War Diary of AA Laporte Payne
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda & Correspondence
May 4 1915.
“…… We had a sort of (picnic) to-day. It consisted in tramping along dusty roads, carrying glasses, compasses, maps, directors etc., climbing up church towers, and locating places. It was rather interesting but very hot and thirsty work. It is a wonder our instructor got back at all as every one wanted him to have a pint at the village pub. I managed to finish my paper on Sunday night after I got back and verified my calculations on Monday morning, so I was alright. Several men missed the last train back and had to arrive with the milk in the morning. Our instructor here is a very interesting man. He was a non-commissioned officer in the famous “L” Battery R.H.A., which was blown to pieces by the Germans. He and two others continued to serve their gun when every other gun was out of action, and the other men killed or wounded, for which he and two others got the V.C. and commissions. He was badly wounded by the back burst of a high explosive shell ….
Thursday night is guest night with band, generally a lively time. (We have to honour the King in Mess Port!
May 12 1915.
After a strenuous morning riding, afternoon at gunnery, evening at lectures, we went out at 9 o’clock for gun-pit digging all night….. We returned this morning at eight.
Sunday May 15 1915.
B.A.C. 83rd Brigade R.F.A.
I arrived this afternoon with Dexter, and found that the whole of the officers of the 18th Division were quartered in Heytesbury House. The surroundings are lovely, but the house is bare and much too overcrowded.
The Commandant of the Shoeburyness School of Gunnery has just been appointed Colonel Commanding our Brigade.
Thursday May 20 1915.
Somewhere on Salisbury Plain.
“I am sitting in a haystack surrounded by the muddy plain. We are on a field day with the infantry….. yesterday the whole 18th Division went on a divisional route march, and General Maxse inspected us. As far as I can make out it was for the benefit of the ladies (wives of the generals and staff). See what I command sort of show,…..very boring for the (regimental officers and men and a day wasted.
The weather has been truly awful. I have never seen such mud. Thick chalky soup, almost up to one’s knees. The horses and men are never dry. You can imagine what it is like with the huts not yet finished. No stables and the horses in open lines.
Our new Colonel had arrived and dined in Mess last night. He is going to lecture to us every night on gunnery…..
Heytesbury House is the residence of Baron Heytesbury. The only furniture they have left are some awful family portraits and one or two broken chairs. Otherwise the place is empty and very dirty. There is a great crowd in the house. I am lucky as I am in a room with the adjutant and the Colonel’s galloper. The mess is very badly run, so we are enjoying ourselves.
Opposite here is a large wood, and on either side are high mounds, old tumuli, which probably contain the bones of British warriors. The only sounds are larks singing and gunners snoring. This American harness is very rotten, and is always breaking. Fancy having to go to America for our harness.
Some of the men are looking for what they call “nesties”. The usual instinct for hunting something. The language is a bit thick at times, but they are not bad chaps, very willing, though sometimes very stupid. The second in command of this Brigade is a priceless major, and he affords endless amusement because he can’t ride at all. He is very tall with long legs that hang down and dangle as he rides. He sits hunched up over the withers of his horse, and is quite incapable of controlling it. He backed into the General the other day, who was furious. The funny part is that when the battery goes into action and his horse takes fright at the noise, as it generally does, he is sure to be taken off to the rear, and as his battery staff have to follow him everywhere and keep him in sight, it is probable that the whole lot will be missing at the critical moment. They have put off our firing practice for a week, owing probably to the wet.