18 DA instructions 24 June 1916

INSTRUCTIONS FOR OFFICERS IN OBSERVATION STATIONS DURING BOMBARDMENT TO SUPPORT ASSAULT.

 

 

  • During the bombardment to support the assault a copy of the Time Table of Phases should be available both at the Observation Station and at the Battery, in as fer as it concerns the battery itself and the neighbouring batteries.
  • Spare diagrams of the Phase chart are forwarded herewith for this purpose. These charts are amended to show new trenches near CATERPILLAR WOOD.
  • The duties of the officers posted on Observation Stations up to 2.30 after zero time will mainly consist in supervising the bombardment, and in furnishing all available information as to progress of the battle.
  • These officers should not interfere or alter the timings or tasks of the bombardment except in special and urgent circumstances.
  • In the event of a counter attack being clearly visible, or it being obvious that the fire of their own battery is being misdirected or causing casualties to our own troops, it may be admissible for officers in observation stations to issue orders departing from the prepared programme.
  • Reports as to progress of the battle should be continually transmitted from observation station to Group Headquarters, where the information will be consolidated and forwarded to Divisional Artillery Headquarters without delay.
  • The following information will be urgently required throughout the operation:-
  • Times of arrival of our infantry at the various trenches.
  • Any signs of the assault being held up by unexpected resistance.
  • Any display of flags as signals by the infantry, stating times.
  • Any signs of the enemy massing for counter attacks.
  • Forward hostile guns suddenly disclosed.
  • General observation as to the effect or defects of our artillery fire.
    • The importance of exercising scrupulous care in stating exact times of all observations should be impressed on all officers. A message stating arrival of our infantry in a given line without stating the time, owing to delays in transmission loses nearly all its value; in fact such a message may give false information.
    • Similarly the greatest care should be exercised in sending all names of places and trenches in block letters, and in ensuring that map coordinates are given accurately. Any slight error may lead to serious consequences.
    • It should also be remembered that negative information may often be of the greatest importance.

 

A.F. Brooke

Captain R.A.,

Brigade Major, R.A. 18th Division.

H.Q. R.A. 18/Div.

24th June 1916

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne May 1916.

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne May 1916.

 

MONDAY MAY THE FIRST, 1916.

Diary.

I took the battery out in drill order. Starting at 8.30, a.m., we came into action twice.  The horses went well.  We practiced jams and casualties several times.  I worked out the battery line of fire by compass and T.O.B.

 

We got back at 3, p.m., after quite a useful outing. Then I turned the battery on to harness and vehicle cleaning.

 

The Captain returned from the line and told us all about the new position.

In the evening there were showers, which effectively dirtied the vehicles again.

 

TUESDAY MAY 2, 1916.

Diary.

The Captain went away on a Field Day with the Infantry. We continued the usual routine with gun pit digging.  Then there was a thunderstorm, and it continued wet for the rest of the day.  The Captain inspected the harness, barrack rooms and vehicles, all of which were fairly good, though not as good as they had were owing to the heavy rain.

There was a strafe about iron rations

.

WEDNESDAY MAY 3, 1916.

Diary.

I took early morning physical drill, and after breakfast the guns with detachments mounted to Zudausques, some way away, for gun emplacement digging. A lot of work was done.  It was very hot and I got burnt.  We arrived back about 5, p.m.

The Captain was out to dinner. I received five letters and a parcel of cake.

 

THURSDAY MAY 4, 1916.

Diary.

It was a fine day. We went out on Bivouacing practice.  Then I took stables, paid the battery, and supervised fatigues in clearing up for we are moving soon,

Cheadle has been sent to a Trench Mortar Battery, and also from our battery Corporal Broadbridge and Beaumont.

 

FRIDAY MAY 5, 1916.

Diary.

This was our last day at Bayenghem. It was fine and hot.  The rooms were cleared up and the vehicles packed.  I had a bath and went to bed early.

 

R.P.

May 4, 1916.

The weather continues fine and hot in spite of one or two thunder storms. The foliage here is beautiful.  The trees are full out, and the orchards one mass of bloom, rhodendrons too.

 

My tenure as battery commander has come to an end. It lasted for a week.  On Saturday we turned out for the Colonel’s inspection and he complemented us.  On Sunday I was out for a field day with the infantry.  Monday we had a day out on our own.  The whole battery turned out at 8.30, a.m., returning at 3.30, p.m.  Yesterday I took the guns and detachments out to practice quick digging of emplacements.  We left at 8.30, a.m., got to the scene of our labours at 11, a.m., digged until 2.30, p.m., and arrived back at 5.30, p.m.  It was hot and I got quite burnt.  My hands too are raw.   The whole Brigade were out digging in a long line.  It was a sort of competition.

 

In our seclusion here we occasionally hear a rumble of the guns, when the wind is in the right direction.

 

It is extraordinary how quickly one can become accustomed to this strange life and all it implies, when one is compelled to live it. One thing is very tiring, and that is being constantly on duty day and night.  One has one’s meals and sleeps as it were on duty.  But there is a feeling of uncertainty about everything, which is enlivening.  One never knows what is going to happen next.  We have not the slightest idea what may happen tomorrow or even in a few minutes time.  This prevents one becoming really hopelessly bored.  Even here we live on the edge of the precipice of the possible.

 

We have just received yesterday’s papers. I am glad to see Asquith has been forced to make up his mind at last.  I think the rebellion in Ireland has been of some use; but I am afraid it will terrify our brave ministers into keeping more troops at home.

 

Young Stone seems to be one of the lucky ones.

 

SATURDAY MAY 6, 1916.

Diary.

I rose at 5, a.m., finished packing and had breakfast at 6, a.m. The battery left billets in column of route for Wizernes arriving at the station forty minutes late on scheduled time.  We entrained in just over the hour.  Staff Captain Beal was there with the usual R.T.O.  A section of the Brigade Ammunition Column accompanied us under a new officer.  I loaded the wagons, and though the train was a long one, I only just got the vehicles all on.

 

Captain Langhorne, Holt and I shared a first class compartment, a good lunch and tea.

The day was showery.

We started at noon, and went by St. Omer, Calais, Boulogne for the Somme area.

 

SUNDAY MAY 7, 1916.

Diary.

The Battery detrained at Longeau near Amiens, and later marched to billets at Behencourt.

 

May 8, 1916

The Brigade marched to Albert.

 

On the night of the 8/9th one section of A/175th Brigade relieved one section of O Battery R.H.A.

 

MAY 12, 1916.

The Group consisted of A.B.C. and D. Batteries, 175th Brigade, and C. and D. 176th Brigade.

 

A/175. Bde. was in a position vacated by “O” Battery R.H.A.

B/175. Bde. occupied empty pits.

D/176 and D/175 Bde. were out of action.

All reliefs were completed by this day.

D/175 Bde. were working on their new position with the guns out of action in the wagon lines.

R.P.                             Friday May 19 1916.

I arrived safely here after a rather long journey. I thoroughly enjoyed my leave. C.T.P. saw me off.  We left Waterloo about 4.30, p.m., and arrived at Southampton after 6, p.m.  The boat did not leave until 10, p.m., so we got permission to leave the docks and go into the town for dinner.  After sailing we had got some way when we were held up by fog, so we were late.  Then we left by train about 2, p.m., and arrived at our destination about 2, a.m.

 

We are very busy indeed. Our dug-outs are splendid and afford excellent protection.  All are working like niggers.

 

The fine weather seems to have returned, and it is very hot here.

The posts are atrocious. We have just received Monday’s papers!

 

MAY 22, 1916.

The Howitzer Brigade was split up, one battery being posted to each 18 pdr. Brigade, which sent one 18 pdr battery to form with the remaining Howitzer Battery the 176th Brigade.

 

This necessitated a change in the denomination of the batteries.

C/175. Bde. becomes C/176 Bde.

D/175.            do        C/175.

D/176.             do        D/175.

C/176.             do        D/152.

 

MAY 24, 1916.

 

Return from leave. The journey was worse than I expected.  I left home at 2, p.m., and Waterloo at 4.30, p.m., arriving at Southampton about 6.15 p.m.  We found that the boat did not sail until 10 p.m.  After a lot of bother we managed to get leave to go into the town and get dinner.  Four of us went to the South Western Hotel, and had a good feast to cheer us up.  The boat started about 11 p.m.; but did not get far as we had to anchor on account of fog.  Consequently we did not arrive at Havre until midday.  The train made up its mind to move at 2 p.m., which for some unaccountable reason it did.  Our destination was reached at 2 a.m. (Greenwich time).  After that I had eight miles to drive in the mess cart to our wagon lines.  The sea was calm as I have ever seen it so nobody was ill.  I enjoyed my leave, at least I think I did.  It seems like a pleasant dream now.

 

The weather has changed. This last week has been beautiful and very hot.  Now it appears to be on the change.

 

The country here is beautiful, but terribly spoilt by large encampments. Under a new arrangement our battery becomes C Battery, not D any longer.  The Captain is away on leave.

 

R.P.                                         May 28. 1916

I have got my section in action on its own, and am for the present permanently in the gun line and not the O.P.

 

In the battery’s new position, some way away from where I am now, the men have dug enormous dug-outs. The position is delightfully situated on the edge of a wood.  The mess is 15 feet down, its walls are hung with canvass.  We have our meals in a wood, where it is shady and cool.

 

Most of our firing is done at night now, which is rather a nuisance, as we are fully busy all day long digging. I have to go to bed with a telephone next to my ear.

 

The Captain is just now going on leave.

The weather has been bad again, but today is hot and glaring.

 

We have to be careful of ammunition still. I suppose we shall have to be until the slackers at home can give up their bank holidays and easy hours and supply us with more ammunition and big guns.  I cannot understand why those who live in safety at home should have holidays and high pay while the wretched tommy in the trenches has to put up with constant hard labour, little pay, and sudden death and wounds from shells fired by guns we cannot counter for lack of sufficient shells and heavy guns of the right sort.  No doubt Lloyd George has his eye on the ballot box instead.  He is a crafty creature.

 

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne March 1916.

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne March 1916.

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH, 1, 1916.

Diary.

This day I was ordered to go to the 34th Divisional Bombing School for a demonstration.  I went.  I rode my mare through Croix du Bac.  I witnessed an attempt to work the following instruments of torture:

“P. Grenades” for smoke.

Pain’s Candles for ditto.

  1. in Mortar for smoke bomb.

Lewis gun.

 

It was a rotten show. The ammunition was faulty or wet, and half did not go off at all.

 

I returned at 4, p.m., and saw Beal, the Staff Captain.

On my return to the Wagon Line I took stables, and then censored letters. It was a finer day, but I felt cold and tired.  The work of wagon line officer is not to my liking.

 

THURSDAY MARCH, 2, 1916.

Diary.

 

I went to Croix du Bac to call on D.A.D.O.S., and the C.R.E. with regard to bills. I saw General Kirby.  Then I went to Erquinghem for cash, but could not get any as the cashier was not there.  I returned for lunch.

 

In the afternoon I rode to Steenwerck to find the R.O. After searching for hours I found him in a side lane.  No. 1 Company, A.S.C.  Then I could not get my bills passed.  They must be on A.F.W. 1303.  A lot of damned red tape.  We spend more time fighting the staff than the Boche.

 

On my way back I saw Mollindinia of the 160th Brigade.  his wagons are in a fine condition.  I suppose they do no work.

 

The 9th Division are at Steenwerck, and the Divisional Band was playing!  I suppose it plays for the G.O.C.’s dinner.  Why don’t they transplant the Ritz for these red-hatted gentry?

 

I got back about tea time, and censored letters. There were about 150 of them.  The men here have too much time to write.  I must make them work harder.  Why do the men at the Wagon Line write more than those at the Gun Line?

 

It is lonely at this place. I have all my meals in solitary state, if they can be called meals.

 

I saw Brough the General’s groom today. He told me about Captain Waller and the new A.D.C.

 

This is the address on one of the letters I censored:

Mrs. Joe – 30 Squirrel Ditch Huddersfield.

 

Where do the men get this formula form?

“I hope you are quite well as it leaves me at present in the pink”

I think they must learn it as a copy book exercise at school; it occurs so frequently in the same terms.

 

FRIDAY MARCH, 3, 1916.

Diary.

I got up rather late this morning. It was a wet day.  I rode through Croix du Bac to Sailly-sur la Lys to get the money for pay from the Field Cashier.  I arrived in the morning, but found he was not there until the afternoon.  The 8th Division is at Sailly.  It is in the same Corps as ours, the 34th, and the 39th. somewhere behind.

 

I met the Compensation Officer, and had lunch the Headquarters No. 2 Mess with the following gentlemen, A.D.M.S., A.D.V.S., D.A.D.M.S., D.A.D.O.S., C.O., The Salvage Officer and such like.

 

I then went to get the cash, but there was a fuss about the number of our Imprest Account.

 

I rode home in the wet, wrote and censored letters, and despatched ammunition up the line.

 

To day the Compensation Officer told me of the disgraceful way the French are claiming compensation from the British Government. He told me of a case in which a claim was put in for damage done not by our troops but by the Boche.  I should have sent it back endorsed “Apply to Berlin”.  The Germans, sensible people, do not compensate anyone.

 

Here is another case. Some wood was urgently required for cooking purposes, and our troops cut some down, not a great deal.  Unfortunately a well was also broken in use.  The infuriated farmer put in a claim through the interpreter.  The troops were docked of half a franc each from their pay to meet this claim.

 

The French howled loudly when they thought we were not sending the Expeditionary Force to defend their dirty farms; but when we do come they make us pay for every rut we make in their roads. Considering the enormous amount we pay in compensation and billeting money, and the large sums men spend in the villages the French inhabitants must be making fortunes.

 

French lower class farmers are a filthy, greedy lot. They appear to be much worse than the corresponding class at home.  But we may have no corresponding class.  I hope not.

 

This evening it is wet and cold. I have no lamp tonight only candles.  I am eagerly awaiting the mail.

 

March 3 1916

E.A.L.P.

Dinner to night, cooked by my servant, consisted of the following, soup made from small packets issued in rations, tough steak fried with bacon and potatoes, toast and tinned butter, arrowroot made with tinned milk, tinned fruit salad, and ration cheese, and for drink tea.

 

My billet is of one room, quite small, in a farm house. The floor is made of tiles, and the furniture consists of a large bed with a box mattress, a chair and a rickety table with two candles stuck in turned-upside-down-glass-potted-meat jars.

 

In the outside room an old French farmer, his fat wife and a small boy sit continually when they are not wandering round their filthy farmyard. The two adults smoke and spit on the floor.

 

My bedroom is in the next room. The bed is a large four poster.  Over a mattress I have spread a waterproof sheet in case there are any creatures in side.  I sleep in my fleabag with army blankets and my old school rug on top.

 

Outside the mud is black, very smelly and inches thick. I have 130 horses here and luckily they are on brick standings, which prevents them from disappearing in the mud completely, but they are very tightly squashed.  The harness is hung up in two empty and dilapidated barns.  The men live in tents.  There is a wooden cookhouse and a small drying shed which is very necessary.  Along the side of the road are parked the ammunition wagons and gun limbers.

 

Not far away there is a Heavy Battery, which periodically lets off at the Boche.

 

Pearse writes to me and gives his position in the line: “Two thousand three hundred yards north of the map reference you gave me, and six hundred and fifty yards west of the first R of a long word.”

 

SATURDAY MARCH, 4, 1916.

Diary.

It is snowing hard. I rode to Refilling Point at the station, Bac St. Maur, south of the high road.  The congestion of wagons was something extraordinary.  There was filthy black mud everywhere and over everything.  The rations, good and plenty, were spoilt by snow and dirt.  I wonder the Boche do not bomb or shell this large congregation of men horses and wagons.  It was very cold waiting for our turn.  I wonder anything ever gets sorted out.

 

I got back to the Wagon Line in time for lunch. Then I went to the Brigade Ammunition Column, and drew ammunition.  The Captain came down and visited us.  He saw round the Lines and appeared satisfied.  At least, he did not find fault, which he would have done if he had spotted anything.

The evening was dull as usual.

 

R.P.

March 4 1916

The weather is much colder again, and it has been snowing for the last two days. The road outside is flooded with about 4 inches of water.

 

There was another gas alarm one night. But it was nothing.

 

This morning in the snow I rode to Railhead, which is Refilling Point. The whole of our Division sends there for its supplies.  Imagine a dirty goods yard, ankle deep in black smelly slush, rows and rows of G.S. wagons with horses and mules in hundreds, all in a muddle on congested roads.  Piles of Hay, oats, bacon, meat, tea, salt, sugar, tinned milk, straw, bread, jam, et hoc genus omne, all in a jumble getting splashed with mud sodden with snow.  I was superintending the issue of the Brigade supply, that is ten wagon loads.  There was plenty of it this morning.  Our battery got 90 loaves.  But sometimes there is a shortage, and then the men at the rear help themselves before the men in the line get anything.  So an officer has to attend, but some of them are not too scrupulous.  The wagons got there at 8.30, a.m.; but I knowing the ways of the A.S.C. did not arrive before 10, a.m.  We finally drew rations and forage at 11.30, a.m.  Occasionally the place is shelled by the Boche.  Drawing rations is a game of grab with indents as court cards but trumps are “pinching” and played very slowly.

 

Enclosed I send you a sketch by Bairnsfather which appeared in the Bystander of February 23. he is in our Division.  It represents what ones’ feelings makes us think we must look like (when we think about it afterwards in retrospect and safety so humorously) if on duty at either end of a telephone when a “S.O.S.” is sent through.  It illustrates the trials in the life of a telephonist.

 

It is a struggle to make the drivers clean harness here. I had 6 prisoners up before me this evening.  I put them on extra duties for an indefinite period and threatened them with a transfer to the infantry.

 

Tomorrow I send 40 of the men to the baths, and not before they want it.

 

MARCH 4 1916

It has started snowing here again, and has been hard at it for two days. The road outside is under four inches of water, I almost said feet, and the mistake would have pardonable, as I have just mistaken the ditch for the road, and suffered accordingly.  The horses manage to remain above ground, thanks to the narrow brick standings we have managed to make for them.

 

See the Bystander. Captain Bruce Bairnsfather’s drawings are most amusing, especially the one entitled “S.O.S.”

 

I am having a treat tonight. I am actually going to have a hot bath.  I have collected all the clean water I can find, and I am really going to enjoy myself, and then turn in.  I hope they don’t call me up in the middle of the night for more ammunition, or ask for a return of the numbers of men of the Jewish faith in the Battery.

 

I had lunch at Headquarters of another division yesterday, and heard some amusing stories. Half I forget, and the others are unprintable.  The British Government are spending thousands in compensation for damage done or alleged to have been done by our troops in France.  we have to pay for everything here, wood, bricks, use of land, billeting, and the smallest bit of damage done, everything.  The French howled enough when our troops were not here, and now they make us pay and pay again for being here.  It is nothing else but trouble with the inhabitants.  I hear of a claim yesterday put into our military authorities here by some wretched Frenchmen for 10,000 francs for damage done by the enemy.  It was returned to the French authority, endorsed “Apply to Berlin”.  The Huns are sensible, they take what they want and never compensate.  No wonder it costs five million a day for us to run the war.

 

Tomorrow is Sunday but it won’t make much difference. Last Sunday I was in the trenches at midday, and I suddenly said to an infantry officer “Major, it is Sunday today.”  “So it is.  I ought to have known as the Boche are so noisy.”  There is one thing we miss out here, and that is Sunday, whether one is religious or not.

 

 

SUNDAY MARCH, 5, 1916.

Diary.

I got up late, as I felt unwell, suffering from an attack of diarrhoea. It was exceptionally severe.

 

I had lunch at the Brigade Ammunition Column with Morton, Jacks and the Veterinary Officer. Afterwards I rode with Morton to Croix du Bac to get cash for Freeman-Cowan.  I met Major Locke, the D.A.A. & Q.M.G., and Captain Parkin, the D.A.Q.M.G., of our Division.  Then I rode into Armentieres with Jacks, and had tea at the tea shop.  Afterwards I rode on to the Officers’ stables, and walked to the battery position.  I saw Captain Langhorne, Cheadle, Hopkins, Captain Spain, Macdonald and others.  Later I rode back with Jacks in the dark to the B.A.C., where I had some supper.  It was very cold.

 

I heard of the severe shelling of Armentieres, in which the casualties were 4 officers and 31, other ranks.

It snowed hard.

 

MONDAY MARCH, 6, 1916.

Diary.

I was still feeling bad, and got up late. I had to try a man for insubordination to a N.C.O.  I gave him Field Punishment No. 1, and had him tied to a tree.

 

The doctor visited me and gave me pills. I felt better at night, in spite of the pills.  It is still very cold, and snowing again.  I am fed up with this weather.  The doctor also saw the Battery Sergeant Major, who says he has rheumatism badly.

 

I have made a Compensation Report called for with regard to the damage done to a coat by Sergeant Griffiths, who let off a rifle in an estaminet: forty francs.

 

I got a government issue of a pair of Norwegian boots.

This evening I censored about 150 letters.

 

TUESDAY MARCH, 7, 1916.

Diary.

I am still feeling bad. It is also very cold and snowy.  I rode to Erquinghem to sit on a Court Martial at “C” Battery’s Wagon Line, 152, Brigade, to try a sergeant for being drunk on guard in the gun line.  It is a serious crime; but he got off lightly, thanks to me.  He was reduced to the ranks, and sentenced to 28 days imprisonment with hard labour.

 

I rode back with Major Dalby of the Divisional Ammunition Column, President of the Court.

 

After lunch I drew ammunition from the Brigade Ammunition Column, and later sent the wagons to the gun line.

 

I dined at the B.A.C., and spent the evening there.

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH, 8, 1916.

Diary.

Today I felt very bad. The General visited our lines, but I did not see him, as I was in the latrine.  Just my luck!  The Sergeant Major told him that I was not well.

 

I censored a large quantity of letters, and had tea with the doctor, who came to see me. Then I visited the B.A.C., and returned for dinner here alone.  Then I read a book, which I borrowed from the Vet.

 

THURSDAY MARCH, 9, 1916.

Diary.

There was a very sharp frost this morning, and in consequence the roads are bad for the horses. I rode to Refilling Point at Bac St. Maur, and supervised the issue of supplies.  On my return I saw to the repainting of the wagons and to the painting of the new divisional sign.  There are all sorts of silly signs now.  The Boche will know all about them in a short while.

 

I received from headquarters a map of the roads in this vicinity, upon which are marked certain roads prohibited by order for the exercise of horses. As all the roads around us here are so marked we shall not be able to get the horses out on exercise at all.  The marked roads circle us about!  What is the use of issuing such an order?

 

All the men had baths today.

 

The day is dull and very cold; but there is no snow. It will freeze again this evening.

 

I called to see Colonel Logan of the Heavies, and also D.A.D.O.S. I am sick to death of the whole job at the wagon line.  The army system is rotten.  I hate the staff more than I can say.  The only thing necessary here is to keep the harness clean, and render returns correctly and punctually, or indent on the proper forms.  Then you are a good soldier, and will be suitably decorated.  The staff make the life of the troops hell out of the line.  In the line it is not so bad as the staff do not go there.

 

The French family, increased by several friends, are kicking up a tremendous row, jabbering as hard as they can go all at once, punctuated by spitting. They are a beastly lot.  I have to go through their kitchen every time I want to go to my room.

 

Here in the line there is nothing much doing. There is better news from Verdun.

 

I am feeling very low. I suppose it is my sickness.

 

However, “On n’est jamais si heureux ni si malheureux qu’on s’imagine.”

 

 

FRIDAY MARCH, 10, 1916.

Diary.

It is a cold and snowy day. I had the tents cleared and sprayed with paraffin oil to kill bugs, but the small was fearful.

 

The doctor came to see me. Corporal Booker was sent away with a temperature of 1040.

 

After evening stables I went to the Column for tea. Then I came back here for dinner.  I received letters from Captain Langhorne.  There is trouble about a missing indent for bursters.  I am quite certain that the indent never came down here, in spite of what he says.

 

SATURDAY MARCH, 11, 1916.

Diary.

To day I ordered a route march. Everyone and all wagons turned out.  Afterwards the painting of wagons was continued.  I sent the G.S. Wagons for material for screens.  There is more trouble about the indent for bursters.  Captain Langhorne wanted to know why the bursters had not come up, when he had himself marked the indent, “to come up on the 12th.”  such are the trials of a wagon line officer!

I shall be glad to go back to the gun line, even to Lille Post. When is this beastly war going to be over so that we can be free agents again?  It seems strange to ask the question when I am at the wagon line, where I am comparatively safe, and not at the gun line.  It is illustrative of conditions out here.  I am sorry for Cheadle having to relieve me at the wagon line.  But I am thankful to get away.

 

March 11, 1916.

R.P.

I have managed to obtain a large fur coat, and I now look like a Teddy Bear. Also a pair of Norwegian boots.  There have been several cases of frost-bite and trench feet.  The latter is a very extraordinary thing.  It is not caused by frost-bite.  I think that it is due to wearing putties when they are wet, and thereby preventing proper circulation and also having constantly wet feet.

 

I am still at the wagon line, but hope to go back to a more exciting existence shortly. The guns are making a noise tonight, and the windows rattle in an irritating way.

 

The French have had a bad time at Verdun.  I hope they can hold on.  These Germans are a wonderful people.  They seem to have unlimited reserves to draw on.

 

To day I managed to get Thursday’s Daily Mail. The paper seems to be diminishing in size, which is perhaps a good thing as the reporters cannot include such a lot of rubbish as padding.

 

Our drivers here are in tents, which is very cold for them. But the best of them appear very cheerful.

 

SUNDAY MARCH, 12, 1916.

Diary.

It was a fine day. I packed and cleared up my billet for Cheadle upon my release from this prison.  I handed over to the Sergeant Major, and rode up through Steenwerck to the Requisition Officer, No. 1 Company A.S.C. to get bills paid, but found him out.  Then I rode back to the Wagon Line, and remained there until Cheadle arrived.  Later I rode up to the line for the first time on my chestnut mare.

 

First of all I called at the R.E. Company in Erquinghem Factory to get bursters for Lille Post, then to the R.E. Dump, Armentieres, for poles.

 

I had tea at the Tea Shop in Armentieres.  There I met the Machine Gun Officer from the Tyneside Scottish, quite a boy.  I walked to the battery, where I found Captain Langhorne, Captain Spain, Hopkins and Freeman-Cowan.  I was quite tired, but was cheered up by Cowan’s gramophone, which he had won in a raffle.

 

I got to bed by midnight.

 

MONDAY MARCH, 13, 1916.

Diary.

Another fateful thirteenth!! I was up at six, a.m., and went to Lille Post, arriving there by 7.15, a.m.

 

The place is now very different. In side the rear walls two dug-outs have been constructed, one for the O.P. Officer, and one for the telephonists, and made of sand-bags and bursters.  The place looks stronger, but I fancy it is not so strong as it looks.  One hit would knock it in.  there is a ladder at the back passing up through a hole in the wall.

 

At first it was too misty to observe.

 

This new work at Lille Post is being done by some D.A.C. men under the supervision of two R.E. personnel. They are now building up inside.

 

I have heard that a Major and a subaltern of the Yorks and Lancs. were killed yesterday by one bullet.

 

At midday I was lucky enough to spot that offensive battery, which has caused too many deaths already along communication trenches. It is to the right of the Estaminet de la Barriere.  The brutes!  We must have them out.

 

I had lunch of sandwiches. The Captain came up in readiness for a strafe by our division.  Heavies, Trench Mortars, Machine-guns, Field Guns wire cutting, enfilading and bombarding, and what not; and the Boche answered never a shell or a sound!  They were all probably at the bottom of their dug-outs grinning at the waste of our ammunition and waiting until it was all over.  All died away, and it was peaceful once more.  Now, what had we gained by all the expenditure?

 

It was a beautiful day, and I felt the sun for the first time, and it was welcome, as I felt warm for the first time. The birds were singing, and there were a spring feel and spring sounds in the air.  War seemed out of place.

 

Hitherto my garb here has included fur coat, fur gloves, mittens, woollen scarf, leather waistcoat, service jacket, woollen underclothing, two pairs of socks, and heavy leather boots, and yet I have felt terribly cold. Now Lille Post is much more comfortable in more ways than one.  I wonder how long it will last.

 

I returned to the battery late as it is much lighter now. As I approached I heard the gramophone going.  It was strange to hear music again, the first since I left England excepting for the whistling of the troops.  It seems years ago.

 

A sketch of the battery in 1988.

 

The road way is a thicket of brambles and coarse grass. All the gunners have long beards, the No.s hobble with sticks, and the Captain is bent double.

 

The guns are propped upon broken wheels, and have cobwebs on them. A faint slow buzzing is heard on the weak telephone, and the signaller’s palsied hand trembles more violently.

 

The wrinkled gunline officer shuffles up to the ancient battery commander, with his hand to his ear, “Eh! Eh! What’s that?”

“Battery fire, one week!”

“Did you say fire?” ”Yes, yes!”

“What Target?” ”The same as we took on ten years ago.” ”Has it been registered?” ”Look in the Battery History at page 1987.

 

At any rate the troops are planting flowers and even vegetables.

“When’s this ‘ere war goin’ to end Bill?”

“Dunno. Give it up.  We’ve planted rose bushes in the front of the trenches.” ”B….y optimist!  We’ve planted acorns!”

 

MARCH 13, 1916

Extract from Observer’s Log Book.

A.M.

7.15                 Too misty to observe.

P.M.

12.45               A hostile 77 mm. battery shelled Wine Avenue.  It is probably the close-up gun at Wez Macquart.

1.00                 We fired on I.22.c.6½.4.  Result indifferent.

Leith Walk heavily shelled.

1.40                 Enemy battery at I.29.c.8.9½., shelling Cowgate Avenue.

Flash timed on stop watch: 8 and 4/5ths seconds. =2900 yards.

Battery is exactly 1O 10’ R. of Englos Church from the O.P.

1.45                 Hostile 4.2 battery firing on Cowgate Avenue.

2.00 to 2.45     Our Strafe.  Wash Out!

4.25                 A party of ten men observed with white trousers on the Transport Road at I.36.a.

5.20                 I observed a new screen (white) on Transport Road at I.36.d. about 25 yards long, and ten feet high.

 

TUESDAY MARCH, 14, 1916.

Diary.

It is a beautifully fine morning, and the sun is shining; but rather misty. Sniping is increasing round Lille Post.  At the moment several aeroplanes are up.

 

Brigade Headquarters have just informed me that the Barometer is 29.7, Thermometer, 48 deg., and that there is no ground wind. Most considerate of them.

 

I have also been warned to expect a visit from Generals Stokes and Kirby. I would not mind betting they do not come to Lille Post.

 

I was wrong. They did come.  The following arrived: Major General Pultney, G.O.C. 3rd Corps, Brig. General Stokes, G.O.C. R.A. 3rd Corps., Brig. General Kirby, Colonel Warburton, Captain Langhorne, and a Staff Captain.  I have never seen such a troop so far forward before.  They looked very clean, uncomfortable, and out of place.  Dirt is matter out of place.  What is the staff in the front line?

 

General Pultney actually crawled up the ladder to the O.P. above. Sportsman!  He nearly got stuck in the opening.  The others remained discretely below.  The old boy was quite pleasant, and tried to make some intelligent remarks.

 

I was very glad to get rid of them. I felt sure that the Boche would spot such a blaze of glory.  How unpleasant it would be to have the Corps Commander killed in one’s Observation Post.

 

Later Payne, the Adjutant, arrived and made himself distinctly unpleasant.

 

I returned to the battery about 6, p.m.

 

A strange Captain with some gunners joined us for instructional purposes, and they are living with us.

To bed by 10.45, p.m.

 

R.P.

March 14, 1916

“CHEER HO! I hope you are quite well, as it leaves me at present in the pink.  I have been censoring so many letters lately that I have felt compelled to open my letter in the way the men do.  I wonder why they all use this phraseology.

 

The weather has changed, and we have had two delightful days. Moreover I have left the wagon line, and the combination of these two circumstances have induced in me a more cheerful outlook on life in general.  Hitherto I have been clothed in a fur coat, service jacket, leather waistcoat, woollen scarf, mittens, your excellent fur gloves, two pairs of socks, and thick shirts and underclothing, and yet I have felt the cold keenly.  Now with a suspicion of spring in the air I feel much better.  Even the birds are beginning to sing.

 

Only man is vile. We clothe ourselves in skins, the infantry when on patrol in No-Man’s-Land paint their faces and carry loaded sticks and daggers, we wear armour for our heads, live in dens and caves in the earth like the moles and rats our closest companions, we get up with the sun (but not, I am afraid go to bed with it) and exist only for hunting and killing each other.  In fact we are becoming more and more like our prehistoric forefathers, reverting to type, we shall have to be civilised all over again after the war.

 

Last night we got a gramophone, so perhaps music will soothe the savage breast. Freeman-Cowan has been on a signalling course at the Base.  Whilst there he and others purchased a gramophone.  When the course broke up they decided the question as to who should have the instrument by drawing for it.  Cowan won.  So now we have it.  We shall probably know the thirty odd tunes by heart soon, and the Captain will smash it in a rage.

 

This morning while at the O.P., I had a visit from the General Commanding the Corps, attended by various satellites. He climbed up my ladder to view the landscape, and fell a perspiring heap on the straw at the top.  The others stayed discretely below.

 

MARCH 14, 1916

I don’t think it necessary to send a cat out here, though I find my family of cats has largely increased during my absence from the O.P. Unfortunately we can’t arrange a meeting between my cats and the rats, as the former refuse to the comparative comfort of the O.P. for the doubtful security of the trenches, which harbour the latter.

 

It has been very cold here lately, but the last two days the weather has changed for the better, and we have had two delightful days. During the cold spell I wore a fur coat, a thick woollen scarf, jacket, leather waistcoat, fur gloves, mittens, two pairs of socks, and yet was not warm.

 

We have gone back to our old O.P., and have sandbagged it at the back. I am sitting down stairs in a dug-out next to that of the telephonists.  Up in the loft a bombardier is taking my place observing while I have my lunch, and he keeps shouting down the speaking tube, “Oh! Please sir, a 4.2 is shelling I.61.c.6.8.” or “There is a 77 hitting a house at I.68.a.7.1.”

 

I managed to discover a Boche battery yesterday, which had been making a nuisance of itself. We sometimes manage to spot hostile batteries roughly by getting the line with the compass and the range by working out a small sum based upon the time in seconds between seeing the flash of the gun firing and hearing the sound thereof.  For example, if the time so given is 8 & 5/8ths seconds, the range would be 2900 yards, and so on.  Our guns are too light to deal with them effectively, so we ring up the Heavies, and stand by to spray them with shrapnel in cooperation.

 

We are reverting to type, becoming more and more like our prehistoric forefathers every day. We now clothe ourselves in skins, wear armour, paint our faces at night when patrolling No-man’s-land, or raiding, live caves and dens in the earth, eat most things we can lay our hands on, exist only that we may see to it that someone else shall no longer exist.  The weapons are very primitive too, catapults, loaded sticks and daggers and other such like things.  We shall return to Blighty savages.

 

It is good to hear music again. I had heard no music since I left England weeks ago

(or is it years ago?), until last night. One of our subalterns has been away on a signalling course at the Base, and while there his fellows and he clubbed together and brought a gramophone.  When the course was over, they drew lots for it and he won.  So he brought it along to the gun-line on his return.  So now when I get back to the battery and after dinner we turn on such things as “The Angelus” or “Michigan”, or “Le Long du Missouri”.

 

I had a visit this morning from the G.O.C. Corps (a famous Guardee), the G.O.C., R.A. Corps, G.O.C. R.A. Division, our Colonel, and various oddments. They all came to have a look at the Hun, and my O.P. was selected as the nearest building to the enemy.  The stout old Major-General laboured up the ladder, and sank perspiring on the straw at the top.  They did not stay long.

 

I have entered a record of their visit in the log book. It was so amusing.

 

Tommy coming out of the trenches met a pal, and said “Say Bill, when’s this ‘ere war going to end?” “Dunno, but we’ve planted roses in front of our lines.”  “B…… optimist!  We’ve planted acorns.”

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH, 15, 1916.

Diary.

The day was dull and damp, but clear. It is also rather cold again.  The Machine Gun Officer of the 4th Tyneside Scottish visited me.

 

It was fairly quiet until noon.

 

A giant periscope has arrived for our use, but there is great difficulty in erecting it. It will not last long.

 

There has been a fair amount of shelling of the screens at Chapelle, and on the cross roads near the battery.

 

Captain Langhorne came up to Lille Post with Captain G.C. Kemp, of “B” Battery, 184th Brigade.  They visited A/175’s Observation Post in order to verify from there the position Red House.

 

I returned to the battery at 5.30, p.m., and played the gramophone.

 

THURSDAY MARCH, 16, 1916.

Diary.

It was a dull day and much colder. The Lille Post fortifications are now complete.

 

There has been fairly heavy shelling of our Howitzer Battery and one of our 18 pdr Batteries behind our position. One of their guns was knocked out.  Bits fell all over our battery.

 

I spotted the flashes of a Boche battery in an old position at I.29.c.9.1. (or 9.20). In all, I think, only four hostile batteries were in action and that is probably all they have in action on our immediate front.  A bit of bluff.  One 5.9, one 4.2, and one or two 77, mm. batteries which change their positions frequently.  That is my supposition.  If not they fire by careful rotation.  I should not think they would keep many batteries here silent, when they need so much artillery down south.

 

It was a very clear day for observation. as a result of staying on to observe flashes I was back late at the battery.

 

Captain Crookshank came to dinner.

 

A Gas Alarm came through from Brigade Headquarters.

Silly fools! It should have been “Test Gas”

 

An order has been issued by G.H.Q. to the effect that troops should collect all dud shells, or notify the proper authorities of their whereabouts. This is what happened.  An infantry subaltern was seen by an artillery officer dragging a 6 inch shell, which had not exploded, over the cobble stones of a roadway, fuze foremost, bumping it along at the end of a 20 foot rope.  The gunner enquired, “Good Heavens, man!  What on earth are you doing?”  In reply he was informed, “Oh!  I am taking no risks this time!”

 

Telephonists are always on duty at the telephone, but those of a certain division were in the habit, a dangerous one, of replying to the question, “Who are you?” with facetious answers. For instance, “I’m Kitchy, or Joffy, or French.”

“Is that Kitch?” “No I’m Haig.”

 

It happened that a certain staff officer, desiring to communicate with his headquarters when in the forward area, went to a telephone dug-out, and picked up the phone. The telephonist at the other end demanded, “Who is it?”  The staff officer replied, “I am Coffin.” – that being his name.  The only answer he got was, “Oh! Well, I’m b….y well laughing.”  And the telephonist rang off.

 

FRIDAY MARCH, 17, 1916.

Diary.

The day was dull and misty, and so was very quiet. I went to Lille Post as usual.  Our fire activity was nil.  Hostile activity very little.  Freeman-Cowan spent most of the day at the O.P. with me.  I wrote some letters.

 

In the evening I returned to the battery at 5.30, p.m., had a late tea and read the papers.

 

A subaltern from Captain Kemp’s battery, attached for instructional purposes.

 

The French are holding on at Verdun, I am glad to hear.

 

I must smuggle my fur coat home when I go. It will do for a door mat.

 

R.M.L.P.

March 17, 1916.

I am at the O.P. again. I prefer this work to any other.  I get up now between 5, and 6, a.m., and have breakfast at 6.30, a.m.  I always hope for a misty early morning, for then I can walk straight down the road without being seen by the Boche snipers, instead of going all the way round by the Communication Trenches.

 

We have about 5000 sandbags and 400 slabs of concrete in the post now to protect as far as may be the telephonist’s dug-out. I have a small dark room in the middle of this fortification, 8 ft, by 6 ft, in which is a wooden board for a bed, a very small table, a coat rack, and a chair.  It is very damp and lit only by one candle.  There is a coke brazier, which we light only when we can be sure of not making a smoke.  But I do not use it at all, as I do not like the fumes of coke, and there is no chimney in the place.

 

Just outside the entrance (there is no door) there is a ladder up which we go to observe. The snipers annoy us at times but not much.

 

I have a pair of Norwegian boots, which are a boon, as the water in the trench which leads to this place is always over one’s ankles.

 

I am collecting clothes. I have a Government fur coat, a Mackintosh cap, a Trench coat, a British Warm, a slicker or shiny brown waterproof coat, a Burbury.  Then I possess a valise, nine blankets, a flea bag, a kit bag, two saddle-bags and a haversack.  Thank goodness we do not move much.

 

SATURDAY MARCH, 18, 1916.

Diary.

The day was clear, and there was much more activity. We had trouble from the German close up single gun.  Our Heavies fired on a hostile battery.  They made very bad shooting.  I saw all the rounds fall.  There were one or two duds.

 

We fired on Red Roofed Cottage. It was most difficult to observe as I was at a great angle to the line of fire.  Captain Langhorne and Hopkins were observing from the chimney at the battery position.  We hit the house once in twelve rounds, which I consider distinctly bad.  Another battery was firing in the same direction with time shrapnel.

I returned to the battery late.

 

SUNDAY MARCH, 19, 1916.

Diary.

I was again at the O.P.

A hostile battery opened fire on Cowgate Avenue.  I immediately spotted the flashes of the guns, and with the stop watch timed the interval between seeing and hearing discharge of the guns.  The time was 8, and 4/5ths. Seconds.  So we immediately opened fire on the battery.  One salvo of H.E. was right on top of them.  They were silent for the rest of the day.

 

I also observed for the Howitzer Battery, C/176th Brigade.  The target was the screens in the main street of Wez Macquart.  Observation was not too easy, and as it was the first time I had observed for the Howitzers alone, I was too diffident.  My error lay in timid creeping, instead of boldly bracketing.  Finding the fall of the rounds short I added 25 yards, thinking I was much nearer than I was to the target.  The screens consisted of a narrow line of hoarding across the Lille Road, no doubt to block our view of the road behind.

 

I fired 30 rounds. Of these 12 were blinds, eight fell in the houses on either side of the road and only raised clouds of smoke and dust so that it was impossible to see exactly where they had fallen, 8 were definitely short of the target, 1 was over, and 1 was a direct hit, doing some considerable damage.

 

The steep angle of descent of a howitzer shell makes it hard to hit a narrow target.

 

I returned to the battery, checked the night lines, and went to bed late and very tired.

 

MONDAY MARCH, 20, 1916.

Diary.

I was up at 5, a.m., for “stand to”. After breakfast at 6.30, a.m., I went to Lille Post, and arrived there at 7, a.m.  One 77 mm gun firing on Cowgate Avenue gave a lot of trouble.  It also shot along Wine Avenue and on the Ferme du Biez.

 

The 17th Division from the Ypres Salient took over from the 21st Division.

 

Nash of B/184, Brigade visited the O.P.

I fired on Red House, 10 rounds: 2 hits, and on Criddles Cottages, 6 rounds: 2hits.

 

On my return to the battery I found that Hopkins had been knocked over by a 5.9 in.  He was scratched and shaken but not seriously hurt.

 

TUESDAY MARCH, 21, 1916.

Diary.

The day was dull, damp and hazy. I continued my job at the O.P.  Captain Langhorne visited me.  There is some trouble about this O.P.  The sappers of the incoming 17th Division want to turn the place into a strong point and machine-gun emplacement.  We naturally object, but as we are in their area I foresee trouble.

 

It was a very quiet day. The Boche were unusually somnolent.  Colonel Stevenson visited me.

 

Later I went to the front line, and examined carefully No-man’s-land and the Boche parapet.

 

The Infantry reported to me that considerable damage had been done in a building on the right of the Lille Road in the village of Wez Macquart to a construction which was most probably a machine-gun emplacement, and that the damage was the result of Howitzer fire on Sunday at 3.45, p.m. It was a welcome piece of news that my efforts had had such an effect.  I had certainly not expected such a result.  This was reported in Comic Cuts both of the Divisional R.A. and the Division.

 

Captain Bennett, Adjutant of the 2/2 Welsh Brigade R.F.A. joined us.

 

MARCH 21, 1916.

One of our officers got blown over by a 5.9 yesterday, and as he is rather rocky this morning there is rather a lot for the rest of us to do. He was very sorry for himself, that it was not a bit worse so that he could get home with a Blighty one.

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH, 22, 1916.

Diary.

It was another very misty and so very quiet day. But the Staff come out on misty days.

 

As I could not observe, in the afternoon I visited the trenches, and had tea there with some of the officers. I enjoy such visits.  And I flatter myself that I am keeping up a good liaison, which we are enjoined to do.  It certainly gives me another point of view to consider.  If our infantry get out of the line more than we do, they certainly have a duller time of it when they are in.

The time will come when the poor devils will get it in the neck.

 

It was very wet in the afternoon and evening.

 

THURSDAY MARCH, 23, 1916.

Diary.

Today it is very wet and much colder. It is, in fact, abominable weather.  There is nothing doing.

I was at the O.P. as usual.

 

FRIDAY MARCH, 24, 1916.

Diary.

It is a very cold day and snowing. I had a fire in the O.P. dug-out, coke in a brazier.  It is much too hazy and thick to observe, so there is no firing.  I am at the O.P. as usual.

 

R.P.

March 24, 1916.

Snow, snow, snow. What a spring!  It is bitterly cold and snowing hard again today.  There is already about three inches.  Moreover it is much too misty to observe.  So I am sitting in my dark and gloomy dug-out.  I have a coke brazier, which makes it less cold, indeed like a furnace at times, but the fumes are unpleasant.  However the signallers seem to be enjoying their fire sitting in the next hole, for they are playing on mouth organs while making a brew called tea.

 

The Captain has just telephoned to me informing me that my allowance in shell for today is twelve snowballs. I replied that I would fire them off when I returned to the gun-line tonight.

 

Now I am employing my time writing letters and reading “Comic Cuts”, the name we irreverently give to Division or Corps Intelligence Reports. We figured in it largely yesterday, for we did two shoots the other day and knocked out a machine gun emplacement or so and a few other odds and ends.

 

The Captain was in a bad temper last night, as he had been hauled over the coals by the Colonel. As a result he had bitten everyone else at the battery.  Luckily I was absent, so escaped the wrath.  When I arrived I found them with gloomy scowls.  So I turned on the gramophone, and the arrival later of the mail with letters, Punch, Sketch, Tattler and other papers cheered us all up a bit.

 

This paper is not French, but leaves from Army Book 152, Correspondence Book, Field Service, which never expected to be put to such exalted service as a letter home. As the cover is stiff it is convenient to write on in the O.P.

 

So some of my letters have gone astray. They cannot have been stolen for the literary excellence, and I am very careful to avoid giving the censor occasion to destroy them – don’t you think so?  I cannot think what has happened to them.

 

Our Moving Picture Show continues with large attendances, continuous performances daily, extra turns on Sunday, all produced by Fritz the Bochino, with reserved boxes for friends of the Observing Officer. The pit is still rather dangerous, but the dress circle is safe, is reserved for the staff, and you cannot see anything as it is so far behind.

 

I hear my servant splashing through the communication trench with my lunch.

 

Having had lunch I will continue. My wretched servant has broken the Captain’s Thermos Flask, which he lent me for the last week.  Wonderful people these servants.  No one broke it, no one saw that it was broken; but it was broken this morning.  The thing must have been bewitched.

 

I have just made myself a cup of tea. Why is it that I can always make myself a better cup of tea than anyone else can?  At least I think I can.  Perhaps it is my imagination plus satisfaction in getting the kettle to boil.

 

SATURDAY MARCH, 25, 1916.

Diary.

I was at the O.P. again. In the morning it snowed and was horribly wet.  It cleared up later, and there was a considerable amount of firing by 77, mm. and 4.2, guns.

We fired in retaliation.

 

SUNDAY MARCH, 26, 1916.

Diary.

The day was showery and very windy. A 77 mm battery annoyed us considerably by firing all the morning.  It was active again in the evening.

 

We fired shrapnel on a communication trench. I also observed for firing on a hostile battery.  I am told that this is my last day at Lille Post.  I am glad of a change.  It is fearfully boring generally, and I long for something to happen.

I returned to the battery at 6.30, p.m.

 

The Brigade came under the orders of the Second Army, but remained in the same position.

 

MARCH 25 to 27, 1916.

Brigade War Diary.

The two batteries C and D 160th Brigade left the Group to join their own Brigade in position further south.  C 176th Brigade (Howitzer) joined the Group.  The Left Group consisted of A. B. C. and D Batteries, 175th Brigade, C 176th Brigade, and C 79th Brigade R.F.A., which joined on the 27th March.

 

MONDAY MARCH, 27, 1916.

Diary.

I am gun-line officer at the battery. I was up at 3.30, a.m.  After breakfast there was heavy firing on our left for about four hours.  It must have been a big strafe.  I had breakfast at 8, a.m., then the Captain left for Brigade Headquarters.  Almost immediately the Boche started firing.  They knocked down and set on fire B Battery’s billets.  Eight men were wounded or injured.  Our screens were fired on.

 

I thought something ought to be done about it. So we retaliated by firing on the hostile battery position with nineteen rounds H.E.   I also tried to observe from the tall chimney, crawling up and down six times.

 

I also reported the hostile battery’s activity to the Warwick Heavy Battery, who asked me to observe for them. They fired about thirty rounds, and shot well.  The house next to the Boche battery was hit several times.

 

When up the chimney I noticed how different the landscape appears from another view point at a different angle and further away. I hardly recognised the country-side.  I had become so accustomed to the view from Lille Post, that it was only with difficulty that I could find my way about while observing and recognise the familiar places.

 

Then the Captain came back, not in the best of tempers.

In the afternoon we were ordered to fire three salvos for the General to see, just at the time a hostile battery was firing on us! Why cannot they ask for Crystal Palace fire-works for sightseers when we are not being shelled?

 

Later a Flying Corps Officer came to tea, and arranged a shoot for tomorrow.

 

In the evening it poured with rain. The Boche fired on the cross roads, 25 yards from the battery.

 

I had the job of pulling out a damaged gun from the gun-pit in the dark and rain. The gun stuck in the mud up to its axles.  It took us an hour and a half to get out.

 

The following is a Brigade Order:

Saluting.  When the Commander-in-Chief travels in his motor car, which is a blue closed one, the Union Jack on the car is unfurled, and all ranks are to salute.”

So we are to salute a closed car, which rushes by and covers us with mud. What good can that do?

 

This evening there were two prisoners. While on a bathing parade at the baths they deserted for a day.  One was hopelessly drunk and threatened a sergeant with a loaded rifle.  I was fetched to deal with him.  He is for a Field General Court Martial.

 

TUESDAY MARCH, 28, 1916.

Diary.

It was a cold and very windy day. Hopkins was at the O.P., the Captain was away with Colonel Stevenson at the O.P. in the Convent.  So I was in charge at the gun-line.  Captain Bennett was at the battery with me still under instruction.  A Boche 77 mm battery fired on our screens.  I went up the tall chimney at the battery to observe with a Captain from the 11th Corps, R.G.A.  Thence we viewed the scene.  The chimney is always filthy, but in the wind it was an abomination.  It is about 100 feet high, and swayed with the wind alarmingly.  But we had a good view.  Shells dropped on our screens just in front of us.

 

General Kirby came round with another General. He complimented us on the condition of our guns and position, remarking especially on No. 4 gun, which was really quite clean, and in a tidy pit.

 

Then the Boche battery fired again. Hopkins saw the flash.  I immediately informed the Warwick Heavies, and asked then to retaliate.  They got on to the battery. Hopkins observed for them, but could make nothing of it.  He may be a good wagon line officer, but he cannot observe.

 

The Boche dropped about fifty shells just over the battery from 11.45, a.m., to 1 p.m. One shell landed within 25 yards of the command post, where I was.  Their range, thank heaven, was about 50 yards too much.  Otherwise they would have blown us out.  They have evidently got the battery position alright.  It may be a compliment, for it may mean that we have been tickling them up too much.  Most of their shells went into the houses just behind us.  We replied with 5, H.E. (!), and they shut up. Hopkins did not see these rounds fall.

 

After lunch I observed for the Warwick Heavies, and they got a direct hit on the Boche battery house in five rounds. Then the Warwicks stopped, as soon as I reported O.K.

 

Later, while I was up the chimney, I saw a flash. I immediately reported to the Warwick Battery.  Then our right sector began a straffe, which drew the Boche batteries with a vengeance.  They all fired.  The Boche was angry.  I saw quite plainly eight guns, all in one wood, firing as hard as they could go.  It was getting dark, and the flashes shewed up clearly, but I could not distinguish their emplacements, if they had any.

 

We did not reply, and the firing soon died down. The Boche shelling was directed to our right.

 

But I have suffered a heavy blow. The Boche put two 4.2 shell into the officers’ stables, and wounded my poor old chestnut mare.  Poor old thing!  I am afraid I shall lose her.  She was the best horse in the Brigade, certainly in the Battery.  Curse the Boche!

 

Captain Crookshank came to tea. Captain Langhorne and Hopkins are in a very bad temper, no doubt due to being shelled.

 

At night we did a lot of work to the position. Most of it is useless, as if the Boche do get on to us properly the position will be untenable.

 

It seems to be getting quite hot here. This sector will soon give the lie to its name of the “Nursery”.

 

I have an idea we shall soon be moving out, probably down south. The presence of another General with ours is ominous.

 

  1. “Our activity here a few days ago is mentioned in the Morning Post (18th)

The wind is a great nuisance as it interferes with firing, and blows down our screens. Our cat has a bad cold – no wonder poor thing, the place is very draughty.  It seems fairly happy here, however, and shews no desire to run away.

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH, 29, 1916.

Diary.

The day was fine and sunny, but cold and very windy. The Captain was away, and I was in charge of the gun-line again.  For a while there was no firing.  The Captain returned early.  Then the Boche put two shells down the Lille Road near the battery.

 

I heard that my mare had died in the night. Poor old thing!

 

Again I was up the chimney to observe our fire on the hostile battery in the clump of trees. I saw “A” Battery firing very badly.

 

Later it turned misty.

 

Our giant periscope, which we could not put together, was examined by a Captain in the A.S.C., who said he would see to it for us.

 

A parcel of soup tablets, chocolate, etc, arrived from M.

 

FIRST ARMY INTELLIGENCR SUMMARY. – No 443.

Information from our own Front:–

The officer in charge of a raiding party on the 26th instant reports that, when a German Officer visited his sentry post in the hostile front line, he was heard to make a noise like a duck, which was answered by the sentry.

 

The First Army Field Survey Company reports:-

  1. Hostile gun positions were located as follows – At I.29.c.9.2. N of Ennetieres (Sheet 36).

Whilst this battery was firing, a direct hit by our artillery was observed

 

 

W.L.O. Twiss, Major,

General Staff, First Army.

 

Wednesday March 29th, 1916.

 

(The battery position is at I.29.c.9.2.)

 

NOTES ON THE GERMAN 77 mm BATTERY AT I.29.c.9.1. (and 2)

 

The report that the First Army Field Survey Company had located a hostile gun position at I.29.c.9.2., on or about the 29th March, 1916, as recorded in the First Army Intelligence Summary No. 443, is illustrative of the extraordinary methods of the staff.

 

This battery position was an old one. It is situated in a trench line just west of the road bend at le Paradis, some way north of Ennetieres.

 

It has been reported active on the following dates

8th December 1915.

24th      do

22nd January 1916.

8th March

15th      do

16th      do

18th      do

 

In addition on the 29th January 1916, it was reported that there was no evidence of vacation.

 

On the 16th March I saw the flashes of the guns of this battery firing.  I reported this to Headquarters and also the fact that the position was an old one.

 

This battery was frequently firing on Cowgate and Wine Avenues and our Battery screens, giving a great deal of trouble.  On the 27th March this battery was again active just after 8, a.m.  Our screens was fired on and B Battery suffered.  I retaliated at once by firing 19 rounds H.E. at the hostile battery, and reported its activity to the Warwick Heavy Battery, who asked me to observe for them.  This Heavy Battery fired about 30 rounds and shot well, setting the house next to the battery on fire.

 

The next day, the 28th this hostile battery again fired on our screens on more than one occasion.  They also shelled our battery position but as their range was 50 yards out they did not do a great deal of damage.  The Boche were no doubt anxious to knock us out as we had been giving them so much trouble.  We replied with 5 rounds H.E., all I could afford.  But in the afternoon I observed for the Warwick Heavies, whom I had asked to get on to this battery.  The Warwicks got a direct hit on the Boche battery house in five rounds.  When I reported O.K. the Warwicks stopped.  It was no doubt this “direct hit” was the one the First Army Survey Company reported.

 

This battery was well known to all Forward Observers on this front for months; nevertheless it is reported as “located” on the 29th March by the Survey Company in spite of the fact that the activity of this battery had constantly been reported to the staff previously.

 

We fire on this battery, 8 deg. 40’, R. 5’ El.  Range 4650 yards.

T.B. from Battery 137 deg.

 

THURSDAY MARCH, 30, 1916.

Diary.

To day was a fine sunny day but windy and a bit misty. The Captain went up to the trenches.

 

The Warwick Heavy Battery were shelled by a 5.9 battery. They rang me up, and I went up the chimney to observe for them but I could not see anything as it was too misty.  In the afternoon it was a little better, and I went up the chimney again and took with me a telescope.

 

At Fort Englos I saw several Germans observing in the open with glasses, also a new gun-emplacement.

 

I went in to Armentieres for tea, and had a hair-cut.  I met the Vet. Kelly.  Later I returned to the battery across the fields.  It was a beautiful quiet evening, and most pleasant.

 

On my arrival I found several letters from home. I was in bed by 10, p.m.

 

Up to the present there have only been three officers killed in the Divisional Artillery.

 

Sun rises 5.32, a.m., sets 6.16, p.m.

Moon rises 4.9, a.m., sets 2.39, p.m.

 

Weather report – Mid-day, March 29th, to Mid-day, March 30th.

Wind – N.W., 20 miles per hour, rather squally at times, gradually decreasing and changing towards W. and S.W.

Weather – Mainly fair and bright, but some passing showers possible; cool; frost at night.

Temperature – 45 to 50 degrees by day, 30 to 35 degrees at night.

Barometer – 29.94, inches, rising most probably.

 

FRIDAY MARCH, 31, 1916.

Diary.

It was a beautifully fine morning, a little misty at first. A large number of aeroplanes were up.

 

We fired in retaliation for an enemy gun firing. Our targets were two battery positions and a communication trench.  Our Heavies also fired.

 

The Boche dropped 4.2 shells on Bois Grenier. Later it began to cloud over.  I picked some flowers in a forlorn garden near the battery.  Spring is icumen in!

 

In the afternoon we had a good shoot at Brown Farm, obtaining three direct hits. I laid out the line of fire and observed.  The first shot was 5’ to the left.  The range was O.K.  I fired 23 rounds.  There was some damage done as I saw two ambulances afterwards at the place.  Colonel observed the shoot from the Convent. Hopkins was at the O.P.  I was at the battery.

 

Our giant periscope came back repaired. Now the difficulty will be to find a place for it, that is where it can obtain a good field of vision and at the same time not draw the attention of the Boche.  It will have to be put against a tree somewhere.  But where?

 

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne April 1916.

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne April 1916.

 

SATURDAY APRIL THE FIRST.

Diary.

April fools’ day! What can be done about it?  It is a beautifully fine day, and in consequence it was a noisy day.  The Boche were active very early.  Several hostile aeroplanes are up.

 

The Boche nearly scored first. They dropped two bombs near the battery position.  Then a large number of 4.2, in., and 77, mm. shells began to drop all around, all around.

 

Captain Langhorne went to Headquarters, and Colonel Stevenson visited us at the battery.

 

In the afternoon it was fairly quiet. A Boche aeroplane dropped a flare just over No. 1 gun, and we confidently expected the enemy to open up on us; but nothing happened.

 

Captains Langhorne and Bennett went to the Wagon Line.

 

We fired two rounds on a party (working party) in Trench 18.

The evening was fine and quiet. Nothing doing.

 

April 1, 1916

R.P.

It is a beautiful day to day. The weather is now just right.  I am not observing now but am at the battery.  We had a good shoot yesterday, I hope did some damage.

 

My poor old mare has been killed. She died of wounds.  The Boche saw a working party near the stables and put a few shells over.  Two went through the roof, and my mare was the one to get hit unfortunately.

 

The Boche has just dropped two bombs from an aeroplane close to the battery. They did no damage.  The men were soon looking for bits.

 

Yesterday I picked two primroses in the trenches. They are the first flowers I have seen down there.  And yesterday we had rhubarb for lunch.  It was purloined from a deserted garden.

 

One sniper shot five hares with a service rifle the day before yesterday. I saw them hanging up in a dug-out.  He must have been a pretty good shot.

 

APRIL 1st 1916

It is a glorious day to day, fine aeroplane and shooting weather. We have just had two bombs dropped outside; but no damage was done.  The Boche plane is trying hard to find us.  We must have done some damage yesterday.

 

My poor old chestnut mare is dead. It was the best horse in the Brigade, and she would be the only one to be killed.  The beastly Hun put two shells through the roof of the stables, and my mare was the only one to get hit.

 

What a lucky chap Arthur Sayer is, a D.S.O. and a cushy wound takes him home to Blighty.

 

The Boche gunners are making themselves very objectionable this morning.

 

We have officers out here on a fortnight’s course from England.  We call them Cook’s tourists.  It is great fun taking them about and saying “Now we are going to a most dangerous place, so you must keep your heads down.”  They crawl round corners as safe as Hyde Park Corner; but I wish I was in their shoes, and going back in a few days’ time.

 

We actually had rhubarb for lunch yesterday. We found some growing in a deserted garden, amongst the weeds.

 

Yesterday I went to the town and had my hair cut in a respectable establishment, and also tea at the café. I felt quite civilised again for a short time.  I had seriously begun to think of buying Hinde’s curlers.  I walked back across the fields as there was nothing doing.  It was a beautifully peaceful evening, and not at all like what one would expect in the firing line.  Spring has made us think more of getting a move on.

 

The curse of this place is the telephone. Telephones everywhere, and wires round your feet, and in your eyes.  Calls coming from all directions simultaneously.  Wires getting cut, at inconvenient moments.  But we have an excellent linesman, the sort of fellow to get a D.C.M. or a wooden cross.

 

I think I must send for flannels and racquets and play tennis over our screens, which are meant to hide our flashes from the Boche.

 

SUNDAY APRIL 2, 1916.

Diary.

The day was beautifully fine and hot. Strangely enough there was little doing at first.

 

I was ordered to go to the front line and cut the Boche wire. I fired 33 rounds.  The guns shot well.  I think some damage was done, for I saw some knife-rests and wire going up; but the wire just there was not very strong.  The first shot hit the enemy parapet.  The fuzes were a bit erratic, for I started at Corrector 146, and finished at Corrector 156.

 

Afterwards I went to Trench I.16.1., and had lunch with the local company commander and his subalterns. Then I walked back to the battery.

 

The A.N.Z.A.C.S. arrived this day. One Australian Officer and 15 other ranks joined us.  They are to relieve us.  I had tea with the officer, Captain Sinclair.

 

As I was Liaison Officer with the infantry, I left the battery at dusk for the front line, and duly arrived at the Battalion Headquarters of the 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish.  Colonel Sillery and Major Henneker, whom I knew well, welcomed me.

 

There was a certain amount of rifle fire, but otherwise there was nothing much doing. I nearly got hit by a bullet, perhaps a blighty one; but who knows?

 

I dined in the mess dug-out. At midnight Colonel Sillery called me up, and I had a long talk with him.  He is a decent old chap.  I like Henneker very much.

 

As Freeman-Cowan has gone to the Brigade Headquarters as Orderly Officer, Jack, from the Ammunition Column, has arrived at the battery in his place.

 

Relief began by the 4th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division.

 

MONDAY APRIL, 3, 1916.

Diary.

Another beautiful fine day, but misty. I was up early after a quiet night, and walked back to the battery.  There I found Captain Langhorne, Captain Bennett, and an officer of the 40th, Siege Battery R.G.A.  The latter had called to make arrangements about a strafe.  The 8 inch Howitzers are to fire 30 rounds.

 

On my arrival I found several letters awaiting me, and a parcel containing a Thermos flask.

 

Later I observed the fire of the 8 in. Howitzer on Wez Macquart. They fire their 30 rounds, but the ammunition was very bad.  However some damage was done.  Our battery fired shrapnel as arranged in conjunction.

 

In the evening we had a tea party: Captains Langhorne, Bennett, Sinclair, Kennard, an A.C.S. subaltern and myself.

 

At dusk I went to the front line, dined with Colonel Sillery, and slept at Battalion Headquarters.

 

TUESDAY APRIL, 4, 1916.

Diary.

The morning was dull and colder.

 

One of the infantry corporals crawled out of a listening post into No-man’s-Land at night. He got killed and lay out there all day.  Although it was quite obvious that he was dead the Boche kept on firing at his body, and riddled it with bullets.  Two foolhardy officers, against the Colonel’s orders, tried to get over to him in daylight.  They got him in at night, but had great difficulty in getting the body through the wire.

 

Otherwise the Boche were very quiet. I was in charge of the gun-line all day.  Captains Langhorne and Sinclair went round the trenches.

 

The Boche put some shrapnel over Wine Avenue as I was returning to the Battalion Headquarters.

I dined with the infantry as usual, and slept in the Liaison Officer’s dug-out. Our infantry are to raid the German line tomorrow night.

 

R.P.

April 4, 1916.

We have had delightful weather lately, very warm and fine. Today it is a bit colder and dull.  It is getting much drier.  We have two subalterns away now, one at the Base on a Gunnery Course, and the other at Headquarters.  So I am alone.  The Captain is away for the day, so I am in charge.

 

The Boche have been curiously quiet the last few days.

Yesterday we had a large tea party. It consisted of Captain Langhorne, Captain St. Clair, an Australian, Captain Bennett, a Territorial Adjutant on a Cook’s tour, Captain Kennard, A.S.C., Laws, R.G.A. Subaltern, an R.E. subaltern, an A.S.C subaltern and myself.

 

We have just received this over the telephone:

“Colonel — and Officers of Headquarters — Brigade R.G.A. request the pleasure of your company at dinner tonight at 7.30, p.m. AAA, R.S.V.P.

 

WEDNESDAY APRIL 5, 1916.

Diary.

I returned from the trenches early, and took charge at the battery. Jack was at the O.P. Lille Post.  Cheadle is away on a gunnery course.  Captain St. Clair is at the gun-line with me.  I find that St. Clair is the correct way to spell his name.

 

Captain went to the trenches to cut Boche wire. He was not very successful.  In my opinion you cannot cut German wire properly at all.

 

We retaliated for Boche firing during the day.

 

At night I went to the trenches as usual. Our infantry were to have gone over to the Boche trenches; but they did not do so.  The Batteries stood to from 1, a.m., to 3, a.m.  I was at Battalion Headquarters in Wine Avenue.  I do not know why the raid was cancelled, but cancelled it was.  I suspect that they found that the wire was not properly cut.  How should it be?  The staff who order field guns to cut wire do not find out for them selves whether it is done or can be done.  It is not the slightest good sending over an infantry subaltern in the dark to find out whether it is cut sufficiently for penetration.

 

A few shrapnel shells make very little difference to the German wire, and it can be soon repaired.

 

THURSDAY APRIL 6, 1916.

Diary.

It was a dull and misty morning. I walked back from the trenches down Wine Avenue.  On arrival at the Battery I found them all in bed.

 

I saw the flashes of a German battery firing from near Capinghem. After informing the Heavies, their observer and I did “cross observing”.  We both gave O.K. in three rounds which was pretty good work.  After we had carefully registered the hostile battery, it shut up.  This battery had fired on Lille Post.

 

In the afternoon we spotted the flashes of the German “close-up” gun firing. We immediately pounced on it, and fired several rounds.  Then Captain Fergusson with his Howitzers got on to them, and fired 12, 4.5, in shells.  That gun also ceased firing.  Whether we stopped them, or they merely got tired, I do not know; but we are pleased to think it is our good work.

 

Cheadle has, most unfortunately, been posted to the Brigade Ammunition Column. Why, I do not know.  He is an excellent fellow.  I am very sorry he has gone.  Why can’t they leave us alone.  The new officer, posted in his place, is one, Holt.  He comes from the H.A.C.  I do not like him.

 

I went down to the trenches at night rather late. I found the Battalion Headquarters full of A.N.Z.A.C.s.  They were the Colonel and Company Commanders of an Australian battalion.

 

At dinner Colonel Sillery amused us considerably by reading out to the rest of us Major Twiss’ “Comic Cuts” on “Germany’s method of increasing the population.”

(see below.)

Major Henneker is a brother of General Henneker, who was in the 18th Division.

 

Translation of a German document, alleged to have been found on a German prisoner, and issued for information in the “First Army Intelligence Summary” over the signature of Major W. L. O. Twiss, General Staff, First Army.

March, 1916

—– . —–.—— . ——. ——–. ——–. ———-. ——–. ———-. ——–

Committee for the Increase of the Population.

Notice No. 13,875.

Sir,

On account of all the able-bodied men having been called to the colours, it remains the duty of all those left behind, for the sake of the Fatherland, to interest themselves in the happiness of the married women and maidens by doubling or even trebling the number of births. Your name has been given to us, and you are herewith requested to take on this office of honour, and do your duty in right German style.  It must be pointed out that your wife or fiancée will not be able to claim a divorce; it is, in fact, to be hoped that the women will bear their discomfort heroically for the sake of the War.  You will be given the district of ——.

Should you not feel capable of coping with the situation, you will be given three days in which to name someone in your place. On the other hand, if you are prepared to take on a second district as well, you will become a “Deckoffizier”, and receive a pension.

An exhibition of women and maidens as well as a collection of photographs is to be found at our office. You are requested to bring this letter with you.

Your good work should commence immediately, and it is in your interests to submit to us a full report of results after nine months.”

 

FRIDAY APRIL 7, 1916.

Diary.

The morning was dull, wet, cold, and misty, and as a result there was nothing doing.

 

Captains Langhorne and St. Clair went down to inspect the Wagon Line, and returned late. I was in charge of the gun-line.  Our battery started to pack up in anticipation of our move.

 

The Australian infantry went into the trenches this evening. I had to go down again to do Liaison Officer.  When I arrived I found that there was no dinner at all.  These gentry seem to have their dinner at midday.

 

After I had shewn the Australian Liaison Officer round I understood my job had ended, and I returned to my battery. On arrival there, I was sent back again, and was given to understand that we could not leave the novices without supervision.  So back I had to go without any dinner.  There was nothing doing during the night.  It was different to our reception in the line.

 

SATURDAY APRIL 8, 1916.

Diary.

From the trenches I returned to the battery. After breakfast I took an Australian Officer to Lille Post for instruction in O.P. duties.  We returned for lunch at the Gun-line.

 

In the afternoon I observed from the chimney. There was nothing doing.  There was no firing and it was quite fine.  I wonder if the Boche know that there is a relief going on or whether they are cautious because the new troops are Australians.

 

The evening was fine but cold. At dusk I again had to go to the trenches as Liaison Officer, and slept there.  During the night the Boche fired on our trenches with 4.2, in, but they did very little damage.  Again I had no dinner as the Australians hold fast to their objectionable custom.  A man should dine when the day’s work is over.

 

SUNDAY APRIL 9, 1916.

Diary.

I returned early from the trenches, and assisted in clearing up our old home, which really has sheltered us fairly well. The Boche never really got on to us, which is surprising as the position is quite an obvious one and easy to range on as it is just where the railway and the Lille Road cross.

 

There was little hostile fire. We fired on the Transport Road and the Red-tiled Cottage with H.E., and apparently good effect.

 

Captain Langhorne went down to Armentieres.  One of our sections is already out.  It left last night.

 

Today the Australians officially take over. The Battery Commander is Captain W.H. Saint Clair, and the Battery is the 19th Battery, 4th Brigade Australian Field Artillery.

 

We sent all our belongings down to the Wagon Line in safety. Then the Captain left, and all the Australian personnel turned up and took over.

 

We heard that Colonel Logan of the Heavies had written to say how well our batteries had carried out their counter-battery work. This letter was sent to the Brigade.  It should have been read out to the men.  They get precious little to buck them up.  But that is usually the way in the army.  The thanks are conveyed, if ever, to the Commanding Officer, who had nothing whatever to do with the work.  It will be his good mark, not ours.

 

R.P.

Sunday April 9th 1916.

We have been packing up today. The battery goes out tonight.  I am staying behind for a few days to hand over to the new arrivals.  We go out for Divisional training, to which I do not look forward at all.  It is not to be compared to the interest and excitement of being in action.

 

I have not had my clothes off for a week as I have been on night duty in the trenches for that time.

 

Monday. The new battery is now in, and the whole of ours is now away.  I see that A.B. Hatt and Jack Whitfield have both been wounded, also Allan Pullinger.

 

I spent this morning taking new officers round to the O.P. and trenches.

 

At the moment I am sitting in the sun near our battery position with the new captain. He comes from South Australia.  We are watching the Boche drop 4.2” shells about 500 yards away, searching for one of our batteries in a wood but they have not found it yet.  There is an enemy balloon up.

 

The trenches are drying up well, and it is almost possible now to get round without becoming covered with mud. But the heat makes them smelly.

 

The Colonel of the Heavy Brigade, to which we are attached, has written a letter thanking our Colonel for the retaliation work we have done.

 

MONDAY APRIL 10, 1916.

Diary.

It was a fine misty morning. All my battery have gone, and I am left behind to hold the incoming battery’s commander’s hand, and generally to shew them the work.

 

There was nothing much doing, and I took the opportunity of conducting an Australian officer on a tour. We went by Chapelle d’Armentieres via Leith Walk to Lille Post, then by the communication trench to the Ferme du Biez, up Cowgate Avenue to the Front Line trenches, I.15.2., and I.16.1.  There we visited the company commanders.  We continued thence to Wine Street, and the Battalion Headquarters, and so back to the battery.

 

In the afternoon I went up the chimney. There was little doing.  A hostile balloon was up.

 

At night I dined at the Hotel “Au Boef” with Lowden, retuning to the battery about 10, p.m.

 

The 175th Brigade marched to billets at Wittes.

 

TUESDAY APRIL 11, 1916.

Diary.

The morning was wet and there was a cold wind. I got up late, read the papers and wrote letters.

 

In the afternoon I went up the chimney to observe and fired at Donkey Cottage; 11, rounds, of which 3 were direct hits.

 

I checked the gun lines and found an error in the registered angles owing to alteration of reference lines for parallelism.

 

The Australian Colonel visited the position with the Brigade Major. The ammunition allowance for the Anzacs is 2, H.E., and 1.2, shrapnel per gun per day!

 

I accompanied Captain St. Clair into Armentieres for dinner, returning to the battery late.

 

WEDNESDAY APRIL 12, 1916.

Diary.

It was a wet, cold and windy day.

 

The enemy fired heavily with 5.9, 4.2, and 77 mm on houses near the Ferme des Jardines in battery salvos.

 

In the evening Lowden, Maclaren of the Anzacs, and I went into Armentieres to see a cinema show in the school – a film of Charlie Chaplin.  Then we had dinner at the Hotel au Boeuf.  There was a parson dining there, who was quite silly with champagne.  (E)  Then we returned to the battery late.  This was my last night in the line.

 

APRIL 12, 1916

Last week I lived in my clothes for a whole week. Now the battery has left the firing line and we have been relieved by a division famous for work in another part of Europe.  I have been left behind for instructional (?) purposes, but I follow on and hope to catch up with my battery in a motor bus tomorrow.  I don’t know what we are going to do.  Some say we are going into training for mobile warfare; others that we go into the line immediately to relieve the French and take over a portion of their front.  In any case I hate a move, and we were quite happy where we were.

 

We have had some wind out here, but not so bad as the gale in England.  Lately we have had some fine days, but it is very cold and wet again now.

 

Last night I went into the town of …… with an Australian Captain of the gunners. Tonight I hope to go to a performance of the “Follies”.  These are the first two days I have had off since I came out.

 

There is a heavy bombardment going on down the road, the Boche putting in 5.9, 4.2, and 77 mm shells as hard as they can fire. I am glad I am not billeted in the vicinity.  It is a great nuisance losing one’s kit by shell fire.

 

If you have read a book called “The First Hundred Thousand” know that the second part describes this particular part of the line.

 

Zepp raids seem to have been fairly numerous lately, and I hope they have not visited you at all.

 

We are thinking of leave; but the powers that be leave us to our thoughts, and nothing happens.

 

It is particularly annoying having to hand over our battery position, O.P., and others after we have made them fairly habitable and comfortable. The Practical Joke Department still carries on its good work.

 

We have left our domestic animals behind for the new battery. The incoming battery commander is nursing the cat now.  He had decorated the B.C’s dug-out with a lot of extraordinary pictures.  We had no decorations to speak of.

 

While we were here the feature of social life was our tea parties. We always had a large party to tea, sometimes as many as ten.  I thought we ought to have had a board painted “Estaminet” over the entrance.  We were on the chief route to the trenches, and so easily accessible, and our hospitality acceptable.

 

THURSDAY APRIL 13, 1916.

Diary.

I was up before 6 a.m., and bade farewell to the Anzacs. Then I walked from the battery position to Erquinghem.  My kit had been sent down overnight to “A” Battery’s wagon line, where it could not be found for some time.

 

Then with details of the rest of our Divisional Artillery I travelled from Erquinghem in motor lorries. Lowden and I sat on the front seat with the driver.

 

Starting at 9.30, a.m., we journeyed by Sailly-sur la Lys, Estaires to Hazebrouck, where we had some lunch.  Then we went to St. Omer, where we had some more lunch.  From there we continued on through Lumbres to our destination, Bayenghem-les-Seninghem.

 

This place is a small but fairly clean and pretty village. The English cavalry have been here for some considerable time.  The men are billeted in a large but dilapidated house, which with its out buildings furnish us with barrack rooms, dining rooms, harness rooms, office, stabling for officers’ chargers, forge, quarter-master’s store and what not.

 

I am billeted in a farmhouse up a lane on higher ground. I have the place to myself.  The bedroom is quite clean and large.  Captain Langhorne and Hopkins are in a white farmhouse opposite the church.  Holt is at the mayor’s house, in which the officers’ mess is also given accommodation.  The Brigade Headquarters is in an empty chateau.  The horses are lined along the road by the church.  The guns are parked in the main road.  A riding field is also available.

 

We arrived about 4, p.m. It was a fine day but cold and windy.

Holt is definitely posted to our battery.

 

FRIDAY APRIL 14, 1916.

Diary.

I was orderly officer, and was up by 5 a.m.

My time table was as follows:

5.15, a.m., to 6 a.m.,   Physical drill.

6 to 7 a.m.,                  Stables.

8 a.m.                          Breakfast.

8.30, a.m., to 10.15, a.m.,       Exercise.

10.30, a.m.,                 Stables.

1, p.m.,                        Lunch.

2, p.m.,                        Checking equipment on guns and wagons, and the battery stores.

4, p.m.,                        Stables.

Mounted guard.

Censored letters.

 

The day was showery, and in the afternoon we had a thunderstorm. The evening was very wet.

 

SATURDAY APRIL , 15, 1916.

Diary.

We were all ready to go out in marching order when we had a thunderstorm with snow, so the parade was cancelled. Instead we were ordered to harness cleaning.

 

General Kirby and Brigade Major Waller visited us. We were told to get the oats crushed at the local Moulin.

 

The afternoon was lovely but cold. Captain Langhorne, Holt and I walked to Lumbres and bought fishing rods.

 

Colonel Stevenson called at tea time.

 

The kit was inspected, etc. At night I wrote letters.

 

April 15, 1916.

R.P.

We are now back behind the line in very comfortable billets in a small village in a pretty valley. Cavalry occupied them before we came, and they are now not very far away.

 

I travelled here in a motor lorry with two sergeants, a corporal, a bombardier, and a linesman from out battery who stayed behind with me. We started about 7.30, a.m., and walked about five miles to the lorries.  We arrived about 4.30, p.m.  The men are billeted in a large empty house, which is rather dirty though there is plenty of room.

 

Opposite the mess is a quaint old church, quite small. The cure is an elderly man in spectacles and wears black bands with white edges.

 

Before we left the line the Boche concentrated on an empty lunatic asylum.

 

Yesterday was occupied as follows:-

5, a.m.                         Reveille.

5.15, a.m., to 6 a.m.,   Physical drill.

6 to 7 a.m.,                  Stables.

8 a.m.                          Breakfast.

8.30, a.m., to 10.30, a.m.,       Exercise.

10.30, a.m., to 12.30, p.m.,                 Stables.  Grooming, water and feed.

1, p.m.,                        Lunch.

2, p.m.,                        Inspection and checking of stores, spare parts and ammunition.

  1. p.m. Inspection of kit.

4, p.m.,                        Stables.

5, p.m.,                        Tea.

6.30, p.m.,                   Mounted guard.

7, p.m.,                        Censored letters.

8, p.m.,                        Dinner.

11, p.m.,                      Turn in.

 

This afternoon the Captain and I went for a long walk to try and get fit again after the long time in the line. The weather is still very cold.

 

SUNDAY APRIL 16, 1916.

Diary.

It is a fine day but cold.

There was another inspection of kit, then stables. Ammunition was cleaned and sorted.

 

In the afternoon I went for a ride with the Captain and Hopkins and did some jumping. We got back about 5, p.m., and found a large mail.

 

Then I went trout fishing with Hopkins, but caught nothing, though we saw a very pretty woman in mourning weeds.

 

To day being Palm Sunday the local priest and villagers had a great procession from the church. They carried green stuff, which was blessed and stuck up in the crops.  The inhabitants seemed to spend the whole day in church.

 

The troops played football in the afternoon.

The evening turned out wet, and the Colonel came to dinner.

 

MONDAY APRIL 17, 1916.

Diary.

Being Orderly Officer I was up at 5, a.m., and as the morning very wet and cold I cancelled physical drill.

 

During the morning I took exercise. After lunch the men were ordered to marching and physical drill.

 

A French civilian was kicked by one of our horses which no doubt will cause trouble.

I received a parcel from home of books, socks and eatables. I wrote to the Base Cashier as there is some trouble about my allowances.

 

APRIL 17, 1916

We are behind the line once more for what is technically called a rest; but it resolves into intense training, and more resembles hard labour than anything else we have done yet. I hope it will be short.  We spent our whole day from dawn to dusk in physical drill, exercising and otherwise hardening ourselves and our horses, cleaning harness and equipment, overhauling stores and making up deficiencies in our establishment.  The monotony is only relieved by letters from home.

 

The weather has given us just cause to grumble this year. It is still very cold and wet.  We are visited with thunderstorms, hail and snow.

 

We are billeted in a pretty village in a small valley. The guns are parked on the high road, the horses picketed up a lane by the church, the mess is in a fairly clean farmhouse opposite the church.  I have a large bedroom all to myself in a house higher up the lane.  This is a great luxury.  The only recreation I have had lately has been some trout fishing.  We caught one the other morning, about ¾ lb. weight, and it was eaten by us in microscopic portions.

 

Last night we had a dinner party, and the Colonel and the Brigade Doctor honoured us with their presence. Tonight the Captain has gone off to a poker party.  I know what that means.  We shall have to send the mess cart for him in the early hours and he will have a liver in the morning.

 

I arrived here with 2 sergeants, a corporal, and a bombardier in a motor lorry. The journey took the whole day.  The battery was four days ahead of us but we caught  them up alright.  I stayed behind to lend a hand to the Australians.  Now we are contemplating a move to another part of the line.

 

In the neighbourhood there are cavalry and horse gunners. They are certainly smart, but they have not been wanted for a long time now; but they say they are waiting for the “G”, in “Gap”, in the Boche line.

 

I was very sorry to leave our old gun line. It was an excellent position, and the Boche never discovered it while we were there, although we had a good many stray shells into the place.  We shall never get another as good I am afraid.

 

April 17, 1916.

R.M.L.P.

The only way to live is to carry on with your job in the best way you can, and then take thankfully whatever else life has to offer. I wish now I had appreciated the old home more when I had the opportunity of being there.  One’s views get greatly modified out here, when the outlook is so different and when one does not know what the day may bring forth.

 

We are very busy. Nothing goes right, of course.  But, then, did it ever in the British Army.  If you get a wet sandbag stuffed with straw to lay your head on, it is no use cursing it, but if the pillow is of soft feathers and linen, well be thankful.

 

At the moment we are having what is called “rest”; but it really is hard labour. We are expecting a move shortly, so I shall have very little time to give you any news.  But do not forget, no news is good news.  We hope to be in the thick of it soon.  We want to get it over for our own sakes if we live to see the end, and if not then for the sake of those at home.

 

It seems an age since I was at home. All leave is stopped, drat them!  I am not fed up with fighting.  I like straffing the Boche, but I am fed up with the way things are run.

 

TUESDAY APRIL 18, 1916.

Diary.

It was a cold, wet and windy day. After stables I rode over to the Ammunition Column to see Cheadle.  There are no letters or parcels today.

The Colonel is away, so Captain Langhorne is C.O. Harness cleaning and the usual parades fully occupied our time.

The Adjutant, Fletcher, and the Interpreter came to dinner.

 

R.P.

April 19, 1916.

It is still raining. Leave is not a possibility, as it has been stopped.  All is gloomy.

This morning we took the horses out for a five hours’ hard exercise to get them fit as possible. We moved mostly at the trot.  It did them a lot of good.

 

We are anxiously awaiting orders to move. May they arrive with the coming of fine weather.

Last night we had a French Officer to dine with us, and he gave us some interesting accounts of the fighting at Verdun.  The attacks seem to be increasing in strength and frequency again there.

 

WEDNESDAY APRIL 19, 1916.

Diary.

The day was wet and cold as usual. The battery went out for skeleton driving drill on a ploughed field!  It took 1½ hours getting to the field.  We started at 8.30, am., and got back at 1.15, pm.

 

In the afternoon stables.

I received several letters, and my gloves which I had left behind at the gun-line from St. Clair.

The evening was very wet.

 

THURSDAY APRIL 20, 1916.

Diary.

I was orderly officer, and took early morning physical drill, rough exercise with-out saddles, marching drill and stables. The morning was wet.

In the afternoon we had Battery Gun Drill on the road, a series being taken.  Then I took stables and paid the men.

 

FRIDAY APRIL 21, 1916.

Diary.

Good Friday, and a fine day.

The Battery went out in drill order, and marched beyond Nielles-les-Blequin.  I acted as reconnaissance officer.  The battery came into action in a ploughed field.  The signalling was bad, the guns were sent up before I was ready, and I managed to work out a wrong battery angle.  The Captain was furious.  The teams of one gun and two wagons jibbed when going up a steep hill.  One limber turned over and held up the rest.  Altogether it was a most unfortunate day.  Nevertheless it is not to be wondered at.  It is strange but true that I have now been with this battery for five months and it is the first time we have attempted to practice going into action as a battery and the first time the teams have been put to drag the vehicles over rough ground since we have been in France.  and the battery commander is a regular officer.

 

After stables in the evening Captain Langhorne gave a lecture on Battery angles and angles of sight, to the officers of the Brigade.

The evening was wet.

 

SATURDAY APRIL 22, 1916.

Diary.

It was a very wet day. Hopkins and a party of twelve diggers left to go via St. Omer and Amiens to prepare our new positions in the line in the Somme area.  I took exercise at midday.  It rained heavily all day, so we did no grooming.  The horses were fed and watered only.

 

We lent our guns to the Divisional Ammunition Column for practice purposes, but as they had no instructors they probably learnt very little.

 

In the evening Captain Howard gave a lecture to the officers of the Brigade on Aeroplanes and Observation from the air.

 

SUNDAY APRIL 23, 1916.

Diary.

Easter Sunday. It was a beautifully fine day.  I was up early and took the morning exercise at 6, am.  We were out of stables at 8, a.m.  There was barrack room inspection at 9,a.m.  Captain Langhorne rode in for cash to pay the battery.  At 11, a.m., water and feed.

 

The Adjutant and I went to Holy Communion in the village theatre, which was a dilapidated building with an earthen floor covered with dirty straw, and in which horses were stabled.

 

The village church was going all day. Two untuneful bells rang incessantly either individually at irregular intervals or both together.

 

After lunch I went fishing with Fletcher.

I took stables at 4, p.m., censored letters, and had a bath. The evening was quite cold.

 

MONDAY APRIL 24, 1916.

Diary.

The Captain was away, so I was in charge. I took a route march and had a hill climbing test.  The horses did very well.  There was only one accident, a centre rider stumbled and damaged a driver.

It was a fine day. In the afternoon we had stables and harness cleaning.

Jack and Morton called from the Column. There was no lecture.

 

TUESDAY APRIL 25, 1916.

Diary.

The weather is really beautiful. Routine work, including inspections, parades, physical drill etc.

Holt is a lazy devil and is now sulking. Such creatures are the very devil in such an existence.  He takes advantage of the absence of the Captain to slack and resents any orders.  May I never be left with him in action or something horrible will happen.

 

WEDNESDAY APRIL 26, 1916.

Diary.

Ditto, only more so. Captain Spain gave a lecture on the buffer.  There was a conference for battery commanders at Headquarters, to which I went in the absence of Captain Langhorne.

Later the Captain returned. I had a headache.

 

THURSDAY APRIL 27, 1916.

Diary.

The weather is still beautiful. Captain Langhorne left to go to our new position in the line down south in the Somme area.

 

I took early morning exercise.

 

Then I departed to the Field Operations in the Training Area where I took part in a practice attack by our infantry on trenches marked out to represent the particular portion of the German front line which we shall have to attack later on.

 

I rode out with Captain Spain.  On arrival I acted as a battery commander, selected a battery position, and took up my position at an O.P.

 

The whole show, I thought, extremely badly carried out. The outline of trenches were supposed to represent a village in the German front line, and the attack was staged with the idea that our infantry were attacking on either side of it to cut it out and surround it, and then continue on.  The village formed a salient in the enemy’s line, the attack moving forward north and south of it.

 

Sketch.

I got no clear idea of what was intended, and the whole thing seemed confusion worse confounded. The troops appeared slow and uncomprehending, even stupid.  But that was obviously not their fault.  I spoke to several infantry officers, and they seemed absurdly vague.  If an attack is to be practiced why cannot the men who have to carry it out be told what it is all about.

 

I had lunch with Colonel Kincaid-Smith, and Colonel Stevenson, but they did not enlighten me. Then I walked to the rendez-vous.  For I had some excitement.  My groom had taken the saddles off my horses and placed them by the roadside.  Of course the horses broke loose, and my groom had to run after them for miles on his silly flat feet.  I put the saddlery in an estaminet.  However, when I started to walk, he turned up with two sweating horses.  Then I rode home with Captain Spain, Macdonald and others.

 

After tea there was a conference at F.Q.E. (Hdqrs), when the Colonel told the battery commanders all about our position in the line and what we were expected to do in the attack. Whew!  Now why on earth could not this information have been given to us before we witnessed the rehearsal?

After I tried prisoners, and went to bed early.

 

FRIDAY APRIL 28, 1916.

Diary.

It was a beautiful morning. I sent the battery under Holt to carry out Gun emplacement digging.

 

Then I rode with Captain Spain to Lumbers to get cash.  There was a large crowd of gunners there.  On our way back we were behind a two-wheeled cart, driven by an old French woman, when it suddenly overturned.  The woman was rather badly hurt.  We righted the cart, mended the harness, and cut off a large chunk of the horse’s lip that had been torn when it fell, and sent the old woman on her way again.  Some of these old French women are plucky, or are they just insensible.

 

When I got back I took a prisoner to the Colonel, who sentenced the man to Field Punishment No. 2.

 

I sent the battery to bathe. Then I rode out over some really beautiful country to prepare a scheme with Holt and the Sergeant Major.

 

In the evening there was a lecture by the Medical Officer on Sanitation. I also paid the battery.

 

Instructions came in for one N.C.O., or man to go on leave. I sent Bomb. Birchall, and wished I could have gone myself.

 

Of us the French say “Toujours poleesh, jamais advance!” Well!  The French are supposed to be a military nation, but they have not shewn us a very fine example.  It is something to be able to polish, though our Generals would not make the admission.

 

SATURDAY APRIL 29, 1916.

Diary.

Today I was informed that the Colonel would inspect the battery at 11.45, a.m. Accordingly we prepared.  Then it was put off to 12.30, p.m., then to 2, p.m., and finally to 4.30, p.m.  As a result we messed about the whole day and effectively wasted our time waiting for him.

 

But we had time to go on polishing harness, grooming, and cleaning up the rooms. As a result we got a good report from the Colonel.  The horses and vehicles certainly looked well.  Tomorrow they will be filthy again.

 

In the evening the men had a concert in a field, and the Colonel supplied the beer. I went with the Adjutant, Fletcher.  Our comic man, Matthews, was very funny.

The weather is still beautiful.

 

SATURDAY APRIL 29, 1916.

 

What lovely weather we are having. The valley here is looking perfectly lovely.  The trees are well covered with green and the orchards full of blossom.  The best time to enjoy this fine weather is about five in the morning, when we have exercise, and water the horses in the stream below the village.

 

I went to church last Sunday for Communion. The service was held in the village theatre, which is a barn with an earth floor covered with dirty straw, mud walls full of holes, and a thatched roof.  At one end was a stage of planks on which was placed a wooden crate, which served as a holy table.

 

The Colonel is giving entertainment to the men tonight in the meadow. Each man will get a pint of French beer.

 

As the Captain is away elsewhere in France for a week I am in charge.  Today there is an inspection by the Colonel, so everyone is cleaning harness, guns, rooms and horses, and also themselves,  on Monday I am having a day our with the battery on a scheme of my own.

 

I am reading “Carry On” in Blackwoods.

 

Sunday again tomorrow. There is a Field Day arranged.

We seem to be safer out here than in England, what with bombardments by sea and air and insurrections.  The British Isles are having a bad time.  It is much more boring out here.

 

SUNDAY APRIL 301916.

Diary.

I was up at 5, a.m., and departed on horseback for a field day with the infantry at 5.45, a.m. After a hard ride I arrived there at 7, a.m.  It was a hot day.

 

With Colonel Stevenson, Staff Captain Beal, Fletcher and Lowden I witnessed the proceedings, and left not much the wiser at 10.30, a.m. I rode into St. Omer, put up the horses at the Cavalry Barracks, had a hair cut, and lunch with Stewart, Adjutant of the 152nd Brigade at Vincents.

 

Later the mess cart arrived, and I bought food for the mess. R.H.I.O.

 

G.H.Q. is no longer at St. Omer. It is said to be some where up north.

I rode home very tired and saw the Colonel.