WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne January 1917
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
January 3, 1917.
I am with the detached section away from the battery, and very busy. I go to the trenches tonight.
January 4, 1917.
I am back at the battery again but due in the trenches in ten minutes time for the usual night work. I had the joy this morning of discovering a Boche battery, and I was instrumental in giving them rather a bad time this afternoon.
The weather is fine but colder so I have just been issuing a rum ration to the men for tea.
E.A.L.P. January 5, 1917.
To day has been fine but cold, though the last few days have been warmer. I have been at the O.P. all day.
Last night I spent in the trenches.
R.P. January 6, 1917.
A man who has just arrived in the Brigade has been posted to our Battery as Captain, and I have been ordered to go to Headquarters as Signalling Officer. I do not know whether I am glad or not. Anyway it is Hobson’s choice, so it is no use grousing. It will be interesting work, but it will not lead to promotion except one day I may get the Adjutant’s job.
It does not seem like peace yet, does it? We shall have to carry on for a bit yet, and then we may get a peace worth having.
January 8. 1917.
I am fed up with the war, it is worse than being in prison. It does not look as if it would ever end.
There has been another change for me I have left the battery. A man who has been a Staff Captain has been posted to the Battery. Then the Colonel posted in orders that I had been appointed Brigade Signalling Officer, and I am now at Headquarters. Orders have to be obeyed I suppose. I get out of all O.P. work and live in a chateau further behind with a large bedroom and an office to myself, which is perhaps some consolation in a way while there is no real fighting going on but I hope to be back in a battery when the next show comes off.
The Colonel has been most decent to me so far; but he has the devil of a temper.
There are a lot of changes in the Brigade. Out of the whole lot which came out here only one battery commander and four subalterns remain.
We are still very busy here as no doubt you see in the papers.
I had a long walk this afternoon with the Doctor as I had to go somewhere on business.
R.M.L.P. January 9, 1917.
I have left the battery, and am now Brigade signalling officer at Headquarters. The Colonel sent for me. I am not sorry; but it will stop any promotion for a bit. But I should not have been made captain as one who has been a staff captain has been posted to the battery.
I now live in a large chateau in the town. It is not so bad; but I hope I shall not miss the fighting when the next push comes off.
January 14, 1917.
Page headed but no entry.
January 16, 1917.
We are getting along alright. The Colonel has been fairly sweet tempered, I am glad to say. In this comparative comfort existence is not so bad, but I feel rather a brute when our fellows are having such a rotten time in the trenches. But I suppose this will not last long for me.
M.F.L.P. January 17.1917.
It is fearfully cold here. It is snowing hard now, and it lies thick on the ground. Thank you very much for the parcel of books for the men.
R.P. January 19, 1917.
We have just completed a move, and we are now in another part of the line.
In my new billet I have a good bedroom with a large bed, and carpets and china ware. It must have been a woman’s room for it smells of lavender. The mess is in another house, but it is empty, bare and dirty. We have cleaned it up a little, and have managed to scrounge some furniture.
There is plenty of work to do during the day, and so the Adjutant, the Doctor and I are rather inclined to stay up late talking after the Colonel has gone to bed. He is rather a wet blanket at times.
January 22, 1917.
We have just completed a move, which has upset things among them the post. We are now in another part of the line, but not a great distance away from where we were before. We have not got such a good billet, as the mess was an empty and dirty room when we went into it, but we managed to raise some furniture, so we are not so badly off. The Doctor’s and my bedrooms are in another house and well furnished.
It is extraordinarily cold at present and seems likely to continue. The mud does not trouble now but I think I prefer the warmer weather and mud. We sit round the fire in the mess at night talking and shivering. Going to bed is so cold. Everything gets frozen even the sponge.
What have you been doing in England? Blowing up our ammunition? Did you hear the explosion? The papers seem full of it, but there was nothing very definite.
I dine out tonight with another Brigade Headquarters.
January 28, 1917.
We have had another move to our surprise, and all at a moments notice. It was an awful rush, but we are now getting straight. I had a large number of telephone lines to take over. To day I have spent arranging for rations and forage for the Brigade, which has been a great nuisance.
It is brilliantly fine here but oh! so cold. Everything is as hard as iron, and shells and shrapnel instead of burying themselves decently, bounce about in an alarming fashion.
At present we have a fairly comfortable mess, but the bedrooms are not so good as they were at the other place. I hope they leave us alone for a bit now. I am tired of moving about.
January 31, 1917.
It seems fairly quiet in the line at the moment, so the telephone is not going so frequently as it has been lately. Last night it was never quiet. The frost still continues as hard as ever. It must be awful at night in the trenches. I only go down there occasionally now when I want to visit the infantry and to O.P. exchanges.
I have just got a delightful mare. She has only one disadvantage. She is inclined to bolt. That is why the others at Headquarters are not anxious to ride her. But she has not played the fool with me yet. I may get landed in the river one day. It is much too cold for that at present.
The mess is very cosy, but I do not get much time in it just now, as I am generally out in the morning and afternoon, and then it means office after dinner till about midnight. The time is going quickly, which is all to the good. There is plenty of office work to be done, though it only seems to result in the accumulation of paper. Office work always seems to me so futile in war.
War seems to be the normal thing now. We shall have to settle down here for life, live behind the lines, and take our turn in the trenches. Then women ought to be allowed to come out here too. Transfer half England to the north of France and the war could go on for ever. I am sure the staff would like that. When there is no push going on but merely trench warfare, we call it “peace”, and war only when there is a large organised strafe or advance to the attack. The papers even talk about the battles of this or that, as if no fighting ever went on between whiles.
It is extraordinary how little one wants in the way of clothes and other possessions out here, or rather really needs. The extra we hope to get in England one day will seem the height of luxury.
The posts have gone mad again. No post yesterday, and none tonight. We managed to get yesterday’s paper this evening, and we are glad to see that Blighty is still intact.