The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Autumn 2015

Diaries of a First World War Bugler

8th FEBRUARY 1916.

At 10 o’clock in the morning we left Talmas and after marching about 8 miles, we arrived at Cardennette. This place is not so dusty. It possesses a somewhat new and picturesque church. Physical drill was the order every morning. This continued until at last we heard we were moving. This was on the afternoon of 11th February.

12th FEBRUARY 1916.

As announced we did move at 10 o’clock.  It was not at all a bad march. It was certainly made easier because we had to pass through a lot of villages and towns among which was Amiens. This is a lovely place. Trains (electric) running along, and houses oh so fine! In fact I thought I was in London again.  I can only say to those who have the means that they should visit Amiens and they will never regret it.  Our destination turned out to be Picquigny which we reached at 6 p.m.  This was a fine town, larger than my other favourite place, Baillieui. We slept in what was a hairdresser’s on the first floor front, if you please! My word we did let it rip! After spending a night here we fell in again at 9.15 a.m. for our next move. I might say we were marching from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. yesterday. Today we have got 20 miles to do. We started off; the march was a very trying one. Just before completing the half journey we passed through Airaines and who should I see there but Harold Chapman in the 1/3 Royal Fusiliers - I was surprised!

Well on we must go for the other half of our journey which we completed by 8 p.m., just think of it, 11 hours marching, 20 miles and each man carrying about 701bs on his back. Our destination this time is a place called Vauxmarquenville. This is evidently the meeting place for this London Territorial Division for, in villages close to us, we have the London Scottish, London Rifle Brigade, the Rangers, Queen's Westminster, 2nd C. Fusiliers and ourselves, the Queen Victoria’s Rifles. Our stay here will always be remembered by me for we had a severe snow storm and whilst on duty I got lost in open country, the roads being covered by snow.  After wandering about for 2  hours I arrived back at 10 o'clock at night.

We left the aforementioned place on

SUNDAY 27th FEBRUARY 1916 and marched 15 miles over frozen roads to Ailly-le-haut-Clocher.

7th MARCH 1916.

We are still at the aforementioned place training. We played the Queen’s Westminsters at rugby, score nil-nil, also the 2nd City of London R.F. and beat them 6 points to 5. I have made the acquaintance of the two brothers Nichols, S.B.’s in the Q.W.R. I journeyed over to see my cousin, George, in the Rangers. Now a word or two about this place etc. It is named as aforementioned on account of its church which is a very old piece of work dating back to 1748. It has a gigantic bell which has made the spire lean over. There are a fair amount of estaminets here and several shops of various descriptions. Our brigade of this new Territorial Division consists of the Queen’s Westminsters, London Rifle Brigade, 2nd City of London Royal Fusiliers and ourselves, the Queen Victoria’s Rifles.

12th MARCH 1916.

We left Ailley-le-haut-Clocher at 7.45 a.m. and marched about 12 miles till we reached a place called Fienvillers. This is on the main Doullens-Amiens road. It was here on the 13th of March that I had my first bath, (cold water), for over two months, it was cold too. The doctor saw me and called me a sportsman and I think I was worth the name. Ugh!, it was cold! We only stayed here for two days. The night previous to our departure in the morning we had a piece of excitement. It was a quarter to 8 at night and the buglers were just falling in to sound the “first post” when I saw flames. I sounded the fire-alarm and very quickly two companies were on the scene. It appears the fire was caused by someone in ‘D’ Company knocking a candle over. Having sounded the fire call, I immediately started to save the home of the old lady in the farm. It was the hottest ten minutes’ work I have done for a long time, for the roof was all alight.  We worked on the fire all night. At 8.30 the next morning we started on a 6 mile march and arrived at Doullens. This is another fine place, plenty of life, I had a good time. We stayed here for one night only. The following morning at 8.15 a.m. we started on another 17 mile march.  After some time I passed an old St. Giles choir boy and also an old Q.V.R. bugler, both serving in the 1st London R.F.A. Their names were A.Harman and Noble. The name of our destination is Houvin-Houvigreul where we arrived at 1.15 p.m

16th MARCH 1916.

The place itself is not so bad. It boasts of five estaminets and a small general shop. It extends something like 1 miles but is very scattered. Since I have been here I have had several walks. One walk took me past an old stone Crucifix which, on examining closely, I found was erected in 1700, some 200 years ago. I could not help but wonder how many worshippers had been there during that time.  Our time up to the present has been spent training in various ways.

22nd MARCH 1916.

We had a 3 mile road race. There were 30 competitors. After running for a mile I saw I was fourth. I kept this place until mile from the finish and there I hurt my foot slightly, however, I managed to keep on and eventually finished 7th doing the whole journey in 20 minutes. The day following this we had a severe snowstorm which lasted two days. The countryside looked lovely but it makes us so miserable because we get stone cold and have not a fire with which to get warm.

This brings me to the 26th MARCH 1916.  I am pleased to say the weather is changing to the good. We are still training.

8th APRIL 1916.Saturday.

We were marching along and who should I see but a fellow named Daley who used to work at Cooper Stewarts. The next day, Sunday, we went to a demonstration of this “Liquid Fire”. It is a wonderful sight and must have put the fear of God into our men the first time the enemy used it on them.  The appliance itself resembles an old-fashioned hand pump. This is filled with oil which runs down a hose; a match is then applied to the oil and a man dressed like a “bogeyman” sprays the fire all over the trenches.

To be continued

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.

30th JANUARY 1916.

We left this place at 9.0 o'clock and marched to Lahoussye, 10 miles. We stayed here for a night and started off again for another 12 miles’ march. This brought us to a place called Talmas where we have been doing attack practice etc.

4th FEBRUARY 1916.

After four more days of this work we received orders to prepare to move.