BODILL, Joseph (of Hucknall)

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British Expeditionary Force

Joseph Bodill of Hucknall was a lorry driver with the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in France and Belgium.

Between 1917 and 1918 hw kept a diary recording his active service moving munitions and sometimes men to the Front Line.  The diaries are now preserved in the Nottinghamshire Archives (M24,251/1-2) and have been partly transcribed in the book "Sunken Roads" by Nicholas Clark (Nottingham : Erran Publishing 1989) from which the following extracts are published by permission.

Prior to enlistment, Joseph Bodill worked as a joiner and undertaker with his father's construction company in Hucknall in Nottinghamshire.  He volunteered for military service at the end of 1916 and was sent to London. 

In May 1917 he picked up the vehicle he was to drive for the BEF - "a brand new Thornecroft... and a beauty" - and joined a convoy for France.

Upon arrival at Le Harve on 17th June 1917, Bodill began the day-to-day entries in his diary, usually not less than half a page a day, describing all aspects of army life.

"They are carrying one of their falls... bringing down all that remains of him, a mass of mangled flesh and bone..."

On 18th June he began a two day drive with 13 other lorries to the war zone in Belgium around Ypres.  He and the other drivers delivered shells to the front line, Bodill commenting on his first experiences of such danger as follows:- "You begin to sweat and then you find yourself all of a tremble and the[n] bang goes another and nearly off your feet you go... You brace yourself up and... you slip into unloading like a man possessed of the devel(sic)".*

The entries for the first weeks Bodill spent in the war zone are, in many ways, the most interesting brecording as they do his initial impressions of fighting at the Front and his responses to it: "I saw a proseccion of men comming down and there faces are set like sphinx. They are carrying one of their falls... bringing down all that remains of him, a mass of mangled flesh and bone to give him a place, as they call it at home, a heroes buriel in a foreign land".

One of the observations he makes around this time is that  if those responsible for the war could see the scene for just one minute, they would put an end to all the fighting at once.

Bodill was never involved in any battles, but spent much of his time loading and unloading guns and shells whilst fighting went on all around.  Even when no assault was underway, there was continuous shelling from one side or other to soften up their opponents.  Bodill was always busy and got little sleep, although there was good food.

This situation continued until early July 1917 when he was moved further back behind the lines for a rest.

* Spellings and punctuation have largely been preserved from Bodill's original handwritten accounts

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