Still standing fast here, though expecting to move at any moment, I expect up into the line again, to hold a bit and relieve others. Such thunder showers yesterday, and all night, and today hot, steamy and threatening. Brew writes he is at Rouen and getting on splendidly. I hear Friday’s ‘Daily Mail’ has great praise of the Division. We were told yesterday p.m. that we would almost certainly move last night, and at short notice, so we all slept with our loins girt, and with one eye open, but nothing disturbed us except numerous messages. It turned out fine. Now the news is that we go to railhead, and thence N. by rail to 2nd Army! Probably tomorrow. I have been all day writing out recommendations for honours. Every case, with the evidence, has to go in quadruplicate.
We move tomorrow about 7.00 a.m., but where to is obscure. I believe about 10 miles back, near a railway. Some say to go to St. Omer to refit; others to go into the line near La Bassée. Church parade was a sad one today with the depleted ranks. It seemed to bring home the loss of our gallant comrades. I stayed for communion. The Padre was wonderful; he brought tears to my eyes, but he said exactly the right thing. At last, I have sent off the honours list. Charlie has recommended all. Very close and warm today, and dust flying. There is a possibility that some of our wounded in and near the German line are prisoners, ‘At.’ among the number. Could you get the D. of Abercorn’s Association to try and find out if any Irish Fus. were taken on July 1st, and if so, names.
The difficulty of our surplus kit crops up again on a move to a new area. The Division are going to make a big dump, but it would be unsafe to leave private kit here; bound to be lost. We are going to hire a country cart and take private and mess kit along with us. Another man came in and said Montgomery and Hollywood were lying dead close to him. T. was also seen to fall. Pratt and I passed Haig on the road near here, walking evidently for exercise. His horses were being sent home and his motor had gone. He has grown stout since I saw him at Mhow, in 1894. The 1st Battalion were also in the Push, N. of us a few miles.
1. Only one soldier of the Battalion is known to have been captured on 1 July 1916—20500 Private Thomas Warren. He was wounded in the attack and died of wounds in captivity on 4 July 1916; original buried in Velu churchyard, his body was reinterred in Favreuil British Cemetery.
2. The 1st Battalion was in a reserve role in 10th Brigade, 4th Division, taking part in a number of smaller actions during the course of the day, in particular an attack on the Heidenkopf—known to the British as the ‘Quadrilateral’; the Battalion lost 10 killed in action, 93 wounded (some of whom died later) and seven missing.
We leave here at 6.30 a.m. and have to put in the day on the road, as we don’t entrain till 11.17 p.m., about 11 miles from here, and then a 40 mile railway journey, and then a march of any distance—we shall be near St. Omer. Saw G. Bruce just now. Bob Maxwell an out-patient in London. I feel ashamed almost to be alive. I didn’t take part in the Push and was never in danger, and I feel I didn’t do enough, while all these gallant fellows gave their lives. We hadn’t a long march today, about nine miles, and the weather is nice. Tomorrow about 12, but taken in two bits. There is a big officers’ hospital here, and a large men’s clearing station also—heaps of nurses. Orderly going, trying to get a field post office at D_____ [Doullens] about 1½ miles from here.
We got in here at 7.00 a.m. after an all night journey in train, with a six mile march at end, and go on 12 miles tomorrow to a place, Tilques, where I hope we stay for a little to refit. Young Holmes, in Indian Cav., a cousin of ‘At.’s caught us on the march yesterday, after a long search, to inquire for news, but alas, we could give him no hope. Till we settle and I can get hold of Rank and File list I can help very little. We have all implored the men to write at once to their friends, but then there are the wounded, who may be unable to write. I am trying a regular reshuffle. I am taking on Fergie as Adjt. He will do it splendidly, promoting Regtl. Q.M.S. [Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant] to Qr. Mr., [Quartermaster] and anyway he will be here to help him. This I propose, but, of course, difficulties may be put in my way. Fergie has slaved for two years with no prospect of any advance, he is dying to get on, and is bound to do so, given a chance. If the war lasts he will command the Battalion. The men are quite pleased as they’ve found lots of orange lilies and are wearing them in their caps. The reshuffle will promote J. Shepherd Coy Q.M.S. [Company Quartermaster Sergeant]
Sgt. Foster, from Lurgan, was killed as we went into the line on Friday night, instantaneous, by shell. I had recommended him previously for Military Medal for gallantry. Can’t think why they have only mentioned some of the casualties. They are publishing them in penny numbers as it were. It’s wonderful the people thinking of me in their sorrow. Here of course London is as near as Paris. Leave may open again soon, but I couldn’t leave them yet; such a lot to be done. I feel dazed still. The Sgt Majors, the Qr. Mr. Sgts. [Quartermaster Sergeants] and one senior officer per Coy. were kept behind. Only 20 officers allowed over the parapet, and I only sent 16. Flood, Allen, Lutt. [Lutton] were all in the line, also young Ensor, doing some job, but didn’t go over. Given was at Army School. Shill. is doing grand work. He came out just at the right moment, and is an enormous help. Pratt has gone over to see his brother, who is on the Staff at G.H.Q. [General Headquarters] school for officers near here.
The Military Medal for Sergeant Foster—’for gallantry in carrying in wounded under shellfire while himself wounded’—was one of the first earned by the Battalion. It was published in the London Gazette on 14 December 1916.
Such a wonderful letter from Mrs. C.J. So good of her to write in all her trouble. Will you tell her how much I appreciate it? Poor Mrs. Atkinson, how much I feel for her.
[Eperlecques—The Battalion would remain here until 20 July.]
5.00 p.m. Got in after a 15 mile march—fine. Such a nice peaceful place. I have asked everyone to prevent my letters getting into the press. You might keep it in mind. I have a horror of it. A draft of 53 came in this evening, which brings us up to 356. We had parties out every night searching, and the last one when we were six miles back. It was dangerous work, and one officer was killed, and one wounded at the job. Everyone volunteered for it, and till we moved back 12 miles, parties went up every night. No trace of ‘At.’ could be found, but the area to search was about 450 x 500 yards, and under fire all the time. I still think it possible he may still be a prisoner. Ask Sloan to find out where Sgt. Caulfield, of Lurgan, is in hospital, as he stated he saw ‘At.’ dead, or apparently dead. If the men’s story about his being in the 3rd Line trench is true, he may be wounded, and a prisoner, but I doubt the story. No posthumous honours are allowed or given, except the V.C., and though I know they all earned it, there is no evidence. Old Bernard was killed in Thiepval wood, bringing up his Battalion, in support—shrapnel, I think. Ross Smyth sprained his ankle, I’m told, going up that night, and wasn’t wounded. Sgt. Johnston wounded, and not bad, I believe. Sgt. Foster killed. Sgt. Barbour all right. Will find out about Brownlee and Addis. I wish I could feel I deserved the men’s devotion, and the kindly thought for me on the part of the bereaved ones touches me to the heart. Old Q.M.S. [Quartermaster Sergeant] Russell is all right. He has been on a soft Div. job for months. This seems a charming spot. People are much more friendly here and helpful, Billets good, and so peaceful, and such a pretty country, so civilized. Two posts out in the day! I return your letters. How kind people have been, writing about me.
A charming letter from Mrs. Horner. I only let the Coy. officers go over the parapet; M.G. Signaller, Bomber, remained to organize the supplies of ammunition, etc., to be sent up. They were very angry, but I’m thankful I did. The Push, as far as the big gains go, has ended. It succeeded where there was surprise. Now the Germans are reinforcing there. However, it’s been a great buck up, and will continue, I expect, but I fear they won’t get through, though they may. Weather lovely today, warm, but cloudy. We had strawberries today for the first time.
Of course, we have begun the usual training fads again, programme of work, etc. As we have no men it’s rather a farce. I hope we may get filled up shortly. The 11th have got in some 90 Derby recruits. Quite good, I hear. The present idea is we shall stay here for a few weeks, but nothing is certain. The Push seems going on all right. There were rumours yesterday that the Cavalry had got through, but I fear not. We are here due W. [West] of Ypres, but some way off at Éperlecques. We may go back to 4th Army, or may stay here with the 2nd, probably latter, I should say. If we took over a bit of the line the Bde. would take over a battalion front, each battalion acting as a company. That’s what the 29th Div. did. We are in a new Corps, but I don’t quite know which—IX I believe. A heavenly day. We missed the bad weather this time. Have lost my beloved Onoto, and am lost without it. Fergie very pleased at being made Adjt.
The Derby scheme—officially the ‘Group Scheme’—was introduced in October 1915 as an interim method of recruitment before the introduction of conscription. See: The Derby Scheme