Diary of William J Hayman, boy soldier
Foucaucourt-en-Santerre. Wed. 26th Aug.1914.
Up at dawn – the usual breakfast.
and we swing out from the Cornfield
and move off. The horses are very sore,
they have not yet learnt to lean on
their collars which rub great raw red
patches on their shoulders. They are not
used to this kind of work. Their galls
are smothered with flies.
My own horse has a red patch
under the saddle blanked and I walk
a great deal to ease him. Refugees
are streaming alongside us again to
day and our progress is slow.
Our shoeing Smiths cursing and sweating
are busy at each hourly halt and are
finding it an impossible task to cope
with the loose and missing horse shoes.
Many horses are sick – some with
strangles – (a large yellow mucus outbreak
in the neck.) They are taken to the nearest
ditch – they know something is going to
happen and won’t stand still – a revolver
is pointed at their forehead – a loud bang
and a large bloody hole appears -
a huge bump as the carcass falls in
the ditch – with the hope that it will be
buried by someone. If not it will swell
to enormous size and become a seething
mass of maggots and smell to high heaven!
They do not want any horses to
fall into German hands. I am
The weather is changing, and the long
straight elm tree lined road to Amiens
seems endless (20 miles) from one rise
to the next it never varies.
We pass through Ville Bretonneux
- there are good views over the
Countryside. I am humming ‘Marching through Georgia”
to keep myself cheerful. It is
beginning to rain as we enter
the city of Amiens. The advanced
British Base. (we had marched
36 KM = 22 miles this day) We cross
the city with its beautiful cathedral
and turn into the racecourse on
the far West side. The place is
full of troops. It is early evening
and everywhere there is great bustle,
and confusion. All the base stores
are being put onto South going
trains and we have a hard job
to get supplies. We need a great
deal of hay for the horses.
We hear that the Germans are
Beyond Bapaume and St-Quentin?
and that their Cavalry could be
here soon. There are plenty of rumours
but everybody is feeling too tired to
worry much about them. I am
hungry. We have three meals a
day – at dawn – at midday and at
dusk. It is not enough for me.
Amiens. Thursday 27th Aug.1914.
dawn. The horses are wet through
including the saddles. It is still
raining but it cannot make us any
wetter. Miserable – and we wait
for 3 hours – leaving in pouring
rain at 8 a.m. On the march all
day going South West. We go
down into a valley and pass through
Poix and arrive at the village of
Eplessier at dusk and pull into
a large orchard. (we had covered
31 KM = 19 miles)
Eplessier. Fri. 28th Aug.1914.
Up at 3.30 am with sudden orders
to move. It is very difficult to see
in the dark. We get the horses ready
and pull out after much trouble and
move off without breakfast – but
the weather is improving and we are
passing lovely apple orchards and
golden cornfields. I am thankful
for some apples – but they are not too
sweet. At midday we pass down
the valley of the River Breie and
on into Aumale. It is beautiful Country.
We arrive this evening at the village
Of Mortemer feeling tired.
(29 KM = 18 miles this day)
slept in a field.
Mortemer. Sat. 29th. Aug. 1914.
Up at dawn and moved off riding
and walking alternately all day.
Passed through Neufchatel-en-Bray
and La Boissiere till we reach the
level crossing where we camp in
a field nearby. (31 ½ KM = 20 miles)
The cooks prepare our tea in
a camp kettle (called a dixie).
When the water has boiled,
on a wood fire, they put
in a tea bag. We then
dip our cans into it.
No milk. 2 hard biscuits
and ½ tin of bully beef Fray Bentos
from the Argentine. Water from the
water cart (and now with an
apple from an orchard of a mangle-
wurgle from a field.)