14th June 1916 Wednesday

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Planning and preparation for the coming offensive that would start a fortnight later in the Somme Valley had begun in the January of 1916. Clearly Douglas hadn’t been kept in the loop by the ‘powers that be’ as no mention of an ensuing engagement or “big push” has been mentioned thus far. Possibly the units hadn’t been informed of any date for such an action. At any rate the reason Douglas hadn’t mentioned it in his diary isn’t clear. Maybe he had no idea of the reason behind this sudden movement from the area, but my view is that they must have had a good idea that they were being readied for something quite serious.

Next day we were up early and marched off to Villers-Chatel  fifteen (11.5) miles away. It was a stiff march through some fine country. I walked most of the way and felt very fit. Our headquarters was in a huge Chateau, owned and inhabited by a French Countess and her two daughters. It was a lovely place, with extensive gardens, lawns and paddock all round.

Lt. Buckly and I were sent about a mile further on to take on the hospital buildings at Mingoval. These consisted of three large wooden huts each capable of accommodating 60 patients. They were pleasantly situated, but in dirty condition, left thus by the 76th Field Ambulance. Our men were billeted in one of the huts. I had a comfortable room in a small cottage and Buckly was in the school house where we had our mess. Mingoval we found to be a small, scattered village, situated in a pretty well-wooded country side and with only one shop run by refugees from Vermelles.

We had only a few patients to look after, they were all convalescents. Most of our time was taken up with lectures on first-aid and stretcher drill with the men. We also had some fine route marches through delightful country. The roads were terribly dusty however.

We spent our off duty time very pleasantly in the beautiful grounds of the Chateau. From a small hill we got a gorgeous view of the surrounding country and could see Mt. Eloi very clearly. Some of us would get out the riding horses and have some fine chases up and down the park between the trees in front of the Chateau. We even erected some jumps and had great fun with hurdling and competitions.

We even played tennis with the daughters of the household. It wasn’t very good tennis but we managed to get plenty of good fun out of it.”

Chateau Villers-Chatel as it is today.

Chateau Villers-Chatel as it is today (via Creative Commons)

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