Battle of Arras 1917

Embroidered Christmas Greeting

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It sounds like a truly apalling winter, although the patients get a treat on Christmas Day : "given stout or beer, plum pudding and tinned fruit as extras"

Elsner is instructed to create a POW camp at Belleaveesne Fme and he reports "A sea of mud, poorly built huts - leaky and no floors. Place will need duck boarding but will hold 200-300 men". Just to add to the misery there is also an outbreak of German Measles on the 17th January. By mid-February they have run out of coal and temperatures have fallen to -14° accompanied by heavy snow falls.

9th April 1917 the diary changes from handwritten to typewritten and much of the personal day-to-day detail disappears. This coincides with the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The entry states :

"General attack all along the line. Carrying very difficult owing to the ground being very wet and completely shell riddled. Captain Warburton alone all other officers killed."

3 May 1917 9th Division attacked 3:45am. Dressing station shelled

4 May 1917 Large ammunition dump at Magasins Generaux caught fire and burned all night. Shells and fragments rained down. SSM C Caswell got the riding horses away from the fire. Draught horses cut loose and herded to far end of field where he stayed with them. All horses saved.

On 6 May 1917 our guide up until now, Lt Col O W G Elsner is appointed to replace Col Symons as ADMS of the 9th Division which could probably account for the change of tone and content of the field diary as Captain Costello takes command of the Field Ambulance.

8 June 1917 ADMS visited Fampoux Lock and gave instructions to spray the dead in the trenches with undiluted C solution.. Gas shells dropped near ADS and box respirators had to be worn.

10 June 1917 Captain Lylie visited Camel Trench to see the effect of spraying. 120 bodies have been sprayed.

19 August 1917Private P Murphy seems to be under suspicicion (S I wound) but there are no witnesses or evidence. There is to be a GCM held on L/Cpl Larkin on 21st where he is found guilty of negligence having shot himself in the hand while cleaning a loaded rifle.

14 September 1917 Ordered to set up a centre for the treatment of gassed cases in the School House Farm.

17 September 1917 The entry records the actions to be taken for dealing with gas casualties :

  1. Those not requiring treatment to be returned to their units.
  2. Those likely to be fit in 48 hours to be retained.
  3. Those unlikely in 48 hours but within 14 days to be sent to the Corps Rest Station.
  4. Those unlikely within 14 days to be evacuated to CC Sta.
  5. Sentries will be sent to the Corps Sentries Hospital.

19-22 September 1917 The Field Ambulance is obviously in the thick of it, presumably the Battle of Menin Ridge Road. There are many gas cases along with the other caualties which need to be dealt with.

23 September 1917 Relieved and moved to Luna Park.

25 September 1917 The international flavour of the account continues from earlier mentions of South African and Indian men in late August to the Anzacs and New Zealanders now.

10 October 1917 Moved to the front again, Vanheule Farm.

16 October 1917 250 pairs of socks received from D.A.D.D.S for use of bearers and 72 from OC 1/S.G. Fd Amb for use of his bearers. All bearers now have had their feet bathed, dried and rubbed with witch oil. Clean sock and linen been provided for everyone.. 65 pairs of wet socks have been sent to ADS Duhallow to be dried. A red cross flag was erected. Duck boarding has been completed.

horizontal rule - men advancing

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