FIRST WORLD WAR - SOMME, PASSCHENDAELE and CAMBRAI
Lot 33
FIRST WORLD WAR - SOMME, PASSCHENDAELE and CAMBRAI
Sold for £7,440 (US$ 12,639) inc. premium
Lot Details
FIRST WORLD WAR - SOMME, PASSCHENDAELE and CAMBRAI
Diaries of No 39891 Sergeant Hubert James Harding MM, Croix de Guerre, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, kept on the Western Front between 1915 and 1919, 5 vol.; with a photograph of the author with his father and two sisters, and his discharge paper, kept in pencil and indelible pencil in the 'Collins' Portable Diary (No. 324)', some wear etc. through having been carried at the front but overall in sound and legible condition, cloth, 8vo, England, Flanders and France, 2 April 1915 to November 1919

Footnotes

  • "BOMBARDMENT BAFFLES DESCRIPTION... MOST HELLISH DAY I EVER KNEW": a medical orderly's diary of three years on the Western Front, including the battles of Loos, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, the third Battle of Ypres or 'Passchendaele' (3 August 1917: "...last night covered by intense bombardment of new Gas shells. Strong smell all day as of Mustard..."), and Cambrai (where, on 20 November 1917, he witnesses the world's first massed tank attack: "2.30 AM lay out in shell holes in cold until barrage opens at 6 AM terrific fire an awful sight. Men & tanks go over at 6.15 in grand style...").

    These diaries are remarkable for covering an unusually large part of the war on the Western Front. The author (born in 1895) arrived in France at the end of May 1915 and was to stay with the army well into 1919, being awarded the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre (Belgian). The diary's comprehensiveness is matched by its vivid, if laconic style. Harding's description of the first five days of the Somme gives a flavour of the whole - 1 July 1916: "Sleep under my G.S. Wagn/ Move off again at 8.30 A.M. lovely morning/ many aeroplanes about, Great offensive starts/ we arrived Henencourt 1 P.M. got magnificent view of Battle behind Albert very heavy shelling. Very good results obtained so far in attack 8th. 19. 34 Divs"; 2 July 1916: "Kip under Wagon/ Birthday. Called up at 1 P.M. for Lunch march off under Adjt via Albert to Malincourt commence collecting at 6 A.M. very busy morning with bad stretcher cases/ find out that 8 Div. very badly cut up yesterday/ snatch a brief rest during afternoon. Heavy bombardment again. Told off to assist in dressings./ Properly feed [sic] up, tired out with so much marching but still more or less merry & bright. We watch battle from Hill top grand but awful sight"; 3 July 1916: "Bombardment baffles description/ Terrific British bombardment. (Loos a picnic). 12 Div. advance to attack in succession of waves from 2.15 AM until 7.30 AM are are [sic] unable to make much progress but secure several points of enemy front line. Collect right from front line men absolutely done. 19th Div made excellent progress on right. very busy night & much local shelling. Plant killed & C wounded"; 4 July 1916: "Most hellish day I ever knew/ Enemy bombard our comun[ication] trench heavily soon levelled out flat. Bomb store blown up 4 men of 38 F.A. wounded whilst helping us I am very busy dressing. We open up heavy bombardment at 2.30 PM. 8th & 9th Fusiliers attack the Ridge with great success key to main position & village of Pozieres/ Sgt Kingsmith wounded near go for me & officer"; 5 July 1916: "Last night at 11 PM the enemy counter attacked our new position. Our artillery fire was simply appaling nothing ever seen like it Ypres a picnic. enemy fail/ We clear 25 stretcher cases from 'no mans' land/ in night several exposed 4 & 5 days, slack morning chance for a rest. S.Maj. ADMC & Lt Col visit us. we are just about worn out. 29 men relieved. I stay with MD".
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