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

Private Diary of J.K. Dick Cunyngham Br Gen


MAINZ Germany



Wednesday May 1st.  Commandant took exception to my walking round the parade of No 1 Block with German Officer Lt. Benbe.  In future if I want to inspect officers am to go round before or after German officer.  D & B.F. busy with alphabetical nominal rolls for walks & for Red Cross.  308 officers & 1 Sgt Major now in camp.  Walked for 45 minutes 4.30 to 5.15 p.m. Worthington seems a bright youth – was steward on Merchant Service & knows something of cooking.

List of officers 1 Br Gen, 5 Lt. Cols., 3 Majors, 66 Captains, 57 Lieuts, 171 2nd Lt, R.N.V.R. 1 Lt, 4 Sub Lts.  Walked for ½ hour with Drummond after dinner.


Thursday May 2nd.  Got hot bath after Roll Call.  Received pay & my money M 168.30.  Bright fine day.  General Committee Meeting at 5 p.m.  Letter received from Red Cross Frankfurt saying they had wired to Copenhagen.

About 30 more officers arrived including Lt. Col Gosling K.R.R. Walked after evening meal with Drummond.


Friday May 3rd.  Another fine sunny day.  Russian mended boots in morning with aid of some bits of leather & nails bought in Canteen.  Paid Belgian General 400 Marks for Theatre Concert at 4 p.m. 156 turned up a good beginning – latest regime more comic.  Belgian General & Bembe came.


Saturday May 4th.  Poobah, Cumming & McLean, Mackenzie Douglas & 2 6/GS1 arrived with some 50 other officers, including 2 Fd Officers.  Paid Belgian General 400 Marks.  Went round No 2 Block, it is quite the nicest block in the Camp, more air & brighter rooms.  Fine sunny day.  Did about 1 hours walking during day.


Sunday May 5th.  Service with Communion 10 a.m. – 11.30 a.m.  German Minister attended Lycett preached.  Back again *******.  Addressed officers in Theatre 1/30 p.m. usual points, including some remarks about discipline.  Belgian General paid farewell visit, he leaves for Switzerland in the morning.

Evening meal 7.30 p.m. Something wrong with cook house – Bembe most attentive & apologetic.  As more field officers have come, have decided to have my meals in my room in future.  Slight rain at 7 p.m. onwards.


Monday May 6th.  Usual fortnightly interview with German General (Commandant) usual answers to questions.  Flags flying on Government Buildings, Bembe says on account of Crown Prince’s Birthday.  Hot bath at 10.30 a.m., result feel slack & no inclination to walk.

Had meals in my sitting room.

Another fine day with warm sun.

Belgian General left at 5.30 p.m., lucky man to get away to Switzerland.


Tuesday May 7th.  Inoculated for cholera at 10 a.m.  Walked with Williams for 40 minutes.  Number of officers now in Camp 1 Br. Gen., 7 Lt. Cols., 4 Majors, 79 Capts, 80 Lieuts, 220 2nd Lts, R.N.V.R. 2 Lts 4 Sub Lt. 1 Mercantile Marine (Capt) total 398 –  Telegram from Daisy, posted from Karlsruhe, arrived 5.30 p.m. FRISCHAUF PACKETE und KLEDER BESTELLT.  Daisy Dick Cunyngham which Birch translates as “Cheer up, parcels and clothing being put in order sent!!  ** evidently arrived at Karlsruhe or 4 May from Geneva.

Had shorthand lesson 4.30 p.m. preliminary & alphabet.


Wednesday May 8th.  Thunderstorms & rain.  Did not appear on parade.  Saw  Bembe about latrines.  20 more British orderlies arrived in the morning – quite a good lunch today – thick Barley Soup – potatoes & spinach & pudding.  General Committee Meeting 2 p.m. question of distribution of orderlies.  Lecture by Moore on Nigeria 4 p.m. very good.  Lutheran Minister came & arranged about Service tomorrow.  Alterations in method of parade settled.

Worked shorthand for ½ hour morning & afternoon.


Thursday May 9th.  Roll Call 9.45 a.m.  Church with Celebration 10 a.m. – 11.30 a.m.  Amcoat preached.  Saw Bembe at 11.35 a.m. & put forward scheme for organization & duties of British Orderlies.  5 p.m. 6 p.m. General Committee Meeting.  Red Cross at Copenhagen notify they have sent 250 parcels bread etc; letter took only 3 days to come, remains to be seen how long parcels will take.

Today Ascension Day General German holiday. Had acute indigestion at supper & had to lie down for an hour.  Cold morning, warm & sunny at 4.30 p.m.  Numbers in Camp now increased to 438 officers.


Friday May 10th.  Scheme for Orderlies returned.  No notice taken of it; appears Germans don’t like us to organize anything. – But shall now see Block Commanders and try again.  Present state of things is hopeless.  Letter from Red Cross, Geneva saying they had sent my wine on the 25 April, calculate it got home about 28th; heavy thunder showers 4.30 – 6 p.m.  Walked with B.M. after supper for 30 minutes.


Saturday May 11th.  Told off young officer after Roll Call for misbehaviour.

Field Officers & Block 3 went for walk through Western Suburbs & gardens round Citadel, about 5 Kilo; and most of us found it quite far enough & quite glad to sit down on return. An excellent concert at 4 p.m. by ‘The MAINZPRINGS’ run by Milton Hayes & Besley.  The whole performance original.  Glorious day & sat out most of it.  Total number officers in Camp 483.


Sunday May 12th.  Service with Celebration 10 – 11.15 p.m. Light rain all morning.  Interview with Bembe 11.30 a.m.  Various points chiefly sanitary.

Addressed all officers in Theatre 1.30 p.m. put forward financial schemes of 5 mks per head unanimously agreed to; also scheme paying orderlies, few words on discipline etc. Wrote letter Daisy afternoon.


Monday May 13th.  Cold morning.  Hot shower bath 9.45 a.m.  Washing day.  Wrote official letters most of morning – ironed and mended socks, shirts etc during afternoon.  Censor asked meaning of ‘pukka’ and ‘indidiggers’ in my letter & told me letter goes to fumigation Room for 24 hours before despatch.


Tuesday May 14th.  Interview with Bembe and Schroeder re orderly scheme – but realise our points.  Williams reported Canteen had refused us to use Tennis Courts without paying 50 M – hire per month, hire of government ground!  Question immediately referred to General through Bembe.  Walked for ½ hour in morning.  Read ‘Last days of Pompeii’ afternoon.  Shorthand class 4.30 5.30 p.m.  Walked till 6 p.m. & again 8 to 8.40.  Bad day for meals, had extra slice bread & jam from 9.30 p.m. with some wine!


Wednesday May 15th.  Fine warm day.  Went for a walk with 50 of No 1 Block & Bembe, through gardens on South and along Rhine.  Garden well laid out trees & shrubs in full bloom looking very pretty.  Got home 11.30 a.m.  Worked at shorthand afternoon; Milton Hayes gave lecture on ‘Memory’, 4.15 p.m.  Toothache started & kept me awake all night.  Did not get to sleep till after 5 a.m.


Thursday May 16.  Toothache still bad.  Got some iodine put on gums but no chance of seeing Dentist till tomorrow morning.  Lodged complaint with Gen about pilfering & restriction of Red Cross parcels.  Bembe asked if I would like to change my room to where Belgian General was, but prefer to stay here for summer months at any rate, much cooler & view is something.  B thought I might be allowed to have some of the better furniture from Belgian Gen’s quarters.

Got sleeping draught of Vermal to counter act tooth.


Friday May 17.  Got up early after another sleepless night & saw Dentist at 8 a.m. opened out tooth & put in disinfectant ready for stopping next Tuesday.  Toothache gone by noon.  Fine & warm day.  Am told there are 3 letters for me from London posted May 5th & shall get them on Sunday after they have been 24 hrs in the fumigating machine.  Slept for an hour 11-12 on sofa.  Head buzzy due to Vermal I presume.


Saturday May 18th.  Very hot day.  Walked with about 50 others from No 1 Block along Rhine northwards through edge of Town.  Saw 2 passenger steamers going to Bingan & Rotterdam.  Milton Hayes fainted during walk & German woman gave him glass of milk.  Quite tired after walk – slight rain in the afternoon.  Drummond completed 20 years service today.  Bad day for food.  Rations getting shorter; about 60 more arrived.


Sunday May 19th.  Early service 7.45 a.m.  Slept well.  Morning Service 10 a.m.  Usual address 1.30 p.m. which I proposed to discontinue now unless specially ordered – a good thunder & hail storm about 4.15 p.m.  No letters forthcoming.  Williams got 2 letters.  Small walk after super but was very hot & close.


Monday May 20th.  Whit Monday.  General Holiday.  Very hot.  Worked at Shorthand morning.  At lunch Lycett brought me 2 letters both from Daisy dated April 28th & May 1st.  Such joy to get first news of home & my wire reached her on the 28th. Our lucky number again.

Wrote & posted post card in the afternoon.

Had good walk after supper.


Tuesday May 21st.  Got up early to see Dentist but he did not come.  Letter from old Bouverie Clark dated London May 2nd.  Had long interview with German General 10-11.30 a.m. on various points.  Number now in Camp 1 Br Gen., 8 Lt. Cols., 7 Majors, 121 Captains, 125 Lieuts., 341 2/Lieuts, R.N.V.R. 2 Lieuts, 8 Sub Lts 1 Mercantile Marine Capt.  Total 614.  Had good walk with B.M. after supper for 5o minutes.


Wednesday May 22nd. Dentist 8 a.m. he appears to be trying to kill the nerve & I am to go back on Friday if any more pain, otherwise wait till Monday.

Small walk to gardens 10 a.m. & had a good rest there. Very hot again.  Bembe sent for me about forbidding Continental Times & Gazette des Ardennes; German General wanted to know if true, so stated my reasons for doing so.  Lecture on Salt Trade by Capt Brown, unable to attend.  Too hot & depressing to walk after dinner, result I did not get to sleep till after 1 a.m.  Must keep up evening walk, think it helps sleep.


Thursday May 23rd.  Block II went for walk at 8 a.m.  Roll Call 11 a.m. from today.  Inspected bread from Copenhagen which was very mildew, Germans thought it would be better if handed over to them & made into Pudding! But when cleaned & baked everyone says it is all right.  Block III got issue in afternoon.  Worked shorthand morning.  Class 4-5 p.m.  Gen Committee Meeting 5-6.15 p.m. fear I got very angry with Block officers on question of payment of Orderlies which was settled at Meeting before – It appears some officers think they have a right to dispute our decisions, & shall have to take some drastic measures shortly.  Some officers have no idea of Military Discipline, how they ever became officers is a wonder.  Walked for ½ hour after supper, much cooler & some clouds.  Look like rain.

Friday May 24th.  Quite a cold morning & did some good walking.  Shorthand in morning.  German General from Frankfurt inspected Camp in the afternoon.  Everyone fussing around, & jam issue held up.  Quite a good tea in consequence. Copenhagen bread brushed & baked & then toasted, but portions remain mildew, fear it isn’t much good in mouldy condition, better to have biscuit.  Rain 4 p.m.  Walked during day for nearly 2 hours altogether.  Dentist gave more disinfectant.  Go for stopping on Wednesday.


Saturday May 25th.  Quite a cool day.  Walked a good deal before & after Roll Call.  More bread parcels for individuals issued, but fear most of it very mouldy.  Worked for 1 ½ hours at Shorthand.  Had a bread & jam pudding made of mouldy bread for supper, think it is best way of using it, as boiling takes out mould.  4 letters arrived about 7 p.m.  1 from DD, 2 from Alice, 1 from B.  B.F. & D have not had any yet.  So am very lucky having had 7 this week.


Sunday May 26th.  Early Service 7.45 a.m.  Matins 10 a.m.  Raining & quite cold.  Wrote letter to DD after lunch.  Finch & Bousfield came to see me over question of orderlies, & more trouble with officers in No 2 Block.  Had good walk before supper & again 9-930 p.m.  Fine evening.  Excellent bread & jam pudding made by Worthington for supper.  Another issue of Copenhagen bread which was scarcely mouldy at all inside.


Monday May 27th.  Cool day.  Worked shorthand morning.  General Committee meeting 1.30 p.m. re question payment of orderlies.  Settled on 5 mks per week all round, with probably 2 extra at end of month making in all 23 mks per month.  Arrangements for issue of Library Books still difficult but more books are gradually coming.  Bousfield has matter in hand.

Walked a good deal after supper.


Tuesday May 28th.  This day 20 years ago I was gazetted to 92nd, a sad way to spend Anniversary.  Worked at shorthand morning; saw orderlies after Roll Call.  The 1914 men most truculent & appear to have lost all sense of old Army discipline.  Fact is they have been too long away from officers.  Had the impudence to demand more pay than 5 mks per week, but I refused.  They are evidently the ring leaders in this agitation.  Shorthand Class 4-5 p.m.  Told off young officer (Btn) for behaviour in room & placed him in charge of room.  45 minutes walk after supper, which was augmented by cauliflower, asparagus, spring carrots.

Letters arrived today from Gina & Daisy dated London 7 May.


Wednesday May 29th.  Dentist 8 a.m. tooth finally stopped, done very quickly & don’t think it will last altho Dentist says it will for ever!  Others have complained teeth ache after his stoppings!  Vaccinated & inoculated 2nd time for cholera at 9.30 a.m.  Drummond got bread parcel, very mouldy, made it into pudding for supper, but no jam to eat with it, not a success.  Lecture on Diamond trade 3.45.  Wrote post card DD.  French Conversation Grammar arrived at last.  Was ordered on May 1st.  A cold N.E. wind but fine.


Thursday May 30th.  Another Bank Holiday & in consequence no parcels issued & canteen closed.  Worked shorthand morning, getting rather complicated & a good deal to commit to memory.  Shorthand Class 4-5.  General Committee Meeting 5-6 p.m.  Saw 3 officers who appear to have got extra food by illegal means.  They say it is what is left over after meals; but there should not be any if everyone is to get full rations.

Orderlies paid up to date. Some are going away again as they are A1 men. Worthington not yet warned.  Hope we keep him.  Was informed today that inquiries for Houghton have been sent to Berlin.  Letter from Betty dated May 7th.  Warmer day.  Not feeling up to walking much, probably due to inoculation.


Friday May 31st.  Walk from 8.10 a.m. to 9.45 a.m. along Rhine, then through Town (Kaiserstrasse) past main Station & back by gardens.  Quite a good walk, but was very tired after it.  Shows what one is fit for on present diet.  Drummond got parcel from American Y.M.C.A. cigarettes, tobacco, tea, rice, biscuits, butter, milk chocolate & soap.  We had biscuits & butter for tea & supper.  First butter since April 11th.  about 50 orderlies went away to work from another lager & 50 new ones came in their place.  Mostly 1914 men.

Canteen closed for Stock taking.


War Diary of AA Laporte Payne May 1918

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 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.


May 10 1918



So far we have only had one fine day, and that was yesterday. One fine day does not seem much for spring to produce.  As war eats time summer will be here soon, and we ought then to have a bit of sunshine…


The mail came up under sad circumstances…


Last night we fired a large number of shells, and it must have annoyed the Boche, for he replied vigorously each time we opened fire, luckily not on us.


At present I am in a deep damp dug-out with two entrances which cause a nasty draught. A heavy gun just behind us fires continuously, and each time it does so it blows the candle out, or the acetylene lamp.  It has been relit countless times by a patient subaltern.  As he is just out from England he is trying to be considerate, poor devil.


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.


R.P. May 26, 1918.


It is dull and heavy here as regards the weather, but the war is more lively. We still await the Hun.  I do wish he would buck up and get it over.  It is like waiting in a dentist’s room to have a tooth out, only more so.  We always anticipate the worst.  Realisation may not be so bad.  I wonder what Ludendorff will do this time.  We shall see soon no doubt.  I expect he will have a shock.


The Major is at present at the wagon line sick, so I am at present in command at the guns again. He always goes sick when there is any work to be done.  I do not get the honour and glory, if there is any, which there never is.  But I like the work with the guns much better, as it is much more exciting than at the wagon lines, where one only gets shelled and can never retaliate.  Besides there is no time here to think and worry and get glum and downhearted.


Au revoir. Things will be settled soon, one way or another.


May 26 1918.

British Expeditionary Force.



The raid in London did not disturb you much, I hope.  It seems to have caused a great sensation according, to the papers.


The weather is heavy and dull here, but there is plenty of excitement. We continue to fire nearly all day and night, and becomes monotonous.  So far we have been lucky.


We still await the expected Boche attack. I do wish he would buck up, and get it over.  It is something like waiting in the dentist’s room to have a tooth out.  Such things are always worse in anticipation.  It will be interesting to see what he can do this time.  By the time you get this we shall probably know.


Telephone calls again, and bang goes another two hundred rounds.


At present I an in charge at the gun line. The Major is at the wagon line sick.  Three subalterns are away, one sick and two on other jobs.  So I am having a jolly time!


It gets light very early now. We have to “stand to” for about an hour at dawn each morning.  It is often boring, but at times the sunrise is a compensation.


This is a curious existence. We have with us practically nothing except what we wear.  There are no little luxuries, to which we are usually accustomed in the line.  No kit, gramophone or mess furniture; there are no frills now.  We may have to move at a second’s notice.  We do without in case our possessions should fall into the hands of the Philistines.  We wait expectantly for the attack.  The uncertainty is rather trying.  It is similar to the feeling before a race at Henley, but not in degree.  However life is tolerable, and we are enjoying it as much as we can, especially as the spring is now here.



I have been admitted into hospital and am going on well.

Wounded and hope to be discharged soon.

I am being sent down to the base.

Letter follows at first opportunity.

May 29th 1918.