Sgt Horace Brown

Personal Diary

 Transcribed by Al Lloyd from the original held at the Canadian War Museum Archives 

First World War diaries of Horace Brown
CWM 20110098-001
George Metcalf Archival Collection
Canadian War Museum
 

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Canadian War Museum

That permission has been granted for reproduction here.  Thank you CWM

 (transcriber’s notes in italics)

 I have made every effort to transcribe the diary as written.   There may be some typing errors that have slipped through, but I have transcribed as written, with the spelling as written in the diary. 

Book #1 

This is the property of
L/Sgt H Brown 59107
No 4 Company, 21st Battalion 

No 1 Platoon
Transcriber’s Note:  Although this is the 1st Platoon of the Company, it is actually No 13 Platoon.
No 4 Company is also referred to as “D” Company
 

The first 17 pages of book #1 contain lists of names with no explanation why the lists were created.  For the purposes of this tribute, I have emphasised the diary portion of both books.  I have included those pages that are not diary by nature, but contain information that is pertinent.

 1915

Pg 18 

Left Sandling Camp Sept 14.  Arrived in Bologne sic Sept 15, stayed there whole evening.  Marched 11 miles to some station and took train for about 80 miles and got off train at midnight & marched 20 miles on the 16th arrived there at 6 o’clock & rested until 11.  Then started for our billets near the trenches at a place called Eecke sic.  We stayed there & rested 1 day then started for the trenches the next morning and arrived 4 miles from the trenches on the Sat at 5 o’clock and on the following Tuesday Sept 21st we went into the trenches and had our first experience of being under fire on Wednesday things were fairly quiet the same on Thursday & Friday but the Allies made a big advance on both our flanks on Sat and we were under shell fire on Sat morning with no loss of life only 2 or 3 injured.  We remained in the trenches for 6 days then came out on Monday night the 26th Sept and rested up for 6 days. 

While we were resting there was a heavy bombardment on our trenches.  I went up to the bombing farm at the back of firing line to learn how to work the bombing spring guns & catapults and to try and pass the final bombing tests which I was successful in doing. 

We had fine weather from the 15th Sept up to the 27th then we had rain almost continually up to the 30th.  Oct the 1st is a fine day but rather cold after the heavy rains.  The roads are very heavy for traffic.  We received our pay the first we have got since August 29th on Sept 30th so all of the men are in a better mood. 

We went back into the trenches on Sat Oct the 1st.   We were under a heavy shell fire twice.   We had several casualties while in the trenches this trip.  I myself had a very narrow escape 3 shrapnel shells bursting within a few inches above my head but luckily none of the pieces hit me.  Corporal Frankland & Ptes Taylor & Hanrahan, who were standing beside me were all wounded. 

We came out of the trenches for a rest on Friday Oct 8th.  The weather for the most part of the past week has been dry but cold.  When we got back to the trenches we are to go to a different place.  We were in front of Messennes sic but we are moving 8 miles to the left flank which will bring us 2 miles on the right of Ypres so I expect we will see some excitement there as Ypres is known as the Hell hole of the war. 

We moved back to the trenches and into the firing line on Friday Oct 15th.  These trenches are not nearly as good as the ones that we came out of.  The Germans at this point are 150 yds away to far.  We have done no bombing on the German trenches.  Today Sat was very quiet in the morning.  Sunday was quiet in the trenches.  We came out of the trenches on the Tuesday 20th and moved back about 1 miles to the rear of firing line to what is known as the mobile reserve.   There was some heavy shelling just left of us on Sunday the 25th.  

The British blew up some German trenches on Tuesday the 27th.  We moved up towards the firing line again to the strong hold reserve. 

I being put in charge of a bomb store.  We are to remain here for 6 days.  The weather is very wet.  Rain every day but the spirit of the troops keeps up.  Wonderful through rain or shine they are always the same.   

On Friday Oct 29th it stopped raining.  Sat 30th was a fine day but cloudy.  Lots of Whiz bangs & smoke boxes flying around.  The trenches are in bad shape for mud and water.  Sunday Oct 31st Started to rain again at 3 pm.  Quite a heavy artillery all morning.  One man blown to pieces and 3 injured by one of our own shells striking their dugout yesterday afternoon. 

Nov 1st a fine day but very quiet on our front.  Things have been fairly quiet from the 1st of Nov until the 10th.  With the exception of our occasional brush with the enemy along the line and our artillery gets busy at times and smashes down the German front line trenches. 

I got my eye on a sniper this morning the 11th and watched him for 3 hours finally he caught sight of me and took a shot at me, the ball going into a sand bag just to the left of my face so I  built a sniper’s loophole in the parapet and waited for about an hour.   When Mr Hun poaked sic his head up just in time for me to take a whollop sic at it which put him out of business. 

From the 12th until the 20th was quiet but raining almost every day since the 1st of the month.  Not much doing anywhere but a few rifle grenades and bombs being thrown first by the Germans then by us.  We came into the hospital on Dec 12th, 1915, left the hospital on 17th in order to be able to return to the trenches with the Battn. 

Transcriber’s note:   The following list appears at this point with no explanation.  I suspect that it is a list of the Bombers in No 1 Platoon of No 4 Company.  Following this page were 2 pages that only had a name each on them with no explanation.  Following that, the diary continued.

 

         Cpls            Brown & Reed                      1             Bomber

Pte             Williamson                            1              

                  Whitmore                               1              

                 Goldenburg                           1              

                 White GP                               1              

                  Haughey                                 1              

                   Hill                                         1              

                  Moore                                     1              

                   Richardson                             1              

                  Hemmingway                         1              

  

Pg 32 

Lost a lot of fellows since we came to these trenches.  It is awful the rain we have had this is unreadable 30 and it has rained nearly every day.   The mud & water is 3 feet deep in the trenches.  Our fellows are still being picked off by German snipers.   

I was passing a corner of a field which is known as sniper’s corner where 6 of our fellows were shot last night, Dec 2nd and the Germans turned a machine gun on in the dirty unreadable.  There was bullets galore flying past me but I dropped into the grain and laid there for a few minutes then got up and beat it for the Communication trench.   

Dec 5th it is still raining.  I have not had a dry stitch of clothing on for 19 days and my limbs are getting stiff with all this wet weather.  We are working day & night trying to get our trenches and dugouts fixed up.  There has been some heavy shelling done by our guns from the 8th up to the 15th but the Huns don’t seem to retaliate very much.   We have lost a lot of men since the 1st of the month, amongst them my chum Charlie Wendt.  He was shot through the stomock sic as he was coming out of the trenches with his machine gun.  Other than the heavy gun fire, things are fairly quiet with lots of rain. 

On the 18th our fellow sent out a bombing party to bomb the Huns trenches which we were successful in doing and returned with only one man slightly injured.  We gave the Huns quite a surprise. 

But on Tuesday morning the 19th they started out to pay us back for what we had done.   They turned their gas on us.  It has a sickening taste & smell and is hard on the eyes but Mr Hun did not make a very good success of his attack for as they advanced behind there sic screen of gas, our gunners got busy and shelled the daylights out of them after which we counter attacked them and cut them to pieces.  Our lads fought like heroes.  It was a fierce bombardment and lasted from 3 o’clock Sunday morning until Tuesday night.  When the guns ceased firing I think the Germans have had quite sufficient for this time from the 22nd until the 25th everything was fairly quiet. 

I had a rather narrow escape on the 24th.  I was in charge of a working party of 10 men which were working about 900 yds behind the firing and the Huns caught sight of us and they started to shell us and the first shell they sent over burst within a few feet of me and one of the pieces flew past me and just cut my right cheek enough to make it bleed.

Christmas day was very quiet hardly a shot fired by other side.  We had fairly fine weather from Xmas day up to New Year’s and things were quiet along the line.


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