War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 1 August 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

1st August 1917

 

R.P. August 1,1917.

It has rained continuously and hard for the last thirty hours and it is still coming down in torrents. After twelve hours out in it I came back and found the camp under water, with about a foot deep in my tent.  I am now sitting on a throne of ammunition boxes in the middle of the tent writing letters.  The poor horses are having a wretched time, and the men too.  I tried hard to find a barn or other shelter for the men to dry themselves in, but I was quite unsuccessful.  They will have to remain wet until it pleases the sun to come out again.

 

We have taken I understand 3000 prisoners and a good slice of the Boche front line: then it pours with rain. Truly the stars in their courses fought against us.  It really is exasperating.  The poilu shrugs his shoulders and exclaims “C’est la guerre”.  The British tommy curses or whines dismal tunes.  The staff sit in their chateau playing cards.

 

I enclose a newspaper cutting, (July 29th)

 

We have just had another officer posted to us. It will relieve the pressure a bit.

 

Down here at the wagon line I mess with the W.L. Officer of B Battery. At the moment he is howling for me to go to dinner in a shanty made of tarred felting.  It is very shaky, draughty, and certainly not water tight, but still it serves.  So I must close.

 

August the first, 1917.

The sand here is very troublesome as it seems to pull the shoes off the horses’ feet, and the appalling mud gives them greasy heel.

 

Conditions are delightful! It has rained hard and persistently for the last thirty hours without stopping, and it still continues.  The camp is under water.  When I returned there after being out in it for twelve hours in hardly a dry condition I found a foot of water in my tent.  I am now sitting on a throne of ammunition boxes in the tent writing a few notes.  The wretched horses are having a rotten time, and the men almost as bad.  I tried hard to get a shed or barn for the drivers to make some attempt to get dry, but was quite unsuccessful.  They will have to be wet until Jupiter turns the tap off.  It always pours when we contemplate making a push.  If the stars in their courses do not fight against us the clouds dropping rain do so.  The gods must be angry with us.  It is bad luck on the men who have the weather, the staff and the Boche to contend with.  In such conditions success is hardly likely.

 

The papers will have told you what is going on. Up to the present I have heard that part of the German line with about three thousand prisoners have been taken to the south of us.  Now the weather has called a halt.  Poor old British Army!  They are always getting done down by one or all of the three elements that go to make up our atmosphere out here, staff, Boche, and rain.  But stay, I must not forget what journalists say about “tommy”, that he is never so cheerful as when everything goes wrong.  Did you ever hear such rot?  I wonder where they get their information from?  The censor, no doubt.  He ought to know, if any one did.  They live close to one another in some cosy chateau.

 

Well, well. Hay-up has just gone, so I must stop.

 

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 1 August 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 1 August 1917

 

B.E.F.

August 1st 1917.

 

My darling,

 

Thank you so much for forgiving me for being slack in writing, with two delightful letters. As it is doubtful whether you will be going north I am sending this to Benchfield.  Your description of farm life and hay making reminds me of many happy days in the country, which I hope to have again someday and this time with you.  You will know all about it then and you will be able to teach me – a most ignorant individual in such matters.  I hope you will not catch the bad tempers and worse language of the Black Country women.  There is great danger of my doing so from my neighbours here especially in these circumstances and there must be some reforming elements between us.

 

I think you are right in your guess as to where we are now. it is not so bad when it is fine.  The sand is causing trouble with the horses’ feet – very often the shoes come off; but just at present our surroundings are delightful.  It has rained consistently and hard for the last 30 hours without stopping and it is still going on!  The camp is under water and when I came back after twelve hours in hardly a dry condition I found about a foot of water in my tent.  I am now sitting on a throne of ammunition boxes in the tent writing a few notes.  The poor horses are having a rotten time and the men as bad.  I tried to get a shed or a house for the men to get dry but I was quite unsuccessful.  They will have to be wet until the gods turn the tap off.  It always pours just as we start a push.  The papers will have told you what is going on.  Up to the present I have only heard of 3000 prisoners being taken and some of their front system to the south of us.  Now the weather has again called a halt.  Poor old British Army – always getting done down either by the staff, the weather or the Boche.  But this is grousing too much isn’t it?  I must not forget what the papers say about the British soldier that when everything goes wrong he is ever so cheerful.  I wonder where they get their information from.

 

I do hope Mr & Mrs Cross have been able to get away to have a holiday with you. It is most annoying to have your plans upset at the last moment.

 

Perhaps now though you are enjoying a well earned rest with them in Wales.

 

Thank you very much for your post card from Worcester.  I am glad you enjoyed your visit there.

 

You are keeping fit I hope – and Maude too when you left her. Give my love to Mrs Cross.  ‘Hay-up’ has just gone, so I must go.

 

With all my love & kisses, dearest,

Ever your

Arch.

War Diary of 2/6th Sherwood Foresters for July 1917

WAR DIARY

 

Of

 

2/6th Sherwood Foresters For July 1917

 

 

Place       Date    Hour                                                Summary of Events and Information

 

July 1st 1917  1/7/17                                                    Fighting Strength  Officers           17

Other Ranks 450

Q.18.b.8.8.   2/7/17  3 am.      Battn relieved by 2/5th Sherwood Foresters & withdrawn into Brigade Reserve in DESSART WOOD.   Battn. H.Q. established at W.1.d.2.8. (Ref 57C S.E.)

DESSART WOOD 2/7/17 to 8/7/17  The whole Bn engaged on Working Parties whilst in Brigade Reserve.

8.7.17 9 am.                            Battn. marched to O.35.d.7.7. Ref 57C S.W. on the relief of the Division by 58th Division.  2/6th Bn London Regt. relieved 2/6th Bn. Sherwood Foresters.  59th Division withdrawn into Army Reserve and transferred from III Corps IV Army to IV Corps 3rd Army.

O.35.d.7.7. 10/7/17                Training of Division commenced in accordance with S.S. Appendix XIII.

19/7/17 8 am.     Brigade Tactical Exercise.  Trench to trench attack over old BRITISH and GERMAN Trenches E of 23/7/17                SAILLY-SAILLISELLE.  U.8.d.

27/7/17 9 am.     Divisional Tactical Scheme No 1 trench to trench attack over old BRITISH and GERMAN Trenches between LE TRANSLOY and SAILLY-SAILLSEL.  U.1.

31/7/17 8 am.     One Company Field Firing at LIGNY-THILLOY Range N.9.a.5.1. – N.15.a.5.2

31/7/17               Fighting Strength        Officers          11

  1. R.           480

 

 

Lieut. Col.

Comdg 2/6th Bn. The Sherwood Foresters

July 31st 1917

War Diary of 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade July 1917

CONFIDENTIAL

 

WAR DIARY Of 9th CANADIAN ARTILLERY BRIGADE

 

From July 1st 1917 – To July 31st 1917

 

 

Map Reference:

VIMY 36 c S.W. 1/10,000

LOOS 36 c N.W. 3

LOCATION   S.30.a.14.62.

 

July 1st 1917 11 p.m.              The day passed normally with a fair amount of hostile shelling on our new positions in AVION.  At noon three salvoes were fired by the entire Canadian Corps Artillery carefully synchronized.  These salvoes were very effective and seemed to make the enemy nervous as he retaliated on certain portions of the front.

 

July 2nd 1917                          Today was quiet with the usual harassing fire on both sides.  The enemy’s trench mortar fire has been increasing nightly on our trenches and posts in AVION.

O.O. No 94 was issued today providing for the change in zone consequent to the 3rd Canadian Division’s taking over the line as far North as the SOUCHEE RIVER.

 

July 3rd 1917                           Day quiet- several working parties were engaged effectively by the 18-pdrs.  Today the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 36th and 43rd Batteries reconnoitered and commenced work on new positions to be taken up in T 13.b and d. and S.18. Central.

 

July 4th 1917                           Enemy Artillery was practically silent during the day but carried out the usual night firing, including a certain amount of gas shell.

 

July 5th 1917                           Our Battery positions in VIMY received a severe shelling today, as well as points in T.19.a. and T.13.c.  Little damage was done.  An abnormal amount of train movement was reported by F.O.Os behind LENS and SALLAUMINES.

 

 

July 6th 1917                           A considerable amount of Counter-Battery work and harassing fire was done during the day and night apparently in imitation of our methods.  O.O. No 95 was issued today providing for a slight change of zone consequent to a redistribution of the Artillery on the Corps front.  The 31st and 36th Batteries sent up a section to their new positions in the evening.

 

July 7th 1917                           The enemy’s artillery was aggressive and alert today particularly on our tracks, roads etc.  His T.Ms have also been increasingly active.

An Addendum to O.O. No 95 was issued today. The 32nd Battery C.F.A. is to hand over its guns to the 5th and 18th Brigades, R.F.A. and withdraw its personnel to the wagon lines on the night of the 7th/8th.  The 33rd Battery C.F.A. is also to take over 2 guns from the 30th Battery C.F.A.

The Batteries continued their forward move during the night.

 

July 8th 1917                           Enemy night firing has noticeably increased during last few days.  Our trenches have been shelled consistently during the hours of darkness with howitzers, guns and T.Ms.  Lachrymatory shell has been occasionally used.

 

July 9th 1917                            Today passed without event.

 

July 10th 1917                          Enemy Artillery intermittently active.  Several working parties were engaged by our 18-pdrs and destructive shoots on three T.Ms and a sniper’s post were carried out successfully by our 4.5” Hows.

 

July 11th 1917                          Our new positions in T.13.b. and d. into which the Batteries have finished their move, were shelled today, a few casualties being suffered.

 

July 12th 1917                          Except for some scattered hostile shelling today passed quietly.

 

July 13th 1917                          The 36th Battery position at S.18.a.98.10. was shelled today, some ammunition being lost.  A heavy shoot was also put on the 11th Battery and several casualties suffered.

 

July 14th 1917                          Day and night normal.  O.O. No 96 was issued today providing for Artillery support for a projection of gas to be accomplished by the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade.  The 36th and 43rd Batteries are to fire gas shell in five minute bursts and the 45th Battery will scatter shrapnel as suggested by G.H.Q. in order to make the enemy keep to his trenches where the gas is thickest.

 

July 15th 1917                          Some Addenda and Corrigenda to O.O. No 96 were issued today and the Code to be used published.  Zero time is to be 1.00 a.m.  The visibility was excellent today and several parties were engaged by our 18-pdrs.

 

July 16th 1916                          The day passed normally.  Our Heavy Artillery has been active in preparation for future operation.

 

July 17th 1917                          Day Normal.  Several hundred rounds of 15 c.m. were fired into VIMY between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

 

July 18th 1917                          The Enemy’s Artillery was practically silent during the day although his usual night firing was carried out.

 

July 19th 1917                          O.O. No 97 was issued today.  One Battalion (116th) of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade is to carry out a raid on the enemy’s trenches South of AVION, penetrating as far as the Railway Embankment.  This will take place about the 22nd.  The day was normal.

 

July 20th 1917                          There was a considerable amount of barraging fire carried out by the enemy.  It has been noticed that most of the enemy’s Counter-Battery shoots, lately, seem to have been done with balloon observation.

 

July 21st 1917                          Today was quiet.  In the late afternoon the enemy engaged one of our balloons with a H.V. Gun, forcing the pilot to parachute.

 

July 22nd 1917                         Today the Group Batteries completed the destruction of the enemy’s wire on the front of the raid.  Zero time for this Operation will be 1.00 a.m. July 23rd.

 

July 23rd 1917                          The raid at 1.00 a.m. was completely successful.  The Barrage was reported to be faultless.  Fifty-one prisoners were taken, including one officer.  Lieutenant Philpott went over behind the attacking parties and sent back valuable reports through the Liaison Officer.

O.O. No 98 was issued today. The Brigade is to be withdrawn from the line and come into action in support of an Operation by the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions against the high ground N.W. of LENS.

 

July 24th 1917                          After 9.00 p.m. the Batteries were withdrawn to the wagon lines.  A March Table was issued for the move to the new sector.  Wagon Lines are to be at LE BREBIS and the gun positions, which have been under preparation, are in the vicinity of LOOS CRASSIER.

 

July 25th 1917                          The Brigade left the BERTHONVAL Wagon Lines at 3.30 p.m. arriving at LE BREBIS at about 8.30 p.m.  The Batteries come into action during the night.

 

July 26th 1917                          The day was spent in registration and establishment of communications.  The Batteries were all registered and on their S.O.S. Lines at 6.00 p.m.

Location M.4.c.00.30.

 

July 27th 1917                          In accordance with a fixed policy, the Batteries have kept silent, except when calibrating.  Our Siege Batteries have been active destroying the enemy’s positions.

O.O. No 100 issued today. This lays down our Artillery support in a forthcoming attack, to capture the high ground on the North of LENS.  If this is accomplished the enemy may be forced, by the tactical situation to evacuate this town.

 

July 28th 1917                          Visibility good.  Enemy Artillery active against Battery positions and rear areas.  Our Artillery very active on enemy’s defences.  Aerial activity below normal today.

Addenda Number One and Two, to Operation Order No 100, issued today. Number One gives instructions in regard to the 36th How. Battery’s Barrage.  Number Two calls for a Practice Barrage to take place at 5.15 p.m. July 29th.

 

July 29th 1917                          Visibility fair.  Our heavy Artillery has been very active during the past twenty-four hours.  Enemy Artillery normal.

Practice Barrage took place this afternoon as ordered, proving very satisfactory.

 

July 30th 1917                          Visibility fair.  Enemy Artillery carried out a short concentrated shoot this morning, lasting two minutes.  Enemy Planes which appeared over our lines at 8.30 p.m. were engaged by our A.A. Guns.

 

July 31st 1917                          Visibility fair.  Enemy Artillery put on a few destructive shoots on our back areas.  Our Heavies carried out their usual activity on enemy’s supports.  Aerial activity below normal.

 

August 1917

 

August 1917

Passchendaele

On the 4th August 1917, Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC, son of the Bishop of Liverpool, died of wounds sustained whilst attending wounded troops in no-man’s land during the early stages of the Battle for Passchendaele. Two days prior, on the 2nd August 1917, Chavasse had been treating the wounded but whilst doing so he sustained a head wound. He removed his tin helmet, put a bandage around his head and continued through the day and into the night. He received another wound in his side and he went back to the bunker where he continued treating wounded soldiers. A German artillery shell came through the back door of the bunker either killing or wounding nearly everybody inside. He was badly wounded in the stomach but continued trying to help his colleagues from the Liverpool Scottish, but his injuries were so severe he died two days later. For these courageous deeds he was awarded the Victoria Cross for the second time. A soldier from Liverpool who was with him on the day he was killed remarked that the VC was “too small a reward for such a man” who had shown such unselfish courage. Born in Liverpool, Captain Noel Chavasse was a qualified doctor with the 10th Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment – a kilted territorial battalion known as the Liverpool Scottish. When he was buried in Brandhoek’s New Military Cemetery, his whole regiment and many other medical officers attended his funeral. On the 9th/10th August 1916, Chavasse had performed similar rescue deeds in no-man’s land during the Battle of the Somme at Guillemot where he was awarded his first Victoria Cross. He had previously been awarded the Military Cross for similar deeds and had also been mentioned in despatches.

The Battle of Passchendaele was fought between the Allied and the German Armies from the 31st July 1917 to 10th November 1917. The Germans were entrenched on the high ground surrounding Ypres, from which the British were trying to dislodge them and Passchendaele Ridge being the ultimate aim. The initial attack at Pilckem Ridge ended with the British forces suffering 70% losses with the mud, artillery and machine-gun fire being the cause for the failure of the attack. On the 10th August 1917, the British attempted to capture Westheok on the Gheluvelt Plateau and were initially successful. German artillery fire and infantry counter-attacks isolated the British infantry which had captured Glencorse Wood. At approximately 7.00 p.m., German infantry attacked behind a smokescreen and recaptured all but the north-west corner of the wood, and only the gains by the 25th Division on Westheok Ridge being held. The Battle of Langemarck was fought from the16th to 18th August 1917, intending to take the line from Polygon Wood to Langemarck.  The disappointment of the 10th August 1917 was repeated, with the infantry advancing, then being isolated by German artillery and forced back to their start line by German counter-attacks. Attempts by the German infantry to advance further were stopped by British artillery fire causing many German losses. The British advance further north retook and held the north end of St. Julien and the area south-east of Langemarck. The XIV Corps captured Langemarck and the German held area, north of the Ypres-Staden railway near the Kortebeek. The French First Army had similar results, pushing up to the Kortebeek and St Jansbeck stream. Smaller British attacks between the 19th to 27th August 1917 also failed to hold captured ground, although a XVIII Corps attack supported by tanks succeeded on the 19th August 1917. German observation from higher ground to the east enabled the Germans to inflict many losses on the British divisions holding the new line beyond Langemarck. After two fine dry days from the 17th -18th August 1917, XIX Corps and XVIII Corps began pushing closer to the German third position. On the 20th August 1917, an operation by British tanks, artillery and infantry captured strong points along the St. Julien-Polcappelle road and two days later, more ground was gained by the two corps but they were still overlooked by the Germans in the uncaptured part of the Third Position. II Corps resumed operations to capture Nonne Boschen, Glencorse Wood and Inverness Copse around the Menin Road on the 22nd-24th August 1917. This operation failed and the cost in terms of casualties were heavy for both sides. Following the Battle of Langemarck, the British general offensive on the 25th August 1917 was delayed because of the failure of previous attacks to hold ground. Further operations were postponed due to more bad weather. Haig called a halt to all operations amidst tempestuous weather. In August 1917, 127 mm (5.0 ins) of rain fell, the weather was also overcast and windless, which meant evaporation was greatly reduced. The weather in August 1917 was exceptionally bad. Haig had been justified in expecting that the weather would not impede offensive operations, as any rain would have been dried by the expected summer sunshine and breezes.

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The Western Front

The battle for Hill 70, outside of Loos, was fought from the 15th to 25th August 1917, and was the first major action by the Canadian Army under a Canadian commander in the Great War. The battle gave the Allied forces a crucial strategic position overlooking the city of Lens, a coal-mining city in France, which had suffered terribly during the war. British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig ordered newly appointed Canadian Lieutenant General Arthur Currie to capture Lens which is located 30 miles south of Ypres. Currie’s plan was to make Hill 70 the Canadians’ main objective allowing them to aggravate the Germans in surrounding positions in the city and provoke them to come out of their dugouts and attack. The Canadian Corps launched its bid for Hill 70 at 4.25 a.m. on the 15th August 1917. Drums of burning oil were fired into the German positions with heavy artillery fire. The Germans saw the attack coming and were ready with defensive fire, but by 6 a.m. the Canadian infantry had captured several of its first goals. German resistance stiffened on the hill. The smoke screen of the burning oil drifted away and German machine guns and rifles killed and wounded many attacking Canadians. Slowly the Canadians captured German machine-gun posts and advanced up the hill. The German forces counterattacked before 9 a.m., but the Canadians broke each enemy attempt to reclaim ground. A second wave of afternoon counter-attacks was likewise repelled. The Canadians eventually turned back 21 German counterattacks and held onto Hill 70. About 9,000 Canadians were killed or wounded in the action while an estimated 25,000 Germans were killed or wounded. Six Canadians won the Victoria Cross as their forces pinned down German troops reserved for the relief of tired divisions on the Flanders front at Passchendaele.

Head of the French Army, General Philippe Pétain had committed the French Second Army to an attack at Verdun in mid-July 1917, in support of the operations in Flanders. The attack was delayed, partly due to mutinies which had effected the French army after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive and also because of a German attack at Verdun from the 28-29th June 1917. The German attack had captured some of the ground intended as a jumping-off point for the French attack. From mid-July to mid -August 1917 the ground was fought over with the Germans finally having taken the area. The battle began on the 20th August 1917 and by the 9th September 1917, the French had taken 10,000 prisoners. Fighting continued spasmodically into October 1917, adding to the difficulties on the Western Front, but no German counter-attack was possible because the local reserve divisions had been transferred to Flanders.

 

The Balkans

On the 4th August 1917, Romanian Ecaterina Teodoroiu, “The Heroine of Jiu”, of the Romanian Army, was preparing to re-join the oncoming offensive along with the 43/59 Infantry Regiment. Ecaterina had been wounded in both legs, whilst serving as a front line soldier in November 1916 and on the 23rd January 1917 she was released from hospital. Whilst convalescing she requested, and was granted, a transfer from the 18th Infantry Regiment to the 43/59 Infantry Regiment. On the 17th March 1917, she was awarded the Military Virtue Medal, 1st Class, made honorary Second Lieutenant and given command of a 25-man platoon in the 7th Company (43/59 Infantry Regiment, 11th Division). She had previously been awarded the “Scout Virtue” Medal and the Military Virtue Medal, 2nd Class on the 10th March 1917. The 43/59 Infantry Regiment moved from reserve to close to the front line at Secului Hill, in the Muncelu-Varnița area on the 5th August 1917. The regiment was dug in on the Secului Hill on the 20th August 1917.

The salient created by the Romanian troops at Mărăști, was followed by the Battle of Mărășești which began on the 6th August 1917. The High Command of the Central Powers had to bring forces from other sectors of the Moldavian front and change the main direction of the offensive initially planned for the Focșani-Nămoloasa region. The Central Powers plan was to encircle and smash the Romanian and Russian forces to the northwest in the direction of Focșani, Mărășești and Adjud. Another force would start from the mountains through the Oituz and Trotuș valleys toward Târgu Ocna and Adjud. Germans troops aimed at occupying the whole of Moldavia, thereby knocking Romania out of the war. Coupled with a deep penetration of the Austro-Hungarian troops on the front in Bukovina, they proposed to push the Russian forces eastwards, beyond Odessa. The Battle of Mărășești had three distinct stages. During the first stage, between the 6th and 12th August 1917, the Romanian First Army troops together with Russian forces managed to arrest the enemy advance. The German direction of the attack was forced toward the northwest. In the second stage, between the 13th and 19th August 1917, the Romanian Command completely took over the command of the battle from the Russians. The re-directed German attack reached its climax on the 19th August 1917, when the advance was completely halted by the Romanians. The third stage, from the 20th August to 3rd September 1917, had the Romanians successfully thwarting the last German attempt to improve their positions. The Battle of Oituz, an Austro-Hungarian/German offensive, started on the 8th August 1917, saw the Romanian troops holding out against superior opposition. The Germans were not surprised the Russian Fourth Army would leave their positions on the Siret River to reinforce their front to the north of Moldavia. They also expected the Romanian First Army to replace the Russians, thinking the Romanians would provide minimal resistance. The response of the Romanian Army created the strongest blow to the Central Powers in Eastern Europe when, on the 30th August 1917, the cessation of the general offensive on the Romanian front by the Central Powers marked a strategic defeat and a considerable weakening of the forces on the south-Eastern front. Nearly 1,000,000 Central Powers troops were tied down, and The Times was prompted to describe the Romanian front as “The only point of light in the East”.

On the 15th August 1917, Sergeant-Major Flora Sandes, the only English lady to serve in the Serbian army, was discharged from hospital after having suffering from “acute enteritis” to convalesce in Vodena.  Finally at the beginning of September 1917 she was fit enough to re-join her company in the trenches. She wrote in her diary, “They all seemed glad to see me, sat up all night, lovely moonlit night, we are in the front line trenches”.

 

Other Campaigns

By early August 1917, Vera Brittain was anxious to get back with the field nursing unit of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) at Etaples. She had broken her contract with the VAD to nurse blinded Victor Richardson but he had since died of his wounds. Back at the field hospital at Etaples she was nursing German prisoners, which she found confusing, as it may well have been possible that her brother Edward had been doing his best to kill them. Vera and Edward had a very close relationship and communicated regularly. After Edward had been wounded at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916, for which he was awarded the Military Cross, he had recovered sufficiently to return to France in June 1917. His valise had been mislaid, with all his trench equipment including his revolver, at Boulogne. On the 30th June 1917, he went straight to the front line and was in an attack the following morning. Nobody seemed to know what was supposed to be happening as total confusion seemed to prevail. Edward wrote to Vera to say what a mess this all was and nothing like the patriotism he expected and consequently what on earth we were fighting for. Coupled with the deaths of their three friend Roland Leighton, Geoffrey Thurloe and Victor Richardson, together with Vera’s mixed feelings over nursing German prisoners, she started to have the first seeds of doubt. The utter futility of war gradually turned her into a total pacifist, which she practised for the rest of her life.

The Eleventh Battle of Isonzo was fought by the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Armies on the Italian Front between the 18th August and the 12th September1917. The Tenth Battle of the Isonzo was to coincide with and synchronise the attack on Arras and the Chemin des Dames (The Neville Offensive), but the lateness of the spring of 1917 delayed the planned battle. When the Eleventh Battle of Isonzo began on the 18th August 1917 the Italians originally secured the mountains barring the way to the Bainsizza Plateau but the Austro-Hungarians, regained some of the territory after a counter-attack and the battle was effectively a stalemate. On the Isonzo River, Luigi Cadorna, the Italian Chief of Staff, concentrated three quarters of his troops: 600 battalions with 5,200 guns facing the Austro-Hungarian Army of Commander Svetozar Boroevic’s 250 battalions and 2,200 guns. The Austro-Hungarian Army would shortly be receiving troops transferred from the Eastern Front when the after-effects of the Russian February Revolution started to materialise. The Eleventh Battle of Isonzo was fought along a front from Tolmin on the upper Isonzo valley to the Adriatic Sea. The main objective was to break the Austro-Hungarian lines into two segments, isolating the strongholds of Mount Saint Gabriel and Mount Hermada. After fierce fighting, the Italian Second Army pushed back the Austro-Hungarian Isonzo Armee, conquering the Bainsizza and Mount Santo. Other positions were taken by the Italian Third Army. However, Mount Saint Gabriel and Mount Hermada turned out to be impregnable, and the offensive petered out on the 12th September 1917. After the battle, the Austro-Hungarians were exhausted, and could not have withstood another attack. Fortunately for them so were the Italians, the consequence being the final result of the battle was an inconclusive bloodbath. The casualties at the end of the battle were horrendous, the Italians with 158,000 of whom 30,000 were killed. The Austro-Hungarians/Germans had 115,000 casualties with 20,000 killed. Moreover, the end of the battle left the Italian Second Army split in into two parts across the Isonzo, a weak point that proved to be decisive in the subsequent Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo.

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Timetable August 1917

 

Timetable August 1917

Passchendaele

4th Aug                            Noel Chavasse VC died of wounds sustained by treating wounded soldiers in                                         no-man’s land

10th Aug                            Battle of  Gheluvelt

16th to 18th Aug               Battle of Langemarck

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The Western Front

15th to 25th Aug              Battle for Hill 70

20th to 26th Aug             Second offensive Battle of Verdun

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The Balkans

4th/20th Aug                 Romanian Ecaterina Teodoroiu’s regiment moved from reserve to front line

6th to 20th Aug             Battle of Mărășești

8th to 30th August       Battle of Oituz

15th Aug                         Flora Sandes released from hospital after suffering “acute enteritis”

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Other Campaigns

Early Aug                        Vera Brittain began to question her patriotism toward the war

18th Aug to 12th Sept   Eleventh Battle of Isonzo & Battle of Mount Hermada

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War Diary of AA Laporte Payne July 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

July 1917

 

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”.

 

R.P.     July 9 1917.

I am fit and well. We are on the move again.  At present we are living in tents, and may be under canvas for the next week.

 

The weather is shocking again. It has been pouring with rain all last night and today, so the ground is mud again.

 

July 9 1917.

It is our last night in this area, I hope for ever. To this part of the line we came first from England, and here we have been the whole time with the exception of five months on the Somme.

 

Now tomorrow morning I leave at 7.30, a.m. in charge of the advance billeting party. I am not sorry, except that I do not suppose we shall ever be so comfortable as we have been the last week or so after a battle which was enhartening.

 

You may be able to guess where we are going.

 

I think we are getting just a little tired of this war, of spending the best years of our lives in the way we do. War is not quite like a cinema show at the Scala with tea at Fullers afterwards.

 

The weather has been horrid the last few days. Thunderstorms with torrential rain has turned the place into a bog.  I hope it will be fine tomorrow for our trek.

 

The French countryside is quite unlike England.  There are few hedges, the trees are tall and skinny.  The roads, often made of pave, are straight and very uninteresting.  The inhabitants never look clean except on Sundays.  The women generally are ugly, but the town girl often dresses extremely well.  Houses we think ugly too, and the decorations appalling.  For the rest we only see khaki everywhere with lorries, and lorries and still more lorries, mixed up in inextricable confusion with horses, which overflow into the fields.  Behind the lines there are many beings absent further forward, immaculate staff officers in gorgeous uniforms and perfect breeches, with their associates the A.S.C.  All these live in the greatest comfort on the fat of the land.  Receive higher pay and allowances, and obtain more leave than the soldier.  I wonder why it is?  Their air of superiority too, is most marked, no doubt due to the greater allowance of ration decorations.  Of such are the dwellers in chateaux.

 

Occasionally you see an English girl in white and blue, with red capes. Such are nurses, and they look competent and pleasant in their uniforms.  But there are other extraordinary get-ups, and apparently they thought they were soldier for they took to saluting officers.  But when the Scottish started to return their salutes by curtseying, they gave it up in disgust.

 

Such are my impressions of being behind the line. Fortunately we do not get much of it.  they could not bear our disagreeable presences for very long.

 

I hear that London has been bombed again.  It will do them a lot of good.  As long as you at home are not bombed I don’t mind.  There will be, no doubt, a great out-cry again about retaliation and so forth.  Just because the shouters live in England they think they are under the special care of heaven, and that no one should dare to intrude let alone bomb them.  And like the Israelites of old they will murmur against the authorities for allowing such things to happen.  They being generally immune from such outrages forget what the French have to put up with daily.  The “Daily Wail” and suchlike papers would be quite amusing if their frightened squeals were not so pitiable.

 

That’s off my chest. Forgive it.  as you observe I am in a very bad temper.

 

R.P. July 16,1917.

Since I last wrote we have moved to quite a new place. We were five days on the road, and travelled mostly at night, arriving at our destination usually at about 11 a.m.  Then we had to make our camp, water and feed the horses and what not.  So we get very little sleep.  As the Major is still away I am in command of the Battery.

 

The day we arrived behind the line here we got into camp at 9 a.m. Then I had to accompany the Colonel to reconnoitre battery positions.  We moved into action that night, which meant spending the whole [day] making gun pits.  In the morning I had to go to the O.P. to register the guns.

 

Since we moved into the line we have been living in the open in a cornfield with no shelters at all for anybody for two days. To add to the discomfort it has poured with rain the whole time, and the mosquitoes and sand flies have added to our misery.  The men are very tired; but we are still going strong.

 

Today is a perfect day. I should like a bathe.

 

16-7-17.

To Staff Captain, R.A.

XV, Corps.

Ref. C.471.

(A.M.S. 4th Army 146/35.)

 

Acting Captain ARCHIBALD ALDRIDGE LAPORTE PAYNE is recommended for promotion to Temporary Captain.

 

  1. Furnivall.

Lt. Col., R.A.

Commanding 175th Brigade R.F.A.

16-7-17.

 

July 16, 1917.

We have completed our move. For five days or rather nights we travelled along the roads of France going steadily north.  Usually we started at 1 a.m., arriving at our destination each day at 11 a.m.  Then we made our camp, watered and fed and groomed the horses.  Our next business was to ascertain and allot billets before the Brigade arrived.  After dinner we packed in readiness for our next stage on the journey that night.

 

We arrived at this place at 9 a.m., and I was immediately ordered to accompany the Colonel to reconnoitre battery positions, which took us all day. That night we moved into action.  Building rough gun-pits occupied the whole night.  The positions were and are in open fields.  The next day I spent in the Observation Post registering the guns.  Two following days were spent in a similar fashion.  The Major is still away, so I had to take the Battery into action.

 

For the first two nights in our new position we lived and had our being in a soft corn field run to seed, with no cover at all, either from the enemy or the weather. To add to our miseries it poured with rain during the night time.  I slept in a “two-men” shelter with one of the subalterns.  The thing is like an inverted V, so low that your nose stuck into the canvas top, so short that if your head was underneath feet stuck out at the other end.  The Boche, sand-flies, and mosquitoes complete our tale of woe.  Eating our meals and compiling daily returns for H.Q., importing ammunition, stores and what not, and urging the gunners to fresh efforts nightly to construct some sort of gun platforms in pitch darkness, all these things are enough to try the tempers of more saintly creatures than we are.

 

July 19, 1917.

The Major has returned, so that responsibility has been shifted from my shoulders, but I am sorry in a way. Running a six-gun battery is generally interesting, often exciting, and is assuredly the best command in the field without exception.  So I have come down to the wagon-lines for a bit of a rest.  But I have plenty to do looking after the horses, carting ammunition every night up to the gun-line, which is a long and tedious business, when the Boche shells the road a nasty business.  From our first wagon-lines we have been forcibly ejected by the Boche.  So we have had to erect other horse lines, water troughs and harness sheds elsewhere.

 

Have you guessed where we are?

 

I have a bell tent now, and a camp bed of sorts, which is better than a soaking corn field.

 

Hitherto the weather has been bad, but today it is gloriously fine. I might get some bathing if there was less to do.

 

July 24. 1917.

This afternoon I actually had a bathe, and after buying some eggs and fish for the gun-line mess, I am now going up the line with ammunition, rations and water. You might think there was enough water about.  There is but not drinkable.

 

Today it has been cloudy and warm.

 

I had to shoot one of my horses today, poor brute! He got a rope gall, which became poisoned and festered until the hoof was nearly off.  I don’t like losing horses like this.

 

The teams are just turning out. I hate this night work up the line with horses.  One never knows when the Boche are going to turn their guns on to the only road we have and with horses on this congested road in the dark it is sometimes horrible.

 

July 26, 1917.

I am still at the wagon-line, but I can’t keep away from the guns. I go up generally every day, mostly at night.  I can if I choose send the Q.M.S., but I prefer going myself.  Last night I did not get back until 2, a.m., as we had a great deal of ammunition to take up.

 

I had dinner at Headquarters. The Doctor has gone home to England sick, lucky fellow!  These Doctors know how to wangle it.

 

In a day or so I am probably going up to the Gun-line again for a bit, and the Major is taking my place here. He probably thinks that there is nothing to do here, but he will soon be disillusioned.

 

The weather has not been so kind the last two days. The wind has been high, which makes it rather uncomfortable living un unstable tents.

 

My horses, in spite of the unclement weather and open lines are looking very well. They were inspected by the D.D.V.S. the other day, and he expressed himself as pleased with them.  The harness is not yet as I want it to be.  The chief trouble is dirty buckles.

 

E.A.L.P. July 27, 1917.

Today it has been glorious. I have been for a long gallop, and then had a bathe.  My mare swims quite well.

 

175th (Army) BRIGADE, R.F.A.

31-7-17.

NOMINAL ROLL OF ARTILLERY OFFICERS.

 

HEADQUARTERS.              Lieut. Colonel W. Furnivall                R.

Lieut A.G. Modlock Adjutant            Tp.

2/Lieut W.A. Macfarlane                    Sp.R.

 

  1. Battery. Major J.W. Muse             Tp.

Captain A.A. Laporte Payne.             Tp.

Lieut. D. Lowden.                              Tp.

“     H.E. Pitt. M.C.                          Tp.

2/Lieut. A. Twyford, M.C.                 R.

“       J.S. Davis.                               Sp.R.

“      J.G. Cooney.                           R.

“     C.J. Sharp                                Sp R.

 

B Battery.                               Major H.W. Huggins D.S.O., M.C.    R.

Captain G.P. Hepworth.                     Ter.

2/Lieut. A.B. Macdonald.                   R.

“    J. Amour, M.C.                       Tp.

”    L.F. Holt, M.C.                       Tp.

”     F.L. Talley.                              Ter.

”     A.E. Dawes.                            Ter.

 

  1. Battery. Major H.A. Terry                               Ter.

Captain K.M. Macdonald                   Ter.

Lieut    H. Leigh                                  Ter.

” H.A.K. Gibb                           Ter.

2/Lieut S. Clover.                                Ter.

”     H. Griffiths.                            R

”      B.E.H. Whiteford                   Sp. R.

 

  1. Battery. Captain J.L. Gow. Ter.

Lieut    J.W. Henderson                      Ter.

”      F.H. Webb, M.C.                    Tp.

2/Lieut A. Roberts.                             R.

”      B. Baker.                                 Sp. R.

”     W. Morrison                            Sp. R.

 

BRIGADE AMMUNITION COLUMN.

Captain V.G. Gilbey.                          Ter.

Lieut.   E.L. Warren.                           Ter.

2/Lieut. G.A. Thomson.                      Ter.

”    E.W. Hutton.                          Sp. R.

 

31st July 1917.