War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 4 May 1918
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
R.P. May 4 1918.
Two Boche planes came down yesterday, one in flames. We have great fun shooting at planes with machine guns when they come over the battery, but the bullets are apt to come down again, and the would be biter gets bitten, or our own men in adjacent battery positions.
I have a cosy little dug-out all to myself. It was made by our wheeler. The roof is of German corrugated iron, which is thicker than ours. In time I may get some sand-bags and timber to go on top. There is actually a wooden floor, but as it is situated in an old and narrow Boche trench, the approach is not ideal in wet weather. I generally land on the floor of the entrance together with an avalanche of slimy mud. As I use gum boots a great deal I am rarely on my feet as the mud is much worse that ice. The mess is stronger. It is made of rails and sleepers from the railway near by, corrugated iron, and mud. The kitchen is a work of architecture, and the fittings of art. I should like some of England’s fastidious cooks to see our improved clay oven, which turns out quite good roast meat.
May 4, 1918
We have just been shooting at unwelcome aeroplanes with rifles and machine guns, but the bullets and pieces of A.A. shell have an aptitude of returning to earth again, and our laudable intentions very often cause unexpected results, or, I should say unfortunate results. And we do not seem to do much good either, for we never get anywhere near the planes. I tested with tracer bullets one day.
I see Sydney Swann has been wounded. He only came out here in November last, so he has not been long. I am afraid Vyvyan Pearse has been having a bad time.
Life is as usual. We carry on the everlasting bombardment. It must take an enormous amount of firing to kill one Boche. What a lot of expensive ammunition is wasted. I am quite convinced that our firing programme is not made with sufficient intelligence and knowledge. They are made for us by the staff who never go forward to see the ground. I am amazed at some of the targets we are given to fire at. One day I had to fire into an open field in broad daylight, where no trenches or other field works were at all, just a blank field. That did no earthly good.
For us night firing is the most troublesome and annoying. From what the prisoners say the Boche suffer in the same way.
My dug out is as cosy as possible under the circumstances. The wheeler made it for me. The roof is of German corrugated iron, much thicker than ours, and I hope to get timber and sandbags to put on top so at least to keep out splinters and the pestilential gas shell. There is even a wooden floor and a window, though small. It is about 8 feet by 6 feet, and is situated in an old Boche trench. The entrance is not too good, as I am usually precipitated headlong to land on the floor in an avalanche of slimy mud which circles round the door. However it is fairly dry inside. Our mess is made of railway sleepers from the line nearby, old iron and mud. The kitchen is a masterpiece. I should like some of our fastidious servants at home to see it, and the mud oven, which can only emit smoke at night. Yet the mess cook can turn out quite a fair meal, even good roast meat, so far as ration meat can be good. It is a triumph of skill over matter and mud. Mud in not matter. It is endued with an evil spirit.
We are well camouflaged, and you could not tell that six guns and sixty men had their habitation there unless you were very close, or unless you possessed an aeroplane photograph, which shews up in a ghastly way the tracks made by the feet of men, and the six dark and regular blobs which proclaims the position of guns. We shout ourselves hoarse trying to keep people away from making a bee line to the place. I fear it is all useless as it is almost impossible to hide the guns from the air. No doubt the Boche know all about us.
The weather is improving. It is about time. The mud has invaded everything.