After the excitement of the royal visit on 10th August, Will and his machine gun section were preparing to return to the battle at Pozières. Going up, they ran the gauntlet of shelling along the shallow valley of ‘Sausage Gully’, before trying to find their objective – the trenches at Pozières.
Saturday 12th August: Fine day again, still on guard. We had a prisoner in guard room, he got released and we got another one. I spent most of the day writing and reading, falling in again about 7.30. We are relieved by another section, going through the regimental way of dismissing. Being too late to go anywhere I turn in for a sleep.
Also on this page: August 12th 1915: [Gallipoli] Dead begin to smell, many incendiary bombs thrown to set dead on fire.
Sunday August 13th: Get up early in morning to get breakfast and pack up ready to move. After the usual messing about get started off for Albert, we camp in a paddock about a mile and a half from town. Towards evening we get a lot of rain making things very unpleasant. After tea I go scouting for some wood to make uprights for a bivouac from two waterproof sheets. We get a few shells not far away, and then I turn in. I also visit Albert and later watch a battery of 9. 2 howitzers and a 12 inch naval gun firing from Albert.
Also on this page: August 14th 1914: Enlisted in AIF at Dandenong Victoria by Lieut Boyd and passed medically fit by Dr Taylor of Dandenong, in 1914.
Monday August 14th: We leave our packs behind and only carry our overcoats and waterproof sheets, and march to trenches going through Albert and passing through Sausage Gully where we camped for a while [July 27th] Marching through it, and after staying for about 10 minutes for dinner, carry up our guns and tripods. Go through shallow trenches and in open country through Pozieres, and mount our guns about 20 yards behind the front line in consolidated shell holes. Have one gun and three men wounded in about one hour after going up.
Tuesday August 15th: Heavy shelling going on, we lose one man going up to take the place of the others. Sharp rain and heavy bombardment making things very unpleasant. Round us are limbs and mutilated bodies and the smell of the dead is awful. We were supposed to only fire if our front line has to be evacuated; our scout patrol out a distance of 500 yards in front of our front line and do not see one German only dead ones. Still in trenches, heavy shelling going on, rain during night.
Wednesday August 16th: Heavy shelling going on and great aerial activity by both sides. We have over 20 observation balloons up, while Fritz has four up. We are told the Black Watch are going to take a trench on our right, and towards evening a heavy bombardment is started near us, many red and green flares are set up by Fritz, and he also increases bombardment of our positions. There are over 20 of our planes up in evening. A fine day. Shelling continued through the night. Our pioneers begin to dig an advance trench about 200 yards in front of front line.
Thursday August 17th: Fritz artillery quietens down a little during early hours of morning. The Black Watch gained their objective [a trench to the right] and at about 9 o’clock Fritz launches a counter-attack in massed formation, and our guns open up with shrapnel, simply mowing him down, and all we could see were an odd man or two running back to his trenches. Just overhead, one of our battle planes (Vickers fighter) brings down a German plane in flames. The men fall out and one of our chaps gets an iron cross and a watch from a dead German. We get relieved by another section.
Relieved, but not for long. Within 36 hours they would be back to the shifting wasteland of what once had been a village – now reduced to grit and ashes…
The bare facts in this 1916 diary made me long to know more about the writer and the events he described. The Diary blog tells how it surfaced amongst a pile of books from Grandma’s attic. Many years and much research later, it provided the backbone of my novel, Liam’s Story.