The War Diary of Lieutenant William L Hayes M C


1915 and the Battles for Ypres

WLH signed his Attestation Papers in  Winnipeg on the 5 February 1915.  His health was assessed, he nominated his next of kin and was assigned to the 28th (Northwest) Battalion, D Company (many of whom were from Saskatoon area). He was almost 27.


According to D E Macintyre (Canada at Vimy) recruits stayed in Winnipeg throughout the winter, training and living in an indoor arena, with no equipment and no winter clothing or adequate uniforms.


The Battalion entrained for Montreal on 26 May and sailed for Plymouth, England on the SS Northland arriving there on 7 June.  According to Macintyre the voyage and landing were anything if not eventful, with many excited and under disciplined young men on board.

Training began at Dibgate Camp near Dover. Later the training moved to Otterpool in Kent. Extensive training syllabus included, drill, digging, musketry, bayonet fighting, outpost duty training, sentry duty, scout training and patrols, map reading, reporting, laying out bivouac and outpost protection, field dressing, smoke helmets, mock attacks at  section, company and battalion levels.


They were inspected by King George V on 2 September.

On 11 September WLH was ordered to forfeit 4 days pay for the period 7—10 Sept inclusive and was given 96 hours detention for being absent.  Whether this was with or without leave is not certain as he was awarded a qualification as a bomb thrower on 12 September.  His pay records imply Absent With Leave, but pay was still deducted. Bombs in this sense refer to grenades. Macintyre (Canada at Vimy, pp 11-12) records a grenade section being created in the Battalion, of men who were keen on the idea of home-made tin can grenades.  A night time practice led to considerable alarm and confusion about this time  Perhaps this is where WLH was. As he left for France on 18 Sept he may not have served his detention. He was however, fined a further 4 days pay—possible in lieu of his sentence.


War Diary 6th Inf Bde, 12 Sept 1915, item 101. Order No 952. ‘All N.C.O.s and Men who have qualified as Bomb Throwers and are qualified to be posted to the Grenade Co. of the Division should appear in part II Orders of the Unit to which they belong as ‘qualified as bomb throwers’ so as to permit of this part of their Military History being regularly recorded.’ (WLH not so listed except on personal papers but the Army would not wish to disregard any training which aided the cause however it was obtained.)

War Diary 28th Bn, 25 Sept 1915 5.30 pm ‘The battalion was ordered to parade to be addressed by Gen’l Addeson who stated that to strengthen the advance by the French Army it had been decided to withdraw the remaining troops of the First Division at present holding the left of the Canadian Corps and to place the 6th Bde in that line.  He further stated that the 6th Bde would move the same evening and take over.  The announcement was received with cheers from all ranks.’

War Diary:  Wonderful comment and observation from October War Diary 2nd Div.


Bits of humour:  pigeons seen flying into enemy trenches...commentary congratulations enemy on improvements to their trench rations!

Casualties - 1 pig.  This has not been confirmed by the infantry.

1  November Heavy rain, 'Dug outs &  trenches caving in badly, mud & water knee deep in trenches, large number of men ill due to exposure of wet & cold, none killed or wounded.' 28th Bn War Diary

WLH first major experience in the line with the Battalion was at  Locre near Ypres in October.


War Diary 28th Bn, 23 Sept 1915 ‘The following are detailed to take a Course in use of Trench Mortars Cpl, A G Mooney, Ptes, R E Owens, J Woodhouse, W L Hayes.’

War Diary 28th Bn, 25 Sept 1915. 5.30 am ‘The party detailed to take the trench mortar course proceeded to the Trench Mortar School.’


Note:  Length of a Trench Mortar Course seems to have been about a fortnight


30 Sept D Coy were sent to F2, F6 (r), SP9 & Regent Dugout. D Coy in trenches 7—12 October, 19—23 October and 30 October—5 Nov.


War Diary 28th Bn 8 October. ‘Bn in trenches fairly quiet all day until about 5.30 pm when enemy exploded mine under G1 and G2 [which was commanded by ‘D’ Company and Battalion Bombing Section] of our trench causing great damage to this part killing 21 men and wounding 33. A heavy bombardment immediately took place on both sides but the enemy were unable to advance upon our damaged position and were eventually silenced.  The work of rescuing wounded, digging them out of positions in which they had been buried was most difficult and was carried on all night being completed by the early morning.’  See map above


It is possible that WLH returned in time to take part in the rescue.

2 December 1915 Attended Grenade School, in the field

10 December 1915 Returned to duty

14 December 1915 Appointed paid Lance Corporal

(Personal papers of WLH, not recorded in War Diaries)


APPOINTMENT VS RANK Lance Corporal: appointment, not a rank,  takes precedence of all privates. His permanent grade was still as private until he was officially awarded rank of Corporal. 

Lance Corporal:  second in command of a section

September 1915 Appendix FF, p. 2 (item 116)

Soldier on the fire step, others sleeping where they can

28th Bn War Dairy  25 December:  'Our men greeted Fritz at Morning Stand To with machine gun & rifle fire, but enemy did not reply, scarcely a shot was fired during the remainder of the day, no artillery & no fraternising with the enemy, 2 companies in strong points relieved 2 companies in front lines.’ There was to be on repetition of the Christmas Truce of 1914.*


Daily routine: The morning ‘Stand to’ also known as ‘Morning Hate’ was a daily routine in which men with fixed rifle bayonets were on the fire step of the trenches before dawn for an hour and a half. Often small arms fire, machine guns and light artillery were aimed at the enemy trenches.  Little damage was done and it was largely a waste of ammunition, but kept troops alert.

18 Sept 1915 entrained for St Omer, France.

War Diary 28th Bn, 23 Sept 1915 ‘The following are detailed to take a Course in use of Trench Mortars Cpl, A G Mooney, Ptes, R E Owens, J Woodhouse, W L Hayes.’


War Diary 28th Bn, 25 Sept 1915. 5.30 am ‘The party detailed to take the trench mortar course proceeded to the Trench Mortar School.’

* The (unofficial) Christmas Truce took place in various places along the front line. Food and cigarettes were exchanged and games of football were played before it was stopped and normal warfare resumed. To this day, people visiting these sites leave the traditional poppies in remembrance, but also footballs.