26th August (1918)

Were I able to write coherently and give you a full account, one day would supply more of the thrilling and entertaining, than three months of life in the wagon lines.  All day in the saddle, carting ammunition from one place to another, getting an occasional snack and a pull from a water bottle, given our mounts a mouthful of grass here and there at an occasional halt and watering them with a moistened mixture of mud, frogs and beetles, from shell holes and empty village ponds.  The most vivid effects in the evening and night.  Imagine traffic, such as London streets never witnessed, carried out in darkness and almost impenetrable dust without a single light – Endless streams of vehicles of every description; shouted orders, directions and curses; horses plunging over rough ways and dragging their bouncing burdens up hill and down dale.  In one place a grotesque herd of huge tanks came crawling and tottering up an embankment, smashing down the sides of the sunken road in their unwieldy gyrations.  It was like a scene from another and madder world – Hell would seem tame after it.  Old Nick will have to pop up and take a few lessons if he hopes to “put the wind up” the survivors of this war.  All this to the accompaniment of endless gunfire – great belches of flame and thunder right in your face, from a distance of a few yards, and of bursting shells from the other side.  It isn’t too safe here, but the Hun prisoners say “you want to be over there to know what bombing and shelling is”.  The night ended in a dreary wait of hours in torrential rain.  I had my name and unit noted by an irate traffic officer and shall probably be court martialled and shot at dawn.

nlnzimage 1-2 013581-G NZ guns being transported forward

[Image: New Zealand guns being transported forward during more open warfare in France during World War I. Shows a horse team pulling a gun carriage past an abandoned tank on the side of the road. Photograph taken Grevillers 26 August 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-013581-G]

2 thoughts on “26th August (1918)”

  1. These entries become more and more horrifying yet engrossing, John. Gayeleen Preston should have had them as background to her war films! I suppose my father was there, too; or he may have been at OCTU. His diary/notebook has been lost.

    Continuing thanks



    1. Would that one could write half as coherently!
      The pace is certainly picking up … and Lincoln is running with it.
      Such a contrast between the clarity, dignity and eloquence of his pen and the uncivilised schmozzle all around him.
      The word artist is up to the task and is shaming them on all fronts.


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