War Diary of AA Laporte Payne October 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne




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




10th October 1917

R.P. October 10, 1917.

The Boche have been air raiding a good deal lately here. During the recent fine weather the drone of their machines seemed continuous at night.  How did Dr. Norburn enjoy the experience of a London raid.  I am sorry you have had another.


The weather is quite wintry now. It rains most of the time and is very cold.


I am at Headquarters doing the Adjutant’s work for a few days. He is going on leave.  I shall be in charge while he is away.  But I return first to the wagon line for a few days’ rest.  It is good to have a room to sleep and dine in again, and a fire at night.  My bedroom is a cupola erection with one side open.  But when I come back I shall be in the house and sleep in the office.


The Boche are having a thin time, at least I hope so. They have realised that their counterattacks are too costly.  We are all going to have a bad time this winter, but I think the next six months will go far in breaking up their moral.  Then we shall get our chance, but not till then.


I must close, as the Colonel is waiting for dinner.


October 10, 1917.

For a few days I am at Headquarters, doing adjutant’s work. The adjutant is away and is probably going on leave shortly, and then I may have to do his work again.  I do not like office work.  His permanent departure has been postponed but he may go any time.


The weather is as usual cold and wet. It rains most of the time.


There is no prospect of a move yet, but I expect we shall move south soon. Progress there seems to be very slow.  But I hope we are killing plenty of Hun.  I should not mind seeing something of that fighting, for though conditions are no doubt very bad there, it is better than sitting still and being shot at.


The Colonel has been in a very bad temper lately. I think he is at last getting fed up with the war.


I have not been out for three days. I am living in a tumbledown farmhouse, and my bed room is a cupola erection without one end.  However we manage to keep dry, and we have a fire in the evenings.  I go to bed about midnight, but have to get up very early as I have to send off reports for the previous twenty-four hours.


As the Boche has been again most objectionable, I have just rung up the batteries and set them off retaliating.


R.P. October 16, 1917.

The weather is atrocious. It is blowing and raining hard.  I have just returned to the wagon lines from a trip down south to the scene of big things.  I came back in a fast car belonging to the R.N.A.S.  We got in about 10.30 p.m., and found everyone abed.


I have just finished reading “The Faith and the War” edited by Foakes Jackson. I was very interested, but it will not be read much as it is difficult reading.


A discovery interesting from an archaeological point of view has been brought to light this week near Gaza a mosaic of Bishop George, the patron Saint of England, A.D. 561.  It was excavated in a portion of captured Turkish trenches under fire by ANZACS.  The circumstances are interesting.  If we lived in ancient or medieval times it would be deemed a good omen or a sign from God that we shell ultimately conquer.  May it be so.


The Boche is making a horrid noise to night.


Now we are trying to settle down for the winter. I do not like the idea of spending it just here.  We may of course be moved.  You never know what may happen at a moment’s notice.  There is a great demand for stoves.


October 16, 1917.

Twenty minutes ago I returned to my shanty, where I am living alone again. Since I last wrote I have left Headquarters, and have been away down south to the town, or rather what was a town, and I have just returned to find much correspondence.


I believe today is the 16th.  I have no one to ask.  I had dinner in Dunkerque, and then came back in a car with two R.N.A.S. fellows.  Those fellows can drive, especially after a good dinner.


It is blowing hard and raining again.


A noise has worried me at times here. It is very faint and far away, but seems to get into my head.  At first I did not know whether it was only in my head or not.  It sounds like the noise made by rubbing a wet finger on the edge of a tumbler only much shorter in length.  I have found out what it is.  The noise is made by a bell buoy out at sea some distance away.  It is a gloomy sound and most monotonous.


Would you mind sending out to me the Times Literary Supplement, and the Bookman. If you should see any good articles in the Nineteenth Century, the Hibbert Journal, or the Quest, would you let me have them.  As the winter comes on and the winter evenings are long and dreary I must have something to read, and novels usually bore me to tears.


I read Blackwoods every month. It is usually excellent.


October 20, 1917.

Brigade Headquarters.

Here I am as I feared and foretold. I am in the unenviable position of having to try and act as Battery Commander and Adjutant.  Both the Major and the Adjutant are away on leave, and I only am left a remnant in Israel! this land of bondage.


Since I last wrote I have been up at the gun line, and running like a frightened hare between battery and Brigade Headquarters. I have had a lovely time!  Not even shelling can distract me now.


At the moment the Boche is shelling us. The moan of the shells is like what I imagine lost souls make, and the burst like the splash and shake of their arrival in hell, a splash like the one the All Highest, Kaiser Bill, would assuredly wish to make wherever he goes, and the buzz of the splinter bits, like the annoyances expressed by the previous occupants at being joined by a greater fiend than they.  He would certainly make them do the goose step.


I am reading a book by Augustine Birrell, called “Selected Essays”.


How is England?  Are you all provided with tin hats and dug-outs now?  I wish we had some of the latter here, but any attempt to dig is like Moses striking the rock, water gushes forth.


The wretched telephone has been going all day. There is considerable movement in transport on the road tonight, and I have been afraid of my gees getting damaged on the way.  However it is alright, they are all safely gathered in, and tucked up for the night as long as the Hun does not shell the wagon line.  One officer made his way across country in the dark with no light to avoid the road and fell into an enormous shell hole full of water.


The Colonel has just wandered in to the mess in his pyjamas, and asked me to see to something so I close.


R.P. October 24, 1917.

The Colonel and I are alone at Headquarters. I forgot the Doctor.  He is of course here too.  There is no signals officer or orderly officer.  A new signals officer arrives tomorrow.  It means that I have to see to the whole of the work at Headquarters as well as keep an eye on the Battery.  It is a bit of a strain, especially as the Boche has been very aggressive lately.  There has been no mail for three days, which is sad.  It is very cold in my office.  There is no fire there.  The sign of smoke is to be carefully avoided if you wish to live in peace.


The office was in a mess when I came in. I have insisted on having every paper carefully sorted away and indexed.  Today I have dealt with no less than two hundred separate memorandums, papers and returns.  This is a paper war, thanks to our precious staff.  I know that half is never read by the battery officers.  There is no time.


Here is an example of the Staff’s belief in the powers of the parson at home. What faith!  Here is a reply I have just received from Corps Headquarters with regard to a man’s application for special leave consequent upon serious difficulties and trouble in his family circle.


“Numerous societies etc. exist for the purpose of giving assistance and advice in such cases, and a letter to one of them or to the clergyman of the man’s parish would probably be effective.”


French news from the Aisne is encouraging.  I hope success continues.


There is a howling gale blowing this evening. It is omnipresent in a room with no windows.  Papers fly all over the place as if possessed.


October 24, 1917.


What a night! The wind is howling about our old farmstead; but no doubt you know that too, just over the narrow seas.


Here there is only the Colonel and the Doctor on Headquarters now. The Signal Officer, the Orderly Officer, and the Camouflage Officer have all left.  A new “Signals” comes tomorrow.  The Colonel is a Colonel, and the Doctor is a doctor, and an Irishman and a Roman Catholic with rather pronounced ideas and a tender skin; he also has crude notions about history and literature.  So we have not much in common.  However we do not see much of each other.  I spend the whole day in the office now, I regret to say.


This evening I was in my bedroom, also the office, having a bath in a canvas bucket, when I has no less than five telephone calls in three minutes, all demanding my attendance at the receiver in a state of cold nudity.


There has been no English mails for three days, which is rather boring.


The French are going strong on the Aisne.  Good luck to them.


October 28, 1917.

I am shivering with the cold. The Doctor is writing home, and ends with “I am too cold to write any more.  Au revoir.”  He goes and sits by the fire.


It is about tea time, and I have left my combined office, boudoir and bedroom, which is much too draughty. The mess is not much better, but a fire has just been lit, as it is now dark.  Through a side window, which is without its glass, I can see the silhouette of a farm house a short way away.  It is the home of a 60 pdr. battery, and they are now being heavily shelled with 5.9 Howitzer shells.  I hope the enemy battery does not switch a few minutes more left.


The doctor keeps interrupting me as I write, asking me to listen to jokes in a paper he is reading. I do detest people who persist in reading out extracts from papers one can read for oneself when one wants to, especially when you are doing something else.


After strenuous efforts the Doctor managed to mend the old gramophone last night. So to sooth us we had music (?) from “Bubly” and “Zig-zag”.  We needed something to cheer us.  Soon after we were heavily shelled.


I see poor old Trevor Pearse had been wounded. I hope not seriously.  Well! I suppose one cannot go on for ever in the front line.


F. Smith letter 31 October 1917

Oct 31st 17


Dear Father


I will now write you a few lines to let you know the latest news.

I am now with the Batt again, came back last night & feeling much better so when you write put No 10 Platoon not ‘C’ Company’s Mess.

Thank you very much for your nice parcel.  I enjoyed all the goodies very much; it came in very welcome as we are billeted miles from anywhere no chance of buying anything.

I was glad to receive Ethel’s letter.  No doubt you are beginning to wonder when I shall be coming home it is no use to think about it yet as there are a few more men besides me in the army & there is no chance of going until you have been out here 13 or 14 months you have to take your turn so I am not thinking about it until next March but I hope the blooming war will finish before that.

Ciss wrote to me to-day, I am glad you have been staying with them.  I guess you have some lively times in the cold store when the enemy is about I bet you want some spirits to warm yourselves afterwards.  I see you have had to keep a sharp look out when the full moon is on I could not make out what was meant by it at first as I had not read anything about it.

How is everything going at home according to what I can hear people are beginning to get fed up with the war n’est ce pas it is just about time.

Have you seen anything of Darvills lately I hope they are all well.

Well I think I must put a full stop as the news is exhausted & I want to answer several other letters that have collected lately.

Hoping you are all merry & bright & in the best of health.  Keep smiling

With much love from

Your devoted



Routine Orders 3rd Army 31 October 1917



By General Hon. Sir J. H. G. Byng, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., M.V.O.


Wednesday, 31st October 1917.




1218 – Economy in Paper.

Many cases have come to notice recently of the wasteful manner in which A.F. B.158 is used by units for their returns of officers and warrant officers. As many as 20 copies of the form have been used in the compilation of one of these returns, and the number of names on each has varied from twelve to six.  These names could well have been written on one sheet of blank paper attached to one or two copies of the form.


In view of the question of paper shortage, which has become a very acute one, it is essential that every economy be exercised in the use of forms, and in the case of the form now under observation, where it is impossible to place all the names on one or two copies of the form they should be continued on a blank sheet of paper which can be affixed to the form.

(A.C.I. 1584 of 1917).


1219 – Leave – Entry of in Pay Book.

A recent inspection at a Base Port of the pay books of a number of soldiers proceeding on leave revealed the fact that in 24 per cent of the books examined, G.R.Os. 1267 and 2684 had not been complied with.

It is pointed out that it is impossible to ensure the accuracy of the return rendered monthly under A.Gs. D/1978 of 16-9-17, if these records are not kept up as ordered.

An immediate inspection of the A.Bs. 64 of all ranks in the Third Army will be instituted by all Commanders of Units, and this inspection will be carried out every month in future.

This order is to be republished in all Corps, Divisional and Brigade Orders.


1220 – Infectious Disease amongst Civil Population.

All cases of infectious diseases occurring among the civil population will be notified by Maires to Town Majors, who will place the infected premises out of bounds to British troops and at once report the case both to the O.C. the Sanitary Section of the district and to the D.M.S., Third Army, direct. Where the occurrence of such cases comes to the knowledge of Town Majors, without having been reported to them by Maire, similar action will be taken, with the addition of a note to the effect that the case has not been reported by the civil authorities.


1221 – Courts-Martial.

  1. On 21-7-17, after being warned to parade for the trenches, No. S./15240, Pte. T. Ward, Gordon Highlanders, absented himself from his unit and remained absent until he reported himself at St. Omer about 20-9-17.

The accused was tried by Field General Court-Martial on a charge of Desertion, was found guilty and sentenced to Death.

The sentence was duly carried out at 6.26 a.m. on 16-10-17.

  1. On 20-8-17, No. S./15954, Pte., N. H. Taysum, Black Watch, paraded with his company and proceeded to the trenches. At 8 a.m. on 21-8-17, Pte Taysum was absent and remained absent until he surrendered as an absentee at 10.50 p.m. that night.

The accused was tried by a Field General Court-Martial on a charge of Desertion, was found guilty and sentenced to Death.

The sentence was duly carried out at 6.26 a.m. on 16-10-17.

Attention is directed to Circular Memorandum on “Promulgation of Death Sentences” A.G. B./8001 of 26-12-16.


1222 – Lost Passes.

The following is a list of Lost Passes for week ending 20-10-17:-


British Serial Card Passes –

9159, issued to No. 20447, 2/A.M. Edmondson H., 13th Wing R.F.C.

9437, issued to No. M2/166952, Pte. A. Hicks, att. R.C.E.5.


British Serial Card Passes:-

7751, issued to Sergt. Dean, 21st Divl. Signals.

14987, issued to Pte. T. Huntingdon, A.S.C., M.T., att 4th London Fd.        Ambulance.

5776, issued to No. 75501, Spr. A.T. Willding, 8th Bn., Canadian Railway            Troops.

—— issued to No. M2/045862 Pte. J. Howley, A.S.C.

Other Passes –

Carte d’Identite No. 5288, in favour of Interpreter Goubaux, att 40th Division.


1223 – Discipline.

Para 4 of A.R.O. 1043(as amended by A.R.O. 1152) is cancelled and the following substituted.

  1. MESSES. At the discretion of Commanding Officers, beer, cider and light wines only may be sold and consumed during canteen hours in recognised Sergeants’ and Corporals’ Messes. They may also authorise the issue of beer to the troops with meals in camp or billets under the supervision of an officer. In the case of all purchases of beer, cider and light wines, whether for Officers’ or N.C.Os’ Messes, or for Canteens, the purchaser must be in possession of a written order signed by an Officer not below the rank of Captain and stamped by the Orderly Room stamp of the unit concerned.




1224 – Fuze No. 101 E.X. for 6-inch Mark VII., and Mark XIX. Guns.

Owing to prematures occurring (outside the bore) with 101. EX. Fuzes with 6-inch Mark VII. and Mark XIX. Guns, the use of No. 44 Fuzes will, so far as possible be reverted to with H.E. shell for these two natures of gun.

No. 44 Fuzes are now available at Ammunition Railheads to be drawn in replacement of all No. 101. E.X. Fuzes held with this ammunition.

Fuzes No. 101. E.X. and No. 101. X.E. will be used only when Fuzes No. 44 are not available.

Fuzes rendered surplus at Railheads by the exchange will be sent to the Base.

Authority; Q.M.G., 17/10 (Q.B.2) dated 23-10-17 – O.A./78/225.


1225 – Fuzes T. and P. for 60-pdr. Shrapnel Fired with Reduced Charge.

The No. 82 fuze will function, and may be used, with reduced charge in this gun: a suitable fuze-scale is incorporated in the new Range Table, 40/W.O./4306, dated 9-17, which has been issued to all concerned.

Fuzes No. 83 Mark III. will also shortly be available for use with reduced charge for this nature of gun.

Authority; – Q.M.G., 49/6 (Q.B. 2) dated 22-10-17 – O.A./78/167.


1226 – Ordnance Q.F. 18-pdr. Air Recuperator. – Lubricating of Guides.

The following stores are authorised for the lubrication of the surface of the keys on bottom of recuperator case Q.F. 18-pdr. recuperator.

per carriage.

Lubricators, Stauffers No. 3 pattern H.                     1

Pipe lubricating Recuperator guide                             1

Clip pipe lubricating Recuperator guide                     1

(Complete with screws).

Indents should be submitted through the usual channels.

Authority; – O.S.M., 363/2 (B. 1), dated 24-10-17 – O.23/43.

As the above stores are not available in large numbers, early issue must not be expected in every case.


1227 – Pleyau Stereoscope.

Approval is given for the issue of one Pleyau Stereoscope to each Special Coy. (Cylinder or Projector) R.E. for use in studying aeroplane photographs.

Indents should be submitted through the usual channels.

Authority – Q.M.G. 11/1 (Q.A. 3) dated 21-10-17.


1228 – Soyer Stoves to be regarded as Area Stores.

With reference to A.R.O. 1143, dated 6-10-17, Soyer Stoves issued under the above authority, will be treated as area stores and will not be taken away when units and divisions move from one area to another.

If the number of Corps or Divisions is decreased after the stoves have been issued, any stoves thus becoming surplus to the scale referred to, will be returned to Base through O.Os. concerned.

Authority – Q.M.G. 7/15 (Q.A. 3), dated 22-10-17.


1229 – Air Recuperators, Q.F. 18-pr. – Care and Preservation of.

It is of great importance that the following instructions be carefully observed by the Commanders of Batteries armed with 18-pr. Guns with air recuperators, with a view to reducing the number of failures of Front Cap Recuperators.

The recoil adjusting gear should never be used until it has been ascertained that the Buffer Reservoir is properly filled.

Lack of oil in the Buffer Reservoir means lack of oil in the Buffer, and consequent high Buffer stresses, with the result that recoils are lengthened or the Front Cap Recuperator collapses.

The replenishing of the Buffer Reservoir is a simple operation and instructions for filling are given upon a plate attached to the cradle.

Authority: – Q.M.G. 3/2 (Q.B. 3), dated 24-10-17 – O/23/43.