War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 19 May 1918
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
May 19 1918
I am at present on night duty, and have to fire the battery every half hour with some extras thrown in. In these latter days an officer has to be on the telephone all night, and I am relieving two weary subalterns who have been on night duty most nights.
I believe today is Whit Sunday, but I am not sure. The wilderness here is covered with dandelions run to seed, so it shews that spring is somewhere about, and fevered imagination conjures up visions of England in spring.
But the weather is at present perfectly lovely, and I am going about in my shirt sleeves. The sun had been with us for at least three days, and rain is overdue. It is a bit misty, which hinders observation somewhat, but that is not a great evil.
Leave is further off than ever, and certainly not before the next great Boche attack takes place, which is expected daily. He should hurry up, or he will be too late. It is sure to rain hard in June.
Our dug-out drips dirty water, and is infested with black beetles and rats. They are only what Shipley might call “The Minor Horrors of War”.
For the past fortnight I have been in command of “C” Battery, whose Major has been away ill, but he has returned now. So I am back at “A” Battery again. It was rather a nuisance as I do not like picking up the threads of another man’s job. However I had no choice, as orders are orders.
The day before yesterday I spent with the Infantry as Liaison Officer, and yesterday I spent the day up in the clouds, literally, up in a sausage balloon for observation work. It is quite interesting and the country side looks most curious from four thousand feet up in a basket. My companion was a Flying Corps Officer, who frightened me with horrible details, e.g. if the gauge reads 70 the balloon would burst, and if a Boche plane came over I was to throw myself over the side head first attached to a closed parachute! However we landed safely about 6.30 p.m. and stayed for a cheery dinner with the Wing Officers, and went for a mad drive in a tender afterwards.
To day I have been observing from our O.P., registering the guns for various shows, which do not appear in the official communiqués, which usually state “All quiet on the Western Front”. That is of course not so.
There have been some changes in the Brigade lately. Poor old Bell has been badly wounded. I am distressed at losing him. Amour has his job, and is a captain at last, and about time too. Our senior has been made a captain in another battery, and we have two new subalterns.
I have just finished firing until 2 a.m. There are a large number of Very lights and Flaming Onions about tonight. The latter are a species of Boche incendiary anti-aircraft quick firing shells. Both sides are very restless tonight, especially the Boche. I wonder why. Although it is very dark there are several planes up. A boche machine gun is making a dismal rattle ahead, while behind a 6 inch Mark VII gun, quite close, fairly takes one’s breath away when it fires, which it does very frequently. Here besides me there are such instruments of torture as field telephones and such evil spirits as telephonists who disturb even a moment’s slumber with a whispered “You are wanted on the phone, Sir.”
However as Marcus Aurelius says “Where a man can live, there he can live well”; but it is a hard saying.