The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

29. Sep 1914

I manage to crawl down 11 o’clock. Apparently the situation the same, tho’ Germans made some tentative attacks yesterday easily repelled.

This should suit us, as we lose practically no one.

Hear that the Cameron Highlanders have been wiped out at breakfast by a coal box.

The French turning movement has been met by 4 corps Germans from Malines. Apparently their best troops have gone to the East, our theatre is for the moment a secondary one. Germans said to be heavily entrenching. Don’t think we will move, so will get well before the Regiment moves, a bit of luck.

30. Sep 1914

The 11th Hussars move in here, because the 9th Lancers have been badly shelled at Longuecoal and had 40 odd casualties.

De Lisle kept them there all day, refusing to let them move. Things are rather crowded here. Read the papers and try to see the end and don’t look very near, but they say the Stock Exchange are laying 4-1 on peace by November 1st. Afraid this is only one of the usual canards.

Much the same here, a French success reported against flank of 2 German corps, its possible. Our Aisne casualties in paper.

1 Oct 1914

Leg better, I cannot go far yet, read papers and write letters

3 Oct 1914

Expect to move, but don’t. I fill the day as best I can reading discussing possibilities and hearing rumours, such as General v. Kluck surrounded with 40,000 men

4. Oct 1914

We move in morning, White and myself in the ambulance. Get taken to the wrong place, then to a dirty billet, vacated by gunners, near a church.

The supply man comes in, and as I can’t walk, suddenly head for Paris. Motor to Fere by the Flying Head quarters, all lit up, rockets in air.

Get bagged by Hospital people, get on train heading for the base.

Hear of Tetanus.

5. Oct 1914

Kavanagh and I go straight to the Ritz, where we are taken in free, it has just re-opened.

A suite of luxurious rooms, an enormous bath and every modern luxury.

Get masseur, in particular to hotel, and barber.

Come out another being.

Round Paris, to Chatham Champs Elysée and tea at Café de la Paix, meet American and French officers, after go on to Maxims, Harvey of the 9th Lancers joins up, we go to Moulin Rouge

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The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

22-09-1914 compressed

Tues 22 Sep. 1914

Rain as usual, but some sun. I go with Peckham to Fismes in the mess cart, commandeered, to try and get wine.

Track an old workman down in the end, and get 1 bottle. Get fresh meat and bread. The whole place crammed with French, transport, etc.

Find various officers working their way up to the front to fill gaps.

The Germans are reported to be giving ground, some trenches have been taken in which they were starving, probably too advanced.

2 Regiments W. Yorks and Devons get ambushed by White Flag, their first action and lost heavily, Germans came forward with their rifles up, machine guns hidden. Sleep in afternoon.

 23-09-1914 compressed

23 Sep. 1914

Wake up at 6.30 and feel energetic and fit once more instead of leaden footed and blear eyed.

Bright sun at last and the sound of guns further off. Robbie and I ride to Fismes. Enjoy the rest, after lunch to valise again.

The Germans have enteric we are to take precautions against it, thinking about being inocculated, its probably as well.

At dinner got an order to be, possibly, ready to march at 3am

See an aeroplane shelled in evening, hear how Yorks and Devons new regts got ambushed under white flag.

Germans advanced in sections, rifles over heads and machine guns hidden.

Broel brings in a bad Dum Dum bullet 600 were taken off a German generals motor car

 24-09-1914 compressed

24. Sep 1914

Still here and sitting in the sun writing after breakfast feeling well for once and rested.

The booming of guns same as ever.

Winnie has been made Col, and that is about all.

Enjoy the quiet life, much debate as to whether I will be inocculated, decide to wait till enteric actually breaks out

 25-09-1914 compressed

25. Sep 1914

Our day out. Reveille at 1.

Fortunately Tiger returns safely and does guide, or else would probably have led into the German lines in the dark.

After a winding journey thro Villiers-Moulins, to Paissy, without being shelled, tho’ we passed over area which got it badly by day.

Kept up communication with Turcos and hid the whole squadron in caves, including myself.

Very heavy shelling, but can’t quite get at us.

A shrapnel on our breakfast table thro’ the window.

The school mistress a most devoted lady, cooks our lunch.

A very pretty old world village in happier times.

Get out at night un-shelled and get in all safe late, no one hit

 26-09-1914 compressed

26. Sep 1914

Thought we really were going to get a rest.

Not so, ordered to saddle up after breakfast.

Hang about all day rather at a loose end with all ones kit packed.

Germans made a big attack on Troyon in the night, repulsed.

Much gunning

Boxer arrives and takes squadron

 27-09-1914 compressed

27. Sep 1914

Thought we were going to have a rest, mistaken.

Saddled up after breakfast and to Soupir once more, past coal box corner safely.

Hear that the retrograde movement of the Germans is rather a myth.

Shells about but not close except one

Saw Winston Churchill in a motor

My writing stopped by a coal box and order to go to billets.

We file away and immediately the leading regiment gets in open it is shelled.

2 telephones of enemy have been discovered in Chavonne today and the man captured, an Alsatian spy, who will be shot, says there are more.

We go to St.Maud, but can’t fit in.

Trail off to a farm on a hill by some gunners, wait for food.

Officers to sleep in a loft, I fall off the first story in the dark, luckily managed to scrabble the wall as I went, and only landed on wood not stone.

Badly bruise my thigh only, but it hurts a lot.

The gunners give me a bed. A poor way to be outed but lucky not to be worse.

 28-09-1914 compressed

28. Sep 1914

Have another taste of the ambulance, 7 miles on my back, after 13 years.

A painful ride over a rough road behind regiment to Blangy once more.

I am deposited in the mess on a stretcher and eventually given a bed, am quite helpless.

Yesterday we expected a forward movement, a myth

The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

Tues 15 Sep. 1914

Germans reported retiring behind gun fire, this proves un-true. We are really hanging on to the ground taken, by our eyelids. Artillery duel till dusk.

Regiment above Chavonne, B and C Squadron in front line, A. Squadron in reserve. After we had breakfasted in the chateau gardens, shave, to a salvo of shells in the chateau.

Shells come over all day but, concealed under steep slopes of hill, we don’t get casualties.

Return to Soupir and dine in rain, however sleep on the billiard room table cloth, in the big room.

Wed 16 Sep. 1914

Again at Chavonne. I was late, owing to an argument with the 11th, so have to relieve C. Squadron.

We await the attack by an old waggon, I can see the Germans in their trenches from my advanced post. Continual sniping and gunning after a time relieved by 2nd Brigade 4th Dragoons, and very glad of it.

Go to Soupir, it was a horrid position, no field of fire, and in a wood.

Found the whole Brigade with their lines down in a most exposed position, where I saw 4 gunners and 8 horses killed a few days ago.

Was at once sat on for expostulating, I felt it was but a question of time, so sat in ditch reading a paper.

A few shells, and are fortunately allowed to saddle up.

Ten minutes after, plump into the middle of us, just by Mic, shell comes, kills a horse and men, then battery fire and confusion.

11th Hussars come through my tail 1st troop goes spare, all the others lead round well. 2 men killed, hettlefold wounded, close to me by the card players all the dust down my back. There shell were coal-box. 250 lb siege gun shells. Billet at O. Collier Johnson and reinforcements join.

Thurs 17 Sep. 1914

We hear of many casualties, Hogg of 4th Hussars and many others.

We hear 10,000 British casualties alone, up to date.

We sleep in our billets on the straw as much as possible. The RE repair the bridges.

They say 600 German and 200 English dead at the Chimney.

Fri 18 Sep. 1914

A rest day. See the shells bursting on the ridge a mile away from us and that is all.

We are glad to be quit of them for the time.

Robinson and I go round on a foraging expedition and to call on the Bays in Chateau.

The Germans have turned it inside out, smashing what they could.

Sat 19 Sep. 1914

March from Ouilly before dawn in torrents of rain at ½ hours’ notice, all sorts of things doubtless left behind.

Sneak round by bed of river at Soupir, by as usual, in the end found by coal box.

To Chavonne, late over front line of defences from 4th D.Gs they look worried and are obviously thankful to be out of it.

We are in a sunk round, rough steps up to permit a field of fire, right resting on a wood, in which is B. squadron. They lose 2 men and shoot 3 Germans at 10 yards. We dig in, are shelled all day and the centre of an artillery duel. Bullets in road and a corpl. touched. The German attack in evening on Wiltshires glances off us, 60 men came right to us, then swing away, very heavy firing, the attack repulsed.

Sunday 20 Sep. 1914

We are relieved by 11th Hussars early, and are thankful to go from our position, which was a bad one and worse for B. squadron who had 1 killed and 1 wounded.

A squadron had little shooting tho a very comfortable night in a wet hole which the officers constructed. Improving the inner defences in village all morning. Heavy shell fire and a general attack in the evening on outer defences. Only a few bullets come our way, I was near my cellar.

Sleep in an old cottage occupied by a 70 year war veteran, who told us of the chicken blood, firing on wounded, etc.

Heard a German charge on the hill and their cheers against the Wilts.

The artillery would not fire because of prisoners.

Mon 21 Sep. 1914

Our deferred week end. Go back 6 miles to rest and really get there without being recalled.

Sneak back the new river way past coal box corner, up to our hocks in mud, but leave the shells behind and are thankful.

In time come to a peaceful village, unspoilt by Germans. Food, papers and hear Owen has gone to the front, according to his prophecy. Sort my kit, wash all over and thoroughly enjoy the rest.

The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

Tues 8 Sep. 1914

Marched before dawn 2.30a.m. A is leading squadron. Came through French army in town. Tiger advance troop.

Uhlans quite close but cannot be sure if they are English, till C. Squadron is fired on from a village.

Then on ridge above Sablonieres I saw the German Brigade and reported it, but the village was considered to be weakly held and I get orders to take it.

Just then a B. squadron man comes in saying he was the only man left out of Joe Nettlefolds troop, they ran mounted into an ambush.

We get down to road without loss by taking cover, lined road, and pinned Germans opposite.

Partridge and Norwood killed, Martin and J. Nettlefold wounded.

1st troop gets on ahead.

A. squadron finds only one machine gun and guns in village, follow right up to Monvilliers.

Get glasses and flag from German wounded officer.

It comes on very wet, went to a farm on a hill and managed to get good dinner.

Pouring rain.

A. squadron the first troops in Monvilliers.

Wed 9 Sep. 1914

Started at 2.30.a.m

Cross the Marne about 10.a.m.

Bays on hill shelled by own artillery which could not be stopped.

We saw a village attacked by our cavalry, then I am shoved on contact Squadron to go to Etre Pilly.
Meet Blackburn with a report of 1000 Germans in front of me, turns out to be a convoy. I get to 500x of it when our guns open into my back.

I jink into a hollow, then Tiger gets a place where he can see a X road, all sorts of Germans on bikes and in cars. We don’t attack, as its my job to get information. Brook goes off alone and never returns. Cpl. Kelly gets the information from the French which saves me.

Get into billets very tired in dark, thought we had lost the way. Sergeant Christian is guide.

Report to Briggs, sleep in hay and cold.

Thurs 10 Sep. 1914

A. squadron leading squadron over difficult county. Yellow Sally broke her neck over a bridge.

Found a battle going on near a village, can’t make out Germans from English.

Fired at from a bush and 2 German prisoners hunted out of it by French Lancers.

A great muddle.

Watson a gunner comes to reconnoitre with A. squadron which is sent to get close to our Infantry.

Come into very heavy shell fire at close range, Watson severely wounded.

Squadron gallops back on Brigade, 2 men wounded, 8 horses, some killed.

After to take a hill, X while going to find Winwood passed 11th Hussars by a tree. A shell fell within 5 yards of me on the pony, wounding Lockett amongst others.

Good billet in a valley, sleep in a bed.

X Saw a German cavalry Division going slowly across plain 2 miles off.

2 Battery could not get up in time.

We were shelled heavily and our gunners had to leave guns.

Friday 11 Sep. 1914

Marched by Oulchy, turned N.E.

8 German corps and 1 Division are operating here.

French have a reported success.

English army reported to have captured 7 guns, many machine guns and 1000 prisoners. Sat about under a culvert wet through, back to a village, dirty dishevelled and wet.

We fix up a fire and liberate a white goat.

Pankhurst goes sick with Pneumonia, am not surprised.

Sat 12 Sep. 1914

Advance, soon in contact with enemy.

Braine village is held. A. squadron into a wood on right of road and we eventually get into a castle and good long distance shooting from there into the backs of German infantry, they also get heavily shelled whenever they appear, dropping into turnips on all sides.

A. Squadron get to a farm “La Saulx Sadree”, by a covered way, thought all Germans had gone, when suddenly firing broke out and shortly after a party of 45 and 1 officer in close order appear on road.

Get Squadron from behind gate way on road, rapid fire, down they went, only a few shots back, which got Sergeant Christian.

Then closed into chateau again, get into cellars while our artillery fired over us.

Get Madeira, and after went forward for white flag, only 5 of us, which was rash. We found 20 unwounded men, 12 killed and wounded and the officer dying.

Fortunately the unwounded behind the rick were very frightened, I threatened them with sword and we fired revolvers, then formed them up and handed them to the Infantry, took their arms and broke them.

A good success for A. squadron. Saw Allenby just after it was over.

We went on a fools errand after some machine guns in wet. In evening in mud and rain, told there was a charge coming off, it did not.

All this was battle of Marne, from 6 Sept.

Billetted at Dhuisel, left helmet there. Pouring rain, rotten billet, uncivil inhabitant, have to threaten them.

Helmet left with: Mons Mathieux de Guart, Dhuisel, Aisne.

Sunday 13 Sep. 1914

Went up to where the Worcestershire Regiment was, then behind them. Then guns came into action by us, so we moved. Grossed the Aisne for the 1st time. See the Zouaves.

A great battle in full swing, hundreds of guns firing.

The Brigade twice ambles out into the middle of it, in apex of guns, and has to retire, shelled and useless.

I am responsible for the connection with French attacks, ride down to them in the village of V. close to Craonne, where Nap fought in 1814.

Find Brigade has suddenly shifted and that we have been beaten back, through Bourges many wounded coming in, including young Loyd of 60th Rifles who says Nat (my brother) with the 2nd Battalion got 12 German guns, and that Nat is unhurt.

I go on quietly after the Brigade, they have been thrown into a hole at Chavonne, where a counter attack was expected.

Our billets already full.

Mon 14 Sep. 1914

Action begun for heights on N. bank of Aisne. Fought all day, we finish by having gained some 2 miles of ground.

Get to Pagnan, saw French troops Zouaves.

We were brigaded all day, and occasionally, did a little ceremonial in the face of the enemy up by Tourde Paissy farm, right in the middle of crowds of guns.

I and Tiger were sent to keep communications with French, in a little village Varogne. While watching French rather vacillating attack, the Germans attacked all along the line, the Brigade is hurled to Chavonne to a critical point. I pursue and see big shell hitting gunners, also many stragglers get rather cold feet.

We awaited the counter attack which did not meet us, as we are in support. Then under covered line to Soupir Chateau.

Get in late, I am ordered to be the Squadron for night battle position. A very long night in open behind guards.

Fall down a bank.

Luckily we are not attacked we have no bayonets etc.

 

The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

1 Sep. 1914

Had all my things spread out, mackintosh etc, and we were just going to eat some breakfast when a sergt came to say an 11th Hussar patrol had encountered a large force of enemy close by. I made the men dress, and we stood to horses awaiting Ansells order to saddle up. He was in village at breakfast.

Immediately after heavy firing broke out from the Bays and shells and bullets poured into the camp. We saddled up and gallopped out losing men and houses, and kit. Rally squadron in a hollow with B. Squad. Expect to charge, so cast all kit, which I never saw again.

Made a flank attack in thick fog up steep hill, all saddles slipped back.

B squadron dismounted, A squadron struck for a farm.

Suddenly, only 80+ off, a firing line loomed through the fog.

We rally behind haystack, 2 troops in action, Sgt. Largford gets into their led horses and drops 16 and several men.

I wanted to charge with a troop twice, Ansell would not let me, then he called to come out mounted, to look.

We had not gone 3 horses lengths into a hail of bullets when he was hit, I could see full. Turned his horse round the corner, and he collapsed into a small wood. I had no time to help him, left 2 men, and continued 1 shooting.

We drove them back, killed 1 officer and 9 men close together, others further back. Get into their supports at 1000 a. Order to retire just as shells found the rick. Head lost young Hill and several men in retiring.

We went down into village and re-sorted out killed, wounded horses, etc.

Then had to Néry all my kit looted the place a shambled. L. Battery saved the guns with very heavy loss.

The Bays horses lying in rows, smashed, men, kit, etc.

We got 10 German guns, mostly through Bays machine gun fire.

Gradually we retired to a village.

Wed 2 Sep. 1914

Marched early at dawn through Forest of Ermenonville, a very ticklish affair, dense undergrowth.

The German Division had evidently gone through at great speed.9th Uhlans horses, coats etc. all over the place.

Water in a village in a hollow, then squadron to a windmill to support 11th Hussars against 2 troops Uhlans but it never came off.

  1. Squadron rear guard. Slept in the garden of a chateau on green wooden shutters, get blankets and brandy from the big farm, also fowls.

Thurs 3 Sep. 1914

Fell back South at dawn. Long hot march, A. Squadron doing flank protection to Brigade.

Water at a canal by a wood and on towards Paris, beginning to think this strategic retirement to be a myth.

Actually got beer passing through a village.

I ride Ansells horse, napper Tandy, he is a rough, uncomfortable ride.

Get to a huge field very polluted in sun. The whole Division is there. We hear that everything is to be hurled from the wagons and that we are to trek at once. It proves untrue, and I bathe in the swift running Savonne with Winnie.

Tear own regimental meal, all together in darkness, with our fingers.

All the dismounted servants, mist etc. are lost.

Fri 4 Sep. 1914

A rest day at last, but the camp stinks and is covered with flies. My particular billet is by a plough. Try to wire V. but its impossible.

Sleep and bathe in the Marne.

Sat 5 Sep. 1914

Marched a Peace march by Chennevieres, Boissy St Ledger, Perigny, to Moissy Cramage.

Put down lines at 2pm 2 hours later with rest of Brigade through Verneuil to Aub Pierre where there was no water. A long march of 40 miles, all foot people disappear. Stopped in a chateau for a few hours. Hot weather.

To Luigny which was our farthest point. S. and limit of retirement.

Now begin to advance.

Sun 6 Sep. 1914

Marched 6. 30 N.E with a view to attack.

Germans had passed by Paris and advanced S.E to attack French left, and we are going N.E for Germans right flank.

 Rest in reserve we go forward 1 mile, then halt again for several hours. At 7pm to billets, some confusion, 1st Brigade in village and another Brigade going through to billet further on.

Mon 7 Sep. 1914

Out of billets 5.30.a.m.

Sir John French’s order issued to effect that British Army had had a bad time in retirement, but was now going to advance to co-operate with French Army.

Enemy retreat, pressed by 2 Cavalry Brigades Water in holes in ground.

A 9th Lancer appears with broken lance and tells of their 2 troop change v. 1 ½ squadrons Uhlans and how he had speared 3. Also of the 18th Hussars successful fire action.

We passed wounded Germans, and prisoners and a few dead in the streets. At Choisy the whole place upside down, looted by Germans.