On August 29th secret orders were received by 27th Field Ambulance to move, presumably to Bethune, in preparation for the expected casualties in the forthcoming advance. There followed a period of three weeks where the tension in the diary quite clearly builds up, even though the records are largely of humdrum trench inspections and organization of supplies.
My reference book gives the date for the onset of the official Battle as 25th September, though clearly the massed troops were already involved in skirmishes for the diary records on 24th September that "A good number of wounded arrived through the day". This is nothing, however, compared with the huge and detailed entries for the next four days.
25th September 1915 -"An attack by the 9th Division took place... The caravan dispensed warm oxo, coffee and tea... Wounded were despatched in the horse ambulance... Later numbers increased and empty supply lorries were used... Ecole Jules Fery was inundated with 2000 walking wounded... By 10 pm all cases had been dealt with, 1480 remained for evacuation, 35 cases of gassing... All the bearers worked hard and well for 24 to 36 hours..."
26th September 1915 - "Casualties slow... Many dead are in the trenches..."
27th September 1915 - "During the night a steady stream of wounded continued to arrive with an increasing number of gassed... At 5pm a heavy bombardment was taking place and for one hour wounded were arriving very quickly..."
28th September 1915 - "Evacuation of wounded continues."
Some time later Cpt George Oakes is commended for decoration for his efforts during the battle. Then on 30th September, with no explanation, the diary records that the whole team upped sticks and moved on to Poperinghe.
Bearing in mind that this was the first experience of dealing with major casualties, look what Albert tells his parents :-
"I have been going to send this postcard for about two months and have only just managed it. I am going on fine and have just started on night work now. We are living in a mill and are able to sleep comfortably on a wooden floor. It will be funny sleeping on a soft bed again..."
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