deathless name of "Anzac"
That thrills from pole to pole,
The remnants of the heroes
Of the long and glorious Roll.

And now in their tens of hundreds,
Come the men to fill their ranks,
And what can we do to show them
Our love, our pride, our thanks?
We cant do much (I own it),
But give them a passing cheer -
While the real elite beat a shocked retreat -
Why, they saw one drinking beer!

Oh, God, could we show these misers
The path that the Anzacs went!
Could they rest in their beds at night time?
Or live in their damned content?
Could they talk with a sneer of Australians
When one or two got drunk?
I’d rather a drunk Australian
Than a wealthy Durban funk!

He’s a better man than you are,
You dear teatotal saint!
You do not drink, you will not fight!
What wonderful restraint!
We stand on the shore of Durban,
For we’re not all made like you,
And the glorious name of "Anzac"
Thrills us thro’ and thro’!

But all we can do is cheer them,
And throw them a trifle on shore –
We are not millionaires (like some are),
Or perhaps we would try to do more.

[Page 14]
They’re coming in tens of thousands,
And here’s to their honour today –
Here’s to the Sister Dominion
Who is showing us the way!

by a South African.

"We cant do much (I own it)" well after what I have told you, you can see how modest that statement is. "And throw them a trifle from shore" . That reminds me - Two girls, evidently well to do girls, spent several hours each day throwing oranges to the men on board. The last day, when we were not given leave, they threw 4 large sacks of oranges to the lads on the main & boat decks! You can get some idea of what exertion this meant by glancing at a liner in Circular Quay & seeing how high the decks mentioned are, but they threw them single handed. The Adjutant presented them with a big box of Chocolates each as they went, and we all gave them three cheers. They waited for no compliments, but threw a kiss & were gone. My goodness, some women do their bit.

Well to sum Durban up – we were simply stunned, goldarned hypnotised far dinkum, by their open handed generosity.

We had a good trip from Durban to Cape town & arrived in that Port at about 3.30 or 4 on Wednesday 20th Sept. The welcome here was cooler perceptibly. Not that we looked for cheering crowds, but the whole attitude was different. I put this down to 3 things. Firstly, the troops at present here when we arrived had not behaved too well, secondly, the residents were not aware of our coming, thirdly, there is a rather more mixed Dutch population who no doubt remembers the behaviour during the Boer War, which is said to have on occasions painted Cape town red.

The table mountain with the two peaks each side is very beautiful, and the buildings in the best part of the city are better even than Durban, which has a Town Hall any city would be proud of. There are no Rickshaws, which are a picturesque adjunct to Durban, very striking to a stranger, and the niggers are of a distinctly poorer class. But Cape Town is pretty beyond doubt, and we must remember that, although we were unable to accept any hospitality, when the people heard of our arrival, they offered it to us. But critical as we all are, the A.18, [HMAT Wiltshire] loves all South Africa and hopes to be lucky enough to see it again.

[Page 15]
We left Cape Town Thursday 21st Sep, at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. It was windy & fairly rough gaining the open sea, but the following morning broke calm and dull. This calm lasted right on to the equator, and, in fact at the time of writing, Monday 2nd October, the sea is as smooth as Sydney harbour. To day is the first day we have had the sun since leaving the Cape, but my word the weather has been sultry in the Tropics. We expect to arrive at St. Vincent a port in the Cape Verde Islands off Sierra Leone in a couple of days.

On Saturday 30th Sep, we celebrated the arrival on board of Father Neptune, having crossed the line at 1 am that morning. This was beautifully managed and was screamingly funny. The Adjutant, Revs Stacey Waddy & Postle, two officers, Ship Sgt: Major & Ships QM. Sergt, and 2 men from each Battn. were nominated to receive sentence for some offence. The crimes were awfully good, but of course you would not understand them were I to give you a sample, for they have a local colouring. The sentences were pills, injections into the mouth, porridge in the hair & down the back, red ink on the shirt, and a ducking in the canvas bath. It was a delightful afternoon sport, and everyone took it well with the exception of a few, who got double doses for resisting "His Majesty Father Neptune’s official spotters" . Soap & water + quinine & mustard, was the mouth wash, while the pills were cayenne & soap.

We’ve had lots of concerts, some lantern lectures by Capt Waddy, and one very fine debate, but I think we are all glad that the dreary trip is drawing to a close. 11 days will see us in England! There is every chance of our being quarantined for we have 98 mumps cases.
It’s great to watch the glassy smooth water & see the shoals of flying fish a few inches only from beneath the surface. Suddenly they dart upwards, leap from the water, & volplane rapidly through the air, ricocheting from crest to crest of the small swells, till they have expended their energy & drop with a tiny splash in their watery home. It is so smooth that we can see the Portuguese-man-o’war with their bladder like float above the surface, drifting along fanned by ever so gentle a warm breeze, trailing their treacherous tentacles behind them. Even the porpoises are lazy, and at night the phosphorous floats by in large balls of light, instead

[Page 16]
of showers of glittering stars and flashes of sheet lightening like flares we all know at our boating picnics in Sydney. Laziness simply permeates all life and the spirit of the men in general. But this state of bliss will not last for long, and in a very short time now we will be in the final stages of our training for the big event. So, for a while – vade vale!

Today is Sunday again, and we hope, our last Sunday aboard. Last Wednesday, 4th October at about 2 am. we steamed into the harbour of St Vincent, in the Cape Verde Islands, West Coast of Africa. The harbour is a shallow bay but it has the appearance and advantages of a good harbour, for it is protected by a large island directly opposite the township. The Town is not large but like Cape Town, it is situated at the foot of a high hill and looks pretty & well laid out. I should say 30000 would cover native & European population easily. The niggers here are a fine athletic stamp, and are better than any I have seen at diving for money. You can imagine our surprise on arriving at a Portuguese port to find two British men-o-war lying at anchor there. But Britain is everywhere and leaves nothing to chance, and, since some of her transports were calling at this port, she was looking after them herself. Several Portuguese gun boats were lying in the bay too, and their work is patrolling the islands which are a small compact group. One of the boats was the "Highflyer" which, you will remember, was responsible earlier in the war for the running down of the German cruiser "Konigsberg" and for the sinking of the "Frederick der Grosse" - an armed merchantman.
We only stayed here about 6 hours for sunset saw us out of the harbour. An official who came on board was most enthusiastic about Australia’s part in the war, and stated that 3 months previously they had had 7 transports in at one time. They flew all the flags, and the little Portuguese mosquito fleet greeted them with a salute from the guns, while a launch played them in. He said he had never seen soldiers of the same physique anywhere, and, altogether, was most effusive in his praise. I take it this large body of troops was the 9th Brigade 9 Artillery Brig, 9th Field Amb. & other divisional units accessory. Really the Empire is a wonderful organisation, and its in out of the way places

[Page 17]
like this that you find the net closest woven and the bonds tied tightest. Tis here you find the spirit of Empire strongest, and the presence of these two British cruisers is just a quiet reminder of British thoroughness to our aspiring Portuguese allies. It has often struck me as wonderful that so many troops could be conveyed all these miles without a single boat meeting with mishap. What a wonderful thing this command of the sea is! but still more wonderful is our management of this command. Have whatever opinion you like of Kitchener’s army, but you can only have one opinion of our ever ready navy. It is complete, grand, superlatively superlative. And, voyaging round the world as we are, we pass from one point of strategic importance to another, from one point of continental prominence to another – and the above is the first port which is not British: Sydney Freemantle, Cocos, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Said, Malta Gibralta England; or – Sydney, Freemantle Durban, Cape Town, England. Think of this and you may well be impressed with the "decadence" of British diplomacy. Why it makes you laugh at these would be critics. The same man would now say that England has no longer the supremacy of the sea I suppose. When I think of our helplessness in this troopship, and yet our real safety – thanks to the boys in blue – I say as old Gossip says "Lets take our hats off to the Empire" . Vive l’esprit d’Empire!

To day is Wednesday 11th October, [1916] my birthday. Last birthday I spent in London on furlough & wonder how many more I will see. It is the next birthday I am interested in, after that, well, if I see that I’ll probably be good for a few more.
My birthday present was a fine little torpedo boat destroyer, which came from the misty unknown beyond "the purple rim" , and swept round our stern to take up her position off our starboard bow. She has already signalled her admiralty orders and has commenced her sinuous course a few hundred yards ahead. Here she will stay till we reach our port – unless it should be necessary to leave to deal with a tin-fish, as the lads term the submarines. I have a great affection for these mosquitos craft. They are the essence of gracefulness and easy poetic motion. Our small escort the H.M.S. Ariel 37, must be running at about 20 knots now, and was doing easily 25 when we picked her up.

Well we have come to the end of our voyage, for we are off the Cornish coast. It is 10.30 a.m. Thursday 12th October, and in a few hours we will

[Page 18]
disembark. The sea the whole way from Cape Town has been little different to the average trip to Watson’s Bay. The Bay of Biscay was as calm as Sydney Harbour. All around me as I write sit the lads waiting for lunch and then – disembarkation. A few fatigue parties are packing kit bags and blankets. The Quarter Master Sergeant has finished issuing our iron & biscuit rations, to last us for the coming 24 hours.
Just a few are making remarks which show that they possess just a few emotions relevant to this phase of our trip.

"Well, Bill there’s the old dart, the bit of dirt we’re going to scrap for; what yer opinion of it?" That’s the finest little little [sic] piece of dirt you’ll ever see my son" said a pommy. "You make me smile, dinkum you do you pommy rabbit. The best bit of dirt you left two months ago – way down south, and there ought to be laws for the stoppen of such as you getting there again. Chew that" .

But the majority are most concerned as to whether English beer will suit their palate, whether they will be able to wet their whistle, which they say, is clogged with Cape Town dust, or whether they will be paid & given leave. Well, you would expect the men to be interested in these things after two months on a troop ship. Its not all beer & skittles I can assure you. A great saying among the boys is this. Instead of saying "good morning" they say "What do you know Jack?" I heard the reply yesterday – "Not to b---- much or I would not be here" ! Still, that isn’t a real opinion its just a humour of the moment.

We are drawing nearer & nearer our destination. Its foggy in this great ocean roadway but we should soon draw up to Eddystone and then it isn’t long. The next time I add a few lines to this book will probably be in Salisbury plains Camp, but one never knows. Although we hate this old boat, the A18, she’s been a good home to us and we have had our little jokes althrough. So farewell Father Neptune you old traitor, with your German tin fish, once more we have beaten you. And farewell to H.M.A.T. Wiltshire, ye noble galleon who hath borne us all these miles and who hath once more evaded the glassy eye of the afore-mentioned tin fish. Ahead of us is Plymouth Hoe with the banshee of old Drake watching us coming nearer & nearer, from the famous green. But we don’t forget the living Jellicoe who has watched us all these 14 thousand miles. And so I close.

[Page 19]
At 4.30 Thursday afternoon, 12th Oct 1916 we disembarked at Plymouth and immediately entrained. At 6 pm we started for, where - ? We all guessed Salisbury Plain: but wrongly. We were all gay at the thought of leaving the sea with its unpleasantries and pitfalls, but only wished it was light enough to see the pretty country we were passing through. Each car contains a notice though, to the effect that all blinds must be drawn as a precaution against the wily Zeps, so that we could not see anything at all. On reaching Exeter we were allowed to alight and found the Lady Mayoress there in person, distributing buns & buttered scones with cups of warm tea. We gave a good three cheers before we left: I can tell you it was very welcome. I believe she does this to all passing troop trains. Its her "bit" , and a good "bit" too.

We seemed to be wandering round in circles, and at 2.30 in the morning of the 13th Oct, we arrived at a small station called Wool, in Dorsetshire. Here we disembarked, and the long column, with full packs and 24 hours rations, streamed out along a pretty country road, towards our camp. My word it was cold, and how tired we were after being cramped up on the boat for so long. About an hour and a half afterwards we arrived at a level place amid a maze of long huts. So here we were. After the issue of blankets we turned in, at 4.30 am. Next morning we paraded & straightened things out. It was a new camp for Australians, the Wilts, Dorsets, Hants, and several other Tommy regiments having been turned out to make room for us.

During the day the boys took full advantage of the wet canteen, to get the South African dust out of their whistles – as they said. Oh, they were so happy that evening.
The huts are of a better style than Liverpool, N.S.Wales. They are lined with boards, and each contains a good sized stove and a long table. The

[Page 20]
issue of coal is 6 lbs per man twice a week, 4 of which goes to the cook house towards the preparation of his warm food. This is just about sufficient to keep the stove going from 4 in the afternoon till midnight – a real comfort. The sleeping is better than the Australian camps too. Three boards, about the width of a bed put together, rest on two tressles. A tick – straw mattress – and four blankets per man. You need it all tho’ and it must be barely sufficient in the coldest weather.

Little work was done for the first 3 days. On the second day a batch of 1500 wounded, but convalescent Anzacs, came into the camp. They were 3 months light duty men, all from Posieres and other parts of the Somme. We gave them a great reception as they entered. Everyone swarmed round them to inquire after friends. It was very heart stirring to see some of our old boys, who were returned to Australia from Gallipoli, greeting their old pals who again did their bit in France & met their fate. A real good fellowship exists between these old campaigners which will last for life. Its great to see.
There quite a few of the old "light blue over dark blue", the 13th Battalion, and I proceeded to ward them concerning Alan. I had on my arrival written to him, thinking that he may have been wounded during the time I was crossing the briny, and I determined to find him if in hospital in England. Two boys told me they thought he was killed in France, but a third said they were thinking of a Cpl. Fryer, whose number was peculiarly 1340, the same as Alan’s and who left the 13th Btn, to join the 45 Btn, when the troops were in Egypt. You can bet how I waited for the reply from headquarters. I cannot remember being more figety and out of sorts in my life. I simply couldn’t go near the boys again for fear that they would tell me they knew for certain that the poor chap was dead. These boys don’t waste words they have seen too much and suffered the loss of too many good

[Page 21]
friends before. And so I’m waiting. We spend our time between a little drill, wandering about amongst the pretty Dorset villages, and chatting with the great lads from the Somme. The weather tho’ is treacherous, and unpleasantly cold, and we often get caught in showers, miles from home.

Yesterday four of us went to a village known as Bere Regis. It was an eye opener to us. The fields for most of the 4 miles along the charming lane, were laid out like chess boards, divided into squares & rectangles by briar hedges, and interspersed with grassy meadows & clumps of elms & oaks. The road was hedged on each side, the briars & sickle nearly forming a canopy overhead. It was exquisite. Pretty dainty Dorset I shall remember you all my life. We crossed a little bridge, under which ran a pure crystal clear stream, with waving water grass and small darting minnows, and turned into the main street of the village.

There was a smithy’s shop with a fine old anvil and a roof which was exquisitely in need of repair. Several heavy wagons waited outside, their poles and harness on the road, their masters and dear old horses inside the shop, doing their slow old business. Great slow old horses just as human as their quaint old peasant masters. These old chaps were actually in smocked coats and heavy old clog-like boots, just a picture I have often seen on canvas, but never hoped to see in reality. The great beasts seemed to understand perfectly the dialect of the men, which I must admit, was more than I could do. Judging by their surprise we were the first Australians that they had seen.

The village contained 50 or 60 small houses which lined this road & a cross street. There were two small inns, The Squires Alms, and a refreshment room for cyclists. All so charmingly out of date. The ale in the inns was delicious too. No wonder the yokels live to such an age amid these peaceful surroundings

[Page 22]
The houses were wretched examples of architecture. Some jutted into the street further than others, and some were actually inclined and in a perilous predicament. They had low windows of small panes of bubbly glass, and nearly all had fresh pot-plants, and white lace curtains. The village girls darted out of sight like rabbits when they saw us, but we noticed that when returning along the same road, the windows each held a row of inquisitive female faces from baby upwards. No wonder "Fritz" wont face us, why, our own countrymen find something to be afraid of in us. I think we must have had our slouch hats at a rakish angle that day. P’raps we were a little inquisitive too! Who knows.

By some tactical approaches and strategical moves we managed to approach a hoard of small kiddies which surrounded a small girl of 12 years of age, wheeling a pram. We smiled our best, gave a small cheerful little kid a penny & asked the small nursemaid her name. "Ay, mine name be Elsie Henson" she said, and we nearly cried laughing at the tone and accent. One little boys name was Harry, and a shy kiddy about Billy’s age, who hid his face in his big sisters dress, was Will. But a coy little kid about 6, with the genuine "flaxen curls" said "And my name is be Alice Henson, and she aint no boss of oi." Well, Clayton screamed, and the kid in the pram yelled, & the small shy boy’s lips quivered, and two small girls cleared, so, having thoroughly scared the Henson family, 8 in all, we sneaked away. But goodness, how funny it was. The father of this small tribe is at the front. Good old England.

We went through old Bere Regis church, which is pretty well the oldest edifice of worship I’ve seen. It goes back to the reign of John I believe. It was very interesting, and some of the plates were real family trees, traceable through generations. On the way home we saw the women in the fields, digging, gleaning & ploughing. Dorset has given well to the army.
In the window facing the road, of each house from which a man

[Page 23]
has enlisted, is found a large yellow card, which attracted our attention. It read – This house has sent a man to fight for king and country. Isn’t this truly English?

Well, we spent a number of such afternoons and days. Moreton near-by, is a charming spot, the holding of Squire Frampton. The church chapel, a small but exquisite one, dates to Charles I. The evidence of this familie’s open heartedness towards the peasant population, is everywhere apparent. They must be a fine old family. It appears that the Squire of the district owns all the land & dwellings, which are only rented to the rustics. From this rent and a toll system on the roads, he derives his income. A true relic of the feudal System of the old Saxons.

Wool, Poole, Wareham & Dorchester we visited. But these are more or less modernised by the Railway. Dorchester is charming, and well worth a more lengthy visit than a single Sunday afternoon. There is a large German concentration camp here, and a charming stream wends its way through the town. The White hart Inn, has a large statue of a white deer in front of it, quite an acquisition to an inn front. It stands back from the road, with a cobbled platz in front, and I could just picture Mr Pickwick taking the foaming tankard from the inn maid, while the old legginged groom wiped down the foaming horses. Its funny how you picture things, and how certain places appeal to you almost as tho’ they were known to you from old acquaintance. I’m always getting impressions thus. How wrong they are I have not the fortune to know. So I don’t grieve, I just like to associate them with some abstract impression stowed away in my cerebellum, derived from some scanty reading.

On October 16th I got a dreadful shock from a telegram sent from Bhurtpore Headquarters, stating that dear old Alan "Died of wounds at 21st S. Mid., Casualty Clearing Station, Warloy France, on 14th August". So the 13th boys were right. No doubt it was just

[Page 24]
their way. They must have read my face when they told me by word of mouth, and just left it at that. Oh, how hopeless I feel. I’ve always looked forward more than anything else to seeing him over here. Fourteenth of August, why before I left Australia. If you could only know how much I looked forward to meeting the 13th Battalion "Somewhere in France" , and seeking him out. When I learnt of the heavy fighting that the Anzacs had been engaged in, on my arrival in England, I thought that he would have indeed been lucky to have escaped without a wound, but the other never dawned on me. One great comfort comes to me over here on my own, and that is, as a soldier, I cannot but recognise my dear brother died a death deserving of the greatest of honor and respect from those of us still above the sod.

But I dare not look in the retrospect of those happy times together, Its just too awful. There is just a big blank in front of me. You know, we all look forward to the great homecoming, made a great exhaltation by the feeling of participating in the greatest and most glorious of martial victories, and to the meeting of our relations in our happy homes, who, separated from us, have each toiled towards the great end. This I have looked forward to as probably the greatest moment of my life. But its all blotted out, and I feel as if I am robbed of a just reward. I feel like a criminal serving a long and tedious sentence, and as if I will wend my way home shamefaced and by back roads. Dear old Alan, how he played the game, only to go the way of the glorious, when the Anzacs had done their second glorious feat, captured Posieres village, in the shocking fighting which followed. He was lucky to be picked up by the AMC, and taken to the Casualty Clearing Station, where he will have had a decent burial, in a grave marked by a pioneer’s rough cross.

But this is not the place to mourn a brother, words are inadequate. I just think of him and realise I’m too late. What a pathos, a rending, tearing, unforgiving sin, to be too late. A soldier should never be too late, and yet I have arrived here too late!

[Page 25]
An Anzac toast runs:-
We have toasted our King – God bless him,
We’ve toasted our Nurses too,
Our Khaki boys in the trenches,
Our navy boys in blue.
But there’s one more toast to be honoured,
So in silence your glasses take
And drink,
To the dear dead boys of Anzac
Who died for their countries sake.

I don’t know the author; it may be a popular song, but its Anzac to the core. The sympathy of these rough lads all around me is as honey to the weary bee, you have to shake hands in silence and with a heavy heart, to appreciate it. They are superlatively grand, - real men.
Well Alan, you’ve forfeited your reward, the great victorious homecoming, but all our lives we wont forget your broken pillar. I just cant write any more.

After being turned out on four days furlough, one of which was taken up with being paid and travelling to the "great smoke" , we received notice to move camp to our training battalion at Perham Down, on the Salisbury Plain. So, on the 30th October, we said good bye to pretty Dorset and Bovington Camp Wool. At 8 pm, on the same day we arrived at our destination. We were welcomed to the Sergeant’s mess and spent the evening with some old pals. I met Charlie Somerville & Leo Howard, and lots of boys I have heard off, including a 3rd Battn V.C., Sgt. Hamilton.

We have commenced hard training. Reveille goes at 6 am, when it is quite dark. Breakfast is at 7, there being no early morning parade, and first parade at 8. The hours are 8 – 12.30, 1.30 – 5. These are long hours for hard work. It is dark when we get up, and dark when we return to our huts. The food is scanty but good. Perham Down is now all huts, for the Canadian forces suffered 600 deaths there last winter, when under canvas, due to pneumonia and meningitis. There is lots of guard & fatigue work too, making the hours longer. But its soldiering now, and our next move will be France.

[Page 26]
We have all been reduced to the ranks, that is, all NCOs who brought the reinforcements over - Oct Nov.9th. They will not recognise any Australian schools of instruction over here, which is very remarkable when you consider the large cost of sending us to schools in Australia. My candid opinion too, judging by the N.C.O’s. drilling us now, is that the Schools of Instruction in Australia are very good and as up to date as could be expected. Of course minute details differ somewhat, and men with active service experience must be credited with a lot, but to totally discredit Australian Schools in which are many instructors returned from Flanders and Gallipoli, is nothing short of ridiculous. This being so I have determined to try and get into the next draught leaving for France, where promotion is permanent.

12th Nov. 1916
I am in the draught for France as a private, and expect to move soon. There are 10 men in all. One, J. Brown, left Sydney with me on the Orsova on the 14th July 1915. He was shot in the mouth in Gallipoli & returned to Australia. Now we leave together again. Rather a coincidence. Our training is strenuous. Musketry, - mostly rapid loading & firing, bayonet fighting – rushing trenches, stabbing & using butts, and gas helmet drill. These are the most important and advanced parts of Infantry Training. But its dreadfully cold, and the rifle chisels junks of skin from your knuckles and hands. Our feet get like blocks of ice standing at musketry practice, and the rifle is so cold we can hardly do anything with it. It rains nearly every day, and we are often wet through. But they give us no latitude.

Reveille went at 4 am. on 16th Nov. Thursday. We were to move off, bound for France. The 3rd Btn detail was only 10 men, the total for the brigade a small batch of 54 in all. My, it was cold. A few old pals got up to see us off. We had a warm breakfast and then marched to the Battalion

[Page 27]
Orderly Room. The Major said a few words about the honor of the glorious first Brigade, and the band played us to Tidworth Railway station, a cold march of two miles. At 6.30, just as dawn was breaking we boarded the troop train, bound for Folkstone. A tiresome journey brought us to Folkstone, where we marched a few yards to a row of big hotels, turned over as military billets. Many Australians greeted us from the verandahs. We stayed an hour or so only, then all marched to the steamer.

At 2.40 pm 16th Nov. 1916, we left England. There were two steamers, one with Tommies and one with Anzacs. We simply flew across the channel. It was wonderful the speed we went. We had 3 torpedo boats, and a sub went out an hour before us, and we picked her up half way across. An aeroplane circled above us. We passed a continuous stream of small boats, torpedo boats & hospital ships. It was dreadfully cold on board, made colder by the fact that we had to wear life-belts under our overcoats. At 4.10 pm we arrived at Boulogne in France, a trip of 1 hour 40 minutes. A small voyage but one of the spicey little bits of a soldiers life. There was what we considered an unnecessary delay in disembarking, and it was 6 pm. before we marched up the cobbled streets of the old city to the Rest Camp, on a big windy, cold & cheerless hill to the south north of the town.

Eventually we got our blankets and turned in. The morning of the 17th broke cold, dull and cheerless. The water was frozen in the taps. It was bitterly cold. I could not do my pockets up after washing in luke warm water. At 9 am. we handed in our blankets and marched down to the railway station. The French people must have seen hundreds of thousands of overseas troops pass through Boulogne, but they were very warm towards us. The women, and there are mostly women in the french towns now,

[Page 28]
flocked out and said all kinds of things we could not understand. The kiddies were funny too. Lots of small girls & boys stood at the salute quite solemnly, while the column passed. The soldiers were dressed in quite an art shade of grey, with bluish putties. The N.C.O’s and Officers are more adorned. The roads are cobbled and marching very tiring. My feet tingle & throb after a few miles of it. Of course we travel with all we own on our backs, and 24 hours rations in our haversacks. Boulogne has not impressed us. The architecture is very poor class indeed, and things seem dirty and now at all sanitary. But we did not see the best part of the city.

At midday on the 17th we entrained for Etaples, a coastal town about 25 miles north of Boulogne. The travelling was slow and uncomfortable. The 3rd class here is obviously only meant for peasant passengers. The seats are uncovered wood, and the floors steel. Oh! how cold our feet got. This is not a particularly interesting trip. We were struck tho’, with the number of British soldiers seen all the way, busily engaged with transport duty. England must have an enormous army here now. We passed a large foundry works and saw all the women working the trucks and slag heaps. They are very merry & bright. Their dress is rather unique. They have dungaree black or brown large baggy trousers, and a large apron.

France is in this war heart and soul all right, and we are surprised at the enthusiasm and cheerfulness of the people after two years of it. But this cheerfulness must not be misread. It spells determination, and in the village of Etaples these same women may be seen on Sundays, going solemnly to mass, dressed in black. France has paid dearly with her men. About 2 hours brought us to the station.

[Page 29]
The camp of Etaples is a very large one, about 2 miles in length. It is the final training camp for the Empire troops. Several large British and Canadian hospitals are here. A large grave yard, each grave marked by a plain wooden cross, tells its tale. There must be thousands of men and officers lie here. There are hundreds and thousands of Scots, here, all the Jocks in creation. Most wear kilts too, and what’s more, look as if they like it too. Gee, I wouldn’t wear a kilt for five minutes in the middle of the day.

Nov. 26th Sunday.
Yesterday, after 8 days of the "bull-ring" we were pronounced "fit" . Sounds like a kind of Christmas fattening process doesn’t it. "Fit" ! it has a nasty sound, too much like "fit for slaughter" . But in reality it is pretty much that. Anyway, after a lot of hard work and tiresome waiting, we are now full-fledged soldiers. There’s some satisfaction in knowing one is now regarded as a fully qualified private, after being recommended for a commission 8 months ago, & after being a Sergeant for 7 months.

The training was constant and hard. Reveille goes at 5.30, but we don’t rise till 6. This means we have to be careful not to burn all our candle the night before, for it is quite dark then. At 8 am we parade and march 3 miles to the drill ground or Bull-ring, as it is called. The roads are mostly this wretched uneven cobble, and as our boots have iron studs and steel horseshoes on the heels, its just about all we want. It is always full kit, "full marching order" , to be military. The "torreodores" , ie. instructors, then take us in small squads, thro’ bayonet fighting, bombing, gas drill, extended order work, attack & defense, musketry, outpost and trench work. We are made to walk through a trench

[Page 30]
yesterday in which a tear gas shell had been exploded, just to get us used to the smell & sensation. It is essential that a sentry should not give a gas alarm when it is only a tear shell, so they teach us the difference with the real goods. The trench was a windy one, about 20 yards long, and 7 feet deep, so that we could not just close our eyes and run through it. My word it irritates your eyes awfully. The tears come in buckets full, and you are certainly useless, when amongst it. It stings badly and makes you cough. I thought I just couldn’t stand it, it was quite demoralising, and felt as if I would have to leap out of the trench. Of course this is what Fritz wants. You are greeted with a rattle from the machine guns.

I had to keep opening my eyes to see my way, and each time I did it, the stinging pain was just as much as you could stand. But I got through alright, and there are no after effects at all. I’ll bet I know tear gas wherever I meet it. We were also marched through an asphyxiating gas chamber, filled with the poisonous Chlorine & Phosgene. This is mainly to test & give confidence in your gas helmet, which of course was worn, and very carefully adjusted. One sniff of this awful stuff is sufficient to knock you out, and 2 would kill you. So now we are "fit" . This means we go up to the line in the course of the next few days. Our issue will be supplemented by a box respirator, leather jacket & woollen gloves, and a shrapnel helmet. Then for it.

I have spent several evenings down in the town of Etaples, and one evening at Paris-plage, a seaside resort near by. Our leave is only from 4 pm. till 8 pm. so we cant go far. Etaples is a funny jumbled up old place, nothing modern about it at all. The streets are cobbled & narrow. I can see now, how much

[Page 31]
influence the French have had on the architecture of Egypt. There is a great deal of resemblance between some of the narrow streets of this town and the French parts of Alexandria Said & Suez. Of course this only applies to the modern parts, not to anything truly Arabic or old Egyptian, but still to buildings and streets which at present form large sectors of those cities.

There is nothing to do in these places. There are a fair number of Froggie "Soldats" about, some wounded and these make friends quickly with the Tommies Scotties & Anzacs. The Cafes are not bad spots, and provide mighty good & cheap bread & butter, chips and fish, and of course, wine and beer. The Australians and New Zealanders get a good hearing everywhere, but its awfully funny to hear them trying to make themselves understood. The waitresses are in screams the whole time. I was with Denning the other day & he asked the girl to "promenade the jam" , as he did not know how to ask her to bring it. No jam came, but when we were going, she gave him a parcel with a tin of jam in it, thinking that he wanted to promenade with the jam, or take the jam on the promenade. Gee, we laughed at Denning. He was only trying to be flash with his French we told him, but being strawberry he bought it, and we have since had it in camp – with a little bread underneath it, to stop it dropping on to our fingers!

About all the boys can say is Non Comprene or Compre! Oui! Vins or Beer – essentials like that. But another factor helps us very much. As you know, the lads brought over a lot of Arabic phrases with them from Egypt. Well the kiddies who hawk newspapers, chewing gum & chocolates about the camp. have picked this up wonderfully, and we are always able to make ourselves understood with a mixture of

[Page 32]
French Arabic & English. We are always greeted with "Sieda Australia, mafish faloose? (Good day Australia, money finished?) They understand exactly what we mean by imshee! and the like. There’s no doubt that everywhere the Anzacs have been they will be remembered. London is just the same. This wretched Arabic + French + dinkum Australian, was the lingo there.

Its funny to see the Peasant women going out after pine needles and fire wood every day, with great mats like carpenters bags, over their shoulders. All the kiddies go to work at a very young age here, and they are all hard seeds too. Man seems to take a very back seat in this town. From what I can see he is the second boss of the house, and is told when & where he can have his beer, and cant imitate a machine gun when he’s talking nearly so well as his wife. Of course it isn’t fair to compare these places from impressions gathered at wartime. Being a sea side town, the streets are in total darkness at night, and, as we only get out at dusk, we cant claim to see anything but the inside life of the place. But they could do with a shaking up.

Paris-plage is about four miles down the coast from Etaples-s-mer. It is one of the watering places of France, and is a noted gay spot. Just at present it is as dead as the Marmelukes tombs of Cairo. But, here too, it is due to the war. There are no lights in the streets at all, just what may escape from a few shop windows. The beach is rather good, and no doubt in the summer time, its some spot. There are some splendid eating houses here, and altogether it looks a bit more like modern civilisation than does the other town.

Well, its 3 pm, and the Scotties are gathering for a game of soccer, so, as I’m dead cold, I think I’ll just wander down & watch. I like these Scots. Theres some go in Jock.

[Page 33]
We went for a route march through Etaples and Paris-Plage to day, and saw something of each place. The former is quite a small town, and of no interest, but Paris-Plage has much to recommend it. There are numbers of fine private residences, country homes & sea-side houses of the French aristocracy. There is a charming park, with Golf-links and pretty walks through the pine forests, which show up now, since all the other trees are quite bare. There are several "Hospital militaire Complementaire" (Nos 35 & 43) which are crowded with French & Tommy wounded. As we had a band with us, our approach was heralded, & the walking cases all flocked out & watched us move past. There’s not much demonstration on the part of the soldiers from the line, it all comes from civilian population. The returned soldiers just think, when they see men safe & sound on their feet, either how lucky they are, or feel a kind of pity that they too have to go thro’ what they themselves have endured.

On Nov. 29th we left Etaples at 3.30 in the afternoon. There was a 1st Brigade draught of 50 odd men, only 13 men for the 3rd Battalion. The train was dreadfully slow, we often shunted off the line to allow traffic to pass, munitions, guns, & hospital trains, causing a delay of half an hour or so. In one case we remained for 3 hours on a side line. We were very crowded in 3rd class cars, and often got out & walked or trotted beside the train to warm our feet and stretch our limbs. On several occasions the french women, girls & kiddies, ran down to the line & sold us coffee & bread, at fabulous prices too. That will serve to show you how fast the train moved. Everywhere along the line was evidence of whole heartedness with which France is in this war. All foundries were going strong with girls working like men. The women were in the fields. Old men were on guard at crossings & other places, leaving all men of young age for the firing line. Hun prisoners are working everywhere with a scanty guard with fixed bayonets standing amongst them. But Fritz knows when he’s well off, & doesn’t worry. They look at us going up to the line, with an

[Page 34]
expression which plainly says – "Who’s the mug now?" They get 1/- per diem for their work to, whereas, as soldiers, they earn but one penny three farthings a day.

Well eventually we arrived at a place called Vignacourt. Its all bustle & mud here. The 1st Division Headquarters of A.I.F. is here too, at present, & the men are billeted round about. The train pulled up and we were disentrained at 12.30 am on 30th Nov., just 20 hours to come about 80 or 90 miles! The guns can plainly be heard here, at this back door of the Somme. At 4 pm we set off to Flesselles, a distance of 4 ˝ miles, where our Battalion was supposed to be billeted. It was a dreary & hard march after the train ride, but at about 5.30 or 6 we reached it. The Battalion was not here, it had moved off a day before. We were crowded into a tumble down, rat infested, flee crawling, & icy cold old barn, and without blankets, turned in. We were hauled out at 3 am & marched back to Vignacourt. Here, in the dark we froze till day break.

There were many men here, the whole of the 2nd & 4th Battalions & some field Ambulances, all waiting to move off. When dawn broke, or, it sounds more like it to say when it "dawned" , for it just kind of comes gradually, a cold steel colour instead of inky black, we found the fields white with frost and ice. The ground was frozen hard as a brick, and all pools & horse-shoe grooves filled with ice. My feet were like ice blocks, the leather hard as a board, and legs numb to the knee. I had a wander round amongst the boys, and met a number I knew, including Clive Edmonds, who has been "in" three or four times in France, at Ypres, Armentierres, 2nd Posieres, and lower Somme, and is still going strong.

Here we remained till midday, setting off then for a place named Buere about 15 miles away. At 4 pm we got there, & marched to the Battalion Billets. We slept the night in tents. At 9 next morning 2nd Dec., I was put in D. Company, which was camped up near the line, about 6 miles away, doing road work & fatigues. We reached here, and were detailed to the rough huts the men are sleeping in. So, at last, I have joined my Battalion.

[Page 35]
6th Dec. 1916. Just a year to the day since I landed back on the "Karoola" in Sydney. [From his previous service in the Australian Army Medical Corps] Well, it was a beautiful day on the 4th and no less than 17 of the huge observing balloons were up. These stretch away to Combles front on our right, and along the British line to our left – the Somme upper. Fricourt lies just behind us a couple of miles with Albert in our left rear about the same distance. Baupaume, [Bapaume] on which we are concentrating our interests as present, lies about 7 miles straight in Front of us. Our camp is right beside Mametz Woods with the South African’s nightmare – Delville Wood – (called Devil Woods by them), to our right front.

The fourth, being a fine sunny day, brought the aircraft out like a flock of migrating birds. There are so many that they are quite uncountable. Hundreds and hundreds of planes are up at once. Every now & then a Taube, thinking it saw an opening to get above one of our observation balloons, would dart out over our lines. A rapid churning of propellers, a congregating of our machines – all spitting fire, & a few reports from the anti-aircraft guns, and Fritz either sacrifices himself to get his objective, or thinks better and beats a hasty retreat. Sometimes he is too quick, and, getting above the stationary helpless balloon, drops an incendiary bomb. But sometimes too, our anti-aircraft guns quickly get their aim; first a puff of smoke many feet below; second shot a short distance underneath the Fritz machine, & then, one which bursts right amongst his vitals, & like a wounded duck, he comes crashing to earth.

Periodically the balloons descend. A few minutes elapse, & they rise again. Then, just a few rounds from the artillery to test the range, which, once found, leads to trouble for Fritz’s lines of communication. So, as I said before, the fourth being fine & sunny, the aircraft had the time of their lives – and incidentally, our heavy gun batteries opposite Baupaume, got their range. They were pretty quiet till evening.

[Page 36]
Then, right along the front for as far as we can see on either side of us, the howitzers and 9.2 naval guns lit the sky during the whole night with their incessant pounding. There were half a doz. or a dozen explosions per second of these gigantic guns. We have since heard that Baupaume, as a town, is no more, and the Huns and their carefully prepared lines of communication, are blown to pieces. For this little piece of work, Fritz gave us nothing in return. I can imagine the morning paper – General Douglas Haig Reports "All quiet on the Western Front. There was an artillery demonstration opposite Baupaume on the Somme Front" . That’s all. Yes, but Fritz had a bad night’s rest. Our huts shook like rickety barns in a storm, & things fell off shelves.

This morning, a dozen or so naval guns have come back down the line. They are drawn by railway engines, which have to pull them back into position each time after they fire, so great is the recoil. All over the hills round about us are the second lines taken during the Somme push, about last August. These trenches are a revelation. We can safely say, although they are now in France, that they were "Made in Germany" . All dugouts are lined & supported with timber, all sawn & packed, ready to be fitted, from far behind the line.

The underground hospitals are very large. They are warm & cosy, and some contain hundreds of beds. Many are lit with electric light, & all have stoves. The highest explosive shells rarely reach them. In one hospital, right opposite us, a shaft of wooden steps leads down nearly one hundred feet. But the air is foul and a candle will not burn. A notice proclaims it dangerous air. In the bottom is a ward. A strong torch shows several German nurses & doctors lying about, dead & frozen. After taking the timber, on which the Tommy Engineers are working now, it is to be blown up, and this tragedy of the Great War will be hidden in the cold heart of mother earth, a secret

[Page 37]
to lie unrevealed for ever. But this is only one. There are these artificial chasms all over these hills, entrances hidden & broken by shell fire, which imprison secrets of more than sentimental significance. There are a special bodies of reliable men who look for them.

The ground round about here is turned, almost every foot of it, by successive shell fire. The fighting has be stern & hard and costly. How ever we dislodged Fritz from these field fortifications I do not know. They were built by him with the full intention of occupying them "for the duration & three months afterwards" . I often wonder, as the Hun prisoners come back down the railway line – built since we occupied their lines – and see our almost perfect lines of communication running through the fine trenches they a few months back thought impregnable, what they think. They can see the steady line of Anzac transport, & the ceasless line of Tommy transport, moving like two silent centipedes, towards their new lines. He knows we now have mastered our shortcomings, and have munitions in plenty. The majority express their ample satisfaction to work for 1/- per day behind the British lines.

Dec 16th 1916. Having been put on "light duty" due to a bad cough and sore feet, three of us were sent out from "Kaffir Camp" on a light job of picketing some timber.
This timber is stacked in piles, and is all taken from old captured German dugouts. We now use it for the same purpose, but several camps of Artillery boys, in good Australian style, have been commandeering it for fire wood, resulting in our being sent out to picquet it. We have a splendid ex-hun dugout to live in, and are very comfortable indeed. A stairway leads underground 30 feet into a nice little room with 2 bunks and a nice brazier. We were very comfortable.

A trip to the Camp every day at 4 P.M. to draw rations, gave us a chance to visit an

[Page 38]
English canteen at Fricourt "Circus" . The trenches about this region, about ˝ mile from Mametz Wood, in the region where the great push started on 1st July 1916 are a revelation in trench warfare. Both the British and German trenches are nearly perfect, but for comfort of troops, the hun has first place. Mining operations in this region were on a very large scale. Three craters, destroying several hundred yards of the German front line, are each about 75 yds across, and fully 45 feet deep. The loss of life resulting from these terrific demolitions remains forever marked by some large graves, like huge flower beds. At the head of each is a large cross on which is written the names of all the bodies which were identifiable.

This particular locality, near Becordel, will be a great "souvenir" hunting ground for tourists. The relics of this great offensive lie in thousands & thousands, all kinds of missiles and devilish contrivances of modern warfare. There are the Mills grenades, rifle grenades, R.L. grenades, cricket-ball bombs, Mexican grenades, plum-puddings, aerial torpedoes or "flying pigs" , every description of shell, helmets equipment, and in fact, all the portable adjuncts of an Army on the offensive.
What a time the tourists will have! I can see enthusiasts carrying 9.2’s away with them, and getting their family crest put on them and standing one each end of the mantle-piece.

This very locality saw the heaviest fighting of the war to-date, and with the exception of perhaps the Battle of the Marne, Loos, and some phases of the Crown Princes death drives at Verdun, will never be surpassed. We Australians always cite Pozieres, and rightly too, but Pozieres was just a terrific bombardment followed by a grand assault and several days sustained resistance against the German counter attacks. The fortnights fighting

[Page 39]
which commenced the Somme offensive, and which resulted in the Huns being driven from 3 superb lines of defense, between Becordel to Mametz Wood – Contal-Maison, Fricourt etc., was undoubtedly a more costly and more important event. To look over it now leaves us "stunned" . It is too huge to grasp. Even the individual man present throughout the fortnight could not comprehend the gigantic scale of all branches of these operations. It was a masterpiece of organisation at Headquarters, and a triumph over our previous shortage of munitions.

Well after returning to Kaffir camp at Fricourt, we got word to prepare to move up to the line, within the course of the next few days. So, after all shortages of equipment had been issued we moved off on 21st Dec. We only proceeded a short distance to a camp called Melbourne Camp. This camp we left at midday 22nd Dec. and had a dreary march of 6 miles, along a treacherous muddy road, to Montaban [Montauban] Camp, near the remains of the village of that name. We put the night in in low, damp dugouts, and my word it was miserably cold.

At 5 PM on the 22nd Dec. we set out for the line. The mud was quite inconceivable. Each side of the narrow "duck-boards" – along which the Battalion proceeded in single file, was a sea of mud only broken by the many shell holes & network of old trenches. At 9PM after a tiring march in the cold, with shells falling round us, and our own guns deafening roar continuously in our ears, we reached a veritable warren of dugouts and underground tunnels, which were serving as Battalion Headquarters. This is situated about 300 yards to the right of Flers village – or what remains of that unfortunate place. We were packed in underground tunnels, where we sat all night, with our knees warming our ears. Few were lucky enough to

[Page 40]
be able to stretch out, and, as the tunnel was only about 3’ 6" wide, we had little comfort and no sleep. But we were 20 feet under the ground, and had the satisfaction of knowing that we were beyond the reach of Fritz’s shrapnel and heavy stuff. Some of the boys were detailed to carry food to the front line, a distance of about 2 thousand yard, and so had very little rest after a tiring few days.

This trip to the line was a nightmare to us all. I was detailed for various duties and so, for a while escaped it. But one night at 11 P.M. my name was called amongst 15 others, to fall out at 2 in the morning on food fatigue to the line. I was working all day, on aerial observation and dugout fatigue – Fritz had got in a lucky one on several of our exposed dugouts – and was feeling tired before we started. At 2 am we fell out. It was raining and bitterly cold. We waded along the sunken road to Flers, and gingerly picked our way amongst the ruins of that village to a protected cellar where our cookers were. Here we found 8 food containers, 4 tea, & 4 stew. These are huge thermos flasks about 2 feet by 15 inches and oval in section. Two straps fit over our shoulders and under the armpits, making a good load for a mule, let alone weary men. We work with mates, two to a container.

This was quite the most despairing trip to the line I have so far experienced. Not 100 yards from the cookhouse, I fell backwards into a shell hole and was pulled out drenched to the skin. Further on I sunk to my thighs in some most tenatious mud, and my mate had to divest me of the container to extricate me – minus one puttee. He took a spell, and I picked the path and helped him out of muddy places. The whole way we walked in 6" to 2 feet of watery mud, winding our way along the rims of the shell holes, which are here as thick as the dents in a rasp. After an hour and one half we arrived at a sunken road – close supports.

[Page 41]
Here we had to shelter from rather accurate & prolonged bombardment from the German light artillery. He had the range of this road to a nicety. From here onward, a distance of about 700 yards, it was very slow going. The men, thoroughly exhausted, slipped & fell and got bogged every few paces. We halted every few yards as each star shell lit the sky. The rattle of the machine guns as these flares went up, showed us that Fritz was keeping a good look out.

At last, when we were all ready to give it best, we heard the welcome call; Halt! who goes there? Our NCO answered, "Friend, ration party" "Hoo b— ray, give us a dixie of tea, we are d— near dead" . And so we put our loads down and quietly fed the lads in this trench. We talked in whispers, just filling their dixies with steaming tea & stew. They were standing in a foot of water, or sitting on the muddy fire step. They do 2 days & nights of this; then they return to Battalion Head quarters and carry food containers up to another lot, who do the same as they did, just stand in a ditch and watch their front – rifle in hand and bayonet fixed – this new lot being ourselves.

Just in this sector we were not manning a continuous line of trenches, but had groups of men on strong outpost positions, in various points of vantage. So again we set off, this time with a guide, and fed all the drenched bundles of humanity, who groaned at the aching pains which shoot through their joints, as they rise to receive their warm food. Then we set back. The line of weary men gradually lengthened, and we halted here & there as the word came forward to the NCO in lead, "Party disconnected" . A few minutes wait, then from the rear comes "All correct" and we plod on again. Sheer will power drives us on. My boot was more than once left firmly held by the mud, and filled by water as I dragged my leg forward – minus the boot. A short halt while this is adjusted. There is no

[Page 42]
such thing as a man running to catch up, and as each accident like that occurs, the little column halts. Men left for a few seconds standing by themselves in this country, have been known to break down, give up, and die if exposure. So we all wait for the "all correct" before we move on.

At last, just as day is breaking, at 7 am we arrive back at Flers. Containers are returned to the cooks, & we move independently back to Head quarters. Here the sergeant issues a tot of rum, and we stumble along the tunnel, amid the groans & howls of the crowded lads siting huddled in this lethargic atmosphere & snatching a few winks of shuteye, before they themselves move of on a like errand. Thus, a trip of about 4 miles takes us nearly 8 hours. Eight hours of the most strenuous and nerve racking duty a man can be called on to do. It calls for determination which leads one nearly to despair. No one dare give up, dare for one second doubt his power to stay. Give it best for a moment, and your will power is broken, and despair will lead you to hysteria, and then, death from exposure. Mud from the top of our heads to the bottom of our boots, drenched to the very skin, your thoughts must be alone for the men perishing in the front line, and for the inevitable fate that awaits you should you for one moment acknowledge defeat.

I have written this at some length. Not that it can ever die from my memory, but I doubt if any part of the winter campaign could call for more sheer dogged plodding than this work. No songs are sung & no poetry written about fatigue parties. Three times I was on this fatigue, and each occasion will remain imprinted in my memory for ever.

On Christmas Eve it became D. Coy’s turn in the line. Just after dark we all filed out, and, in single file, set out for the line of outposts we had cause to know so well.

[Page 43]
Six of us and an NCO were detailed to No 7 post. This was probably the worst post of the lot. It was well forward in no-man’s land, and was simply a bay in an uninhabitable trench, in very low country. This trench is known as Bayonet trench, and is directly opposite the remains of Gueduecourt, where the 1st Aust. Div. had done some very fine work on a previous occasion. This was evidenced by the number of dead around. One rather swollen Fritz used to trip every new patroll which approached us from our rear. It’s a nasty thing to stumble over, human remains at night. The trip "in" this time was one of the worst – to me at any rate. Incessant drizzling rain had made the mud worst than ever, if that were possible. At any rate it was more tenatious lower under the watery surface.

We were well laden too. A steel helmet, two gas respirators, equipment & 200 rounds of ammunition, two bombs, water proof sheet & blanket, overcoat, and 48 hours rations. I just about got there. I will never forget the state of my overcoat. It must have weighed 50 lbs. The mud hung in great slabs all over it. They are undoubtedly useless in this type of country. We posted 2 sentries at a time, the remainder sitting on the fire step and doing a freeze. And it was cold. Our feet simply went numb. We received our instructions, what patrols were out, where the danger lay, who was on our right and left, the pass word, and so on, and scarcely had the relieved men moved off, when a bombardment began.

Just what excited the Huns I don’t know, but we had half an hour of "hate" in Fritze’s very best style. Heavy stuff and shrapnel fell all round us. The mud and small fragments of shell, called " Blighties" fell in showers. Now and again a ping on a steel helmet reminded us of the value of these hats. The noise was deafening, and the smell of the shell gas stifling. It was a nice Christmas greeting, a true piece of "hate" . We sat tight and

[Page 44]
kept our heads down. I got a whack on the back from about a pound of dirt, and thought a shell had got me. However, for some reason, none chose to fall amongst our small group, and after about half an hour it died down. We all felt relieved, and kept a sharp look out, but Fritz did not follow up. On reporting "all correct" to the 2nd Battalion on our right later on, we learnt that they had suffered some casualties. There were some nasty wounds and a few deaths, but the outpost occupied by the 3rd Btn, were very lucky. At 11 pm the food containers arrived. and we recognised what a godsend this warm food was to the men in the front line. The poor beggars carrying it were just about done, as I had been before. At 12 PM. an Officers patrol visited us, and gave us a nip of rum. This is an absolute necessity in these conditions, that I am certain of.

Just before daybreak we moved off to a trench about 100 yards away where we expected to find some dugouts, and where we were to spend the day. The trench was a running stream of water, and the reputed "dugouts" merely funk-holes in the sides, with measurements about 4’ x 4’ x 4’. We laid our waterproof sheets down and wrapped our blankets round us, took our boots off, and turned in. But there was little sleep to be had. The cramped position made every joint ache. Just at day break the containers arrived again, and with them an AMC man to see that everyone rubbed his feet with whale-oil. Two men were removed with trench feet. The oil is supposed to be a great help in preventing it. Anyway, the massage & rubbing does a lot of good.

When it became light, I lay for several hours watching some stretcher bearers remove the wounded from the 2nd Btn trenches. There’s no doubt the bearers a [are] plucky men. One pair two [took] an hour and a half to go about 3 hundred yards. It sounds incredible, but it is a fact. They sank each step above the knees in the dreadful mud. Be it said to

[Page 45]
Fritzes credit, he did not fire on them. They must have been plainly in view. Now and again during the day he shelled us. However, the trench was a narrow one, and no one was hit. During the afternoon it rained, and I noticed, where some earth had fallen from the trench wall, a fine pair of "gum boots’ sticking out. I got out my entrenching tool and tried to dig them out, meaning to wash and wear them. They were frozen hard, and, on removing the earth beside them, I tried to pull them out. To my horror I found that they covered a dead man’s feet. Poor beggar was buried on the parapet. At dusk I found that the shell fire had uncovered lots more. However, in this cold weather it is not unsanitary.

We spent 3 days and nights this way. Towards the end we would gladly have welcomed a "Blighty" . On Christmas Day I received a parcel from Mr Lidgett from London. and very welcome it was. We were issued with about an ounce of plum pudding each. We did not even get an extra rum issue. So, when my delayed Xmas mail arrived, days later, and I read the same phrase – Merry Xmas – you cant wonder at me having a smile. It was rubbing it in right enough.

After another two days back at Head quarters, doing various fatigues, we came in again for another two days and nights. This time we were on No 2 post on the sunken road – an old road leading from Flers to Baupaume, I believe. It has however, been churned by shell fire into a absolute quagmire, feet deep in flowing mud. This road is known to the Germans, and they have the range exactly, which is not to be wondered at since they occupied it once themselves. Consequently we suffered some casualties. One day Company H.Q. was blown in with 3 beautiful shots from the heaviest armour piercing shells. It was a spacious ex-Hun dugout 20 feet beneath the surface. Capt Tyson escaped hatless & with

[Page 46]
his boots under his arm, but another Lieutenant was not so fortunate. He was buried with several beams across his legs. His head & shoulders were free, & he coolly gave directions to the single man who alone was able to creep in and dig him out. This took 4 hours. He did not go unconscious till he reached the dressing station, after apologising all the way there to the stretcher bearers, for being unable to walk. Some men have hearts like horses.

One night a little snow fell, and a frost set in towards morning. The cold was nigh unbearable. It was too muddy to mark time and warm our feet. On trying to get down to the dugout at daybreak, I fell half a doz times, and crawled half the distance. My limbs were quite numb and refused to answer to my desires. Gracious, we Australians were not meant for this winter campaign.

On Sunday 31st Dec. 1916 we came out to reserve, about ˝ mile behind Battn. H.Q, near Flers. It seemed more like my birthday than Mothers. Here we were packed in small dugouts, 4 to a dugout, and did light fatigues. It was a rest, but a tiring one. It gave us a chance to have a look round tho’ and to examine some of the famous "Tanks" which met disaster near Flers. These must indeed have been formidable things, with their machine guns and 9 pounders.
The village of Flers too, was interesting. The houses are reduced to brick & debris heaps, and the streets barred by fallen timber & buildings amid a string of shell hole. It is the picture of desolation. All the timber, which once was green, ornamental woods, is now leafless, limbless, shattered poles, more forbidding than tombstones. The village cemetery is in ruins. Shell fire has churned the ground like a ploughed field. It was round here that the New Zealanders fought so bravely, and hundreds of graves remain to mark the stubbornness of the fighting. Flers however, is a beautiful city compared to the condition of Pozieres.

On Sunday 8th Jan 1917 we

[Page 47]
left the line, after 16 days "in" . We marched to Bendigo Camp, about 5 or 6 miles, & here put the night in. Next day we marched to the train near by, and proceeded to a village some miles back called Ribemont. He [here] we turned in to billets. It was like heaven to us. We were paid, and the village shops, kept by French women, did a roaring trade. Porridge & other wholesome & filling foods the boys bought in plenty, and cooked in all kinds of improvised stoves. The sick parade however, was very large and minor ailments of all kinds showed how the hardships of the line had found the weak spots. Perhaps bad feet and diarrhoea were the most prevalent. But in a marvellously short time we had the dirt off and were again looking as tho’ we were really capable of giving Fritz trouble.

For three days we did practically nothing. After that, a programme of drill, parade ground drill was arranged, and we settled down. The afternoons were spent in the football field, at which our Battalion proved champion of the Brigade, both in the Officers & Men’s match. The billets were of the roughest kind. How different to all I had imagined . We simply occupied the unused barns & outhouses of the villagers. We rarely saw the owners.

But the real comfort was to be among the Estaminets, Boulangeries, and shops again, and to be able to supplement our army rations. We were taken too, to the divisional baths at Healy, a village not far away, and here had a much needed warm bath and change of underclothes. But oh! a few nights in those billets and we were as "chatty" as ever. The rats too are simply the cheekiest things I have met among the rodent tribe. They walk on your chest while asleep, and eat your rations unless you hang them from the roof. But they are not so bad as in the dugouts & trenches where the live in hoardes.

[Page 48]
We only had a week of billets. On Sat 14th Jan. we marched about 6 miles to a camp near Baizeaux village. The camp was one of tents, and we felt it was an unfair thing to put us here after so short a stay amid the comforts of a village, and so soon after our return from the line. The training began again, on the same lines, and heartily sick we grew of it too. On the following Tuesday snow fell, and a "freeze" set in. Drill went on as usual. Everything was white and glarey, and all waterholes daily showed a thicker coating of ice. Then the weather settled to a normal temperature, and winter was properly upon us. The snow had come to stay, and there was no water, all was ice.

I discovered that we were camped but a short distance from the village of Warloy, and made the opportunity to visit it. In the large adjunct to the civilian portion of the pretty village cemetery, I found dear old Alan’s grave. It is in a plot along with six other soldiers who died on the same day, 14th August 1916. It is marked by a simple pioneers wooden cross, on to which are tacked several stamped tin labels, bearing name, rank, unit and date of death. But my thoughts will not bear writing in this diary. This is not the place for such reflections, and so I will not dwell on them. The memory of my two visits to the spot so sacred to us all, is not one that cannot easily be conjured by anyone who has lost a very dear friend, and who has stood, as I did, so near – and yet so far, and asked as Mark Antony did, a pardon of that bleeding piece of earth.

It was not long before we were again talking of rumours concerning another visit to the line. We hated the idea of moving up amongst the too familiar scenes of war-ravaged country,

[Page 49]
for, of course, Ribemont, Healey, Baizeaux, Warloy and the surrounding villages have always been without the range of shell fire. However, on Tuesday 23rd Jan, we had a dreary march through Warloy & Albert to Becourt camp, a distance of about ten miles, in a direct line to the front. Albert is a large town, and has suffered considerably from shellfire, although it was never occupied by the Germans. On the Cathedral tower is a huge statue of the virgin Mary, with the infant Christ held above her head, which has made the town famous. It has suffered a direct hit from a shell and has been deflected to an angle of about 120 degrees to the perpendicular. In this precarious position it remains visible for miles & miles from the surrounding country, and apparently defies the laws of gravitation. The French say, that when it finally breaks away the war will end, but somehow I think it would be better to allow the war to take its natural course.

Becourt is near Fricourt, of which I have written previously, and is just in front of the German front line of July 1st 1916, when the great Somme offensive began. Like Fricourt, Contal Maison, Becordel, Montaban and lots of other villages, as such it remains no longer. Not two unbroken bricks mark the site of the previous hamlet. The name seems a fallacy. We have to take the word of those here before us, that a village did ever exist. Their destruction is pathetically complete.

At 9am on Friday 26th Jan, 3 days later we were again on the move and marched some five miles to Bazentin-le-petit camp. The following day, in battle order, we moved from Bazentin to Reserves, a series of dugouts at a place of the name of Hexham Road, about

[Page 50]
a mile from the front line, on the left of Flers.

Pg. 7. Dene Fry refers to the essay " 'A Now', Descriptive of a Hot Day" by Leigh Hunt
Pg. 13. Ethel M. Campbell was born in Glasgow and raised in South Africa. She was well known for her enthusiastic support for Australian and New Zealand troops during the war and became a respected poet and author.
Pg. 16. HMS Highflyer sank the German cruiser Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse on 26 Aug. 1914]

[Transcribed by Peter Mayo for the State Library of New South Wales]