Title - Journal of 12/1391 John Thomas Cratchley

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May 17th 1918
Packed up and left Authie at 6p.m. and played the battalion to Souastre. The battalion went in the trenches but we stayed at Quarter Masterís Stores. We had just got down to sleep when Fritz came over and dropped two bombs in the garden at the back of our billet about fifty yards away. Lumps of tiles and plastic came falling on us, it nearly shook the place [down] on us. They was too near to be pleasant and made large holes in the earth.

May 18th 1918 (Souastre)
I was mess orderly, the rest of the band went scrounging for petrol tins. I made a little dug-out in a field at the back of our billet and slept there after. No tiles etc. to fall on me there.

May 19th 1918 (Souastre)
Played at Brigade service morning, resting all other part of day. Several other band chaps came and made dug-outs by the side of me. I lay watching them sweating.

May 20th 1918 (Souastre)
On gas guard all night and day. We played a programme at the K.O.Y.L.I. camp at night.

May 21st 1918 (Souastre)
On guard all day. Played programme at Brigade at night.

May 22nd 1918 (Souastre)
Cleaning up morning. Battalion came out of trenches. Played to battalion afternoon and night.

May 23rd 1918 (Souastre)
Played to battalion afternoon and night.

May 24th 1918 (Souastre)
Got up at three starved to death nearly. I was sleeping in a field in the open and it rained. Played to battalion afternoon and night.

May 25th 1918 (Souastre)
Cleaning up morning. Played all afternoon to battalion who went in the trenches at night.

May 26th 1918 (Souastre)
Washing waggons morning. On gas guard at night.

May 27th 1918 (Souastre)
On guard night and day. Fritz sent a few shells into the village and wounded several men.

May 28th 1918 (Souastre)
Cleaning waggons and transport lines. Fritz dropped shells all round us again and killed and wounded several.

May 29th 1918 (Souastre)
I was mess orderly. Played at service. A few more shells dropped in the village.

May 30th 1918 (Souastre)
I reported sick with piles and two septic fingers. Got treatment and light duty. Several more shells dropped in the village.

May 31st 1918 (Souastre)
Reported sick again, light duty. Twenty of the band had to go up the line stretcher bearing. I was on gas guard all night. The village was shelled again.

June 1st 1918 (Souastre)
On guard night and day. Still sick, my fingers was a sight, and painful, and the piles on top of them. I felt very lively. Few more shells.

June 2nd 1918 (Souastre)
Still sick with piles and septic fingers, but able to do gas guard. Fritz shelled us again.

June 3rd 1918 (Souastre)
On guard day and night.

June 4th 1918 (Souastre)
On guard day and night.

June 5th 1918 (Souastre)
On guard day and night.

June 6th 1918 (Souastre)
On guard day and night.

June 3rd to June 18th 1918 (Souastre)
Doing guards and fatigue.

June 19th 1918
Packed up and left Souastre. Seven of us went to Bienvillers [Bienvillers-au-Bois] to the R.A.M.C. stretcher bearing. We slept in a cave all night.

June 20th 1918 (Bienvillers)
I went sick with my fingers which was not better from [being] septic. The other six went in the trenches.

June 21st 1918 (Bienvillers)
Reported sick. I felt rotten, I had a temperature and the doctor told me to get to bed down in a damp chalk cave.

June 22nd 1918
Feeling no better, keep having shivering bouts, had to keep in bed.

June 23rd to 24th 1918 (Bienvillers)
Still sick, one of my fingers was worse and I had it cut. The other six of our band chaps came out of the trenches and stayed the night at Bienvillers.

June 25th 1918 (Bienvillers)
Packed up ready for going back to our unit. After dinner we marched to Couin to where our battalion was coming out same night. One of our bandsmen got wounded coming out of line, Harry Craven.1

June 26th 1918 (Couin)
Spent a restless night, being so cold and we only had our top coats to cover us. We played a programme afternoon and night.

June 27th 1918 (Couin)
Kit inspection morning and we went to Pas for a bath. Played to battalion at night.

June 28th 1918 (Couin)
On fatigue all day. Played to battalion at night.

June 29th 1918 (Couin)
On fatigue all day.

June 30th 1918 (Couin)
Played at Brigade Service morning and a programme at night.

July 1st 1918 (Couin)
Heavy bombardment all night. Seven of us bandsmen was put on Head Quarters stretcher bearing. Played to troops dinner-time and night.

July 2nd 1918 (Couin)
Ambulance lecture and playing to troops.

July 3rd 1918 (Couin)
All the bands of our division played together in the morning. Played to battalion at night.

July 4th 1918 (Couin)
I felt rotten and reported sick, excused duty.

July 5th (Couin)
Sick, excused duty again, but felt a little better.

July 6th 1918 (Couin)
Feeling a lot better. On parade all stretcher bearers, and played to battalion.

July 7th 1918 (Couin)
Played at service morning. Eleven of our band played the officers at cricket afternoon and beat them. Band 68 runs, officers 15 runs all out.

July 8th 1918 (Couin)
Ambulance class morning. Played troops from parade ground, and played a programme at night.

July 9th 1918 (Couin)
Ambulance class morning. Practise afternoon.

July 10th 1918 (Couin)
Ambulance class morning and practise. Played programme to battalion at night.

July 11th 1918 (Couin)
Ambulance class and practice morning. Rained all afternoon and night.

July 12th 1918 (Couin)
All bands of our division practised together morning. Played to battalion at night.

July 13th 1918 (Couin)
On fatigue afternoon. Played at sports afternoon. Packing up at night ready for morning.

July 14th 1918 (Couin)
We left Couin at 6.30 p.m. and marched to Doullens about eight miles, it rained all the way.

July 15th 1918 (Doullens)
We left Doullens at 2.00 a.m. by train, first class soldiers carriages (cattle trucks). We landed at Paris station at 2.30 p.m. We played a tune or two on platform, not the main station, and the French people nearly went mad. We left Paris shortly after, and was in the train till 2.00 a.m. the next morning, landing at village railhead called Pommes (Flying Column).

July 16th 1918 (Pommes)
We spent a short time here, and then rode off in motor lorries for fifty kilometres to just outside Mareuil [Mareuil-lès-Meaux?] on the Marne. Got down for a nap about two next morning.

July 17th 1918 (near Mareuil)
Resting all day. Heavy thunder storm after tea.

July 18th and 19th 1918 (near Mareuil)
Packed up ready for moving at 11.30 at night. We marched all night about twenty miles, landing at a village called Nogent [Nogent-l'Artaud?] at 7.30 a.m. We had breakfast and went in some billets and rested till night. We fell in at 11 p.m. and marched to the firing line through one of the biggest woods in France, landing at day break. We was in Champagne district, acres and acres of vines. We was between Soissons and Reims on the Marne.

July 20th 1918 (Marne)
We was waiting in a large wood until the time came for going over the top. A division of French Infantry went in first, then a division of Italian Infantry, then the 62nd division British. Talk about a bombardment, it was terrible, you could see large trees falling as if they was a blade of grass. There was a large lot of killed and wounded, and we had a busy time searching the wood for them, and cornfields and vine fields.2

July 21st 1918 (Marne)
Searching the wood and fields for wounded, all day and night. French, Italian, British went over the top again, and advanced about a mile. I was dead beat with carrying the wounded so far.

July 22nd 1918 (Marne)
We was fetching wounded in all day and night. At night three of our bandsmen got wounded by a shell, we brought them back on stretches to the dressing station. One died two days later in hospital. Me and three more stretcher bearers just missed it by lying down flat when we heard it coming. It was hell all the night and we was very lucky to get through without being hit.

July 23rd 1918 (Marne)
Out again fetching in wounded for several hours. Then we had a little rest on account of so much shelling. We fetched more in at night under heavy shell fire.

July 24th 1918 (Marne)
After being out for eight hours all night fetching wounded in, we was told to have a rest, and we needed it, for we was fagged out. At night our battalion came out for 48 hours rest in the wood three miles back.

July 25th 1918
Resting all day.

July 26th 1918
Resting all day. Went in the firing line again at night.

July 27th 1918
Our brigade waited all night in a sunken road ready for going over about seven in the morning. A heavy bombardment opened out at six, the earth trembled. Our lads went over and gained all objectives and got two miles beyond. We had to move the dressing station further up at night about two miles.

July 28th 1918 (Marne)
Over the top again morning, afternoon and night, following the Germans, who was only fighting rear-guard actions. Some prisoners were caught by our lads.

July 29th 1918 (Chameuse [Chaumuzy] Marne)
We got our dressing station in a ruined village called Chameuse [Chaumuzy], in the cellar of a large house. Fritz shelled it all day, and gave us some gas too, we had a gas helmets on and off all day. The French went over and gained all objectives, and prisoners.

July 30th 1918 (Chameuse [Chaumuzy] Marne)
We got a few hours sleep, not many of our men hurt during the day. But Fritz shelled all day and made a counter-attack, but was repulsed. We came out of the line at midnight, marched about six miles and had breakfast and a few hours sleep in a wood.

July 31st 1918
We moved off at 2.30 p.m. and marched eight miles and rested in a wood for the night. It rained a little but we slept sound.

August 1st 1918
Up at 5 a.m. and marched ten miles to Bissuil [Bisseuil] Wood on the side of the river Marne. We was dead beat and blisters on our feet. They sent for our instruments here and wanted us to play the same day, but we was not having any. We went and had a bath in the River Marne at night.

August 2nd 1918 (Bissuil [Bisseuil] Wood)
Resting all day owing to it raining fast. We had only our ground sheets to cover us.

August 3rd 1918 (Bissuil [Bisseuil] Wood)
Church Service afternoon. Packed up ready for moving at nine at night. We marched ten miles and entrained at Avize at one.

August 4th 1918
Travelling all night and day in cattle trucks. We passed the outskirts of Paris about 3p.m.

August 5th 1918
Landed at Mondicourt about 6.30 a.m. We had breakfast and then marched three miles to Henu and was billeted in a barn where we could see the stars through the roof.

August 6th 1918 (Henu)
Showery. Band practise morning, played programme at night to battalion.

August 7th 1918 (Henu)
Cleaning instruments morning. Played at Officerís Mess at night. A large draft of men came to our battalion at night, and we was expecting to go on leave some of us, but some of these draft men had not been on leave for a long time, so it put us back.

August 8th 1918 (Henu)
Band practise morning, resting afternoon.

August 9th 1918 (Henu)
Band practise morning. Inspection afternoon. Played programme at night.

August 10th 1918
During the night Fritz dropped a large bomb in the village and blew several houses down. C.O.ís Inspection morning. Generalís inspection in the afternoon. Played a programme at night.

August 11th 1918 (Henu)
Played at Church Service morning. Played a programme at night.

August 12th 1918 (Henu)
Practise morning. Played two programmes at night.

August 13th 1918 (Henu)
Band practise morning. Met a draft of 200 men and played them into Henu.

August 14th 1918 (Henu)
Band practise morning. Played two programmes at night.

August 15th 1918 (Henu)
Practise morning, played at Brigade dinner time and night.

August 16th 1918 (Henu)
On parade at seven in the morning, and marched the battalion to Sailly on manoeuvres and back again.

August 17th 1918 (Henu)
Played battalion on manoeuvres and back.

August 18th 1918 (Henu)
Played at two Services in the morning and a programme at night.

August 19th 1918 (Henu)
Practise morning. Packed up ready for moving. We left Henu at eight at night and marched to Beaudricourt about twelve or fourteen miles, and landed there next morning.

August 20th 1918 (Beaudricourt)
Got up at 10 a.m. and cleaned up. We left Beaudricourt at 9.30 p.m. and marched to Saulty, about seven miles.

August 21st 1918 (Saulty)
Breakfast about ten, resting all day in the grounds of a lovely mansion. Packed up again after tea ready for moving at dark. We marched back to Henu.

August 22nd 1918 (Henu)
Resting all day, played programme at Officerís Mess at night.

August 23rd 1918 (Henu)
Packed up after tea and marched off at nine. Marched to Douchy, stayed there a few hours only.

August 24th 1918
We marched off from La Cauchy [La Cauchie] about nine in the morning, and marched through Monchy to Courcelles and rested there several hours. After dusk we marched to the firing line near Ervillers.

August 25th 1918
Our brigade went over the top about six this morning, and did well with the tanks taking a nice few prisoners.

August 26th 1918
Our lads went over the top again, and during the day Fritz came over and our lads met him with the bayonets and gave him a milling. Got a lot of prisoners.

August 27th 1918
Our lads went over again with the Irish and Grenadier Guards, pushing the Germans back. Me and three more stretcher bearers got a dose of gas while fetching wounded from the front line, I was sick and bad for fully eight hours.

August 28th 1918
A lot of wounded Germans and unwounded came in during the day. Our lads had been over again. We got relieved at night by another of our brigades. We marched back near Courcelles [Courcelles-le-Comte], in a railway cutting in German dug-outs. Hundreds of dead Germans lay around here.

August 29th 1918
Resting in reserve all day.

August 30th 1918
Went nearer the line during the afternoon to Ervillers and stopped the night in German dug-outs. Plenty of dead Germans about the place. Fritz bombed the village at night.

August 31st 1918
Fritz bombed the village again, our battalion was going in the line but the order was cancelled last minute, so we stayed there another ni tht. Lovely place this for stench, with dead horses and men lying all about.

Sept 1st 1918
Resting in reserve all day. Packed up after tea ready for moving up the line. Battalion went in the line at eleven at night, but me and seven more stayed out to look after the battalion stores, and this night we got plenty of rum which was left behind.

Sept 2nd 1918
We left Ervillers after dinner and went a mile further back to transport lines, our battalion went over the top and captured a lot of prisoners, but they lost heavy and had to come out of line to be made up.

Sept 3rd 1918
Moved after tea to Behagnes [Behagnies] with transport. Fritz dropped bombs round us all night.

Sept 4th 1918 (Behagnies)
Making a dug-out in the morning. Told after dinner that me and two more was going on leave on the seventh. There was a heap of twenty dead German horses close to our dug-out and they was getting a little bit ripe.

Sept 5th 1918
We removed back to the Lens Arras road near Roclincourt, and the division all came out for a rest.

Sept 6th 1918
Cleaning instruments morning and playing to battalion afternoon and night. I had to go and have a bath as going on leave next morning.

Hallamshire Battalion Christmas Card 1918

Above: Hallamshire Battalion Christmas Card 1918 by kind permission of Mal Hamilton-Warwick.

Sept 7th 1918
Up early and packed up ready for catching the leave lorry to take us to the railhead about eight miles away, near Mount St. Eloy [Mont St. Eloi]. We got on the train about ten and landed at Etaples about five at night. We marched up to St. Martinís Camp and had tea, and stayed the night in bell tents, packed like sardines. What a night we spent, thank god when next morning came.

Sept 8th 1918 (Etaples)
I got up at four and shaved and washed. We had breakfast at six and marched off for the docks at seven. We managed to get on the boat about nine, after eating our two buns on the dockside. We landed in Blighty about one oíclock. We scrambled off the boat on to the train and when we started we was soon in London to do as we pleased for a few days [hours?]. Well, a feed first and then a good wash and brush up, and we felt like new men, especially when we found a pub with a drop of good nut-brown, where we stayed until time our train was nearly due to leave for Sheffield. We arrived next morning at 2.10 a.m. One thing I noticed very much in London was that the citizens of that city could not do enough for the soldiers coming and going back on leave, and was willing to show and take you anywhere you wished to go. But in Sheffield no-one troubled about no-one, only themselves, except for relatives going to see their friends off back again. All that troubled the majority in Sheffield that was working on munitions, was having their twenty pounds or more a week, and running to find a pub with beer [for] which they would pay any price. Poor tommies fighting for a shilling a day. That was the biggest curse of the war, instead of giving them the same pay as the lad in France was getting, and if they had refused to work, they should have made them face the wall and shot the lot of them.

Sept 21st 1918
I left Sheffield Midland Station at 9.25 a.m. after spending a few happy days at home with wife and children. I was sorry to leave them after staying a day longer than I was allowed, but I felt more satisfied now I had seen them all once more. I landed in London about 2 p.m. and put up for the night at the Y.M.C.A. hut, where we could get some good cheap meals, and had a bed to myself. I noticed things more at bed-time.

Sept 22nd 1918
Up at 5 a.m. and had breakfast. At 6.20 a.m. we entrained and left London landing at Folkestone 9 a.m. We went to a rest camp and had dinner, and sailed for France at 3 p.m., landing at Boulogne at 4.45 p.m. where we marched to the rest camp for the night. We was not allowed out of camp but me and several more got out.

Sept 23rd 1918
Up at 6 a.m., breakfast at 6.30 a.m. We entrained in cattle trucks and left Boulogne at 10 a.m. and landed at Saulty about seven at night, and then marched to Bienvillers six miles, and slept in an old barn starved to death. This was when I began to feel I had got back to roughing it again!

Sept 24th 1918 (Bienvillers)
Guns roaring again something rotten. We had a day of rest.

Sept 25th 1918
Parade in the morning, and we was told that we should be staying here for a short time.

Sept 26th 1918
On parade drilling morning. Kit inspection afternoon. We heard our battalion had gone in the line today.

Sept 27th 1918 (Bienvillers)
Drilling in the morning. Firing practise in afternoon.

Sept 28th 1918
On parade in full pack in the morning, but was dismissed owing to it raining so heavy.

Sept 29th 1918
Church parade in the morning. Resting afternoon.

Sept 30th 1918
I had a little band practise in the morning with some East Yorkshire bandsmen.

Oct 1st 1918
A little band practise in the morning.

Oct 2nd 1918 (Bienvillers)
Packed up ready for moving to battalion by motor lorries, but there was not enough to take us all so me and about thirty more had to stop till next day.

Oct 3rd 1918
We marched off from Bienvillers and marched to the famous Gomiecourt [Gommecourt] where we stayed the night in a dug-out. We marched about twelve miles.

Oct 4th 1918
We marched off from Gomiecourt [Gommecourt] and marched to Bu Metz [Beaumetz?] and stayed the night in a cave after marching eleven miles.

Oct 5th 1918
We left Bu-Metz [Beaumetz?] and marched to Harvingcourt [Havrincourt?] about 8 miles where we found the battalion at last. Just a month from leaving the battalion to getting back.

Jack made no further entries in his journal. After being demobilized on 6th February 1919, he returned to his job as a police officer in Sheffield. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1931 at the early age of 50, leaving his wife, Agnes Mary, daughters Doris Vera and Agnes Evelyn, and sons William Donald and Clarence Henry (Harry).


  1. 5399 Harry Craven, born in Pontefract, had enlisted on 3 May 1899 as a 15-year-old; the wound he sustained on 25th June 1918 cannot have been a serious one as there is no reference to it in his army service record. [back]
  2. 2/4th York and Lancaster went through the enemy front line to attack Commetreuil Chateau. A German account, quoted in the British official history, described how "From every bay window [of the chateau] many rifle barrels faced the attacking enemy. Below in the cellars our heavy machine guns were mounted...Every bullet found its mark. The attacking enemy fell in rows, doubled up and collapsed silently in the high grass of the parkland." The battalion remarkably succeeded in taking the chateau, only to be driven out again in a counter-attack. [back]

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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