Navigation links at the bottom of the page

Commissioned officer of the Black Watch

Other than clues provided in his letter, nothing is known of Lt. Lloyd C. of the Black Watch writing from St. Nazaire to his father. He was, however, a commissioned officer and probably a lieutenant because he mentions being in command of a platoon. The Black Watch along with other units of the BEF were shipped to France before the outbreak of hostilities.

14 October 1914

We arrived at Havre from Southampton travelling in a (cargo) boat called the ‘Italian Prince’, taking about 14 hours for the crossing and getting there at 10 o’clock. We lay outside until 10 o’clock and then (15th Aug) moved slowly in. Intense excitement was caused by our bumping into a dock gate, then into the ‘Norman’ and finally nearly capsizing, but all passed off quickly and we entered the inner basin in great style with the pipes playing ‘Highland Laddie’ on the forecastle. The unloading of all the transport and horses took about five hours and it was very nearly six before we marched off. I’ve never seen such enthusiasm as the people displayed, one could not hear the pipes for cheering, ‘Heep heeping’, ‘Vive l’Angleterre’ the Marseillaise etc. and people shaking hands as you passed, giving beer, tobacco and flowers to the men, were a positive nuisance. It was a long and rather tiring march to the Rest Camp and we were glad to get in and find tents already pitched, a very lucky thing for us, as it started to pour almost as soon as we got in. The next day (16th) was miserable, as it rained hard, and the camp, a big plateau of stubble, very soon turned into a morass, but we had out kits and plenty to eat so we were quite content just to smoke, sleep and eat. We marched out of camp at 3 a.m. on Aug. 17th and left by train from Havre at eight o’clock. As we had a first-class coach and the Mess Sergt.[sergeant], you can imagine we were fairly comfortable; the men, however were very crowded in closed goods vans, but soon cheered up when we began to pass stations crowded with excited people, with fruit, cigarettes and tobacco for the men, and the train began very soon to look more like a Carnival car at Nice, so covered was it with flowers and tri-colour flags. Our route was through Rouen, Amiens, Arras and Douai and we arrived at our destination, a small town called Nouvion, at 11 o’clock that night. There we dosed down in an orchard and got a good sleep till 4 a.m. when we woke to find ourselves in very pretty wooded country mostly pastures and orchards with a most wonderful crop of apples, pears and plums. We did a short march of about seven miles and went into billets with the rest of the Brigade in a village called Boue. I had an extremely comfortable bed and room in a very small farm house and was, as usual, very hospitably treated and had only to shew (sic) myself in the house to be offered cider, wine or coffee at all hours. We had a room in another house for a mess and did very comfortably. The weather was splendid and we spent the time in route marching and bathing in a big reservoir in the afternoons. We left there on Aug. 22nd and started on our march north reach Cartignes, about 12 miles away, that afternoon. There we messed in the schoolhouse and Blair and I found ourselves sin a very comfortable billet in a brewer’s house. We had a great evening and talked away till eleven o’clock about the 1870 war in which our host fought. Unfortunately we were roused out of our very comfy beds at 3, and marched out at 4.30 (the 23rd). Our route that morning was through Dompière and Avennes and then along an awful pave towards Maubeuge. It was a boiling day and we were glad of a long halt from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in a shady field with a little stream running through it. We heard guns firing that day, evidently from N.W. of Maubeuge, which cause d great excitement - on marching off again we were told that we were to billet about two miles away and had just got to the village when a counter order came and we were returned by on the Maubeuge road again; it was quite dark when we reached Maubeuge, where we had a great reception but we passed through and marched away to the N.E. into Belgium, getting to our destination, Grane Reng, at 3 a.m., 24th, having been up for 24 hours and marched 31 miles, which was not bad for a start. We had no sooner got the men into bed and billetted ourselves than the order came to stand to arms at 4.30 a.m. After that some outposts were put out and we retired to our couches again till midday when my platoon went out. We had to hold a main road and had it very nicely held with barbed wire and two machine guns, but the only people we had to deal with were refugees, a most pathetic sight, carrying their children, some in farm carts but most of them on foot and all absolutely terrified (25th). In the morning we watched an artillery duel between the French and Germans on our right front which was very interesting as it was the first time we had seen anything of the kind. We withdrew about ten that morning and had our first meal that day at 10 o’clock after marching 10 miles in the boiling sun. That was our first taste of the famous ‘Retreat”. We pushed off after lunch and marched away in a westerly direction passing to the north of Maugeuge to a small village called La Lougeville which we reached in rather a fatigued condition at 10 p.m. Cumming, Blair and myself billetted together and the farmer’s wife gave us the most delicious meal of soup, fried eggs, coffee, white and cognac. Before turning in we all went and stood under the pump in the yard and had a good wash after which we retired. Cumming I shared the ‘family’ bed - 26th. Up next morning at screech of dawn and off again through Hautmont (W of Maubeuge) then S.E. the way we had come back to Dompière. It poured rain that night but we got in before it started and were very pleased to get a big post and some newspapers before going to bed. We had to turn out once during the night for an alarm but it was a wash out and we got back to bed again. 27th. My Company was left flank guard to the Division that day and we had quite and interesting day watching two of our aeroplanes being shelled by the Germans; it was extraordinary to see the shells bursting all round them and yet nothing seemed to touch them. We had a good night in a very comfortable Chateau at Disy and next day, the 28th, we were rear guard to the Division and dug our selves n and waited until every one was through and got drenched to the skin by a thunderstorm, We lost three Companies of the Munsters that day who never, it seems, got the order to retire; what happened to them no one knows. Then our turn came about 4.30 when, as we were marching along a bare straight road, we were suddenly shelled from our left, and had rifle fire opened on us from about 800 yards. It was rather a poor show from our point of view, as we had to keep on retiring so could not go for them. Our gunners were simply splendid; they came galloping back and opened fire in next to no time and we got off with one killed and ten wounded. The men were very tired but we had to march ahead as best we could. We passed through the French out-posts at Guise, and it was rather a relief to do so as the day’s proceedings were distinctly rattling. We fell into our bivouac about 11 p.m., everyone dead beat and we were rejoiced to find that the cookers and mess cart had been there some time with a hot meal for us. We got hold of some straw and slept like logs till 3 a.m. when we marched off again. 29th. The Scots Greys and 12th Lancers passed us that morning and it was that day that they put in such good work against a German Cavalry Brigade. The Greys did dismounted work and stampeded the German led horses, and then the 12th got in amongst them crosswise with the lance, the Greys remounting finished the good work with the sword. It was quite a pretty story about the Black Watch charging along with the Greys, holding on to the horses, but complete fabrication. We had the Dickens of a long march that day, passing through La Fère (W of Laon) and finally going into the bivouac in the forest of St. Gobain, about 20 miles north of Soissons. There, mercifully, we had on complete day of rest and we lay about in our shirts all day, as it was boiling hot. We had marched 8 days and done 130 miles and during the last 2 days of it had marched 51 miles and with four hours’ sleep; not bad for us. My regiment had by far the fewest casualties from sore feet and tiredness. Had letters from you that day, 30th August, and was glad to hear your news of the shooting. We were disappointed in our hopes of a decent night’s sleep as my Company were told to march at 9 that night with a convoy, and is was a march, stopping and starting every few minutes. Then at midnight we lay down on the roadside and slept for two hours before moving on again. Nothing much of noted happened except that we pass through Scissons and crossed the Aisne on Sept. 1st and very nearly came in for a show at Villers Cottereets on the 2nd. We went on to La Fert Melon and then towards Merux, and then along up the Marue to Jonarre, reaching Coulommiers on Sept. 6th. We did nothing there all day and had a bathe in the canal and went on outposts that night and bagged 4 Uhlans and one Officer in a roue entanglement on the road and killed some more. We started the advance on the 7th and got along quite fast till we came to a place called Sablcunieres; my Company was advance guard and a platoon vanguard when we ran into some of the Pomeranian German Guard Jaegers who were entrenched in an orchard at the entrance of the village. My platoon was in front and we started the fun. They, however did not wait for the bayonet and either r gave themselves up of shammed dead and we took about 60 prisoners and managed to kill a good few. It was there that poor old Wilson was killed, shot quite dead, and also Captain Dalgliesh. Drummond was wounded there too, so I was left in command of B Company for the time being. The next four days were very wet and the roads got in an awful state. We crossed the Aisne on Sunday the 13th September and came in for the usual ‘Angelus’ of shell fire at 6 o’clock which, however, did not touch us. I was on out-post duty that night, for the 2nd night running and it rained hard and we all got soaked to the skin. Next morning it was still raining and then began the Battle of the Aisne. We had a great time of it with rifle fire from people we could not see, and shrapnel and ‘Jack Johnsons’ or ‘Black Marias’, the big, high explosive Howitzer shells. I got hit through the arm about 12 o’clock and got into the dressing station about 4 that afternoon, the 14th. The Colonel was brought in there dead, and Amery and Holt both wounded, also about 6 Guard officers and 2 Cameroons. We passed a very comfortable night and at 6 a.m. were shelled out of the house by ‘Jack Johnsons’ and had no time to get anything; left swords, revolvers and everything. We had to walk 6 miles and the get taken 14 miles in motor lorries, a most pleasant journey. The we had 34 hours in the train to Angers where we arrived at 3 a.m. on the 17th and were put into a very comfortable hospital where I found Captain Greatwood with a bullet in the arm but otherwise quite sound. We were there ten days and were quite happy to slack about and do nothing. Our next place was Nantes where I was billetted close to the Hospital as the latter was full up. I had to turn up only once a day for dressing so I was more or less free to do what I liked. As it was rather dull I applied for some work there and got a job doing Courts Martial and things of that sort and I missed being sent home when the others went much to my annoyance as I am very short of kit. However, I managed to get hold of some at Nantes. I had quite a good time there afterwards as a fellow called Harrison in the 4th Hussars came down with a car to get a lot of reinforcements and saddlery for his Brigade, and, as he had practically nothing to do but wait until it arrived we used to motor about the country all day and occasionally go on the Loire. The country there is very pretty and there are cliffs all along the river with vineyards all over them. I was sent here (St. Nazaire) on light base duty and got put in the Hospital for one night only. I have never seen such a filthy place in my life and I’m glad I’m not a patient. I am now in camp here which is nearly as bad. Cumming was hit and is, I’m afraid, still missing. I hope this won’t get censored and I’ll try to get it through.

P.S. We’ve just heard that poor young Cumming was killed. His mother is a widow and he was her only child.
Back Next

Delta Tech Systems Inc
Duke of York's Royal Military School
Royal Hibernian Military School
Reminiscences of a Queen's Army  Schoolmistress
World War I letters and Reports
Books and Militaria
Publications and Papers
Wellington on Waterloo
Related Links

© A. W. Cockerill 2005

Site Map    Contact me