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"Only with Honour"

Extracts from a Medical Officers diary May 1915 - August 1916. 36th field ambulance - 7th battalion East Surrey Regiment, 12th division - 134th field ambulance, 39th division.


All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the Reginald Hannay Fothergill diaries.

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"Only With Honour"

Monday 3rd July 1916. Marais ADS.

I saw one of  our aeroplanes brought down today by anti aircraft guns, the shell seemed to burst right on the plane, certainly the petrol tank was hit because a great sheet of flame suddenly leapt up. For a few seconds the machine kept on an even keel then dived down but as suddenly righted  himself and for a few breathless moments it seemed as if the pilot was still master. Gradually however her nose dropped and she began to descend at a steeper and steeper angle until it became quite obvious that she was hopelessly out of control. Then for half a minute we watched her, not dropping like a stone but fluttering slowly to earth like a butterfly. It made me feel positively ill to watch this horrible thing taking place and yet I was fascinated beyond words at the sight.

Well it fell between The lines in " no mans land" where 600 or 700 yards separated the trenches. O'Kell the M.O to the Sherwood Foresters, although comparatively elderly immediately ran out - A very plucky act! The two men were dead, but they got them in without themselves being hit. And later, the bodies were brought to the ADS where Porter and I collected all their belongings. The pilot had compound fracture of the jaw, the observer had no obvious injuries.


Tuesday 4th July.

After a bombardment two coy's of the regiment at Festubert went over but although they got into the first and second lines and did some good work they got badly caught by machine guns between the lines. It is generally believed that the enemy expecting the attack had machine guns actually between the lines waiting for our men. We had seven motor cars at our disposal and three extra officers to help. We were very busy from 1.30 a.m. until 6.00 a.m. and passed about 90 wounded down the line. Our evacuation from the aid posts by trolleys along the rails was most successful and we had no congestion.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill*


"Only With Honour"

Friday 7th April.

A little rain during the night which made the trench boards exceedingly slippery. Walked around portion of firing line with Ann's at 4.00 pm.


To my surprise William turned up, (*brother- William Hannay Fothergill  951 A.sqdn K.E.H) he is sniping from Rifleman's alley and I feel very anxious as he has no "plate protection" and has to look over parapet to shoot. He thinks he got a Bosch this morning. Have given him my life preserving medal which I have worn since the beginning of the war. It was blessed by the Pope and given to me by Fisher. We had tea and afterwards walked a little way down trench and had a talk, shrapnel and heavy stuff began to fall so close that we returned to my dugout. a trench mortar burst very close this evening and put out our candle.


Good news from Tigris - five lines of trenches taken and 6000 Guards advanced. We blew a large mine this evening. It is a perfect race to mine and counter mine.


Sunday 16th April.

After a bad night I am glad my temperature has dropped to subnormal this morning. I shall therefore return with the battalion tomorrow to the trenches.

Have had poor old Colwick (*Culwick. Alexander Cpl 513. Age 53. His story on joining up is hilarious) passed by the A.D.M.S for P.B duties, he has been breaking up pretty bad just lately and has now, for all practical purposes lost his nerve. It is extraordinary how this form of warfare tells on the nerves. No one realises this better than the Germans and they have brought psychology to bear on the war in a way which we have not. Their Flammenwerfer and minenwerfer are undoubtedly methods of frightfulness meant to play on the nerves. Felt cold and shivering towards evening and went to bed. Undoubtedly I am feverish. Nicholls just turned up, also Captain Martin and Devenish.


* Between Monday 17th thru 20th in Hohenzollern support trenches and front line trench the doctor suffered  bad nights with stiff neck and general restlessness, weak and listless, wracking headaches and temperature but his intention was to stick it out until until the following Tuesday when they were going back for a months rest. His Colonel however ordered him to go to hospital, eventually ending up down the line at Rouen No2 Red Cross Hospital where he stayed recuperating and working at No9 Hospital until the 4th June when he was granted leave. Returning to the front on the 14th June joining 134th F.A 39th Division.


If there is anyone interested in Reg's time in Rouen/leave please leave a comment and I will add a few excerpts from that time, 


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.*






"Only With Honour"

Tuesday 4th April. Support.

Got up about 6.30 a.m. and taking advantage of the early morning mist which obscured us from the dump and Bosch trenches, Leeds and I got over our parapet and had a hunt for "nose pieces" along the open ground. Found one or two new specimens and found some fairly useful shell holes, also put up a brown owl which was sitting on the ground.

It was planned that the sappers should spring two mines which they had prepared under the two left German craters. The mines were to go up at midnight. We (the brigade) made tremendous preparations for the occupation of the near lip by the Queens and one of our corps was to clear out our own first line which would be blown in by the explosion. At midnight, to the second we felt the two mines go up, there was comparatively little strafing after it and our artillery which opened was scarcely answered


Wednesday 5th.

The show last night was not a great success. We occupied the near lip of the first crater but the Bosch were the first to get into the second crater. The Queens were to slow and feeble. The crater which we occupied was taken by the Surrey's who were in support.


Sunday 9th. Firing line.

They gave us a terrible dose of trench mortars last night. I watched them coming over in the dark, a track of sparks making it easy to follow their course, up and downwards just like a roman candle only instead of ending in an innocent display they end with a most appalling crash which has most nerves breaking effect on those near it. The Bosch however doesn't happily land them often in ones trenches, we have extraordinary few casualties from them.

Had a crump 30 or 40 yards of me this afternoon and once again saw the shell before it reached the ground. Mines are now a daily occurrence and do not lead to much excitement as they are mostly blown in order to destroy or with hope of destroying each others mine galleries.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout  this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.*



"Only With Honour"


Wednesday 15th March. Reserve Hohenzollern.

Lying in bed at the present, I am thinking how interesting it is to consider so small a matter as the bare walls of my dugout. 15 feet deep, steps lead down to this particular dugout. The roof inside is supported with thick wooden beams and the interior of the room is also strongly strutted with timber. The walls are naked and consist of beautiful hard clay, in its upper part smooth homogeneous, in its lower layers intermingled  with fine particles of chalk. If the dugout was still deeper we should find ourselves entirely surrounded by white chalk. As was the case in our dugouts  about a mile away where the clay came much nearer the surface.

An exquisite day, saw my sick in Lancashire trench (about 15) then visited some mild cases of feet which I am keeping in a cellar in Vermelles and are looked after by Colwick (Culwick*). Basked in the sun for couple of hours in afternoon behind a bomb store and watched the enemy "crumping"  (or trying to) our reserve trenches. I was standing  about 400-500 yards away and screened from enemy by a hedge. I heard the shells coming and watched them burst - veritable coal boxes! - they had no direct hits.


* I believe that by this stage that the doctor is starting to protect  513 Cpl Culwick. Alexander  (age 53) earlier entries record him showing signs of stress/nerves/fatigue along with his hilarious story of signing up. Eventually discharged 17th June 1916. under paragraph 392 Kings regulations. Silver badge no's 12470*


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries  of Reginald Hannay Fothergill*




"Only With Honour"

Saturday 11th March. Hohenzollern craters.

A long night at last ended. I might have slept peacefully from 4.00 a.m. but through a false report I waited for some stretcher cases which never arrived. 

I think I am too sensitive for this M.O job. It has a depressing effect on me to see our men coming in mangled and wounded, it is against one's softer inclinations when one has to return to the firing line the  more timid of our men who come down with trumped up symptoms. The mental agony that poor fellows must suffer must be impossible to truly realise and I don't marvel that self inflicted sometimes (though very rarely) occur. And yet, as an efficient M.O one must be hard and allow no man to escape his share of the firing line, except he be (in one's opinion) to ill to carry on. To favour some is to be unfair on the those brave fellows who are holding the line, many of them feeling  far from well and all of them intensely tired and overwrought.


Sunday 12th.

A very disturbed night again because of wounded. D.company's trenches were crumped steadily all afternoon and North Hampton trench badly broken in. One shell struck a dugout and the man inside had left leg blown off and right foot, he was also severely cut about the head. He was found with his mangled limbs in contact with the live coals from the brazier which had been upturned. He did not die until he had been taken some way down the trenches. At 3.00 a.m. I dressed four or five wounded, a batch resulting from an accident with one of our own bombs.


Then Leeds and I revived the brazier with charcoal and talked about milk, (his trade)  cows and meadows full of lush grass and golden buttercups. We discussed the Jersey and Alderney and several other classes of these gentle creatures, we forgot all about the war. Instead I went with Leeds with his milk to the little town and we jogged along delightful country roads at six  o'clock upon a glorious spring morning, between brilliant green hedgerows and with birds singing on every side.


Tuesday 14th Hohenzollern reserve.

Although we are out of the firing line craters we still carry on with the same dugout. It is a gorgeous day with delightfully hot sun. I am writing this on the disused railway, screened from the Bosch lines by a hedge enjoying the sun and the song of Larks on every side. Once again spring is reasserting itself after the terrible setback. The poor undergrowth which had sprung up at the beginning of February has been cut down by the recent frosts and growing leaves of Hawthorn are blackened and withered.


In an article on the great war, Leadbetter says "horrific as it is, it has yet lifted thousands upon thousands of people clear out of themselves out of their petty parochialism into worldwide sympathy, out of selfishness into the loftiest altruism - lifted them into the region of the ideal."


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.*


"Only With Honour"

Tuesday 7th March 1916. Hohenzollern craters.

These two days (Mon-Tues) have been terrific days. The enemy threw shells into the craters, rifle grenades, mortars, the poor boys suffered much. It was snowing and freezing cold. Wounded kept coming down in a steady stream and any sleep was out of the question for me during the two nights. in the late afternoon I was asked by the Northants Pioneers to see a man in C crater who had a shattered limb. I made my way up and passed through some bits of trench which were partially blown in. One had to keep low in order not to be exposed above the parapet.


Then into the crater, what a sight! A huge basin 50 yards wide or more and 50 feet deep covered  in debris and dead bodies of Germans. Around the further lip were our brave boys. A small path ran around it, of cover there was none as there was no time to build dugouts. I found my man lying amongst some corpses, his left limb was hanging by a few tendons and although he was obviously dying I could not leave him. My stretcher bearers of the coy were knocked out and so I had to get three volunteers to help me. A rifle grenade came over and exploded with a deafening report close to me, wounding slightly three or four men.


Captain Richards shouted to warn me that the Buffs were "going over" at 6:00pm which would mean a bombardment of the crater. I could not get my casualty away by then and I heard the German machine guns playing on them as they advanced and our artillery commenced an intense bombardment. After an immense struggle, myself holding one end of the stretcher we got out of the crater and fought our way through the narrow trench expecting to be crumped at any minute. 

The poor fellow however expired  before we had gone very far, felt nonetheless very glad that I had done my best for him. I made my way back to the aid post through the appalling din of the bombardment and got back safely.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill*


"Only With Honour"

Saturday 25th December ,Xmas day, Bethune hospital.

The rash has disappeared and though still weak I feel very well. Well here we are, Xmas day. "Peace and good will towards men"

We spent quite a nice day, a simple luncheon and in the evening things became quite festive. The table was dressed up with flowers and about 12 of us sat down to :- soup, turbot, turkey and cauliflower, plum pudding and dessert, stout, beer and lemonade. The dinner was nicely served too, the food wasn't just slopped on one's plate. After dinner the sister brought in half a dozen half bottles of hospital champagne so that all together, things quite hummed. We had a good gramophone with a good many indifferent records and there was a piano nobody could play.

There has been rather a puzzling patient here since last Monday, he was sent in as a hysterical case and indeed he looked in most ways entirely so, although there were also present indications of nerve trouble in the legs which looked undoubtedly organic. He had no temp and pulse was normal. He complained of profound loss of power on one side, pain, numbness etc,


*7th Battalion war diary. Epinette.

Saturday 25th.

No fraternising this year, although the Germans tried to make peaceful advances by showing the white flag. Our artillery consistently pounded their trenches all day and night. A certain amount of retaliation took place but not as much as we put over.


Sunday 26th December.

Well last night I was just getting off to sleep when he suddenly fell out of bed on to the floor and when picked up he was dead. It would be interesting to know the true diagnosis. Doctor Robinson the head surgeon here diagnosed the above as Landry's paralysis having seen a similar case where no temperature occurred.


Friday 31st December. Windy corner trenches.

The arrangements of the trenches here is rather extraordinary, platoons are dotted about . This time I have my dressing station just by the headquarters and am sleeping at H,Q  myself. We are hopelessly far away from the firing line.

We sat up playing patience and talking before a nice fire. There present, the colonel, Major Wilson, Major James, Captain Nicholls, myself. a machine gun officer and a liaison officer. At midnight our field guns opened rapid fire just to show there was no ill feeling. The Germans scarcely replied and things settled down. Thus the old year went out and new year came in, not to the merry ringing of church bells but to the roaring of countless guns.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.

(* I think, "live and let live" happened)


"Only With Honour"

Sunday 5th December 1915.

(*Returning from leave.)

Awoke to find we were moving out about 7:10am but we did not get up as we soon encountered a heavy swell, so I forfeited breakfast and read until 11:00am when the sea became calm. So I dressed and had coffee. Not many officers but quite a few civilians, I noticed we were not escorted by a destroyer.

I had one officer pointed out to me who was returning for the fifth time!! He was wounded at Mons, again at Ypres. Then went to Dardanelles and was wounded before he even landed and had to return home. He later was sent to Loo's and was the only man out of a party of fifty who was left. He is now returning after normal leave.

Arrived Havre about 1:30. I am writing this from hotel Tortoni where I will stay until late tonight as we must meet the "leave boat" and go by their train. I am now a day late.


Friday 10th December. Givenchy trenches.

An excellent night. Colwick (*Culwick) called me with tea at 8:00am and then lit my fire by which I dressed in comfort. What Ho!

Battalion marched off in morning. Nicholls and I  were to go up in the afternoon so we walked into Bethune and got lunch, mounted our horses and rode along the canal to Givenchy. Then on to a point where we dismounted and proceeded on foot to our battalions position. The firing line is three feet in water and despite thigh boots they are most of them wet through. they are in for 24 hours which is quite sufficient, indeed I do not think they could stand a longer period. I inspected two platoons who had just come out and they were in a dreadful state poor chaps. We had all their feet rubbed and supplied dry boots, socks, hot tea etc.

My dugout has two feet of water on the floor, the bunk is fixed to the wall and so my bed is at any rate dry and I have spent good night. A good deal of shelling but none in our trenches so far. Machine guns play down the road but the fire is indirect and high.


Monday 13th Tuesday 14th. Les Quesnoy.

Our platoon in firing trench had to stand with water which in most cases came above their thigh boots. Their predicament was so piteous that at 3:30am when they had done twelve and a half hours the colonel rang up and ordered them to be relieved. I was ordered down to go down to Le Plantin and see that their feet were attended to. It was beginning to freeze and of course pitch dark. The platoons were in a wretched state. Most of them were soaked through, trousers and socks and it was a blessing we got them out at half time. We had braziers of coke going and in front of them we rubbed their feet with grease and gave soup etc. I have about six cases of trench foot during these two days, none of them very severe, though have sent them to hospital.

The general of the brigade, a damned old busy body came round and cursed everybody. He cautioned me against getting trench foot in the regiment quite disregarding the circumstances . Like so many of the "Sods" in the higher command.

We have had no casualties since we came here.


Saturday 18th - Tuesday 28th December. Bethune Red Cross French hospital.


Kelly saw my sick and then took me by car to above address, was very glad to get into nice little bed. Throat very sore, temp began to rise about midnight and as it rose I felt more restless and craving for more heat. The night sister sprayed me with coldish water, I felt much easier indeed.


This is the first day on which I have felt capable of writing up my diary. The soreness of the throat would have been bearable but reading and writing became an impossibility by reason of continuous headache which increased always with rise in temperature.


The two nursing sisters are delightful. It is wonderful how people can keep so cheerful despite living so long amongst sick people. My only adverse criticism has to do with under-staff of orderlies.

Today it is discovered that I have developed a thick scarletina rash all over me. I remember having it with my last attack, in consequence they think I should stay in bed.

Some kind, thoughtful presents from people at home today, a letter and knitted scarf from Carine Thorne.


*8157 Pte Dipple. Alfred. Loos memorial - 8441 Cpl Reed. Harry. Age 27. Pont.Du.Hem military cemetery.



At midnight a military band came into the hall below and played all sorts of jolly waltzes for nearly an hour. It felt quite cheerful and Christmassy.

I heard them strike up some distance away with some familiar Xmas hymns and it reminded me of old Grasmere (*childhood home. Allan bank)


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.


"Only With Honour"

7th Battalion war diary. 14th October.

The casualties were heavy. Captain Tompkins, Lieutenant Bearsnell were killed. Lieutenants Knight and Marshal wounded. 56 other ranks were killed, 160 wounded and 33 missing, which many it is hoped will subsequently be brought in wounded. We took 16 prisoners, one machine gun and three trench mortars with a lot of ammunition. In the evening we were relieved by the 11th Middlesex and went into billets at Noyelles Des Vermelles.


Tuesday 19th October,

Paid groom 30-francs.

Tremendous amount of firing during the night. We hear unofficially that the Essex repulsed a violent German attack and the Germans were mown down by their three machine guns. I have had quite a comfortable night in the colonels room. I had some clean straw put down and my valise on top making a most comfortable bed. The men also had plenty of clean straw and were quite happy and warm. The colonel is seedy and I am keeping him in bed, he has piles, bronchitis and septic in-growing toe nail!!

Letter from Cross, (*practice partner) he is evidently keeping practice well together with the help of an elderly locum. He shows for the quarter ending Sept 30th :- Receipts £414.0.11. Expenses £47.4.5. Balance £1.5.0. Total £368.1.6, which is very good. (*Regie sent home 50% of his quarterly salary to Doctor Cross) (*Life carries on)


Sunday 24th October.

My medical orderly gone on leave. Have made 16 conditional or reserve stretcher bearers - four to a coy. My 16 stretchers(canvas and pole) made especially short and narrow have arrived and will be very useful indeed.

As mess president I am rather dissatisfied with the amount of money required to keep this mess going, I am determined to investigate this matter.

Walked into Verquin and visited Malone of the 37th FA. Rode into Bethune with Nicholls this afternoon and had bath and changed into clean clothes. I suppose we shall muddle through this wretched war sometime. But all we do seems so amateurish compared with the Germans method, but we are learning no doubt. Bombing is the most prominent method of attack at present. We used to consider it quite sufficient for a few brave fellows to throw bombs promiscuously into the trenches. Point is, we have since discerned that the Germans organise and train their bombers most carefully, bombing a trench is a science.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.(author)




"Only With Honour"

Extracts from diary entries for 13th, 14th October 1915.

Wednesday 13th.

To meet a likely run of wounded a large dugout was erected by the road but owing to lack of time was hardly covered to withstand large shells. At 11:30am I took up my position in the dugout with my staff and was joined by Captain Milne from the 38th FA who brought 20 RAMC men with him.


At midday we started two hours of intense bombardment. The noise was appalling as the Germans replied vigorously. Very soon we had two direct hits on the centre of dugout which did no harm. Then later two high explosives struck the edge of the roof where it was not so strong and gave way with a terrific an blinding crash, but the hole made was not large and being on the opposite side from where we were sitting caused no casualty.


At 2:00pm the guns lifted their fire and the Surrey's attacked and we could hear the enemy's machine guns playing on the poor chaps as they advanced at the run.

From 2:30pm to 5:30am (15 hours) I was continually dressing wounded with on occasionally a rest for five minutes. Hard work it was.


During the action the field ambulance failed to lend much support despite an urgent message for ambulances to be sent up for our 100 wounded whom I had dressed and waiting to be sent "down"

Eventually they sent up ambulances at odd intervals and we got the place cleared by 5:30am. After that the worst cases began to come in, we got busy again for some hours.

A large percent of the wounds were terrible,especially those caused by bombs, hand grenades etc. Thank god no crumps hit our dugout although they were falling all around our place when it was simply packed with wounded.


Unfortunately, the synchronised attack on Hohenzollern redoubt and upon the Quarries was a failure. My stretcher bearers worked most heroically throughout the show and I had one casualty among them, a fractured arm.


*Throughout the two days the 7th battalion ESR fatalities counted 87 including brothers - 2191 Pte Sandford. Ernest Alfred. Age 21. - 6 Sgt Sandford. Walter James. Age 25. 

Possibly 8793 Pte Humphrey. William. - 1947 Pte Humphrey. William Edward. Age 19.*


Saturday 16th October.

Nothing much to note. Revelled in a most good night. A rather picturesque church here, though shelled to pieces. We are surrounded with heavy batteries, the noise they make is preferable to the beastly row of the field guns and whizz bangs.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright  of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill. (author)*


* Right... I have now plucked up the courage to publish Regie's diaries, unabridged, no indexes no nothing, just as he wrote them all those years ago as a diary.

I hope the viewers of this blog so far have enjoyed it and I would appreciate all feedback.( if you have any).*

Dave D







"Only With Honour"

Monday 4th October. 

MY old 36th FA had come in for it the day before yesterday, poor Stanley Bell was killed together with a sergeant and some men. Also one of the ambulances was  blown up and the driver killed.

A wonderful night to look round over the land which offers an uninterrupted view in front for a long way, seeing the Huns shells bursting and the shrapnel. "God" I would give something to get out of this with honour.

Jack Cox has not played the game, if I hear correctly, he resigned from MO to the 2nd Suffolk's, Gone home and got some government job there. No doubt he made his mother his excuse,but, I am afraid it was and excuse. One which he never made while he was in the field ambulance.* (old university and very close friend)*

I went up to the front line of trenches to see a sick man and while there they began to put coalboxes among us. I got into a dugout with the last one which unfortunately exploded in a dugout close-by

completely burying three men.

King was inside but got out badly shaken, he came running to tell us and we rushed with spades etc and after half an hour digging got out one man who was badly hurt but a sergeant was killed and one of my dear stretcher bearers was blown to pieces, his head severed completely.


* 715 Sgt Sturt. James. Age 35. Loos memorial. - 1318 Pte Bussey. William Albert. Age 21. Loos memorial. 7th Battalion. ESR


Tuesday 5th October.

This has been a sad morning. The Huns shelled the batteries immediately around the trenches among which our men are billeting with the result that one shell fell on a shelter under which poor Hastings was taking cover, killing him instantly. His head blown off and his thigh shattered. I  liked Hastings very much he was a beautiful singer, but his nerves had recently shown signs of giving way.

It is a terrible strain for anyone highly strung. It scarcely invites confidence in the higher command when you see our battalion placed in reserve trenches which have our own batteries not only on either side but also among them and in front of them (30 yards) . Such a position would not be so bad with efficient dugouts, but not even one in the two front trenches is strong enough to withstand a six-inch high explosive. We cannot complain if we suffer severely but understandingly. 

We are moving out this evening into trenches which are further advanced. Attended to my wounded with upmost difficulty. Trenches to narrow for stretchers, drizzling rain etc. What a life!!


*9010 Pte Wills. Frank Noel. Age 18. Loos memorial. - 2nd Lieut Hastings. Aubrey J. Fouquieres cemetery. - 688 Pte Hilton. W G. Age 21. Choques military cemetery. 7th Battalion ESR


Friday 8th October.

I had to make three separate journeys into the trenches during this bombardment to attend cases and it was an experience, my first real experience of attending wounded under fierce shell fire. The noise of exploding passing shells was so great that I had to shout to my stretcher bearers to make myself heard at only two paces interval. I went out with my medical orderly and we had to keep diving to the bottom of the shallow trench to avoid bursting shrapnel etc.

When you get into it you don't feel at all scared, you just feel highly strung and somewhat excited and get quite cool. I had nothing to eat from 8:30am being busy with wounded nearly all the time.

Well our bombardment started at 4:45pm and we gave them ten times more than they gave us and it was tremendous to hear our 8-inch shells going over like many trains, we kept it up, the Huns subsided. Then at  a given signal the West Kent's attacked and I hear they took the position, it remains to be seen whether they can consolidate their position.


*331 Pte Watson. William. Age 19. Vermelles British cemetery - 71 Pte Botting. George. Age 29. Loos memorial. - Lieut Gibson. Malcolm Reginald. Age 23. Vermelles British cemetery. - 1643 Pte Green. John. Loos memorial. 7th Battalion ESR.


Sunday 9th October.

Everyone depressed. The Kent's attack failed. One hears all sorts of reasons, the shortage of bombs at the critical moment, the Pioneers not arriving in time as one etc, and other reasons. The West Kent's had 100 casualties. Our battalion was only represented as far as the machine guns went up and poor Gibson was killed, shot through the head and carried very bravely under fire by a West Kent officer alive to the protection of the trench.

Two officers today, captains, have collapsed and I have had send them down. And this afternoon others , Captain Dresser and Lieut Devenish were both knocked over by a sniper's bullet through the thighs. I had to crawl along a shallow trench to reach them and do the dressings lying flat in order not to expose myself to the same sniper.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*




"Only With Honour"

Friday 1st October.

Sleep almost impossible partly owing to the bitter cold and mostly due to a fierce artillery bombardment of the Huns trenches by our batteries some of which was close beside my house. This is most bitter cold weather with a strong east wind. I have made a splendid dressing station out of this room, thanks to a fire I am able to keep comfortably warm.

Thompson, MO to the Sussex 36th brigade was killed this morning by a shell at his dressing station  and Bell of my old field ambulance was seriously injured by shrapnel.

I have just come back from visiting the recent battlefields. Their 1st two lines of trenches which we captured from them. From Vermelles (where we are) there is a flat plain which gradually slopes up to a ridge, on the summit of this were ours and the Huns trenches separated by about a 100 yards, there was a good deal of shrapnel and high explosive being thrown about, so we had to cover  the distance between the two trenches fairly rapidly.

It was a typical battlefield, littered with bodies of our brave Highlanders who let the assault with bombing parties. They still lay stiff with their arms outstretched in the act of throwing the bomb. We entered the Huns 1st line of trenches and saw a good many Bosch lying in and around their dugout. Some of them with ghastly wounds. One German officer lay at the front his dugout with a Femur almost torn in half. Most of the dead wore respirators. Their dugouts are wonderfully strong and beat ours at Armentieres to bits seeing they go down often 15 feet and were built with good timber as well. There were hand grenades, rifles and cartridges lying everywhere.

At one place I found myself standing on the body of a Hun who had been trampled beneath the mud of the trench. In some of the dugouts where was loaves of pumpernickel and Dutch cheese. Behind their 2nd trench you looked down to the village of Loos in the hollow, Then beyond Loos rose the hill(70) up which we pushed the enemy and captured the crest, and there we are now.

We returned (I and Monroe Favre) the way we had come, two high explosive shells burst uncomfortably near us and we were showered with pebbles and earth.


* No CWGC record of Thompson, Sussex Regt  or RAMC recorded for the dates.


Saturday 2nd October.

They have shelled our batteries all afternoon. Just heard our divisional General Wing has been killed by shell bursting in his battle H.Q, a great loss.


 *01/10/1915 - 39273 Sgt Butcher, Henry, age 25. - 46643, Pte Cooke, Noel Hannant, age 22. 36th F.A.  -   Vermelles  British cemetery.

 02/10/1915 - 416 Pte Goldsmith, Charles, age 20. - Capt Bell, Thomas Henry Stanley, age 23. 36th. F.A. - Vermelles British cemetery.

 2093, Pte Bendall, William Thomas, age 30. -  7th Battalion East Surrey Regt. Bailleul communal cemetery extension nord.


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)





"Only With Honour"

Saturday 25th September.

Walked up to trenches at 2:45am. It was drizzling slightly but very warm. This is "the day" the Dertag of the Huns. And even as they prepared for their day so have we, and, today the Allies are going to make a combined effort. Glorious news has come in all day (9:45pm) by wires from Brigade H.Q.

I understand the plan was for the main push to be made by the French somewhere south in particular and by the English 2nd Army. No advance was ordered on the Armentieres salient, but in the event of favourable opportunity arising it was decided that the small salient in front of our (the Surrey's) line should be taken.

The Queens in the trenches, it lay with us to make the assault. A furious bombardment had been evidently going on toward the south all yesterday and night indeed to mask the programme. We also kept up a tremendous cannonade on this salient and must have done much damage.

Our little "show" fell through and no attack took place much to the disappointment of the men. The last wire I read says that  the French have captured the whole of the first line of trenches and let their cavalry through. The English too have been successful  everywhere except at one point.


7th Battalion war diary 25th September.

The battalion moved to their positions at 2:30am. And all in position by 4:00am. At 5:00am the artillery bombarded the German salient at Le Touquet till 6:30am. At 5:56am we sent up a smoke screen all along our front with smoke bombs, burning straw etc. The Enemy only answered with q few whizz bangs. 

Our bombardment  did not sufficiently damage the Enemy's wire or make him give up his trenches, so it was decided no attack would be made, as from a tactical point of view there was nothing to be gained. Our whole objective being to make sufficient aggression to prevent him moving any troops to other parts. At 1:00pm we  received orders that we could go back to billets, the bombardments and aggression is still to go on from time to time, so the Enemy gets no rest.

Our men were very disappointed that no attack was made but were consolidated hearing the splendid news which kept coming in.


A summary of messages attached  -  "THE DAY HAS COME" - at last, everybody has been longing for it and no one questions the idea of anything but crushing success all along the line. From reports received it is evident the French and ourselves used "gas" which owing to the German breach of faith has become a legal weapon of war. And it is to be hoped that we will make full use of it and avenge the terrific suffering our men have received from the German gas.

Everybody realises that the 2nd Army front, roughly from Ypres to Bois Grenier being in advance of the general line will have to hold the enemy until the line straightens and then "our" day will come.


Sunday 26th September.

Walked out to William this afternoon. Got him excused stables so that we had until 8:00pm together. We strolled into Nieppe had tea etc. Improbably moving. Got back to Armentieres in time for dinner. A wire came to say that total French prisoners were over 10,000 and English 2,000. Last wire said Sonchey had fallen to the French , there was no word about the cavalry and altogether I do not feel so optimistic as yesterday. We received word that we were not to go up to trenches until tomorrow night.


Monday 27th September.

News that French have now taken 18,000 prisoners, 31 guns and 1st and 2nd line of trenches over 21km. We occupy Loos and have taken nine field guns.

We are going today, where, when, we have no orders and it is 6:00pm. A perfect chaos here at H.Q. Our Regiment not yet away. At last we are sent to billets in the town near the station and eventually got settled for the night. Slept on the floor but very comfortable and warm.


(*Like nothing had happened)


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)



"Only With Honour"

Saturday 18th September.


This was a lucky day for the Regiment. At 4:30pm the Huns opposite Barkesham farm started on us with trench mortars and rifle grenades. They threw about 50 mortars and we threw during the bombardment about 28. I watched this from my dressing station, I could see the dust and debris rise in our lines at each explosion. I expected many casualties but as a matter of fact the regiment didn't lose a man or have a single casualty.

The only ones who suffered were the working party of Queens men. Two of them were killed by the first rifle grenade fired. It was curious about these two men, they were standing side by side, one of them had the whole of his head except the face blown off, while the other I could only find two quite small wounds, one on the right arm and the other over the third rib. I consider that he died entirely from shock.


Monday 20th September.

Captain Martin came in at 3:45am with two small wounds from rifle grenade, he will be all right in a week or so. Evidently the German deserter was correct when he said the Bavarian's had left and the Landwehr  Prussian  Regiment are now facing us. They may be only old men but there fighting spirit is there judging by the increased amount of "strafing" that is taking place since they arrived.

A horrible bilious headache came on this afternoon despite having starved myself . I felt cold and shivery , I was beginning to feel better and warmer when a message came to go to Lys farm. Went by car and found seven men (five of them Queens) wounded by a shell fuse, which, carrying as a souvenir one of the Queens men dropped. He was one of a party going at the time to the farm. It was dusk when I got there and the men were lying on the ground, multiple wounds all over body though none of them severe. My head was by this time wracking with pain. Walked back home to my billet . Oh what joy to get into bed!!


Friday 24th September.

Very close night. Couldn't sleep and started reading at 2:30am. At 4:00am a tremendous bombardment of the German lines developed on the right of the salient and very near. It was grand to here rapid and continuous fire from many batteries and see the flashes in the sky.

Things are developing!! Had secret orders read today and consultation with ADMS and Major Turner and officers. The ambulances  evidently intend to come into the limelight and are to be prepared for a rush. Turner has made all sorts of elaborate preparations, meaning well but rather interfering with our own work at the trenches.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)






"Only With Honour"

Tuesday 24th August.

Felt quite well again. Only one trivial casualty today, a graze of a finger by bullet. The lad said he was 19 but I laughed and he confessed to being 17, and looked 16. Nice boy and so proud of his wound, which thank god was a mere scratch.


Monday 30th August.

I was awakened at 2:00am this morning by the steady beat of men marching past, and as they marched they sang in harmony this simple and plaintive air. It sounded very solemn and somehow pathetic in the dead of night. Rising and falling as it did through the perfect stillness of the night, (except for dismaltory rifle fire in the distance.) It seemed to voice the sadness which must surround so many homes just now amongst the poor of Europe.


Thursday 9th September. Le Bizet. Billet.

There is a general feeling that this place will soon be bombarded by the enemy. The civilians are gradually clearing out.

This afternoon I borrowed a bike  (my only pair of boots were being mended so I couldn't ride.) and cycled out to Williams camp but found he was at Nieppe so rode on to the MMP H.Q where he was. Found William very fit and liking his duties. He comes over to me tomorrow.

I had ordered a thresher trench coat and it arrived today. It consists an outer covering of sort of Burberry and two inner linings one oiled silk and another of sheepskin and has a belt behind. It cost £7.10s.0d which of course a ridiculous price but if it will keep one warm and dry it will be worth its price.


Thursday 16th September.

A fatal head case brought in last night, not one of our men though, Had to go through his pockets and make inventory of items and money. Very pathetic to find a photo of his wife and child, the former young and smiling and to think he was lying before you with his brains blown out while she knew it not. Such things  cause most harrowing reality to rise before ones eyes. 


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)



"Only With Honour"

Sunday 22nd August.

Went to bed  in afternoon but received message to go to Lys Farm at the extreme right of our trenches, so got up feeling rotten. Found man doubled with colic, had to stretcher him back along trenches full of traverses. It necessitated lifting stretcher and I carried stretcher for a time. Retired early to bed with aspirin and high temperature and good sweat, woke at 1:00am  feeling quite well. Wonderful thing aspirin! Slept well and no casualties.


Monday 23rd August.

B-Coy trenches. At suicide corner trenches are a network of huge sandbag barricades and the Bosch trenches are only 30 feet away. here I heard our men talking to the Huns, looking through a periscope saw seven or eight of them with their heads and shoulders above the parapet laughing. They had round blue caps and some had khaki coloured ditto. They shouted in English we will send you a note - and sure enough the report of a rifle grenade rang out and into our trench dropped a note. As I was the only officer present they brought it to me and I read in English "To the opposition, we will send you some newspapers by non explosive rifle grenade, is peace in sight ? please answer " There was also an invitation  for our men to show themselves above the trenches with promise that they would not shoot, but nobody cared to risk the invitation.


How amazing is that ???


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)


"Only With Honour"

Saturday 7th August.

The prospects of continuing to live amicably with Jack are not very bright. The novelty of renewing our acquaintance after a break of eight years has gradually worn off and we must rely on intellect and an interchange of sympathies to keep us together. I fear we have very little in common now. I have never touched on topics of religion with him, nor have I opened up theosophical subjects.

Yesterday however, some question of the deeper truth was allowed to and he showed such antipathy to the idea of anyone wishing to question the why and wherefore of life and showed such complete satisfaction in merely desiring to live and not think, that I felt almost amazed.

He has really no true feelings of sympathy towards me. He never takes the smallest interest in the embarrassed  state  of my practice. never enquires after it. Never asks  after my relations, nearly all of whom he knows, including John (*brother) something of whose case he knows.

He is entirely wrapped up in himself and I have often thought that he merely uses us for his pleasure. I have always pandered to his wants and done nearly all the running about  in connection  with our house life. So here we are today, not on speaking terms after last night when he railed on me in a most unfriendly way over some trivial misunderstanding.


Sunday 8th August.

William is somewhere and I must try and seek him out as he has been attached to our division (*brother)(*K.E.H. Trooper 951 A. Sqdn)


"Young clothes on an elderly woman are like curry sauce on an elderly egg, they only draw attention to an obvious fact."


Tuesday 17th August.

Feel low and depressed today. For one thing I had a rotten night at the hospital I was disturbed four times to attend the injuries of the wounded. A bad abdominal case with bowels hanging out and both hands shot through, he died this morning but did not suffer as I gave plenty of morphine. Then a head case and one or two others less severe.


Thursday 19th Aug.

Major Turner, Jack and I went to Le Corney for tennis this afternoon, after tea in the garden. Had some good men's fours. Went back for dinner, and there was news, Jack has been ordered to join as MO to the 2nd Suffolk Regt 3rd Division! And I am to go to the 7th East Surrey Regiment! I had been previously warned about my appointment  but the thing was new and unexpected to Jack.




With all the expertise on this forum is there anyone who can help with the King Edwards Horse. I have been unable to find much information about them


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of  Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*


"Only With Honour"

Monday 26th July.

Logan turned up from St Omer. They seemed anxious for him to join a committee or board which is going into the question of "gas"In the event of him leaving I hope to be able to take his place as MO to the 6th Royal West Kent Regiment. So I returned home about lunch time to find our CO Colonel Dunn was gone!! Great consternation! I think everyone is considerably relieved to be rid of this dear old hen, always fussing and never satisfied with anyone. Major Turner has taken his place. He is young and good looking with an intellectual face. I feel almost sorry to have started to pull strings to get the regimental appointment.


Tuesday 27th July.

Frequently cases sent down here by the motor ambulance in the afternoon are kept until the following morning, where as routine the motor convoy from Baillent arrives. Such cases might just as well have continued the journey from the trenches straight to Baillent instead of being delayed by coming here, speed is everything . Why should the field ambulance be allowed to act as a blockhouse.


Wednesday 28th July.

Yesterday evening I took a stroll by myself along the banks of the river Lys. It was getting dusk and suddenly hearing a peculiar little noise in the grass, I stopped, out ran two little animals toward me. At first I thought the were hedgehogs and then Guinea pigs. Then the mother jumped onto the road and seeing me hesitated for a moment the disappeared into the undergrowth, she looked about the size of a rabbit. I picked up one of the young ones and found it was covered in beautiful soft brown hair, It was quite fierce , on putting it on the ground it made for my feet (or appeared to do so) uttering small "barks" The other youngster was particularly fierce and felt the ***** of its teeth in my finger when I tried to pick it up. I think they were young stoats, it was a pleasant episode.


Thursday 5th August.

Although apparently cheerfully and very healthy, I loathe my war like surroundings and long for peace and return home. If left to myself for any length of time in the quiet garden I found myself retrospecting at once. I throw myself into beautiful Lakeland scenery and so intense is my imagination that I am actually there , wandering about and revelling in the sound of mountain streams and the bracken and sweet scented ferns.

Jack was orderly today, so I went down to Le Corney  and had rather a nasty experience. One of our aeroplanes was circling above when the Germans fired a shrapnel at it. I never thought of any danger, until suddenly I heard a shrill whizzing sound and at once I realised that the nose of the shell was coming down! A horrible second or to passed but thank god the thing struck the tennis court about six feet from the pretty Miss L.C.T  They were all very plucky and wanted to go on, but I thought we had better stop until the aeroplane  moved away. How terrible if it had struck one of them!


Two captains died in our hospital today. Both hit through the head by snipers. God! what a lot of terrible wounds! What a hopeless state of affairs.


*Captain. Fraser. Hugh Crawford. Age 38. Royal Scots Fusiliers. Le Touret military cemetery - Captain. Mills. Teulon Lewis. Age 23. Middlesex Regiment. Cite Bonjean military cemetery.


Friday 6th August.

A shell burst in the headquarters of a regiment in the town today and did much damage. Among them two brothers and they were brought to the hospital on stretchers. The one who was more severely injured entreated his brother to look after his wife and children. He died two hours later. And now this afternoon the remaining brother has followed him. What terrible suffering there must be at home!!


*1379. Pte. Cardy. R. Royal Fusiliers. Cite Bonjean military cemetery -  49. Corp. Cardy. M. Age 26. Royal Fusiliers. Cite Bonjean military cemetery. Armentieres.


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)






"Only With Honour"

Thursday 15th July.

The officer died at 9:45am, some of his brother officers were just in time to see him before he lost consciousness. Today is the French presidents birthday and the people celebrated by having a holiday, the Huns by throwing nearly 200 shells into town. Comparatively little damage was done but people are very scared and moving out in great numbers.


Saturday 17th July.

The Germans successfully shelled the church a Neuve Eglise until it took fire and burnt with tremendous flames which were fanned by a strong wind.

Colonel was in a mighty frenzy today and found fault with everyone and anything, which is usual with him on these occasions, he kept giving orders then counter-ceding them a minute afterwards.Accused one of all sorts of minor omissions in ones work and wouldn't wait for an explanation etc. An irresponsible little man who never compliment etc. An irresponsible little man who never compliments anyone or encourages anyone but is always trying to find something wrong.

Very wet this afternoon, Jack went up to the trenches this evening and the machine gun at Headquarters Farm played down the road while he was in the farm but got away safely.


Tuesday 20th July.

Our batteries around Gunners Farm turned their attention on a chimney tower in the enemy's zone. The Huns replied later by plumping 31 shells into and around the far. Two men had slight head wounds because of this bombardment. One calf was killed and the old lady in the farm died of shock.


Wednesday 21st July.

This has been an interesting day. The MO of the Suffolk's stationed Despear Farm (*Despierre) above Gunners Farm was reported ill and I was sent to take his place. I therefore packed my valise and went up in the motor ambulance. I walked up by the communication trench to Despear where I found the MO, he was better and would not hear of leaving. But he volunteered to show me round the trenches, we set off forthright.

After a good deal of walking we found ourselves in the first line of trenches and at one point were only thirty yards from the opposing trenches. At 120 yards from the enemy I looked through a periscope, to which was attached a powerful field binocular and I had the best view through them. With the aid of these one could see the minutest detail of the opposing lines and I was only disappointed in not observing any of the bad men. I saw our men preparing hand grenades.

I was disappointed in not being able to take the his place as I would far rather fill such a post than remain in this field ambulance where one is practically useless.


Saturday 24th July.

Received orders this morning to go and take the place of MO Lieut Logan of the Royal West Kent Regt temporarily, so I packed again my valise, went up to Gunners Farm but found the regiment had gone down to Oosthove Farm for the week, so down I went there. Lieut Logan being an expert on gas poisoning had been ordered to H.Q  at St Omer. I found the farm had been shelled that morning though two slight casualties reported. The Lieut colonel and officers are very nice, and I wish it could develop into a permanent job

We all expected the shelling to be repeated in the evening and when just after dinner when a tremendous bang came outside we all stampeded for shelter. We soon found it was only our 4.7 inch battery opening fire and great amusement resulted.


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*







"Only With Honour"

Saturday 3rd July.

Made a journey in car to Gunners Farm for wounded, shell burst on our right otherwise things are quiet. Had some games of tennis in afternoon with jack. Still very out of practice especially on forehand strokes, serve not so bad considering. Chaps look amusing playing in khaki and funnier still playing in kilts!


Tues 6th July.

All officers including Colonel Dunn turned out for riding lesson. I had Sergeant Major Down. We all careered around the field. The whole business was rather absurd and to my mind no useful result was reached seeing that no individual instruction was given. We are to have a course of these lessons daily. Very hot, lay on stretcher in garden under trees.

After lunch Jack away as orderly officer. Read some theosophy. Made tea on Jacks return. Feel rather despondent as it is obvious I am wasting my time here. There is nothing to do, the hospital work is a mere make believe, a perfect farce. And all the time I feel I might be doing useful work in my practice in Dalton. All the while I am slacking here  Dr Cross writes to say he has had 29 confinements in three weeks and done it single handed, the locum having left.

I have just returned from trenches, one of the bits of work one is called upon to do. Had coffee with Doctor Hackett in Gunners Farm, while there the Essex open fire, what a noise!!


(*Correspondence on running practice*)


Thursday 8th July.

Had our riding school as usual. I tried a fresh horse which Bartholomew thought might be more comfortable than my own which has a very uncomfortable trot, but the brute had a playful way of kicking, also stumbled very badly and I was not impressed to find myself completing a somersault through the air landing without taking any harm. I shall make the best of my own horse. Dangerous game, this war.

We enjoyed a bit of German hate this evening when they began to throw shells into this end of the town. I was walking home at the time and when I got in I heard one coming over and it burst fairly close to our home. Forgen had a narrow shave while taking the ambulance up to Ploegstert, a shell burst on the road not 20 yards away, stones hit him but otherwise no harm.


Friday 9th July.

Not much going on and number of casualties reduced. Colonel not quite so fussy, though bad enough and apt to lay down the law about some of my cases of illness in a way which is extremely annoying. The old chap is (from what I can see) extraordinarily deficient in medical knowledge as one might expect seeing that his experience has been confined to the rough and ready treatment of the "Tommy" for the last 30 years.

But one must bow to his military rank which enables him always to have the last word in the discussion of a case and gives him the right to pronounce a final diagnosis without one dissentient voice being raised.

Then again, he is old and I look young and he probably forgets or does not know that I have been in practice for nearly ten years. No, so often the army from a medical standpoint does not appeal to me when "red tape" confronts one at every turn, and, when the army rule of shifting your responsibility with all speed onto someone else's shoulders is reflected in one's  treatment of medical cases in such a way as to make the whole thing a perfect farce.


(*Day to day correspondence on running his practice from the front line*)


Tuesday 13th July.

Had a close shave this morning, Jack and I were sitting in the garden at 12:45 just after morning hospital, when suddenly we heard a shell screaming towards us. I shouted "my god its coming"! and flung myself on the ground and Jack did the same and it burst with a terrific roar on the road the other side of our garden wall exactly on a line with our seat in the garden. We at once ran into the house and had scarcely got in when another came screaming over our garden and fell on the top of the house on the other side of our street, leaving a hole through the roof and through the two floors.By an extraordinary chance neither of the shells injured anyone, five others completed this piece of "hate". We visited the house and brought away the nose of the shell still almost to hot to hold.


Wednesday 14th July.

This has been an eventful day for me. I took the motor ambulance up to the trenches and when passing through Le Bizet a shell burst about 20 yards in front of the car, against the side of a house. A piece of shell penetrated my radiator causing a leak, another piece hit the iron screen above my head. We drove on to Headquarters Farm.

Then I had to make another journey to bring in an officer who had been hit in the trenches that afternoon. I took the car as far as it was safe, left it behind half shelled buildings. I then found that the officer was still in the trenches and so taking two men with me and led by a corporal we entered the trenches. In the meantime a terrific fusillade had started between the opposing lines and bullets swished over our heads and cut through the barley stalks like the sound of a sighing zephyr. At times the parapet was so low that we had to advance in a crouching attitude. After 20 minutes of this zigzagging we found ourselves in the second or support trench which was filled with troops.

Here the rattle of musketry and machine guns was tremendous, the whole scene was made weird by the star shells from the German lines. We were now rather to the right of the firing and in a trench which was in progress of being built and so shallow that one had to fairly grovel to keep below the parapet. Here we found the officer wounded through the lungs, it was well dusk and quite impossible to evacuate him by the trenches. We simply had to leave the trench and start away over the open. The slow progress caused by bearing a man on a stretcher and the stray bullets which passed us made one feel rather uncomfortable. i was considerably relieved when we eventually reached the farm where we gave the poor officer some hot soup through a catheter. I arrived home about 11:45pm.


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"Only With Honour"

Tuesday 15th June.

We brought back some bread rolls to our rooms on Monday. Reveille at 5:00 am today.  I made tea and with rolls we had breakfast in  bed instead of at the mess.

I am billeting officer, started away in front of the field ambulance in a motor ambulance with my billeting party consisting of interpreter, Sergeant Butcher and six men.

I had no name of a place as to help me for a destination, I simply had a point given me on a map being about eight miles away.

However our maps are so splendid and drawn to such a large scale that I had no difficulty in following the narrow country roads rapidly finding the exact farm house being just outside Bailleul, the to find quarters for the men.


Composition of 36th field ambulance:-

Mules. 18.

Officers chargers. 17.

Heavy draft. 27.

RAMC men. 181.

Officers. 13.

ASC men. 40. (army service corps)

Mechanic transport. 15.

Interpreter. one.

Motor ambulances. seven.

Horse ambulance.



* A field ambulance was a  mobile medical unit to treat the wounded close to combat zone. It was not a vehicle. It was manned by the R.A.M.C(Royal Army Medical Corp) and normally under the command of a division.

Capacity of a field ambulance was 150 casualties but dealt with many more during battle. Responsible for setting up evacuation chain from R.A.P(regimental aid post) - A.D.S(advanced dressing station) - M.D.S(main dressing station) - R.D.S(regimental dressing station) The field ambulance would normally set one A.D.S each brigade and one M.D.S for each division.*


Monday 21st June.

I was orderly officer, the duty now very irksome as I am obliged to remain at the hospital from 10:00am until 4:00pm except an hour for meal and I must be either at hospital or at the old mess where we have a bedroom and take our meals. A terrible dog whined nearly all night at the moon from a kennel just below my window. The mosquitoes sound  is making it impossible to read. How-ever I managed to get to sleep without being bitten very much. My birthday by the way, 36 today, what a big boy!


Tuesday 22nd June.

Received  first casualty today from the trenches. A shrapnel wound of head and not serious.


Wednesday 23rd. June

One or two casualties today. I have now got the medical ward place in my care. In afternoon Jack and I set off on horseback to visit 37th field ambulance at Steenwerk some seven miles. My horse being lame I rode another which was very comfortable. We arrived at 5:00pm and Malone treated us to some excellent red wine at the esteminet.

We lost our way on the road home and had to follow a track through cornfields for a mile or two in order to reach the canal along the way we wanted to ride home. My horse fell off this track into a narrow deep ditch which was hidden by vegetation, and I found myself also at the bottom of it, some way behind the horse unhurt.


Sunday 27th. June.

Four shells fell into our transport field this afternoon and exploded but owing to a piece of luck none of the horses were in the field and no damage was done. one shell was dug up, proved to be a French shell. So, the Germans are evidently using the guns they have captured instead of wasting their own.


Tues 29th June.

Throat still sore, I feel wretched, shivering. Made cup of tea in bedroom as a breakfast. Some seven casualties, including a man shot through the lower end of scapula and out just above base of heart then through top button of coat which was flattened out curiously. We give antiserum serum (tetanus*) as routine.

Apart from some ordinary cases of sickness and very slight casualties, there is really very little use for a field hospital run on the same lines as this one. Indeed , I consider it to do more harm than good, seeing as all casualties it evacuates from the trenches are brought to this hospital. If they arrive here in the evening they remain here until the following day at 10.00am, then they are sent to the clearing hospital at Bailleul to be operated on.

Our field ambulance therefore defeats its own object, because instead of using its splendid cars to take wounded with all speed to the clearing hospital it merely acts as a  blockhouse where cases are delayed 10 or 12 hours on their way to a properly equipped hospital. It is very painful to see this sort of thing going on.

Jack was orderly officer in waiting, took two the two cars up to Gunners Farm and Headquarters Farm. Shells were bursting and a machine gun was reported trained on the road.

Our Chaplain buried two men today, the funeral was shelled in the process, so they all had to take cover, some of them throwing themselves into the grave which they had dug!


(Any idea on the location of the two farms mentioned anyone ??)


Thursday.1st July.

Orderly officer today, went up to Headquarters Farm to pick up wounded and also to Gunners Farm where we took in one gunshot wound sitting up. While there they brought in a supposed civilian spy. He had a gun and revolver and said he was out shooting hares. Several civilian sharp-shooters are known to be about, he may be one of these. They live in some of the farm houses and cottages which are scattered about and probably sneak out at night and take up their position in trees from where they can snipe men who would normally be well protected from enemy trenches.

This evening I had a man with entrance bullet wound R.apex and out oat left upper lobe then in appendix. Then at 2:00am a man with entrance wound to larynx and out right upper lobe lung. He was breathing with great difficulty mainly through larynx wound. I got Jack to come around and I enlarged the wound and put in tracheotomy tube. He breathed better but died at mid-day from internal haemorrhage. I also had compound fracture of lower jaw from shell and  many sick men.


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)












"Only With Honour"

Monday 7th June.

*Ralph Montgomery Vaughan. M.C. 1890-1976. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. 

In 1912 he began his flight training at the Bristol school, Salisbury Plain. He subsequently joined No3 squadron Netheravon, from there to No5 squadron on its formation. Appointed to R.F.C reserve and in December seconded to the R.F.C as flying officer. 

On the 15th August 1914 on flight to France Vaughan made a forced landing near Boulogne and was arrested by the French and kept for almost a week, not arriving at his new airfield until the 22nd August.

He was shot and wounded in the leg 1st November 1914, and on the 17th April 1915 while flying reconnaissance in a B.E.2c his observer Lieut John Lascelles R.F.C and Rifle Brigade had 24 shots with a rifle hitting a German pilot in the head forcing his plane to crash. For this action both were mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military cross. Sadly, John Lascelles was killed in action on the 31st July 1915.

Twenty-eighth March 1915 Vaughan was made temporary captain and flight commander. From the 6th May to 5th July 1915 Vaughan was officer commanding No5 squadron in France . He survived the war.* (Home of the Firebirds website)


*2nd Lieut. Lascelles. John Frederick. M.C. Age 19. Beavual communal cemetery.


Wednesday 9th June.

Jack and I had rather an adventure today. We were filled with curiosity to see the trenches and so we walked out to Chapelle Armentieres about three miles away. This place, a small, was shelled last October and we inspected the church. The top of the tower was blown away and the front walls smashed in so that the organ was exposed and hung out over the road.

We then entered the reserve trenches. Here we met Highlanders in occupation and the Germans one thousand yards away. There was some firing on our right. We had not proceeded far when a corporal and men came running after us, arrested us as spies! It was rather unpleasant and then an officer appeared and said he was afraid we must go before the General. It seemed that some casual questions which we had put to civilians on the way down had aroused suspicion.

At the H.Q we appeared  before the captain who was C.O in absence of general. He was quite decent but said we must in future have passes before visiting trenches etc.

They(the enemy) throw about six small shells into the town each evening.


Friday 11th June.

I was very pleasantly surprised with the way the trenches are constructed . The ones we visited are paved with wood just like a pier so that officers  could bicycle along quite comfortably from one place to another. There are some trenches that have been constructed for a length of time . There is no mud, there is good sleeping accommodation and protection.

I was orderly officer, which meant a good deal of hanging about our field hospital doing nothing very much. Our division has not yet gone into action so that our hospital cases are for the present confined to ordinary cases of sickness.

Quite a fine Roman Catholic church here at Armentieres, at least it has a very fine exterior but inside the windows are poor.


Sunday 13th June.

Jack and I put our lunch in our haversacks, set out for a long walk of exploration. We crossed the canal and the Belgium boundary into Ploegstert. We the pushed forward for a mile, then turned to the left as we were getting to near our front lines and feared lest we should be held up. We determined to push on to Neuve Eglise but first of all bought a bottle of wine at  a little esteminet. We then sat down in a field to enjoy our grub followed by a sleep despite the two British  batteries which kept thundering away at intervals.

We then set out through quiet cornfields, we had just begun to ascend the gentle slope leading up to Neuve Eglise when we heard a boom from the German lines, followed by the hum of a shell which grew louder and louder passing over our heads with a screech until it fell with great accuracy on the roof of the church with a terrible explosion, tearing away a great portion of the wall. We watched about six of these fall among the houses of the village.

Further on we came across a small battery of field guns and 18 pound guns, visited the major and captain in their dugout. Had tea with them and afterwards walked.


* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*












"Only With Honour"

Tuesday 1st June.

Perfect weather and cloudless sky, the brilliant green of the fields and hedges is almost bewildering in the sunshine. We had a free day and the men are well occupied with washing their clothes and bodies after the long journey from England.

Jack is mess president and so far he has managed to spread excellent meals on the table in the old chateau. They have also very fine wine in the chateau 1.25 franc blanc and 1.50 franc for rouge per bottle. In the afternoon Jack Bartholomew and I rode into St Omer to do some shopping and to get some French money. We had to have passes to get past sentry into the town which is a small place with no places of entertainment and very few shops. Guns booming very distinctly in the distance, they are 9.6 inch English guns we are told.


Wednesday 2nd June.

We here that we are to remain at this place a week, then I understand that we shall be sent up to the front.We have been supplied with respirators, a respirator consists simply of a lump of cotton wool which is saturated with a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium thiosulfate, this is tied round the head with a piece of muslin. They also supply helmets with talc eyepieces. 

The 12th division is billeted in the neighbourhood among the hamlets and villages within a radius of about 10 miles. Our brigade, 35th infantry brigade has its headquarters at Galmes nearby. Had a route march in morning, slack afternoon. Jack and I walked out to a wood about a mile away and sat down and read most of the afternoon.

We have an interpreter, a Frenchman attached to our field ambulance, he is quite a nice man, though a little bothersome at times. We therefore call him "the interrupter."


Sunday 6th June.

Passing through delightful country with some beautiful chateau covered with wisteria especially at Champagne.

Reveille at 3.45 am. Very hot march which men began to feel very much after coming straight from England. By 11.00 o'clock they began to fall out with bad feet and heatstroke. At first we managed  but soon our three ambulances became filled with men and equipment. Things began to look bad as men littered the roadside and there was no way of carrying them. The divisional 21st motor transport came to the rescue and Jack and I remained behind picking up the cases and sending bad cases into Hazebrouk. After this Jack and I found a nice farmhouse where we had wine and ate our rations. Arrived Strazeele at 4.45 pm in time for tea. Found field ambulance snugly packed away in a field on a hill from which we could watch the German shells bursting in the distance.

After tea Jack and I walked into the country and after delightful stroll along a track through lovely fields of hay grass we purchased eggs and milk at a little farm . The occupants said that the Germans were in possession of their farm last October. They killed the local priest of the village. Slept in billet and thanks to a pump in the garden managed to enjoy a wash.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author) 


Monday 7th June.

Reveille at 3.00 am, marched out to Bailleul where we arrived about 8.30 am. Halted at outskirts of town opposite aviation field. Jack and I went and saw a biplane piloted by Captain Vaughan, he had been up bombing German positions and was struck (the machine) by high explosives and bullets which had torn holes into the wings and even blown away a portion of one of his bombs.

Their best machines have Renault engines, eight cylinder and develop hundred H.P and travel 85 - 90 miles per hour. They are such brave and unassuming fellows . We watched one man go up with his observer to take photos of German gun positions, a peculiar risky business. They soared up to 600 feet and then moved towards enemy lines. Soon we saw timed high explosive shells bursting all around it, each explosion leaving a beautiful ball of white smoke in the blue sky. They came down later quite unscathed.

Arrived Armentieres in the evening . Find we now have five motor ambulances attached to our field ambulance, three are Sunbeams and two Ford. It is now arranged that 36th field ambulance and 38th field ambulance do the work of the division and 37th (prime) acts as a convalescent hospital further down the lines.





only with honour

Monday 31st May.

De-trained St Omer at 4:00 pm, marched field ambulance for five miles to Cormette through beautiful cultivated fields. Cormette, a little hamlet nestling among trees with one large farmhouse, the chateau which was occupied by the C.O. Large rooms riddled in rat holes and nearly all the furniture removed in case of Germans. Lovely garden. roses, vines and lilac.

We are now in sound of the guns, which are continually rumbling in the distance perhaps 15 - 20 miles away. I have billet in a public house, bed looked clean but having wooden frame I decided not to risk bugs so slept on floor in valise. I had a splendid night, my men -20- were comfortable in barn, clean straw and slept well being only disturbed by rats which gnawed through some of their haversacks to get at rations.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*


"Only with Honour"

"Only with honour"...The W.W.1 diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill Medical officer R.A.M.C (mentioned in despatches) May 1915 - August 1916.

Being the receiver of a white feather Reggie felt obliged to do his duty and volunteer to serve his country entering the war in late May 1915.


At the beginning of his journey you feel his excitement of adventure even at 35 years of age. then the disillusionment with the leadership and the futility of it all becomes clear.

He writes with humour, desperation of his position, and, fear for the welfare mentally and physically of the "Tommy."


The study of theosophy to fight the demons of his sexuality and the loneliness of his life.The anger with "Jack" for resigning his commission when things got tough. While all the time wishing himself to "get out with honour"


The wartime accounts of a medical man in W.W.1 are rare, far more so than regular officers and the Doctors diaries give some understanding of the daily lives of the men in his care.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*



Saturday 29th May 1915.

Set out from Tweseldown camp with field ambulance at 5:30 am, arriving Farnborough 10:30 am where we en-trained at 11:20 in two trains. I went in first train and at Southampton we put our men, horse's and equipment on-board SS City of Lucknow and set sail about six pm escorted by two destroyers, we passed along the south of Isle of Wight.

Jack slept in first officers bunk and I on floor of saloon. Sea absolutely calm. A third destroyer joined in the small hours of morning and warned us of a recent minefield on our course, this necessitated a detour of 35 miles.Arrived Havre at six am. Disembarked without injury to animals, we had to wait until the evening, we were not allowed to go into town. took advantage of a most excellent cafe on the station run by some ladies at cost price.


Jack Bartholomew and self shared one first class carriage. We got all our equipment etc on one long train and steamed away about 8:00 pm. Had a most excellent night being only disturbed at 2:00 am by some well meaning people who sent round coffee at some station or other. Passed through Abbeville , Noyen and Boulogne. Beautiful green fields, so fresh and green.


*SS City of Lucknow 3,677 ton - torpedoed by U.21 (Otto Hersing) carrying onions from Alexandria to Liverpool. Sank Sunday 30th April 1916. Sixty miles east of Malta. The 42 man crew survived and were rescued by H.M.S Rifleman.*




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