The Bay Museum is a friendly museum situated on Canvey Island. Based in a degaussing station, it now offers a wealth of artefacts, books and displays focussing on Military history. Open from 10am till 4pm, the museum also organises trips to France and Belgium to experience the battlefields first hand. The museum is run by volunteers who always warmly welcome visitors and are never short of a war story!
6649 Pte F.W. Springett
D Company 1st Platoon
22nd Training Reserve
St Albans Herts
June 25th 1917
My Dear Brother Sid,
Just a few lines hoping they will find you in the best of health, as I am A1 at present. I am sorry I haven’t answered your letter before, but it is the same old tale, no time. I am glad you enjoyed your days outing. St Albans certainly is a very nice place. Well, Sid I don’t think we are moving after all, at least until we are 18-8. They have altered it now. A draught went away last week to the Norfolk Reg. and Bob Lambert went with them. He was 18-8, still I can easily find another mate. I am sorry I made you so tired but I guess you didn’t mind it. We are still having some lovely weather but not quite so hot as that Sunday. I think that was the limit. Well Sid I haven’t much to say this time so I suppose I must close.
Thanks very much for the way in which you treated me last Sunday.
Well Goodnight Sid
Letter with cover ST ALBANS 9.15 PM JU
WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne 22 June 1917
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
June 22, 1917.
It is cooler, but unfortunately there has been a lot of rain. I am probably leaving Headquarters shortly. I have fought the Colonel about it, and I really think he is giving way. I am tired of running signals, and I want to be with the guns again. I may go back to “A” Battery. But I have had a good time here and I shall be sorry in a way to leave H.Q.
We have been taken out for a rest. The men and horses need it badly. They have had a bad time, and now are recovering somewhat. This will not last long I am sure.
The Colonel and I dined with the General last night, and has some strawberries for the first time this year. Tomorrow the Corps Commander is inspecting the Brigade. so eyewash is the order of the day, with much spit and polish on harness and vehicles.
M.F.L.P. June 22, 1917.
We are having cold and wet weather now, but we are out of the line for a rest. The Messines show is over for the time being. I saw the mines go up. I have even been attacked by a Boche aeroplane, which came down low and fired its machine gun at my signallers and me while we were in the open, so we rapidly got into a shell hole. It must have been very funny to see us go to ground, but we did not think so at the time.
I also had the luck to spot a 5.9, in battery firing at us, and getting it blotted out by the Heavies. It had given us a lot of trouble.
A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 22 June1917
June 22nd 1917
Thank you very much for your two long letters which I was most glad to get. In spite of all your hard work you do not seem to have forgotten me. I hope by now you have received my letter telling you something about the 7th.
Your news was very interesting. You do seem to have had a hot and hard time of it. Don’t you find it very trying? You seem to appreciate your Saturday afternoons and Sundays and you appear to make good use of them.
A person I don’t like is Bampfilde. She is the one who talks spiritualistic nonsense isn’t she? Surely you don’t take her seriously. People like that are only to be laughed at. I had to study some of their books etc during my philosophy course and it was the silliest rot imaginable. If you want to know anything about it I will tell you all I know and give you books from both points of view. You see, dear, lots of so called brainy people go mad but that is no reason why sensible people should do likewise. One or two dotty professors and a lot of hysterical women run such doctrines and they are not worth your precious breath to talk about them.
Forgive my preaching which is not meant as such for of course I know you don’t take that sort of thing seriously. We can leave all such twaddle to Mrs Bands and people like unto her.
I hope you are having cooler weather- we are, and a lot of rain too unfortunately but I suppose it is wanted.
How are they all at home? Well I hope. Mrs Cross must not do too much house work or she will undo all the good of her holiday.
Thank you for enquiring about my hand. It is quite well now but I have got a beastly raw blister from the reins. The mare got jumpy with the noise of the guns and pulled badly with the result that I got blisters.
You seem to have had some very good nights out. I shall have to come home and look after you. When do you return home? At the end of July? You might let me know the exact date sometime.
I am probably leaving Headquarters shortly. I have fought the Colonel enough about it and I really believe he is giving way. I am a bit tired of running signals and such like things. I want to be with the guns again. But I have had a good time here and for that reason shall be sorry to leave. I may go back to “A” Battery.
You will be surprised to hear that we have been taken out for a rest – the men needed it badly and the horses as well. They have had a very bad time – so we are trying to recover just behind the line.
I don’t know how long it will last I am sure – not very long though.
The Colonel and I dined with the General last night, and had some strawberries for the first time. Tomorrow the Corps Commander is inspecting the Brigade – it is a great fuss – everybody is cleaning harness and vehicles.
Your letter was not at all flabby – and what do you know about the ‘little language’? Were you thinking of Swift and Stella?
I have been thinking how nice it would be to have a week by the sea somewhere with you. We could go off somewhere with a convenient chaperone and have a gorgeous time boating, bathing, and slacking generally. How would you like it?
I must close now
Hoping you are well dearest & cheerful
With all my love & many kisses
The Western Front
The Battle of Messines took place between the 7th and 14th June 1917. It was an offensive conducted by the British Second Army, under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer, on the Western Front near the village of Messines in Belgium. The French Nivelle Offensive in April and May had failed to achieve its ambitious aims which led to the demoralisation of French troops and the dis-location of the Anglo-French strategy for 1917. The offensive at Messines forced the Germans to move reserves from the Arras and Aisne fronts and relieve the pressure on the French. The tactical objective of the attack at Messines was to capture the German defences on the ridge and deprive the German army of the high ground south of Ypres. At 3.10 on the morning of the 7th June 1917, nineteen mines containing over one million pounds of Ammonal were detonated under the ridge. In one of the largest non-nuclear explosion in history, it was said the blast could be heard and felt in England. The tunnelling had started as early as January 1916 by six Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, three of which were British, two Canadian and one Australian. The idea for the offensive was Plumer’s, who was one of the few Generals on the Western Front who understood the need for careful planning and precise knowledge of the situation. The plan to punch a hole into German lines was first put forward in 1915 and in 1916 the plan had the approval of Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig. Prior to the detonation of the mines more than 2,200 British guns of various sizes were used with a bombardment of over three and a half million shells. The bombardment had commenced on the 21st May 1917 using high explosive and gas shells. When the mines were exploded it is estimated that around ten thousand German soldiers were killed. All allied objectives were achieved because of the creeping barrage employed, and although the Germans attempted counter offensives they were constantly repulsed. The ridge was finally secured by the British on the 14th June 1917 with the Allies sustaining casualties of about 17,000 and the Germans having losses of about 25,000. It was considered a much needed moral boost for the British and French troops, as the attackers lost considerably less than the defence. The Battle of Messines was a prelude to a far larger Third Battle of Ypres campaign, the preliminary bombardment for which began on the 11th July 1917.
On the 25th June1917 the first U.S. troops began to arrive in France, forming the American Expeditionary Force. Only 14,000 troops came over as the initial force. General John Pershing, commander of the AEF, insisted his troops would be well-trained and would not be used to fill gaps in the British and French armies. American involvement in the war did happen until President Woodrow Wyatt declared war on Germany in April 1917. American troops required training and equipment before they could join in the effort, and for several months were relegated to support efforts as the Allied leaders were wary of putting an army lacking experience in large-scale warfare. In spite of this the American presence provided a much needed boost to Allied morale, knowing that future reinforcements would tip the manpower balance in favour of the Allies.
Victor Richardson died of wounds on the 9th June 1917. He was one of the “Three Musketeer” friends of Vera Brittain, the other two being Geoffrey Thurlow and Edward Brittain. Richardson had sustained a serious head wound at Arras on the 9th April 1917 and had been transferred to England for specialist treatment in an effort to save the sight in right eye, after having had his left eye removed. Vera visited Richardson on the 28th May 1917 and stayed with him at his bedside for the next ten days, possibly with the intention to marry him in order that she could devote her life caring for him. On the 8th June 1917 his conditioned suddenly deteriorated and on the 9th June 1917 he died from a cerebral abscess. He was posthumously awarded t he Military Cross for his action at the Battle of Arras.
The Battle of Mount Ortigara began on the 10th June 1917 in the mountainous border between Italy and Austria. The Italian army decided to launch an offensive against the Austro/Hungarian army in order to take possession of Mount Ortigara on the Asiago plateau. The Austrians had strengthened their defensive positions the previous year in order to threaten the Isonzo region. The battle commenced on the 10th June 1917 with 300,000 Italian troops and 1,600 guns facing 100,000 Austro/Hungarian troops and 500 guns. The Austro/Hungarians expected the offensive and their guns were positioned in very strong positions. The Italians concentrated on a few kilometres of front line ensuring their line was overcrowded making manoeuvrability difficult. After fierce fighting the Italians managed to capture Mount Ortigara. By the 25th June 1917 the Austrian troops had counter-attacked and retook Mount Ortigara.
On the 13th June 1917, a squadron of German Gotha G.IV aircraft successfully carried out a daylight raid on London. Among the dead were eighteen children with many more injured when a bomb fell on the Upper North Street Primary School in Poplar, East London. This was the deadliest civilian raid of the war and all the Gothas’ successfully returned to their base. The reason for the relatively large numbers of casualties seem to have been the ignorance of the potential threat posed by aerial bombardment on the city in daylight, and everybody crowded out into the street to watch the activity instead of taking cove.
The Eastern Front
Alexander Kerensky replaced Prince Georgy Yevgenievich Lvov as Prime Minister of Russia on the 21st June 1917. Lvov had been the head of the Provisional Government after Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and he had appointed Kerensky as Minister of Justice. In May 1917 Kerensky had replaced Alexander Guchov as Minister of War. The Bolsheviks, with the assistance of Lenin, favoured peace negotiations but Lvov was unwilling to withdraw Russia from the war. The Russian people were unhappy with this decision and this caused him to resign and Kerensky replaced him. However, Kerensky was also unwilling to end the war as he had received Allied backing, although this made him unpopular with the Russian Army.
By early June 1917, Flora Sandes, the only English Lady to fight in the trenches, had applied on numerous occassions to return to the front line of the Serbian army. She had been seriously wounded on the 29th November 1916 while serving as sergeant in the 4th Company (Iron Regiment) of the 2nd Regiment in the Serbian 1st Army. For her military actions and service to Serbia she had been awarded the Kara George Star, Serbia’s highest military medal. The Gallantry Medal automatically promoted her to Sergeant-Major. Eventually she was considered fit enough to re-join her regiment only to be informed the 4th Company did not exist any longer. She was transferred to the 1st Company as the 4th had been amalgamated into one unit. Flora found to her dismay there were only sixteen of her company left, the others had been lost during her time recovering from her wounds. The Serbian Army were advancing and fought alongside British, French and Italian forces in the trenches near Monastir where the Bulgarians were blocking the Serbians from re-entering Serbia through the Babuna Pass.
King Constantine of Greece abdicated on the 12th June 1917, and his son Alexander took the throne rather than his elder brother Crown Prince George. The Allies favoured Alexander as they believed he was pro-Entente while George was pro-Central powers. The Allies were also keen to bring Greece into the war on their side and consequently Greece declared war on the Central Powers on the 30th June 1917. Greece had been able to stay neutral from the beginning of the war but historically Greece and Bulgaria had been in conflict for years over surrounding territories. Eventually an agreement was reached by a peace treaty signed in June 1913 whereby Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Romania laid claim to one side of the land involved and Bulgaria the other. However, Greece was divided into two factions whereby the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos favoured an alliance with the Entente Powers and King Constantine favouring the Central Powers. His wife, Queen Sophia was German and he also believed Germany had military superiority and therefore Greece stayed neutral until Bulgaria invaded Serbia, and joined the Central Powers. Numerous political activities took place but the dispute between the King and Venizelos continued until Britain and France recognised Venizelos’ government effectively splitting Greece into two separate factions. Britain demanded the King’s abdication which he accepted and subsequently the entire Greek army mobilised and began to participate in military operations against the army of the Central Powers on the Macedonia front.
The Great War- June 1917
7th to 14th June Battle of Messines
25th June First American troops land in France
9th June Victor Richardson, friend of Vera Brittain, dies of wounds
10th to 25th June Battle of Ortigara
13th June First successful heavy bomber raid on London
The Eastern Front
21st June Kerensky Replaces Lvov as Minister-President of Russian Government
Early June Flora Sandes rejoins her Serbian regiment after being wounded
12th June Greece: King Constantine I abdicates
30th June Greece declares war on the Central powers
WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne 18 June 1917
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
June 18 1917.
We are still as busy as ever. Moving forward is not easy. Telephone lines have to be laid afresh, and as there is no time, and no facilities for burying the cable, the lines get badly cut by shell fire, and the linesmen are out all day and night mending them. The Boche is not taking his defeat lying down by any means, and now he is doing a lot of counter-battery work, which does a lot of damage. It is hot here in more senses than one.
A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 18 June 1917
June 18th 1917
Having so often to write at a small table with others I have got into the habit of leaving out the initial words of my letter until it is finished and then forgetting to put them in – and now I am conscientious that you have received letters with no beginnings. I don’t know what you could have thought but that is the reason. Please forgive.
Thank you so much for all your letters and photos. I was very glad to see the house where you live. They were very good photos. I wish I had a camera here but they won’t let us.
Did you get my letter giving my view of the operations of the 7th? I thought perhaps it might get stopped by the censor. They don’t know what to censor and what not. Living where they do on the lines of communications with the A.S.C. and such like they don’t know what information is important.
You must be having a hot and trying time. I think it is very good of you to carry on as you do. Aren’t you tired of it?
I too have been dreaming of May week and Henley and shady rivers and cool lawns and all such things – but heaven isn’t for a sinner like me. All such things seem to belong to quite another life altogether.
Poor old Reg has overdone it. I am so sorry for him. He will be angry but if it is not serious I am very relieved that he is out of it at least for a bit. It is very hot just at present in more senses than one, and I was afraid of worse things than a bad heart. I hope he is in England now and I hope they will keep him there.
We are still as busy as ever – moving forward is not easy. Telephone lines have to be laid all over the place and as there are no time or facilities for burying the cable, the lines get cut by shell fire and my fellows are out all day and night mending them.
The Boche is not taking his defeat lying down by any means and unfortunately he is paying a lot of unwelcome attention to our batteries
I do hope you are keeping well, dearest, and enjoying the fine weather in spite of your hard work.
I must close now
With all my love & kisses