War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Mar 1918

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Mar 1918

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

March 4 1918

I.T.F.

Once again I have returned to my battery after a few days away on a job, which has all gone to the winds and for nothing owing to the sudden change in the weather and the heavy rains we have just had. However it is childish to be annoyed.  I have been attached to another battery, which I do not like.

 

What do you think of the Wimbush prosecution? I saw an account in the Times.  Well!  I suppose some people are like that, always thinking of their beastly skin or the inside of it.  I see Gilbert Frankau has been invalided out of the Gunners.  Now he will be able to spend his whole time writing, and not doing it in Government’s time.

 

What a censor! The two latest absurdities, prosecuting Gwynne.  So they cut off the names of places on my Rome post-cards, which were probably printed in Bavaria!  As if any intelligent person could not recognise the views on the cards.  But I suppose they must do something to justify their existence.  But there are too many of them at it, instead of using a shovel in the front line.

 

It is comparatively easy to get leave in Italy, but most difficult to obtain a warrant for home and all that it means.  Only the staff can get that.

 

March 8 1918

I.E.F.

The weather has sadly interfered with our plans here.

 

There is no prospect of leave for me. Some get it by pretending to be sick, but I have no desire to follow them home by adopting their methods.

 

March 11 1918

 

The weather has been delightful here the last two days. At present my quarters rather resemble a pig sty, but at least I have a sleeping compartment to myself.  It is now summertime and not dark until nearly eight, and much warmer.

 

I am now back at the wagon lines after a time in the gun line. I wonder how we shall like it when it gets really hot.

 

There is a new book out by a man to whose lectures I used to go at Cambridge, “Church and State in England to the death of Queen Anne” by Professor Gwatkin, since dead. I am afraid I shell not be able to read it until the war is over; and when will that be?  A seven year’s war, a thirty or even a hundred year’s war!

 

It is so late that the cocks are crowing, and I have to be up at five! However as my Father used to say “Example is better than precept.”

 

Novels are like drugs so I eschew them.

 

M.F.L.P.                              March 11, 1918

 

I have just returned after a lengthy stay in the gun line, to the wagon line, and it is now so late that the cocks are crowing. And I have to be up at five.

 

The weather is at present beautiful. The others have invented a game, some mad game, a mongrel half badminton, half quoits.  It makes me too hot.  And I have even played football.  But I was fearfully stiff afterwards.  The Veterinary Officer played goal, for the officers against the sergeants and the rest.  He has a fat red face, and a bald head, and confesses to 30.  The right back was the fat adjutant in yellow socks.  A major of 45 was the other back.  I played right half, and the result was a draw.

 

Mine is the unfortunate captain’s job. At present I am up to my eyes in indents and requisitions.  From guns to whale oil, and from horses to shirts!  My correspondence is mostly of rude letters from A.O.D., D.A.D.O.S., S.C.R.A., and other horrid people.  “Why did you overdraw one ration on 15.2.18?”  “You cannot have Scissors.  They are not authorised.”  But they expect the men’s hair to be cut.

 

R.P.                                      Sunday March 17 1918.

 

I am so sorry to hear about the raid. I hope it did not upset you too much, for you must be getting quite accustomed to them now.

 

We are extra busy just at present, so we are out of mischief. The weather is glorious with plenty of sunshine.  Some of the trees are quite green.  It is not dark until eight p.m.  At night when the sun goes down or in the shade during the day it is cold, otherwise it is just right.

 

Leave is still a great way ahead. The list is longer than I care to contemplate, but we have to lump it.  It is all in this great game.

 

March 17 1918

Sunday

Italian Expeditionary Force.

 

It is a glorious Sunday evening, though the air is a bit cool. Already some of the trees are green.  The weather is the usual topic of the resourceless, but I hope my references to climatic conditions may be forgiven as they are not padding but quite sincere.  I love weather like this, and I am easily influenced by environment.

 

We have moved again, and only arrived this evening after a long journey, tired and dusty. I have a bedroom to myself and a table too, where I can write, so I am fortunate.  It is difficult now to think otherwise than in terms of guns and horses.  The prehistoric antebellum days of youth seem so far away now.

 

It would seem that we are out here in Italy for the duration, but I hope not.  I shall try and get back to France somehow.

 

The Boche do not seem in a great hurry to make their long talked of attack. Perhaps they are thinking better of it.  They may be bluffing to keep us quiet.  But I think it probable that they will do something.

 

In my leisure moments I have been reading William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience”, which is excellent.

 

Frankau is going to write for the Tatler. What a paper to write for, but I suppose it pays well.

 

The papers do not take much notice of us out here, which is as well as it prevents us thinking we are doing anything important. There really is nothing much going on.  I hope we are doing some good here.  At any rate the Austrians have not had it all their own way opposite us.

 

March 25th 1918.

Journey from Italy to France.

 

Entrained at POJANA, near CAMPODORO on March, 25, 1918.

 

Via                                        Padova

Piacenza March 26, 1918.

Arquata

Genoa.

 

Savona

 

Ventimiglia

Nice

Cannes

 

Toulon.

 

On arrival billeted at EPAGNE, near Abbeville.

 

POST CARDS

 

P.P.C. of Monte Carlo.  Post mark 29 MARCH? Toulon.

F.S.P.C. 30, March 1918.

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F. Springett letter March 1918

France

 

Monday

 

 

My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a few lines in answer to your welcome letter which I received a day or two ago.

So glad to hear that you were quite well I am still A1.

I am sorry I haven’t written before but I have been busy with Fritz “you know” Ha Ha.

My word Sid I had a lovely box of cigs and toffees from Helen the other day I might tell you they came in very useful to. That was awfully good of her to think about me, I believe she likes me a little bit mind I don’t cut you out.  I am writing to her as soon as I get time, tell her that I received them quite safe and that I am writing as early as possible.

Glad you are still sticking in the works.

The weather here is not too bad but of course it is a bit sticky.

I am glad you enjoyed yourself at home last week. I could do with one of Mother’s dinners right now, but still we don’t do so bad for rations, I can’t really grumble.

Well Dear Sid, just excuse this short letter also the writing because I have four more to write and very little time to spare.

Hope you are still A1.

Goodbye

Best love I remain

Your Loving Brother

Frank

 

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

Postmarked ? Post Office MR 18. Passed by Censor 3257.

F. Hammond letter 30 March 1918

30.3.18

BEF

Dear F & M

Just a line to say I am all merry and bright after a most eventful time.  Last night was the first night’s sleep for over a week and I can tell you I struck lucky slept in a civy bed with a nice quilt over me.  I thought I should have plenty to tell you but so many things have happened in so short a time that one hasn’t time to remember them.  I suppose you have read all about this great struggle in the papers and the part our lot played.  I don’t know how many Divisions were thrown against ours but they came on in thousands to be mowed down by machine guns and shell fire but still they came on so we gradually gave way inflicting heavy losses on the massed Huns.  I don’t think he can go on throwing his troops away like he has been doing much longer and then he will have finished his offensive for all time.  The major portion of the ground he has gained is all desolate ground shell shattered since 1914 and some of the old battle fields we fought on 2 or 3 years ago.  So we were familiar with the ground.  We came across a few small villages where the civilians had evacuated or were evacuating.  It makes one feel sorry to see old people toddling along carrying a store of provisions making for safer quarters.  It would do some of those Engineers who are everlastingly grousing to have to undergo some of the distress.  Well I think we are down for a quieter time now.  Geo’s lot were a little South of us.  Is he still in hospital let me know any news.  Going well.  Cheerho

Love Gussie

 

In Green Envelope FPO D4. From F. Hammond to E. Hammond 9 Countess St Stockport

 

In Blue Biro Boche Great Offensive March 1918. We were under Genl Gough.

 

Field Service Post Card FPO H2 29 Mr 18. I am well. Overwritten in blue biro Coming out of the line after the retreat of the 5th Army (Gough) March 1918.

NEWS SHEET By CORPS INTELLIGENCE 27 March 1918

NEWS SHEET  By CORPS INTELLIGENCE

27th March 1918
Gratis.

The following is a short Summary of the German Offensive up till the evening of 26th March ’18.
Before the attack commenced, the enemy had brought to the Western Front 192 Divisions. Of these, about 110 were needed to hold the line, leaving 82 Divisions in reserve. The majority of this reserve was collected centrally in the area behind LAON, at the junction of the French and English, so that it could be thrown either in the direction of St. QUENTIN against the English or in the direction of RHEIMS against the French.

As a preliminary an attack was started on the morning of the 21st against the British Right from about ROISEL to LA FERE, 1 our Corps being in the centre of the area of attack. The object of this preliminary attack was to attract both our own and the French Reserves towards threatened points, and to leave us in doubt as to where the main attack would take place. This attack was launched in great strength and with masses of Artillery and Trench Mortars. On our Corps front alone 13 German Divisions were identified by actual contact. The weight of this attack forced a retirement on the front attacked, although it did not come up to German expectations, which were to force the line of the SOMME through HAM on the first day.

The attack however, had sufficient success to justify the continuation of the German Plan which was to drive a wedge between the French and British Armies to force the former in a South West direction, and the latter in a North Westerly direction to push through the gap thus made in the direction of AMIENS, to take AMIENS, and cut off the whole British Army in the North Western corner of France. On the 22nd therefore, a heavy attack was launched on the front ROISEL to the SCARPE near ARRAS.

This attack also had a preliminary success forcing the British forces holding the front to give ground.

Each day, the enemy has continued to pour in fresh forces, over 70 Divisions having already been identified as taking part.

In no place has he succeeded in his object of breaking through, as the British forces have fought their way back step by step, and caused the enemy heavy casualties. Every day we are holding him more and more and every day his advance is less. The general line on the evening of the 26th instant is shewn on the Map.

Meanwhile, everyday that our troops hold out gives time for more and more of our own and the French Reserves to be brought to the scene of action and to cause the enemy to use up more troops.

The enemy is out to finish the war by one great blow, and is throwing every available man into the scale. He has already used up practically the whole of his reserve, whilst everyday we are getting stronger.

The whole essence of his plan is a swift and sudden knock out blow as it was in Russia and in Italy, but this time his calculations have gone wrong.

To judge from the statements of Prisoners captured during the last few days by the Corps, his men are getting very tired, and looking the whole time for relief.

He has outstripped his heavy guns, and he still finds the road to AMIENS blocked. There is no doubt that he will go on pouring his troops until the last man has been put in as he is out to win or lose during the next few weeks, so that if we can only keep calm, kill Germans and to prevent a break through until our Reserves can come into play, the result is certain. Above all, we should be on the guard against believing and spreading rumours which are put about by German Spies, and are all part of his plans to get our tails down and to cause alarm and despondency.

George’s letter home 24 March 1918

 

24/3/18

 

 

 

My dear old dad,

 

 

 

            I have only time to drop you a line to acknowledge your letter which I received today.  Things are humming a bit aren’t they.  But there is no need to worry.  ‘Ils ne passeront pas’ as our French friends say.  The damned Boche will never get through.  Still things are pretty serious on paper at any rate.  And the person we have got to thank is the damned politician.

 

 

 

I suppose in time the full story of the battle will come out.  Never in the history of England have such prodigies of valour been performed.  It had been almost superhuman.  Our men have fought like lions & made the Boche pay dearly for every yard they have gained.  The distance they have advanced looks bad, but the retirement is strategic, & the ground we are giving up is the devastated area the Boche himself gave up last year.

 

 

 

I shall have to stop dad I hope people won’t get their tails down.

 

 

 

            Best love to all

 

                        Your loving son

 

                                                Geoff.

 

 

 

P.S. Many thanks for your offer of smokes.  Don’t send any yet.  I haven’t finished your Xmas box yet.

 

G. Hammond letter 21 March 1918

Envelope Army PO S 71 Mr 24 18

to Miss G Hammond, 6 Countess Street, Davenport, Stockport Cheshire.

Canadian YMCA letterhead

 

Somewhere in France

Same address as previous

March 21st 1918

Dear Gladys

Just a line to let you know I have again arrived in this most glorious country.  How is Aunt and Uncle these days and yourself are you studying hard?  I just wish I could drop in and take you to the play again.  Did you go to see the “Mikado”?  Oh by the way go easy on the rations.  Gladys I didn’t like to mention it while I was there but you looked extremely well on short rations.

I am parading now and you should see me I have wasted away to a shadow.  I have not wrote to George yet so he will have something to say when I do I suppose.  I was detained two days in Folkestone on my return but after that straight going until I arrived here.  I had about twenty letters waiting for me so this must be a note.  Remember me to all including Turk, mother says she is well tell Aunt.

With love

George

Excuse scribble and pencil GGH

 

 

F. Springett letter 18 March 1918

Somewhere in France

 

Monday March 18th 1918

 

 

My Dear Brother Sid,

I received your welcome letter today so pleased to hear that you were quite well.

So sorry I haven’t been able to write but I have been awfully busy you know.  We are going up the doings again tonight.  Ha Ha.

Yes those cigarettes & toffees were jolly good they came just as I were going up to the line.

It was awfully good of her, I have written to her.

Her brother is in a very good lot I have seen quite a lot of those chaps up this way.

Glad to hear that you had a nice time at Gravesend.  We are having some lovely weather out this way now.  We can do with it too.

I had a letter from home yesterday and they told me that Ted took Lilly home for the week-end and then this morning I had a letter from her.

My word I do get some letters.

You can guess where I am when I send cards but don’t worry about it there’s no piece made for me. Ha Ha.

I wrote to Dad yesterday and ask him for a few things of course we can’t keep getting chatty out here. Ha Ha.

Yes I suppose you have some lively times up your way but my word I can tell you we have a few.

Dear Sid, you need not trouble to send those mittens on just now “thanks” the weather is getting better and I shall not need them. “Thanks all the same.”

If you don’t receive letters from me for a few days don’t worry about it it’s because I am up the doings. Ha Ha.

Well Sid, I don’t think I have anything to say this time. Hang on in the works as long as possible.

Hope this letter finds you in the best of health as it leaves me A1.

Goodbye

Best Love

I remain

Your Loving Brother

Frank

 

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

Postmarked Field Post Office 5X A 19MR 18. Passed by Censor unreadable.