Churchill-Smith, James – August 1916
Fairly hot day. No parade during afternoon, so went to Divisional Baths with Hoggarth. Recd … letters from dear Kate (3), Father, Emy Johnston, Jean Loutit, F.Gill, Claude Gosling, Rene Hamilton, W.T.Turner, Myrtle Galliford – a good mail
Heavy bombardment during night. Handball after tea amongst Officers…
… Short route march during the morning in the wood. The wood is practically composed of Oak trees, suckers and is a very nice place indeed – very cool…Exceptionally heavy bombardment commenced 10 p.m.& kept going for a couple of hours.
Battalion attack during afternoon – fairly successful. Headache all afternoon. Heavy bombardment during night.
…Write Dad for new diary. Hope though, it will not be necessary, war being finished.
Bombardment still going on all the morning; 25 of our balloons up observing. Battalion left Billets at 9 p.m. and arrived at Albert at about 1 p.m…Slept with Lieut Harry Thomson owing to it being so cold & having one blanket each. Did not undress.
Church Parade 10 a.m. Can see the Church at Albert which has been shelled; there is a statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ in her arms on the top of the Church Tower; this was shelled and is now hanging at right angles to its original position. It is still in good condition… Big bombardment at night.
… Physical exercises & bayonet fighting during the morning.
Rode on bike to Achense (5 ½ miles away) to buy a watch…
Wet day, raining during morning & afternoon and all men without greatcoats… Hear 16th stunt a great success.
Battalion left bivouac at 6 a.m. moving nearer the firing line… Very sorry to be left behind [Churchill-Smith remained behind in charge of the German prison guard] but Orders are Orders. Battn gone into firing line – wish I was with them…
… Hear 50th stunt last night very successful. Left for Battn. at 9.30 am. – glad to be going to the Battn. Called up as F. Hancock wounded. … Went up communication trenches with “A” Coy fatigue ration party – shelled all the way up. Ran from old firing line to new line owing to there being no comm. trenches. … At dusk went out into “No Mans Land” looking for remainder of “D” Coy… and nearly walked into German lines. Later on (about 9.30 p.m.) found Sgt Mills with about 20 men of Coy & 20 Tommies and found he was holding Strong Point 81. Took charge of position.
During early morning Germans attacked on left of my position forcing the Tommies to retire, thus leaving me with about 30 men after casualties. Germans bombed down trench towards me killing a few of my men, but fortunately they stopped about 20 yds higher up than where I was. Had very anxious time especially as casualties were so heavy. Wrote several notes, few to Hdqrs but no reply… Heavy casualties in Battn.
Very heavy shelling all day and had a very anxious time … Relieved at about 9.30 p.m. I left with Major Herbert after all our men had gone. Lost our way but picked up communication trenches & returned very weary to Wire Gully where Battn. was to rest during night…
10th Battn passed & bivouaced close by to us. 10th Battn Officers over at night…
… Battn left bivouac at 8 a.m. and arrived at … at about 11.30 a.m… Total Casualties late fight “D” Coy 2 Off. 114 men, 17 men killed… Not feeling too good, so have secured a few days off duty…
… Went for short ride during afternoon – very enjoyable…
… Signed recommendations for following for distinctive service:– Lt Gore, Sgts.Mills, James, L/Cpl Hanley, Pte Kerr.
Got a sore throat.
Route march (4 miles) at 9.15 a.m. Brigade muster parade at 5 p.m. when Gen. Cox gave out cards of conveying his congratulations to those recommended for honors in latest stunt. I recd one from him for “great bravery and devotion to duty”.
50th & 52nd Battns. did practice stunt during morning.
Sitting on Court Martial all afternoon.
“ “ “ of Enquiry at 8 o’c p.m.
Sore throat developed into a slight cold nearly taking my voice away.
…“Madame” went out especially at 10.30 p.m. & milked a cow so as to give me hot milk & rum for my throat, which is today very sore.
1st Anniversary of my leaving South Australia, and dear Adelaide … May God protect me in the coming year as he has in the past, also bless all at home & dear Kate & may I return safe & sound to them all very soon.
Battn. left wood at Vadencourt at 8 00 a.m. and arrived at Brickfields, Albert at 11.15 a.m.
Place same as before – plenty of our observation balloons up also Fritz. Gen. Birdwood gave out ribbons for Military Medals during afternoon…
Very wet day. Canadians arrived at Albert – believe they take over from us.… Believe attack on Mouquet Farm last night a failure owing to exceptionally heavy rain &c…
Diary of James Churchill-Smith