Monday 8 June 2015

Will Sidney's War - November 1917 - The Long March

I can't believe it's been so long since I've done a Will Sidney post.  With holidays and garden activity to report on I'm afraid Will has been a little neglected.

The last time we encountered Will it was November 1917, and Will and the 9th Yorks & Lancs had just arrived in Italy.

According to the Battalion's War Diary the men spent 16-18 November billeted in 'good' billets in Ceresa, before starting out on what would be an incredibly long march, a 12 stage route march from Mantova to Ciano (over 100 miles, due North) to the front line.

I have managed to find some maps which give a really good visual representation of each stage of the march, annotated with commentary from the official Battalion war diary.  I have included links to these for information, as being able to see these is more interesting that me just writing how many miles were walked each day.

The maps were provided by Jono Wood for use in another WW1 blog, WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier, which is made up of transcripts of Private Harry Lamin's letters from the first World War.  Harry served in the same Battalion as Will, so his journey will have been very similar.

The Long March 1, 15th -21st November 1917

The Long March 5, 28th November - 3rd December 1917

Sadly, Jono Wood passed away in 2009, but you can read a bit about how he got involved in this mapping project here and here.

Extracts from Will's personal war diary, giving his own view of the journey, from the point of view of a man in the ranks, rather than the purely factual account of the official war diary, can be seen below.

"18 Sun - Church Parade 9.30. To a non conformist, to their church."
"19 Mon -  Rev 6, Parade 7. Skeleton order. B 8. Parade for marching order. Skirmish felt. Got back @ dinner time. Rest. No letters from anywhere."
"20 Tues - Rev 5, B 5.30. Full marching order. Marched through Mantova. Got a big time reception whilst marching through the town. Marched 12 miles. Landed at 6 o’c & slept all night in a field."
"21 Wed - Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 5.30. Full marching order. Marched 6 miles & received 3 letters & C.L.C.L. paper. 1 from Ethel, 1 from Ernest , 1 from Chuck."
"22 Th - Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 5.30. Marched 22 kilos (12 ½ m). Very tired when I got there. No letters from anyone. Thinking of darling Ethel. God bless her & protect her."
"23 Fri - Rev 4, Parade after breakfast 5.45 & marched 27 (kilos). My feet very sore & my shoulder very painful. No chance to write even a PC. Thinking of Ethel. Sent 5 F? cards off."
"24 Sat - Rev 5.30, B 6, Parade 6.30. Marched 18 kilos. Had dinner on the road. Landed @ 2 o’c. Very tired & feet ache. No bread, plenty of army biscuits. No milk. Thinking of Ethel. No blankets. Bitter cold night. No sleep, too cold."
 "25 Sun - Marched 13 kilos. Very nice letter & paper from Ma & Ada with Edna’s programme."
 "26 Mon - Rest all day. Inspection of rifles & equipment. Writ to darling Ethel & Ma. Also Ada, Edwin & Chuck, Ernest & Uncle in Leeds."
"27 Tues - Another day’s rest. Parade for Coy drill & R I & B fighting. No letters from anybody. Writ to Ethel & Ma, Ada & others. Thinking of darling Ethel."
"28 Wed -  Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade. Full marching order and marched to fresh billet. 16 miles. Landed @ 5 o’c. Very tired & foot sore. No letters & no chance to write any."
"29 Th -  Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 7 o’c. Full marching orders. Marched 14 kilos. Very tired. Glad to get a bath & eat. No letters from anybody. Thinking of darling Ethel."
"30 Fri - Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 7 o’c. Full marching orders. Marched 14 kilos. Very tired. Glad to get a bath & eat. No letters from anybody. Thinking of darling Ethel."
"1 Dec Sat - Rev 6, B 7, P 8. Drill order. Finished @ 12 noon. No letters. Thinking of Ethel. Bless her & God protect her. Wondering whether they have got my letters."
On 2 December, Will writes of marching again and being 'very tired, absolutely fagged out" and on 3 December he confirms that they joined the support line.

As ever, whilst posted abroad, Will continues to send Ethel postcards from the places he has been. Could these have been sent as he marched through Italy?

Read more about what happens to Will and the 9th Yorks & Lancs upon their arrival on the front line in my next post.

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