War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 4 July 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

Extracted from

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

July 1917

 

R.P. July 4, 1917.

We are still out of the line, but expect a move at any time now. The Boche does not leave us alone to enjoy our short respite, and we get long range shells and aeroplane bombs to remind us that the war is still going on.

 

The King is here today, but he will have a wet time. It is pouring with rain.

 

From our Brigade there are a Major and three subalterns sick in hospital or at home, besides the wounded, so we are shorthanded.  But I and one or two others of the original lot still go on.  I think it is about time I had some sick leave.  But still I do not want to miss this summer’s shows out here, hoping to add one or two more to the Somme and Messines.

 

The Colonel is in a very bad temper, as he has nothing to do now we are out of the line.

 

This evening we are having a jumping competition against a Heavy Battery. I am taking part, riding my mare.  She can do 4 feet 4 inches easily, and 15 feet water jump.

 

I have been posted to “A” Battery as Captain, and as the Major is away sick I am in command. He may return at any time but I hope he will not.  I have had a jolly good time on Headquarters and I am sorry to leave, but I do not want to refuse promotion again.  I was posted to “C” Battery some time ago, but I did not want to go to that battery at all.

 

The Colonel has been good enough to recommend me for an honour for the last show, but they have only given me a mention in despatches.

 

There is a good deal to do to look after a six gun battery. I think it is the best command in the field without an exception.  I would far rather have a battery than a battalion, and if you get higher than that you see nothing of the fighting.  I would much rather have men to deal with than officers, and to give orders direct to them, to live in the open air than sit in a Headquarters office.  And give me a horsed unit every time.  The cavalry here are quite out of the picture, and spend the whole of their time waiting at the back, waiting for the “G” in gap.  The Higher Command in their folly always send them up on zero day in a show, hoping I suppose, that they will be able to get through.  But they can never do anything, and they return sadly reduced in numbers both of men and horses.  It is just murder, worse than useless.  They did the same thing in the last show.

 

July 4 1917.

To day it is pouring with rain, a very bad day for the King who is visiting the line here.

 

We are still out of the line, but quite close enough for long range guns and aeroplane bombs to remind us that the war is still going on. Leave is precarious even with the warrant in one’s fist.  I shall try and get away at the end of August.  Even when you start you may be called back again.  The doctor got his leave warrant the other day and wired for his wife to get rooms at the sea-side, and then it was cancelled.  He had got away now though, lucky fellow.  But he deserves it, for he has not had leave since January and had a bad time in the show at Messines.

 

The Corps Horse Show went off very well. There were two or three large marquees put up, the field roped off, and a great display of flags made the place look very gay.  There was a stand of some size for the judges, and we had a band.  Personally I thought it was mad.  What would have happened if the Boche aeroplanes had come over and bombed us when in mass?

 

The tea was good. We had strawberries and cream, cherries, peaches, sandwiches, cakes, teas, whiskeys and sodas, and beer.  My team of blacks was in the show representing our Brigade, but we did not win a prize.  One Brigade got everything.  It was an old regular brigade, which had been out here since the start of the war.  It had some lovely horses.

 

We expect to be moving shortly now, and that is all the news I can give you.

 

The Colonel has nothing to occupy his time now, and consequently he is in a very bad temper. He sleeps and eats and wanders about in a miserable condition.

 

At present I am in command of “A” Battery, as the Major is away sick. He may return at any time.  They have actually made me a captain.

 

I have had a jolly good time at Headquarters, and I am sorry to leave; but I don’t want to refuse promotion again. I was posted to “C” Battery sometime ago, but I did not want to go there and asked the Colonel to cancel the posting which he did.  If I do not like “A” Battery I shall ask the Colonel if I can return to H.Q. again.  The only thing is that if I stay at “A” Battery as Captain I shall be at the Wagon Lines for the next push, and not in the line.  I cannot possibly miss another show.

 

The Colonel has been good enough to send my name in for something, but they have only given me a “mention in despatches”.

 

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 4 July 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 4 July 1917

 

B.E.F.

July 4th 1917

 

Darlingest,

 

Ever so very many thanks for your delightfully long letters and the photographs. You are a darling to spend so much time writing to me such a lot when you are so busy.  The photos are jolly good of you – you look very brown.  I wish I were with you to kiss you all day long instead of allowing you to work so hard on a beastly farm.  I can’t say that your companions in the photo are extraordinarily beautiful but I am sure they must be very estimable girls to be working on a farm.  Maude & the girl at the horses head seem to like shewing yards of leg which is of course pardonable when they are worth shewing or at work on a farm.

 

I am very glad you forgave me for “preaching” to you but I never thought you would take anything of that spiritualism stuff seriously of course.

 

Are you having any better weather now – I hope so.  To-day it is pouring with rain – a very bad day for the King who is visiting the line here.

 

We are still out of the line, but quite close enough for the long range guns and aeroplane bombs to remind us that the war is still going. Don’t you break your neck, young lady, swaying about among the tree tops.  I think it quite improper for you to do such things too.  I should not mind if I were there to look after you and I am sure you must look very nice doing your work – swaying implies gracefulness doesn’t it?  You will have to learn how to punt – nothing looks nicer than a girl who knows how to punt well – don’t you think so?

 

How did Maude enjoy her week end at home? I hear that Reg & Pearse were the cause of her sudden journey home – mostly the latter I suppose.  I am sorry the message could not have been “elder” instead of “younger”; but it is impossible for me to get away just at present.  I am going to try and get away at the end of August or beginning of September; but of course I shall have to take it when ever I can get it.  Nothing is certain nowadays.  Even when you start you may be called back even from the boat.  The doctor got his warrant the other day and wired for his wife to get rooms at the seaside and then it was cancelled.  He has got away now though, lucky fellow.  But he deserves it.  He has not had leave since January and “it” had a very bad time in the show at Messines.

 

How is “Tim”? Give her my love when you see or write to her.  Did you get away that weekend?

 

The Corps Horse Show went off very well. There were two or three large tents put up and the field roped off for the show and a big display of flags made the place look well.  We erected a big stand for the judges and we had a band.  The tea was good.  We had strawberries & cream, cherries, peaches, sandwiches, cakes, teas, whiskeys & sodas & beer.  My team of blacks was representing the brigade, but we alas did not get anything.  One Brigade got everything: they were an old regular brigade who had been out here since the start of the war.  They had some lovely horses.

 

We expect to be moving shortly now and that is all the news I suppose I can give you. Is Mrs Cross alright?  Give her my best love – and Mr Cross too.

 

Isn’t it wicked to spend my time here when I could be with you on the river or at the sea. Reg is a lucky fellow to get home covered with honour & glory and he talks about getting married too – well!  Some fellows have all the luck don’t they – except that they haven’t got you.

 

The Colonel in a very bad temper. He has nothing to do now we are out of the line – and he sleeps, eats and wanders about in a miserable condition.

 

You can send my letters to “A” Battery now as I am at present in command of that battery. The Major is away sick but of course may return at any time.  You can address me as captain too if you like.  They have actually made me that.

 

I have had a jolly good time at H.Q. and I am sorry to leave but I don’t want to refuse promotion again. I was posted to C Battery sometime ago but I did not want to go there.  If I don’t like it with A, I shall ask to return to H.Q. again.  The only thing is that if I stay at A Battery I shall be at the Wagon Lines in the next push and  I shall not be in the line and I can’t miss seeing another show.

 

The Colonel has been good enough to send my name in for something. Heaven only knows why – but they have only given me a “mention in despatches”.  I must wait longer I suppose to get your initials after my mane.  I can’t be lucky in love and in war.

 

I must close now. There is a lot to be done with a six gun battery to look after.

 

Much love darling

And many kisses – I am still dreaming of you

Ever your

Arch.