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Date: December 1916

December 1, 1916

Clearing wounded from R.C.R.a quiet time in the dug out. Many experiments in cooking which takes most of the time. Two walking cases. Two wounded accidentally by a rifle grenade. Peachy and I go out at 9:30 a.m. They offer us a drink, scare me by lighting cigarette by the 60 cm track 

Our Christmas cards come and are sent away.

3 December, 1916

Delay in rising because of last night’s trip with wounded to A.W.S.

Smyth sick and comes down with Tucker and I when we go down for rations. The day passes with a little reading and writing. No cases. 

A few trench mortars crash in near and a machine gun rattles at night. Snipers seem to be close neighbours. 

Two hundred yards up the trench is the water tap. The firing line is half a mile away.

Have trouble with our fire for fuel is scarce. It has to be carried up in a bag from A.W.S., a limited supply and our oil brazier smokes frightfully at times. 

We can get rum next door the good Cpl. says. 

Mice go in for chocolate and pea soup playing cross tag over our beds. 

No milk in three days, ditto butter. The problem is to make palatable Bully beef and canned Army rations.

December 4 & 5, 1916

Still in Dowset Drive. Last night the R.C.R. changed with the 49th Regiment. The M.O. complains of smoke and unwilling inferiors. We are taken in charge by the Medical Cpl. who informs us that we have no right to our dug out and that it was under the command of the regiment in the front lines. Grumbling we try to stop our brazier from smoking. Eyes are sore from the smoke, having a slight cold with pills and grouches, go to bed. First day in eleven that I have not written home. 

The Cpl. gives us some sugar, offers us unlimited supply of rum and acts quite decent. Tucker and I clean the track and go up Chamerie[?] Trench for water while others go for rations. 

At night the very sad news comes that one of the 49th lads was shot and killed by a sentry. The lad had not been warned that anyone would be working beyond his post.  One story had it that the unfortunate man was moving about is a sap another that he was repairing telephone wire in No-Mans-Land. The sentry is not to blame. The same night another man was killed by the enemy. 

No particular cases all day. Tucker and I go to inspect Chesserie and Chepston Trenches to see if they had fallen in. Not knowing the way it seemed as if we were going into the firing line. Trench mortar bombs crash in behind us at some distance. The whine of the flying steel is clearly heard.  Inquiring from a passing Medical Corp. Cpl. he directs us to turn to the left, others know nothing at all of the directions. Much bewildered and anxious we go on.  To look above the parapet we could not find in our hearts to do. Finally we chance it to the right and come out alright. 

At A.D.S. I get a parcel of books from Nellie. A man there is badly wounded in shoulder. Capt. B. declares that a great number of the cases which are marked accidental are not. The fellows are bewildered and at times mistake their fellow soldier for Fritz. Out of four wounded on Dec. 3, three were accidental. Sick parade was on. One chap feeling thoroughly ill came in.  Pains here, pains there, veins of his stomach swell when working etc. Later we see him utterly dejected and fed up going back to the trenches. He felt that there was little mercy in the M.O.   

We go back to the dug out. The rations were black because the last use of the bag was for coal. 

Make pan cakes for supper, flour, egg powder and water.

December 6, 1916

At midnight we take the Cpl. of the scouts down. He was wounded in the two legs. The truck on the 60 cm line shrieked fearfully, one could hear that for miles and ... If one could only walk on his head in this country for no one minds a ‘blighty’ in the legs until they get it. This bit of track on the surface of the ground with yelling truck was not comfortable. 

Back at 3 a.m. Up by 10 and while getting breakfast news comes that a wounded Fritz was coming down. In the M.O.’s place the medical officer, a staff officer and another questioned him in German calling him by first name, Henry. He had been shot, apparently through the temples, the bullet passing through his head. Asked if he had shot himself, he said he hadn't. His name was Henry White. He had a girl at home in Germany. Such was the limit of information secured. We took him down and I got a button off him. At the dressing station he again spoke with strength. 

At nine o'clock two sentries saw something moving. It turned out to be a man coming out from behind the wire, moving as if blind. One sentry speaking in German directed him and he came to them. Nothing more is known.  The sentries got special passes.  

At night two officers and some 18 men worked their way toward the enemy front line trench. They passed a bombing post which seemed deserted and then entered his trench unmolested, walked along finding no one. At a sap head they heard two men approaching but they turned and went back. The party returned in safety.

In the evening the sick began to come down into our dug out until all the bunks were full and we homeless. So grumbling much we strapped our stretcher to the roof. The stretcher by the way was covered with blood from the dead man carried down upon it yesterday. Three other stretchers filled the place except for the corner for man on guard and brazier. The trail out lay over the table. We could not sleep. At 12:00 I went on duty and wrote until after three when all of us were awake talking about weather. One time I rose to replenish the fire. I had been brooding a little over the disfigured stretchers and certainly, when I went above, I was afraid among the war sounds and with reluctance passed by the morgue now empty but this morning it wasn't. Found out this at least, that if I did not put aside fear I could become as cowardly an ass as there is in No.9 Amb. 

Fritz sent over word they had occupied the capital of Romania.

December 7, 1916

Tucker and I go for rations. The medical truck had been used for rations and broken. We proved poor detectives. D. informs me it is a military offence and debates on punishment. Rae and Baker come from Major McKillip to tell me to report at A.W.S. I have misgivings which prove well founded. At 5:30 we both go down taking two patients. Fritz sends in some shells behind, near Bat'n. headquarters wounding two. In coming back we wait a few minutes fearing they might be after our trench.  Major McK. indeed wanted me for my letter writing. The night before feeling duty bound to write thought there was no news, wrote some track indirectly hitting at the censor. Here it was handed back. Speech he made would fill half this book. Certainly made a series of surprises to me. I had a ‘code’ which, though simple, was still a code and he would not take the trouble to inquire. (1) I was revealing the military situation in a way he would not dream of doing. (2) I was criticizing with injustice and harshness my fellow ambulance men, a point denied later. (3), I wasn't playing the game, a minister and a theological student, to act thus, disgracefully unchristian. (4) I put continually nasty little slams at the censor in every letter. ‘A lovely thing, to sit up until 11:30 with poor candle light to get the lads mail away and get a nasty insult at the end of a letter. He was not the man who wished to --------- ~~~ --------’