Archive for December, 2016

30th August – all is well

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

I am just dropping you a line to let you know I am alright. I was x-rayed again a couple of days ago. The arm is fractured just below the joint of the shoulder. Everything is going well with it and I get very little trouble from it, as long as I am careful how I place it. Up to the present, I have been unable to gain any information of my kit, so I am literally kept a prisoner through lack of clothes. However, i have both Cook’s and Cox & Co searching the continent for me. I am in hopes of an early raising of the embargo.

My chief occupation at present is reading and smoking. I have got into communication with Lanyon’s and the Bank of Adelaide. Lanyon’s sent me a very kind letter. They offered to cable for me, send me anything I wanted and are also sending a representative to see me.

The weather has been rather beastly the last couple of days with continual rain. The air is not of the warmest quality either. I hold rather a unique position, being an Australian. Hosts of people come in to have a look if I am civilized and can talk English- a sort of weird specimen of some under world.

I hope you can read this scrawl. It is very awkward writing, as I can’t move my right arm at all. I am fast learning to do everything with one hand now. So far I haven’t heard a word about the rest of the battalion and as they don’t appear to publish Australian casualties, I don’t see how I am going to find out. Will you run off prints from the best of my negatives depicting Australia as she is. Some of those taken at Trevilla and of the scrub, also some of Adelaide. I often felt I would like to have some, especially when talking of Australia which is practically always. It is a great relief to be able to get hold of a decent reliable paper regularly. All the papers here are bubbling with Roumania and casualty lists. Something like 5,000 names appear every day without fail.

I am in a room with an English Captain of the Warricks. He has knocked about all over the globe, and is a very decent and interesting chap. A lot of the young Subalterns are quite impossible though.


No. 3 Southern General Hospital

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

No.3 Southern General Hospital West 11, Somerville, Oxford, England

27 August 1916

At last I have reached the Mecca of all Soldiers – “Blighty” so it is commonly called. On Friday afternoon I was packed up and put on a hospital train and transported to Calais. We couldn’t see much of this place as it was night and everything was in darkness owing to aeroplane and zeppelin raids. The country seemed very flat and uninteresting around the town. The town itself was just one big collection of tiled roofs relieved here and there by a church spire. There seemed to be miles of very fine docks though. We were put on a hospital ship, and turned in for the night.

Next morning about 10 we set off. It was only a run of an hour and a half to Dover, but it was some trip. We were on a little high speed contraption about 300 feet long with a beam of 30 feet. The channel was very rough, and what the boat didn’t go through, she went over. I was down below in bed so I didn’t see much. Many were seasick. I was feeling tip top the whole way except for about two minutes just as land was sighted. However, in the two minutes, I was seasick for the first time in my travels. I didn’t mind the sensation but I objected to breaking my record.

At Dover we were put on another train and sent through to here. The country in the south is very pretty. It is fine rolling agricultural country. Everything is very trim and neat. All the towns and villages are delightful. Everything shows good order and taste. The roads are fine, not one that would compare unfavourably with our best. You find paved roads right out in the country. All the railway stations are big and roomy and spotlessly clean. As you get nearer London, among the suburbs the scene changes. At first it is not unlike Mitcham and Unley, but as you get up to Kensington, Clapham, Chelsea etc., you find dingy, dirty, poky houses etc. What I saw of the Thames was just a muddy stream lined with untidy wharves and barges. As you get out this side nearer to Oxford, the country opens out again to trim fields and hedges. Everything strikes one as being in the miniature, and laid out and measured off exactly. The ordinary country is just like a big garden.

This is a big hospital, but very quiet. There is a fine garden- chiefly lawn, with a few trees about. This afternoon it has been raining fairly heavily, and it can rain here alright. The town appears to be very pretty and the college buildings are particularly fine. They are all spired and towered. As far as I can make out, there are only three Australians here. We missed the others by some mischance, however I expect we will pick them up sometime.

I have one friend with me, a chap named Edmondson of the 51st. I managed to get moved into his room today. Altogether this hospital doesn’t compare too well with the 24th. The attention, food, and general well being is not nearly the same. In Etaples it was excellent. I wish we had gone nearer London as it would have been very handy to have been able to slip in at any odd time.

At present I am handicapped by not having any clothes. What the barb wire didn’t tear off me, they just cut off me when I was in the dressing station. For a time, money is going to be an item. Until I can get to an Australian Base of some sort, I can’t get any money. Our people always pay to us direct. In the British Army the pay is paid to the officer’s bank account, and he draws as he wants money. At first opportunity, I am going to open an account with the Bank of Adelaide.

One of the things that struck me on landing, was being able to read everything written, and understand everything spoken which was the first time for a very long time. I will give you an account of our moves for the last few months. I suppose I am quite safe in doing so now. On our way from Marseilles up north, we passed through Amiens, Boulogne, Calais, Abbeville, and ended up at Hazelbrook. From there we marched to Fletie, and moved on from town to town. From Fletie to Sailly sur la Lys, then to Estanes, the place with the church. From Estanes back to Fletie thence to Bailleul-Coudas, Pernois, Herisart, Vandencourt (the woods) Albert thence to the Push. From the Push to Warloy, Puichvilliers, Etaples, Calais, and Dover. It covers a lot of country, and if you can get a large map, it would show all the places. The first lot of places are around Armentieres, and the latter round the Somme.

24th August – France

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

At last I am going to give you a little news of my doings the last week or so. It is very awkward for me to write as I can only move my right hand up and down, and I have to move the paper backwards and forwards.

Well to go back to where I left you last time. I think we had just left that salvage job. On the Friday night, we got orders to go up to the support lines first thing next morning. Previous to this, it had been decided to take three officers in with each company. Under this arrangement Pat and I were left out (not that I was sorry by any means). Then it cropped up that one of us had to go, so we tossed up in quite the approved style – Pat lost. At some unearthly hour on Saturday, we started out and marched about four miles where we camped in trenches. Here we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable, thinking we were there for the day but in a very short time, the order came to get ready to move right up. Here was a job if you like, the whole battalion had to move off in single file up a communication trench, about two miles long or more. The way lay through the most desolate, shell-torn piece of country I have ever seen. The latter part of the journey was a nightmare. The trenches were non existent – just a track leading from shell hole to shell hole, and on every side. Even in the trenches, dead men in various stages of decomposition. On the top of all this we were subjected to a pretty heavy shell fire which didn’t add to the beauty of things.

All the villages are just one huge dust heap, here and there a piece of timber sticking out like a grotesque arm. When at last we were in the front line, the fun started. The Huns had chosen this time to carry on a particularly vicious strafe. One section of the trenches (which happened to be B. Company’s) came in for quite a lot of fun. The “harebrained ones” concentrated on about eighty yards of it. In a very little time this portion was as unvaried in appearance as ‘no man’s land’.

Shells were lobbing there with quite a clock-like precision of say one per second. I had the pleasure of crossing this place twice. Before I finished, I had crossed it many times. On my way back, I had several very near goes. I was buried about five times by shells. A big 9.2lbs within a few yards of you. Everything goes up. First the sand bags and big pieces fall on your neck, then comes the small pieces followed by a very fine, but very thick cloud of dust. I was wet through with perspiration, and all this stuff falling on me, I was a picture. Even my O.C. didn’t recognize me. My pants were torn, my putties down, and I was dust and much all over.

At 10.30 that night we advanced under a barrage of fire and dug in about 200 yards out. Shrapnel was flying all round like hail. It is a wonder I wasn’t hit. I was moving all over the place right in the open. Our barrage was wonderful. It means every battery we have concentrating on one long line. There was a terrific roar and one long line of light. We had to dig in where this barrage had been. Some of the shells holes were 20 feet deep. The whole land is just one mass of shell holes. You couldn’t place a hand on any piece of ground that hadn’t been turned over time after time. I was hit by pieces of shell time without number. My “tin hat” was crumpled up by one piece and knocked down by it. Another piece cut my sleeve, other pieces bruised me. Talking it all through I had some marvellous escapes.

Our greatest trouble was water. Everything had to be brought out overland, and the Hun shelled our rear lines, and it couldn’t be got through. We had to catch the rain in oil sheets, or go without for over 48 hours. Our fellows came up to the mark all right. They did very well. I am very proud of my men although there are very few of them left now. Up till Sunday night we hadn’t lost very many men, but Monday night we had to go in another 200 yards and this time we got it. We had two machine guns and enfilade shrapnel from both flanks playing on us as soon as we left the trenches. Talk about slaughter! – men were falling all over the place.

I was directing the digging of a trench when I got hit. It gave me a very nasty shock. After we had been out there for some little time, it was decided that the position was too hot to hold, so we had to get back to the trenches we had just left. I managed to walk back and saw the men into the trenches, and then with a fine disregard for shrapnel, snipers, or anything else, just wandered across no-man’s land till I found Head Quarters. Here I got Dr. Jeffries to tie me up. As soon as I was fixed up, I went completely to the pack. It was the result of shell shock. I followed Murray Fowler along to a dressing station for about a mile I suppose, crying to myself as if my heart would break, the tears were running down my face and you would have thought I was a kid of two that had lost a lollie. It was most peculiar and affected dozens of others in a similar manner.

As far as I know, there are about ten of my platoon left. The whole battalion was badly cut up. After passing through about half a dozen different hospitals and clearing stations, I have lobbed here to stay for a bit. Nearly all the others who came in with me have gone to England. Only the very slight or bad cases remaining. I was x-rayed again this morning, and General Sir John Meakin (not Maitland) was looking at me again yesterday. They reckon it is a nasty break but doing wonderfully. Sir John is the Surgeon-General in France also he is the King’s Surgeon- some tuss- me- eh!! I expect to go to England in about a week and to stay there for a good spell. I have finished with work, going to malinger for a bit. You will have to show this letter to others. It is as much as I can do to write one letter.

24th General Hospital – Estaples, France

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

22nd August

Things are kicking along slowly, and my wound is gradually getting better. I was hit on the right arm just at the shoulder by a high explosive shrapnel pellet. It passed through the shoulder fracturing it, and it is now lying alongside my ribs somewhere. I have had a lovely arm, about three times its right size, but now it is gradually assuming normal shape. The doctors aren’t worrying about the bullet. The fracture is the trouble. I have been X-rayed, photographed, and examined by crowds of doctors – chief of the lot was Major General Sir John Maitland- one of the crack Surgeons of England. I am just beginning to move a little, up to date I have been kept well in bed. As soon as I can be moved, I am to be sent to England. I guess it will be a long time before I leave it then.

My wound isn’t dangerous by any means, not even serious, but I think severe would cover it. This Pozieres is a warm joint all right. I went through three days of the biggest blasting I ever want to get.

Jonah has been wounded but don’t know where he is. Murray Fowler is with me. The hospital attention, sisters, orderlies etc are very fine. The meals equal to a first class hotel, everything is just okay. I have written Lanyon’s asking them to forward my letters on to whatever hospital I happen to be in.

I expect to be in England for some time.

Lots of Love.

17th August – hit again!

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

Well I have managed to get in the way of a piece of led again. We were in the firing line for three days of absolute hell – advancing all the time. On the 14th we pushed on and started to dig in. The Germans had two machine guns and enfiladed shell fire on to us from both sides. I was just getting my men dug in when a shrapnel ball hit me in the right arm breaking my shoulder. We got very badly cut up, and the whole place was a veritable shambles.

Nearly all our men and officers are wounded. The percentage of killed is very small. I reckon the Huns had about sixteen shots to kill me. I was buried about six times, and pieces of shell were hitting me all day and night. My steel helmet saved me time after time. The rim was broken right off with one piece. I didn’t get any sleep for four nights, and very little food and water. The shell fire is something terrific, it is a wonder we were not all killed with concussion. I expect to arrive in England in a couple of days.

Am in a very fine hospital at present. Have to go under Xrays shortly to have the bullet removed. Will write later – as in excellent health – nothing to worry over.

Yours as ever,

9th August – flattened village

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

The last few days we have been on a trench salvage job. We have been working from the German first line and working forward. It is a most interesting game. From the condition of the ground around, and the equipment and ammunition etc. lying around one can read how the fight went. The various sectors where we had the ascendancy, and where the Huns had their “day”.

I am quite used to seeing dead Germans and collecting their gear off them. The best of it is that they have been dead since the 1st of July.

There is a village where we are working – the walls of the houses are at most three feet high, and any trees about are blown to smithereens. It seems to me that the cost of war depends more on the wastage than the consumption. The number of bombs and ammunition that we have collected in two days would surprise you.

The artillery is something terrific here. The poor old infantry cop it every time. We have our turn in the front line tomorrow night I believe.

I heard Jack Clarke tonight – he was mixed up in a scrap where we were before. He survived quite successfully.

The dugouts in the Hun line would surprise you. They are big caverns cut out of chalk rock. They go down for about 30ft. and open out into big galleries – all timbered up and fitted with tables, beds, electric light etc., and some go down 20 ft. below the 30ft. level. They are almost shell proof and are a marvel of trench warfare. The bosches evidently intended staying here for years. Of course the Australians must be mixed up in the move. He blames them anyway. I am satisfied we have the ascendency over him in artillery, aerial, and infantry here. The town is which we are billeted has a big cathedral knocked to pieces, it is a marvel of shell fire. The whole town has been knocked rotten time and time again.

3rd August – mail

Posted: December 29, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

Have just received letters of the 10/6/16 and 13/6/16. We are still in the wood. It is a very large one, nearly all elm trees. We find tobacco harder to get here than in Egypt even. Have just received another batch of letters 10 in all. I received that heath, thanks Mollie. I can quite imagine I am in the hills when I am in these woods. They are very fine. I haven’t had any trouble with the “Soldier’s friends” for a long time, am able to keep clean, you see.

I received altogether 22 letters in the last couple of days, the best birthday present of the lot. Managed to get some fizz for dinner tonight.

Well there is nothing further to say.