A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 16 October 1917.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 16 October 1917.



16 ? October 1917


My darling,


Twenty minutes ago I returned to my shanty, where I am living alone again. – Since I wrote to you last I have left Headquarters and have been away down south to the town or rather what was a town, and I have just returned; to find a lovely pile of correspondence – two dear letters from you and some delightful sweets – and the book.  Thank you so much dearest – but you must stop you are sending much too much in the way of letters and parcels – you know you spoil me dreadfully.


I have an idea that to-day must be the 16th.  I am not sure, and I have no one to ask.  Everybody was in bed when I got back.  I had dinner in a place beginning with a D and then came back in a car with 2 R.N.A.S. fellows.  Some of those fellows can drive – especially after a good dinner.


It is blowing hard and raining again. I should like to know how many days in the year it rained.


A noise has worried me at times here. It is very faint and far away, but seems to get into my head.  At first I did not know whether it was only in my head or not.  It sounds like rubbing a wet finger on a tumbler only much shorter in length.  It is a bell buoy some distance away. Eureka! But it is very monotonous.


Did not ‘No Man’s Land’ come out in some magazine. I have been looking through its pages and I am sure I have read ‘The Man Traps’ and ‘Morphia’ somewhere else.  Did you read it all?  It is extraordinarily clever I think.  Thank you for allowing me to keep the ‘Student in Arms’ for a time.  I want to lend it to one or two fellows.  You had better buy yourself a new copy and put it on my book bill.  I hope you are keeping an account of the books you are sending me, because if you don’t I shall feel bound to send them back in good condition which I cannot always guarantee.


Why are you so afraid of my laughing at you? Why should you think that I looked annoyed at something or another.  I can’t think what puts all these things into your head.  It must be my fault for I must have given you a very wrong impression.  I am very sorry and I must try and mend my ways.  Perhaps I shall learn in time.


What a long bike ride you had with Evelyn. I wish I could have been there too.  You must be having much better weather than we are to get a bike ride nowadays.


Mrs Cross does not seem to be at all well lately – what with headaches and neuralgia – please give her my love & tell her she must get better forthwith. I am very sorry for her.


You are keeping quite fit and well – all spots gone – I hope. How is Mr Cross? – still carrying on at the station.


I remember hearing Jane Harrison – Fellow of Newnham, lecture at Cambridge and I have read some of her articles – she had a fight once with Gordon Selwyn – fellow of Corpus and now Warden of Radley – a literary fight I mean – and the blows were in pamphlet form.  Don’t believe all you read in Jane Harrison by a long way.


In your next letter you might give me Manning’s initials (the Rector of High Barnet) if you don’t mind.


Maude does not seem to want to return home again. It looks as if she never would get away.


If I could rely on you to send me the bill and if it were not troubling you too much I should ask you to send me out the Times Literary Supplement and the Bookman (monthly I think). If you do please let me know how much it is with the copies or else I shall return them unread.  If you should see any good articles in the Nineteenth Century, the Hibbert Journal, or the Quest when you are looking at a bookstall I should be glad of any such.  See how I rely on you and how much I am worrying you!  As the winter comes on and the evenings are long and dreary I must have something to read, and novels usually are too much for me.


Have you another photo of yourself – the one I like best – to keep for me when I return – your photos are getting so dirty here but they will do for active service – everything gets filthy in no time.


I read the Political Article in Blackwoods this month and thought it was very good. Do you read the magazine every month?


I must dry up now or I shall be asking you to do something else and you will be so annoyed with me.


So glad to hear that Betsy is not being choked with smoke any more.


Much love to you my darling,

& many kisses

Ever your

Arch; Divl.


F. Smith letter 31 May 1917

May 31st 17

Dear Father

I thought I would send you a few lines as I have plenty of time to spare at present. There is not very much news to tell you, but no doubt you are always pleased to hear from me.
First of all I am wondering what the news is; did you send last week’s Pictorial as I have not heard from you lately?
We are still in the same camp, & I don’t mind how much longer we stay here; there are no inhabitants living near so we do not get to hear much what is going on I expect you know more than we do.
I am going to ask you if you would mind sending me some money as I am broke at present. I could manage alright if we were paid regularly, but sometimes it goes over a week & as there are several canteens here & I am very fond of chocolate, biscuits, &c that accounts for the milk in the cocoanut; so if you would not mind sending me a 10/- note it will come through quite safe if it is registered it will be very welcome for emergencies.
How is Wood Green looking I suppose everything in the garden is coming on lovely? Are the streets lit up as of old I suppose you often go to the Empire &c?
Do you ever see anything of young Ramsey I have not written to him for a long time now.
Well I think I must finish now.
Hoping you are all enjoying the best of health glad to say I am tres bien

With much love from
Your devoted

Alf Smith post card 12 May 1917




To T. Smith Esq., 24 Palmerston Rd., Bowes Park London N 22 England.  Postmarked Field Post Office 68. 13 MY 17

I am quite well

I have received your ****

Letter follows at first opportunity


Signature only. A. Smith

Date May 12th 17

F Hammond letter 23 Jan 1915

Dear Mar & Pa
Just a line to let you know I received your Pars letter yesterday. Sorry to hear Mars not so well but hope she will be OK again ere you get this. I am practically free from my cold now just a little hanging on me. The weather is very wintry at present the ground being covered about 6 inches in snow and well frozen. We had a practice at football yesterday morning. Just the right thing for warming one’s blood up. Must congratulate Gladys on her smart performance and hope she will keep it up. Had a letter from Will the other day he seems to be up to the eyes in work. I also had a little letter from Geo saying he had been over on Leave. Believe he’s going rather strong over at Southport? I got the enclosure in your letter am wondering whether it is really worth bothering about seeing that I have left it so long and don’t think the war will last so very long now. Anyhow if you think I should you might mention it again in your next correspondence. Will doesn’t seems to forget Miss S. he mentioned her in his letter to me. It reminds me of the fellow who read his character at Blackpool. You’ll have to be very determined with this young man. Well I think this is about all this time just gogging along quietly. Just do what you think fit about the war Loan business.
Luv Fred.

Cover On Active Service FPO D? Ja 17. To E. Hammond, 9 Countess St. Stockport. Passed Field Censor 2812 Cachet Biro 23.11.17

Letter has been folded into four. Outside front quarter has been overwritten later. Shown in text in Bold

H.E. WITTY Dec 16

H.E. WITTY Dec 16


  1. Section



1st December 1916.  Friday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


2nd December 1916.  Saturday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


3rd December 1916.  Sunday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


4th December 1916.  Monday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


5th December 1916.  Tuesday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


6th December 1916.  Wednesday.  The page covering 30th November to 6th December is missing.


7th December 1916.  Thursday.  Off duty.  Nothing doing as usual.  Weather very little changed.  Marked improvement in rations. No Mail.


8th December 1916.  Friday.  On duty with A.A.  Langstone leaves for home duty tomorrow.  Very quiet day again.  No MAIL.  Coal ration from BAZENTIN.  Did Ford’s & Keywood’s correspondence.


9th December 1916.  Saturday.  Off duty.  Arrival of men from Eng. Had a lot to say.  Spent the time in bed.  Had a warm time with it.  Good mail.  Letters R., Ma, home (also pcl), May, Wally Taylor, Scott (also papers) and Hilda.  Ans with pcs.  Sent £2 to R. and 10/- home.


10th December 1916.  Sunday.  On duty with A.A.  Drizzling day.  Observation and visibility still very poor.  7 O.R. and Mr Tribe to go on leave morning of 12th.  NO MAIL.  Ans Yesterday’s Mail except R.s (to be sent later).  Very quiet day in all ways.


11th December 1916.  Monday.  Off duty.  Nice clear day – Much activity in the air.  Two HUN Planes brought down.  Leave postponed until 13th owing to congestion at HAVRE.  Bosches throws plenty of scrap iron over – NO MAIL.


12th December 1916.  Tuesday.  On duty again with A.A.  Candling returns ”Wonders of Blighty”.  Letters R. and Badge Pcl (Mrs. Harpson).  ANS.  Also wrote Frank re 1917 diary – Heavy rain with snow.  Prep of forward position.  Bottomley here yesterday.


13th December 1916.  Wednesday.  Off duty – in bed most of the day.  Fitted up a toaster on the Primus.  Wet day again – Very cold. NO MAIL.  Payne returns – missed the boat.


14th December 1916.  Thursday.  Nothing doing today.  Weather still continues cold and wet.  Dug-out very damp.  Cold a little better today.  Warned for O.P. tomorrow.  Hope it clears up.  Letters G. and Gilbert (to be answered 16th ).  Razor returned from LEEDS.  Continuous shelling of MAMETZ WOOD.


15th December 1916.  Friday.  At O.P. with Mr. Campbell.  Fine day, cold, with intermittent fog and rain.  Dug-out ‘a foot’ under water.  Some place.  A sudden rift in fog revealed a German train to left of LOUPART WOOD.  Disappeared before we could get the guns on to it.  Saw occasional Huns on Bapaume Road.  High Wood and vicinity of O.P. shelled with 5.9.  letter from R.  (ans by P.C.)


16th December 1916.  Saturday.  On duty with Shippen.  Still cold rainy and thick.  Very little activity.  Letter from Douglas and P.C. from Gilbert.  Frost to be made A.J.  Tate to return to gun.  Recommendation for B.S.M. (home Service) required.


17th December 1916.  Sunday.  Off duty.  Very little doing.  Four men to go on leave on 20th.  still cold and muggy.  Spent a good part of the day in bed.  Letters Mother, Frank and N.T.  answered 19th.


18th December 1916.  Monday.  Nothing doing.  “Western Water Carrier”.  12 petrol tins  ¾ of a mile. Phew!!  No rain but very thick.  Fritz throws his customary scrap iron into the wood.  Letters Doris and Kathie.  Papers (home).  Ans tomorrow.  Issue of Whale Oil for Frost Feet.  Sergt. Major’s inspection.


19th December 1916.  Tuesday.  On duty with Shippen – Very cold & frosty with snow.  Great improvement on the fog.  Fritz shells our neighbourhood with H.V 4.2.  pretty near the Amn Dump.  NO MAIL.  Coal hunting a speciality at BAZENTIN.


20th December 1916.  Wednesday.  Off duty.  Lovely sunny frosty day.  Saw about 50 planes up.  Fritz very busy with H.V.  LX in action C.B.  letters R. and Mr. Taylor.  P.C home.  Ans.  Knight and Cable return former very despondent.  Blighty ideas had adversely affected his morale.


21st December 1916.  Thursday.  Off duty.  Much rain and increase of mud.  Heavy shelling of the vicinity about 7.30 p.m.  “Knights’ Scare”.  Nothing doing otherwise.  NO MAIL.  “Coal raiding again”.  Gill returns.


22nd December 1916.  Friday.  On duty with Shippen.  Very clear day – but fickle weather.  Guns and planes very active.  Letters R. (Christmas Card), Taylor, ”Times”.  P.C. from Frank.  Letter from Scott.  ANS.  (R. with P.C.).


23rd December 1916.  Saturday.  Off duty.  Very little doing.  Procedure as usual.  Letters N.T., Mr. Woodthorpe (with Photo), Gilbert and papers home Ans with pcs.  Letters to be answered on Xmas day.  Shelling in Mametz Wood.

24th December 1916.  Sunday.  Walked up to Bazentin Canteen for grub.  Nothing doing.  Also coke picking.  Weather warm with a little sun.  NO MAIL.  Intermittent shelling.


25th December 1916.  Christmas Day. Monday.  Fine clear day.  Very high wind.  Splendid for observation.  On duty with Shippen.  Splendid feed for dinner.  Quite a “Christmassy air”.  Major’s neat speech in round of dug-outs.  No armistice.  Bosches shell High Wood heavily.  Papers Ma and “Times”.  Ans previous mail.


26th December 1916.  Boxing Day. Tuesday.  Shell fell in our vicinity last night.  Chiefly “duds”.  Off duty.  In bed as usual.  Very little doing. NO MAIL.  Wet and misty.


27th December 1916.  Wednesday.  Scouting for grub at the Canteens.  Very fine just like a warm summer day.  Mud chronic.  NO MAIL.  Three leaves come in.  ready for moving forward..  sent Renie’s letter off.


28th December 1916.  Thursday.  Cold clear frosty day.  Fritz drops 12” shells (firing from Achiet) near us.  Narrow shave for Calley and myself.  Shell very Flying Corps.   Good mail.  Letters R., Ma, Mother, Marshals C.C.C., Cards Mag and Mum.  Books from N.T.  Ans (30th).  Wrote Carter and C.C.C. re Gardening notes.  Shippen goes to”Signalling School”.


29th December 1916.  Friday.  At O.P. with Mr. Tribe.  Heard wonderful stories of ’The New England’ and “a sub’s experiences in London” most amusing.  Very dull and wet in morning but cleared in afternoon.  Saw numerous parties of Germans walking up the slopes and on the ’High Road’.  Also two officers on horseback.  Unable to fire on them owing to lines”DIS”.  NO MAIL.  Many shells (5.9) in the vicinity of O.P.  Awful sights now visible in High Wood neighbourhood the recent heavy rains having revealed the shapeless bodies and skeletons beneath the surface.  Erection of a great Cross in memory of 1st DIV officers and men.


30th December 1916.  Saturday.  On duty with Gill.  Very warm day but dull.  Nothing doing.  Had a bath while on night duty.  Letters (& pcl) from R., Home, Mrs. Hampson, Pc from Frank, (AW) & Gilbert.  Answered all correspondence.


31st December 1916.  Sunday.  Off duty. NO MAIL.  Warm but foggy.  Repairing telephone dug-out side of which collapsed last night. Had a good bath.  End of 1916, a year of triumphs and failures!  Where will the new year lead us?  Surely to Victory.  Instinct seems to tell me that this is our last Winter Campaign.  Will Christmas 1917 find me at home?  I feel deeply grateful that I have been spared through this year and have endured successfully the exposures, dangers and hardships active service entails.  Here’s to a quick ending and a speedy re-union with my beloved wife.  Written in my dug-out BAZENTIN.

Summary of Year’s Mail

Letters Pcls  Pcs  Papers  R.      Home

472    64    37        67   109      99.




On back cover of diary: – Mrs. Hampson, Groveside, Westhoughton, Bolton.


Pte. H. G. Witty 37735 33rd I.B.D. 3rd West Yorks.  A.P.O. Section 17 B.E.F.



  1. W. Taylor, 153863 B Section No 4 Motor Amb Convoy B.E.F.


Private Arthur R. Witty, 33613, Block 29/B, 27th Company, 19th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, Gefangenenlager Dulmen i. W. GERMANY  Prisoner of War.


War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Dec 1916

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne




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




DECEMBER 2, 1916.

I have just finished two days and nights in the trenches. It was not pleasant as it was so cold.  I went out to tea yesterday with the Sappers.  We had ration bread, jam and tea, and a very stale cake; but company was good.  I had dinner with some Australians.  Tonight I go to dinner with another battery, and I take some very particular records with me.  It is Saturday night again.  I have a record of the “Happy Day.”


December 5, 1916.


The German aeroplanes did not worry you I am glad to hear. I hope they will leave you alone now for you have had quite enough where you are.

The crisis in government circles, whatever that means, is amusing reading. I hope good will come of it.  Certainly I wish they would kick out Asquith, and I should much like to see Carson and Balfour given the whole job of running the show with Jellicoe and Robertson, now that Kitchener has gone.

The weather has been very cold here, and much too misty for good observation. The Boche is still here.  However the time is galloping along to next spring, when we hope to do the Hun in this time if we have any men to do it.  Leaders as well as fighting troops.

We are trying to arrange something for the men at Christmas, but it is difficult to know what to do. We shall probably be having some strafe ordered by the “Brass Hats”, who will sit with their feet on the dinner table in their chateaux, and say afterwards, “Oh! Good show”, or more probably “Oh! Dashed bad show, the troops are inefficient.”


(This letter had the red label attached to it on arrival containing the words “Examined by Base Censor.)


DECEMBER 5, 1916.

Two miserable mailless days were followed by the arrival of a large bag.

A gas alarm tonight, but there was nothing in it.

I get the Times a day late for 30 centimes.





We played bridge, and lost hopelessly. We have had two gas alarms tonight but nothing came of it.



December 8, 1916.


We had a large mail tonight.

The battery is still in the same place and fairly busy. It is cold and wet today.  I have been away all day at Ordnance with a gun which needs repairing.

I am glad to see that Asquith has gone. I hope there will be an alteration now, but I do not trust Lloyd George.  I sincerely hope Carson will be one of the “three”.  We cannot do without him.  He is an honest man.

The men are getting away on leave pretty rapidly now I am glad to say.


DECEMBER 8, 1916.

Friday night.

The greater the hell the greater the heaven! What a good there must be coming for some of us.  I have been reading William J. Locke’s “Beloved Vagabond” I don’t know why.  For lack of something else better to do I suppose.

The weather is beastly. The mud is simply appalling.  The Pave is bad enough, but they are infinitely better than the unmetalled roads.


DECEMBER 11, 1916.

We have been busy the last two days. The Boche has been much more active.  It is still very cold and wet.  I am sorry to hear about poor Gordon Nicholls.


DECEMBER 14, 1916.

At the present time I am attached to another battery, as its battery commander is away; but I expect to return to my own unit tomorrow.

Yesterday one of the best fellows I know, Cheadle by name, who is in a Trench Mortar Battery, called in to see me on his way up to the front line. He seemed very cheery about his job.  Then I went to our O.P., and a short while after on orderly came for me and said that an officer who was badly wounded wanted to see me in the Dressing Station.  I hurried there at once, and found the poor fellow on a stretcher badly knocked about.  I do hope he pulls through alright.  All the best fellows seem to go.  It is at times like these that one realises what the war means.  A friend killed or smashed up close by makes it a personal matter, which cannot be ignored.  At other times, when strangers or those to whom one is indifferent go down it does not make such an impression.  Then we do not take so much notice, and perhaps it is just as well that we don’t, it would be too exhausting.  The dead one can ignore if it is a stranger.  The wounded are generally so quickly carried away that those who remain do not come into contact with the results shell or rifle fire unless actually called to the Dressing Station.  He is the third officer who has been with me in the battery who have gone down.  Two were killed, and now he is wounded.  They were three of the best fellows we ever had in the Brigade.

It does not seem at all like Christmas out here. Such incidents make one rather sad, and to wonder if all the best are bound to be killed.  Why are not the rotters taken?  I suppose because they all look after themselves so well.



DECEMBER 16, 1916.

So my last letter was censored at the Base, but nothing was cut out. Christmas letters and parcels are arriving.

At present I am a semi-invalid, having been inoculated with anti-typhoid injection. My arm is very stiff.

They have turned on the gramophone again, and are playing rag-times, such old ones too. I hope the men break them at their Christmas concert.  We are giving them pork, Christmas pudding and beer.


DECEMBER 22, 1916.

Trench philosophy. There are only two requisites for the  “good life”, heart and health.  The only other condition that may help is independence.

The weather has been very bad here lately. It has been blowing and raining hard.  Colonial troops do not like it at all, and neither do we from England for that matter.

The air is full of peace now. It would be the height of folly and wickedness to listen to the Hun in the present state of the war.  No one wishes the war to be over more than I do, but I could not stick that.  Peace talk usually comes from those at home, who should be safe enough; but I suppose they are anxious for their money bags.  I have a vague recollection of hearing something about where your treasure is there is your heart also.

I shall spend Christmas night in the trenches as it is my turn for that duty. However it might be worse.  The Somme or even Ypres.

The gramophone is blaring out, “Happy Day”, “Oh! For a night in Bohemia”.  Why Bohemia? Blighty would be good enough.  At any rate as a change from the muddy plains of Flanders.

Some one has said that Victoria is the Gate of Heaven.  But it all depends on which way one approaches it.




So many thanks for the puddings, walnuts, dates, fruits and other excellent things, which all arrived in good condition. Last night I had a large mail, seven letters and three parcels.  It is all very good of everybody.

We have had some snow, but today is wet and windy, so unlike the conventional Christmas.

This is Christmas Day it is my turn for the O.P. during the afternoon and evening, so I am having a comparatively easy morning in charge of the gun-line. As we were up most of last night we are not as fresh as we might be.

What do you think of our Division’s Christmas cards? They were designed by a man in our Ammunition Column, and will serve as a reminder of the events of this year.



DECEMBER 25, 1916.

I had a large mail last night, three parcels and seven letters. They made it feel a little more like Christmas time.  It is a horrid wet and windy day, not fine and cold as it should be.  I am for the Observation Post this afternoon, and the trenches tonight.  We were up most of last night so we feel a bit off colour this morning, and our tempers are not of the best.  You will be in church now I suppose.  There will be no church for us.  We are becoming heathen.  There was a most amusing chaplain in the trenches last night.  He was helping the doctor attend to the wounded.  Nevertheless he was extraordinarily cheerful, and most refreshing.  He has not been out here more than a few days, but he has tumbled to it very quickly.

Our turkeys have not arrived yet. I expect they will walk here when they do.  Though the  A.S.C. gentry at the base have eaten them for us.  They are sometimes so obliging.

I must close have an early lunch and go to the O.P.


DECEMBER 28, 1916.

We had a merry Christmas. Eatables were received from various homes.  We received three large turkeys, a brace of pheasants, a ”Cheshire cheese” lark pie, six plum puddings and sundry other things.  The cake I kept until Christmas Day, when it was opened, and I found some holly.  How thoughtful of you.

The weather has not been too good. Today has been frosty but not fine.  The O.P. is not interesting in this thick weather.  I am keeping horribly healthy.  I should like a short time as an invalid somewhere else as long as I did not feel too ill.







Alf Smith’s letter 29 Dec 1916


No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich


Dec 29th 16


Dear Father

I thought I would let you know that I shall not get any Xmas leave, week-end passes are also stopped. We asked the Captain about it yesterday & he told us that only 10% of the company were allowed to go.  There are a lot absent already, & they are going the right way to make a lot more chaps bunk off the prison is already full up; but never mind roll on the time when and the war is over that will be the best news.

Well how did you spend Xmas I hope you had a happy time? We had a farely good time considering; for dinner we had roast beef, pork, vegetables, a small piece of pudding, fruit & cigarettes; the pies would have been alright but the mince-meat was missing.  I went to the Y.M. in the evening it was not so bad everything was free.

I think I have nearly come to the end of the news now, so I wish you all a very happy New Year & that it will be much brighter for everybody than this has been.

I hope you are all in the best of health.

With much love to Jess, Ethel & Winnie, & yourself

Au revoir

Your devoted


P.S.      please remember me to Mr. & Mrs. Warman & Lilian & wish them the compliments of the season.  I hope they are quite well.