Charles Standish Garbutt - Standish, as he preferred to be called - was born at Kimberworth, Rotherham on 30th May 1890, the son of Charles Standish and Alice Maude Garbutt. Standish trained as an engineer, and when war broke out in August 1914 was employed by Vickers, Son and Maxim, Ltd. at the company's Don Valley Works in Sheffield. On 11th September 1914, he enlisted into the ranks of the City Battalion with the number 12/923 and, not surprisingly owing to his background, became a Lewis gunner. He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the attack on Serre of 1st July 1916. At the end of the same year he contracted a foot injury and was later transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. When demobilized on 3rd April 1919, he held the rank of corporal with 21 Company, R.A.O.C. His first marriage in 1919 ended with the death of his wife, Frances, only five years later. He remarried in 1925, and with his wife, Ivy, moved from Yorkshire to Kent while continuing to work as an engineer in the armaments industry. Standish died in 1962 at the age of 72.
July 1st 1916
After a terrible struggle through mud and water up to our waists we arrived at our destination viz No.26 Bay, directly in front of Luke Copse at 2.30 this morning. I was absolutely done in, with having to carry all those 8 pans from Colincamps. However we got settled down and were informed by Lieut Moorhouse [sic]1 that we should not attack until 7.30. There was only a desultory bombardment until 6.30. Then all at once our guns started playing hell generally and it was not long before the Germans started answering back. I shall never forget that hour for as long as I live, it was hell let loose, they gave us back every bit as much as we sent over. It made me think, after what we had been told about their shortage of guns and ammunition on our front. By this time it was quite light and gave promise of being a beautiful sunny day. At about 7 o’clock I was struck on the forehead by a bit of shrapnel which stunned me for a minute or two, otherwise I did not lose much blood I am glad to say.
Above: City Battalion group. 12/923 Charles Standish Garbutt is seated far left. Photograph by kind courtesy of Mark Garbutt.
At 7.20 the word came along to get ready and before we knew what had happened we were out on top. As soon as we got there Wright2 was fetched down and Busfield3 got it in both legs and went stark staring mad, that left Jimmie Knighton4, Arridge5, Brack6 and myself. We all got up as close as possible to our barrage and lay down. As soon as it began to lift we got up and followed it as fast as we could. There was a fatal mistake made there by our artillery for they lifted the barrage quicker than we could run. Brack went down next. As I passed him I saw him binding up his wrist in a shell hole. Jimmie, Arridge, and I at last managed to get into a series of shell holes in the centre of the German wire, where a few other chaps had already got: Bob Seymore [sic]7, Gill8 of A Co., Sergt. Gallimore9 and one or two other A Co. chaps. As soon as I got into the shell hole a sniper got Gill through the temple and killed him outright, then Seymore got part of his mouth blown away. Then poor [old] Jimmie who was firing the gun in fine [style] got sniped right through his tin hat and got a nasty furrow along the side of his head. We pulled him into the hole and Arridge took his hat off. That was the last I saw of him. The last words he said to me were "Garbutt stick to the gun." He was great. God bless him, he was always the same, one of the best.
I then took over the gun and with great difficulty got it back into the hole, for poor Jimmie had fixed it right over the lip of the crater and thereby fully exposed both the gun and himself. Somebody I discovered had swapped mountings with us and the thing we had was practically useless. However I rigged the gun up again and fired wherever I could get a bit of an opening and saw a target. But their wire was so thick that one could not see through it let alone shoot through it. I saw three Germans rig up a M.G. on their parados in front of me and start enfilading our lines as they came up, so I tried to cut a way through the wire and get at them. After a time they stopped, whether I stopped them or not I cannot say, as I could not see. By this time the gun would hardly fire at all and kept stopping after every three rounds and eventually stopped altogether so of course all I could do was to dismount it and strip it. It was absolutely clogged up with dirt and took me about half an hour to get it clean even more or less. Matt10 had turned up with the spare parts bag by then so I gave her a jolly good soaking in oil, got her into position again fired a few more rounds and chucked it as I saw that our chaps were bombing up towards us in their trench.
Now I had time to look round a bit and think, yes think the bitterest of bitter thoughts for we had not got even through their wire and by now we should have been nearly to their [fourth] line. Oh the disgrace of it and yet when I looked at that wire I knew that no living creature on earth could get through it, but I hoped something would get me so that I could not go back and tell of our miserable failure. I next crept to the edge of the crater and looked along where our line had been and my God what a sight, all I could see in either direction were writhing wounded, some lying on the ground and some trying to crawl back to our lines amid a hail of bullets from the German snipers (God damn them), they cannot even give our wounded a chance, the swine. Apart from the wounded I saw a long line of figures huddled up just as they had fallen, lying very very still in death. It was a heart breaking sight, all these fine chaps alive and eager for anything that was in front of them a few minutes ago, now stilled for ever.
The day drags on and we ten are still in the centre of the German wire, expecting to be done in at any moment, for they have never stopped shelling us with shrapnel all day long and hand grenades. They know we are there somewhere but they cannot make out the exact spot and always get a little to the left or right with their grenades. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon one of their aeroplanes spotted us and evidently tried to divert their shrapnel on to us. It is my firm opinion that they dare not come any closer in, in case they do their own men in, in their own trench; we are only 5 yards from it. I was lying on my stomach trying to get a bit of sleep about 3.30 when a lump of shrapnel struck the side of the heel of my boot [and] ricocheted off on to the forearm of Brewer11 who was lying next to me, poor lad it hurt him very much and I had to cut his tunic and shirt sleeve off at the elbow so that I could get at the wound to dress it, a nasty jagged wound in the soft of his forearm. However after squirming and wriggling about for ten minutes I managed to get him fairly well bandaged up and comfortable, of course there was no more sleep or attempt at such.
We began to consider and discuss how we were to get back to our lines. This helped time on a bit and at 9.30 at night Sergt. Gallimore, Gill and Brewer, who were both wounded, started with one other to crawl back but it was too light and they immediately got sniped at but managed to roll into a shell hole but it started the Huns sending their shrapnel over. However I found out afterwards that they all got back. The two wounded chaps were our chief concern, that is why we got them off first. As it was rapidly getting dark one chap after another disappeared into the gloom towards our lines. Then just as Matt and I were starting off, up went their first flare and the shrapnel was coming fast and thick again; we had to go on though before the Germans came out to search our chaps, and we meant to get the gun back. Matt had to leave his rifle of course. Arridge we had sent on with the mounting and the gas respirator. I carried the spare parts bag with spare barrel, gas cylinder and cleaning rod.
So we started out, pulling ourselves along on our stomachs 6 inches at a time then pulling our stuff after us. Flare after flare went up and I expected we would be spotted at any minute or knocked out by the shrapnel, especially as we were nearing our front line. When we got about half way Matt got up, picked up the gun and ran like hell until he came to a shell hole about 20 yards in front of me. I was the only one left now, so I decided I would risk it and run for it, so I jumped up and ran faster than I ever ran before and collapsed in a shell hole in our wire. I saw Matt running off to the right somewhere and expected he would come out by our old emplacement at the bottom of Nairne where eventually he did. I jumped up again as the shrapnel was coming too thick and fast for my liking and ran again and jumped into the trench or what was left of it, and what a sight met my eyes as I struggled along the trench to try and find Matt, dead and wounded lying all over the place, in some places I could not help walking on them. Then I met Matt struggling along with the gun, and Arridge a minute afterwards. We made our way now as fast as we could into Copse trench and thus into Le Cateau. When we arrived at Observation Wood we found Walter and Wilf there safe and sound so we struggled up to Hittite and slept in a latrine there until morning.
This is the way we spent July 1st 1916.
I wakened up this morning and was so done in that I could scarcely drag myself about, I feel horrible ill. Managed to get a dug out by the R.A.M.C. dugout. I slept all day, could not eat but had a terrible thirst. There has been simply a long line of stretchers all today and last night, it is a pitiable sight. I also noticed stacks of dead lying in Basin Wood and Observation Wood, heaps of them.
July 3rd Mon.
Went to find the Company or what was left of them and try to get some grub; after wandering up and down Eden for some time we found them and Sergt. Brown12. Poor chap he was absolutely done in and dazed, the same as all of us, he has lost his brother. We joined the Co. in the afternoon and went into the Trossachs and got a dug out there. We mounted [the] gun in an emplacement just to keep us off fatigues. I wonder when they are going to take us out of this, I feel as though I cannot stand much more. They are still carrying the dead and wounded out all day and all night long. Got a terrible thirst and cannot quench it, also cannot eat.
July 4th Tues.
Turned out a beastly wet day. We have just got our ammunition from the top of Nairne and got soaked up to the waist. Also told we have to get ready and move off. Started off at 5 o’clock. Thank God it has stopped raining. Arrived safely, and after good travelling, at the dump at Rail Head where we got plenty of water. Have to march to Louvencourt now through Bus.
July 5th Wed.
Arrived here at 4 o’clock this morning Louvencourt and slept until 9 o’clock, had a good breakfast and then got any amount of letters and parcels from home, Frances13, [Martha?] etc. The Brigadier told us he was proud of us and that we had done more than was expected of us. Then we marched into a field and General Weston who is in charge of the 8th Army Corps in which we are. He told us that after the way we had carried out the attack he put us on a level and equal in every way to the 4th Division and the 29th Division, two of the finest Divisions in the British Army. What greater praise could we have than this.
July 6th Thurs.
Marched through Gezaincourt to a little village called Longuevillette where we stayed the night. Enjoyed the march and was not too tired.
July 7th Friday
Spent the day resting. Poured all day nearly.
July 8th Sat.
Marched on again today to Frevent where we entrained, and started from there about 10.15, it was quite nice to be in a train again.
July 9th Sunday
Detrained at 2 o’clock this morning at [Steenbecque] where we got a drink of hot Oxo, and then we set out again and marched until we arrived here between Calonne and Merville at 10 o’clock this morning. Got settled in beautiful billets at a large farm. Slept all the morning and most of the afternoon.
July 10th Monday
Slept and cleaned up all day. Went into Merville as we got payed 20 frs this afternoon. Had a steak and chips then two fried eggs and chips, and then I felt A1.