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Clement Hemingway's Diary, March - October 1917.

The diary of Private 450612 Clement Hemingway, 13th Labour Company, Lincolnshire Regiment

Painstakingly transcribed by Henry Crossley and published here by kind permission of Clement Hemingway's daughter.

15 January 2014

Dear Al,

Many thanks for your email - sorry I've been so long getting back to you.

I've transcribed (as best I can) the diary and attach it with this message.

I've scanned a couple of pages from the diary and enclose the scan as well. The diary was actually a 1915 diary given out by George Jessop & Sons Ltd, a local clothing manufacturer - they still have premises in Dewsbury, West Yorks. Clement was from Mirfield, near Dewsbury, and he scrubbed out the day reference but the dates should be accurate. I've checked the calendar for 1917 and the references to Sunday church parades tally.

Pte Hemingway was based in or around Hersin Coupigny for most of his service in the Labour Company (Pte C hemingway, 45062, No2 Section 1 Platoon, 13th Lincolnshire Labour Company, BEF) with references to Grand Servins, Petit Servins, Noeux-les-Mines, Bruay and several more nearby towns and villages before being transferred to Vierstraat in Belgium, close to the Messines Ridge.

Best Regards

Henry Crossley

A page from Clement Hemingway's War Diary
A page from Clement Hemingway's War Diary.

March 21: 4 blankets on boards. 1st night – starved.

March 22: Halifax District rct. Khaki. Home 7.30pm.

March 23: Left Halifax 10.30 change Brighouse for York via Wakefield and Normanton, change at York. York to Northallerton first stop.

March 24: Vaccination and inoc by Medical Officer refused .47hrs

Sun 25 March: Corpl for hut. Parade inspection hut. ?/11 C(hurch?) service

March 26: Reg 45062. Full equipment.

March 27: Left camp Catterick 6 o’clock arrive station 8 at York – tea. Selby, Doncaster, Peterborough, London 3.20. left Folkestone 12.30 arrive at Boulogne, France March 27 1917.

March 28: Medical Inspection. Iron rations dished out at Bol. Parade full pack drill

March 29: 10.30 Parade inspection full dress – dinner. Parade drill – fainted on parade drill. Vacin

March 30: Report sick – vaccination. Rations for 24 hrs.

March 31: Steel helmet, tents. Snow. Left Boulogne Camp 10.30 station at 12.30 via Calais, St. Omer, Ypres, Le Havre, Bethune, Arras etc. Mush - boot tops. 22in tents 2in snow. South march full pack. French House for coffee, buns. Gas mask, steel helmet no rations. Nearly 30hrs train side from Bol to Hersive Coupnigny (Hersin-Coupigny?)

April 4: Aeroplanes buzz. Fatigue duty. Canadian chums.

April 5: Report sick – cough. Mix cardigan baggies

April 6: Report sick. Air duel, anti aircraft fire german aeroplanes. 1 days rations 1B-1B

April 7: Working party unpacking 10lb shells etc. Remove camp across No Mans Land alone.

April 8: From Hersin-Coupigny Arras line to village. Shell fire heavy. Full pack.

April 9: Loading timbers day & night & wagons 60lb shells. Received 1st letter F&L

April 10: Snow storm fence deep, called out 2am. 90lb gas shells 60lb shrapnel white band. Ernest cut finger end while unloading shells etc.

April 11: Loading transport wagons gas shells away from Hersin

April 12: Working on 300lb shells and 60 & 90 and 9.2 gas-tear-shrapnel – standing to all night.

April 13: Le Chateau and St Quentin.Cancourt . Anti aircraft fire.

April 14: German aeroplanes. Took bates to hospital also hit. Parade/pay 12 o’clock. 1st pay 16/-

April 15: Football 3-1-1 Plast. Hersin Coupigny, Vedrel Coupigny. French House – eggs & bread, biscuits

April 16: Dinner – soup then to La French Maison, 2 eggs, bread, ginger bread. Parade 1 o’clock clearing up.

April 17: Bad tin army ration – pain in stomach. Sick all day. Clearing dumps up 9.2 shells.

April 18:
Hersin Coupigny
March to Hersin Coupigny for gas respirator. In gas chamber for tear
Parade 7.30 roll call. Cleaning dumps. Boot inspection, dismantling huts. Sand bag stacking, sheeting up 9.2 bolt.
Fritz aeroplanes near – anti aircraft guns fire at germans – plane gets away. On dumps, 90lb cases, fuses etc etc

Sunday April 22: Breakfast 6.30 parade. 8.0 on dumps making sands bag and pile. Football match v 2nd Lincs

April 23: Report sick – pain diarrea (sic). Large castor oil – shoulder M.L.D very bad. German aeroplane over camp.

April 24: Report at Sgt Miller's tent for barber job. 1 Leiut Stains razor to strap – sent for tools – 13hrs – 4hrs. Started hairdressing. Corp Brooks D Servant Ravensthorpe 3 Servant.

April 25: M.L.D. Water carrying. Working 13 hrs on shells 60lb at night 12 o’clock till 4 in morning.

April 26: Parade at 8 – breakfast at 6.30 work all day. At night stand by 6 to 8. Called out 12.30 to 4

April 27: ..... Declared. Tent painting for aircraft operation & balloons.

April 28: Unloading shell boxes & moving shell boxes. Sandbag stacking.

April 29: Remaining shell carrying ..... Loading transport 21/2 carts about.

April 30: Removing tents etc. Aircraft arms fire. Unloading 9.2 boxes etc all night

May 1: Lieut Masters haircut. Chat etc about trade

May 2: Work all day carrying boxes 98 60s. Stand to all night out at 4.30

May 3: On dumps at 3.30 – morning off. Harvey dropped box on foot.

May 4: On parade Lieut Stains sent me off slipped. Corp St Elois. Hersin Coupigny

May 5: 4 days M.L.D. every day for dressing heel and big toe. Send gas over 10.30 alarm. E Arntry hos

May 6: Grand Servins
Sergt in Canadians died. Chilton lost. Petit Servins

May 7: Went to Gouy Servins for disc on Silk Cards ring. Vimy Ridge dismantling huts – to hos. Petit Servins – rain all night on gas alarm with slipper on and 1 boot – 2-6 on M.L.D.

May 8: Major Barnston haircut un franc

May 9: Petit Servins. Building canteen MLD. Haircut Lieut Stains 1pm

May 10: Haircut Lieut Martin. Building. c/o Lieut Abbot hc

May 11: Haircut Lieut Swan. Building shack for V. Beer (parcel canc)

May 12: Ernest left camp full pack. Estree Couchee (Cauchy?)

May 13: Gouy Servins. Sandbag building. Loading/unloading shells 60-9-2, 4.5 etc

May 14: To hospital arm and foot M.N.D. Aircraft guns remove. 52nd Labour Coy

May 15: Water fatigue. Off. Beer, Mutch, Cairns, Bates at the well
Aubigny St Eloi, Hersin Coupigny, Grand Servins, P. Servins 9.

May 16: Heavy guns fire shell shook. Order not to sing Sergt Miller green envelopes

May 17: Sergt Miller order for dumps. Told him off pay 10 francs

May 18: Filling boxing with shell cases 4.5 anti aircraft

May 19: F. Thorpe (?)
Sandbagging etc. Looked through telescope at observation ballon – 2 men. Med Inspection.

May 20: Sent wounded in trains. Tea in Church Army Hut. Half day off went to Aubigny (en Artois??) OK

May 21: Blanket Parade. Cordite-shrapnel packing 90lb boxes. Hair cut Lieut Ross.

May 22: Heavy rain

May 23: Chamblain La Abbee (Camblain l’Abbe?). Order for address in letter. Sorting shells etc. Nash returns

May 24: Boxing and sorting AAC shells, 9.2 shells. Washing inspection.

May 25: Slept outside tent. Sandbagging. Bates accident pick.

May 26: 4.30 am ate craps. Fire overhead. Shrapnel & pieces a 1 yard

May 27: Mont St Eloi – Canadians v French baseball. Saw cap howitzer KO S. Bofferd 2nd Battn.
Half day off. LC Mosley, Bates etc to Camblain Abbey (sic) and Mont St Eloi. French walked 14 miles.

May 28: Saw Vimy Ridge trenches etc. Lieut Martin haircut. Half day. Heavy shell fire by aircraft Fritz.

May 29: Loading lorries with 60lb 90lb. Aircraft fire. Removing boxes and shells. Sergt Miller army complaint Major

May 30: Sorting and removing shells. Sergt M

May 31: Sandbagging etc. Canadian chums

June 1: 1 blanket taken 2 men removed. Met John Walker just before parade. Durhams left camp.

June 2: 11 men our tent loading 8” shells 9.30 – 2.30. Shelled camp.

June 3: On stacking boxes. Rest of day haircutting. Fritz over camp – shells

June 4: Harvey? brother died. On remaining? Boxes AAC. Half day off to Aubigny motor ???

June 5: Stacking boxes ACC etc gas shells & sharps etc. Met F Walker

June 6: Sorting shells, loading shells. John. Heavy shelling Fritz

June 7: Loading lorries. Sandbagging and sorting 60lb fuses

June 8: q.q.x AAC. German aeroplane over – shrapnel dropped

June 9: In camp shelling. In tent singing and etc.

June 10: Half day off. Razor setting etc CO mess.

June 11: G. Miller accident. Heavy rain morning. Met 10th Lincolns 16th-55th Labour Corp

June 12: Building traverses. Stopped the pain from French people.

June 13: Building sandbags etc. Cricket match started.

June 14: Order all Le cp to work with men. Fritz over camp shells ......?

June 15: Called out 1.45 – load lorries AAC shells

June 16: Sorting shells etc. Buried gas shell

June 17: Gas alert on gas respirator quickly put on. Wind wrong way.

June 18: Morning fitting fire extinguisher powder hot water acid. Half day off to Arras. Shelled dug outs.
Good ..........? blizzed (sic). Rose from ....? lady.

June 19: Heavy rain lightning. Awful terrible dust storm
Fresincourt, Villers Au Bois

June 20: Told about leave. Lieut Martin haircut. Show him photos of (?) fine sister Annie

June 21: 23rd Division RFA pass through Grand Servins. Heavy rain.

June 22: French Canadian no Bon at baseball napov matches.

June 23: Building s.bags. Mine explosion

June 24:
Bath parade 7.30
Boots Clothing 9.0
Church clothing 11.0
Sports 2.0

June 25: Inspected by General and Colonel of 1st Army. Corp for week on dumps by 52nd 2bn(?)

June 26: Went to Arras under shell fire. Village blown away, station etc fine buildings. Arras – Bapaume Rd 2 or 3 kilometres past British soldiers grave yard. 6th 150 VLI (?) etc. DAC St Catherine. Vimy shell fire from Fritz.

June 27: Despatch from General 1st Army corp. Splendid work and improvement by the 52nd Labour Coy highly commended.

June 28: Lieut Ross OC Army Dump B

June 29: Pay Books – Class 37. Hairdresser. Heavy bombardment Lens (?)

June 30: Parade 7.45 rained off. 11.0 loading trucks with shells. 1st boiled pud(?). Tunic

July 1: Parade Military Laws etc – death penalty. Loading lorries 40-50 each 6in.

July 2: Bath parade – change. Went to Bruay (la Buissiere?) fine place. Barlin, Hersin

July 3: Sergt M HQ. First morning for Sergt Dance, Sergt Miller Sergt Pitfield

July 4: Heavy rain morning. Parade 11 sand bags

July 5: Sand bags traverse around 60 per width(?). Patrol along pimple 11/2 from 1st line

July 6: Unloading shells and fuses. Match pipes RE. Frizt (sic) sends over a few.

July 7: German aeroplanes over. Fired at them. Order for kit made. AAC barrage

July 8: Bath parade 9.15. Camp inspection and Major. Razor setting

July 9: Build traverses. Went Hallicourt (Haillicourt) Ruitz Bruay 22 CCS

July 10: Unloading shells and fuses.

July 11: Inspection by The King and staff

July 12: Building sand traverses. German shot down 2 balloons 3B. aeroplanes

July 13: Sandbagging – ill. Air fight dropped bomb

July 14: Building sand dump, unloading wood

July 15: Bath 7.30. Church parade Ca....ding?

July 16: Building sand & trenches, shells unloading etc 21.00

July 17: Vimy shell fire. Fritz send over a few. Bracquencourt, Noix (Noeux) les-Mines Gare

July 18: Sandbagging all day

July 19: Water patrol on pimple Vimy Ridge. Shelled into dug-out. Fritz sending over many shells. Report to engineer leaking pipes etc

July 22: Church parade 10.15. Work till 2.0 shells

July 23: Went to Noix-le-mines (Noeux-les-Mines). Bracquemont (Bracquencourt) – Noix. Watch repaired for nothing for souvenir. Hersin Coupigny pass – Sergt

25 July: Sandbagging – Fritz over take cover.

July 26: Traverse building all day.

July 27: Sandbagging all day.

July 28: Sandbagging, unloading shells at 6am – 9am

July 29: Sunday – breakfast 7.45. Heavy rain terrific lightning – heavy thunderstorm worst ever I witnessed. July 30
O’Roone dismissed. Bread, butter. Sandbagging all day.

July 31: Colonel recommended company for good work on Army Dump B. Good luck, praise from NCOs etc baffled etc

August 1: Rain all day. Loading 6 inch from 6-8am gas shells

August 2: Rain all day. Great coat wet through while loading lorries.

August 3: Rain all morning. Parade 1.30, shelling

August 4: Sandbagging all (day).Villers Abois (Villers au-Bois) Matron ......?

August 5: Names for skilled trades K. Southgate. Bathe etc

August 6: Sandbag, standing to. Bruay afternoon. Sergt ...? watch etc

August 7: Unloading shells. Air fight, Fritz battle.

August 8: Trench repairing. Gas drill

August 9: Unloading shells 100lbs and fuses and tubes, cartridges.

August 10: Balloon broke away – loading trench mats. Tea complaint.

August 11: Orderly room for tea party.

August 12: Gas parade. 2Lt Martin Inspection Major B – gas.

August 13: Trench mats etc. Church parade 11.0

August 14: Loading 100lb 6pm to 6am. Following day no food. Over 200 lorries

August 15: Traverse building. Around cartridges all day

August 16: 4am Lorries boxes
6pm – 8pm 18pr A.A. 13pr

August 17: Pay 10 francs out. Loading lorries till 10pm

August 18: Shells, cartridges, lorries etc all day
Prisnus (prisoners??) 200...?

August 19: Sunday. Bath parade. Unloading train etc all day.

August 20: Paying trench mats etc
18pr 13pr
60pr – 4.5 – 6” – 8” – 9.2

August 21: Laying trench mats for platform stage
Loading boxes etc at AP 18pr

August 22: Loading shells etc for CFA 4.5-

August 23: Cyclone, dust rain etc

August 24: Laying mats all day.

August 25: Put landing stage up for L.R.

August 26:
Bath parade 7.30
Church parade 11.0

August 27: Unloading shells, laying trench mats
Very wet afternoon

August 28: Remar(k)able wind storm. Unable to work. Thorpe back from training.

August 29: Laying trench mats for light railway etc

August 30: Morning off ailments
Asked by Lieut Stamp

August 31: Unloading shells
1 pair traverse

September 1: Building sandbag traverse

September 2: Sunday
Sports, smoking concert.
New tents up. Bates maddenned(sic)

September 3: Pitched tent 5.30
Ammunition sorting all day

September 4: Put platform up for light railway

September 5: Building sandbag stack all day till 5pm

September 6: Clearing up. Re-moving shells etc. Orders to get packed up.

September 7/8: All kits packed ready to move S712.
.....? to set all the company into lorries, ride to Petit Sains near Bethune
Reached Belgium 11pm, huts for the night then on to Vierstradt (Vierstraat) Erected tents

September 9: Sunday
Obscure from aircraft. Taking shells up to the guns. German shells burst on our ammunition.

September 10:
Rolling 9.2 up to batteries
Fritz shells us out of it
Spoil Bank

September 11:
Rolling shells to the guns 218 Batt. 90
236 Dead dog farm
Moated Grange
Spoil Bank

September 12: Loading shells on the gun stage
Up with the ram-rod

September 13: Taking shells up to guns
Building sandbag pit protect cartridges.

September 14: With the mules for ammunition

September 15: On Messines Ridge
Hot shop

September 16:
Gas drill, payday
Fritz shells camp 11pm-3am

September 17: Shells to the guns
Fritz sends over line out. 3 wounded, several horses killed.

September 18: Clearing out German dugouts. Telephone trench electric
.. ladies boots with leg off (??)
German boots with feet in. Deep dugout. See German train

September 19: On Messines Ridge
60pr Batteries also 18pr Batt

September 20: Went Belgian timber yard saw mill past Kemel (Kemmel?)
Tanks all night

September 21: Rest all day
Shaved Baker in bed

September 22: Up to Ypres canal on shells.
Fritz shells awful

September 23: Side of Hill 60 in dugout all ...
Continually shells (from?) Fritz

September 24:
On Spoil Bank
Corp Henderson killed
Baker wounded – arms, legs shattered

September 25:
218 batteries 6" shells all day.
Heavy barrage fire
Gas over on parade – all sneezing

September 26:
Bombed all night
Corp Mosley to lorries park
Cpl Stark in 3 tent

September 27: Taking shells to the guns – all 6" batt.
Sore shoulders

September 28: Stayed in for barber fatigue all morn
Fire duty

September 29: In for trade

September 30: On fire duty
Officers haircutting

October 1: Three whistle blow
Bus House Shelly Dump along the Ridge top

October 2: Cairns wounded in leg – hospital
Heavy shell fire

October 3: In HQ tunnel
Shrapnel in steel helmet – cut off from party

October 4: Digging shelter for cartridges etc
Gun emplacements

October 5: ??? fatigue
Inspecting tents – acting Orderly Sergt.

October 17: Transferred HQ as Chiraporist???

November 6:
Received f41.50
20fr for Sept
21fr50 for October


The 13th Lincolns (to which Clement Hemingway was deployed) was originally raised as a Territorial Battalion in June 1915. Initially this Battalion was named the 28th Provisional Battalion, but later designated 13th Lincolnshire Battalion. Men were sent to this Battalion because they were deemed unsuitable to join a fighting unit - instead, they spent the war in support roles such as: agricultural duties (mainly in Somerset and Essex); loading and discharging ships; and other portering duties. As you can see from his diary, Clement himself reported as sick on quite a few occasions.