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"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)*




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Posted (edited)

Thomas Henry Stanley Bell was also an Edinburgh University man:

High School, Dunfermline. Student of Medicine, 1909-15; MB, ChB 1914. OTC Medical, October 1912 to September 1914; Cadet. RAMC (Special Reserve), Lieutenant; Captain. France. Killed in action on 1st October 1915 near Vermelles. Son of Andrew Lees Bell and Jane Cowper Bell, of Ballochmyle House, Dunfermline.

(note Soldiers Effects and CWGC both say 2/10/15 which agree with Fothergill's diary but War Diary says 1/10/15)


War Diary 1/10/15 says during the day Capt Bell and 4 men incl an NCO killed by a shell at le Routoire


Sgt Henry Butcher 39273 RAMC  36 FA  Son of William and Alice Butcher, of 44, Tweedy Rd., Bromley, Kent. Student of St. Augustine's College, Canterbury. Born at Twickenham, Middx.


Pte Noel Hannant Cooke 46643 RAMC 36 FA  Son of Ward Hannant Cooke and Lucy Maria Cooke, of Hungate St., Aylsham, Norfolk.


Plus the 2 attached ASC Drivers Loring and Jones



ignore Yorks man (Died of wounds) I think ?

All buried Vermelles



Edited by charlie962

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Thank you for posting this, fascinating.



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Thanks Charlie, great info. perhaps Cpl Pratt was in the ambulance that was hit. On the 1st, Regies entry seems to indicate that Bell and others were injured at a dressing station

of the Sussex 36th brigade. May be that they died of wounds later. He also mentions the MO Thompson being killed but I have not been able to find any thing on him,

Would it be OK with you to add some of your information to the diaries.

Dave D


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I cannot find Thompson either but 36 Inf Bde War Diary says this about the day. Dressing Station in  cellars of farm buildings totally wrecked..killed..including... all the medical orderlies..

Courtesy Ancestry/NationalArchives:


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Could well be by the time the information reached Regie, the names had been reversed and  should have been Bell killed and Thompson wounded.

I found a Captain Thomson. Alfred Maurice. Age 30. RAMC. MID. 7th Battalion Royal Sussex. Died 7/7/1916.

Dave D

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I think you are right.Capt  A M Thomson RAMC first went overseas 31/5/15

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Posted (edited)

Same day as Regie. may well have been part of 36th FA  before drafting to the Sussex. or 37th, 38th field ambulances.

Edited by RegHannay

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