Memoirs & Diaries - The Diary of Thomas Fredrick Littler: July-December 1918

Thomas Littler, author of the diaries This section of the site comprises the wartime diaries of Thomas Fredrick Littler.

Click here to read an introduction to the diaries.  The following section of the diaries covers the second half of 1918, including the end of the war.

Diary Entries for July to December 1918

July 1st 1918
Same as day before.

July 2nd 3rd 1918
Worked on L'Abeele airodrome.

July 4th 1918
Building DHQ about 3 kilos behind L'Abeele until further date.

July 10th 1918
On Lewis gun guard at billets had an awful scrap with an enemy airoplane, and I got a very slight wound across the tip of the nose, the blighter got back after killing four men and wounding ten horses.

July 14th 1918
We finished working on DHQ.

July 15th 1918
We left our billets and marched 6 kilos nearer the line, and billeted in bivouacs, on the right of Reninghelst and on the left of Boechepe, we had a terrible thunderstorm and got washed out.

July 16th 1918
We were working in the line and there was very heavy shelling and my work was guiding transport to Steenacre dump on the side of Scherpenburg Hill, facing Kemmill Hill. Sapper Harry Barker of No.1 section got wounded in the knee, and Sapper Len Wheelhouse in the arm and jaw.

July 17th 1918
Same work as night before, very heavy shelling, we had two horses killed and a driver and one horse wounded.

July 18th 19th 1918
Same work as before, but very heavy shelling.

July 20th 1918
Took a load to 122 Brigade Headquarters, went on and left a load 124 BHQ, called at 123 BHQ and brought a load back to 122 BHQ and coming through Reninghelst were compelled to wear our gasmasks for half an hour.

July 21st 1918
Went to 122 BHQ and then on to Distoire Dump.

July 22nd 1918
Same journey as night before and got heavily shelled had a driver and one horse killed, and another horse wounded and the dray smashed up.

July 23rd 1918
Same journey as night before, shelling heavier, on the Loere Road, Sapper Evans killed, Corporal Mitchell wounded and Sapper Dyier wounded.

July 24th 1918
Had 24 hours rest.

July 25th 1918
Working on the Reninghelst and L'Abeele road.

July 26th 1918
Started work on a new Aid Post on the Reninghelst and L'Abeele road.

July 27th 1918
Same work as on the 26th inst.

July 28th 1918
Went to Reninghelst and cut down 330 feet of joists from shattered houses, loaded Pontoon and General Service Wagons, at 10-30 and unloaded at aid post at 12-45 got back to billets at 2-0 a.m.

July 29th 1918
Same as night before.

July 30th 1918
Worked at aid post again, at night our camps were shelled, an 8" was dropped by the Americans camp, killing and wounding 4, these Americans were attached to us.

July 31st 1918
Worked same place, and [at] night were again shelled with gas, but no casualties.

August 1st 1918
We had an enemy 8" shell H.E. drop on the road as we were going to work and the casualties were 1 Highland Light Infantry Private killed and four wounded and seven Americans wounded, and at night our camp was again shelled.

August 2nd 1918
Carried on at the R.A.P. and had a 20 ton of earth fall in the pit, the ground being so sodden and one man Sapper Badderly was crushed and both legs broken.

August 3rd 1918
Carried on at the R.A.P.

August 4th 1918
The anniversary of the war, very heavy shelling on both sides.

August 5th 6th 7th and 8th 1918
Working on the R.A.P.

August 9th 1918
Our camp heavily shelled, and I was brought back from the R.A.P. job and did some strict training for the remainder of the day, mining and blowing up barbed wire entanglements, preparing for a raid.

August 10th 1918
More training for the raid, which we understand is going to be a big one.

August 11th 1918
Same as yesterday and my work on the raid will be fuse runner and connector.

August 12th 1918
Rested till 7pm and then set out for the line, we had our orders at 10p.m, the raid being made on 4 separate machine gun posts and 4 sappers going over to each post and 50 infantry men and an officer at each post. No.1 and 2 Sappers of our 4 carried a torpedo candeloe and placed it under the enemy wire entanglement, no.3 ran the fuse from the front line to the candeloe and connected up, no.4 brought the Exploder and connected with the fuse and blew the wire.

The infantry rushed the gap and captured the occupants of the posts and made them prisoners. There was very heavy shelling the whole night and we got to the infantries company HQ at 1am. Out of 200 infantry men who went over 35 are missing and out of 16 Sappers 7 are not accounted for, we captured 44 prisoners and 8 machine guns, I got a good souvenir in the way of a German revolver, and we got back to our camp at 8 a.m.

August 13th 1918
Got back to camp at 8am from the raid of the night before, and rested for the remainder of the day. Camp shelled at night.

August 14th 1918
Heavier shelling than previous, we did nothing all day, my nerves are much steadier than yesterday.

August 15th 1918
Had another day off.

August 16th & 17th 1918
Worked on the R.A.P. again, the shelling is getting more severe.

August 18th 1918
Went working in front of Scherpenbergh Hill, our front line lying in front of it and the German front line in front of Kemmill Hill leaving a space of 200 yds 'no-man's land', my work was in charge of infantry wiring party cutting out barbwire entanglements in front of 'Margery Post' (a section of our front line) the night on the whole was quiet but plenty of machine gun fire.

August 19th 1918
Went working same place as night before and got out 250yds with 10 men of a infantry party, the night was quiet but for machine gun fire which was incessant.

August 20th 1918
Went working same place as night before got out 100yds by 11-45pm when we had to leave off work as the 36th Division on our right were going to make a slight advance.

August 21st 1918
We could not get to our work at 9-30pm for a gas barrage, got to the job at 10-45pm worked till 11-30 when the enemy opened out a very heavy barrage and counter-attacked the position he had lost this morning early, we had to retire back into the trench, the bombardment was like Hell let loose, it died down a bit at 1am and we went out again to our job after losing 3 men from our party wounded, we worked till 2-30am and the shelling became very heavy again and we had another private wounded, so I knocked the party off work and went back to the trench, I got a slight cut on the thigh from a piece of stone, blown up where a shell burst.

August 22nd 1918
Went on wiring in front of front line Majorie Post, second wire belt, much machine gun fire, and heavy shelling but no casualties.

August 23rd 1918
Wiring first belt in front of our outpost, night a little quieter, but leaving work got held up with an enemy barrage from 1-45 till 2-30 am then got clear.

August 24th 1918
Carried on same job as before, night very quiet, too quiet to be any good.

August 25th 1918
Leaving off work had to return to front line trench, as the 182nd Bavarian regiment were making a raid on us, but so many working parties being at hand, they were repulsed, very heavy shelling all night, and much harassing machine gun fire, very little work done.

August 26th 1918
Wiring front line, night fairly quiet, many dead lying about from the night before.

August 27th 1918
Change of work, putting fire steps up in the support line.

August 28th 1918
Wiring the support, night very rough, much shelling, machine gun fire and trench mortaring, two casualties in working party, one died when being got into the trench.

August 29th 1918
We paraded at 7 p.m and marched down the line to Boeschepe going out on rest and stayed at a farm.

August 30th 1918
The transport moved off down, we are to follow tomorrow.

August 31st 1918
Very big fires are seen in the line villages and fields are all ablaze, we are not moving at present, but standing by.

September 1st 1918
Our rest is cancelled and our transport has returned and at 6p.m we marched to Bussetoom by Poperinghe, we went to work at 12p.m in the line putting up a bridge so that our artillery could advance, as the enemy had evacuated a large amount of territory round Messines, Wytschack Ridge, St Eloi, and Voormezeele, we were working by Voormezeele, we worked under heavy fire and past daylight, and got back to billet at 10a.m.

September 2nd 1918
Got back to billets at 10a.m rested remainder of the day.

September 3rd 1918
We went up to Dickebusch village at night and made the road passable for transport leaving work at 1a.m.

September 4th 1918
Worked from 1 noon till 4 p.m on wagons and pontoons.

September 5th 1918
Was working in Ouderdom village all day.

September 6th 1918
Was working in Ouderdom village till 10a.m then recalled to camp, we left Bussetoom and marched to the advanced billets, for the remainder of the day I was working on a dug out for Lieutenant Read, finishing at 7-30p.m.

September 7th 1918
Worked all night clearing the Dickebusch roads of debris and making them all passable for front line transport.

September 8th 1918
Cut physines for trenches and at night the transport took them up to a forward dump, and were heavily shelled, and had two horses killed, and two wounded and three drivers wounded but the Cpl i c got the material up with what transport was left.

September 9th 1918
Worked all night on the support line, we were heavily shelled but had no casualties.

September 10th 1918
Same as night before.

September 11th 1918
Could not get to the job for shelling.

September 12th 1918
We got to the job and were shelled off it.

September 13th 1918
My 21st birthday I spent the night working on the support.

September 14th 1918
Worked on the same support line, which is called 'our line of opposition' we had one shell very close to us, it was a miracle nobody was hit.

September 15th 1918
Never got to the job for heavy shelling, but we worked to the left of the post.

September 16th 1918
Very heavy shelling whilst on the job, and a heavy strafe from midnight to 2a.m

September 17th 1918
Night much quieter on the trench but very heavy shelling on the Voormezeele, Halebast, and Dickebusch roads.

September 18th 1918
Night fairly quiet on the trench, but heavy shelling on the La Clythe and Voormezeele reserve trench line.

September 19th 1918
Very heavy shelling on the back areas, the Cpl i c transport is recommended for D.C.M for the stunt of September 8th.

September 20th 1918
Left our forward billets and moved back to Reninghelst. Worked as usual at night.

September 21st 1918
Worked on same support line.

September 22nd & 23rd 1918
Stood by waiting orders for the line, we all know we are going to make a big attack, but when we don't know.

September 24th 1918
Still standing by and built huts close to the billets.

September 25th 1918
Still standing by.

September 26th 1918
Built new Divisional headquarters at Ouderdom.

September 27th 1918
Left Reninghelst at 6-30p.m and marched to a billet 2 kilos the other side of Ouderdom.

September 28th 1918
Left billets at 5-30a.m drew picks and spades, and marched to Cafe Belge, fully equipped, at the same time the infantry are advancing well, worked our way later through Voormezeele, making all roads fit for transport as we went, I worked till 8p.m and then billeted at night in dug outs that were occupied by the enemy this morning, many prisoners have been taken and still coming in our casualties are light, we in our company have had 12 today including one officer.

September 29th 1918
Left our dug outs and made the road good round by Spoil Bank, and Hill 60, and past Battle Wood, over Blighty Bridge, both yesterday and today have been wet through to the skin, the infantry have again advanced a great way in depth, at night we billeted in a sap in Spoil Bank.

September 30th 1918
Made the road good through Hollebeke, wet through again, the enemy is still retiring, at night billeted in concrete dugouts at Houthem.

October 1st 1918
Worked on the road through Zandvoorde, and in the distance we could see the town Comines which fell into our hands this morning, at night returned to billets in Houthem, the day fine, the enemy has left many guns, and prisoners are still coming in, our casualties are light, many towns and villages are ablaze in the enemy lines.

October 2nd 1918
Cut a new road leading to Zandvoorde, and after finishing returned to billets at Houthem.

October 3rd 1918
My section went over with the infantry in the advance, we laid Candeloe Torpedoes on his lines and blew them up, returned to Houthem at night, the enemy is now driven back to the outskirts of Menin.

October 4th 1918
Worked and made divisional Headquarters on the main Menin Road, below Zillebeke, at night billeted in bivouacs in Zillebeke.

October 5th 1918
Rested till night then went forward and made a bridge over a stream to enable the artillery to advance, the work is on the right of Dadizeele in front of Terhand facing Ledgeham.

October 6th 1918
Finished the bridge off properly under heavy fire all the time.

October 7th 1918
We made a good road leading from Menin Road Stone Dump to Dadizeele under heavy fire all day, and returned to same billets Zillebeke.

October 8th 1918
Working on the same road closer to the line all day, Sapper Dick Kinlok, and Sapper Syd Inch very badly wounded, shell fire terrific all day.

October 9th 1918
Working closer up all day , shell fire behind us, no casualties, at night moved our billet back towards Tower Hamlets.

October 10th 1918
Working same place, heavy fire all day, no casualties.

October 11th 1918
Same as day previous.

October 12th 1918
Worked same as day before at night moved billets to a large sap in Westhoek Ridge.

October 13th 1918
Moved up to forward positions ready for a very big attack.

October 14th 1918
In very severe fighting all day, the enemy put up a slight resistance with his infantry, but his artillery shelled us with shells which burst overhead and liquid fire dropped on us, we had many badly burnt, and killed. We advanced a depth of eight kilometres captured many villages.

We worked our way forward through gas to the town of Wervick, thousands of prisoners came in, Menin town all ablaze in the distance, this was ground held by the enemy since his 1914 advance, at night I had to guide the transport up to our new billet in Wervick, we had a very rough night of it. The shelling was very heavy.

October 15th 1918
We left our billets and worked on the roads and at night billeted in firing butts at Terhand.

October 16th 1918
We left our billets at Terhand and marched to Moorseele, from which the enemy had driven out this morning, I returned to Terhand and guided the transport back to Moorseele, at night we were heavily bombed.

October 17th 1918
Worked on Divisional Headquarters at Dadizeele, still same billets and went without rations this day to feed civilians who fell into our hands starving.

October 18th 1918
Stood to all day, in same billets.

October 19th 1918
Left billets and went forward 14 kilos to build a bridge across the river Lys at Courtrai and 2nd Corporal W Mather and myself crossed the Lys on two planks with a Lewis gun and ammunition and lay out all night covering the company while they worked we also had infantry covering parties, it poured all night long, very heavy fire prevailed all night, and Lieutenant Archebald, and Lieutenant Harper MC were wounded, Sappers Penney and Gill killed, and Sappers Brooke, Dean and Blackmore wounded.

October 20th 1918
Left our billets at Moorseele and marched through Gulleghem, Heule to Bisseghem at night we got called out to make a large raft on the river Lys to take very heavy guns across on, as the bridge had been blown up, by the enemy during his retreat, the raft was completed by midday on the 21st.

October 21st 1918
We completed the raft by midday had dinner and then twelve of us were detailed off to take a battery of 60 pounders across, we worked until dark, and slept on the job.

October 22nd 1918
Making a heavy raft and using a barge to make it, the job would have been a complete success but for Lieutenant Kelsey who messed the job up, and after six hours work the blessed concern sunk crossways in the River Lys, and made a hash of everything, about ?50 worth of tools were lost also.

October 23rd 1918
Stood by in the morning and in the afternoon advanced and went to a billet 3 kilos east of Courtrai.

October 24th 1918
I was set to work to repair of German Field Kitchen, which we had captured and had been partly destroyed by revolver bullets being fired into it.

October 25th to 29th 1918
Resting, and during this time I paid 3 visits to Courtrai and in each case the town was bombed.

October 30th 1918
We moved back to Courtrai from our rest billets. I was detailed off as runner and sent with some dispatches to the CRE (Chief Royal Engineers) at Divisional Headquarters and had to pass through the villages of Sweveghem and La-cole, to get there a distance of 12 kilos in front of Courtrai, I did it on bicycle.

October 31st 1918
Worked on raft at billets till 8pm.

November 1st 1918
We left our billets at 8pm and two Sappers were detailed off to each General Service Wagon, which were ten in number, each wagon had four rafts on, five wagons broke under the weight, and still going on with the other five; two over-turned when a shell bursting close by sent the donkeys amok, got there with the remaining three, and coming away a shell dropped right in one wagon, killing two drivers, and wounding one, four sappers killed and two wounded, and five horses out of six badly hit, two we shot on the spot. It was 10a.m when we got back, we had been to the River Scheldt.

November 2nd 1918
I fell sick, but had to march to Lieghem 14 kilos in front of Courtrai, in pouring rain, was wet through, and felt ill.

November 3rd 1918
Feel bad, and have gone sick again, the village is being very heavily shelled, four men killed last night, the poor civilians in this village are starving and living in cellars for safety, but many have been killed, and dead bodies of men and women and children; German soldiers and British soldiers lie about the streets.

November 4th 1918
Left the billets at Lieghem and marched to Ingoyghem four kilos away, felt far from well, but was on parade and didn't go sick.

November 5th 1918
Felt very ill, and went sick and was sent to 138th Field Ambulance, with a temperature of 101.5, the Field Ambulance is in Ooteghem, in the afternoon was conveyed as a stretcher case in a R.A.M.C car to the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station in Courtrai, and stayed the night.

November 6th 1918
Feel worse, and my temperature has risen to 103.2, and my complaint is called the 'Flue' which is raging over the whole of Europe, in the afternoon I was put on the 13th Ambulance Train and conveyed via Ypres, Poperinghe and Hazebrouck to Boulogne, placed on a car and taken to the 54th General Hospital at Wimereux, arriving here at 6a.m, the train stopped, many times on the way to hand out men who had died on the journey.

November 7th 1918
Feel no better and have slight Broncho Pneumonia.

November 8th, 9th & 10th 1918
Feel very ill, and rumour is strongly afloat that the war is ending.

November 11th 1918
We had news in hospital that the enemy had pleaded for an armistice and that terms had been handed to him, which he accepted as armistice terms, and he is thoroughly beaten, it is a day of rejoicing and everybody seems happy and glad, bands are playing outside and guns firing salutes, but I feel too ill to take much interest in it.

November 12th 13th 14th 15th & 16th 1918
Still ill in bed but on the improve.

November 17th 1918
Got up for a couple of hours after tea.

November 18th 1918
Got up after dinner.

November 19th 20th & 21st 1918
Up all day, it seems hardly true that the war is over.

November 22nd 1918
I was marked fit for Convalescent Camp.

November 23rd 1918
I was sent to No12 Convalescent Camp at Wimereux.

November 24th 1918
Left the Convalescent Camp and marched through Wimereux to Hullington Base Details Camp, and had walk round Boulogne at night.

November 25th 1918
Left the Base Details and marched to Boulogne station, here we met many men who had just been released as prisoners of war from Germany, we entrained and arrived at Rouen at midnight, nowhere to sleep, so we got down on the roads and fell asleep.

November 26th 1918
Marched up to the Royal Engineers Base Depot, and placed in the casualty lines, under canvas.

November 27th 1918
Drew full equipment, left the Casual Lines, and posted to the strength of No5 Company.

November 28th 1918
Went through gas again, for practice.

November 29th 30th 1918
Was working all day at the Royal Engineers Training School.

December 1st 1918
Went on church parade, the first one since when on rest last June, in the afternoon had a walk down to Rouen, and at night was placed under orders.

December 2nd 1918
Was warned off for my old company the 228th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

December 3rd 1918
Stood by all day awaiting orders also on the 4th 5th and 6th inst.

December 7th 1918
Was paraded for proceeding up the line, and then the draft was cancelled.

December 8th 1918
Was paraded for a draft again, and it was cancelled again at the last minute.

December 9th 1918
We paraded and had dinner at 10a.m and marched off on draft at 1-30p.m, and entrained at Rouen station at 4p.m and left was glad to get away from Rouen.

December 10th 1918
Passed through Doullens at 9a.m then through St Pol and Bethune, crossed the old battle trenches at Givenchy and La Bassee and passed through Lille to Tournai.

December 11th 1918
Left Tournai at 7a.m and entrained and went back to Lille, detrained and marched through Arras Gate across the city of Lille through the Gate of St Andre, entrained at St Andre station passed through Roubaix, Tourcoing, Menen and reached Courtrai about midnight.

December 12th 1918
Stopped at Courtrai, billeted in the Museum, this being the 41st Divisional Reception Camp.

December 13th to 24th 1918
Still in Courtrai, and it's rotten as we are not allowed to receive any correspondence whatever.

December 25th 1918
Christmas Day, absolutely fed up, its the worst Christmas I've ever had.

December 26th to 31st 1918
Still in Courtrai, we have caused many disturbances in the town.

Diary and photographs contributed by Chris Littler, visit his website at www.first-world-war.co.uk.

3 British Officers were executed by courts martial during the war, as opposed to 316 Private soldiers and 24 Non-Commissioned Officers.  The vast majority were for desertions.

- Did you know?

Thomas Littler