Company Sergeant Major Lawrence Pridham wrote ten diaries during the war with mostly daily entries, Our museum has three of those volumes which were donated to us with other related artifacts.
Below is a transcription of Volume #4 which covers the period from 14 August 1917 to 3 September 1917.
You can also read:
- This volume is entitled “The Chronicles of Doc and Growler”. We can tell from the entries that Growler is Pridham although we don’t know the nature of that nickname. It appears that his friend is Doc but we don’t know what his real name is – perhaps a friend he enlisted with and was lucky enough to stay with throughout this period. At the back of this volume there are some practice signatures including Pridham’s and “Harry Howard”. Although there were 13 Harry Howards enlisted in the CEF, we can’t connect any of them specifically to Pridham or his battalions in any way.
- Doc writes a few entries in this volume and they have been transcribed in italics so it is clear who is writing when. His writing is not as clear as Pridham’s so there are more unreadable entries or words.
- Growler also seems to be a bit of an artist and a couple of the sketches from this volume have been included.
- Unreadable words or phrases are shown as [??].
- Generally we have transcribed as accurately as possible which means not all the sentences are grammatically correct or even make complete sense but occasionally we’ve made the odd tweak to make it more readable. We’ve also added the odd explanation in square brackets as well to help those less familiar with certain military terms.
- Speaking of terms, there are two references to German soldiers used in this volume:
- British soldiers employed a variety of epithets for the Germans. “Fritz” (a German pet form of Friedrich) was popular in both the First and Second World Wars.
- The Americans and Canadians referred to Germans, especially German soldiers, as “Heinies“, from a diminutive of the common German male proper name Heinrich. Heini is a common German colloquial term with a slightly derogatory meaning similar to “moron” or “idiot”, but it could be of different origin.
- Although Pridham’s first stint in the trenches of the Western Front was not until early January 1917, its obvious from these entries that in only a few months he has realized the horror of this war and writes repeatedly how he hopes against hope that it will end soon.
“You are very lucky to get this its not every one that has a story of his time away. And years later these will be great relics.”
Diary Volume #4
Auchel Pde C
Tuesday Aug 14/17 – Well here we are again once more we pack our duds to depart. Let us call this: The Chronicles of Doc And Growler. Tomorrow morning we part for Cambain L’abbé [north-west of Arras, south-west of Lens] where we may stay awhile before proceeding towards the danger zone. I am not feeling extra well in the heat so I will not say much. But I ought to answer darlings letter of July 21/17.
Upon the amalgamation of our murderous instincts re “Websters Shakespeare” etc, I will [?] say that we are not entirely responsible for what we say as this present life has a wonderful effect upon our “cerebellum” in other words “grey matter”. Suffice it to say that old Growler and I are still going strong and only regret that we have to depart for the line. Soon to [???} etc, etc. Much to our disgust the war is not yet over. Here’s hoping anyway. Will [?] more illustriously in my next note – Doc.
10 pm – As I sit here and look into the eyes of my old pal
Doc and also Stenc who happens to be with us at this conoubrilous moment, not to mention the two bottles of wine that stare us vulnerably in the face and the promiscuous way in which Stenc is controlling the traffic would hitherto inspire you. But do not think for a moment that we are drunk.
At 3 am in the morning we arise to have breakfast at 4AM so you can just imagine how it must be to parade all day and turn in to get up so early, put on your pack and trudge through the long hot day. Really is is no joke. Good night dear ones.
August 15/17 – Well we got away this morning early and arrived here a little after dinner finding ourselves once more in these damnable huts, the look of which always reminds me of our miserable wet days in the winter and spring, before and after Vimy.
August 16/17 – Today we had a muster parade and in the afternoon kit inspection. Tomorrow morning the Battalion goes out for about 2 day maneuvers.
August 17/17 – 11 am – Orderly Sergeant today. Battalion pulled out 7:30 am and I am alone with what is left. I expect they will return tomorrow night. Thank God I am not on this parade as I have been feeling absolutely rotten. Fed up and such of life. Received a letter from my darling wife yesterday in which she calls me down in a very cheerful way. I can assure her that I am no gambler and women I have had “nil” to do with since I left God’s country and my own home. It may seem unbelievable but never the less true. The worst I’ve done is to go out on a bust or try to drink a brewery which was coming to us after some of the things we had to go through.
August 18/17 – Well the Battalion returned about 1AM in the morning and we are under orders to go up the line. The First Division got pretty well cut upon Hill 70 and the 3rd Division has to relieve. The fighting is fierce around Lens and Loos front.
August 19/17 – 1 pm – We are already to go and we move off at 2:30PM to the more dangerous region. Got a card last night to saying Pridster #3 was on the way. Am sending the cane handle and a letter tomorrow or at least it will go tomorrow but I have started in now. Doc wishes to [??] Here we are about to depart upon another precarious expedition and sincerely hope old Prid and I come out ok as we understand there is some “stiff” work ahead of us [??] Doc.
Well I hear the long dress on the bugle so we will soon be off. I don’t know how I will ever get there with this pack. But! up we go with the best of luck. God speed us.
10 pm – I don’t know what the name of this berg is yet but is very close to the line. After a long tedious march with heavy marching order and passing many towns we arrived. The men are all paced for the night and the Sgts are all jammed into a room upstairs here. Last night Fritz put a shell in the front door of a house a couple of doors down the street. It is a wicked front and tomorrow we move up farther.
August 20/17 – 11 am – Well had a pretty good sleep except that Fritz put about 40 shells in amongst the houses here at 1am and about 80 bombs in the next town. The people sleep down in the cellar. they did not shell this town till the Canadians took over this frontage. I take #3 Platoon up the line tonight. This town is called Bully Le Brebis and it is quite a large place. Well I guess we will have a dirty time at Lens but we can’t help it.
Note – if by chance I should come to grief I wish the finder would send this book to:
Mrs. L.D. Pridham
Box 645, Ontario
and oblige a husband.
August 21/17 – As I sit her and look out our dugout door I feel that I should say a few words in case I should not get the chance again. We got here last night away late in the dark and we relieved the 5CMR which were in reserve. That is where we are now. Tonight we move up to supports. It is very lively about 5am this morning the bombarding started and we are hammering the devil out of each other up to this moment. I expect we will have a hot time and a bunch fo casualties. This must be a Fritz dugout as the entrance faces his guns and if a shell came in it would kind of upset we bunch so to speak.
I have been thinking and dreaming of my darling sweet little wife so far all day and those dreams are awfully welcome because I adore her very image as she comes before me in this dread hour of need. Last night before leaving 2 Sgts and myself took Communion in the Army Church Hut. Farther up things are a battered up as they keep on [??] hell to each other from the Artillery. Here’s hoping for my darlings sake we have good luck the next 3 days.
8:30 am – Well we will be off in an hour. A mine went up a few hundred yards away this afternoon. I don’t know whose it is. The shells are flying like Sam Hill.
August 22/17 – 1:30 am – Night – Well here I am in an old German dugout, no room to sleep and I am sitting on a pile of debris waiting for what will come. This is an awful line, the trenches are battered to hell and while outside, I had a shell dropped beside me but did not touch me, it got the wind up my neck severely though one entrance to the dugout is all battered in. If I get out of this alive it won’t be my fault. I could have committed suicide after the trip up. No one that has not been here can ever know what it feels like. Hell itself could not compete. We are around the Loos Lens front and in an awful salient. Fritz counter attacks all the time. you see when we push Fritz out of his trenches and occupy them ourselves it leaves the mouth of the dugouts facing his fire. Holy smoke the man on gas guard just came down to know if one of our boys was here alright. He says there is a dead man lying up somewhere very pleasant in the dark.
Oh God why do we have to suffer all this and the plague of lice to boot. Could those who are sitting in swivel chairs directing and effecting the end or continuation of this awful war, be but a month at the game the would stop it.
But such is life so help me God I can’t stand it much longer. God be with us!
3:30 am – Well I’ll be damned if a parcel from mother didn’t come up in the rations sent July 27/17 with cigars, 2 small cans of milk, 1 package of Ridgeways, 1 package [??] cigarettes and tobacco. How it came up to this barbarious and God forsaken piece of line I don’t know. There are 3 dead Germans lying around the entrance to our dugout. And during the early morning he planted some pretty close shells.
3:45 pm – After noon and I am sitting smoking a cigar and wondering what the night will bring.
10:30 pm – Boom! A shell just burst above our dugout; Boom! again and its heavy stuff. Well my water party is gone and the machine gun changed. Boom! once more, what a stink of gas and you can hear the bullets of his machine gun, Boom; he is getting fresh well as long as he doesn’t put one down the stairs. Boom! by God that is close. It would do you good to see one lad sitting here eating a can of McConickies after a long day on post.
August 23/17 – 1:30 am – Water party back and reports 1 man killed and others wounded. Sgt Duncan of our company wounded and the others were out of Doc’s party where he is I don’t know but I hope he came out ok. These night parties are what get your goat with shells following you all the way. I am lucky so far as I have not had to go anywhere in particular. I guess the front line for ours.
2:50 am – Just got a letter from mother with a enclosure of the Gov. There is a heavy bombard on now and Fritz just put one on top of us. Well I must close.
3:00 am – We just had two direct hits filling the dugout with smoke. Hell is sure flying.
4:00 am – Machine gun crew back in and our platoon bombing post reported annihilated, hope it isn’t true but I’m afraid it is. Well for a few hours in the night that is pretty rough for 1 platoon of 36 men. It was a hell of a barrage but is a little quieter now.
3 pm – Well all is ok and we dreadily await orders for tonight. Poor old Doc got a chunk of skin off his cheek bone but outside of that he is ok. I think we go t the front line for 48 hrs. The 5th CMR that are in the front lines now suffered heavily in the early morning bombardment. I think our 3 platoons in reserve here had 10 casualties, Oh but this is a hell of a war.
9:30 pm – Am going out with the water party so here is luck.
August 24/17 – 11:50 am – Have just had what you call breakfast and must make a few entries. Well last night I took my party and reported to my offices dugout and my party was changed to a working party. It had started to rain and the chalk had become slippery than the devil and Fritz had shelled the trench so much that it was almost impossible to find your way among the maze of shell holes. Flares flashing, guns roaring, mud shot and shell and we made our way to Company Headquarters where I reported. I was seating like a horse and was wringing wet. We were then led by a sapper to the part where we were to repair or in other words deepen the trench were shells had smashed it in. Here I found one of my officers with more A Company men. I shook hands with Dear Old Doc and he told me he had been blown up in the air the night before and was shaken up. Well to make a long story short Fritz just shelled the devil out of us causing many casualties and putting the men in bad shape. I think at 12:30 midnight we quit (generally we quit about 3 am in the morning) as we were putting gas over on him. So back to our dugout and at 1:25 am we all donned our respirators and kept them on till 2 am when we got orders to take them off as the wind had changed and no gas was put over.
3:45 am – Post were changed and I took a snooze. Well if we ever get through with this damnable game you won’t see me at it again
8:30 pm – Well here we sit listening to the krupt of those awful shell waiting for orders to go up the front line or carry on here. We have been singing old songs of home and mother and wife. The shells are breaking above our head every second. This is a hell of a line and when we pull out of a line we will be damned thankful. The shells drove our machine gun post in this morning and I dread the program for the night. We have two more awful days and nights in this horrible place.
10:30 pm – Front line. Well here we are about 9:15 pm we got the orders to get ready to move up and the straff that had been going on had stopped so we made a safe passage up. But we had no sooner relieved than another straff started and things were flying and hell rained for some time, it is quiet again. This trench is much better than we had in support. I forgot to say that we are on “Hill 70” that you have probably read so much about these last few days. So you can realize what sort of a front it is. This book will most likely be covered with chalk dust, [??], mud etc. My beard is long and shaggy and it looks funny against my long 2 inch prongs that protrude from my moustache which are waxed pretty stiff. Someone is coming down the dugout stairs with grunts and groans s will ring off. Was the stretcher bearer coming down for a rest so I will carry on. Every time Fritz starts anything we pound hell out of him. He must have some awful casualties. The terrible thing about this game are the shells which are coming all the time and you never know what minute one is going to drop on you and blow you to pieces. A barrage is a terrible thing – every gun opens up and fire and brimstone prevail. I sit amongst a fusillade of jamb cans, chalk rocks and junk of every description that collects in a dugout.
August 25/17 – 3:00 am – Am going to indulge in a can of choice Cambridge Sausages. [????] here’s hoping for another entry[??] in the near future. Doc
8 am – Am sitting on the side of the trench. Doc is sleeping in a funk hole and in front of me in the sky is a double rainbow. I have been sniping a German aireo plays for a little sport. Wow! That was some krupt on the left. I think he will be dropping one on us in a minute. This trench is another of Fritz on “Hill 70” and everything is blown and battered to atoms. My officer has just gone by and asked me if every things was OK. I wish I was artist enough to sketch these trenches but I guess I’m not in that class of artist. I guess there is nothing startling just now except that we may be relieved and I think it is going to rain.
5 pm – Am sitting on the side of the trench. Doc is awake now and talking to me. He sure had an awful close shave the other night but the jagged piece of shell was spent and did not penetrate more than the flesh on the right cheekbone narrowly missing the eye. The Imperials relieve us tomorrow night and I hope we have a safe passage and to hell with Hill 70. A few of our planes are flying above scouting the land.
10:36 pm – Well Frank and myself have kept our rifle barrels pretty hot all day, at it now after stand down and we have retired to the inner precinct of our dug out, to remain unless called.
August 26/17 – Sunday I believe
7:00 am – have been out about an hour. A squadron of Fritz planes have just gone past over head and two remain, patrolling and taking observation. We had a moderately quiet night and hope it is the same to-night and we expect to go out. No one knows where we are bound for, but our division has till 6 am tomorrow morning to clear out of this front. The shells are dropping all around us, but as long as they don’t not get too close alright. Shrapnel flies by your head constantly. Here comes Heinies fleet or battle planes again. They are above!
5:30 pm – Well here I am again waiting for the Imperials to relieve us. The 3rd Div Canadians that’s us are a flying column and always on the move from one front to another looking for trouble. I did a little sniping this afternoon over to old Heinies lines and nearly got it myself but that is a mere trifle as I must have a few shots now before it gets dusk. You can hear the monster shells passing each other from both sides. Some sound as if they were coming right for you and others sound like express trains 100’s of years up in the air. Well I hope we have good luck going out tonight we will get relieved late I expect around midnight. Well bye bye for a minute.“My God but the lice would drive a saint to hell. Not enough that we should suffer this war with out adding a plague of lice.”
9:oo pm – Here I sit in the dug out with the rubber sheet over my shoulders plastered with mud water and chalk. It started to rain heavy and the trenches are flooded and slimy. Coming down the stairs we slid down on our ears as the mud is pack[ed] on the steps and it is as smooth as ice. How the devil are we ever going to get back up to the trench I don’t know. I came down 50 miles an hour trying to hang on to the mud with my fingernails. It will be an awful trip out. We don’t expect relief till after midnight. I guess it will take 4 hrs or more to go out to the town we left and the shells come with us to the town as Fritz makes it a point to shell the town every night. Just before it started to rain there was quite a straff on the right where the 2nd Div is. Our brigade machine guns kept the air singing like canaries. I pretty near got one of our own bullets in the back of my head. My God but the lice would drive a saint to hell. Not enough that we should suffer this war with out adding a plague of lice. Well I must have another smoke and meditate on the coming events of the night.
August 27/17 – 6:20 am – well we left 2 am and after many miles of driving rain and wind, cursing, swearing, slipping and sliding we eventually arrived at our destination 5 am “Bully Le Brebis.” I have just had some breakfast. I am covered with mud and soaked to the skin and feel just like dying but at 1 pm we move off again. The army cares not for a man’s feeling or sufferings. Well I must have a sleep now so so short of now.
Here endeth HILL 70 for the time being.
“I guarantee that if they had gone through the last 24 hours that we did they would quit the war at once.”
Bauviney Huts 8 pm – Well we pulled out at 1 pm and after walking for 4 hours with our equipment on in an awful down pour of driving rain we arrived at our present place name above. Away in the bush by ourselves, away from civilization. I am soaked to the hide everything in my pockets is drenched. This book sopping wet now and the cover all curled up. My pictures letters, etc. soaked. It is still pouring out and the water is dripping into my bed which consists of an overcoat and a rubber sheet. Its about the same kind of a deal that they handed us after the battle of Vimy when they dumped us in the bush at Dumbfell [?] Camp as they called it and we were sleeping in pits of mud and water. If you will notice by my writings all the marching we have done. I think I have gone around the world once as far as mileage is concerned. We have to walk miles for a few hours rest. Oh! What a bloody life you are hawked around like a travelling circus if you are not holding the line you are tramping your life away on stone roads always ready to drop and a prey to the damn swine that sit in swivel chairs and run things. I guarantee that if they had gone through the last 24 hours that we did they would quit the war at once.
The letters must be in I hear the names being called out. We expect to be here a few days and rumours of going over the bags for instance Vimy Ridge so you know what that means. You ought to have Vol 3 by now as it was mail on the 15th from England. Oh girlie if I were only back with you again I would be so happy but this infernal life is terrible hard to bare [sic]. God help those poor devils that relieved us last night. They will be up to their waist now in swill you never will know what it is to stand all night at your post in the front trench watching for Fritz to come over, shivering with cold and exposure and shells tearing the ground around you, up to your waist in mud and water. Really I wish you could have seen me at 5 am this morning. I looked like a tramp that had worked in a dusty brick yard and had been out in the rain. Well last post has blown and I must puzzle out how I can sleep without getting drenched. Good night my dream!
August 29/17 – 11 am – Well yesterday it cleared up and a strong wind nearly dried things up fine but it is starting to sprinkle again now I am BOS [Battalion Orderly Sergeant] to-day so will have a chance to write a letter. I got 2 letters from mother last night, one from Hal and one from my sugar plums with a snap of the house and of Tom Marsden and I wonder why I did not get the other 4 snaps. Damn this war any way every time I get a letter from home I get sick for about a day. I don’t like the idea of Marsden around while I’m away. He is all right but no company for ladies. We are liable to go up the line any day now to go over the top and advance. You don’t blame me for being a little jealous away so far and long. I’m trying to be as fair minded as I can but this war has made the world so rotten, it makes a man with a decent wife gasp. I never held myself in in my life as I am doing now when I think of Mary [his wife] so far away and a lot of slckers back there getting the benefit of what we sacrifice. Raining again. Old Doc is by my side chewing gum. I don’t think he is in any better humour than I am.
August 30/17 – Rifle Ranges – swell morning with a strong breeze. I am sitting beside one man while he is firing and Doc is with the next. There are some very beautiful spots in France. The country just rolls in hills. To the right of me is a disused mine a few miners houses that[’s] about all I can see from here.
Wrote to my little bundle of love last night and gave her a lecture but I did not make myself very plain on account of censure. But do not on any account show these books to any body but relatives till it is all over. Now its for my sake I ask you to do this unless you want me to get a court marshal [martial] and shot so be very careful. I will try and get this off in a few days to you. You are very lucky to get this its not ever one that has a story of his time away. And years later these will be great relics. I have to go and help the musketry officer tonight.
August 31/17 – Good morning my bunch of flowers. I have just been reading the English paper and I see Wilson has rejected peace proposals. I wonder when the damn thing will end. I guess the next war or even the finish of this will be in the air. I see they have had snow and floods in Britain and gales in France. That is how we got so much rain lately. It is getting cold now and the skies are clouded soon we will be in for another winter without any promise of a finish. At the present moment I am in the officers hut waiting to see what the musketry officer wants done. It is about 9:30 am. By God its rough when you think of all the dear ones at home and us here in this never ending business. I wish the Good book was right about 40 and 2 months then that would end it on January 27/18 two days after my birthday. Again before I close this book I proclaim once more that I have been faithful to my wife in that I have had nothing to do with any women up to this present moment and that I am not gambling and to tell the truth there is nothing stronger than beer near us so booze is out of the question also.
September 1/17 – Well I am orderly Sgt for today and the Bn is out in full marching order for inspection. We move off again to-morrow morn to another place, Sunday being moving day as usual. Tramp Tramp Tramp is the pass word. I guess we are due for another year’s war. It would drive a man mad when he thinks of his wife and home away back in Canada. Its hell to think about anytime.
6 pm – Rained a little this afternoon. Got a card from Horace saying he had landed safely in England with my cane handle and letter for my sweetheart.
Am Act[ing] Coy [Company] Sgt Major this evening. We move off at 6 am in the morn. At present I am sitting beside Doc who is trying to write a letter.
Well here we are again. Still going strong and only the weather is absolutely rotten which is rather depressing to say the least. Growler is still “fuming” about with his notorious vice and “pointerifirous” moustache. I I very much dislike the thought of moving at 6:30 in the morning but we are getting used to that kind of dope. Au revoir for the [??] Doc.
September 2/17 – 10:30 am – Winnipeg Camp. Mt St. Eloi – Back to where we started in January. Passing [??] Servins and Chateau de La Haie also old Villers-Aux Bois. Hear we go up the trenches on the fourth of course it had to rain on the way here.
9 pm – have just returned from a walk with Doc. Through St Eloi where we looked at the old Hut we were put into that first night in January. It brought back some awful memories. We also climbed the stone winding stairs of the old ruined tower, a wonderful structure which had been smashed up in 1870 and also in this war. Fritz uses it as a zero mark for his big guns at least he did before Vimy scrap. We also went through the pretty little church which was badly smashed up inside. I have a piece of the Tower in my pack in case I send any thing home. I don’t know how long it will be before I get this home as the Blighty passes are held up right now. There goes first post so I guess its time to turn in. I feel very rotten lousy and it is very sickening too.
I imagine this will be our winter front here. I think there will be another pig push and then consolidation for the winter its an awful thought – specifically when you think of home. Will goo night Honey. Xx
September 3/17 – 7 pm – Well here we are again Doc and I are the bosses on guard tonight it seems we are together in everything we do. I think I have about 15 youthful prisoners. They are amusing themselves playing horse shoes. It has been a fearfully hot day which of course gets me and them again[?] it is very cool at night and when you have only a rubber sheet to lay on and an overcoat to cover you, you get cold by the morrow. As this story finishes this brief trip and we start a new one tomorrow Doc would like to say farewell.
Here we are again and very regimental being on Guard – Growler and I. In closing I might say that I would like very much to receive a good “Blighty” soon. I want a change very badly – here’s hoping. Tongith is really a beautiful night and if the war would only end we would be able to enjoy it. Here’s hoping again. Au revoir. Doc.
Well we will close this Vol #4 while the pipers are playing retreat and the sun is sinking in the west. I’m afraid this book will have to follow me up the line but with good luck we will get it home some day. To-morrow we part for the line again for a long tiresome trip which will be described in Vol 5 Titled SPASM #5 or waiting for a Blighty on the Western Front. So as we turn the next page of this book and look at the illustration we see our Home? And live in hopes of perhaps and so on and so forth. God has allowed Doc and I to be together which has counted a lot. So we will close with thoughts of home and wife. Here endeth our inspiration in these chronicles.
With deep love and affection to my beloved wife and children, I will seal these pages.
- Pridham Diary Vol #4
- Pridham Diary Vol #9
- Pridham Diary Vol #10