HC Smith’s War

Henry Crozier Smith’s brief sojourn at Longbeach in British Columbia’s Kootenay district was part of a life characterized by happenstance and adventure. From his birthplace in Scotland, and through his education in England, sickness employment in international trade, drugs service in India, agriculture in Canada to his final resting place in the battlefields of the First World War, Henry’s journey reflects responses to circumstances as they occurred.His birth in a manse in Kirknewton, Midlothian, Scotland on January 18, 1871 occurred there because his father, William Smith, was currently serving with the Royal Army and his mother, Emma Corrie (nee Crozier), had gone to stay with William’s brother, the Reverend Henry Wallis Smith of the Church of Scotland, so that she would be with family during her pregnancy. Henry received at least a part of his education at Dulwich College (1887-8) south of London while his father was stationed in India. He later had a post in a firm (perhaps owned by another uncle, James George Smith) involved in trade with India in commodities such as cloth and tea. The trading company became insolvent in the early 1900’s but this venture led Henry to a period of service in India with the Calcutta Light Horse, a regiment of the India Volunteer Force. These reserves were recruited mostly from among middle-class expatriates who made up the British mercantile and commercial community in India. This regiment had seen no active service since 1857. Thacker’s Indian Directory has two entries for an H.C.Smith in the first years of the century, one employed as an assistant in a jute operation and another as a proprietor in a publishing concern. The Canadian West was opening up at the time and the Canadian government undertook a vigorous advertising campaign with incentives to attract young men to agricultural pursuits. At age 32, Henry took up the offer of free passage to Canada in return for a commitment to provide a year of service as an agricultural labourer. He sailed from Liverpool on March 19, 1903 on the steamship SS Bavarian of the Allan Line arriving in Halifax on March 28. This ship’s passenger manifest lists his occupation as farmer (although there is no evidence of any experience in this field!) and his ultimate destination as Winnipeg. Also listed as a passenger on this voyage was H.H.Sewell who, as did Henry, worked on a farm in the Souris area of Manitoba. Finding the climate disagreeable and the service commitment having been fulfilled, the two men headed off the next spring for the more temperate climate of Vancouver. The weather was to dictate their plans again, however. Having reached Medicine Hat on their journey west on the CPR rail line, they encountered a washout of the track between there and Calgary. Rather than wait the several days it would have taken for the repairs, they learned that a train on an adjacent siding was heading for Nelson in the interior of British Columbia and impulsively decided to take it.

The two men arrived in Nelson in the spring of 1904 to find a land boom in progress, mainly due to a flourishing apple growing industry. They found work quickly on the Campbell Ranch at Willow Point and later that year purchased the Clubb Ranch, an area of 90 acres on the north shore, from Hong Wing Chong for $9 per acre. Family lore has it that they bought the ranch, sight unseen, in a deal made in the Savoy Hotel in Nelson and took the paddle wheeler, the Moyie, up the Kootenay Lake to their new property. They found the land to be in poor shape as the former owner had planted strawberries among the rocks and stumps but they set about to clear it with the help of Chinese locals to make it fit for cultivation. They lived first in a shack and began construction of a house, the first regularly occupied dwelling in the area later called Longbeach. When it was ready, Sewell sent for his sister, Agnes Sewell, to take up housekeeping for the two bachelors. In 1906, they were joined by Henry’s brother, Commander Burrard Archibald Smith, recently retired from the China Station of the Royal Navy. Archie had decided to visit his brother Henry on the return trip to England. However, having seen the property on Kootenay Lake, he decided to stay and became a partner.

In 1907, the partners sold 10 acres and the log shack to a Mr. Woodward and that fall, Sewell, his sister Agnes and Woodward left for Arizona. Henry and his brother, Archibald farmed together until they dissolved their partnership upon Henry’s marriage to Dorothy Agnes Mary Reynolds on September 8, 1909. Dorothy was the daughter of a Church of England priest in nearby Harrop. The Reverend Charles Herbert Reynolds had served as a missionary and chaplain to the British embassy in India, where Dorothy was born, and was a missionary at Harrop from 1908 to 1911. Archibald bought uncleared land nearby, now known as Craigend, leaving the original parcel and the house to Henry and his bride. They later built another house further up the mountainside. Herbert William was born to Henry and Dorothy on July 26, 1910. Henry sold another 10 acres of the Clubb Ranch to W. Paul Meares in 1910.

In 1915, with war raging in Europe, Henry enlisted with the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force at Vernon Camp, B.C. He was assigned the rank of private in the 54th Battalion. On his attestation paper signed on May 7, 1915, Henry gives his birth date as January 18, 1875, four years later than his actual birth. He was 44 years old at the time of enlistment and the army regulations at the time set 45 years of age as the maximum for recruits. Perhaps he feared that his age would be a barrier and thus felt it wise to shave off a few years.

After training at Vernon, he proceeded to England arriving December 2, 1915 and went to Bramshott for further training in preparation for service at the front. Dorothy and Herbert followed him to England and moved in with Henry’s father and other family members at Balcarras House, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham. Henry was eventually assigned to the Machine Gun Section. His letters to Dorothy indicate that leave was difficult to obtain during this time but there were several opportunities for visits with her and other family and friends in England. Dorothy meanwhile worked in hospitals with the British Red Cross. Henry and his battalion were sent to the continent on August 12, 1916, first to Belgium and then to France.

In a letter from the trenches to Dorothy dated October 28, 1916 Henry refers to a letter from his brother Archie and replies, “I think the place had better be sold for what it will fetch.” Later in the same letter he laments “It is a pity we should have to sell the Ranch so cheap but I think it had better be done if possible. It will certainly be in a poor state when we get back and I think we might do better elsewhere. Anyway, it looks as if it would be a long time before I am ready for it again! I wish they would hurry up and finish the old war. I have had quite enough of it and I want to go bed for a month or so on end!”

Henry was wounded on November 25, 1916 while taking Desire Trench in the Battle of the Somme. He was admitted to the British Red Cross Hospital in Etaples, France and apparently Dorothy was able to visit him there before he died on November 28. He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery.

Henry’s widow sold the Clubb Ranch to a Mr. Harvey in England. He, his wife and two sons lived on the property for a few years but soon returned to England for the boys’ education. The property was sold to a Mr. Kingsley and since then has been subdivided extensively and has had many owners.

THE LETTERS AND DIARY OF

PRIVATE HENRY CROZIER SMITH

#442483

54TH BATTALION

CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

April to November, 1916

Dorothy, Henry and Herbert Crozier Smith

Published by

Derwyn Crozier-Smith

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

March 2006

ISBN 0-9682082-7-4

Introduction

Henry Crozier Smith, a rancher from Longbeach, British Columbia, enlisted with the 54th Kootenay Battalion, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, on May 7, 1915 at Vernon Camp, British Columbia and was accepted for service on August 17, 1915. On his attestation paper he listed his birth date as January 18, 1875 making him 40 years of age. In fact, he was born four years earlier on that date in 1871 but this would likely have disqualified him from active service as recruits were not being accepted past the age of 40.

“The 54th Kootenay Battalion was authorized by the Militia Department at Ottawa on May 1, 1915. Up to this time there had been no battalion recruited in the interior of British Columbia for overseas work, and as many men had already gone from the interior and there were many more likely to go, it was felt that there should be an overseas battalion to represent them. This was the origin of the “Cinquante-Quatre”.” (Cinquante-Quatre: Being a Short History of the 54th Canadian Infantry Battalion by One of Them) Henry trained at Vernon Camp until November 15th when the Battalion shipped out by rail to Halifax and proceeded to England on the SS Saxonia arriving December 2. He continued training with his Battalion at Bramshott Camp until August 12, 1916 when they entrained at Liphook for Southampton and then sailed to Havre on the SS Connaught. Henry was wounded in the Battle of the Somme on November 18 and died November 25, 1916.

Henry’s wife, Dorothy, and six year old son, Herbert, also went to England to stay with relatives there while Henry was on active duty. They were primarily at Balcarras House, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, the home of Henry’s father, Major General William Smith. Henry and Dorothy’s farm at Longbeach, “The Clubb Ranch”, was placed in the hands of caretakers while they were away. Dorothy worked in hospitals during her stay in England.

The letters that are transcribed here are letters to his wife, Dorothy, beginning in April 1916 while Henry was at Bramshott and they continue until a few weeks before his death. It is apparent that these are not all the letters that he wrote to his wife as there are several references to missing mail. Henry also kept a pocket diary beginning with the day he arrived in Belgium, August 13 and continuing until the day before he was wounded. The diary was apparently retrieved by Dorothy and rewritten. Both the letters and diary are in the possession of Henry’s grandson, Derwyn Crozier-Smith.

For this document, the letters and diary entries are interspersed in chronological order. The spelling of places in Belgium and France has been corrected using the official war diary of the battalion and atlases. The spelling of names has been corrected, where possible, using the nominal roll of members of the Battalion published with the Battalion’s history, Cinquante-Quatre. Not all of the men referred to in Henry’s diary and letters seem to be included in that nominal roll. Where a word was indecipherable from the original or the name or place is questionable, this is shown with a question mark (?) following the word.

Derwyn Crozier-Smith

March 2006

April 20th 1916 Bramshott

My own darling girlie,

Thanks for your letter. I was so sorry to hear about Sarah. Please give her my love and tell her so.

I am sorry I can’t get leave this week. They are just giving ordinary leave Saturday to Sunday night.

On Tuesday the dentist sent for me and fixed that tooth that lost its filling in Vernon. This morning we spent fitting on our web equipment, we have all got it and our trenching tools now. This afternoon Major Davies had us at company drill, we did so well that he let us off at 3:00 instead of 4! We are having beastly cold weather now, yesterday blowing hard and showers of hail, snow and rain alternately.

The 41st went off to Thorncliffe this morning so 54th are all together again.

De Cima and I were up at Greyabott (?) last night. They are going to close the hall for good on Wednesday it is patronized so badly. It is rather a pity. Miss Brearly has asked me to tea on Sunday. I don’t think we are going to get holidays on either Friday or Monday.

No. 1 Platoon are still in quarantine, but hope to get out on Monday. I will try to get Herbert’s navy next time I go to Miss Moir’s.

Now I must stop, wishing you a happy Easter and with much love to all.

Yours ever,

Henry

 

Wednesday Bramshott

My own darling girlie,

It has not come to my turn for leave this week after all, so we will have to look for better luck the week after.

Monday was another lovely day, we skirmished over Ludshott Moor to some nice fernie woods where we had lunch then had to march home a round about way although very pretty lanes. In the evening Buchan, De Cima and I went to Miss Moir’s.

We have started reveille at 5:30 now and physical jerks before breakfast. Last night I was on Thorns picket (?). It had been wet all day but luckily cleared up in the evening. Richard was also on. Today being Wednesday is a half holiday. We did nothing all morning except a muster parade at 8. After that we were in our huts tidying them up for Major Davie’s benefit as he was going to inspect them at 11. Major D. is even worse than the colonel was. We seem to spend half of our time now fixing our kits or making pretty patterns on the walls with our equipment. The whole thing is so absurd. For instance, we have a big shelf above our bed but the only thing allowed to go on the shelf is our mess tin and a spare boot on each side. Everything else you have not room for in the kit bag must be hidden on the floor under the bed. My spare boots are at the bootmaker so my mess tin is all alone, poor thing. I have rather a bad headache this afternoon. Am going out for supper with De Cima.

Best love to all my darling,

Yours ever, Henry

 

June 26, 1916 Bramshott

My own darling girlie,

Have not had a letter to thank you for.

I was up at Ridgecap on Saturday (with Terran) and Sunday. Apparently Sarah is stopping till Monday and you are going to be asked on Tuesday so that father won’t be left all alone when aunt and Emma are in London. If by any chance I am ordered off in a hurry I am to wire you and they will make room for you at once. I don’t think we are likely to go for a bit. The last rumour I have heard is that we start on or about the 20th July, when reinforcements arrive. I am still at the Lewis gun course. This afternoon we went out beyond Linchmere (?) and practiced with the “range finders”, very interesting instruments. Tomorrow the whole battalion, in fact the whole camp, are marching to Whitle Camp to rehearse for a review before the King. On Saturday we march to Whitley for the review itself. That is the way they give us a holiday and sports on Dominion Day. I hope they won’t take us to Whitley every day this week to rehearse. They are quite capable of it!

I hope the weather improves before you come. It has become rather changeable again. I am afraid I won’t be able to get sleeping out leave when you are here but I will try for a weekend.

Now I must stop as I have to get back and clean up my harness!

With very best love my darling and hoping to see you before very long.

I remain yours ever,

Henry

 

July 27th 1916 Bramshott, Hants.

My own darling girlie,

Thanks for your letter. Was glad to hear you arrived safely but am sorry my way was not altogether a success. I expect you are having a fine time by the sea. Here it is fearfully hot now and we have had quite an energetic week so far. Tuesday morning we went to Whitmore Common (beyond Liphook) and practiced maneuvers till 10:30 p.m. Wednesday we did our maneuvers (7:30 til 3) before General Alderson – Inspector General – who seemed pleased with us and said we would be in France in 2 to 3 weeks. Today we were at bayonet work all morning, paid this afternoon and parade in heavy marching order at 6:30 p.m., either a route march or maneuvers. Then today’s pay was the last we get in England. I went over to Ridgecap last night. They were out picnicking but I was given tea and they turned up about 7. I left with a box of cigs and a pot of honey. I see on tomorrow’s orders I am down to report to Mr. Bentley to report for machine gun course. I suppose that means the range. It is fearfully hot and muggy today. I think we must be going to have a thunderstorm. I will see about your stockings when I get a chance of going to Redcroft, but I was doomed not to get there Tuesday and tonight both stopped.

Now I must stop, with fondest love my darling to you and Herbert,

Yours ever, Henry

 

July 29th 1916 Bramshott, Hants.

My own darling girlie,

I have not heard again since I last wrote. You will be interested to hear that I am no longer in A Company. On Thursday evening my name appeared in orders as having been transferred to the Machine Gun Section. Only 12 men from each company were picked for it. I suppose we must have done best in the course. My time in No. 1 Platoon was not very long. The Machine Gun Section have their meals with Details and I think we will probably have a hut to ourselves before long.

I don’t think we will be here very long now. Everything seems to be being prepared for an early start. We have had our last pay in England and they are very busy seeing that our kits are complete now. Today we spent the whole morning examining kits and the colonel inspected us to see that our uniforms fitted.

Richard and I have been for a walk this afternoon. Had afternoon tea in Greyshott and are now cooling down in Redcroft. It has been awfully hot all week and I am rather glad to get out of all the marches and drilling in heavy marching order that is going on. Thursday night (my last night with the company) we went to the common beyond Lifthook and maneuvered till near 10. Friday the battalion went there again all day, but the Machine Gun Section stopped at home and did not do any very strenuous work. The S.M. sent for me last night and asked if my address would still be Shottermill! Apparently he was going to get me another pass. However I explained that you had gone away so I would not take one in case you came back. I could not have got it to Bournemouth. Only 65th men and a few other draft men were getting “away” leave this week.

I hope the celebrations went off well today. It must have been interesting for you meeting a lot of relations.

There was a rumour this week that we are going to Salonica, but I think it was the usual rumour.

Now I must stop as it is my turn for a bath.

With best love darling,

Yours ever, Henry.

 

August 5, 1916 Bramshott

My own darling girlie,

Still no letter from you. I hope you got the watch all right. We have not yet had definite notice when we leave but it is almost certainly next week, probably about Wednesday. They are taking up our kit bags today. They are stored in England when we are at the front. This looks like starting soon. I don’t think there is any doubt we will be off before next Sunday. We finished our shooting yesterday and marched home after supper. I was lucky and was sent in charge of a kit wagon so I had not to pack my harness or rifle but I had to walk most of the way. The Machine Gun Section have been moved to a hut by themselves, so I had not a long stay in No. 1 Platoon. General Sir Sam Hughes is coming to inspect us on Monday, so we will have to march out to Hankley Common again, where the King saw us.

I met Max last night, he has also become a machine gunner in the 72nd. He was shooting at Longmoor same time as we were, but at a different range. I have a lot of socks that want small holes mended. I will let you have them and you can send them out at intervals. I can only take what my knapsack will hold so can’t take very much.

Now I must stop with best love my darling

Yours ever, Henry

 

Wednesday

My own darling girlie,

Thanks for the box of good things arrived all safe except 1 bottle of yellow stuff which was smashed. I wonder what you are doing about coming here. I can’t say definitely when we will start but I still think it will be before the end of the week. We have turned in everything we don’t need and we are ready to go anytime.

I saw Mrs. Stevens last night. Miss Moir is in Scotland. She also asked if you were coming, but did not say anything about putting you up and I could not well ask her direct, there were a lot of other men there. But I should think if you are coming a wire would do the deed. I was up at Miss Payne’s afterwards. They have got a lady and a parson with them. It is difficult to know what to do but I think Miss Stevens is the best. We can’t get out much now, rushing about doing odd jobs and cleaning up. At present we are sewing our gas helmet pockets – first aid stuff on our ?. We carry 2 helmets and a pair of goggles for weeping gas.

The colonel spoke to us all yesterday, was very complimentary. Said Sir Sam Hughes said we were far and away the best battalion he had seen and that other high officials have all said the same and that we must try to keep up the record at the front. Now good bye my darling in case we do not meet for some time and don’t worry. Good-bye to Herbert too and tell him he is to take great care of you while I am away. Miss Braerey has got my cane and is going to send it to him if she does not see you.

With lots of love to you both,

Yours ever, Henry

 

August 12, 1916 Bramshott

Just a line to say good-bye to you and Herbert. I wish I could have seen you again, dear, for it will probably be a long time before we meet again, but I suppose you could not manage it. It was no use telegraphing for we have not really known till today when we were starting. Even now we don’t know the exact time, it may be tonight or not till tomorrow morning. I am going to wait in till later in case you turn up. If you don’t, I will try and get over to Ridgecap to say goodbye, that is if we are not C.B.! (confined to barracks) I am rather surprised we have not been, but the order may come out any time.

Write as often as you can, my darling, for I will like all the letters I can get.

The camp is almost empty now. We were duty battalion this week, so are the last to go. Everyone is in great high spirits at getting off at last. We have been left here for so long that we were getting rather despondent.

Pat Irwin got married a few days ago. He has been put in the “base company”. I got a new glass put on my watch and it is going well now.

Well goodbye to you and Herbert and with ever so much love,

Yours ever, Henry

Aug.13 Left Bramshott. Train to Southampton. Crossed to Havre in S.S.Connaught.

Aug.14 Arrived Havre early. Marched through town to rest camp. Arrived 12.

Aug.15 Route march. H.M.O.

Aug.16 Practiced wearing gas masks. 2 French airships over camp. Left camp 5 p.m. Left Havre 10:30 in box cars, 35 men to car.

Aug.17 Reached Abbeville 12. Popper bingo in evening. Camped in Princess Patricia lines.

Aug.18 Marched in heavy marching order to field about 2 miles from camp. Had a lecture on gas masks in heavy rain. Put on helmets & were given gas wave. Later marched through some weeping gas.

Aug.19 Gun sections 1-4 & some other details went by bus to trenches. In evening went by bus to Dulersberg then marched about 1 mile, & then by communications trench to reserve line at St. Eloi. Spent night there. No shelter but fine.

Aug.20 Spent all day in reserve trench. After lunch a dozen shrapnel shells exploded over us. Bridge was wounded in back, otherwise nothing but showers of dirt.

 

Sunday 20th August Belgium

My own darling,

I am writing this in the trenches. Yesterday morning we were taken out to a field and given a lecture on gas and then we put on our masks and got a dose of it. Afterward we got a slight dose of tear shell gas without masks. In the afternoon we heard that ½ the M.G.S. were to go to the trenches that night, also some of the companies and details. We started after dark and drove in motorbus to within about a mile of the trenches, marched to the communication trench and down it to our place. Not very much going on. A little gun and machine gun fire and star shells going up incessantly. They look fine at night and light up all the country round. Today there has not been much excitement, but this afternoon it was quite lively just here for a while. The Germans were trying to find a battery behind us, with shrapnel. The shells were bursting just over our trench (the reserve trench). We got nothing in the bay I am in except showers of dirt but a man in the next bay was hit by a shrapnel bullet in the back and taken away. The guns behind us have just started again so I suppose we will have some more in reply. There are quite a lot of aeroplanes flying about all the time and it is interesting watching the shrapnel bursting all round them. We are hoping to see an aerial fight some time. The Germans have just started firing high explosive shells, whizbangs they call them, over us at the battery behind. They make a weird sound as they pass. We expect to go to the firing trench tonight and back to camp tomorrow night.

Monday

There was quite a lot of shelling last night. Just before dawn we were given another 24 hours rations and then taken over to the fire trenches. Another man and myself were left with the crew of a Lewis Gun of another battalion. The rest of the section went on, where to I don’t know. There seems to be absolutely nothing going on except a little long distance firing and some sniping. I have been sitting alone most of the morning, the other men resting in a little dug out. There is a little periscope here and I can watch the German trenches, which are only 50 yards away here. There has been one sniper most attentive, firing steadily all morning into the parapet just beside me.

Tuesday

I got back from the trenches this morning. Things livened up a bit yesterday afternoon for about ½ hour. The Germans gave us a terrific bombing with their trench mortars and “rum jars” and fish tails were showered on us. Rum jars are big cans which explode when they reach the ground and fish tails are smaller ones with a sort of tail to them. You can ……(The remainder of this letter is missing.)

Aug.21 Before dawn marched to fire trenches. Joined 25th batt. 2 men put with each 25th gun for instruction. Quiet morning. In afternoon heavily shelled with trench mortar bombs, rum jars & fish tails. 8 p.m. gas alarm went down the line. Put on helmets but no gas came. 8:45 left trenches, met Mr.Bandly at Hquarters. Some men missing so waited all night in switch for them.

Aug.22 Marched to camp near –, found missing men there. Cleaned up. After supper went for walk with Colebrook. Coming back we were both knocked down by run away horse. Self bruised, C. had cut on head. Amb. man bandaged him up & we took him to hospital & left him there for the night.

Aug.23 Morning washed clothes & looked over guns. In evening M.G.S. went to reserve trenches for night. Arrived late & had to unload stores. Finished about 2 a.m. (24th).

Aug.24 Heavily bombarded with shrapnel all morning. One shell burst close over me while asleep in dug out, covered me with dirt, thought roof was coming in. At 2 p.m. started for fire trenches. Had a terrific bombardment all the way up. Had to lie in the communications trench for hours with shells shrieking over us by hundreds. When calmer, went on & my crew got to trench 19 where we are now in charge. Crew consists of: 1 Bruin, 2 Bradshaw, 3 Self, 4 Sweeney, 5 MacDonnel. This is a bad bit of trench, said to be the worst on line, right at top of Ypres salient. Hope we will have a quiet tomorrow. Today was enough for a bit.

Aug.25 Took sentry work from 12-1 a.m. All quiet but weird sight. Star shells going up all along the line, also red & green lights & the sky all alight with the flash of big guns especially to north around Ypres. In day light the ruined tower of Ypres cathedral is visible. This morning all quiet except for artillery duels & snipers. Latter great nuisance at night, when star shells go you hear their bullets all around.

Aug.26 Sweeney badly wounded by sniper while coming back from day’s rest. My turn for a day’s rest. Went down to reserve, had breakfast & washed & shaved in filthy creek. Slept from 1-4. First sleep I have had since I have been in trenches. Mail came in – a parcel from Dorothy & 4 from Herbert. Went back to first trench about 7:30. Was very welcome with so much loot! Found new man joined to replace Sweeney. Quiet night except for snipers. Heavy firing with very big guns away to northwest.

Aug.27 Dorothy’s birthday. Heavy artillery fire on enemy’s trenches in morning. Chaplain came round & spoke to each of us & shook hands. Evening after dark Germans threw a few rum jars but they all fell wide. Had busy night firing on German working parties & trying to locate snipers. At 4 a.m. had to take water to no.2 gun. Beastly walk, pitch dark trench over boots in mud in places & snipers potting at me all the way.

Aug.28 Went for rest, poured all day. Went back to trench soaked through, poured all night. Spent night on sentry go or lying in liquid mud. None the worse but rather cold & stiff in morning. Heavy gun fire on enemy trench.

Aug.29 Raining most of morning. Nothing doing.

Aug.30 Wet. Nothing doing here. Enemy shelled H.Q. & killed 3 bugle band boys. We left trenches for reserve camp at “Mick a Muck”. (Micmac) Very tiring march but dry huts at the end.

Aug.31 Spent day drying clothes & cleaning up. This is a small reserve camp in 2nd lines. Spend 4 days here then back to rest camp.

Sept.1 Bathing parade to Rennesville in morning. Baths in brewery. Big room full of hot shower baths & plenty of soap. Very refreshing. Left old towel, shirt, socks there & got clean ones. Heard that Ingram had died of his wounds.

Sept.2 Parade in morning. Inspected by colonel. Told us authorities were very pleased at way 54th had behaved in trenches. After parade, Serg. Hanchard, self & 3 other men went back to trenches to look for some stuff left behind. We took dinner with us. Found one box at headquarters. Started back through communications trench. Heavily bombarded & shells struck close to us. Had to come back a round about way as road was being bombarded. Got safe home through Diclesbusches. First time I have been through in daylight – houses everywhere smashed to bits.

Sept.3 Gas alarm in early morning. Nothing happened. Church parade 2 p.m. Walked to Reninghelst in evening with Merton. Had supper there – fried eggs & coffee.

Sept.4 Rained all day, did nothing.

Sept.5 Pouring. Went to Camp Chippewa to replace lost equipment. After supper took gun carriages back to Chippewa camp, then marched to trench, got to front line about 1 a.m. & took over charge from 102nd.

Sept.6 In trenches all day. Very quiet, cold & wet underfoot but fine. Big guns shelled enemy trenches heavily.

Sept.7 Spent day at headquarters, washed & slept. Got back to fire line in evening. Fired about 6 magazines at Germans. About 12:30 heavy bombardment of Hun trenches by our artillery. Chiefly shrapnel shells, whizzing over our heads like a bad wind storm. Lasted about ½ hour.

Sept.8 Little doing except long distance shelling. W.D.

Sept.9 Ditto. Food getting worse & worse.

Sept.10 Went down to headquarters for day’s rest. Got letter & parcel (bread & biscuits from Aunt Helen). Usual shelling of Hun trenches.

Sept.11 Quiet morning. In afternoon, Germans gave our front & communications trenches a tremendous shelling. Australian & Belgian guns replied. Belgians aimed short & their shells burst over our trenches, wounding several. I was nearly hit by shrapnel. Shelling stopped about 4. We moved out at 5 p.m., left headquarters at 9, reached Mick Mack (Micmac) 11.

September 11, 1916

My own darling,

I was down at headquarters yesterday for a day’s rest and got your letter of 5th and parcel of bread and biscuits from Aunt Helen, also letter from Herbert for which many thanks. I am so sorry you have not been getting my letters. I have been writing regularly, they must have been held back somewhere. We have just finished another 6 days in the firing line. Have had a very quiet time this trip as far as we are concerned, but the artillery have been very busy shelling the Germans, who have not replied much. There must have been some mines exploded somewhere, for yesterday morning and this morning we were shaken up as if there had been an earthquake. We could see and feel the trench rocking. I was so glad to hear that Jack was only slightly wounded. I don’t remember any man called Brockinham, or any name like that at Bramshott. Was he in the 54th? I suppose you have not yet received my letter asking for some Gillette razor blades. I am quite out of them. The imitations I got at Haselmere were no good. I am not sure if those tablets you sent for the water were much good but I have not really given them a fair test as all the water we get is brought up in old gasoline tins and nothing will kill the taste. We cannot drink it and are gradually learning to do without drinking. All we get is a very small quantity of tepid tea.

I see Terran and the others some times, but not very often as our different work keeps us apart. Mine is a much easier job at the present for the companies have to do a lot of fatigues and guards which we get off as we have much longer in the firing line than them. It is a funny life we live here. We get up to our little bit of trench (6 of us and Sergeant Hanchard) and here we stop for 6 days. Most of the firing is done at night so we get practically no sleep then and in the daytime we just lie down and sleep when and where we can, generally in the open air, wet or fine. During the daytime 3 of us go down to headquarters, but I very seldom go as I hate the long walk through the muddy trenches and find I rest much better in the firing line. I suppose things will alter if we get sent to a busier place.

Sept 12. Safely back in our reserve camp. The Germans gave us a warm send off. Gave our communications trench a tremendous shelling in the afternoon but kindly stopped jut before we went out. We got back here late last night. We went off to town this morning for a bath, but the baths were fully occupied so we went on to another place, 2 mile further, where we eventually got clean. While we were waiting for our turn we went and got food and after my bath I went with Sergeant Hanchard and had coffee and cake. We got back here at 3:45 and are having an early supper. So glad to hear that Jack was only slightly wounded. You must have had an anxious time. Those lemonade powders are very nice.

With best love to all and lots to yourself and Herbert,

Yours ever, Henry Crozier Smith

Sept.12 Cleaned up in morning. At 10 went to Reninghelst for bath. No chance there so went on to Westoutre. Had bath at 1:30 & had a lunch of bread & cheese. After lunch, went with Serg. Handchard, Bradshaw & Bruin & had coffee & pastry. Got back to camp & had supper at 4:30.

Sept.13 20 men went on working party to Dickiebusch to fill sand bags. For rest, inspection in morning & in afternoon marched to Westbutre where we got Lee Enfield rifles instead of Ross. Marched back in pouring rain. After supper (bread & cheese) went & had supper with McDonnel in village. Had fried eggs, bread & butter & coffee.

Sept.14 Wet day, did nothing.

Sept.15 Went with fatigue party of M.G.S., bombers & scouts to fill sandbags & got back about 3.

Undated

I was so glad to hear you had at last got a letter from me, but I think some earlier ones must still be missing. I have been writing at least twice a week. I hope you like your hospital work, also that you got a new bike. It will be useful to you when we get back to the ranch.

We are still in reserve. Day before yesterday we marched to another camp and changed our Ross rifles for Lee Enfields, a most welcome change. I wish they would change our leather equipment for the web. The leather is an awful arrangement and makes one’s shoulders ache as soon as one puts it on even without a pack. Today we went to a place some miles from here to fill sand bags and we had dinner there and got back here about 3.

You must be a fine big party at home now but I suppose it won’t last long. I hope the new dog will be a success. Please thank Herbert for his letter. I will write to him soon. There are reports that we are going to move to another camp tomorrow, not back to the trenches. This country is dotted all over with little camps. I heard a rumour last night that Holland had joined Germany. I wonder if it is true. We don’t see many papers here. Thanks for the magazine received yesterday.

With best love to all and lots for Herbert and yourself,

Yours ever, Henry Crozier Smith

Sept.16 A party, including 1 M.G.S., went back to trenches to take part in raid on Germans. After dinner the rest marched off through Renningshilst & Westbutre to a place out over the French frontier where we were billeted on farms. M.G.S. & scouts are in a nice old farm. All sleep on the straw in a big barn – very comfortable. Went after supper & got turnips & spuds for Sunday dinner.

Sept.17 Heard tremendous firing during night (the raid), heard it was successful. 54th captured officer & 6 men. Our casualties slight. After supper I went out & filled my mess tin with blackberries for dinner. Lots in the hedges here. After dinner, got paid. Country here is much nicer looking than Belgium. The farm is on top of a hill with lovely views over well-cultivated land. We are about 6 miles from firing line with ridge of low hills between. Evening, walked down to town called Boeschepe & had egg supper & then to Berthen & had another egg supper. Went with Bruin & MacDonnel.

Sept.18 Wet day.

Sept.19 Went to Westbutre for bath. Had supper at Berthen with McDonnel.

Sept.20 Roused up at 2 a.m. & 40 of us had to go to Loire about 5 miles to get our gun carriages. Got back 5:45, had breakfast & packed & marched off the whole brigade for the Somme front. Reached Hazebrouck about 5 p.m. having marched about 20 miles. Billeted in big barn in cow stable. Very comfortable, lots of straw. No tea for supper but got hot coffee at farmhouse. Parcel from Sarah.

Sept.21 Started about 7 a.m. Marched to St. Omer, about 15 miles. Billeted in big barracks, bare floor to sleep on. Went out after supper with Pope & saw the town. Beautiful park & fine big church, another big church in ruins, been shelled. Had coffee & then went to free cinema at church army hut. Start tomorrow at 7 a.m… Still feeling fresh. Our gun carriages cause great amusement to the French people we pass. Best of joke is we pack our guns on transport wagons.

Sept.22 Reveille 5:30, marched off 7. Nortebecourt reached 3 p.m. Billeted in big barn. Went out & picked blackberries. At 7 p.m. went with party to headquarters to draw rations.

Sept.23 Reveille at 6, parade 8. Nos. 1-3 went to headquarters to get guns & cleaned them. Afternoon went short route march.

Saturday 23rd September 1916

My own darling,

I forget when I wrote last. I have not had a chance the last few days as we have been on the move. Last time I wrote I told you I thought we were going to different trenches now I don’t know in the least what we are going to do. Last Wednesday at 2 a.m. we were roused up and marched off to headquarters, about 4 to 5 miles away, to get our gun carriages. We got back to our farm a little before 6 and had breakfast and then marched off about 7:30, joined the rest of the battalion and started on our journey. We marched all day and in the evening reached a fairly big town where we dispersed and were billeted in various places. We had a big farm in the outskirts of the town and were quite comfortable in a cow stable, with lots of straw. I did not go out that night as we had had a long march, (the M.G.S. had about 10 mile more than the others getting the carriages.), a good deal of rain and bad roads part of the way, which meant a good deal of trouble with the carriages. Luckily we were allowed to load our packs on the gun carriages so that marching is fairly easy. We have one man at the handle behind the carriage guiding it and the rest pulling with ropes. Thursday we started about 7 and marched about 15 miles to a bigger town where we spent the night in some big barracks. Not so comfortable as a barn as we had only the hard floor to lie on. After supper I went out with Pope to see the town and sat in the park first, a beautiful place very nicely laid out and well wooded. After we were rested we strolled about town and inspected the big church, a beautiful old place as big as an average cathedral. There is another fine big church we saw in the distance but it has been shelled or bombed and was in ruins, all but the tower. Then we went and had some coffee and back to barracks. Before going in we went and saw the end of a cinema show at the church army hut, rather an amusing Charlie Chaplin film. Friday reveille at 5:30, fell in at 7 and marched to this place arriving here at 2:30. We are billeted here in barns with plenty of straw. The companies are in houses but I think a barn is better for in houses you only have bare floors to lie on. Taken all round it was quite an enjoyable march and interesting seeing so much of the country. We had as a rule excellent roads and lovely weather except for the first day. We had our traveling kitchens so always had a hot dinner. This is a tiny little village miles away from anywhere. Just an ancient looking church with a few farm houses and cottages. This is a great blackberry country and I have some great feeds. This afternoon we went out skirmishing for a bit. I don’t know what we are going to do or where we are going. There are all sorts of rumours, the most persistent is that we are going to rest(?) here for a week and then march for 5 days to the front!

I got letters from you, Herbert and Sarah at (sorry I can’t say) on Thursday and a parcel from the Oriental Café on Wednesday morning for which many thanks. You might send me some socks if you have any ready. I wore holes in 3 pair on the march.

With best love to all at home and lots for Herbert and yourself, my darling,

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith

24th Thanks for parcel just received. Everything OK. HCS

Sept.24 Reveille 5:30, parade 7. Went to training area, inspection, then M.G.S. came home. Spent afternoon cleaning up magazines & fixing up carriages.

Sept.25 Reveille 5:30, parade 7. Joined dentist parade but he did nothing. Then joined section on area. Showed how to work German machine gun captured in raid. After dinner marched to lake 3 miles away to bathe & then home.

Sept.26 Reveille 5:30, parade 7. Marched to area, practiced attacking in open order. Aeroplane overhead gave signals. After lunch, a little battalion drill, then given new style gas masks & practiced with them. Then home at 6.

 

Sept. 26 1916

My Darling Girlie,

Last time I wrote I had just received your parcel. Thanks very much for it. It was a most useful one, the socks just arrived at the right time and the KF&S is a very nice one, also the air pillow. I am keeping the meat tablets and ? for the march and trenches at present. I am getting all the food I need. We are still at the same little village training, but I think we will be moving in a day or two, and then I think we will march straight for our new front where we will probably have a pretty lively time. No, I have not seen any of those “tanks” yet but I expect I will before long. Today we were out skirmishing in open order. We had an aeroplane scouting over us and dropping signals and we advanced through clouds of thick smoke. We were supposed to be attacking as we would at the front. We had dinner out and afterwards we were given a new kind of gas masks. Much nicer than the old ones. Yesterday we were shown how to fire a German machine gun captured by our bombers during a raid. It is useful to know how to use them in case we ever capture one ourselves.

Sorry to hear Herbert has another cold. He seems rather subject to them. Yesterday we went to a place about 5 miles from here and had a bathe in a lake. It was most refreshing but unfortunately we had a hot march home after it.

27th

Out at the area all day. No word yet of leaving this place. The news from – is very good now. We are getting rather impatient at being kept here for so long. We are having lovely weather here, a little rain in the afternoon, but otherwise it has been perfect. If anyone is writing to George, tell him to look out for me for I don’t think we will be very far apart. No more time as Bruin wants me to go in and share a cake!!

With best love to all especially yourself and Herbert,

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith

Sept.27 Reveille 5:30, parade 7. Out on area all day.

Sept.28 Reveille 5:30, parade 7. Raining all morning. Out at area all day.

Sept.29 Reveille 5:30, parade 7, area all day. Practiced gas masks. Fired 10 rounds at range to try Lee Enfields. Range in chalk pits, only 200 yards.

Sept.30 Area all day. Practiced digging gun emplacements.

Oct.1 Reveille 6:30. Area in morning. 11 a.m. church parade for brigade. General Odlum spoke to us afterwards, said we were starting to march to Somme on Tuesday & gave us good advice. After lunch went back to billets. Clease strained his leg at physical jerks, had to be taken home. Disinfecting machine came to remove animals from clothes, but I did not get mine done – no need.

Oct.3 Reveille 7. Wet day. Cleaned guns and wagons then went to be gassed but too wet. Took home 4 new gun carriages.

Oct.4 Left Nortebecourt at 2 p.m. Marched to – about 8 miles. Had cold supper in field opposite big ordinance camp. At 6 marched to station and entrained in horse cars, 44 men in my car, no room to lie down. Reached Doullens early next morning, no breakfast. Marched about 5 miles up steep hill & down steep hill to Gezaincourt where we found billets in ruined house after waiting in pouring rain for 2 hours. This place about 8 kilometers from Albert. After supper walked to Doullens by short road (3 miles) with Bradshaw & McDonnel. Nice town with big shops.

Oct.5 March off 9:45. Reached Talmas about 3. Billeted in barn.

Oct.6 Marched off about 9:30. Reached Harponville about 2. M.G.S. billet burned down so were put in barn further off. Twisted my leg getting here, pain all up my leg & very lame. Had dinner & then washed in dirty horse pond. Very dilapidated old village. Cottages & barns chiefly built of timber, old sticks for laths & plastered with mud mixed with straw. Street consists of barns with courtyards behind & house behind that. Yard always filled up with smelly duck pond & manure heap. All villages all packed with soldiers. 13 kilometers from Thiepol.

Oct.7 Reveille 6. Rested. Went for bath to Toutencourt in afternoon.

Oct.8 Reveille 7. Wet day. No church parade.

Oct.9 Parade 10. Shown new way to fold & carry overcoats & haversacks. M.G.S. accused of stealing beehive.

Oct.10 Marched in afternoon to Albert. Put up low tents, 12 to a tent. Albert is all one huge camp as far as one can see. Town in ruins. Church spire with statue sticking out at right angles from top.

Oct.11 Four men picked from each gun crew to go to 1st line with ½ battalion. Bruin, Bradshaw, McCurdy & McCall from no. 4. I went to help to take guns in. Started 3:30, passed through Albert & La Boiselle. Reached chalk pits about 8:30 after hard pull over crater covered land. Big guns all around us shelling German lines heavily. A wonderful sight. Spare men started out about 8:45, 4 men to a gun. Got to camp 11:30, no supper to be got. Nothing to eat since 12 noon. No room in tents so slept in open.

Oct. 12, 1916

My own Darling,

I sent you a card thanking for the last parcel. The socks just arrived at the right time and the other things were delightful. You always make a good selection. Those “thirst quenchers” aunt Helen sent are very good, better than the ones you sent before. Don’t send anymore cocoa ? tablets at present now that we are going into more open fighting. I won’t have much chance of making things, besides water will be too valuable. We got to this place on Tuesday after a hard bit of marching, pulling our carts through muddy fields. The whole country here seems to be one huge camp as far as the eye can see. There is a town in the middle, pretty badly shelled. A big church with only the walls and tower standing, the steeple ends with a huge big gilt statue of the Virgin Mary but she has been knocked over and now is hanging on by her toes at right angles to the steeple. Yesterday, more than half the battalion went up to the front line. 4 men with each gun went, but I was not picked, however the rest of us had to go to help to take the guns up. We started at 3:30 and marched through the town and out the other side. Hardly any inhabitants left but troops billeted everywhere. Beyond the town we had a mile or so of camp to pass through, then open land cut up by trenches (old) and then when we got to the top of a hill the scene was the most desolate I have ever seen. Fairly level country and not a living tree or a house to be seen anywhere. Just a weed grown plain filled with shell craters and old trenches. We passed through a big village where there was very hard fighting earlier in the war, but not a sign of a building is left. The only signs of the village are the number of bricks used to repair the road, smashed up farm implements and carts. The whole place is simply a mass of craters. There were big guns now all round us firing away incessantly. A bit farther on we turned off the road and had a hard time pulling the carts along a narrow track twisting about between the craters. It was dark now, but luckily there was a moon. Finally we got to a big chalk pit honeycombed with dugouts where the battalion were making their headquarters. It was a very fine night watching the bombardment of the German lines from there. We could see our guns firing all round, and the whole front was lighted up with bursting shells. We spare men (4 to a gun) started home with the empty carriages at about 9 without having had any supper and got back to camp about 11:30 and found that there was no food to be got and no tents for us. Luckily I still had a bit of cake left and a little potted meat and crust of bread so I shared them with McDonnell and after a drink of water rolled up in my blanket behind a tent and slept well. This morning we found that our rations had been sent up to the front so we had breakfast off a little tea and dry biscuit! This morning I had a peep at Max. I saw his battalion passing so I went and walked with him for a bit. They are going to camp the other side of town. He is looking very well and cheerful. I don’t know whether I will be going to the front line or not here. I suppose it depends on whether they want reinforcements or not.

I got a very nice parcel from Georgie from Scotland a few days ago, short bread and cake, etc. That last cake you sent was a beauty. This is a wonderful place for traffic, a practically endless procession of motor and horse vehicles both ways, day and night.

Tell Emma I will write and thank her for the socks later.

With very much love to all,

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith

Oct.12 No rations drawn for us, so no breakfast. Parade at 9, inspection. 72nd came in, saw Max. Went to concert at Y in evening.

Oct.13 After lunch went to see big mine crater about 100 yards across & 100 feet deep. Saw “tank” on way back.

Oct.14 Started off for front line in morning. Breakfast 1 spoonful of beans, 1 biscuit & tea. Got to reserves & had lunch. Dug dugouts. Tea 5. Went out on loading party till 12.

Oct.15 Morning, helped with dugouts. 11:30 went with party to carry ammunition to front line. Got shelled & several men killed & wounded, so left stuff & returned to camp. After lunch helped in water carrying party. Bed 7. Heavy bombardment. Overcoat & balaclava stolen.

Oct.16 I & 8 others were told to be ready to return to base at Albert. After dinner instead were marched off over road towards firing line. Were sighted & got two shells right amongst us. None hurt. Got into old trench & reached reserve trench. No one seemed to want us, but were told to stop, so got funk holes for night. Corp. Giles, self and 2 others went back for rations, got back at 11 & went to bed. Fearfully cold, but found good Imperial overcoat.

Oct.17 Woke up nearly frozen. Got some tea & boiled water & had breakfast. This trench is 100 yards behind ruins of Courcellette. Front line about mile ahead. Heard that A Co. got badly cut up going to front line last night. Ben Creasey badly wounded. At 6 started out carrying spare ammunition as far as dump. Then waited for hours in rain for Mr. B. who never came. Eventually got to new camp near Albert, got into wet tent, but were turned out & got into worse tents, roof leaking and floor soaking. Buchan Stratton killed today.

 

Oct. 18, 1916

My own Darling,

I am afraid it is a long time since I wrote, but we have been having our turn in the firing line and have not had much time. Most of the battalion went up on the 11th but I was not among them. The rest went up on the 13th to a place a few miles behind the firing and dug dugouts for ourselves and camped there and spent our time day and night carrying munitions and water up and loading mules. On the 15th a party of us were sent in broad daylight to carry ammunition to the lines, but could not make it as we were seen and shelled. 2 men killed and 3 wounded. On 16th 9 of us were sent forward to the reserve trenches, we were shelled going in but made it safely and were there until we came out with the battalion last night. Not very comfortable as we had only little holes scraped out of the side of the trench to lie in and very cold. Last night we came out over very rough country (the country here looks just like an enlarged photo of the moon, nothing but a mass of craters). It was dark and raining and we had to carry a lot of ammunition for about 2 miles. We left the ammunition on the road when we reached it for the limbers to pick up and then we waited for hours in the pouring rain and bitter cold for the gun crews from the front line, but they never came, so we went on and reached a new camp a mile or so from town where we got into badly put up shelters with rain coming through the roof and also running in streams across the floor and there we slept. I was nearly frozen in the morning but hot tea and mulligan revived me, but I am still soaked through and very muddy. Men are still coming in, they got scattered all over the country. You will be sorry to hear that Buchan Stratton has been killed and Ben Creasey badly wounded last night. Poor Richard is looking very cut up, he only learned about Buchan this morning. There are rumours that we have to go in again tonight, but I don’t think that can be right.

I have not heard from you for a week now. I think a good many of our mails must have gone astray. Weather seems to be breaking up now, cold and wet. I had my overcoat and balaclava stolen when we were in that reserve camp, but managed to find an old Imperial one to take its place. I think you may go on sending tea, cocoa or coffee tablets. They were very useful up there, but no more fuel for the T.C., it is too bulky to carry and we use cut up candles and sacking. The fuel burns up too quickly. I saw a “tank” here the other day, also a wrecked one at the front. They are weird looking things. We were camped in those dugouts right in among the big guns and the noise was terrific when a heavy bombardment was on. We must be putting a fearful lot of shells into the German line, far more than we get back and that is bad enough. I was so sorry to hear about McClure John. Longbeach has done badly so far. I wonder how it is going in other parts. We get no papers here, have not heard any news for a week or so. Heard a report today that Lemberg had been captured by the Russians.

Now I must stop and try and rustle some water and have a wash. Have not had one for days. Got a little water out of a puddle in the road this morning and had a shave. This is a pretty hard life and I don’t know how we stand it as we do. I find the marching over rough land with heavy loads very trying, but recover all right after a short rest. I fell 3 times coming in last night and am at present caked with wet mud.

Best love to all, especially to you and Herbert,

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith

Oct.18 Got up icy cold, had hot breakfast & shave. Men still coming in. Paid. Got supplies at Y. Cleaned up, bed at 7. 1st issue of rum in 54th.

Oct.19 Wet day. 2nd rum issue in morning. Cleaned guns. Big bombardment going on. Some Co. men went to front as stretcher bearers.

Oct.20 Parade 9. Marched to chalk pits for magazines & got back 3. Moved to new tents. Very cold.

Oct.21 White frost in morning, nearly frozen. Cleaned magazines.

Oct.22 Cold. Rifle inspection.

Oct.23 Marched off in afternoon for front line via chalk pit. In no. 3 or no. 6 gun – Schubert, Martin, self, & Sewell attached to C Co. reached trenches about 2 a.m. after tramping through muddy trenches. My mess tin & ground sheet shot full of holes.

Oct.24 Woke up very cold, had rum, raining, heavy shelling. Heard that Bradshaw & McCurdy both wounded. Very cold & wet all day. Covered with wet clay.

Oct.25 German N.C.O. & a few men came to give themselves up, but one of our machine guns stupidly fired on them so they turned & bolted. Co. men all went back to support trench. We M.G.S. left had a heavy shelling. I was hit 4 times but only by spent shrapnel: slight cut on nose & 3 fingers cut. Schubert killed going for rations. Bentley & Bell came in evening, gave us a little water, only had 2 ½ bottles between 5 men since we came in.

Oct.26 Were shelled with high explosives before light. Big rum ration at dawn warmed us up a bit. Foot feeling bad again.

Oct.27 Wet day. Heavy shelling. About 4 started out. Terrible journey through muddy trenches & over land. Took a rest in “Death Valley”. Shell burst close to us & buried us but no one hurt. Reached Poziers-Albert Road & got lift in transport. Road in one place blocked with dead men, horses, & broken wagon. Had hot cocoa at 7, then got to camp & supper. Dead beat.

Oct. 28th

My Darling,

I am afraid I have not written for a long time, but I have sent post cards. Thanks for the big cake, also Archie’s letter. I think the place had better be sold for what it will fetch. We went up to the front line on Monday night and came out Thursday night. It is certainly not a nice experience. I had a bad foot and it was all I could do to get to the front. Miles and miles of muddy trenches with mud so sticky that one had to be pulled out at times. There was nothing special doing at the front, so we just had to sit in a muddy trench, raining most of the time and wonder how close the next shell would burst. I got slight cuts on both hands and my nose and several hard knocks from bits of spent shrapnel, but nothing to need attention. I was on a different gun this time with Schubert as No. 1. He was unfortunately killed. Went to get our rations one day and was found dead along the trench.

Bradshaw, McCurdy and, I think, Bruin were wounded on my old gun. The journey out was even worse than in, my foot was very bad and I could hardly make the trip at all. Our gun crew went out alone, 7 of us. We were not sure of the way and went a very round about one but eventually reached the main road. At one place we had rather a narrow shave. We had stopped for a rest and were sitting by a trench. When suddenly a shell burst right against us. We were all buried in mud, but no one hurt. After walking for a mile or more down the main road and leaving our gun and magazines for the limber to pick up, we rested for a while in the shelter of a “tank” and then got a lift home in an empty transport wagon which took us as far as the YMCA where we had hot cocoa and biscuits, and finally got to camp about 11 and had hot soup and tea. My foot is rather bad now and I am lying up for a bit. I saw several air fights at the front. In one the aeroplane came down with a terrible bang, but in most they were generally forced to land. I think the worst part of the front line is the getting there and back. At least that is what plays me out most. Also the want of water. Our gun crew (5) could only get 1 ¼ bottle between us the whole time we were there. You would have got a shock if you had seen me when I reached camp. A thick coat of greasy mud from head to foot. I have been scraping it off with a knife ever since, but have not done yet.

There was rather a good joke against the 54th on Monday before we started. They gave out whale oil for our feet to prevent trench foot. Most of the men got it and rubbed it on their feet making them a beautiful mahogany brown. Afterwards it was found that they had got the wrong stuff and they had been given “lice killer”. The M.G.S. did not get it luckily! We had very wet, cold weather in the trench, but it is fine again now. I think Max’s battalion is in now.

It is a pity we should have to sell the ranch so cheap but I think it had better be done if possible. It will certainly be in a poor state when we get back and I think we might do better elsewhere. Anyway, it looks as if it would be a long time before I am ready for it again! I wish they would hurry up and finish the old war. I have had quite enough and want to go to bed for a month or so on end! I hope your new hospital is turning out a success, it sounds quite a big place.

With best love to all, especially Herbert and yourself, my Darling,

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith

 

Oct.28 Wet day. Did nothing but clean up a bit. Leg very painful. Cake arrived.

Oct.29 Saw doctor’s assistant & got my leg bandaged. Off duty.

Oct.30 Had my leg attended to – am “attending hospital”. Went for bath in afternoon. Found it was very long walk to village Bouzencourt, 4 or 5 miles on other side of Albert.

Oct.31 Afternoon marched to billets in Albert. Pouring with rain, billets in very damp house. Rain coming through roof, but got corner next fire & was fairly warm. Water tap in house so got a wash.

Nov. 1st

My own Darling.

I got a letter from you yesterday. I don’t think I told you that Richard S. and Stubbs had been slightly wounded. On Sunday we went for a bath. It was a long way at a village some miles on the other side of town and I had great difficulty making it with my bad leg. But it was worth it, the first wash I had for weeks. Yesterday afternoon we moved from camp in a deluge of rain and took up our abode in billets in the town. About 20 of us are in a ruined house, most of us are on the ground floor which has a nice big fireplace and is dry, except for the rain which comes in through the roof and the mud and water which enter at the doors. Of course there is no glass in the windows. A few men sleep upstairs but there is only one dry corner there. We have to walk about a ¼ mile for our meals. This morning we were told to be ready to move elsewhere at 8:30 a.m. but never went. We had a little excitement at noon just as we had lined up at the kitchen when shells began bursting all round us and showered us with mud and stones. The Germans generally send a few “reminders” to town daily. After dinner we were all paraded to the doctor for foot inspection and were treated to a few more shells. The doctor said he could not make out what was wrong with my leg. It is all swollen up and nearly purple in one place and very painful if touched or if I walk. He thinks it must have been a blow. I may have been hit there by a bit of shrapnel. I got quite a lot of hard knocks but don’t remember one there, just above the ankle. Anyway, he says he will lay me up for a bit if it does not get better. I don’t think there is much I need in the warm clothes line. Socks are always useful but it is no use sending expensive ones, cheap and often is better. As far as eatables go, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fancy things like that are nicest, also the tea, etc. tablets. Don’t send those soup tablets (except OXO) they take too long to cook and they won’t keep in damp weather. The last lot all melted in my pack. Don’t send oat cake, the ones you sent were in crumbs. We are wondering if we will be sent back to the front line or moved on somewhere else. I don’t think I would be sent up if we went now. I could not possibly make the trenches with this leg.

Tell Herbert he writes very interesting letters. He must not mind if I do not answer them all. You seem to be having a lot of difficulty with the bike, but it will get easy in time when you get more confidence.

Now I must stop with best love to all and lots to yourself and Herbert.

Yours ever, H Crozier Smith

(The cigarettes have not arrived yet. A little fruit, dates, raisins or figs would be nice. We can buy very little here. Bill was quite wrong about bread. We hardly ever get any. A little fancy bread is a great treat.)

 

Nov.1 Prepared to move to new billets but did not go. Shelled while getting dinner also during medical inspection afterwards & at suppertime.

Nov.2 Wet day. Got new gun. Martin & I cleaned it. Paid.

Nov.3 Nothing special

Nov.4 Started for front line. Waltho & I went with limber with guns & magazines to chalk pits. Met rest there, filled magazines, started for front with C Co. at 4. I carried 2 sacks rations for gun crew wearing hip gum boots. I & 2 others could not keep up. They went back, but I kept on & found my crew in trenches about midnight.

Nov.5 Fine. Started out of trenches about 6 p.m. Stopped at headquarters & told that our gun was attached to 11th Brigade M.G.S. for 24 hours to do anti-aircraft work. Wandered about for hours in dark trying to find M.G.S. headquarters. Eventually Mr. Napper (?) found where it was, begged a little rum for us & took us to headquarters. We, Martin, Kerr, Bush & myself, spent night in dry dugout 12 steps down about 7 ft. by 5 ft.

Nov.6 6 a.m. Martin & I went out & fixed up gun. Fired 1 ½ magazines at aeroplane. 12 noon I went & woke up others to relieve us. Breakfasted off bully beef as no rations arrived. 1 p.m. rations arrived. Rested all the afternoon.

Nov.7 M. & I went out with gun 6 to 12. Pouring and windy. No aeroplanes out. No rations came. Got a little water & biscuits from brigade M.G.

Nov.8 M. & I went out 6 to 12. Wet early, then fine. New M.G. officer said we must all stand to by gun all day instead of 2 of us. Kept us there till 6 p.m. More rations came & leather coats. During night a company of 46th came to the trench our dugout is in & crowded into the dugout.

Nov.9 Old officer back today, says 2 men is all he wants, but no good going back to dugout, too crowded & nice & fine today. 44th men went out during night. Very heavy shelling all day close to us. This is a very lively spot. Courcellette close to us north & Albert – Beaupaume road to south both constantly shelled.

Nov.10 M. & I up at dawn. Usual breakfast in trench – biscuit, bully beef, cheese & water.

Nov.11 Enlarged our dugout by gun, big shell burst about 15 feet away – too near.

Nov.12 Expect to be relieved this morning as 12th brigade have relieved 11th. Dull & cloudy. No aeroplanes. Relieved noon, went to chalk pits, had lunch, handed in our rubber boots, then on to Albert. Found 54th billets arrived 4:30. Found pack but everything stolen – razor etc.

Nov.13 Asked to be ready to start for front line at noon. 1 p.m. started for chalk pits, then on. We are in support trench with 1/2 battalion. Very bad trench, no shelter.

Nov.14 Quiet morning, loaded magazines. Instructions to be ready for big push in morning. This was cancelled later. Very cold night.

Nov.15 2 more gun crews came back to support trench. Nothing doing. Cold, feels like snow. During night no. 6 & 7 guns relieved two in front lines. Bombarded during night.

Nov.16 Cold with frost, very small rations. Quiet morning. Saw British aeroplane brought down in German lines. Terrific bombardment at night with shrapnel & high explosives. Gas & weeping gas shells. Expected attack but nothing happened. All over in half an hour.

Nov.17 Very cold night. Rations very small again. Rum has been cut out & all we get at night is tepid soup.

From the official War Diary of the 54th Canadian Battalion, 4th Canadian Division.

November 18th, 1916

Very cold and commenced snowing in early morning, which later turned into rain. The Battalion strength 12 officers and 500 O.R. assembled for attack on Desire Support Trench in two trenches dug on the night of 17th about 100 yards in front of Regina Trench. Preliminary bombardment, in accordance with daily routine, took place from 5:45 to 6 a.m. Real barrage commenced at 6:10 a.m. The Battalion moved out from trenches and formed up close behind the barrage, opening out into 4 waves as the barrage advanced. Rate of advance of barrage, 50 yards every two minutes. The objective, Desire Support Trench, was taken according to program and a line established 100 yards beyond it. Prisoners captured in Desire Support Trench totaled 1 officer and 51 O.R. Two other batches of prisoners were appropriated by the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade. A section of Battalion bombers advanced up Courcellette Trench and established a Block. Captain J.H.King was killed directing the consolidation in the 75th Battalion area as that unit was without officers. Lieut. C.G.Dodworth was killed going up in relief.

The new line was held until the Battalion was relieved by the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion early on the morning of the 20th. By this time the consolidation was completed and an excellent trench had been dug.

The operation was conducted with great precision and exactly in accordance with orders received, the men showing the greatest intelligence, endurance and courage. During the six days the Battalion was in the line the weather conditions were very trying, four days of very cold weather being followed by snow and rain.

Total casualties: 2 officers killed, 11 wounded. 42 O.R. killed, 160 wounded, 23 missing.

From “Cinquante-Quatre: Being a Short History of the 54th Canadian Infantry Battalion By One of Them”

Our movements now alternated between the front line, Chalk Pits and Albert, until the 13th of November, when we took over the line and made preparations for our attack on Desire Trench, and these days were among the most grueling and exhausting in the experience of the Battalion. This was to be part of a big trench- to- trench attack, and our object was to capture Desire Trench. This was put off from day to day until the morning of the 18th of November. At daybreak on the 18th we advanced under a barrage with a heavy snowstorm raging. The enemy was evidently expecting this attack and put up a stiff resistance, but after hard fighting we succeeded in capturing Desire Trench and support trench and held in until relieved the following night by the 72nd Battalion. In this attack our Battalion gained high praise for the manner in which they kept direction when advancing under very trying circumstances, reaching their objective on “the exact front” laid down.

Private Henry Crozier Smith was apparently among those wounded in this operation. He was moved from the field to the Number 6 British Red Cross Hospital at Etaples on November 25 where he was reported as dangerously ill with a gunshot wound to the back, penetrating. Henry died on November 28th. He is buried in the Commonwealth Military Cemetery at Etaples, France.

Henry Crozier Smith grave

Original grave marker for Henry Crozier Smith, Etaples Military Cemetery, France

CLICK IMAGE TO SEE THE DETAIL

The Military Cemetery at Etaples, France maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision

442483 Private

Henry Crozier Smith

54th Bn. Canadian Infantry

28th Nov. 1916

FOR NOBLE DEEDS

AS SIMPLE DUTY DONE

WE THANK THEE LORD

-John Oxenham