~   KINNY INDEX    ~    SMYTHE INDEX   ~    SEARCH THIS SITE     ~    LINKS     ~
|    Family History    |    WWI Letters Home    |    Lest We Forget    |    WWI Diary    |    WWII WAAAF    |

 

Introduction

Timeline

Re-enactment video

Podcast

 

1915

Chapter 1
Enlistment and Embarkation
23 April - 14 July
Chapter 2
Egypt and Gallipoli
15 July - 29 September
Chapter 3
Malta
2 Oct 1915 - 25 Jan 1916

1916

Chapter 4
To France
26 January - 28 March
Chapter 5
The Western Front
29 March - 15 July
Chapter 6
The Somme
16 July - 25 August
Chapter 7
Moves and a Transfer
26 August - 25 December

1917

Chapter 8
Blighty
26 Dec 1916 - 23 Aug 1917
Chapter 9
Romance
24 August - 14 October
Chapter 10
To War Again
15 October - 25 November
Chapter 11
OTC at Last
26 November - 3 May 1918

1918

Chapter 12
Officer in Waiting
4 May - 12 June
Chapter 13
The Somme Again
13 June - 24 August
Chapter 14
Dompiere & Mont St. Quentin
25 August - 6 September
Chapter 15
Respite
7 September - 10 November
Chapter 16
Peace!
11 November - 28 Feb 1919

1919

Chapter 17
Belgium and Germany
1 March - 16 March
Chapter 18
England and Marriage
17 March - 21 August
Chapter 19
Homeward Bound
22 August - 12 October
Chapter 20
Postscript

Percy's Poems

Picture

credit

The WWI diary of Percy Smythe was transcribed by his daughter Betty Smythe.

 

We looked over the old sugar mill. All the machinery, thousands of pounds worth, was destroyed. All the brass and copper fittings had been removed and taken away by the Huns.

Mont  St Quentin Captured France 1918 WWIThe destroyed St. Denis Sugar Factory and Railway line, near Peronne. During the attack on Mont St. Quentin, on 1 September 1918, the 53rd Battalion were for a time entrenched along the embankment of this Railway, their line extending to the ruined Sugar Factory. The embankment had been their first objective on that day, and in the fighting there, an act of gallantry by a runner of the Battalion won for him the Victoria Cross. Even after its capture, the rear of this line was menaced by machine gun fire from the enemy on Mont St. Quentin, who, however, were forced to evacuate later in the day, by the attack of the 6th Australian Infantry Brigade. AWM


This evening the officers mostly concerned in the Mont St. Quentin stunt were sent to Div. Hqrs. to clear up some dispute about it. The 5th. Brigade objected to some minor points in our brigade report. These were soon settled to the satisfaction of all concerned. The 5th. Brigade, on the other hand, in their own report, claimed that they captured Mont St. Quentin. It appears that a small party of them had penetrated into the village and were promptly forced out again. General Rosenthal would not consider their claim for a moment, and said that the credit of capturing Mont St. Quentin belonged to the 6th. Brigade entirely.

Warned for duty as Canteen Officer at the Divisional Sports tomorrow.

Monday, 16th.  The sports were held at Eclusier, and the job of Canteen Officer was anything but pleasant. There was only one canteen for all the men, numbering thousands, and one for the officers. We were understaffed, the crush was terrific, and no Military Police turned up to assist until after lunch. Had to close down soon after twelve on account of the crush. Some of the men were sullen and discontented, and it was only after much difficulty that we were able to get the marquee cleared.

After lunch I managed to get the men into a queue, and then things went a little smoother. The beer was all sold out about four o'clock, and I was intensely thankful to see it gone. Meanwhile, at the officers' canteen all was not going smoothly. Many of the officers were drunk, and they were handing out beer and whisky to the men outside. This brought a great crowd of men around, and soon they came crowding into the marquee. A lot of stock was stolen, and the canteen had to be closed down to get things in order. As soon as it was opened again a lot of the officers began passing stuff out to the men outside, and naturally the men came crowding round again, lifting up the sides of the tent to get in. A number of the M.Ps. were kept very busy trying to keep them out, but their task was made difficult by the officers encouraging the men.

At last everything was sold out except some lime juice, which nobody seemed to want. It was a great relief when everything was over and I was able to get away. Arrived back at billets dead tired and in none too good a humour, and then Courtney and Whitier began to grouse and grumble because I had not got them a couple of bottles of whisky. They kept nagging at me like a couple of old women, and finding fault with my management of the canteen, until I got quite fed up with them and would not answer them.

Long letter from Dorrie. She still upholds her mother's suggestion. Commenced a letter to her tonight. Wrote till nearly midnight.

Tuesday, 17th.  Mum's birthday today. There was a terrific storm during the night. I was sleeping alone in the little tin hut the batman had built for our mess, and was afraid every minute that it was going to come down before the force of the wind, or that a tree might fall across it. The trees along the canal bank probably broke the force of the wind considerably. In the morning we found trees down all over the place. One had broken through the roof of Bn. Orderly Room, and another had partly demolished the Hqrs. cookhouse. Fallen trees and branches were lying all along the bank of the canal.

Letter from Mrs. Morgan today, with one from Mum and one from Rita enclosed. Mum had been to see Mrs. Tanner. She was expecting Les home on furlough. Lorrie Maloney has succeeded in getting into camp, but its doubtful that he will pass when the draft leaves.

Finished letter to Dorrie tonight.

Wednesday, 18th.  Dorrie is nineteen years old today. News tonight that the old line of last March has been reached north of St. Quentin.

Lieut. Towner, the M.G. officer who was with "A" coy. during the fighting at Mont St. Quentin, has been recommended for a V.C. Courtney and Cpl. Stonehouse and I put in statements of what we knew of the good work he had done.

Thursday, 19th.  Wrote to Dorrie today, also to Mrs. Morgan. The Serbians have had a great victory in the Balkans.

Friday, 20th.  Letter from Hughes, my late batman. He is in hospital at Bath, and has lost his right eye. Also received a nice earnest letter from Dorrie. Mrs. Pope had been advising her not to take other folks' advice in matrimonial matters. Mrs. Pope herself had married against her parents' wishes, and she said she has never had occasion to regret it.

According to the paper tonight, the 1st. and 6th. Australian divisions have occupied the outposts of the Hindenburg line north of St. Quentin. The Serbian victory has been extended, and the cavalry have gone through and advanced to a depth of twenty miles.

We were officially informed tonight that the 21st. Bn. is to be broken up to reinforce the other battalions of our brigade. An entire company is to come to the 24th. Bn., and they are to remain a company, our "C" being divided up among the other three companies to make room for it. There has been a reshuffling of officers, and Courtney and I have been allotted to "B" coy. Orders were also issued that in a couple of weeks' time there is to be an attack on a large scale. The 3rd. and 5th. Divisions are to break through the Hindenburg line and secure the flanks, and the 2nd. Div. is to go through and exploit their success. Objectives will be unlimited, but it is hoped that we will advance ten miles. Strict secrecy has to be maintained in connection with the coming operations.

Saturday, 21st.  Got a short letter from Dorrie today. The 21st. Bn. have gone "on strike", and refused to be broken up. The projected changes have therefore been suspended.

Following upon the Serbian victory in the Balkans, news comes to hand now of a great victory in Palestine, where our troops have broken through the Turkish defences and advanced to a depth of twelve miles. The cavalry has gone right through, and is intercepting the retreating columns of the enemy.

Wrote to Dorothy this evening.

Sunday, 22nd.  Wrote birthday greetings to Vern. His birthday was on Friday. He is now twenty-four. Also wrote to Mum and Dad. Received a letter from Mum, July 7th., and one from Vera Billingham, July 14th., the letter having a piece of wattle enclosed.

Wrote to Hughes, at Bath. According to the paper today, the Bulgars are retiring and burning villages, and our success in Palestine is developing favourably. A telegram came through from Brigade Hqrs. tonight saying that the cavalry had occupied Nazareth, and so far 18,000 Turkish prisoners had been taken.

Monday, 23rd.  Invoice from Watermans. They had sent Dorrie a pen with two gold bands, the name being engraved on one of them. The lot only cost 24/-. Got a belated bill from Masters, and a letter from the P.C.C. saying they had asked Madderton and Co., of Longton, Essex, to supply the drawing materials I had asked for.

Received a nice long letter from Dorrie. She thinks we might be able to persuade her mother to see things from our point of view.

Tuesday, 24th.  Two more letters from Dorrie, written last Tuesday and Wednesday. She has started work at the N.A.C.B. canteen at the aerodrome.

Courtney left for Paris today on ten days' leave. Wrote a long letter to Dorothy. Suggested that we drop the discussion about our marriage, and settle it when I come on leave.

Wednesday, 25th.  "C" coy. was broken up today, our platoon coming to "A" coy. The 21st. Bn. still solidly refuse to be broken up. While on strike, they have carried on with the syllabus of training as usual, the N.C.O's. taking charge.

Snowy Forbes arrived back to the battalion today. He said that both Viv and Joe Scales had been put off this month's list for France. That means that they won't come before the end of next month. Was rather glad to hear it. By that time we ought to be out for the Corps rest.

The British and Serbians and Greeks are now close to the Bulgarian frontier. Prilep has been occupied. It became definitely known tonight that the 21st. Bn. have scored a victory. They are to remain intact.

Thursday, 26th.  We had a long march today, and then a practice stunt in conjunction with tanks. Major Ellwood said that probably within a few days we should be required to do such a stunt against the Boche.

Got a letter from Viv, which is something unusual. He says he has been put off the next list for France, and will not now be able to rejoin the battalion before November. He seems to be very much fed up with the O.T.B. Also had a letter from Dorrie. She had received the fountain pen, and was very pleased with it.

The number of Turks captured in Palestine now amounts to 40,000. Further progress has been made in Serbia, and the British have now reached the Bulgarian frontier.

We are to leave this camp tomorrow and go forward to Le Mesnil, which is near Peronne.

Friday, 27th.  Packed up. Wrote to Viv. According to today's paper, the British have entered Bulgaria, and are 41/2 miles from Strumitza. 45,000 Turks have been captured in Palestine. The French and Americans have advanced seven miles in Champagne, and have taken 5,000 prisoners. A telegram came through later saying that Bulgaria had asked for an armistice to discuss peace, and the number of prisoners taken in Champagne now amounted to 10,000.

We left our camp near Cappy at about half-past seven this evening, and had a long tiresome march to a small camp of dugouts and shelters near Le Mesnil, arriving there well after midnight. The officers were quartered under a big culvert, which provided excellent protection from the weather.

H18092 Cappy France 1918 WWICappy, France. A corner of the village in the Somme area at the French front. AWM

Saturday, 28th.  Slept in till eleven o'clock, and might not have got up then if Harry Clough and Cliff Ellis had not pulled me out of bed.

Wrote to Dorothy. We left about half-past seven and marched to another camp of trench shelters near Tincourt, arriving here about 11p.m.A tent was provided for the officers of “A” and “B” coys but there were far too many to crowd into to it. “B” coy officers got a trench shelter and made a home for themselves.

E03243 Tincourt France 1918 WWIThe village of Tincourt burning while it was still defended by the enemy machine gunners,
placed in the white chalk trenches in the foreground. AWM

Sunday, 29th.  A telegram came today saying that in Champagne the number of prisoners has increased to 25,000. The Belgians and British have launched an offensive on the Ypres front, and have retaken Paschendaele and Broodeseinde. The British have advanced close up to Cambrai, and taken 15,000 prisoners. On our front the Americans are over the St. Quentin canal.

During the day we organized the platoons for the coming attack. The 3rd. and 5th. Divs. are to follow up the American success, and then we advance through them.

Got a letter from Vern. He knew nothing about the six months' Australian leave for the 1914 men. Wrote to Courtney at Paris, as I had promised to let him know if we moved. Sent 2/2 to the Commonwealth Officers in London for three months' subscription to the "Anzac Bulletin". Wrote to Mum and Dad, and to Vern. Urged him to get in for the Australian leave.

Monday, 30th.  Wounded men coming back to the C.C.S. nearby say that the Americans in their attack went too far forward, and did not mop up the German strong points on their way. The result was that these strong points opened a deadly fire on them from behind, and played havoc with them. Our 3rd. and 5th. Divs., when they followed on behind the Americans, had to stop and deal with the strong points. This probably means that the projected breakthrough is a failure, just because the Yanks, in their eagerness to do something big, neglected the less spectacular but more vital tasks assigned to them.

An order came to me this morning from Bn. Hqrs. to proceed to Le Mesnil and relieve Gleadow from the job of Area Sub-Commandant. Gleadow is going on furlough to England. The battalion will now be going into this stunt without one of the officers who were right through the last operations. Can't say that I am sorry to be out of it.

Got a letter from Dorothy, written yesterday week. She had suddenly decided to take a holiday and go to Exeter and Honiton.

Went per motor lorry to Péronne. The town is in ruins, as was only to be expected after all the fighting it has experienced. Met Gleadow and went with him to Le Mesnil. The Area Commandant's office is in one of the few buildings still habitable. It is patched up with trench shelters to keep the rain from coming through.

E03576 Peronne France 1918 WWIAustralian transport halted in a ruined street of Peronne.
The shell torn Citadel Tower can be seen on the right. AWM

In Belgium the Messines ridge has been retaken, and the Belgians have advanced to within 21/2 miles of Roulers. 9,000 prisoners have been taken. The enemy is being well pushed everywhere

***

Heretofore I have made it a practice to record in this diary all letters written and received. Henceforth, letters of no particular interest will not be mentioned. (Percy).

***

OCTOBER 1918

Tuesday, 1st.  Gleadow left on furlough today. That makes me fifth on the list of officers for leave.

Wednesday, 2nd.  Got hold of yesterday's paper, and the news is good. Bulgaria has accepted our conditions for an armistice, which amounts to unconditional surrender on her part. The Belgians are in the outskirts of Roulers and the French 6 miles from Laon. The French and Americans are encircling the Argonne Forest.

Thursday, 3rd.  According to yesterday's paper, the British have got into Cambrai and the French into St. Quentin.

This morning I biked over to Mont St. Quentin and went over the ground we fought over on Sept. 1st. Cpl. Rolf had been buried where he fell. A rough wooden cross, erected by the burying party, stood at one end of his grave, and the neat white-painted cross made by the battalion pioneers stood at the other end. Saw the old broken wall we had made a desperate stand behind. A lot more of it had been broken off since then. Had been under the impression that it was part of a ruined building, but I saw now that it was the last remaining fragments of a brick wall which had surrounded the cemetery. In the cemetery itself, every tombstone was wrecked, and a number of vaults had been broken open. In one of these a smashed coffin could be seen. Went down along Plevna trench, and saw W.C.Smith's grave near the former Dressing Station. Going up on the ridge in front of the village, I found the little dugout where Courtney and I had slept till the bombardment came. Two shells had landed very close to us, one 2 yards from our heads, and the other 21/2 yds away on one side. The dugout was full of earth, and the covering sheets of iron were all twisted and broken. A few yards lower down were the graves of Jack Cummings, Sullivan, Clough, Corboy and Coulsen. Went forward to the "pillbox" in front, and found it to be only a bit of an old ruined building. A number of cellars in the vicinity had been occupied by the Huns, and probably the position was held as a strong point. Did not have time to go and see the graves in Gottlieb trench.

Friday, 4th.  Armentières and Lens have been taken, and the enemy is withdrawing on a wider front. Further successes have been obtained on our front, north of St. Quentin. In Syria the cavalry has occupied Damascus, and gone 17 miles beyond. Heard that the 2nd. Div. is coming out of the line.

Saturday, 5th.  Saw a number of French civilians this morning from the captured areas north of St. Quentin. They were mostly old women. What a joy it must be to them to be free again after four years of German tyranny.

The clocks go back an hour tonight, marking the end of "summer" time.

Sunday, 6th.  Saw two huge German aeroplane bombs this morning. They measured 12 feet 9 inches in total length. The body was nearly 10 feet long, and 22 inches in diameter at the widest part. I suppose these are the type of bomb that make such a frightful explosion when they fall.

The Central Powers have asked President Wilson to negotiate for an armistice on the basis of the points laid down in his speech of January 8th. and subsequent declarations.

Monday, 7th.  Learned today that the 2nd. Div. has come back from the line, and the whole corps is out for the long-looked for corps rest.

Went up to Bellicourt this afternoon to see the famous canal tunnel.  Found the entrance about half a mile from the town. Got a candle and went into the tunnel. It is a dark, evil-smelling place. The canal in the tunnel is full of barges, which have been used as billets by the Huns, but how they could bear to live in such a place I don't know. Went along for about half a mile in the tunnel, but was glad to get out and leave it.

St. Quentin Tunnel near Bellicourt France 1918 WWIThe entrance to the St Quentin Canal Tunnel at Riqueval near Bellicourt. AWM

Tuesday, 8th.  The French have broken through in Champagne, and advanced nine miles north of Rheims, towards Rethel. Dorrie has sent me a jolly nice photo of herself taken in uniform when she was a Girl Guide. She had written from Exeter, where she was spending her holidays.

Wednesday, 9th.  We are hearing vague rumours of a big advance beyond St. Quentin. Couldn't get a paper today.

Thursday, 10th.  The British have broken right through the Hindenburg system of defences between Cambrai and St. Quentin, advancing to a depth of 16 miles. Cambrai has been taken, and the French are 5 miles beyond St. Quentin. President Wilson has sent a very appropriate reply to Germany's peace note. A plain statement is required from them, and in any case an armistice cannot be considered while the enemy remains in occupation of Allied territory.

Friday, 11th.  Le Cateau has been taken by the British. The whole of the Argonne Forest is now cleared of the enemy. In Syria, Beirut has been occupied.

Saturday, 12th.

Sunday, 13th.  Went to Poevilly this afternoon for pay, and drew 100 francs. Decided to go on up to St. Quentin and see the famous old city at last redeemed from the vile Hun. Our motor transport only goes that way as far as Vermand, but I managed to get a lift from there in a French civilian car. I thought the occupant was probably a newspaper correspondent, but on asking him found that he was a cabinet minister.

Had a look around the city, which is rather badly knocked about, but not wholly destroyed. Many of the buildings could easily be patched up again, and some are almost intact. The cathedral is in a sad state, and the floor is covered with a mess of wreckage from the collapse of the entire roof. The walls, however, and the tall columns in the interior, are still quite sound. Some Hun prisoners were employed in repairing the streets and bridges.

St Quentin  France H04449 1916 WWISt Quentin, France. 1918-10-13. Extensive damage resulting from the
German Army blowing up the street before it departed.

It was long after dark before I got back to Le Mesnil. Germany's reply to President Wilson is in today's paper. She professes to accept Wilson's proposals, but from the wording of the reply I think it looks very doubtful, and I hope that neither Wilson or anybody else will trust that vile gang of murdering thieves who rule Germany. Anyway, it shows that they know they are beaten when they will go so far as that.

Monday, 14th.  Went over to Gottlieb trench today to see the graves of our men there. There were twelve neat white wooden crosses where the big shell had fallen. Eight of them bore names of 24th. Bn. men. They were: Lieuts. Martin and Newton, Sjt. Jolly, Corporal Martin, Lance-Corporal Robertson, Privates Doble, Ellen and Atkins. They had all been buried just where they were lying that night. One of the graves was just out of the trench. Presumably it was the man who had been blown right out and who was supposed to be Murray. The name on the cross showed him to be an 18th. Bn. man. That part of the trench looked like a miniature cemetery. A little farther along were the graves of Sjt.-Major Love and "Tick" Taylor. Went back as far as the chalk embankment near Cléry.

By today's paper, the French have taken La Fère and Laon, and the Serbs have captured Nish, which means that railway communication between Germany and Turkey is severed.

Captain Park received a pass for leave to England, and goes tomorrow morning, leaving me in charge of the area and the Employment Coy.

Tuesday, 15th.  Captain Park left early this morning. A new advance has been made in Belgium, Roulers having been taken and Menin reached. Sent £1-1 instalment to the P.C.C., and asked them to send me a supply of bristol board.

Wednesday, 16th.  My batman went down to look up the battalion today to see if there were any letters, as I have not received any for over a week. Got busy writing up some of my neglected correspondence. Couldn't get hold of a newspaper today.

Thursday, 17th.  Hildebrand arrived back this afternoon, bringing bad news. The battalion had had a rough time in their last stunt. Captain Mahoney was killed, and Captain Fletcher, both sniped through the head. Lieuts Baldie and Gear were killed. Poor little "Russia" (Blankenburg) and Corporal Rowlands were also killed. Mr. Ellis was wounded, Snowy Lavery missing, Sjt. Toohey wounded. There were also many other casualties. The battalion has now been reduced to two companies, "A" and "B", and the 21st. Bn., also reduced to two companies, "C" and "D", is put in with it, both battalions being administered as one, though still preserving their separate identity. There were no letters for me. They had been sent on as usual, and probably have gone astray somewhere. The battalion is billeted in La Chaussée, which is on the Somme between Amiens and Abbeville.

Finished drawing the Christmas card I started a few days ago for Mum and Dad. By today's paper, the Belgians have taken Thouront and the British Menin. President Wilson has effectively replied to the German note by saying that he will leave the question of an armistice to Marshall Foch.

Friday, 18th.  Wrote to Duncan Campbell, the post corporal with the battalion, asking him to keep all letters for me, and not send them on as they were not arriving. Wrote to P.V. Bradshaw for prospectus of "The Art of the Illustrator". Sent postal order for 3/7 to Winsor & Newton Ltd., for some bristol board.

Couldn't get a paper today, but heard that Ostend, Lille and Douai have been taken.

Saturday, 19th.  Ostend, Lille, Roubaix, Turcoing, and Douai have been taken, and the outskirts of Bruges reached. Success seems to follow success everywhere. May our long-cherished dreams of peace be realized in the near future. Austria is to become a confederation of states, Hungary and Poland to be separate and independent. The Italians have entered Montenegro, and the Serbs are now only 90 miles from Belgrade. Great riots and disturbances are reported in Germany.

Sunday, 20th.  Got my batman to salve and repair a bike that was left behind at one of the camps. The whole of the Belgian coast has been occupied.

Monday, 21st.  Finished the drawing exercises for Lesson 1 of the P.C.C. course using cartridge paper as I can't get bristol board. They included six silhouette drawings.

Tuesday, 22nd.  Sent Drawing exercises and letter of explanation to the P.C.C.

Wednesday, 23rd. Sent Hildebrand to the battalion for letters, etc. By today's paper, the British are in Valenciennes suburbs, and are close to Tournais.

Thursday, 24th.  Hildebrand returned this afternoon bringing nine letters, four of which were from Dorrie and the others from Australia. There were none from home. Probably some were readdressed from the battalion with some of Dorrie's letters, and are still wandering about somewhere looking for me. Duncan Campbell said that he had also sent on a parcel to me about a week ago. Courtney sent me a note. He and Rook have got their second pips. Our leave has been put back a bit by the two battalions being put together. I am now about fourth on the list. Middleton said that leave cannot be granted under five months from returning to France.

Dorrie has left Exeter and gone up to Honiton for a couple of weeks. She has had a touch of the influenza which is raging all over England. Her letters written between Sept 27th. and Oct. 7th., probably three or four, have not arrived.

Vera Billingham says it is all off between her and Eric Wade. She thinks he must have taken up with a girl over in England. Rather hard on poor Vera after waiting patiently for him for about four years. Her brother Bob has enlisted, although only seventeen. Eliza Prigg sends congratulations for getting a commission. Mrs. Tanner congratulated Dorothy and I on our engagement. They have had Les home for 34 days' leave. He had been in a lot of naval fighting, including the attack on Zeebrugge.

Friday, 25th.  President Wilson has told Germany that he will have no more discussion with the Kaiser government, and in any case no armistice could be granted except one which would make it impossible for Germany to resume war. South of Valenciennes the British have advanced five miles, and are near Le Quesnoy. Heard that a mine with a delayed-action fuse blew up a couple of days ago under the main level crossing at Roisel. Fortunately not many people were injured. This is reducing delayed action mining to a fine art, for it is over six weeks since the Germans retreated from there.

Saturday, 26th.  ------------

Sunday, 27th.  --------------

Monday, 28th.  A new offensive has been started in Italy by the British and Italians. In Syria we have occupied Aleppo, which is the fifth city in the Turkish Empire. The Mesopotamian forces have advanced fourteen miles towards Mosul. Ludendorf has resigned, and there are signs of revolution in Germany. Austria seems to be falling to pieces, her different races clamouring for independence. The German races want to attach their part of the empire to Germany. It is suggested that the emperor Carl will become king of Hungary.

Tuesday, 29th.  Count Andrassy, for Austria-Hungary, has accepted President Wilson's conditions for an armistice, amounting practically to surrender, and urges that an armistice be arranged as soon as possible. He offers to enter negotiations independent of Germany. This act seems to rather brighten the prospects of peace.

Wednesday, 30th.  Sent £1-1 instalment to the P.C.C. Finished the second drawing lesson.

The British and Italian forces have advanced seven miles beyond the Piave. Count Andrassy has sent another note, direct to America, "begging" for an armistice to be arranged at once. Hungary has declared her independence of Austria. The Jugo-Slavs have gained complete independence and have cleared all the German and Austrian garrisons out of their territory. They have sent representatives to Switzerland to get into touch with the Allies. Austria has evacuated Montenegro, all the important towns of which were occupied by local irregulars. A big conference of Allied ministers is being held at Paris. This looks very significant.

Thursday, 31st.  Sent Lesson 2 to the P.C.C. Letter from Middleton telling me that I have been awarded the Military Cross, also Bowden, Gow, Sedgwick and Stuart, all from the Mont St. Quentin stunt.

The British, French, and Italians have gained a great victory beyond the Piave. The Austrians are in full retreat, and have lost 13,000 prisoners.

Captain Park returned from leave tonight, about 11 o'clock.

NOVEMBER 1918

Friday, 1st.  Wire from 6th. A.T. Brigade instructing me to return at once to unit. Packed up ready for departure.

Turkey has accepted our armistice conditions, meaning practically unconditional surrender. Austria has sent plenipotentiaries to General Diaz asking for an armistice. This is great news indeed, and brings the end of the war within sight.

Saturday, 2nd.  Went to Péronne intending to catch the 10.25a.m. train to Amiens. Found that it has been cut out, but the 8.50a.m. train had not yet arrived. The day was wet and miserable, and it was a dreary time waiting on the cheerless shell-battered station. The train arrived about half-past twelve. It was the only one running for the day, and was already packed full of leave troops. Stowed my gear away in various places on the outsides of the trucks, and travelled standing on the buffers myself, until we got to Chaulnes, when I managed to find a truck with room inside for one more.

Peronne  France H09070 1916 WWIThe ruins of the Peronne-Flamicourt railway station which had been destroyed during
intense fighting between the British and German Armies. AWM

Chaulnes  France H09077 1916 WWIChaulnes, France. c. 1917. The village buildings completely wrecked by intense fighting
between the British Allied forces and the German Army. AWM

Darkness was setting in when we arrived at Amiens, about 5 o'clock. It was a genuine pleasure to see women and children again, after having been for so long in the devastated and desolate "Forward Areas".

Got a paper, which contained the terms to Turkey. As expected, they are pretty rigorous. A reply from Austria to our armistice terms is being awaited. The Austrian army has become a rabble, fleeing in disorder. The Austrian fleet has surrendered to the Jugo-Slavs. Count Tisza has been assassinated, and Hungary has decided to become a republic. Revolution has broken out in Vienna. A big Allied push has been launched on the Western Front, at four main points, Flanders, south of Valenciennes, Argonne, and north of Verdun.

Got the "half-past seventeen" train to Picquigny, and reported to Bn. Hqrs. at La Chaussèe, just across the river. Went to the P.O. and collected what mail there was for me, and then strolled round to the mess. Had to shake hands all round and accept congratulations for getting the M.C.

My mail included five very nice letters from Dorrie, written from Honiton, Oct 18th. to 27th. There was no definite answer to my questions about keeping her promise. Also got a lot of home mail, including four from Mum. Clytie's and Viv's new home, "The Haven" is finished, and Clytie and her folk have moved into it until Viv's return. Mum says that Ida is finished at Stott and Hoare's, and may get a job at the Commonwealth Bank. Annie Hardie and Lizzie Curtin are married. Lizzie was one of my playmates of childhood's days, many years ago. Probably I would not recognise her now, it is so long since I have seen her. Rita wrote me a very nice letter. She had at last received the autograph drawing I sent her. Besides the letters there was a parcel from Mrs. Newland containing lots of good things, and a couple of parcels of Bristol board I had sent to London for.

Got a very comfortable billet with some nice French people. My bed is a real one, with sheets. Such luxuries!

Sunday, 3rd.  Its jolly fine to be back here amongst the cheery company of the mess, after the lonely weeks at Le Mesnil. Besides Cliff Ellis, Ernie White, Captain Pollington, Snowy Forbes, and Robertson were wounded in the last stunt, also sjts. McLeod and Holloway. Bobbie Laidlaw came through it all right. George Ingram did some excellent work, and has been recommended for the V.C. I am third on the leave list, Alec Stuart and Joe Granta being ahead of me.

By today's paper, the Italians are across the frontier and making for Trent. The Isonzo line is outflanked. The Austrian army is fallen to pieces. The Serbians have retaken their old capital, Belgrade. Valenciennes has fallen to the British, and the Belgians are 21/2 miles from Ghent. A ten-mile advance has been made between the Lys and the Scheldt. The Americans are advancing west of the Meuse.

Wrote a long letter to Dorrie trying to persuade and convince her of the necessity for keeping her promise.

Monday, 4th.  Austria has accepted our armistice terms, which are to be published tomorrow. That leaves Germany now without an ally or a friend. The Italians have occupied both Trent and Trieste. British, French, and Americans have crossed the Scheldt at two places. The Belgians have advanced ten miles along the Dutch frontier, and the Americans have advanced nine miles west of the Meuse.

Went to Flixecourt this afternoon and got some M.C. ribbon and a few other necessaries.

Some mail that had been readdressed to Le Mesnil arrived back today. It included two letters from Mum and two from Dorrie, also one from Clytie with congratulations on gaining a commission. Mum sent her love and good wishes for Dorrie and I in our engagement. One of Dorrie's letters contained a photo of the dear little girl herself, taken when a child. It is a very nice photo, and she must have been a bonny little child.

Tuesday, 5th.  The British have advanced south of Valenciennes, and taken Le Quesnoy and Landrecies, with 13,000 prisoners. The Versailles conference is completed, but the terms for Germany are not to be made public yet. Before the completion of the armistice with Austria, 300,000 Austrian prisoners and 5,000 guns were taken.

Received a Christmas parcel from Clytie, containing sugar, sweets, sox, etc. Dorrie wrote from Andover. She was just back from her holidays. Mrs. Jewell and Betty were ill with influenza. Dorrie was rather angry and upset over our "discussion". Wrote a long letter to her in reply, and asked her to tell me plainly whether she was going to keep her promise or not.

Wednesday, 6th.  Sent parcel of aeroplane photos to Dorrie to put away for me.

The British have broken through the German defences and gone 15 miles beyond Valenciennes. Mormal Forest is passed. The Huns are retreating on a 70-mile front from the Scheldt to the Aisne. The French have advanced over 6 miles and the Americans are pushing up along the left bank of the Meuse. Our armistice terms to Austria are very severe, and amount practically to unconditional surrender. Germany has been informed that if she wants an armistice she must send plenipotentiaries through the lines to Marshal Foch in the orthodox military fashion. The terms for such an armistice have been settled at the Versailles conference.

Sent the Christmas card to Mum and Dad that I designed recently. Also sent Christmas cards to all the homefolks and my regular correspondents in Australia.

As Alec Stuart is not in any hurry for his leave, he offered to let me go before him. Joe Granta does not want to go until December. However, when I went to make the necessary arrangements with Captain Sellick, he told me that I had been detailed by Div. Hqrs. to attend an instructors' course of Signalling at the Corps School, which would last for six weeks. It made me feel very disappointed and disgusted, for I was expecting to be over in Blighty within a week or two.

Thursday, 7th.  The Germans announce that delegates have left Berlin to come to Marshal Foch for the armistice terms. The Huns are retreating on a 100-mile front. The French and Americans are near Sedan, and the British near Mons and Manbonge.

Have not yet been officially warned for the Signal School, so am hoping it may fall through.

Friday, 8th.  Today's paper says that the German plenipotentiaries arrived through the lines near Guise late last night, Herr Erzberger being in charge.

Went in to Amiens this afternoon. The town is getting fairly inhabited again, though it is nothing like the busy city it was in days gone by. Bought a couple of souvenir spoons to sent to Betty and Wilf Jewell. A steady rain set in, and I got a bit wet coming home.

Warned to leave for the Corps School tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 9th.  Walked to Ailly-sur-Somme, my kit having gone earlier by the mess cart. The 11.15a.m. train did not arrive till about 12. It was already overcrowded, and only waited two or three minutes, a Froggy porter meanwhile rushing up and down the platform shouting "Pas permission!" and trying to keep all the soldiers from getting on. There was no hope of getting my gear on, but some of the others, with smaller kits, managed to get aboard before the train pulled out. Most of those going on leave or to schools were left behind.

By the paper today, our armistice terms have been shown to the German plenipotentiaries, and they are given 72 hours to accept or reject them. That will be till 11a.m. on Monday. Bavaria has proclaimed a republic. Revolution is threatening all over Germany. The sailors are in mutiny at Kiel. The British are up to Mézières and Hirson.

Managed to get a lift in a car to Flixecourt. Waited there for about an hour, but could not get a car going Abbeville way. Got a train to Longpré, but there was no connection for Abbeville until 6.20p.m. Got a dinner at the Hotel de France et Angleterre, a very poor meal, for 5 francs.

Took the evening train to Abbeville, left kit in the luggage room, and went up through the black deserted town to the Officer's Club. Dined there and got a bed there for the night.

Sunday, 10th.  Caught the 10.20a.m. train to Rue, and walked to the Corps School at Champ-neuf farm. Met Gleadow and Book in the mess.

The tents here have been replaced by iron huts, which are not fitted with stoves. Not very cheerful prospects for a six-weeks sojourn here, running into the depth of winter.

According to today's paper, the Kaiser and the Crown prince have abdicated at last. Revolution has spread nearly all over Germany. The British have taken Manbenge and Tournai and are advancing on Mons. The Scheldt has been crossed in several places. The French have taken Mézières and crossed the Meuse.

It is very cold and cheerless in these dreary iron huts.

NEXT    >>

 

 

Back to TOP