We have been pulled out of the line (the whole Div.) and I don’t know what will happen to us. Each Battalion had about the same casualties, viz., 15-20 officers and 400-500 men. My beloved Battalion and the companions of the last two years swept away in a few short hours. They did splendidly; on they went regardless of loss of officers, and charged, a mere handful of some half dozen. I fear ‘At.’ is killed; he was seen by a Sergeant apparently dead. Charlie Johnston we can’t find. From 8.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. no-man’s-land was searched deliberately and found many, but not him. I still hope C.J. may be found. Now Cather, who has been out rescuing wounded in daylight, has been caught. He went out this morning and they turned a M.G. on him, when he was out of sight of our line, and he hasn’t returned. I have left two orderlies to search for him tonight. Poor Montgomery. I fear he’s gone. Eight [officers] missing and seven wounded. The Battalion about 170 strong. I am heartbroken. So gallant and so splendid they all were. Will you go and see the relations. I will try to write to them. Thanks to Fergie I haven’t missed your letters for one day. Even last night he brought them in. Cather’s loss is a heavy one. He was an extraordinary good Adjt. I still hope we shall see him again. Meantime I have no one, and all the details of losses, etc., to be made out.
I have just been reading these letters and they are a fascinating insight into the daily existence of the officers and men and the awful conditions they had to cope with. For the first time I am getting an account of what life was like for my father, Robert Woolsey. He served with the 9th Battalion RIF and was honourably discharged in Nov 1917. I was only 12 years old when my father died in 1956 and never had the chance to discover firsthand his experiences in the First World War, so this is why these letters are such a revelation to me.
Thank you for the comment – it is most appreciated. I have very little about your father in Blacker’s Boys except that he was one of the Battalion’s original members (numbered 14756), he arrived in France with the Battalion in October 1915 and that he was discharged on 4 December 1917 as a consequence of being unfit for further service. If you have anything else to add, I’d happily add it to his record when I write the next update, which will be soon. Feel free to email or use the contact form on the ‘About’ page if you don’t wish to converse in public.
Thanks again for the comment.