A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 7 May 1917.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 7 May 1917.




May 7th 1917


My own darling,


Your letter of the 3rd has just arrived by this evening’s mail and you do not seem to have received my letter which was intended for your birthday – you are a dear forgiving little girl to write me such a nice letter without scolding me; but weren’t you just a tiny bit (perhaps more) angry with me for being so wicked as to miss the day.


I do wish you had not to spend a solitary evening. How I do grudge all this lost time.  I don’t spend solitary evenings at all now.  For the past four nights we have spent most of the time in the cellar – the Colonel, 4 officers signallers etc.  The Boche has been making a horrible nuisance of himself and has occupied his nights and ours shelling our roads and billets.  The net result is that neither side get any rest and as my wires get badly cut by shell fire it usually means that the linesmen and myself are tramping the country side mending them.


The days have been glorious, but the weather has just turned and it has started to rain. It looks very bad tonight.


My days have been spent almost anywhere within a radius of 30 miles. The mare is getting rather weary.  I am afraid I am a bit of a brute.  She is a much more comfortable ride than any other horse on the Headquarters Staff and so she gets a lot of work – poor old thing.


You seem to be tremendously busy too. It is much better to have too much to do than too little as it makes the time go so quickly.


I was very amused to hear about Mr Paice but am very sorry to hear of the cold he got as a consequence of his adventure.


Darling if in ‘those’ days I thought you cared a ‘twopenny dam’ do you think I should have written snubby letters; though certainly I never dreamt that they were snubby at all – I was always frightened of saying too much or being too bold and so getting choked off.


What a nuisance it is that they are stopping corn for the horses. I did not know of it until you mentioned it in your letter.  You won’t get much more riding now I suppose.


We are on the move again and tomorrow will see us clear of this place I hope. Everything is very uncertain at present.  We are in the midst of packing again – we are getting quite expert at the game now.  You will soon be thinking of making a move and become a farm labourer.  I think it is very good of you to do it – but you must not get too tired, young lady.  How is Mrs Cross enjoying her holiday with Mrs Lowe?  She ought to have a good rest.


Finchley is the same as ever no doubt. Is there any tennis yet?  I suppose you have not had any.  I was asked to go and play with a French family who have a place behind the lines and a hard court but I could not go.  Imagine playing tennis within the sound of guns.


Well, darling, how does it feel like to be engaged? I suppose you feel horribly tied and bound.  It makes no difference to me because I was just as much in love with you before as I am now after – if you can understand what I mean.


You have never been on the continent have you? I wonder if I shall be able one day to take you off all on our own through west Europe – we might leave Germany & Austria out – say Paris & a few other places & Italy.  Wouldn’t it be glorious.  I must not think of such things or I shall go silly.


Please forgive this paper. I have run out of writing paper for the time being – until I can get into a town to buy some more.


In my last letter I returned your programme. I hope you received it alright.


I must close now or you will be getting tired of my scrawl.

With all my love darling

And heaps of kisses

Ever your


Alf Smith letter 7 May 1917

May 7th 17


Dear Father


I am writing to thank you for your very welcome letters, & parcel received this afternoon.

The cake, & biscuits are fine & I am very glad you sent some more of that chocolate I meant to ask you to do so; the other articles are all very useful including the smokes.  The calves foot jelly was very nice, but there is not very much taste with it I prefer what you have sent or jam.

I am glad Nell & Bill are well, also Ciss it must be looking very nice up the river now should just like to be there. The weather has been very hot here although it looks rather stormy to-night.

No doubt you received my letter asking you for some money; a ten shilling note would be very acceptable as I am stony until pay day it will come through alright if you register it. I am glad you sent the parcel on first, as they are always welcome especially now more so than money as we are still in camp with only a canteen to purchase anything at & they have a very small supply have not seen an inhabited village for weeks now but I believe we shall be going back into civilization very soon & the money will be useful then.

One gets on a variety of jobs in the army we have been on working parties since we have been here; one day in the trenches working on dug-outs & the rest of the time unloading railway trucks it’s a dirty job but I would rather do that than parades.

Well I think I must finish now as it is nearly time to turn in. 8.50 P.M.

Glad you are all well in the best of health pleased to say I am feeling very well.

With much love

From your devoted




Report on Operations from 19-4-17 to 6-5-17



Ref Maps

62C NE

62B NW

Special Map


During the morning of 19-4-17 the 178 Light Trench Mortar Battery relieved the 177 Light Trench Mortar Battery with Headquarters in HESBECOURT and four guns behind the main line of resistance running through L.33, L.27, L.21, L.16 and L.10 (Sheet 62C N.E.)

These guns were situated at about:-

  1. L.16.a.40.50
  2. L.16.a.45.50
  3. L.10.c.70.10
  4. L.10.c.70.05

Two guns were held in reserve at Headquarters, the remaining two being at the School.

From 19-4-17 to 6-5-17 the above positions were improved by digging a communication trench between Nos 1 and 2 guns and the construction of dugouts and ammunition recesses. Two further emplacements were also constructed behind the main line of resistance at about L.16.C.30.24 and L.16.C.30.15.

On the night of 27/28 April after the attack on POLOGNE FARM and the QUARRY in L.5.d. at the request of the 2/6 Notts & Derby Regt a gun was placed in position al L.12.c.2.7. to protect the right flank of the above regiment and cover the valley in L.12.c. and the sunken road. This position was purely defensive and the gun was not fired.

During the night of 28/29 April one gun was placed in position at L.5.b.85.35. to support the bombing block which had been established at L.5.b.9.4. by the 2/8 Notts & Derby Regt on the night of 27/28 April. This gun was registered on the continuation of the old German front line trench in L.5.b. at a range of 150 yards with yellow cartridge.

During the night of 29/30 April one gun was moved from the main line of resistance and placed in position at L.5.b.85.55. It was registered on a new German trench (NEW TRENCH) in L.6.a. which was known to be held, at a range of 360 yards.  During the same night bursts were fired at the junction of NEW Trench with the continuation of the old German front line trench in L.6.c [ENFILADE TRENCH].

At 7.45 pm 1-5-17 twelve rounds were fired at NEW TRENCH and seven direct hits were obtained. Parties of men were observed to run away along the trench.

At 6 pm 2/5/17 another gun was moved from the main line of resistance and placed at L.5.b.7.4. in a shell hole deepened and improved to make an emplacement. This gun was registered on the UNNAMED FARM at the cross roads at L.6.a.10.

During the night of 2/3 May a bombing party covered by our mortars pushed forward and erected a permanent block at the point where the ENFILADE trench meets the sunken road at about L.6.a.15.45. A number of enemy bombs at the junction of ENFILADE trench and NEW trench were destroyed by our stokes fire at the same time.

During the same night the gun from L.12.c.2.7 was advanced and dug in on the lip of the QUARRY at L.5.d.8.4. to fire on COLOGNE FARM in support of the attack on the following night.  The men of the battery not in the line acted as a carrying party for ammunition for this gun.

An advanced ammunition dump was formed under the quarry bank at L.10.a.4.6.

On the night 3/4 May the 2/5 Notts & Derby Regt attacked COLOGNE FARM and MALAKOFF FARM 1and the officers of the 178 LTMB took command in the line as per attached copy of Operation Order No. 5.

During the attack all guns fired as per above order with good effect.

On the right where the attack failed to reach its objective the retirement from No mans land was covered by the guns under 2nd Lieut. A.A. DICKSON the men of the Battery not in the line carried up a further supply of ammunition to this gun.

The attack on the left was successful and both objectives were taken. Heavy enemy casualties were observed in NEW trench next morning due to our stokes fire.

At 6 A.M. 4-5-17 2nd Lieut H.P.GRIEVES was withdrawn from the left sector into rest billets leaving 2nd Lieut. C.D.B. BOYS in command of the three guns.

Throughout the 4th May NEW trench was kept under observation and several enemy working parties were shelled and dispersed.  At 10 am a sniper was located at L.6.b.15.95. and killed by our fire.

During the afternoon the farm at L.6.a.1.0. was shelled with 10 rounds and then occupied by a post from the 2/8 Notts & Derby Regt.

At 9 pm 4-5-17 the enemy put down a very heavy barrage of all varieties of shell from L.5.b.9.0 to F.29.d.9.0. and made a counter attack on the positions gained by us the previous night. The post at L.6.a10 was compelled to withdraw and our men EAST of MALAKOFF FARM driven in.

During the retirement an enemy machine gun was observed to be firing from the junction of NEW trench and ENFILADE trench. This was blown up by a stokes shell.

During the night of 5/6 an intermittent bombardment of the unnamed farm and NEW trench was kept up by our mortars.

At 12.30 pm 5-6-17 our machine gunners reported an enemy machine gun at L.6.c.5.2 firing at an aeroplane.

The gun under 2/Lt DICKSON was brought into action and direct hits obtained. The machine gun was observed to be completely destroyed.

During the night of the 5/6 May 2/Lt DICKSON moved his gun to a position at about L.5.d.9.1 and at 3.45 am 6-5-17 rapid fire was opened on the German trench at L.12.a.2.8. where new earth had been noticed. A working party was caught by our fire and several casualties inflicted.  In the morning the trench was observed to have been greatly damaged.

During the whole of the above operations approximately 325 stokes shells were fired.

The accuracy of the shooting was good.

Very few misfires occurred and as far as could be observed only 3 shells failed to explode during the whole time.

At 9 pm 6-5-17 the Battery was relieved by the 176 Light Trench Mortar Battery.


In the field