Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries April WWI

Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries

1916
28 April Moved to Camp at Mistley.
6 “ Took over Holly House from Mrs Duffin.
7 “ Lois arrived to look over Holly House.
18 “ Met and dined with Dawes family at Mount Ephraim.
20 “ Lois Brian & Nurse arrived at Holly House.
Note. Several entries on good tennis matches at the Hemmings. Who were they!

1917
26 April Moved from Boughton by rail to Camp at Little Clacton. Maz went to
Dolly Dawes family saw us off. Arrived Thorpe 8.21 pm. Camp 8.35
pm.
29 “ To tea with Grannie.
1918

2 April On leave at Colchester until Saturday 6th April when I left by 8.43 train
for Liverpool St & stayed night at Great Eastern Hotel.
7 “ Reported at 1.15 pm at ALDERSHOT for Senior Officers Course.
12 “ Left by 3.20 pm from Aldershot on week end leave & returned by
evening of the 14th (Sunday)

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War Diary of AA Laporte Payne April 1919

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne April 1919

EXTRACTED FROM.

Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
Correspondence
—————–

April 4 1919.
A/76th Army Brigade R.F.A.
B.E.F.
Germany.
I have just arrived at this unit, to which I am attached. After wandering over a good deal of Germany I have at last come to rest.

I met Rex Collins in Cologne the other day. He is trying to get out of the army as soon as possible. The Colonel here is very decent. He has only been with the Brigade two or three days.

April 11 1919.
A/76th Army Brigade R.F.A.
Germany.
I took over the command of this battery yesterday. We are in the hills all by ourselves. There is a wonderful view from my bedroom over the hills and pine forests.

The village is small and rather dirty, but my billet and the mess are quite good.

I knew one of the Battery Commanders before. He is Wheeler of A Battery. The Colonel, Thomson came to lunch yesterday with the Adjutant, Burston.

April 16 1919.
A/76th Army Brigade R.F.A.
B.E.F.
Germany.
I have I hope taken root at last; but you never know in this army of ours.

Our high elevation here gives us the full force of very strong winds, but the wonderful view is usually obscured by frequent heavy rain and hail showers. It has been a very cold spring. The good weather only lasted three days. The Captain is coughing and sneezing like a soda water bottle, so I suppose I shall be in a like condition in a day or so.

We are miles away from anywhere, and some distance from the rest of the Brigade, so we are not worried much by senior officers and the staff. But yesterday the General did arrive with the Colonel and the A.D.C., who was at school with me at Cheltenham. He seemed fairly satisfied.

My harness is not over clean, however, and I expect there will be trouble before long if it is not better. I am very shorthanded at present, as many men have been demobilised, none taking their place. There are a lot of horses to look after as well, about 170, among them a whole section of greys, which look very fine.

There is only one captain, a ranker, and one subaltern with me. One subaltern is away with the guns, which are being calibrated on the other side of the Rhine. Another is going on leave as he has not been home since last October, and yet another is attached to B Battery, as they have only a Major and a Captain.

The Boche villagers here are an extraordinary crowd. They are very polite, and I take what straw and wood I like without paying for it, which is a novelty. All have to be in their houses by nine unless they get permission from me to be out. If they are caught out the sentries arrest them and they are subsequently tried for the offence. They seem to be doing a lot of work in the fields, when they are not in church to which they go regularly every morning. I am living in the school house, and have quite a good mess, and an excellent piano. We use all their crockery and cutlery without payment. Nearly all the men have beds. Unfortunately there is nothing for the men to do when they are not working, and there is sometimes a little trouble.

We had a service on Sunday afternoon, the wretched padre having to come miles, and a sort of concert in the evening. It is much too wet to play games at present.

One of our subalterns, Isgar, is a Somerset farmer.

Do you remember the pre-war Empire Days and the thoughts of a possible German menace. Well, here we are on the Rhine.

MIDLAND DIVISION

C.R.A. Brig. General M.P. Monkhouse, C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O.

76th (Army) Brigade, R.F.A.

C.O. Lieut. Colonel R.G. Thomson, C.M.G., D.S.O.
Adjutant,

A Battery.
Major, R.E.M. Wheeler, M.C.
Captain F.C.R. Prior-Wandesforde, D.S.O.
Captain J.D. Tremlett M.C.

B Battery.
Major E.S.G. Howard.
Captain E.H. Prior.
Lieut A.H. Hamilton-Gordon.

C Battery.
Major H.E. Cheeseman

D Battery (Howitzer.)
Major A.A. Laporte Payne.
Captain S.H. Hilyard.

Dick-Cunyngham letter to wife dated 29 Apr 1915

Dick-Cunyngham letter to wife dated 29 Apr 1915
Thursday 29th
My own darling one,

Two dear long letters from you yesterday dated 25th, yes one has been busy but although the actual fighting has not been near us, we have come in for a good measure of bombardment of the Salient. No the little farm house has not been hit yet, nearest within about 6 yards, but bits often come back and hit the roof.

One is getting a little tired of incessant banging all day long and it seems such a sin, on such perfect days, to be sitting in trenches ‘potting’ at one another & shelling every corner where anyone may be all day and night.

At last I was able to get out last night & went with Th on a tour of inspection and I am glad to say since our last visit there has been some very good work done so now I hope we shall carry on at a greater pace, things have been slow, for we have all our reserves out digging on other lines.

One longs to be in a peaceful clime these lovely days – a nice country walk with my darlings & Fritz (how is he) just perfect peace and happiness.

Darling One I think it would be quite a good idea for you all 3 to join hands in a house. Somehow Wimbledon reminds me of the Clark family and I can never imagine you there. I think I shall have to come home and help you chose. I am glad you are going to remain with Edie & I really think Gertie would love to join you both – What a nice establishment it would be. I should appoint you financial advisor, and treasurer.

Well, day’s work must be arranged. So no more will try & write to Charlie but tell him I think it is perfectly sweet of him to have given us those things from the Old House.

My eyes are practically all right again only a little bit red – Darling only want a tin of Colegate’s Violet Talc powder, so nice after a bath in a greasy wooden tub!

Much quieter today scarcely a gun firing at the present moment.

All my love my precious one,
Ever yr devoted Hubby
Jimmie

With black edged envelope addressed to Mrs J. Dick Cunyngham, Heslington, Croft Road. Crowborough, England. Signed Dick Cunyngham. Passed by Censor No 73 cachet. Postmarked FIELD POST OFFICE 15 dated 29 AP 15. Marked On Active Service.

NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 8. 28 April 1918

K.J. Bunting Capt.
Issued down to Brigades.
T.9.
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 8.
(Issued by the General Staff)
Signal communication.
1. Trench warfare has unduly emphasised the use of telephonic communication, which cannot be extensively maintained in warfare of movement. It will very rarely be possible to provide any communication by wire in front of Infantry Brigade H.Q., and it is impossible to count upon the telephone forward of Divisional H.Q. Commanders of Infantry Brigades and units must accustom themselves to rely entirely upon other methods of communications. Greater attention must therefore be paid to the organization of such means of communication, especially visual and wireless.
2. In each divisional area, efforts should, if possible, be concentrated on one main artery of communication from front to rear, which should consist of cable, wireless, visual signalling and despatch riders, as circumstances permit. H.Q. of Divisions, and of Infantry and Artillery Brigades, should be placed in as close proximity as is practicable to this artery, on which signal offices should be established to serve several H.Q. It is for Corps to select the location of these arteries and to assist in their formation, so that Divisions may be enabled, if necessary, to move to points at which they will find both forward and rearward communication already provided.
3. It is essential that the move of H.Q. of a formation or unit should be notified as early as possible to higher, lower and adjacent formations or units. The difficulty of maintaining communication has sometimes been much increased by failure to indicate the position at which new H.Q. were to be opened, or to inform all concerned of alterations of plans in regard to movements arranged.
4. It would seem that there has sometimes been a lack of discretion in regard to the use of the signal cable wagon. Cases are reported in which all available cable was laid out while the situation was still obscure, so that the cable could not be recovered on withdrawal; and in other cases it seems that no use was made of the cable wagons, which were sent back when they might usefully have been retained.
5. In a withdrawal it is inadvisable to trust entirely to permanent overhead routes; when cut they take a long time to repair, and a cable line can be restored much more quickly.
April 28th 1918.
Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services. PRESS A-4/18-6194S-3,500.

Reference letter 24 April 1919

Reference letter 24 April 1919

Headed notepaper 10th Batt Middlesex Regt

Damanhour
Egypt
25/4/19

I have known No 93118 Private A. Weatherhead of the Middlesex Regt since February 1916.

He is smart, intelligent and keen upon his duties, and I have always found him trustworthy and honest. He has my best wishes for his future and have every confidence in recommending him for any position of trust.

He has been servant to Brig General V.L.N. Pearson D.S.O. from Feb1916 to Nov 1918 and to Brig Gen F.H. Borthwick D.S.O. since Nov 1918.

F.W. Miller
Capt.
Brigade Major
Late Lt. Col. 2/10 Middlesex Regt.

NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 7. 24 April 1918

Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
T.9.
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 7.
GERMAN ATTACK NEAR GIVENCHY, APRIL 9th, 1918.
From captured German orders and the attached map which shows the dispositions and plans of the 4th Ersatz Division, it appears that the following method of attack was adopted by the enemy:-
1. A very careful study was made of our defences in this locality. It is noteworthy that three days before the attack the enemy issued to platoon commanders detailed information gathered from air reconnaissance carried out at low elevation on that day, together with a note indicating not only the force expected to oppose the attack but also the estimated quality of the opposition anticipated. As a result of his reconnaissance, the enemy seems to have based his plan on avoiding the strong locality at Givenchy itself, penetrating our line on either flank, and turning inwards so as to take Givenchy from the right rear (south-west and south). The attacking force was divided into two portions, a northern and a southern. The northern attack was undertaken by four battalions, of which two were in front line, one in support and one in reserve. The southern attack consisted of two battalions, one being in the front line and one in support. In these attacks, the leading battalions were ordered to push straight forward, while the supporting battalion of the southern attack was to turn north and to take Givenchy in flank and rear from the south-west and south, and the supporting battalion of the northern attack was to deal similarly with Festubert from the south. This method of dealing from the flank and rear with strong points which are not attacked frontally has been conspicuous in the German operations since the 21st of March 1918.
2. Our defences consisted of defended localities each of which was held by a complete unit of not less than a platoon; other platoons especially detailed for counter-attack were kept in support. The garrisons of the defended localities had received orders to hold on at all costs – orders which were carried out in every case – and the platoons in support had been instructed to counter-attack as soon as the occasion arose without waiting for further orders. Each defended locality was prepared and wired for all round defence. Many of the communication trenches were wired, and lines of wire running perpendicularly and obliquely to the front had been erected to check any lateral advance in the event of local penetration. These obstacles proved of great assistance in preventing the enemy from extending his flanks after he has forced his way into portions of our front defences.
3. The attack was launched in a heavy mist, which greatly assisted the enemy. The parties of Germans, however, which succeeded in penetrating our positions were held up by the garrisons of the defended localities. As soon as the enemy’s advance was thus checked, the platoons in support counter-attacked and worked round the flanks of the parties which had pressed forward into our line. The enemy was engaged, therefore, by fire and bayonet from all sides. Several hundred prisoners and a large number of machine guns were captured, and our line was maintained intact. There was very little bombing.
4. The failure of the enemy’s attack upon these defences was due to the stubbornness of the defence maintained by the garrisons of the defended localities, and to the promptitude and skill with which the supporting platoons made their counter-attacks. We employed the same tactics against the enemy as he was endeavouring to employ against us. No frontal counter-attack was delivered, but the enemy was defeated by a succession of immediate counter-attacks delivered from the flanks.

Full advantage was taken of counter-attacking platoons of their knowledge of the ground, with the result that the enemy was outmanoeuvred as well as outfought.

From a study of this engagement the fact emerges clearly that an enemy penetrating into gaps in our positions is very much at a disadvantage until he can widen the flanks of the gaps; if the defending troops strengthen the flanks of these gaps and hold on to their positions tenaciously, he is bound to be caught between two fires, and forced to surrender what he has gained.

April 24th 1918.

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NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 6. 19 April 1918

K.J. Bunting Capt.
Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
T.9
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 6.
MACHINE GUNS.
(Issued by the General Staff)
1. The following translation of a German document (I/a48580) indicates good dispositions and handling of our machine gun units, during the fighting in March. It emphasises again the value of the disposition of machine guns in depth – both in attack and defence. In the attack, security against counter-attack is thereby given to the flanks; in defence, provision is thereby made for resistance to the enemy’s attempt to widen any gap into which he may penetrate.
2. Fire effect is the essential. Therefore, an extensive field of fire (1,000 yards or more) is required for machine guns; direct fire must be a primary consideration; and the employment of guns singly should be avoided. Generally, forward guns should be employed in pairs, and guns in rear should be in pairs or groups of four, so as to facilitate control of a considerable volume of fire.
3. In defence, the disposition of machine guns in depth must be based on definite plans for restricting the area into which an attacker might penetrate. The enemy generally attempts to effect penetration at the weaker portions of the line and to take our more strongly prepared positions in flank and reverse. This should be anticipated and should not necessitate bringing our machine guns into action in unforeseen directions as has sometime occurred.
4. Single guns with hostile infantry may be dealt with in previously prepared defences by single 18-pdrs in advanced positions, and on all occasions by the fire of rifles and Lewis guns used boldly in front of the main position.
Ia/48580
TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN DOCUMENT.
C.G.S. of the Field Army
Ia/II Nr. 82373 op. 30-3-18.
1. During the course of our offensive, the principal resistance was offered by the machine gun nests distributed in depth. Their total destruction by the artillery bombardment prior to the assault, even when this was of considerable duration, was not achieved and cannot be expected. We must be satisfied with the neutralization of as large a number as possible of these nests by means of heavy artillery fire and bombardment with blue cross gas shell.
The engagement of those machine gun nests which remain in action will then be carried out by single guns (of light Minenwerfer), which are under the orders of the most advanced infantry, follow this infantry as close as possible and fire over open sights at close range (1,1000 yards). It is advisable that batteries allotted to individual battalions should always be the same. Under the protection of the fire of these guns (or Minenwerfer), the infantry will advance by bounds with quite weak groups, the light machine guns forming part of these groups.

The heavy machine guns should generally be employed to keep down the occupants of the objective of the attack during the infantry attack, and to follow the latter up by large bounds. They also afford security against the enemy’s counter-thrusts.

The method outlined above has apparently not been employed universally, but where it has, it has been successful and casualties have been light. I request that steps be taken to ensure that this method is brought to the knowledge of all units as early as possible. The idea of compelling success by the employment of masses of troops must be absolutely eradicated. This merely leads to unnecessary losses. It is fire effect which is decisive, and not numbers.

2. The extraordinary moral and explosive effect of the medium and heavy Minenwerfer has been once more proved during the attack on the 21st March. The selection of the position of the Minenwerfer companies during the advance must be based on the consideration that they must be able to bring their medium Minenwerfer into action as soon as the attack comes to a standstill, especially against defended villages, farm buildings etc. There is no question of employing heavy Minenwerfer and Flugelminenwerfer in open warfare; there is therefore all the more reason to make use of them in trench warfare. Apart from the preparatory bombardment prior to the actual attack, their principal task will always be to annihilate the enemy’s infantry. Villages which lie within range form, on account of their strong garrisons, particularly suitable targets.

(Signed) LUDENDORFF.
GENERAL STAFF,
GENERSAL HEADQUARTERS,
19th April, 1918.

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