Title - Journal of 12/1391 John Thomas Cratchley

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February 10th 1917
Grand day but cold. I was on fatigue in the morning. Band practice afternoon.

February 11th 1917
Grand day. Band practice morning and afternoon.

February 12th 1917
On salvage fatigue during morning. Band practice afternoon.

February 13th 1917
Fatigue and band practice.

February 14th 1917
On fatigue morning, practice afternoon. At night we had just layed down when Fritz shelled the village. Shrapnel kept dropping on the roof of our billet.

February 15th 1917
On parade and fatigue morning, cleaning instruments afternoon. The village was shelled again all day.

February 16th 1917
On parade and fatigue morning, practice afternoon. Fritz dropped several shells round us, killing two, and wounding six of our men at tea-time.1 Me and another of our chaps had gone on a walk, but we heard the shells come.

February 17th 1917
Mess orderly and band practice. A quieter day.

February 18th 1917
Kit inspection and playing at night in Y.M.C.A. hut.

February 19th 1917
On fatigue laying light railway and band practice.

February 20th 1917
Went for a bath in the morning. Band practice afternoon. Played Officer's Mess at night.

February 21st 1917
Helping to lay light railway all day.

February 22nd/23rd 1917
Helping to lay light railway and band practice.

February 24th 1917
Working on railway. During the night our troops made a raid on Serre village and entered same to find that the Germans had evacuated the place. Serre was the strongest fort on the British front.

February 25th 1917
Only inspection in the morning.

February 26th/27th 1917
On railway fatigue and band practice.

March 1st 1917
Packed up and moved to Sailly Delph [Sailly Dell] this morning. Played to Battalion afternoon.

March 2nd 1917
Battalion went into the trenches at Hubuterne [Hebuterne]. I was guarding all the Battalion stuff all night.

March 3rd 1917
We loaded up all Battalion stuff and took it to Coingeau [Coigneux]. Had no sleep, I was dead beat.

March 4th 1917
Had a good night's rest and an easy day.

March 5th 1917
On fatigue and band practice. Us bandsmen did not go in the line.

March 6th 1917
Band practice all day.

March 7th 1917
On fatigue on transport lines and band practice.

March 8th 1917
On fatigue and band practice.

March 9th 1917
On fatigue and band practice.

March 10th 1917
On inspection by transport office [in the] morning. We had jam rolley for dinner, what a treat.

March 11th 1917
Played at Church Service at 9 a.m. and on fatigue all day.

March 12th 1917
I went to Orville laundry to fetch clean washing for the battalion.

March 13th 1917
Packing up again, the Battalion came out of the trenches, and we moved to Bus.

March 14th 1917
On fatigue and cleaning instruments. At night we played in the Y.M.C.A. hut at Bus.

March 15th 1917
On fatigue all day.

March 16th 1917
On fatigue and playing to troops at night. Received a parcel from wife (a god send).

March 17th 1917
Me and three more went to Coingeau [Coigneux] to fetch machine gun carts. At night we played in Y.M.C.A. hut the following programme:

  • March – Colonel Bogey
  • Selection – The Cinema Star
  • Waltz – May I have the pleasure
  • Overture – Poet and Peasant
  • Romance – Hobomoko
  • Solo – Perfect Day
  • Selection – Arcadians
  • Selection – Bric-a-Brac
  • Selection – Yeoman of the Guards (King)
  • March 18th 1917
    Packing up ready for moving next day.

    March 19th 1917
    At 10.30 a.m. we marched off from Bus and landed at Beauval at 3.30 p.m. after a ten mile march. I spent a good night on my back tired out.

    March 20th 1917
    At 4.30 a.m. we marched off from Beauval and marched 12½ miles to Bouret-Sur-Cancha [Bourret-sur-Canche], it snowed nearly all the way.

    March 21st 1917
    At 8 a.m. we left Bouret-Sur-Cancha [Bourret-sur-Canche] and marched through Frevent and St Pol, and on to Valhuon, a distance of 14 miles. We spent the night at a farm.

    March 22nd 1917
    At nine thirty we marched off from Valhuon and went through Pernes to Aumerval, six miles march. It was snowing and came through the roof of our billet, which made it cheerful.

    March 23rd 1917
    Inspection in the morning, playing on the square at Aumerval in the afternoon.

    March 24th 1917
    We left Aumerval at 7.45 a.m. and marched six miles to Ecquedecques. Received a parcel and I made good use of it.

    March 25th 1917
    We left Ecquedecques at 6.50 a.m. and marched 12 miles close to Merville, passing through Lillers and St Venant. Billeted at a farm.

    March 26th 1917
    Inspection during morning, had a good night's rest. Band practice afternoon.

    March 27th 1917
    Gas helmet inspection and practice. Went for bath in the afternoon, and went to Merville at night and got a good feed.

    March 28th 1917
    A short march and band practice. Played in Merville at night.

    March 29th 1917
    Mess orderly. Battalion march about nine miles in the morning. I turned ill after dinner.

    March 30th 1917
    I was unable to move and had to stay in the billet all day. I had a high temperature.

    March 31st 1917
    I reported sick and had to be helped to our doctor. I fainted away as soon as I got to the doctor's room and I was sent in a motor ambulance to Cologne [Calonne-sur-la-Lys] Hospital. Temperature 104, French Fever.

    April 1st 1917
    I was moved from Cologne [Calonne-sur-la-Lys] Hospital to a grand hospital at St Venant. They gave me a hot bath and clean sheets and then put me in bed. I was feeling very bad. I was waited on hand and foot by English nurses, they seemed to cheer me up.

    April 2nd 1917
    Woke up feeling a little better but during the day I had an attack of Malaria, the doctor said. My temperature was above 104.

    April 3rd 1917
    Snowing. I was woken up at 5 a.m. to have a wash. I had a little breakfast, enough for a mouse, at seven. I was told I was going to be moved to Etaples base hospital by train. We left the hospital at 6 p.m. and went to station in motors and then by Red Cross train to Etaples, landing early next morning. Here we had to wait an hour before we was found a bed and it was cold.

    April 4th 1917
    I was put in a bed at the end of a large marque[e]. It was like being in a coal cellar. I had to stay in bed, my head was very bad, temperature 102. I had no food of any sort, only a glass of milk.

    April 5th 1917
    Not feeling much better, bones all ached and head bad, couldn't sleep. I had seen no doctor up to now.

    April 6th 1917
    I had a good night's sleep, after taking some medicine, but not in eating form yet. My temperature was 100 just over.

    April 7th 1917
    Feeling a lot better. I asked the doctor if I could get up a bit, it was such a nice day. He told me I could have a short walk, but my legs was too shaky to go far.

    April 8th 1917
    Feeling a lot better, had good breakfast. I had to go before the Major doctor. I told him I was about right but I was not, I was tired of being here.

    April 9th 1917
    I was improving well. I had to see the Colonel doctor and I told him I was alright to get away from here. I drew some kit, and I went to the base depot in the afternoon.

    April 10th 1917
    I drew the remainder of my kit and rifle, and went before the C.O. and doctor. I was amongst all strangers in a bell tent.

    April 11th 1917
    Up at 5.30 a.m. Cleaned our kit ready for guard at 2.15 p.m. at the British prisoner's camp Etaples. It was snowing, raining and blowing all the time, it blew the tents down and I thought I should be ill again after this lot. Being on guard all night.

    April 12th 1917
    On guard till 4 p.m. then changed guards and we went back to the base depot.

    April 13th 1917
    On fatigue for ten minutes. I had a fine nights rest. We was paid five francs and I spent it at the canteen just getting my appetite back.

    April 14th 1917
    Went to wash our shirts etc., then had a bath, and we finished for the day. But not allowed out of camp.

    April 15th 1917
    On sanitary fatigue in the morning, raining all morning. Easy afternoon.

    April 16th 1917
    Nice day. Eating and sleeping all day.

    April 17th 1917
    On fatigue in the morning. Resting afternoon.

    April 18th 1917
    Raining. Eating and sleeping all day.

    April 19th 1917
    Raining. Medical inspection morning and finished for the day.

    April 20th 1917
    Kit inspection, getting ready to go to my unit up the line.

    April 21st 1917
    Up at 4.30 a.m. Breakfast 5 a.m. A draft of us marched to Etaples station, we left by train 8.30 a.m. and went to Bethune and from there to Lillers. We then marched to Roebeque [Robecq] five miles and had to sleep with only our top coats over us. It was a frosty night.

    April 22nd 1917
    Nice day. Kit and medical inspection, then finished for the day. Lovely country here, would liked to have stopped here. Plenty of food.

    April 23rd 1917
    On parade 9.30 a.m. drilling, just beginning to feel my feet again. Lecture in the afternoon.

    April 24th 1917
    Went a short route march morning, resting afternoon. We saw our airmen fetch three German planes down one after the other.

    April 25th 1917
    Packed up form moving to Battalion, we had two days march. At 10 a.m. we left Roebeque [Robecq] and marched to Pernes through Lillers and Busnes, landing there about 5 p.m. We had marched twelve miles.

    April 26th 1917
    At 9.30 a.m. we marched off from Pernes, about seven of us, and marched eleven miles to Hermin village about tea-time. The band and Battalion were out on a route march and when they came back and saw me they set up a cheer! I was fagged out and I had a good feed and a good nights rest.

    April 27th 1917
    I got up as stiff as an old horse, but felt better after having a bath. Band practice afternoon. My lips was out of form and I could scarcely play.

    April 28th 1917
    Inspection in marching order, and kit morning. Played the battalion to parade ground and back afternoon.

    April 29th 1917
    Nice day. Packed up before breakfast. At 9.30 a.m. we left Hermin, and marched ten miles to Mount St. Eloy [Mont-Saint-Eloi]. We was all fagged out with it being so hot.

    April 30th 1917
    Grand day. At 10.00 a.m. we left Mount St Eloy [Mont-Saint-Eloi], and marched about five miles to Maroeuil, landing there about 12.30 p.m. I was wet through with sweat. We saw over a hundred German prisoners come past which had been captured the night previous.

    May 1st 1917
    At 10.00 a.m. we left Maroeuil and marched about five miles to Arras. Our Battalion went into the German old front line, us band camped in a field at St Catherine's. We saw a German plane fetched down by one of our guns, and the two Germans started firing on some R.E. men with their machine gun, but a mounted military policeman galloped up and landed one of the Germans with his fist, laying him out.

    May 2nd 1917
    On fatigue all day at Quarter Master's stores. Heavy bombardment all day by our guns. Received a letter stating Joe Davis was wounded. It happened not far from where we were.

    May 3rd 1917
    I had a very easy day. Our aeroplanes here was like flies in the air, we counted 48 up at once over our heads. About eleven at night German aeroplanes dropped three bombs round our camp, killing nine horses. I got up but couldn't see the planes.

    May 4th 1917
    Cleaning instruments and on fatigue. Very quiet on this front all day. About seven at night flames shot up in Arras, and in a few minutes we found that an ammunition dump a quarter of a mile long was on fire. The explosions was terrific, all kinds of shells and ammunition exploding. It was a sight, we was about a quarter of a mile from it but did not feel safe, as a big lot of gas shells were near the dump. It went on all night.

    May 5th 1917
    When we got up the fire was near out, five men were killed through the fire. Thundered and lightened in the afternoon. Heavy bombardment by our guns.

    May 6th 1917
    I was mess orderly and I had a little practice on my own. Played at church service at night.

    May 7th 1917
    On fatigue all day. Bert Barber came and found me. He was in the 7th Seaforth Highlanders, and camping close to where I was. Victor, his younger brother, was killed at Loos.2 I went and spent a few hours with him at night.

    May 8th 1917
    I heard from wife Joe Dearden had been killed.3  I was on guard during the night.

    May 9th 1917
    Resting morning. Playing at night. Saw tanks going up line ready for action.

    May 10th 1917
    Hot day. At night another of our dumps was on fire caused by Fritz shelling. We wondered if we was winning. Played at night.

    May 11th 1917
    On town Major's fatigue all day removing manure from St Catherine's. Played at night. During the night of the 11th and 12th our troops took about nine hundred prisoners, this made us feel we was winning.4

    May 12th 1917
    Rifle inspection and practising during morning. Playing at night.

    May 13th 1917
    Hot day. Played at Church Service, at night we went up to the trenches with rations. Fritz started to shell the road we was on, and if we had not have run no doubt we should have been put out of mess.

    May 14th 1917
    On fatigue in the morning. It rained and thundered in the afternoon. Me and five more bandsmen went up to the trenches with rations at night. At seven at night Fritz started to shell the road we was on, dropping them only a few yards away. I thought we should all be wiped out. Our Lance Corpl. ran and left us to take our luck, but we stuck it and came through all right, landing back in camp about 2 a.m. next morning.

    Journal entry for 15th May 1917

    Above: Extract from Jack Cratchley's journal entry for 15th May 1917. The extract appears here with the kind permission of Jack's granddaughter, Mal Hamilton-Warwick.

    May 15th 1917
    Nice day. We went up to the trenches after dinner bomb carrying until seven at night. As soon as we had started carrying bombs from the dump down a sunken road near Vimy Ridge, Fritz started dropping shells on the road and all round us. We lay on our stomachs under the bank side for more than an hour, with earth and shrapnel falling on us, and could not move or we should have been blown in pieces. Before leaving there we was told we was wanted for a working party at nine to carry water up to the trenches. The officer in charge of a hundred men took us to a dump, each man to take two petrol tins of water, and he lead and lost us. We got right in front of our 18 pounder guns and we had to come back to where we started from, and fancy, we won the war!

    May 16th 1917
    Me and several more went up to the trenches in the morning on fatigue, landing back for tea. We drew 20frs at night. There was a heavy bombardment all the day.

    May 17th 1917
    I went up to the trenches on fatigue morning, and on fatigue at Quarter Master's Stores afternoon.

    May 18th 1917
    On fatigue and band practice morning. Cleaning our instruments afternoon. Played at night.

    May 19th 1917
    On fatigue morning, band practice afternoon. There was a terrible artillery duel, ours was awful.

    May 20th 1917
    Packing up ready for moving next day when the battalion came out of the trenches. I got no sleep all night, we had only the sky for our roof.

    May 21st 1917
    Battalion landed out of the trenches at five, and we had breakfast. We played several pieces of music to them about 6 a.m. to cheer them up. At 9.30 a.m. we marched off from Arras to Maroeuil about five miles. We was billeted in a barn.

    May 22nd 1917
    Up at about eight, and after breakfast we practised a few hymns for a memorial service. Kit inspection afternoon. Played to battalion at night.

    May 23rd 1917
    (Maroeuil) Baths and washing clothes in morning. Playing at Memorial Service at five for the men killed while in the trenches the last time at Gaviel [Gavrelle] and Hoppy [Oppy] sectors.

    May 24th 1917
    On parade with our companies before breakfast. Band practice morning. Played to men at night. Close to our billet was a stream, and the weather being very nice, I used to bath everyday.

    May 25th 1917
    On parade before breakfast. Practice morning. Playing to men at night. This night just after we had got to sleep, several German planes came over and they played the devil, their bombs dropped that close to our billet, we was expecting one on our building, to either be a landowner, or a Blighty for us. But all bombs dropped in the open.

    May 26th 1917
    Parade before breakfast, practice morning. Played at Officer's mess at night.

    May 27th 1917
    We left Maroeuil at 8.45 a.m. and marched near the line again to Roclingcourt [Roclincourt], near Vimy Ridge. We played at Service at night. We had a walk round the German old trenches and saw several dead Germans.

    May 28th 1917
    (Roclingcourt) [(Roclincourt)] Practice all day. Played to men at night.

    May 29th 1917
    Rifle inspection and band practice morning. Cleaning instruments afternoon. Playing at the Brigade Head Quarters at night at Mount St. Eloy [Mont-Saint-Eloi].

    May 30th 1917
    On fatigue making a rifle range all day.

    May 31st 1917
    Band practice morning, on fatigue afternoon. We played at Brigade concert at night, all the bands of our Brigade played, 11th East Lancs, 12th Y&L, 13th and 14th Y&L.

    June 1st 1917
    Band practice morning. Playing at Officer's mess at night.

    June 2nd 1917
    On fatigue all day.

    June 3rd 1917
    On fatigue all day. At night German planes came over and dropped bombs, killing three and wounding twelve men just opposite us.

    June 4th 1917
    (Roclingcourt) [(Roclincourt)] Nice day. Rifle inspection 8.45 a.m. At 10 a.m. all the bands of our Brigade practised together for some big do which did not come off. We played at Officer's mess at night. German planes dropped bombs all round us at night.

    June 5th 1917
    Massed bands practice in the morning. Our band played at sports at night, and the other bands of our Brigade. German planes visited us again at night but dropped their bombs further off.

    June 6th 1917
    Hot day. Practising all day, playing to men at night. We had a thunder storm during the night.

    June 7th 1917
    Band practice morning, baths in afternoon, playing at night.

    June 8th 1917
    Rifle inspection, and band practice morning, cleaning our instruments afternoon. Playing Officer's mess at night. Our guns opened and heavy fire and kept it up during the night.

    June 9th 1917
    Inspection and band practice all day. We played to the men at night before going into trenches again.

    June 10th 1917
    Packing up ready for moving down to transport lines at St. Catherine's Arras. The battalion went in reserve. I was on picket all night.

    June 11th 1917
    On fatigue all day. We had another thunderstorm.

    June 12th 1917
    (Hot day) Rifle inspection and on fatigue all day. About 9 a.m. we saw one of our airmen bring down a German plane close to us. One German was wounded in the head and stomach. We saw four German planes brought down during the day.

    June 13th 1917
    Nice day. On fatigue morning. Band practice afternoon.

    June 14th 1917
    Rifle inspection and band practise morning. Played at transport lines at night. About 8.30 p.m. we saw a fight in the air with a number of German planes and two of ours. In a few minutes about a dozen of our aeroplanes came on the scene and surrounded four of the German planes and kept firing at them till they drove them down to earth. It was a treat to see them.

    June 15th 1917
    Rifle inspection and band practice morning. Played at the transport lines at night.

    June 16th 1917
    Same as the day previous.

    June 17th 1917
    Very hot day. I was mess orderly and we played at Church service at night.

    June 18th 1917
    Hot day, we had some thunder. Rifle inspection and on fatigue during day. Played at night.

    June 19th 1917
    Packing up and moved to a camp on the Lens-Arras road. Battalion came out of trenches at night.

    June 20th 1917
    Nice day. Cleaning instruments in the morning. Rifle inspection and band practice afternoon. We played to battalion at night. While playing I was warned for leave, and had to go there and then to see the doctor, to see if I was free from scurves and lice, which I was, but I was as lousy as a bat. This cheered me up I can tell you, after waiting from Aug 1915 till June 20th 1917, without a leave or seeing my wife and children.

    June 21st 1917
    All us going on leave went and had a bath and clean change at Arras in the morning. Playing to the battalion at night.

    June 22nd 1917
    At 8.30 a.m. me and several more from our battalion set off on leave in motor lorries to Mount St. Eloy [Mont-Saint-Eloi]. There we caught a train at noon and landed at Boulogne at five at night. We marched then to St. Martins rest camp for the night, we was in bell tents.

    June 23rd 1917
    Up at 4.30 a.m. Washed and shaved. Breakfast at 6 a.m. At 10.00 a.m. we marched down to the dockside at Boulogne and embarked, leaving for good old Blighty at 12 noon. We had a grand voyage and reached Folkstone at 1.30 p.m. I sent a telegram to wife and children on landing. We left Folkstone at 3.30 p.m. and landed in London at about 5.30 p.m. I went and had some food and a wash and brush up, then a drink or two and caught the express at 10 p.m., arriving in Sheffield at 2.10 a.m. the next morning. I could not realise I was in England. On getting home with my full pack I knocked at the front door, got no answer. I went to the back door and knocked, when Donald [son] came to the window and said his mother was not in bed, but had gone to the station to meet me. She was waiting at the Midland Station as I had come from the Great Central Station and I did not know. So I dumped my kit in the yard and set off to the Midland Station, where I found her and Mr and Mrs Siddall who lived next door. I was proud to see them, especially when they handed me a pint bottle of good old English stout and said, "Drink that, I have another for you". Well it put new life in me, because I was fagged out with roughing it and travelling, but anyway, after a good sleep in a good old-fashioned bed I felt like a new man, and felt like stopping in Blighty now I had got here. Sometime to wait for a leave after volunteering to do your bit for your country.


    1. 40185 L/Cpl. Cyril Appleton and 31641 Pte. Edward Leadbetter were killed in action on 16th February 1917 while serving with 12/York & Lancaster. Both lie buried in Courcelles-au-Bois Communal Cemetery Extension. [back]
    2. 20-year old S/5802 Cpl. Norman Victor Barber died of wounds on 25th September 1915; he is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery. S/5800 Pte. Bert Barber survived the war. [back]
    3. 33-year old 96439 Gnr. Joseph Dearden was killed in action with D Battery, 48th Bde., Royal Field Artillery on 18th April 1917; he is buried in London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse. [back]
    4. Presumably prisoners taken from the attacks of 11th/12th May by the British 4th and 17th Divisions against Rouex Chemical Works, Cemetery, Château, and Railway Station. [back]

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    Permission to publish this transcript of John Thomas Cratchley's journal is by kind permission of his granddaughter, Mal Hamilton-Warwick.

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