On the 20th we learnt that our Transport was now ready for us, and the following morning we marched to the docks and embarked in H.M.T. “Andania,” late Cunard, which can only be described as a floating palace, fitted with every modern luxury. We were all rather glad to be leaving Marseilles, for it was an expensive place, and many of the officers were beginning to be a little apprehensive about the lengths to which Mr. Cox would let them go. However, all would now be right, because once in the desert we should draw extra pay and find no Bodegas. We were to sail on the morning of the 22nd, and soon after dawn orders arrived—to disembark! Sadly we left our palace and walked back to Santi Camp—now hateful to look upon, as we realised that within a few days we should be back once more in the mud, rain, cold and snow of Flanders. The reason for the sudden change, for taking half the Division to Egypt for a fortnight only, was never told us, but probably it was owing to the successful evacuation of the Dardanelles. Had this been a failure, had we been compelled to surrender large numbers to save the rest, the Turks would have been free to attack Egypt, which had at that time a small garrison only. As it was the Division from Gallipoli went to Egypt, and we were not wanted.
On the 27th Pte. Gregory, who died as the result of a tram accident, was given a full military funeral, and the following day at 4.30 a.m. we left Marseilles for the North.
The Vimy ridge.
6th Feb., 1916. 9th May, 1916.
Our return train journey was uneventful until we reached Paris, where a German air raid started just as we arrived, and the train was compelled to stop. We had a beautiful view, and, as the French depended more on their own planes than on anti-aircraft guns, it was well worth watching. The French machines all carried small searchlights, and, in addition to these, the sky was light up with the larger searchlights from below, while the efforts of the Boche to avoid the lights, and the French to catch their opponents, produced some wonderful air-manoeuvering, which ended in the retirement of the Boche. As soon as they had gone, our train went on, and we reached Pont Remy station outside Abbeville at 8-30 a.m. on the 30th—back once more in rain, snow, and mud.
We marched at once to Yaucourt Bussus, a small village with comfortable billets, which we occupied for nearly a fortnight, spending our time training and playing football. Meanwhile, as the Brigadier and the two Lincolnshire Battalions had not yet returned from Egypt, Col. Jones, taking with him 2nd Lieut. Williams as Staff Officer, went to command the half Brigade and lived with Captain Burnett at Ailly le haut Clocher, another small village, to which the Brigadier came on his return on the 11th. While the Colonel was away, Major Toller took command and Major T.C.P. Beasley acted as 2nd in Command. For the time no one seemed to have the slightest idea what was going to happen to the Division next.