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Forces War Records Blog

IT'S AUGUST 1914. YOU'VE JUST BEEN CALLED UP. WHAT WILL YOUR LIFE BE LIKE FROM NOW ON? READ THIS DIARY TO FIND OUT.

POCKET DIARY BELONGING TO C SAYE ARMY SERVICE CORPS ATTACHED TO 129 BATT RFA (3rd Division 22 Regiment) XXX Brigade (Howitzer)

Aug 9th – Went to Woolwich, was drafted into 22 Reg. Tidworth.

20th Aug – Arrived at Rouen at 9am went into Rest Camp until further orders.

Aug 22nd – Left Rouen at 11.15 entrained and arrived at Valenciennes arrived there at 6pm camped but had to harness up at 9pm and left for Mons arrived at Mons  about 11.30pm went straight into action but the Germans found us and shells & bullets began to fly around, so we had to limber up and shift our position extra quick. The guns got to work again, in all we remained in action about 7 hours changing our position from time to time as the German guns found us but we also found them and smashed their infantry up time after time, but others came on.

24th Aug – We got the orders to retire at 9.30am – there are some sights I shall never forget – our Infantry have been cut up a lot – dead and dying everywhere – some poor souls wounded, crawling away to the nearest shelter or cover, horses, wagons, we came out leaving scores of wounded behind, they begged us to take them. We bound up some of their wounds but had to leave them, it was pitiful the looks when they knew we couldn’t take them, but we brought our Battery wounded with us and left them at a village just outside Mons, but they were captured by the Germans. We came into action again at 11.30 just outside Mons covering the Infantry retreat and so we kept fighting rear guard actions all day. We arrived at Bavay  and stopped for a rest but didn’t get any sleep as we were soon moving again – a terrible day.

Aug 25th – We came into action at 6am but only fired a few rounds, then retired and so we were fighting and retiring all day we filed up several times with ammunition and to make matters worse a big thunder storm came on and nearly drowned us. We are living on fruit. No sleep yet.

Aug 26th – Came into action. Cambrai a few miles from Caudry We did some good work here – a big action was fought here we made a stand and drove the Germans back with heavy losses but they came on again and we had to retire again. We came to the town of Caudry at 12 m.n. had half an hour’s sleep on the square but had to move out as the Germans started shelling the town, the tower of the town hall falling on the square as we moved out. We had a gun smashed up here.

31st Aug – Still going on, we haven’t had any rest since we left Rouen. We have lived on fruit as the supplies haven’t reached us.

5th Sept – We are still driving them back. The towns and villages are a sight, they have looted and smashed up everything – bottles everywhere, dead Germans lying about, also some of our chaps. They are going back as fast as they came – we are still going, fighting all the way. We have arrived at a town called Brieux, moved through it and came to the Aisne very warm fighting here we got it hot near some woods afterwards. The 49th Battery got cut up here – a terrible sight - guns & limbers smashed up and men & horses. Scots Greys? nearly got it but just moved in time. We advanced to a Chateau – a beautiful place. The Germans have made a stand here – it is near the Aisne River. We have been here now three weeks and have had a very rough time, shells falling around and one afternoon one of their horse artillery batteries caught us and shelled us for 8 hours, we took cover behind a wall they killed 8 and wounded 12 of us and a lot of horses and it was terrible – thought our number was up. They used to search for us with their guns every day. Sometimes they found us, we used to do a quick move, we are quite used to dodging behind trees. Our guns are in a wood and are trained on a bridge that the Germans have to cross to get to our troops. We are not far from the Germans and with a pair of glasses we can see their dead piled up unburied. The horses are also in the woods but we sleep at the Chateau which we leave at 8.30am and return at 6pm. We leave in the dark and return in the dark. We rigged a dummy battery up where the Germans can see it and they knock Hell out of it every day thinking it’s real. We have had a terrible time here and lost a lot of men and horses. We used to be thankful when it was dark and the shelling stopped. Have forgot the days and dates lately.

24th Oct – Up at 4.30am, we have had the hottest time of the War today, we had to shout into each other’s ears to hear anything. The roar of the guns was like Hell let loose. This Battery fired 800 rounds and all the Batteries around about the same.  We were firing at 1,800 yds, so we were pretty close to the Germans. All the men in the Battery were working like horses, the lead Drivers were looking after the teams and the Centre and Wheel Drivers were carrying ammunition to the Guns. Rifle bullets were falling all round the Guns and horses. The Germans broke through the Gardens and we thought we were for it, but the Middlesex, who were in the reserve trenches, killed or captured all who broke through. We lost 1 Officer, Lieut????  and 2 Gunners killed and 2 Drivers and a Sergeant wounded and a Bombardier and a Gunner missing and some horses wounded.

3rd Dec – Went into action at Dikkebus, about 2 miles from Ypres. Had a warm time there. King George came there and watched the Guns fire, we all saw him, also Prince of Wales. We left there on the 16th Dec and came into action at Mont Kemmel. We have got a fine position here. Have been here all the Winter, have built stables, things fairly quiet, bully and biscuits Xmas day, nothing much doing. Up to our knees in mud and water, wet feet for weeks, never dry. Plenty of vermin that we can’t get rid of. Our Major is getting a Bath House rigged up, so things are looking up.

Feb 24th – Things have been quiet since the 26th  Dec but are beginning to move now, some big guns are coming up, we are building a stage for them – one is a 15in, expect something will go when she fires – they call her Granny.

4th March – Heavy firing all round. Granny still quiet. Prince of Wales came to see her today.

.8th March – Granny fired 4 rounds today. The shell which weighs 14 ¾ cwt sounds like an airship going through the air – bet it woke the Germans up.

12th  March – Things are beginning to move, lots of Infantry going up, Big Bombardment at 4pm. The batteries fired about 500 rounds each.

13th March – Bombardment again today. Infantry took some trenches but had to retire from them as some shells from 122 Battery dropped onto them, killing a lot of our own men.  The major in charge of 122 Battery has been placed under arrest.

14th March – Fairly quiet all day until 6pm when the Germans made a big attack all along the Line – a terrible noise, Hell let loose again. I was in the Serg’s billet signing a paper from the Lee, when a Jack Johnson struck the Billet & smashed it up – we were all knocked down. I got two pieces of shell through my serge and stung & bruised my shoulder but wasn’t hurt. We scrambled out, three were hit but all got away, we made for the Dugouts & just reached them as we heard some more coming over, we dropped into the Dugouts just as they burst about 30 yds away, killing a Pte of the Middx, a woman & wounding our Trumpeter, 3 of the H.A.C & a civilian. The Pte of the Middx – Saddler was his name – was blown to pieces, altogether around us there were 5 Civilians including 2 women & a baby killed & 10 Civilians wounded & 1 soldier killed & 8 wounded but lots of us had very narrow escapes. We had to move the horses but brought them back about 10pm & stood by as we heard the Germans had broken through a(t)  (St.)Aubers about 2 miles away, but afterwards the news came through that our troops had made a counter-attack & drove them back. It was a terrible night.

17th Mar – Same as yesterday, Mr Winston Churchill was up here tonight with Admiral Sturdee, they went up the Observing Station, they were walking, but their cars were left about a thousand yards down the road. One of the lads asked him if he thought we should win & he smiled & said, “Yes, I think so.”

31st March – Guns firing a lot during the day, heavy rifle fire at night, the 48th heavies have done some good work. We heard the Kaiser was dead – no such luck.

1st April – Aeroplanes very busy, we are expecting a move, Guns doing more firing, they have done some good work lately. The Kaiser has risen again, we haven’t heard any more about it.

12th March(sic) – Quiet today, flying men busy, lots of excitement at night. A Zeppelin came over about 11pm & went to Bailleul & dropped 15 bombs, came back about 11.30. Lots of Infantry & us had a bang at it, but it was too high for Rifle fire. It didn’t do much damage, but killed 2 women & a baby & 6 horses.

14th April – Fairly quiet today. Me & a chum went out to look for some pom-pom shells where the pom-pom gun had been in action at La Cylate?  We cut across the fields & found a horse. We thought it was dead, but when we got to it, we found a Gunner lying underneath it. I heaved the horse over & my chum lifted the Gunner out. It was the most intelligent horse I ever saw, we thought it was dead, it was so still, but as soon as we got the poor chap clear, it lifted its head, looked round & then got up & stood looking at us while we attended to the Gunner, we signalled to some services that were across some fields, got a stretcher & carried him to a farm, he was pretty badly hurt. We then went to the Hospital & they sent a Doctor & some orderlies to him. We continued our Journey but hadn’t got far when over came four German shells. We dropped flat & they burst right over the top of us. How we escaped, I don’t know. The only thing I think is we were right underneath them. Had we been a little way from them, we should have got it as they spread. It was a narrow shave, we jumped up & made a new world’s record for the hundred yds for the nearest cover. They sent some more over, but they were a long way off. The Germans made an attack about 11pm but were repulsed; it was lively for about an hour. The Germans lost heavily & the Guns were very busy.

17th April – Quiet all day, we started attacking at 7pm, terrible bombardment along the line, very pretty to watch, we are making a big attack, saw 3 lines of German trenches blown up by mines, the attack lasted about 1 ½ hours. The Germans made a counter-attack about 11.30pm, our Guns blazing away all along the line, terrible noise, it looks like a big Fireworks display – a pretty, but terrible sight, plenty of Star Shell, the Guns were going all night.

21st April – Heavy fighting still on, a section of Guns went to Ypres this morning, we are going tonight. It was very hot there according to reports. We started at 7pm & arrived at Ypres about 10pm went along the Banks of the Ypres Canal, plenty of shells coming over. Heavy fighting on this, a warm place. Ypres is blown down, shell holes everywhere. We put the Guns in action about 1 mile the other side of Ypres, terrible roar of Shells & Guns.

22nd April – Heavy fighting all day, some terrible big shells coming over, believe they are 17in. They shake the earth for miles. The Germans are getting it hot. We were called up at 12 m.n. had to saddle up & stand by as there was a big attack on.

23rd April – We went for the Guns at 4am but got shelled so had to return without them. We stopped in the town of Ypres for about 3 hours, the Germans were shelling it with a 17in Gun. The shells sound like trains coming over, they passed over us & knocked some horses down near the Hospital. We are standing by, expect we shall get the Guns when it gets dark. Orders come that the Guns have to stop there at any cost, took ammunition & ration, had a warm time , shells bursting all round, lots of Ducking, 2 Gunners killed, very heavy firing.

24th April – Battle still raging, we have captured Hill 60& driven the Germans back, the Manchesters & E Kents made the charge, the Kents using their fists. We had to run the Gauntlet again last night, one Coal Box burst about 20 yds away & upset the lot of us, the pieces flew around but no-one was hit, (except 2 Gunners that were killed) but all terrible shaken as the explosion knocked us all down & about 50 fizzers burst around us, was glad to get out of it.

25th April – Battle still on, the French troops have been driven back, also the Canadians, but the Canadians retook their ground. The Germans are using poisonous gases & they were gassed out. I don’t feel up to the mark, I suppose that shaken up hasn’t done me any good.

26th – Saw the Doctor, examined, am for the base for operation, went to Hospital, was sent in motor ambulance to La Cylute Hospital, examined there again, am for clearing Hospital at Bailleul about 11pm, left Bailleul at 12.30am on the 27th for Boulogne at 7am, went on Board the *Hospital Ship Salta, left for Havre at 9am, arrived at Havre at 7pm, went into Hospital.

28th April – Left Havre Hospital at 6am, went on Board the Hospital ship Oxfordshire, we are for Home, Dublin they say on board. Left Havre at 5pm on the 28th, arrived at Dublin for Cork at 2pm, arrived at Cork at 6pm, sent to North Infirmary, operation Tuesday.

4th May – Successful, going on well.

© Neil C.Saye 2011 & 2014

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