Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Diary of a Dispatch Rider

  • entries
    21
  • comments
    0
  • views
    131

About this blog

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

Introduction

John Douglas Sangway, a bank clerk from London, served as a dispatch rider on the Western Front from 1917 to 1919. He kept a diary of the final year of the war, starting in the days just after the great German offensive began in March 1918, and as we are now all locked down with nowhere to go and little else to do, I thought I'd get on with transcribing it and publish it here in instalments on the anniversary of each entry.   John was born in Marylebone on 17th December 1887 and was the elde

Banstead100

Banstead100

29/07/18

Continuing the diary of Cpl John Sangway, dispatch rider. John and his unit had been resting for a fortnight, their first in months, at Bryas. The German offensives were just about played out and soon the Allies would be hitting back:   Rest “fini”. Pack & report in 3 hours! Return to D_*. Hades!!   *Duisans, near Arras, which had been their base throughout 1918. XVII Corps relieved the Canadian Corps the following day.

Banstead100

Banstead100

28/5/18

Fritz has bought a pup today. The umpth* squadron moved last night & today for the first time Fritz started shelling their old aerodrome steadily!   He is still (or rather again) swinging ‘em over near us. They come at intervals with a lazy drone or a mild whistle and bump or crash. One gets used to ‘em after the first few have given the idea of their destination. It’s rotten at night though when one is awakened & half asleep hears the crash of a near one intensified by the stillness

Banstead100

Banstead100

27/5/18

Saw very fine sight at about 11.0pm. Fritz plane came over very low (Visible to [?some/me] although the moon was barely showing over the horizon). It crossed us towards the searchlights over an open stretch of country & when about a mile or less away was picked up by the beams. The sky was an inky blue, the rays of the lights were a bluish white and where the three crossed, the plane shone like mother of pearl – blue yellow creamy ghostly thing. The fixedness of the lights was rather impress

Banstead100

Banstead100

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

Banstead100

Banstead100 in Daily diary

26/3/18

Went to ____* to open rear office. Thought [to] picnic but too much tied to office. Returned next day – only “wind-up” after all. Met _____ Cas [Casualty?] chaps who had been alarmed at _____ by German agents that Huns had broken through with cars and cav[alry]. They had scooted miles & left kit but sent back for some of it immediately after. Spy question serious. Geo. Milton got it into his brain & sees a spy every time he goes out. Sent police & APM to arrest a harmless lineman cli

Banstead100

Banstead100

25/6/18

Quel jour! The OC wanted some screws so Carson gave me the job & permission to see Hughie [John’s brother, who was serving with the RAF] en route. I found him & was promptly invited “up”. I was keen but afraid of being sick or something, the lift feeling possibly. I threw out a line or two about not going far or high but they fell on barren ground – fortunately. The rush of wind prevented much foreboding at first but one’s mind became active as we dashed across the open ground slightly b

Banstead100

Banstead100

25/3/18

The diary of John Sangway, a dispatch rider with XVII Corps. His signal company was headquartered at Duisans, 3 miles west of Arras, when the Germans launched their Spring offensive on 21st March 1918.   One tries to forget unpleasant experiences and at 4 days after I have almost lost my impressions of our first experience of the big offensive. Moreover one’s emotions are very elastic and one trembles with funk at 5.30am and jests cheerfully at 6, or more definitely is terrorised by a

Banstead100

Banstead100

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

Banstead100

Banstead100 in Daily diary

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.

Banstead100

Banstead100 in Daily diary

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

Banstead100

Banstead100 in Daily diary

18/07/18

Continuing the diary of Cpl John Sangway, dispatch rider. John and his unit had just begun their first rest in months and today's entry is a brief one:   Physical jerks & rushing about for new bike*.   *John would end up purchasing this motorcycle when he was discharged from the army.

Banstead100

Banstead100

15/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider. XVII Corps Signal Company are at Duisans, near Arras.   Playing tennis & had luck to look up in sky at moment of bursting of big shrapnel shell a mile & a half away. Red crack (colour of dull red hot iron) with black smoke belching irregularly from it quickly spreading into a cloud. Just like the pictures on highly imaginative magazine covers &c.   If that sounds like a lazy day, it's wo

Banstead100

Banstead100

14/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider. XVII Corps Signal Company are at Duisans, near Arras.   Carson joyriding to see a pal came across a road marked “Drive slowly over this road as dust draws enemy shell-fire”. Suggested that some people would instinctively “blind” without stopping to realise purport of warning!   Rotten night. 8 bombs about 250 yards from billet, & then a magnesium flare right over camp. Beastly ghostly green light & umpteen figures

Banstead100

Banstead100

14/07/18

Came on advance party into rest at B_*. Others followed 15th. Some rest!   *Bryas. The Canadian Corps relived XVII Corps on 15th July and so the signals company moved well behind the line for a period of rest and training. American divisions arrived and joined XVII Corps.

Banstead100

Banstead100

12/4/18

Upon reflection I can now note the different kinds of shell sounds. The one I like best is the lazy drone. It seems to sail out of the blue easily and slowly until the crash comes. We have heard a lot of the sort with a preliminary pop, a fierce whistle & a great crash. There have also been several big ones with no sound at all until the explosion. They are merciful but alarming. Inspected a hole 25 feet across & 10 feet deep made by one of the latter. It threw chunks of pavé high in the

Banstead100

Banstead100

11/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider. The Allies had just turned the tide and enjoyed success on the battlefield at Amiens and as things now began to happen at pace, John became a much more regular diarist, with several entries each week. He had recently returned to duty after his unit had rested but had been suffering with "awful" toothache.   Re toothache. It has cured itself (two days ago at least) but I am still awaiting my consultation with the dental officer! It

Banstead100

Banstead100

05/08/18

Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider. The Allies are about to fight the Battle of Amiens, the first step in the advance to victory. During the buildup, secrecy had been maintained as much as possible but as John's diary today shows, word had begun to leak out:   Bank holiday. Paid Fris[by] 5 f[ran]cs*. Don’t mind as things are going strong down south & rumours of another shove as well coming in.   Awful toothache for two days & a night. Take Aspirin –

Banstead100

Banstead100

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

Banstead100

Banstead100 in Daily diary

03/07/18 12:30am

Just a passing thought. A year ago I used to come off night duty and walk down between white cottages with hard blue shadows in the moonlight (very romantic looking) thinking how peaceful it was & yet how a turn of a hand would send a shell crashing at us. Now, how different! Frequently the bosche overhead making bad shots with bombs (he never scores!) & never knowing when he will start shelling again. Are we downhearted? Not a bit!

Banstead100

Banstead100

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

Banstead100

Banstead100 in Daily diary

×
×
  • Create New...