Tomorrow, 1st July, 2016, will be the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. Here is a single page transcribed from the diary of Captain 3/153a J. Mitchell, New Zealand Medical Corps. ex of the Royal Army Medical Corps. (Territorial) - Sergeant Major. My great uncle.
Having already served, and survived 81 days on the Gallipoli Peninsula, he was transferred to France on 22nd June 1916 after a week's special leave to the UK to visit family, [my grandmother was his sister]. Having survived the Somme, he went on to fight in the Battle of Passchendaele.
This brave man survived the war and lived the rest of his days as a chicken farmer around Sydney, Australia. He was born and bred in Little Lever, living in Radcliffe, Lancashire before emigrating to NZ around 1912.
"On Sept 7th 1916 arrived at Saint Gratien [North of Paris] at 4.30pm. Continuous rumble of guns in the distance, especially being about 5 miles from firing. Come tomorrow arrived at Dernancourt about 2pm where we all had to pitch [the] operating tent. All officers slept together in it unlit. Left Dernancourt at 9am Saturday 9th Sept 1916. Arrived at Fricourt Camp at noon where we bivouacked overnight, the 9th and 10th. Captains Short, Kenny and Crawford went out with bearers on the night of the 10th. The trenches pounded to bits by our guns, and dugouts and German trenches - really wonderful. Continual heavy gunfire, guns all around us.
13th Sept 1916 - went to huts at Fricourt and left Flat [FlatIron Copse A.D.S - Advanced Dressing Station] on the morning of the 15th for fear from the Copse beyond, marching about a mile and a half. I left Fricourt to find the transport and went beyond Contalmaison thus back to Mametz where I found transport. Parties of Hun prisoners were being brought in by our men in droves of 50 or 60. I passed large numbers of reserves from the Scottish Divisions about Contalmaison and when I got to our A.D.S [Advanced Dressing Station] at Flat [FlatIronCopse], a large number of wounded and prisoners were being brought in.
The Huns were putting over high and the road was just crowded with guns and even an A.D.S in a Hun dugout.
I got orders to take the transport to Green Dump and we moved off in the darkness through a valley just blown to bits by the HE [High Explosive]. The flashes, bark and roar of the guns noted the bursting of every HE all the way. We were ordered to place our transport between two batteries of 4.5QF [4.5 inch Howitzer] - a rotten place to be.
16th Sept 1916. A premature burst from the battery a few yards away from us killed one man, wounded 7 and killed 6 horses. I was lying under lumber and as close to the burst as the men who were killed and wounded.
17th Sept 1916. Very wet, rotten mud up to the knees and raining heavily. 3 enemy HE bursts close to me and flung the earth over my tent. Ordered the horses to be removed and men to shift out of it to across the valley. I went myself but could not get shelter as all the dugouts were full up, so decided to risk it and returned to Flat [FlatIron Copse A.D.S] cold and wet. As I was riding in the same evening a HE burst about 12 yards from me. I thought my number was up, but luckily thank God, I wasn't hit. Our troops have done marvellously, but the cost is heavy. We've had 6 men killed and about 30 wounded. Major Martin, Captain Bogle killed. Captain Good and Captain Brown wounded".