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Diary of a Dispatch Rider

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The 1918 diary of John Sangway, a dispatch rider who served on the Western Front with 'R' Corps (XVII Corps) Signals Company, Royal Engineers.

Entries in this blog

30/10-01/11/18

Continuing the diary of Corporal John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps.   30th Oct Came into hospital with “special” flu a week ago, 23rd. Damnable. If this is typical of hospitals out here, Florence Nightingale never finished her job. I have seen disinfectant once. I have had my medicine half the times ordered. I have slept on the floor all the time in verminous and dirty blankets. There is no ventilation at night & it stinks. People play horribly on pianos outside you

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21/10/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. The Corps Signal Company were in a new office just east of recently captured Cambrai.   21st Oct Still working very hard – but winning! Signal Office & billet good – makes me smile now at thought of awful stink of burning offal & disinfectant when we arrived. Country very open like Salisbury Plain but flatter, nearer Fen type but no dykes & not so flat.   True story of one of our Co[mpan]y

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11-15/10/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps.   11th [October] Moved to Bois des Neuf1. Raining rotten – fight for tent pitch with staff! Lovely summer spot though.   13th Idea for comic sketch entitled “Salvage”. One cable sec[tion] laying a route & another winding it up a few miles behind (meanwhile the D[espatch] R[iders] carry the telegrams). One of the orderlies – “Yes, I’d pit a staff job aht ‘ere:- shoving up the dysies.”  

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08-10/10/18

Continuing the diary of Corporal John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. His signals company were not far from Cambrai, where fighting was ongoing.   8th Oct Bet Monty 10 f[ran]cs to 100 that war would be over by midnight 7/8th Nov.   Ditto Best 1/2d to 5 f[ran]cs.   Still scrapping for C[ambrai]. Very hard resistance, but fresh & strong effort this morning – going well. Now sleeping in an “Old Bill” ‘ole. Shell-hole with curved iron over – not too ba

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25-30/09/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps.   25/9/18 Left B[retencourt] for the wilderness. Expected rough conditions & got ‘em. Not so bad though – thanks to good weather & some work. Plenty of old iron & timber to be found. Wonderfully bracing place. High & chalky – suggestive of South Downs. From dugout view for many miles quite open – on skyline a shell-scraped wood with Mont St Eloi tower showing through & beyond it. Sharing dugo

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12/09/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider. Today's entry is an excerpt from the poem "Solders in a Small Camp" by W.J. Turner.   There is a camp upon a rounded hill Where men do sleep more closely to the stars, And tree-like shapes stand at its entrances, Beside the small, dark, shadow-soldiery.   There in the awful beauty of the world, When stars are singing in dark ecstasy, Those ox-like soldiers sit collected round A thin metallic e

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04-06/09/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. The Corps signals office was in the battered village of Bretencourt but would soon be moving with Third Army's advance.   63rd Royal Naval Division had just arrived to replace 56th Division, taking their place alongside the 52nd and 57th, and had thrown something of a spanner into the corps signals works by running as many as four H.Q.s at any one time and often changing the staff officers at each, resulting in diffi

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01-03/09/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. The corps signals office had just moved to Bretencourt but John had stayed behind at Fosseux with a few others.   1/9/18 Left F[osseux] for B[retencourt]. B[retencourt] badly battered, first sign of advance over battle area. Some considerable bustle in yard that is QM Stores, cookhouse, lorry park & everything else. Pretty rough conditions.   2/9/18 Met Stacey, one of the 33rd Div[ision] D[isp

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27-28/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. The corps signal company have just moved to Fosseux.   27th I have omitted to note = poor old Burrall* killed by shell 7th Aug. His bivvy absolutely blown away & the men in bivvy’s three yards away unhurt & quite ignorant of the proximity of the calamity.   *160863 Corporal William Henry Burrall, aged 25, of Wisbech, Cambs. Served with XVII Corps' H.A. Signal Sub-Sect

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24-26/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. The corps signal company moved to a new base, at Fosseux, 9 miles west of Arras, on 24th August. The wiring sections of the company had spent the last few days connecting up a new corps HQ at Noyelle-Vion, only to have that move cancelled at the last minute and they instead relieved VI Corps and moved to Fosseux.   Plenty of hard work. O[perations] R[oom] Clerk worried to death! Squared maps all over the desk & o

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23/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps. His signals company had been headquartered at Duisains for months but now 3rd Army was on the move as the Allies advanced.   Left D[uisans] for F[osseux]. Heaps of transport on road.

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21/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider with XVII Corps.   Akerman killed by bomb. Plane (the same or another) brought down by a Camel a few kilometres away. Fell in flames – a big red blob with stream of lights trailing behind.   Several “windy” nights about now. Planes too near for comfort. Sleep in shallow dug-out.   500488 Corporal F L G Akerman, 52nd Signal Company, Royal Engineers, is buried at Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun. His date of death is

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