War Diary of AA Laporte Payne
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
DECEMBER 2, 1916.
I have just finished two days and nights in the trenches. It was not pleasant as it was so cold. I went out to tea yesterday with the Sappers. We had ration bread, jam and tea, and a very stale cake; but company was good. I had dinner with some Australians. Tonight I go to dinner with another battery, and I take some very particular records with me. It is Saturday night again. I have a record of the “Happy Day.”
December 5, 1916.
The German aeroplanes did not worry you I am glad to hear. I hope they will leave you alone now for you have had quite enough where you are.
The crisis in government circles, whatever that means, is amusing reading. I hope good will come of it. Certainly I wish they would kick out Asquith, and I should much like to see Carson and Balfour given the whole job of running the show with Jellicoe and Robertson, now that Kitchener has gone.
The weather has been very cold here, and much too misty for good observation. The Boche is still here. However the time is galloping along to next spring, when we hope to do the Hun in this time if we have any men to do it. Leaders as well as fighting troops.
We are trying to arrange something for the men at Christmas, but it is difficult to know what to do. We shall probably be having some strafe ordered by the “Brass Hats”, who will sit with their feet on the dinner table in their chateaux, and say afterwards, “Oh! Good show”, or more probably “Oh! Dashed bad show, the troops are inefficient.”
(This letter had the red label attached to it on arrival containing the words “Examined by Base Censor.)
DECEMBER 5, 1916.
Two miserable mailless days were followed by the arrival of a large bag.
A gas alarm tonight, but there was nothing in it.
I get the Times a day late for 30 centimes.
We played bridge, and lost hopelessly. We have had two gas alarms tonight but nothing came of it.
December 8, 1916.
We had a large mail tonight.
The battery is still in the same place and fairly busy. It is cold and wet today. I have been away all day at Ordnance with a gun which needs repairing.
I am glad to see that Asquith has gone. I hope there will be an alteration now, but I do not trust Lloyd George. I sincerely hope Carson will be one of the “three”. We cannot do without him. He is an honest man.
The men are getting away on leave pretty rapidly now I am glad to say.
DECEMBER 8, 1916.
The greater the hell the greater the heaven! What a good there must be coming for some of us. I have been reading William J. Locke’s “Beloved Vagabond” I don’t know why. For lack of something else better to do I suppose.
The weather is beastly. The mud is simply appalling. The Pave is bad enough, but they are infinitely better than the unmetalled roads.
DECEMBER 11, 1916.
We have been busy the last two days. The Boche has been much more active. It is still very cold and wet. I am sorry to hear about poor Gordon Nicholls.
DECEMBER 14, 1916.
At the present time I am attached to another battery, as its battery commander is away; but I expect to return to my own unit tomorrow.
Yesterday one of the best fellows I know, Cheadle by name, who is in a Trench Mortar Battery, called in to see me on his way up to the front line. He seemed very cheery about his job. Then I went to our O.P., and a short while after on orderly came for me and said that an officer who was badly wounded wanted to see me in the Dressing Station. I hurried there at once, and found the poor fellow on a stretcher badly knocked about. I do hope he pulls through alright. All the best fellows seem to go. It is at times like these that one realises what the war means. A friend killed or smashed up close by makes it a personal matter, which cannot be ignored. At other times, when strangers or those to whom one is indifferent go down it does not make such an impression. Then we do not take so much notice, and perhaps it is just as well that we don’t, it would be too exhausting. The dead one can ignore if it is a stranger. The wounded are generally so quickly carried away that those who remain do not come into contact with the results shell or rifle fire unless actually called to the Dressing Station. He is the third officer who has been with me in the battery who have gone down. Two were killed, and now he is wounded. They were three of the best fellows we ever had in the Brigade.
It does not seem at all like Christmas out here. Such incidents make one rather sad, and to wonder if all the best are bound to be killed. Why are not the rotters taken? I suppose because they all look after themselves so well.
DECEMBER 16, 1916.
So my last letter was censored at the Base, but nothing was cut out. Christmas letters and parcels are arriving.
At present I am a semi-invalid, having been inoculated with anti-typhoid injection. My arm is very stiff.
They have turned on the gramophone again, and are playing rag-times, such old ones too. I hope the men break them at their Christmas concert. We are giving them pork, Christmas pudding and beer.
DECEMBER 22, 1916.
Trench philosophy. There are only two requisites for the “good life”, heart and health. The only other condition that may help is independence.
The weather has been very bad here lately. It has been blowing and raining hard. Colonial troops do not like it at all, and neither do we from England for that matter.
The air is full of peace now. It would be the height of folly and wickedness to listen to the Hun in the present state of the war. No one wishes the war to be over more than I do, but I could not stick that. Peace talk usually comes from those at home, who should be safe enough; but I suppose they are anxious for their money bags. I have a vague recollection of hearing something about where your treasure is there is your heart also.
I shall spend Christmas night in the trenches as it is my turn for that duty. However it might be worse. The Somme or even Ypres.
The gramophone is blaring out, “Happy Day”, “Oh! For a night in Bohemia”. Why Bohemia? Blighty would be good enough. At any rate as a change from the muddy plains of Flanders.
Some one has said that Victoria is the Gate of Heaven. But it all depends on which way one approaches it.
CHRISTMAS DAY DECEMBER 25th 1916.
So many thanks for the puddings, walnuts, dates, fruits and other excellent things, which all arrived in good condition. Last night I had a large mail, seven letters and three parcels. It is all very good of everybody.
We have had some snow, but today is wet and windy, so unlike the conventional Christmas.
This is Christmas Day it is my turn for the O.P. during the afternoon and evening, so I am having a comparatively easy morning in charge of the gun-line. As we were up most of last night we are not as fresh as we might be.
What do you think of our Division’s Christmas cards? They were designed by a man in our Ammunition Column, and will serve as a reminder of the events of this year.
DECEMBER 25, 1916.
I had a large mail last night, three parcels and seven letters. They made it feel a little more like Christmas time. It is a horrid wet and windy day, not fine and cold as it should be. I am for the Observation Post this afternoon, and the trenches tonight. We were up most of last night so we feel a bit off colour this morning, and our tempers are not of the best. You will be in church now I suppose. There will be no church for us. We are becoming heathen. There was a most amusing chaplain in the trenches last night. He was helping the doctor attend to the wounded. Nevertheless he was extraordinarily cheerful, and most refreshing. He has not been out here more than a few days, but he has tumbled to it very quickly.
Our turkeys have not arrived yet. I expect they will walk here when they do. Though the A.S.C. gentry at the base have eaten them for us. They are sometimes so obliging.
I must close have an early lunch and go to the O.P.
DECEMBER 28, 1916.
We had a merry Christmas. Eatables were received from various homes. We received three large turkeys, a brace of pheasants, a ”Cheshire cheese” lark pie, six plum puddings and sundry other things. The cake I kept until Christmas Day, when it was opened, and I found some holly. How thoughtful of you.
The weather has not been too good. Today has been frosty but not fine. The O.P. is not interesting in this thick weather. I am keeping horribly healthy. I should like a short time as an invalid somewhere else as long as I did not feel too ill.