H.E. WITTY Sep 16
18th SIEGE BATTERY R.G.A.
1st September 1916. Friday. Stayed in trucks overnight and left for Fricourt (German 1st line before advance) 10 A.M. (Met everything *** “pertaining to war on our march). Albert Statue plainly visible. Spent day getting in stores with lorry – slept in German dug-out. This dug-out excellently constructed about 20’ underground – reached by two flights of steps. Connected with next dug-out by a small tunnel. Remains of dead bodies everywhere.
2nd September 1916. Saturday. Extra hard day near Mametz Wood (German 2nd line defence). Preparing dug-outs in chalk hill. This will undoubtedly be a long affair. Gun position being prepared near our dug-outs. German prisoners pass constantly.
3rd September 1916. Sunday. Strenuous day – turned out at 5.45 a.m. and walked with Mr. Mallins to O.P. in front line trench near Martinpuich. Present at attack on High Wood – too thick with smoke from German guns to distinguish details. Had a good view of mine explosion which was signal for the attack. Our vicinity heavily shelled. Twice hit with fragments of shell. Mametz Wood a mass of ploughed ground – also surrounding country. Contalmaison non-existent. Odour from dead bodies. Phew!!!
4th September 1916. Monday. On telephone – had my first attempt at washing. Rain in morning but fine rest of day. Fricourt Wood shelled. NO MAIL. Wrote R. Shelled FRICOURT CIRCUS. BOTTS’ visit from Albert.
5th September 1916. Tuesday. On telephone – weather variable. Very cold. Nothing doing thro’ bad weather. Letter from Douglas. ANS.
6th September 1916. Wednesday. On telephone and lines – badly broken. Walked to Becourt Wood (2 ½ miles) for an open air shower bath. Splendid. Discovered some huge “Minnies” 10” diameter in a dug-out. Good mail. Letters Pa, R., Mary and home. Papers home and Scott. Fine day.
7th September 1916. Thursday. On telephone – also on lines in afternoon. No 1 Position heavily shelled. Hit on hand with a splinter of shell. 60 Pounder got away safely. NO MAIL. Weather dry but overcast.
8th September 1916. Friday. On telephone – also on bty line. Completed dug-out and then learnt we were leaving at 4 p.m. Travelled to Meaulte and reached Maricourt about midnight. Letters R., Kathie and book from Miss R.
9th September 1916. Saturday. Worked on gun unloading shell cartridges etc until 5 a.m. Had two hours rest and then put in 4 hours laying lines. Met 45 Siege on same loop as us. Expecting a big shoot subject to good weather. First acquaintance with ”ARMADILL”. Conversation with Lors soldier – sad case of wife and girl. Weather fine. Went into action but only fired 12 rounds owing to faulty recoil buffer.
10th September 1916. Sunday. On telephone 3 a.m. – slept splendidly last night in bivouac. Laid a line to 45 to get through to H.Q. – Line to 83 broken repaired after tea. Saw remains of 9.2. Enormous crater. Neighbourhood heavily shelled. Little damage Loss of Ginchy. NO MAIL. Weather fine and warm. “The Garrisons’ Deathtrap” Maricourt.
11th September 1916. Monday. On telephone – unable to shoot owing to ineffectual observation. Received orders to pack up and depart tomorrow. Fine day – Letters R., Ma home, N.T., Humberstone and Gladys. Ans.
12th September 1916. Tuesday. On telephone 3 a.m. to breakfast – also 9 a.m. to 12. Standing by to fire 40 rounds to E. of Combles in support of French. Observation from Balloon failed. Received orders to move out at 1 o’clock. Day fine but cloudy. “Shelled at Latrine at 2 a.m.” Ugh. Moved to new siding. On telephone. Letter from Mr. Woodthorpe.
13th September 1916. Wednesday. On telephone 3 p.m. Expecting to fire 40 rounds in support of the French attack. Fired 1 rd at 7.25.6. New CB idea to fire from many bties so that shells fall at one time. NO MAIL.
14th September 1916. Thursday. A great day. Left at 7 p.m. for LEUZE WOOD O.P. (200 yds from Germans – in front of our 1st line). Passed thro’ Hardicourt and had view of GINCHY and COMBLES. Horrible sights en route. Heavily shelled all day – especially when repairing line. Hit in groin with a piece of shell – most painful. Hostile balloon brought down – in flames. Great activity. What does it portend? MAIL; Pal & letter (R.). Letters N.T. and home. Ans tomorrow.
15th September 1916. Friday. Grand attack on LEUZE WOOD front – great successes. 1st use of the “Armadill” – conflicting reports re their advantages. 3000 Yds advance. Saw many wounded both English and German. Cavalry reported in action. We fired many rounds on MORVAL and LES BOEUFS. On telephone in morning. Glorious day. Balloon breaks away – descent by parachute. NO MAIL.
16th September 1916. Saturday. On telephone most of day. Reported success at Les Boeufs and MORVAL. Grand French advance – in action all the day. Case of the Zouave and the letter to his officer’s wife. Fine weather. NO MAIL up. Case of pea-soup. (code).
17th September 1916. Sunday. On telephone Mallins at 0.P. with Caller, Gill, Candlin. Knight returned to duty. Great shoot on the quadrilateral – very dull – 92 rounds fired. Mail up. Letter R. Papers home and Scott. P.C. Gilbert. ANS. A few shells fall in vicinity of camp one just missing the telephone hut.
18th September 1916. Monday. On telephone 3 a.m. – very rainy morning – in action 5.50 a.m. Fired 9 rounds on MORVAL. Quadrilateral captured after our preparation. Heavy rains make bivouac life most unpleasant. Letter from Ira. Major idea that I should be B.C.s assistant to help him with his calculations. Thanks of the Infantry.
19th September 1916. Tuesday. Heavy showers today but mainly fine. Recover from my attack of diarrhoea which has been troubling me for the past 36 hrs. Laid a line to m.c. in French lines. Line laid to north of Ginchy. Expectation of big shoot for tomorrow. Postponed. Letters R., Peg. Ans. Saw French ammunition ‘Dump’ go up. Some sight. Laid line to M.C. in French line.
20th September 1916. Wednesday. On telephone 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. (fine & moonlight but intensely cold. Am a little better off then Scroogs clerk as I warm myself a little with the Primus. On M.C. line twice in morning & afternoon – drenched – visit of the General. No mail.
21st September 1916. Thursday. Big shoot – fired 110 rounds in preparation for tomorrow’s attack on Les Boeufs and Morval. Aeroplane observation – fine day – rather chilly but sunny. Walked down to the Loop for Kit (4 miles). No Mail. Bombardment postponed.
22nd September 1916. Friday. On telephone 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. & then on line to C.M. (in French lines). Lovely sunny day – cool. Enjoyable after last night’s bitter cold. Fired 34 rounds on”Sunken Road” near Les Boeufs. (Aeroplane and balloon observation). Fritz retaliates. One shell falls 3 yds off amn (Dud) while another just misses gun and explodes 4 yds away. Poor Stemp killed instantly. Had a narrow escape one falling just short of telephone hut and covering me with dirt. Acted as Major’s assistant today. Hope the job continues.
23rd September 1916. Saturday. Off duty today but went out to repair M.C. line. Another lovely day. Good Mail. Letters N.T., Home, Scott. Paper Scott. ANS. Inspection of gun by I.oM. who condemns it after yesterday. Camp again shelled during the night.
24th September 1916. Sunday. Expecting to move back to Loop. Very little doing. On telephone. Mail. Letters Kathie and Alice. Another fine day. 1 detachment for amn fatigues. On night duty. Moving tomorrow.
25th September 1916. Monday. Getting lines in before removing at 10 a.m. packed up and moved to Loop. Had a ride in train up to Mountauban. Letter R. Parcels R. (letter from Ma) and Mother. ANS.
26th September 1916. Tuesday. Finally settled down after a good night. . Barney goes sick with a crocked ankle. Another fine day. Saw many prisoners and wounded Huns yesterday. Reported capture of LES BOEUFS and MORVAL. Saw some 2000 prisoners – rather poor specimens. Very different from those I saw dead in the Sunken Road GINCHY. NO MAIL.
27th September 1916. Wednesday. Had a good night. Heard from French soldiers that COMBLES had been taken. Heard of the capture of THIEPVAL, GOURDECOURT and COMBLES. Neighbourhood bombed last night by two Taubes. NO MAIL. Showery.
28th September 1916. Thursday. Fine with occasional showers. Good news still pouring in. Spent day in the ‘office’. Letter from R. ANS. No further news of COMBLES. BRAY shelled with little damage. Letter from Gilbert. ANS.
29th September 1916. Friday. Spent the day with Clements in the ‘office’. Barney’s ankle broken (Court of Enquiry). Day wet and unsettled. Heavy firing up Combles way. Letters N.T. & Home. Ans.
30th September 1916. Saturday. Fine day – very windy. Another busy day in ‘the office’. Leave commences today. Turner and Cousins. Letter R. Dorothy and papers from home. Our old pn. very heavily shelled.