On this first side of record #1 Alec Walker Jack can be heard twice beginning near the end of the recording at 22 minutes 24 seconds. He is talking about the March 1, 1917 failed gas attack and subsequent raid where Col Kemball and Major Fred Lucas were killed. His first words are ” Early in the morning of the first of March the wind turned variable”. Shortly after he is heard saying ” The gas drifted down in a partially diagonal direction…….”.
Alec can be heard 10 minutes 47 seconds into this recording. His words are:” As usual pitch dark, pouring rain, and the Germans were very nervous and shelling heavily as we went forward from the Music Hall line down across the Zouave Valley to the tunnels under the ridge. The battalion going up to the attacking trenches in the normal way. ”
On this side AW Jack is heard extensively beginning 19 minutes 6 seconds into the record.
“The general plan for the 54th battalion was that we would follow the 102nd battalion. In our sector they were to go half way across the ridge. We were to follow up and go through them and advance to the eastern side of the ridge facing out over the Plain of Douai looking toward Lens. The attack went off about dawn. It was snowing at the time. The ridge was in an appalling mess. Shell hole to shell hole practically the whole way across interspersed with mine craters and barbed wire. All of the shell holes were filled with water. It would have been very difficult just taking a walk across their in normal attire without the loads we carried and under the conditions we went.”
Alec is again heard at length beginning 20 minutes 38 seconds into the record and closes this side of the record. Alec’s story begins in HQ where he is stationed as a subaltern .
“Some hours after the action started reports were coming in as they normally would but they were all at odds. Reports from our right flank were to the effect that we had got half way across the ridge and had gone through the 102nd battalion and were held up by machine gun and sniper fire from a considerable distance across the ridge. Reports from our left flank, on the other hand, stated they were pinned down very few yards from their starting point by German machine guns that had been missed by our barrage. But that was not known by the commanding officer and he was very confused by these conflicting reports.
He detailed me to go up to the front and see what the situation was, carry out any reorganization of the battalion that seemed necessary and get them some how over to their objective which was some 5 or 600 yards further on….as it turned out from where they were.
I had no escort except 1 Lewis gunner and half a dozen middle aged batmen to carry ammunition. We were guided by two young Kamloops boys, George Ellis and Eric Grisdale. Fine young lads. Both got the Military Medal that day. They eventually landed us in a trench held by the 42nd Battalion, Canadian Black Watch. We were sniped at fairly badly and the Lewis gunner was hit just as we jumped into the trench. I left him with his attendants to look after him. I moved around the trench and finally came to the left flank where I found that the 54th and 102nd, or remnants of them, were all together. There were about 90 men of the 54th and a few more of the 102nd. The 102nd officers were all casualties and so were the 54th officers. So here, as a young fellow of 25, I found myself with the remainder of 2 battalions with the left flank up in the air and Germans all around us at the back. I sent in a report on the situation then sorted out the men getting the 54th on the exposed flank and the 102nd on our right. Then I decided I would go forward myself and see what I could find out about the situation in front. I knew that there must be scores of our men pinned down in shell holes by snipers and the same with the 102nd, probably far more than we had in the body in the trench. I got a volunteer to come with me and we crawled and crept down 5 or 600 yards to the far side of the ridge on the east side. There was the Plain of Douai below us with hardly a mark on it. It looked just like a succession of farmers fields. It looked so extraordinary to our eyes after the scenes on the ridge. I observed quite a number of German posts, all manned, and I went along in the opposite direction near La Folie Wood and found the same thing so I realized that the line there was fully manned by German troops. I retreated very quickly without hesitation. We came back the same way we went but part of the way there a sniper sighted us and gave us close attention all the way up. And I got back I to our line by another route crawling most of the way.”
On this last side of the records Alec Jack is heard 2 minutes 58 seconds into the recording. His words are “We had a series of bombardments during the day, that is we suffered them. Then the 85th Nova Scotia Highlanders were sent up and they came through and drove out the German snipers and filled in the gap on our left and the line became continuous from then on.”.