Tom Cormie’s War Diary 1917-18

 

 

TomCormieFamily1965
Tom Cormie age 72, with family and friends in 1965

 

 

'Thomas Cormie, born 16th September 1893 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland was my father', writes Andrew Cormie, featured in this 1965 photograph at a family wedding when Andrew was 22.

 

 

 TomChrisWedding
 Tom Cormie and Chris on their wedding day in 1941

 

 

'My mother was my father's second wife, Christina M.O. Kinnes', he continues.

My birth date is 16th September 1943 so my father became 50 years of age on the day I was born. In their youth he and two of his brothers, George and Andrew emigrated to Canada / USA. I don’t know if this was an official emigration, nor whether they ever became Canadian or American citizens.

I don’t know all the details, but I have found evidence of Tom having been in USA or Canada in April 1914, April 1916, April 1919 and March 1931. I do know, of course, that some time after the First World War he married in Canada or USA and had two children there, Thomas and George. His first wife, Elizabeth Mason, died Sept 18th 1924 aged 35 while giving birth to a baby girl who also died.

After that Tom continued working in Canada or the USA, but eventually, due probably to the Great Depression and the death of his brother George, he returned to Scotland.  His two children were informally adopted, his son Tom by his brother Andrew and wife in Windsor, Canada; and his son George by his first wife’s parents in Detroit, USA.  Tom and Christina were married on 31st December 1941.

There are no photographs of Tom Cormie from the time of the First World War.

On 28th September 1917, for World War I, my father Tom and his brother George joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. It is incorrectly stated on his “Attestation Paper” that Tom was born on 16th September 1892. But on the back of the form it says his “Apparent age” is 24 years of age which would have been correct. According to his Attestation Paper George was 29 years old. Another friend of theirs mentioned - Amos Earl, born in Whaplode Drove, England, and from Flint, Michigan, was 37 years old.



Their Military Numbers were: Tom Cormie 2006777, George Cormie 2006791 and Amos Ash Earl 2006732. All three survived the war.

George died later after falling from a scaffold while working inside Christ Church, Cranbrook near Detroit. The last reference I have found to Amos Earl is where he and family are listed in shipping records as heading for USA from Southampton on the SS Argentina in May 1946.


On 28th February 1918 aged 24, Tom, and presumably George left Canada headed for England on the SS Justicia.

On August 8th, 1918 he and his friends took part in the Battle of Amiens – see where it states;

The Battle of Amiens, which began on 8 August 1918, was the opening phase of the Allied offensive later known as the Hundred Days Offensive that ultimately led to the end of World War I. Allied forces advanced over seven miles on the first day, one of the greatest advances of the war. The battle is also notable for its effects on both sides' morale and the high number of surrendering German forces. This led Erich Ludendorff to describe the first day of the battle as "the black day of the German Army." Amiens was one of the first major battles involving armoured warfare and marked the end of trench warfare on the Western Front; fighting becoming mobile once again until the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918.

The Canadian and Australian forces in the center advanced quickly, pushing the line 3 miles (4.8 km) forward from its starting point by 11:00 a.m. The speed of their advance was such that a party of German officers and some divisional staff that were eating breakfast were captured.[19] A gap 15 miles (24 km) long was punched in the German line south of the Somme by the end of the day. There was less success north of the river, where the British III Corps had only a single tank battalion in support, the terrain was rougher and the German incursion of 6 August had disrupted some of the preparations. Although the attackers gained their first objectives, they were held up short of the Chipilly spur, a steep wooded ridge.

The British Fourth Army took 13,000 prisoners while the French captured a further 3,000. Total German losses were estimated to be 30,000 on 8 August.[20] The Fourth Army's casualties, British, Australian and Canadian infantry, were approximately 8,800, exclusive of tank and air losses and their French allies.

German Army Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg noted the Allies' use of surprise and that Allied destruction of German lines of communication had hampered potential German counter-attacks by isolating command positions.[21] The German general Erich Ludendorff described the first day of Amiens as the "Schwarzer Tag des deutschen Heeres" ("the black day of the German Army"), not because of the ground lost to the advancing Allies, but because the morale of the German troops had sunk to the point where large numbers of troops began to capitulate.[2] Five German divisions had effectively been engulfed. Allied forces pushed, on average, 7 miles (11 km) into enemy territory by the end of the day.[6] The Canadians gained 8 miles (13 km), Australians 7 miles (11 km), British 2 miles (3.2 km), and the French 5 miles (8.0 km).

Some further relevant websites are listed the at end of this document.

In the comments I’ve added references to the locations mentioned.  I think I have them all correctly.  They are listed at the end of this document.  Comments in [ ] brackets are my additions.

It would be good to get a precise location for some – such as the little house near the railroad track in Beaumetz-les-Loges, Ref 10; the position of the guns and bridge at Wailly, Ref 12.

The position from which they worked on guide wires for the Battle of Amiens is the Bois de Gentelles Ref 17.  At that time they were in “B” Company; 9th Battalion: 3rd Division.

At the front of the diary he wrote:

Sapper Thomas Cormie # 2006777, 3rd Battalion: 2nd Division, Canadian Engineers, France.

Also:

Thomas Cormie

298 Van Dyke

Detroit, Michegan

And on July 1 he mentions being attached or belonging to the 9th Battalion: 3rd Division.

 

 

 Postcard of Seaford Camp First World War Seaford Heritage Museum
 Seaford Camp, Sussex. First World War.

The following is his diary. It starts in Camp, probably Seaford South Camp, known to Canadians as Chyngton Camp, on 20 June 1918 and ends in the same place on 25 September 1918. I don’t know if he rejoined the war but this seems unlikely as it ended on 11 November 1918.



June 20 (Thursday)

 

After practically nine months of soldiering, I think I will use this book for what it was intended; a diary: Whether it will be read in after years or not is questionable as none of us knows what lies ahead.

 

I left Canada on the 28th Feb 1918 & spent a few months in England; preparing for the great adventure; which I expect will start in a few days.

 

Then it will be “Over the top with the best of luck”.

 

Here’s hoping you & I will have lots of luck.

 

June 21 (Friday)

 

 Old Postcard of Seaford Camp First World War
 Seaford Camp, Sussex. First World War

 

Put on draft today; expect to leave Seaford [Ref 1] sometime tomorrow.  No one allowed to leave camp; this is the real thing this time.  Everybody & everything seems quieter tonight; I guess we all have our own thoughts about this thing.

 

Up to now I guess we have all thought we were on a kind of picnic; but it’s going to be no picnic from now on.

 

Guess I’ll get to bed & get some sleep.

 

[Ref 1 -Seaford Camp – probably Seaford South also known to Canadians as Chyngton Camp]

 

June 22 (Saturday)

 

On our way to Folkestone. [Ref 2]  We left Seaford tonight at 11-30.  What a feeling it was; marching from the camp to the Station, the band playing a lively march, everybody waving hats & handkerchiefs, & us bunch singing & laughing; When you get time to think about it, it sure is “some joke”.

 

All the boys are trying to get a little sleep; at least to look at them you would think that; but I think it’s only a bluff; they are not sleeping; just thinking.

 

I’m doing a lot of it myself, so I’ll quit.

 

June 23 (Sunday)

 

Well, here we are in France.

 

We arrived in Folkestone from Seaford at 3 a.m.  Billeted in #1 Rest Camp; seemed to have just dropped off to sleep when I had to get up. Breakfast at 7 o’clock, then got ready to go to the boat.

 

Embarked at 9 o’clock & pulled out at 9.50. Arrived in Boulogne [Ref 3] at 11-30. Quite a few of the boys got seasick coming across: I felt pretty squeamish myself, but managed to hold on to what little I had.  While marching to this rest camp the French women & kids were running along side of us trying to sell us bottles of wine; Vin Rouge & Vin Blanc, red & white wine.

 

It’s bed time.

 

June 24 (Monday)

 

Etaples. [Ref 4]

 

Left Boulogne at 9 a.m. packed in box cars; painted on the sides of these cars in French it says 40, men & 8 horses; we didn’t have any horses but there were more than forty men. Fortunately it wasn’t a very long journey; that is the distance wasn’t so great, but it took 3½ hrs to do it; some of us jumped off to stretch our legs now & again; it was easy to jump on again. When we got off the “train” we had quite a hike to camp; the equipment felt pretty heavy by the time we got there.

 

Issued with steel helmet & blanket. Heard talk about recent air raid, he sure did some damage to the hospital, quite a bunch of casualties. Visited the dugouts, so we know where to go if he should pay us another visit.

 

The soldiers call this place ‘Etaps’, that’s the way it sounds but it doesn’t spell that way.

 

Feeling fed up & lonesome, so I guess I’ll go to bed; probably won’t be able to sleep; we are in tents. Feel kinda’ up in the air, everything is so uncertain, we never know what is going to happen next.

 

June 25 (Tuesday)

 

Up at 5 o’clock this morning, breakfast 5.15  Parade for gas at 7.

 

Walked 'umpteen' miles to gas chamber & went through tests. Got back to camp at 4-30 & had supper. Issued with my rifle, something else to carry around & keep clean. Parade at 6.15 for marching orders. Leave tomorrow, going a little further on. Feel pretty tired so I’ll go to bed. A good night for an air raid, but I hope he doesn’t think so; I want to sleep; maybe there’s another reason eh!

 

[Tests: To accustom them to gas and how to cope with it using gas masks. 'He', the enemy is variously referred to as 'he', 'Fritzy', 'Fritz', 'Jerry' or 'Heinie'. “Another reason” – have not guessed what this could be.]

June 26 (Wednesday)

 

Up at 5 this morning again; gee it would be nice to be able to be in bed a few hours longer for once.

 

Parade at 7; issued with 100 rounds of ammunition & iron rations: (a canvas sack full of little “hard tacks”)

 

Marched to Station & got packed into our side door pullmans again; what a mob.  Arrived at Aubin St Vaest  [Ref 5 – Aubin-St-Vaast] at 11-30. Billeted in a barn. I guess there was straw on the floor at one time, but it’s mostly dust now. Well I guess I’ll sleep in worse places yet, so there’s no use grousing. Lay around all afternoon & wrote some letters.

 

This is a pretty little place, you wouldn’t think there was a war on.  Wonder when I’ll get some mail.

 

June 27 (Thursday)

 

Nothing much doing today.

 

Had another Gas inspection this afternoon.  This is some life, we just lie around most of the time.

 

If we have to get up early in the morning, we get lots of time to catch up on sleep during the day.

 

Wish I had a letter from Betty, wonder how she will feel when she knows I’m in France.

 

Weather is perfectly lovely.

 

Wrote some letters & feel a little better after it.

 

[“Betty” – This is Elizabeth Mason, who Tom later married.  Military records show that Tom’s pay was sent to her]

 

June 28 (Friday)

 

Another lazy day, nothing to do but loaf around; didn’t get any mail yet; I guess I’ll get a whole bunch at one time.

 

Well I wish something would happen to break the monotony.

 

June 29 (Saturday)

 

Well, we got our legs stretched today; had a route march, & it sure was hot.

 

Felt pretty tired so lay around all afternoon.

 

It is very beautiful around here no outward sign of war; no young men just old people & little boys & girls.

 

Wish I could talk to them but my French was sadly neglected at school I guess.

 

Now I guess the only thing to do is go to bed.

 

June 30 (Sunday)

 

Church parade this morning; open air service. It was quite impressive, the band playing & the boys singing; I enjoyed it very much. It made me think of the folks at home & all my friends in Detroit. I wonder how many of them think of me.

 

Wrote some more letters in the afternoon then a bunch of us walked down to Hesden [Ref 5A Hesdin] 5 kilos away. The largest town so far. Had some fried eggs & chips, it sure tasted good.

 

Saw one of the places I had heard a lot about, will never forget that I guess.

 

We got back to our billet at 9 o’clock feeling pretty tired & so to bed.

 

[“places” – have not guessed what places]

 

July 1 (Monday)

 

Felt pretty good this morning. Parade at 9-45. We have all been attached to our different companies. George & I belong to the 9th Batt: 3rd Div: Quite a few of my old pals in the same bunch so I am well pleased. Amos Earl is with us, he is a funny little guy. Expect to leave here tonight for some place nearer the line. We will have to take our chance pretty soon now.

 

George seems to worry about me; I can’t explain it, but I know he does, he’s one of the best, Oh God I hope he comes through. He got a nice box of eats & cigarettes from Mrs Williams. We sure did enjoy them.

 

No word of our leaving yet. Just be our luck if they wake us up in the middle of the night & tell us to pack up. Off to bed.

 

[George was one of my father’s elder brothers – five years older.  9th Battalion 3rd Division is a change from the note at the front of his diary which was 3rd Battalion 2nd Division. Amos Earl was from Flint, Michegan, formerly from Whaplode Drove, England.]

 

July 2 (Tuesday)

 

Reveille 5 o’clock, breakfast 5-30. Parade in full marching order & marched to Station. [Presumably Aubin-St-Vaast Ref 5] Loaded into the box cars & left at 8 o’clock.

 

After a journey of many stops we arrived in Calonne Recourte. [Ref 6 Calonne-Ricouarte]  Had some tea & the usual hard tack & cheese & then proceeded to our billets.  Had a wash & shave & felt a lot better.  We can smell the eggs & chips around here so I guess we’ll go & have some.

 

They tasted fine, I can stand a lot of that kind of food.

 

Much nearer the line now, can hear the guns for the first time, plenty signs of war around here.

 

Parade with full kit in the morning, going a little further on I guess. No mail for me yet, it’s getting my goat.

 

July 3 (Wednesday)

 

Up at 5 o’clock this morning, parade in full marching order at 6-15. Paraded to the Station [Presumably Calonne-Ricouarte Ref 6] & got aboard our “pulmans” about 10 o’clock.  It sure was a slow & tedious journey, but we finally arrived in St Pol [Ref 7 Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise] at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  Paraded to rest camp where we will stay for the night; quite a comfortable place. This is a big town & it has had a taste of war, it has been bombed rather often from the looks of it.

 

The people don’t seem to bother very much about anything; business seems to go on as usual.

 

July 4 (Thursday)

 

Lay around St Pol until 1-30 then got on the train & arrived in Aubigny [Ref 8 Aubigny-en-Artois] about 3 o’clock.

 

The guns are certainly making lots of racket tonight.

 

Well this was the grand & glorious Fourth, wish I could have been in Detroit today; the gang would probably have a picnic today. Maybe I’ll be back in time for the next one. I don’t feel any too good tonight; got a bad cold. I guess I’ll roll up in the blankets & get some sleep.

 

July 5 (Friday)

 

Left Aubigny this morning about 10 o’clock & marched about two miles, & then piled into trucks on the light railway & had quite a long ride. We are at a place called Bretoncourt, [Ref 9 Bretencourt, South-West of Arras] it surely has been knocked around, Fritzy certainly hasn’t missed it. We are about nine thousand yards from the front line as the crow flies. If I am still here tomorrow I’ll have to do some letter writing. Betty will be missing my letters, I know I miss hers. Guess we will be going up the line pretty soon now. Wish I could get a decent feed, fed up on bully beef & hard tack.

No use grousing, might as well get to bed & forget about it.

 

July 6 (Saturday)

 

Reveille at 6 o’clock. That’s one thing about this place, we don’t have to get out of bed so early.

 

Breakfast at 7. Parade at 8 in battle order for inspection.

 

Had kit inspection in the afternoon everything OK, haven’t lost anything yet.

 

Nothing exciting to write about. Got one letter today, but not the one I was looking for. Maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow. Wrote three letters tonight.

 

The guns have started again they certainly make some noise, but, like everything else, you can get used to it.

 

I can always sleep.

 

July 7 (Sunday)

 

Well, this was Sunday again, but it didn’t seem like it, every day is the same now. Parade in battle order at 8 o’clock. Had P.T., gas training, musketry, Bayonet fighting & a lecture on demolitions. Then we had the special event, we got paid, everybody is happy. Maybe we will be able to find an egg & chip place.

 

The guns are at it again; heavens above they made some racket last night; Fritzy must have had a hot time. I didn’t get any letters today, maybe tomorrow.

 

Some of the boys have been playing cards & shooting crap, a few of them are wondering if they got paid today. Well if they get any enjoyment out of it, let them go to it, they may not get many more chances.

 

July 8 (Monday)

 

These damn guns kept me awake last night, they roared until daylight.

 

Went through gas this afternoon. Was told to pack up & be ready to move anytime after supper.

 

George & I & three other Sappers & a corporal were taken to Baumetz [Ref 10] to look after some mines, wells & trees that have to be blown up if Fritzy makes an advance.

 

We are billeted in a little house near the railroad track. He has the range & has dropped quite a few shells around here by the looks of things, so it won’t be very healthy if he opens up.

 

Well, we are sleeping in the basement, so I guess it will be alright.

 

[Ref 10 Beaumetz-les-Loges, not far from Bretencourt, to the West. He is there from July 8 to July 16 then back to Bretencourt]

 

July 9 (Tuesday)

 

If this is soldiering, it is alright. Didn’t get out of bed until almost 9 o’clock this morning. We got all kinds of dishes in an old house & managed to make breakfast.

 

All we need is the stuff to cook & everything will be jake. [OK] There’s a field of spuds across the track so we will help ourselves to them.

 

Visited the mines, wells & trees. The trees will fall over onto the road & give Jerry a bit of trouble, & he will be out of luck with water when we get through with the wells.

 

They call this a sacrifice job, we will be the last to leave if he comes over.

 

George & I have made two beds so we will be pretty comfortable tonight.

 

Corporal & one of the boys went off to Bretoncourt to get the rations & mail if any. Here’s hoping.

 

July 10 (Wednesday)

 

Up at 7 o’clock this morning & helped prepare breakfast, I guess I’ve been elected cook; well it won’t be hard to cook what we get. When the time comes I’m supposed to blow up a mine, a well & four trees; George has a water tank, pump & trees to look after. Well maybe it will never have to be done.

 

Had a good meal tonight, fried rabbit, bully beef, beans, cheese & jam & potatoes, pretty good eats for the army.

 

I didn’t get any mail yet, wish I had a letter from Betty, wonder how she is, wonder if she is getting my letters.

 

This job is alright, I could stick it for a while.

 

July 11 (Thursday)

 

Had a nice easy day, just done the cooking. They seem to like the food alright, nobody has done any kicking so far: the first one that kicks, can have the job.  I just got through cutting up the meat for tomorrows “Mulligan”.

Fritzy is expected over in a few days, then I guess we will have a hot time. He sent over quite a few shells last night, they were going right over our billet, they certainly were screaming, didn’t sound good to me at all.

 

I feel pretty good tonight got four letters, one from Betty, it had been posted on the 8th of June. It bucked me up quite a bit. I had just sent one away to her, guess I’ll have to get busy & write another one.

 

July 12 (Friday)

 

This has been another quiet day, nothing exciting.

 

Had some good “Mulligan”, the gang said it was fine, it was cleaned up anyway.

 

Fritzy dropped a few over this morning they landed on the other side of the village; that was near enough for yours truly. He was quiet during the night I had a good sleep.

 

Lots of time for letter writing wrote three today.

 

July 13 (Saturday)

 

July 13th, but it hasn’t been unlucky so far. This is certainly a soft job. The cooking doesn’t take up much time, so I seem to do nothing but write letters.

 

I’m sitting outside writing this, the sun is just going down, & it’s quite a picture. There’s fields of yellow corn & green grassland & it certainly looks lovely.

 

I can see the shells bursting away over Fritzy’s lines. He dropped one about two hundred yards away a few minutes ago, but it landed in a field.

 

I get lots of time to think, these days, & my opinion of war & those that cause wars isn’t so good.

 

Here’s hoping it will soon be over.

 

July 14 (Sunday)

 

Sunday again, but it is just another day out here, the war goes on as usual. Fritzy dropped a few reminders around here this morning, but he is only wasting shells, he can’t do any more damage around here, there’s nothing but piles of brick & stone.

 

Our home sweet home has only half a roof. We had a little rain today, but not enough to make us take cover in the cellar.

 

Had steak & onions & mashed potatoes tonight; the steak was pretty tough but it tasted good; our jaws got some exercise.

 

Rumours of an attack in a day or two; hope to God we all come through & do our bit. Looks like more rain.

 

July 15 (Monday)

 

Fritzy sure did give us a hot time this morning, he sent them over good & plenty, if he had kept it up much longer he sure would have got our wind up. So far they have all landed at a safe distance, but there’s no telling just where the next one will land. It’s the uncertainty that gets your goat.

 

Wrote some more letters today; my pen ran dry & my ink pellets are all gone, & I am writing this with a piece of pencil about two inches long.

 

Guess I’ll have a wash up & get to bed. Fritzy is supposed to bring off an attack tonight or early morning.

 

I’m beginning to wish that something would happen.

 

July 16 (Tuesday)

 

Orders came in last night that we had to pack up & go back to our old billets. [Ref 11 Bretencourt?] Reported at Orderly room at 8 o’clock this morning.  Told to stay in billet until further orders. Done nothing all day. Might be back on the job in a day or two. Got this pen filled today but the ink seems to be well watered, have to try to get some ink pills.

 

Heard that Heinie made an attack last night but got an awful beating.

 

Well I’m going to bed.

 

July 17 (Wednesday)

 

They certainly did their stuff last night, I didn’t get to sleep until morning, the noise was terrible. That ink is better now, got a few ink pills from one of the boys & made my own.  Went to R E Park today loading trucks, the hardest day I have put in for a long time.  While riding in the truck I listened to one of the boys singing a song that sure was spicy, there was umpteen verses to it, & a chorus that went like this;

 

Glorious, Victorious, one bottle of beer between the four of us;

Glory be to God that there isn’t any more of us,

For one of us could drink it all alone.

 

It was good: I wish I knew it all. Got a nice long cheery letter from Math tonight. Quite a few days since I had one from Betty.

 

[“Math” (Mathew) was another elder brother, four years older than Tom, believed to have been in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.]

 

July 18 (Thursday)

 

Packed up our kits this morning & went out to another village. Wailly [Ref 12 – Near Bretencourt to the East – they stay there until July 24] is the name of the place. George & I & our old friend Amos are together. We were putting explosives below a bridge today getting it ready to blow up if Heinie comes over.

 

I’ve just been watching one of our ‘planes, the shells from the antiaircraft guns have been bursting all around him but he is still carrying on.

 

They are sending quite a bunch of little balloons over to Fritzy tonight. When they get over lines they burst & pamphlets & photographs fall out, telling the German soldiers the true state of affairs. Got no letters tonight.

 

July 19 (Friday)

 

Still working on the bridge [believed to be in Wailly – a bridge over the River Crirchon] & having a nice quiet time. There’s a battery of 9.2 guns thirty or forty yards behind us, they are Imperials, they have been there for about two months & have only had one casualty. They fire a few every morning & in the evening. We didn’t know anything about this; & while we were working on the bridge this morning they suddenly let go; oh boy, we almost fell in the river, just about scared the daylights out of us. In the evening we had a talk with one of the gunners; & watched them firing. [Seems very likely that these guns were 9.2” Howitzers Mk 2.  Presumably “Imperials” means “Australian Imperial Forces”?]

 

The battery is well camouflaged; it must be to have stayed there so long without Fritzy getting wise to it.

 

Heard the French had taken 15000 prisoners today; hope it’s true. The more they take the quicker this thing will be over; it can’t come too soon to suit me. Guess I’ll get down in the cellar & get some sleep.

 

July 20 (Saturday)

 

Another week gone; still in the same place. A Tank Corp Officer came around today & had a little talk with us; he told us to be sure & stay there & let all the tanks get over the bridge before we blow it up. He said the tanks would pick us up. Very nice of them I’m sure Ha! Ha!

 

Had a good feed of new potatoes today, there’s a field of them right handy so we just help ourselves.

 

Got two letters today one from Dad & one from Betty. Feeling fine right now.

 

July 21 (Sunday)

 

This is Sunday, but things are just the same, the usual routine.

 

Almost forgot, we got paid today twenty five francs; that will get us some eggs & chips when we can find a place.

 

Watched the gunners today; we stood behind the guns & watched the shells until they were out of sight, then in a few seconds we would see the white smoke where it had burst.

 

There isn’t any excitement.  Amos keeps us cheery, he’s a droll fellow.

 

July 22 (Monday)

 

Worked pretty hard today taking down a bridge; [Same bridge as before?] Fritzy was sending them way over our heads they sure were whistling.

 

Amos has been making plans for the three of us “Apres la Guerre”.

 

He wants us to go on a farm with him, says we would get along fine, he knows just the right place in Michigan somewhere.

 

Got three more letters tonight, a nice one from Betty much cheerier than the last one.

 

I’ll have to write tomorrow.  Cheerio I’m going to bed.

 

July 23 (Tuesday)

 

Another lazy day, just lay around waiting for orders to move again. Rained to beat the band today, nothing but water & mud around here now.

 

It isn’t so bad when the sun is shining, but when it rains it is tough; it’s a bleak, desolate looking place. Well I guess maybe we could be a lot worse off.  No use grousing, that doesn’t help.

 

Had a letter from Mrs Filchett today she has moved to Montreal; I’ll have to write to her soon.

 

July 24 (Wednesday)

 

Well here we are back with the company again; we packed up after supper & joined the Coy. just outside Bretoncourt. [Ref 13 Bretencourt] We had to fix up a home for ourselves, just got it finished.

 

Amos has been prowling around outside to see if there was any light showing, he doesn’t want Fritzy to come over & drop a few bombs on us. We expect to go to another front in a day or two.

 

Had a letter from Mrs Strang tonight. Feeling fine & dandy.

 

July 25 (Thursday)

 

Nothing exciting today, just lay around thinking. Thought about all the folks back in Detroit. Quite a while since I had a letter from Mrs St Clare; wondered how the Lindsays were; & her father & mother, Mr & Mrs Anderson. They are nice old people. Then there was Collins, he said he would look after Betty for me he’s a comical duck. [This sentence appears to confirm that “Betty” was Tom’s future wife.]

 

The Robertson’s, & the Lows, Jack Fish & lots of others. I wonder when I’ll see them all again. Oh Hell don’t get sentimental.

 

Amos just crawled in, saying he heard we were going out to do some work tonight. Well I’ll have something else to think about.

 

 

TomCornieDiary26to27July1918NORM

Tom Corme's original diary entry 26th to 27th July 1918cccc

 

 

July 26 (Friday)

 

Out on a working party last night, at least that’s what they called it, I would say it was a walking party; that’s all we did.  Walked umpteen miles along the light railway track about a kilometre from the line. Got back & into bed at four o’clock this morning. Up & had breakfast at 10 o’clock.

Packed our kits & left about twelve. Marched fourteen kilos in the rain to a place by the name of Equois [Ref 14 Ecoivres]. Some hike, we all felt wet & miserable, but they gave us a shot of rum, & I know it has warmed me up & I’m ready to go to bed. Boy that sure is hot stuff; another one like that & I would be singing; well cheerio.

July 27 (Saturday)

 

Up at 7 this morning & oh boy I felt stiff. Had a parade for inspection at 10 o’clock, was told we had to polish up. Just something to keep us from wearying, it rained all day again.  Fritzy paid this place a visit the night before we arrived, dropped a bomb about thirty yards from the hut we are sleeping in. Dropped one among the horses & killed fifteen.

 

That’s nice & cheerful news to go to sleep on. Wish they would hand out some more of that rum, it’s damp & chilly in here tonight.

 

July 28 (Sunday)

 

Sunday again; Inspection today. Outfits & equipment looked a lot cleaner. Got a little drill, just to fill in the time.

 

Then we had Bath Parade, what an event that is; got a change of clothes, not before time; but in a few hours we will all be as lousy as ever; we have to read the “news” (shirts) every night so they won’t get ahead of us.

 

We are only a few kilometres from Mont St Eloi; [Ref 14] if we stay around here we’ll have to take a walk up there & have a look around.

 

[Ref 14A Mont-Saint-Eloi - his interest in this is presumably because of the Ecoivres Military Cemetery at Mont-Saint-Eloi.]

 

July 29 (Monday)

 

Parade as usual today, P T’s & squad drill. Wrote some letters this afternoon. Expect to leave for another front tonight or tomorrow morning, don’t know where but expect a long trip. When on Parade this morning the Officer stopped in front of me & said he had censored a letter that I had written to Mrs Filchett, he said his people lived in the same apartment building in Montreal & that he had met her. Funny how things happen.

 

July 30 (Tuesday)

 

Up at 4-30 this morning, had breakfast & marched off [from Ecoivres] at 5-30. Arrived in Brevilliers [Ref 15 - Brevillers] at 5 o’clock; just marched twenty miles, it was some hike; that equipment gets pretty heavy when you carry it around for a few hours. It’s pretty quiet around here so I guess we’ll get a good sleep.

 

Poor Amos, his feet are raw flesh; but he’s game, he wouldn’t drop out. He’s a great little guy. He keeps George & I from wearying.

 

July 31 (Wednesday)

 

Up at 7 & had breakfast. Packed up & moved off at 9-45. Marched about two miles then boarded our 'Pullman De Luxe'. I guess we covered a few miles but it was a slow business. We got off the train about an hour ago & we are sitting at the side of the road waiting on the cook making supper.  Expect to march a mile or two into the next village. We don’t seem to be far from Amiens.

 

Here we are in Salaeux, [Ref 16 - SSW from Amiens] about eight kilos from Amiens. All kinds of troops here; Australians, Canadians, Imperials & French.  They must be going to have a push around here pretty soon.

 

Billeted in a part of a spinning mill, pretty nice, considering some of the places I’ve been in.

 

 Original excerpt from the diary of Sapper Tom Cornie 1st August 1918
 Tom Cormie's diary entry 1 August 1918

 

 

 

 

 

August 1 (Thursday)

 

Got warned for guard duty this morning, so had to shine up the brass. Guard was inspected at 4 o’clock by the Adjutant & I was picked out as waiting man; I have nothing to do for the next twenty four hours. My brass must have been shining pretty good.

 

Had a look through the mill & saw the French girls working. Gee they are a dirty & sloppy looking bunch.

 

 The original diary of Sapper Tom Cornie entry 2nd August 1918
 Tom Cormie's diary entry 2nd and 3rd August 1918

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2 (Friday)

 

Just loafed around today, had a look round the town, but not much of a place; & very dirty. Haven’t heard anything about moving yet. Seem to be short of grub just now, the transport wagons seem to have got lost. We had some egg & chips tonight; it’s a change from bully beef & hard tack.

 

August 3 (Saturday)

 

Had a little drill this morning, lay around all afternoon, told to stand too after 6 o’clock; something is going to happen.

 

This is another day, but what I am writing belongs to this day.

 

We packed up & moved off in trucks about 8 o’clock last night, we had quite a long ride:  Passed transport wagons & guns about two miles long.  Got off the trucks at 11 o’clock & felt our way into a wood; it was pitch dark & we just had to lie down any place.  Had to do about two hours gas guard; before I got rolled up in the blanket.

 

[“wood” Ref 17 – From the official war diary this was the Bois de Gentelles, in the part adjacent to and on the South side of the Amiens-Roye road.]

 



The original diary of Sapper Tom Cornie 23rd to 24th Augst 1918


Tom Cormie's diary entry 4th and 5th August 1918

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 4 (Sunday)

 

Had breakfast at 7-30.  This place looks quite a bit better in daylight.

 

Had to go & look for water for the cook. Went to get some water out of a shell hole to have a shave but there was a dead Fritz in it so I used some coffee.  Got a home built for ourselves, George, Amos & I. Made it out of ground sheets & branches, it’s alright.

 

I think we will be going up the line tonight to do some work. Looks as if there is going to be something doing around here pretty soon. I would call this the Villiers Bretoneaux Hanger Wood front. [Villers-Bretonneux Hangard Wood front]

 

Four years ago today since Britain came into the war. Hope it doesn’t last another four years.

 

August 5 (Monday)

 

 Army Intelligence Report 5 August 1918
 Army Intelligence Report

 

Was out on a working party last night. Went out at 8 o’clock & got back at 3-30 this morning. Putting a guide wire up to the front line. George & I drove all the posts; pretty hard job. Fritzy dropped a few shells near us & made us duck for cover; no damage done.

 

Came home on the main road, it was blocked with ammunition wagons & soldiers. Heinie is going to get a shock pretty soon.

 

Got out of bed about 12 o’clock today & had dinner. Fixed our home up a little better. Guess we will be going out tonight again.Raining pretty heavy; guess we are in for a wet skin.

 

[“guide wire up to front line” – official war diary confirms that “B” Company was employed on this work, the wires being to guide the army to the front]

 The original diary of Sapper Tom Cornie 6th to 7th August 1918
 Tom Cormie's diary entry 6th to 7th August 1918

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 6 (Tuesday)

 

 Army Intelligence Report 6 August 1918
 Army Intelligence Report

 

Got home at 1 o’clock this morning. Was out finishing up our job.

 

Fritzy made us scatter last night alright, he sent over two or three, too darn close for my liking. We scuttled like a bunch of rabbits. Up at 7 & had breakfast. Got some straw for our bed; that makes it better. We got soaked last night.

 

Got two letters from Betty & cards from Miss Low & Mrs Robertson. Have to try & write tomorrow.

 

Going out at 8 tonight.

 

August 7 (Wednesday)

 

 Army Intelligence Report 7 August 1918
 Army Intelligence Report

 

Got back at 12 o’clock last night, feeling pretty tired. Fritzy didn’t bother us. Expect the big push to start tomorrow morning. Heinie is certainly going to catch hell; this front is lined with big guns.

 

We go up tonight to stand too.

 

I guess it will be over the top with the best of luck.

 

Hope to God we come through alright & do our bit.

 

Wrote to Betty today but can’t get it mailed, have to wait until this push is over.

 The original diary of Sapper Tom Cornie 8th to 9th August 1918
 Tom Cormie's original diary entry 8th to 9th August 1918 

 

 

 

 

August 8 (Thursday)

 

 Army Intelligence Report 8 August 1918
 Army Intelligence Report

 

Here I am back in the rear, after a tough day.  I don’t know what to write; if I could only write down my feelings, what happened, what I saw; but I feel all bewildered; it was all so terrible & new to me.

 

Oh God what a noise; guns, guns, shells screaming & bursting; Over the top at 4-30. Tanks & men all over the place. Dead & wounded all around. We had to fix up the road so the artillery could get up. Fritzy had the road mined & had blown them when the attack started, trees blown across the road; what a mess. We did our stuff. Our Sergeant, Corporal & two Sappers & one of our Officers got wounded. One of them was between George & I, we heard he died when they got him to the dressing station, rather liked him, he was an only son.

 

We fixed up four miles of that road; it was the main road to Amiens. I sure was tired. We got relieved about 4 o’clock in the afternoon; & here we are in an old trench for the night. Fritzy is still retreating. Prisoners coming down the road all the time; carrying their own wounded.

 

[Ref 17A. August 8th 1918 was the first day of the Battle of Amiens.]

 

August 9 (Friday)

 

Woke up to the sound of the pipes this morning; a bunch of Scotties moved in here, some of the famous 51st Div. all anxious to know where Fritzy is now. Lay around all day, Heinie is still retreating, prisoners still coming down. Something the matter with my skin; little blisters round my waist, sure getting my goat, burns like the devil. Have to try & find out what it is.

 

August 10 (Saturday)

 

Felt pretty rotten this morning, kinda weak. Showed the Sergeant the blisters round my waist; he bawled me out & asked what I was doing here, asked the Sergeant where the M.O. was, he didn’t know. Got told to go back to Hanger Wood & see if I could get a Doctor. Found our Orderly Sergeant, but no M.O. He sent me back another two or three miles to a dressing station; Lots of wounded there; found a Doctor, he hung a tag on me and told me to get into a truck, along with a bunch of walking wounded. Got to another dressing station got something to eat then got on a train bound for Rouen.

 

August 11 (Sunday)

 

Here I am in #6 General Hospital in Rouen. [Ref 18] Had a nice hot bath & got to bed. Oh boy, it sure feels good to be in a real bed; Nurse plastered me with ointment & bandaged me up. I’ve got Herpes; or Shingles. Going to have a sleep now.

August 12 (Monday)

 

Don’t feel any too good; but fairly comfortable. The nurse told me today I would be moved to Fruville or Blighty. All those that can be moved are being shipped out to make room for the seriously wounded. It would be great if I got back to Blighty. The nurses are certainly very nice & kind.

 

August 13 (Tuesday)

 

Here I am on the Hospital ship sailing tonight for England.

 

Wakened early this morning & told to get ready for Blighty, got a suit of pyjamas & socks. I could hardly believe my ears; Driven down to the train & arrived in Le Havre [Ref 19] about 6 o’clock.

 

I certainly am lucky, never expected to make it to Blighty. Betty will be tickled to death when she hears this.

 

August 14 (Wednesday)

 

Still in Le Havre, the boat didn’t leave last night; heard they were afraid of submarines.

 

Nothing to do but sleep & eat, & I’m doing my share of both.

 

I am on the Hospital Ship “ Eescquibo”. [Ref 20 - SS Essequibo]

 

Got some tobacco & cigarettes given to us today; certainly being treated fine.

 

August 15 (Thursday)

 

Left Le Havre last night & arrived in Southampton this morning.  Am in the Alexandra Hospital, Cosham; [Ref 21 – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham] four miles from Portsmouth.  Don’t care much for this place, all English.  Wish I could get transferred to an Hospital in Scotland, might have a try at it.

 

Feeling pretty good.

 

August 16 (Friday)

 

Nothing to write about; just fed up.

 

August 18 (Sunday)

 

Got up out of bed today & had a look around; didn’t get outside yet.

August 19 (Monday)

 

Well I’m still here; can’t get transferred, will be sent to a Canadian Convalescent Hospital, soon I think.  Feeling fine; the “shingles” will soon be all away.

 

I sure was lucky getting back to Blighty with this complaint. Hope my luck continues. Having a fairly decent time, but the eats could be better; wish somebody would send me a box.

 

August 25 (Sunday) 

 

Quite a few days since I looked at this book; but there’s been nothing to write about. We get out for a few hours every afternoon; go down to the village & take in the sights.

 

Going to a Convalescent Hospital tomorrow. I’ll soon be getting sick leave.

 

August 26 (Monday)

 

Post card of Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital First World War 
 Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Cooden Camp, Bexhill, Sussex

 

Left Cosham at eleven o’clock this morning & arrived in Bexhill at four in the afternoon.

 

Am in the Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital. [Ref 22 – This hospital was at Cooden Camp, Bexhill, Sussex] It is a big place, & quite a bunch of men here. Got our blankets & suit of blues.

 

August 27 (Tuesday)

 

M.O.s inspection this morning. We have two parades a day. Nothing to write about. Food is pretty good; lots of it.

 

August 28 (Wednesday)

 

Up before P.T. officer, marked for P.T. Start tomorrow at 2 o’clock. I don’t think I’ll be here long hope not, I want that 10 days leave.

 

September 12 (Thursday)

 

I guess I must have forgot I had a diary; but there’s been nothing to write about.

 

I go on leave tomorrow, twelve days; so I’ll soon be seeing the folks at home in Scotland.

 

September 25 (Wednesday)

 

Here I am back in Seaford, [Ref 23] Sussex. I had a good time while on leave.

 

I started to write this when I left this camp, so now I guess I’ll quit.

 

Maybe I’ll be going back to France in a few weeks; if I do I will write some more.

 

So Cheerio

 

Ref

Arrival

Date

Place (* Dates are in UK format.)

Departure

Date

Latitude North

Longitude East

-

-

Left Canada

28/2/18

1

?

Seaford South Camp, Seaford, UK

22/6/18

50 46 36.09

00 06 30.41

2

23/6/18

Folkestone

23/6/18

51 04 43.38

01 10 26.71

3

23/6/18

Boulogne

24/6/18

50 43 32.18

01 36 53.58

4

24/6/18

Etaples

26/6/18

50 30 51.18

01 38 16.91

5

26/6/18

Aubin-Saint-Vaast

2/7/18

50 23 47.74

01 58 24.55

5A

30/6/18

Hesdin (just a brief visit whilst at (5))

30/6/18

50 22 23.16

02 02 15.31

6

2/7/18

Calonne-Ricouarte

3/7/18

50 29 22.46

02 29 03.77

7

3/7/18

Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

4/7/18

50 22 52.32

02 20 08.39

8

4/7/18

Aubigny-en-Artois

5/7/18

50 21 05.41

02 35 20.05

9

5/7/18

Bretencourt (9000 yds from front line)

8/7/18

50 14 01.51

02 41 49.12

10

8/7/18

Beaumetz-les-Loges

16/7/18

50 14 21.14

02 39 37.12

11

16/7/18

Bretencourt

18/7/18

50 14 01.51

02 41 49.12

12

18/7/18

Wailly

24/7/18

50 14 48.25

02 43 19.99

13

24/7/18

Bretencourt

26/7/18

50 14 01.44

02 41 49.07

14

26/7/18

Ecoivres

30/7/18

50 20 50.64

02 40 03.84

14A

?

Mont–Saint-Eloi (War Cemetery)

?

50 20 59.51

02 41 33.62

15

30/7/18

Brevillers

31/7/18

50 12 55.08

02 22 39.69

16

31/7/18

Salaeux

3/8/18

49 51 20.24

02 14 19.87

17

3/8/18

Gentelles Wood (Bois de Gentelles)

10/8/18

49 50 23.81

02 25 54.67

17A

8/8/18

In the Battle of Amiens

8/8/18

49 48 29.07

02 30 57.30

18

10/8/18

Rouen

13/8/18

49 26 32.42

01 05 54.41

19

13/8/18

Le Havre

13/8/18

49 28 43.45

00 07 00.14

20

13/8/18

SS Essequibo (see old postcard photo)

15/8/18

49 28 43.45

00 07 00.14

21

15/8/18

Cosham, Queen Alexandra Hospital

26/8/18

50 51 02.44

01 04 10.70

22

26/8/18

Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Cooden Camp, Bexhill, Sussex

13/9/18

50 50 08.78

00 25 42.64

-

13/9/18

On Leave to Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland

25/9/18

23

25/9/18

Seaford South Camp, Seaford UK

?

50 46 36.09

00 06 30.41

 

See also:

Battle of Amiens

War Museum

 

Further notes:

 

From the Border Cities Star newspaper (Windsor and Detroit) September 9th, 1918 issue we read as follows by Lowell Mellett, United Press Staff Correspondent, under the heading;

 

"Secrecy of War Plans shown in CANUCK Attack".

 

Only Four or Five Men Knew of Order for Amiens Rush.

 

"Remember the Llandovery Castle" Cry as Men Rushed  into Battle.

 

"As an illustration of the manner in which battle plans are kept secret it is now permissible to relate an incident concerning the Canadian corps smashing blow before Amiens.  On the fingers of one hand it is possible to enumerate the persons within the corps to whom knowledge of the impending attack was passed.  They were assigned to do all the preliminary work, characterizing the operation as the "L. C. Scheme".  The impression was general among officers of high rank that the plans of the corps contemplated a movement from Arras, where the troops were stationed or further northward - perhaps against Mount Kemmel.

 

Instead, the night before the attack the troops were suddenly shifted to Amiens. They went into the battle under an inspiration which originated mysteriously and spread rapidly in the cry of "Remember the Llandovery Castle". Then officers who had been working on the "L. C. Scheme" recognised whence the initials came."

 

See also

 

[This aligns with the supporting movements of the Canadian Engineers who as we have seen from this diary were in the Arras area (Bretencourt, Beaumetz-les-Loges, Wailly) for some time then were suddenly moved to the Amiens Area.]

 

This diary is also on-line at the following;

 

Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group

TomChrisWedding

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