Monthly Archives: April 2016

30th April 1916 Sunday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“Our main Dressing Station was now at La Gorgue. I was on duty at Laventie Dressing Station until April 30th and had quite a busy time whilst there. We had a number of wounded to attend to always and lots of odd detachments of troops (divisional and army) whose health we had to look to also. Ours was a most hospitable mess too and not a day passed but that we had numerous callers of all ranks.

Our other ADS was situated at La Flinque, where Captain Ffoulkes was in charge. It took a good half hour’s walking to reach it across country from our station at Laventie.”

“About 11 o’clock one night we got our orders to ‘stand to’ with gas helmets ready. Great excitement! We got all the men out into the back yard and all the horses harnessed into the limbers ready to move off at any moment.”

“There was a great artillery duel going on. The noise was fiendish. Dispatch riders tore up and down the road on motorbikes and on horseback. Ammunition wagons and Battalion transport limbers clattered past at the gallop. It was all very thrilling, but nothing more happened and we all got to bed about midnight.”

“From 4am the next morning we were kept very busy for a full eight hours attending to wounded as a result of the midnight ‘straffe’.”

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

Rouge Croix revisited

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

January 7th was the day we posted the incredible story of Winston Churchill’s fortunate escape as he was sent on a wild goose chase to Rouge Croix for a cancelled meeting that inadvertently saved his life. Here are a couple of views of the area as it is today, but I found the experience of actually standing in the place that unknowingly changed world history quite poignant.

Rouge Croix March 2016 with its famous “red cross”.

Rouge Croix March 2016 with its famous “red cross”.

The view from Ebenezer farm across the fields to Rouge Croix.

The view from Ebenezer Farm across the fields to Rouge Croix

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

Calonne revisited

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

The church at Calonne-sur-la-Lys was the scene of Douglas’s account of the Christmas Day service described in the post for December 25th 1915. The original church stood on the site of today’s graveyard, being replaced by a new church in 1892. It was in that church that Lt. Douglas Page described the moaning of the choristers accompanied by the jingling of bells and the old man in the cocked hat admonishing bored children.

That building was totally destroyed by the Germans on the 9th April 1918 during the battle-of-the-Lys, in which Germany gained a good bit of ground during the Spring Offensive of that year. The current Church was built in 1925 but during WW2 its bell tower was destroyed by the Germans as it interfered with fighters taking off from the nearby aerodrome. It was finally restored in the 1960s.

On our visit the church was locked and was showing a lot of signs of neglect. It was a shame to see broken windows adorn the apse and empty drink bottles and cans near the graveyard.

Calonne church

Calonne Church 1915

Calonne church 2016

Calonne Church 2016

Calonne sign

 

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

17th April 1916 Monday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

Some movement was taking place now in the 130th (St. John) Field Ambulance. Following the move to Laventie by Douglas and his men, Captain Meredydd Ffoulkes and another officer took a detachment of 36 men to set up another Advanced Dressing Station up in La Flinque.

“….. We were still busy getting our new abode cleaned up and put in order. I paid a visit to our Battalion Aid posts from which we collect our wounded and sick. They were situated at Red House (Red House M6d3.1) and Hougoumont (Hougamont M12C3.6.)* and very fine posts too, but over a mile from the front line and forty minutes walk from our Dressing Station.”

17 April screenshot1

17 April screenshot2

Men being treated at an Aid Post

* We have unable to find the locations of either Red House or Hougoumont (Hougamont M12C3.6) – the different spellings being from both Dr Page’s diary and the regimental diary. Does anyone have a trench map for the Laventie area? Any help appreciated.

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

16th April 1916 Sunday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

Douglas senses that something must be going on. Troops are beginning to move positions, but he has no idea why.

“On Sunday April 16th Lt. Buckly and I with 36 men left Mesplaux to set up an Advanced Dressing Station at Laventie. We marched via Locon,  Rue des Lobes, Lestrem, La Gorgue, Riez Bailleul and Pont Du Hem. It was a terribly long tramp and we took the wrong turning at La Gorgue where we saw the Edinburgh Bantam Battalion*. I tried to locate Gordon Sturrock**, but he was away on a signalling course. I saw a lot of aeroplanes at the aerodrome outside Merville. We left Mesplaux at 8a.m. and got to Laventie at 1p.m.

Laventie we found to be quite a decent sized place, but most of the buildings showed signs of shell-fire. There were a large number of troops about. Our A.D.S. was near the station on the north side of the town and was in quite a respectable chateau of three flats and with good cellars or funk holes. The Crown Prince of Germany stayed in the chateau when the Huns occupied Laventie. One of the cellars was full of empty wine bottles when we arrived!

We had our mess, patients’ ward and dressing rooms on the ground floor. On the second floor were our bedrooms and the sergeants’ and orderlies’ rooms, above that a large loft which accommodated all our men. At the back were the cookhouse &c. We took over from the 105th Field Ambulance – (35th Division) who left it in a filthy condition. We had a busy afternoon and evening, putting things ship-shape.

Are we going to attack? Is the Hun going to attack us? Why all this movement of troops? Why has everybody been recalled from leave? These are the questions of the hour. This part of the line is full of troops, guns and barbed wire. The Australians are on our left and a fine body of men.”

* Douglas mentioned seeing the Bantam Battalion at La Gorgue. Such was the fervour for young men to enlist at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 that recruiting offices were often unable to cope with the volume of men trying to sign up. One way to control the flow was to increase the minimum height requirement of 5ft 3ins (160cms) to 5ft 6 ins (167.67 cms) for new recruits.

The Bantams were formed when a growing number of men were refused entry because of their height, despite the fact that they were otherwise fit for service.

By the middle of 1915 the recruitment had slowed to a point that the minimum height requirement had been reduced a couple of times until it reached 5ft 2ins (157.5 cms). So men began to be assimilated into the main regiments and by the end of 1916 the Bantams were being sometimes being replaced with taller men anyway, so they became indistinguishable from normal regiments. By the way, Bantam officers were not subject to any height regulations.

Bantams_recruiting_poster_WWI

**Gordon Sturrock was a family friend and although he didn’t know it at the time Douglas would eventually marry Gordon’s young sister Elizabeth Mary. More on Gordon Sturrock in a later post.

The next diary post follows on 17th April.

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

9th April 1916 to 14th April 1916 Sunday to Friday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

… We were relieved by the 10th Welsh and went into support on the Rue D’Epinette. My medical inspection room was in a tumble-down cottage. Rather a filthy place.

Maps showing Rue D’Epinette

map pic for 9 April

Maps showing Rue D’Epinette

April 13th 1916 Thursday

Douglas and the 13th Welsh returned to the frontline.

April 14th 1916 Friday.

Lt. Watkins having recovered from his bout of bronchitis reported back for duty and relieved Douglas. Douglas then made his way back to Mesplaux to be reunited with his regular unit the 130th.

The next diary post follows on 19th April.

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

8th April 1916 Saturday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

The week before Easter this year my wife Liz, Douglas’s granddaughter and I paid a visit to the battlefield areas that Douglas had been in up until April 1916. Some interesting things emerged including us staying at Field Marshall Haig’s Bomb School. We visited the old farm at Mesplaux that saw so much activity during the war. We also visited Reiz Ballieul and were welcomed by the current occupiers. More on that will follow on a post later this month.

Douglas continues;

“I was up at the A.D.S. until 8th April and had a very pleasant stay. We always  had a lot of visitors dropping in for a meal so we were never dull and got all the news of the day. Our work was light with only a very few wounded and sick passing through our hands.

One day I went back to Headquarters at Mesplaux to attend a clinical meeting.

Mesplaux cart Mesplaux new Mesplaux old Mesplaux car

Mesplaux Liz

Douglas’s granddaughter Liz Coggin at Mesplaux Farm 20th March 2016.

It was very well attended by the Divisional Medical Officers. Capt. Day read a paper on the treatment of wounds by a Regimental M.O. It was quite sound, but I didn’t learn anything from it. Lt. Anderson also read a paper on wound treatment in Field Ambulances, which was very interesting. A discussion followed which was very tame.

I was transferred to the 13th Welsh on the 8th in place of Lt. Watkins, R.A.M.C. who had bronchitis. The Battalion was in the ‘Old British Line’ and I had an Aid-Post in a well sand-bagged dug-out.”

The next post follows tomorrow, 9th April.

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

5th to 7th April 1916 – Wednesday to Friday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

Douglas stayed at the Advanced Dressing Station for a few days and enjoyed the time there. The work was light with only a few wounded and sick to care for. They had plenty of visitors with people dropping in for meal or two and a gossip about the latest news etc. I dare say Douglas would have entertained his guests with the news of the Zeppelin attack on his hometown.

During the time at the A.D.S. he attended lectures and had meetings back at Mesplaux H.Q. He described a huge fire behind the German lines one night without knowing what it was.

“I paid visits to the front line Aid-Posts. On the way up I had to pass through Festubert which was terribly smashed up, especially the *church.

On a clear day we could obtain a fine view of the country inside the German lines including Violaines, the La Bassee Bridge and brewery. When our artillery was busy it was fine to watch the shells bursting on the Hun emplacements. There were some old German trenches just in front of our frontline which were full of dead Huns. In our own frontline there were many graves of “unknown” soldiers.”

map for 5 April post

*Churches would be attacked because the bell towers made very useful observation posts as well as good sniper or machine gun emplacements. So many churches were destroyed.

The next post follows on 8th April.

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here 

The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

4th April 1916 Tuesday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

Douglas had been back with his friends at Mesplaux with 130th (St.John) Field Ambulance for a few days and then on the fourth he was on the move again, although the Ambulance diary failed to record the event. Douglas received news from home, where life was proving a little exciting for his family.

“I remained at Mesplaux doing routine work – attending to sick in hospital and orderly officer duties – until April 4th when I was sent up to our Advance Dressing Station at Marais where Capt. Ffoulkes was in charge. An officer and twenty-five men of the 132nd Field Ambulance were up there too for instruction. The A.D.S was in quite a substantial house absolutely untouched by shell-fire. We had two well sandbagged steel shelters behind the house in case of accidents!

Here is a letter from Freda (my sister) dated 3rd April*.

What a night we’ve had. About 10 o’clock the electric light went down all over the town. This is the warning for a Zeppelin raid. It was an absolutely clear night just like summer. We retired to our beds at the usual hour and I put my coat ready in case of accidents. The cable cars had all stopped and policemen were stopping all vehicles in the streets and making them put out their lights. At midnight I woke to find Dorothy hanging out of the window. She said there was a Zeppelin sailing around. I could hear the engines of the thing quite clearly. It was to the north of the city and the sky in the east was lit up by a huge fire somewhere. The Zepp came round to the south until it was behind St. Georges (UF) Church. Suddenly we saw a blue light rushing to earth and then a dreadful bang. Then a quick fire was set on it from the Castle. It was absolutely topping to hear it still in the air. The Zepp then went west until we could hear it no longer and then it turned and came back straight across the city in about a line with Murrayfield and with the Castle. We saw the light of another bomb descending and then the awful explosion. By this time we thought it was high time to retire to the basement. So away we all trooped – dog and all. Dorothy, Randolph and I stood at the front door and watched some more bombs dropping. At last all was quiet – the Zepp had left for home. Dorothy, Randolph and I dressed and went away down Leith St to try and get a view of the fire. Some people said the docks were on fire. It was some blaze. The police wouldn’t allow us any further than Abbeyhill, but we could see the flames and the smoke. The streets were crowded. Randolph went up to school today but has just returned …  as the place is in a dreadful mess (George Watson’s College) a bomb landed in the playground and burst all the windows etc. The windows in Castle Terrace and Lothian Street are all smashed and one bomb fell on the Castle Rock. The houses in Marshall Street are smashed and there is a great hole in Nicholson Street. I was quite amazed at myself for being so calm. I hope you will get leave soon, but I hope there will be no raid when you arrive.’

Here is a report of the events of Sunday 2nd April 1916.

http://www.scotlandmag.com/magazine/issue45/12009312.html

and another

http://www.edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk/Midlothian/Home-Front/Zeppelin-raid-over-Edinburgh

The letter from Freda unwittingly perhaps, bore testament to an unfortunate and tragic, but nevertheless historic event. The first ever air raid on Scotland. The events that she describes in her letter are born out to be accurate representations of the event as told by newspaper reports the following day.

The police report tells us the extent of the damage to buildings and streets and of the injury and loss of life including some children and babies. The Zeppelins became widely known as the “baby killers”, but although they did indeed cause plenty of structural damage, the damage to morale was probably just as destructive.

The Zeppelin Company weren’t the only manufacturer of airships, some being made by the Luftschiffbau Schütte-Lanz company and others but the name Zeppelin soon became the generic term.

On the night of the 2nd April four Zeppelins, the L13, L14, L16 and L22 set off from their base at Nordholz in Germany. It seems that the directional capabilities of Zeppelins at the time was erratic in the least. On one occasion a raid that set off to bomb London ended up dropping its deadly payload on Hull. On this occasion L16 seems to have initially got lost and found its way eventually into Northumberland. The L13 developed technical problems and returned to base. The L22 eventually made it to Edinburgh but caused little damage after disgorging her bombs in a field somewhere near Berwick-on-Tweed.

The L14 however did make it to Edinburgh under the command of Kapitanleutnant Aloys Bocker with the intention of damaging not only Edinburgh but the Forth railway bridge and the British Naval base at Rosyth. It was this ship that the Page family witnessed on its murderous task. They were lucky in their pursuit of the airship not to be killed or injured as others had been on the night.

The police report states that following a phone call at 7pm from an intelligence source, the City was put on a high state of alert. All leave was cancelled and all available officers were called out on duty.

A total of 24 bombs were dropped on Edinburgh, 18 high explosives and 6 incendiaries. It is possible that Freda and her siblings saw the incendiaries fall as they would have left a trail of blue smoke. In reality the incendiaries of the day were not all that successful, consisting mainly of Kerosene and tarred rope. Before Edinburgh was targeted nearby Leith and its docks were attacked by 9 high explosives and 11 incendiaries which may have been responsible for the large fire that destroyed a whisky bonded warehouse at Leith Docks. There were a further two deaths in Leith with the loss of a man and a child. The uninsured loss of the warehouse, was eventually compensated by the Government to the tune of almost £44,000 an enormous figure in those days.

George Watson’s College was indeed hit by a high explosive bomb, but thankfully causing less damage than it might have. Another high explosive fell about 150 yards away in Lauriston Place.

In total it seems that ten people died including a child and twenty three were injured.

A piece of the bomb casing was used to make a plaque to mark the event near some damaged masonry in the old boys’ school which was in those days situated in Archibald Place not far from the Castle and today the site of the modern Edinburgh Dental Institute.

Zeppelin L14 that carried out that raid on Edinburgh 2nd / 3rd April 1916

Zeppelin L14 that carried out that raid on Edinburgh 2nd / 3rd April 1916

GWCollege1 GWCollege words

GWCollege drawing

Pictures reproduced with the kind permission of George Watson’s College Edinburgh. Thanks to the help of The Head Archivist Fiona Hooper.

*We should point out here how amazing the postal service was back then. Sister Freda must have posted the letter on Monday 3rd April and Douglas received it on the 4th.  More details about the Army Postal Service can be found on the excellent Postal Heritage website.

The next post follows tomorrow 5th April

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

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