Ch 25: Hughie’s WWI Letters – Leaving “Hades” Behind

We had one night’s rest (before we) had to do an “important job” laying cables.  We left at dark and marched along the Somme bank past Aubigny onto the right of Corbie, did about 4 hours (pioneering) work and arrived home at daybreak.  This performance went on for 4 nights, only getting half a mile further every night.  On the fifth night we were kept home. A push was on.

Our Division had a Brigade in the stunt and, as we had been watching the preparations for the past 4 nights, we decided to sit up and watch the barrage.  I’ll try to explain the affair our artillery term ‘a barrage’.  Can you remember the last night of the old Band Contest (in Ballarat) when they used to raise Cain with fireworks?  Magnify that effect a hundred times and get a half dozen drums, let all the kids in the neighbour-hood belt them as hard and fast as they can and you might get somewhere near the mark.  Fritz gets the wind up when the (barrages) start and he shoots up Verey lights by the hundreds.  I saw every colour that night. It all this lasted about 2 hours before  the stunt was over.

Next day we had the result early – 1500 prisoners, 90 odd machine guns and several of his field guns (captured) and an advance of about 3 miles – Aussies again!  Fritz gives our boys first place in the Allied line of resistance, and by hooky, it seems to be right.  They certainly have been driven back a little in places but they fear us in their counter attack.  Our boys always got it ( the ground) back and in every case took a little more.

After this stunt we spent 10 clear days resting (before we) moved into the newly captured sector.  Our Company was supposed to be on back area work but we only got one night of that in and then had to go and dig trenches in the new land.

Memorial to Hughie's 3rd Division at the village of Sailley le Sec

All the towns in this Sector have been reduced to piles of bricks.  We were camped on the Bray-Corbie road and had to walk out through Verey to the other side to Sailly-le-Sec.  This place was continually under shell fire and I can tell you we didn’t waste any time getting through the village. And as Charles Bean recorded in his official Australian War History “Women, who during the past night had seen the flashes of the enemy’s guns, like summer lightening on the horizon, coming closer to their homes, and for the first time had heard the swish and crash of enemy shells, now in a revulsion of pent–up feeling, burst into tears and raised a thin cry of ‘Vive l’Australie’.  An old priest raised his hands and blessed the passing men.  Some, who had left their homes, turned back, and others, who had not left, stayed on.”  Sailley-le-Sec never forgot these soldiers.)

Five nights of this and our trench was finished.  We had a night’s rest and prepared to relieve our “C” Company on the left of Hamel.  We were in the line by 11 o’clock and just missed Fritz’s usual straf.  It was an awful place.  Snow and I were in the one post – went in at 11 o’clock Sunday night and came out at 2 a.m. Tuesday.  The third trip in the post like this was the start of this sickness of mine.  It started raining at daybreak and stopped when we knocked off, all of us had cold shivers, headaches and bad colds.  We had to sit all day in the dugouts in our wet clothes and go in again for the last trip.  Snowy was extra bad through the day and the others were in the same boat.  I only had the cold to contend with till 5 o’clock in the afternoon when Fritz got a 5.9 in the end of our post and laid the riflemen and 2 bombers out and blew Snow and I up in the air.  We were at the far end of the post and so escaped the splinters, but heavens, from that minute I cannot stand up or see a thing.  Snow was as deaf as a post and feeling queer.  We hung on till 2 o’clock.  Suffered a bit more shelling, stonkered a patrol of Fritz’s and stayed in the dugout another 24 hours.

The blighters wouldn’t let me go down to the A.M.C. by myself and it wasn’t till Tuesday morning that they considered me sick enough to see a Doctor.  They had to bring him up to me, and by hooky, the man went mad when he had taken my temperature.  He told our officers “off” good and hearty and had them running around looking for stretchers.  He went out himself and dug up 2 Yanks who wheeled me over 4 miles per stretcher, then into an Ambulance Motor and “tout suite” towards Corbie.

Fritz was strafing the blankey road we were booting along and we had just got into the middle of his 5.9’s when the darned old engine started missing and stopped dead.  By jove, thought that was the hardest bit I had had up to then.  To be leaving Hades behind and getting stuck up helpless in the middle of a straf.  The chap going to hospital with me had shell shock and the S.B. had to climb in and sit on his head to keep him in the car.  Some infantry came along and pushed the whole concern clear of the shells and the driver got to work on the engine and soon had the flaming thing going again.

I was in different clearing stations every hour or so till I finally landed at Crewes, about 15 kms. behind Amiens.  There I lay for a week in high temperature and one day found myself bound for Rouen.  Travelled all night per Ambulance Train and hit a Yankee hospital middle of the next day.  Here two days and shot away for Blighty.  I couldn’t believe my ears when Sister told me that the Doctor was sending me to England.  More travelling per train, more stretcher and then the boat.  Southampton next day.  A short wait and train up to Northampton.  Everybody as nice as possible everywhere. Haven’t we just left the big push and weren’t we given Fritz a rough time?  We were it!

It is wonderful to sleep between white sheets again, the first I have seen since I left home.  Now, I’m to the end of my letter and shall have to make a third edition.  This part is rather mild as I have not detailed it as well as I could have done, but there are some things I would rather forget and writing them in a letter would drive me dilly.  I have kept a diary of everything and shall send that home some day.


The people of this area have never forgotten the brave Australians of the AIF 3rd Division.



About davidveitchyoung

I'm interested in my family history, in horticulture, in travel and videography..
This entry was posted in Australians at War, Life in the Trenches WWI, Veterans of War, World War 1 Letters from Soldier, World War I and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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