June 3rd 1915

Lieut. Treffry Thompson (RAMC), having been looking after the wounded in the Ypres ‘horseshoe’ with the 18th Hussars, has now himself been wounded, although thankfully not seriously. The circumstances of his injury are most distressing however, and he was extremely lucky not to have been killed.

24/5/15. “At 2 .30 a.m. we were awakened by one of the subalterns who was blue and coughing madly, dashing into Teffrey Thompsonthe cellar shouting ‘Gas! Gas!’ We nipped up and shoved on our respirators and put on our kit. The captain of one of the squadrons came down with his respirator on, looking very bad and said the men were retiring. The colonel immediately sent a telephone message along the trenches to say that they were not to retire, with what result I do not know.

We all went outside and immediately got our first impressions of gas; even through the respirator there was a sense of fearful choking suffocation…

The gas was awful and gave one a feeling of absolute terror and helplessness. We went outside the chateau ruins and, just as I got beyond the wall, there was a loud crash just in front of me and I thought my arm had gone and had to look down to see that it was still there.

The whole place was a hell of shrapnel and rifle and machine-gun fire. I got in a blue funk and bolted, still however holding on to my mackintosh with my left hand. I fell into various ditches and lines of trenches, got tied up in the wire, fell again into the trenches where the Territorials were and was promptly kicked out on the farther side.

Beyond this was a long open slope, swept by shrapnel fire and thick with gas. I fell into a shallow ditch and fainted. Somebody came and pulled me out by my wounded arm, which brought me to my senses. I made for the dug-outs down by the stream; there some men tied up my arm and I became less of a raving lunatic.

When the shelling quietened down a bit, four of them put me on a stretcher and carried me down to the Menin Road, where we failed to find the dressing station; so they carried me along the road towards Halte. Just before we got there, some reinforcements were coming up and the Germans, spotting these, began to make Halte a hell of shell-fire. I made the men put me down and we took shelter in the ditch under the embankment on the south side of the road. The road itself, just over our heads, soon became plastered with ‘fizz-bangs.’  

The reinforcements went up the ditch safely where we were and about 30 or 40 wounded collected there. We stayed there for about two hours. K______, the new machine-gun officer, was lying beside me dying from gas. He was a ghastly sight, turning from white to blue and back again. He had been caught asleep in his dug-out by the gas without a respirator on.

The Germans started to shell the south side, so we cleared off into the GHQ line of trenches, which were already packed with reserves. There, some brilliant fellow gave me a drop of water and, after recovering my breath for about half-an-hour, I looked at my watch expecting it to be p.m. and found it was 8 a.m.

We then heard that the infantry on the left of the Menin road were all retiring and, as it looked as though the GHQ line was going to become the fighting-line, I thought this was no place for me and made off towards west of Ypres. Avoiding the railway cutting, which was buzzing with shells, I crossed the Zillebeke road and, taking a separate course through the corn-fields, got on to the railway south of Ypres.

There I found a battery and asked for a drink. While drinking some red wine, which made me sicker than I ever hope to be again, a ‘crump’ fell beside one of the guns and killed two men. I again thought it was no place for me and went along the railway towards the Lille gate. I was staggering along when a subaltern in charge of a working party saw my condition and helped me along to his medical officer, who made me lie down and finally packed me off in a motor ambulance to the dressing-station.”      

May 15th 1915

Lieut. Treffry Thompson (RAMC) is currently attached to the 18th Hussars as their Medical Officer and can vouch for all the horrors currently being Teffrey Thompsonendured by our troops at Ypres.

May 13th 1915. “Marched in evening north of Ypres across Canal to Bryke, then guided by guides who didn’t know the way, through much barbed wire to Wieltje.

We stopped on road near trenches. Enemy’s flares very active. Somebody told us it would be just as well to get into the ditch as a machine gun covered the road. We did so and the machine gun started at once.

When it had finished, we took over trenches on each side of the road. We were disgusted at the rotten condition of the trenches, but we discovered the reason next day: it was very wet and mushy and we started to repair trenches, but found remains of Frenchmen in the mud, and couldn’t go any deeper. We got one dug-out built before dawn and the trenches repaired a bit. Started to go to sleep at dawn, but inferno of shell-fire started and lasted from 3.45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the very beginning the telephone dug-out was blown in, removing our luncheon basket and my box of cigars. Three very frightened telephonists suddenly tried to get into our dug-out.

The shelling was appalling. For hours on end the whole place rocked, and afterwards we heard that the trenches had been invisible owing to dust and smoke. Dozens of wounded began to come in to our part of the trench where ‘C’ squadron were. The Major went along to ‘A’ squadron and there was wounded and then killed.

‘A’ squadron retired, with their trenches blown in, across the open to some alleged trenches further back. These they could not find and had to advance again across the open to their blown-in trenches. There was a complete gap of 40 yards blown in and covered by a machine gun on the right of ‘C’ squadron, which made it impossible to get along to see anybody.

I had the dug-out and a portion of protected trench filled with wounded and when they got so thick that we couldn’t turn round, told them they had better take their chance and go. I pointed out the position where there was less shell-fire in the direction of Bryke and at the end of day heard that 100 had got through all right.

After about four hours, the German fire occasionally slackened and we expected an attack, but could only see a few Germans looking over their trenches. The shelling, chiefly groups of 4-6 exploding ‘crumps,’ continued to blow in our trenches, and about mid-day the Captain decided that we should move to the left where there was less shelling. He did not go, but some of us moved across the road to a support trench filled with East Lancs…

Starting down a communication trench I suddenly found myself on my hands at the other end, as a ‘crump’ seems to have gone off just behind me. I got across the road, but the man behind was caught by the machine gun through the chest, but we carried him down to the support trench, where I did him up and it took two grains of morphia to quieten him…

During all this shelling we could actually see the ‘crumps’ before they hit the ground. They looked just like pointed cricket balls, and really stand about 2.9 high and are 8.2 in diameter.

Towards evening, the shelling died down and I tried to find our dressing-station. Couldn’t find any trace, but heard that the Cavalry had been wiped out. Wandered back to chateau west of Ypres, got some more dressings, heard that remnant of the regiment had gone up again under one of the Captains, so bolted after them on a bike. Raining hard; wandered half the night trying to find them. Went back to chateau and slept. Three officers, practically untouched through this awful day, as a result of the nervous strain of the shelling, had the jumps so badly that they had to be sent sick.”