WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne February 1917

WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne February 1917


Extracted from


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



February 4, 1917.

The cold still continues. I have never felt it so much.  However I have escaped having a cold.  We had 30 degrees of frost last night.  Well I suppose when the thermometer is down to zero it is a bit cold.  The men are feeling it very much and they are having a bad time in the trenches.  I was down there yesterday.


The job I have now is very interesting, as I hear all that is going on, and a little more. For instance I can tell you that all leave has been stopped for the Boche on the Western Front.  Interesting isn’t it?  I wonder why?  I wonder also if the censor will pass that.  They generally stop all the Boche know already, better than we do.


Boche frightfulness seems to have reached the limit now. What else can they attempt?  I am longing for the day when we get to German soil; but we shall not be allowed to retaliate


Downstairs in the cellars two signallers are on duty with four switch boards under their charge. I can be put on to any battery, brigade, battalion or other headquarters, O.P. or company dug-out in our area in the line or behind.  So you see we have quite a large telephone system.  If the Boche makes a nuisance of himself I can get up information and then switch on any battery proper in retaliation.  This is how we wage modern warfare.


R.P. February 7, 1917.

The thermometer was down to zero the other night, that is registering 32 degrees of frost. Everything is frozen hard, even in our bedrooms.


We are extraordinarily busy here. Yesterday I was in the office all day working on plans.  This morning I was out round the batteries.  This afternoon I am in the office doing the Adjutant’s work, who is out.


This Brigade has now become an Army Field Brigade.

The Boche must be in a bad way to go to the lengths they do. I hope it is a good sign.  The idiotic Yankees appear extremely foolish from the way the Boche entirely ignore them as of no account.  I hope it will do them good, but I sincerely hope the Americans will not declare war.  We must finish this war off without their interference, or the position in the end will be made uncomfortable for us.


London is not very exciting, I suppose.  Can you get plenty of food?  I see you are asked to economise in rather a drastic way.  The unfortunate thing about a voluntary method is that the loyal and conscientious economise, but the others do not.  Do not our politicians yet realise that an appeal to the better sort only penalises them.  In a war like this it is folly.


It was just the same over enlistment, thanks to such men as Simon.


I paid a visit the other day to our old O.P. which we used when we first came out. It is much altered, and rather badly knocked about, but it still exists as an O.P.


The Boche have not been so noisy lately, but they may break out at any time.


The weather is beautifully fine but very cold. It will be a swamp of mud when it thaws, which I suppose it will do some day.


February 8, 1917.

Life is dependent on the moods of the Boche and the Colonel. We have had no letters for three days, and no newspapers for two days.  I can’t think what the matter is.  I hope England has not been submarined.


I was down in the front line the whole morning, and it was so cold.

At home you will all get very thin on food rations. One more month and then we shall expect spring and all that spring will bring with it.  It will be strange to have no war.  We have got so used to it that we shall miss it.


February 14, 1917.

The weather has changed a lot and it is much finer and warmer. We have been very busy here with one thing and another. I dare say you have seen in the papers, and that things are not exactly quiet in this neighbourhood.  It all serves to relieve the boredom and make the time go all the quicker.   I have got hold of a strange book “A Student In Arms” by Donald Hankey.  It is rather serious.


There is a horrid noise going on at the moment. The Boche is up to something, and we are not taking it all lying down.  The war will gradually get more exciting now I suppose.  The lying jade, Mistress Rumour, is busy.


It is a glorious day to day. I shall have to spend my afternoon visiting batteries, and the trenches.


R.P. February 15 1917.

We have been busy here lately as no doubt you have seen from the papers. The Boche has been making a noise, and we have not let them have it all their own way.  The work is interesting as we hear all that is going on round about us.


My servant has gone to hospital with blood poisoning, so I shall not see him for some time if ever.


The spring will mean another push, but I hope it will not prove as costly as the last. The papers seem to be expecting something, and no doubt the Boche knows all about it if anything has been decided upon by the Higher Command.  Anyway we are looking forward to it, buoyed up by the hope that it will be successful at last.  I must try and get my leave before it comes along.


It is a fine day here today. I was up in the trenches yesterday, and hope to be up there again tomorrow.


I am dining out tonight at another Brigade Headquarters not a great distance away. It is extraordinary the number of men you get to know from all over the world, especially when not always occupied in the line.


Really interesting news I am not allowed to relate, and there is nothing else to write about.


February 18, 1917.

We have become an Army Field Artillery Brigade.

I have just begun to read H.G. Wells “Mr Britling sees it through”. It seems a lot of rot.


I have an early lunch today as I have to make a long expedition. We shall be on the move again shortly, so there are a lot of arrangements to see to.  I hate moves.


February 22, 1917.

Last night we had a bad time. I was up to 6.20 a.m. on the telephone.  We had a little affair with the Boche, and it is my job to see that the liaison between infantry and artillery does not break down, and I had to keep in touch with an officer who was in the front line at the other end of the telephone.


All today I have been out visiting batteries, O.Ps and telephone stations on a on a tour of inspection, and I did not get back untill 8 p.m. very tired and covered in mud.


We are moving in a day or two.


February 27, 1917.

We are in the midst of handing over. Great confusion.  I am acting as adjutant, and trying to look after my other duties as well.


Last night we had a very lively time, and we hope we made the Boche uncomfortable. There may be a reference to it in the papers.


Yesterday I started work in the office at 9 a.m. and finished at 3 a.m. this morning. Now I am not in very good form. I should like to sleep for a month.


Alf Smith postcard 28 Feb 1917

Postcard to T. Smith Esq., 24, Palmerston Rd., Bowes Park, London N. Postmarked London *.15 AM FEB 28 17


Feb 28th 17


Dear Father

Just arrived in good old London 1030 P.M. en route for France.  Will write again soon.  Thank you for paper received this morning.

Glad to say I am quite well.

Au revoir for the present.


Alf Smith letter 28 Feb 1917


Letter with small picture of St Martin’s Plain Shorncliffe

Feb 28th 17


Dear Father


Thought I would just let you know how far we have got on in our travels at present.  I expect you have received my P.C.

We left Felixstowe at 7.30 P.M. last night, got to Liverpool Street at 10.30 P.M. went on the Met: from there to Charing Cross.  I felt very much like having a run round town on a bus you can bet; left by the 1.40 A.M. train for Shorncliffe got here at 4.30 this morning.

One is just like a prison here; there is about 1 sq. mile of very large houses all boarded in no chance of escape.  I should think it must be a fine place in peace time.

What do you think of the news lately?  It looks very good I think the Kaiser will soon have to give in or come to terms.

There are several canteens &c within the boundary of the iron cage so we can amuse ourselves alright.

I believe we leave here at 2 P.M. for Folkestone or Dover.

Will write again soon.

Hoping you are in the best of health also Jess, Ethel & Winnie.

How is Mr. & Mrs. Warman & Lilian remember me to them.

Well I think I must finish now.


With much love to you all

Your devoted




A.A. Laporte Payne letter 27 February 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 27 February 1917




Feb 27 1917.




Please forgive scribbled note in pencil. I make no excuses for it so you must please pardon it.  Thank you so much for your two parcels of cigarettes and chocolate.  You are really a very naughty girl to spoil me so.  Think what I shall become.


We are in the midst of handing over so you can imagine the confusion & worse still as I am acting as adjutant as well as trying to cope with my other duties, but I am afraid they are left to look after themselves.


Last night we had a lively time and the Boche must have been very uncomfortable. No doubt you will see a reference to it in the papers.


Yesterday I started work in the office about 9 a.m. and finished at 3 a.m. this morning so now I am not in very good form. Thank heavens the Colonel has not worried me much.


I should very much like to go to sleep for a month with just you to look after me. But that is not likely to happen, I am afraid.  It would be such a delightful change to piles of papers, worn pencils, noisy telephones and typewriters.  What an awful grumbler I am.


I ought to be most thankful that I am not on duty in the front line in this mud and general unpleasantness but such is human nature or at least my nature.


How are you keeping? Quite alright I hope.  Is Mrs. Cross better?  I do hope so.  I am so sorry to hear of the death of Mrs. Griffin.  How did you get on in your errand?  I like to think of you doing such things.  They are the only things worth doing.


Yes I remember a cousin called ‘Tim’. So she is staying with you now.  I hope she will look after you well – but could anyone do that!


I must close now as I cannot write to you properly when I am being interupted all the time.


Au revoir

With love & kisses

Ever yours


Fred Hammond letter 26 Feb 1917



Dear F & M

Just gogging along as usual.  I received Gladys letter tonight the thaw rather disorganised the mail for a day or so but everything is OK now so you will probably be getting this letter rather earlier.  I suppose it was great fun at the Inter Lecture.  Had a nice bath today and a clean change so feel a little more like a Christian.  Was rather surprised to hear from Gladys that Geo was out here.  You might send me his address so soon as poss then I can drop him a line now and again in fact I may drop across him who knows.  I suppose you will have heard good news from the Somme front ere you get this.  We are all anticipating the war will be over some time this year so everything seems cheerful.  I went to a cinema show the other night & enjoyed a good laugh.  Today has been lovely showing signs of spring.  We have a gramophone in our Billet at present.  Heard several records familiar to me which made me think of the happy time I spent with our gramophone.  How are you all keeping I am OK just shaken a winter cold off and feeling fine.  I suppose they will be after Par next.  Well I think this is all at present.  Remember me to all.

Luv Guss

Left Group Move 26 Feb 1917

SECRET                                                                                 Copy No…..7

Left Group Move                                 A.C. F/26


REFERENCE 3rd Aust. Divl Artillery O.O. No. 10.


The regrouping of Batteries of the Left Group (Left Sector) Artillery will take place as follows:-


  1. Night 31st Battery withdraws and moves into position at H.12.b.10.10. 4 guns

27/28/2/17       I.7.b.95.95 2 guns. and will come under the orders of C.O. Right Group.

108th Battery, 1 Section withdraws and moves into position at I.8.a.60.60., and will come under the orders of the C.O. Right Group.


D/175 Battery (Right Group) 1 Section moves into position at C.26.b.95.63., and will come under the orders of the O.C. 108th Battery, Left Group.


  1. Night A/175 Bty. (Right Group) moves into position C.26.c.41.05. 4 guns

28th Feby.        C.27.a.10.82. 2guns and will come under the orders of C.O. Left Gp.

1st March

  1. Composite The Section of the 108th Battery referred to para (1) will form part of a B attery Battery (which will be called D/3 Bty.) under the command of Capt.

W.L. Marfell.


  1. Command Major F.P. Derham, D.S.O., will take over command of the Right

of Rt Group    Group.


  1. Reliefs. All Reliefs will be carried out a Section at a time and Groups will be informed on completion of moves ordered, by the following code messages.

On Departure “Rations despatched at …. Pm”

On Arrival at new positions:- “Rations received at ….p.m.”

Battery Commanders will make necessary arrangements between themselves.

Reliefs will be completed by 10 p.m.

All registers, maps, telephone lines, and trench stores will be handed over to the incoming units for which receipts will be obtained.


  1. Defence (a). O.C.31st Battery will make arrangements to hand over to O.C.

of the Line.     A/175 all Maps, Registrations, Log books, Trench stores and full particulars of Zone Night lines etc. at present covered by 31st Bty.


(b). A/175 Bty. will be responsible for the Front covered by 31st Battery from 6 p.m. 1st March, by which time Night lines and retaliation points should be registered.


(c). From 6 p.m. on the night of the 27th; inst until 6 p.m. 1st March (when A/175 will take over the defence of the Sector at present covered by 31st Bty.) the 29th & 30th Btys. will be responsible for the undermentioned Sector of the line.

29th Bty. From I.5.b.20.80. – C.23.c.80.70.

30th Bty. From C.23.c.80.70. – The Lys River.


(d). Night Line.  Night lines for para (c) will be as follows:-


29th Bty.          (1) C.29.c.70.50.

(2) C.29.c.40.90.

(3) C.29.a.35.10.

(4) C.29.a.60.40.

(5) C.29.a.80.90.

(6) C.23.c.90.40.

30th Bty.          (1) C.23.d.05.90.

(2) C.23.b.10.45.

(3) C.17.d.00.10.

(4) C.17.c.85.55.

(5) C.17.a.50.15.

(6) C.17.a.30.50.


Registration of the above night lines by 29th and 30th.  batteries will be done forthwith.


31st Bty. 7.      O.C. 30th Battery will detail an Officer to report to O.C. 31st Battery

O.P.                 to be taken to 31st Battery’s  O.P. – PAIKAKARIKI – to have

the country observed by 31st Battery pointed out and described to him.

O.C. 31st Battery will arrange for this to be done by an Officer intimately acquainted with sector covered by his Battery.

O.C. 30th Battery will arrange that PAIKAKARIKI is manned during the hours of daylight by an officer from the 30th Battery from the time of the 31st Battery withdrawing from its present position until A/175th Battery takes over the defence of the 31st Battery Sector.

O.C. 30th Battery will also arrange to have direct telephone communication from PAIKAKARIKI to 30th Battery established before 31st Battery moves out.


Ammunition.   31st Battery will arrange to transfer all its ammunition to the new

  1. position less 300 rounds (50% ‘A’ & 50% ‘AX’) to be left in pits at 31st Battery’s Detached Section’s present position.


No re-arrangements of ammunition will take place amongst Howitzer Batteries.


31st Battery will report to Left Group Headquarters at the same time as they notify their departure, the amount of ammunition removed and the balance remaining (specifying the natures).

A/175th Battery will fill up their echelons from their present positions and dump this amount at their new position.


Staff for 9.     Staff and equipment to be supplied from the Left Group to Right

Right Group.   Group will be as follows:-

C.O. Major F.P. DERHAM D.S.O.

O.O. 2/Lt. C.L. MILLER

2 telephones (8th Bde. H.Qrs will supply these)


Staff for 10.    108th Battery will detach the undermentioned personnel and signalling D/3 Bty.     equipment:-

1 Section Commander.

1 Section Personnel and guns and gun stores complete.

4 Telephonists.

2 Telephones.

31st Battery will detail 2/Lieut LIPP who will be attached to D/3 Battery.

The above mentioned officers and telephonists (with 2 telephones) will report to Capt. Marfell at 107th Battery at 10 a.m. on the 28th inst.


  1. Wagon All Wagon Lines of present Left Group Batteries or Sections and also

Lines.              of A/175 and D/175 Batteries or Sections will remain as at present and ammunition, rations, etc., to Batteries or Sections new positions will be transported therefrom.


12 Administration.      The Batteries and sections of the 8th F.A. Brigade detached by this order to form new Right Group will continue to be administered by C.O. 8th F.A. Brigade.

They will be under the order of the C.O. Right Group for Tactical Purposes.

A/175 Battery and Section D/175 Battery which will be attached to Left Group, will continue to be administered by the C.O. 175th Brigade R.F.A., but will be under the orders of C.O. Left Group for Tactical Purposes.





** Allsop

Lieut. Colonel

Commanding Left Group Artillery.


Copy No.        1. 3rd D.A.H.Q.

  1. 9th Inf Bde.
  2. 29th Battery
  3. 30th Battery
  4. 31st Battery
  5. 108th Battery
  6. Right Group
  7. ”A” Bty 175th
  8. ”D”   do do
  9. Centre Group
  10. War Diary
  11. File.

Centre Group FA Opn Order 26 Feb 1917

SECRET.                                            CENTRE GROUP                  Copy No. Move

Date 26-2-17





Reference: – 3rd Aust Divl. Arty. O.O. No. 10.


  1. The re-grouping of the Batteries mentioned in the above order will take place as follows:-

Night 27th/28th inst 27th Battery withdraws and moves into position at I.8.a.70.10.

Night 28th/1st March 107th Battery 1 Section moves into position at I.8.a.6.6.  All arrangements to be made between Group Commanders.   Major F.P. Derham D.S.O., will take over the command of Right Group, and Capt. W.L. Marfell of the composite Howitzer Battery at 10 a.m. 1st March.

(Composite How. Battery will be called D/3 Battery).

All reliefs will be carried out a section at a time.



  1. 27th Battery will take over ammunition dumped at A/175.

All 18 Pdr. Batteries changing positions will fill up their echelons from their present positions, and dump this amount at their new positions.

No re-arrangement of ammunition will take place among the Howitzer Batteries.


  1. STAFF FOR RIGHT GROUP. Adjutant, Lieut. T. Morell.

The above Officer will report to Major Derham at Right Group Headquarters at 10 a.m. 28th instant.

The 7th Brigade will supply 2 Telephones.


  1. STAFF FOR D/3 BATTERY. C.O. Capt. W.L. Marfell.

The Section from the 107th Battery will be detached with 1 Section Commander, 4 Telephonists, and 2 telephones each.

2/Lieut. Lipp, 8th F.A. Brigade, will be attached to this Battery.

These Officers and men will report to Capt. Marfell at the 107th Battery at 10 a.m. 28th instant.




Signature unreadable.

Lieutenant Colonel.

Commanding, Centre Group Field Artillery.

Issued at …….