Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 1915
1 Decr. On leave from Tendring spent one night at Pinner with Dorothy & Tom
To 15 Ruston but rest of leave at Colchester.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 1915
1 Decr. On leave from Tendring spent one night at Pinner with Dorothy & Tom
To 15 Ruston but rest of leave at Colchester.
Letter to Rev. R.M. Laporte Payne 29 Dec 1915
On embossed crested notepaper of 75th Overseas Canadian Battalion
Dec 29th 1915
Bugler R.H. Elliott
1st Platoon #138567
75th Battalion C.E.F.
Mr. Laporte Payne,
I received your letter of the 9th and also your letter and testament of the 15th and thank you for them.
I was just going to answer your letter of the 9th when I got the other one, I had it already wrote and was going to post it tonight, so am writing this to express my thanks for finding my Aunt and also for sending the testament. I am sorry you could not find my mother at 8 Finchley Park, if she has moved into Kentish Town again, you may be able to get some information about her at 71 Warden Road, Kentish Town, because she used to live there before she went to Finchley Park, but I daresay my Aunt knows where she is although you didn’t mention it in your letter.
Now that you have found one of my Aunts for me, I am anxious to get a letter from her and will be watching the mails every day until I get one.
I am very much pleased with the testament you sent me, and will carry it in my pocket all the time, I also promise that I will try and read a portion of it every day. I have filled in the front page of it now and hope some day that I will be able to fill in the last page.
I am sorry to say that I can’t with a clear conscience fill in the last page, but I was up to a Mission a few Sundays ago and after the meeting was over, the speaker came up to me and asked me if I was saved and I said no, well he talked to me for over an hour and yet after all that I couldn’t say yes.
I think it is this way I might have promised that speaker I would believe in the Lord, and yet my own conscience told me that as soon as I got away and came into barracks I would forget all about it and be just as bad as ever, if you were around sometimes and heard me swear and do things I know I shouldn’t do, you would say I was bad.
Before I wrote to you I never had any interested in anybody, I just worked and spent the time as well as I could. My intentions were to learn to run automobiles and motorboats and then go into the United States and run a launch for some wealthy man down there and just travel around, remaining single and making no friends.
I have been in this country nearly eight years and haven’t made a friend until I joined the Army six months ago, before then I worked all the time on farms and didn’t have time to think about Mother or any of my relatives.
But since I joined I have nothing to do at nights and nowhere to go it has made me think of them.
Well Mr Payne I don’t know why I have told you all this, but your letters seem to be so nice and yet they are not dry like ministers generally do write, that they seem to convince me, that I ought to join Christ’s Army too.
You can imagine how I feel though in this big country without friends or anybody to confide my troubles, nowhere to go when I am not working, it seems to make me sober and morose, I have never had the chance to play, like other boys have, always having to work. I feel if I had my mother or some of my relatives to confide in I would lead a better life.
I think I will have to close now as I have not any more room but I would liked to have said more. Thanking you for your kindness in looking up my relatives. I remain
War Diary of AA Laporte Payne
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda & Correspondence
Sunday December 5, 1915.
“We arrived here on Thursday last in the wet & mud by road. There is no station within thirteen miles. I had three wagons full of forage, rations and what not.
My days are as follows:
7.30 a.m. Rise.
Order dinner and see to the general management of the Headquarters staff and our household. We have eight horses, thirteen men to run the place for three officers. The house has two sitting rooms, four large bedrooms, and at the top accommodation for the orderlies, servants and clerks.
8.45, a.m. The General and Captain Waller and I go to the ranges for firing. My job is to check the laying of each gun to see that it does not fire in the wrong direction and so do any damage to persons or property. This goes on all day with no time for lunch until 4 p.m., when we return and change our soaking things and have hot baths.
It has rained every day so far, and on Saturday it did not stop. My Burberry is no good it lets the rain through badly.
At night there is all the correspondence to see to, and the accounts to do. Rations and forage are always wrong. They do not come out to Sutton Veny as regularly and correctly as they should.
We dine at eight. I shall in future sympathise in future with housekeepers. It is an awful job. I shall be glad to give it up at any time. We have had the Colonel of each Brigade staying with us every night in turn. Sunday is no exception. This goes on for twelve days. I am absolutely fed up with it. I do not want this job at all.
The ammunition arrived and there was no place to put it. So I was ordered to find a place. I managed after a hunt to store it in a room the size of a very small bedroom, which was completely filled to the roof. I hope it does not blow up. This out-house now contains 1200 rounds of shrapnel and 400 rounds of 4.5 Howitzer ammunition. I superintended the unloading of this at ten o’clock at night in the pitch dark and pouring rain. What a life! It is not as if I should have the pleasure of firing it off. Others will have that job while I look on and see that the round does not blow up an inoffensive citizen of the Plain.
December 11 1915.
“The weather has improved a little, but last Thursday it rained hard all day. I shall be glad when firing practice is over. It is very monotonous. We leave on Wednesday I think.
There is a new Staff Captain here now. Rew has been given the push. Captain Beal posted in his place was Adjutant to General Kirby in France, and has been over there five months. It will my turn next and I shall not be sorry.
December 27 1915.
175th Brigade R.F.A.
Codford St. Mary
“I arrived here on Sunday night and managed to get my kit housed out of the pouring rain. Today the weather has been very bad, with a high wind.
Orders for a move to Egypt have been cancelled for the time being.
THE 175th BRIGADE R.F.A.
This Brigade was raised locally in Staffordshire by Lieut. Colonel E.C. Meysey Thomson, M.P. Recruiting commenced on June 20th 1915, and closed approximately on the 12th August 1915, when the Brigade joined the 34th Division and moved to Kirby Malzeard.
On the 30th August it proceeded to Tidworth, and on the 2nd September Lieut. Colonel E.H. Stevenson, D.S.O., R.F.A. assumed command of the Brigade.
On the 2nd October the Brigade moved to Corton to complete training, and in December was warned for service in Egypt, but this was cancelled a week later.
Finally on the 3rd January it was warned for active service in France.
THE THIRTY FOURTH DIVISION.
ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY.
Lieut. Col. E.H. Stevenson D.S.O.
Adjutant. Lieut. T. Payne.
Orderly Officer 2/Lieut. G.M.A. Fletcher.
O.C. Captain A.C. Crookshank.
2/Lieut. S.W. Woodrow.
2/Lieut. D. Lowden.
O.C. Captain E.C. Howard.
2/Lieut. A. Roberts.
2/Lieut. J. Amour.
O.C. Captain G.T. Spain.
2/Lieut. A.B. MacDonald.
2/Lieut. R.W.R. Fleming.
O.C. Captain A.P.Y. Langhorne D.S.O.
Lieut. C.F.T. Hopkins.
2/Lieut. A.A. Laporte Payne
2/Lieut. C. Freeman-Cowan.
Brigade Ammunition Column.
Lieut. G.B. Morgan
2/Lieut. W.C. Hickman.
Alfred George Richardson’s Diary Dec 1915
1915 diary shows Bombardier Gunner (Signalling Dept) A. G. Richardson 4th Section, West Riding Divisional Ammunition Column R.F.A., Norfolk Barracks Sheffield.
Home Address:- Station House, Ben Rhydding near Leeds. Yorks.
Wednesday 1st December 1915: Shelled. Rain. Dec opens wet. Rations 10.30 – 3.30. Promoted to Paid a/c Bdr. (4 ½ d extra per day) Harry Eagle & Barber pro a/c Bdrs (unpaid.)
Thursday 2nd December 1915: Rose at 8 pm [8 am]. Rations 11 – 3.20. Wet day. Oilskin fine. Early to bed.
Friday 3rd December 1915: Rose at 8 am. Went for rations from 10.30 – 3.30. Wagon stuck. Building new winter bivouac. Bed at 9 pm.
Saturday 4th December 1915: Rose at 8. Rations at 11 – 4 pm. Wagon stuck in mud. On H.Q. guard. Rum issue. Nice guard.
Dec 1st. Whilst proceeding through Poperinghe at 1.30 pm, the Germans bombarded the town. First two shells 100 yds behind the wagon, just off the road. 20 or more shells burst. Population terror-stricken. Terrible sight.
Sunday 5th December 1915: Fine in morning. No rations. Building new bivouac. “Tres bon”. Raining later. Letter from home.
Monday 6th December 1915: Rose at 5 am. Joined Div Train 6.45 am. Drew rations at 8 – 11 am on Elverdinghe Road at new Railhead. Rather slow, but will prove a success.
Tuesday 7th December 1915: Rose at 5 am. Joined A.S.C. 6.45 am. Rations 8 – 930. “Home” at 11. Saw one of our aeroplanes brought down by enemy. Landed on tip of wings. Pcl from Scarbro’.
Wednesday 8th December 1915: Rose at 6 am. Joined A.S.C. at 6.45. Away with rations at 8.30. Remarkably quick. Spent afternoon building new bivouac & writing letters. On Guard.
Thursday 9th December 1915: Went for rations 5 am – 11 am. Coal 12-30 – 4 pm. Capt Walker goes on his 2nd leave. Rotten Day – Raining all day.
Friday 10th December 1915: Rose at 6.30 am. Late for train. Walked to A.S.C. Back at 10.30. Transferred all ammunition to H.Q. Heavy work.
Saturday 11th December 1915: Rose at 6 am. Joined Div Train 6.45 am. Drew rations & back at 10.30. Reading & writing rest of day.
N.B. I have been acting Q.M.S. for the whole D.A.C., Q.M.S. Shearman being too idle to get up at 5 am!
Sunday 12th December 1915: Rose at 5.30 am. Joined Div Train 6.45. Back at 11 am. Received two pcls from home. On Guard at H.Q. Beastly Cold. (Redge Dean comes over to see us again. Jolly good tea).
Monday 13th December 1915: Rose at 5.30 am. Drew rations and returned at 11. Cold weather & a change to first!
Tuesday 14th December 1915: Rose at 6 am. Joined Div Train 6.45 am. Cold & dark morning. Back at 10.30 am. Had a jolly good tea. Invited Clough & Forsythe. Ham, Sausage, Cake etc.
Wednesday 15th December 1915: Rose at 6 am. Joined Div Train 6.45 am. Drew Rations & arrived back at 10.30 am. Rest of day writing & reading in farm. Beastly cold & frosty.
Thursday 16th December 1915: Went for rations at 6.30 am. Back at 11 am. Spent afternoon reading & writing. On Guard at night.
Friday 17th December 1915: Went for rations at 6.30. Back at 11. Great aeroplane duel over us. Thrilling at night in farm house.
Saturday 18th December 1915: Went for rations at 6.30 & back at 11.30. Very quiet.
Poperinghe – Ben Rhydding.
Sunday 19th December 1915: 3.30 am. Germans launch big gas attack & come over 3 times. Big artillery duel.
Monday 20th December 1915: Rations.
Tuesday 21st December 1915: Rations.
Wednesday 22nd December 1915: Rations.
Thursday 23rd December 1915: Rations.
Friday 24th December 1915: Went for rations at 6.30 am. Back 10.30. Spent aft preparing for Xmas Dinner at Farm. Excellent dinner at 6 pm – steak & kidney pie – plum pudding etc. At 9.30 Capt Walker gave me pass for leave. Exciting.
Saturday 25th December 1915: Left Camp 3.30 am with Sergt Becket. Left Poperinghe 4.50 am. Arr Boulogne 2 pm. Left Boulogne 3.3 0 & arr Folkestone 5.15 pm. Arrived Victoria 10.30 pm. Left St Pancras at 12 midnight & arrived Leeds 4.50 am. Went to Y.M.C.A. until 7.45. Left Leeds 8 am & arrived Ben R. 9.10 am. Great excitement. Dad & mother Cries with joy. Grand in “Blighty”.
Sunday 26th December 1915: Arrived Ben R 9.10. Slept 18 hours.
Monday 27th December 1915: Visiting.
Tuesday 28th December 1915: Visiting.
Wednesday 29th December 1915: Went to Scarbro’ for the day.
Thursday 30th December 1915: Visiting.
Friday 31st December 1915: Left Ben R. at 10 pm. for Belgium. Good bye dear old Ben R.
Diary of 2/Lt. A. B. STREET
48 SIEGE BATTERY RGA
Opened 26 December 1915
26th Dec. 1915 Sunday. Paraded at 7.0am. Sgt. Murphy and 25 men to escort guns and caterpillars to Avonmouth by road. Raining hard. Left the gun park at 7.40, weather cleared up shortly after starting. Hutchings who was in charge of the caterpillars and I went to breakfast with Meade King’s whose house we passed. Caterpillars going very well, passed through Bridgewater at noon and on the outskirts stopped for about ½ hr whilst a photo was taken, just after this had heavy shower of rain. Weather otherwise bright and sunny.
Some miles further on Hutchings and I went ahead in lorry to arrange where to stop the night. Decided on Cross a small village 28m from Taunton. Caterpillars arrived just after 6.0. Left a guard of 6 men and 2 NCOs and took remainder into Axbridge about a mile away, billeted the men for the night, it started to rain soon after 7.0 pm. Hutchings and I had some dinner at the Lamb Inn Axbridge then went back to Cross to see that everything was all right. Slept at Axbridge.
27th Dec. Monday. Up at 5.0 am and took all the men back to Cross: Caterpillars got under way about 7.20, raining hard. H & I returned to Axbridge for breakfast. Soon after this it stopped raining and cleared up, paid the billets and followed Caterpillars up in lorry. They were doing fairly well. Very up and down country and pretty; Wind got up and was soon blowing a gale. Trouble with one of the Caterpillars delayed us about noon when the convoy of lorries with Capt. Langford, Meade King and Hill came up with us.
Had some lunch at a Pub Meade King stayed with Hutchings and me. The other two went on with the convoy. Caterpillars were giving some trouble and delayed us; passed through Bristol about 4.0 and at Clifton Hutchings and I went on to Avonmouth to see Langford re arrangements for “packing” etc. A very strong gale blowing. Found I had to send my men back by 11.5 train; arranged for them to have hot meal at 8.45. last gun arrived in about 7.45. Marched the men down to their meal and went and had one myself with the others at The Miles Arms.
Soon after 10.0 went and paid for the mens’ meal and put them in charge of Hill to return to Taunton. Langford, Hutchings Meade King and I motored to the Queen’s Hotel Clifton for the night.
28th Dec. Tuesday. All motored over to Avonmouth shortly after 10. Reported arrival of guns to Embarkation Officer who told us we were to sail in the Hunsgate a 600 ton German vessel captured off the E. coast of Africa.
We received instructions to load next morning at 8.0 and during the afternoon we were told to get the Caterpillars and guns ready on the wharf, this was done easily but on trying to get some of the lorries to the wharf they stuck in the road which was very bad and 2 had to be hauled out by a Caterpillar. The rest were then kept outside on the road. We returned to The Queens for the night.
29th Dec. Wednesday. Up early and over to the Docks by 8.0. It was decided to load the Caterpillars and guns where they were and then to shift the ship to another berth to which the lorries could drive up easily. This was done about midday. Langford with Hutchings and all the men except the 15 who were going with us on the ship returned to Taunton by the 1.53 train. All but about 20 lorries were loaded at the end of the day. Meade King and I returned to Queens Hotel, the men being in the Rest Camp.
30th Dec. Thursday. From a phone message we heard that the whole of the remainder of the battery left Taunton at 2.0 am for embarkation at Gosport.
Over at the Docks again soon after 8.0. They finished loading the lorries during the day. Meade King and I, as all the cars were now loaded, had to use the bus or train for going to and fro. I went to the Hippodrome but it didn’t please me much.
31st Dec. Friday. Went over to the docks. Still loading Tentage but were soon stopped owing to the rain. Nothing to do, cannot get leave to go away as they will not say when the ship will sail, very fed up.
Written on an opened out brown envelope.
Dear F & M
I am in the pink. We can only hear the wind howling at night now. We had a very good Xmas. I went down to our HQ and spent the night there we had a good feed and plenty of everything to drink including cigars so I didn’t do so bad. I hope you enjoyed yourself as well as I did. We are now looking forward to the New Year and of course all being well the Scotch always keep it up. I shan’t be home in time to let it in this year but I hope this time next year we shall all be together to let it in. I went for a bath tonight and spent a couple of hours at solo whist afterwards in an estaminet so we don’t spend a bad time when in rest. How did Geo & Will look? I hope Mar & Dad are keeping well and that Gladys is going strong.
I got some tobacco & cigs from Willie the other day. A 1lb tin so I have put it on the table and the lads all come along with their pipes. I had the misfortune to lose my washing a few weeks ago a shell dropped in the garden and blew it to na’ pue otherwise Il na yen a plus. There is a cinema a few yds away but I have not had time to visit it yet too busy at Xmas. I wish you all prosperity in the New Year hoping that all are well. I will now fini
How’s alias Turk
Dear Pa & Mar
Just a line to let you know I am OK. I suppose you will have got the pc I sent. I am glad to say I am in the best of health. We came out of action a day or two ago and are now out of the noise and din of the guns for a few weeks without old Fritz gets too troublesome. As no doubt you are aware they tried to do it on us with gas and now gas shells and all the stuff they could devise but we were prepared and when Fritzs came over he was soon quietened. I must say it was the hottest time we have had yet but all the lads in our lot are merry and bright. We are billeted in a village not far from where we first stayed last May prior to our first smell of powder. Allcock and I paid a visit to the latter place the other night and we fairly cemented the occasion. It’s nice to get back to where they speak French as I can’t understand the Flemish patois at all except they say Yar Yar for yes. Well I hope you all have a good time this Xmas. I am going to try to have a good day tomorrow so don’t think Burgy is having a bad time of course I could go on a bit of turkey & sausages very nicely but still it won’t trouble me much if you send me a parcel anytime. I shouldn’t object to a few sausages as we never see them out here. You will see I got the parcel from Mount Tabor Church OK so I will enclose a little note in this envelope. I also got your parcel OK. I couldn’t count more than 8 whole mince pies but I didn’t waste any it was Tra Bon of course I had to spread it round a bit as all the boys sample each other’s parcels. I think this is all at present. I suppose Geo has heard the tale of a sentry halting a man at night saying “Halt who goes there?” “Chaplain” Sentry “Pass Charlie”.
Well I hope you all the very best wishes and prosperity in the New Year.
Luck and love to all.
If Willie is called up don’t let him forget to mention the (fact) that he is an operator and at which office he came from.
Please post the letter to Mr. Taylor
In biro On return from 1st leave from Ypres
Dear Mar & Pa
Just a line to let you know I am OK. I didn’t tell you any details of my passage back well it wasn’t at all bad in fact it was very nice. I caught the train from Vic OK but our train was too late the boat having just left earlier that anticipated so I spent the night in Folkestone and quite enjoyed myself. I caught an early boat across and managed to have a good look round the place on that side before leaving by train. So you see Gussie got another night in a bed. Bow wow. I have practically got rid of the cold I had. The weather here has been very wet. I don’t think we have had a fine day since I returned. Your up to the eyes in mud but it’s surprising how you get used to it. I am on night work in fact day and night as Alcock is on leave now and I have to work extra – Well it’s just 3 am raining and you can hear the boys singing as they are being relieved and marching to rest Billets. You should see some of them their best girls wouldn’t know them and I am sure Jack would have them all in mush for not shaving. It is mostly artillery duels round here and the trenches on both sides are in a nice mess especially after they have been bombarded with High Explosive Some life. I feel like a magnate now I have a War Loan. Some finance eh! I wouldn’t mind a photo of Jack if they are small but I don’t want a big thing no extra kit for Burgy. As you say Geo will probably send that special lice killer après la guerre. Hope Gladys enjoyed herself at the old girls meeting. Were they really old Gladys? About Miss Sewell’s age Eh! I just had a rest then while I has a straffe. I will leave you to guess what that is. My Battery is na pue so am looking forward to refill don’t forget that shaving tackle someday. I was parleying with a Belgian soldat last night he is going to get me a ring. Aluminium sent over by the Boches and made into a ring by a Belgian soldat so there. I believe we shall be out of action by Xmas in rest so that will be OK if it comes off. I hope Gladys pulls her exam off this time if she does I must bring a bottle of Sham back with me next time. I wonder if Turk likes being called Billy. I suppose he would lick your hand if you called him Kaiser Bill. Ah oui. I am afraid he is not getting a proper training without me did I tell you when I was over I took him in the Crown and while walking down I missed him but eventually found him in the doorway of the Dog. I think he was getting to know me. I am sure Miss Sewell would be astounded when you showed her that bit of glass. Eh some souvenir Eh. Well I will now stop as I hear as there’s a war on. Hoping you are all well and have a good time at Xmas & that Ma has got rid of her cold.
Yours Billy’s master
On the 3rd December, General Joffre was appointed Commander-Chief of the French armies. He had promoted from Chief General Staff, a post he had held since 28th July 1911.
In Mesopotamia on the 3rd December, the British forces reached Kut, after retreating from Ctesiphon. By the 5th December, Kut had been placed in a state of defence and the siege of Kut began on 7th December. The army of the Ottoman Empire besieged the British and British Indian forces.
On Gallipoli on the 8th December, regional Commander-in–Chief, Sir Charles Monro recommended a general retreat from Suvla and Anzac Bays. Lord Kitchener gave confirmation to Monro’s recommendation.
On the Italian front, the Forth Battle of Isonzo ended on the 10th December.
On the 15th December Sir John French stood down as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France.
The Evacuation of Suvla and Anzac Bays in the Gallipoli Peninsular on the 19th December and all forces were completed evacuated on the 20th December.
On the 19th December, Sir Douglas Haig succeeded Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France.
On the 23rd December, Roland Leighton died of wounds in a field hospital near Louvencourt. He was shot through the stomach by a sniper. He was due to go home on leave to marry his fiancée, Vera Brittain. Whilst waiting in a hotel on the south coast of England she was expecting a call from Leighton to say he was in the country. The call she received was from his mother to say he had died. Vera Brittain survived the war, eventually married, and had two children, one of whom is Shirley Williams, a peer of the Liberal Democrat Party.