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First Day at Amiens

Heroes Remember

I was in that for the whole time we were in Amiens and I was the layer of the gun all the time. We had one or two different experiences there. I don’t know what you’d call them. We, the day that we opened the fire was August the 8th at 4:20 in the morning. We were up in the forward trenches. Our guns were forward, up as far as we could take them reasonably, because we were going to advance. The infantry were ahead of us and the other infantry following up were all in the trenches around us. And we went up there early in the evening. And we’re sleeping in all these trenches and they were just crowded with infantry and artillery and everything. But we couldn’t see very far, not, just around our own place. We had no idea as to what was going on, say, a quarter of a mile away or anything. But there was a tremendous amount of activity around ourselves. And at 4:20 in the morning, we were to sit there and that was zero hour and we were to open our offensive. And we were told that … we didn’t know that the Germans learned about it, but we didn’t think they did, and that they thought that the thing would go through. Well, we opened up at 4:20, and we just went. We never had one shell sent back at us, because our own shelling, our own artillery, put the others out so fast that they couldn’t counter us. We didn’t have one casualty on the first day, not one. That was amazing and we fired until the end of the … we went from 4:20 and it would probably be about eight or nine o’clock before the end of the first barrage was over. After that it was open. There is another brigade of field artillery went through us and took over, you see, and they took over into the open and we were stuck in the trenches. We didn’t go back into action until the next day.

Mr. Pitcairn describes the opening barrage at Amiens, and its success in completely destroying the Germans’ counter-artillery.

James Pitcairn

James Pitcairn was born in Kirkintilloch, Scotland on May 3, 1897. The second of four children, he moved to Vancouver with his widowed mother in 1911. At the age of thirteen, he was working as an elevator boy when a truancy officer sent him back to school, which he attended for five years. In Vancouver, Mr. Pitcairn was twice denied enlistment because of his small size; however, he joined friends in Kingston, Ontario and was accepted there as a member of the 50th Battery, Queens Artillery on March 7, 1916. He trained as a horse artilleryman at Petawawa. Mr. Pitcairn sailed for England aboard the SS Olympia in August, 1916. He had further training at Camp Whitley and was finally sent to France as a member of the 52nd Field Artillery, 5th Division. Mr. Pitcairn’s service saw him in action at Lens, Vimy, Hill 70, Amiens, Drocourt-Queant and Valenciennes as the layer on an 18-Pound artillery gun. One hundred and two at the time of his interview, Mr. Pitcairn’s clear voice and photographic memory offer some very informative descriptions of the Artillery’s role in the First World War.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Pitcairn
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War
50th Battery

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