The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Festival 2015

Diaries of a First World War Bugler

9th SEPTEMBER 1915.

Now the Company are in the trenches and today our Company Commander, Captain Holmes, was in front of the trenches sketching the enemies’ position when a bullet caught him. He died from his wound. He was a brave man and I would have followed him anywhere.  He was the only son of Lady Holmes. As an officer he was invaluable.

11th SEPTEMBER 1915.

Today we had a trial for the 5th Divisional Concert Party. As I was one of the “knuts” I did not perform. The party is composed of men having fought through last winter and are now going to entertain this winter. Lieutenant Forsyth, author and producer of scenery, is in charge and he has an excellent assistant in Rifleman Boreham, understudy to Fred Emery in “Sister to a Sister”. Both the talented men are serving with my regiment the “Queen Victoria's Rifles”.

12th SEPTEMBER 1915.

Today, being Sunday, we were attending divine service in a field. While we were singing “Fight the good fight” two aeroplanes, one German the other English, were fighting one another like wild-fire, but although pieces of shrapnel were continually falling, God's presence at the service prevented any of us getting hit. All this week troops have been arriving so that we shall soon be in the thick of it, now more especially as leave has stopped again. This is always a bad sign.

24th SEPTEMBER 1915.

A heavy bombardment commenced at 4.30 p.m. and lasted till 9.00 p.m. after which it was suspiciously quiet. I have already mentioned about the 5th “Divisional Follies”.  Lieutenant Forsyth asked the Colonel for permission to take me for the Follies. “I am sorry but he's too valuable on the buglers”, so once again I have lost a good job.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, we are continuing the serialisation of the diaries of Bugler John McCormack - Eileen Oades Uncle and Rosemary Monk’s Great Uncle.

6th SEPTEMBER 1915.

Tonight ‘A’ Company depart for the trenches. During their stay here we had two concerts, Company’s and Brigade’s. I sang at both of them getting an encore each time for my rendering of “When you come home”.  The second time I sang it I had tears in my eyes at the finish. I have since been in great demand, singing for the King's Own Scottish Borderers and two of Kitchener’s regiments, namely the Norfolks and the Suffolks. Several officers have praised me for my voice, both of the old and new army. Such expressions as these were to be heard, “Top hole”, “Never heard it sung better”, and one, a Major, said it was “Damn fine, don’tcher know”.

25th SEPTEMBER 1915.

We are expecting a big attack tonight, Saturday, and every man is wanted.  May good luck go with us. I cannot swim and we've got a river to cross. The morning’s here and the attack is still off owing to a lull in proceeding further along the line.

30th SEPTEMBER 1915.

Today we learn that the attack here is off.  We are pleased in a way as the weather has been rather wet and this makes things 10 times harder. Ten days have now passed during which time Sergeant Burgess D.C.M, was killed whilst repairing the barbed wire entanglements which had been broken down by the shell-fire.

23rd OCTOBER 1915.

Today I have just heard the buglers of the Yorkshire Light Infantry playing Retreat and marching using the cornet attachment - it was great. Now, returning I learn that I go on leave on the 25th so the boys are singing  farewell songs but we shall have the great farewell tomorrow, - I must now oblige with a song.


Back again in London! after 12 months abroad.  It’s ripping! Everybody treated very well indeed.  Time passes all too quickly.  The journey going and coming back was very rough indeed.


Back again! The Regiment is still holding trenches in front of Bray-sur-Somme.  In my absence No.4 Platoon got blown up by a mine.  Many wounded, Lance Corporal Orpet and Rifleman Bell being killed.  The usual amount of trench fighting still goes on.  The shelling has been increasing lately.

22nd NOVEMBER 1915.

Susanne, a village to the right of us, was reduced to the ground; the German guns are now trained on us.  We await results.  The trenches are all collapsing owing to the rain.

23rd NOVEMBER 1915.

Today being somewhat clear we expected the usual number of enemy aerial scouts overhead.  About 3.30pm. one was observed coming over.  Our guns opened fire and the aviator found himself hard-pressed, however, he managed to get over our little village of Bray on the River Somme and dropped two bombs which luckily only killed one man.

24th NOVEMBER 1915.

‘D’  Company of the Q.V.R’s were in the trenches and the usual number, 3 men, in the Listening Post.  Suddenly they observed a dog run past them and soon after the patrol sent out by the Silicians, who were opposite us  came into view.  Our men fired 3 shots, (one per man) wounding all three of the enemy’s patrol.  Help was sent from our own lines and the prisoners very quickly brought in.  Unfortunately for us they died soon after so we were not able to get any information from them.  However, - Well done the Vies!

To be continued