Diary of 400 Private L HICKMAN

Date of enlistment 8th February 1915
Age at enlistment 20
Profession Joiner
Town Carlton
Status Single
Rank at enlistment Private
Company B Company, then transferred on 9th June 1916 to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion
Significant events while with the AIF Sailed with the 22nd Battalion on HMAT A38 Ulysses in May 1915

Served in Gallipoli, France and Belgium until end of the war

Evacuated from Gallipoli with suspected shell shock in October 1915 and sent to England

Hospitalised sick with mumps

Wounded in Action on the last day of fighting by the AIF on the Western Front

Private Hickman’s full WW1 service record can be located in the National Archives of Australia. Full details are available online, NAA Series B2455

Although Private Hickman enlisted and sailed with the 22nd Battalion to Gallipoli, after being evacuated with shell shock and recovering in England he was transferred to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion. The following extracts from his diary are a good record of life on the Western Front within the Pioneers, and is representative for many of the men that were transferred to this new unit in 1916, including fifteen (or 10%) of the original 5th Reinforcements 22nd Battalion, the focus group for this project. The original diary is stored in the Australian War Memorial research centre in Canberra, and acknowledgement goes to the family of Private Hickman and the AWM enabling the subsequent publishing within this commemorative project.

France

24th March 1916: Arrived from England to Boulogne

28th March 1916: [with the] 9th Reinforcements 22nd Battalion [2nd ADBD, Etaples]

19th April 1916: Went to Boulogne on leave for 2 days and saw the torpedoed Sussex in harbour, other boats sunk outside

10th June 1916: Went to see old 22nd Battalion

15th June 1916: Heavy bombardment at night. Gas alarm

18th June 1916: Air fights and saw church destroyed by artillery

22nd June 1916: Crossed over to Belgian front

1st July 1916: Out at trenches, plenty of artillery and rain

12th July 1916: Entrained in horse carriages

13th July 1916: Arrived at Amiens and marched to camp

28th July 1916: Left for trenches, passed through Albert and camped at Contalmaison

29th July 1916: Out working, dead and equipment lying everywhere and destroyed German guns

30th July 1916: Digging communication trenches, artillery very heavy on this front. Saw sensational shelling of our artillery. [Shelling] On road by Huns. Working around Pozieres on new captured ground

4th August 1916: Followed up Infantry in charge and dug new communication trench up to the new line

8th August 1916: Left trenches for Albert

24th-26th August 1916: Working at Pozieres

27th August 1916: Out in no man’s land making hop over trench

28th August 1916: Left front for Senlis

10th September 1916: Left Poperinghe and marched to Montreal Camp and had hot bath and clean clothing. First since leaving Neuve Eglise

12th September 1916: Left Montreal Camp and marched to Ypres. It looks like every house in for miles around has been shelled and knocked to pieces. A big city.

15th September 1916: Left camp to work in trenches. Shelled with trench mortars during gas alarm and rain

19th September 1916: Working on baths in Ypres

20th September 1916: Continued working on baths. Had a bath and clean clothing

30th October 1916: Left camp and marched to Longueval. Rained all day

5th November 1916: Working on destroyed roads and knee deep in mud. Had sheepskin vests issued.

12th November 1916: Went out to trenches to dig hop over trenches in no man’s land. Our own artillery were putting shells on us. Some of the trenches were knee deep in mud and dead lying all over the place. Were out from 2pm to 2am next morning.

13th November 1916: Our company left camp at 6pm but my boots were too bad [for me] to accompany them and I did camp fatigue

14th November 1916: Got up at 2am to carry water and rations to trenches a distance of about 4 miles. Stayed there all day giving out tucker to the boys as they came out of the line.

6.50am. Stunt going on. All artillery opened up together. About 4 minutes later heard machine gun fire, evidently enemy opposing first line. Air is thick with smoke and have all the noise of all our artillery behind us and enemy up in front. More machine guns opening out. Enemy putting over shrapnel. Our own artillery still firing. Plenty of machine guns in action as well as heavy stuff. 8.45am action closing and already wounded are coming past. 12am stunt over but still plenty of artillery and machine gun fire. Our men are coming out, mud from head to foot and some have had to abandon rifles, water-bottles and food to get out of the bogs. We took 3 lines, but had to retire to No.2 line of trench. Our company suffered 24 casualties and A Coy 26 in killed and wounded. We advanced to our position dug under shell and machine gun fire until orders came to withdraw. Most of our lads were binding up the wounded for 2-3 hours later.

16th November 1916: Went out on railway line behind front line. Fritz put over gas shells.

19th November 1916: Left camp at 2pm to dig communication trench. Out there about 1 hour when we were spotted and shelled out. Got out knee deep in mud and home at 11pm

21st November 1916: Finished job, all quiet

23rd – 30th November 1916: Working on railways making a station and unloading trucks

1st December 1916 – January 1917: Working making new road instead of old near Ginchy. Had severe cold for about 3 weeks and did camp duty. Had a beer on Christmas Day. Had a holiday. Last day of year had a good bath and changed

3rd February 1917: Marched into Contalmaison from Fricourt

12th February 1917: Working out in front line on frozen ground after a march there of 5 miles then back again

13th February 1917: Paraded sick and sent to hospital with mumps to Becourt

12th March 1917: Reported to Battalion HQ

14th March 1917: Working on destroyed roads where Germans have evacuated

17th March 1917: Working out on main road at top of ridge and saw Bapaume for first time still burning. See the flames at night 10 miles away

18th March 1917: making dugouts at Butte de Warlencourt

20th-22nd March 1917: Repairing roads where no-man’s land had been. Spare time looked at J trenches very bad state. Too much smell. Saw aeroplane which had belonged to Rupert of Bavaria – [pilot] was taken prisoner, wounded

25th April 1917: Anzac Day. Holiday and sports in afternoon

5th June 1917: Inspection by Gen Birdwood

8th July 1917: Horse fell through the road and was buried alive

12th July 1917: Arrived in Southampton and went to London

14th July 1917: Saw match between Australian Army and English Army at Lords Cricket Ground. Took train to Leeds

15th July 1917: Saw the family in Leeds

25th July 1917: Took train to Southampton and embarked for Boulogne where we encamped in Rest Camp

29th July 1917: Left Etaples and re-joined Unit

7th September 1917: Left Zonnebeke for forward lines

8th-16th Sept 1917: Working out – shelled 8,10,12,13,14,15,16; gassed 11th

18th Sept 1917: Working out – shelled

 

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