Hendecourt, September 23, 1918

Monday         The weather continues very unsettled[.] last night packing up amm commenced. was a dark and wet night, I worked on the gun today getting it ready for action. Started on some letters yesterday Am in the pink

Percy said that he’d “moved up forward” yesterday afternoon, but the Brigade diary and the Divisional Artillery diary both say that it is today that the batteries of the 13th Brigade move their wagon lines “forward to the vicinity of Hendecourt.” (1)

Galtrey pack mule.JPGArchie Wills says that the men of his battery had a hard time packing ammunition last night: mud made the going “very heavy” and they got lost in the dark. (2) Canon Scott spent last night in this vicinity too when threatening weather interrupted his “missionary journey” by motor-cycle sidecar to the forward battalions of the First Canadian Division, some of whom were near Hendecourt. (3)

“The sky grew black and rain began to fall,” Scott wrote later. “When one stood in the open and looked all round at the inky darkness everywhere, with the rain pelting down, and knew that our men had to carry on as usual, one realized the bitterness of the cup which they had to drink to the very dregs. Rain and darkness all round them, hardly a moment’s respite from some irksome task, the ache in the heart for home and the loved ones there, the iron discipline of the war-machine of which they formed a part, the chance of wounds and that mysterious crisis called death – these were the elements which made up the blurred vision in their souls.” (4)

Bastien pack mules CWM.jpgInfantry were in trenches and dugouts, at least, while the artillerymen were packing their ammunition, sometimes in improvised packs made from empty sandbags, to the gun positions. (5) Come daylight, there was other work to be done, making sure the gun was ready for action. If you were late for morning parade after a night of packing ammunition, you faced what Scott called the iron discipline of the war-machine. Fifteen fellows from Archie Wills’s battery were assigned two extra picquets for being late this morning. “The way of the transgressor is hard,” he noted. (2)


“The pack mule getting on with his job” is a photograph from Sidney Galtrey,
 The Horse and the War (1918), 97. There are no photographs of such work by night.

Alfred Théodore Joseph Bastien’s painting “Pack Mules Going Up the Line” belongs to the Canadian War Museum.

(1) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 20: 8. September 23, 1918. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) Wills, Archie. Diary. Vol. 6. September 23, 1918. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(3) Scott, F.G. The Great War as I saw it. Toronto, 1922. 302, 303.
(4) Scott, 303.
(5) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 20: 45. Appendix XXIII. Ammunition Supply. September 21, 1918.

Copyright 2018. See “More about this project.”

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