Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

William Keith Gillies diary, 22 March 1916-30 September 1917

[Transcriber's note
Sgt William Gillies is an engineer on duty in France in various war fronts on the Somme River. He details the construction of engineering aspects of the front including bridge building, construction of trench ladders, bunks, dugouts, pontoons etc. The diary covers the time from March 1916 at Engineers School in Sydney to September 1917 at Polygon Wood.]

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Sgt. William Keith Gillies
Lawry Av.


Active Service Abroad with the Field Engrs.
15th 2nd Coy A.I.F.
Rgt. No. 7073

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This book is private property. It contains personal matter only ti is not intended for the curiosity of others.
Should it by chance be lost or mislayed, I would deem it a great favour if the finder would endeavour to return it to me, or see that it is safely delivered to my people in Sydney.
W.K. Gillies

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Australia 22nd March 1916.
I started my final leave to day. I have seven days & return to camp at Moore Park on Wednesday 29th & sail, probably by the "Nestor" on Saturday 1st April.
Eight other members of the school (Engr. Officers School) are leaving with me & we expect to sail straight for Egypt.
1st April (Saturday)
We left by the Tp. Ship. "Makarini" at about 2 PM to-day. She is a fine ship & we have about 1000 troops aboard Inf-.A.M.C- A.S.C. & Engrs (160) With Lt. Nangle, Sgts Hart, Smith, & myself are in charge of the three Engr. Reinf. of 1st-2nd-3rd.

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April 1916
2nd April- We are traveling South & have passed Wilson’s Prom. So far the weather has been splendid & we have had a very plesant time.
3rd We have passed Melbourne & the weather is beginning to get bad.
4th We are now in the Australian Bight & the weather is very rough & a heavy sea is running. Many of the chaps are sick & the parades have been cancelled.
5th The weather is getting worse & heavy showers of rain are falling at intervals

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April 1916
6th The Engrs are doing the fatigue and guard of the ship to-day & I am Sgt. of the guard. The weather is clearing up considerably but the wind is very cold.
We are now 150+ miles off land & don’t expect to see land before Colombo.
8th We sighted land unexpectedly this morning & passed the "White Top Rocks" at about 1 PM and Cape Lewin about 7.30 PM. The sight of land came as a surprise to most on board as it was rumoured yesterday that we would keep too far out to see it. A steamer passed us on the Starboard side about 8.30 P.M.

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April 1916
Indian Ocean
9th Church Parade was held aboard at about 11 a.m. & a few words were spoken by the C.O. about landing at Colombo where we expect to arrive on Wednesday week. The sea is getting very calm & we are experiencing good weather.
10th The weather is beautiful now & the ship is hardly rolling. We are well in the Indian Ocean now & travelling N.N.W.
12th A big concert was held aboard to-night & it proved a great success

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April 1916
17th April We crossed the "line" about 2 P.M to-day. We are still having beautiful weather, but a few heavy showers have fallen during the last two days.
We passed a ship about 10 A.M. which seemed to be taking a peculiar course, first travelling N.W. & then suddenly changed due North & passing about two miles astearn.
19th We sighted land early this morning & arrived at Colombo about 9 a.m. & anchored in the bay. We all expected to have our leave ashore but to our dissappointment we were taken ashore, half at a time and

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April 1916
19 continued marched through the city, & after visiting the barracks, returned to the ship by 6 P.M. after 6 hours ashore
20th The other half were allowed ashore this morning for a few hours. The ‘Star of Victoria" which left on the 2nd of April arrived here this morning about 9.30 am & moored dropped anchor astearn of us. The "Asterley" which was in port when we arrived left early this morning with mails for Sydney Australia. We were expected to leave at 1 P.M. but did not clear the port until about 4.P.M. As we got outside the pilot steamer raced after us with about 20 men who were nearly lost their passage. About 20 more (all infantry) were left behind & treated as deserters.

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April 1916
Red Sea
25th We are on a westerly course, and are now passing the Island of Socotra, having first sighted it on our port side about 4.P.M. (The general trade route passes south of the island but we passed north.)
26th We passed Cape Gadafui at about 5 A.M. but could not see it, & also passed a steamer very close going east.
28th We passed Aden at about 1.PM to-day & through the straights into the Red Sea at about 8 P.M.
1st May
We sighted land on both sides of us at about 11.30 a.m. this morning after passing a very interesting coastline on our starboard side

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May 1916
1st Suez was sighted about 7.45 PM & we arrived in Port Ismail (adjoining Pt. Suez) at 8.15 PM & anchored in the bay.
2nd We expected to go ashore today but received orders during the day that we are to dissembark to-morrow & dry rations have been issued.
3rd The ship drew alongside at 7.30 A.M. and the first train load (of troops) left the ship at about 9 A.M. & entrained, but the train did not move off until 11 AM., with the 1st 3rd & Sigs. of the Engrs. in charge of Lt. Nangle. I entrained with my reinforcement at 11.30 A.M. & moved off at 12.30 PM en route for Tel-el-Kibir, where we arrived

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May 1916
3rd (continued) at 4 PM. & proceeded to Camp. The "Royal George" with Indian troops, which arrived yesterday, proceeded through the Canal this morning & the "Star of Victoria" arrived in port at about 9 a.m.
I may state here that I was not sorry to leave the ship, although we have had a wonderful voyage & like most of the troops, have enjoyed it well. The weather here is moderately cool & the last two nights have been very cool, different to what we have had the other part of the voyage.
7th This is Sunday & we are still at Tel-el-Kibir. The weather is very dry & hot during the day & cold at night. The camp is a very large one & we have about 800

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May 1916
(continued) Engrs here. Church parade was held this morning on the edge of the desert for Engrs at which, the reinforcements by the "Star of Vic.," which arrived in camp yesterday, attended. During the afternoon I walked out into the desert & visited the old battle-field of Tel-el-Kibir, where Kitchener was, 30 years ago. It was a very interesting sight but the bones skeletons & the old relics of the battle presented a rather gastly spectacle.
(see next page 13th )
{19th promoted "Temporary" Sergeant}
27th- We left Tel-el-Kibir tonight in open trucks at about 11 P.M. for Alexandria. The order to leave came suddenly although we have been expecting to leave any day for the past week.

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May 1916.
Nothing exciting has happened but I have had a good look around & visited Cairo on Saturday 13th & saw the Pyramids & Sphinx.
The water at Tel-el-Kibir is not of the best although there is plenty of it & if drunk in excess will cause dysentry. At Tel-el-Kibir 35,000 troops (Aust & Eng. & N.Z.) were camped most of which were Australians who will leave with us tonight or tomorrow. At Serapium, on the canal 17,000 (Aust & Eng.) are camped in readiness for an attack. A few scrapes with the Turks have been had there lately & it is only about 25 miles from where we were. On the 19th inst. I was appointed on the staff temporily & will continue to draw extra full duty pay. About the 10th, about 14 of the officers from the School arrived here & take up duties here.

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May 1916
28th We arrived in Alexandria about 6 A.M. this morning & emp embarked on the "Breton" (one of the Union Castle liners) The "Migantic" & the "Corcican" take the other part of the troops (2000 are with us) & we are all bound for England. The other two left the wharf & anchored in stream about 4 P.M. & we followed half an hour later. I had a short look round Alexandria this morning & spent about two hours there.
29th The "Corcican" & "Migantic" left about 10 AM with two Cruisers. & We left about 11.30 A.M. & the "Migantic" about an hour later. All men & officers have to wear lifebelts about with them & piquets are posted all round the ship on the lookout for submarines.

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May 1916
Meditteranean Sea
31st We have passed numerous ships to-day & yesterday, some with convoys, both British & French. We have no convoy yet but have passed four or five warships since we left. At night all lights are shaded & none are to be seen outside at all. We passed Malta about 10 P.M. on our Starboard side about 5 miles away.
1st June. We passed Cape Spartivento (Sardinia) about 5 P.M. & are on a N.N.W. course, but still zig-zagging about as we have been doing since we left Alexandria. Later at night we changed our course to W.S.W.

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June 1916
4th We sighted Gibraltar at 7.0 A.M. & arrived in the port about 8 A.M. where we stayed until about 2.30 PM & proceeded through the Straight No cargo was put on board and none taken off except two large propellor blades from Alex’dr.
v 7th We passed Cape Uchant about 2 PM after picking up 2 destroyers "57" & "70" which are now escorting us. Eddystone Lighthouse was sighted about 10 PM. (about an hour later than the reflection of Landsend Light was seen.) The destroyers left us after we passed Eddystone & we picked up the Exam. Steamer.
^6th We received a wireless message to-day reporting the death of Lord Kitchener. It stated that

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June 1916
he & his staff had been drowned while on their way to Russia & also a message reporting the naval battle in the North Sea but the details are as yet unknown.
8th We arrived in port Plymouth about 12.30 A.M. & anchored in the stream. Everybody was up early & all preparations made for disembarking. At about 11 AM we left the "Briton" by the "Sir Walter Raleigh" & landed at the wharf near the railway about 11.15 AM after witnessing some very interesting shooting by the land battery of Plymouth.
The train left about 12 noon & we proceeded N.E. towards Salisbury Plains. After travelling through the most beautiful country I have ever

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June 1916.
seen we arrived at Exeter, where we were welcomed by the Mayoress of the town who served out tea & buns to all the soldiers , & proceeded to our destination at Lidworth, arriving there about 9.30 P.M. An hour later we arrived at our camp at Park House & settled down for the night, & as it was not dark until about 11 P.M. we were not in any way handicapped.
17th Pritchard and I have been granted "week end" leave & we left by the 12.30 PM train for London arriving there at 2.30 P.M. The scenery all along the routh route was most beautiful & after leaving the train we proceeded to the "Strand Palace Hotel" & made arangements for the night. The afternoon was

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June 1916 continued
spent, visiting some of the places of interest & although we did not go beyond a mile & a half from the Strand we spent an enjoyable time & visited the Criterion Theatre ("A Little Bit of Fluff") in the evening.
We got "bushed" when we came out & it took us the best part of an hour to find our way back to the Hotel although it was only a very short distance. London at night is not very interesting as all the light are heavily shaded & the streets are crowded with people. Taxi cabs are flying about everywhere & the buzz & hum of the city never seems to stop. After listening to the orchestra at the Hotel for a while we went to bed about 11 12.30. (P.S. "Andy" Fisher visited the Australian troops before we left camp & gave us a hearty welcome.)

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June 1916
18th Sunday to-day & a "real Sunday" too. We did not get up until after 1 P.M., due no-doubt, to the beds we slept in, which were beautifully comfortable after hard boards on Salisbury Plain. We lost no time in getting out when we discovered the time & after dinner we "buzzed" around the town & saw most of the interesting features of London. including Westminster Abby where we spent about ¾ of an hour. We were shown all over the Abby by had a guide who explained everything to us. Most of the more valuable curios have been removed for safety & a great number of the old ornamentations & toombs are covered with sandbags.

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June 1916
After having a most interesting & enjoyable time we proceeded to Waterloo station & returned to camp arriving there about 1 AM.
20th We left Salisbury Plains at 12.30 P.M. to day after an enjoyable although short stay & arrived at Christchurch, a few miles from the seaside resort of Bournemouth & about N.W. of the Isle of Wight. This place is the Royal Engrs Training Depot & we are to stay here, together with the N.Z. Engrs. for some time
There are only about 400 of us & about 100 N.Zealanders here, all other details having remained at Salisbury. A tributory of the Avon flows through the town & we have excelent opportunities for our training.

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June 1916
25th Sunday- First Sunday at Christchurch. Church Parade was held & I went to the Priory- an old church of great notoriety. It was built first by the Normans in the 11th century & added to during the preceding centuries, & is of great interest. It is situated on the banks of the river & has on its left the ruins of an old castle, destroyed hundreds of years ago
6th, 9th, 10th 12th see further on

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9th to. 2nd Aug. Acting Company S.M. (in place of Pasfield) of 1st Divnl. Training Coy.
Two new drafts from Australia came into camp during that time, one being the 1st Reinf. of the 11th Field Coy (3rd. Divn) which are at present on Salisbury Plain.
July 12th
Schools were formed & the Engrs. were divided into four School parties for instruction in Field Engineering & Musketry under the supervision of the R.Es.

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August 1916
6th (Sunday) First draft of Australian Engineers left for France with Thompson & conducting officer.
10th Left for London on weekend leave & returned on the 12th at midnight.
13th Left Christchurch for the Engineering School of Instruction at Esher, a small town about 15 miles out of London. We were billeted in Wolsey Rd with Mrs Capel & settled down comfortably. CS.M Stevens & Sgt Hutton were with me & we had a very enjoyable time

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Aug. 1916.
Four other Australians from the 3rd Divn Engrs, who arrived in England a few weeks ago, were in the school & two N.Z. Engrs. from Christchurch.
16th September. 1916.
Sat for final Exam of the school & finished up about 12 noon. We stayed at Esher that night & left for Christchurch about 10 AM on the 17th.
The school was a very interesting one & there was plenty of work to be done The last week I was there Capt Courtman, the chief instructor, offered me a commission in the R.Es.

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September 1916 continued
(Regular force) but after consideration I decided to remain with the Australians
2nd September.
We were woke up about midnight in time to see the reflection of the Zeplin which was brought down in flames at Cufley by Lieut Robinson who later received the V.C. We had been to London nearly every week end while we were at the school, but unfortunately missed this one
Left for London on week end leave & returned on the 26th.

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24th. Two Zeplins were brought down near London by anti-aircraft guns & I saw the first of the two fall in flames.
The reports returned from the Esher school & I was informed that I came out top of the school.
27th. Left for another leave in London & returned on the 1st October.
1st October. 1916
Another Zeplin was brought down near London by gun fire.

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October 1916
4th Left for leave in London & returned on the 6th at Midday.
This was my final leave before proceeding to France.
6th. We were supposed to leave for France to night but it was postponed.
Since I have been in England I have had an interesting & most enjoyable time & I like the country very much. I have met some very nice people & have been treated very well. I found London a very interesting city (& also found that it is the place to spend money.) I have seen most

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October 1916
of the places of interest there including the following:- Westminster Abby, St Pauls, Parliament Houses, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Madam Truswords wax works, British Museum, Zoo, & Woolwich Arsnel.
While in London I stayed at the Strand Palace, National, Cecil, Bedford, & Russel Hotels & found them all very comfortable. & have travelled on nearly every tube railway, which is the most handiest & quickest means of traveling through the city, & also went through the Blackwall Tunnel by buss

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October 1916
which goes under the Thames.
Bournemouth which is only a few miles from Christchurch is where most of our boys spent their spare time. The place is one of the high class seaside resorts of England, & is swarming with girls & very nice ones too. I have had a glorious time there & am sorry to leave it. (I have left my kit with Mrs Onslow of "Teneriffe"- Spring Rd- Bournemouth, as it is likely to be lost if put in the army store.)

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October 1916
7th Saturday- I left Christchurch with the draft of about 76 strong by the 8.45 PM train & changed at Woking, about 18 miles south of London.
We had to wait 3 hours on the station & entrained at 3.30 AM on the 8th for Folkstone.
8th. Arrived in Folkstone on the coast of England a few miles from Dover at 6AM & embarked on the fast channel steamer "Queen" which left under escort at 9.30 AM for France. We arrived at Boulougne about 11 am & disembarked. We had a very rough trip & most of

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October 1916
the boys were seasick. We had about 900 troops aboard including a lot of Highlanders & officers returning from leave in "Blighty."
At Boulougne we had to march about two miles to the rest camp which was near a very big wireless station, the biggest I have ever seen, & remained there for the night.
9th We left Boulougne by train for Etaples where the Australian General Base Depot is situated, & arrived in camp about 1 PM after

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October 1916.
a fairly long march from the railway station, & soon settled down.
10th We went for a route march of about 7 miles through the country & I enjoyed the scenery very much. We passed through two small villages & through beautiful cultivated lands & returned in time for tea. The Sergeants Mess here is very comfortable & is the best I have been in since leaving Sydney. It is a mixed mess & includes Engrs., Artillery A.S.C., & A.M.C.. We went to the pictures after tea & had a very enjoyable time.

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October 1916.
12th We went for a route march of about 5 miles in the morning & in the afternoon I took a party of 48 men to the "Bull Ring" which is about 3 miles from the camp & we went through the gas tests.
There were two gasses, Chlorine, which is used by the Germans & British Allies & Tear Gas. With the Chlorine we had our gas helmets on, but with the tear gas we had nothing. It is not poisonous but smats the eyes very much It is used by the Germans for purpose of blinding

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October 1916
our troops & we are issued with goggles for protection against it.
We passed the German prisoners hospital on our way & also a few prisoners being marched into camp.
13th We had another long route march to-day from the camp, (which was changed last night to a new camp about 500 yards away) to Paris Plarge which is on the sea shore about 3 ½ miles from Etaples, & which is connected to Etaples by train. I took a party to the Bull Ring at 6 P.M. & returned at 11.30 PM.

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October 1916
14th (Reverted) Went with a party out to the R E yards near the Bull Ring. & returned & noon. Smith & I went into Paris Plage in the afternoon & returned about 9.P.M.
15th Sunday- Church parades were held for the various denominations in the huts this morning.
16th A vote was taken from all soldiers this morning for the Referendum "Are you in favour of conscription in Australia or not" At dinnertime we were notified that it would be

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October 1916
postponed until the 19th (inst)
Passed musketry test on "Sandhill Range" this afternoon.
17th Murray Smith left with a draft for the line early this morning & is probably going to 2nd Division- I had a look around Etaples to-night. It is a very dirty little place & crowded with people.
18th The majority of the Engr. Signallers left for England early this morning & I sent a parcel containing a German pipe which I got from a prisoner by one of them to post home for me. Hudson & I finished the survey and layout of the camp which we started on the 17th yesterday.

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October 1916
18th Continued. A band Concert was held in the mess hut to-night & proved a great success.
19th Heavy rain has fallen since last night. I had to go out to the Kangaroo Rifle range this morning with reference number 104 to go through another musketry test. Kangaroo Range is about 4 miles from here & on the other side of the Bull Ring
21st The weather has been very cold to day & yesterday with thick frosts in the morning. I have had a very bad cold for the last two or three days & am not feeling up to the mark

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October 1916
22nd I volunteered for the draft which will probably be leaving in a day or so.
23rd Warned that the draft will leave in the morning & I have drawn all equipment from the Q.M. Store. A draft of 20 is leaving for the Engrs & also drafts for the Artillery A.M.C & A.S.C. We were issued with 120 rounds of ammunition each, & rations & slept in the mess hut for the night, ready to move off in the morning
24th We left camp at 6.30 AM & proceeded to the station at Etaples. We entrained in a

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October 1916
cattle train trucks & left at about 8.40 AM- destination unknown. We passed through numerous villages, & at about 1 PM first heard the firing of the guns.
At 4.30 we arrived at Albert and detrained.
Albert, which was once a large & picturesque city is now a mass of ruins. The noted cathederal with the "Vergin & the Child" now overhanging the street is like the rest of the city, in ruins.
Only 8 of us came on to Albert, the others went to the 4th Divn, which is at Armentiers We walked through the town & out to Fricourt Wood about 5 Km. out.

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October 1916.
The roads are covered with mud & in places over six inches deep. At Fricourt the 5th Division headquarters are stationed & we stayed there for the night Light rain was falling & we slept in an old German dugout.
This place a little while ago was the scene of a large battle & everything is now in ruins.
25th After receiving orders from Headquarters we proceeded to the Company which is about 4 Km further at Montauban & arrived there about 1 P.M. I, with two others were taken on

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October 1916
on the strength of the 15th Field Coy (5th Division Engrs) as Sappers, & settled down. I have "dropped" my stripes on joining the company according to A.I.F. Orders, & will now be paid as a Sapper.
26th The Company is quartered in rough built huts of tarpaulins about 5 miles behind the front line We are surrounded by batteries & all last night the guns were firing over at Fritz. At about 8 o’clock last night Fritz sent over about a dozen shells which landed a few hundred yds

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October 1916
away, but only four of them exploded, & he sent over a few more early this morning, looking for our heavy batteries. I found Pritchard this morning. (He is in No 1 Section & Sam in No 4.) This morning after breakfast he & I went out together to Delville Wood, which is about 2 miles behind the front line. We passed through the once village of Longueval, which is now nothing but a heap of broken bricks & not even the trace of a wall left standing.
Some of our batteries are stationed near it. We found some fine curios in the "Wood."

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October 1916
which is now razed to the ground & covered with shell holes, & dead bodies are lying about everywhere. This place was in German hands about 10 days ago & signs of fighting are still fresh. While we were cutting up a German Machine Gun Belt one of Fritz’s shells came across & landed about 30 yds from us, followed closely by two more. We were showered with a heap of mud & after the third one, thought it time to "git."
Coming back we passed a great number of batteries who were barking furiously at Fritz, & we arrived home in time for dinner.

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October 1916
27th I have been riding around in one of the pontoon wagons all day. We went to Miminetz Wood R.C. yard & took a lot of material out to Longueval "dump." Although it has been raining contin continuously, we have been bombarding Fritz very heavily all day, but very few of his shells have come over our way.
28th I had an easy morning & this afternoon I rode in to Fricourt to the Post Office & Headquarters. Light rain has been falling during the day & the ground is terribly muddy.

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October 1916
29th (Sunday) It is still raining. Fritz sent over a few more shells into "Death Valley" about 200 yds from us last night but did practically no damage. (He has been trying to get at our Railhead where the ammunition "Dump" is.) I went out to the Mametz Dump on a wagon this morning & out to the Longueval "dump" this afternoon. Fritz was shelling it while I was there but did no serious damage.
We have been giving him a hard peppering this afternoon with our artillery & I saw about 200 rounds fired in 3 minutes from one of our batteries near here. I passed about 200 prisoners on the road this morning.

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October 1916.
30th. I have been on water picquet all day to-day. Water is very scarce here as it has to be carted for miles & consequently is guarded. It has been raining very hard all day & a strong wind has been blowing.
31st Pritchard & myself went out to High Wood this morning. High Wood a few weeks ago was the scene of a very severe battle & many hundreds of lives were lost in its capture. The German lines can be seen from there & he is continually bombarding the place. A lot of shrapnell burst near us but we escaped unharmed. I found a few relics there, including

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October 1916
a German bayonet which I intend making into a daggar, as being too big to carry around as it is. Three "tanks" are lying in the Wood, unfit for further service, two of them being destroyed by fire. There were two "females & one male," the difference being that the "male" has two six pounder guns as well as machine guns. We had a hail storm early this afternoon & the wind has dropped considerably. 31 observation baloons were up during the afternoon & at one time I counted 82 aeroplanes.
Our artillery has been giving Fritz a very hot time of it to-night, & the 6" gun near us has been "barking" unceasingly. Fritz has sent over very few shells to-night which is rather unusual.

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November 1916
1st The weather has cleared up considerably to-day. This morning I went with the Major to look for a new site for a camp.
This afternoon one of Fritz’s aeroplanes came over our lines a considerable distance but at a great height. Our anti-aircraft guns peppered her & scored a hit, but she planed down & landed in her own lines. Fritz has been shelling during the night but did practically no damage. has been done
2nd I have been surveying the new position for a camp for 6 Battalions near Longueval all day.

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November 1916
3rd. I have been down in the trenches all day on reconoisance work with Lieut Oliver. We were in the vicinity of the support trenches but were handicapped greatly by the mud. Fritz’s artillery was very severe there, but his rifle fire is a mere detail as the artillery of both sides is doing most. Our own artillery was pouring the shells into his lines all day long & our aeroplanes dropped numerous bombs. The mud in the trenches is the worst thing to contend with & it is with difficulty that the men can move about.
Things have been fairly quiet on both sides during the day, but I believe we gave Fritz a bad time yesterday.

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November 1916
4th Heavy rain has been falling all day & we had some light hail this afternoon. We have been carting trench ladders out to Longueville "dump" all day & to-night we had to take them down to a dump about a hundred yds. in rear of the support reserve trenches in sledges drawn by two horses.
5th The rain has cleared & at about 9 a.m. the artillery started a heavy barrage on the German trenches. About 10 a.m. there was a general advance. We do not know the full details yet but it is rumoured that we have taken four lines of trenches. The caus casualties have been fairly

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November 1916
5 continued
heavy & to-night each company have sent out their sledges to bring in the wounded.
6th We have heard further details of the advance to the effect that we are holding the second line of Fritz’s trenches, but he has attacked it in force & made a break of about 250 yds. & are preparing for a heavy attack.
Yesterday I went out with Capt Reid to locate a drain along the railway. We continued with it this morning & this afternoon I went out with three other sappers & took the levels for about 100 chains. We just heard that the Germans bombarded our headquarters at Fricourt on the night of the 4th but did no serious damage.

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7th This morning I went out near Longueval to locate & make a rough survey of a proposed railway which is to be made from the present railhead to Longueval dump. We were handicapped considerably by the rain which increased during the afternoon & we had to return. The mud is getting worse around here & it is almost impossible to move about in it. We have been issued with long rubber boots which are a great help, as the ordinary boots are of little use. This afternoon we were served out with cigarettes & tobacco sent to us by the "Southern Cross Tobacco Fund" organised by the "Overseas Club."

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November 1916
8th I went out with ten others of the section to start making the light railway near Longueval. Fritz had been sending his shells over since about 11 a.m. & at about 3 P.M. he began to land them close to where we were working. Three landed within 50 yds of us & then one burst right in the middle of the small part we were excivating, making a large hole & wounding three of us, McDonald. Buck & Nesby. Two got "shell shock" & two others got slight scratches. A camp about a hundred yds. away suffered fairly badly, but no very serious damage was done.

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November 1916
9th Birthday- I am twenty to-day. We have been on the construction of the light railway line all day, & this afternoon over 200 sets of rails & three trucks were brought up by the ammunition train. We have witnessed some fine air duels to-day & Fritz has been rather active with his aircraft One of his planes flew over us & about 3 miles behind the lines but was at great height. Our antiaircraft were shooting very badly & he got back in safety. We have been bombarding Fritz very heavy this afternoon but to-night Fritz sent some of his shells over our way & some were very close to our humpys.

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November 1916
10th I have been on the construction of the drain we located a few days ago, superintending about 300 infantry men of the 7th Brigade.
The weather has been beautiful all day & we have witnessed numerous air duels between our own planes and Fritz’s. About 2 P.M. I saw one of his planes brought down in flames near Longueval & about an hour later another was forced to decend, but landed in his own lines.
11th I am still on the construction of the drain & have had the same infantry party as yesterday. The weather has been fairly cold all day & a heavy fog came up this

[Page 57]
November 1916
afternoon with drizling rain, which lasted most of the night.
12th A heavy barrage was carried out by the artillery early this morning & it is rumoured that an attack is to be delivered made this morning. The weather is still very foggy & cold, & we have been issued with sheep skin vests & extra woolen clothing
We have been unable to get our infantry fatigue party this morning as they are going into the line tonight, but we have been given another small party for the afternoon.
About 7 P.M. Fritz dropped a shell in our camp about a dozen yds. from our hut, but no one was hurt.

[Page 58]
November 1916
13th Another heavy barrage was carried out by the artillery which started about 7 a.m. & lasted for about an hour.
The route of the drain has been altered & we have been taking the levels all the morning
This afternoon we got another fatigue party of about 60, for the drain, & continued with its construction. About 4 p.m. one of the men struck a bomb with his pick & exploded it. He was mortaly wounded & died about half an hour later. We got a mail in to-night & I have received a few letters from England, the first I have had since I landed in France.

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November 1916
14th We are still on the drain job & have the same party as we had yesterday. I have two other sappers to help me, & have started on a bridge which is to be made on a road where the drain goes under. One of Fritzs planes flew over & dropped four bombs near us, wounding two of the Tommies, but he was brought down in flames about ten minutes later, a few miles away, near Mametz Wood. We have heard that successful attacks have been made by our boys on the morning of the 12th & also at night, & another yesterday morning. Over 3000 German

[Page 60]
November 1916

14th (Continued) prisoners have been taken but a lot of our boys have been killed and wounded.
I saw a lot of wounded men being taken back by the ammunition train this afternoon to the base hospital.
15th We are still on the drain, but have been unable to get our men from 7th Brigade as they are going into the line tonight. Yesterday morning another attack was delivered by our boys. They gained their objective & are holding it, & have captured over 300 prisoners.
To-day has been very cold & foggy with a "bighting" north wind. A large mail came in to-night & I got 15 letters out of it.

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November 1916
16th This morning there was a very heavy frost & the water was covered with ice ¼" thick
Four of Fritz’s planes flew over this morning & dropped two bombs near the railway ammunition dump. One did no damage but the other fell on a wagon, killing 6 horses & a man, & wounding two of the drivers.
17th There was another heavy frost this morning & last night was very cold. The ice on the water is now about ½ an inch thick & although the sun has been shining during the day it has been very cold. I am still on the drain & have started on a culvert under a road near the dump.

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November 1916
18th We had a light fall of snow early this morning, (This is the first snow I have seen) & a very cold wind has been blowing all day. About 9 a.m. it started to rain & has b continued until about 3 P.M. Combined with the wind it has made things very miserable.
I am still putting the culvert in the drain but progress has been slow. We have seen no aeroplanes up to-day & although our artillery has been bombarding incessantly, Fritz has not troubled us.
19th After heavy rain last night the mud is just as bad as ever if not worse. The 5th Division inf.

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November 1916
(19th continued) which went out for a spell about a fourtnight ago, is returning & the advance guards arrived here to-day.
20th I finished the culvert I have been making & it is rumoured that we are moving to-morrow.
21st We shifted camp this morning to "dugouts" about half a mile to the right of Longueval, & nearer the line. About six weeks ago the Germans were in possession of these parts & the ground is one mass of shell holes. On our left are the ruins of a large sugar refinery & the "duck-board"

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November 1916
21st (continued) communication with the supports are about 50 yds to our left Right. In to-day’s orders I was gazetted Lance-Corporal.
22nd Last night two sappers & myself took a fatigue party of about a hundred infantry of the 8th Brigade to the supports with "duck Walks & sandbags. Fritz was shelling but heavily but we only had two casualties.
This afternoon I went down with another corporal to locate a new communication trench which we are to continue making & we spent about half an hour in the front line. We witnessed some fine air duels & saw two of Fritzes planes brought down.

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November 1916
22 continued The front line is fairly quiet at present. Fritzes shelling is heavy but it is concentrated more on the supports. Rifle fire is limited but machine guns are continually barking from both sides.
23rd This morning I went out with a party of Engrs & we started on the continuation of the communication trench between the supports & the front line. Fritz shelled us pretty heavily this afternoon & Davies was wounded in "Rose" trench. The pioneers are taking over the job from us & are to finish it. When we got back to camp we found that three Germans had just given themselves up & are to be kept here for the night.

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November 1916
24th We are forming a "dump" & I have been put in charge of it. Material is to be sent here to be carried straight to the trenches, as our "camp" is situated on the corner of the road from Guilemont to Longueval & the "duck walk" track. (This place is known as "Waterloff Farm")
This afternoon we witnessed two German planes being brought down & one of our own. The weather is beginning to get cold again & a heavy fog came up about 5 PM.
We have got news that the 3rd Division have landed in France between the 7th & 13th of this month & are now in action at Fleurbaix.

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November 1916
25th We received large quantities of material for the trenches to-day & infantry fatigues have been taking quantities of it to a sub-dump (Needle dump) to be taken straight into the trenches The 29th Battallion went "in" to-night & each man was issued with four sandbags. We have had a party making barbed wire entanglements all day, which are to be taken down into the line. The air-craft have been fairly active to-day & we saw two planes brought down one of which was our own. We had a heavy frost last night & to-night we are having some fine rain.

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November 1916
26th The rain increased during the night & has been continued all day. It is soking into the ground & most of our "dugouts" are suffering
The dump is growing in size & now occupies a fairly large space of ground. Fritz has been shelling us very freely since last night. Some have landed very close to us & he is continuing it again to-night. It is mostly "high explosive" but he gives us some schrapnell occasionally & it is anything but pleasant.
The rain shows signs of clearing off but it is still very cold.

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November 1916
27th We had a very heavy frost last night & the water is covered with ice. About 10 A.M. the sun came out & the weather has changed again. Large quantities of Cupolas for dugouts arrived here to-day & are being taken out to the supports to-night. This afternoon about 3 o’clock we witnessed the sad plight of one of our own planes. He caught fire in a duel & was forced to decend. The pilot handled his machine magnificently but hit ground about two hundred yds from us very hard & destroyed the machine. The [pilot] was killed himself but the observer escaped injury.

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November 1916
[No entry for 28th]
29th The R.Es. took over the dump to-night & are going to look after it.
29th 30th I went out to Needle Trench to-day with four others of the section. We are making a large Dugout for an "Aid Post." Needle Trench is the third fourth line of Supports & Fritz is continually shelling it.
December 1916
1st This morning Abel & I went down to the end of the "duck walks," which are just at the back of the 3rd line Supports, & laid about 50 yds of them. Fritz shook us up a bit with his high explosive shells

[Page 71]
December 1916
about 11 o’clock, but be got down into the communication trench until he had finished & although we had a couple of narrow squeaks, we escaped without a scratch. It has been very foggy all day, but about 5 P.M. it lifted & a heavy wind sprang up. The ground has been covered with thick frost all day & to-night it is exceedingly cold. There is a heavy barrage going on now both by our own & Fritz’s artillery & it is rumoured he is going to attack.
2nd I am corporal of the guard to-day & am having an easy time There was a very heavy frost last night, a thick fog has been

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December 1916
2 continued hanging about all day.
We heard that Fritz attacked our lines last night but was repulsed. He also attacked on our right where the Tommies gained 1000yds two days ago, but met the same fate there.
4th I have been Orderly Corporal yesterday & to-day. The routine of the camp is as follows:-
Reveille 6 am.
Breakfast 6.30 am.
Parade 7.15 am
Sick Parade 9.30 am
Lunch 12 noon
Dinner 5 PM.
Piquet Mounts 5.30
No bugle is sounded, all calls being given by a whistle.

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December 1916
5th I have been off duty all day & at 4 p.m. I went out with a sapper & a party of 10 Infantry men to Rose Trench to continue with the Duck Walk track. We arrived there about 5 & did a couple of hours work using all the available duckboards. Fritz sent over a few shells with occasional schrapnel, near where we were working, but no damage was done. In daylight we would have been under observation but as the it is dark about 4.30, we were not handicapped to a great extent. A few rifle bullets wissed around us but shell fire was the worse.

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December 1916
6th To-day I have been doing the same as yesterday, & to-night we laid about 100 yds. of the track. Fritz shelling was fairly quiet there to-night, but during the day he got a direct hit on the track which necesitated it repair.
7th I went out with the same party this afternoon at about 1 o’clock to repair the track on the other side of Ginchy Road. We were on the crest of the hill most of the time but we were not under observation on account of the heavy fog.

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December 1916
8th To-day we did the same as yesterday but were working this side of the Ginchy Road. & returned home about 8 P.M.
At about five to twelve Fritz landed a high explosive just outside our dugout, not two yds. from where I was sleeping. It burst through the side of the "dugout," which is partly underground, & built of iron cupolas, & wounded 12 of us. There were four stretcher cases & we had to carry them about a mile to the dressing station. The other 8 were "walking cases" & were all admitted into hospital. A small piece of shell cut through my

[Page 76]
8th continued
blankets & gave me a slight scratch on the left hand, but I fixed it up with a piece of sticking plaster & have said nothing about it.
9th I have had influenza for the last two days & have been "off duty" to-day. I got a slight "shell shock" last night & have not been feeling too "fit." Grace got it bad & was sent off to hospital with the others. Fritz has been sending over a few more of his H.Es. to-night & has got some of the pioneers who are about 100 yds. behind us.

[Page 77]
10th I went out again to-night with the infantry fatigue & continued with the duck-walks for about another 100 yds.
At about 8 o’clock Fritz bombarded us pretty heavily with H.Es & Schrapnell & we had to clear out. A party of Pioneers who had passed us a few minutes before caught it rather bad.
It has been very clear to-day & Fritz has been giving the parties going "in" and "out" a hot time. There have been a fair number of casualties & he got eight direct hits on the duck walk track during the day

[Page 78]
December 1916
11th I have been out on the same job again to-night & we have got to within 50 yds of the "sunken road" which is about 800 yds. from the 2nd supports. Fritz was not bombarding us so hard to-night, but a schrapnell caught one of the party, wounding him in the arm.
To-day Fritz has been sending over a new shell which is almost silent in coming over & which has a double & very severe explosion & very severe
We have not seen any of them before & it is said to be a new kind he is adopting.

[Page 79]
December 1916.
12th This morning we had a light fall of snow. Later in the day it began to rain heavily & the ground has been made terribly slushy We went out again to-night & continued with the duck-walk track.
13th To-day I started with the party on the revetment & drainage of Needle Trench at "Windmill." These are the third line of supports or "reserves," & are always full of men, which handicaps our work to a great extent. We have been shelled fairly hard all day & there have [been]

[Page 80]
December 1916
a considerable number of casualties.
18th I have been on the same work in Needle trench since the 13th & have also built a machine-gun position for purpose of defence against aeroplanes which are numerous & at times fly very low. We have been shelled heavily most of the time & have had a fair casualty list.
(Fritz shelling seems to be concentrated on the "solitary tree" about a hundred yds in rear of us for the past 4 or 5 days. The duckwalk track which leads past it has suffered a few direct hits.

[Page 81]
December 1916
& it is a risky job mending them. Since the Australians have been on this sector, this place is generally known as Lone Pine.)
18th I am corporal of the guard to-day & had a very narrow squeak about midnight. One of Fritz’s shells landed within two yds. of the guard tent, but luckily no damage was done- not even a piece hit the tent.
19th I am Orderly Corporal today & have had a very quiet day. It has been extremely cold & has been snowing since about 3 P.M. We have had very cold weather for days & the ground has been continually frozen hard.

[Page 82]
December 1916
19th (Continued) We heard to-day that the French a few days ago advanced two miles on a six mile front & captured of over 8000 prisoners.
To-day we had to made 50 "Hop over" ladders to be taken out to the trenches this afternoon for a raid which anticipated for to-night. We have been taking a few prisoners here lately, two & three a day. They have evidently given themselves up & seem to be very pleased about it.
20th The weather has been extremely cold all day & the ground has been covered with snow & frozen hard. I have been on the construction of the aid station dugouts which

[Page 83]
December 1916
(20th continued) are not finished yet. Although the air has been very clear all day, Fritzs shelling has been moderately slack around our quarter. The old tree at "Gunpits" was been cut down last night & destroyed. It has afforded a great landmark for Fritz & during the day hardly a shell came within "a hundred yards of that quarter." We heard to day that the French have captured over 11,000 prisoners on their last advance.
21st I have been on the same job as yesterday. About 10 a.m. a H.E shell burst about 20 feet away (just behind "mad" trench) & wounded me on the left arm but it is not serious. This

[Page 84]
December 1916
(21st continued) afternoon I had to go down to the 14th Field Ambulance to have it dressed & to be innoculated with 500 A.Ts. for Septic poisoning.
There is a very strong wind blowing now & has been blowing sheets of iron about for the last half hour, but no serious damage has been done.
I heard to-day that Murray Smith my old pal who was in the 6th F.Coy. was killed about 3 weeks ago, about 2 miles behind us. A shell burst in his dug-out, killing two others & wounding about a dozen.
22nd I have to get my arm dressed twice a day & havent been feeling too well after the innoculation. This

[Page 85]
December 1916
22 continued afternoon, Pritchard & I went down & found Smith’s grave near Bernafay Wood (in the Bernafay Cemetary) took a couple of photo’s & intend sending them to his mother whos address is in the back of this book. Fritz has been shelling "Lone Pine" very heavily to-day & has caused a fair number of casualties.
We received orders to-day to have our kits packed, ready for an early move on Sunday morning.

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December 1916
23rd The weather has been very miserable to-day raining & blowing hard. I have been on light duties but we finished work at dinner time in order to get our gear packed up. Fritz has been shelling fairly hard all day & has sent a lot of his high Explosive schrapnell over our camp, causing a few slight casualties.
24th Reveille at 4 a.m. this morning & after our gear had been packed up & blankets loaded on wagons we moved of at about 8 o’clock & proceeded to the Quarry station, where we entrained & left at 10.15 A.M. Before we left camp we were inspected by the C.R.E. Col. Carey

[Page 87]
December 1916.
who gave us a shord address & complimented us on the work we had done in decreasing the sick roll of the trenches & making the troops comfortable in the supports & front line.
We detrained about two miles out of Albert on account of a block in the traffic & mached to our destination at which we arrived about 2 PM after passing through the villages of Darnaycourt [Dernancourt] and Buir-Seur-Corbie. In Ribemont, our billet is situated in the old post office buildings which is fitted out with bunks, & from all appearances we will be fairly comfortable.
There are a lot of Australians billited in the village and

[Page 88]
December 1916
24th also a fair number of Tommies who are attached to us.
The civil population here is not very big but we are well off for shops & estaminets.
Being Christmas Eve we had a fairly merry time under the circumstances & got to bed about 11 P.M. (our usual bed time is about 6 or 7)
25th Christmas Day- It has been fairly quiet but we are getting settled down in our new abode for a while.
Reveille was blown at 7 a.m. Breakfast at 8, & we fell in for parade at 9 a.m. but were dismissed immediately after the roll call.

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December 1916
(25th Continued) During the day we received a lot of private parcels & also parcels sent to the company from people in Sydney which we divided amongst ourselves. The officers of the company treated us to Champagne & Wine & we had a fairly merry time.
26th Another free day & we were at liberty to roam the country (within a mile radius.) but we were not lax in our celebration of Xmas.
27th We started work to-day. I have been detailed to with a party of twelve sappers for work in this town under the supervision of the "Town Major" This morning I went around with he & Lt Oliver to the various billets to inspect them &

[Page 90]
December 1916
(27th continued) ascertain the extent of repairs required & after dinner I distributed the party to the billets & we started on the work. There is a lot of work to be done, consisting of chiefly the repair of bunks, construction of extra bunks & accomidation for the troops in general.
28th We continued with our work to-day & have made considerable progress. To-night I & three others went to the vaudeville show about a mile distant from our billet. Being held every night & financed by the Australian Comforts Fund, it is a great success & appreciated by the boys after the spell of the trenches.

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December 1916
(28th continued) There are only two sections of the company left, the other two having gone away to another town, but where to or what for, I do not know. No.3 section is working in the other end of the town about two miles away on similar work to us, & the remainder of number No.4 section have been divided up, some having gone to other towns in the vicinity on special work & others remaining here for odd jobs in connection with the company.
30th We are still on the same work & are making considerable progress. The weather has been rather wet for the last two days & fairly cold with heavy frosts.

[Page 92]
December 1916
31st New Years Eve- Sunday is a free day here, & it is the first free Sunday we have had for a long while. We only had one parade at 9 a.m. at which rifles & gas helmets were inspected & after that, the day was our own. The estaminets are open on Sunday & by bedtime the boys were rather merry. There are a great number of Australians in the town & the streets were crowded with them although they were considerably quiet.
The shops & Estaminets close at 8 P.M. & by 10 o’clock everything was quiet & the majority in bed. We were informed today that leave to Amiens would be granted in a few days.

[Page 93]
January 1917
1st Monday We have had another free day to-day after the first parade, the same as yesterday. I have caught another cold & am not feeling too well.
2nd We started work again this morning but at lunch time we were told to get our gear packed to ready to change billets to make room for the 4th Division which is coming into Ribemont in place of the 5th Divn. which moved out yesterday en route to their new billets a few miles from Amiens.
During the afternoon we changed over to new billets & the 4th Div. Came in. I have got settled down in an old barn which is fairly

[Page 94]
January 1917
2nd Contd comfortable. My cold is getting worse & I am afraid I am in for influenza.
3rd I saw the doctor this morning & he ordered me to hospital. I went to the 4th Field Ambulance in Ribemont & was evacuated to sethe 1st Field Amb. who have the "Anzac Hospital" at Buire which is between Albert & Corbie & was taken there by car, arriving about 4 p.m. & put to bed.
5th I have had a rather high temperature since I arrived here & to-day I was put to bed in another ward. I have contracted a light form of pneumonia & am feeling rather "down & out"
16th - 5th Divn. Went into the line again to-day.

[Page 95]
January 1917
17th My first day out of bed to-day. I have been allowed only to stay in the ward as the weather has been very bad lately & is snowing now.
18th I was shifted into another ward to-day and have been allowed full diet-(I have been on light diet since I have been in here consisting of milk & blanchmange & occasionaly a little bread) It is still snowing & is now about 6" thick on the ground.
20th I met S.M. Mason of the 1st Div. Supply Column & have been put on the list for a transfer into that unit.

[Page 96]
January 1917
21st I have been ordered back to bed again & last night had a temperature of 101.4.
22nd We received news to-day of a disastrous explosion in a munition factory in the east of London on Friday night (20th) in which over 40 lives were lost & over 100 persons injured. Great damage was caused in the surroundings of the factory which was completely demolished together with a flower mill adjoining it. The weather here is still bitterly cold & although the snow has been thawing for the last three days it is still about three inches thick.

[Page 97]
January 1917
23 24th To-day I was sent away from the hospital at Buir Louis Corbie by motor ambulance to Belview Farm Hospital on the outskirts of Albert & put to bed there. It is a fairly large hospital & filled with Australians & Tommies with "trench feet," influenza, "septic feet," slight wounds, Larringiters, Bronchitas, & pneumonia & a few other minor complaints in the order mentioned. Last night was very cold & there is about 4" of ice on the water.
26th I am still in the same ward & progressing very favourably. Last night & the night before have been bitterly cold & everything is frozen even the medicines in the bottles. There is over 6" of ice on

[Page 98]
January 1917
the water & all the water pipes are frozen. The sun has been shining but very feebly & does not make much difference.
27th The weather is still cold & this ward is far from being cold warm. The roof which is made of iron has been coated with frost on the inside for the last three days. We heard the news to-day that the 5th Division had had a "hop over" some time yesterday & are holding two lines of trenches, although the 8th Brigade lost heavily. We have had the taubes over Albert a good deal lately but they have done no damade and on Thursday (26th ) one was brought down about a mile away

[Page 99]
January 1917
28th I was put into Convalecent to-day which is a great relief after being in bed. This afternoon I went for a walk into Albert which is only about a mile away. I got a few interesting "snaps" Albert is a fairly large town & although there are very few french inhabitants left the place is full of troops & very busy with motor transport.
The ruined cathederal is the most interesting feature of the town. Although once a fine building it is now a mass of ruins & presents a very wierd spectacle. Many of the buildings there are in ruins & there is hardly a window in the whole town that is not broken. Although the Germans still bombard it, the shells are few & far between.

[Page 100]
January 1917
29th I went for a ride in a motor this afternoon along the Amiens road as far as Ribemont. The snow is still frozen on the ground & the weather is exceedingly cold, with a bighting cold wind blowing.
At about 10 p.m. a couple of German aeroplanes flew over Albert & dropped 8 bombs. They swept the place with machine guns & then flew over towards Becaudle [Becordel] & dropped four more bombs.
Later in the night he sent over some of his big shells not very far from our hospital.
31st We have had another fall of snow to-day. I have been given a job on the hospital staff, looking after the messing arrangements, while in convalescence.

[Page 101]
Febuary 1917.
1st There has been a succession of heavy barrages by our own artillery during the last two days, & it has been rumoured that there have been a few raids made by the 5th Division in which numerous prisoners were taken.
We have had more snow to-day although very light. Last night Fritz sent over some big shells into Albert & at about 8 o’clock one landed on the road in front of the hospital, killing about 4 horses & wounding two of the Army medical men.

[Page 102]
Febuary 1917
2nd The weather has been very cold lately but to-day the sun came out & warmed the place a little, although the snow is still on the ground. To-night is very bright, & two Taubes came over Albert & dropped about 8 bombs in & around the town. His machine guns played very freely & the hut next to ours was hit several times, wounding two. A couple of our own planes went up after them & they cleared off to their own lines.
3rd At about 10.30 p.m. our artillery opened a heavy bombardment towards the Poziers Front where the 1st & 2nd Divisions are, which lasted until about 12 midnight. The front line

[Page 103]
Febuary 1917.
continued is not much more than five miles from Albert, & for an hour & a half our hut was one continuous tremble.
4th Last night was exceedingly cold & everything is frozen. Another heavy bombardment was in progress this morning, but more to the right, near the Flers or Ginchy front. Fritz sent over a few heavy shells into Albert early this morning causing a few casualties.
5th It is rumoured to-day that America has severed diplomatic relations with Germany & is prepared for further action.

[Page 104]
Febuary 1917.
6th By this morning’s paper ("Daily Mail") the news is confirmed, that America has severed all diplomatic relations with Germany & has handed Count Bernstoff- the German Ambassador in America- his passport, & it has also been rumoured that she has declared war on America. Albert was bombed again to-night, causing about a dozen casualties in the reinforcement camp & a few others in the town.
7th To-days paper does not give anything further with regard to America. More bombs were dropped on Albert to night, but the planes were driven off by some of our own machines. It has been rumoured that China has sent a "note" to Germany with regard to the Submarine Blockade

[Page 105]
Febuary 1917.
8th The news has been confirmed that China has sent Germany a "Note" but the papers give no details No further news is to hand with regard to America’s attitude.
George Hart passed through here to-day on his way to the Casualty Clearing Station with Pneumonia.
14th The weather has started to "break" today & by the looks of things we are in for some better weather. The sun has been warmer & the snow has practically all melted & the majority of ice is that way inclined.

[Page 106]
Febuary 1917.
15th During the night some light rain fell, but the day has been bright with a warm sun shining.
The ice is melting fast & the ground is getting very muddy & sloppy again. We heard a very severe explosion yesterday morning about 10 A.M. & today we received the news that Fritz had blown up a large ammunition dump at the "Quarry" (near Montauban) destroying over £1,000,000 worth of ammunition.
He has been trying for some considerable time to get that particular dump & has at last succeeded in dropping a bomb from one of his Taubes on to it.

[Page 107]
23rd I got my discharge from hospital to-day & am leaving for the company to-morrow. I went to the reinforcements camp in Albert this afternoon & was given permission to proceed straight on, otherwise I should have had to wait there until the next batch of reinforcements were leaving for the Engineers.
24th I left early this morning & succeeded in catching an ammunition train which took me as far as Bazentin le Grand near Longueval, & from there, had to walk to Waterloff Farm where the Company is "billited" arriving about 9 A.M. & settled down in a fairly comfortable

[Page 108]
24 continued little dugout with three other N.C.Os At 3.30 this afternoon I left for "Ginchy Dump" to investigate some trouble the ration parties had had lately with the trucks. A light railway has been constructed, runing past Delvil Wood and down to the Ginchy sunken road which it crosses near the "Eskimo Walk," & continues on to Needle Trench (about 2000 yds from the front line.) A ration party pushes light trucks from Ginchy Dump down to Needle Dump, & from there they are carried up to the front line. Fritz’s shelling is very quiet in comparison to what it was when we first came here, & some of our guns have moved further up. The 5th Division are "hopping over" some time tonight (The 9th 29th & 59th are in the line)

[Page 109]
25th. Last night’s stunt was successful & we are holding over 1000 yds of Fritz’s first & second lines. Up to now the "18 pounders" have been firing at very near their extreme range & during the day the batteries have been moving up closed.
No. 3 section is living in Rose Trench & Pritchard is now sergeant of the section. I went down this morning, & he handed over to me the construction of an Anti-Tank Gun pit which is to be built just behind "Switch Trench." The "position" has just been started & the Artillery are supplying the fatigue. During the morning an "18 pounder" battery moved up into position just behind

[Page 110]
Febuary 1917
25th (continued) us, & it is likely that their new position will interfere with the position of the Anti Tank G.pit.
There are now three "duck walk" tracks down to the supports from Gillemont Road & all the way down the consolidation of the ground is very conspicuous. Barb wire entanglements have been constructed & the old trenches have been repaired & put in a state of defence. Rose Trench is being strengthened & the deep dugouts are being made larger, & it is quite evident that we are adopting strong defensive measures in antisipation of a surprise attack from Fritz. It has been rumoured that Fritz has destroyed the waterworks at Bapaume.

[Page 111]
Febuary 1917
26th Orders came from H.Q. early this morning that we are to discontinue with the Anti-Tank Gun Position as the scheme has been cancelled for the time being.
This afternoon I carried on with the remainder of the section, on repairing the and duplication of the "duck walk" tracks between Needle & Rose Trenches. Nos. 1 & 2 Sections were put on to advance road construction this morning & are to continue with it.
28th I am still on the same job with the "duck walks." Last night we had the Gas alarm. At midnight we were woke up & informed that Fritz was sending over gas. We got our helmets on & I fell asleep again, but very little of it came up here.

[Page 112]
Febuary March 1917
28th continued We received the news through orders that Krupps were out on strike (official). We bombarded the German lines heavily this morning & there was also a heavy bombardment on our right towards Le Transeloy.
1st March 1917
News came to hand this morning that the 29th Division (Tommies) took Le Transloy early this morning & are holding it, but have suffered heavy losses. We also took another line of trenches on our sector this morning We have made a general advance along this sector within the last week (see map at back) & it is rumoured that the Germans are retiring to strong points about 13 Kgs. back.

[Page 113]
March 1917
2nd. Our lads took another part of the enemy lines & captured about 13 prisoners, but also lost about half a dozen to the Germans. Some of the prisoners passed us on their way back this morning. They were the 8th Bavarians & looked very haggard & worn. I got into conversation with one of them, & he seemed quite confident that the war would be finished in two months.
I was down in Millerson Post this afternoon & Fritz was shelling it very heavy & had been doing so practically all day. Our lads suffered a few casualties but nothing to speak of.

[Page 114]
March 1917
3rd. This morning I went out with pritchard & four [indecipherable] sappers with a fatigue of the 30th Battn. of about 90 men to start on the construction of a roadway near Flers for the purpose of relieving the main road through Flers for repair, which is needed badly. The main road will be repaired for the transport of heavy artillery as soon as this road is opened up & the authorities are very anxious to get it through in anticipation of an early advance.
4th We continued with the road to-day & have made fair progress. We are under observation fr by Fritz, and when the fog

[Page 115]
March 1917
4th continued lifted about midday he began to shell us with some of his "heavy stuff." He plastered a small space about a hundred & fifty yards from us nearly all the afternoon but about 3.30 he got closer & we had to clear out.
Fritz sent over a few gas shells last night about 10 P.M. but the wind freshened & after about an hour with our helmets on we were safe again.
5th When we got up this morning it was snowing & continued until about midday. I have had the day off, as I am to leave for the front line at about 6 P.M. to look after some work there.

[Page 116]
March 1917
(5th continued) When the lady came home from the job I was on yesterday I heard that Fritz had been shelling the place heavily during last night & this morning & had put two guns of a battery of three naval guns out of action. The battery was about 100 yards behind us, & an anti-aircraft gun about 50 yds on our left suffered, but only slightly.
6th. Last night I left here about 6 o’clock & proceeded to Needle Trench. I picked up a fatigue party there, detailed to take our material to the front line. Leaving "Needle" we went on & I picked up my four sappers at Rose Trench & proceeded on past Miller’s Son Post through

[Page 117]
March 1917
(6th continued) "Eternal Ally" and "Central Sap" into the front line Sunray Trench. This trench was taken three of or four days ago & is in a deplorable state. It could hardly be called a trench at all- it is simply a line of "shell holes" connected up in parts & with mud, in places up to the thighs.
The infantry fatigue dropped the material in the trench & I had to carry on with the four sappers & build four shelters for the men to sleep in, at four of the bombing posts. We were handicapped to a great extent by Fritz’s bombing & artillery, which at times was fairly heavy. We had started two of the shelters & at about midnight

[Page 118]
March 1917
(6th continued) a "Minniewerfa" lobbed on the material we had for the other to & blew it to blazes, in fact we could not find even a part of it after. We finished work about 2.30 A.M. & made our way back along the sap, which in places was only about 18" deep & continually swept by Fritz’s machine guns. I eventually arrived back at the Farm about 5 o’clock this morning, fagged out.
The section (N.4) received orders this morning to move on with all gear to "Embassy Lane." I slept all the morning & proceeded on this afternoon arriving about tea time.

[Page 119]
March 1917
7th. "Eternal Ally" is a sap between "Needle" & "Rose Trenches," in which is some time ago, our company made a "deep dugout" of considerable size We are living in a part of this & with bunks made along the walls (cabin fashion) we are fairly comfortable.
This morning I was detailed to take three sappers & work them in shifts of 8 hours each to take charge of infantry fatigues doing work for us, in the nature of carrying material.
Our rations are sent down to us daily from "Warterloff Farm" & our water is carried from "Miller’s Son," where a well has been dug by No 3 Section.

[Page 120]
March 1917
8th. I started consolidating the entrances of the deep dugouts at "Bull’s Eye Trench" by digging a trench & building a parapet in front of them to prevent against a "direct hit" Fritz has been shelling us rather heavy all day & there have been a considerable number of casualties around here.
The weather has been very coldth during the last two days & it has been snowing all day, with a cold biting wind from the north blowing. Last night we received word that all dugouts between "Needle Trench" & "MillerSon Post" were to be fitted with gas-proof doors in antisipation of a heavy gas attack from "Fritz," & We are to work in shifts day and night until they are completed.

[Page 121]
March 1917
9th. I continued with my same job today & have made considerable progress with the consolidation of Bull’s Eye dugouts. Fritz shelled us heavy this morning & again this evening. The weather has been very cold, but the sky is clear & Fritz’s observation over our lines has been at its best.
At about 3 P.M. it started to snow again, & continued through the night.
10th. We had more snow this morning but the sky cleared up about noon & about 3 P.M. Fritz opened up heavily onto "Needle Dump." We received the news to-day that Count Zeplin died, the day before yesterday.

[Page 122]
March 1917
12th Fritz has bombarding this vicinity very heavily all day to-day & yesterday, & has accounted for a large casualty list.
At 4.20 P.M. our artillery opened up a heavy barrage on Fritz’s front line & supports, lasting about an hour, but he retaliated soon after we had started & kept a rain of shells constantly between "Needle" & "Blighty" trenches.
We have a large amount of material here & about half a dozen batteries are immediately behind it
He kept up the shelling nearly all night & we were handicapped considerably with in carrying material & stores forward.
At about 6 P.M. two of the carrying party were killed & 6 wounded.

[Page 123]
March 1917
13th. I have still got the five parties working & have got through a considerable ammount of work.
Fritz has been shelling heavily all day in the vicinity of Needle dump & has done a fair bit of damage. Another two of one of the parties were killed & another had his leg taken off, & last night one of my sappers in charge of a party got shell shock.
At about 2.45 P.M. our artillery opened up another heavy barrage lasting about two hours, but Fritz was not slow in retaliating & we nearly had our "cook house" blown to blazes.

[Page 124]
March 1917
15th We have had a fair amount of rain lately & the mud has been very bad. The wind has been blowing very cold from the north for the last few days & last night we got a "gas alarm" A few shells (gas shells) were sent over but the effect of them was slight owing to the rain & wind. Fritz was shelling us very heavy yesterday, but our own guns gave him a succession of heavy barrages during the night, & to-day he has been rather quiet.
There was a bit of an attack last night, but with not much success. Fritz

[Page 125]
March 1917
15 continued counterattacked & some of our advance machine gun positions evacuated to the front line. He was driven of & we got a few prisoners.
The casualties in the front line have been very small lately, but around here, within the last four days, we have had over 80 killed & wounded.
16th Fritz’s shelling has been a bit quieter to-day, but still, he didn’t forget to let us know he was still alive. A great number of our "plumb puddings" went down to the line from here this afternoon & it is rumoured there is to be an attack tonight.

[Page 126]
March 1917
16th continued & all the infantry here in reserves are "Standing to"
17th. St Patricks Day to-day. Fritz has cleared out! There has not been a shell fired over here all day, & rumours have been running wild. During the afternoon we got the news that the Australians have occupied Bappaume, Boulencourt & a few other small villages & that the 8th & some of the 14th Brigades shared the honours of being first in the villages.
Le Transloy which was captured by the 29th Division (Tommies) & lost a few days later, was also entered by the 14th & some of the 15th Brig

[Page 127]
March 1917
17 continued At about tea time, battery after battery of 18 pounder guns passed by us & have established positions just in front of us near Rose Trench & the infantry parties going into the line went down in large bodies instead of small parties of half a dozen or so & better cheer was never seen amongst the lads since we have been on this front. To-night is still quiet, but on the horizon towards the enemy, can be seen five enormous fires from the burning villages as left by the Germans. The machine guns seem very active but shell fire is quiet in comparison to what it has been of late.

[Page 128]
March 1917
18th. This morning the whole section was taken off their old work, & with our infantry party, we were put onto making a rough roadway to bring the remainder of the guns up, & for "limber" & wagons traffic.
This morning I went over to Les Boeufs & on to Le Transloy & the Sugar Mat to within a few hundred yards of Beulencourt. The latter of these places a few days ago was well behind Fritz’s lines. The country is broken up a lot & in Le Transloy there are signs of many attempts by Fritz to burn the place down.
There is a rumour at large that we are going to move forward any minute & that we are awaiting orders.

March 1917
Newspaper article from March 7, London. Not transcribed.

[Page 131]
March 1917
19th We got orders late last night to be ready for an early move this morning. Our "tool carts" came up to Embassy Lane yesterday afternoon, and at 9 A.M. this morning together with them, we moved forward en route for Beulencourt Beaulecourt, about 6 Kilo’s from Embassy, where we arrived about dinner time. After dinner we set to work putting a road to communicate with the rear, in a state of tempory repair. The village of in a dilapitated condition & we are billeted in the rains wherever shelter can be obtained. Luckily I have got into an old cellar of a ruined house, with six others, & apart from the stuffiness of the place we are rather comfortable & have plenty of room. The country

[Page 132]
March 1917
19th continued around here is in a far better state than the country we have been in of late. The difference is marked after one leaves Fritz’s late support trenches. The ground between Millers Son & Fritzs third line is literally strewn with dead, & presents a gastly sight- beyond description. Fritz has left a terrible lot of material behind him, but it can be noticed throughout the village & surrounding country, where he has piled the stuff in heaps & attempted to burn it.
The weather has been bad lately & to-day a strong S.W. wind has been blowing, & at about tea time it started to rain & continued steadily throughout the night.

[Page 133]
March 1917
20th To day the company have been working between Millers Son & the bottom of the ridge (Bappaume Ridge) making a Pack Track for Mules & horses carrying ammunition & rations forward. Our water supply is obtained from a small well in the village (Most of the wells here have been destroyed or poisoned)
21st. We had a fall of snow during the night, but it thawed during the morning. Our section started to fill in a large mine crater in the road between here & Bappaume & have made a fair impression on it. The crater was about 50’ across & about 12’ deep & right on the intersection of two roads, but we hope to have traffic through to-morrow.

[Page 134]
March 1917
22nd. We carried on with the same job this morning with the aid of an infantry fatigue of about 20 (the first fatigue we have been able to get) & also two wagons carting bricks from the village. The hole was filled in & the road is open for traffic. Guns have been coming up ever since we arrived here & an ammunition dump has been started just outside our billet. We had a fairly heavy fall of snow last night & it has continued through the day, & with a strong North wind things have been very cold. I went into Bappaume this afternoon. The town has been smashed about a great deal & Fritz has blown up the main road in three places, making

[Page 135]
March 1917
enormous craters & shattering all the houses in the vicinity. The railway station has been destroyed together with a large overhead bridge. Bappaume has been a fairly large town & although it is practically in a state of ruin large numbers of troops can be billeted there.
The water works have been blown up & most of the water poisoned.
23rd. With a party of infantry I went back to the "pack track" near "Millerson Son" to repair a part of it. The ground is in a deplorable state, one mass of shell holes & trenches & in places the "track" is almost impassable. The Gourdicourt Rd is now open & will probably relieve it of a lot of the traffic.

[Page 136]
March 1917
24th. To-day I had 6 A.S.C. "G.S" wagons & 8 Artillery "Limbers" to bring up a number of "Armstrong" huts from near Gourdicourt to D.H.Q. between here & Bappaume, where they are to be errected by the Company.
The "Deaucaville" railway has not yet got up as far as this road (Bappaume Perrone Rd) but the Pioneers & pushing it forward for all they are worth & expect to have it here by to-morrow. The weather has been very cold of late & today the temperature was down to 27.5°.
The daylight saving scheme started again to-night & the clocks have been put on an hour.

[Page 137]
March 1917
25th. The light railway was opened up to-day, the railhead dump being almost opposite our billet.
I had a party of infantry to-day to finish off the mine crater we started on some days ago, & are now covering the surface with bricks brought from Rinecourt Reincourt a few hundred yards away.
26th. I carried on with the same job to-day & have practically finished, & the road is fit for heavy traffic. Last night, at about 11 P.M., the town hall in Bapaume was blown up. H.Q. of one of the 4th. Div. Brigades was situated in the building & it is feared that the loss of life is over 50.

[Page 138]
March 1917
26th. (cont) The weather has been very miserable all day, rain, snow & with a bighting cold North wind blowing.
27th. The weather is just the same today. I have had a fatigue party salvaging German material for use in our work. There is abundance of material & ammunition lying about, especially sawn mining sets & barbed wire. The majority of the section & No. 2 are working along the road building huts for D.H.Q. They have been on it for some days now & expect to have it finished to-night. There were about half a dozen more explosions in Bappaume last night caused through mines, & the casualties have been fairly big. Up to

[Page 139]
March 1917
27th (continued) last night, the 13th P. Coy who are on "rescue work" at the town hall, have recovered over 30 bodies of officers & men from the debris. It is rumoured that there have been four Germans caught in Bappaume, masquerading as French soldiers, & who are aledged to be the cause of the explosions in the last few days. One was killed in attempting to escape. By a few days-old paper we got to-day, it is officially stated that the French are making great progress near St Quentin, & also that the Rebellion in Russia has been settled, the Tzar has been arrested, & the Grand Duke Nicholas Michael is in command. No. 2 section moved off to take up there quarters in Reincourt a few miles away late to-night.

[Page 140]
March 1917
28th. This morning I left Beaulencourt about 7.30 according to orders received last night & proceeded to Villers-Au-Flos, a few miles ahead where I met a guide from No.3 Section, who moved over there a couple of days ago, & with him, went around the village to find a suitable place to billet our section (No. 4) I found a suitable place in the shape of an old cellar (nearly all the cellars in the village have been destroyed by Fritz) & the section moved into the village about 10.30 a.m. The day was spent in fixing up the billet & cleaning half a house out of a stable for the horses. I have taken up quarters with Cpl Moore in another, but smaller cellar opposite.

[Page 141]
March 1917
29th. Only fifteen of the section arrived yesterday, (the remainder are at VayluleVelu about 4 miles Kilometres further on, and at MillerSon) & seven of us went on with Cpl Moore to clean & make ready for use old wells the advance party have found in Velu. I stopped behind & fixed up the cellar, & also with a couple of sappers, hunted around the village, salvaging material for use by the section in our work. The village is in a dilapidated state & every house is in a mass of ruins. Every well has been destroyed & the fruit trees & many ornamental trees have been cut down by the Germans.
During the afternoon the Flying Corps brought up an observation baloon which is to be stationed in a paddock opposite us.

[Page 142]
March 1917
30th. Early this morning I was instructed to take a party of seven sappers & L. Cpl Durkin to Bernafay Wood & report to the adjutant at "C.R.E." We left Villers-Au-Floss at about 8.30 a.m. with all our gear a proceeded on our journey. At Beaulencourt we got a truck on which we loaded our gear, and took it along the "light railway" as far as Ginchy, & from there we had to carry it to Bernafay Wood & arrived at H.Q. about 4 P.M.
It had been raining nearly all day & we were all the worse for a wetting & tired out. After settling down I received instructions as to the work we are to do, to the effect that in the morning we are to dismantle a number of
"Bow Huts"

[Page 143]

March 1917
30th continued & stack ready to be shifted further up the line.
We are to do our own cooking & I am setting myself up with the "cook" in the cookhouse, which is fitted up with 2 bunks & rather comfortable.
31st This morning we started work with a fatigue party of 40 infantry from the "details camp," & during the day dismantled 4 huts, just above the cemetary where Smith is burried, & stacked them alongside the roadway
The day has been very dull & drizzling rain has been falling, with a strong & cold wind blowing.
We received news to-night that the lads have taken three villages up on our front & are pushing Fritz very hard.

[Page 144]
April 1917
1st We carried on with the same work to-day, but during the afternoon I received instructions to discontinue dismantling the huts & stack one, ready for transport, at the railway siding about two hundred yards away.
This morning to took a photo of Smith’s grave & at night one of the lads in the C.R.E. office told me he had heard that George Hart had been sent back to Australia with mental trouble.
2nd This morning I got "an infantry" party of 50 & with 30 of them got the huts we had dismantled taken to the railway siding & stacked there. With The other 20 I got on cleaning up & making a few alterations at our old horse lines about half a mile away.

[Page 145]
April 1917
2nd continued The weather has been bitterly cold all day & at about 4 P.M. we had a very heavy fall of snow which lasted about an hour & a half, & with a strong wind, almost a gale, blowing all day, things have been rather miserable.
At about 3 AM this morning the anti-aircraft guns near here were firing at some of Fritz’s planes & again at about 8 a.m. when seven of them came over. No damage was done & they were driven off.
I received orders to-night to return to the company with the party to-morrow morning.

[Page 146]
April 1917
3rd We left Bernafay Wood this morning at 11 A.M. with all our equipment & arrived back at Beaulencourt, to where the section have returned, about 3 P.M. The section is bilited in an old loft which they are repairing.
4th To-day has been miserably wet & cold, snow & sleet falling practically all day the morning & until about 3 P.M. when it cleared up a bit. Two of our observation baloons went up between here & Bapaume & at about 5 P.M. one of Fritz’s "Taubes" came over & brought them both down in flames, but was himself brought down almost immediately afterwards. (About 3 days ago he brought down the one that was stationed opposite us in Villers au Floss.

[Page 147]
April 1917
5th Late last night we heard that it is officially announced that America has declared war on Germany.
Capt Reid left the company to-day to fill the position of major of one of the 2nd Divn. Coys.
The day has been fine with & the sun shining with a little more warmth than it has had for a long time.
7th There Yesterday & to-day have been wet & cold, snow & hail falling all practically unceasingly. I have had a party out salvaging timber in Villers au Floss & also building bunks in our billet. Cpl Murphy came back from Velu with his party after a very interesting stay there.- promoted to 2nd Corporal.

[Page 148]
April 1917
8th The weather has been gloriously fine all day (Easter Sunday) & about half a dozen of us went into Bapp aume to-night.
There is a "picture show" there but to-day being Easter Sunday, it was closed. We heard to-day that we have brought out a new aeroplane, much supperior to Fritz’s, & it is expected that he is in for a bad time. A very heavy bombardment started this afternoon about 4 P.M. on our left, & lasted through the night.
9th The offensive Bad weather again to-day, hail & rain & a bighting cold wind.
The bombardment continued this morning until about dinner time. I have been out salvaging timber

[Page 149]
April 1917
with a party of about a dozen, near Fremecourt all day & got a good supply. It is officially announced that yesterday there was a severe ariel battle on this front in which 28 of our planes & 46 of Fritz’s planes were brought down, & that 8000 prisoners were captured on this front since yesterday midday, & also that the 1st Divn captured 3 villages Quient, Boursiers, & Hermies. to-day.
10th Rotten weather again to-day. It has been snowing all night & this morning we had a blizzard which ceased during the afternoon.
It is officially announced at D.H.Q. to-day that the 3rd Army have captured between 40 & 50 guns including a 9.5 battery

[Page 150]
April 1917
10th continued. of Fritz’s, on our left towards Arras & on the other side of it. The cavalry are playing an important part on that part of the front as well as this.
11th The weather is just the same & we had a heavy fall of snow about tea time. At noon we received instructions to pack up our gear ready to move any time, & at 4 P.M. we were inspected with "full marching order." The 4th Divn. have been doing well yesterday & to-day. They have broken through the "Hindenburg Line" & are fighting two miles on the other side of it. It is believed that their casualties have been large.
On our left, (towards Arras) it is officially announced that over 160 guns & over 16000 prisoners (including this front) have been captured in the last 3 days.

[Page 151]
April 1917
12th Last night we had a very heavy fall of snow last night which lasted about two hours.
Yesterday & To-day we have had large infantry parties working along the road between here & Bapaume. I went into Bapaume to-night to the picture show with some of the lads & met some old friends in the 1st Field Company.
13th I had a company of infantry on repairing the road between the Sugar Mill & Le Transloy where it has been badly cut up by shell fire.
The news from Arras front is to the effect that Vimy Ridge is being held, another 100 guns captured, & also that we have got 1500 machine guns 1800 trench mortars & large numbers of prisoners. Fritz was shelling Bapaume nearly all day but did little damage.

[Page 152]
April 1917
16th We were on roads again yesterday & today. This morning we were up near Bapaume & at about 10 a.m. we were recalled, & the whole section went out to the other side of Villers-au-Floss with "battle order" & shovels where we had to assist in digging a trench in order to check any big advance on the party of the enemy. This morning a heavy bombardment was in progress & Fritz counterattacked, capturing three villages & 9 of our "18 pounder" guns. It was just before the "change over" & as soon as the reliefs came up we attacked & recaptured the guns & villages, & also forced Fritz back about 300 yds past his original front.
We came home during the afternoon pretty tired & very wet. It has been raining all day but shows signs of clearing up towards evening.

[Page 153]
April 1917
16th No. 4 section were given a holiday to-day, & after an inspection this morning were free to do as we liked.
The weather was glorious to-day but towards night it started to rain lightly.
18th Yesterday & today I have been looking after the loading of 16 G.S. Wagons with bricks from Beulencourt to be taken to the Guidicourt Rd. where the remainder of the section have the 29th Batn. working on repairing it. (I had 50 of them in Beulencourt)
The weather has been very bad rain snow & sleet with a wind, almost a gale, blowing all the time
There have been a succession of heavy bombardments along our front yesterday & to-day & continued through the night.

[Page 154]
April 1917
19th To-day the weather has been a bit better than the last few days, & the section have been on the same job on the Guidicourt Rd. I have been looking after the wagons who have been getting the bricks from Guidicourt, - or rather what was Guidicourt, it is now nothing but an unrecognisable mass of bricks & timber. We are repairing the road up to it, to be ready for the 15th Brigade Transport column which will be coming through this way. The advance guard of the 8th Field Company came up to Guidicourt this morning & are staying there about three days, to repair the road in the village & beyond. We received instructions to be ready to move off with the Brigade in the morning. The bombardment is still heavy, especially on our left.

[Page 155]
April 1917
20th After packing our blankets away in the limber & cleaning up the billet ready for the R.E’s of the 11 army (Tommies) who are relieving us, we (No. 4) fell in, & moved off from Beulencourt en route for Guidicourt, where we arrived, at about 10.30 & set to, & made final preparations for the column which started to come through the village about 1 P.M. The Company transport who have picked last place in the column, passed through about 2.15 P.M. & we joined in & followed up behind the pontoon wagons. Nos.1,2, & 3 sections left Beulencourt after dinner & proceeded along the "duck walk" track. No 4 followed the transport, passing through Flers, Longueval, Bazentin, Contlemason & arrived at Mametz about 6.30 P.M.

[Page 156]
April 1917
20th continued We took up our position in Mametz Camp together with the 15th Brigade, & in all probabilities will be staying here for a few days. The weather has been very fine all day with a bright sun shining. We are still within hearing of the guns & all through the night the bombardment continued, still very heavy. It started early this morning & towards the left was exceedingly heavy.
21st The weather to-day started off fine but during the day it became dull & rained during the afternoon.
Revellie at 7 am. Breakfast 7.30 & at 9 A.M. we fell in for inspection, & were dismissed about 10 AM after our feet had been examined. Four men of each section were given leave for the day for Albert.

[Page 157]
April 1917
21st continued We received the news to-day that the Anglo-French captures on the Western Front since the offensive began on the 9th are now:- British 14000 prisoners, 228 guns, - French 19,000, & more than 100 guns, - total 33,000 prisoners, 328 guns.
22nd The weather is glorious to-day- After parade at 9 AM. we were "dismissed" & free for the rest of the day.
During the afternoon three of us went over to King George’s Hill, not far distant from here. It was here that the great push started in the Spring of last year – 9 months ago- & from where King George viewed his troops some time later. The hill commands a fine view of the country for miles around, & situated between Freecourt & Mametz. It is one mass of trenches.

April 1917
22nd continued & in one part a once "No-mans-land," there is an enormous crater or rather succession of craters blown up by our mines at the beginning of the advance, one being about 90’ deep the others ranging between 60’ & 80’ deep.
The German’s position there was exceedingly strong & the hill is almost undermined by "deep dugouts," most of which have now been destroyed.
The Sergeants mess has been formed here in the camp & the Cpl & Sgt are sleeping in it. The remainder of the section are in a large "bow" hut & I am in charge.

[Page 159]
April 1917
23rd Another fine day to-day. We had an early morning parade before breakfast & the usual 9 o’clock parade on which we had the inspection & then drill untill dinner time.
This afternoon was out our turn at the bath house which is about a mile or so away, & it was the first bath the majority of us had had for months.
News came to hand to-night to the effect that on the Arras front, the 3rd Army have advanced 1500 yards on a 1600 yards front.

[Page 160]
April 1917
24th We had the usual inspections this morning & drill (rifle exersise) until dinner time. This afternoon with four five others I went down to where the sports are to be held to-morrow to complete preparations which have are being made there.
25th Anzac Day- after hut inspection we were free for the rest of the day. The Anzac Sports started soon after dinner on a flat where an oval has been prepared, & practically the whole of the 15th Brigade were there. It was a very successful turn-out & finished about 5 P.M. General Birdwood & Brigadier Generals Hobbs & Elliott ("Pompie") were present as well as numerous other staff officers.

[Page 161]
April 1917
25th continued The weather was fine although a little cloudy & everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. A "wet" & "dry" canteen had been erected & was well patronised. At night English beer was given out to the troops in the camp.
26th The usual "routine of the day" was carried out as usual & this morning the company went for a route march to Freicourt where we had a bit of "company" drill, & returned at noon.
27th We were duty section to-day & "mounted a guard" We are in an infantry camp & are not liable for guard, but for purpose of training, this one is to be mounted daily.

[Page 162]
April 1917
28th We were instructed to be ready to "move off" this morning & at 1 P.M. the section left Mametz by motor transport, together with limber & tool carts etc, en route for Contay where we arrived about 3 o’clock.
Contay is a quiet little village about 11 miles from Amiens & near Warloy. There are very few soldiers here & we are living in the Chateau de Contay, a large & picturesque building of the typical French Chateau style.
The tool carts & cyclists etc arrived here about 5 o’clock.

[Page 163]
April 1917
29th Sunday.- The section were split up in to four or five parties as started on the work which we are to do here, consisting mostly of carpentry work & general accommodation for troops as the chateau is to be used as a signal school. At dinner time we recorded our vote, for the election of candidates for the Senate & House of Representatives in Australia All Australian soldiers in France & England etc are to record their vote on the matter & according to general oppinion the Ministeralists are in favour. This afternoon we had a half holiday & had a chance of looking around the country. A couple of others & myself walked out to Tootencourt & Warloy.

[Page 164]
April 1917
30th. We resumed our work this morning and a fatigue party of about 20 German prisoners have been attached to my party & a few to the others. They are working very well & I am general interpreter to the lot. They are living at Tootencourt, about 5 Km away & are brought here & back in moter transports.

1st. The weather has been beautifully fine since we have been here & the trees are shooting out in green foliage. We had the Germans again to-day & are carring on with our usual work.

[Page 165]
May 1917.
2nd Although the temperature is not much above 40°, we feel it very hot, due to the excissive cold we have had during the winter. Our work was resumed again with the Bosches to-day & we are making fine progress.
This afternoon the whole section with the exception of two, went down to the photographer in the town & had a group taken, after which Mr. Oliver left us & returned to Mametz.
3rd. We have made good progress with our work & have started various new ones. We are enjoying ourselves immensely here & are welcome at all the French houses in the town. To-night we "found" a billiard table & were invited to have a game whenever we felt inclined.

[Page 166]
April May 1917
5th The weather has been very sultry to-day & this afternoon we had a thunder storm with heavy rain, the first I have seen of its kind for a long while. The school is starting on Monday & we are to change our quarters to make room for the men coming in to it.
6th This morning we packed up & moved to a new billet about ½ a Kilometre away where we aught to be comfortable.
As usual we had the afternoon off & with a couple of others I rode into ? a village about 6 Kms. away.
The scenery is very beautiful around here & is thouroghly apprecated after what we have had of late.

[Page 167]
May 1917
7th We resumed our work again to-day at the Chateau with our Bosches as fatigue party. The School Started to-day & will soon be in full swing. The weather has been very dull all day & rain is threatening.
8th. It has been arranged that a quarter of the section is to have a holiday each day & this is my day off. Rain started last night & continued all through the day to our disappointment. The remainder of the section carried on with their work as usual at the Chateau.

[Page 168]
May 1917
9th. This morning I started on a new job, making the butts & targets at a range for a sniping school which is to be held here. The position is an ideal place for a rifle range of this description & the Tommie Labour Battalion, who are our "fatigues" have dug the trench into which the targets are to be fixed.
10th. The weather yesterday & to-day has been gloriously fine, the temperature being between 50° & 60°. We continued with the rifle range & started on the dissappearing targets. I have five sappers with me, & two Tommie carpenters, as well as about 40 of the "Labour Battn." The remainder of the section are working over at the chatteau.

[Page 169]
May 1917
11th. The temperature to-day has been a little higher but we have felt it very hot. We have finished the dissappearing targets & also the revetting of the trench. We started on the targets which were brought here in parts & expect to have the job completed by to-morrow night ready for the school which begins on the 14th.
12th Late last night we received news that we are to return to the company to-day, & to our great dissappointment left Contay about 9.30 by motor lorrie for Albert (via Warloy) where we changed into another lorrie which took us on through Bapaume to Vaux, about 7 km further on where

[Page 170]
May 1917
the remainder of the company are billited, (having move up there about four days ago) but after a short stop, returned to Faveruil, about 2 Km further back, to where the company are to come in the course of a day or two. Faveruil is a small village badly knocked about by Fritz & about 3 ½ miles from the front line. We have a number of howitzer batteries just in front of us, but the majority of the artillery is further up.
There was a "hop over" this morning whith successful results by the 15th Brigade, in which over 270 pisoners & an enemy strong-point were captured yesterday, Vaux was shelled heavily in which & a couple of our lads were hit but the pioneers suffered more heavily loosing about 40

[Page 171]
May 1917
13th. Sunday.- The good weather still continues & is well appreciated. We have done very little work owing no-doubt to the fact that the remainder of the section Company have started to move down here.
15th. One blanket was handed in to day, leaving us with one each.
17th We have been doing very little since the 13th. except small jobs scattered about the village and at Vaux.
The weather has not been very good of late, & we have had plenty of rain.
18th. The weather has been fairly warm to-day & the aeroplanes very active on both sides. I have been drawing out plans for a bridge to be built on a canal 5 or 6 miles from here, to carry artillery.

[Page 172]
May 1917
19th. The section relieved No 2 to-day on roadwork between Vaulx & Noreuil which is about 3 miles in front of this place. No 2 is relieving No 1 who are on dugouts in supports & No 3 is making strong points in reserves near Noreuil
Cpl Moore was transferred from our section to No 2 to-day & Lance Cpl. Mathews transferred from H.Q Sect. to No 4 as 2nd Cpl.
One of our own planes attempted to land in an open field near us this afternoon, but struck a small post & turned over. Although the machine was badly smashed the pilot escaped uninjured. The weather has been warm to-day with a temp of about 55°.

[Page 173]
May 1917
20th. To-day the section was working about ½ a mile this side of Noreuil at the advance dressing station, putting in cupola dugouts in place of rough shelters the which they have had of late. No 2 section have been working on them for the last three days with the help of a few of our section. Fritz shelled us during the afternoon but no casualties resulted.
The weather continues fine & the aeroplanes have been very active.
21st. For the last week preparations have been made for relieving the Australians on this front by the tommies & to-day we were warned to be prepared to

[Page 174]
May 1917
21st continued move off at any time. We have been "standing by" waiting for orders, but so far none have come through
22nd. We are still standing by but have had nothing definite about moving off. The Tommies are moving up & relieving our lads of on this sector, but there are still some of the 5th Div. in the line.
23rd. This morning our rifles & equipment were inspected, & later we went for a route march. The weather has been very dull lately & we have had a good amount of rain during the last two or three days.
This afternoon, with cpl Murphy,

[Page 175]
May 1917
I went in to Arras, a distance of about 22 Km from here. Arras is a fine large town, (about twice the size of Albert or Bapaume) and although knocked about terribly is still very picturesque. showing signs Most of the large buildings have been destroyed, either partially or totaly. The cathederal which has been a magnificent building, has very little left. The Part of the tower is still standing & we climbed up to the top of it, about 200’ high, from where we obtained an uninterupted view for about four miles round. The town is full of Tommies, but we saw no Australians. It also has a fairly large population of Civilians for a place so near the lines.

[Page 176]
May 1917
24th We had a route march through Bapaume this morning & were free in the afternoon. We played the tommies football & cricket again this afternoon, as we have been doing for the last three days, otherwise there has been nothing else doing. We have heard nothing further yet about moving off & so far No 3 section has not returned from the supports. The Tommies have been moving up in small parties nearly all day, & a lot have come out. The 60 Btn. is still in the line not having yet been relieved. By yesterday’s paper the news is confirmed that the whole of the Hindenburg line has been captured between Arras & Bullecoart with the exception of about a mile & a quarter.

[Page 177]
May 1917
25th This morning the section went out to Fremicourt where a part of No 3 section have been building a heavy bridge. The bridge is to be constructed over the Nord Canal, (a part of which is still in Fritz’s lines) & We took it to pieces & stacked it ready to be transported up when the opportunity offers.
This evening the company held an open air concert in a paddock near by & with the aid of the 20th Divn Band it proved a great success.
The good weather still continues & to day has been very warm.

[Page 178]
May 1917
27th Yesterday & to-day we have been doing "barbed wire entanglements" in the morning & have had the afternoon off.
We were playing football & cricket in the yesterday afternoon & this afternoon the 20th Division who are relieving us on this sector, gave a concert in the paddock behind the old Chatteau ruins. It was a most brilliant success & we enjoyed it thoroughly. The artists were in "periot" costume, & all are members of the various units of the Division. The orchestra band of the Div. was in attendance as well as the piano, & they antisipate holding the show every evening free to all comers.

[Page 179]
May 1917
29th This morning we went out to Biefuillers to lay out a line of trenches for the defence of the village in case of emergency. In the evening we went to the concert ("Verey Lights") which is still in progress, with a change of programme every night.
31st Yesterday & to-day we were again on the trenches near Biefuillers. The other two sections (No 1 & 2) came with us to-day & considerable progress has been made. No 3 section is on another trench about a mile away. (Biefuillers is about 3 Km from here)
The good weather still continues, although we has a short but heavy shower yesterday afternoon.

[Page 180]
June 1917
1st. We went out to the same job again this morning & returned at midday. In the afternoon I went down with a sapper & made a survey of the trenches for plotting on the map. The concert is still in progress & is well patronised by the Australians & tommies.
2nd. The section went carried on with the same job again this morning, but I remained behind & plotted the new trenches on the Ordinance Survey Map. 57c N.W.3.
There were sports held in the afternoon with the 8th F.C.A.E. & R.Es. which will be continued to-morrow. At about 6 o’clock we had a heavy shower of rain & the temperature fell soon after.

[Page 181]
June 1917
3rd. This morning I went on with the drawings again & finished a new map with the trenches marked for the C.R.E. We had the afternoon free, in which we played No 1 section cricket. (This morning the section were out on a short route march.)
4th This morning the whole company fell in on parade in full marching order for inspection, after which we were dismissed & had the rest of the day free.
5th Orders were received to fall in in full marching order again this morning ready for a route march.
The whole company (including transport & cyclists) moved off at about 9.30 am & returned about 1.30 PM after a

[Page 182]
June 1917
5th. route march of about 7 miles. I went out with Lt. Oliver to make a survey of the trenches & barbed wire entanglements between Fremicourt and Biefuillers & returned about 2 P.M.
The day was very hot with a temperature of about 80°.
The concert is still in progress but the "Verey Light" changed places with
"The Goods" for the night. ("The Goods" have a show up near Arras somewhere, & were a great success tonight)
6th This morning the company went out on barbed wiring in front of the trenches at Biefuillers & returned at 2 P.M. I remained behind & made out a detail report on the trenches & entanglements of Corps Second Line between Fremicourt & Biefuillers where we

[Page 183]
June 1917
went yesterday. The fine weather still continues but we had what we would call in Australia a "Southerly Buster" at about 5 P.M. (but it came from the West.) Last night some of Fritzs planes came over & "presented" us with a few bombs.
7th This morning the company went out for another route march with full packs & transport. It was for a distance of about seven miles & when we returned to camp a "bathing parade" was held at Bapaume.
8th The big bombardment up north started last night & it is expected that a big push on that end of the line is about to take place.

[Page 184]
June 1917
9th Sports were held at Bancourt this afternoon by the Divisional Engineers & Sig. Coy. It proved a magnificent success & the 15th company came off very well. I was in the tug-o’-war team, which came out first after beating the 14th F. Coy.
The weather which has been gloriously fine of late, changed to-day & light rain fell during the afternoon although it did not last long. The heavy bombardment up north between Ypres and Armentiers still continues, and news has come through that the German salient there which he has held so long has been forced and our line straightened with heavy losses for Fritz.

[Page 185]
June 1917
10th This morning the company went out to Biefuillers to complete the wire entanglements around the trenches & returned at midday. In the afternoon we played the R.E’s of the 20th Divn cricket & beat them.
11th We had an exceedingly heavy thunder storm last night & it has been rail raining all the morning, but during the afternoon it cleared up.
12th This morning I went out to make a survey of some new trenches which the 59th Battn. have been digging & finished about 2 o’clock this afternoon I rode out to near Velu on the motor bike & returned through Boulencourt.

[Page 186]
June 1917
13th To-day I plotted out the new trenches on the map & made out a report on them for the C.R.E. The remainder of the section went out to the trenches near Biefuillers to put up an extra entanglement in in front of one of Fritzs old trenches in order to make it defensible.
14th The company were engaged on pontoon instruction all the morning, & had the afternoon off. The 14th Field Coy. played our company rugby after tea on a paddock at the back of our billet, in which the 14th won by a try. That makes them 1 point ahead of us for the sports "Cup."

[Page 187]
June 1917
15th The company were on pontooning again this morning & had the afternoon off as usual.
Hard luck came my way to-day- I had left some photos at Contay when I was there to be developed by a photographer there but most unfortunately the M.P.s got to know of it, with the result that they were sent on to H.Qs who now demand an inquiry into the matter. This look a serious affair, seeing that cameras are forbidden in France, & may probably mean a court martial for me. The I am now awaiting developments, & a report has been sent to C.R.E.

[Page 188]
June 1917
16th We were warned to-day to be ready to move to-morrow & all preparations are being made. The 2nd Division are is relieving us here for some time & the majority of the infantry have arrived & settled down.
17th Final preparations were made this morning for a shift and the advance guard of the 7th Field Coy arrived here to take over from us about 10 A.M. Before leaving I went over to the 18th Battalion & found Charlie Kay a brother of Kit, who came over from Australia a short time ago, after returning from Galipoli. At about 1 P.M. we "fell in" on parade with "full

[Page 189]
June 1917
marching order" & moved off for Bapaume where we entrained together with the 5th Div. Pioneers & left about 20.30 P.M. passing through Ashliet-le-Grand [Achiet-le-Grand] & eventually detrained at Varennes. From there we marched to Bouzencourt, a distance of about 10 Kms, & were allotted to our billets in the town & settled down for a while.
Bouzencourt is not a very large village & has two or three of the 5th Div. Infantry Battalions billeted there as well as us. Our pontoons & transport arrived here a short time before us & are parked in a big paddock on the outskirts of the village.

[Page 190]
June 1917

We paraded this morning in "fatigue dress" & marched to Aveloy, a small village about 6 Kms away, where we all had a swim, which was very welcome & well appreciated. A large lagoon on the side of the River Anore affords a very suitable swimming basin & has been improved for that purpose by some of the lads who were in this section before us. During the afternoon we had some fairly heavy rain which lasted all night.
19th Although still raining slightly we had our usual parade, & as the rain cleared during the morning had some

[Page 191]
June 1917
company drill. Orders were given out late this afternoon to the effect that we are to make another move in the morning bound for Corbie.
20th We paraded this morning in "full marching order" with our transport & moved off in full swing at about 9 AM, passing through Senlis, Henencourt, & Brestle, & arrived at Ribumont about noon where we halted for about an hour & a half & had lunch. Moving off at about 1.30 pm. we passed through Mericourt & leaving Heley & Bonnay on our right, arrived at the town of Corbie at about

[Page 192]
June 1917
half past three, after marching a distance of about 20 Kms.
At Corbie we were met by guides of the advance guard who took us to billets & I have been allotted with ten others to a Frenchmans house in Rue de la Boulangerie, which appears to be very comfortable.
Last night a fire broke out in a large Champagne store in the town & our lads, (the advance guard) were called out to help extinguish it. The result was very evident & champagne, & good stuff too, was exceedingly plentiful, being of course "buckshee" of which the lads freely partook. The other three companies of Engineers

[Page 193]
8th, 14th & 15th arrived in the town to-day & we are the first Australian troope ever billited in Corbie. It is a large & thickly populated place, & from all appearances promices to afford us a very good time.
21st This morning we paraded in "drill order" & marched down the river (Somme river) to a spot about 3 Km. from our billets where we are to go through a course of Pontoon Bridging. Our pontoons came with us & we started work straight away. During the day we transported all our gear to the other side of the

[Page 194]
June 1917
stream where it was parked & later in the day received two other pontoons & superstructure from Bray sent down by the Divisional pontoon Park.
22nd We carried on with our pontooning again to-day & four more pontoons arrived. The other two companies are working further up along the river above the lock & we have picked a very suitable spot.

[Page 195]
June 1917
27th Whe We have made excelent progress with our pontooning since we came & can now form a bridge in record time. The 8th & 14th companies have brought their gear down the river & have parked just below us. A large lagoon just at the back of us affords extra scope for bridging & is being used by them more than the river. We have been making great efforts for this day & this morning we paraded in "battle order" for inspection. The whole of the Engineers formed up in fine style on the river bank with all the transport

[Page 196]
June 1917
& at about 10.30 AM General Hobbs, G.O.C. 5th Div. arrived, attended by his A.D.C. & Staff Col. Wagstaff. He inspected us in a body, and afterwards, the 8th & 14th formed two bridges in double time, across the lagoon. As soon as they were complete the 15th doubled across & formed two bridges across the main river, one of 5 bags [bdgs?] was completed in 6 min. 10 sec. The whole transport moved across the bridges & formed up on the off side of the stream, where the General congratulated us on our bearing & work, with which he was very well pleased.

[Page 197]
June 1917
29th This morning we went down to the river again although very little work was done.
Rowing was more in prominence than anything else & I have started to pick a crew of 10 to pull in the regatta which is to be held here shortly. During the evening we had some rain, but it did not last long.
30th The same thing was done to-day as yesterday, & I am making considerable progress with the training of the team. A four oar team has also been picked.

[Page 198]
July 1917
1st (Sunday) We had a heavy shower of rain during the night, & the place is very sloppy as a result, but although the weather has been dull all day, the rain kept off, & we were able to make final preparations for the Regatta.
All the pontoons & superstructure of the three companies, was removed from our old position, further up stream to about half a mile above the Lock. A suitable place for the sports has been decided upon & we made a start to prepare the place. A large lagoon adjoins the canal, & the swimming & diving part of the programme is to take place in there.

[Page 199]
July 1917
2nd This morning we went down to the canal & put things in order for starting this afternoon. A bridge has been put across the "lagoon" also a large landing stage & a sort of a "Grandstand" made of the pontoons, which already presents an interesting aspect.
At 3 P.M. a preliminary start was made with the sports by the rowing. The course of 800 yards has been marked out on the canal, & the 8th Coy won a victory over the 14th Field Co. in the 10 oar "galley" race. With the four oar crew, ( I myself as cockswain) we scored a victory over the 8th by about 4 inches, & the 14th beat the H.Q. Crew by a length.

[Page 200]
July 1917
3rd The big day of the Regatta. The finishing touches were put to the decorations etc, & everything looks "tip top" The sports opened up at 2 P.M. with the our Officers 4 oar, winning a victory over the 8th Field Coy. The company 4 oar was next & my crew got an easy victory over the 14th. The 10 oar "galley" race was run at about 3 P.M. between the 8th & us. Both teams were in the pink of condition, & the race was a good one. We kept fairly even until within 200 yards of the finish, when I shot out with my team & beat the 8th by over half a length.
The "staff" was well represented at the among the audience and

[Page 201]
July 1917
included Major General McKay ?, Brig. Gen. Elliott ("Pompie") & a Lieut. General as well as representatives of the Imperial army. We also had visitors from the 1st & 2nd Div. Engineers & the 8th Brigade Band was in attendance. Swimming & various other water sports were a great success, & the 15th came out rather successful in that, (we got 1st & 3rd in the High diving. I had a team of 4 in a pontoon, pulling a tug-o’-war against teams of the 8th & 14th Coys. & won the final.
Altogether the afternoon was a glorious success & an enormous crowd of French spectators were present. The 15th have won 27 first prize medals out of 50, & numerous second & thirds.

[Page 202]
July 1917
4th Last night we had a very heavy rain storm, but excepting for a shower this morning the day was fairly fine. We are all very tired after yesterday’s turnout & did not feel much inclined for work. We went down to the canal this morning & after a lecture on venereal disease by a Colonel of the 1st Div. A.M.C. at which Captain (Archdeacon) Ward & General Hobbs were present, we started to dismantle the structures we had made for the sports. Gen. Hobbs was not present yesterday having had to attend the funeral of Gen Holmes (late of Rabaul etc) who was killed whilst showing Mr. Holman around the trenches.

[Page 203]
July 1917
5th This morning the company went down to the canal just above the lock & made a start to form a heavy bridge, calculated to carry 20 tons. (12" X 12" timber & 12" R S Joists being used with 3 three part pontoons as a pier.) At dinner time I was warned for guard & had the afternoon off until 6 o’clock, when I mounted the Quarter Guard with three men.
6th I was on guard all day to-day & was relieved by the 8th Field Coy at 6. P.M.
7th The Company were on the canal again this morning & we formed another type

[Page 204]
July 1917
of heavy bridge calculated to carry 12 tons with safety.
In the afternoon we had played a holiday the 14th F.C. football (Australian Rules) but unfortunately lost. At about 1 PM to-day the 5th Div. Pioneer Battalion came into Corbie & took up their billets here, probably in order to take a course in Pontoon bridging, which I understand, General Hobbs has advised Very heavy rain fell during the night accompanied by heavy thunder & lightning.
8th Sunday After the 9 o’clock parade this morning we were free for the rest of the day. I had a glorious feed of cherries this afternoon.

[Page 205]
July 1917
from a tree next door, the old lady having invited another chap & myself to have some.
It has been raining all the morning but cleared up after dinner.
9th This morning the section went down to the lock & sorted out a lot more of the gear for pontooning. Some of it is to be taken further down stream together with material for the pile driving which we will be doing in a few days.
10th Nos 3 & 4 section went for a route march this morning for about 5 Km along the river towards Perone. In the afternoon the whole Coy. was photographed by the French photographer in the town.

[Page 206]
July 1917
11th The baths were open for the company this morning & those who were not on duty went down, but unfortunately there was no change of underclothing to be had. This afternoon I had to go & see the mayor of the town, for purpose to getting permission to fell about a dozen trees by the canal for piles.
Later I went around with the "Forrest Guardian" & marked the timber I wanted. A concert was held by the Div. Engrs. in the "Tivoli" to-night with great success. Medals were presented for the Bancourt Sports held some time ago.
12th I had eight men to cut down & trim the trees ready for piles to-day, & got about seven ready I also had three horses, & as soon as a log was cut, had it drawn to the river’s edge to be

[Page 207]
July 1917
12th continued prepared for driving. The remainder of the section were making ready the "pile driver" & we hope to make a start to-morrow. The cyclists of the section Company went to Heinencourt [Henencourt] this morning to attend the review at which the King was present.
Various Battalion or Unit competitions were held in the presence of the King, & were a great success, & proved a credit to the Australian troops.
13th This morning, final preparations were made by the section for the pile driving. The 8th Coy have already started & have a considerable number of piles driven. Owing to an accident

[Page 208]
July 1917
13th we were only able to drive one pile this afternoon & got it a depth of 14 feet in the "mud." (With a half ton monkey, & a drop of 4’, the average drive each strike was about 3 ½ ") This afternoon an order came through from Corps Head Quarters, to the effect that my case conserning the camera, was to be dealt with by the Company.
It is most fortunate for me that this has happened & I have escaped with a "reprimand," due to the efforts put forward on my behalf, by Major Greenway my O.C. Yesterday he was asked for recommendations for the officers school to be held in England during the next three months, & owing to this most unfortunate

[Page 209]
July 1917
13th indiscretion on my part is was deemed best that I should not go, although I had been "booked" for it for some time & the Div. Regimental S.M. went in my place. This would, in all probabilities have meant a spell of 5 to 6 months in Blighty for me.
15th This morning Nos 2 & 4 sections went for a route march along the canal as far as ------------ a village about 5 Km from here & returned by a circuitous route doing in all about 10 miles. We had the afternoon off & most of us went for a swim in the canal.

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July 1917
16th Last night & early this morning we had a very heavy fall of rain but it cleared up about 10 a.m. & was fine for the rest of the day. Our section were down on the canal again this morning with the "Pioneers," instructing them in Bridging, & again this afternoon.
17th This morning we went to the same old place & formed a "medium Bridge." At about 10 a.m., the whole of the 8th Brigade arrived from Senlis & after marching over the bridge together with all the transport formed up

[Page 211]
July 1917
on the other bank. During the afternoon they were brought into the town & billited.
18th To-day the 8th Brigade left Corbie & the 14th came in arriving about 11 a.m. & went through the same procedure as the 8th.
19th The 14th left this morning early & the 15th Brig. arrived at about 1.30 P.M. General Hobbs & his staff were here each day to see the brigades arrive & pass over the bridges. Everything went well & each night we took out the three centre "bays" of the

[Page 212]
July 1917
bridges to allow traffic to pass through, & we also had to "break" on an average of 3 times a day.
20th I went to Senlis this morning to have my teeth attended to, & will probably be staying a couple of days.
The "Divisional Train" arrived in Corbie this morning & passed through the same procedure as the three brigades. General Birdwood also, was here to-day, but was unable to attend the inspection on the previous days.
21st I am at Senlis now in the 8th Field Hospital & the dentist has made a start on my teeth
We had very heavy rain during the afternoon

[Page 213]
July 1917
22nd I have got my teeth fixed up but only temporily, & returned to Corbie by train this afternoon. A concert was held in the hospital last night & it was a great success. The concert party was made up from the 8th Field Amb. are known as the "Night Birds."
The whole company were out on a route march this morning & returned about 1.30 P.M. but I missed it, fortunately.
23rd Nos. 1 & 4 sections were out drilling this morning near the canal, & this afternoon we went down to the wharf & cleared up all stores & material & took it up stream about a mile & stacked it at the Lock.

[Page 214]
July 1917
The wharf is very nearly finished now. The 8th & 14th Field Coys & Nos 2 & 3 sections of our company have been working on it of late & have made a considerable progress.
24th The section were out drilling again this morning & had the afternoon off. The Major left for Blighty this morning on leave, & Capt Caddy in acting O.C.
25th This morning the whole Company went for a route march for about 10 miles & returned at dinnertime. This afternoon we all went for a swim. I made out my will to-night making everything over to Mother.

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July 1917
26th A little squad drill was done this morning & we had the afternoon off.
27th On this mornings parade we were totified that the company would leave Corbie to-morrow. Lieut. Oliver is acting O.C. of the company, Captain Caddy having gone to Paris on leave.
We had the day off to get our gear ready & packed up & in the afternoon most of us went for a swim.
28th Reveille at 4.30 this morning & we left Corbie at 7 A.M. with all the transport & proceeded to Warloy-Baillon where we had dinner, arriving at 10 A.M. & leaving at 12 noon. We then proceeded on to Acheux about 23 Kms from Corbie & arrived at 2 P.M. Proceeded to billets.

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July 1917
28th cont allotted us in the wood just outside the town. The 8th & 14th Field Cos. & Pioneers also left Corbie to-day & proceeded to their various billeting areas.
29th We had a spell to-day & were notified that we were leaving to-morrow.
30th At 4 P.M. the whole company left Acheux & proceeding through Lealville arrived at Belleeglise at 5. After having tea near the station we entrained & left at 8 P.M. bound for Steenbecque in Flanders. The train was composed of 46 trucks & two engines & the troops were disposed as follows. 34 for 15th Field Coy. (12 for horses, 15 for viechles, & 7 for sappers, average 30 to a truck) 5 for A.S.C. & 7 for the 58th Battalion (average 20 to a truck)

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July 1917
(30th continued) We passed through Pouchevillers where the 8th Brigade were entraining, and at Candos we passed the 14th Brigade. who We changed over to the French authorities there & after waiting about half an hour, proceeded on our way.
31st Early this morning we passed through Bethune & Lillers & arrived at Steenbecque at about 4.30 A.M. where we detrained & had some breakfast. The transport was unloaded & we left Steenbecque station at about 5.30 AM & passing through Morbecque arrived at our billet, a farm house, about ½ a mile from Sercus after a 3 ½ mile march & settled down in a barn.

[Page 218]
August 1917
1st We are in the Morbecque district & are billeted in a large farm. The other sections are billeted on farms around the district, about ¾ Kms apart.
A heavy bombardment has been going on all day to the north & North East but quietened down towards evening.
2nd Rain started to fall during the night & continued all day, & at times, very heavy. There has been no parade yet & all we have been doing is to straighten up our billet.
3rd It is raining again to-day but not so hard. We had our first parade this morning & Lt. Oliver is still acting O.C. After a little squad drill we returned home & had the rest of the day off.

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August 1917
4th It is still raining & has continued all day. We paraded in "full marching order" this morning & went for a route march for over 13 miles. & returned wet through at about 2 P.M.
5th It was raining all the morning but cleared up before dinner. All the crops are looking in a delapidated state after the heavy rain combined with the wind, & most of them are laying flat.
After the morning parade we were dismissed & had the day off.
This afternoon Pritchard & I went for a ride around the country, & returned after tea. The Major returned from leave to-night.

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August 1917
6th I have had leave to-day & went to St. Omer, a large town about 12 miles from here. We had to go to Hazebrouck to catch the train & had a good look around there before it left. St Omer, although a large place is not very attractive, but the gardens there are very beautiful.
7th To-day we have been doing some "barrel-piering," & made a couple of "Flying-foxes" during the afternoon.
8th We had a 5 mile route march this morning, & finished up with squad drill in the afternoon.
9th Some of Fritz’s planes were over last night & several bombs were dropped in the neighbourhood. A few civilians were killed, but little other damage was done. To-day, he shelled

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August 1917
continued Hazebrouck & did a fair amount of damage. A lot of the Civilians were killed and a number of houses wrecked. Since he started the inhabitants have been leaving the town in great numbers & going to the smaller surrounding villages. Ambulances with wounded, both civil & military, have been passing us all day, on their way to the hospital.
10th Fritz was shelling Hazebrouck again to-day, causing a great deal amount of damage. We fell in on parade in "full marching order" for a route march but on account of the rain it was postponed, & we did some squad drill etc. The party of 6 men returned from the musketry school at Lumbres after a 5 days course.

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August 1917
11th We had more rain to-day & at times was very heavy. During the morning we had some Physical drill but practically nothing else was done during the day.
13th Rain has cleared & it is now quite fine. Yesterday & to-day we have been doing squad drill & bayonet fighting. Harvesting has been in progress for the past week or so & the lads have been giving the farmer a hand in the field after parades. It is quite a change & we all appreciate it very much.
14th We had more squad drill, gas drill etc etc this morning & a route march in the afternoon.
China officially declared war on Germany & Austria to-day.

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August 1917
15th We had a big route march this morning passing through Lynde, Renescure, Eblinghem & Wallen Chip Chappel, & returned about 1.30 P.M. Rain handicapped us to a great extent & near Eblinghem our transport got into difficulty & we were fully an hour crossing the swamp.
We had the afternoon off after returning.
There has been a heavy bombardment for the last couple of days & increased during last night. Some of Fritz’s planes were over to-night & dropped bombs around Steinbecque.
16th We had squad drill & bayonet fighting this morning & a bathing parade this afternoon. Fritz has been shelling Hazebrouck all day & now the town has practically no civilians in it, all having taken refuge further back.

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August 1917
17th We went for a route march to Blaringhem where we had a little practice on "bridge reconoisence" and returned after lunch.
18th I have been granted leave to-day & a couple of us went into Aire, a large village on the Neuff-Fosse Canall. We rode on bikes & spent an enjoyable day there.
There are a great number of Portuguese soldiers in the town & I understand it is their Head-quarters.
A few Fritz aeroplanes came over during the night but did practically no damage.
19th Sunday After a little squad drill and a lecture, given by the doctor, we had the rest of the day off. The weather still continues fine & most of the

[Page 225]
August 1917
crops around here have been taken in. Fritz made another areal raid to-night & bombed Aire & Hazebrouck. They were soon driven off however by the anti-aircraft guns & very few bombs were dropped on the towns.
20th This morning we marched to Blaringham & were inspected by Gens Birdwood, Hobbs, & "Pompie" Elliott. The whole of the 15th Brigade "marched past" & we returned at lunch time. In the afternoon we were doing squad drill. Capt Caddy has gone on leave & Lt. Oliver is acting Transport officer. A large areal raid was carried out by Fritz to-night on Aire & a few bombs dropped very near to us.

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August 1917
21st Drilling all day-(squad & musketry drill) We had another raid from Fritz to-night and a few bombs were dropped near Aire.
22nd We did another route march this morning for about 12 miles. It has been raining practically all day & the ground is getting very sloppy.
23rd Squad-drill all day- Rain has ceased & the weather is very fine.
24th We had a 6 mile route march this morning and drill in the afternoon.
25th We had a bath this morning in the new divisional baths near Blaringhem, & in the afternoon, instruction on "Strong Points"
26th (Sunday) Company Drill this morning & the afternoon off.

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August 1917
27th We had a 27 Kilometres route- march this morning & had the afternoon off. About 11 a.m., it began to rain & continued through the afternoon, clearing up about 8 P.M.
28th It is raining again to-day & a very cold wind is blowing. In the morning & again in the afternoon we had a lecture on demolitions.
29th We left Morbecque at about 10 A.M. with the tools carts, en route for Aire about 10 Kms. away, where we arrived soon after 12 o’clock. We are down for a course of instruction in Heavy Bridging under R.E. instructors, and are living in three large barges on the river (Lys).

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August 1917
29th which are fitted out with bunks & very comfortable.
31st We started work yesterday & to-day have almost compleded a 60’ Inglis Tubular Bridge which we began this morning.
The company has been divided into 8 parts, which have been lettered from A to H (I have got G)

September 1917
1st We finished the Inglis Bridge this morning & started on a heavy girder bridge. Fritz raided the town early to-night but was driven off without doing any damage, by the anti-aircraft guns.
3rd One of our men went to Bethune & got into the hands of the military police last night.

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September 1917
I had to go in and bring him home this afternoon. Bethune is about 28 Kilometres away & slightly damaged by Fritz.
5th We left Aire soon after dinner to-day & arrived back at our old billit in the farm about 3 o’clock. The late Adjutant, Lt Evans came back to the company a few days ago as transport officer and Capt. Caddy after returning from leave took his place.
9th Sunday - Company drill this morning & the afternoon off. We have done very little since we came back from Aire and are antisipating a move in a few days. The weather is still fine, with a warm sun.

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September 1917
10th This morning the transport of the company left Morbecque, together with our blankets. In all probabilities we we leave to-morrow.
11th We left at 10.30 A.M. in motor lorries. 10 were allotted to the company & each section had two lorries, "H.Q" had one & the officers the other. We passed through Hazebrook and crossed the Belgian border at about 11.30 & continued on through Poperinge & Dickiebush.
At about 2 P.M. we arrived at "Cafe Belge" about 3 Km from Ypres and 4 miles from the front line.
The artillery is all around this area, and very thick. After dinner we set to work and to bivouac for the night, as no accomodation can be found. Transport arrived about 5 P.M.

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September 1917
12th All through the night the firing was very heavy & a good number of Fritzs shells landed very close to us. The aeroplanes were also very active during the night. The whole company have been working on their du making dugouts, during the day, & have succeeded in obtaining a little better shelter than we had last night.
13th This morning Lt. Oliver and I started on a reconnoisance of the sector. We did the light-railway-tracks, support duckwalk tracks, & mule tracks, & new roads. Their positions were marked on a map, & also suitable positions for proposed roads to the trenches. The whole of this sector is literally swarmed with

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September 1917
guns of all calibre and new ones are continually coming into position. Many of the guns have been placed in their gunpits ready for action with an abundant supply of ammunition, but are as yet without gun’s-crews (they are coming up later)
14th We continued with our reconoisance this morning & had a narrow escape at "Hell-Fire Corner." We did the tracks & communications to "Jargon" trench (present front line) on the left of the sector & also position of "dumps." The 17th, 18th, 19th, & 20th London Country regiments are represented in this part of the line & are anxiously awaiting our chaps to relieve them. The remainder of the company are building "Nissen-bow" huts about a mile further up the road.

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September 1917
15th We were on the same job again this morning & did all the communications to front line, & the whole of the front line & outposts on the sector we are to occupy. At 9.AM our artillery began a barrage on Fritz & kept it up for half an hour, fairly heavy. We had got up to within 300 yds of the front line, when Fritz retaliate with a barrage & we found ourselves in the midst of it. Although it only lasted half an hour it seemed ages & it was a miracle how we escaped.
He kept up a steady shelling on the front line & supports throughout the remainder of the day & we had a good many casualties. The front line is in a very bad state & in places not more than a couple of feet deep. The 7th Londons are also

[Page 234]
15th Continued in the line & during the afternoon the "Yorks & Derbys" relieved them.
At 4 o’clock they had a "hop-over" an took some of Fritz’s line in order to straighten our line in the centre.
16th We finished the reconoisance yesterday & to-day I have been with the remainder of the section on building the huts. They have made great progress & have a fatigue party from the Tommie’s Labour Battalion.
During the morning 15 German aeroplanes came over & in the afternoon we were shelled with shrapnell.
The first Divn. were moving up to-day & the 6th Batn. took up quarters in the huts we have completed. They had about 20 casualties during the afternoon & night but none killed.

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September 1917
16 Continued Lt. Clarke met with an accident to-night & was taken away to hospital. I went over & saw Charlie Kay (18th Batn.) who has been up on this front three days.
17th We are still working on the huts & have finished 18. The 6th Batn moved out & the 8th London Reg. came in, on their way out of the line & are staying for the night.
18th We continued with the huts to-day & the 5th Batn took over the huts when the "Londons" left. Fritz was giving us a fair amount of Shrapnel during the day but his range was a little over estimated & very few casualties were caused. Early this morning all our artillery gave Fritz an hours barrage. Over twenty prisoners passed us to-day. (Every day there have been on an average of 10 passed us on there way to the "cage")

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September 1917
19th There has been a fairly heavy bombardment going on at intervals during the day & to-night as well as last night. This afternoon I took the C.R.E. (Col. Carey) down to the supports & showed him around the country, & returned through Ypres. All the 1st & 2nd Divisions have come up & have taken over from the Tommies. We are expecting a "hop-over" early in the morning.
20th The heavy bombardment started early this morning (about 1 AM) & continued during the whole day, increasing & subsiding alternately.
The lads "hopped-over" this morning at daylight & the Tommies on our right & left at about the same time, on a front of 14 miles.
Large batches of prisoners have been passing us all day & I have seen over a thousand of them, many

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September 1917
20 continued being badly wounded. (There have been a lot of British wounded passing too)
At 8 PM the results of the Australian sector are as follows:- Have taken & advanced 500 yards past the 3rd objective & are still fighting, have advanced in all over 2500 yards past "Clapham Junction,"(our old front line), have taken over 2000 prisoners 73 guns, many "trench-mortas" & machine guns, & have had comparatively small casualties
Three counter-attacks have been launched by the Germans, but each time he has been repulsed, with heavy losses. The Tommies on our right have advanced about a mile. Lt Oliver & I have been down & pegged out a light railway over the trenches to be constructed as the advance proceeds.
Fritz is shelling heavily at intervals & the observation baloons & heavy guns have already begun to move forward.

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September 1917
21st No 3 Sectn. have gone up to Ypres on road construction & No 3 are working in shifts near Hooge. The others are continuing with the "Bow" huts on which we will be for a considerable time in all probabilities. No further news has been received regarding yesterday’s stunt & the infantry are now consolidating the new line under the charge of the 1st & 2nd div. Engrs, ready for another "hop-over" Fritz counter-attacked to-night after a heavy bombardment which was retaliated by our own artillery, but we do not know the results yet. At dusk to-night one of Fritzs planes came over above the clouds & dived onto one of our ballons, setting it alight with his machine gun. At about 10 P.M. another of his planes came over, but the search-lights found him & before he had time to get back, the gunners brought him down in flames.

[Page 239]
September 1917
22nd The section have been working on the huts again to-day, & I am on picquet to-night, on the material for for them. The 14th Brigade moved into the line to-night & the 15th Brig. have moved into the huts. They are going up to-morrow.
23rd After lunch No 2 & 4 sections moved up to Zillebeke Lake in "battle- order with blankets. We are quartered in small "dug outs" on the bank of the lake, together with some of the 14th & 15th Brig. infantry. At 8 P.M., with a 49th Btn. fatigue party the section moved up to Glencourse Wood (captured a few days ago) & made a "mule-track" over the ridge. At about 2 AM. Fritz put gas over & some heavy shelling followed, but we had no casualties & returned at 4 A.M.

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September 1917
24th Returned back to the Lake at 4 A.M. & slept until dinner-time. At 7 P.M. with two sappers I went down to Hooge to inspect & repair General ("Pompie") Elliott’s dugout. Deep dugouts are very few on this front & are almost a failure on account of the wet ground & pumps have to be continually used to keep the water out.
25th We returned "home" at 3 A.M. after encountering a barrage from Fritz on the way. Fritz has been shelling fairly heavily all day & especially around the lake. At 4 P.M. we were warned to "stand by in Battle-order" ready to move at 5 minutes notice.
26th Nos 1, 2, & 3 sections left at midnight for the front line & No 4 are awaiting orders to follow if necessary. A tremendous "drum-fire" barrage began at daybreak & continued

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September 1917
nearly all through the day. Fritz began to counter-barrage about half an hour before us & he also kept it up throughout the day, with Glencourse Wood as its centre. The Division (5th) "hopped over" at daybreak & took their objective (about 1000 yds) The 3 sections followed the infantry over, & finished their job. Both Engrs & Inf. had received heavy casualties, but not nearly so great as the enemy
The 1st Brigade had lost all their officers & Pritchard took charge, "dug in" & consolidated the position. Over 2000 prisoners were taken & many machine-guns & trench mortas.
The casualties of the company up to 8 P.M. are as follows:- 9 killed, 14 wounded, 5 missing.
This afternoon I went out to find Lt Pritchard & brought him back. About 8 P.M. I took a party with a "Norton" Tube-well up to Hooge. No 4 section went out about 10 P.M. to the front line & "wired" (barb-wire) in front of the front line trench & returned home about 6 A.M. (no casualties)

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September 1917
27th Heavy barrage began at daylight & continued for two hours. Returned home 6 A.M. & slept all the morning. This afternoon I took the "tube" well to BlackWatch corner (Pollygon Wood & drove it in, but the supply of water is very limited. From 4 to 6 P.M. we were in the midst of a heavy barrage from Fritz & I was half burried twice before we got into a "Pill-box." Fritz counter attacked but was driven off with heavy losses. The 3 of us were nearly sniped by machine guns but by 8 o’clock everything was fairly quiet. After our reconoisance for a water supply we returned home at 6 A.M. (for 28th see further on)
29th At 9 A.M. I went out again with 7 sappers to establish an advanced water supply & dug a well inside a "Pill-box" about 1000 yards behind the front line to a depth of 15’ & struck water. Fritz has been shelling heavily all day & at 8 P.M. he put a heavy barrage over & counter-attacked on the front & both flanks of the salient. Our barrage of both artillery & machine guns opened

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September 1917
up & stopped him, & I believe, not a man of them got back alive. We advanced a couple of hundred yards, took prisoners & a great number of machine guns. The wire that the section put out last night & the night before had a lot to do with stopping his counter-attack. We finished work at 2 AM. & returned home. Fritz has been bombing heavily all
30th Returned home 4 AM to Cafe Belge. The section left Zillebeke Lake yesterday afternoon. The Tommie Engrs have taken over from us & are moving into this camp to-morrow. We are very tired after our spell but have had a very easy day. To-night Fritzs planes came over & dropped a few bombs very near our camp but we had no casualties. Our casualties in the stunt are as follows 10 killed 2 missing 20 wounded Lt Turner & Sgt Elliott are missing.
(28th I went out this afternoon with 2 sappers to test a well I found near Glencourse Wood & also continue the reconoisance. We returned home at midnight.)

[Page 244]
Various insignia markings- see images- Key plate to Colours

[Page 245]
A.I.F. Unit’s Distinguishing Colours- see images

[Page 246]

Machine Gunners- see images

[Page 247]
Infantry (Battalions) Various Brigades insignia- see images

[Page 248]
Infantry (Battallions) – see images.

[Page 249]
Military awards colour ribbons including French awards- see images

[Page 250]
Map showing Somme Bapaume Sector- see images

[Page 251]
Sapr. A Grant 6462
59 Kennedy St.
East Perth.W.A.

[Page 252]
2036 Signls Ger. E.Donovan T.G.
C.Coy 56th Batt.

Elder House

Princes St
Launceston. Tasmania

[Page 253]
Roy M Smedley
Windsor St

Mr John S. S. Masters
Chelmsford Road.

C Hudson
Gresham Hotel

[Page 254]
George Joss
3rd Engr.
T.S.S. "Makarini"
C & D Line 9 & 11 Fenchurch [indecipherable]
London E C
Hawthorn Pl. Abberdeen. Scotland.

M.R.Smith} Killed in action 1st December 1916 on the Somme near Bernafay Wood. Buried in Bernafay Cemitary

"Cora Lynn"
Point Rd

J.C. Renills 7752
Constitution Rd

[Page 255]
Should this diary go astray or be lost the return to the following address would be deemed a great favour by the owner.
Sgt W.K. Gillies
Australian Engrs

Mr W Gillies
c/o H.M. Customs
Sydney N.S.W.

[Transcribed by Lynne Palmer and Judy Macfarlan for the State Library of New South Wales]