Whiz-Bangs Krumps and Coalboxes

12th September 1917 Wednesday

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

“I got leave on the 12th September (Wednesday), and felt very elated. I was motored to Poperinghe in an ambulance car. The train didn’t leave until 1.30 a.m. on the 13th September. It was hopelessly slow going to Calais, at which port we arrived about 9.30 a.m. We were bundled into motor lorries at the station, and motored direct to the boat which left at 10.30 a.m. with a big crowd on board. A hospital ship crossed with us, and we were escorted by four destroyers, and some aeroplanes. It was a short passage across to Dover. We saw the cliffs of Dover almost all the way.”

Allied troops at Poperinghhe September 1917  https://oorlogskantschool.wordpress.com/vluchtroutes/

Allied troops at Poperinghhe September 1917
https://oorlogskantschool.wordpress.com/vluchtroutes/

The above pictures from https://oorlogskantschool.wordpress.com/vluchtroutes/

The above pictures from https://oorlogskantschool.wordpress.com/vluchtroutes/

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

10th September 1917 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

“We remained at Malakoff Farm until 10th September when we moved to Elverdinghe Station, and trained it to International Corner. From there we moved to Sutton Camp – a tent and hut encampment in a wood. Quite a nice spot and close to the tank battalions.”
10SeptemberThe train journey from Elverdinghe to International Corner. According to the map key on this 1918 map it is shown as a standard gauge single track line, however it wasn’t included on the 1917 map indicating that it was probably a temporary light railway, possibly metre gauge. The modern topography retains no trace of an engineered railway track.

10Septembermodernmap

International Corner is the lower crossroad Koekuitstraat and Legerweg. The railway crossed Eikhokstraat at the junction just above Tempeliersdreef before crossing that road to the south.

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

6th September 1917 Thursday

Great Balls of Fire!

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

“On September 6th a huge ball of fire fell from the skies into our camp. What next! One man who was digging a trench round his bivouac with his entrenching tool was hit. The charge of electricity was so great that it did not kill him. We performed artificial respiration etc., and sent him off to hospital. It was a terrifying experience happening so close.”

Not content with the constant shelling and bombing from the enemy, it seems Douglas is describing here a celestial attack from outer space. Was it a meteorite strike at Malakoff Farm?

This kind of event is not common but does happen. A description of a similar real event is here:

http://londonanduktaxitours.com/inthelandofthegreenaboltfromtheblue/

A charmed life indeed

“The doctor who relieved me at Alouette Farm was killed soon after I left the accursed place by a piece of shell. Three doctors were killed in that position within a few hours of each other, while I came out alive after four days in the place!”

My wife, Douglas Page’s granddaughter Elizabeth, has just reminded me that if he hadn’t led such a charmed life, I wouldn’t be sitting here now typing this. Such is life!

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

5th September 1917 Wednesday

Scared, dirty and hungry in hell, but time for a nice cup of tea!

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

“I was relieved later in the afternoon of the 5th, having been in ‘Hell’ for four days. My nerves were shaky and I was unshaven and dirty, and very hungry. However, when I was relieved I ‘hared’ across the open, regardless of enemy bullets or shells, and reached Burnt Farm safely. I had a cup of tea there, and then proceeded to the canal bank where I was welcomed by the Colonel, etc who thought I’d been killed! After a short rest I went on to rejoin the 13th R.W.F. at Malakoff Farm. We got no sleep that night for Huns bombing us from aeroplanes and sending out High Velocity Shells. It was most terrifying.”

Malakoff Farm near Dawson’s Corner (Map corrected to July 1917)

Malakoff Farm near Dawson’s Corner (Map corrected to July 1917)

Douglas doesn’t tell us how he made the journey to Malakoff Farm, but it was a distance of around 6 kms. A good way behind the lines but nowhere was safe.

Malakoff Farm today, just to the west of Solpherino Farm Cemetery

Malakoff Farm today, just to the west of Solpherino Farm Cemetery

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

4th September 1917 Tuesday

Up all night in muck and bullets!

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

“On the 4th September the 10th Welsh came up to relieve us at night, but the doctor, Captain Woodhouse, was killed on the way up, and I had to stay on. It was another awful night. The shelling was intense, and I was up all night attending to the wounded. The place was a shambles, and I was covered with blood and mud.”

Captain Bernard Woodhouse, was a popular officer who had been with the 130th until April that year. He, like most M.O’s was sent where needed and in April he had been transferred to the 10th Welsh. The fact that he had received a fatal piece of shrapnel to the head, must have born heavy on Douglas. There’s no doubt he knew Woodhouse, but the fact that he got no relief that night would have been secondary to losing a colleague.

Captain Woodhouse had been evacuated to No. 64 C.C.S. where he died of his injuries on the 5th September aged 23.

He lies now in Mendinghem Military Cemetery grave location 3D20.

The schedule for Captain Woodhouse’s grave.

The schedule for Captain Woodhouse’s grave.

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

3rd September 1917 Monday

Douglas shows his immense courage under intense shellfire

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

“Next day I was sent up to Allovette Farm to take Stanley’s place.”

Alouette Farm, on the July 1917 map

Alouette Farm, on the July 1917 map

Google’s Satellite view of Alouette Farm today, gradually being absorbed into the town of Langemarck

Google’s satellite view of Alouette Farm today, gradually being absorbed into the town of Langemarck

The following account of Douglas’s momentous day is harrowing enough, but to get some idea what it’s like to be under the kind of intense “drum-fire” that Douglas endured that night please visit this posting on Youtube. For the full effect, it is best reproduced on a decent sound system or something like a Sonos.

“I went up via Gallwitz Farm. Burnt Farm and Steenbecque Aid Post, and found the 13th R.W.F. Headquarters in a captured enemy pill box – a nasty spot, surrounded by mud and shell-holes, and with its entrance facing towards the enemy, of course. Major Lloyd was in command, Col. Campbell being on leave, lucky dog! At night the Huns shelled all around us with terrific intensity. There were ten direct hits on our concrete home, the concussion stunning us for several minutes. We couldn’t keep candles alight as the concussion of bursting shells outside kept putting them out. It was terrible. My Aid Post was behind (nearer the enemy) our pill box, and twelve men inside it were wounded by a shell bursting just outside the door. The Brigadier-General – Price-Davies – came up to see us in the midst of the bombardment. He has a charmed life. Much against Major Lloyd’s wishes, the General set out about midnight with Lloyd and Lt. Pritchard (signalling officer) to inspect our front line – a series of outposts in shell-holes. About half-an-hour after they had gone the enemy shelling increased to drum-fire and the General came rushing in to our pill box for me and my stretcher-bearers as Lloyd and Pritchard had been hit. I dashed out with the General at once, who took me to where the wounded were lying. It was a terrible journey across the muddy shell-shattered ground, and twice we were blown over by the explosion of shells close to us. The General left us as soon as he had located the wounded. I found Pritchard first. He was lying huddled up in a new shell-hole, and was very badly wounded in the head and chest and left leg. He was dying and I could do little for him. Major Lloyd was lying in another newly-formed shell-hole close by, and was wounded in many places, the worst wound being in the left thigh which was broken. He was conscious and in great agony. I had to lie there beside him in the shell-hole until the stretcher-bearers could locate us. It was a lovely moonlight night. We had a hard time of it getting the two wounded into my Aid Post. Twice the enemy shelling seemed to concentrate on us, and we had to lie down in shell-holes until the storm passed on. Poor Lloyd was in an awful state. He was so heavy too, that it took four of us to carry him on the stretcher. We were continually stumbling into shell-holes, and each time we stumbled we gave poor Lloyd fresh agonies of pain. We eventually got him in safely, and after bandaging him up, and doping him with morphine sent him off ‘down the line’ when the enemy shelling had subsided a little. He died next day at a Casualty Clearing station. He was one of the best. Poor Pritchard died before we got him into the Aid Post. It was a ghastly night. Later I was to be awarded the Military Cross for my part in this small episode of the war.”

It was the habit of Major-General Price-Davies VC, CB, CMG, DSO to go up the line and inspect trenches and installations even under heavy fire. Clearly, he was a brave man having won the Victoria Cross during the 2nd Boer War.

He wrote. ”Going round has been difficult and last night after waiting and waiting for a suitable time I got out with Lloyd 13th RWF to see a trench he had dug and on the way back just as we parted he got badly wounded and Pritchard who was with him was killed”.

He continued,

“I have lost my nerve to a great extent which is most annoying I find I am alright in action but I dread going into danger and find I avoid dangerous places more than I ought. When I think of those who have to be in continuous danger all the time I feel ashamed but I suppose it can’t be helped though perhaps if I get the chance it would be wise to take some other job as the effect on the troops cannot help but be bad if they see I am afraid.”

Second Lieutenant John Pritchard of the 13th Royal Welsh Fusiliers had been injured on the 11th July 1916 at Mametz Wood on the Somme. He returned to his Battalion at Ypres only to be killed on this day. He was 23 years old.

Major Frank Stuart Lloyd was from Wrexham in Denbighshire, but he had been living in Disraeli Road, Putney before the war. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th RWF on 3rd Sept 1914 he had begun to rise through the ranks, reaching the rank of Major on the 13th July 1916 at the Somme. He died from his serious wounds in No.61 C.C.S. on the 5th September. He is buried and commemorated at Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinghe, West Vlaanderen. He was just 24 years old.

Major F.S. Lloyd. http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/dozinghem.htm

Major F.S. Lloyd. http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/dozinghem.htm

http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/memorials/bangor-on-dee-memorial/bangor-on-dee-soldiers/frank-stuart-lloyd/ 

Military Cross

 

The Military Cross. Introduced as a reward for acts of exemplary gallantry by King George V for officers of the rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers.

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

2nd September 1917 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

“On September 2nd the enemy shelled our positions very heavily especially the battery positions behind us. They succeeded in blowing up a dump of over a hundred 9.2 shells. There was a terrific crash which shook the whole canal bank. It gave us all a fright, including the colonel who left for Proven in the afternoon for a rest! Needless to say we had numerous casualties to attend to including Col. Philpots, the Chief Engineer of the division, and Capt. Stanley, the 13th Royal Welsh Fusilier Medical Officer. Both were hit in the chest.”

Lieutenant- Colonel Brian “Broo” Surtees Phillpotts R.E. died of his injuries two days later, on the 4th of September, he was 42 years old. Due to his innovative abilities as an engineer “Broo” Phillpotts would have been sorely missed.

He was appointed chief Royal Engineer to the 38th Division during the Somme offensive, where he was slightly wounded. Mentioned in despatches three times, his bravery was without question. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) at the beginning of 1917.

Amongst many other things Colonel Phillpotts was responsible for providing the tramways that serviced the front line during the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

The following is from the reminiscences of the Somme from Capt. A.C. Sparkes R.E

“After repeated attacks had failed to capture Fricourt, and whilst a bombardment of the village was taking place, [Major Phillpotts] got out of our front-line trench and waved his hat. Finding no one shot at him, he walked across, in the open, to a point two hundred yards in front of Fricourt Farm, an enemy strong point. Again finding no one shot him on his waving his hat, he returned to our line and sent this message to Divisional Headquarters ‘Only thing stopping our Infantry entering Fricourt is our artillery barrage!”

Lt.Col. B.S. Phillpotts D.S.O., R.E. (By Acrestreet - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By Acrestreet – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49276691

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

30th August 1917 Thursday

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

“On the 30th August the 51st Division marched into the trenches on our right. It was good to see the ‘Jocks’ again. On the same day I went up to Fusilier A.D.S. for duty, and had a busy night – twenty-two wounded being brought in. One man died. He had been lying out in a shell-hole in ‘No Man’s Land’ for ten days, and had a compound fracture of one thigh, and wounds in the legs, arms and back. We kept him alive for an hour on strychnine and oxygen.”

The 51st (Highland) was a division of territorial or reserve regiment, formed in 1908 after the re-organisation of the army. Arriving in Flanders in force during 1915, Haig considered them largely untrained and inexperienced in battle. This however gradually changed as time went on and the Division saw considerable action in Flanders and particularly on the Somme where they fought courageously to capture Beaumont Hamel, taking 2000 German prisoners. They had fought successfully at Pilkem and taken positions in advance of the Steenbeck River, a small stream with steep sided banks that was swollen with the recent heavy rain. They would continue to perform heroically until the end of the war.

The ADS at Fusilier was in the process of being whitewashed when Douglas arrived for duty, where he was kept busy with a steady stream of wounded being brought in.

The unfortunate chap that had lain alive for ten days in a shell hole is described by Douglas as being treated by strychnine and oxygen. The use of this treatment had become popular in the later part of the 19th century. It was used to treat pneumonia and was thought to induce stimulation to the muscles and cause convulsions. It was also being used as a performance stimulant by some athletes.  Its use here maybe was to try and stimulate the patient into recovery, however the use of strychnine a powerful and ultimately fatal poison possibly hastened his demise.

Fusilier Farm

Fusilier Farm

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

28th August 1917 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

“As soon as daybreak arrived next day (28th) we began to get busy, as the wounded began to come in in large numbers. Practically all the wounds were caused by bullets, and we had several compound fractures of the thigh to deal with. It was a cold, wet day, and it was a pitiful sight to see the stretcher-bearers coming down the road from Langemarck with their many burdens, and the walking cases limping wearily along. The men were drenched to the skin, and shivering with cold. I was relieved at 9 o’clock that night, and was glad to get back to Pellissier Farm for a rest. I went down with a convoy of wounded and joined the Deckaville Railway at Gallwitz Farm. I didn’t get much sleep that night, however, as the Huns sent over a lot of high velocity shells near us.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 22.46.42

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

27th August 1917 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

“At 1.55pm on the 27th, we and the 11th Division made an attack with the intention of advancing our line 200 yards. We had a wonderful view of the whole affair. The preliminary artillery barrage was a great sight, but the enemy replied very heavily and effectively about 3 minutes after our fire had commenced. However, we gained all objectives with the exception of a block-house in the cemetery well beyond Langemarcke, which was full of machine guns. The Huns attacked in mass formation later, and we had to retire to our original positions. The enemy lost heavily and so did we. The enemy snipers and machine guns did deadly work. Owing to the intense enemy shell fire, the wounded couldn’t be cleared. Of course the rain came on around 2 pm, and owing to this our planes couldn’t go up, and help the unfortunate infantry. It was bad luck on our men, and the Brigadier- General of the 115th Infantry Brigade didn’t help matters. They say he was hopelessly drunk all day. He came into our place after the show was over, and he certainly didn’t appear to be sober then. Of course, the heavy losses on our side might have affected him.”

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

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