Text and research by Joy Horn, as published in the Cranleigh Magazine
Last month, Rennie Crick came home to Cranleigh for ten days, on leave. When he came back to Boulogne, he recounts in his diary how he spent twelve hours in a train to Poperinghe in Flanders. He rejoined his section at a deserted farm near there, and a ‘big battle commenced’ on the last day of July. This was the 3rd battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele), when the Allies tried to break through the German lines and drive northwards to the coastal towns from which German U-boats were reported to be operating. Twelve days of heavy artillery fire preceded the battle, but this had the effect of destroying the field drainage systems. It began to rain heavily on the first day of the battle, and this went on and on throughout August, turning the area into a quagmire. Tanks were rendered useless as they simply stuck in the mud.
From Rennie’s camp, men of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) were frequently sent ‘up the Line’, and on August 15th ‘every available man’ was employed. The weight of the mud-plastered stretcher and the soaked clothing of the wounded man meant that often six or eight stretcher-bearers were needed, rather than four. RAMC men needed strength, as well as courage. Of course, they carried no weapons. On August 17th, Rennie records, ‘one of our men killed today’. Five men of Rennie’s Field Ambulance were wounded at an Advanced Dressing Station, and two others were killed. (The ruined village of Passchendaele was finally taken by the Canadians in November.)
Back in Cranleigh, a rare match was played on the Cricket Ground, but it was not cricket. On Wednesday August 8th Cranleigh played Woodbridge (Guildford) at bowls, and won. Next week it played Bramley and won again. Presumably the players were above military service age.
There was very little entertainment of any kind on offer for the people of Surrey at this time. Possibly for this reason, Baby Shows seem to have come suddenly into vogue. In June there were Baby Shows at Woking, Godalming, Ash, Wyke and Normandy. Two weeks later, there were Baby Days at Chertsey, Guildford, Bagshot and Weybridge. People were showing enterprise by making entertainment out of what they had.