War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Dec 1914

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

Extracted from

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

December1914

 

December 9 1914

R.P.

“We have guns, but only old 15 pounders, very ancient. At last the men in our battery  have got khaki, and they look much smarter.  The convict blue was really terrible.

 

I see that Vyvyan is gazetted today in the “Times” to the R.F.A.   He will not come to this division.

 

December 20, 1914.

 

Everything is alright. Leave for various and very secret reasons has been cancelled.  I suppose I had better not be more explicit now.  Leave is supposed to reopen with luck on Wednesday next.  Then I hope to get home again.  Our train was full of angry officers called back from their homes.  I was so sorry to give you such a fright, but I suppose one must expect such things to happen now, especially with such windy old dug-outs in charge.  I hope the congregation did not think that the Germans had landed.

 

Advertisements

Archie A. Laporte Payne letters home December 1914

Archie A. Laporte Payne letters home December 1914

 

On embossed headed notepaper.

Royal Field Artillery,

Colchester.

R.A. Crest

Dec 9 1914

My dearest Mother & Father,

 

Thank you so very much for your letters and present. It is very good of you to send me those gloves – they are lovely ones and will be most useful.  Your loving wishes & kind thoughts I know I can always have but a birthday I suppose is, more than at other times, a fitting time to express them.  But I don’t like birthdays at all.  They come too soon.  Dr Nostum very kindly remembered me and sent me a box of Bath Buns.  Please thank Maude & Evelyn for their letters.  I will reply sometime.  As you can imagine we are frightfully busy.  I am afraid Christmas will be impossible.  The captain will be away if anybody is – so I shan’t get a look in.  don’t trouble about glasses.  I hope you got my postcard of yesterday.  I have heard from Reggie.  I am glad he is better.  I could not get home over the week end and I am afraid next week will be impossible.  We are one officer short as one of them has left for the front,

 

Thank you very much for the vest I should like a couple of short pants if they can be obtained of the same material. I am glad Evelyn had such a good time at Bath.  I hope she has quite recovered from her bad tooth.

 

I see that Vyvyian is gazetted today in the Times to the R.F.A. I don’t suppose he will come here. He will go to some lower division.  I have written to him.

 

I did not see Mr Tillyers card in your letter. It may have dropped out however.  Don’t send any rubbish through.  The men are rather particular.  I want old Windsors, Strands, Pearsons, & 6d Illustrated papers etc.  I know the sort of stuff some good people think tommies appreciate.

 

Things go much as usual. We have guns but only old 15 pounders & not the ones we ought to have.  The men have got khaki in our battery now and they work much better.

 

I am glad Vyvyan has got someone to knit him a scarf – I am sure he needs one!! ! I wish I had somebody to do likewise for me – Oh, I forgot 92 in the shade!

 

I have got another tunic so I am alright now. I have to get a lot more things before the kit inspection which takes place soon.

 

No more now as dinner is just on & there is no news to tell.

 

Much love to you & all & many thanks for birthday wishes & presents

 

Your affectionate son

Arch

 

On headed notepaper.

 

Royal Field Artillery,

Colchester.

R.A. Crest

Dec 20 1914.

 

My dearest Mother,

 

Everything is alright. Leave, for various reasons which I will not enumerate, has been cancelled until Wednesday next when I hope to get home again.

 

The train was full of angry officers called up from other parts. I was in barracks by 9.45 p.m.  So sorry to give you such a fright but one must expect these things when on active service.  I hope the Congregation did not think the Germans had arrived.

 

Much love. Hope you are all well.

 

Ever

Your affectionate son

Arch

 

Alfred George Richardson’s Diary Dec 1914

Alfred George Richardson’s Diary Dec 1914

 

1914 diary notes:- Address Station House Ben Rhydding, Size of shoes 8 height 5’ 8 ¾ weight 9st 3lbs.

 

Sheffield.

Sunday 27th December 1914:              Church Parade.

Monday 28th December 1914:                        Marching & Physical Drill.

Tuesday 29th December 1914:            Route March.

Wednesday 30th December 1914:       Marching & Physical Drill.

Thursday 31st December 1914:           Semaphore & Morse Signalling.

 

G G Hammond letter 13 Dec 14

Prvt GG Hammond 3142

7th Bat Mc/r Reg

65 Hoghton St

Southport

13-12-14

 

Dear Father Mother etc,

How are you getting on?  I think some one might write-Can’t Gladys write for a change.  Has Fred gone yet?   I am having a fine time but have got a bad cough.  My photo has come out very well.  I am enclosing one of each for you.  I was vaccinated on Friday & my arm is just beginning to itch.  I hope I shall not have a bad time, some chaps here are going about with their arms in a sling.  It was not at all painful, but I was kept busy looking after a chap who had fainted.  When he had come round I went out and was surprised to see two chaps carrying a limp body out, who was it but Arthur.  I immediately went to his rescue, he had a very bad faint.  I don’t know how he will go on when he sees dead bodies flying about.  I want Ma to send me a nice big cake and sent it on as soon as possible.  I want one like she makes for us at home.  A few mince pies etc will also be relished.  We went to the church parade again this morning.  The minister is very decent.  I had a letter from Willie the other day.  He enclosed a £1 note.  When I drew my screw on Friday I only got 3/6 so I presume that Ma has filled that form in & that she will be drawing the remains of my screw.  If so I want it sent on at once as I do not want to break into this £1 note, if I can possibly help it.  I have only a 1/- or two apart from this note.  I wrote to Kemp the other day I received the mittens from Lilian yesterday, they are not much use as they have no palms or fingers, so you might knit me another pair.  I am going to write to Smith sometime today.  Have you heard any thing from the Donohues!  We are each supposed to have a hot bath once a week, it is a farce.  The Sergeant has the key to the bathroom so that the warm water will not be drawn off, as I did not think there would be much chance of a bath here.  I went to the public baths there was a queue about 6 yards long, & the are about 3 baths.  I came away from there & went back to the digs, managed to get the key.  Instead of getting a hot bath the water was only just aired.  We are not doing any trenching but are getting experts at extended order drill by signs.  It is very interesting.  There is a lot of talk about being off at Christmas or New Year but it is only a rumour.  I have torn that old shirt up that I came in & use it for cleaning my buttons.  It was fine to feel nice & clean with a decent pair of socks on.  I have had a rotten blister on one toe & have not been able to wear my army boots yet.  We had an inspection of the whole battalion the other day by some Brigadier General.  It was very fine.  We are now finished here at3-30 or 3-15 instead of 4-30 as before.  The time hangs a little.  I see that there are free classes at night school for soldiers.  Among the classes are Chemistry & Botany.  I have been thinking of attending then only do not want to be tied down to attending them.  If you ever join you have to attend regularly.

It is just dinner time so shall have to knock off.  I am enclosing a photo of one of the four pals (Ashman a decent sort of fellow.  I will just go and see if Arthur has one to spare.  Got it here.  George.  Write soon & don’t forget cake & money.

The chap who has been taken ¾ sat down is Simpson.  The other as human was taken like myself.

 

G G Hammond letter 8 Dec 14

P/e G.G. Hammond

3142 2nd 7th Bat Mc/r Regt

3 Balls Place

Southport

8/12/14

 

I am changing my billet tomorrow I think.  Address my letters to this address until I let you know to the contrary.

 

Dear Father & Mother,

I received your letter this morning I am surprised to hear that Fred has been playing the old soldier.  He seems to have paid his fooling rather early.  At last I have been on a night march, the one I mentioned in my last letter. I was awful, the rain poured down from the commencement.  We started marching along the sands at 7 o’clock and the transport followed in our rear.  We were marching in the last file so the mud was fairly thick for us to walk through.  We marched most of the way in a river about 3” deep in water so you will quick understand what condition the mens’ feet were in.  One or two halts were called & if you could find a dry spot you sat down & rested.  We were not allowed to smoke or sing as the march was to be carried out under military conditions.  The transport had to turn back as the cart kept getting fast in the sands.  We reached Formby about 10 o’clock & had to wait in the pouring rain till nearly 11 o’clock.  The journey home was very tiring & we did not reach the parade ground until 2-30.  I was in bed by 3.15 & had to parade the following morning at 11 o’clock.  I am writing this letter with the fountain pen that Pa Kemp has sent me.  It is a Blackbird like Gladys’s, I have not broken it in yet as you will see from the writing.  I am applying for a pass home for Saturday I might get it but it is very uncertain.  I wrote to Gladys Grimshaw the other day & had a reply a parcel arrived from them today containing to pairs of socks-very nice ones-bye the bye how is Ma getting on with that pair she was making.  We have been doing a lot of rifle drill lately & our OC told us we should all have rifles next week.

I heard from Hammond’s the other day, all the girls sent me a photograph.  I have not replied yet.  I wrote to Fred the other day.  I shall not be able to let you know whether I am coming home for certain as we do not know until Saturday morning so expect me when you see me.  I was crimed this morning for being late on parade one day.  I was let off, not being a particular pal of our corporal, I expect some extra drill.

You will be surprised to hear that I am going to have dancing lessons, I think I shall go for the first time on Thursday.  We have had the name of the Battalion changed to the 2nd 7th Mc as you will see from the address.  We shall now be able to move irrespective of the old Battalion which is in Egypt.  I was up at Spencer’s yesterday.  It is very nice to be able to spend an evening somewhere.  I am just getting over an awful cold & cough I caught on the night march.  I used Pa’s old remedy, linseed etc.  The weather here has been very changeable- a lot of men have been on the sick parade.  I shall have to knock off now as I have promised to go to out at 6.15. Hoping I shall see you on Saturday.

Love George

CHRISTMAS TRUCE

 

1914

 

24th Dec           Christmas Eve, in the trenches, was a cold night, and from both sides                               of “no mans land” both British and German troops were trying to keep warm. Singing Christmas carols was one way of doing this.

The German troops began by singing “Stille Naccht, Heilage Naccht” (Silent Night), and for most of the British Troops it was the first time they had heard it.

The British answered with “O, Come All Ye Faithful”.  The Germans responded with the Latin version “Adeste Fideles”.

During the course of the evening, the guns fell silent, and a quiet and peaceful night prevailed.

 

25th Dec           Christmas day morning was damp and foggy, but by about 9.00am there were clear blue skies.

A German soldier raised a “Happy Christmas” placard.

Gradually, unarmed soldiers began to climb out of the trenches and met up in “no mans land” for general fraternisation.

Gifts were exchanged, some alcohol was consumed, and even a game of football was played.

Both sides were able to retrieve and bury their dead.

 

25th – 31st Dec  the truce lasted spasmodically, but knowing the truce would not last indefinitely, the British moved their machine guns. This was precautionary only as the Germans were aware of their positions.

 

31st Dec           A pre-arranged signal had been forwarded to the British to say the Germans would fire their rifles in the air to see in and celebrate the New Year.

 

1915

 

1st Jan              The Generals, on both sides, were unhappy with this unofficial truce and the British were ordered to shell a certain occupied German farm at 11.00am that morning.

Precisely at 11.00am, the farm was shelled as ordered, but by being forewarned, the Germans had evacuated the farm.

A message was forwarded to the Germans with this information.

This action ensured the truce was broken.

It was never to be repeated again.

 

The Christmas Truce proved to be one of the most poignant moments of the Great War

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE

 

 

 

The British Expeditionary Force held a 30-mile line of trenches, from St Eloi just south of Ypres to the La Basse canal at Givenchy. The whole area was low lying and had ditches and watercourses for drainage. The dug trenches, combined with artillery fire and the wet winter weather had churned up the land and turned the whole area into a boggy landscape. The fighting had died down, whilst both armies tried to keep their respective trenches drained. Limited sniper fire was the only form harassment by both sides. On Christmas Eve, the weather changed bringing a sharp frost and a freezing, clear night with the stars shining brightly. The muddy ground very soon solidified.

 

In France and Flanders, Christmas Eve 1914 was very cold; as British and German soldiers struggled to keep warm, they sang carols. One in particular, Silent Night, was not as well known in Britain as it is today. However, the deep emotional voices of the enemy carried across no man’s land, and even in German, Stille Naccht, Heilige Nacht was unbearably moving to British ears after the roar of shell explosions and the screams of the wounded. The British answered the German hymns with some of their own. When the London Rifle Brigade launched into O Come All Ye Faithful, the Germans responded with the Latin version, Adeste Fideles.

 

The guns fell silent and as dawn broke on Christmas Day, the fog lingered. However, as it gave way to clear blue sky, one German unit raised a placard saying, “Happy Christmas”. At about 9am the first British and German soldiers scrambled from their trenches, began cautiously to mount the parapet and advance towards each other across no man’s land. The bitter enemies met in the middle, shook hands, exchanged presents and autographs and sang carols to each other Drink broke down uncertainties, and in some places, impromptu football matches began in the frozen mud of No Man’s Land

 

They took photographs of each other, and exchanged jam and tobacco. The Kaiser had given every German soldier five cigars, but he never intended them for British consumption. King George V had only sent a Christmas card to his soldiers, but they received packages from Princess Mary’s Fund whose cigarettes enabled them to reciprocate.

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described the unofficial ceasefire as “the one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of war”.

 

Both nations were Christian. Indeed, both were overwhelmingly Protestant, even if their armies were fighting in lands which were Catholic. Much of the British ritual at Christmas was German. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, had introduced Christmas trees to Britain.

 

In August, the soldiers on both sides had left for the Front, hoping to be home for Christmas. Their generals knew better, but nobody was really prepared for the shock of combat between industrialised societies, their massive armies equipped with machine guns and quick-firing artillery. The French suffered their heaviest losses of the war in these opening weeks. They checked the German advance but at the price of more than a quarter of a million dead.  In November, the Germans held on to what territory, they had gained, digging deep defensive positions. The truce, which developed spontaneously on Christmas Eve, took the soldiers home in mind, if not in body.

 

Many Germans had worked in Britain before the war. In the banter shouted across the thin strip of territory that separated the trenches, they established common links. German waiters or barbers, and emigrants to London or Glasgow, were able to translate the remarks of units facing them.

 

The Christmas truces of 1914 focussed around Ypres, the British-held cloth town in Flanders. To the North West, the Belgians held a line on the Yser canal, where floodwater created a physical barrier between the two sides. In any event, the quickest route home for them was not the sentimentality of Christmas but an attack to liberate Belgium from German occupation. The same applied to many of the Frenchmen holding the line further south.

 

However, one regiment wanted nothing to do with fraternising with an enemy, even during a brief spell of peace and goodwill. The 1st Bn. the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), formed primarily of men from the tough streets of Glasgow, made it clear there would be no festive spirit shared with a foe who had been trying to shoot them the day before. The shouted invitations from the opposing trenches a few yards away to join their German adversaries met with a typically blunt Scots reply. After a German soldier shouted, “Tommy, Tommy, why you not come across?” a gruff Glaswegian voice responded: “Cause we don’t trust you and ye hae been four months shooting at us.” Instead of emerging from trenches near the northern French town of Armentieres to shake hands with enemy, the Cameroonians dug in  and did what they could to make Christmas Day 1914 as memorable as possible.

 

There were not any British officers court-martialled for permitting fraternisation with the enemy on Christmas Day 1914. French officers had their leave cancelled and one company commander was reduced to the ranks. That is not to say the British high command was prepared to tolerate such truces. In 1915, strenuous efforts to prevent a repetition were successful and two Scots Guards officers who did permit a truce were court-marshalled.

 

This was of course, one of most poignant incidents of the Great War – The Christmas Truce of 1914. Never to be repeated.

 

———————————————————————

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.Resources:-

 

The Sunday Post, Prof. Hew Strachan, Sunday December 19th 2004

 

The Daily Mail, the Mail Reporter, Tuesday October 17th 2006

 

The Daily Telegraph, the Telegraph Reporter, Sunday December 22nd 2013

 

Wakefield, Alan.  “Christmas in the Trenches”.  Sutton Publishing Limited, Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2BU