War Diary

The photographs below do not appear in Captain Munro's diary but have been inserted for interest.  They were taken in 2014 and are the property of RCHS.


51st Highland Division Memorial



The Moose (Canadian Memorial)






Views of the Vimy memorial.



Also at Vimy - "Mother Canada" grieving for her children.  In the far distance some of the slag heaps in the former coalmining district, mentioned by Captain Munro. 

War Diary of Captain Patrick Munro of Foulis

Page 3

Wingles

The journey in MT, as far as I can remember, was uneventful except that we started two hours after our advertised starting time owing to a complete French Division crossing our route at Lillers.  So we had to wait until they had all passed which took a considerable time.

It took about two hours to get to Wingles, and on arrival we found that "A", "B" and "C" Companies were billeted in a large, disused cotton factory at one end of the town. There was plenty of room for the 300 men who were put in there, but it wasn't particularly comfortable, being very draughty, as there were at least seven exits none of which had doors on them.  However, each man had quite a good ration of straw and they settled down quite happily.

Wingles itself was a dirty little mining town surrounded on all sides by mines, slag heaps and factories.  The people were much the same type as one would find in any mining town in England and Scotland and their houses much the same.  Headquarters Company and "D" Company were billeted about a mile away from us in the town itself, while the Officers' billets were scattered about in various houses and shops.

Simon and Hec and I all lived in the same house - again I am afraid I have forgotten the owner's name.  The inhabitants were an extremely voluble woman (who never stopped talking for one second, except to draw breath!), her husband and son and daughter. The husband had part-time employment in the local ammonia factory and seldom appeared, except at night, and the wife informed me, almost before we got inside the house, that he drank;  however we never saw any signs of this vice!  The kids were rather a nice pair - Robert aged 9 and Odette afed 14.  Robert, we found out, was a very intelligent little boy and was very anxious to know all about everything and to increase his few words of English at every possible opportunity.  Odette proved later to be a friend indeed long after when, we prisoners of war, we marched through Wingles on the early part of our journey to this place.  This incident might be worth relating now.

We were very short of food on the whole of our march as prisoners of war through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany and depended more or less entirely on what we could buy or were given by the locals;  this latter in France only.  As we passed through Wingles, Hec and I espied Odette on her bicycle;  we managed to catch her eye and gave her a handful of 10 franc notes and told her to go off and buy food of any sort for us.  Off she went and came back later with all sorts of cheese, bread and butter, eggs etc.  I was carrying a good deal in the way of packs, haversacks, blankets etc and it was a very hot day, so rather than let me carry the food which she had just bought for us, she hung it on her bicycle and walked along beside us the whole way - about 12 miles to our next camp!  She indeed proved to be a friend.

We didn't see much of Madame except when we came in after supper at night, as she had a shop in the front of the house which kept her busy.  We had quite comfortable bedrooms and the house was very clean.  Our two Companies again shared a Mess together in a house quite near the men's billets and only a minute or two from our own. The owners of this house were an ex-service man and his wife, and were most hospitable and kind and allowed us to use their kitchen to cook in.  In fact, as Allan Shearer lived in their only spare room, they gave up their whole house for us.  We also saw the old Madame on our way through Wingles as prisoners of war, and as Hec and I passed the house (we were marching together) she rushed out into the road and wrung us both by the hand and tearfully wailed "Oh! les deux freres - c'est terrible!"

I knew George (Chamier, brother-in-law, married to PM's eldest sister, Marion) was somewhere near Wingles and was determined to find him.  So one Sunday Andre and I set out in my truck after Church parade.  We lunched in a place called Phalemphan not far from Wingles and then went on.  Without much difficulty we found George's regiment at Camphin, only about eight miles from Wingles.   He was in his office but came out and gave us tea in the Mess and was in great form.  It was grand seeing him again and having him so near, as we went out together on various occasions after that.

Our first spell at Wingles was taken up with some training and a few route marches and various trips to Lille in the evenings by way of recreation.  One day, Harry, Simon, Shaw and I motored down the Somme via Arras and did an extraordinarily interesting tour of the old battlefields and many of the War Cemeteries and War Memorials.  It was made all the more interesting by the fact that Harry and Simon both knew the country well from the last war and recognised many of the places where various incidents took place.  We saw the Seaforths regimental war memorial first, which was simple but very impressive. It is a plain Celtic Cross about 20ft. high and stands in a small enclosure by itself, right in the middle of a big, flat plain on which I believe more Seaforths fought and died during 1914-18 than any other part of France and Belgium.  We stopped every now and then to have a look at some of the cemeteries, all of which were beautifully kept.  They all have the same pattern headstone - perfectly plain with just the name, rank, regiment and date on them.  There isn't a weed  to be seen anywhere and the grass is beautifully kept and the whole thing in perfect order and most impressive.  There are some very big ones in that part and in many there must have been tens of thousands of stones.  I well remember it was a perfectly glorious Spring day that Sunday, and seeing those thousands and thousands of stones in white rows, it seemed impossible then that the whole thing could ever happen over again.  I'm afraid from my description it would sound rather a depressing way of spending a Sunday afternoon, but, on the contrary, one did not get a feeling of depression - the whole effect was extraordinarily peaceful and quiet - and to me intensely interesting.  We found Carol Baird's grave and also the Blackwood (Fortrose) sons' grave, both of whom had been 2nd Seaforths during the War, and various others.  The 9th Division Memorial in which the 9th Seaforths (which Pa - Lt. Colonel C C H O Gascoigne, DSO, 1877-1929 - was in) were a Battalion.  This one was equally impressive, being a huge cairn of stones some 30-40ft. high with the name of each unit in the Division engraved on one of the stones all round.  Finally we went on to the Highland Division and Newfoundland Division ones, which are both in the same park.  The former is a replica of the Highlander they have on so many of the memorials in the North (as at Bonar Bridge for instance) and the latter a Moose - both about 20 times life size.  They stand in a large enclosed piece of land which has been left exactly as it was in 1918.  The grass has grown over everything, of course, but you can still see where the trenches were and the ground is littered with relics of all kinds. But it has not been spoilt at all by being commercialised like Vimy, which I am going to write about later.  We put our names in the visitors' book in the Newfoundland hut and started on our way home.  We stopped in Arras, where GHQ was then, and had an excellent dinner in the hotel.  Again, little did I think that I should march through that town only about three months later - a prisoner of war.

Another day Simon and I took some of the men from our Companies over to see the Vimy Memorial.  It is simply colossal and stands on the top of the Vimy ridge overlooking a huge flat plain and can be seen from miles away.  Here, however, as I said before, it has been rather spoilt.  All the original trenches have been built up with bags of cement so as they will last forever, and there are lemonade booths and postcard stands etc dotted about, which spoil it rather.  However, Simon and I left these and went further afield and he found various old haunts in the surrounding country where he said he had been with 9th Seaforths in the last War.

The battlefield of Loos was only two or three miles from Wingles and some of us went over and had a look at it one day.  Although it all happened more than 24 years ago, and the ground had been ploughed many times since then, there was still quite a lot to be seen and Simon managed to reconstruct quite a lot of what had happened, which was interesting.

The 6th Seaforths and 4th Camerons were at villages quite close to us and we saw quite a lot of them as they came over every now and then.  The pipes and drums played Retreat in the town square once or twice which always caused a tremendous stir amongst the local inhabitants.

One day I motored over with David Murray to Lieres to see the Mayor and his wife.  As soon as we got near the village some of the kids spotted us and there was a howl of delight, "Les Ecossais - ils retournes!"  And almost before we had reached the village news had gone round that we were coming back!  It was a Sunday and there was a large party (as usual) in progress in the Mayor's house.  They were delighted to see us and we were drawn in and sat down to eat and drink.  I had brought a Scotch pearl thistle brooch for Madame Laversin which she was delighted with.  They persuaded us to stay to supper and opened a bottle or two of champagne to celebrate the occasion. However, we managed to steer our way home alright!

There is not much erlse of interest to tell about our first stay at Wingles.  After we had been there about a week, orders came for us to move again up to a village called Leers, near Roubaix, to relieve a Brigade on the Belgian frontier.  Again we moved by MT.

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