Tag: LCpl Walter Williamson

11 June 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

We continued our march, passing through Ledringhe to barn billets near Arneke, only about 10 miles today in view of a big march to come.

Having a look round with Bob Atkinson, a Lewis Gunner, we were delighted to find what we judged was quite a decent bathing pond. Bob tried it with a pole, and finding what proved to be the only deep spot in it (which we did not realize at the time), said there was any amount of water, so we stripped and dived together, and buried our noses in black slime at the bottom of 30 inches of water, and to add insult to injury, the farmer came along while we were trying to clean ourselves again, and screeched some most terrible French at us, and being patient with him, we eventually managed to understand that he did not allow dirty soldiers to use his clean cow’s clean water, or something to that effect, and the only thing we could think of in reply was to ask him if he kept eggs, and finding he did we first ordered ours for tea and then warned the others that eggs might be had at the kitchen.

25 May 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

Off at 5-15am for Road making. We finished early owing to the fact that early in the afternoon an enemy observation balloon rose, and had a nice view of the proceedings, and asked their artillery to send a message or two over.’ The one officer in charge of us was not anxious to have any casualties amongst the men (or officer(s)), so we struck work. In order that we should not arrive back at the camp too early, he took us to a bathing pool he had noticed on the outward journey, and as it was a sweltering hot day, we enjoyed ourselves immensely for an hour, the absence of A.S.A. regulation costumes, and towels troubling us not a jot, in fact, shirts felt pleasantly cooler after being used as towels.

20 May 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

About 300 of us were marched down to Poperinghe in the evening for a free show of our 39th Divl. Entertainment Party. It was quite a good show. Divisional staff were thick in the front rows, and there was enough gold braid to serve as footlights. They received many sly digs from the stage, referring principally to Leaves, Baths and Divisional Rest.

On getting back to camp that evening, I found a letter from Pat saying what a good time he was having, and informing me by postscript, that the huts at the Signal School had been limewashed since I left there. I have not yet known him long enough to judge whether this was unconscious or deliberate.

Extract from war diary of 13th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

Aldershot Camp, near Neuve Eglise

Church services etc.

2nd Lieut McCullagh went out on patrol to reconnoitre “No mans land”, while returning he and his orderly lost direction and eventually reached the enemy’s lines just as dawn was breaking.  They decided to spend the hours of daylight in the German line which they did.  No enemy came anywhere near them.  They returned to our lines immediately darkness set in.

Extract from the diary of Norman Hughes, “B” Coy, 1/4th Cheshire Regiment 53rd (Welsh) Division [Norman Hughes came from Neston]

Mail up!  Letter M.R. not one from home.  Auntie Mary sends me a parcel with socks in, just the thing I need, also biscuits and a good cake.

Last night the Turks had “wind up” a little but no damage is done.

2 May 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

The battalion came back into supports at trenches known as “x” lines and Irish Farm and.2 platoons of “A” company to a “strong point” called “Wilson’s Farm” Frank, Jim and myself taking over the signals at this place. It consisted of a short well built trench, containing a deep sap which led down below fully 30 feet to the signal office and the sleeping accommodation. Down here we found the strongest point of the strong point. It was the smell. As yet, there was only the one entrance and no through ventilation, and the heat was terrific, and as we sat on our shelf we shed everything but tunics and trousers in our efforts to keep cool. As this failed and the smell became unbearable, we moved the instruments up into the trench where they were having glorious sunshine. “Nobby” Clarke who was now on Battn. H.Q. visited us one day to inspect (?) instruments etc. While he was chatting with us, the Fullerphone buzzed off.

“Gas alert. Strombus horn heard on our left”

Everyone dashed for Gas Masks to see if they were in working order, which of course should be done every day. “Nobby” was horrified after unloading his gas mask case of candle ends, to find his mask short of an eye piece, which of course put the mask entirely out of action. We loaned him a good old “P.H.” bag mask, and he flew off as hard as his long legs would carry him, to get back to Battn H.Q. before the gas caught him.

We heard later unofficially, that it was a false alarm. A new and inquisitive Sgt. had arrived in the line with the Battalion on our left front and had inadvertently started the strombus horn, and every telephone in a large area had immediately sent the alarm far and wide.

12 April 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

Ypres

Off early to work for the Canadian Construction Boys, making light railways. As some one put it – “An offensive” odour about this”. The size of the Canadian shovels we were served out with, made us turn pale, but our colour soon came back when we started to use them. I am not surprised that we were able to stick to that part of Belgium. The trouble really would be to get rid of it. A shovelful seemed to have the tenacity of good glue, plus fly-paper mixture, black treacle and bird lime, and if even those railway tracks were finished, they ought to stick alright.

Extract from war diary of 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

Brandhoek

All available officers and other ranks engaged on railway construction fatigue. 4 OR Rejoined ex hospital.

25 March 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

When the Orderly Sergt. Came round during the day, reckoning how many men he could muster for duty, we did not need to guess twice that the R.E. wanted some work doing. We started off at 8-0pm. with the night as black as the proverbial bag. Timber carrying we heard it was to be. We slopped our way along the communications trench for some distance and then climbed out onto a road which seemed to be well over ankle deep where it was in good repair, and any unknown depth where it was not. Coming to some ruins which seemed to be all that was left of Zillebeke Village, a stack of timber loomed up out of the darkness. We lined up in single file. Pat being in front of me, and as each man came alongside the stack, someone on top slid a heavy plank down to him, which he shouldered and joined up a few yards down the road, to those who had already been served. The weight of the plank in falling, buried its end well in the mud, and it took of my best to wiggle it out of its mud socket and get it on to the shoulder that was not already engaged with my rifle. Judging from its weight, I reckoned my limit, about a hundred yards. As soon as we were all loaded, the R.E. guide started off, and I felt straight away that I would like to change shoulders with my load, but too late, we were off, and I must keep Pat in sight (visible 5 yards in front) otherwise he might have been a thousand miles away, and I would be left like a lost soul ploughing my way through a “Slough of Despond” and misleading all the poor souls behind me.

We made semicircles round water-logged shell holes, did wonderful balancing feats on muddy planks over old disused trenches, in an endeavour to keep pace with that long legged R.E guide, whose load consisted of an overcoat and a gas mask, whilst we were plank ridden in full “Fighting Order” I felt at last that my very soul’s salvation depended on having my plank on the other shoulder. I stopped short to slide it off my shoulder, but instead of it standing on its end whilst I got my other shoulder to it, the perverse thing slid into a shell hole and took me along with it.

One is at a loss for words at such a moment, which fact perhaps accounted for Pat hearing nothing of my misfortune, and disappearing into the darkness. The man next behind me, after sympathetic (?) reference to my disappearance, made haste to get within sight of Pat. I managed to scramble out, shoulder my burden again, and join on the end of the party. Bringing up the rear was a good friend in the shape of Jack Issacs, Corporal of the Lewis Gunners, my instructor in that department, before I deserted it for the Signals. Like the good soul he was, he took over my burden for a short spell in exchange for his rifle. After a good breather, I had taken my timber again and we were all making a bit better progress over a bit better ground when a machine gun rapped out right across us.

Some dropped flat, perhaps to keep their burdens from harm, while others played bo-peep behind theirs. It only lasted a few seconds, and though that Boche machine gunner had been lucky to find such a good target by chance in the dark, that was as far as his luck went, for we had not a single casualty. We got along appreciably quicker with our burdens after that. Barring an occasional further rattle of machine gun fire, which was not again in our direction, things were very quiet, the artillery seeming strangely quiet.

We dropped into a trench soon afterwards, and after negotiating a few awkward corners, we reached our destination at the head of a big sap. Here we dumped the timber, while an R.E made an effort to count the planks to see if they had all turned up, while our N.C.O. was concerned to know if all his men had also turned up. I found Pat here and his expressed opinions would have found some difficulty in getting into the Church Monthly, or whatever Sunday reading he takes in. We were not overjoyed to find out then, that we had two more loads to bring up before we had finished for the night. On the second journey, I managed to get hold of a piece of more more manageable weight and dimensions, and had quite a decent journey. Halfway on the journey with the third load the evenings work came to a sudden and unexpected finish. All in a moment the quietness was torn to shreds with a howl of shells with an accompaniment of machine gun and rifle fire. Infantry training rules for taking the prone position quickly, were beaten to a standstill. I found myself lying full length in a ditch with my head well entrenched behind Pat’s feet. “What’s Up” I enquired of Pat’s feet.

“Not been out in a strafe before, have you? we were “doing this while you were holding ’em back at “‘Poperinghe” came the cutting reply, so for a while 1 lay and “enjoyed” the earthquakes, mud volcanoes, and firework display, and tried to avoid making any further silly enquiries. Then a big shell seemed to drop just on the other side of the hedge, and the world’s end seemed to have arrived in a lump.

Someone seemed to be making a sudden rush and then a queer sound seemed to come from Pat. I was just putting my head up to see if he was hit, when a horrible crushing weight hit my helmet, and my face sank in the mud. The weight lifted as suddenly as it had fallen. When I could speak, I ventured an enquiry again, but found him this time only anxious to give a lucid and forceful explanation of this latest surprise. It appeared that a man lying in the ditch along in front of Pat, had been suddenly seized with a keen desire for a better hole, and had rushed along the ditch and done his best to tread us in, on his flight.

It was evident by now that a raid was in progress on the Black Watch, and the Herts battalions who were in the line in front of us, and what we were catching, was the usual barrage but behind the line to keep reinforcements from getting up.

After a time one seemed to lose interest in the flying shrapnel, nosecaps and general ironmongery, and prayed for the awful noise to cease. A mouthful of fresh air too, would be a treat in place of lyddite fumes. We seemed to have settled there for “duration”, when Pat suddenly sat up, and suggested as things were quiet now, we might move. “Quiet?” I yelled, for the din was awful.

“There is nothing coming over now, that now is our guns” he assured me. This put a more cheerful aspect on things, and we sat up and listened to our shells going over, and no reply coming back. Fritz, whatever had been the result of his raid, was getting it hot now. (we heard later that he got it hot altogether, and never reached our trenches, and the bigger part of the raiders never reached their own trenches again) Our party (without its timber) was collected, and our only casualty appeared to be a man who had knocked his eye badly on a tree stump in getting down.

19 March 1917

Extract from the diary of LCpl Walter Williamson, 6th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

We were marched off for a working party. Calling at a big “R.E.” dump where we picked up picks and shovels. We went on to an old disused railway siding near Vlamertinghe. Half the party were detailed to some workshops near by, to stack empty shell boxes under cover. They were the lucky ones, being quite close by an estaminet (which also sold coffee). They found a nice soft job and returned in the evening with plenty of firewood. I was unfortunate enough to get in with the unlucky half of the party which spent a day on the siding in driving snow, digging up old sleepers and stacking them. By the time we had finished work we had seen too much of sleepers to bother carrying any back for firewood. Then we wended our weary way back to the R.E. dump, and handed in our picks and shovels which were counted carefully before we were allowed to proceed on our way back to camp. Counting out picks and shovels to the “P.B.I.” was an important part of the R.E. work.