Private Diary of J.K. Dick Cunyngham Br Gen April 1918

Private Diary of J.K. Dick Cunyngham Br Gen


MAINZ Germany



April 12th Cornet Malo woke about 5 a.m. by Poobah saying a lot of MG fire on our left.  B.M. was then talking to Scott on the phone who said his front was all right.  Went out & saw transport coming back along road, saw Northall who said everyone was coming back & he was going up to see what was up.  Immediately after our Hd Qrs came under Rifle & MG fire at close range:  we all then started to get away on going out of farm.  B.M. & Col. Fleming were wounded by a bomb.  Others were running back.  I had one last look at Farm, collected my bag & waterproof & joined the remainder.  Bosche was all round us in waves, the first 2 waves having passed Hd Qrs; attempted to get men round  Farm Building & open fire, but seeing it was useless made off again for another cottage – which I entered with Drummond, Cummings & Simpson.  On going in rifle bullet grazed me on head & knocked me over.  Finally Simpson surrendered & we were captured.  Remainder of Bde Hd Qrs were also taken at various places & we commenced to march back.  Bosche M.G. & Artillery fire still continuing in vicinity of our farm.  On way linked up Fleming & Meakin & B.M.


Boche evidently broke through someway N of us near Merville as I spoke to a Corpl D.C.L.I. (under 153) later on & he said they had come in behind their line. Party captured was practically all Bde Hd Qrs, self. B.M., Drummond, Cummings, Simpson, McLean, Hutchings, Fleming Meakin.  The latter riding back, & Poobah servant badly wounded, carried back.  Passed through Paradis where we collected a French cart & put wounded in & dragged it along to 1st Dressing Station where wounded were left.  Then marched through Fosse to Pont du Hem.  Rested & had excellent cup Barley Broth.  Stayed 1 hour here then on via La Bassee road, our old front.  Corpl Alfhousen, marching ahead, not knowing where he was going.  So we with aid of B.M.’s map, guided ourselves across old trenches to Bois-de-Biez & there to Illies & on to Marquillies. (19 miles).  Behind B de Biez Alfhouse shopped & we all had drink of Soda Water from a Field Factory.  Arrived Marquillies about 7.30 p.m.  Spent night in cages.  Officer in charge most kind, gave self, Berney-Ficklin & Drummond a shake down in his quarters & food & noisy night, some 700 Portuguese prisoners chattering all night.  Bombs dropped throughout night.


April 13th. Marched Lille (10 miles) starting 9 a.m. only officers & servants.  French inhabitants gave us coffee in Haubourdin: tiring dusty march, much traffic on roads: arrived about 1 p.m.  Self B.M. & D sent to officers quarters in a room holding 5. 3 turned out for us Lt. Col Martin Lan Fus.  Major Jackson E Yorks, our 2 other companions couldn’t face the consisting of stew.  Comdt a Lieut, quite an intelligent little fellow, & doing his best for us.  6 p.m. evening meal.  Coffee &brown bread & jam.  Lights out 9.30.  Slept well on a hard bed but 2 blankets.


April 14 Sunday. Breakfast 8.30 a.m. coffee & remains of bread, read & slept till our half hours exercises about midday – round the Arsenal Square.  Orderly bought us cigars 50 for 25 Mk., soap one cake 7 Mark! Toothbrush 3 Mks, & toothpaste in tube 2/80.  Changed all French & English money in Marks.

Dinner same stew, which I cannot eat, so picked out some potatoes. ½ hour walk again in afternoon: orderly produced 5 bottles lemonade cheap. Jackson left after breakfast and Somerville (S.W.B.) came in his place – Bed by 9 p.m.


Monday 15th.  Orderly made good fire at 8 a.m. & we were able to toast the brown bread which improved it greatly – coffee at breakfast had same taste as stew, so drank lemonade.  Orderly brought 5 slices of white bread at 2 marks a slice!  Couldn’t produce biscuits from Red Cross – towels, soft soap, & handkerchiefs.  Informed that self Berney-Ficklin & Drummond are going this afternoon with escort of an officer by 2 p.m. train.  Remainder evidently go together 30 British & 20 Portuguese officers.  Martin left about 12.30 p.m.  Barber came & shaved us all.  Feel more like gentleman today.  Left Lille at 2.10 p.m. passed Orchies, St. Amand – Valenciennes (4.15 p.m.) Aulnoye (6.25 p.m.) where we halted till 10.30 p.m.  All huddled up in a waiting room which luckily had a fire and we were able to get a glass of beer!

At 10.30 p.m. started again in a 2nd class carriage & had a cold dark journey to Charleville (3.40 a.m.)


Tuesday 16th another wait in a cold waiting room (no fire) till 7.20 a.m. Had some German coffee at 4.30 a.m. &the kantine provided us with tea bread & cheese for breakfast at 6.30 a.m. & a luncheon for the journey (5 marks).  Left Charleville 7.21 a.m. in a good corridor train 2nd class.  Country hilly plenty of men working in railways.  Montmeldy 10.15 a.m.  Longuyon (11.10) excellent lunch in Dining Car (soup meat, potatoes &vegs & soda 3.40) at midday – crossed frontier into Germany at 1.25 p.m.  Fentsch (Lorraine) Metz (3-10) change at Beningen 6.25 p.m. into another train.  Saargemund 7.30 p.m. had tea, bread & cheese.  8.15 into another train arrived Strasburg 10.45 p.m. supper, coffee & sandwich bought at Charleville & spent night in 1st Class Restaurant.  Very fine station Strasberg.


Wednesday 17th.  Woke 4.30 a.m. room full of soldiers.  Had coffee & sandwich.  5 a.m. & a wash.  Left by train 5.36 a.m. crossed Rhine at Fehl 5.45 a.m. passed Kehl where Rly crosses Rhine.

Appenweier 6 a.m. junction for Basle. Baden oos 6.30 (Zeppelin Shed).  Black Forest on right – arrived Karlsruhe 7 a.m. walked to European Hotel where it looks as if we are to stay – put into bare small room with 2 beds. With breakfast a tin of sardines brought for sale (3M) – also man to change cheques.  Got 200 M (10£). Man brought articles for sale at fair prices so brought hairbrush & comb, nail scissors, soap, boot-brush & polish & a dictionary.  About 11.45 a.m. taken down to intelligence officer for examination – came back to find lunch, consisting of quite good soup potato & nut stew & brown bread – really quite a palatable meal & plenty of it.  Left Hotel at 2.45 p.m. & came on to Camp about 700 yds away.  Settled down in a room with B.M. &. D.  Evening meal 6 p.m. & then had dinner with Troughton & Baldwin & Dawson.  Bed 9 p.m.


Thursday 18th.  Hot shower bath 8.30 a.m. breakfast in room.  Roll call 10 a.m. finished letters etc.  Midday meal 12 noon.  Sat out in camp, quite warm – from 1 – 3 p.m.  Some 40 officers left & new ones came about 3 p.m. including 2 Lt. Cols in 60th one Birch – other –

Supper consisted of 3 tiny bits of meat in stew – Bed 9 p.m. slept well.


Friday 19th.  Heavy rain during night.  Slept fairly well.  Issue Bully Beef & biscuits at 1 p.m.  About 40 French officers went away and about same number English arrived at 2.30 p.m.  Much colder & not able to sit out.  Bed 9 p.m.

Saturday 20th.  Warned at 8.30 we were to leave today for Mainz.  Midday meal at 9.45 a.m. handed in money & got chit stating amount.  About 70 officers going after meal.  They were sent to Recreation Room.  We were allowed back to our Hut till 11.15 a.m.  Left Camp 11.30 a.m. marched to station, left 12.25 p.m. in special carriages.  Passed Durlach, Burschal, Heidelburg 2 p.m. Darmstadt 4.25 p.m. Mainz 6.35 p.m. marched to Fort 200 yds from station.  Have been given excellent rooms, bedroom & sitting room well furnished, both with stoves.  Moore & Birch (60th) also come to Field Officers’ Qrs, & we three had dinner together in my sitting room.  Good meal soused fish & potatoes, pudding & red syrup & some tea & bread.  Lights turned on at 9 & out 11 p.m.  Have an excellent view from my room over town & Rhine.  Spring bed with sheets & a comfortable pillow, quite different from straw palliase & straw pillow at K.  Am most agreeably surprised with my quarters which they say are to be permanent.


Sunday 21st.  Slept well bed quite comfortable &for a change did not dream of battle fighting.  Coffee at 8.30. Russian Barber came about 9.15 a.m. have ordered him daily.  German officers showed us round & we shall soon arrange everything for comfort of all.  Excellent meal at 12 noon, soup, roast beef potato & spinach.  Had church in chapel at 2 p.m.  Coffee at 3 p.m.  Committee Meeting at 4 p.m.  Supper 6 p.m. & at 7 p.m. I addressed all officers & read out rules of Camp, arranged for Various Committees for Parcels, Libraries, Recreation, Canteen, Entertainment etc; Berney-Ficklin & Drummond came into Field Officers’ building & the 3 of us are now together in my sitting room.  A bright sunny day but a cold N.E. wind.  Wrote postcard notifying change of address.


Monday 22nd.  More officers arrived very late last night about 11.50 p.m. amongst them 3 Lt. Cols Finch, Ogilvy and Williams, all came into this block.  Afternoon 2 p.m. hot shower bath and all our clothes fumigated & we were sent into a room with a fire & blanket round us.  Was nearly 5 p.m. before our clothes came back much crumpled.  Cold day with some rain.


Tuesday 23rd.  This note book taken away for General to read.  Returned 28th.  it is taking some time to find out what are the regulations of this camp, so temporarily have made our own.


Wednesday 24th.  Ogilvy seems keen & most competent to help organise, have put him on Entertainment & Education Committee.  Find we have some talent.  2 officers connected with stage, some glee singers from North Country.  Signed Contract for Billiard Tables & have taken them over.


Thursday 25th.  The General inspections on parade, just walked along line.  Very wet day.  Am not sleeping very well.  Very patchy – unusually awake 2 a.m., 5 a.m. & coffee comes at 7.40 a.m.


Friday 26th.  Must do something to prevent long ‘queues’.  Yesterday some officers spent 3 hours in a ‘queue’ trying to sign a cheque for money & failed.  Great lack of organization on part of those responsible.  Only 1 cheque book, & all the counterfoils might easily be filled in before.  German Minister came & offered to help for Communion Service but informed us we were not allowed to hold Communion without his being present – wrote in complaint to comdt.  Have 4 C of E, 1 Wesleyan and 1 R.C. in Camp.  Washed vest!


Saturday 27th.  Some of us got money for our cheques.  I got 5£.  We get remainder of pay & money handed in at Karlsruhe on May 2nd.  Nice warm day.


Sunday 28th.  Sanction for Church Service given & then cancelled.  Appears Comdt must get sanction from Frankfurt.  Most annoying this indecision.  Am still trying to get Recreation Room opened and orders out.  1.30 p.m. addressed all officers on certain points in Discipline which cropped up during the week & notified progress in Sub Committees.  Have now got special officer for each block, & a room Commander, & give out orders twice daily.  Am starting room inspections tomorrow.  Also controlling “Queues” at Canteen.  Wrote letter D.D. after lunch.


Monday 29th.  Inspected No 3 at 11 a.m. & asked officers if they had anything to bring forward.  Hope to get most points settled on the spot with German officers in charge of Blocks; mostly trivial but hitherto nothing could be done without order of Commandant.  Midday meal 35 minutes late, one cauldron cracked & food had to be cooked again.  Nice fine warm day.


Tuesday 30th.  Was granted interview with German General Commandant, & brought up various questions – think we shall now be able to get things done on the spot, with exception of points which have to be sent to Frankfurt for decision.  Paid a visit with B.F. to Belgian General and fixed up about the stage which he bought from Russian Officers.  He has been prisoner since 1914, & is now going to Switzerland shortly.  His rooms seem quite comfortable & he had boxes of clothes etc; in his room also pots of flowers.  22 English prisoners (Orderlies) arrived about 4.30 p.m.  Pte Worthington Roy Fus reported to me as servant.  He had been a prisoner 6 weeks.  Is small and magnificent looking.  Cold day.

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Apr 1918

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Apr 1918




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




P.P.C. 1 APRIL 1918. France

Hope you got my note. Please forgive these P. cards.  Times are quite exciting.


R.P.                                         EASTER SUNDAY   1918



Just a line to let you know that I am fit and well, but back in this land again and busy.


We left at an hour’s notice, and it was quick work.


We seem to be holding the Boche alright now, and it is really nothing more than suicide for him to go on now. There is no cause to worry.  Everyone is confident out here.  Whatever Foch is or may do, it is better by far to have a single supreme commander.  I cannot understand why we have not had one before this fiasco.


The weather is nothing like what we left behind, and we miss it. But I am not sorry to have returned for this, if only we can finish it for good.





We left at half an hour’s notice, and it was pretty quick work.


The Boche seem to be held alright now, and everyone here seems confident. We are glad Foch has taken over supreme command.  In war one commander is a necessity.  Foch may not be a genius but one general is better than a dozen.  As one or our sergeants said hitherto we have been slaughtered to no purpose, perhaps in the future we may be slaughtered to some purpose.


We miss the beautiful weather we have left behind, but still there are tasks to be done here, and we should have got very slack in Italy.


The journey seemed and was long but uneventful. Now we are fully busy.  It has been an extraordinary week.


April 5 1918.



It is horrible to be cut off from all news of home, and for that matter of what is going on out here. No one knows where our mail bags have gone to; probably they are wondering round Italy seeking us.


Ages and ages it seems since we left Italy, where the sun was shining.  Here all is mud and rain and confusion and uncertainty.


The Boche seems to have halted for a bit, no doubt to reorganise, and bring up food, stores and big guns. He has out-run his communications.  No doubt he will have another go to try and cut his way right through.  We must see how many more we can slaughter in the process.  Everyone is fairly confident, which is THE great thing.  It is no good worrying.


It is strange to be back where we were two years ago at this time. Our old wagon lines are in Boche hands, though, I am sorry to say.  We shall have to do a Somme push all over again, but this time I hope we shall be more successful.


The Gothas are leaving you in peace, I hope, and that no long range gun is firing on London as on Paris!


News I may not give, so all letters are thin. The censor would cut out what I should like to say.


Once the guns are in the line now, there we stop, at least until this little show is over and safely settled one way or another. It will probably take some time, but it has got to be done.


The weather is cold and wet, typical French and fighting conditions.


Horses and men are fit, I am glad to say. The men are keen to help the poor devils who had such an awful time of it last week.


R.P.                                         April 13 1918.


I am fit and well, and going strong. But I have never been so busy in my life.  We have moved so often in the last few days, nearly every day, that I hardly know where we are.  One day the only food I got was a tin plate of thin stew from the sergeants’ dixie or stock pot.  One night I had only an hour’s sleep on the ground with a blanket over me.  I lost my kit for a time, but it turned up again.  I have told my servant that if he saves my books in another quick move I will forgive him all, and let him off.  I still have them all.


It is extraordinary with what a little sleep and food one can get along. Yet I feel quite fit and well as ever.  I am sure at home we eat and sleep too much.  All the clothes one needs are the ones worn, and for the rest a tooth brush and soap.  But I need my library, and I get laughed at about my books.


To add to the discomfort of continual moves the weather has been truly awful, wind, rain and mud which invades everything and reduces everything to the same colour.


Under these conditions you soon find out what men are like. Little things, not perceived under normal conditions, shew what men really are.  If a man can do his job quietly, unostentatiously, in these circumstances without obvious fear or losing his temper he has something in him.  There are several men like that in the battery, and it is curious how one turns to them to get things done.  They may not shine under normal conditions, but here and now they are to be relied on for what the rest are not capable of doing.  I wish there were more of such men.  They are too few.


A scene here. Imagine a black, windy, wet night, and a thickly muddy road, full of troops and traffic.  Each side of the road is a bare waste and wilderness.  We were coming away from the gun line, returning with empty ammunition wagons, a bit weary but keenly awake, as it was as well to keep your wits about you when at any moment the Boche might shell the crowded road.  On the right of the road a long line of transport vehicles of all kinds grinding their noisy way along the uneven track, and another column on the other side of the road going the other way.  At times movement is held up, and men and horses impatiently wait for the tide to flow again.  Then a break in the line of wagons, and a platoon of men marching, great big men, moving with a slow dignified swing.  The Guards going into action!  In the rare gleam of an occasional shielded lamp, or the innumerable flashes of the guns round about their silhouette stood out sharply, and you could see them moving along quietly and calmly in all that noise and confusion.  It gave me a thrill to watch as I passed by.  I was glad we had the Guards in front of our guns.  Just the thought soothed my jangled nerves.  Somewhat elated, I thanked God I was an Englishman.  No doubt the Boche can give an equally good show of discipline, but there is something in the way an Englishman does these things which is somehow different.  There is no bravado or ostentation posturing as a patriot, but rather a quiet dignified matter-of-factness, which is so attractive.  At times there is even a hint of boredom or superciliousness, which may or may not cover a quiver of fearfulness.  It is something to be proud of that our country is still able to produce such men with such spirit.  Then I thought of the numbers of such men who had paid the penalty for being of such a kind, and I wondered whether our country could stand the loss without fearful injury, perhaps irreparable.  Still as long as such last we cannot lose.  Does it take a war to produce such men, tried in the fire?  If so war cannot be such a great evil as some make it out.  Most people look at the horrors, the deaths, the wounds, the wreckage, the mud and what not, and declare war to be wholly evil.  Yet there are other things worth looking for in this mess.


You at home, please do not worry about this seeming reverse, serious though it is. Our politicians have failed us, others, whom I may not here mention, have failed us; but that is no reason why the average fighting man leavened by great spirits should not win through in the end.  They have done it before, and will do so again.  As long as any such remain we shall not ultimately fail.  In our history it is usually left to the rank and file to put the mess straight.  It will be so again.  So it is a waste of energy to lose heart.  There are some good men left out here, and there is no need, when things look a bit black, to worry and be downhearted.  There is far more defeatism at home than out here.


I met Frank Okell yesterday. He is quite near here.  I am so sorry to hear that Trevor has been wounded again.


April 13 1918.


Field post cards are horrid things, but they will have told you that I am well and that we are going strong.


I have never have had such a rush. One whole day I only got one “meal”, and that was a tin dish of thin stew from the sergeants’ stock pot.  It was weak and nasty.  One night I slept on the ground under a horse rug with the horses.  This will serve to explain the omission to write letters.  To add to my petty annoyances my kit managed to get lost.  But it is extraordinary how little one really wants beyond the clothes one is actually wearing, and how little sleep and food is really necessary to keep one going, and yet be fit and well.  Usually, I think we eat too much.


The weather is very trying. Rain and mud has reduced everything to the same wetness and colour.


But the great thing is that the Boche has made no more progress on this particular front, and most here seem cheery and confident.


I met Frank Okell here today. I hope to see some more of him.  Life is a sequence of crowded moments.


R.P. April 17 1918.


In spite of the weather all is well. Italy must have stolen all the sun and left us the wind and rain.


I am still with the battery I am glad to say. No Headquarters for me, if I can help it.


The Boche has been lying low here for a bit. Perhaps he had a little too much of it the other day.  We are quite prepared for him.  Once he gets in the open we can account for masses of them.  We may lose a bit of ground now and them, but he cannot go on losing men at this rate.


Poor old Armentieres has gone and with it many familiar places such as Bailleul, Steenwerk, Neuf Berquin, Neuf Eglise, and others.  Occupying those places will do the enemy little good if he cannot get further.


You ask me if I have a billet. No thank you!  I am better off in an open field.  We are hardened soldiers now.  Ask Trevor what he thinks of billets.  Besides there aint any.


April 17, 1918.


The mail has at last delivered up all the letters addressed to Italy, which is one bright spot in the wilderness.


Our men grumbled when in Italy at being so far away from home; now I ask them how they like it now they are back here again. Italy at least had more sun and fewer shells.


The Boche have taken many familiar places, where we spent many days, Armentieres, Steenwerk, Bailleul, Vieux Berquin, Laventie, Fleur Baix, and are now pushing north and west towards Neuve Eglise and Hazebrouck. Well!  I suppose we must expect to lose a bit of ground when they put in so many troops against us.  It can’t be helped.  However they seem to have suffered severe casualties.


We are now awaiting his next onslaught in the south. I bet the German fighting man hates it like hell.  We do not like it much situated as we are between two fires, the Boche and the staff.


The poor old gees are done in; but so far I have only lost two, so I must not complain.


R.P. April 24, 1918,


The best tonic we can have are cheery letters from home. Thank you very much for them.


We are still where we were. The Boche has taken no ground from us since the first rush, and than very little indeed at this particular place.  We are waiting for him quietly but confidently: here at any rate.  I do not know what is happening on other parts of the line.  It is quite an experience being attacked in this way.  Having regard to the shocking shortage in troops it is not to be wondered at that we were pushed back.  What is astonishing is that the troops we had were able to hold up the hordes of insects in field grey.  They are like a plague of locusts that eat up everything, even our Expeditionary Force Canteens!


In spite of the weather we are not idle. There is a lot to do.  I should like to give you an account of our activities, but my letter would no doubt be heavily censored, and I should get into trouble.


I am glad to hear Reggie is getting on well in spite of the horrors of life at the Base.


I see by the papers that both my old Divisions have distinguished themselves, the 18th and the 34th Divisions.  The latter in Armentieres.  We never get mentioned as we are unfortunately an Army Field Artillery Brigade with no Friends.  But still we are in most things.


Hunkin has done very well out here, and has become popular with the men he works amongst. You would not think a Cambridge History Don would go down with the men, but Freddy Head has.  He was at Emmanuel before the war.


April 24 1918



I am at the wagon lines at present, so am by myself. I am inundated with messages marked urgent, and some secret, needless to say none of them were important.


But I have other duties. I have just come away from the cemetery, and now have those letters to write which I hate.  Tonight I am a bundle of contradictions.  Now I am gloomy, and now flippant.  Little things annoy, but serious do not for the moment.  My blankets are a sopping mess, and I am furiously angry.  The ammunition is delayed, and I do not care.  My mare would not trot or walk coming back to the lines, but jigged about on her toes until I could have shot her.  The guns frighten her, but I had no pity.  She pulled and so did I until my hands were sore.  But if material for the gun-line is tipped into a ditch in the middle of the night I laugh.  My temper is atrocious.  In spite of all this, everything is really all right.  I am quite fit and well.


We are waiting another Boche attack in confidence. Let them come, the insects.  Like locusts, let them come and eat up the land, even the Expeditionary Force Canteens, the brutes; but we will do them down in the end.  Needless to say we are busy preparing for his destruction.  I hope we are destroying them now.  Our guns are hardly ever silent, and we gas him, plenty of it.  He must be having a rotten time, even as we.  He is held up here, I think.  So far and no further.  So all goes well on the western front, and there is no need to worry.  All we want is a few more men of the better sort, but such are very scarce these days.  As such cannot in such times be any where else they cannot exist.  I suppose they are all dead.


April 26, 1918



At the present moment I am up in the gun line, having taken over from the Major, who is at the wagon line. The Colonel has just been here.


And so we wait the next move. But in the meanwhile neither side is particularly quiet. gas in hospital.