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


Jan 1st 1916 the Artillery on both sides were quite busy.  I had to go up to the front line today receive instructions to take over command of Bombing Officer for No 4 Coy in place of Lieut Black.

Jan 2nd.  Artillery quite active.  Raining all day.   It is rumored that the 4th Brigade is to go on pass between the 5th & the 15th of this month which we are all living in hopes of being true.  I got up at 11 o’clock last night as I heard someone calling for help.  When I reached the place I found that two other lads had also heard the yelling which proved to be one of our own lads shot through the back while crossing a field. 

Jan 3rd.  We were call out at 4.30 in the morning to stand too as the enemy were thought to be maneuvering for an attack.  I was sent out in advance of the main body, along with 4 Bombers to barricade the Chicory trench.  With instructions to hold it as long as possible.  However the attack did not come off.  We left the trenches for our billets for six day’s rest.  We were relieved from the trenches by the 20th Battn.  We had one man killed and six men inured today by a German shell at La Brasserie Dressing Station. 

Jan 4th was fairly fine 

Jan 5th rained all day 

Jan 6th still raining around our billets.  It is fearfully muddy.  On the 7th we went on a 14 mile march to see a view of the German lines as they are in front of the 5th Brigade and it was raining nearly all of the time we were out. 

Jan 8th fine day 

Jan 9th another fine day.   

We left our billets at Le Cleté sic the 10th to go back into the trenches.  On the following morning at a about 3 am the German Artillery started shelling our trenches in good shape.  They sent over hundreds of shells.  We had three men wounded, 2 with shrapnel and one with rifle ball.  At about 7 o’clock they slackened up their firing but in the afternoon our artillery bombarded the German lines something terrific.  It was fairly deafening.  The Battalion on our left flank, the West Yorks, lost one man killed  & 12 injured.  We had one man seriously injured.  The nose cap off a shell hit him in the stomack sic  

Jan 11th a fine day.  Our artillery have been giving the Huns the deuce all day mostly around Ypres.  It started to rain in the evening but cleared up at 7 pm. 

Jan 12th  A lovely day.   I was told at 6 pm that I was going home to England on Monday 17th and at 10 pm I got a bullet in my back.  I was taken out of the trenches injured to the La Brassarie sic where there was an Ambulance waiting for me.  I was taken into the 5th Ambulance Field Hospital at Le Clete sic and had the wound dressed again then into the Ambulance again and taken on to Bailellu sic to the 6th Field Hospital and stayed there over night.  In the morning I was put on the Red X train and brought to the Liverpool MM Hospital at Etaples about 18 miles from Calais.  Was feeling pretty sick on 13th.   

On the 14th had Xray examination to locate bullet at 9 am and had operation at 11 am on the 14th.  My back is very sore and cannot move in bed.   

15th feeling a bit easier.   

16th not feeling so well.  Back very stiff and sore 

17th felling a bit easier today 

18th a big bunch of the wounded left for England today.  I am not to go with this lot as the Dr thinks my back is to sore and the wound to open too open to move.  Gradually improving from 18th to 22nd.  The Dr told me today that I was going to England probably tomorrow. 

23rd.  Today Sunday, a lovely day but frosty.  No convoy came in during the so we are not leaving the L M M H today.  I am feeling very good but somewhat stiff.  Did not sleep any during the night.  Was coughing all the time.  Left the L M M H at 7 am on Monday 24th on Red X train for Calias sic.  Arrived Calias sic at 12.30 and was transferred to Hospital Ship and landed at Dover at 4 in the afternoon, taken off ship and put on ambulance and arrived at Devon M Hospt sic at 5.30.  Feeling very tired and sore.  Had a good shaking up at coming from Dover here a distance of 22 miles.  While coming through Dover there were a couple of German Areoplanes sic over the town and they dropped ½ a doz bombs.  Did not sleep any on Monday night.  Nor all day Tuesday 25th.  This is a fine hospital.  The nurses are all Volunteer Sisters.  Had a good nights sleep.  This is a lovely day 

Jan 26th slept most of the day.  Had a Canadian lady in to see me in the afternoon.  Am feeling very stiff and sore in the evening and have had a nasty pain under my left ribs for the last two days.  Feeling fine. 

Jan 27th able to sit up in bed for a short time.  Am feeling fine today. 

Jan 28th did not sleep much last night.   

Dr was in to look at my back today the 29th. 

Jan 30 lovely day.  Had several ladies up to see me & gave me chocolates, oranges & cigarettes. 

Transcriber’s note:  There is a large gap in the diary at this point while he is recuperating.  The diary then begins again in book #2 


Book #2  

Pg 41 

Went back to the trenches on July 1st 1916.  Stayed for a few days at La Havre and saw the troops dueling etc then went up to the Ypres Salient.  Volunteered to take a bunch of the boys over on a raid but officers would not let me go as they thought I was not in full shape just coming from England and hospital.  Things were fairly quiet for a few days then Heinie cut loose at us, 67 killed and 174 wounded in ¾ of an hour bombarding.  By gosh it was a son of a gun.   

July 12, things are fairly quiet going over on a raid tonight, hope I get along alright.   

13th, got back from raid alright had fairly good luck, had E. Hanrahan wounded, but came back with a mortar and 7 Hienies. 

July 16, went out on patrol last night, ran into a bunch of Hienies, had a little fun with them but could only find 3 of them.  They were Napoo.   Got no one hurt in the scrap. 

July 17.   Hienie cut loose on us again today but no one hurt as far as I could learn, but he sure raised hell with our trenches. 

July 21.   Things have been quiet for past 5 days.   Went on a raid last night but had to come back.  Hienie was wise to us. 

July 22.   Our lad put up a stiff bombardment on Hienie on a 16 mile front.  Wonder what is coming off.   

July 23.   Nothing happened after the strafe.  Guess they must be getting lots of shells now for them giving drops they are.   

July 23 gas gongs were going at 5 am today.  The dirty devils let loose gas on us again.  Got our masks on and waited for Mr Hienie to come and he sure did come, about 2300 of them but not a damn one of them got into our trenches over a thousand of them were left in our entanglements.   They will begin to think that there is no use gassing the Can’s (Canadians) for they can’t get in the trenches anyway. 

July 24.   Hienie gave us hell today with 9-2 trying to get even for what happened yesterday.  We lost 3 killed and 15 wounded in my Company.  Battalion lost 17 killed, 54 wounded.  We left the trenches today going back for a few days rest. 

August 2nd.  Went up into trenches today.  Don’t expect to stay long this trip.  Roumours sic are that we are going down to the Somme front, this is good new to hear as we are to put on a little show for Hienie’s benefit.  Had a very quiet time in trenches this trip.  Stayed for ten days.  Coming out on Aug 13th. 

Aug 14.   We were all issued with Lee Enfield rifles today.  We have a rifle now which we don’t’ expect to jamb when we get in a tight corner. 

On Thursday the 16th we start for the Somme, have to march all the way, 200 miles.   That sounds pleasant however we have 3 weeks to make the trip going to have unreadable on the way which will take up a certain amount of time. 

Aug 17th.  Well we are away.   Good bye to the Ypres Salient.  18 months has been a long time to be shut up in those horrendous trenches.   

Aug 25th.  We have had a fairly easy time on this march so far everybody feeling fit, but for a lot of us this is going to be our last trip over these roads in France.  We reached the outskirts of Albert on Sept 8th going to camp in the brickfields for a couple of days before going up the line for action. 

Sept 11th.  Moved up to death valley today.  This has been an awful battlefield.  Nothing but a network of battered in trenches, craters and shell holes. 

Sept 12th.  Had a funny experience today.  My old friend and chum Lorne Hamilton told me that he was going to be killed on Sept 15th at 6:10 am.  The more I think of this the more convinced I am that it is really going to happen.  We volunteered to go up into the trenches at 10 o’clock tonight to relieve 2 platoons of the 20th Battalion. (the war diary records this as being the 19th Battalion)  I cannot help thinking of Hamilton all the time, it seems to be getting on my nerves.  Everything was very quiet along the front all night up to noon on the 13th.  Then Hienie cut loose with everything he had. 

Sept 14th.  Holy smoke this has been a terrible 30 hours to put in, if there is anything worse for humans to go through may god help us and the bombardment is still going on.  I wonder when he is going to let up.  They fully mean to make an attack after this.  Our only salvation is to attack first.  A lot of the boys are feeling sick from this awful shell & liquid fire.  I am sick but must bear up on account of position I hold.   

Well this is Sept 16th.  I am in hospital at Rouen.  Oh I would give anything to be back in Canada and to think that poor old Hamilton is dead, killed within 10 minutes of the time he predicted 2 ½ days previous and without an awful bombardment.   We came through, I say we, I can hardly write this when I think that there are only 5 of us left alive out of 90 fine fellows and 2 of them                          one being our officer.   

The Germans attacked us at 3 am in the morning of the 15th.  Came over with 600 against 90.  What chance did we have, and what chances I took to save Hamilton, but I had made that promise to him and I fulfilled that promise and I have his watch and other articles to send home to his old folks at Ottawa.  Good bye Hamilton.  May we meet again for you were a good pal, and above all you died like a soldier & a man.  My legs and neck a paining me awful today, had 15 pieces of iron taken out of my legs today.  Quite a relief but it seems as if they intend to leave the rest of them in.  Oh well I ought to weigh heavier when I get  

(there are 5 pages at this point that list nurse’s names and addresses, along with a couple of notes unrelated to the diary) 

home if I live through it all.  This hospital has been a nice home.  I am leaving for my Battalion tomorrow.  I feel glad to get back and see some of my old chums again. 

Arrived at Albert on Dec 2nd.  The boys are in the line but expect to come out tomorrow.  I am not going up. 

Well the boys came out of the trenches today, Dec 3rd.  I met a lot of them but the majority are new men.  It appeared that after the attack on Sept 15 there were only 362 men left out of 1260 which went over the top.  If the people at home had any idea what this war was like they might not be so anxious to enlist.  I had to go before the OC in answer to a letter I wrote him from Rouen Hospital concerning the movement of Major S on Sept 15th.  Stayed with my first story all the way through.  Felt it was best to do so, but feel convinced that Colonel Jones thinks I am shielding Major S….. 

Transcriber’s Note:  This is in reference to Major Martin Lewis Shepherd who was killed on Sept 15th by a sniper while attempting to hold back his men from advancing too close to the Canadian Artillery Barrage. 

We moved from the Somme on Dec 5th, going to a new front now at Bully-Grenay in front of Lens, another hell hole.  They seem to pick out some fine places for this Battalion but there is no such thing as saying no. 

Arrived at Bully Grenay Dec 12th.  Some town.  The Huns must have been shelling this place every day since Aug 4th 1914 from the looks of it, yet there are lots of French civilians living in it yet.   

Went up into the trenches Dec 14th.  Not bad trenches, one thing about them they are fairly dry and good deep dugouts.  Some of them 80 feet below the ground.  Things seem to be fairly quiet on this front.  There was some shelling.  Their rum jars and pineapples are the worst we have to contend with. 

Went out for a rest on Dec 23rd.  Just out in time for Xmas but we almost forget what it is like.  Well we had a turkey and plum pudding supper on Xmas night which made us feel as though we were still alive.

Dec 26 the Huns shelled the town all day with gas shells.  Killing about 38 Civvies.  All women & girls.  We have a job burying them.

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