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From the diary of 1147 Corporal Thomas Ainscough, (200240) of the 1/4th (Territorial) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. It has been transcribed by his granddaughter, Anne Noble.
Places I have been since I went to France over 2 years ago
Having spent a fortnight at BEDFORD, where we had a very pleasant time, we at last received our orders to go to France. We left this town on the 3rd of May 1915. The streets were lined with people, and they gave us a great send off. The bands of the Irish and Scots, played us to the station.
We were very quickly entrained, an in a very short time we were on our way to FOLKESTONE, arriving there about 10.45 pm. In 20 minutes all the Battalion were on board and the boat making its way to BOULOGNE. It was pitch dark, but the sea was very calm, as we neared France it began to rain. The journey across took us 1 hour and 20 minutes.
After landing, we were marched to St Martins Camp. When we arrived there we were wet through, for it had rained very hard. Just as I was settling down for a little sleep, I was roused, and warned to mount guard, so I was the first of our Batt:, to mount guard in France.
The following morning we had to pack up, and march to a railway station the name of which I don’t know. Here we were placed in cattle trucks, 50 of us in each, and had a 13 hours journey. We got off at a railway siding, then marched to NORRENT FONTES, reaching there on May 6th The weather was now glorious, but was too hot for the long marches we were having. At 6 O’Clock the following day , we were on the march again, and at 5 next morning, the 8th of May we arrived at CALONNE-SUR-LE-LYS. We stayed here 4 days, being held in reserve for the great battle of RICHEBOURG. We were not needed at this place, so we were rushed up in reserve for the 2nd battle of Ypres, our destination being METEREN.
There we first came across the Canadians. We could hear the guns plainly from here, but again we were fortunate not to be needed in the trenches. We stayed here until the battle was over then on the 18th May we marched to LA GORGUE, arriving there about 2 o’clock next morning.
The following day we marched to LOCON near the line. Here we stayed 4 days getting ready to go in the trenches. On Whit Tuesday we were ready, and just before it was dark, we started on our way towards the trenches. As we came near, the Germans were shelling the Canadians, and we were told to halt, and get in the ditch, for the Canadians were about to make a charge on the Germans. After laying there about 2 hours we again set off towards the trenches. It was a strange sight for us to see the flare lights, that the Germans sent up, but at last we got in the front line trenches on the morning of May 25th.
After being in for about an hour, and getting more used to the darkness, we could see a number of our dead out in the front. Before it came light we had buried as many as we could, but there was a lot more, but we had to wait until night came again, before we could bury any more. We were getting shelled a little that day and had a few of our men wounded.
At night I was told to go on patrol, out in front, to get what information I could but though I stayed out nearly 2 hours I neither saw nor heard anything, so I came back. There was a lot of work to be done in the trench, and all the boys had to work all night, so we had not much chance for sleep, and we could not get our food up, for the Germans were shelling us very heavily.
Every now and then some of us would dash across the open to get our water bottles full. When morning came R Hunt was shot through the knees and he died, then J Eckton was wounded in the back.
2300 Private Roger HUNT was from Longridge, Lancashire.
Service No: 2300
Date of Death: 04/06/1915
Regiment/Service:The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY
2302 Private John Edward ECKTON was from Goosnargh, Lancashire. He was finally discharged due to his wounds in June 1916 and given Silver War Badge number 77008. He died in Preston in 1983.
We stayed in the trenches until June 2nd then came to LOCON. From there we went to CALONNE-SUR-LE-LYS arriving there on the 5 of June. We stayed here 2 days then moved back to LOCON. From here we again set off to the trenches getting in on the 9th just on the left of FESTUBERT. We only stayed in 2 days then marched to CONT DE HINGES. Two more days then I was sent in hospital.
The Batt going in the trenches again to make the charge at FESTUBERT on June 15th 1915.
The boys came out of this do, having suffered heavy casualties. While I was in hospital the Batt was in CALONNE-SUR-LE-LYS, RUE DE BOIS and RUE DE L’EPINETTE at the last named place I joined the boys again in the trenches and stayed 12 days then came back to the trenches.
It was very nice here for our trenches ran through an orchard, which was full of cherries. After about a fortnight here we again came out to ESTAIRES. From here we entrained for we were going to another part of the line to relieve the French.
After a long journey passing through CALAIS we at last arrived at CORBIE in the Somme on July 27th 1915.
We left on the following day for RIBEMONT. After staying here a few days we again moved to MARTINSART on August 1st. On the 7th we relieved the French at POSTE LESDOS. It was a lovely place and very quiet, but it soon got rough, for we never gave them any rest for we went on patrols every night. We stayed here until the 21st then came to AVELUY.
This village was under rifle and shell fire from the Germans trenches but the people lived there, two of the inhabitants of this place were shot for spying while we were there. We stayed in these trenches 5 months. They were called the Albert sector.
The town of ALBERT was a fine place but it had been badly damaged by the German shells. The most notable feature in the place is the lovely church with its lofty spire with the statue of our Blessed Lady on top.
Now it is hanging over for a German shell had hit the base of the statue, but had not damaged the statue, for two months we had glorious weather and we enjoyed ourselves by swimming in the lovely lakes that were round AVELUY.
As September came to a close it began to rain very hard and the trenches were in very bad condition.
In November we moved a little to our left to AUTHUILLE. Here the trenches were worse and it was very rough, and many exciting times we had in these water logged trenches. We came out of these trenches for a few days, about the end of November then went back again on December 2nd and it rained all the time we were in causing the trenches to be in a very bad condition.
In places it was up to our waist in mud and water, and a number of the Scottish regiment were drowned, two of which we never found.
On Christmas Eve our wires were broke by the German shells about 10pm so I went out to mend them. It was pitch dark and the rain came down in torrents, I had to grope my way down the trenches letting the wires run through my hand so that I would be able to find the break. At last I came across it but no sooner had I done so than my feet sliped from under me and I was up to the neck in mud and water for I had fallen down a sump hole.
I managed to get out but I was wet through and stiff with cold but I mended the wires then made my way back up the trench, I had no fresh clothes but we had a fire so before morning my clothes were dry, and I was feeling none the worse for my little bath.
Though the conditions here were very bad we did not let that trouble us for it was Christmas and we had a jolly time.
At 2 o’clock in the afternoon the King’s Own relieved us then we made our way down to the village of AUTHUILLE for our Christmas dinner and a jolly good do we had, for we had great fires in the houses and you would not have thought a war was on to hear the boys singing.
The following day we went back in the trenches and stayed there until Jan 1st. On this day we had one officer killed and two more wounded.
Lieutenant Frank Robson BEST. Son of W. F. and Ellen A. Best, of Altadore, Ribbleton, Preston.
Date of Death: 02/01/1916*
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 4th Bn.
Cemetery: AUTHUILE MILITARY CEMETERY
*CWGC gives date of death as 2nd January. This account, and the official Battalion History state he was killed on the 1st January.
The two other officers that were wounded were;
Second Lieutenant H. ROGERSON (later served Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force as a Captain)
Second Lieutenant Rodney Arthur OSTREHAN
That night we were relieved then we set off on the march and on Jan 2nd we arrived at HENENCOURT. We stayed here overnight then off again our destination being AIRAINES arriving there on January 6th 1916.
Here I went in the signal section and began training as such. I had a very nice time the weather was nice. We stayed in this place to February 3rd then left for LONGPRE which was about 9 miles away.
After a day here we again set off on the march to AUTHEUX arriving on the 6th. We stayed here until the 13th (or 15th) then moved again, and it rained all the way, until we got to our destination MONCHIET. We were now about 7 miles from our trenches which were a few miles to the right of ARRAS, and we could again hear our guns after being a month away from their noise.
While we were in this place we had sports and football matches and one day we were playing a match when a German aeroplane came over us and dropped two bombs but they did no damage. We stayed here till the 25th then marched to the trenches, it was about a foot deep in snow, and was snowing hard, but it was not so very cold.
We stayed in till March 3rd then came to BRETENCOURT for 5 days then went back in the trenches again. On the 15th we came out and went to MONCHIET. While we were here we had to start training and do working parties. We went back to BRETENCOURT on April 1st and at night the Germans shelled the village.
One shell went right in one of the billets killing five and wounded eight of our lads.
The five men killed were;
- 776 Lance Corporal William TATTERSALL from Leyland
- 1442 Private Percy CATTERALL from Chorley
- 1421 Private Edward MONKS from Chorley
- 1367 Private William RUTTER from Chorley
- 160 Private John SOUTHWORTH from Chorley
All of these casualties were buried in DOUCHY-LES-AYETTE BRITISH CEMETERY.
We were now having very nice weather, and leave had started again. On May 2nd I was told to pack up to go on leave. About 4 days before this I had been sent on Headquarters signals and at this time we had a very easy time of it.
At last the time came for me to go home so I started from the trenches at 2pm on May 2nd. I had to walk to GOUY and at 7.30 was on my way by motor to ST POL arriving there at 11pm. A train was waiting for us to take us to Boulogne. We arrived there about 3 am on May 3rd but the boat was not sailing until 11 that morning, so we were put in a camp till 10 o’clock then we marched on the boat which was called Victoria. The sea was very rough and it tossed our big boat about like a cork, but we made good headway and by 1 o’clock we had arrived at FOLKESTONE.
There it felt strange for us to speak to the English people , for I had been 12 (or 13) months and never spoke to any. From here we went to LONDON, but had to wait for a train to PRESTON, which departed at 10 that night arriving at that place at 2.30 next morning the 4 of May. Again I had to wait for a few hours for the train for home and got there about 7 that morning.
It was the 17th May before I got back to the Batt and the following day we went in the trenches at BRETENCOURT and stayed there till the 28th June. On the afternoon of that day we sent gas at the Germans in BLAIRVILLE WOOD but the wind changed thus missing those in the wood and when the attack was delivered the Germans opened a deadly fire on our men. Quite a lot of our chaps were killed and wounded amongst them being my companion Cpl Stephenson who was shot through the head just after the attack started.
Corporal Lawrence STEPHENSON
Service No: 3151
Date of Death: 28/06/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL
After this we moved to our left and got in the trenches at Agny. Our Headquarters were in the village and our billet was a lovely place under the floors of one of the houses. In the gardens all kinds of fruit was growing . We did not stay here long before we were relieved for we were going to take our part in the great battle down in the Somme. After being on the march for about a week and having passed through many lovely and interesting places we at last arrived at DOMART on July 24th.
The next day we moved to FRANKVILLE getting there early on the 26th. On the 27th we moved to MEAULTE which is about 2 miles on the right of ALBERT.
There, thousands of motor wagons were making their way towards the line with ammunition and all sorts of stores needed in the great battle.
Wounded were coming through in hundreds and every now and then a large batch of German prisoners were marched through. On the 28th we moved up to HAPPY VALLEY where we saw a fine sight for over 500,000 soldiers were camped ready to be called on at any time to go to fight in the line. The Germans shelled and bombed this place every day.
On the 30th I was sent for and told to go up the line to get all the wires right ready for the Batt coming up. I was given a map and shown the places I had to go to, which were CASEMENT TRENCH, TRONES WOOD and DUBLIN REDOUBT, after marching about an hour, I was in the midst of all the blood shed and horror which mark these great battles, hundreds of dead were laying all round.
Men were busy burying their comrades and everybody was working hard.
The German shells were dropping all round, but the men took no notice.
I went through all this like someone in a dream, until I got to CASEMENT TRENCH then it was my turn to start work. After working hard all day I got all my wires and visual posts ready. The Batt came up at midnight, but had not been in the trench long before the Germans opened fire on us.
We had a lot killed, and wounded, here J Sharples was killed Bill Seed was badly wounded. We were losing such a lot here that it was decided to move, so we went in Dublin Redoubt.
1140 Serjeant John Sharples was the son of John and Grace Sharples, of 32 Market Place, Longridge, Preston.
Service No: 1140
Date of Death: 02/08/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: PERONNE ROAD CEMETERY, MARICOURT
There were two men named William Seed who were serving with the 1/4th Battalion at that time, both of whom were discharged due to wounds.
- 1137 Private William Seed
- 1660 Company Quartermaster Serjeant William Seed
Here the shelling was not so heavy but we had a lot of casualties. From here we moved up to DEAD MAN’S TRENCH. Here we stayed 3 days then moved back to HAPPY VALLEY for 2 days.
Here all the Catholics of our division received Holy Communion just before going up to the trenches again to attack the Germans in GUILLEMONT.
Again I was sent up before the Batt and made our Headquarters in the corner of TRONES WOOD. The shelling was something awful. I prayed that I might get my work done before the boys came up.
I was expecting them about 9pm but they could not get up the valley until it had quietened down a bit, but just before midnight on the 8th August I saw them coming up. For about two hours the Germans had been sending tear shells, and my eyes were sore and swollen. About 3am on the 9th the attack on the Germans commenced and I shall never forget bombardment that proceeded the attack, The noise was deafening and all the valley was lit up with the flashes of the guns and bursting shells.
The Germans were sending fire shells and our trench was all on fire. All at once all our wires broke, my visual station was blown to atoms and it was now they were needed most for the boys were held up in and about GUILLEMONT and were losing very heavily.
One of our boys got wounded here and has since died in hospital at Liverpool. I rushed out across DEATHS VALLEY to try and mend the wires but as fast as I mended them they broke somewhere else.
The shelling got worse and I found it was impossible to get back to the trench again so I looked round for some means of getting through to the artillery. At last my efforts were rewarded for I got through with a flag and asked for a fresh bombardment on the slopes behind GUILLEMONT for it was here that the Germans had all their machine guns which were cutting our boys down. For three days we tried to take this place but could not do so. All this time I was out in the middle of DEATHS VALLEY, and sending on the flag all day, and having nothing to eat I was fast becoming exhausted.
The smell was something awful and it was hard to hear wounded men crying for help. Time after time lads came up to me, some of them in a very bad condition and begged of me to help them but I could only bandage them up and make them as comfortable as I could, until the shelling died down a bit. One poor lad who I helped gave me some silk handkerchiefs, the poor lad died he was very badly wounded.
At last it quietened down a bit, and I managed to get back in the trench. A few minutes after I got hit in the left shoulder, but it was but a slight wound so I did not go to the dressing station. It continued to be very rough but we kept up communications.
On the 12th another Batt came up and relieved us and it was about time for we had lost very heavily, for we had only 200 left out of 1,000.We made our way back to HAPPY VALLEY. The following day we left here for SAIGNEVILLE, a lovely village a long way from the sound of the guns. While we were here the general came and thanked us for our good work in the last battle and I was told I had been recommended for some honour for what I had done.
MONDAY, 22 JANUARY, 1917.
His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for
bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Ladies, Non-Commissioned Officers and
1147 Pte. T. Ainscough, N. Lan. R.
While in this place all the Catholics were invited to take part in a procession in honour of the Lady of Lourdes. After being here about a week we again made our way back to the trenches. On Sept 10th we arrived at MERICOURT. From here we marched up the line and got in the trenches in DELVILLE WOOD, on Sept 18th. The following day we attacked the Germans who held one corner of the wood and drove them out but we again suffered very heavily. After four days here we came back in reserve to MONTAUBAN WOOD stopping here 4 more days then moving back to MERICOURT. There we were made up again to 600 and then back in the line again at GUEDECOURT arriving in on the 27th. Again we attacked the Germans taking 3 lines of trenches from them. On October 1st we were relieved and came back to DERNANCOURT staying there until the 3rd then left for LONGPRE, where we entrained for POPERINGHE arriving at that place on the 5th.
We had 2 days in this town then moved to C camp in huts. We had now left the SOMME and was to go to YPRES. This place was rough but it did seem quiet after what we had gone through. We stayed in C camp for 10 days then went by train to the town of YPRES. This town was used instead of reserve trenches. Here we had our signal office in the cellar of a fine old house which had been battered by the German shells.
We stayed here 4 days then moved up to the trenches in RAILWAY WOOD for 4 days, then came back to Ypres prison. A few more days here then back to the line but in a fresh place, which was called the WHITE CHATEAU.
On November 2nd we came back to C camp. After 10 days here we again moved up the line again and stayed there until Christmas Eve. The Kings Own relieved us and we came back to the prison Ypres.
On Xmas day we had a great feast the officers waiting on at the tables. After a few days here we came back to C camp for 10 days. On New Year’s day we again had another party so we were not doing so bad. We again moved up the line for 20 days then we came back and went to (Bolderyville) for training.
While we were here I was told I had got the Military Medal and that the general would present it to me when we got back to C camp. After about 2 weeks here we came back by train to C camp At last the day came when I had to get my ribbon presented to me all the battalion was marched on the parade ground and formed a square. The general and his staff came and addressed the battalion. Then he called my name I had to go up to him. I gave my salute which he acknowledged, then he began to read to the battalion what I was there for. These were his words . In the attack on GUILLEMONT by you on August 8 and 9th he by his hard and trying work and on his own judgement kept up signal communication with brigade headquarters and Artillery under very heavy shell fire. He then pinned the ribbon on my breast. For his good work the King has been pleased to confer this honour on him. He then shook my hand and thanked me.
From the Battalion History: Thomas was presented with the ribbon for his Military Medal on the 18th February 1917 by the Brigadier. Two other men received their ribbons this day, Serjeant Major Heywood and Corporal Bamber.
The boys gave me a good cheer but I was thankful when it was over. After this I kept no more record of my doings but on May 28th I was in a place called Mill Cotts . I was sitting listening to the phone when a message came for me. I began to receive it and found it was addressed to myself and it ran “you must report to battalion Orderly Room as soon as possible for the purpose of proceeding to England on your months leave.”
I soon packed my things up and was making my way down the trench to the orderly Room where I was given my pass for home. At this time the Germans were very quiet so I thought I would get away as soon as possible so I began making my way across the fields to YPRES. No shells had come over and I had nearly got through the town and I was thinking myself very lucky but as I got to the station the shells began to fly overhead but I could not see where they were dropping. I hurried along the road as best I could for the road was packed with motor wagons and artillery and I had to wind my way between them. As I got near the asylum about four shells dropped right amongst the convoy killing about 12 horses, the rest stampeded. I don’t know how I got through it all. A little further along the road I saw seven motor wagons on fire they had been hit by the shells but none of the men were hurt. At last I managed to get clear of this lot and I got on a wagon that had turned back and soon I was out of danger at our transport lines.
The following day I went to POPERINGHE to catch a train to take me to BOULOGNE. We set sail about 9am on June 2nd and in 1 and ½ hours we had landed at FOLKESTONE after a pleasant voyage. After travelling all day I reached PRESTON about 10 o’clock and a car was waiting of me to take me home where I landed about 11pm that night.
Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
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Communication with Battalion headquarters was almost impossible as runners were shot down in attempting to get back reports of progress…..
Extract from 4/5th Battalion War Diary
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- Photo: A group of 4th Bn Soldiers
- 1/4th Bn Officers
- The diary of Thomas Ainscough 1st-4th Battalion
- WITH A RESERVIST IN FRANCE by Private Frederick Bolwell
- WW1: Victoria Crosses: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
- Preston Pals War Memorial
- @PommeryOfficial A 1896 map I found of the 'Caves de L'Establissment Vve Pommery, fils & Cie' https://t.co/V357fs7P2l
about 1 month ago
- @MeganEKelleher @IntBCC @CWGC I'm assuming that's a private purchase headstone, with his wife remembered too, is it?
about 2 months ago
- RT @MeganEKelleher: On the way back from another fantastic visit to the @IntBCC, I spotted some war graves just down the hill at Lincoln (C…
about 2 months ago
- @PommeryOfficial A 1896 map I found of the 'Caves de L'Establissment Vve Pommery, fils & Cie' https://t.co/V357fs7P2l