Alfred Mills 

10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers
(City of London Regiment) the 'Stockbrokers'
 and The Royal Engineers

Great War Diary 1914-1918


 

Monday 1 April Rouen

Easter Monday. Arrived here at 6:00am. Big flap on. Stayed about 13 hours. Left at 7:00pm.

Tuesday 2 April Mamers

Arrived here about 11:00am. We are south east of Alencon. We detrained and had some grub. Marched about until 6:00pm and then stayed in barracks for the night.

Wednesday 3 April Le Buisson

Left Mamers at 9:00am and marched about 9 miles towards Alencon arriving at Canadian's Camp this evening set in a large forest, south of and south east of le Buisson.

Thursday 4 April Le Buisson

On escort to the Mill during the day. Raining tonight.

Friday 5 April Le Buisson

Dismissed off parade in morning.

Saturday 6 April Le Buisson

Wrote to Ma.

Sunday 7 April Le Buisson

Had a walk into the forest this morning and walked through to the village. Always carried arms due to the wild boar in the forest, which we are told would attack us. Rather showery today.

Monday 8 April Le Buisson

Dismounted off escort this morning and have done odd jobs around the Camp.

Tuesday 9 April Le Buisson

Mounted guard at 9:00am and still on guard this evening.

This Camp was a number run by the Canadian RE Lumberjack Companies throughout this area of France and they were on timber felling and conversion for war purposes.

The Canadians had cleared a site at a crossroads in the forest and built a barbed wire enclosure to house the German prisoners in Bell tents. We are also billeted in Bell tents, but outside the enclosure. A patrol path ran all around this cage and the path was also enclosed by another barbed wire fence. Big arc lights lighted the four sides, each one being patrolled by one of us. All through the night at regular intervals, the Orderly Officer with an NCO came along the path. The soldier on guard would challenge all who came along his length of path with "Halt, who goes there?" The reply would be "Friend" and then he would be told to advance 2 paces and be recognised. Those of us who had been up the Front for a number of years were very hardened to discipline, that is obeying orders. One's life very often depended on it. Those who had not had fighting experience but just done jobs like this one at the Base or on Communication lines were mostly softer and probably did their jobs in a more cosy going manner.

Anyway, I am on guard tonight and I had already been told about this Officer, easy going, and not halting at the sentry's command, when he showed up. I challenged him. He muttered a reply and kept walking on towards me. So, I took the one pace forward with the rifle bayonet fixed straight in front of me. He pulled up about one inch from the tip of the bayonet. Realising I am following orders to the letter, he took a pace back and said "Friend". I responded in the correct fashion and allowed him on his way.

Wednesday 10 April Le Buisson

Dismounted guard this morning and I am informed that the Officer concerned last night is commending me for my action.

Sgt Major told me I am being recommended for promotion.

Thursday 11 April Le Buisson

On escort to the Mill with Sgt Harris. Had a good feed with the Canadians at dinner-time. Those Canadian fellows are giants and must be as strong as an ox.

Friday 12 April Le Buisson

On escort all day. Not much good.

Saturday 13 April Le Buisson

On escort to 30th Company. Long walk about 7 miles. Late getting back.

Sunday 14 April Le Buisson

Raining most of the day. Stayed in bed until 6:00pm. Walked down to the village this evening. Letters from Ma, Winnie, Effie, Nell and Tommy.

Monday 15 April Le Buisson

Mounted guard at 9:00am. Not a bad day. Letters from Ma and Capt Bindley and papers from Anglo Saxon Comforts Fund.

Tuesday 16 April Le Buisson

Dismounted guard at 9:00am. Had a bath in the tent. Wrote to Tommy, Ma, George, Mr Oliver, oscar, Nell and post cards to Effie, Capt. Bindley, Beanland and Shindler. Letters from Ma and Oscar. French book from Ma.

Wednesday 17 April Le Buisson

On escort in the forest. Letter, papers and Bulletins from Ma. Papers from Anglo Saxon Petroleum.

Thursday 18 April Alencon

On escort. This is the prettiest village I have ever set eyes upon. Wrote to Ma.

Friday 19 April Le Buisson

On escort in forest today.

Saturday 20 April Le Buisson

On escort on light railway today. Prisoner escaped from here last Monday but was soon caught again.

Sunday 21 April Le Buisson

Mounted guard at 9:00am. Letter from Emily and paper from Anglo-Saxon Petroleum.

Monday 22 April Le Buisson

Dismounted guard at 9:00am. Had medical examination at 10:00am. Went to Mamers this afternoon and was told my transfer was through. Letters from Amandine and Ma.

Post card Alfred bought in Alencon but did not send


Wednesday 24 April Serquigny

Left the Camp yesterday morning and walked into Le Buisson where I caught a Lorry to Alencon.. Got my movement orders and ticket for Rouen. Left Alencon at 7:45pm, arrived here at 1:30am and bedded down in a French hut.

Wednesday 24 April Rouen

Left Serquigny at 6:30am and arrived here at 9:00am. Had a wash at the Rest Camp before catching the train at 2:20pm.

Thursday 25 April Etaples

Arrived here at 5:00am. Travelling all yesterday and all night. Train pushed into a siding until midday waiting for an engine when it set off again with a new engine.

Thursday 25 April Cassel

Arrived here at 7:00pm and reported RTO. Was told I had come past my destination. Staying here tonight.

Friday 26 April Zeneghem

Rose about 8:00am in Cassel and searched around for a cup of coffee. After successfully getting a cup I drew rations and waited for a train, which came in about 3:30pm, arriving at Watten at about 5:00pm, from where I walked to here and reported at the Office about 9:00pm.

After travelling for 4 days and nights on French railways completely on my own, I was feeling tired and somewhat lonely. I was no longer a member of the 10th RF, but now officially in the Royal Engineers amongst complete strangers. Although many of the original 10th RF had gone, I still felt a sense of belonging and that tie will never leave me.

Saturday 27 April Zeneghem

Rose about 6:30am. Paraded 7:00am and dismissed. Medically examined 10:00am. Passed B2 again. Had kit inspection. Handed in rifle and equipment and was served out with RE badge etc., and extra tunic etc. Working with SM in afternoon. Getting demolition demonstration ready. Wrote to Ma, Verity, Mr Oliver, Mr Phipps, Amandine, George, Nell, Winnie and Wildman. Spending evening in Church Army.

Sunday 28 April Zeneghem

Doing camp duties. Got earache, so got into blankets after dinner and stay here all day and night. Rotten weather. Rain and cold wind.

Monday 29 April Zeneghem

Ear still bad. Did camp duties and drew rations this morning. Wrote to Reg Bonner, Arthur, Jean and Shindler.

Tuesday 30 April Zeneghem

On camp duties this morning. Engine ran into a Lorry at a crossing. Number of Chinese wounded along with some of our fellows. Wrote to Winnie and Ma.

 

Author's note: Zeneghem (variously referred to a Zeneghem Yard and Zeneghem Camp) did not appear on any war maps probably because it was a sensitive establishment and stockpiled large amounts of munitions for the war effort. However, it has been possible to identify it to an area between and south of, Audruicq and Hennuin, where the main canals and railways intersect coming from the channel ports. These transport links were necessary and vital to ensuring continual supply and movement of the much needed ammunition and shells. Acknowledgement and thanks to the Great War Forum for its assistance in pinpointing it to Audruicq. There is no trace left of the camp today.