Following Australian Footsteps on the WW1 Western Front

Diary – Robert Ralph Abercromby




Paybook No. 174126

Rifle No. 2287

Army No. 2660 – D. Co. 44th Batt.

Embarked Nov. 9/16

Fargo Hospital 14 days Bron.

Etaples France 7 days Bron.

Left for front line again Jun 2nd /17

Review by King April 17/17

Left for France 24/4/17 Billeted Folkestone 1 night.

Arrived Boulogne 25th. Marched to rest camp and rested there all night. Left for Armentieres in the morning. Left for Etaples in the morning and marched there 29th about 18 miles full pack pretty solid arrived there 6 o’clock at night.

Medical exam next morning issued with new rifles and helmets besides gas helmets & goggles.

Good tucker up to date. Done a bit in the Bull Ring. Had a few days in Field Hospital the best I’ve seen 12 in the Marquee and the best of tucker a gramphone also, quite a change to hear the old songs. Met a cobber from the line in here Dick Wignell. Got a pass and visited Etaples. Dirty place fishing industry all rubbish deposited in the middle of the streets. In hospital till May 7. Seen the Blighty Boys one night concert..

Had a letter from Rube day before going to France. Left fr Etaples 12 May. Billeted in farm house 1 night slept in a van then entrained to Saint Omer. Slept in the French Barracks that night then entrained for Lumbres and marched to the Battalion. After that we were billeted at farms Calumbre till we went up to Armitieres. Arrived there on May 21 Billeted at St. Omer next night at Lynde up at 5-15 started away at 7 and were going till 3.30. Billeted at farm good milk arrived at Jesus Farm 21st (Steenwerck) May 24th See Fritz blow up one of our Ammunition dumps and we brought one of his balloons down. Coming back to our Billets they were shelling the road last night and they were dropping about 50 yards or more away to one side of us plenty of earth blown up but did not see anyone hurt that was the 25(th) after being in a working party filling sand bags etc about 4 mile march to the Catacombe from Billets.

Two killed

27 May Just arrived Catacombs working party just previous shell flew half latrines away and cook house while coming here saw a shell burst in front of a farm house and out scooted the family the old man running with an empty barrow and leaving his Mrs. following up 50 yards behind must of got shell shock     one of our planes down on the road firing hard by just now wistling overhead.

Going out today they were shelling the Art. and got one dumped not far from us we saw the big flash and then a lot of smoke and then the Bang.

We worked all morning without him troubling us till lunch time then he put the first whizz bang right among us then they come one after the other and we had to scatter and run for the dug outs and shelter for fully an hour before we could venture out   one shell burst 8 ft. away and one of our fellows luckily was sitting down and was rolled over but missed.

31st May A Fritz brought down a captive balloon dived on it firing shrapnell at it missed first time then the men in it jumped out in parachutes and Fritz dived on it again and set it alight and scooted with our guns firing at him but he got away and our men landed safely. Got Fritz coming back.

June 2nd  One of our dumps blown up 100 or more casualties. Some of C Comp of our Batt. killed and wounded. Finished work after being 8 hours on it dug out for cooker at 3 afternoon and were called up at 1 o’clock the next morning and had to go and work again till 7 o’clock pretty tough on little tucker.

Marched to the Catacomb to billet and a big strafe going on with Fritz sending up a wonderful variety of red green and white vary lights a grand sight all along the front combined with the flashes of the big guns etc.

Supposed capture of a spy this morning coming in our billets usual ending I suppose shot at dawn.

Sunday June 4th Fatigue all day had to carry gas cylinders back from the front line and coming back about 10 o’clock at night in single file gas alarm what a shock we were flabbergasted hold your breath till you got your gas helmet on and then had to walk a good distance but got home safely

Monday 44th had a daylight raid 36 over the top and brought back 3 prisoners had another but the Lieutenant saw he was badly wounded and put him out of his misery.

6 of our killed Monaghan and McGrath killed poor beggars both married

June 5th Just turning in when the order was rushed along stand to with everything in battle order to advance in ten minutes (what a rush) all ready and then we had to turn in again. Just got in a while when gas alarm more excitement and after that had to go on guard 2 to 4 am things humming.

Fritz got a whole battery.

Got a letter from Badger   12 am just when we had turned in

June 6th Great preparations for the Big Push which starts tonight. We were all asleep and the alarm went gas Had to wake each other up to put on our gas helmets on

No more sleep. Stragglers coming in gassed.

Barrage started after three. Mine blew up signal. Take it Messines went up.

Prisoners coming in wholesale. Word came back reached objective 47 Batt had to fall back.

June 8th We started advance and I think we advanced 2 miles and just before dawn we charged Fritz but he had cleared.

Coming up he sent a lot of gas shells along side of us and you can imagine us groping over and in shell holes. I had mask on and fell in shell hole had to lie there till nearly dawn as I was lost in NoMans Land. Found my way into NZ trenches and got on our Batt track just as they were digging in.

9 in our gun crew were wounded already had to advance another 150 yards on the right side of Messine road. What a hellish fire digging in for our lives. Had to hold for day and night heaviest barrage  next day advance another 150 yards Machine Sniper. H.E. Whizz Bang in fact every kind of fire directed against us.

Fritz cleared out of his trenches we leaped them and dug in 20 yards further on.

June 9th Hung on for 1 day and night and on being relieved while stealthily creeping back some of the boys would keep moving when the flare went up and Fritz set to work with all his Artillery on us when I got some of it about 7 o’clock at night and lay all night until the stretcher bearers came and got me in the morning.

Taken through Messines then to Bailleu and on to Boulogne after being in Wimereux for three days off to Blighty.

Been in Southall Hospital 6 weeks up to date

Arrived here June 16. Govt. Hospital good tucker and good nurses. Moved over to the Australian Hospital after being in V.A.D (?) Hospital 2 months.

Got examined all over by the Doctors order under Xrays   two pieces left in hip joint leaving them in.

Went to Windsor Castle and Parliament two days after August 16 went to Sir Ian Hamilton’s house for tea and concert. 17 Went to balls at Fulham.

Sent to Weymouth for medical exam classed B.I.B

Aug 18 Had a trip to Weymouth on 20th nice beach. Free theatre. Taken in motor on Pier.

Classed B2BH on Aug 29 another board yet and if same home again.

Left Monte Video 30 Aug

Sept 3 Left for Verne 4 day furlough   leaving here 27 Sept. 3.30 in morning.

Embarked 27 Sept for Australia T.S. Survic (?)

Left on 28/17

12 for escort for 2 days


Last page of Diary


“I cant do my bottom Bally button up

I cant do my bottom bally button up

It may be right but I feel so tight

It must have been the grub I ate last night

I cant do my bottom bally button up

I cant do my bottom bally button up

Whats the use of doing all the other bally buttons up

If your Bottom Bally Button is undone


R.Abercromby 2660

D.Comp 44 Batt.


Copied by Jean McDonald to the best of my ability

3 Bruning Road

Manning 6152

8 July 1983

from small diary belonging to my father R.R. Abercromby

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