Sunday September 10, 1916
We received news last night that the Canadians in their 1st battle on the Somme front were successful, going ahead about 600 yards. The 16th Battn', in the hottest of it had 500 casualties though only 19 killed out of that number. Then we heard at 7:30 last night another Canadian stunt was to be pulled off. We heard this morning that it was successful, though to what extent we do not know. Men who came out of it say the fire from the German artillery is very accurate in some places and in others ridiculously ineffective. This may be mostly because the British have at last driven them over the ridge. The Germans were so confident of holding the ridge till spring that they had dug a regular underground village 30 feet below the ground. There are evidences here that they had some of their women with them, for our Canucks found several articles of feminine clothing down there. It is said on this front that since the Canadians opened machine gun fire on German field red cross workers that the Germans don't spare anything. Before this there had been a regular time when both sides gathered up their wounded unmolested. I doubt the truth of this but will find out.
Plan of battle when we won our 1st Somme battle. (sketch)
Today we are moving at 1:20 to our next billets to just this side of the much battered big French town of Albert. From here we expect to go into the trenches. We are told that each division is to go into it twice and then be relieved for the winter, our bunch (division) going back to the Ypres front. But as orders are changed overnight, we put no credence in this story. We are so far away (15 miles) from the front that we can only hear the heavies but even then it is one steady roar. Men from the front say we are putting over 50 shells to Fritzie's one. Against this the Germans can't possible hold any position, backed up as it is by the acknowledged hardest fighters in the world. Even a Fritzie General said the other day what has been said before by better men than him, even Napoleon, when he said "These terrible British don't know when they are beaten."
It has been our job in almost every trench camp taken over from the Imperials to clean it up. This camp was left by the Australians who left it in a worse state than ever the Imperials did. We started right in to bury some big piles of refuse and to burn others as soon as we arrived. Before we left we swept the whole camp out as clean as a new pin. Not having brooms, we made big brushes out of leafy branches tied together. In every town we go in now, or even villages, the estaminets (bars) are nearly always out of bounds. When they are not, any estaminet caught selling whiskey or any other strong liquer is placed out of bounds for the soldier and thus placarded.
We are getting very close to action now. We are in a huge camp now just behind the big city of Albert, formerly a large manufacturing centre but now ruined by shell fire and occupied only by our troops. We are at last on the Somme front between Albert and Thiepville. We own Albert, but Fritzie is holding it strong. More than once he has let a good sized party occupy or storm it. Then his troops pour out from great subterranean chambers and cut them off. These chambers are 50 feet below the ground level so shells can't touch them. But there is a determined effort to get this son by hook or by crook. We are on the top of the highest crest at last. Fritzie is on a lower crest on the far side of this. If we drive him from this ridge, there is no cover for him over a field of 30 level miles. Our cavalry is waiting to cut him to pieces as soon as he breaks under our terrific bombardment and continuous attacks. There was a nice piece of work done by the Wiltshires and Shropshires. A party of Germans came out to take their trenches. These two batt's went out into No Man's land to meet him. They beat the German party after a stern hand to hand fight. Again Fritzie sent out a party, and again our fellows went out and vanquished him. Two more parties went out, the last party, a bunch of big six-foot Prussian Guards, fine athletic big fellows, but they too had to turn tail. Hardly one of the Guards went back, for feeling that they were the pride of their army were being anxiously watched, they fought to the finish.