Jan. 10, 1917
Worked steadily in the Orderly Room up to this date when I was transferred to 257 Battalion Headquarters at Ottawa as Orderly Room Clerk. Sergt. Brown also transferred with me and Sergt. Harris sent to St. John two days later.
Left Ottawa as Transport Sergeant. Very slow train and arrived St. John, N.B. Feb. 16.
Left St. John on board Missanabie. Various means for our safety and protection were used at sea.
Arrived Liverpool and boarded troop train at dock for Purfleet Camp, Essex, were we arrived about 5.30pm. Reverted to permanent "Grade". Also Vaccinated: Mar. 12 1st; Mar. 16 2nd; Mar. 19 Vaccinated.
Secure 4 ½ day leave of absence and visited Luton. Stayed with Uncle Will & had very enjoyable time.
Left Purfleet at 3.30am and boarded troop train. Arrived Southampton 2.00pm and embarked on Kanatka (cattle boat) at 5.00 pm.
Disembarked La Havre. Walked 5 miles thru mud and cobblestones to Rest Camp No.2, which was fairly overflowing with mud.
Marched from rest camp to Station at La Havre (6 miles) with full set and left in box cars and arrived in Belgium 6 miles from Ypres at 7.00pm. After heartbreaking march arrived at camp and had our first experience of big guns and saw aeroplanes being shelled by the Germans. Our tents were new and we were informed from Head Q that the Germans were after our range. So we had to plaster our tents with mud. Wash in rain water in shell
hole and are living on hard tack, bully beef and good tea. Rations improved after a few days and are of good quality, although we are not overfed.
Casualties to date: one killed, four wounded. Received from shell fire at Ypres.
Terrific bombardment by our guns in this section tonight.
Promoted to rank of Corporal as of April 1st.
Capt. Egan and Lieut. McDougall killed.
Lieut. Swindon wounded.
70 men (reinforcements) arrived from Purfleet
General Haig in Ypres today.
Disabled airplane dropped near "0" camp; both aviators injured.
"D" Co. pulled away from us.
Battle of Messines Ridge began today at 3.30am. No shells falling around "0" Camp. Horrible roar all day long. Streams of prisoners on roads.
Major "Bob" Herron arrived from Purfleet.
Aeroplane (Bosche) flew over camp very low.
Saw 3 of our balloons brought down by German machines.
Canadian airman landed near camp, a/c hole in gas tank by shrapnel.
Richardson, Hugh Dohemy and myself went over the battlefield. Saw many
relics and weapons.
King George and Gen'l Haig in Ypres today. Did not see them 23 O'R' arrive from England 2nd reinforcement draft.
Good news from Russia.
Gas attack at 1.30am
German plane forced down near camp. Flew extremely low and we could distinctly see him operating his gun. Was forced down by our two pursuers and I ran over & saw both the machine and the prisoner, who was the sole occupant, the machine being a single seater. When brought down near Erie Camp he turned his gun on the men who ran out to capture him. Was finally led to a tent by officer and eventually taken away by much rough handling by Imperials.
The much talked of push is at last coming to a head. Tonight immediately after dark battalion after battalion of Scottish & Imperial troops marched up the road toward Ypres. They were heartily cheered by the Australians opposite us. The Bird Cages near here have been filled with prisoners for the last few days.
"Zero Day" At last the long expected Z day has arrived. At 2.00am we arose and about 3.30am moved off by Motor Truck for Pioneer. Got stalled in our ammunition column and while crawling along the road at a squirrel's pace, the guns opened up. They all barked at once but owing to the wind the noise was not as great as expected. It was a magnificent sight and the whole skyline was one mass of flashes. Laid up at Pioneer till about 7.00 when we left on L.R. flat car train for Zellerbeker. After a rough trip finally arrived at end of steel. Walked by the lake and into batteries of F. Artillery. Our objective. Advanced Field H.Q. about ½ mile distant and after two attempts to get there we gave it up and put in the day in a dugout. Left for Pioneer again at 4.30 and walked in charge of 18 men, Mr. Blackmore having remained behind. While proceeding on train we were held up in B Battery position and shells landed very close. Saw tanks. Prisoners galore and lots of excitement.
For the past three weeks have been troubled at night by Fritz planes dropping bombs in our vicinity. On three occasions our searchlights have picked the planes up and our antis have shot at them, bringing one down.
Fred Harris and I left at 10.30 pm for a trip in the lorries which were going to take Labour Party to upbound train. Full moon and beautiful night, everything showing up clear as crystal. After many delays landed party at destination - Standard gauge rlwy. near canal bank around Breding. Had to wait until party unloaded train. While waiting, officer came running along road with revolver in hand and asked us if we has seen German officer. Explained that German machine had been shot down a short distance away and one of the occupants escaped and was last seen heading for small wood with revolver in hand. After consultation S/Sgt. Coury, Sgt. Hooper, 3 drivers and myself decided to search for him in the hopes of receiving reward (month in Blighty, 30 pounds). Searched wood & old dugouts without success. Examined aeroplane carefully but unable to get any souvenirs a/c numerous officers.
Battalion has been on semi-rest for 2 weeks, one co. only pushing forward lines. Mac Vale Fitsimmons & I sent to rest camp for four days. Had great time.
Big battle in this section. English, Scottish & Australian troops taking part. All objectives gained and Fritz retiring from Langomarak to Hollibrich immediately east of St. Eloi & south of Zillibike. Hundreds of prisoners on roads and in cages and many wounded both sides. Spent day at dressing station. Battle continuing today (21st) with everything favourable. "c" Co, running line through St. Julian. Pretty hot but only 1 casualty so far. Tom Murphy wounded by bomb splinter. Probably will go back to Canada.
Big Canadian mail. 10 letters and 3 parcels from Mother, Nora and Campbells, Also 28 franc money order from Edie.
Birthday. Received box of smokes from Marjorie. Sept. 26 Australians cleared Polygon Wood and captured trenches east of it. Bombing raids at night have been very bad. 40 killed opposite camp. Dud fell in manure pile next door and in fact it is pure luck none have fallen in camp. Civilian across road has been caught signalling through chimney and has been disposed of.
Moved camp from G12c80 to A22b57 near Elvertdanyke on Plank Road. Camp divided into 3 sections: Transport lines, west of L. R. (light railway) Orderly Room & Officers lines east of L. R. and men's lines and cook houses north of canal.
Canadian Inf. & Artillery up here now or on way up. Dec. 8 Doug Brown arrived from base for a few days. He is not doing any work but is out around seeing the sights. Dec. 16 Doug left to report back to AA Gr. Base.
Conscription Bill passed Oct. 13/17. Drafting effective Nov. 10/17. Previous to Nov. 10 all enlistment is voluntary.
COMS Marlatt & myself left in Studebaker car at 8 am for Calais. Stopped in St. Omer for dinner, then proceeded to Audruicq. Stayed in Audruicq a couple of hours thence on to Calais. Stayed overnight in Calais. Left next am at 9.30am. Proceeded to Audruicq for dinner. Left at 2.30. Stayed St. Omer for a few hours. Arrived at camp at 5.30pm. Car in excellent condition was in perfect shape.
[Editor’s note: The diary transcriptions (including transcription annotations) have been provided by the collection donor.]