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Before the war Thomas Griffiths of Bangor (born 1881) worked as a stonemason. He attested for military duty in November 1915 and was called up on 13 November 1916. He served with the 250th Railway Company of the Royal Engineers until he was demobbed on 2 May 1919, seeing action in France. His diary for 1917 takes the form of an extended letter to his wife, Margaret. Here are the pages from the start of the year to the end of January. Transcript: 20/1/17 To my wife Since I left off my history, I am moved to C. Company and today it's Saturday so we are told off to scrub our huts, ours is No.7 M.Q. At 2.30 p.m. Ruddle and me had our putties off and were resting on our beds when a N.C.O. came in and informed us we were wanted for medical inspection for overseas 259 Company for France. That over, we went to the office for pass and warrant for three days leave and caught 4.30 p.m. train at Longmoor. Arrived home 7.30 a.m. While at home I need not say what passed. 24/1/17 9.10 a.m. train. To my regret I left my beloved ones, it was more painful than the parting before, anyway we arrived Longmoor at 8.30 p.m. and met Rock and Smith there. Now I must say that we had overstayed our leave. We were due back in camp 9.30 p.m. on the 23/1/17 and 259 Company had gone to Bordon to camp. We were told to parade with defaulters at 9.00 a.m. We went before the O.C. He could not do anything with our case, so we had to go before the Major who said our case was a serious one and sentenced us to 6 days pay stopped and send us on 10.30 train to Bordon. Well here starts miserable days of my army life. Had four thin blankets and no bedding so had to sleep on hard floor in married quarters. Bedrooms were full so we had to put up with the kitchen floor. Dinner time at 1.15, not enough to eat. 10 men in each house and only enough grub to feed 5 men. Tea at 5.00 p.m. - bread and jam. So at 9.30 we had to spread our blankets on the floor and make the best of it till the morning. 26/1/17 (Friday) We parade at 9.00 a.m. Supplied with our new under vest etc. and went before doctor. The food was no better today, breakfast was dry bread, cheese and weak tea. Dinner half enough, no pudding here, tea bread and jam. We were told to be ready at 6.45 a.m., breakfast at 5.00 a.m. Saturday for away. Another restless night on hard floor. So 4.00 a.m. Saturday soon came. Just when we were packing a N.C.O. came in and told us our going was cancelled until Wednesday 31st. So another 4 days of misery before us at Bordon. Breakfast, dinner and tea were no better this day. The weather was bitterly cold to make matters worse. It's a lucky thing we had some money to buy food with. 28/1/17 (Sunday) Breakfast at 8.00 a.m. - bread and jam. At 9.30 they took us for a route march, we went in sight of Longmoor. Dinner was a poor one at 1.30. Tea, bread and margarine and a piece of cake at 4.00 p.m. So this divine day was a cold and miserable one to us. 29/1/17 (Monday) Another bitterly cold day. Meals just the same, not half enough. We were informed mid day that we were off in the morning. About 2.30 p.m. parade and officers told us we had to go in the morn., so had another trip before the doctor. The rest of the day we passed in camp and went buying a few things for the journey. Had another night on hard floors and glad we were going anywhere out of this. Light out at 10.15 p.m. 30/1/17 Breakfast at 5.00 a.m., bread, cheese, brawn, margarine and tea and they gave us sandwiches for the journey. We left Bordon at 7.30 a.m. by train to Southampton. We arrived at this post 10.00 a.m. and they kept us standing and loitering about with nothing to eat but that sandwich all day. Only we were fortunate to find a cafe to buy something to eat. We went on board the steamer at 5.00 p.m. It was a captured German boat called The Huntscraft and it was a fine boat. At 6.30 p.m. they dished the food out - 6 hard biscuits and a tin of bully beef to last us 24 hours and some dry tea and sugar. We had to find our own hot water on the ship and use our own tins. At 7.30 p.m. the steamer left shore and we were told how to put our life belts on and had to keep our belts on during the voyage which was a pleasant one. Only many were sea sick and in fear of German submarines but thank God no one was sighted and we came in sight of French shore lights at 4.30 a.m. on the 31.1.17. I must say that I never prayed as much in my life before than I did this night and my heavenly father answered them. This day the steamer was at anchor in the bay all day and we went longsides the quay at 4.30 p.m. and landed at a place called Le Havre. It is a large town. We managed to buy a cup of tea and cake here, then we were marched through the town and arrived in a rest camp at 8.00 p.m. and had a pint of tea each and nothing to eat and it was snowing heavy ever since we left Southampton and it was bitterly cold on the voyage. So France was covered in snow. We were put in tents, 12 in each and we got very hot in marching up a hilly road and then starving after arriving but thank God we are none the worse for it. We made our beds, Ruddle and myself sharing blankets. We brought one with us each and had one here so we were four between us. Made our beds on the hard boards which am getting used to now and indeed we were very warm and slept till 6.00 a.m. in the morn. 1/2/17 Parade for the Roll call at 9.00 a.m. had breakfast at 9.15 a.m., tea, bread and jam, dinner at 1.00, stewed bully beef and our hard biscuits. We did nothing all day. There are many hundreds in this rest camp. We are not allowed to leave camp. The country is no doubt lovely. Le Havre is on the sea shore and our camp is overlooking the sea on a very high hill. The buildings are fine and lovely grounds to them. We put the lights on at 10.15 same as home. After dinner we paraded at 2.00 p.m. The officers informed us we could send news home of our arrival, but not to state where we are nor going to nor how we came, not to name steamers nor ports, nor to say what we were doing nor name any regiment in camp and not to seal our letters but leave them open for censor. Tea was served out at 4.30, dry bread and cheese, not half enough for the men. The evening was spent at the Y.M.C.A. with good singing. Snowing had stopped by then and a hard frost set in. I must make a note of it that the weather is ten times colder than at home. This night was terribly cold, little sleep, even my breath was frozen and we could not get warm. By the morning there were 20 cases of frostbite over in camp. It was pitiful to see the poor fellows suffering and they were taken on the ambulance to the hospital in the morning and everything we had was frozen by then. 2/2/17 (Friday) Breakfast at 7.45, parade at 8.30 a.m. I went for a wash and my hands were numbed and swollen and could not use them for an hour after. The wash house is a 1/4 of a mile away from our tent. We tried to shave but the water was freezing on the brush before we could put it on our face. So no shave. At 8.30 they took us for a route march to warm us a little and the doctor ordered an extra blanket for tonight - but 50 wont keep us warm. Dinner was served at 12.30, bully beef stewed and biscuits. These are termed iron rations. After dinner we are dismissed for the day. But alas we are like cattle in an open field, no fires only in the field kitchens. That place is forbidden to us and all places closed until 5.00 p.m. and the wind is bitterly cold. Officer informed us what to eat while here at Le Havre as Enteric fever is about. There are rest camps for miles around and hundreds of men come and go daily. About a thousand went to Salonica this afternoon. We had tea at 4.00 p.m., bread and jam. After tea Y.M.C.A. Tonight we had extra blanket and was warmer but little sleep came my way on these bare boards.

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