14th July 1917

The trek went on and on.  With each mile the 95lb pack became heavier and heavier.  Feet were sore, back ached, knees felt none too secure and I was thirsty.  No one could spare the effort to sing and the only sound was the incessant beat of iron-shod boots on the hard French roads.  My thoughts wandered back to pleasanter days until the immediate surroundings gradually faded and I became a complete automaton – Rifleman 554720 was asleep!

For how long he remained in that blissful state I shall never know but the awakening was sudden.  A loud voice from the rear of the column was shouting and his words were far from complimentary.  Someone was obviously heading for trouble.  Quickly assessing the position I found myself still in line with the man in front, properly in step and a quick sideways glance confirmed that I was well dressed by the left.  Nothing to worry about.  Clearly I was not the object of wrath from that noisy person behind.  My first uneasy sense of guilt evaporated but the accusing voice came nearer.  The Band struck up the Regimental March which meant that the column was approaching habitation, a town or village.  Then the light dawned.  During my very pleasant nap the Battalion, according to custom, had been ordered to march to attention and there I was comfortably marching ‘at ease’ with the rifle sling over my shoulder, thumb comfortably entwined.  I quickly came to the ‘trail’ but found the voice still coming nearer.  He had noticed the discrepancy in the ranks from way back but was unable to identify the culprit.  He demanded to know who it was but no one told him and, remembering the old axiom, I did not volunteer.  Unfortunately, in his haste to properly fulfil his duties, my persecutor came to grief.  With eyes glued sideways on the ranks he tripped and sprawled face downwards in a foul, muddy pond by the wayside.  We had arrived at the ‘clean village’ of Le Souich.  I heard no more of the incident and have long since forgiven the NCO concerned for all those improper names he called me on that tiring afternoon in July 1917.

Parade 7:30am.
Full march order.
Route march through Le Souich.
Home 11:30am. Very wet.
Afternoon kip.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes