WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne Oct 1916

WAR DIARY  of AA Laporte Payne




Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda




October 6, 1916.


I hope the last Zep over London did not bomb you at all.  I confess that I am not over anxious about you as the chance is remote that a bomb falls near you, and I know you are sensible and keep in doors when the stray bits from the anti-aircraft shells keep dropping about.

The German airmen will not have much taste for raiding London if they are likely to be brought down, and most of their shells fall harmlessly.

We are not having such a quiet time now. On the Somme some progress seems to have been made.  But this awful weather must be terribly trying for the men in the trenches.  I am thankful that we are not now living in a small, leaky chalky dirty dug-out.  Here as elsewhere we are keeping the Boche occupied with bombardments and raids, as you can see from the papers.

I do wish we could get into Germany.  We should have a glorious time.  I should not mind blowing up their, houses, factories and buildings or turning their country side into a shell pocked desert.

When we came out of the Somme area it was strange to see green fields, trees and some houses left standing.  Down there as far as we could see from the battery position there was nothing but raw tortured ground, a few stricken trees where once a wood had been, or a mound of red and white rubble which once had been a church, a hall or chateau.  Shell holes did not need looking for; it was hard to find a square inch that was not part of a shell hole.

I enclose two photographs taken at a small French photographers in a town behind the lines when we were last out of action. I look very gloomy, but we were not feeling at all depressed at the time.  The three other officers are Lieutenants D. Lowden, W. Rainford, and A. Twyford.


(Oct. 6/7, 1916)


4th October 1916.

Reference FRANKS’ FORCE Artillery Operation Order No. 3.

  1. Raids therein mentioned will be carried out on night 6/7th . The 5th Australian Division & 34th Division are simultaneously carrying out dummy raids.
  2. Raids will be as follows:-

(a) 103rd Infantry Brigade, strength  – 2 officers 30 O.R.  Objective, Railway Salient I.11.a.

(b) 8th Australian Brigade, strength – 3 officers 59 O.R.  Objective – Chicken Run C.17.a.

  1. Zero time will be issued later. This is the hour at which bombardment commences.
  2. Force time will be given to 103rd and 8th Australian Infantry Brigades at 5, p.m., & 10, p.m. on 6th Infantry Brigades will arrange to synchronise the watches of their Artillery Groups.
  3. Arrangements for counter-battery work have been made with 2nd ANZAC Heavy Artillery.



Captain, R.G.A.,

B.M., R.A., Franks’ Force.

(To Right Group, R.A. Franks’ Force Artillery.)


(Oct. 6/7., 1916)


Night 6th/7th October 1916.

Proposed Raid on Railway Salient.

Trench Map BOIS GRENIER 36 N.W. 4.

Preliminary Bombardment.


1st Phase.  From Zero to Zero x 5.

D/175 Targets   I.11.a.60.30.)             15 rds. per gun.





2” T.M.B.        I.11.c.60.95.)               20 rounds.





A/175 Front Trench

I.11.a.58.00. to)          15 rds. per gun.

I.11.a.60.30.   )


B/175 (3 guns.) Front Trench

I.11.a.38.20 to                        do



A/152 Front System from

I.11.c.6.6. to


and C.Ts leading into that sector.


6” Stokes Mortars.

From Zero to Zero x1.

Cut wire, intense rate of fire at

I.11.a.30.28. and I.11.a.32.30.

2nd Phase.


A/175. Lift to Chord Line from I.11.c.98.60. to I.11.a.60.30..  20 rounds per gun.

2nd Phase.  Zero x5 to Zero x 15.


3rd Phase.  Zero x 15 to Zero x 20.

A/175 as before 10 rounds per gun.


4th Phase.  Till Infantry give the signal to stop 1round per gun per minute.



5th Phase.  At a signal to be arranged by the Liaison Officer, after our infantry return, all guns will fire bursts of two rounds of gun fire on targets as in 1st Phase.



Captain A.C. Crookshank, R.F.A. at Headquarters of Right Company, Right Battalion, 2nd Lieut. F.H. Webb, R.F.A. (F.O.O.) with O.C. Right Company at a point to be arranged later.  These Officers will take two telephonists and one telephone with them and report at 9.30, p.m.

(sd.) W. Furnivall,

Lieut Colonel,

Commanding Right Group.

Franks’ Force. Artillery.


(Units A, B, & D/175. Bde A/152 Bde Y/34th T.M.B.)

(Oct. 6/7, 1916)

The bombardment began at 1.25, a.m., and the guns fired the first three phases up to 1.45, a.m. mostly A.X. (H.E.). Then up to the rocket, when stopped.  Ten minutes after the rocket fired two rounds gunfire with shrapnel.

80 fuze, Cor 164.


( ? “SOCKS” at 9.30, p.m.

Capt McClellan at Inf Bde. H.Q.)



Battery Position

(for guns)

Gun                             Line                             Map Range.

No. 3                           12o.30’R.                     3100

4                           13o.     R.                     3050

5                           13o .     R.                    3000

6                           12o.30’R.                     2950    1st Phase 1 rd. pre gun per 15 secs


2nd & 3rd Phase.           8 rd per 20, secs.

All guns add 200 yards. Distribute 1 deg from No 5 gun.

30’ L. drop 25 every other round.


4th Phase.                     1 rd per gun per minute.


Officer Commanding

A/175th Brigade R.F.A.


The following extract from Second Anzac Intelligence Summary No. 99 dated 7th October, 1916, is forwarded for information and necessary action:-

Anti-militarist effusions have recently been found printed inside the cover of packets of cigarette papers in PARIS.  The cover of the packets was green, with black stripes; on it was printed an allegorical figure of a woman holding a sword and wearing a helmet with a cock as crest, standing near a canon inscribed as LE VENGEUR, and underneath “ON NE PASSE PAS”.  There was also the trademark “LE VENGEUR” and the name Gaston d’ ARGY, PARIS, (a well-known firm).

Inside were some anti-militarist verses. If any of these, or similar device, are found, they should immediately be reported.

(G.H.Q. I.B.1136/461)

Hamilton Fletcher

Lieut & Adjt.

175th F.A. Bde

8th. October 1916.


OCTOBER 10, 1916.

Thank you for the excellent box of De Reske cigarettes.

We have been exceptionally busy of late. The junior sub has been posted away, another has been on leave.  Night operations and other silly things have seriously interfered with the ordinary routine.


So you have had a Zeppelin at last. How exciting!  I have never seen a Zepp. brought down, although I have seen several aeroplanes crash.  The papers have exceptionally detailed accounts of the affair.


It has been a fairly quiet afternoon. I am alone at the battery.  The Captain is wandering round the trenches, not too healthy at the present time.


The day has been quite fine, but the Boche has been troublesome recently, also the mosquitoes. We are covered in bumps.  One has a black eye from the same cause.


October, 11, 1916.



At the moment I am alone at the battery. We are two officers short.  The scene is the mess on the first floor of a house adjoining a factory, deserted and decayed.  The Boche are shelling the town behind us, and our Howitzers near-by in retaliation are making the place rock like a ship at sea.  There are constant interruptions by orderlies and demands to speak on the telephone.


Suddenly the door is thrown violently open, and the Battery Commander hurls himself into the room, bangs his steel helmet down with a crash on the tiled floor, scatters the message forms that have recently arrived to the four corners of the mess, and smiles a cherubic smile.


He has just acquired one of the new gas helmets, called a “box respirator”. He tears the top flap open, and searches for the book of the words, passing rude remarks about the mentality of those who invented such a thing.

“How do you put the beastly thing on?” ”What’s this string for?” ”Have I got to put my nose in that?”

“I suppose it is like all British-made articles, made for all time and not for an age.”

“It won’t go on.”

“It’s B….Y Murder!”

“Tape’s miles too short.”

“Worst of having such a fat head.”

“I’d sooner be gassed.”

“This is no bon.”

“You don’t help a fellow when he’s in trouble.”

“Don’t sit there grinning like a fool. How the devil does the D….d thing work?”


In this way the new masks arrived.


However he goes away on special leave next week, and will be away for a fortnight, so I hope to run the battery in peace.


Last night I went into the town for dinner with the Captain, and had quite an amusing evening.


Ordinary leave has been cancelled except for those who have been out here for a year without any. The staff however do not miss their regular routine of leave.


October 17, 1916.


The Captain is away for a fortnight, and I am in charge during his absence. What with various operations and Generals’ inspections we are very busy.


SECRET.                                                                    175, Bde. R.F.A. No. S/119.


Officer Commanding,

A/152F. A. Bde.

A/175, do

B/175, do

D/175, do


Can the F.O.Os shed any light on the following incident which is alleged to have occurred yesterday 16th about 3, p.m., just north of Railway Salient.


A man dressed in civilian clothes made his way up to our front line, got over our front parapet and made for the German lines; he was reported to have been badly hit and remained standing on the enemy front line parapet for some moments. The theory is that he was a spy or a German officer attempting to rejoin his own lines.  The Division ask for a careful enquiry to be made from F.O.Os watching this sector.

Please report by 7.30, p.m. 18-10-16.


Hamilton Fletcher

Lieut & Adjt.

Right Group, R.A.

Franks’ Force.



OCTOBER 17, 1916.

The battery commander is away for a fortnight, so I am in charge at the gun-line, and am therefore busy. What with operations night and day and General’s inspections there is plenty to do.  We have a battery position, a detached section of guns, an Observation Post, all requiring an officer on the spot, as well as an Infantry Liaison Officer at night.  Between them all and Brigade Headquarters I flit uneasily.


OCTOBER 20, 1916.

Preparations for and the carrying out of a raid has occupied all my time. I have spent the last three days in the trenches, and got thoroughly soaked for my trouble.


The rot published in the newspapers about Robinson, V. C. with photographs of the hero playing tennis with his landlady, causes us great amusement.


Our flat here is at present extremely cold. We cannot have a fire during the day as we are in full view of the Boche lines, and if smoke were seen we should inhabit the place no longer.  One fellow is dancing round the room trying to get warm, to selections from “Shell Out” on the gramophone.  Another wretched creature is up in the O.P.  I try to hold a pen.


The rush of the last few days is over, and I am looking forward to a dinner tonight with the O.C. of another battery in a town close behind the lines.


Last Sunday we actually had a Church Parade for the battery. I think for the first time since we came out here.  Service was held in an empty white-washed factory shed at 7 p.m.  The place was lit with oil lamps, but not very well, and furniture consisted of chairs, a table with a gaudy cloth, two large vases filled with flowers, two candles, and a large ebony and white crucifix, all looted from houses in the vicinity of our gun-line.  Most ritualistic.  These arrangements were made by the men themselves under the direction of the senior sergeant.  The men, mostly north country men sang very well.


The padre who came is a fine fellow attached to the infantry. he lives in the trenches.  He is an Ulsterman, and a real good sort.  Our own chaplain we only see when we are out of the line, and as that is hardly ever, we rarely see him, which is just as well.  This one distinguished himself the other night bringing in some wounded in the face of the Boche machine guns.  but then he is an Ulsterman.


I am getting up a concert for the men the night after next. We have discovered a piano of sorts, also a few artistes, also of sorts.



Proposed Raid on German Trenches opposite to


on night of

20/21st October 1916.


INTENTION. Six minutes after zero hour two parties will enter German Trenches, one at Junction of ditch with front line at I.5.c.65.13., the other at Junction of track with front line at I.5.c.85.27.  Both parties will put a stop on their left at point of entry and work along front line to their right for a distance of about 40 yards.

At zero hour these two parties will be in No-Man’s-Land about 100 yards from the German front line.



(The following batteries of Right Group to take part:-

D/175, Howitzers.

A/152, 18 pdr.

A & B/175, 18 pdr.

Y/34 T.M.B.)


PHASE 1.       Preliminary Bombardment.

Time Zero to Zero x 5 min.

A/175. 2 guns.  Bombard front line from I.5.c.85.27. to I.5.c.65.13.

4 guns. bombard support line from I.5.d.15.30. to I.5.d.07.00.

One 6” Howitzer will be firing on Sparrows Nest I.5.d. ½ .1. throughout.

Two Howitzers Left Group on points, trench junctions.


Rates of fire.

4.5 Hows 3 rounds pre gun per minute.

18-pdrs     4                 do

Y/34th T.M.B.      GUNFIRE.


PHASE 2.  Whilst Infantry are in German Trenches.

TIME Zero x 5 till signal that raiding parties have returned.




4 guns on Support Line I.5.d.15.30. to 07.00.

1 gun on C.T. I.5.c.92.35. to I.5.d.12.15.

1 gun on C.T. C.T. I.1.a.8.9. to 97.82.


Rates of fire

Zero x 5 to Zero x20

18 pdrs 3 rounds per gun per minute.

T.Ms     1                    do

4.5 Hows 2                  do


PHASE 3. 15 minutes after Infantry have returned, indicated by signal.

  • rounds gun fire on targets as in phase 1.


Arrangements for synchronising watches and Liaison, and time of Zero Hour will be notified later.

Acknowledge on attached slip.



Captain, R.F.A.,

Commanding Right Group, R.A.

Franks’ Force.


19th October, 1916.


20/21, Oct. 1916.



In continuation of this office No. OO/23 of today’s date.


  1. Zero Hour will be 10.30, p.m. tomorrow the 20th
  2. The 34th Division is making a raid and the 2ndZ. Infantry Brigade a dummy raid at the same hour.
  3. 2nd G. FERNIE, A/152, R.F.A. is detailed as Liaison Officer (in addition to the usual Liaison Officers at Battalion Headquarters). He will report to this office at 8.30, a.m. tomorrow for instructions.

Whilst operations are in progress he will be at the Company Headquarters about I.5.c.2.6., and will be in telephonic communication with this office.

  1. As each raiding party returns to our trenches the O.C. Raid will fire one golden rain rocket from I.5.c.15.65. Batteries will stop firing on seeing the second of these two rockets.
  2. Directly both parties have returned 2nd Lieut Fernie will send the following code message to Group Headquarters


This will be at once repeated to Batteries and they will at once stop firing

unless they have already done so.

  1. 18-pdrs will fire H.E. only.
  2. Cs Batteries and Liaison Officer will forward detailed reports to this office as soon as possible after the raid.



Captain R.F.A.

Commanding Right Group

Franks’ Force.

19th October 1916.


O.Cs Batteries will send watches to these Headquarters at 5, p.m. to be synchronised. These watches should be reliable timekeepers with second hands and should be collected again at 9, p.m.


20/21, OCT. 1916.



PHASE 1.                                                                Support Line

No. 1 gun 1o L            2900.

No. 2       1o 45’ L.     2900.

No. 3         35’ R         3075.

No. 4         30’ L         2925.

Front Line.

No. 5         3.30’ R      2800.

No. 6         2.15’ R      2825.


TIME 10.30, p.m. to 10.35, p.m.

Rate 4rounds per gun per minute   H.E.  =120 rounds.


PHASE 2.                Support Line and Communication Trenches.

No. 5       40’ R           2950.  Search 50 yards.

No. 6      4o   R            3000.               do


Z x 5 to Z x 20 3rds per gun per min.  =270 rds.

Z x 20 to stop   2rds               do H.E.


From Stop plus 15 minutes.

2 rounds gun fire as in Phase 1. = 12 rds.


(Estimate over 600 rounds of H.E. required)


20/21 Oct 1916.

From O.C. A/174, R.F.A.

To Adjutant, 175th Brigade, R.F.A.


With reference to your OO/23 and requirements in ammunition there under, I estimate that we shall require at least 700 rounds of H.E.   We have only 412 rounds on hand and it appears impossible to obtain any further supply.

The last consignment consisted entirely of shrapnel.



Lieut., R.F.A.

for O.C. 175/A. R.F.A.

October, 19 1916.




O.C. A/175. R.F.A. SECRET

Reference Artillery Orders for Raid tomorrow night, all points should be carefully registered, but at the same time care must be taken not to disclose where the raid is about to take place. Each battery should therefore register a few additional points on other parts of the front between the Mushroom Salient and the left of the 102nd Infantry Brigade.


Captain, R.F.A.

Commanding Right Group, R.F.A.

19th October 1916.


(see aeroplane map taken 2/8/16.)


October 24, 1916.


The Captain has not come back yet, so I am still acting as B.C., and fully busy.

I hope to get some leave before Christmas, so do you please mind getting some clothes ready for me, especially my evening clothes.

The weather is still foul. Last night we got up a concert for the men.  They rigged up quite a good concert hall.  A piano was procured from a deserted house, but it was not very tuneful.  The hall also was fitted with a platform and scenery.  The night before we had a church parade.

Later. The Captain has just returned.  He has the influenza, so he is very sorry for himself and is in a bad temper.


OCTOBER 24, 1916.

We still exist here in a state of Semi-lunacy.   Leave is very hard to get.  The Captain has just returned, looking like nothing on earth.  He has the flu and is very sorry for himself.  He threatens to go sick and leave again for Blighty.  I should not be surprised.

Our library is growing quite large now. Pope, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc have overflowed on to the oak chest from the mantelpiece.  But Handley Cross still retains its place of honour.




Brigadier-General E.W.M. POWELL, D.S.O..

Commanding Franks’ Force.


25th October 1916.


The following awards have been made:-

MILITARY CROSS.                                     Dated 21st October 1916.

Second Lieut. W.W. QUINN, 27th Northumberland Fusiliers.

Chapl. The Rev. E.F. DUNCAN              do

(Two Bombrs of Y/34th T.M. Bty awarded the M.M. 22/10/16.)



No. 8/1384, Pte. J.J. SWEENEY, 1st Bn. Otago Infantry Rgt., was tried by a Field General Court Martial on the following charge:-

“When on Active Service, deserting His Majesty’s Service.”

The sentence of the Court was to suffer death by being shot. The sentence was duly carried out at 5.44, a.m., on 2nd October 1916.

(G.R.O. No 1868, dated 17th October 1916.)

No. 12772, Private A. BOTFIELD, 9th Bn South Staffordshire Rgt. (Pioneers) was tried by Field General Court Martial on 1st October 1916, for “Misbehaving before the enemy in such a manner as to show Cowardice.”  He fell out of the ranks when under the enemy fire and ran away.

He was found guilty of the offence and sentenced to suffer death by being shot.

The sentence was duly carried out at 5.50, a.m., on 18th October 1916.



All cook-houses in connection with billets must have grease traps provided through which cooking water must pass before entering into the drain.


H.B. STUTFIELD. Captain,

Staff Officer “Q” Branch,

Franks’ Force.


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