With the horrific aftermath of the first day of battle at the Somme, we often forget that the attrition continued for a number of months. Other divisions of the Canadian war effort were engaged early in the Somme Offensive while the 4th Division was still a Bramshott in preparation. Each day was filled with company drills, squad drills and, for the Field Ambulance, stretcher drills and lectures in medical assistance.
The time of waiting at Bramstott was not at all easy. The men were eager to get engaged in active service for the Empire; there was a real sense that they were “still camouflaged civilians” (Diary of the 11th, 16).
There were of course some hardships, even back home in England where food was rationed. On July 26th James wrote in his diary;
This morning I found maggots in the bacon as also did a number of other men so I took mine to the Captain and he is making quite a fuss about it. He was quite angry.
The Captain has just been to tell me that the bacon was cooked yesterday and that it was the flies that got at it.
Another entry in his diary a few days earlier (July 13th) records a more comical event;
After lights out we had some pineapple chunks to eat. I ate mine and then washed off my fingers in my tent. A little later I saw the water and thought it to be pineapple juice so I drank it and then discovered that I had taken my ablutions.