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The final episode of my Great-Grandfathers WWI Diary.


On Sept the 1st again went into the trenches & stayed in for 6 days coming out on the 7th. We were now getting very much below strength but we again went into the front line on the 12th & stayed there until the 16th when we received orders to entrain for somewhere else so we left the trenches for Bethune, a place about 6 miles from the front line & badly knocked about but a very large part of the population had remained here. We were billeted in what had been and Orphanage once. We left Bethune by train – 9:00 for Doullens on the 18th & arrived on 12 o’clock. Marched from here to [Aio Mille? Probably Milly, a town near Doullens] a distance of 7 miles. Stayed here for a night & on the 19th we marched to Ribemont[2], a distance of 42 kilometres, or about 36 miles, where we arrived at 7:30pm. We stayed here a night & as we had decent billets we got a good nights sleep.

Sept 20th. Left Ribemont & eventually arrived at [Montaboun?], a place on the Somme, on the 21st, about 7:30am. I must here say that we had to provide our own shelter as although it had been a town once there was not a brick left standing so three others & I dug a hole about 4 foot deep & fastened our waterproof sheets together & then put them over the top & we were then alright should it come to rain heavy as I may mention we were having very bad weather at the time. We here had our batt. made up to full strength & on the 28th & 29th we were on fatigue, clearing up a village called Longeville taken from the Germans & I was one of the party told off to bury the dead & I can tell you it was an awful job as the part we was told off to clear was a cemetery & coffins were blown out of the ground & men were crushed underneath the gravestones.

Oct 1st. went into trenches in front of the village of Le Transloy near Bapaume & had an awful time as all the time we were up to our waist in water & we were over the top twice & both times got within a few yards of the German trenches & were then repulsed by machine gun fire & had to cross the open ground back to our trenches under this murderous fire. Out casualty list was heavy & by the time we came out on the 11th we were all feeling heartily fed up, what was left of us.

Oct 16th. Again in the front line in the same place & were told that on the 18th we had to take Le Transloy & hold it at all costs & accordingly at 4 o’clock on that date we were once more over the top & were once more repulsed owing to our depleted ranks but at 2 o’clock in the afternoon we once more mounted the parapet & were accompanied by 4 tanks & thus strengthened we reached our objective & held it for three days until relieved by the Manchesters on the 21st & by the morning of the 22nd we were told that they had been shelled out of the position suffering nearly as many casualties as we had in taking it.

We had a few days rest this time going back into the trenches on Nov 1st & they had now got in a deplorable condition & you were scraping mud off the sides of the trenches on to your clothing & equipment whichever way you turned & it took you all your time to keep your gun clean & you also had your pistol to attend to & may I mention that while in this part of the line we had no dugouts & were not allowed to make any. Came out of trenches on 10th Nov & marched to Bailemont, a village near Arras, and on the 18th we went in the trenches at Arras & I here had another lucky escape as a shell dropped in the trenches about twelve yards away & was blown clean out of the trenches on to the parapet & it took me several minutes to find out if I was hit & when I found all was well you can bet I wasn’t long before I scrambled back & that shell proved to be the first one of a bombardment which he kept up for 4 days & we were on the alert expecting an attack which however never came off.

Came out for a rest on the 25th & went back on the 2nd of Dec & on the 4th I got my first experience of a gas attack as Johnny sent gas over on this date, but as it is a soldiers duty to watch the wind we were ready for it & he only gassed about 6 men in our batt who were not sharp enough in getting their gas helmets on, it was about 7 in the morning when he sent gas over & at 8 he advanced to the attack but we easily repulsed him before he had got half way across No Mans Land.

Dec 12th. Came out & was warned to take part in a bombing raid on the 18th & from the 12th to the 18th we were practicing this raid. Dec 18th, the night of the event, at 11:30 we advanced across No Mans Land equipped with rifle and bayonet which had been black varnished, Gas bag & 100 rounds of ammunition & a bag of bombs & we all had our hands and faces sooted. At 12 o’clock we had to get into the German trenches & do what damage we could & also secure a couple of prisoners. An officer & I went down a dugout & the germans were all under the beds & refused to come out so the officer grabbed a bag which was on one of the beds which afterwards proved to be the mail bag & gave it to me & told me to clear out & not to let go of the bag to no one until told to do so by him.

We had made a good success of this, securing 4 prisoners & the mail bag which contained the mail of which I handed to our officer when we reached our trenches, so we were given a weeks rest & on the 25th, Christmas day we again went into the trenches & came out on the 2nd of Jan 1917 & I may mention at 11 o’clock on New Years day, which is the time the German New Year comes in, he sent every kind of shell he possessed over & also kept a Machine Gun fire up until 12 o’clock when he ceased & our fellows commenced with their heavies & us with our Machine guns. This proved to be my last time in the trenches for a few days at a time as we went back on the 8th & on the 9th I received orders to pack my kit & go back to batt Headquarters as I was for Blighty & after a series of knocking about on the French Railways I eventually reached Bölonge from where I crossed the channel to Folkstone & from there I went to Richmond were I arrived on Jan26th & left here to resume work at the Yorkshire Engine Co. Sheffield on Jan 31st 1917.

-- George Frederick Cobb

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