Churchill-Smith, James – June 1916
Reveille 0230. Breakfast 0250. “Fell in” & moved off at 0330. Waited on “Dead Camel Ridge” for Nos 11 & 12 Platoons, & marched to Camp at Rail Head arriving at 0645. Pitched tents & settled down, Issued clothing &c to men during afternoon – very busy.
Reveille 02 30. No breakfast – orderlies slack. (I had 2 pieces bread & marmalade, 2 pieces bread, milk & sugar, & managed to get a cup of tea from Coy Cooks.) Battn. left Camp at 0400. Mens Kits steamed (deverminised), in meantime men walking around in Great–coats…
No parades, so rested. Very dusty, unpleasant day
Caught train… which left Serapena sideing at 5 p.m.
… Changed all mens Egyptian money for English. Left wharf 1720 & anchored in Harbor.
Left Alexandria at 0800
Nice day, sea calm. Feeling A.1… This is a beautiful trip & I like it very much… A dove settled on the Bridge in afternoon, then flew away & came back again: Is this “Good luck” 50th Battn.
… Lovely moonlight night, and beautiful on deck. Nice breeze. Mum or Kate would enjoy this trip very much. Feeling very well.
Rough day. Asleep all morning few Officers & men sick… Sighted land about midday. Arrived Marseilles about 3 pm … Went ashore at night, had a look at Marseilles.
Battn marched to Camp (Fournier) about 2 miles from docks … Camped in somebody’s front garden – very nice.
… Left by train at 12.45. … The country we have been through is most beautiful; everything is nice & green. It is the prettiest country I have ever seen… The people cheer us all along our route.
…Transferred to “D” Coy as 2nd in Comm.:
Arrived at Caestre and marched about 2 to 3 miles to Billet at a farm. Men in a Barn & Officers (self, Didan & Jose) have a room in the house. Real country affair, cows, pigs, fowls &c all over the place… Plainly hear artillery fire at a distance. Wrote dear Mum & Kate. June 17
… Aeroplanes in plenty flying all over the front line; observation balloons up too…
Packed up & left billet at 1000 & marched to new billet a very strenuous march of about 14 miles… Am told this village shelled & gassed at times…
…Battn. marched to Div. Bombing School during afternoon and had gas &c explained to them, & then walked through a trench filled with poisonous gas with with helmets on, then through another trench filled with “Teek (or tique)” gas, not poisonous, but makes eyes watery. Pictures at night with Jose.
Fairly busy night in trenches from sound of guns…
… Went on to where “C” Coy are going (now occupied by 51st, “A” Coy), and was there during a bombardment … first shelling I’ve been in since November… General Birdwood inspected men & had a chat with them. Was introduced to him – very nice fellow.
… Censoring all night … Heavy bombardment during night.
… Packed up during afternoon ready to move off – Wish I was packing up to go home & War over. Very sorry to be leaving this billet; they have treated us all very well indeed. Coy left billet at 9 p.m. and arrived at new billet at about 11 p.m.
Enemy’s Artillery opened up on our Billet at about ¼ to 2 am and everybody cleared out…No casualties.
Gas Alarm about ¼ to 2 am… Heavy Artillery \fire/ &c on right at 3 am. Bed 4.15 a.m. & up at 11 a.m.
Diary of James Churchill-Smith