Memoirs & Diaries - The Diary of Thomas Fredrick Littler: July-December 1916

Thomas Littler, author of the diaries This section of the site comprises the wartime diaries of Thomas Fredrick Littler.

Click here to read an introduction to the diaries.  The following section of the diaries covers the opening of the British Somme Offensive.

Diary Entries for July to December 1916

July 1st 1916
After having had our rum issue we stood to till 7-25a.m when we put up a smoke screen and went over the top at 7-30 with the London Scottish and Queens Westminster Rifles, we took four lines of trenches from the Germans, but were driven back by midday to our original position, our losses were very heavy although we took many prisoners, I could not attempt to write all that happened this day, so I'll leave a cutting from the paper here.

The casualties from my Battalion were A Company 112, B Company 62, C Company 91, D Company 25, in my platoon we lost the following men Lieutenant Leigh, who had taken over from Lieut. Larne, was wounded the left arm blown off, Private Harry Wakefield, Private Wilfred Carter, killed, Private Jack White, Private Frank Walker, missing, and Private Harry Frodsham, Private Sam Mellor, and Private George Parker wounded, L-Cpl R Eaton, and L-Cpl Harry Carveley wounded, the following men died of wounds during the following week Sgt Piers, L-Cpl J Kinsey, and Private Albert Clarke, Private Jack Perrin, and Private Sidney Jones, we left the line this night being too weak in numbers to hold it, and got back to Souastre about 12-30 p.m.

[newspaper cutting]

July 2nd 1916
(Sunday) We rested all day, and many of us are still a little shaky.

July 3rd 1916
We had a number of reinforcements sent to us, and paraded at 9-30 p.m and moved up the line to Foncquevillers a little to the north of Hebuterne and were billeted in cellars, turned out to work at 11-p.m and went up the trenches and in places we were waist deep in water, and at last got to the fire trench and went on top and put out 150yds of barbed wire and returned to billets at 4-30 in the morning.

July 4th 1916
Put another 150 yrds of barbed wire on the top and the trenches were still waist deep in water.

July 5th 1916
Just the same as the day before.

July 6th 1916
We were the only Platoon to go out working this night, and returned to billets 3 a.m in the morning.

July 7th 1916
At 10 a.m we commenced an hours heavy strafe, and the Germans retaliated and shelled the village, at 2 p.m we went to the trenches and pumped water out till 7 p.m and had a night in for a rest.

July 8th 1916
We worked again from 9 a.m till 12 noon pumping water away and at 9 p.m had to go and dig a trench 80 yds long and revet it with sandbags to hold the sides up, and returned at 4-30 in the morning.

July 9th 1916
Paraded at 2 p.m and marched from Foncquevillers to Souastre and were swept by machine gun fire from a German airoplane, but we got back without a casualty.

July 10th 1916
We did nothing in the morning but at 7 p.m we left Souastre and marched through Bayencourt, Sailly-Au-Bois to Hebuterne and mounted guard till 4 p.m on the 11th inst.

July 12th 1916
We went to work at 2a.m 'til 10a.m deepening and widening 'Welcome St' C.T. this trench had been levelled by the bombardment of the 1st of July.

July 13th 1916
Carried on with the same work as the day previous in the same trench.

July 14th 1916
We worked in 'Wood St' C.T. at 2a.m to pump water out as this trench was waist deep in water, at 3-30a.m we opened out a very heavy strafe and we went to help the London Scottish to hold our front line. The enemy opened out a counter strafe and the London Scottish raided the enemy line at 4a.m returning with 25 prisoners, we left after 5a.m and at 7p.m we left Hebuterne and marched back to Souastre glad to get away.

July 15th 1916
We got a full day's rest.

July 16th 1916
We marched to Sailly-au-bois and commenced digging a dugout for the 169th Brigade Staff and at night had a memorial service for the chums we had lost lately.

July 17th 1916
We did same work as the day before, at night our Colonel presented a few Certificates for deeds on July 1st.

July 18th 19th 1916
We worked on the roads in Bayencourt.

July 20th 1916
Had a rest in the morning and proceeded to Hebuterne at 4p.m, arriving there at 7-30p.m, as we went a very round-about way as the enemy was shelling the roads for transport.

July 21st 1916
We turned out to work at 2a.m til 10a.m in 'Wood St' C.T. and it was quiet, at 5a.m one of our airoplanes was hit and fell in our lines.

July 22nd 1916
Worked same hours in 'Welcome St' C.T. revetting it. The time was quiet only at 'stand to' when we had a few Miniweffers over.

July 23rd 1916
Same hours, same work, same trench as the day previous.

July 24th 1916
Same hours, same work, same trench as before.

July 25th 1916
Same as before, but at 5a.m one of our trench mortars was knocked out in 'New Welcome St', we were near support.

July 26th 27th and 28th 1916
Same hours, same work, same trench as before.

July 29th 1916
Working same as before but at 9a.m the Germans opened a heavy strafe on us and we had to seek safety in the cellar of a ruined house over our reserve line.

July 30th 1916
Working same as before but at 11-30a.m a German airoplane was brought down by our machine gunners, he fell in our lines.

July 31st 1916
One of our airoplanes was brought down by the Germans at 12 noon and working in 'New Welcome St' C.T. against the fire trench frontline some mangled bodies were dug up.

August 1st 1916
We reached the front line with our revetting, and at noon we had to take cover as the Germans were strafing again. We left Hebuterne at 8-30p.m and marched back to Souastre for 6 days rest.

August 2nd 1916
We went in motor wagons through St Amand, Gaudiempre, Humbercamp to Saulty loading them with stone and returning and unloading on the Souastre Bayencourt Road and then til 4p.m working on the road.

August 3rd 1916
Whilst working on same job as day before at 9a.m the Germans shelled Souastre with heavies killing five, wounded 18, and shook the village badly, some of the casualties were civilians.

August 4th 1916
Built a Y.M.C.A.

August 5th 1916
I had to go with a Pontoon wagon from Souastre through Henu and Pas to Mondicourt, there I loaded the wagon with timber and brought it back through Souastre and Bayencourt to Sailly-au-Bois for the Brigade Headquarters dug-out.

August 6th 1916
We did nothing in the morning but at night had a church service.

August 7th 1916
We left Souastre at 6 a.m and marched to Hebuterne, there was heavy shelling going on, we went to work at 6p.m in the trenches, and my work this night kept me on the top all night as soon as it was dusk, anchoring stakes back we worked til 2a.m
(This day was August Monday).

August 8th 9th 1916
We worked same as on the 7th inst.

August 10th 1916
Worked this morning in a trench about 10 yds from the billet, the Germans were shelling the village heavily, and about 12 o'clock noon a 5.9 was dropped direct on the billet, it killed Private Joe Orme, Private Harry Percival, and Private Dick Hearne, it wounded Private Hazelhurst, Coalthorpe, Duckworth, and Barton, and Private George Hunt (my chum) got shell-shock, losing his speech and use of his limbs, the billet took fire, but was quickly put out, and the rescue of dead and wounded went on, afterwards we had to find fresh billets in cellars which was much safer, everyone was fagged out and done, but what few were left in the Platoon had to go to work at 6p.m till 2a.m and about 8p.m an enemy airoplane swept us with machine gun fire.

August 11th 1916
We fortified our cellar by sandbagging it all round and on top, went to the trenches at 6p.m and while still daylight we were again swept with machine gun fire from a German airoplane, also he signalled to their artillery who opened out and we had to fall back, later on the Germans fired Miniweffers on our job, also we were bombed, so we had a lively night of it, but got no casualties.

August 12th 1916
We worked same as on the 11th inst. but the night was quiet.

August 13th 1916
I was posted to the machine gunners for guards, in Hebuterne, and found it better.

August 14th 1916
We had one machine gunner wounded in the leg, Gunner Carrol, I had to take over his post, shelling was heavy all day, and had been so the last few days.

August 15th 1916
Same as day before, the shelling was increasing.

August 16th 1916
Same as day before, the shelling was increasing in intensity.

August 17th 1916
Same as day before, the shelling was now like a continual bombardment.

August 18th 1916
We left Hebuterne, being relieved by another Division at 4p.m, we were pleased to see the last of it, but had to get away in a roundabout manner as the shelling was very heavy, reached Souastre about 6p.m.

August 19th 1916
Rested all day.

August 20th 1916
We left Souastre at 8 a.m and marched though Henu and Pas and Mondicourt to Doullens a large town and here there were plenty of civilians, we reached the town about 2 p.m having marched 18 kilos.

August 21st 1916
I had to mount guard at 6 p.m and at 4-30 a.m I had to dismount.

August 22nd 1916
Dismounted guard at 4-30 a.m and fell in with my Platoon, and we marched from Doullens through Occoches, Temple-le-Grood, Auxi-le-Chateau to Hierment a distance of 25 kilos.

August 23rd 1916
We left Hierment at 7 a.m and marched through Yooniux, Oneux to St Riquier, a distance of 17 kilos, where we understood we were going to have a rest, this was the stiffest march I had ever been on having done 60 kilos in three marches in three days.

August 24th 1916
We drilled all day and at night I had a look round St Riquier and found it a very nice town.

August 25th 1916
We drilled all day.

August 26th 1916
We drilled all day, and put out barbed wire entanglements for practice.

August 27th 1916
We had a church parade and the best days rest we'd had, and at night a thunder storm.

August 28th 1916
Drilled all day.

August 29th 1916
Had to go on a course of instruction on the Lewis machine gun, it poured with rain, got drenched to the skin.

August 30th 31st 1916
Same as on the 29th.

September 1st 1916
Same as on the previous day, only we stood by after 12 noon.

September 2nd 1916
Stood by all day awaiting orders.

September 3rd 1916
We had a church parade and stood by for the remainder of the day.

September 4th 1916
We packed up and entrained and passed through Abbeville and to Corbie, to the Somme front.

September 5th 1916
Rested all day in Corbie.

September 6th 1916
We marched from Corbie to a camp between Bray and Bronfray farm, near Maricourt.

September 7th 1916
We left camp and went 4 kilos nearer the line and bivouac in the ground, and passed over the newly conquered ground and went forward at night and dug a new communication trench, were heavily shelled and had 15 casualties, in our platoon we had three casualties, Sgt Prince, Sgt Oldham and Private Mitchem.

September 8th 1916
Finished the work of the night before, also found the body of Sgt Oldham who we buried on the spot. We had many casualties this night.

September 9th 1916
Went over the top in an attack by the Brigade, reversed the parapets of the front line , which we had established, came back 50yds dug a new front line support, returned having had 25 casualties, in our Platoon we had Corporal Hodkinson, Privates Haddon, Cook and Dugnough.

September 10th 1916
Carried on with another job making a Divisional Dugout with the Royal Engineers.

September 11th & 12th 1916
The same as the 10th inst, but on this night, we left and marched to the line.

September 13th 1916
This is my birthday but it was spent in the trenches, and the Somme Battle went on, we found we were entrenched on the edge of Leuze Wood.

September 14th 1916
Repaired the trenches around and made ready to attack, suffered heavy casualties.

September 15th 1916
We made a big attack at Leuze Wood and advanced 1 mile in depth taking four lines of trenches, we had 12 large caterpillars to help in this attack, which begun at 4-30 a.m, our losses were slight in comparison with the Germans, our Battalion was withdrawn at 10-30 p.m being too weak to hold the line.

September 16th 1916
We rested all day and at night we had reinforcements sent to us, and went forward and dug an advanced fire trench, but the guide took us the wrong way, and led us into the enemy lines, the Germans opened a heavy fire on us, and we retired hastily but with casualties, Company Commander Captain Dickson being wounded, Platoon Officer Second Lieutenant Clements and 12 other rank also wounded, two died very shortly after.

September 22nd 1916
I had lost count of the days, but up to today we had had 376 casualties in the Battalion, and we were working every night in the lines leaving our dug-out at 5p.m and returning at 6 a.m, our attacks kept carrying us farther ahead.

September 27th 1916
We left High Wood and Leuze Wood sector and marched back 7 kilos to a place just outside Meaulte and rested two days, had four lots of reinforcements, and our casualties to date were 430.

September 30th 1916
We left this camp and marched through Carnoy, passed Trones Wood and Guillemont, and dug in at the rear of Rouleaux Wood.

October 1st 1916
We advanced again along with the French who were in touch with us on our right, we took four lines of trenches from the Germans, captured Combles and I sustained a severe cut on the leg with barbed wire, and it bled badly but I had to carry on.

October 10th 1916
We came out of the line at 10-30p.m and we had suffered very heavy casualties and only numbered about 500 strong after going in about 850 strong.

October 11th 1916
We came down to the Citadel and had a days rest.

October 12th 13th 1916
Great pain in the leg and so I fell sick, the cut will not heal up.

October 14th 15th 1916
Working with R.E. loading wagons.

October 16th 1916
We left the Citadel and marched through Meautle and Dernancourt and boarded trucks and went to the village of Conde[-Folie] the other side of Amiens.

October 17th 18th 1916
Rested at Conde.

October 19th 1916
Finished four day No1 Field Punishment for eating emergency rations without permission.

October 21st 1916
Left Conde and marched to Hallencourt a distance of 10 kilos.

October 22nd 23rd 24th 1916
Drilling all day, on a so called rest.

October 25th 1916
We left Hallencourt and entrained at Pont-Remy and detrained early on the 26th at Guarbecque, and marched through St Venant to St Floris.

October 26th 27th 28th 1916
Rested at St Floris and on the 28th we marched to a village about 3 kilos away and here I was picked up by motor along with four others and taken to the R.E. Workshops in Bethune to work.

October 29th 1916
Started working as a fitter on explosives in the R.E. Workshops of the 1st Army Corps. Nothing to report until the following date.

November 26th 1916
The Germans shelled Bethune heavily and I have being [sic] having much pain in the leg.

December 23rd 1916
The Germans again shelled Bethune heavily, causing heavy casualties in both soldiers and civilians.

December 25th 1916
Christmas day, had a day off.

December 26th 1916
The Germans came over in airoplanes dropped bombs and swept the streets with machine guns.

Diary and photographs contributed by Chris Littler, visit his website at www.first-world-war.co.uk.

Britain introduced conscription for the first time on 2 February 1916.

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Thomas Littler