Archive for March, 2019

Stephen sent me a very poignant extract from the WW1 diary of his grandfather James Gant.

James enlisted into the army on 2nd December 1914 at the outbreak of WW1 as an ambulance driver into the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps). He had the rank of private, his number was M2-021182 and his commanding officer was a Colonel Skinner. According to his medal record he went to France on the 6th February 1915 and was gassed at the 2nd Battle of Ypres on May 1st 1915, requiring him to be returned back to England. He never fully recovered from the gassing and was a semi-invalid until his premature death on May 19th 1925.

Extracts from the diary of James Gant : February to March 1915 on travelling to and then serving on the Western Front

Enlisted Dec 2 1914.

Left Grove Park 5 Feb 1915. Stayed night at Marlborough, had to sleep in cars, poured rain all night. Had no rations all day. Left Marlborough for Avonmouth at 6am on Feb 6th. Had no breakfast and feeling very cold and hungry. Arrived at Avonmouth at midday in a drizzle rain. Got our cars on board the HMT Twickenham and left at 9 pm Saturday 6th Feb for Havre.

Sunday 7th at daybreak we were off Lundy Island. Rough sea and most of our men sick, me as well. Sailed down coast of Devon and Cornwall, rather misty and could not see land very well.

Monday 8th Feb 1915. Sailed round by Lands End and reached Lizard about dark.

Tuesday 9th. Arrived at Havre, had to be put all night, no berth for boat, pretty town, several gunboats in harbour. Saw a steamer sunk which had been torpedoed.

Left Havre Wednesday 10th for Rouen, sailed up the River Seine. Scenery was magnificent villages all the way up, everybody waving flags, quite pleased with our reception on French soil. Reached Rouen at 3pm same day. Had to sleep on board as our cars were not unshipped.

Thursday 11th. Cars all taken of ship to a long avenue lined with trees on the banks of the river. Slept in the cars, could do with my own bed but getting used to roughing it. No bread only biscuits . I bought bread off Chinese crew on board, a lot of thieves and rouges. Meet several of the Indian troops in Rouen. Very poor opinion of French army but think a lot of our Tommies. They were just leaving again for the front. Beautiful cathedral at Rouen. France seems very quiet you cannot think you are as near to the war. Very few men anywhere. Had no wash for 2 days.

Friday 12th Feb. Good rations today, first since left Grove Park. Cars inspected by Col Skinner, chief of Ambulance staff. Hospital train arrived loaded up with wounded. Afternoon lovely, got leave today visited cathedral, street very narrow and dirty. A lot of widows going about.

Saturday 13th. Pouring down with rain.

Sunday another wet day, nothing to do, still stuck on the banks of the river.

Feb 19th left Rouen pouring down with rain for Blangy. Camped on Market Square. Over boot tops in mud.

Feb 20th. Left Blagny for Abbeville. Stopped for dinner lined up in Market Square. More mud, stayed the night.

Feb 21st. Left Abbeville for St Omer, stopped at Fronges for lunch, passed Flying Corps base on estuary. St Omer also British soldier’s graves.

Monday left St Omer at 2-30 for Hazebrook, arrived at 5pm. Had to go on guard. Heard the guns for first time, bitter cold night.

Tuesday 23rd Feb . Got letter and box from home. How cheering for me to have some cigs.

Wednesday 24th . Received second letter with 5 shillings which was needed badly. Wrote home and to friends.

Feb 25th . Went on guard , poured all night.

Feb 26th Inspection of cars finished. Received letter from Mother, very cheering.

Feb 27th Just been inoculated. Very painful.

Feb 28th. Nothing doing after inoculation.

March Ist Kitchen fatigues getting the mess food ready. Nothing doing beautiful day.

March 2nd Stand by waiting for cases.

March 3rd Wet day. Nothing doing. One of our men died in hospital through night.

March 4th Received one box and letter from Mary when I was on guard, rotten day.

March 5th Came off guard, asked for transfer , would not give it me. Went for our march

March 6th Getting ready for army up country. Wrote home and Mrs Richardson. Received box from home. Had to go up to the front quick way.

March 7th Ordered to Billiul, 4 miles of tunnels, very heavy firing all day shook all windows in the town. Went up to the firing line with two soldiers.

March 8th Went to Locre for six men, very bad cases. Locre is in Belgium.

March 9th Went to Nieppe and Armentieres for wounded and then to Dixdebusch

March 10th Went to Dixdebusch for wounded

March 12th To Dickebosch for more wounded.

March 14 Heavy shelling day and night. Fetching in the wounded all night. Some awful sights. Working in the region St Eloi and Neuve Chapelle where 17000 German were killed.

March 15th Came back for a rest.

March 16th Nothing doing

March 17th. Went on guard

March 18th. Nothing doing.

March 19th. General Porter came and inspected us. Met young Hocknull the taxi driver.

March 22nd Three English men shot as spy.

March 28th Two generals dismissed from army.

This was the last entry and he was gassed on 1/5/1915 at the 2nd Battle of Ypres and had to return to England.

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