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.

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