Welsh Regiment Badge The First Glamorgan Bantams - 17thwelsh.org.uk - June 1916 to February 1918
Rev. Captain David Edwin Davies BA - Gazetted Chaplain 22nd May 1917
France with Colleague Rev Captain Evan Matthias

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Captain David Edwin Davies BA (1878 - 1947) - Non Conformist Battalion Chaplain - Page 6
Rev. Captain David Edwin Davies - Diaries Page 1
And His Colleague and Friend
Rev Captain Evan Matthias WW1 Chaplain

In France with the YMCA, the 17th & 18th Battalions The Welsh Regiment
& Battalions of Other Regiments

Pages (1 - Family & Timeline), (2- Letter to Leta), (3 - Hymn Sheet), (4 - Signatures) (5 - Send Off),  (6 - Diary Pg1 & Evan Matthias)  (7 - Diary Pg 2) (8 -Misc Images) 


Rve Evan mattias

Rev Evan Matthias

By Kind Permission of Mrs Ceridwen Harris, of London, Ontario, Canada, Edwin's and Leta's granddaughter
The National Library of Wales has a collection of the works and papers of Roland Matthias, son of Evan Matthias above.
The linked web page also sheds a little light on the life of Evan Matthias a native of Llanelli.
Date Comments Sources & Notes
His Diary
Edwin's granddaughter, Mrs Ceridwen Harris has kindly provided two extracts. The first extract starts by being undated until a first date of 23rd September 1917. Therefore, as he left for France as an official Army Chaplain on 22nd May 1917, it is assumed, from the content, that it covers the period 22nd May 1917 to 22nd September 1917. It appears that the first set are from an Army notebook with pages ripped out, front and back and Mrs Harris refers to the contents as rough nots. The second diary extract commences 20th December 1917 and ends 21st May 1918 with Edwin having returned to the UK the previous day, 20th May 1918. He shortly returns to his previous life as a non-conformist minister in chapels in Wales and England, marrying Leta, at Narberth on 11th September 1918 and as summarised on page 1 of the Rev. Captain David Edwin Davies BA pages of this website. Many of the entries are abbreviations, some obvious, other less so. Further, it is not known if the lines of notes as per day, per week, or per month, probably a combination of all three. Where I have expanded an abbreviation or assumed a date based on related information, I use a Font coloured RED - [GGD - 15 April 2014, almost 97 years later]. These diary pages have been subject of Google Map searches and where I have commented or completed words or expand abbreviations, significant use of a dictionary. Hope I remember what I've read - GGD.
Matt met me at Victoria and then, presumably on arriving in France a Fresh two roomed Billet overlooking a field hospital - with Mules his Valise and kit. His day then consisted of Breakfast st 8.30, Off [departed] at 10.00, lun ch at 1 pm, tea at 4.30 and dinner at 8.00pm. There were two men, one fearfully lively.
Edwin, [as he was known throughout his life], on page 2 of his notes, acquired disinfectant, met two men one of whom was fearfully lively, experienced an explosion and arrived at a Trappist Monastry of 10 monks and 4 nuns. It appears that the monastry may have been used as a Laundry at that point having 230 girls dealing with 7000 shirts and 7000 pants hanging out on lines
35 lbs valise; Int for rest; Garden found at Wintcham?Gorse at -

Edwin arrives at Havre

Nothing special really! Hospital very well appointed – all the latest research turned to use – disease fearfully prevalent and treated so lightly very difficult to deal with men.

Food good and well arranged breakfast, 8-9 Porridge, Eggs & Tomato, Coffee; Lunch – Cold Meat, Vegetables, Sweet, Coffee; 4.00  Tea – light; 7.30 Dinner – Soup, Fish, Meat, Sweet, Coffee; Cost – 3 francs per day. Rocky Coast. Had several fine walks- once along promenade, once on headland as far as Red + Wreck.  Much bathing indulged in – beach on the whole sandy and good – on Sunday simply crowded.  The fashions were great!!! Paid one or two visits to the town but nothing sensational developed.  The Rue de Strasbourg and Rue de Paris appear to be the chief streets – outskirts very dirty and like most French towns- drainage hopeless!

Strange feature re hospital was some of the med[ical] officers out 2 years – never been from the place – in fact mere thought [of moving?] most repellent. Australia very funny – Canada inclined to be morose and depressed. Others very jolly - [Men that he met?]. Night before leaving – great flutter in the dovecotes through arrival of Dr. McDonagh – said to be greatest specialist of Syp[hilis] and Gon[orrhoea] in London. Appears to be a very decent sort of chap! Davidson fairly put the wind up me when describing fearful ravages of disease and almost incurable nature! Too awful to think. Wonderful mechanism and instruments used in various operations

Edwin leaves Havre [Some confusion here as Edwin may be recalling his journey to Le. Havre on or about 22 May 1917 - here is also his first mention of the YMCA]
Note regarding train journey. Started at 8.00 o’clock from Westerham– cycling to Lillers roughly 5-6 miles away [clearly not from Le Havre nor from Havre]. Left my bike with the orderly- train due to leave 10.00 but did not depart until 10.45 reached St. Pol [St. Pol sur Mer, north east of Calais? - today 68.3 km and 1 hour by road ] of grateful memory 12.50 pm. Finding my train did not leave until 5.00 made tracks for officers club (E.F.C.) [Expeditionary Force Club?] had a decent dinner – very reasonable – then a sit-down tea at 4.30. On arrival at station found 2 R.E. men [?Royal Engineers] also bound for Abbeyville – they found goods train off at 5.10 pm so the 3 of us jumped into horse van  - reached Abb[eyville - 150 km by road, 1 hr 52 min by car - GGD] without incident at 9.45 pm. Left again by supply train at 10.30 pm.  Fellow travellers being two Australian officers.  After somewhat tiresome journey landed at Havre 5.0 pm Sunday. After seeing to valise made tracks for officers club  (YMCA) where stayed the night. Following morning called to see A.P.C. who advised me to go straight up to 39. Did so- and found men very good – made myself at home straight away. Rheumatism - ... Salts, Liver biliousness – Calomel or soda and rhubarb or Bicarbonate

Edwin leaves Havre "again" - [It seems that maybe he is recalling his first days or week in France post 22 May 1917 - GGD]
Leaving Havre warned Sunday that I had to report 5.00 am following morning.  Got up at 3.00. had all my things ready and reached R.T.O. ten to five.
Had jolliest company imaginable. 3 Scots – a Gordon High – A&SH [?Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders?]  and RAMC and myself – great time together.  Did not leave until 6.00 am – reaching Rouen at 9.30. All change! Found at R.T.O. that our trains did not leave until 9.30 pm and 10.30 pm ! ! My companion  in distress was Medico. Under circs our first duty – a good feed- so we all went to Brasserie St Paul and did our duty well and truly.  Afterwards separated for day – I went out to ? Quevilly – see YMCA – slept the afternoon then had a chat with McGregor and some of the boys, getting back just in time to see the Highlanders off. One ...( shorthand) very fond of his lime juice and soda!
The fun began when Scade and myself tried to reserve compartment!!!  Put his valise – which happened to be a big one- right in the doorway – mine on the seat by its side – while he pretended to be asleep stretched out on the other – I was in the far corner.  If door opened once it was opened 20 to ? Sight valise and apparently 3 men – it was too dark for them to see plainly – sound asleep was enough. The only narrow escapes were once a lieut came in apparently determined to stick it – but when he found there were two capts in – he quickly departed. Another officer lit a match and seeing only two when there ought to be four he said to his pal “ Come in” but the pal however determined to stay where he was – so we were left in peace for the rest of the night!

Arriving at our destination (Quinsonce) [?Quinconce] found we must go for wayside rest camp and stay there till following morning. Instant after I jumped out of car – young officer came forward and asked if my name was Davies? – Yes – Was I from Llwyd? – Yes – His mother a native Mrs. Rogers of Ynysybwl!! Had been out to Egypt as private – returned for commission – now out once more. Immediately after lunch went to YMCA to enquire after Ennals – who should come to meet me but his lordship! Had a delightful chat and went with him to Peronne [the 17th Welsh were not far to the North East of Peronne at about that time - GGD] and there met Morley Davies of Braunton – old friends once more great time together!!!

Peronne – town of the dead – hopeless ruins – absolutely deserted – terrible desolation of war swept country! Whole villages mass of ruin – just able to make out form of gardens out of the wilderness! Yet poppy and cornflower simply a mass of bloom.  Still – outlook most desolate and drear compared with cultivated lands further south.
Peronne cemetery – German and British and French soldiers side by side – broken graves – demolished tombstones – broken columns commemorating 70-71.
What about the resurrection – enemies still one wonders? – Portray day dream etc Church at Peronne with the shells sticking out of walls pathetic sight – Figure representing Meditation looking with scorn on ruins around!

Lively journey up to Fins [15 km, by road, north east of Peronne and not far from Gouzecourt the front line for the 17th Welsh during early/mid May 1917 - GGD] – on Decauville- narrow gauge railway – next engine – smoking,  smelling etc – however Matt was there to await me and took me immediately to my quarters 19th R.W.F. Three other officers and myself - Rigby ( Vet Brigade) Milnes ( Quartermaster) and Lewis ( T.O.) Soon made myself at home – found them to be very decent fellows – far more so than my first lot! – Slept in a tent but fortunate enough to have framework bed hence OK even in the rain. Life becomes usual routine – very strange – first man I had to see at 136 F.A. was none other than Ken Walker – slight gas effect – not dangerous but in all probability serious enough to send him home – wrote to D.W. giving him full information.

Fins itself repetition of Peronne.  – except that number of men quartered in village hence not quite so ‘dead’ -= but sad sight – the awful ruin of the place.  Equally true of all the villages in the vicinity – piles of ruins. Seemed as if at one time delightful spot – fruitful – well cultivated – now alas – war with all its horrors! Cobbled roads here as in Belgium very trying both for bike and horse – still certainly advantageous for the heavy traffic Huge craters at all the cross roads impeding traffic, and delaying advance
Suffocating sensation in the gas chamber

Padre’s race on Aug B.H. (sh!!) - [Clearly, it seems, all the above happened between 22nd May 1917 and August Bank Holiday 1917 - probably the 6th August 1917]. From the sh!!! comment, it seems that, like this writer, Edwin would prefer to forget such events - GGD].

My parish roughly round of 10 to 12 miles. Usual course – across fields – along ? Leave lane into Suffolk Ravine across to Sunken Rd at Gouzeaucourt on to 15 Ravine as case might be.  Strange to see men living like so many rabbits in a warren. Wonderful how they manage to keep their spirits up under such circumstances.

Number of cemeteries in this neighbourhood – one – a German one said to contain 999 graves – but not single one buried after last year.  Only rumour have not verified it yet. Thunderstorms of terrific violence – already had 4 within week – magnificent sight to watch lightning – thunder deafening – so that our cannon mere child’s play alongside of it! Services not quite as encouraging as in the 38th Division – numbers much smaller – too much of the follow the band business about.

Ride on horseback great sport especially when Milnes was on Lassy and I had the ‘galloper’ – it was impossible to hold him – in the end I had to let him go with result that he nearly sent me flying on more than one occasion. [* Dadcu laughed to recount how the T.O. who assigned the horses had fun giving him all sorts of difficult rides – very short horses so his feet dragged on the ground, or very tall thin ones etc - ] - [The previous square brackets are those of Edwin's granddaughter - Dadcu - grandfather, the writer with a Maternal Dadcu Dre (town) and a Paternal Dadcu Llwynhendy (he lived in nLlwynhendy) - since being admitted to an isolation hospital near Llanelli around 1940, the writer has been, since then, an English speaker. However, he recalls that phonetically, Dadcu sounded more like Dacu - "Daacee"]

First time up the line with Greaves S.W.B. [South Wales Borderers] second time alone. Much struck with devotion of sentry. “Smoke?” “Yes” “Fags?” “Yes” “Have one?” No attempt made to take it.  “Why?” “ Not allowed to look down sir!” Tremendous responsibility incurred. American and the mule: “ I guess we know how to deal with them in America”. Result – hospital! [Don't quite understand this - GGD]

Joy ride to Bapaume – visit cemetery of ? Ael le Grand saw grave (? Dafis) and found it well kept and nice.  Came back in time for tail end of service – heard the Padre’s address which was topping. Carried the roll (5 Bk Miss) in his arms – placing it reverently in the Ark. Hats not removed during the sermon.  Chanting ? rather monotonous.
Visited Dr. Wallace Williamson and Dr.Sims.  Fine address – perhaps most thrilling moments when he referred to the old Scotch banners in the Cathedral of St Giles with their sacred story and the reference to his speech where it was said he had gone ..... and produced the dirk given him by his only son as a souvenir of the occasion.

Impressions of raid.  Wind up decidedly! Not very pleasant to go up from support to battle HQ with the bullets “ fizzing and futting” all round. Raid thoroughly well organised and carried out but unable to penetrate enemy’s wire.  19 casualties (3 officers 16 men one of them died later).  Perhaps most striking thing – sparks from shells in artillery barrage  easily recognized in their flight, and the tremendous pop-popping of the machine guns.  Slept with A CO getting here about 11.00 am. During the afternoon Gouzeaucourt was shelled – easily followed from first line trench – but no casualties.

First field day – all my appts [appointments] passed off successfully greatly to my relief.  On coming away from the Embkmt and making for Green Switch [Possibly names for Military locations - see above GGD] – did not notice camouflaged shell hole – result disastrous – bike went one way and I the other! Nothing serious!

Went up the line early but failed to advance beyond IMBs. Jerry had the wind up and shelled battery between Cambrai Rd and BHQ. Came over 2 and 3 per minute – kicking up no end of a dust yet not a gun was hit nor man injured. Stayed with Taylor for lunch.  Shelling so severe little “lean-to” rattled and shook like a leaf, while shrapnel splinters were cheap.  No hopes of getting through, so went round to 18th Welsh.  While here 2 large pieces of shrapnel dropped within a few yards of where I happened to be standing.  Some luck!

Much amused at ADS – private has been suffering from diarrhoea – what caused it? – Pork and beans sir! Same day –another soldier cleaning Mills Bomb “on the firestep of front line bay”. All very well for Ll-G [Lloyd George] and rest to say carry on etc – he would change his mind d------- soon if he had to be on sentry go on the firestep at night or on a patrol!

Narrow escape – German anti-aircraft dud exploding within a few yards

Sunday – tremendous shelling going on – asked an old Irish sergeant what was the matter ( S.W.B. Gouzeaucourt sunken rd – shells on quarry) – his immediate reply – “End of the month sir – they want to close accounts!” My hut rather amusing.  Asked the QM what he could do – told me to call at Tike Dump.  Called there, sent on to Capt Rainer Sunken Rd. He advised me to see Adjt and CO.  They told me to go back to QM. Get him to send on chit – OK ? Called again to hurry them up and after much attention deliberation etc hut built.  Very next day Brigadier comes round and condemns it – sends B.T.O. to see it – and whole thing pulled down – the ways of the army!!!

CO’s yarn how before Le Cateau he was wet to the skin, crossed over to farmhouse to dry – could not speak French – gave them to understand what he wanted.  Room pointed out – evidently a ladies bedroom – most fearful and wonderful dresses and combinations – no good! Entered into the humour of the thing.  Took up sheet wrapped round his waist with voluminous folds  - took up the most fearful blouse he could lay hands on – a gt sight!!! Had his shirt on stove – suddenly started to burn – all that was left – collar and half shirt, used to go out find which way the wind blew and act accordingly!! Various OCs (company) and their sub – most interesting study! – Cp Wms and Dennis – Morgan and Candy – Rigby and Lewis etc

Welsh Service. Long Room lit with fitful glare of an occasional candle – all that could be seen of the men was boots and an occasional face – yet magnificent singing and fine service.

Semincourt   Nothing very striking in this village – billet apparently old store room in farm – spring mattress over which I threw my valise – slept like a top as a rule.
Our arrival – left Peronne soon after 6, arrived at Beaumetz about midnight.  Took some time to detrain – walk of about a mile and a half brought us to our destination.  Spent a long time knocking the good people up – at last door opened and we got in.  Doc in fine stew – but I soon dropped off on the mattress in spite of its grime and its dirt! While here – had one or two ‘trips’.  Walked with Matt to Wailly and saw the much advertized tanks, an officer very kindly taking us inside of one and showing us “how the wheels go wound”! Also saw the tank that takes up fairly heavy guns when the attack is pushed home – in fact – a very enjoyable walk.

Next went to Dainville to see Jones Tynewydd who was in charge of the YMCA hut – walked up to the spot where Battle of Arras HQ was supposed to have been.  Magnificent view of surrounding country – miles and miles in sight! – came down a second time and brought Matt along together with ? Fiscus? To visit store.

Third and best trip – Arras.  Bathgate got me a horse, and he and Tonkin [Tonkin also a minister trained with them in Brecon] called for me at 2.00 pm – great ride into the town. Badly knocked about especially the Cathedral.  Apparently it covered wide area. Now, nothing left but bare walls – massive pillars – face somewhat after the style of St Pauls – steps ascending. Huge pillars etc. The whole thing a most pathetic sight.  Tea at officers club in great style and glorious ride home fine moonlight night – good road etc.

While here also had one or two queer rides.  Cycled one morning to Gouz Monchiet and home. Road too awful for words – holes – wheel ruts – boulders etc – the way the bike stood it was gt!!! Coming home in the dark after service on Bathgate horse – he stumbled and righted himself. Stumbled and righted himself. Continually – how I managed to stick it will always remain a mystery

Conturelle    Had very heavy day at Simoncourt on the 21st.  5 Services – and 3 Communions – was rather anxious to give men a chance as they had not been able to do so for some time – quite a number took advantage of the opportunity.  Sunday night news came through – must be off 7.30 in the morning – breakfast at 6.00

Got up at 5.00 am packed valise in good time – breakfast at 6.00 as per arrangement. Started off at 7.30 – glorious morning delightful walks hard at it until 11.30, apart from 10 minutes est in every hour.  While on the Rue Stationale Doullons Arras – delightful countryside – ploughing, harrowing, cattle grazing – mangle ‘caving’ – windmill in the distance – all suggestive of quiet peaceful life – while there were we – in full and shining armour – tanks on the railway, aeroplanes above – all displaying the complete opposite – the Tragedy of War! First night – not pleasant – sleeping on stone floor, so bitterly cold awake all night.  Moved upstairs – had camp bed (RE) result gt improvement in comfort etc. All on my lonesome. Visited Doullons [South West of Arras - GGD] – but no gt shakes – saw aeroplane set fire to balloon very cleverly – no accidents!!!

Route march via Coullemont, Humbercourt back into main Doullons Arras Rd – gt fun – started out in fine style – but at Humbercourt  Healey and Wms “tossed” as to road – result – disaster! – Landed in a ‘dud’! – middle of field.  Decided to make tracks to main rd – had to wade through mud to get there.  At last congratulating ourselves on result when the rain descended and the floods came!!!

Battn outpost scheme – set out at 9.15 – reached rendezvous at 10.45-11.00 – overlooking Leuchens – Very wet and showery, but cleared up nicely for lunch – had gt time – roast beef, baked potatoes, and apple tart and cream plus of course to wind up – biscuits please!!!

End of Diary Book (1)


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Pages (1 - Family & Timeline), (2- Letter to Leta), (3 - Hymn Sheet), (4 - Signatures) (5 - Send Off),  (6 - Diary Pg1 & Evan Matthias)  (7 - Diary Pg 2) (8 -Misc Images)