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.
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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.