March 1918

Friday 1st March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m., very frosty and white. Went down to work at 8.30, built up engine front this morning and watched a lot of artillery (light field) being inspected. Developed into a real March day, windy and cold. After dinner took back some tools to store and as nothing more to do went back to hut and had wash and yarn before tea. Very cold tonight and hut draughty so sat round stove talking and singing till 9 p.m. when turned in.

Saturday 2nd March, 1918

Very cold night and up at 7 a.m., bitter cold day, strong freezing wind and light covering of snow. Went down to yard at 8.30 a.m. but no work for us so made brazier and got fire going in a dug-out then sat yarning till dinner time. Did not turn out after dinner as no work to do and a wild blizzard on, cold enough in hut so sat yarning round stove. After tea cleaned up my kit, had a yarn and into bed 9 p.m.

Sunday 3rd March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and had breakfast, covering of snow but wind not quite so strong, but still keen and very cold. Called out at 9 a.m. to erect a bow hut for officer's mess, very very cold to hands and feet. Worked till dinner time, thaw set in and everywhere very muddy. Got cleaned and changed after dinner and had a read till tea time after which three of us set out to see if we could find a place where a church service was held, found one at C.C.S. Aubigny, then returned home, wrote a letter and in bed 9 p.m.

Monday 4th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m., very cold wind blowing, raw and bleak. After breakfast went down to yard and brought our tools back to camp, then went back to yard again and unloaded a big hut off a broad gauge truck, got it off shortly after dinner. Got back to camp and cleaned before tea. Went to concert this evening given by the ... squadron Aust. Flying Corps, spent very enjoyable evening. Rained tonight and very cold so turned in about 9 p.m. Received a letter and a bonzer parcel from Dais.

Tuesday 5th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m., not quite so cold this morning but still bleak, got finer after dinner. Went down to yard after breakfast and fixed up a leaky lead plug and helped to coal some engines that are to be tested. After dinner filled some boilers up ready for firing in the morning, no tools and conveniences very poor. Called for my washing on way back to camp and had cup of coffee. After tea spent evening writing letters, was paid today. Into bed 9.30 p.m.

Wednesday 6th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down to yard, took out some plugs on top of engine boiler so they can be filled up. Rather nice morning and came out nicer as day went on. This afternoon played my first game of Aust'n. football against flying corp (Aust.) We were beaten easily. After tea wrote letter and some picture post cards of Aubigny to Dais. and in bed 9.30 p.m.

Thursday 7th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down to yard. Fixed up a leaky plug and then Capt. Duncan sent me on another job loading control huts on trucks. After dinner took some screw jacks etc. to stores, loaded more huts and unloaded them at our camp. Finished work at 5 p.m. and went into Aubigny for walk after taking my washing out. Been nice day but little cloudy. Turned into bed 9.30 p.m.

Friday 8th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down yard and continued loading control huts till dinner time. Very nice day and lot of our planes about. After dinner went down and started unloading six inch Howitzer ramps used for carrying guns on light railway trucks, very heavy work, lot of our chaps getting sick leaving us short-handed. After tea did some writing and turned into bed about 9.30 p.m.

Saturday 9th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down yard, unloading gun ramps all day, very heavy, and tired tonight. All but one of us (six in all) are transferred men, we seem to be carrying the rest on our backs. Good deal of discontent on account of few of us doing all the work as it is not good enough, and expressions are being freely made. Very fine day, lot of troop trains goind up towards line, also lot of tanks and transport, looks like an offensive. Writing tonight and in bed 9 p.m.

Sunday 10th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. Time was put forward one hour at midnight last night. After breakfast went down, unloading more gun ramps till dinner time. Lot more troops and tanks going up line today. Half holiday this afternoon, lovely warm sunny day so took walk by myself to village of "Mingerval" about 2 miles away. Back for tea and found some more of our men arrived from Ypres front, Will Hill among them. After tea Will Hill and I went for walk through Savy to Aubigny, had some eggs and chips and into bed 9.30 p.m.

  Monday 11th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down unloading more gun ramps, finished by dinner time. After dinner working stacking up the ramps on our camp site ready for when required, heavy work and hot as a beautiful day and sun quite hot. Finished by 4 p.m. and had a bath in the open field in petrol tin for bath. After tea went for my washing and then Will Hill, some pals and I went for walk through Aubigny, Savy and home. Wrote letter and into bed 9.30 p.m.

Tuesday 12th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast started erecting a Nisson (Bow) Hut, worked all day on it till 5 p.m. and have got good deal of it up. Was frosty this morning but turned out lovely day, sun quite hot. Our planes busy, a chap from this Aerodrome, 2nd Aust. Squadron told us their pilots brought six fritz's down today. Things very quiet with us. After tea wrote to Mam and Dais. then had yarn and turned into bed 10 p.m.

Wednesday 13th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went on erecting hut, very nice day again. Finished hut about 4 p.m. and knocked off for day. After tea Will Hill and I went out for walk and had some eggs and chips for supper. While I was out was wanted for a breakdown but gang had to go out without me, an engine badly derailed. Back at camp 9 p.m. and in bed 9.30 p.m.

Thursday 14th March, 1918

Called out at 6.30 a.m. and went down and loaded fifty sleepers in wagon. Back for breakfast at 8.15 a.m. and had to go out with break-down gang at 8.30 a.m. Engine derailed little way past "Ville-Chatel" about 6 miles from depot, nearly on side. Worked hard and got it on by 2.15 p.m., solid work and very hungry, had no tucker with us. Back to camp by 3.15 p.m. and had dinner. Feel tired, not up to real hard days work now, the life tells. Had tea at 5 p.m., lay on my bed all evening resting and turned in 9 p.m.

Friday 15th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down to yard. Tried to fix up lead plug hole in crown plates, got threads torn off, not successful. After dinner took off badly bent guard iron and bracket, straightened bracket and put it on again. Very nice day, sun shining but not strong. Plane crashed in aerodrome here, engine broke clean away and was about 15 yards from wreckage. Pilot practically unhurt. Had yarn and read and in bed 9 p.m.

Saturday 16th March, 1918

Up 7 a.m. and went down to yard about 9 a.m., took off guard iron and put it on another engine. Very nice day, fritz plane dropped some bombs near here last night, after aerodrome, great concussion. Fell asleep on bunk just after dinner and did not wake up till 2.30 p.m., too late to go down yard. After tea Will Hill, another chap and I went out for walk, went to village of Bethonsart about 2 1/2 miles away, just small cluster of houses and farms, very quiet. Our planes busy tonight. At camp and in bed 9.30 p.m.

Sunday 17th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down yard, tapped safety plug hole in crown plate this morning. Half holiday this afternoon, so as beautiful day Will Hill, a couple of pals and I went out for walk, went through Savy and walked about 4 1/2 miles to village called Penin, very small place, had look round and tea at farm, had eight eggs each for tea. People mistaking us for Yankees. Back to camp and in bed 9.30 p.m.

Monday 18th March, 1918

Harold married today. Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast down to yard to work straightening an engine frame, a number of which are bent. Glorious day and our planes very busy, a fritz plane up somewhere, could hear anti aircraft gun going but could not see plane. Feel tired tonight, had letter from Mam. After tea did some writing, wrote to Mam, very difficult, some of boys singing and some arguing and jumping about. In bed about 9 p.m.

Tuesday 19th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down to work. Started raining about 7.30 a.m. and rained fairly heavily all day. Straightening engine frame all day out in rain and got it finished about 4 p.m. pretty well wet through. Went to hut and changed before tea. Feel a bit stiff and tired tonight, think it is from getting wet. Wrote a letter to Dais. then got into bed and had read, went to sleep about 9 p.m., still raining.

Wednesday 20th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down to work, bolted on front footplate then went brakesman on a P.E. shunting in yard till dinner time. After dinner took off a front footplate and straightened the top corner of a 40 H.P. tractor. Cold and wet this morning, but cleared up this afternoon. After tea Will Hill, some pals and myself went to Aubigny for walk, went to Church Army hut and bought cigarettes. Back at camp and in bed 10 p.m.

  Thursday 21st March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and at work after breakfast straightening engine frames, fixed up two engines today and put on a guard iron. Nice day today. Guns were going heavily all last night and fritz has got broad gauge Rly. hung up, line blown out I think. Don't feel too brilliant today, wetting I got the other day seems to have got my bones and they ache today, especially my left arm, it aches badly. Guns livened up again this evening. Wrote couple letters, had read and in bed about 9 p.m.

Friday 22nd March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went down to work, took down front plate etc. of engine, one side of frame broken through. Went back to camp for some tools that have just arrived, sorting them out till dinner time. Fritz plane over. Getting more tools after dinner, beautiful day, guns very busy, sounds like big stunt. Rumours floated through of British set back and of advance of Fritz of 5 miles on 45 mile front, don't believe it. Went for walk to Mingoval after tea, about 2 miles. Back at camp and in bed 9.30 p.m.

Saturday 23rd March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m., took tools down to work and started repairing broken frame, have to do drilling and everything by hand. Glorious warm day. More rumours of fritz advancing 15 miles along front from St. Quentin to near Lens, don't think it is true but some of our chaps very windy. Guns going heavy all the time. After tea took walk with some pals to Bethonsart about 3 1/2 miles. Back at camp 9 p.m. Lot of fritz planes about bombing tonight, also lot of ours. Rumour now has it that instead of Fritz having victory we have taken 25,000 prisoners. Had letter from Dais, in bed 9.30.

Sunday 24th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and after breakfast went to work, drilling an engine frame by hand this morning. Very fine day. Half holiday this afternoon. Will Hill and I with some pals went for walk to Penin, troops on move towards line. Had tea in Penin, six eggs each. Set out for home about 8.30 p.m. Lot of fritz planes about, could hear them very low, dropping bombs over St. Pol way. Lot of rumours about. Home at camp and in bed 10.30 p.m.

Monday 25th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and at work 8.30 a.m. When woke up found some of men had left hut at 1 a.m. as Fritz plane was over then bombing but did not drop any near. Drilling again today all day, colder and cloudy, looks like rain. Rumours of big Hun success but don't believce it. Some of chaps here got wind up. It seems that fritz has made huge atttack and gained some ground at tremendous sacrifice and the huge battle is still raging. Writing tonight, received letter from Dais. and turned in 9.30 p.m.

Tuesday 26th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and went to work at 8.30 a.m., took out safety plug and refilled it, then drilling engine frame till dinner time. Fine day but cold. After dinner straightened guard iron and put it on, finished patching engine frame and re-erected front. Most of engines going out tonight carrying troops. No definite news of Hun offensive but the carnage according to unofficial rumours must be awful. Wrote to Dais. then had yarn and turned in 9 p.m.

Wednesday 27th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and at work 8.30 a.m. About 11 p.m. last night fritz planes were over and dropped number of bombs near here. Seemed to be after Rly. A baby was killed in house about 300 yds from our hut. Very busy this morning on number of small jobs as all engines had to be out running at 12 noon. A bit chilly today, cold wind. Helped Blacksmith to make iron safety plug after dinner and went back to hut for tea at 5 p.m. Wrote letter home this evening and in bed 9 p.m.

Thursday 28th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. Fritz did not trouble us with his bombs last night though ours were busy going over. One of our bombing planes came down with engine trouble and was wrecked near here late last night, pilot injured, not seriously. Went to work 8 a.m., tapped safety plug hole and put in new plug. Rather cold and windy after dinner, not much doing, examined some wash-out and safety plugs and back for tea 5 p.m. After tea did little work on a souvenir ash-tray and was called out at 8.30 p.m. for a breakdown, raining heavily and cold.

Friday 29th March, 1918

40 H.P. tractor took us out to breakdown about 6 miles from here on way to "Barline". No. of trains held up. Two trucks and two engines derailed, put them on and stood in siding to see rest over safely. Three more engines came off, put them on and set off back for camp. Got in about 4.30 a.m., had cup of stale tea, a macconnachie and into bed 5 a.m. tired out. Slept till dinner time and got into bed again. Sgt. Grant called for me for job but told him I wasn't getting up. Our tucker very short so went out after tea and had eggs and chips. In bed 9 p.m. *1 Additional entry at beginning of diary. Getting little news of German offensive and our retreat. Have full confidence we will lick him though he has gained some territory. Rumours that we may have to get out of here.

Saturday 30th March, 1918

Up at 7 a.m. and at work 8 a.m. Very wet morning, fixed up couple of safety plugs and took off some guard irons that were damaged. All our engines going for all they are worth conveying troops and ammunition, only have time to do temporary repairs. After dinner took a spark arrestor out of Baldwin smokebox while engine shunting, rotten job but necessary. Knocked off about 4.30 p.m. After tea did little work at a souvenir and in bed 9 p.m.

Sunday 31st March, 1918

Slept in till 7.45 a.m. and got to work about 8.45 a.m. Refilled a safety plug and at 9.30 a.m. had to go out to a breakdown near Haystack not far from Mont St. Eloi. Two engines and a truck off track, put them on and back for dinner about 1.30 p.m. Had wash and sleep this afternoon and after tea went for walk to Mingoval. Our tucker very short again lately, 1 loaf to 4 men, teaspoonful of jam for 24 hours and about 1/2 oz. butter (Margarine) now and again, not feeling too full on it. Back at camp and in bed 9 p.m.