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War Memories of Lieut. Col. Robert Blair



Lieut. Col. 1/7th Cameronians (S.R.)
Croix de Guerre

On 4th August 1914 I was at Troon having a round of golf and on returning to the house received a wire to “mobilise”.

I came up to Glasgow on 5th August, got to my house and packed what kit I had and then reported to my Headquarters at Coplaw Street.

Being the senior subultern of the battalion, I was put in command of “E” Company as there was a vacancy for company commander and took over duties as such.

I was here till 11th August, 1914 and at a very early hour in the morning we began our weary march to Falkirk, halting at Castlecary for lunch and arrived very tired in the evening.

I remained in Falkirk and was very comfortably billeted with Mrs McNair along with 2nd Lieut. Donald R Nelson and kept busy organising and training till September 1914 when we marched to Grangemouth. I was gazetted Captain on 2nd September 1914.

I remained at Grangemouth till 21st May 1915 when I marched with battalion and entrained for Liverpool at Falkirk.

On 22nd May I arrived in Liverpool in the early hours of the morning and was billeted on the “Scotian” making friends with the purser and the ship’s doctor, which stood me in good stead.

We were transferred to the “Empress of Britain” on 23rd May where Captain Masher, Lieut. W Duff and I shared a cabin and although a little crowded were very comfortable. I was introduced to the Captain, Captain Griffiths; Chief Officer H Waite; Purser Bob White and last, but by no means least, the Chief Engineer A E Philp, popularly known as “Pa” and was soon on the best of terms with all. The boat left on the23rd May 1915 and we had a great send off, but lay out on the Mersey for some time, as there was not sufficient steam, owing to a shortage of stokers. Volunteers were asked from the troops and were soon forthcoming. Our Divisional Commander and his staff were on board.

The “Empress of Britain” was an armed cruiser and we were supposed to embark on the ”Aquitania” but it was aground in the Mersey, so the former was fitted out as a troopship in record time (less than 4 days) and carried more passengers than on any previous or later sailing.

Our voyage was enjoyed very much and we called in at Gibraltar on 28th May but were not allowed ashore. On 31st May we called in at Malta and were allowed ashore and I was thankful I had my pith helmet as the sun was very strong and I had to buy a pair of smoked glasses to protect my eyes. Lieut. Ewing Nelson and I drover round in a machine and afterwards I had dinner in the “Hotel Britain” with some of the ship’s officers and then got on board about 11 p.m.

On 3rd June we sailed on to Alexandria having a pleasant voyage undisturbed by submarines. I had an opportunity of seeing the “wireless” working which was very interesting. During the voyage I was “Captain of the day” for one day and had quite a good time on the bridge.

I have very pleasant recollections of the voyage and spent many pleasant hours in the purser’s cabin and in the Chief Engineer’s cabin also.

We got into Alexandria safely and were much amused at the Egyptian dock labourers and loafers and with the police caning those not behaving. I entrained at the docks on 4th June and got the train to Aboukir where we were to bivouac. Water and rations were scarce here as our brigade was the first to arrive and the heat was terrific. However we had a fine bathe and then made to the local hotel where we got a very good dinner and then returned and made up my valise for the night. I did not get sleeping long however as a train came in with blankets so I had to go and draw blankets for my company. Next day we got tents and had them put up and Captain Peter Whitton and I shared one and were very comfortable. I had one route march here through the sand and with the heat I was glad to get back to camp. After a day or two we got word to go back to Alexandria and rejoined the “Empress of Britain” on 8th June, again early in the morning, and all were delighted to get back again and felt at home after a nice bath and a good breakfast. I got into Alexandria to buy some extra rations for my company, which were very acceptable, but I did not see much of the town. I paid my men on the voyage and started down on one of the lower decks but the heat was stifling so I got the “Tourist Agents” office on board much to the chagrin of others on board.

We sailed off and eventually arrived at Mudros on 11th June, a fine natural harbour with a boom across, and anchored in there. We saw our first hostile aeroplane which dropped a few bombs without harming us and a “direct hit” from the anti aircraft gun on the “Minerva” narrowly missed it. The troops were very interested at the display and the remarks were decidedly forcibly expressed when a “wide” was noticed. We left Mudros on 14th June on the torpedo boat destroyer “Grasshopper” and enjoyed the sail doing 27 knots per hour and were entertained in the “Wardroom” and duly arrived at Cape Hellos, where one immediately wondered why the Turks allowed a landing and how one troop managed to effect same. We saw part of the keel of the “Majestic” sticking out of the water and the historic “River Clyde” which was run ashore during the landing.

We were taken ashore on barges and landed on “Lancashire Landing” being under shellfire all the time and one began to think for the first time that war was a little dangerous.

One half of the battalion had landed before us and were up at the alleged “Rest Camp” having gone up in the dark the previous night and were digging in, and we lay near the shore till dusk and then moved up as we would have been under observation from Achi Baba Hill. However we got up safely and got ground allotted to us and started to dig in but did not get down so very far as I was so tired and soon fell asleep. 2nd Lieut Eric Watson and I decided we would share a dugout and got up early the next morning (15th) and continued our digging when suddenly we were shelled very heavily by “Asiatic Annie”, very nasty heavy guns from the Asiatic coast, and I dug harder than I ever did before and so did all as a matter of fact. One could not resist the temptation of looking to see the shell burst and what damage was done. Fortunately we were not suffering any casualties although other units did not fare so well. Several landed right in our lines, but being dug in saved us. However one got used to them and usually could tell if they were coming near by the “whistling”.

At night I had to take 200 men to near the firing line to dig communicating trenches and we were under shell and rifle fire but got safely to the place and had to dig very fast to get cover as the noise of bullets was very unpleasant. One man was killed (shot through the throat) and two wounded. One elderly man named Davidson let everyone know by his howling, however I pacified him by telling him he was sure for “Blighty”. The firing continued all night and we left just before dawn (16th) and got safely back but it was a job as we had to be careful not to expose ourselves as it would bring on shellfire.

I had my hair cropped short before I left the boat and was thankful as one could keep oneself cleaner. I realised we were in for a hard time here but was always hopeful of a successful issue. Captain Mather was wounded in the leg but I did not see him before he went off. We expected he would only be at the base for a few weeks but he got to “Blightly” all right. I missed my cigarettes very much and smoked as often as I got a chance to keep away the flies that were a terrible pest and a nuisance.

I was digging trenches for three nights near the firing line and although shelled and subjected to rifle fire was getting fairly well used to it. The heat was still very uncomfortable and one would like to have had khaki drill uniforms with shorts. The flies seemed to be worse and if you had a piece of bread and jam it was black before it reached your mouth and you had to blow before every bite unless you wanted to swallow them. I can assure anyone that this is no exaggeration. (20th) The fighting continues day and night and we sleep whenever we get a chance and I took every opportunity. I was up at 3.45 a.m. and made breakfast and then slept from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Our artillery (with the French) was gradually increasing and gave us more confidence. I saw Lieut Ewing Nelson before he left for the base and he looked very ill indeed. I dished out the rum ration for the first issue and it was rather amusing, all turning up smiling. I got my first letters and a Glasgow Herald and one appreciates letters very much even although they took a long time to come out. I am getting used to sleeping out at night but it gets very cold from 12 midnight to 4 a.m. I often wished I could get a good drink from the Milngavie Waterworks but I must say the water was quite good although I only got a small quantity as I had to send a long way for it. I am quite used to seeing dead bodies being carried past also wounded but the latter are always cheerful and bore up well under great pain at times. My dugout in the support line where I am now is cut out like a large couch in the wall and roofed over with a waterproof sheet to keep out the sun, and was the envy of several.

I often have a look with the periscope at the enemy trenches which are a perfect maze and difficult to follow. Our food comes up at night but I takes a long time as it has to come a long way.

I am looking forward to getting back to the “Rest Camp” for a change of clothing and a sea bathe, which is quite good here. My health has been very good up till now. We get a daily printed bulletin, which is acceptable but gives very little news.

We were subjected to a very heavy bombardment one night and the dust simply covered all our faces and gave all a ghastly appearance.

I witnessed the whole of a large battle here on 23rd, an attack by the French, and a counter attack by the Turks. We are all being terribly hard worked here but it is necessary. We expect to get to the Rest Camp and hope to have it easier for a little.

I got back safe to the Rest Camp on 24th and had a good and well earned sleep and bathe next day.

I was only a few days here when we got orders to go to the firing line and on the way up there was shelling and I felt some coming near me and in fact thought I had been struck with some pieces of stone and on looking found a shrapnel bullet had struck the pack on my back but an enamel cup in same stopped it and it had made a large dent in the cup. . Another went through my haversack, through some papers and the bullet lodged in a packet of revolver ammunition completely destroying the 12 rounds for use but fortunately for me did not explode them.

On going up we were told that the Turks were counter attacking and were told to wait near Pink Farm. Our Adjutant, Captain Vere Clerk, asked to go forward and get in touch with the 8th S.R. and let them know our position. The bullets were flying round pretty thick and although I knew it was not my job I got a man to go forward with me and find them which I did after some bother and then brought back an 8th S.R. man with me as a guide for future messages and found on my way back the officer who was to guide us, who had been asleep, and a stupid sentry who did not know what to do (and a regular soldier at that). I also took the officer back with me to the Adjutant and reported and then got back to my company and lay down. I was only about a minute down when a bullet turned up the sand at my foot and I dug it up and then shifted a little further down but all the “Better Holes” were occupied and I latterly got in beside Col. Sergeant, now C.R.M.S., D Roxby. In the early morning we moved forward into the support line and for a couple of days I was slightly off colour but was able to carry on with my duties.

On 28th June we were told we were to attack and that a terrific bombardment by our guns would take place and then we were to go over. We moved forward but found the Turks were bombarding us more than we were they and suffered heavy casualties going up to the front line. I was last of “A” as I was company second in command and going up saw Col J.B. Wilson and asked him the betting on the result. He smiled and said “So on” and that was the last I saw of him. A little further on I saw Brigadier General Scott Moncrieff and spoke to him and that was the last I saw of him also. Further along I saw 2nd Lieut W Leggat lying wounded and spoke to him and he said he was all right and I learned that 2nd Lieut Hector Maclean was also wounded, both of my company. A little further on we were in a position for “Going over the bags” and on the word “over” got up and saw C.S.M. H Struthers shot dead then ran as fast as I could with bayonet and rifle towards the Turkish trenches amidst a hail of machine gun and rifle bullets. Sergeant Purdie shouted to me he was hit and to come and dress his wounds so I stopped but the bullets were coming so fast and seeing several men dropping I shouted to him to go back and dashed for the Turks in trench and got in, jumping on top of five Turks who were soon finished bar one little fellow we took prisoner. Major Bird, 2nd Lieut Eric Watson and I were the only officers of my company to get there with some of the men and 2nd Lieut George Watson and some of the men of “D” Company. We were suddenly bombed from the right of one trench and knew that the company on our right had not got on, so we built up a parapet and made a block. It was here a bomb came over and Lieut Corporal A Ross of my company and Private Young earned the D.C.M., Ross putting his foot on it and Young was putting a coat over it. Unfortunately the bomb exploded, wounding Ross in the foot, leg, hand and face and Young on the hand but their actions saved the lives of several. It took me a long time to get those awards but I persevered and latterly they came through. We next started to consolidate the trench and cleaned out the dead and dressed the wounded. I remember one poor fellow (McClure I think) whose forearm was hanging by a thread and the flies thick on it so I cut it off and bandaged it up and gave him 2 pellets of morphine as he was in great agony. Later I told Major Bird and 2nd Lieut George Watson about the morphine and they informed me that each had given him two and it is a wonder it did not kill him. However later I heard he was in hospital and getting on famously. In the meantime Major Bird had sent back dispositions but got no reply and we suspected something had gone wrong. We decided to take the next trench and I offered to take two platoons forward but Major Bird would not allow me and Eric Watson took them forward and gained the trench but had to block the trench in a similar way to the one we had taken. Our casualties were very heavy and we were relieved late that night. We missed water more than anything and about 11 p.m. I started off to take the remainder back as when relieved the trench was rather difficult to get a passage through and I found myself with only Private Johnny McGinlay and as we were very thirsty we made for the Nullah where the water carts were and got to them and were going to have a drink when a sleepy sentry halted us and told us those were KOSB carts and would not give us a drink. However we waited a little and then came back and when halted answered “KOSB” so got our drink all right and filled our water bottles. On the way back I met a wounded man who implored for a drink and I gave him one from my bottle and never have I seen gratitude so expressed as in that man’s eyes. I then got to our Battalion H.Q. and learned then of the death of Col Wilson, the Adjutant Captain Howat, Captain Whitton, Lieut W Brown, Lieut W Duff, Lieut Dan Taylor, 2nd Lieut Alistair Duff and Lieut J Maclay some of the latter missing and realised no hope for them. Captain Hutchison, Lieut J A McMillan, Lieut S Nicol all wounded and several of the N.C.Os and men killed and wounded. We got back to the trench and were there till morning and then we went to the “Rest Camp” on 30th and thankful to get there. By the way one Brigadier was killed on the 28th June. In the evening I walked down to A.S.C. and had dinner and left to return at 9.15 p.m. in pitch dark but I knew the way and brilliant flashes of lightning lit up the place every now and them. I turned in at 10 p.m. and slept till 3 a.m. and then had to be up for drill.

On 1st June we then re-organised and joined up with the 8th Royal Scots. I was in command of No.1 Company, Captain J.S. Macfarlane No.2, and Captain R Johnston No.3 Company. Major Bird taking over command as Major Templeton had gone to hospital. As I had left my pack up in the trenches with shaving kit etc I went up I the forenoon and was fortunate to find it. I always thought I would prefer to be here instead of France but my opinion soon altered and wished for France. On going up for my pack I saw hundreds of dead, dying and wounded at the dressing station and saw a Turk marvellously camouflaged as a tree. He was a noted sniper, but was captured. Later I saw a picture of him on a cigarette card.

Another Turk coming down as a prisoner kicked one of the wounded and I drew my revolver and was going to shoot him instantly when one of his escort said “That’s too good for him, leave him to us till we get down the nullah a little”. I never heard what happened but going down later on I saw a dead Turk where there certainly wasn’t one when I came up.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meals at the “Rest Camp” where L/Corporal S.M. Rhind looked after us very well.

I came back to the firing line late tonight (2nd July) and had just come in when it started to rain very heavily but had no shelter so wrapped myself in a blanket and covered myself with a waterproof sheet which was not very comfortable but to make the best of it. I was attached to the famous “Dubsters”, Dublin and Munsters regulars, and they certainly bucked us up no end. The flies were still worrying us a great deal and simply pestered us and one was glad when the flies retired for the night.

I got up early and had a good look round and arranged working parties to repair trenches and do fatigues and had a good look round with a periscope and saw several dead in front and arranged for them being taken in after dark.

We were wakened at 2.30 a.m. this morning (4th July) to “Stand to” as the Turks were counter attacking and moved into a forward trench and were there will 4 p.m. when we got back again without being called on. However we had a great day shooting Turks with machine guns and rifles and got some of our own back potting several coming down a gully and same made me more hopeful than I have felt since I landed here.

We were shelled a lot at night and I turned in at 10 p.m. and did not waken till 3 a.m. (6th July) to “Stand to”.

We were relieved at 6 a.m. and removed to reserve trench but did not get settled down till 10 a.m. as some other companies had taken one trench and so I had to search for another and eventually found one. I had a good rest and got back to “Rest Camp” about 9.15 p.m. and had a good sleep.

In the evening (7th July) we were taken up to the trenches by a long circular route to “Gurka Bluff” arriving in the dark feeling very tired, so much so that I fell asleep on the shore as we had to halt there owing to some congestion. The “Gurkas” were coming out of the line for the first time and were so happy but hadn’t a white officer left.

Next morning (8th July) I was up early and started to make a bivouac on the hill facing westwards and the sea. We were rather short of water and I noticed some Gurkas catching in their mess tins water running down the cliff so I followed the track and found a beautiful little spring and dug a hole and fitted in a large biscuit tin and led a small pipe to the spring and soon had lots of water and was able to supply several people but would not tell them where I got it as it would have been overrun and spoiled, but none went without a drink who asked. We were here till 10th July in and out of the firing line till we were relieved and had a long walk back to the rest camp and thought we would be allowed a little rest. We moved by the shore this time which was much shorter but held up several times by congestion.

One of the gullies looked very well at night with the dugouts all lit up but they usually got a good deal of shelling. We had a good sleep and rest but next morning we were told we had to go up again in reserve and would not be called on to fight unless absolutely necessary. We got up and settled in the Eski Lines and settled down to sleep but were wakened early next morning (12th July) to stand to with the bombardment.

We were moved up to the firing line to take part in the attack and I went over with “A” Company, the only officer, and took two trenches next to the French. I then joined up with the 7th Royal Scots and had to block some communication trenches and make bomb stations in case the Turks tried to sneak through. The trench was filthy and the smell of the dead something awful but we started to clean it and then I went along and met Major Bird and reported the position to him. Shortly after I heard he was killed which was a great loss to the battalion as he was one of the most capable officers I have ever met. This left Captain Macfarlane in command but only for a short period as he was wounded and left for the base.

2nd Lieut Cecil Weir (later Sir Cecil Weir) (who had done splendid work since he arrived on Gallipoli) came and informed me I was then in command and as I had about 640 men I told him to go to Brigade and tell them I wanted some officers and water. Shortly after I heard he was wounded and went to see where all the casualties were occurring and got a bullet through my helmet for my pains and felt it scorching my head as it passed through so I had that part of the trench put right in double quick time. Late in the evening Lieut Will who was with his machine guns came up and waited with me and I collected a 2nd Lieut named Galloway who attached himself to my battalion as I had lost several N.C.Os also. He belonged to the KOSB and had lost his platoon. During the day I was sitting in the trench beside Lieut/Corporal Hilton Law, and Privates Laing and Barr, when one of our shells burst just above our trench and smothered me with dirt . Fortunately I was unhurt but got a fright. The other three were killed instantaneously. I tried to get into communication with the artillery but found it very difficult and they kept firing as they did not know the trench had been captured.

During the night the Turks counter attacked us three times and were repulsed with heavy losses. Brigadier General Erskine came round when quietness came on and I asked him for water but none came.

Next morning (13th July) we were quite pleased with ourselves on counting the Turkish dead in front but our communicating trenches were badly damaged and done by our own artillery, at least I think so. Our casualties were very heavy and we had great difficulty and danger in removing the wounded and I got the D.C.M. for Privates Smith and Doull in connection with this. My men were fainting with the heat and want of water but messages asking for same brought Lieut W R Law with two of his signallers with a large biscuit tin full which I dished out at a tablespoonful per man in the evening. I struck me that the lines of Rudyard Kipling “But when it comes to slaughter you’ll do the work on water and you’ll lick the boots of him that’s got it” were absolutely true. The night was uneventful as the Turks evidently had had enough.

We were relieved by the Naval Division this forenoon (14th July) and we went back to “Backhouse Post” where I met the Brigade Major and reported matters to him. He said he could not help us as we
were lent to another brigade and ever since then I have always tried to avoid being lent to other units as you always get the hard end of the stick and no thanks. We had plenty of beautiful water here and lots of rations as they were not sent up and the men cut steaks from the meat and cooked it themselves and then had a well earned rest and sleep.

Captain Johnstone came up from hospital so I told him to look after things as I was played out and dead beat and although I rested I could not get a decent sleep owing to the reaction of all I had gone through.

I came back to the “Rest Camp” on 15th July not feeling at all well but re-organised the battalion and attended to my several duties but was eventually sent to the hospital at the base on 21st July and had a good sleep here but no food, only a drink of milk.

Next morning (22nd) I got up and got a brake down to Lancashire Landing and met General Sir Ian Hamilton, our S.O.C. in C and he spoke to me for a little. This is the second time I met him as I met him previously along with General Hunter Weston when he inspected us shortly after our arrival. (All this time our food had been nothing special, not even rations and no extras either).

I got on board H.M.T. 344 for Imbios for a week’s rest and accompanied the Hon. H Lister and a Lieutenant of the Naval division and son of Lord Ribbesdale. He was a brave soldier and I heard with regret he was killed later on, after he had returned.

I arrived at Imbios at 7 p.m. and met 2nd Lieut George Watson, Lieut C.P. Will and Lieut W.R. Law and went with them to the “Rest Camp” where I got a tent to myself but could not sleep well as I had a touch of fever or malaria and did not sleep for several nights. I took matters easily for the next three days and enjoyed the sea bathing and restful atmosphere away from the shelling. I got a bottle of lager here, which was the first since I left the “Grasshopper”. There were several Turkish prisoners here but all were happy and glad to be out of the fighting. It was a great shock when I heard of the death of 2nd Lieut W Leggat as I never dreamt his wounds were fatal. I got up early and after breakfast Will, Law, G Watson and I all got donkeys or ponies and rode over to a place called Panaghia. I was a beautiful journey over large hills with beautiful tropical plants and flowers and took up two hours. We passed some beautiful wells and quenched our thirst at them all. We had a tophole lunch at John Christo’s (British subject) caterer to His Majesty’s officers and after that had a sleep in the shade and left about 5 p.m. taking back 12 bottles of lager and some stores. I thoroughly enjoyed the outing and slept well that night.

I took it easy the next two days and on the 28th July I paid a return visit to Panaghia with other three officers who were in the camp, I being the guide this time, and quite enjoyed my visit.

I had the next two days easy and on 31st July I left at 6.39 a.m. for Cape Helles feeling every so much better and arrived at 9 a.m. My men were very indignant about the Welsh Coal Strike and wished the strikers could be sent out here.

Things had been quiet when I was away and there is no special news to relate.

We had a busy time with fatigues till we moved up to the Eski lines on 13th August.

On 16th August we were asked if we would go up and relieve the H.L.I. at the vineyard as they had asked so we consented and I took over the firing line from Major James Anderson.

Part of the trench had been blown in so I had it repaired at night. The next morning the engineer officer came round and said he would strengthen it but whatever he did caused it to fall in so I repaired it again and he came round and was going to strengthen it again but I refused to let him touch it. The trenches were in a very filthy state when I took over and there were no traverses so I had some made. Good latrines were dug and several dead were buried, the trenches and areas were cleaned up and it got the bad smell from the dead bodies away.

Note: while sniping with a periscope rifle here a Turkish sniper smashed the glass on my rifle and wounded me on the upper lip but I was able to continue on duty after having it attended to by the doctor.

2nd Lieut Donald R Nelson and 2nd Lieut D McIntosh arrived a few days ago and were up with battalion. I tried to get the former command of No.2 Company but our C.O. (Major Davenport) of the Egyptian Army would not allow this till he proved himself capable and this soon happened and he got command. I got a parcel from home and one appreciates a parcel here like a schoolboy at a boarding school.

Our lines were the best on the Peninsula and the Brigadier said he saw a great improvement and other units were told to visit us and see how we kept them. Down in the “Rest Camp” the men had designs and crests worked into the sand with seashells and the trenches were swept every day. I got some new officers to my company – two from Ceylon (Westlands and Walker) 2nd Lieut C France and 2nd Lieut L Thom- which relieves me of a lot of duty. Our mess is improving as we get supplies from the canteen and by sending over to Tenedos.

We are within 30 yards of the Turks here at two places and lively bomb duels take place nightly.

In all the battalion got 16 new officers but had to part with some to other brigades who were in active need of them.

I went stone deaf in one ear for about 3 days and it was very awkward and I suffered a great deal of pain in it.

We shifted back to the support line. During the time we were in the firing line we saw several dead bodies taking fire with being struck by bullets and with the gas in the bodies taking fire and the ammunition in their pouches popping off and it must have been uncomfortable for the Turks as I noticed one burning right on their parapet.

The General came round several times and was very pleased with improvements and the salvage we did from bodies in “no man’s land”. Fortunately there is plenty of water here. We were in the support line till 29th August 1915 and during that time cleaned up the area and salved several thousand of rounds of ammunition. In fact our division saved over 9 million rounds in one week.

We went back to the firing line and one night from the bomb gap the Turks threw over a stone with a paper wrapped round it and on it was written in English “Come over to us and we will give you plenty wives”. Needless to say no one ventured over.

I was in the firing line till 2nd September.

Eric Watson went to Imbios to get a tooth out and has been away over 5 weeks and not back yet and I was missing him as he was a very capable officer. I enquired about being made Major as I was entitled to it but nothing was done. I had a few tiffs with my C.O. but am now all right with him but some of the others still fall foul of him. Great hopes of a successful fight at Suvla but no word yet.

We move to Eski lines and Eric Watson returned to battalion.

In Eski lines and Redoubt line till 14th September 1915. I was threatened with dysentery for some time now but got inoculated several times which seemingly stopped it. Three French officers visited our line and asked who was in charge and I recognised one (Gourard) as one of the chiefs of the French army. Lieut W.R. Law left on 10th September 1915 to go to Alexandria for our base kits. Major Davenport left this morning to go back to Central Africa and our new C.O. is Major Macfie who was Adjutant of the 6th H.L.I.

I came back to the firing line (vineyard) after a very wet morning as rain poured for 3 hours but I didn’t mind it as it kept down the flies, which were increasing every day. Every night we had men out in front of our trenches listening for information and I never had to detail a man from my battalion as I always had plenty volunteers. One night two men were out and were about an hour out when rapid fire broke out on our left. The Turks were evidently “windy” as our guns had been registering during the day. We often used to suddenly open rapid fire at night to sound out the Turks and put up a few “Veray lights” and they would open fire in return and we could judge by the volume how they were holding the trenches. I heard a moan and knew one of the two men out listening had been wounded. I went along the trench and noticed my C.S.M. Donald Hunter dash over the parapet and found the two men. It seemed Pte J Flood was badly wounded and Pte J Stewart with him hauled him into a shell hole. C.S.M. Hunter and Stewart carried Flood back under heavy fire but the latter was unconscious and died without regaining consciousness. I put both Hunter and Stewart in for a V.C. but after a great deal of trouble and time I managed to get a D.C.M. for C.S.M. Hunter and a Serbian Gold Medal for Pte Stewart, the latter of whom had a white patch on his hair which came on that night and he has it till this day. Major Macfie as C.O. was a man who never before had been up at the trenches and I was certain he would not be a success. We had good sport with trench mortars up in front line and did a lot of damage to the Turks with same. I usually lay down in the afternoon for a rest but today had gone to see the doctor about my ear and when I returned I found my pillow cut with a large piece of shell just where my head would have been so was glad I was out.

I came back to reserve in the 2nd Australian line and was here two days and removed to “Rest Camp” on 20th September 1915 and visited the A.S.C. and base at night. I had a bad cold and did not get up on 23rd September till afternoon and went down to the Field Ambulance but came back and went to bed and waited there till 26th September and then at 1.15 p.m. I went up to the firing line again. Major Macfie, my C.O, was ill so I was in full charge but had to take my turn of duty in the trenches owing to shortage of officers. I went out on patrol one night by myself to hear if I could find out anything and after being out about an hour I was drawing on nearer the Turk trenches when I put my hand on a dead Turk’s face and got a fright. The smell was awful so I came back as I was afraid I would turn sick and make a noise.

We got word of the great victory in France and at 7 p.m. all cheered and then the Artillery fired a salute of 21 guns each (on to the Turks). They must have got a fright and thought we were going to attack as they opened rapid fire and kept it up most of the night and must have wasted a lot of ammunition.

Next morning we got several notes of the French victory written in Turkish and checked them over to the Turks. This was done as the Turkish prisoners always stated they were never told of defeats always successes. We gave the Turks a very bad time with new large French mortar shells and I was glad the Turks could not retaliate. The Navy were landing large shells at them and they must have had a most uncomfortable time.

We removed to the Support Line on 30th September. The flies were still very bad and getting “clammy” did not improve them.

One C.O. left and we got Major Simpson of the 5th H.L.I. who was Adjutant with them but he was only with us two days. I got word that Captain J Howatt’s body was found later and buried.

We were in the Support line then removed on to firing line (a different part from usual) and had good sport sniping the Turks as their trenches had been damaged by shellfire. The French thought the Turks were going to attack and the Turks vice versa so both sides had an artillery duel, which lasted quite a while without anything happening. I lost my appetite and was not feeling well although attended to my duties. We have another new C.O., a Col. Bridges, a warrior, and expects marvels. I got on all right with him but he was very “livery” and some of the junior officers did not like to meet him. We were getting bombed by aircraft pretty frequently now and occasionally saw a duel but nothing startling as each seemed afraid of the other. I was shifted to Redoubt line and was asked to repair the trenches there which was a big job and when one new Divisional Commander came up, Major General Lawrence, he asked if I wanted anything and said “Yes” and showed him the sandbags I was getting and pointed out they were useless. He asked me what kind I wanted and I said “The same as they are building your headquarters with at the Base”. I got them all right next day. I then showed him the ammunition I, got green moulded, and he said he knew it as it was at the bottom of the sea for some time and gave orders for more new stuff to be sent up. This did not please Brigade whom I knew wanted it but however the Brigadier admitted afterwards it was the right thing to do.

I had a splendid job made of the trenches and the General on 7th September came round and complimented me. It is wonderful how a kind word from a staff officer bucks you up and it does not take place as often as it should.

8th June was a most miserable wet day and I was not feeling well which did not help me in the least but fortunately the improvement we made helped to keep the trenches from being flooded. I was short of oatmeal and the Quartermaster of the 1st Lowland F. Lamb, promised me a tin if I could get him a Turkish rifle. Unfortunately I had handed them all in but knew where there was one sticking out of the ground so I promised Private Charlie Cassells, one of my pioneers, a glass of whisky if he would dig it up and clean it for me. He dug it up and with it 2 dead Turks and thousands of rounds of Turkish ammunition. I will never forget the stench as long as I live and it was here I traced my jaundice to which I unfortunately contracted shortly after. However I got my tin of oatmeal.

On 9th October 1915 D.R. Nelson had a temperature of 104 and was being sent off and came to se me before leaving. I told him I expected to follow shortly as I was suffering great pain and was not able to get up for duty. I spent a very bad night and in the forenoon the doctor told me I had jaundice and packed me of to the base. I got a motor from the forward aid post to the field ambulance and then saw Dr Taylor who said I should have been sent off a long time ago. He came down to the Base hospital with me and I was fortunate to get on a brake just leaving for the shore and got on to a pinnace and taken on board the Hospital Ship “Rewa” about 5.15 p.m. and it looked like a palace to me. I got a hot bath and sent to bed in a fine army ward in the fore part of the ship with 12 cots in it. It was very comfortable but I got no food except milk as I had dysentry also.

On passing through the Rest Camp I got my letters and was shocked to hear of my mother’s death. I knew she had been ill but was not expecting this sad news and it didn’t help me owing to my state of health.

I fell asleep about 8.50 p.m. but wakened at 10 p.m. with pains so the Sister got the Doctor to give me something and I fell asleep again.

I got a glass of milk at 6 a.m. and was looking forward to a nice breakfast as cutlery and everything was put down at my bed but to my disgust it was taken away and I got a glass of milk again.

I was here till 17th October and was allowed up from 2 till 4.30 p.m. and enjoyed it very much. I met several people and used to have long chats with them. We sailed today from Cape Helles and went to Imbios and then on to Mudros and lay alongside the “Aquitania”. On 19th October we sailed from Mudros and I was feeling very well as my jaundice and dysentery had disappeared but pains in my ears were coming on again. I am on full diet and am doing justice to the excellent fare provided. We had an officer died on board and at the night the ship was slowed down and he was buried at sea.

An orchestra of ships’ officers on board gave a concert and it was enjoyed by all. My temperature rose to 101 next morning so I was not allowed up. We arrived at Malta at 10 a.m. and lay there all day and the next day. I was taken ashore on 21st October 1915 and into a motor ambulance and taken to the Blue Sisters Hospital and the doctor here said I might get off to England. While waiting Lord Methuen came into my ward with his daughter and spoke to me for a few minutes. I left the Hospital about 1.30 p.m. on 23rd October and got a motor ambulance down to the “Oxfordshire” Hospital ship, and got a cabin with only an English padre and myself in it. We left there at 3 p.m. sailing for home. By the way I was weighed at Malta and with clothes on only weighed 9 stone instead of 11 st 7 lbs so I have lost a good deal.

We arrived at Gibraltar at 9 a.m. on 26th October and left at 5 p.m. Today, 27th October, was very stormy and the dining room was very empty but I was feeling very fit.

We passed Cape Finnisterre, and Bay of Biscay, Ushant, Guernsey Islands and arrived at Southampton at 8 a.m. and landed at 11 a.m. and got the steamer to Cowes and got to Osborne House, Isle of Wight, and was here reading, golfing, walking and examining the beautiful grounds and presents and also saw the naval cadets of Osborne College playing football and visited the Royal Yacht Club at Cowes. I did not sleep too well at nights with pain in my ear, but the treatment I got from the doctor here was helping me considerably. I got a medical board and given a month’s leave. I left at 6.30 a.m. on 6th November and arrived at London at 11 a.m. – left London at 2 p.m. and arrived Glasgow at 11.20 p.m. Needless to say I was delighted to be back again.

I remained at home till the 10th January 1916 when I went to join our 33rd line at Ripon and met several of our officers there and was there till 23rd January 1916 when I went to the 13th A.Y.S.H. at Richmond to take a draft overseas. However things did not seem to be done hurriedly there and I had quite an easy time and left Richmond on 1st March and trained to Darlington, York, Swindon, Exeter, Devonport and to St Budeax Rest Camp. I left here and got on board the “Lake Michigan” and sailed at 5 p.m. on 4th March 1916. This was a cattle boat and not nearly so comfortable as the others I had been on and the feeding was not anything special but Captain Stanley Nicol and I had a cabin between us. We passed Gibraltar at 3 a.m. and arrived in Alexandria at 10 a.m. on 9th March 1916. During the voyage I made friends with the Captain and I found out I had met him on the “Empress of Britain”. I often had a game of cards with the Chief Engineer. I marched to Mustapha Barracks at 2.45 p.m. and there met Captains Mather and Hutchison. I played golf some days as I had plenty of time as I was senior officer in charge of reinforcements and only appeared in the morning.

On 23rd March 1916 I dined on board the “Caledonia” with Captain Blaikie (who was taken prisoner when his boat was torpedoed after).

Several of my senior N.C.Os. and men who were time expired left today and I was very sorry to see them go, but perhaps after what they had gone through no one could blame them. I left Mustapha at 11.40 a.m .on the 28th March 1916 and got the train to Kantara arriving there next morning, where a guide met us and took us up to the battalion.

I found Major Ramanes in command. He was adjutant of the 7th Royal Scots, and I was put on as 2nd in command of Battalion and I had a fairly easy time here, living in tents and got into Port Said occasionally. I met one Brigadier who was with one Brigade on Gallipoli (Brigadier General Roe) and he was very pleased to see me and I had long chats with him. I remained at Kantara for some time training and making defences. In some of the latter places we found old coins dug up and formed splendid souvenirs.

I was a member of a Court Martial today (4th April). I have a fine horse and go out riding every day and feel ever so much better for the exercise. The Prince of Wales passed our camp today but I did not see him. I was acting in command for a few days as the C.O. was on local leave.

I experienced my first sandstorm today (12th April) and did not like it at all. The sand was blowing everywhere and you could only see about 10 or 20 yards in front of you so we had to close up our tents and wait till it was past. The food was absolutely filled with it and it did not taste nice. W. Mather and I rode out to hill 70 to one of our advanced posts and saw 2 Turkish prisoners being brought in, which made me think there was something doing shortly.

After Church parade on 23rd April I had just finished my rounds when I got word we were to go to Turk Top at once and rode out to same abut 5 miles away at 2 p.m. This was owing to the attack at Ducidar. I rode out to the advanced posts and made a reconnaissance.

I left Turk Top in command of half the battalion and removed to Hill 402 and put up a camp there and expected to be here for a few days but at 11 p.m. I got a message telling me we were to shift early next morning and I got up at 3 a.m. and saw camp cleaned and breakfast prepared for the other half battalion who were coming down but the train was late so I only got away at 7.30 a.m. We entrained in open trucks and a few fortunately had a canvas cover as the heat was terrific and started on a journey over the desert about 16 miles and entrained.

Luckily I took 31 tents with me them as they give a good protection from the sun and we were the only unit who had. Our water is rationed here now and we feel the change very much.

I was wakened this morning (28th April) by peculiar shouting and singing and found it was the Egyptian labour corps. I had a “bath” (!!) in about a pint of water today so it was a bit of a job.

I was shifted further out to “Young’s Kop” and are now the furthest out infantry on this front. The news of General Townsend’s surrender rather put us into the dumps but were certain that fate would never recur here.

Captain Hutchison arrived today (4th May) so I got command of “B” Company as he was senior to me. The Prince of Wales passed today but I only saw him in the distance. I was a member of a Court Martial today. During the period in this district we were on out post duty every night and during the day making and wiring redoubt. Today we moved forward 7 miles to Mahamidiya near the sea and I was in command of rear guard. The division were moving forward and there was a convoy of over 1000 camels.

I moved out to an advance post with my company at 3.30 p.m. on 12th May and had 16 camels carrying baggage. We moved about 1½ miles to a place called “Intermediate Station” but changed to “Blair’s Post”, where we started to make a redoubt. We started work as soon as it was light sandbagging trenches and putting up barbed wire. I got 100 men from another company out to help me on with work as this post had to be held to the last in case of being attacked.

During this period there was a Kemsheen wind on from inland and it was terrifically warm. With the shortage of water we were almost unable to do anything so I stopped work at 11 a.m. as several men were fainting for want of water. In fact I had to drink a liqueur by itself as it was the only liquid we had. There it was that Lieut R Barr and Norman Stuart splashed each other with brackish water dug up in the desert. On the outside of the canvas buckets the flies were clinging in thousands, almost as helpless with the heat as ourselves. The water arrived at 1.45 p.m. but it was so warm that it could not be drunk so I ordered tea to be made which helped us all very much and never in my life has tea tasted so well. All the Divisional staff visited me next day and I was introduced to General Lawrence and was complimented on the work done in such a short time under the hard conditions. I spoke about one only getting 1 pint of water per day and he explained the trouble with the water and promised it would not occur again. In the afternoon the wind came from the sea and the heat went down a good bit. I had to do the “Doctor” here and some very laughable incidents occurred but I will not mention them here.

Today (16th May) we had a return of the desert wind and it was the hottest day I have ever experienced in my life and I had to send several men to hospital with sunstroke. I lay with my feet in a bucket of brachish water and none of us could eat as we were so warm.

I was relieved by the 4th Royal Scots and left at 9.15 a.m. We had only 1½ miles to go but with the terrific heat some men took ill but we managed back all right, our clothes completely soaked with sweat, even myself who was riding.

The 8th S.R. had a very bad time and over 100 men fell out and my men were used to carrying patients of other units all evening to hospital. I thought we would get a rest now but were put on outpost duty on Signal Hill that night (18th May). I was wakened at 2 a.m. and told that 2000 Turks were within reach of us and had to reinforce five trenches but nothing happened. I had also to send out patrols and had to point out the way for the M.G. companies, 7th R.S. and Scottish Horse as none of them knew where to go to. However we were all ready for them at 4 a.m. and the C.O. came up and waited with me. In the early morning our planes and some cruisers went and bombed and bombarded the Turks. We could hear the reports but did not hear of the results.

I was elected a member of the Mess Committee and I had a lot of work to do with it as I took over the Wine Department which was not being looked after properly.

I was on outpost duty on 20th May and was wakened by a hostile aeroplane and reported the matter to the acting staff captain, who did not know what to do, so I told him to phone an aerodrome or Division. This was the plane which did so much damage in Port Said.

All this time we were engaged making strong strategic positions and only hoped the Turks would attack and I felt sure they would have a hot time. Captain Hutchison went to hospital on 21st May and I am now 2nd in command again. We have some chameleons in the mess and have great fun watching them catching flies. I had some fine bathing in the sea and it was very refreshing.

On 8th June 1916 the C.O. and I rode out at 2.30 p.m. – a long ride to Hill 90 – and met the brigadier and all C.Os and 2nds in command. We had a camel escort, also a yeomandry escort. We met the Brigadier of the 155th Brigade with his officers and we made a reconnaissance to see how best to advance or how the Turks would advance if they attacked us. On riding back we saw a flag at “Blair’s Post” and the Brigadier asked me if it was my birthday.

We also had several route marches and the men had a hard time with the sand and heat but it was
necessary practice. We had a route march to Katia today (15th June 1916). We arrived at 7.30
a.m. and put up shelters to protect us from the sun. We were to wait out till 3 a.m. but owing to want of water we left at 7 p.m. and had a weary march back and arrived at 11.30 p.m.. Several men fell out but our battalion had easily the fewest men to fall out.

I was very thirsty also my horse and coming back I gave the horse half my bottle of water.

Fortunately our mess stores had arrived – justice was done to them by all and we got to bed about 2 a.m.

Lieut D.R. Nelson and J.A. McMillan arrived today (17th June) and we were all pleased to see them. The C.O. was away on leave and I am in command again.

I was much disturbed at night by the row kicked up by large crickets and the only way to get peace was to get up and put them out or kill them. Every night in my tent I used to kill almost 100 flies before turning in.

On 26th June 1916 I got up at 4 a.m. and Mather, Maclean and I walked over to the Light Railway on the shore and got into an open truck about 6 a.m. and had a fine run to Port Said. We got there at 8.15 a.m. and got a boat over the Canal and got rooms at the Casino Palace Hotel and had a fine breakfast. We went bathing at 10.30 a.m. but I had waited in too long and got my arms and shoulders all sunburnt. I then came back and had lunch and then did some shopping and had a sleep after. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 days stay and left Port Said at 6 a.m. I was introduced to Commander Samson in Port Said. I took 8 barrels of beer back with me for the men and they were delighted and expressed an opinion that I should go to Port Said every week. It is the first for a long time and we were the only battalion with it. The skin came off my face, arms and shoulders with the sunburn and I was very sore with it but it went away after a few days . I was a member of a court martial on 30th June 1916.

General Sir Archibald Murray came round our outposts today (5th July). He is a new Brigadier and everyone is delighted to have him with the Brigade again.

The 6th H.L.I. arrived and took over from us and two companies left for Kantara and I dined with the 6th H.L.I. and next day I took the other two companies down to the train at 9 a.m. but as the train was late and not expected till 12 noon we had a bathe and had the sweat dried from our clothes. We got open trucks and arrived at Kantara at 2 p.m.

I left for Cairo on 9th July and got the train at Kantara. I got to Zag a Zig at 1 p.m. and got lunch put into the carriage and got to Cairo at 2 p.m.

It was a very interesting journey seeing the gravitation of crops, donkeys with hugh loads, and women balancing large bundles on their heads.

I came right to the Continental Hotel and met Captain Reid Kerr of Greenock and he is going to the same Senior Officers course here also.

I had to report at the Main Guard and then had to drive to the Ghenzireh Sporting Club Ground. There are lovely drives and the Nile is like the lower reaches of the Clyde but more buildings and gardens on the sides and it has hundreds of houseboats on it.

I went round to the Museum today (10th July) and found it very interesting especially the mummies and some had the hair, teeth and finger nails very well preserved indeed.

I went out to Yeitoun in the afternoon and saw some of the work being done there for teaching young officers and NCOs and had a lecture on modern warfare. The Colonel in charge was Col. Colston of the Guards and a very nice officer to meet. He sent us in his motor to the station to enable us to get the train.

I attended further courses at Yeitoun and at 5 p.m. we were to watch and critise an attack I got an Australian horse and it bucked and jumped and I had a hard time with it and it tried to throw me off, to the amusement of the others, but I conquered it and then it went quietly. After the attack I walked to Heliopolis ( a beautiful town built to outdo Monte Carlo but did not succeed) and got the electric train back to Cairo. I was out at 4.30 a.m. on 12th July 1916 as we had to be at Yeitoun by 5.15 a.m. Five of us motored off but had a puncture, got another and then had a puncture and got a third and arrived but a little late, however we explained the reason. I had the same horse again but he was quieter today. Major General Dobell was out seeing the manoeuvres and we got finished by 7.30 a.m. In the forenoon I drove up to the Citadel and Egyptian Barracks and had a good view of Cairo. I visited the Mohammed Aly Mosque and after having kid slippers over my boots I was allowed in. It was beautifully decorated and was quite interesting. An Egyptian funeral is a quaint procession and were it not serious one would be inclined to laugh at the comical objects attending. In the evening we were back at Yeitoun for a night attack and got back about 10 p.m.

Motoring out today (13th July 1916) at 6 a.m. we had yesterday’s experience over again. It is the great heat which causes the tyres to burst when they are a little warm but got out all right. We watched battalion drill and then had a lecture and at night had a night march by compass and got back at 10 p.m.

I had no class this forenoon (14th July) so spent the morning going round the bazaars and it was very busy and interesting in the Mooski. There are all nationalities represented and gaily coloured costumes lighten up the place as here the streets are very narrow to keep out the sun.

After dinner I and some others motored out to the Pyramids by moonlight and enjoyed the outing immensely in the cool moonlight. The heat in Cairo was 107 ̊ in the shade and one had to take to large cooling drinks and cold baths very frequently. I had a walk through “Gwangee quarter” with the A.P.M. It was one of the most disgusting places I have every seen and I am not surprised at the Australians setting fire to one of the buildings and wrecking it.

I left Cairo at 11 a.m. and had lunch on the train and arrived at Kantara at 3 p.m. I met an officer of the A.V.S.K. and he turned out to be a chap called Smith who used to be gymnastic teacher for New Kilpatrick School Board, who knew my brother and sister. My house was at the station and I rode up to the Camp and found the battalion had gone to Sidi Bishi near Alexandria.

I was appointed O.C. details of 156th Brigade and had plenty to do. We hear 10,000 Turks are advancing against us and all troops are recalled and other divisions brought up and being sent on to hold line of Mahamidiya Romani and Pelusium. We had two battalions here and they were sent right off. I had to arrange special trains, send on horses, transport, recall battalions on leave, also all officers not with battalion on leave. I sent my batman with a mate to the C.O. who was at Port Said to tell him to return at one. It was 1 a.m. before I turned in and had to get up at 3.30 a.m. and get transport off, strike tents and send them on by train and nearly run off my feet interviewing staff officers and Generals, Railway Transport Officers, Transport Officers etc and that lasted again till 1 a.m. and I had to get up at 3.30 a.m. again and was busy all day again. On 20th July 1916 the C.O. arrived and then the battalion. I sent off the 7th Royal Scots by the first train at 9 p.m. and then one battalion at 11 a.m. General Girdwood went up with them and I asked him to get me up the line as I did not care for a staff job. I kept the train for General Girdwood but it did not get off till 1 a.m. and I got to bed at 1.30 a.m. and got up at 5 a.m. so I have not had much sleep lately. However I had it easier today (22nd July) but was kept busy sending on stores tents etc. I went to bed at 8.30 p.m. and had a good sleep.

I left for Romani this afternoon (24th July 1916) and arrived there at 6.15 p.m. passing one of our armoured trains. Romani was alive with people stores and guns. I learned that the Turks were 14 miles from us.

Everyone was pleased to see me especially as I brought up the mess stores and drinks. I was out on reconnaissance today over Wellington Ridge etc.

I got orders to report mounted at Brigade at 11.45 a.m. (26th July) and met the Divisional Commander, Brigadier and all seconds in command, artillery officers etc and rode off accompanied by a yeomanry escort. We rode through Abu Homar and over a marsh several of the horses going into the bog and getting out with difficulty but fortunately I had no trouble. I passed an old village burned down by us in case of disease and then rode on to Hatia and saw a Sheik’s Tomb and date palms were laden with large bunches of dates but they will not be ready till September. We then went over the ground where the Worcester Yeomanry were badly cut up and several dead horses and camels lying about. We rode further forward and met two Australian Colonels and they pointed out to us the line the Turks were holding about 3000 yards from us. We could not go on as our guns were going to fire.

We rode back to a Palm Scone and watered our horses at the well known well there. We rode off and got back to camp at 6.30 p.m. after being over six hours on the saddle. I took some officers out on a further reconnaissance and was out 3 hours and had lunch in an Australian Y.M.C.A. and on my return I was told I was O.C. outposts tonight so had an hour’s sleep and after dinner rode round outposts and fixed my position and did not get much sleep after lying down, with useless telephone messages continually coming through.

On 30th July I was up at 3.30 a.m. and after finding all clear returned to camp at 5.30 a.m. The Turks again advanced to Hatia and are now where I was the other day. We are not going to attack them till they advance further.

After breakfast two hostile aeroplanes dropped over 20 bombs but did little damage in our brigade, although they were uncomfortably close, but the soft sand kept them from spreading too much and the noise was really the worst of it. Two monitors gave the Turks a hot time with large shells today.

I felt this morning (3rd August) something was going to happen and got up at 4.30 a.m. and sure enough at 5 p.m. 5 hostile aeroplanes came over us and dropped bombs and the Turks shelled us heavily with 5.9 H.E. They were trying for the railway and got it in several places but it was soon repaired. However they caused several casualties and some of the Egyptian Labour Corps ran off and some did not stop till they got to Port Said, 29 miles away., They suddenly switched on to our camp and I threw myself down when a large piece of shell passed over me and I was glad I went down and it showed me that lying flat was the safest. I then went further out and one burst 30 yards in front of me so I went back to my tent. The aeroplanes came back with more bombs and kept us on the hop and when things quietened down I had a sleep.

The bombing and shelling started this morning again and rifle fire being heard, we packed up and were ready to move off where required. Orders soon came and I was attached to Brigade H.Q. and got badly shelled while there and then rode up to advance H.Q. with the Brigadier, which was in one of our outpost trenches. The Turks had come on in large numbers all round a third of one line and the Anzacs and the 5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers were holding them back, but the Turks were forcing through and the 7th Royal Scots and 4th Royal Scots were sent out to reinforce and held them up at Wellington Ridge, which I had previously reconnoitred. Meantime the 7th and 8th S.R. were lying in reserve. In late afternoon I was sent by the Brigadier to bring in the C.O. and rode back with him. I then got orders that the 7th and 8th S.R. would advance and take the ridge. We moved off and got into a hollow just below Wellington Ridge and our H.Q. was fixed under some palm trees. At 7.30 p.m. we moved out in artillery formation, I being mounted and in command, with 2 companies each of 7th and 8th S.R. and getting up the hill and under heavy rifle fire I ordered the men to extend which was done as if on parade, and then advanced to about
150 yards from the Turks’ position. My left was to be a redoubt, wired in with 4 machine guns in it and when I got there I sent on two half companies as a screen while the remainder dug in. I was still on my horse and then had the distances paced out to 4 yards per man as we had about 500 yards of frontage to start with. All this time a very hot rifle fire was going on but it was mostly overhead and we lost few men by it. I then withdrew my covering party and took them back a further 60 yards behind the front line as support as it was too dark to attack that night and enemies disposition unknown. In the meantime the 8th S.R. had pushed out to the right and got in touch with the Anzacs and had left a gap between us and an officer of theirs came to me to reinforce him so having a telephone fitted up I telephoned to H.Q. and reported and they told me to join up with him so I asked for another company which was sent up, and after some trouble managed to get in touch. Profiting from past experience I sent off a party and collected water bottles and had them filled completely by 2 a.m. I had gone down to H.Q. and reported my position and told the C.O. I would attack at dawn and then got my machine guns and Lewis guns up and as A.C. and D companies were in firing line I got B company up in support. I was continually being worried by the C.O. ringing up instead of him coming up and was glad when the telephone wire got broken about 2 a.m. and then I was left on my own. At one part of my line we were only 40 yards from the Turks so had bombs sent up and found they had not been detonated before arrival. All this time we never fired a shot and I don’t think the Turks knew we were there. I got a written order to move off and cut off the Turks at daybreak when the Anzacs, R.W. and 8th S.R. started to advance on right and seeing the Turks coming over one way opened a terrific rifle, machine gun and Lewis gun fire on them and they threw down their rifles and surrendered. I ordered cease fire and ordered the machine guns and Lewis guns to keep the guns trained on them in case of treachery. The C.O. then came up for the first time and I went forward and arranged for the prisoners being sent in. In the meantime the Australian Light Horse galloped after the retreating Turks and rounded up several. There were some fearful sights of dead and wounded. Our artillery have done good work.

My casualties were only 2 killed and 5 wounded. Needless to say the battalion was delighted and I then went back to H.Q. to arrange for breakfast to be sent out and the C.O. took the men forward to a new position and after breakfast I got my horse and joined them.

One of the batteries in front evidently had the wind up and wanted an escort and Captains Mather and Nelson were sent out on an unnecessary job. The heat was terrific today also. We lay at Katia View all day and shifted to a hollow at night. We had only khaki drill on with shorts and last night and tonight were very cold and we had no blankets. I got back to camp at 7 a.m. on 6th August 1916 and had a good wash and shave and felt better after it. Prisoners and booty are being brought in, in large numbers and quantities. We also captured a battery of field guns.

“B” Company were out today (7th August) burying Turkish dead, not a pleasant job. The camels were very bad about this time and vicious and I saw one bite a camel man on the arm very severely.

I rode over to Mahamidiya as we had no mess stores and heard there was a canteen opened and was fortunate to get a good supply. Captain Hutchison returned today so I am in command of “B” company again. I got Woodbine cigarettes from home and sold them to the men at 25 for 3d which delighted them.

On 14th August our battalion was advance guard as we were moving out and I was O.C. vanguard and had my company used as a screen and flankers. I left at 2 p.m. and was in position for moving off at 2.30 p.m. and rested till 3 p.m. We marched along the railway for a while and then struck off over the desert until we arrived at Kilo 49 about 6 p.m. I got my part of the line and then sighted outpost trenches and dug in.

Next night I was O.C. outposts and rode round all outposts. I am sharing a bivouac now as we have no tents forward. Our men’s bivouacs were so well disguised here that they could not be told from bushes and hostile aeroplanes passing over us never bombed us but the 7th H.L.I. were not so fortunate when they took over.

Today (17th August 1916) we built a mess which although not elaborate was a great help to our comfort.

I was a member of a Court Martial on 18th August at the 4th R.S. and rode over to their H.Q. I met our Brigadier on 25th August and he spoke to me and said he expected to see me with a ribbon on my chest shortly. We left here at 10.20 a.m. on 26th August and arrived at Mahamidiya at 3.15 p.m.

Donald Nelson left on 29th August for hospital with a septic throat which I said was scarlet fever and I turned out to be correct. It was a big loss to me.

On 31st August I was President of a Court of Inquiry at the A.S.C. which kept me till 6 p.m. and then I called and saw Nelson in hospital and got back in time for dinner and had the Divisional Brass Band in attendance and a special dinner tonight which all enjoyed.

We were continually making shooting ranges, targets etc from waste materials and did a lot of practice shooting.

I left camp at 4.30 p.m. on 5th September to get the light railway to Port Said. The train was due to leave at 5.30 p.m. but it had broken down and only arrived at 6 p.m. and broke down again and did not leave till 8 p.m. Over 4 miles from Port Said two engines went off the line as someone had placed a large log of wood across the railway, so we had to get out and walk. We were all tired and hungry and got to the canal at 11.45 p.m. and arrived at the hotel at 12 p.m.. The hotel was packed as a P & O liner was leaving next morning and several of her passengers slept on shore so as not to be disturbed by the coaling. Several of us slept in the lounge after a supper of sandwiches and ginger beer (all that could be got). I got a room early next morning (6th September) and had a bath. After breakfast we went shopping and bathing but did not wait too long this time.

I met quite a decent crowd of Australian officers and was a great deal with them. The Australian soldiers always saluted me here and I asked why the change and they said we were the only decent infantry at Romani battle.

I visited the American Refugee camp this afternoon (7th September) and was shown round it, which was very interesting. An English lady in charge had been in Turkey for 13 years and saw two Armenian massacres and was flogged once by a German officer.

I left at 3 p.m. on 8th September by light railway and met up on a train about 8 miles up which had a wheel off so we had to wait till it was put on again and only got to camp at 7 p.m.

While in Port Said I met the Sister who attended me in Malta and had a chat with her.

We shifted by train to Romani today, 10th September. I was in charge of an advance party and took over the camp of the 8th Manchesters and erected mess marquees and allotted tents for officers and companies and had their baggage put into their tents and labelled tents so that when they marched over all they had to do was to walk in. I met Col Pilkington of the 6th Manchesters who was with me on the “Rewa” and “Oxfordshire” and had a long chat with him.

I rode out on the 11th September and met the battalion marching in and guided them to our camp and the C.O. was delighted at the arrangements made. I asked him why he sent me on the job and he said he was not satisfied with previous “taking over” and wanted it done properly.

Donald Nelson came back again on 16th September so I should find a difference. However as his skin was peeling off he left again.

The following is a menu we put up for a special dinner we had on 22nd September which was not bad for the desert :-

Sherry Scotch Broth
Salmon Patties

Curried Stew
Champagne Roast Turkey
Claret Mashed Potatoes. Green Peas, Asparagus,
Blancmange and preserved peas

Port Biscuits & Cheese
Liquers Fresh fruit

Captain Hutchison left on 25th September for an administrative job and I am second in command once more. On 28th September A. C & D companies moved out to redoubts and I was left in camp with my company in reserve.

On 27th September I rode round the outposts and they were greatly improved and made into permanent defences. I got back at 8 a.m. for breakfast. I hardly recognised “Blair’s Post” which I also visited and found it made into a veritable fort. Major General Dobell came out when I was there and I was introduced to him. He was a big success in German West African Campaign.

I had 3 days leave in Port Said with 2nd Lt A T Coltart beginning on 29th September and enjoyed my rest very much. I returned to Romani on 1st October to allow the C.O. to go on leave to Cairo and he left and I was in command till the C.O. returned on 10th October. Major Foster of the Berkshire Yeomanry arrived to take over as 2nd in command and I was very much annoyed about it and spoke to the Brigadier who said he didn’t want him but just to bide my time. The C.O. got his Lt Col rank so I should get my majority shortly. The C.O. came to my tent and told me how annoyed he was about Major Foster coming and that he did not want him as he was satisfied with me.

Our new Padre, Rev John Spence, arrived on 7th October and was with us to the finish of the war and he was easily the best padre we had on service.

We moved off at 8 a.m. on 11th October and marched to El Rabbah and bivouaced. The dates were very ripe but we were not allowed to touch them, although I got a few and enjoyed them. Major Foster left today, (12th September) for Cairo and I was 2nd in command again. We moved off again on 12th October and marched to Negiliat, about 11½ miles, but we walked over 15 miles as we had to go round several sandhills and I was put on outpost duty.

We moved off at 6.30 a.m. on 13th October and marched to Bin El Abd, about 6 miles, and arrived there at 10.30 a.m. but did not get to our position till 12 noon.

We were bombed by hostile aeroplanes on 14th October but about 1 mile from us as they were after our aircraft guns. In the afternoon we were shifted about a mile further out.

I rode round the outpost line today (15th October).

Col Ramanes received a wire today (17th October) when I was present telling him he had got the D.S.O. and he said it should have been mine. We shifted back a mile and had our bivouacs re-erected.

On 22nd October the C.O., 3 company commanders, intelligence officer and myself rode out in front, leaving at 8 a.m. and arriving at our destination at 10 a.m. where we all sited trenches and the ones I sited for my company were the only ones not altered. We returned at 2.15 p.m. and got back at 4 p.m. in time for tea. Donald Nelson returned today.

I left at 5.15 a.m. on 27th October leading the brigade out to a new position at Ganadil and although very misty managed to reach the rendezvous all right. It was about 8 miles out and I went to the trenches I had sited and put up wire entanglements and dug trenches as we were to be here for some time. I went out with the C.O. at 10 a.m. on the 29th October to meet the G.O.C. in C, General Sir Fred. Murray, and he had not appeared at 12 noon when a hostile aeroplane dropped bombs on the railway. He appeared then making back for H.Q. so did not come round.

My outpost captured a hostile Bedouin tribe this morning (30th October) and I sent out an escort and about 80 men, women and children, 150 goats and sheep, 10 camels and 2 young camels surrendered. “Lizzie” Bryson, a very efficient officer, left my company today to join the flying corps, much to our regret.

The Brigadier sent for me and gave me a souvenir for capturing the Bedouins and told me to congratulate the men on their sharp outlook. He gave me a quaint old muzzle loading , flint lock, musket and an ancient sword and scabbard.

I rode round the observation posts today (2nd November) and altered them to better positions.

General Murray and all his “Brass Hats” rode round today and examined the outpost (night) trenches, the C.O. and I accompanying him. We had rain several times here and often had to get up during the night as our bivouacs were by no means watertight.

We got an issue of Balmoral Bonnets today (5th November).

On 6th November bombs were dropped near us again. I rode out to Mount Ganadil today and had a good view of the surrounding desert.

Archibald Bird arrived on 9th November. On 13th November I watched the artillery “registering” and it was very interesting. On 14th November we had quite a good time as we had placed several bottles (empty) out in the desert and gave the men directions where they were and they were locating them at 500 yards range which is very good. We also had knock out competitions and all enjoyed it. The Brigadier was up watching us and had a shot or two himself.

Captain W Mather arrived back on 21st November from home leave. I was a member of a Court Martial at the 8th S.R. on 23rd November.

On 25th November my company gave an exhibition of night firing, using “very light” pistols etc. The Brigadier and several senior officers were watching and all were very pleased.

Nelson and I made a fine new bivouac for two on 29th November and it was a great success and very comfortable. Major Foster returned today again and took on as 2nd in command.

We moved out to Tilul on 1st December and bivouaced for the night. We moved on to Manyar on 2nd December and the next day we were bombed and unfortunately an anti aircraft gun got a direct hit by a bomb, killing and wounding several of the crew.

We erected our bivouac on 4th December and no sooner had we it up till we got orders to shift to another part of the camp.

I rode out with the C.O. on reconnaissance to point 113 on 6th December. On 7th December we had a field day practising the Division in attack.

I attended a conference at Division H.Q. on 8th December and on 9th attended a demonstration by the Engineers on how to cross barbed wire but it was laughable and a distinct failure. We had a brigade night attack practice on 10th December and same went off very well. On 14th December we had a large practice “Desert Column” attack and did about 13 miles.

I was Divisional Field Officer of the day on 18th December and had to ride round the camps of all the units in the Division and had to ride round and examine the guards after 12 midnight and it was a job finding them as they were all a good way off and scattered. However I managed to find them all right.

I rode to the Administrative Commandant on 16th December for orders and reported. The D.A.Q.M.G. asked me why I had no decoration ribbon on and I told him I hadn’t any but he said I should have one as he knew it was recommended. I informed him I did not desire one and he seemed annoyed but I found out afterwards that he himself received one a few days before. He asked if I was 2nd in command and I told him “No” and he said he would look into the matter.

Hostile aeroplanes bombed us today (17th December) and landed same unpleasantly near and close to our transport lines.

I had an attack of pleurisy on 19th December so did not get up and had poultices put on by the doctor and spent a very bad night. We were moving on 20th December and feeling a little better the doctor advised me to go by train. I went down to the station and got on to the hospital train but the doctor said if I went up on it I would require to go into hospital when I got there, but as we were making for El Arish I came out and went up on the water tank train and nearly had my inside shaken out. I got to El Mazar at 1.30 and went over to our camp and went to bed early.

We shifted on 21st December and owing to a mistake we did not get sufficient camels and had to dump several mess stores and bivouacs to be brought on but we never saw them again. We moved out about a mile and waited for rations. Each man had 3 days bully and biscuits and moved off again at 4.50 p.m. and marched abut 12 miles in the dark to El Bittia and got there at 10.30 p.m. and had to post outposts, a difficult job in the dark especially when you don’t know the country. My valise did not come up so I was pretty cold during the night.

We moved off at 6.30 a.m. on 22nd December and after a long and tiresome walk, we being the advance guard, got to El Arish at 11 a.m., our battalion being the first infantry to enter. We passed the Turkish positions on the way and they could have give us a pretty hot time if they had waited for us but left 2 days before. We had to march another 3 miles in the afternoon and dug outpost trenches. My company is on the sea so I will have plenty of bathing. We gathered a lot of wood from the shore for firewood as I knew it would be scarce and was lucky to get so much. A mine exploded on the shore here yesterday and killed two Australians. This place reminds me of Cape Helles with warships, lights etc about.

I attach a cutting from the “Egyptian Mail” which gives a good account of our march to El Arish.

I had a bathe in the sea today (23rd December) and enjoyed it very much.

We were bombed on the 24th December and some of the bombs dropped into the sea. The boats probably attracting them.

All this time we were living on base rations and Xmas dinner yesterday was the poorest I every had – Bully Beef and Biscuits! During the night rain came down in torrents and I was soon soaking and spent a miserable night.

We got a lot of stones from old Turkish gun pits and built a mess in the sand after digging well down and made quite a good job it and only want a roof over it to keep out the rain.

I saw the Clyde steamer “Marchioness of Irvine” here and wished I was on it and going down the Firth of Clyde.

I built a new bivouac above ground on the 27th and although small it is watertight and secure.

Nelson and I cut down a large tree on the 29th December for a cover for our mess. Tonight was the stormiest I ever experienced outside, with rain, wind, lightning and thunder and one of drifters ran or rather was washed ashore and put up rockets, and the sirens blowing kept me awake.

I went down to the shore on the 30th December to see the drifter and the crew were still on board and the waves dashing over it. Men tried to swim out with ropes and the artillery tried to fire a rope over but no use. Luckily they got off in the evening by several people joining hands and going into the water and the crew jumped over board and the current washed them to the human chain. I took several photos of the wreck.

We had the Australian padre to dinner on the 31st December and enjoyed his company very much.

On 1st January 1917 the Brigadier came round and wished me a happy new Year and then 2 hostile aeroplanes came over and dropped bombs for a greeting also. We had always to take cover especially from the Australian machine guns firing at them and the bullets landing right in my camp. The men had the first issue of rum here since coming to Egypt and it did a lot of good. We had a sandstorm today which lasted for 3 hours and when I came out of my bivouac the desert was covered with white sand and looked like snow.

The storm was very bad again last night (2nd January). On 3rd January we had one man killed and 1 injured by a dugout falling at “A” Company. Luckily I had warned my men of the danger and they were all right.

We had wet weather for some time but always managed to get dry for night.

My company played a football match with the artillery beside us and I visited Major Walker (now Brigadier General) and had an interesting talk with him and he showed me a large mask and pointed out where all the troops and Turks had been.

We were bombed heavily today, 7th January, and again at night when we were retired for the night.

Nelson and I made a very comfortable bivouac on 8th January and also got a few tents up today but only used a few for stores as they are too easily seen by aircraft.

We were bombed today (9th January) again but we escaped although 28 Egyptian labourers were killed and 18 wounded with one bomb. We covered our Mess with a tent and have an A1 mess now. The Australians had a successful raid and captured 1424 unwounded Turks, several officers and Germans, 194 wounded and killed 200, so we were quite pleased with the news. The Australians came back today.

On 11th January I rode out in front about 2 miles and saw the positions for our new line.

We were bombed again today (12th January) by aircraft.

We moved forward to our new positions on 21st January and unfortunately a sandstorm rose up and it was very uncomfortable while it lasted. I had a tent fitted up here for Nelson and myself.

The sandstorm came on today again (22nd January) and my tent was blown down and with the rain coming on it made a bit of a mess. However we got it up all right after a struggle.

Willie Law and Ernest Copestake arrived on 24th January. They had been on the “Ivernia” when she was torpedoed and Copestake had a pretty bad time of it in the water for 35 minutes

We were bombed again on 30th January.

Nelson and I rode to Divisional H.Q. on 31st January as we were both members of a General Court Martial on an officer, who was being tried for drunkenness. We were short of seats and the accused sat on a full case of whisky, which rather amused us. We got finished at 11 a.m. and rode to Brigade H.Q.

We were to be the battalion in practice attack this morning, 2nd February, and rode out about 3 miles in front and when we got there a sandstorm came on so it was cancelled and took place the following morning. I was in command and had a very hard strenuous day from 7.45 a.m. till 4.30 p.m. There was a mine washed up on the shore and I saw it today.

On 5th February I was in command of battalion practising counter attack today and got finished at 2 p.m.

I was out on reconnaissance on 6th February and met the brigadier who informed me he was sorry I did not get a decoration for Romani but said there was one coming. We had a night practice attack and got back at 10.30 p.m.

I was in command of battalion doing a practice rear guard action on 7th July. I walked back all the way over sand hills etc and did not get back till 3 p.m., feeling very tired.

On 8th February I got orders to go and reconnoitre a certain position. Our artillery had been registering and trying guns for some time and used to send us a note stating dangerous places to go to. I asked to see our copy and sure enough the place I was to reconnoitre was the part being shelled. I pointed this out to the Brigade and of course they saw the mistake but told me to go out as near as possible. I did so and got the information I wanted but if I had gone where I was supposed to go I would have had a hot time.

At 12.15 a.m. on 9th February we had a practice night attack by Brigade on a redoubt called Mount Murray and got finished at 5.50 a.m. and marched back to camp.

For some time back we were making permanent defences at front and round El Arish which was a large job and several Egyptian labourers were employed to assist us.

All our spare kit was packed up and sent off to Romani on 12th February. To give one an idea of the magnitude of the task in making trenches in the sand, we have to dig 20 feet wide and 8 ft deep as the sand was always falling in and then we put up the revetting material and sandbags and then fill the space up again. The continual sandstorms were a great nuisance and filled up the trenches very quickly with drift sand and kept us busy emptying them.

I rode round our old line of trenches with the Brigadier on 17th February as they are to be utilised as 3rd line of defence and then went and had tea with him.

Up to the 25th February we were still busy making defences and I had to show Sir Arch Murray the G.O.C. in C and his huge staff round my part of the line as the C.O. was out. I was acting as 2nd in command as Major Foster had gone to a necessary School of Instruction at Yeitoun.

I got a message on 4th March to go to Battalion H.Q. this forenoon to meet the Brigadier and met him coming up the defences with our Divisional Commander Major General Smith and accompanying them was Major General Hare who was our Brigadier on mobilisation. I had a long chat with him and he asked me about several officers.

Our spare kit was sent off again today, 5th March, as we are under orders to move.

Our Brigadier, General Girdwood, left us today to take over command of the 74th Division. We were all sorry to lose him but pleased about his promotion.

Our new Brigadier, General A..H. Leggett, is well known to all of us and we were delighted to hear he had got command of our Brigade.

I handed over to a Hants battalion on 6th March.

We moved off on 7th March and arrived at El Burg at 1 p.m. and then the C.O. and I rode round the outpost line and sent out companies to take it over.

We moved off at 9 a.m. on 8th March and marched 11 miles to Sheikh Zowaiid and got there at 2 p.m. gradually now leaving the desert behind and coming towards cultivation which is beautiful to see compared with the desert. I got a tent and so am very well off. We used one half as a mess and the other half Nelson and I slept in.

I was going out with the Brigadier on 11th March to see the Rafa battlefield but as a Sand storm came on when we were at the rendezvous it was cancelled so we came back.

On 12th March I rode out with the G.O.C Brigadier and several others passing El. Rasum, El. Magrunsen, Rafa and had all the line and battle explained to us and walked over the Turkish trenches.

I then rode on with some other officers and passed the boundary pillars between Egypt and Palestine and halted about 500 yards inside and had lunch.

The country had beautiful green fields with poppies, wild sweet peas, bluebells, marigolds etc. I was the first officer of our Brigade to enter Palestine thanks to my swift horse.

I entered my horse for the furlong Brigade race on 14th March and rode it myself today and won easily by 10 lengths. In the afternoon I had to go to the A.S.C. and be weighed for the races and turned the scales at 11 st 8 lbs which proved I was not losing any weight.

I rode in the Divisional 6 furlongs trial on 15th March but the G.O.C. next to me gave me a false start and after going about 500 yards had to come back and at the start got left as the flag fell when my horse was facing the wrong way, owing to the fractiousness of the G.O.C’s horse so had no chance, but wasn’t last.

I was Brigade Field Officer of the day on 17th March and rode round the various camps.

The C.O. left for Cairo today 18th March on leave but Major Foster returned so he is in command.

DI was President of a Board of Enquiry at the A.S.C. today 20th March.

As Major Foster went to the races at Rafa on 21st March I was left in command and had dinner at Brigade at night. I got in a word about my majority and was told it was going through all right.

We left at 7 a.m. on 25th March for Rafa 10 miles on and rested there from 12.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then marched off again to Khan Yunus which we reached at 10 p.m., another 10 miles, making 20 miles that day.

We got into roads of a kind between large cactus hedges but the roads had about 6 inches of fine dust and with the warm night and fatigue everyone had a beautiful thirst. I was fortunate to purchase a couple of large oranges and enjoyed them..

The first battle of Gaza was on today, 26th March, but we were in reserve and our men were used unloading ammunition and shells from the train and loading camels with it. I visited the town and took some photos and called in to see our fatigue parties.

I got word on 27th March that my promotion to Major had been recommended by G.H.Q. and gone on to the War Office.

40 German and 800 Turkish prisoners were brought in today.

We had no word how the battle had gone and was afraid it was not successful. Today, 28th March, there was a “meshee” wind on and the heat almost laid one out.

The C.O. returned from leave on 29th March.

We moved off on 28th March to In Seriat about 4 miles off and got there at 12.30 p.m.

I got word tonight,2nd April, that I had been awarded the Croix de Guerre (avec palm) and attach letter received from the Brigadier and extract from Division. I also had a nice letter from Major General Girdwood and congratulations from several others. The C.O. informed me I was expected to get a military cross also but it did not mature.

I had a ride out near Wadi Ghuzee on reconnaissance and saw the Turkish positions in the distance, also Gaza which looked very well with the sun shining on it.

We were ordered out to do a route march on 4thApril to deceive the Turks that we were retiring to draw them on but they were not having any. I often watched the whirlwind coming across lifting anything that came in its way and went up a huge distance like a column of smoke.

I went out at 9.30 a.m. on 5th April on reconnaissance, this time by the shore to about 2 miles from the Turks and saw our line of defence and Turkish positions. In the afternoon as I was Field Officer of the day I rode round the camps.

I was wakened early on 7th April by gunfire and it was supposed to come from a hostile submarine.

I was out in front on reconnaissance on 8th April and visited the Artillery control station and had good view from a telescope there.

I was out on reconnaissance again on 11th April as we knew we were going to attack shortly and naturally wanted as much information as possible.

I was Brigade Field Office again on 13th April.

Our hospitals were badly shelled this morning, 14th April, by the Turks and then they switched on to us and the 8th S.R. had some killed and wounded. I rode out to the Wadi Ghuzee and fixed up a place for battalion to dig in at as we were to be in reserve the first day.

Our camp was shelled again today, 15th April.

We moved out at 8 p.m. on 16th April and got over Wadi and dug in, in a barley field (over 2 ft high) which was wet and soon soaked us from the waist down and we did not get a sleep at all.

It was too warm to sleep on 17th April. The other brigades were in action and captured Mansura Ridge with little or no trouble which was their objective and at night we were moved up in support in case of a counter attack but none came and we returned at daylight.

I was out on reconnaissance in the next firing line at 18th April and got badly shelled and sniped at but got off safely. We moved out again at night.

The bombardment started at 5 p.m. on 19th April and made a fearful din, this practically being the first time we had really a lot of artillery. We were in extended order behind Mansura Ridge and as we were using gas shells and we were near artillery we had to put our flannel gas helmets on and with the heat we were nearly stifled.

We moved forward over the ridge and lay in reserve in a little valley which was badly shelled and we had several casualties. I had a splendid view of the battle and saw the tanks going forward but they were of little or no use, as they got stuck or were knocked out except one which got on to the Redoubt at Outpost Hill and must have done a lot of damage.

In the evening things were not looking too well as our Brigade and the adjoining one had suffered heavily having about 1½ to 2 miles of bare ground to cross without cover and several of the attackers were seen to come back. The Brigadier sent for me and I went up and he gave me orders to take out two companies and stop the men coming back and take up a new line and dig in. This should have been Major Foster’s job but he didn’t seem very keen on it.

I took “B” and “C” companies forward and after some trouble stopped the people coming back and reformed the line of 7th and 8th S.R. and some time after the Brigade Major came down and told me I had to join up with the battalion on my right. I arranged to start off at a certain time after having synchronised watches. I set out leading the two companies and not knowing the direction of the 4th R.S. and with only a telephone wire to guide us. Captain A.J. McGuffie was beside me. This wire had been laid out by the 4th R.S. in their attack and must have been pretty close at the hill called “Ali Muntar” and the 4th R.S. had come back also. I saw a huge dark mass of, as McGuffie and I thought, Turks, and were going to rush them when I remembered a cactus garden I had seen on a previous reconnaissance. I found a party of 4th R.S. who had lost their way going out with picks and shovels and tacked them on to my lot. I went on further and met the C.O. of the 4th R.S. (Col Goldthorpe) and asked him where his men were and he could only tell me “over there somewhere” and shouted he was fed up and going back to report matters. I pushed on further and came to a “T” in the wire and decided to go along it. We got several hundred yards when the wire finished and then I saw some people ahead and moved on and challenged them but they did not reply. However I went on and found it was the 4th R.S. and joined up and mighty glad they were to see us. I then took a compass bearing and McGuffie and I fixed the line we decided to hold and then spaced the men out. Part of my company had not come on under Captain D .R. Nelson and it transpired the M.S. section, who were not going forward had not told them we had moved so he went on with the 8th S.R. I tried to get in touch with the 8th S.R. and saw a “Veri Light” put up in the direction I thought they were in so I put up an answering one but got a rapid shower of bullets as evidently it was the Turks. The telephone wire being broken I set off to find the Brigade H.Q. and after a great deal of trouble found it having been told the wrong place to go to by the 4th R.S. and 7th R.S. I got there about 1 a.m (this being the 20th April). I explained to the Brigadier and my C.O. where I was, with my left on a road which I pointed out to them on a map but they said that could not be. I offered to guide them out but the signalling officer of the 4th S.R. said he could take them out by his line and I said that if he wanted a round about way they could go. However we set off with the other two companies “A” and “D” and when I came to the road my men were on I said “My men are here”. The signalling officer said it was further on so I got the C.O. and told him to come with me for 20 yards and then I said “Those are my men”. He asked and found I was right and then I called for Lt H.J. Forbes and asked him to tell the C.O. the line and he did, so that settled the matter. We dug in but had a few casualties and had one officer Lt John Russell, killed – a cheery officer we all miss The 8th S.R. were ordered to join up with us and I got no sleep that night.

After dawn we shot with Lewis guns several Turks and Bedouins who were out looting our dead. I was O.C. firing line and when the Brigadier came round I showed him the line.

On the 21st April I saw a wounded man crawling in from near the Turks and he seemed to be going to turn back when I got the men to shout to him and he waved and come in. It was here that Sergeant Anderson (Pte then), a brother of Captain J.R. Anderson, got the Military Medal, for carrying in wounded under fire and Corporal J.B. Lyons got mentioned in despatches.

We got back to a Nullah in the morning for a sleep and at night went out and dug a new and better line.

Some of the companies withdrew next morning (22nd) and I was left in command and made a dugout for myself. At night we were working again but I went to sleep (as I had had only 9 hours sleep in 6 days) and slept till 4 a.m.

I noticed two Turks on the ground outside our wire and sent out a patrol and captured them. The Brigadier came round and was very pleased as unwounded prisoners were wanted badly for information.

Every night we were kept busy making the trenches and I must say the men worked remarkably well and made trenches like I have never seen the equal of, even in France where they had plenty of material and we none.

This second battle of Gaza was described as a great success by General Sir Archibald Murray. If that is so, I think I never want to be in what he would call a slight check, as in comparison it would be the finish of the British Troops there.

I had a large canvas sheet fixed over a large hole we had dug and then filled it with water and the men all had a fairly decent bath which was badly needed.

I took over the firing line today (25th April) and got shelled here several times as the Turks could see our wire defences.

On 27th April I was attached to the artillery for instruction for 48 hours and there I had a very interesting time seeing how the guns were fired and orders given and spotting targets.

I took over Right Sector on 29th April and was in charge and got a fine dugout as my H.Q. and named it “Peebles Hydro” after Col Peebles of the 7th R.S. who had it before me.

We were shelled here persistently by 5.9 shells and coming to a bivouac a shrapnel burst quite close and we found that Donald Nelson had got a shrapnel bullet in the shoulder. My waterproof at the door of my dugout had 5 shrapnel bullet holes it in so I was glad I was out at the time.

I was lying in my dugout on 1st May when I got covered with dust as a Turkish shell exploded 2 yards behind my dugout and was thankful it was substantially built. I got word that I had been gazetted Major but only temporary from 1st October 1916.

We were shelled very heavily again on 2nd May – in fact it was a daily occurrence.

In the afternoon of the 3rd May I rode round to see the battalions of the 54th Division one night and found they had got ever so much more engineering materials for their comfort that our division. I learned afterwards the reason was most of ours were used for making wells on the way up and did not get it made up again.

I borrowed a camp bed on 4th May and had my first sleep in a bed since 5th March 1917 and enjoyed my sleep ever so much better. We had 4 hostile aeroplanes, bombing and machine gunning us from same.

We were heavily shelled on 5th May and some shells came so close that Lieut Fyfe who was acting adjutant heard that my H.Q. was knocked out and was coming over to see us and got a nasty one in the leg for his pains so Eric Watson became adjutant and was a change for the better.

I was still not feeling well on 7th May so took no part in the move to behind Sampson Ridge just riding on my horse and accompanying battalion did not feel right till the 9th.

The fireflies here are very interesting and you see bright little lights flying all about.

I built a new dugout on 10th May, digging a large hole in the sand first and then building up sandbags and was very comfortable in it. I had 12 men building it and at night I gave each a glass of whisky and they asked if I wanted another tomorrow on the same terms.

I met the Staff Captain at H.Q. today (12th May) and he informed me I would probably get home leave. I had the battalion out on fatigue working at Welsh Redoubt.

Captain Hutchison arrived today (13th May) and took command of “A” Company. I had battalion on fatigue today and coming back was shelled and at one time had just thrown myself flat when a piece of high explosive came over me.

I was on fatigue at front line trenches and put good work in to that done by the Welsh as most of what they had done had to be built properly. I called at the H.Q. of the 5th R.S. to see Lt Col Cook and the Brigadier came in while I was there. He told me he had pushed my home leave.

The battalion was out on fatigue under Major Foster making a new outpost at a place called “Baim’s Boil” in front of one line and had a covering party out. There was a “Kemsheen” wind on and it was stifling and a sandstorm had risen also. We worked till about 2.30 p.m. but the sand was blowing in almost as fast as we dug and little was done that night (20th May). We started to walk back and Major Foster managed to lose the way by trying to take a short cut but we managed after a little to get back to the battalion H.Q. we reported at. He then said “Lead home Blair” but I said “You are in charge”. He had his compass bearing to a wire road we had made and which led past one camp so he marched off. I informed him he was going too far to the left and he said it was to save going round a hill. I checked him several times and knew he was going wrong as we should have got to the wire road in about 20 minutes. He got rather ratty and said he couldn’t be wrong as his compass was at the right angle. I looked at it and found he had it clamped!. We were absolutely lost and it meant waiting for dawn but we found the wire entanglements in front of our own trenches and someone who had been up before knew the way from there and it was daylight before we got back and everyone was fed up.

To make matters worse the sandstorm had blown the roof of my dugout in and it was filled with sand. However I got under a blanket and went to sleep and after that had the dugout put right again.

I was very sorry tonight (21st May) to hear that Lieut Bowen, the Q.M. of the 8th S.R. was killed. I knew him well and he was a good friend to us all in Gallipoli. I rode over to his funeral on 22nd May. He was buried at Sheikh Neban near the Wadi Ghuzee. I met the Brigadier there and he told me my home leave was granted.

The Brigadier asked me round for lunch on 23rd May and gave me a letter of introduction to Brig. Gen. Delano Osborn at the War Office to arrange return passage. I told the C.O. I would probably leave on the 25th inst.

I rode off this afternoon (25th) with Barr and Coltart as they were going on local leave and got to Deir El Belah and had dinner with R.H. Smith and then got the train and was lucky to get a sleeping berth which was very much better than an open truck. I got out at El Arish and had a cup of tea.

I got a cup of tea at Romani on 26th and later arrived at Kantara.

I shifted to Port Said today (27th) and had dinner with some navel friends I had met before.

I went to Cairo on 29th to get some things to take home as there was not a boat going off for a few days.

I met Barr and Coltart on 30th and went to Cairo Zoo for the first time and enjoyed it very much indeed and took several photographs of the animals etc.

I returned to Port Said on 31st and arranged to take a passage on a French boat but my naval friends advised me not to as they said they were not clean and the food bad so I cancelled same and I was glad I did as it was torpedoed on the way to France.

I then booked with the P & o line and called on the Embarkation Officer to report and he asked where I was going to when I got to London so I told him I was going to the War Office. He told me he wanted me to be King’s Messenger and carry home the personal dispatches and to call at his office on the 3rd June 1919.

I arranged for my batman to be at the Quay with my luggage after lunch. I went and met the Embarkation Officer and I motored to the station with him and was introduced to the officer who brought the papers from Cairo. We then motored to the Quay and got a pinnace boat and had my luggage put on board and then sailed out to the “Kaisar-I-hind”. I was taken to the Captain’s office and introduced to him and told that if the boat was torpedoed I was to be saved at all costs. I was then handed the private satchel which was a leather case perforated and weighted and fastened on to my belt (it was to be on my person night and day) and was weighted in case we were torpedoed and if enemy came near I was to throw same over board. There were several bags of official mail for the War Office, perforated and weighted, but they were too bulky and I refused to take responsibility for them and so the Captain took them. He tested them all as he was the skipper on the “Arabia” when she was torpedoed and he said the mail bags floated about and would not sink. I had a fine stateroom all to myself but it cost me £15 for my passage to Marseilles and £2.7.0d to insure my luggage for £50. I sailed at 6.30 p.m. There were very few passengers on board as she was not a troop ship but the gentleman next me was a “King’s Messenger” also but “diplomatic service”. I asked if there was any truth about the Russians being so bad and he said he had just come from Russia where he was investigating about shells we had sent out to them and he found out the Russians were selling them to the Germans. You were not supposed to travel in uniform and luckily I had a suit of mufti with me. I met several people on board and enjoyed the journey very much.

We arrived at Malta on 6th June and I got ashore and called at the Union Club and saw Duncan Law and then came back to the ship.

I went ashore again on 7th June and met Peter M Dunlop and he came on board with me and left just before the boat sailed at 7.30 p.m.

I woke up next morning and found we were lying at St Pauls Bay, Malta as 7 submarines chased us but fortunately the speed of our boat was too much for them.

We arrived at Marseilles at 12 noon on 10th June and enjoyed the beautiful scenery coming in. I went ashore at night with several others after dinner and went to the Palais Chrystal pictures and music hall and enjoyed it very much and got back to the boat about 11.30 p.m.

I booked a berth on the Continental Express on 11th June to get to London quickly and it cost me £4.1.0d although I was supposed to travel free on the railway. However I got it refunded by the War Office after a great deal of bother but nothing else from them so it was not a money making enterprise.

The train left at 1 a.m. and it was a delight to see the beautiful trees and green grass and decent cultivation. We passed Avignon, Lyons, Paris (and near here the refreshment car ran off the line. The bump wakened me but no one was hurt).

I got to Boulogne about 2 p.m. on 12th June and had a walk round as the boat did not leave till the evening and arrived at Folkestone and I had a seat booked in the dining car and got to London at 1 a .m. on 13th June and had a job to get a room at an hotel. However there was a double bedded room at the Charing Cross Hotel so a young fellow on the boat and I shared it.

I went to the War Office and delivered up dispatches – they were expecting me and I got a receipt for same. I then called and saw Brig. Gen. Debano Osborne and he said he would write and let me know when I could have an indulgence passage back (i.e. paying for food only). He took me to the Promotion Department and I put my case before them and found Major Foster was my junior and they promised to put it right. I got the train in the afternoon and arrived at Central Station, Glasgow, at 11.5 p.m. and was pleased to see my wife and son waiting for me there. I was on leave till 11th July 1917 and needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed my leave. Everyone was so keen to hear about the Gaza ‘victory’ (?) and I enlightened several.

I left Central Station at 9.45 p.m. on 11th July, my wife accompanying me, and got to London next morning at 8 a.m.

I saw my wife off in the train on 13th July to Glasgow and then got the train myself to Southampton. I got on to the “Viper” which used to sail to Belfast and knew the Chief Steward and Chief Engineer and the latter gave me the 2nd Engineer’s Cabin as he was on leave so I had a comfortable bunk as there were none for officers crossing. We sailed at night and early next morning arrived in France and I stayed in the Hotel Etoile.

I left Cherbourg at 10.20 a.m. on 16th July and was O.C. train, the first to go the new route through France and Italy.

On 17th we passed Alencon, La Hutte, and halted at Colombieres where we had breakfast.

I had a fine first class compartment in a corridor carriage to myself and as I had laid in a good stock of refreshments they came in very handy and I made several good friends on board the train. We passed Le Mans, Chateau Du Loie; Tours, Bourse, Thierzai, Rombrantin, Vierzon, Bourges, and St Amand. All through the French people gave us a great reception The scenery was very pretty.

On 18th July we passed Moulins, Gillay, Varay le Monial, La Chazette and arrived at St Germains at 6 p.m. where we detrained and went to a rest camp near the station and I got a tent to myself.

We left St Germains at 3 p.m. on 19th July and got on to the same train again and passed Colonnes de Fontaine, Amberieux, Coulay, Aix le Baines, (a really beautiful place there the late King Edward used to frequent), Chamberg, Grenablen, Voghera and at the latter place we had a great reception, the people giving us beautiful flowers. We passed St Jean, Modane on the borders of Italy and then motor engines were put on to the train which was for the Mont Cenis Tunnel as no smoke is used in it. It took us 17 minutes to get through this tunnel with the train going at full speed. We went through the Alps and the scenery was magnificent. We went along the mountain side, giving one an impression how the earth would look from an aeroplane. It was very warm here but the hilltops were covered with snow. We passed Turin, Asti, Alexandine, Voghern, where we got out and had a hot dinner. During this time we had been having rations issued to us on the train and only got hot tea at places. We passed Stradella, Plaisance, Borgo San Domingo, Reggio, Modena, Bologne, Imola and Faenza. I stayed at the Corona Hotel here and was very comfortable and I was surprised at the cheapness of everything but I learned afterwards that people passing through later had to pay higher prices. We left here at 9 p.m. on 22nd July and passed Forli, Cesena, Rimini and Pesaro.

On 23rd July we passed Senigallia, Arnona, Fermo, Grostamere, Giulianova, Monepagano, Castellamere (where we halted for 4 hours), Ortona, Astoria, Vasto, Termoli, San Severo, Foggia, Barletta, Trani. We passed miles of vines, walnut and fig trees etc.

On 24th July we passed Molfetta, Bari, Mola-di-bari, Monopoli, Brindisi, Mesagne, Fontana, Grottaglia and then arrived at Taranto about 2 p.m. and walked down to the beach and got a lighter over to the “Kinfauns Castle”. I met the Embarkation Officer here and had met him at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, so he introduced me to the skipper. I shared a nice forward cabin on the top deck with a Major Smith of the R.E. and was very comfortable. We sailed at 7 p.m.

The Italian navy gave us a good send off on 25th July, all lining the decks on parade. We got to Corfu in early morning and lay there all day but were not allowed ashore. From the boat it looked very pretty. We sailed at 5.30 p.m. The O.C. ship was Lt. Col. Stuart Richardson and he was very decent to the officers going back from home leave and so I had no duty to do on board. The Military Embarkation Officer was going to put us on a roster for duty but I said I would not pay indulgence passage if I had to do duty and that finished the duty.

We got into Navarino, Greece, at 8 a.m. on 26th July and lay there all day. We sailed at 7.30 p.m.

We arrived at Suda Bay, Crete, at 8 a.m. on 27th July, passing the torpedoed “Minnewaska” lying half out of the water, with the bow on land. On the night of the 25th/26th we spotted a hostile submarine but it did not fire on us. We sailed at 7.30 p.m. and got into Alexandria on the morning of the 29th when Dr Sieger of Greenock, whom I knew, came on board as Medical Port Officer and the Military landing officer, and he took me to his chief in a motor car as I had to make a report of the journey for G.H.Q. and made several suggestions for improvements which I was pleased to see duly appeared in Routine Orders. In the evening I called at the Union Club in Alexandria and met several officers I knew and had dinner later on at the Majestic Hotel.

I left Alexandria on 31st July and got a train to Benha and changed and got a train to Kantara and arrived there at 3 p.m. I stayed a few days here waiting for orders to proceed up the line.

On 1st August I was in Port Said and meeting several friends waited the night. I met one Padre and he told me Major Foster had gone home and would not be back which was just as well for him as I would have been 2nd in command. I got the train back to Kantara on 2nd August.

I got the train up the line at 6 p.m. on 3rd August travelling with several Australian officers and we had quite a nice time going up.

I got to Deir el Belah at 7 a.m. on 4th August and after a cup of tea rode up to the transport lines and got a wash and found out where battalion were and got to batallion H.Q. a 12 noon and all were pleased to see me and I took over as 2nd in command. We had considerably improved dugouts here. (Mansura Ridge). I learned in my absence the battalion had done a very successful raid and Captain H.C. Maclean got a Military Cross for same and two men the Military Medal. The Divisional Commander was delighted as I heard him tell the C.O.

The 7th H.L.I. relieved us on 5th August and I left at 10 p.m. and got to our rest camp at 11.30 p.m. at Wadi Simeon.

I took over from the C.O. on 7th August as he was going on leave at 2.30 p.m. so I am in command again. The Brigadier came round to see me and I had a long talk with him.

I hurt my thumb with a button hook today (8th) and after a time lost the nail and it took a long time to get better.

I went to Brigade H.Q. at 1.45 p.m. on 9th August to a conference as a stunt was to take place by the Australians so the Brigadier, and 4 C.Os rode out on reconnaissance to Wadi Sihan and had a cavalry escort. I had a good view of positions I was to take up and took compass bearings. In a ruined farm garden I had a good feed of prickly pears, tomatoes and green figs and got back at 2 p.m.

I took my company commanders out to the same place today (10th) and got back at 12 noon after fixing up routes and allocating positions.

I had to go out on reconnaissance again today (11th) and changed my route as the way we intended going was going to be too congested and we got back in time for lunch and went to Brigade H.Q. for a final talk and orders and told what was taking place. The Australians were going to raid Attwinen Redoubt and we were to move out and take positions on their left to save them from being attacked on the flank. We moved off at 7 p.m. and it was pitch dark by 7.30 p.m. and we had a job to get out to our places but were in our positions by 10 p.m. In fact my battalion was the only one to be in place by the time stated and had lines laid to Brigade and reported my battalion in position. We had patrols up to near the Turkish positions and as nothing took place we gradually started retiring back to camp commencing at 12.30 a.m. I got my battalion away from my H.Q. by 1.15 a.m. and got through our entanglement and under the skyline before it was dawn but had a little difficulty in finding our camp owing to several large wadis stopping our passage and got to the 8th S.R. lines and from there to our own camp at 3 p.m. and was first battalion in. The Brigadier came round and complimented us on the work of battalion getting to position so quickly and reports sent in.

The C.O. returned on 15th August and I handed over to him.

I was a member of a General Court Marshall for a Captain in the R.A.M.C. and after it was over had a talk and tea with the Brigadier at his mess.

The Brigadier was over at our church service in the evening (19th) and just after a hostile aeroplane came over and dived at our observation balloon and fired incendiary bullets at it and the observer came out in double quick time in his parachute. The General pinned a Military Cross Ribbon on Captain H.C. Mclean and Military Medal on Sergeant Brooks and Private Burley for the successful raid and waited and had dinner with us.

I rode out to Warley and Brentwood Redoubts on 20th and saw new line we were taking over.

On 23rd August I superintended the taking over of the line leaving at 7 p.m. and I reported to H.Q. at Benford’s corner that the relief was complete at 8.40 p.m. and the C.O. of the battalion we relieved was surprised at it being done so quickly. I learned today about my permanent majority dated back to 1st June 1916 but it really should be dated to 12th July 1915.

24th and 25th August I went round the posts and gave orders for improvements to be made.

I went to Warley and Brentwood Redoubt on 26th and saw the trenches when there.

On 27th I rode down to Deir el Belah to the Canteen and got up stores for the men which were very welcome. It was a long ride down and back again. In fact it took me 3 hours to ride down and 3 hours to ride back as you are not allowed to trot or canter on the loose sand.

I rode to Deir El Belah on 3rd September and managed to get some large barrels of beer and some ice and several other stores.

I was President of a Court Martial at the 8th S.R.H.Q. on 3rd September and rode over and on the way back called at Brigade and had lunch with the Brigadier.

I rode to Deir El Belah again on 10th September and got a lot of canteen stores. There were several cyclones and tornadoes today and it was very uncomfortable if you ran into one, the dust rising to some hundreds of feet in the air at times.

We were relieved on 12th September by the Ghurkas and did not get away till 10 p.m. as our signallers had difficulty in handing over telephones, not speaking their language. I walked over to our new camp at Apsley House and got there at 11 p.m. We had fine mess here in a fig orchard and were very comfortable.

The Brigadier had a conference on 15th September of all C.Os and 2nds in command and adjutants at our H.Q. while the new Divisional Commander Major General John Hill came round and we were all introduced to him.

I went to the canteen at Deir El Belah on 17th and after getting stores rode over to the Divisional Rest Camp on the shore to see Captain Hutchison who is in charge of it and had a bathe while there.

On 18th September I was in charge of Battalion, the first we had for a long period. The Brigadier came round and thanked me for clearing other divisions out of the canteens. Every Monday was reserved for the 52nd Division in the Wholesale Department but all the Divisions used to come down so I objected and got them cleared out which was not only of great advantage to us but to the Canteen people also.

We had the Divisional Brass Band round playing at our place tonight (19th) and enjoyed it very much.

The Divisional commander was round this morning (20th) watching our training. The C.O. and I dined at Brigade at night and then attended a very successful concert arranged by our battalion.

I was Brigade Field Officer of the day (21st) and inspected all the camps and then mounted the Brigade Guards in the evening with band in attendance.

I rode to the canteen at Deir El Belah on 24th for stores and next day I was asked by Brigade if I would divide Divisional stores which had come up so I did so.

I attended a conference on 26th September at our H.Q. and we were told we were to be in the next stunt. We had another successful concert tonight.

On 27th September the C.O. asked me to make up a scheme for attack and it took me all forenoon and when I showed it to him, it was the same as the one he had made up.

I was Brigade Field Officer today (29th) and rode round the camps and saw Sergeant Major Donald Hunter of the 8th S.R. who lately got the D.C.M. I put him in for it in Gallopoli and it took 2 years before he got it. I issued several more Canteen stores for Brigade and made out accounts and took them to Brigade and they mounted the Brigade Guards. At night I attended a Brigade concert.

On 1st October I rode to the Canteen at Deir El Belah and got stores.

We were inspected by the Brigadier this morning (2nd October) and he told us he was giving us the place of honour in the coming attack and was sure we were the best battalion in the Brigade so we were quite pleased with ourselves. We had General Allenby as our G.O.C. in C this time and the only one who has been any good and we all had great confidence in him which we never had in the others. We marked out ground similar to trenches we were to attack.

We rehearsed over the marked ground in the afternoon (3rd) and at night when dark.

We rehearsed today again (4th) to give the men every chance of knowing places and trenches.

Captain J.R. Anderson was to meet the Brigadier at Milton Park (8th) but at the last minute I got word to go in his place as he could not get away. I had to ride off in shorts and only got a map reference about 8 miles away and had a job to find the place but got there and inspected men and then went to meet the Brigadier and he said after pointing out the area that we could ride round and see it, but I thought it was not necessary and said so and he agreed so I rode back to our camping area and arranged about taking over from the Denbighshire Yeomanry. On riding past Red Farm one of our aeroplanes was just over me and the other Turks were firing at it and 2 shells exploded and 3 nose caps landed quite close to me and my horse got a fright but I cantered away from the unhealthy spot and when sitting in my bivouac later on some parts of H.E. fell round my bivouac and in fact one very jagged piece came through but missed me. The battalion rehearsed the attack tonight again. Our M.C. Captain Rex Stansfield made a very neat model of Umbrella Hill which we are to attack, modelled to scale, and it gives a very good idea of the place.

We shifted tonight (6th) and it was very dark. I guided the battalion and knew the way (about 6 miles) to Regent Park and had companies in their areas by 8.20 p.m. The C.O. and Adjutant went a route by themselves and got lost and were last to come in.

I went round the line at Sampson Ridge we were taking over tonight (7th) and we moved out at 5 p.m. and got companies to their areas. I have a fine secure dugout here and am very comfortable, part of the battalion being in Cainarvon Redoubt.

I rode down to the Canteen at Deir El Belah today (8th) for stores.

We had a patrol out tonight (11th) and had one man killed.

While round the front line today (14th) I saw a hostile aeroplane brought down by a direct hit from an anti aircraft gun. I had a good view of the Turks positions from a new observation post and witnessed some fine shooting by our artillery. We were relieved tonight and I left at 8 p.m. and moved down to Regent Park.

On 15th I rode down to the Canteen at Deir El Belah.

Eric Watson left us today (16th) to go to a home job and Hector Maclean became Adjutant.

I was president of a Court Martial at the 8th S.R. today (18th).

I rode down to the Canteen at Deir El Belah on 22nd and got a fine supply of stores. We had 12 men wounded by a stray shell which landed in a platoon just forming up for parade.

We bombarded the Turks very heavily tonight (25th).

On 26th we practised the attack again and every man is now familiar with his job. We are bombarding the Turks heavily every day and some deserters are coming in and feel very fed up.

We were inspected by the Divisional Commander on 30th October and he told us we were going into action shortly. The battalion went up to the line tonight and I was left in charge of the brigade details at Deir El Belah Rest Camp, much to my disgust as I wanted to be in the stunt but was told certain officers had to be left to reorganise or take command if necessary. I had a tent here and got my spare kit so was very comfortable. All this time back our bombardment of the Turks was very heavy and one of our monitors blew up one of their ammunition dumps. We brought down a hostile aeroplane and got 110 prisoners although the stunt had not commenced.

The din of the bombardment on 31st Oct / 1st Nov was terrific and about 10.30 p.m. was the loudest I have ever heard and I went up to a hill to watch it and knew the battle was on. Our battalion was the first to open the ball and took Umbrella Hill after a sharp fierce struggle, in fact the place was taken inside of 15 minutes as everyone knew his job. We had several casualties, including Lieut J.D. Smith killed, a very popular officer who was very much missed. I want down to the casualty clearing station and saw 2nd Lt J Gray who was acting quartermaster who was badly wounded and saw several of the men and got accounts of the fight. Lieut J.D. Smith and Lieut T Haydock were wounded also. I then called at the Canteen and sent up some stores to the battalion and to the Brigade.

The Turks counter attacked twice but were driven off and we had over 3000 prisoners at the Prisoners Cage and I saw them being sent off.

Things were quiet in front on 6th November and a patrol sent out by us reported the Turks gone and sure enough it turned out to be the case. The trenches we captured were excellently consolidated and our unit was the only one which took the objective and held it without being relieved although subjected to intense concentrated artillery fire as Umbrella Hill was an outstanding feature. The C.O. got a well deserved bar to his D.S.O. Coltart, Stansfield, Bird, McWilliam and W. D. Anderson all got the MC.. and several of the N.C.Os and men got D.S .Medals and L/Cpl Pollock captured a hostile machine gun single handed, killed three of the crew and turned the gun on the others and should have got V.C. but only got D.S.M. I rode up to the battalion and got there in the afternoon and brought up a large supply of stores with me.

We thought the men would get a good rest now but next morning (8th) we got up at 2 a .m. and packed up and moved off at 5 a .m. as the Turks were retiring and we wanted to press them. We moved to Ajlin and then Sheikh Hassan and up coast about 7 miles and bivouaced and I rode round the outpost line.

9th November we moved up the coast to Wadi Nesi and got orders to go on to Ascalon and meet the Brigadier and find out new positions to take up. Hector Maclean and Archie Bird came with me and we saw the line and waited for the battalion to come out. It must have been a beautiful place before it was ruined and very historical. It was a bit eerie waiting for the battalion and thinking they were rather long in coming out I walked down to the shore and met the advance guard and led them in. I showed the companies the lines to take up.

I rode round the new lines with the C.O. on the 10th and then the Brigadier came out and cancelled it as we had to push on and we got to El Medjel about 2 p.m and camped in an orchard and got green oranges from the trees and enjoyed them immensely. I was wakened at night by a jackal growling and shone my torch and it was at the door of my bivouac and I got my revolver and was going to shoot it when I saw Captain Phillips bivouac in line with my revolver so chased it away. I found next morning that the jackals had done away with a large tinned ham which we had just opened. We saw some thousands of prisoners being brought in here. We moved on to Esdud today and took up an outpost line and it took me 2 hours to go round it at night.

12th November we were in reserve and got orders to take forward 3 companies and moved up to second position to capture a village called Burkah. The 7th R.S. and 8th S.R. were attacking. I was to use my discretion and put forward my men when I considered necessary.

While in a shallow captured trench we were heavily shelled and pushed forward. I then got orders that the assault was to take place and pushed on 2 half companies on either flank and filled gaps, “B” company under Capt Nelson occupying position in vicinity of Pink House. We charged and captured the position and killed several and took some prisoners. The Turks bombed us but we routed them and then we consolidated the position. I was senior officer in charge as when I came up Major Ewing of the 7th R.S. went back so I came and reported capture but Col. Peebles of the 7th R.S. would not believ me and I had to get our C.O. and tell him and he knew it was all right when I told them. He had difficulty in getting the Brigade to believe it also and I sent back a wounded officer to explain the position to them.

I had no blanket or coat and it was bitterly cold and I got no sleep at all.

I had only one man killed so we got off lightly. This was a great victory and altered all the moves and allowed us to push on. We moved out to Beshshit and remained there the night and there was great rejoicings when we gave orders to make tea. One enjoys tea more than anything after a stunt when you have not had it for some time.

14th November I took the Battalion out to El Mughar and saw 1500 prisoners being brought in. We advanced in support to the 7th H.L.I. to Bin El Ghuzhan. We were held up as the 7th H.L.I. got to Mansurah without a fight, so I lay down under a small tree in a slight plantation for a sleep and was wakened by being shelled. It was caused by artillery limbers (4 of them) driving across the open and I got up and shifted about 50 yards and I had only got there when a shell burst on the very spot I had been lying on. Unfortunately my horse was killed here. I told the groom to take it back but he didnt and therefore I was without a horse. We formed a line here for the night and the C.O. went out and got lost and telephoned from the 8th S.R. to meet him so Coltart and I went out with signalling lamps and after some trouble he came across us.

I moved forward on 15th to Mansura and we were billeted in a small farm but I did not fancy the stone floors so had by bivouac put up outside. My heels had been very badly skinned latterly walking over the ploughed fields so I got them attended to here.

I got up early this morning (18th) and rode to Ludd as I had to meet the Brigadier there. I rode alongside the Turkish railway passing Naaneh and passed several dead horses which smelt very badly and passed several Turkish timber wagons and motor lorries broken down. I then rode through Ramleh which looked very pretty from a distance but very dirty inside. I tied up my horse at the school at Ludd. While there an old woman came to me and said “Jesus Bread” and motioned me to come over to a house. I went over and found several women there round the body of a young woman waiting to be buried. The Chief Rabbi came in while I was there and asked if I had any bread as they were starving and I gave them what I had in my haversack. I was there at 9.30 a.m. but the Brigadier did not arrive till 11 a.m. as the Divisional car had broken down on the way. The other C.O.s also came up and we rode off passing Beit Nabala up through large rocky mountains and difficult country to ride over, to Hadisheh; Deir Abu Selamel; Jimzu; Annabel, all villages on old Roman Forts to find an outpost line to cut off the Turks. We then rode back to Ramalah (where the Turks had their main aerodrome) and saw several of their machines lying destroyed and met the battalion who had come up during the day. I had no food from 6.30 a.m. as I had given away mine. This was in the evening and I just got in with the Brigadier after about over a 30 miles ride when a staff officer met us and told us we were on the move shortly. The Brigadier was wild and left to tell the higher people his opinion. I only got time to eat some bully and biscuits and was very sore after so long in the saddle. I knew it would be useless to move as the road was jammed and said so to the C.O. and sure enough we moved at 6 p.m. and at 12 midnight we had only moved a mile. To make matters worse the rain came on and we got orders to bivouac in a field. I got my bivouac put up and Archie Bird and I shared it. I had a Tommy’s cooker and made some cocoa and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We moved to Ludd and over the Judean hills to Beit Likia, about 16 miles, but not a man fell out which I think is a record. All this time the men and officers were in khaki shorts and tunics with no blankets and no greatcoats and we put out outposts and allowed the men to light fires as it came on very wet and up in the hills it was ever so much colder.

I was out on reconnaissance today (20th) and had a good look round. I had a camel leaving Deir El Belah with stores 2 or 3 days after I left and it arrived today and was very welcome as we were living on bully and biscuits. We also bought some sheep for 10/3d each but they were pretty thin and had fine liver and kidneys and mutton, but we had no salt and missed it very much.

We moved off today (22nd) at 7 a.m. further over the mountains. It was very cold and I walked for the first two hours. We passed Beit Anan, El Hubeibeh, where there was a fine monastery belonging to the Italians who were still in it, but feeling rather depressed as the Turks had passed through 2 days previously and the German officers with them told them that Italy was defeated (during the setback by the Austrians). However they were quite relieved when they heard the correct news from us.

We marched on to Biddu and were shelled and then told to go on about 4 miles and take a village called Neby Samwil (where Samuel the Prophet was buried) It stood very high and there was a large mosque on top with a huge minaret and it was being heavily shelled also.

I met Major General Palin there who commands the 75th Division and I spoke to him and asked him the position but he did not know it. However we pushed on down steep terraced banks and across a plain, getting heavily shelled, and my coat which was on my horse got covered with blood from a wound on the C.O’s horse. The hill was 2935 feet above sea level (which we started from). The Hants had taken one part of the village, including the mosque, and the Turks were in the other half. I saw the Brigadier Charles McLean who used to be with one division and used to be very particular as to his dress but he had a 3 days growth on and very dirty. I gave him a bottle of whisky at which he was delighted and while there we got word that the Hants had lost the mosque. We had A.B. and D companies in the line and only C company in reserve and he told me we had to take the mosque back at all costs. I told the C.O. and C company got orders to take the mosque back. Captain J.R. Anderson, Lieut W.M. D Anderson and 2nd Lt Elliot (Royal Scots) attacked, took them forward (about 75 all told) and took the mosque back in good style although outnumbered by over 4 to 1. However we lost about 40 men here and Lt Elliot was killed. I went up to the mosque passing several dying and dead Turks, Ghurkas and our own men and stretcher bearers were kept busy, after having properly dealt with 3 Turks who were firing on our men after they had retaken the mosque and put other three prisoners on to bury dead horses and dig graves. Things were fairly quiet during the night but we did not get much sleep owing to the cold. We were heavily shelled and sniped by rifle and even machine gun fire and had to lie low most of the day but I went up to the hill to get a view of Jerusalem and just got a glimpse of some of the towers when the shelling started heavily and I had to come back. M. Millan, G Watson, A Dunlop and A Bird were all wounded here and it was a job getting the wounded away on camels which was not the least comfortable. Capt J. R. Anderson was badly wounded and I saw him at the aid post and spoke to him and thought he was getting on all right but I got word later that he died in hospital at El Ruberbeh. I am certain he would have got an M.C. if he had lived for retaking the mosque. I went up and round the line tonight and complimented Capt McGuffie and Corporal Lipsett on the good work they were doing. We also lost a lot of men who had come through Gallipoli. It was a pitiful sight at the aid post of men dying and dead all lying about. I must say that Padre Spence did splendid work and arranged the burial of several. We found a large cave here and shifted our H.Q. back to it.

We moved out today (24th November) to attack if another village (El Jib) was captured on our flank. The C.O. and I took different routes and deployed, waiting for the other village to fall. I got a piece of high explosive in my thigh here. Luckily it struck a stick which I had been carrying and which was against my thigh at the time. It broke the stick and made a nasty gash in my thigh. I got my field dressing put on and as we were short of officers I remained on duty and also because I not fancy the ride to hospital on the camels.

We were recalled at 7 p.m. as the 155th Brigade had failed to take the village. I had a very hot piece of shelling before we went out and the Brigade Major Captain Franklin got a nasty one in the leg before we moved off. Our mess cook McNeil got badly wounded here and also our mess dixies. I got my leg dressed when I got back to our cave. I got a wire here telling me Capt J.R. Anderson had died which was a great shock to me. We had quite a busy time here sniping Turks who were out looting the dead. We were to be relieved by the 17th London Regiment tonight. The C.O. (Col Sword who became our Brigade Major after battalion re-organised in 1919) arrived at 8 p.m. and at 9.30 p.m. I showed him round the line although I was pretty lame.

The battalion arrived at 2 a.m. on 26th November and we did not get away till 5 a.m. as they were very slow at taking over. To make matters worse our route was in view of the Turks and we wanted away before dawn so had to hurry and get off the track and over the hills and just managed and no more. We passed Biddu and El Kubeibeh and I called in at the hospital there and saw several of our wounded officers and men, also the Brigade Major who was looking very ill. I am sorry to say he died that night. I walked on to Beit Anan and halted here and I met the Brigadier and he asked about my wound.

I attended the Brigade Major’s funeral this afternoon (27th). I called in at the hospital on my way back with cigarettes for some of my men and had tea there and the hospital was shelled while I was there.

We moved back past Beit Likia on 28th to rest and re-organise and were halted at Beit Sira as an action was in progress and were told to wait till matters cleared. We had just got settled down in reserve when we got word that the situation at Beir Ur El Tahta was in a critical condition and we were sent up about 2 miles in support. We got there and found the Yeomanry holding the line and several hundred dead horses lying about and there was a horrible smell about. We put 3 companies (what was left of them) in the firing line and kept one in reserve. The Yeomanry were delighted to see us as they had had a pretty thin time. We were badly shelled and machine gunned here and enfiladed also.

During the night (29th) Captain A. J. McGuffie was killed while leading his men forward to a new position. This officer had done excellent work all along and I am certain if he had lived he would have got a D.S.O. In the forenoon we were badly shelled and the Brigade Major of the Yeomanry (Bell Irving) got a direct hit from a shell, killing him instantaneously quite close to me. We had an officer killed here named McGillivray, attached from A & S.H. During an action here this officer was shot through the forearm and carried on, shot again in the leg and carried on, and then was shot through the head and to my mind fully earned a V.C. but nothing came of it. Capt Nelson was wounded here very slightly. This place was so bad that I thought it was the finish for us and had made up our minds to fight to the last and captured some 17 Turks and beat the attackers off..

We were relieved at night by the 17th H.L.I. and moved back a very small battalion to Beit Sira. Our battalion had made a great name for itself and an Australian Brigade gave us a great reception. Of the 5 officers left at Details Camp during Gaza action 3 were killed, 1 badly wounded and myself wounded.

On 1st December I moved back to Al Baraduk, about 4 miles back, and got there at 9 p.m. – a pretty slow move as there was so much traffic and guns going up after the fighting was finished.

We moved to Amwas on 2nd December and then to Hubab where we bivouaced, and on 3rd December moved off again and passed through Ramleh and on about 2 miles where we bivouced.

I rode into Ramleh today (3rd) and bought two bottles of cognac. I also bought a half sheep which only cost 11/0d.

It was pouring wet today (7th) and we moved off at 2 p.m. to go about 9 miles. We soon were soaked and sticking in the mud and did not get to our destination at Selmeh after a circular tour of nearly 20 miles as the Brigade had lost the way and everyone was fed up to the teeth and the men passing some very caustic remarks. Some dropped out with fatigue and collapsed in the mud. We made tea and drank whisky and waited up all night as we were all afraid to lie down in case of pneumonia.

My valise and bivouac arrived at 8 p.m. and I had the bivouac put up and lay down and fell asleep till 12 p.m. and then had lunch. I had just finished when I got orders to ride to Sarona and meet the Staff Captain and fix billets for the battalion. The rain was still on and I struck across country and got into Sarona, a Germany Colony, but the men had been cleared out and only the women left, all Germans. Our H.Q. was very comfortable and after leading the battalion in I had a hot bath and then showed the Brigadier round the billets. There was a large wine distillery here where we got beautiful red wine for three.

I took a census of the live stock in one part of the village today (10th) for the Brigade.

I found several sheets of approval stamps today (11th) when I was taking an inventory of the furniture and gave them to the Brigadier for his boys.

I chose new billets for the details today (12th). We moved up to the Jerisheh Line in the evening and completed relief by 8.40 p.m.

I visited the front line on 13th and had to go through some orange groves and had some fine oranges on the way. One of our posts stood on high ground and I had a fine view of the River Ariga and the village of Sheikh Muannis. In the afternoon of the 14th I showed Brigadier General Pollok McCall round the line.

I went out as O.C. “A” Co tonight (15th) to let Lieut Forbes have a night’s rest and went round the outposts during the night and tried to get a hostile patrol without success.

We moved back to Sarona on the 18th, I being in command, the relief being completed at 8 p.m.

It was pouring today (20th) and we were glad to see it as we had to attack and cross the Auja tonight. We moved off at 7.15 p.m., very wet and cold, and got to the River and crossed by a pontoon bridge made by our Engineers. Captain Mather was in charge of a screen at bridge head. We crossed the bridge in single file and then set out for our objective North West corner. We had to march across mud up to our knees and were shelled heavily on the way and marching was very difficult. We got to the farm at North West corner and cleared and captured same and cleared the orange grove and captured 20 Turks. It was 1 a.m. before we got in and I slept in an engine room (for a well) after organising the line. The Brigadier arrived at 3 a.m. and a 6.30 a.m. I was sent with a strong patrol through Sheikh Muannis and captured several boxes of ammunition of all kinds and got some useful information as I had an interpreter with me. We also got a few Turks including a Turkish Artillery Officer who did not know we were in possession. The Turks had taken all the doors and shutters off the houses for revetting trenches and had taken all the furniture and food away.

I came back through the orange grove and found two wounded Turks and put them in charge of the 7th R.S. In the afternoon I went down to the River and bombed it and got some fine fresh fish which we all enjoyed.

We moved off at 8.30 a.m. on 22nd December to attack again and were the directing battalion of the Division and I was in command of the firing line. We advanced 3 miles before we met the Turk but he had the wind up and fled. I sent for the cavalry to advance but they did not come or otherwise we would have had large captures. We chased him and then the cavalry passed us (too late) and we took up a position at Tel el Nurizeh, near El Tilil, the rain came down in torrents and it blew a perfect gale and at 4.30 a.m. my bivouac blew in but my batman was near and he just pegged it down over me and I was quite snug. However the C.O. was not so fortunate and his batman Pte J Wright was well shouted at for his pains. I got up at 7 a.m. and my valise and blankets were soaking but I was fairly dry myself. I had my bivouac repitched and my clothes dried during a lull in the storm. I built a mess here with the doors etc we captured in the Turkish trenches and were fairly comfortable.

It was a miserable wet Christmas and I went over to Brigade H.Q. and issued canteen stores for them. The Brigadier had a fine new hut just built but as he was going into reserve in Sarona he handed the hut over to me for the trouble I had taken with the canteen stores and needless to say I was delighted. . Col Peebles came along and tried to bag it as he was senior but I told him I had the Brigadier’s permission to keep it and did so and sent our joiners and took it down.

I took the battalion out about 2 miles today (26th) and chose new camping ground and got our new mess put up in a Wadi. This new place is called Sheikh el Ballutah.

My newly fitted bivouac is absolutely wind and waterproof and I am very comfortable. Things were pretty quiet but for a little shelling now and then till the New Year and then we got our Divisional Commander’s note which I attach.

2nd January 1918 I rode down to Sarona and had tea at the Brigade and the Brigadier gave me a present of 10 pigeons which he had shot.

I was just going for tea today (4th) when a shell came over and landed 2 yards behind the mess and gave the occupants a fright. Unfortunately one of our mess waiters was struck rather badly by a splinter and died a few days later in Jaffa.

I rode over to the 8th S.R.H.Q. on the 10th as I was president of a Court Martial there. On riding over a stray shell landed 20 yards in front of me and frightened my horse but fortunately with no ill effects. We were shelled rather heavily in the afternoon and a piece struck my bivouac so I came out and moved up the wadi till the shelling stopped.

I moved down to Sarona today to arrange billets for the battalion coming down tomorrow.

We had the Brigadier to dinner tonight (17th) and did him very well and everyone enjoyed themselves.

The C.O. left on leave on 18th and I was in command again.

On 21st January Captain Nelson, Lieut Austin and Captain D.B. Allan and Col A Mitchell all left on home leave today and had a great send off. I had been in at Jaffa once or twice but did not fancy it much.

I was President of a Court Martial today (24th). I was at a concert given by the officers to the men and it was most successful and several Brass Hats present. I was induced to sing and got an encore and incidentally my song was the means of the rum issue starting again.

We had a parade of the Brigade today (25th) and ribbons presented by the Divisional Commander. I dined at the 4th R.S. tonight as the Brigadier was there and had a good evening.

The C.O. arrived today from leave (27th). I dined at the 412th Engineers and had a fine night.

I dined at Brigade tonight (28th) and enjoyed it very much.

We moved out today (29th) (during our period in Sarona time was the best I have had on active service and everyone is practically of the same opinion). We took over at 9.30 p.m. and were in reserve.

I rode down to Jaffa today (4th February and got several stores from the Canteen and at night I dined along with Captain Mather at the 410th R.E. Field Company.

We moved up to the front line today (6th) and I had a compartment in a hut and was very comfortable. We had some very wet weather here but I was fortunate in having made my hut water-tight.

I rode down to Sarona on 9th as I was going on local leave, having lunch at the Transport lines and arrived at Sarona at 2.30 p.m. to find that the railway had broken down with heavy rain and had to wait there till it was repaired. I stayed with the 412th R.E. and had a very good time with them there.

We got a motor lorry to Yasur on 12th and changed to another lorry and got to Ramleh and called at the Details Camp and had lunch and then walked to the Railhead through a lovely almond orchard, the blossom looking very well indeed. The train berths were all booked but I got a seat in a 3rd class compartment and got a sleeping berth at Rafa.

I got to Kantara at 7.30 a.m. and then got a motor lorry to the station and had a wash and breakfast there. Captain C.S. Gray was with me. I got the train at 9.15 a.m. and arrived at Cairo at 1.30 p.m. I waited in Cairo seeing the sights and attended a rare meeting and left here on the 17th February. I went to buy a piece of tapestry similar to a piece I bought a year ago for 15/0d but they wanted £5 for it so did not buy it. I also met Major General Palin here who commanded the 75th Division and had a long talk with him, about Neby Samwil. I left Cairo at 11.30 p.m. and had a sleeping berth and got to Alexandria and although we got to Alexandria at 5.30 a.m. I did not get up till 7.30 a.m. as we had shunted on to a siding. I then drove to the Majestic Hotel and had breakfast. I tried to trace the films I sent down to be developed of the actions at Neby Samwil but they could not be found and have never turned up since at which I am very sorry as I had taken several very interesting sights and views. Alexandria is ever so much colder than Cairo and one felt the change of climate.

On 22nd February I left with the 8.30 a.m. train, changing at Benha and got to Gaza at 3 p.m. and got a motor lorry to the Details Camp and got on to the train about 10.30 p.m. and had a sleeping berth. I had breakfast at Tarza.

I got to railhead at 10 a.m. on 23rd February and got my horse and rode to Sarona, about 20 miles, and after lunch and a rest rode up to the front line, about other 8 miles, and got there at 5.30 p.m. and found myself in command as the C.O. was in hospital. The Turkish prisoners coming in ask how many 52nd Divisions we have as we seem to be all over the place and we were greatly feared by them.

On 28th February I rode down to Sheikh Muannis leaving at 8 a.m. and reported to the 102nd Heavy Artillery and saw the Colonel there. I was attached for instruction and the Colonel (Hutchinson) was very nice and explained it all to me showing me on a large map where his guns were and where the enemy had guns. Wires were always coming in saying Turks shelling or working and giving co-ordinates, from observation posts and instruments for sound bearings etc and then the heavy guns got orders to fire with usually aeroplane observation. I rode out in the afternoon with the C.O. and watched a “Destructive” shoot. 135 rounds of 6” were fired and a hostile gun knocked out. I had a hard ride back and visited forward observation posts on the way.

I motored to Jaffa on 1st March with the C.O. to see the 4.7” batteries firing out to sea at supposed submarines, about 3 miles out and it was very interesting watching the shooting. It finished at 11.30a.m. and I then attended a conference on the shoot and the O.C. battery got badly slated. He was a Bonham Carter and never in action, yet a little later he got the D.S.O.

On the 2nd I rode out to the heavy guns and watched them firing and then saw them move the guns and rode to our own H.Q. and had lunch. I had tea with the Brigadier on the way back. The finest oranges grew in the groves there and I had several every day.

I rode out on the 3rd and saw the large 6” naval guns and had them explained to me.

I returned to the battalion today (4th) after a very interesting and enjoyable time and managed to get some fine map boards from our engineers for the C.O. which he was very pleased with. I arrived at 11.15 a.m. and took over command.

The C.O. returned today (5th) and I handed over to him.

We moved back to reserve today (8th).

I was wakened at 4.30 a.m. on the 10th by heavy shelling from the Turks, they were trying for one of our heavy forward batteries and got on to our camp. I was in a tent and a 5.9” shell burst 15 yards from me. The concussion upset my bed and threw me out. After the debris settled I scuttled out into a dugout lately occupied by me and now by Archie Bird and got in beside him. About 20 H.E. came over and one mess tent was absolutely riddled and our last bottle of port went “west”. I went over in the afternoon to see our heavies reply to the shelling, they got badly shelled themselves and were out for blood.

I rode to Jaffa today (11th ) and drew pay from the Field Cashier and canteen stores.

I was President of a Court Martial at the 7th R.S. today (14th).

The Duke of Connaught presented ribbons at Sarona today (18th) but I was not down.

We moved to Sarona today (19th) and got into our previous billet and were very comfortable.

I motored to Jerusalem today (24th) with Padre Leaky, Padre McVeigh and Captain Phillips in a car we got from Corps H.Q. and rain came on when we were about half way and it was very cold going over the Judean Hills. We got to Jerusalem about 2.15 p.m. and saw the Duke of Connaught motoring through. We stayed at the Grand New Hotel and were very comfortable.

We started off at 9 a.m. on the 25th with a guide and went round several places of interest and took some good photos. I visited Pontius Pilate’s house and several convents and churches and the pool where people were healed, the Golden Gate, went round the Great Wall, Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, Mount of Olives, Pool of Silvam, Absalom’s Tomb, Great Mosque of Omar, inside the Sacred Rock (where Abraham offered to offer Isaac as a sacrifice), Christ’s Tomb, the place of the Last Supper, the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden of Gethsemane. I met the Divisional Commander here and he told me we were for France and I said the men would be delighted and he was agreeably surprised.

We drove to Bethlehem today (26th) and saw the Plain of Joab; Rachel’s Tomb; saw where Christ was born and the sacred Grotto where Mary retired to when being pursued.

On the 27th we motored back to Sarona and had a fine run and a good view of the hills we were fighting over and how the Turks gave it up is beyond me. I passed Major General Girdwood and he stopped his car and came out and spoke to me. We got to Sarona at 4 p.m.

I was President of two Court Martials today (28th). We left at 6.30 p.m. and marched 11 miles to near Ramleh, I being in command again as the C.O. was acting as Brigadier, and bivouaced.

Captain Nelson returned today (29th) from home leave.

We held Brigade sports today (31st) and I was President and was kept busy.

I was at the sports today (1st April) and in the donkey race for officers I got a spare donkey and won the 1st prize, the reason being I was the only one who finished the round as the others finished at the place where the foot races were finished although told once round was the course. It was great fun and all enjoyed it.

We moved off at 12 noon on 3rd April and marched to the station at Ludd, about 6 miles off. We entrained and got off about 3 p.m. in a covered trench hut. I had my bed fitted up but it broke during the night with the jolting. We had dinner at Gaza and had a good view of the country we had been fighting over on the way down.

We got to Kantara at 7 a.m. on the 4th and at night marched to the station and entrained and got to Alexandria at 8 a.m. I got on Board the “Teasowe Castle” and had a nice stateroom which I shared with Major Slater of the 4th R.S.

On the 8th Nelson, Stanley Smith, Bilsland and I went ashore to get some stores and had lunch on shore and a drive round the town and then we all had a great farewell dinner of the 52nd Division in the Majestic Hotel and had a great time.

We sailed at 2 p.m. on the 12th as a convoy, the whole Division at once, with a good escort. Major General Hill travelled on our boat.

I dined with Major General Hill on the 12th and after played bridge in his cabin and had quite a good time but lost 13/4 to him. He occupied the suite for the Queen of Greece and our Brigadier occupied the suite for the King of Greece.

I got up a sweepstake today (13th) and auctioned the tickets and it was a great success.

The stewards all went on strike today (16th) owing to the bath steward being dismissed and none turned up while we were waiting. After about 10 minutes waiting I went out and the crowd thought I was going out because the boat was rocking and that I was seedy and cheered, but as a matter of fact I went to the Chief Steward and asked “why the delay” and he said the stewards were on strike. I addressed them and told them if they remained on strike they would be taken to the front line trenches when we got to France and they then went back to duty and I returned to the dining saloon and the G.O.C. asked where I was and I told him and he was quite pleased.

We arrived at Marseilles this morning (17th) and some of the troops disembarked.

We disembarked at 5 a.m. on the 18th and marched to the station. We had a very pleasant voyage and learned to our regret some time after that the Teasowe Castle was torpedoed on her next trip and the skipper was drowned, a Captain Hall whom I dined with one night. The C.O. and I had a first class compartment to ourselves but it was very cold. We got to Le Tiel about 10.30 p.m. and had a hot meal there and left at midnight again. There is no use going over the journey again as I have mentioned it before.

We reached Nozelles at 7 a.m. on the 21st and we got motor lorries to St Firmin and had to arrange billets for the battalion which was very difficult as the accommodation was so limited.

We moved off at 10.30 a.m. on the 25th about 10 miles to Rue and entrained.

We arrived at Winzernes on 26th and then marched to Rineq and was billeted with the Cure there and had a good H.Q. mess. We had a very good time and had great evenings in a little estaminet where “D” company officers messed and used to go there every night.

We got motor lorries into Aire on 3rd May to hear a lecture by a Col Forbes who was acting Brigadier in the last push by the Bosche and of all the piffle I ever heard it was here. Our Divisional Commander told him off at the end. Sir Douglas Haig came in and addressed us and welcomed us to France.

On 4th May I was President of a Court Martial at the 8th S.R.

We marched to Aire and entrained and got to Mont St Eloi Station a 2 a.m. and I fell asleep on the platform expecting the battalion to wait for the unloading and woke up and found they had gone and taken my horse with them so I started to walk and after a great deal of trouble, as there was no-one about to direct me, got to Ottawa Camp at 4 a.m. where we were billeted and got a hut there.

On the 10th Maclean and I rode up in front about 6 miles and then went up to the front line trenches in front of Vimy Ridge and did not get back till 4 p.m. I was greatly disappointed with the trenches as hardly one of them had a decent fire position. The Canadians had a tennis court at Mont St Eloi and allowed us to play on it and had some fine game.

The battalion went up to the front line trenches on 15th May and I was left in charge of Brigade details at Villers et Bois, a nice little camp and very comfortable.

On 17th May we were troubled by heavy high velocity shells and bombed at night here. There was a nice officers club at Campain L’Abbe which we went down to occasionally and saw some good revues by the Canadians.

I rode up to Hill Camp today (19th) as I was President of a Court Martial at the 7th R.S. and then went up to the front line trenches and saw the C.O. We had a few casualties when up the line, mostly gas cases and some shells.

My hut was struck by several splinters of shell and earth tonight (27th) so I had to get out till it was over. I was down at Divisional H.Q. this forenoon and got shelled on the way down and had to take cover.

On 29th I rode up to Brigade H.Q. and then called at our H.Q. as we were back in support.

30th May I attended a demonstration of rockets carrying messages which was interesting and instructive.

I was President of a Court Martial at Fort George camp today (31st).

Captain J.D. Smith and I rode off today to Maroeuil and past there to make up a scheme for the battalion training when they came back.

We went back to Mont St Eloi on 2nd June, I being in command as the C.O. was acting Brigadier again.

The C.O. returned today (6th June).

On 7th June Archie Bird and I rode up to the front line trenches to see about taking over.

I was at Brigade H.Q. for tea on 9th and attended a conference of C.Os.

The C.O. went off this morning and I am in command again. I was at Brigade for dinner tonight and had a good time.

We left at 10 a.m. on 11th in motor lorries for the front line and then had 1¾ hour walk through the trenches to our H.Q. and got there at 12.45 p.m. and after lunch took over command and had a lot to do as I had plans, schemes and aeroplane photos to see. Our H.Q. is in a large chalk pit with a large tunnel leading to the front line trenches and our H.Q. Mess off same and my room off the Mess. We have electric light fitted and are very comfortable. I arranged dispositions and at 6 p.m. took a walk round the trenches.

I went round the front line at 4.30 a.m. on 12th and later on in the day arranged for an officers patrol to go out.

I had a temperature of 100.5 but had to get up as I had a lot to do. It was an influenza cold I had and was lucky to get rid of it in a day or two. I was out in “No man’s Land” today with an artillery officer and Archie Bird arranging targets to be shelled and had to crawl a long part of the way. My temperature was 100.8 tonight. We had a good sport at night chasing and trapping rats, potting at them with revolvers.

Our Staff Captain came round today (15th) and told me I had been “mentioned in dispatches” for the second time.

I walked to the 4th R.S. on 19th to meet the Brigadier at a conference and he told us the 8th S.R. were leaving us for another division and we all felt quite sorry. We were a Scottish Rifle Brigade at mobilisation and now we are the only S.R. battalion in it.

I handed over to Col Mitchell of the 4th R.S. on 20th and at 2.30 p.m. we went back to support at Petit Vimy. We had nice H.Q. here also beautiful flowers and had the mess well decorated. We also got plenty of wild strawberries and with Ideal Milk they were A1.

The G.S.O.I came round today (21st) and told me I had to go to the Senior Officers School at Aldershot to train for getting command of a battalion. I had to take over the area vacated by the 8th S.R. also and had to choose new positions and spread out the battalion which I did, after a great deal of bother as it was not an easy job. The Brigadier came round and approved of my new positions and told me how disappointed he was at my only being “mentioned in dispatches” as he expected better.

On 23rd I got definite word I was to report at Aldershot on the 7th July 1918.

On 24th I had to make up a new defence scheme and it took me some time.

We had some experiments with message carrying rockets on the 27th which were very interesting. I got word the Duke of Connaught was going to inspect us and as the Brigadier is going on leave, our C.O. would be acting as Brigadier.

We were relieved by the 5th H.L.I. on 29th and left for Mont St Eloi getting motor lorries about half way.

We had a rehearsal today (30th) for the Duke of Connaught’s visit.

We were lined up for inspection (1st July) and General Henry Horne and Lt General Hunter Weston arrived and then the Duke of Connaught. Everything went off very well and I was introduced to the Duke and shook hands with him and showed him round the battalion. He was very nice and asked several questions. I rode off in the afternoon and the pipe band turned out and played me out the camp and I had a good send off. I got to the station and entrained and got to Etaples where I had my greatcoat, cardigan and gloves stolen although I only turned my back for about 2 minutes. I went up to the Club and had dinner and got on a goods train to Boulogne being held up on the way by a hostile air raid and it was early morning (2nd) before I arrived and got into the Louvres Hotel. I got to Folkestone and then to London and arrived in Glasgow next morning (3rd).

On 5th July I left Glasgow at 9.45 p.m., my wife and son accompanying me. We got to London (6th) and in afternoon got a train to North Camp, Farnborough and were billeted in apartments in Southampton Terrace.

I reported today (7th) and found I was in A Group No.2 Syndicate under Lieut Col P.R. Worrall D.S.O., M.C. We had drill, lectures, tactical schemes, musketry, topography etc and attended several demonstrations and altogether it was a very enjoyable course and very instructive.

My wife and son left today (24th August) and I went up to London and saw them off and then came back to North Camp and stayed at Tournai House and was very comfortable and messed in Malplacquet Mess.

I went to the Aldershot Command House Show and enjoyed it very much.

I cut my hand very badly on a glass tonight (29th August) and was taken to the Duke of Cambridge’s Hospital and had 3 stitches put in as I had cut an artery and lost a lot of blood and was kept there the night.

I had my hand dressed next forenoon and it was very painful and stiff. I got permission from the doctor to finish the course and attend at Hospital and had my hand dressed when required. During the course I had to lecture on Advance guards, open warfare and to the whole school on carrying smoke bombs etc and got a bit of my own back from the Syndicate Commander as he had a most objectional manner and he and I did not agree too well. The course finished on the 13th September 1918. I left London at night after a very interesting course and met some splendid fellows at the course especially colonials.

I arrived in Glasgow this morning (14th) for 14 days leave and got my report from the school which was excellent and stated I was fit for command of a battalion at once. Owing to my hand I got an extension of leave for 1 week and then wrote to the War Office (5th October) to get back to France but for some unknown reason I was sent to our 3rd Line at Bridge of Allan (23rd October) with nothing to do and kept writing to the War Office to get back to France and was sent to a Gas Course at Stirling, another unnecessary part, and on 4th November put through a course by a second lieutenant till the 8th November 1918. I left here in charge of troops (14th November) and got to Invergordon where I was Camp Commandant and on 18th November got word to go back to France, so I left in the afternoon and got to Glasgow at night.

On 20th November I got the train to London and arrived there in the morning and got the train on 23rd to Folkestone and then to Boulogne. I reported there and was told I had to wait for orders but I wired our Division to apply for me and they did so orders arrived for me to go up the line.

I had no idea where to go but the R.T.O. said I had to go to Arras and I arrived there in the early hours of the morning.

On 25th November I met a Major Cook and he knew the place and we walked to the Canadian Club through the ruins and got some supper and turned in. I got a bad cold on the way up so I waited here all day and next day (26th) I had a turn round ruined Arras. It must have been a pretty place but now it was absolutely ruined and not a house untouched. We got the train in the evening to Douai and then Raismes and got out and into a motor ambulance to the Canadian Club there and waited the night or rather morning and after breakfast got a motor lorry to our Divisional Camp at Bruay and waited there the night (28th). The Bosche made a good job of blowing up bridges railways etc and did a lot of damage in Belgium, which could easily be seen. I passed Valienciennes and then into Belgium and got to Baudom at 3.30 p.m. where Captain J Fyfe put me up.

My horse arrived on 29th November and I rode off at 3.00 p.m. and got to Lens at 3.30 p.m.

On 30th November the C.O. went to Brigade and I am in command once more. I had a lot of battalion drill and the men drilled like regulars.

I rode to Lombise (8th December) and attended a conference at Brigade H.Q.

I rode to Jurbise (9th) and attended a conference by the Divisional Commander.

Major Mather left us today (12th December).

On 13th my battalion was inspected by the Divisional Commander who expressed himself as well pleased with their display.

I rode to Lombise (19th) to a conference at Brigade H.Q. and stayed to dinner and for the night and got back next forenoon.

I rode to H.Q. of 6th H.L.I. on 28th December through pouring rain and was President of two Court Martials there and rode back through the rain again.

On 30th December I visited the hot spray baths I had fitted up in a brewery and found them a great success. I was also kept very busy writing “Confidential Reports” on officers which was by no means an easy job.

I rode up to Lombise on 10th January and had lunch with the Brigadier.

We gave an Officers’ Dance tonight (12th) and it was a great success.

I rode to Massieres on 18th as our Division was being inspected by the Corps Commander (Lt Gen Sir A Godley) which was very successful and a fine sight, but it was very cold and tiring. Artillery, Engineers, 9 battalions infantry, Machine Gun Battalion, Pioneer Battalion etc. He was received with “General Salute” and then rode round us, after which medals etc were presented and then we marched past and then had lunch and then marched home.

I got a copy of my report recommending me for command of the battalion and passed by the Brigadier and got word I had also been promoted to Acting Lieut. Colonel.

Our Brigade was inspected by the Divisional Commander at Montignes le Lens today.

Nelson and I attended a dance given by the 155th Brigade at Mons and motored in and back and enjoyed ourselves very much.

The Brigadier called and congratulated me on my promotion and I spoke about making Nelson Major and he told me to put it in which I did. We had a lecture from a Belgian priest today and it was very interesting as he had been in that vicinity all during the Bosche occupation. During this time my battalion was getting smaller every day owing to men being demobilised.

I rode to Jurbise on 22nd January as I was President of a Court Martial at the 5th R.S.I.

We started our battalion “Cinema” tonight (24th) and although it was not a great success owing to my operator having been demobilised yet it was interesting and after the next night was a great and popular success. I had electric light fitted into all billets which was a great improvement as candles were not to be had.

I motored in to Mons early this morning (27th) to complete arrangements for the dance our Brigade (156th) was giving. I was a member of the Committee. The dance started at 9.30 p.m. and the Hall was well decorated. I had a shield made by my pioneers with the crest of divisional mark for our Brigade painted on it and badges of all the Brigade Group represented which looked very well at the entrance. I afterwards presented it to the Brigadier and he was delighted with it. The dance was a great success and the envy of all the Division who were surprised at the way it was run. Major General Girdwood, Brigadier Generals A.H. Leggett 156th, Hamilton Moore 157th, Harrison 155th Brigades and our Artillery Brigadier and one from the 21st Corps. Lt Col Rolling O.B.E., D.S.O. of the 8th Corps was also there. He used to command the 412th Company .R.E. of our Brigade and several others. I had a long talk with Major General Girdwood and he was surprised at some of the information I gave him (after the armistice) which I could not give him before and he said he wished he had known before but recognised it was not possible owing to the circumstances. The dance finished at 3.30 p.m. and then Major General, 5 Brigadiers and the 3 C.Os. had a supper after, which lasted till 6 a.m., and then we retired. We had rooms booked in an hotel and were quite comfortable only a little crowded. Our Divisional band supplied the music under the able Bandmaster Mr McKay.

We motored to Brussels on 28th January leaving Mons at 2 p.m. and got to our destination about 4 p.m. We had dinner in the Palace Hotel and then motored up to the “Concert Noble” in the Divisional General’s car and attended the dance given by the 21st Corps. This was known as the “Waterloo Ball” and was a very bright and swell affair, a large number of Society turning up especially “Brass Hats”. The hall was beautifully decorated and we all enjoyed ourselves and got back to our hotel in the early morning.

We had a look round in the forenoon (29th) and had lunch at the Café de la Monaie and then motored back to Lens leaving at 4.45 p.m. and arriving there at 7.39 p.m.

I drove up to Lombise on 30th to a Brigade conference and then drove back again.

On 16th February I sent about 200 off for the army of occupation and we were almost reduced to caddie strength.

Padre Spence left us today (23rd February) and we all miss him as he was easily the best Padre we ever had with us.

I motored to Massieres on 26th July to the 22nd Corps’ races and had quite a good time there.

On 27th I motored to the 63rd (Naval) Division races and quite enjoyed them but the horses we backed did not turn up so well as yesterdays.

Nelson has been made Major (1st March) and will be in command if I get demobilised.

I motored to the 56th Division Race Meeting at Massieres today (3rd March) and had lunch with the Brigadier there. I had received a letter offering me a situation in Glasgow at £500 per annum and be allowed to do my own business (as the firm I was with for 18 years before the war would not give me back my situation) and I applied to be demobilised. The Brigadier told me he had put in an application for leave (home) for me to see about it and expected I would get it soon.

On 4th March I arranged with the Burgomaster of Leno that owing to services rendered there would be no charge for fitting electric light and electricity supplied and got it in writing from him and sent it to Brigade and was thanked for arranging this as it would have cost over £500. I got word the first vacancy for leave was on the 16th March so I accepted it. Brigadier General A.H. Leggett called to say goodbye today and I must say he was the finest Brigade Commander I ever met and a thorough gentleman.

I rode to Jurbise on 5th March to be President of a Court Martial but someone had made a mess of things so I came back and wrote a strong letter to Brigade about it and got an apology from the Division next day.

I motored to the 22nd Corps Race meeting at Massieres on 10th March and had quite a good day.

On 12th March I was President of a Court Martial at 4th R.S. H.Q. today and had several cases.

On 14th Mach I squared up everything and handed over to Major Nelson and motored into Mons and gave a small dinner in the club to Nelson, Coltart, Thomson, and W. T. Anderson and I got the Cologne express at 8.55 p.m. and had a sleeping berth and got a good send off.

I arrived in Boulogne on 15th March and had 4 hours to wait and then crossed to Folkestone and got to London about 3 p.m. and had 6 hours there and called at the War Office to see about being demobilised but they said they could do nothing and that I would require to go back to Belgium. I lost the job I was after and two days after I got word I was being demobilised and felt very indignant as it meant I had to start and build up a business, no easy matter nowadays.

I arrived in Glasgow in the early morning of 16th March and was in my own house 34 hours after leaving Mons and taking into account my halts of 6 hours and 4 hours was I fancy something of a record.

I was demobilised today – 3rd April 1919.

In conclusion I must apologise for the poorness of this literacy attempt but perhaps it will let someone know that the 1/7th Cameronians (S.R.) did something in the Great War and I am proud of having commanded a battalion which never failed to do what was asked of it and never gave up an inch of ground and always held the ground they had captured, a record which will be difficult to beat and I hope to be spared to see the day when they get a little praise for what they have done.

I attach some newspaper cuttings which may be of interest, also the Divisional sign of my battalion. I have some books of photos I took and am hoping to get some lantern slides made for a lecture on some future occasion.

Robert Blair
Lt Col.
1/7th Cameronians (S.R.)

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