Memoirs & Diaries - The Diaries of Robert Lindsay Mackay - 1917

Crown Prince Wilhelm's study at Stenay, Stan Parry Contents:
The Scarpe Again
Situation Quiet

1st. Sept. Now entraining officer for the Battalion. March to Esquelberq for the train. Left for Aubigny behind Arras at 8 p.m.

2nd. Sept. Arrived at 2 a.m. Very sleepy. Guided Battalion through village as I happened to be acquainted with the place and then had an 8 to 9 mile march to the "Y Hutments" where we had met the 10th. Argylls before the April 9th. Arras Show! Arrived there 6 a.m. Slept for an hour and then got busy. Rode to Habarcq with Captain Wilson in the afternoon.

3rd. Sept. Feeling like nothing on earth, with a rash all over me, even on my toes. Must have eaten something. Tinned fruit?. Carried on half-heartedly and then had to go off to 'bed'.

5th. Marched from the huts to Rifle Camp just beside Fred's Wood - the actual ground over which the Battalion had advanced in the 9th. April show. Warm day. Into tents.

6th. Took over temporarily from Macleod who is not going into the line. The poor fellow has had a rotten time with the C.O. Duncan. Wish we had another C.O. Left at 2.15 p.m. for shelters and dugouts on the Railway Embankment, this time just North of the Scarpe. This is a wonderful place now. The shelters are almost palatial looking, but I found mine was leaky. Still, they were like heaven compared with the rat holes at Ypres.

The Scarpe Again

7th. Spent the day sending in returns to the Brigade H.Q.

8th. September 1917. Immensely busy day. Feeling brighter. Got through lots of work. Swim at night with A.G.Cameron and Emma (Matt) Wilson in a lake beside the camp.

9th. Sept. Church Parade. We are in Brigade Support. Out for a swim. Up late getting out orders for our move tomorrow to the front line.

10th. Change in orders at last moment. Dispositions altered. Bad relief, and guides lost as a result.

Canadian machine gunners at Vimy Ridge, 9 Apr 191711th. to 14th. Worked 19 hours per day. Remaining 5 were spent sleeping, and they were interrupted. It is the unnecessary correspondence which keeps one busy.

I enjoy the Adjutant's work, however. Went round line at night, but it means a tremendous amount of work when one returns. Relieved by 7th. Camerons on 14/15th. Got to bed at 3.15 a.m. Easier day. Very tired.

Visited Alan Whyte's grave and got some improvement going. Hot bath in Arras. It was grand! Hope we can get them in Heaven. Good sleep. Heard of George Mackinlay's death in action. (Hillhead School).

16th. Sept. Too busy to attend Church Parade. Macleod goes on leave tomorrow. Hurrah! It's my turn when he gets back! And then I'll waken up Glasgow!

"Situation Quiet"

Lunched with Captain Beith of 10th. Argylls, but introduced him to the C.O. as Captain Ian Hay. He is a good story teller. Author of "The First Hundred Thousand".

17th. Cold bath!

18th. Cold bath - each in a huge crater filled with lovely clear water in Blangy Wood. Awful rumour that Captain A.W--- is coming to the battalion.

19th. Took things easier and found that it paid. C.O. expects the dickens of a lot done. I palmed off a lot on him and kept him going.

20th. Fed up with C.O. Argument with him. The blighter has a conscience and allows himself to be bullied by it. No use in the Army! As a result he is full of mad quixotic ideas. Cycled into Arras for a breath of air in the morning. Have got a good cross made for Whyte's grave.

22nd. September. Cold night. Signs of winter. Did not have a bath. Seven new officers arrived:- Welch, C.E.Black, Cassie, Sutherland, Evelyn, McElwee, and Muirhead. Highly interesting situation created thereby. Took McElwee into my tent with Sorley in order to ensure that he'd not commit any indiscretions.

Tonight, "Y" reckoned by common consent to be an out and outer, offended and insulted every one at dinner. (Note from RLM, 1972: I can't remember him.)

Sunday 23. Moved off to Scots Valley Camp. Posted McElwee to 'B' Company. "Y" placed in open arrest by C.O.'s order. Took a summary of evidence against him, a job I did not like at all. Gave young McElwee a bit of advice at night as I had heard some officers quoting his remarks.

24th - 26th. Business as usual.

27th. Moved to Wilderness Camp in the morning, relieving 13th. Royal Scots. Bleak hillside. Had fine sleep and did not rise until 8.30 a.m. Have not had much exercise of late. Will remedy that when my leave comes. Had Ryan the Brigade Major to dinner. Pulled his leg about being in love - the poor devil's just back from leave - and looked it!

Sat. 29th. Feeling fine. Did my work at express speed. Hear Macleod is back. He sent up some fish which was much appreciated.

Sunday 30th. Macleod up. Handed over clear to him. Buzzed off at 9 p.m. from Bn. H.Q. Visited Q.M. and Major Newall, the latter being in his usual spirits. Train at midnight.


Monday 1st. October, 1917. Arrived at Boulogne after 7 1/2 hours journey. Was caught at the station and given some 200 men to march somewhere or other. For all I know they may still be marching, for I left them, marching, at the first street corner and doubled back for the boat. Left at 10.40. By 12.40 we were in the train at Folkestone. Crossed over with General Allgood, our G.O.C. Glorious day. Felt I could almost make a sailor.

Hydrogen gas cylinders for inflating balloonsArrived London 2.30, sleepy, tired and dirty. Visited Cox's Bank at 16 Charing Cross, and relieved Mr Cox of the anxiety of keeping money for me. Had a barber at Hotel Cecil followed by bath at Euston Hotel, I think. Had lunch, tea. Roamed about. Behaved myself! Entered a picture house. Three people in it. Came out. Air raid on. Went to St. Pancras Hotel - people outside seemed to have the 'wind up'. Sat inside the hotel, on the stairs, listening to some music. I remember the piece was "Destiny Waltz".

Train three hours late in leaving. Slept for 12 hours in it till 8 a.m. on 2nd. October, and reached Glasgow at 12.10 p.m. Here we draw a blank, as the things which happen on leave, though interesting, don't affect the situation on the Western Front.

Note from RLM, 1972: The Divisional History by John Buchan gave the losses of the 11th. Argylls as follows:

10th. July. On relieving the Seaforths - one night on way up. 12 killed, 44 wounded. 29 missing. These last must have just disappeared in the mud and shell holes. They were not prisoners.

Operations, i.e. Two battles in period 29/7 to 31/8/1917. Officers. 6 killed. 13 wounded. 5 missing. Other ranks 41 killed. 278 wounded. 135 missing. A total of 563 for the battalion.

The casualties for the 15th. Scottish Division totalled 6468. The division strength was about 12 or 13 thousand.

Note from RLM, 1972: Here ends Vol.1 of my diary, covering the first 13 months of my service in France. Now follows a list of the officers who served with my Battalion, the 11th. Argylls during that period. The normal establishment of a battalion is about 22 or 23 officers.

Officers of the 11th. Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in France, September 1916 to amalgamation with 8th. Territorial Battalion of the Regiment, 10th. June, 1918.

Lt.Col. M.MacNeil, C.M.G. Died R.G.Miller (Padre) Died of wounds Major Alston Died Morrison Killed Major H.A.Duncan, D.S.O.Invalided E.W.Wilson Killed Lt.Col. G.L.Wilson, D.S.O. Died George Beattie M.C. Killed Lt.Col. J.Mitchell, D.S.O. Died J.Farquharson Killed Capt. W.F.C.McClure Wded. A.W.Gray Capt. G.F.Macleod C.R.Gray Killed (Became Baron Macleod of Fuinary) J.Orr Sick U.K. Capt. C.A.Maclean Wded. D.T.McAinsh Sick U.K. Capt. A.Sc.Campbell Wded. Gillespie Capt. J.F.C.Cameron Wded. Mills to R.F.C. Capt. A.G.Cameron Young Sick U.K. Capt. C.D.Richards Sick U.K. Bates Sick U.K. Capt. Porteous Killed Ypres Bennett (Q.M.) Capt. J.G.Mitchell Transferred Baillie Wded. Arras '17 Capt. Leitch Killed Ypres Heyworth Wded. Capt. N.G.Wright Transferred Weir T. Wded. Capt. M.Wilson Wded. died '18 Ferguson A. Wded. Capt. D.Sorley Duncan Wded. (Became City Analyst, Glasgow) Shankland Wded. Capt. W.Irvine Wded. Capt. McIvor L. to U.K. Capt. Hood Sick to U.K. Capt. Healy (Padre) Wded. Lt. Cadett Transferred Capt. Wilson U.K. (Well known Scottish artist) Capt. Irwin Base Ewing Killed Ypres Major Newall Base Walter Miller Died of Wounds Strathie W.J. Chesney Wded Ypres '17 Stirrock Sick U.K. Denholm Wded. Sutherland Transferred F.C.Stewart Wded. H.R.Macleod Wded. Dow Killed A.R.Muirhead Wded. Richmond Prisoner of War A.B.Muirhead Wded. Hewer Killed Brown Killed in Raid Arras '18 Niven Killed Robertson Killed Enslie Killed Arras '17 Raid D.H.Stewart Killed Matson Wded Ypres '17 A.R. Smith Wded. Black Killed Arras '17 Raid Bertram Sick U.K. Stratford Wded. Janieson Gordon Roberts (To Trench mortars) Anderson Burbridge Mackie Sick U.K. Horton Base M.Mackay Killed Arras '18 Hurrell G.H.Mitchell Killed Ypres '17 W.B.Mitchell Wded. Fyfe. Wded. Crawford Sick U.K. A.H.Whyte Killed Bateman Wded. Harragin Died Alexander Wded. W.C.Smith (became doctor) McIntyre Wded. G.Campbell Sick U.K. Turfery Transferred R.L.Mackay Wded. Ruthven Wded. D.G.Prosser MC Wded. Evelyn J.L.Stewart MC Wded. Flind Wded. Hunnybun Wded. McElwee Wded. D.Robertson Wded. Forrester (Became M.P. for 25 years) D.Kerr Wded. Hollins Transferred Wded. G.Kerr Sick U.K. W. Haldane Wded. Colin Mitchell Wded. Innes Sick U.K. Blythe Killed Ypres Gilmour Killed Somme '16 H.Cameron Sick U.K. Scott Killed Somme '16 D.R.Cameron Killed Ypres Henry Wded. MacCallum Killed Ypres Donaldson Sinclair Wded. C.E.Black To R.F.C. Bradshaw Capt. Welch Wded. MacCaskill Sick (?) U.K. Bruce Died (influenza) Dixon Sick U.K. Suthery Died of Wounds Arras '17 Christie Wded. R.S.Dobbie Killed Kilgour Cummings Transferred Capt. Shewan Killed McCullick Transferred Todd Killed Moffat Transferred Capt. Cook (?wded) U.K. Shearer Transferred Coogan Wded. Boag (Brigade) Capt. Dickson R.A.M.C.

List of Officers of Old 1st/8th. Argylls who joined up with the 11th. Bn. Argylls to form the New 1st/8th. Argylls.

Capt. A.M.Pollock Wded. Capt. Matheson Major Kirsop Major Robert Moir Transferred Capt. Phillip Capt. Haddow Capt. MacIntosh Killed Lt. Caldwell Lt. Ritchie Lt. MacGregor Lt. Mactaggart Lt. David Barbour, M.C. Lt. Chas. Munro Capt. John Dusseldorf, M.C. Capt. Bugbee (U.S.A.) Transferred L.Swan Wded. Lt. M'Creath Lt. Smith Wded. Lt. Aitken Lt. Svenson Lt. Johnson Lt. Fisher Lt. Mitchell Lt. Elliott Lt. Hogben Lt. Furness Lt. MacBrayne Lt. Russell Lt. Hamilton Lt. Tolliday Wded. Lt. Thom Lt. Robertson Died of Wounds Lt. Cadell Lt. Gillies Lt. Traves

My diary unfortunately does not record the fates of some of these 35.

Robert Lindsay Mackay: Arras 1917-18, Part I

Reproduced with permission of Bob Mackay, website

Photographs courtesy of Photos of the Great War website

A 'corkscrew' was a metal post for supporting a wire entanglement, with a twisted base enabling it to be screwed into the ground, removing the need for a hammer, the use of which could attract enemy fire.

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Robert Lindsay Mackay