WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne 5 June 1917
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
June 5, 1917.
Three letters dated 23rd 27th and 30th May arrived today. Such is the post.
The Boche has shelled us heavily the greater part of the day and all night. We have had no sleep for two nights. This place is certainly most uncomfortable. We are forced to shelter in our cellar, which is much too stuffy. We look like ghouls or Spanish Inquisitors, sitting in a candle light with our masks on, and listening uneasily to the thud and crash of shells outside.
My servant handed me my mail this evening as I heard a large shell coming. I bolted into the Dug-out with four other officers. As it got worse we decided to separate to avoid having the whole of the headquarters’ officers involved with one shell, and communications broken with the batteries and Divisional Headquarters. The adjutant and I bolted between the bursts for a trench nearby, taking with us a telephone and wire to tap the main wire, and keep in communication with all parties. We sat in the deserted trench and were afflicted with some of the nearest shelling I had experienced. To make matters worse the Colonel had insisted on us taking the office stationary box filled with plans and maps, as he thought our dug-out unsafe. But the shelling seemed to follow us. However we eventually got safely out, but the line was cut in several places.
Now after a dinner of sorts we are waiting for the usual night firing to come down on us. So the war goes on. Where I shall sleep to night I really do not know. I cannot turn the signallers out of the cellar, and my bedroom is in front of the farmhouse, and is made of corrugated iron, and a few sand-bags. It is hardly safe and already has had bits through it. The shanty will get a direct hit soon I am sure, and then I shall be without a bedroom and probably my kit….. (letter continues in pencil)….
We are down in the cellar again with shells no distance away. Hence the pencil and scribble. The candle wobbles sadly. It is some life, this! It is very hot today in more senses than one.
I must close. A wretched runner has just come in, panting for breath, and scared out of his wits, with some urgent papers. It is rather terrifying at night in the dark with all our guns firing round about us and the Boche doing the same. You can’t hear the beastly things until they burst.
The line has gone too, so I must tell Corporal Corrigan to send out the linesmen, poor blighters. They have a rotten time on such occasions.
M.F.L.P. June 5, 1917.
I cannot write properly as I have blistered my hands when assisting to put up iron rails into their place over our dug-out.
Two swallows have come to dwell with us. They have actually built a nest in our mess room. They fly in through the broken windows, and are now quite tame. Poor things, they do not like the noise of the guns, and I have had to smash one nest, the first they put up, in order to place some sandbags in position.