As mentioned in an earlier post, The Grotonian is the student newspaper of the Groton School in Massachusetts, published weekly. In response to a request for a sketch of his experiences at the front, Acland wrote the following for the November 2nd, 1918 edition of the paper:
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October 31st, 1918
To the Editor of The Grotonian,
In answer to your request for a sketch of my war experiences in France, I send you the following account:
Before the outbreak of war, I had had no military experience. Training in a junior school cadet corps and later membership in the University of Toronto Rifle Association did not go far towards preparing me for soldering. When the war broke out, in fact, I took no account of these, and relied rather on some experiences as an amateur (very amateur) cow-puncher in Western Canada to fit me for a commission in the cavalry. When I found that the cavalry regiment in which I had applied for a commission had been ordered to patrol a canal in Canada and was not likely to go to France, I withdrew my application and enlisted in the ranks of the infantry. After one week as a private, I was given a chance to enter an officers’ class, and did so. Accordingly, I went to England at the end of September, 1914, as a very junior lieutenant (there are no second lieutenants in the Canadian forces) in the 48th Highlanders of Canada, the Fifteenth Battalion of the First Canadian Division.
I served with the Fifteenth Battalion in the field for seventeen months, when I was rendered useless for further service by a bullet-wound in the chest and a shell-wound in the head. My first and last experiences of the trenches were both attacks. The first time was at the Battle of Festubert, in May, 1915, the last at the taking of the Thiepval Ridge, in the first Battle of the Somme, September 26, 1916.
After Festubert, we were in reserve during the attack at Givenchy, in June, 1915. Then we served for nine months in the trenches near Ploegsteert and Wolverghem, opposite the Messines Ridge. Here, six months after my arrival in France, I was promoted to a captaincy and appointed battalion intelligence officer. Two months later I was given command of a company.
When we left Woverghem, we went to the Ypres salient where we had a severe and strenuous five or six months, from March to August, 1916. In June, 1916, our corps was attacked by the Germans, who wished to destroy mine-shafts in our area. We suffered heavy losses but thwarted the enemy plans. Our own brigade, the Third, was in reserve during the attack on the 2nd, but was used for a counter-attack on the 3rd of June. After the counter-attack, I found myself senior company commander. I had been lucky enough to receive nothing more in the attack than a slight shell-wound in the hip.
We went to the Somme at the end of August, 1916. In our first tour there we were holding a nasty piece of line near Monquet Farm. In our second, we were in the big attack on Thiepval Ridge. I had the satisfaction of participating in the capture of the enemy first line and in the attack on the second line before I was hit.
I hope that the Grotonians will have more military training than I had before the war, and less military experience than I had in it.
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As with many other instances, Acland’s name has had a ‘k’ added to it; for the sake of accuracy I’ve maintained the incorrect spelling in both this and the previous Grotonian entry.