War Diary of AA Laporte Payne November 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne


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

November 1917

Brigade Headquarters.
I have been reading the Times Literary Supplement and Gilbert Frankau’s “Woman of the Horizon”, but the latter was not a book I think worth while.

We have been shelled out of our Headquarters and have had to move. It was getting a bit too hot, especially at night. We are trying to settle down in our new quarters, a barn; but it is very cold. No fires are allowed at all, as the smoke would certainly be seen. However the Adjutant returns in a day or two, and I go back to my battery’s gun-line. I think it is about time, as I am tired of indoor work.

The Colonel is in a very bad temper to-day. He was late for an appointment with the General.

The Boche seems to be having it all his own way in Italy. I suppose we shall have to stop the rot. I wonder what soldiering would be like in Italy.

R.P. November 11, 1917.
Queen’s Hotel,
The above is my address. I arrived here this afternoon and am sharing a room with the Colonel.

We are here on a Senior Officers’ Course.

November 11, 1917.
Queen’s Hotel
The above is my address! I arrived safely this evening and am sharing a room with the Colonel!!

175th (Army) Brigade, R.F.A. S/1085.
1. The Brigade (Less C Battery) will be withdrawn to their Wagon Lines on the night 15/16th inst., when they will come under the orders of G.O.C.R.A., XVth Corps.
2. The responsibility for the Artillery Defence of the Front at present covered by E Group will be taken over at 4.30 p.m. on the 15th inst by O.C. B Group.
3. The necessary adjustments of S.O.S. Lines are given in the 42nd D.A. Instructions No. 29, attached hereto.
4. Move to Wagon Lines at GHYVELDE will be commenced directly darkness sets in.
5. Acknowledge.

Adjutant, 175th Bde. R.F.A.

(The Brigade left the 42nd Division and their zones were covered by spreading the zones covered by Sykes Group and the remainder of E Group (400th Battery and B/210 Battery, and E Group came under the command of O.C. B. Group)

R.P. November 16, 1917.

Yesterday I arrived safe and sound, but completely disgruntled, and found everything as I expected. The Major is still away sick, and being in command I shall be responsible for the move. You can guess where to.

Things are in a great mess, but no doubt they will straighten out in time.

On the boat coming over I met Sidney Swann and Ted Collins and also two of our subalterns returning, having been recalled also. I met Reg at the Officers’ Club in Boulogne, and dined with him and Swann and Collins. I saw him again the next morning.

I managed to get a car to take me all the way to the wagon lines, so I was very lucky.

That night we had a Brigade dinner and I was vice chairman, and had to make a speech.

I am so sorry I had to leave so early. Thank you for getting up to see me off. I hope you were not very tired.

The course served me well as I was able to see you all before I go far away where no leave can be expected for a long while.

November 16, 1917.
Yesterday I arrived quite safely here, and found everything in a great commotion, as I expected. The import of the wire which brought the Colonel and myself back here was as I thought. So now you know where we are bound. Everything is upside down. The course at Shoeburyness which should have given us six weeks at home, just enabled up to get two days in England. Well! The best laid plans of mice and men…. And we are but mice now.

I had two hours in Folkestone. On board I met Sidney Swann, the Cambridge, now a chaplain, and Ted Collins, a very old friend from Bath, who is in the Cavalry, also two of our subalterns in the same plight as the Colonel and myself.

At Boulogne I met Reg, at the Club, and he, and Swann, Collins and I had dinner together. That night I stayed in Boulogne, and in the morning got a lift in a car with our two subalterns to the wagon lines. That night we had a Brigade dinner. I had to make a speech! Jock Amour toasted the ladies. Very appropriate, wasn’t it?

As the Major seems to be permanently sick, and is still away, I am again in command of the Battery, and short-handed. It involves a great deal of work when we have a long move. Having had a pleasant stay in Blighty snatched away in that fashion, I am a bit disgruntled, not unnaturally.

You will have to procure some very different maps now if you still take an interest in our movements. The Colonel is very pleased with the move and himself. He thinks he is going to win “great honour and glory” where we are going. I doubt it. we shall probably find ourselves in a horrible mess.

Well! Well! Au Revoir.

1. The Brigade will entrain at LOON-PLAGE for MODANE.
3. Units will be at the entraining station 3 hours prior to the time fixed for departure.
7. Distance to LOON-PLAGE from here is 15 miles.
8. SUPPLIES. 14 days supplies will be in lorries at LOON-PLAGE on the morning of the 18th inst. Units will send one officer, one N.C.O., and a small party to meet the Adjutant at that hour and that place for the purpose of dividing the supplies.
10. Headquarters will leave the wagon line at GHYVELDE at 4 p.m. on the 17th inst.

POSTING Captain W.V. Greetham, 15th Hussars, is posted to the 175th Brigade, R.F.A. as Advisor in Horsemastership with effect from todays date.
2/Lieut. H. Griffiths C/175 Bde. R.F.A. is posted to B/175, Bde. R.F.A. with effect from todays date.

A, Battery 175th Brigade, R.F.A.


Two Sections One Section TOTALS
Train No Train No
232 235

Officers… 4. 2. 6.
Other Ranks… 121. 64. 185.
Light draught.. )113. 57. 123.
Riders ) 47.
Heavy Draught 4. 2. 6.


Guns 18pdr. Q.F.
with Limbers 4. 2. 6.
Ammunition Wagons 8. 4. 12.
Wagons G.S…. 3. 1. 4.
Water Cart 1. -. 1.
Mess Cart 1. 1.
Total Vehicles 24.

17, November 1917


Entraining Station, Loon-Plage.

TRAIN Serial Nos. UNIT. Time of Date.
No. Departure.
1. B.40. Headquarters
B.43a. 1/3 How. Battery 11-45 18th Nov.
2. B.43. 2/3 How. Battery 17-45 do
3. B.41. 2/3 A. Battery 23-45 do
4. B41a. 1/3 AB 5-45 19th Nov
B42a. 1/3 BB
5. B42. 2/3 BB 11-45 do
6. ½ Brigade Amm. Col. 17-45 do
7. do 23-45 do

Acting Traffic Officer
16th Nov. 1917

(The whole Brigade want via VINTIMILLE with the exception of Train No. 3 2/3, A. Battery.)

Region Esercito Italiano


Foglio di viaggio per servizio.
Il Cpitano dell’Esercito Inglese A.A.L. Payne, con 4 Ufficiali e 121 soldati deve viaggiare il giorno 21-11-17, da Modane a Piacenza.

Modane, li 21-11-17

Il Capitano
Comandante Militare di Stazione

(Ufficio Carabinieri Reali Modane.)


Train No. 232.
Marche A.N. 24.

LOON-PLAGE Entrained. Night 18/19th November 1917 via Calais.
LONGEAU Halte Repas
CHALONS-SUR-MARNE at 7.30, p.m.
VITRY-LE-FRANCOIS (Along the valley of the Marne.)
SAINT PIERRE d’ALBIGNY (Ascend the valley of the Isere.)
MODANE Mont Cenis Tunnel (Eight miles long nearly.)
South end of tunnel, Bardonnecchia, the first Italian Station.
Best views on the left.


Down the valley of the Dora Riparia
Chiomonte. Through the wild and narrow Le Gorgie.
Susa on left the town of Susa with Roman Arch.
BUSSOLENO Junction for Susa.
Borgone. Pass over the Dora.
S. Ambrogio
ISOLA DELLA SCALA. Arrived on the evening of the 22nd November 1917.

Nov 24th 1917 rode into Verona lunched and bought a Baedeker visited the Arena of Diocletian.

R.P. Post cards.

F.S.P.C. 21, 11, 17
do 21,11,17, Post mark “Louhans a Dijon” 21,11,17
P.P.C. Torino. 21,11,17
P.P.C. Mantova Dated Nov. 22, 1917. Post mark, “Comando del Presidio di Mantova”

Nov. 20, 1917. Postmark “LOUHANS A DIJON
Nov. 21, 1917. DO “MODANE GARE”

P.C. from Turin.
P.C. from Mantova

R.P. November 25, 1917.
No letters from home have yet reached us yet, and are not likely to do so yet. I hear there are forty bags of mail for us somewhere.

It has been all very interesting, in spite of a rather wearisome journey of some days out here. I want to give you some news, but I do not know how this letter is going as we are not allowed to post in civilian post boxes and the Field Service Post has not been established yet.

I have already visited Verona, which was most interesting, and hope to see many more such places before we return to England.

It is very cold here, and the last two days have been of the typical English November weather, dull cold and foggy.

November 25, 1917.
It seems years and years since I left England, and I don’t suppose we shall get any post for a long time. I hear that there are forty mail bags for us somewhere, but they have not turned up yet. I do not know how this letter is going as the Field Service Post has not been established here for us yet, and we are not allowed to use the civilian post. Everything has to be very secret.

We had a most interesting journey, especially in the Alps. It is cold, and we have had several dull and misty days, but the others have been beautiful.

Our battery’s horses travelled exceptionally well, I am glad to say. My mare is quote alright.

I am still in command of the battery. The men have been splendid and we have had no trouble. We lost very little on the way.


From Isola della Scala.

ALBAREDO d’ADIGE (The 7th Div. at Cologna.)
ARCOLE 26th November 1917 to December 2nd 1917.
The scene of the battles of 15/17th Nov. 1796 between the Austrians and the French under Bonaparte.
Visited the village of Soave in the hills, a medieval fortified town in excellent preservation.
Cologna Veneta.


Frank Springett letter 28 November 1917

56153 Rfln F.W. Springett

A Company 3rd Platoon

51st G. Battn Kings Royal Rifles




Nov 28th 1917


My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a few lines in answer to your welcome letter I have just received.  So pleased to hear that you were quite well as it leaves me very well at present.

Thanks very much indeed for the 10/- note it will come in very handy, it’s awfully good of you to think of me.

Dad sent me one the other day so you see I’ve been awfully lucky this week. “Ha Ha”.

Dear Sid, I think perhaps I shall be home for Christmas, our Captain is trying to get it for us I hope for the best, we will have a nice time if I do manage to get home. “You bet”.

It’s a grand day here today just like a spring day, but it as been something awful.

We are still busy, plenty of route marches my word, some of them want a bit of sticking. Ha Ha.

We are going to Deal next week to fire a few rounds, just a refresher course.

Of course, you know that we are finishing our training shortly, I have passed out bombing this week

Well, Sid I don’t think I have any more to say this time, there seems very little to write about as usual, once again thanking you kindly for the 10/- note I will close.

With Best Love

I remain

Your Affec Brother



With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent

Postmarked Maidstone 3 PM 29 NO 17

Alf Smith letter 24 November 1917

Nov 24th 17


Dear Father


I found your parcel waiting for me when we arrived here & it was very welcome; the contents were tres bon as usual especially the cake, & jam thank you very much.

Well Dad I was very pleased to receive your letter, & to know you are all well.

We are getting along farely well out here although the weather is jolly rough as you can guess now.

I believe you mentioned about sending me a large parcel for Xmas I should appreciate it very much as you know but I think the usual size you send would be best as we might be on the move when it came & as you know we have to carry our house on our backs so there is not much room for spare stuff.  I might be coming home soon but don’t count on that I think myself it will be early in the New Year.

I should like some Harrises Pomade when you are sending another parcel so as to slaughter a few germs as well as Germans.

Ciss wrote to me yesterday I suppose you have to go very steady with the whisky at 12/- per bottle.  I was pleased to receive Ethel’s letter I will write to her next time.

Where do you think of moving to this time I suppose you hardly know at present?

Well I think I must stop now no more news this time.

Hoping you are all merry & bright & in the best of health glad to say I am A1.

Remember me to Mr & Mrs Warman & Lilian I hope they are quite well.

I was wondering if you can still get Shortbread or Shortbread biscuits I should very much like it if it is not too much trouble to get them.

Well Au revoir keep smiling.

With much love

Your devoted



Narrative of Operations November 1917

Appendix II



20th and 21st November 1917.




It is essential that Staff Officers with a full knowledge of orders for the forthcoming operations should control the traffic during the assembly and forming up of troops prior to attack. The assembly and forming up of troops prior to attack.  The assembly and forming up was carried out up to time and successfully – but hitches occurred owing to an insufficient number of Staff Officers having been utilised.


In circumstances where the assembly of four Divisions can only take place by means of the roads originally at the disposal of one Division, the number of Staff Officers available from that Division for traffic control is insufficient.


The Staff Officers of the incoming Divisions had little or no time to grasp the essentials of the problem.


It is suggested that on such occasions a special Traffic Control Conference should be held and the points for which each Division should be responsible agreed upon.



  1. R.A.


The operations under review have proved that a satisfactory barrage can be fired without previous registration, if care is taken to ensure accuracy of line beforehand.


If sufficient R.A. Officers are available it would be of the greatest assistance if an Artillery Liaison Officer could be attached to each forward Battn. for the purpose of keeping Battalion Commanders informed of Artillery arrangements and enabling them, when possible, to obtain Artillery co-operation.


The fascines carried by batteries proved most useful.

The enemy barrage, which fell on our front and support lines, was feeble and ragged.


The timing of our barrage and the proportion of smoke fired, i.e. from 18-pdrs 1/ 3 smoke appeared to be satisfactory.


It was again demonstrated that in an attack, risks can safely be taken that would not otherwise be justified, batteries can get into and out of action in the open, without undue casualties.


In all operations of this nature close co-operation between R.A. and Tanks is essential. The R.A. must know exactly the forming up places of the Tanks in order that there may be no chance of Tanks masking the fire of batteries.  Instances occurred during the recent operations in which Tanks, owing to the nature of the ground, were obliged to form up in positions which temporarily masked the fire of guns.



  1. R.E.


The light railway proved unreliable and could not be depended upon for getting up material other than ammunition during the time of preparation.

The urgent necessity of large parties of pioneers being employed at the earliest possible moment to repair roads, cut wire, fill in trenches, and make temporary bridges, etc., was most marked, and artillery will be seriously hampered when this is not attended to on a large scale.




(a). R.A.  It is strongly recommended that a limbered G.S. wagon be substituted for a Brigade Cable Cart, which is in no way suited for travelling over rough country and is incapable of carrying the amount of  wire required.

D.1 and D. 3 are the heaviest cables suited for Artillery Bdes. And Batteries.

The use of mounted orderlies was most necessary as all other methods of communication continually failed.


(b). Tanks.  It is most necessary that routes for returning Tanks should be laid down and marked back to the original front line as the greatest difficulty was experienced in coping with the damage done to lines by returning Tanks.


(c). Power Buzzer and Amplifiers.  The arrangements were for these to work from original Bde. forward Station to Cable Heads.  As events proved they were not required in this position, and in the subsequent advance distances were too great.


(d). Wireless Sets.  One set was allotted to the 59th Inf. Bde., and one to the 60th Inf. Bde.  Both these sets were eventually used at Bde. H.Q., but they were not carried forward quickly enough.  In future it should be laid down that the set moves with the Brigade Staff.


(e). Visual.  Visual Signalling again proved of great value in spite of the use of smoke.  The Lucas Lamp was much superior to any other system – a minimum issue of 6 per Battalion is recommended.


(f). Pigeons.  The number of pigeons available (10 birds for this Division) were insufficient; 10 birds with each Brigade forward party would have been invaluable.  Eight messages came through by this means.


(g). D.R’s – Motor Cyclists and Mounted.  The Signal Service rule that Despatch Riders can go by any road at any time does not appear to be known to Traffic Control personnel.  Mounted men were stopped and delays caused.




(a) Training.

(i). Realistic training of infantry with Tanks is essential to the success of operations of this nature.  The lack of training in this particular instance was counteracted by the element of surprise, but in all future operations, or operations of a deliberate nature, careful prolonged training will be essential.


(ii). Enemy machine guns and points of resistance should be simulated either by men or rattles in unknown localities, so that the subordinate commanders should have the opportunity of dealing with conditions as they present themselves on the spot.


(iii). Training should impress on the Infantry the absolute necessity of not keeping too close to the Tanks and of not bunching.


(iv). The most careful training is required in the matter of keeping direction of Tanks, and the strictest discipline should be inculcated in troops at training.

A real course must be mapped out, real trenches and real wire. Taped trenches and imaginary wire give quite a wrong impression.


(v). After reaching the final objective there is a tendency for men to unload themselves of their various impediments and wander about. This, of course, is chiefly due to the loss of officers.  Training then, must include practicing of casualties among officers and N.C.O’s.


(b). Employment.

(i). The formation adopted, namely, irregular lines of Sections in file was found to be satisfactory, but it is suggested the 5 Tanks per Section would give better results that the present Sections of 3.  With 3 Tanks, if one becomes a casualty, the pre-arranged plan for mopping up becomes ineffective, and the Infantry attached is left alone, and probably would not get through the wire.


(ii). Marauding Tanks are required to attack enemy nests and pockets.


(iii). During the attack Tanks were destroyed by approaching within point blank range of enemy field guns.  in one instance, 4 Tanks were discovered “knocked out” within 150 yards of a hostile Battery.  It would appear that known positions require special attention.  The Infantry operating with a group of Tanks should advance in front of the Tanks on approaching a known Battery, and put the enemy out of action with Lewis Gun fire, the accompanying Tanks slowing down or halting under cover.  An inspection of the battle-field showed that this could have been done in several cases.  The enemy Batteries in question were all clear of the “wired-up” zone, and therefore the Infantry did not require Tank assistance.


(iv). Very clear markings are required on Tanks so that affiliated Infantry can recognise their own.


(v). In this particular attack the enemy did not appear to discover the approach of the Tanks until these were within about 200 or 300 yards.




The equipment as laid down in S.S. 135 was found satisfactory. The ordinary picks and shovels issued are too heavy for Infantry who have to attack over a considerable distance.  Entrenching tools proved of no use and were merely an encumbrance.




The principle of sub-dividing machine guns into Barrage Groups under Divisional control and consolidating guns under direct Brigade control was again found to be a suitable arrangement. Brigades in their turn allotted certain guns to Battns. for use as “opportunity guns”.  In principle this seemed a sound arrangement, but in practice the C.O’s of Battns. neglected to give these guns a task, and owing to inexperience, or lack of initiative, these guns were not used to the best advantage by their crews.




The Lewis Gun confirmed its value in every way. In one instance, after enemy guns had knocked out 2 Tanks, our Lewis gun fire killed all the gunners and allowed the advance to continue.

Lewis Gun teams were the first to cover and make possible the capture of the bridges. Too great stress cannot be laid upon the need for ample supplies of ammunition for Lewis Guns; Yukon Packs loaded with spare drums on pack animals were most useful in this connection.

Luminous sights proved of great value.




In the operations under review, 2 troops of Corps Cavalry attached to 59th Inf. Bde. rendered invaluable service in maintaining touch between the 59th Inf. Bde. and the 12th Division on the BONAVIS – CREVECOEUR Ridge.  As the operations of the 59th Inf. Bde. were in the nature of open fighting, the attachment of Cavalry was both necessary and suitable.  Cavalry would, however, not have been of great use to the 60th and 61st Inf. Bdes. whose duty it was to break through the HINDENBURG LINE.  Some mounted orderlies should be attached to all Bdes. as an adjunct to the Signal Service.

  1. BOMBS.


“P” Bombs were not found necessary.




It must be insisted that no Headquarters must close down one Station before another is established. Several instances occurred of Headquarters moving forward and all communication being lost for a considerable time.




The capture of strong points was effected in every case by out-flanking tactics, using Bombers and Lewis Guns.




Snipers were employed with considerable success in LES RUES VERTES and RUE DES VIGNES, and many casualties caused. One sniper killed 7 Germans in RUE DES VIGNES on the 21st November.

Telescopic sights were found useful, but the difficulty in replacing them in cases of loss caused diffidence in bringing them forward.




Stokes Mortars were brought forward, but were not of great use owing to the open nature of the fighting.



10th December 1917.



F Springett letter 23 November 1917

56153 Rfln F.W. Springett

A Company 3rd Platoon

51st G. Battn Kings Royal Rifles




Nov 23rd 1917


My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a few lines in answer to your welcome letter received today, so pleased to hear that you were quite well, as it leaves me very well at present, except for a bit of a cold.

Very pleased to hear that you still have plenty of work, also that you are having a good time. The weather is rather cold down here but we don’t get much rain, that’s one thing.

I see we have another moon now. I expect the Germans will soon be over again to have another try to frighten us.  “Ha Ha”.

We have to get up and go down the cellars but Frank doesn’t stop there long.  I generally manage to crawl back upstairs and get in bed.  One night some of us were caught “my word” you should have heard the Officer crack on.  Ha Ha.

I heard from Dad the other day and he told me what he was giving Mother for her birthday of course with your help and Ted’s.

I think that’s a jolly good present for her.  Well she is well worth all she gets, “what do you say?”  I had a letter from Ted the other day.

The old Colonel is getting awfully strict, now we are in a regiment he’s properly put the wind up the troops this week.  Ha Ha.

One chap for swearing at a L/Corporal got 20 day’s pay stopped and 20 day’s pay stopped and 20 day’s C.B. this is some life. Ha Ha.  I have been awfully lucky I have never been up for orders yet, a jolly good record eh?

Things are a bit hopeful again, that’s a jolly good victory for us out in France this week.

Well, Sid I haven’t any more news this time, so will pack up.

You ask me if there is anything I want, which I am sure is very kind of you, of course another note would be very acceptable indeed.

Well Sid, I thank you very much for what you are doing for me, and hope to repay you some day.

Hoping this letter finds you quite well. I will close

With Best Love

I remain

Your Affec Brother Frank


With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent

Postmarked Margate 9.45PM 23 No 17

F Hammond letter 23 November 1917



Dear Berth

Glad to receive Par’s letter today and to hear you are all keeping well.  I am having a nice quiet time at present just about half a dozen of us staying at a chateau.  It’s tres bien but rather expensive as they have a rather good wine cellar.  Sorry to have disappointed Mar but I am only 8th on the list for Leave which under present rate of leave I should be away in 2 or 3 weeks.  When I wrote saying I should be home ere this unexpected events happened still we have been having a rather quiet time lately and I have the anticipation which is next to realisation with a possible chance of Xmas or getting it at the same time as Geo.  So I am quite merry & bright.  No I haven’t heard from Geo Hand for a considerable time.  I don’t know whether he was in the Paschendale do but they have had some hard fighting round that part.  Still I should think he is OK somewhere in France.  So Byers turned up again.  He seems a decent fellow but I shouldn’t feel like visiting people during war time in civilian clothes after all this time if he had any sympathy for the British Empire.  I suppose his idea is I am alright and doing well and that’s all that interests me.  It’s alright but I haven’t much time for him at present anyway.  Glad to hear Par will be able to take things easier I suppose he’s a very hot man on gardening by now and is looked upon as an authority on gardening.

Yes I could just go some pickled cabbage and hot pot with a pint of the best.  We had our photograph taken here yday so will be sending you one if they turn out OK.  I hope Gladys does well again & doesn’t overdo herself she ought to take a days golfing if she gets the chance.  It’s a very fine time & such an interesting pastime.  I’m glad to hear the boys are waiting to see me.  I had a letter from Jack the other day I often drop him a line so I will enclose his letter.  You see how he’s got his eye on the pickles.  Isn’t he a lucky fellow he’ll be all stars & stripes before this game is over.  Well I think this is all this time.  Hoping to be seeing you all before long.  So Cheerho dear souls