Life as a WW1 soldier
Charles Robert Nicholson was in the Pioneer Corps. Reading through his diaries he spent most of his time road repairing, cleaning up, digging and revetting trenches. I suppose this would suit a coal miner used to manual work.
9th 15th July 1916
Sergt. Major returned
9th Left Maillay 9am for Harpenville. Through No Man’s Land. 4 wounded in Maillay.
10th Slept in an orchard all night on grass. Left Harpenville for Alberture. V Coy. 2 killed 12 wounded. 1000 prisoners. In a motor car collision.
11th Road making at Albert. Capt Noyes killed. Sergt Crosby missing. 23 hospital shell shock. X Coy. W York’s 36 reported took Monday Woods.
12th Removed from Albert to Malincourt 1.35pm. Arrived 7pm. Left again 10pm
13th For Happy Valley near Fricourt , arrived 3am. Heavy bombardment. Charge 3.30 am, Bengal Lancers.
14th West York’s Kings own York’s. & drove back 3 miles took 8000 prisoners. Somme Valley 2nd advance.
15th Captured Freicourt Town, Malincourt wood village.
16th – 22nd July 1916
16th Advanced 7 miles. Captured Duke Michaelsburg
17th & Duke of Gothenburg. & all staff in No Man’s Land. 2000 prisioners. Gas & liquid shells. Coy. Making trenches.
18th Left Happy Valley 9am for Deaths Valley.
19th Making Dug out. Captured V Mametz Wood capt?. British advanced.
Bantams Notts Derby charged.
20th British & French advanced 500 pris. brought down. W Coy. Out 24 hours.
21st. Left Deaths valley for Maricourt next Frie..
V captured & wood.
C5 German brought down.
22nd Attack. Hy. Bom. Advanced 2 miles.
Camp Hy. Shelled.
I have a couple of photos of Charles in France that he sent home to his wife.
This photo gives the illusion that life wasn’t so bad, I suppose a bit of fooling around, football matches etc made life bearable. Charles is in the back row by the door, with the moustache. I wonder how many of these lads survived the war.
This is Charles with the Captain’s horse Capitulation. I think he would have loved horses having come from Middleham, a horse racing/ training community in Yorkshire.
Excerpt from Historical Records 19th Battalion N. Fusiliers
9.7.16 The Battalion marched at 9.15 am via Forceville and Varennes to Harponville and arrived there at 11.30 am. No billets available. Troops bivouacked in orchard.
10.7.16 At1.15pm the Battalion left Harponville for Albert by motor vehicles and billeted. Transport left 2pm and arrived 4pm. Companies began work on the Albert – Bapaumeroad at La Boisselle. The section of the road worked on cut through the old British line, No Man’s Land, and German front line and was in a very bad state. A ‘courderoy’ diversion of 130yards was necessary due to the craters. Companies worked in 5 hour reliefs. Enemy artillery active and fairly accurate. Several casualties.
11.7.16 Captain TRAH Noyes was killed in action whilst serving as second in command of X coy, also Lt Sgt Crosby T. At 2pm W had to withdraw from the work owing to the increased artillery fire, from, and greater accuracy of the enemy. At 4pm X relieved W and the enemy dropped many shells on the work. Despite heavy casualties all ranks worked magnificently.
12.7.16 Ordered to rejoin 35th Division and to do no work on 12th July.
13.7.16 Battalion left Albert 2pm and marched via Meaulte to Morloncourt and billeted. At 10.15 pm the Pioneers again marched and bivouacked in Happy Valley near Bray. At 1am 14th July prepare to move at any time after 3.30 am 14,7.16
14.7.16 No orders received re advance Battalion still Bivouaced.
!8.7.16 Weather dull & showery. Orders received at 10.30pm that Battalion had to move next morning.
19.7.16 At 9.30 am left for special work at Arrow Head Copse.
20.7.16 Enemy artillery active on Maricout and surroundings. At 4pm word was received from W that good work had been done. The infantry had been badly knocked about and the Pioneers were manning the trench they had dug overnight. The company returned late that night.
21.7.16 Orders received at 5am that Battalion would move to a valley near Carnoy & occupy dugouts. Battalion moved at 9.30 am.
22.7.16 Companies worked on roads in Trones Wood, worked in conjuction with French 6th Army.
23.7.16 Weather fine. Enemy shelled valley at intervals.
24.7.16 W & Z worked on Fawcus Post between Bernafay Wood and Trones Wood, also on a fine position near crossroads at SW corner of Bernafay Wood. Transport moved back to near Happy Valley.
25.7.16 W wired Dawson Trench and completed 560 yards. W & X improved Dawson trench, hard digging in chalk. Several casualties.