Ward and I searched around and at last found our servants and kits. It takes 3 trains a day to feed our small army. My servant is trooper Barnes of the 20th Hussars. He sleeps in my truck and has the most awful night-mares when he yells and strangles imaginary Germans. Got rid of my horse, handed back to remount. A wounded British soldier with arm shattered lying on ambulance. French lady comes up, empties her purse on him (unconscious) and kneels down to kiss his hands.
Travelling all day, lines blocked. We are one of row of fourteen trains travelling behind each other on one line 20 yards apart! Reached Rouen 10 p.m. slept on the floor in I.G.C. Office. Train was full of refugees. Our soldiers and French women and children all piled up together in the brake van. Wherever I sit down the ladies surround me and ask: “Is it really certain we shall beat them!” and so on. No food obtainable all day. Whenever the train stops on the line the French soldiers get out and pillage the orchards. French ladies dying to know whether my Highlander Sergeant has anything under his kilt or not!
4.30 a.m. woken up by my French colleague in a panic to say that the Germans will soon be here and we must bolt. I cannot believe the Germans could be driving us in so fast, so I took the precaution of getting 3 engines for my 3 trains, lest he should bolt and leave us stranded. Then I went to see Gen. Joffre‘s Staff, and got a French Staff officer to come down and reassure my man. Left for Creil at 2 p.m. I should I not have liked the nice rations I took up, to fall into the hands of the Germans. Prepared to spend night at Creil when wired for to return to Rouen. Tried the civil trains – awful. Full of panic-stricken women and children – no wonder. I had charge of an escort of Cameron Highlanders with one German prisoner who they dressed in our uniform to save him from being torn to pieces by the French. Had to change at Beauvais and stay there all night.
Left in car at 6 a.m. Ward, Fernie and myself – a beautiful drive. We did the 70 miles in 2 hours. Reported at H.Q. I left at 4 p.m. with a train of supplies to take to the Regulating Station, thence to Rail Head and distribute. Reached Creil about midnight and then on to Compiègne.
Pouring with rain yesterday and this morning, afterwards fine. Inspected the hospital. Wandered about from Hotel to Head Quarters, to Post Office, to choose our horses and so on, very tiring. No orders. Went to bed 11 p.m. Woken an hour later with orders to go by motor-car at 6 a.m. to Rouen.
Arrived Havre 4.30 a.m. Ward and I got our kits ashore and had some much needed coffee. Pouring with rain. Billeted in the Hotel de Strasburg – dirty but not so bad. Rooms, of course, free, but living will be dear. I know nothing about pay, but expect to get about £400 from the War Office instead of £700 from the India Office – but it is worth it just to be here, however far behind the firing line and to know that one is in the movement. Little French boy shakes hands and says: “Bon! Amis?”
With Daisie all over London buying uniform etc. Daisie saw me off at Waterloo by the 4.50. There are 8 of us going, but only two on this train, Colonel Ward. R.H.A. and myself. Reached Southampton and went on board S/S Vera. No dinner, sailed 9 p.m. I command the troops about 1000 men on such a small boat, weather fine – good crossing.
Lunched with MacMunn. Got orders to go over to France as interpreter – Leave to-morrow.
7.30 p.m. wire from War Office will I accept interpreter. Went in person with Buchanan to accept, 10.p.m.
[Here interpolate small War Diary A]
A lull in the War. So far the Germans are not through Liège and they expected to be in Paris by the end of this month. I can get no employment so far, but still hope. No news of our troops and we don’t even know if they have left England, but I expect they are fighting now on the Belgian left and we shall soon hear. We want Naval news. After drinking toasts in their board-rooms for the last 10 years “To the Day” meaning the day of this great fight between our navies, they now rather wish they were out of it. At any rate they are blockaded and we keep the Seas clear.
We arrived yesterday uneventful – No.8 Delamere St. Weather fine and hot. Saw Emily. Not much signs of War except round Horse Guards and War Office where recruits are thronging. Went to India Office. Nothing doing. Changed a £5 note into 2 of the new £1 notes and 6 Postal Orders of 10/- each. The latter are currency.