The First World War Memoirs of Sampson J. Goodfellow, Part 11: Vimy Ridge to Passchendaele

I’m posting the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, a few pages at a time…

(Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10.)

The Vimy Ridge Battle started March 1917. The pounding of the barrage, 18 pounders and 7 & 9 inch Howitzers, for four days was like thunder all the time. Finally, at 5:30 a.m. on April the 9th, the Canadian attack started. What a wonderful job our infantry did! (4 Divisions.)

They took the towns of Vimy, Petit Vimy, and the hill looking down into the City of Lens. The road to Arras was open. Thelis Woods was just stumps.

We were moved up to a town near Mont St. Aloi. All that was left of this town was one wall of the Church.

The Post Office for the troops was moved to a place between La Tarjet and Arras because they had captured a huge German Dugout and that became the Headquarters for the remainder of the battle.

Jack Brant’s truck was ordered to be the mail truck and he chose me to be his second driver.

We had to collect the mail from all the Divisions and Brigades to take them to the Office. We took the first lap at night to the coast, stayed over night at the different points and then brought in the last lap of the mail to the Post Office.

Everything was fine for awhile until Jack, who was feeling high, dropped the truck into a cellar at Carency.

I had to take over after the M.P. ordered him to get in the back of the truck with the guard and the mail Corporal sat with me.

We were ordered back to our Park and an investigation was held. He was lucky to get out of the trouble.

For punishment, his truck was given the job of bringing all the dirty garments to Moreil for cleaning and of course, they were lousy.

I, finally, got relieved after I had my share of vermin.

I did different jobs until I felt I needed a change.

I had written an application to join the Royal Flying Corp. when I was in England, but for some reason an old Colonel turned me down.

I decided to try again, but I had to have the recommendation of three Officers.

I got my Company Lieutenant, my Chemistry Teacher from Tech and Captain Stewart, my running mate from Regina, to sign my paper.

My application was considered and I was sent to Belieu for an interview. I was accepted but had to wait until General Haig’s Headquarters gave notice to report.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was coming to an end and all the Canadian Divisions were moved to Ypres Front. The Second Battle of Ypres was on. It was called the Battle of Passchendaele which started July 31 and ended Nov. 4, 1917.

It was terrible; the canals were all damaged and the ground was just a quagmire of mud.

The Army Engineers built roads, over the mud, out of Railroad Wooden Sleepers with a 4 x 4 railed each side so our trucks would not slip off into the mud. When we wanted to turn around, we had to pick a firm place to have our front wheel over the 4 x 4, but never let our rear wheels off the sleeper. It was back and forth until we got around.

One night the Germans cut the road with shell fire and four trucks were given the job of taking up a load of stone to fill the holes.

I was the lead truck with a corporal in charge. The Germans saw us and started firing Artillery Shells. They were missing but the ground was so wet we were showered with mud. My Corporal and the labor gang who were to unload the truck got super nervous and beat it into a German Pill Box our troops had captured.

The other 3 trucks did not come up, they returned to their base and reported I was in trouble.

Here I was left with a truck of stone.

I got out of the truck and inspected the hole and decided I would straddle it. When I got to the other side, you never saw a load of stone come off so quickly.

I got turned around, drove over the stones and shouted to the Corporal that if he wanted a ride to come out; which he did, crying and yapping his head off. I told him to shut up.

He said, “Will you report me for what I did?”

I said, “I will not.”

At this time I was stopped by a stretcher bearer Sergeant to take the wounded to the first medical hut.

My Corporal would not stop his noise which got my wind up. I started going too fast until the Sergeant who was in the truck told me to slow down as these soldiers were dying. I slowed down and I was never under such a strain in all my life.

When we got to the medical hut the wounded soldiers were attended to as well as the medical attendants could do.

My truck and I were commandeered by the medical unit. I looked around for my Corporal but he had vanished. After several trips they allowed me to go.

It was getting dark and when I got to Saint Julian, my Officer was there and asked me where I had been. I told him.

He said, “Are you all right?”

I said, “Yes.”

He left me and I got back to the Park. After I got something to eat, a delegation of my chums told me that the Australians wanted to buy me a Beer.

I said, “What for?”

They said, “For what you did today.

Some of the wounded you brought down were Aussies.”

I went over to have a drink with them and they made a great fuss over me.

One of the privates was an Australian Millionaire. He told the Bar Maid to bring a pitcher of Beer. She brought in a little jug. He told her to bring in the washstand jug full of Beer. We sure had a merry night.

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