1914 – September 23

Arrived Fère-en-Tardenois 6 a.m. Went out to see Bay* and found him among all the aeroplanes. He afterwards came over to my carriage and had lunch with me. While in the Aeroplane camp a German Aeroplane came and we fired at it with a maxim, but it got away.

The French 5th Army Corps are marching through here towards the German right and the German was able to go off with this important information. Left F.T. at 3.30. p.m. Such a mixed crowd on board – wounded, sick, prisoners, kits of dead officers, lances, rifles, disabled guns, one which had been hit right on the nose and the whole shield and I suppose the whole gun detachment carried right away.

*For an explanation of who Bay is, see here
For a very illuminating article about the use of aviation in World War 1, go here

1914 – September 22

Cazalet’s train also came up and as we are to be here all day while they settle railheads according to the latest news from the front, we thought we would take a trip into Paris. Place de l’Opéra, Madeleine, Boulevards. It was a triumphal procession and we quite felt we owned Paris, everybody bowed and smiled and kissed their hands. Prayed for Daisie and the children in the Madeleine. Left Villeneuve 6.46 p.m.

1914 – September 19

Round Château Thierry and through all the Champagne country, very beautiful. Épernay 10.30 a.m. We can hear firing still from here in the direction of Reims. After Épernay all fields entrenched, telegraph wires down, woods shelled, heaps of graves, Stations burnt. Took one dead out of the train at Sézanne. Such a round about trip because all the bridges are broken. Contammines* 8.p.m. Villeneuve 12 mid-night.

*I cannot identify this particular location – possible transcription error from the original diaries. If anyone can shed any light it would be much appreciated. The nearest, name-wise, is Contaminés, which is near Geneva – too far away. 

1914 – September 18

Nobody can say I have not been within sound of the guns! Train pulled up in doubt this morning at 5.30 a.m. outside Fère-en-Tardenois, all supply lorries and vehicles halted on road and an appalling thunder of big guns – must be a huge battle in progress and sounds like our left being turned, but I prefer to hope it is the German right. They are all concentrated between Laon and Reims and we ought to get them in the end, but they are very strong on the line of the river Aisne. Arrived 6.45 a.m. Our wounded pour in looking ghastly. Collected 2 acorns from a very pretty wood near here because I think this will be a historic battle and the oaks in England may commemorate it. Walked around the country and found the Aeroplane H.Q. After a bit Bay came down out of the sky and we passed the time of day. He was looking well and cheery. Col. Mackinnis R.E. is railhead officer here and General French is here. Left at 4 p.m. to go at last beyond railhead to Braisne* which is really on the battle-field to pick up wounded. Arrived 6.30 p.m. just behind the firing line. Everything later in pitch darkness as all the gear, telegraph lines etc., has been destroyed by the Germans. It was rather weird in the dark at night with the constant booming of the guns. Took in 296 wounded. Left at 10.15 p.m. How soon one gets accustomed to big figures like 300 wounded – seems a very small affair. The hospital at Braisne* have sent down 1120 in these last 24 hours. Thank goodness I got the in dry, later it poured and poured.

*Possibly Braisnes-sur-Aronde, a short distance to the north-west of Compiègne

 

1914 – September 17

Rain again and cold, reached Villeneuve 8 15. a.m. passed many trains of our wounded going down. Rain and Rain and Rain. German prisoners carrying English wounded and English Red Cross carrying German wounded. Truck leaked, wet bed, bad lumbago. I am a crock. Aldridge joined the train here and came on to Braisne* with me. Left V. at 5.35 p.m. A miserable wet night, pouring and I had to give Aldridge my blankets as he had nothing.

*Possibly Braisnes-sur-Aronde, a short distance to the north-west of Compiègne