Arrived Villeneuve at 4 a.m. A lot of work rearranging trains as everything is now altered. I am taking stuff for the 1st Army only, to Mont Notre Dame and a few trucks to Fère-en-Tardenois and Neuilly gl. Front. The 2nd Army go to Abbeville, 3rd Army Crépy, 1st and 2nd Cav. at Amiens. G.H.Q. R.F.C.Q. Abbeville – all big and portentous moves. Saw 7 engines going North of the Belgian North line, which looks as if we were reopening Belgium but how can that be? Also I hear our Cavalry are in Belgium. I hear the real reason of the German swinging off S.E. from Paris was that they thought the English Army had been wiped out! and then they found that same beastly little army hitting them on the right shoulder, and so began the Débâcle. It was the contemptible little English Army that did the trick from first to last.
Arrived Fère-en-Tardenois 2.m. Big guns booming, but further away. Frightful toothache. I dined last night off a chunk of bread that a lady put in at the window at one of the stations. I had plenty of other food but no light and it is beastly eating in the dark, so I gnawed the bread and enjoyed it very much. Had a very interesting morning. Col. Mac.Innes, R.E. had to go out to the front in a car, so he took me. We drove through Mont Notre Dame and Braisne over the pontoon bridge on the Aisne beside the bridge the Germans had destroyed, and into Bourg [?? Place unlocated]. Passed within 20 yards of 2 of our 60 pounder guns very well concealed. Under shell fire all the last part of the way, but nobody fired at a single car. Not worth it. Saw the big crates that the Black Marias dig out – all over the place, two on the road itself. Lots of trenches and graves and dead horses. Left F.T. at , 3.30 p.m.
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.
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