Pte. MacPherson Diary Extract, Feb - Mar 1916
9th Royal Scots Join 51st Highland Division
351128 Private A F MACPHERSON, 9th Royal Scots, wrote a record of events on active service from November, 1915, to May, 1917, and wrote them up at the age of 20 while in hospital in the summer of 1917 from entries in his pocket diary. He subsequently commented that no additions which might be prompted by more mature experience have been made since that time. A copy of the manuscript was presented by him to the 51st (Highland) Division.
Having been sent out with a draft, on 28 November 1915 he joined 14 platoon, D company, 9th Royal Scots who were part of 5th Division.
9th ROYAL SCOTS JOIN the 51st HIGHLAND DIVISION
We can take up Private Macpherson’s story on 26 February 1916.
"Next day new forces appeared on the siding, namely the 6th Seaforths; also the Argylls (7th or 8th) put in an appearance. On Monday there were rumours of leaving Heilly to join the 51st Highland Division and the Argylls and Seaforths were called way. We took this as a sign of the truth of the rumour and all prepared packs that night.
29th February, 1916
At five next morning, Tuesday, we were wakened and told to prepare to move at 8.15. There was great confusion for everyone had accumulated extra kit during our use of motor buses in travelling, and much of this had to be “dumped”. In spite of our disposal of much of it many of the failed to get our greatcoats into our packs and finally strap them on the outside, as we were warned we had a long march before us. After all our hurry our first start was a false one, our departure being postponed for an hour or so. At last we moved off, joined the main Amiens road and marched through Franvillers, Lahoussoye to Pont Noyelles.
On the way we passed the Lancashire Fusiliers and I was struck by the uniform medium stature and fair colouring of these English troops compared with a various sizes and colouring of our own Scots. At Pont Noyelles our own three platoons (13,14 and 15) fell in with the rear of 4th Gordons also bound for the 51st Division, with whom was a draft for our battalion. At our first halt we went along to find old friends in the draft in which most of us were successful. They told us they had been attached to the Gordons since they had come to this district, evidently waiting for us to leave Heilly.
We marched on through Querrieu, the road getting worse and worse till it became at last a mere cart track and we straggled along anyhow. The Gordons were falling out in couples along the roadside and their doctor was violently urging them on, but in vain. At last we reached our destination all very footsore and weary, a dilapidated village called Mirvaux. Sections 5 and 6 of 14 platoon were billeted in an old hen house with a bad roof and filthy floor which we had to scrape with our entrenching tools. My feet were in a bad state of blisters owing to new boots but as what we had seen the Gordons doctor was not attractive, I did not parade “sick”, which was as well for those who did got short treatment.
Those who could move about without difficulty at once started to look for bread but in vain. Meanwhile our billet was improved by procuring straw from that of the other two sections and by sleeping in pairs we managed to secure warmth. Next morning the pipes of the Gordons played “Reveille”, a novelty to us since leaving Peebles. At Mirvaux we made our first acquaintance with the Aberdonian accent. The streets in the village had been renamed after Northern Scottish towns, e.g. Lossie Wynd, Forres Street, Moray Street, - presumably by the Seaforths billeting parties.”
From March 1916, 9th Royal Scots were parts of 154 Brigade of the 51st (Highland) Division along with 4th Seaforths, 4th Gordons and 7th Argylls.
"4 March 1916
About this time, as there was a vacancy in the Battalion Bombers, one of our Company Bombers from 14 platoon was selected to fill the gap and I was chosen to take his place in the platoon bombing section, having had a little instruction at home. However things were mixed up in Orders and I was sent on 5th March to Battalion Bombers while the other man was kept in the Company. This did not please me at all as I did not want to leave my chums, though Battalion bombing was reckoned a “cushy” job, consisting of supervision of stores, etc. all active operations being carried out by Company Bombers.
My knowledge of bombs was very slight so the officer soon decided a mistake had been made and I was told I would be returned to my platoon before entering the trenches. However it was as well I was off company work for a while as there was some very strenuous fatigues at the Arras trenches and I was not liable for them as one of the Battalion Bombers.
While at Pierregot we did some bombing practice including clearing a trench with live bombs. In this affair the party lines up along the trench, first two men with bayonets fixed, then the bomber behind them and carriers in rear. The bayonet men advance under cover of the bombs thrown over their heads, a rather risky job for them for if a bomb fell short of a transverse they were done for. As I had no bombing experience I was always a bayonet man which increased my desire to get out of the Battalion Bombers. However I remained with them during the march from Pierregot to Étrun and our first week in rest billets near the trenches.”
(Private MacPherson was returned to his company as a company bomber on 16 March.)