WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne 5 June 1917

WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne 5 June 1917

 

Extracted from

 

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

Correspondence

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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.

cherries.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 5 June 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 5 June 1917

 

B.E.F.

June 5th 1917

 

Darlingest,

Your two letters dated 23rd & 27th May came yesterday and the one dated May 30th arrived to-day, so I am well off indeed, and, darling, I was so awfully glad to get them.  They cheered me up immensely and I wanted cheering up too.  I was awfully glad to get your news and to know that you are well and liking your work.  Your letters were lovely long ones too so I have had a regular feast of good things in the correspondence line.  You must be strong to do all the work you do, but I bet you are tired after a day’s work.  It is a lovely feeling being thoroughly physically tired and having nothing to do.  you will become a most efficient farmer but don’t grow like the little old woman in the photo.  Thank you very much for the photos.  It is a very good one of you.  You look very brown.

 

I have had no time lately to appreciate the weather or the country as we have been so busy and the Boche has amused himself a good part of the day and all night with shelling us with all kinds of shells. The result being that we have had no sleep for two nights – so you can imagine how we feel.  We take refuge in a dark and stuffy dug-out and look like ghouls with our masks on, and certainly feel like nothing on earth.

 

Your letter arrived to-day in such circumstances. My servant handed me your letter and I heard a large one coming.  I stuffed it into my pocket and got into the dug-out with 4 officers.  We decided to separate so the adjutant and I bolted for a trench nearby and took with us a telephone and wire to keep in communication.  There in a deserted trench sitting in mud being shelled I read your letter so you can imagine how I appreciated receiving it just there.  However we got safely out although the wire was cut in 2 or 3 places.

 

Now after a dinner of sorts we are waiting for the usual night firing to begin – and so the war goes on. Heaven knows where I am going to sleep tonight.  I can’t turn the signallers out of the dug-out and my shanty made of tin & a few sand-bags is certainly not safe- but I am certain I shall dream of you whatever happens.

 

I was very interested to hear all about your domestic arrangements, I should love to see you and Maude pigging it.

 

The pencil is because we are down in the cellar again – oh these Boche – I suppose they say the same of us only worse. It is ‘some life this!’

 

How do you like working by time? Horrid isn’t it – and doesn’t Sunday become important as your only free day.  We ought to stop the war on Sundays and have a rest – especially from this sort of thing.  There is very little news I can tell you at present.  It is very warm to-day just right for a comfortable punt on the river somewhere and you.

 

I can’t write any more now. 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 all round firing and the Boche doing the same thing you can’t hear the beastly things until they burst.

 

Much love darling

Hope you are still well & enjoying your work

Many kisses and thoughts.

Ever yours

Archie.