Title - Journal of 12/1391 John Thomas Cratchley

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February 14th 1918
Us bandsmen left Ecoivres in the morning by motor lorries and joined 2/4 Y&L (Hallamshires) at Magnicourt [Magnicourt-en-Comte], landing there for dinner.

February 15th 1918 (Magnicourt)
Band practise morning, twelve men from the 2/5 Y&L joined us, which made our band up to 32 players.

February 16th 1918
Band practise morning, played a programme in the afternoon, we had many a score to listen to us.

February 17th 1918 (Magnicourt)
We played at service morning. After tea we marched about two miles to Freivillers [Frévillers] and played at Brigade Head Quarters from seven thirty till nine thirty. We stayed the night in a barn.

February 18th 1918
After breakfast we marched from Freivillers [Frévillers] to Magnicourt and had a little practise.

February 19th 1918
We played battalion to a rifle range about two mile off, and played them back after firing a course.

February 20th 1918
Band practise morning, cleaning instruments in the afternoon.

February 21st 1918
Band practise morning, resting afternoon. Grand day.

February 22nd 1918
Band practise morning. Paid 15frs afternoon.

February 23rd 1918
Played battalion on manoeuvres in the morning and back.

February 24th 1918
Played at service morning. Played a programme three to four.

February 25th 1918
Band practise morning and afternoon.

February 26th 1918
Band practise morning. We went to 62nd Divisional horse show in the afternoon.

February 27th 1918 (Magnicourt)
Band practise morning, packing up afternoon ready for moving following day.

February 28th to March 5th 1918
Lost page. [Lost by John Thomas Cratchley]

March 6th 1918 (Ecurie)
Played programme afternoon, and at night in the Y.M.C.A. hut.

March 7th 1918
Baths morning. Played to battalion afternoon. Went to see the Pelicans at night.

March 8th 1918
Church service morning. Resting afterwards.

March 9th 1918
We played the battalion to Roclingcourt [Roclincourt], they went in the trenches. We loaded and unloaded all battalion stores, and stayed at transport lines.

March 10th 1918 (Ecurie)
I was on guard over two prisoners all day. Half the band played at service, and played transport men at football afternoon.

March 11th 1918
Band practise and cleaning instruments.

March 12th 1918
We packed up and moved to Ecoivres in the morning to York Camp. Battalion came out of trenches.

March 13th 1918 (Ecoivres)
We went on a march nine miles with two companies who was going to form a firing party, but the corpse was buried when we got there through the officer taking us the wrong way, about five miles too far.

March 14th 1918
Full pack inspection morning. Paid 15frs.

March 15th 1918
Kit inspection and went through the gas chamber to test our gas helmets, and a little band practise. We played in Y.M.C.A. at Mount St. Eloy [Mont St. Eloi] at night.

March 16th 1918
Up at five, breakfast at six, played the battalion to Anzen [Anzin?] at seven, five miles away, on manoeuvres.

March 17th 1918
Played at Brigade service, and cleaned instruments. Played at football match afternoon. Played at Officer’s Mess at night from seven to nine.

March 18th 1918 (Ecoivres)
Packed up again and moved back again to Ecurie in the afternoon. Battalion went in line again.

March 19th 1918 (Ecurie)
Ten of the band went on fatigue, and I cleaned my instrument. We was in Roberts camp this time.

March 20th 1918
On fatigue and we went to Mount St. Eloy [Mont St. Eloi] at tea-time to play at Brigade Head Qtrs. We stayed there all night.

March 21st 1918
We left Mount St. Eloy [Mont St. Eloi] by train to Neuville St. Vaast, and then marched to Ecurie. We played a programme at night. Paid 10frs.

March 22nd 1918 (Ecurie)
Very heavy bombardment all night. Packed up again and moved to Ecoivres, battalion came out [of the line]. We had no blankets this night and we was starved to death.

March 23rd 1918 (Ecoivres)
Battalion moved towards the line again at eleven in the morning, at two hours notice. We was left behind with details.

March 24th 1918
The band and details packed up and left Ecoivres and marched to Arras, landing about two. We was billeted in Arras barracks. Fritz shelled the place all the time.

March 25th 1918 (Arras)
We had a restless night, shells kept falling all round the barracks, and we could hear bricks etc. flying close by. Then came Fritz over us dropping bombs. We expected going west every second. At tea-time we had orders to pack up. Us stretcher bearers was served out with rifle and ammunition, and we had an all night march to Bucquoy landing there about five. The Germans was advancing. We was told that we should run into the Germans on the way, and as we marched into one end of Bucquoy, the Germans came in at the other and captured a whole battalion’s transport and two companies of West Yorks I believe. Our battalion fixed bayonets and went into action on the double, us band and details fell back on some old trenches opposite Gommecourt where some of the biggest battles was fought. Our Colonel was wounded and a large number of our men were killed and wounded, but our battalion drove Fritz out of a trench and stopped his advance, he never gained another yard after our battalion had shifted him back, but severe fighting took place for some days.

March 26th 1918 (Gommecourt)
We had been marching eight hours in full pack, and we was all beat to the wide. Fancy our lads going into action at the double after marching for eight hours, it was cruel, the men did not care whether they lived or died. I was feeling the same, and no doubt it would have been a happy relief to have died. I lay in this trench and slept, not caring what happened.

March 27th to 30th 1918 (Gommecourt)
From 27th to 30th we was carrying bombs and small ammunitions to the front line, all in the open until we got to the second line. Three days and nights of hell, all of us dead beat, it would have been a happy relief if we was killed out of the way. We had a Captain in charge, he was one I could not find a name bad enough for, a bully, it was too kind a name for him. I had seen some bad ones but he was a rotter, and he was lucky we did not put him out of mess. Coming through the trenches on one occasion, me and three more got partly buried by a shell bursting and blowing the side of the trench in on us.

March 31st 1918
We was lucky to get a days rest, we could hardly walk about being so stiff and tired. The only water we had to drink was out of shell holes, all the time we was in on this occasion. We got a good dug-out where we could rest and feel safe. I had not had a shave for five days and we all looked like tramps.

April 1st 1918 (Gommecourt)
I was on gas guard all day. I could hardly walk yet. My nerves felt fair shattered, and every time a gun fired I shaked and jumped out of my skin. Every muscle of my body had been so overstrained by being overworked.

April 2nd 1918 (Gommecourt)
We went out of trenches late at night. Getting fairly away from the trenches, we was lucky to get one of the motor rides we had heard so much talk of in papers from home, but never had one till this time. But we had a lot of things according to paper talk, which we never saw. We landed at Authie about five in the morning and had a little stew for a change, we was only allowed this food seven days a week! We afterwards got a few hours sleep in an old barn.

April 3rd 1918
Resting all day. Paid 20frs, and spent it at night on red wine. I felt a bit better on getting to our billets, did not care if Fritzs came and blew us sky high.

April 4th 1918 (Authie)
Battalion was inspected by General in the morning.

April 5th 1918
Roll call morning. Got orders after dinner to pack up ready for moving to the line again, but we did not go.

April 6th 1918
Gas helmet inspection, and test in gas chamber.

April 7th 1918
We packed up and left Authie after tea, and marched to Souastre. We was packed in a barn like pigs for the night.

April 8th 1918
Us band was on Quarter Master’s fatigue all day.

April 9th 1918 (Souastre)
On Quarter Master’s fatigue in the morning. Six of us went to Fonkievillers [Fonquevillers] in the afternoon to try and salvage some steel helmets. Fritz was shelling the place so heavy we had to come back without any.

April 10th 1918 (Souastre)
Paraded at 11.00 a.m. for working party and marched about eight miles to Annes-camp [Hannescamps] for road repairing, but we could not find the place where we was wanted, so we marched back again. As we was coming back a shell fell on the house of some French people and blew a girl of fifteen to pieces. The mother came out screaming.

April 11th 1918 (Souastre)
Quarter Master’s fatigue all day.

April 12th 1918
I was cutting hair and on fatigue all day.

April 13th 1918
I went sick with diarrhoea, but did a gas guard.

April 14th 1918
Still had diarrhoea, but managed to do guard.

April 15th 1918
Same as the previous day.

April 16th 1918 (Souastre)
All us band went to Monchy-de-Couis [Monchy-au-Bois] road mending. We had a warm reception, shells dropping round us all day.

April 17th 1918 (Souastre)
At 8 a.m. we marched off again to Monchy road mending, and after coming back at night we had to move to Pas [Pas-en-Artois] by motor lorry. It was raining fast.

April 18th 1918 (Pas)
Cleaning up and resting all day. Our instruments came during afternoon, after being without them some weeks. Practise at night.

April 19th 1918 (Pas)
Band practise all day. Fritz shelled Souastre all day, the village we left two days ago. One shell fell on the billet we was in and killed seven men. Bit of luck for us.

April 20th 1918
Band practise and parade in battle order morning. Cleaning instruments afternoon.

April 21st 1918
Played at church service morning. The 37th Div band played a programme in the square, and then a French band with trumpets and other instruments, it was a fine band.

April 22nd 1918
Clothing inspection morning. Played a programme at night in the square.

April 23rd 1918
Packed up ready for moving to Authie again. We left Pas at nine o’clock at night and marched to Authie, batt came out of line, on this occasion I managed to keep out of trenches.

April 24th 1918
Got up at ten and played to the lads while they had breakfast.

April 25th 1918 (Authie)
Band practise and playing to battalion all day.

April 26th 1918 (Authie)
Band practise and playing to battalion.

April 27th 1918
Band practise morning. We marched two miles afternoon and played at Thieves [Thièvres] rest camp. Played at Head Qtrs, Authie, at night.

April 28th 1918
Played at Brigade services morning. Afternoon, we played programme to battalion.

April 29th 1918
Band practise morning. Played programme at night to troops at Authie.

April 30th 1918
Inspection and band practise morning. Played the batt in camp afternoon. Played programme at night.

May 1st 1918 (Authie)
Resting during day. Played programme at night.

May 2nd 1918
Our band and nine more of our division played in massed bands during the morning. Writing music copies afternoon. Played programme at night.

May 3rd 1918 (Authie)
Inspection and massed band practise morning. Played programmes afternoon and night in camp.

May 4th 1918 (Authie)
Inspection morning. Played programme at night.

May 5th 1918 (Authie)
Raining. Cleaned up ready for Brigade service but rain stopped us. We played the divisional guard down afternoon, and played for an hour at night when it had finished raining.

May 6th (Authie)
Cleaning up and inspection in marching order morning. Played guard down afternoon, and a programme at night.

May 7th (Authie)
Raining. We had a heavy bombardment during the night. Band practise morning. Packed up afternoon ready to move to Authie Wood a mile away after tea.

May 8th 1918 (Authie Wood)
Another heavy bombardment all night. Band practise morning. Played a big programme from 3.30 till 5.30 at night to battalion.

May 9th 1918 (Authie Wood)
We played the battalion as far as Bus, they was going up the line working. Came back and had practise but I did not play with having a [sore] place on my lip. The band played from 4 to 6.

May 10th 1918 (Authie Wood)
I did not play owing to my lip being bad. I did mess orderly. The band played battalion on to Bus again and returned.

May 11th 1918 (Authie Wood)
Played battalion to Bus again after breakfast. I was alright for playing. Band packed up after returning from Bus, and moved back into Authie village.

May 12th 1918 (Authie)
We played Brigade service morning. Paid 15frs. Cleaning up afternoon for General’s inspection.

May 13th 1918
Paraded at eight for General’s inspection and rain came while inspection was on, and it rained all day.

May 14th 1918 (Authie)
Went into Louvincourt [Louvencourt] morning for a bath. Played programme at night.

May 15th 1918
Cleaned up in the morning. Played at Brigade sports afternoon. I entered for tug-of-war but did not pull.

May 16th 1918 (Authie)
Band practise morning, resting for remainder of day.

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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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