The First World War Memoirs of Sampson J. Goodfellow, Part 8: The Somme and beyond

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.)

An ex-Toronto Policeman in our group informed the Sergeant-Major that I was an Engineer and Draftsman. I was then paraded before the C.O. of the Barracks. I denied and told him I was a Technical School student. I did not want to stay behind the lines at a base.

The drafts personnel were made up before we left Rouen Depot and I was placed in the group for the 3rd Division Supply Column which suited me.

We left Rouen Wednesday, October 4, 1916 at 4:00 p.m. for the Somme, and departed on a Train Cattle Car – 30 Homme or 8 Cheval.

We did not get an evening meal so all we did was roll ourselves in a blanket and go to sleep after chewing some Hard Tack.

When we finally awakened, we were nearing Abbeville. We passed Ile de Chateau. It was a beautiful part of France; a Country worth fighting for.

Abbeville had a lovely large Cathedral but a Shell or Bomb had been dropped on the Spire and the Virgin Mary’s figure had been knocked from its position. This was the town where the first Churchill tank arrived for the Somme.

When we reached Val de Mason, we were informed where we were to report for duty; 18 Drivers to the 3rd Division Ammunition Column and 10 to the Supply Column.

Our 3rd Division Supply Column was located at Rebumpre, we started out, and did it rain! We were soaked but had to walk, carrying our Kit Bag, Rifle, etc. We stopped at a Concentration Camp for the night. We went to a tent that had a floor of mud. Being dead tired, I pup down my rubber sheet, wrapped my blanket around me and went to sleep. In the morning my body form was baked in the mud.

I got something to eat and started to look for the Column. I finally found it, and was put on duty as a 2nd Driver on a Locomotive Four Ton Truck with a chap named Senior, a Jamaican colored chap, who had been transferred from the 2nd Division.

We were then ordered to go to Achieux, which was the railhead and get a load of bully beef etc. The engagement of Flers-Courcellet at the Somme River was on. It was the Battle of the Somme.

The traffic was terrible but Senior wanted me to get the feel of the truck. The truck was in terrible shape; poor clutch, poor foot brake and no emergency brake. It certainly needed repairs.

Next day, I drove again in Column for Achieux, and Bang!! I got it. One of the trucks in a column coming towards us broke a steering column and ran into the second truck ahead of me smashing him. The truck in front, a Pierce Arrow, saw it and stopped dead. I ran into him, smashing my radiator and two headlights.

After towing the two damaged trucks bavk to our park, I said to myself, “Now, I will get it,” but not a word was said. The Officers knew what shape all our trucks were in.

They didn’t have a Loco radiator but had a spare Pierce Arrow radiator. The Officer asked me if I could make it work and after looking at the top and bottom connecttions, I said, “Yes.” I asked the Officer if I could repair the clutch and brakes.

“Can you do it?”

I said, “Yes.”

When I was through repairing that old truck, it was O.K.

I was then put on as spare driver in our section. I went out every day, by myself, on a different truck, and reported to the Officer the faults of the vehicle and then repairing same. This went on while we were on the Somme Front, but we got orders to move north. We all got new Daimler Knight Trucks, which were lovely vehicles. I still was a spare driver.

When we moved north, the Company Captain chose me as a lead truck driver and he and the Sergeant-Major sat in front with me, with the map in front of them.

On the way north, I began to realize why I was chosen to drive the lead Truck. I had taken matriculation French and German in High School, and could make myself understood, and get the information from the natives, if they didn’t go too fast. I would put in an English word when I didn’t know the French word, and got on just fine. The Officer said to the Sergeant-Major and myself, “I guess I made a good choice when I chose Goodfellow as the lead driver.”

I learned later that he was engaged to the sister of the girl that I chummed with at Tech. Her father was Chief of Police for the City of Toronto. I gave her my Form Pin–which I often wish I had.

A peculiar thing happened on the way north. We met an Infantry Battalion. When we got to the head of the Column, our Officer made me stop, and he asked the young Lieutenant where he was going. The Officer said to Warloy, which is near the 8th Reserve Camp on the Verennes Road.

Our Officer said we are going there and “I have a number of empty trucks that could give you all a ride.”

The young Officer said, “We are a Scottish Regiment and they are going to walk every foot of the way.”

They were mentally and physically exhausted. They had just come out of the trench at the Somme.

My Officer said, “Very well,” and told me to start. The Lieutenant told his Sergeant-Major to give orders to march. He looked around and saw what was happening but gave the order.

I started slowly to give the balance of the troops time to jump into our trucks, which they did.

When we got to our destination, they all got out of our trucks, and I am certain the Scottish Officer did not have many men to lead. I am, also, certain the Sergeant-Major knew what was happening when he gave the orders to march. The young Lieutenant, in my opinion, had just received his Commission and had not been in the trenches or he would have had sympathy for his men.

Permanent link to this article: https://edwardwillett.com/2008/11/the-first-world-war-memoirs-of-sampson-j-goodfellow-part-8-the-somme-and-beyond/

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