A.A. Laporte Payne letter 14 December 1916.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 14 December 1916.



Dec 14th 1916


Another day must not be allowed to go by without a line from me, although you know that no moment of my existence is without its thought for you however busy I may be. 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.


Your letter of the 9th has just arrived.  Thank you so much for it.  I was longing for one to arrive.  You must have been writing it when I was thinking particularly of you.  I think I told you in my last note what I was doing on that night.  I am very sorry to hear Mrs. Cross is so unwell again.  I do hope she is better now, and you too.  What have you been doing to make your lips crack?  It sounds very suspicious.  I am all sympathy but you see I don’t know what it is like to have a cracked lip!  However be more careful in future.  Further, madam, don’t you think it time to mend you ways?  Lunching out again with another fellow!  However being an offender myself I can’t preach – I have faint recollections of dragging you out – and I certainly must not be a ‘dog in the manger’ of the worst possible type.


What an appalling person I must have been to be so rude to you so often. I wonder you put up with it at all.  Surely I could never have called you ‘thick headed’.  I wonder what remark I made about your cracked lips that time.


Yesterday one of the best fellows I know – Cheadle by name with 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 up to the O.P. and a short time afterwards an orderly came for me and said that an officer who was badly wounded wanted to see me in the Dressing Station.  I went there and found the poor boy on a stretcher badly knocked about.  I do hope he pulls through alright.  It is awful.  All the best fellows seem to go.  I don’t know why I tell you these horrors but it created such an impression on my mind and I must tell someone and who better than you.  You see we don’t notice these things much – the dead you take no notice of and the wounded generally are so quickly cleared away that those who remain don’t come in contact with the results of a war unless actually called to the dressing station.  He is the third officer who has been with me in the battery.  The other two were killed.  They were without exception the best fellows we ever had in the Brigade.


I have told Maude to give you two photos. I hope you don’t mind.  You can have either or both, I told her that ‘the Crosses had asked for one’ – which was inaccurate and unkind – but still I am like that.  Please forgive.  If you won’t, tell Maude you didn’t and don’t want one.


It does not seem at all like Christmas out here. I hope it is better in London. England seems to be bucking up a bit.  It’s about time.


With all my love, darling, and forgive my fooling in this and previous letters.

Always yours


Letter to Rev. R.M. Laporte Payne 10 Dec 1916

Letter to Rev. R.M. Laporte Payne 10 Dec 1916


2 Clifton Villas

South Road Herne Bay

10 Dec 1916


My dear Vicar,


I am sorry there was not time to run in before we left y’day – also that I was not in when you called on Friday night – to thank you for your great kindness in arranging for our visit here, and for your exceedingly generous help in all ways – but I hope to see you early in the week.  We really don’t know how to thank you enough – the visit has already done us both good and Mrs Abson asks me to state that it is all a great treat for her.  Here, at Mrs. Harnett’s is the acme of homely comfort – from breakfast to bed-time.  We arrived here just before 1 o’clock, when Mrs Harnett prepared a nice little lunch – then we went to see Stanley – the V.A.D. Hospital, Druid Park is only 5 minutes walk from here – 4 or 5 turnings higher up High Street, after South Road – we are pleased, and deeply grateful to find our boy in splendid condition – in fact his wounds have actually improved his personal appearance! For the hole through his cheek has left just a dimple, and his nose, after being tightly bandaged for a fortnight – now has a nice Roman Curve! – some ladies pay money to have that achieved – there is just a kind of red scratch left on it – which we hope will always show – there is no mistaking the dimple – we all went round to see Mr. & Mrs Ridout last evening (by the way it was then we learned to what extra trouble you went to your kind endeavours to make us comfortable here).  They are both exceedingly nice, and at once said that Stanley was welcome to use their room upstairs for rest reading at any time, and have specially invited him to tea next Thursday.  This morning we all went to the Parish Church – where Mr Graves, the curate, preached a splendid sermon, for “Bible Sunday” from “Heaven and Earth shall pass away etc”.


I afterwards made myself Kenworth the Organist, also to the tenor chorister who occupies the corresponding place in the Choir to my place at Christ Church – with the result that I am going to help in the Choir tonight.  Tomorrow morning we may go over to Canterbury to visit my sister-in-law, and expect to leave for London in the evening – I can’t stay longer – there is so much to do at business between now & the end of the year.  With kind regards to yourself and Mrs Payne, in which Mrs Abson & Stanley join me, and again expressing our thanks –

I am yours faithfully

Mr P. Abson


P.S. Mrs Harnett wishes to be kindly remembered to you.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 5th December 1916

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 5th December 1916




Dec 5th 1916


Muriel dearest,


Two mailless days followed by one in which we received a lovely big bag brought me two together from you. I was in the courtyard of our medieval chateau when the mess cart arrived at dusk.  I had the mail out in no time and I sorted it out myself in the dim banqueting hall of the Left Section with the help of a candle, a sergeant and two gunners.  Your loved and familiar handwriting was soon recognised and then another (of your, I mean) made me more than happy.  I had to keep them until after tea when I could read them in peace and a certain amount of comfort by the fire in the mess.


Now what on earth is worrying you? The first page was filled with assertions of your ‘rottenness’!  You say “I am sure you wouldn’t like me if you knew my real self”.  Well tell me what you are really like and see!  You must be a terrible person.  Tell me all about it if you want to; but if you don’t want to I don’t wish to hear.  I hope I shall survive in either case.  Are you afraid of being a fallen idol?  But I am sure it is all imagination on your part.  If you talk about your being unworthy of my love and all that sort of rot you will drive me frantic, knowing as I do who is the unworthy one.  Shall we guarded about it?


You were annoyed because I was so nice to Mrs. Cross and did not take any notice of you! Oh! You little child! Oh Yes, I see is that it?  You were piqued and determined to make another conquest.  Is that all?  Perhaps that is what you want to tell me.


Another grouse “He felt he ought to tell me just as strongly as you felt you ought not”. He succeeded.  I failed.  Thank you.  It is difficult to explain another person’s point of view!  Still I fail to see why he felt he “ought to”.  I must be talking in the finer sense.  I still think he was impertinent.


Still another grouse! If you want to write don’t let me stop you.  Seriously you will never be able to write too many or too much for me.


Lastly (I can’t write any more with that horrible pen) how polite you are! You won’t have any difficulty in seeing me furiously angry if you see me for any length of time !!  Thank you.  I quite see that my company for any length of time is quite liable to make anyone furious.


Now, having made myself most disagreeable I will try and be nicer. Try!  I do love ragging you (I was going to say something else but it would have been rude).  You are adorable when annoyed.  I can imagine a delightful little snort after each silly remark I have just made.  And for each snort I would have a kiss to the nth.


You darling, thank you so much for your good wishes. Who told you it was my birthday?


I shall have to speak severely to someone. It always has been a great secret because I hate anyone asking my awful age.


I have been writing letters to night my correspondence had been sadly neglected lately. I have left yours till last, as I always open your letters last.  I get the disagreeable things done first.


It is now 1 a.m. – delightful hour! I wish you were here all alone with me.  Oh! Yes I would behave.  I would sit on one side of the fire and you on the other.


What delightful letters you write. Perfectly written and no mistakes.  Mine make me ashamed in comparison.  Please forgive all mistakes and blots.  I am losing all power of coherent thought and expression.


This day last week I started to write to you and this is what I wrote:

Tuesday, Last night was, I believe, Monday night. What were you doing?  You know the saying “Lucky at cards, unlucky in love”.  Well I was playing picquet with the Captain and won most hopelessly.  Perhaps it was because you were angry with me for that frightfully rude and unkind letter I wrote.  Perhaps not.  No doubt you will punish me with empty mail bags.  My anxiety for the arrival of the mess cart must be causing the battery some amusement.


Wednesday night. My extraordinary luck at cards was worse last night.  I won again and my spirits have fallen correspondingly as is shown in my inability to write anything until I hear from you.  Three times I have attempted to write but have given it up in despair.


Tonight I played bridge and lost beautifully. Hurrah.  Once I was doubled and was five shy in Royals (not hearts).  It is, I hope, a good omen.


No doubt you are fast asleep now – sleeping the sleep of the just (whatever that may be).


We have had two gas alarms tonight; but nothing came of it. I might have some luck one day and get a nice ‘Blighty’ if you know what that means.  I should ask all the fair ladies of my acquaintance to push me about in a bath chair.  They are so numerous I should have a delightful time – there are I think – one!  Only one. (That’s good grammar).  This is not a nice letter I know.  I am flippant and silly tonight because I am a bit gloomy.  I was wondering when I am going to see you again.


Now I must shut up and go to my blankets (it can’t be called a bed)

I am,

dear Miss Cross,

Yours always



(well you put it)




Alf Smith postcard 3 Dec 1916


Postcard to T. Smith Esq., 24 Palmerstone Rd., Bowes Park, London. N

Pte. A Smith

No 27521

3rd Batt Essex Regt ‘G’ Coy

Att: 27th Training Reserve



Undated. Postmark 3 De 16


Dear Father

I had a letter from my friend in France, he said he has sent things that I left behind, & his wife will forward them to you.  Do not send them on here as it will do when I come up if you will bring them along to Southend.  Please let me know when you get them as I would like to send him a few cigarettes in return.




No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich


Dec 19th 16


Dear Father


I thought I would let you know that I am not home again yet; it was all a blooming catch like everything connected with the government.

The passes were supposed to have come through; & at the last moment they were all stopped I don’t know why it was at all.  I may go this week but I think it will most likely be after Xmas now.  They are going to send the men that were at the front last Xmas so that they will have it at home this year of course that is only fair.

I should very much like to have a parcel especially if I am here for the holiday but it is no use to send it until I know definitely when I am going.

I hope you are feeling better now; glad to say I am alright except for a cold but that is not to be wondered at considering the weather.  We had our usual route march to-day we have one every Tuesday, the dinner is cooked in a field it came on to snow just as it was ready what with the meat being tough & hands cold it wanted a bit of carving.

I saw by the papers you had a heavy fall of snow in North London.  The war news looks much better lately I hope it will continue so.  I had a letter from Albert to-day.

I hope Jess, Ethel & Winnie are quite well


With much love

From your devoted




Pte. A. Smith letter 2 Dec 1916

No 27521

Pte. A. Smith

3rd Essex Regt

Att 27th Training Reserve

“G” Company

Parkeston Harwich


Dec 2nd 16


Dear Father


Thank you very much for your parcel received this afternoon.  I was looking forward to it coming; it is a very nice cake & the jelly & paste will be tres bon for lunch or supper all the things are very nice.

Well Dad how is everything going I hope you are quite well?  Pleased to say I am A1 & settled down to the army again now.  We are having a farely good time considering, it is very cold out in the fields drilling but we have a comfortable billet a good fire every evening.  I don’t know how long they will let us stop here but I think we are safe for a while.

You will notice I have given you the army address this time the letters etc come through alright, but the postmen make a fuss about having to deliver each one separate so it will be better in future to direct them to the Regiment.

I hope Jess, Ethel & Winnie are quite well I will write to them the first opportunity but I have been writing about two letters each day I cannot get level with them yet.

I am looking forward to seeing you soon I think it is farely certain we get six days either before or after Xmas.

Well I think I must finish now.


With much love to you all

From your devoted



A.A. Laporte Payne letter 2 December 1916

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 2 December 1916



Dec 2 1916


Muriel Mine,


Haven’t you received my last three letters? Oh! Oh! & Oh!  I wrote in reply to your ‘ordinary’ letter – it was a horrid letter – mine I mean – then I wrote again saying how sorry I was I wrote as I did.  Then in answer to your letter of Nov 22nd I wrote again.  Haven’t you received any of these?


I have been perfectly miserable the last eight days because I had not heard from you and made sure that I had offended you in some way. I know I give numerous occasions for offence.  Everything has been going wrong and if I had not heard from you I don’t know what I should have done.  I have longed to hear from you – so very much – and I am happy now although your letter was short and rather ‘cold’ but I don’t wonder.  Heavens! What could you have thought of my silence!  Where can those letters have gone to?  Mails of course do get lost or destroyed sometimes – but why three in succession?  And why those three of all.  Please let me know if you have got them now.  I wrote in my last to thank you so much for the photo and the box of cigarettes.  I know I posted my first before Nov 21st and your letter comes to me dated the 28th.


This loss or delay is most annoying.


You are I know frightfully busy but if you can, darling, let me have even a p.c. or a line to let me know how you are faring. I don’t want another week like this.  I was so afraid that you were angry with me or did not want me to write so often that I did not dare write again until I heard from you.


If you don’t hear from me in reasonable time you will know that something has prevented me and it was quite impossible or the posts have gone wrong.


I think I must number my letters so that I can find out if one goes astray.


You have guessed right, I think about my feelings when I tossed the half-penny in the garden. It was the old struggle only worse between what ‘I want’ and what ‘I ought to do’.  Tails – luckily for you then, had it.


You were not writing in gasps because of the cold morning were you? You were secretly annoyed with me for not writing.  I know what I should have felt.  You are a darling and most forgiving to write again.


Christmas will be very strange this year – perfectly horrid. I shan’t have a chance of seeing you.  But I don’t want anything from anybody – only you whom I can’t, but I should like a really nice letter from you and don’t be so restrained in your Christmas letter please.


I am so sorry to hear that Mrs. Cross is starting a cold – or rather was. I do hope she is better now – and you too.  I hope you are keeping well.  You never say anything about yourself.


What a compliment old Swinly paid me.  I too am very glad I am hot.  That sounds rude doesn’t it?  You’re hotter.  There is one sentence in your letter which I enjoyed reading more than anything else.  I will leave you to guess which it was.


I am afraid this letter is rather formal but it is probably the effect of my letters going astray. I hate the thought of letters to you getting lost.


When you write again please leave out the division.


The weather has been truly awful. It has been horribly cold here.  I have just finished my two days and nights in the trenches.  It was not pleasant down there last night.


How has the photo turned out? I am longing to get one.


Have you been to see Reg lately? I heard from him the other day.  I hope Humphrey entertained you well at tea the other day.  I went out to tea yesterday with the Sappers – we had ration bread, jam & tea and a very stale cake – but company was good.  I had dinner with some Australians.


I am going out to dinner to night with another battery and I am to take some very particular records with me. We must try and be cheerful sometimes.  It is Saturday night again.  At 8.30 p.m. I shall drink a very special toast.


I have bought a record of the ‘Happy Day’. It was the end of a glorious week for me.  Ages ago it seems now.  The worst of a good time is the end – so dreaded that it comes all the quicker.


I must close now as I have some returns to get off,


With all my love, darling,







Midshipman’s Journal T.N.B. Cree R.N. 1 Dec 1916

Midshipman’s Journal T.N.B. Cree R.N.


Operations in Athens Dec 1st 1916


The party landed.        Our party left the ‘Exmouth’ for the tug which was to take us in, at about 1 A.M. and after a little delay we got under weigh.  There were about four hundred of us all told.  Hundred marines from both Duncan and Exmouth and a hundred seamen from each ship and of course a stretcher party from each ship.

It was a bitterly cold night and there was a fresh breeze blowing. I wandered about the boat deck trying to find a comfortable sleeping billet.  Most places were either red hot or ice cold.  However eventually I found a billet behind a searchlight and after struggling into the best position in which my bloodthirsty accoutrements hurt least, I slept.  I was woken up periodically by steam whistles and sirens, for we were doing our best to sink a French transport and ram the boom defence alternately, but nevertheless got a certain amount of rest.


Disembarkation           About 2.30, as far as I can tell, we got alongside grain wharf in Piraeus.  Now we had to stir ourselves again and start humping our gear out of the tug.  I left my ‘cosy’ billet without a pang of regret and joined the confused throng.  There passed a few minutes of uproar during which everybody seemed to be calling out section numbers.  ‘Stiffs’ were shouting out orders and cancelling them a few minutes later.  Fierce altercations were going on about the possession of a rifle or the sudden disappearance of a blanket.  However eventually we quit the ship and fell in on the road at the end of the quay.  After a wait of about twenty minutes we started on our tedious march to the capital.  This was about 3.15 A.M.


March to Athens         We took a roundabout route through Piraeus and round the head of Phalerum Bay and them straight in land.  We were halted many times to wait while Greek Guides (?) went ahead to see if there were any ambushes.  The journey was quite uneventful however and extremely boring.  I kept myself fortified by a number of hard boiled eggs which I had shovelled like peas into my knapsack before starting.

About half way there the marines and some Frenchmen broke off to the right. Their objective was a powder factory.

It was getting light about 6 A.M. and this was where we first had any signs of opposition.


Signs of hostility.        There were a couple of French ‘matelot’ companies ahead of us and just as we were arriving abreast of some hill they turned to the left and opened into skirmishing order.  We held on for a bit and then stopped and rested.  We saw a most ludicrous sight, the fat froggies worming their way on their bread baskets up a hill on the summit of which was a solitary man dressed in a blanket and skull cap holding one of Adam’s Mark I rifles.  He had I believe four or five men in support but he fell in with the ideas of the bread basket brigade and so all was well.  We proceeded.  We had another short halt while the French began their attack on Philopappos Hill.  But after a bit we proceeded and eventually arrived at the Zappeion at about 8.A.M.


Occupation of the Zappeion.  After the hands had settled down, those of the officers wanting breakfast, a good one, proceeded to Athens.  Us poor subs scraping 7 ½ d between us decided it was not worth while the walk.  About 8.30 Admiral [Dartige Du] Fournet arrived in a car and as he stepped out a maxim opened fire on him, much to his disgust.  Two seamen were knocked out.  They were rather badly wounded.  This marked the commencement of the desultory firing and sniping that continued all day.  They shot our poor old transport horses that were out in the square but that was not a great loss.  About this time our Gunnery Lieut strolled in at the main door.  The French flocked round in and dragged him in telling him of the recent occurrences.  However the Greeks had not attempted to shoot him although he had walked right through them blissfully unaware of the state of affairs.

I am rather hazy about the next few hours for I slept until midday. But by then things were getting a trifle more interesting.  The French V.A. was still unable to get away and the Greeks were making more noise.


1st Attack        Eventually, at about 4.30, tho’ I am uncertain about time, the Greeks made what might be called an attack.  There certainly was for a period of a quarter of an hour, quite heavy rifle fire, and the glass and masonry of their magnificent building suffered considerably.  But as they never stirred from the bushes we never replied to their fusillade.


Preparations for Defence.       When they tired of their game, we started to prepare the place for proper defence.  Hitherto the French, who were nominally running the show, had not bothered their heads about this.  But at the instigation of the Gunnery Lt. we got a move on.  The barricades &c. were built up as in sketch by means of “reapers and binders” “corn making machines” and other agricultural weapons.  The barricades round the circular court were of boxes of surgical cotton wool.

The plan of defence was as follows. The two wing rooms were held by Exmouth and Duncan seamen.  The middle rooms by French matelots.  The two passages by Exmouth and Duncan seamen.  The front door by French with maxim, the back door Exmouth’s with maxim.

The windows all round the building were high up but one had in every case something to rest on. Living rooms, wardrobes; passages exhibit shelves &c.


Plans for Defence.      In the event of an entry by:-   Unguarded rooms in either wing, they were to have been shot down as much as possible while passing thro’ the reapers and binders and the as soon as they were thro’ that they and twenty grinning sailors with bayonets fixed to push them back again should they have proved too numerous we were to have gradually filed out through the barricade and when all through hold the barricade as long as possible assisted by those in the passage.  When that got too hot to hold back we went behind the next barricade and then work round clockwise barricade by barricade until we came up with the maxim party.  If we could not stand then we would all work on round till we are joined with people in the opposite wing.  Similarly the French Maxim party would have to work round to this wing.  We would then retire barricade by barricade until there were either no Greek, no barricade or no us left.  There would doubtless have been ‘some’ bloodshed.

However it was not required.


2nd Attack.       The Greeks attacked again in half an hour’s time from the first.  This was some more furious firing than the first.  So much so that we had cause to fire a round at them in return.  Nevertheless nothing further developed.  We then had to settle down for a disturbed evening and night.  We knew there were a matter of some say 11,000 some say 18,000 Greeks all round us  they had reserves of roughly 150,000 so it was rather hideous for 400 to sit tight in there.  But there was no alternative.  We simply had to wait and wait for the attack which was inevitable and which inevitably developed rather seriously for us because at night they could come within 30 yds and not be seen.


Field guns and fleet get to work.        About 6.30 (again not certain) we heard the bark of a field gun and the rumble as it exploded in position marked on sketch.  Of course actually the rumble came first.  This properly fixed us if they intended to knock our happy little house to bits.  However we heard shortly afterwards a far greater rumble as a 9.2” exploded in the direction of the King’s palace.  The field gun fired one more round and packed up.  The 9.2” fired three more and then packed up.  Shortly after the last round a car came round to the main door and an embassy came from Tuis.  He was dragged inside and a conference held.  This was of course prolonged as much as possible to gain time and leave us as little time as possible to defend the place before the relief force arrived.


The conference.           Tuis, however, did not like having his Kitchens bombarded and so after much parleying a form of truce was arranged.  However we spent the night in some agitation but it passed uneventfully, tho’ we could see the Greeks stalking about in the shadows outside.

The forenoon passed uneventfully for us tho’ there was a duel going on outside between Venizelists in the stadium and Royalists outside the Zappeion.


The return.       In the afternoon we returned to Piraeus with a Greek escort to prevent scrapping breaking out.  Nevertheless we did not trust them but ostentatiously mounted our maxim in the cart and manned it.

We arrived at Piraeus in the evening and at first were to have remained ashore to guard Piraeus that however was cancelled and so ended the most amusing farce.




War Diary 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade November 1916



For the Month of NOVEMBER 1916






1-11-16           The 32nd Battery was forced to vacate battery positions temporarily this afternoon, due to heavy shelling.  This is the second time this has occurred within a few days.  Hostile balloons have been coming up in larger numbers lately, and hostile planes are becoming more active and daring.  Today a plane fired with M.G. at 32nd O.P. from a height of about 100 yards and later brought down one of our planes.


2-11-16          Rain and poor visibility in the morning.  In the afternoon, clear; many hostile balloons and planes up.  Another of our planes was brought down by a hostile plane about M.19.d.9.8. POZIERES-LE-SARS ROAD was heavily shelled in the afternoon, with 8-inch, and although 600 yards or more away, the splinters passed over us in large numbers.


  • Clear day. Hostile balloons and aeroplanes were up almost continuously. Another of our planes was brought down this afternoon.


4-11-16           Fairly quiet day; hostile shelling much less than usual.  Our batteries began harassing fire on REGINA TRENCH and BELOW TRENCH, firing 50 rounds per day each for the task.


  • Wire cutting carried on as usual; also harassing fire. Very little hostile shelling. Visibility good, and hostile balloons up all day.


  • Dull day, but hostile balloons were up nearly all day. The projected advance is now planned for Novr. 9th. Weather is the doubtful factor.


  • Rainy day, with poor observation and little firing. Operations are now postponed indefinitely.

At 10.30 p.m. last night we engaged and silenced a 4.2 battery at G.28.d.4.1. which was persistently shelling our front line, causing many casualties.


  • Quite a number of working parties were fired upon and dispersed by our batteries today.


  • Our Howitzer battery bombarded a part of REGINA TRENCH from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. Otherwise the day was quiet. Orders have been received to bring up all ammunition from Wagon Lines.  Weather is better and further operations may be possible.


  • From 5.30 to 6.00 a.m. our three 18-pdr batteries bombarded the new trench running from M.9.c.1.2. to M.8.d.2-2/4.3. Our Howitzer battery again bombarded REGINA TRENCH between PRACTICE ROAD and FARMER ROAD, and the 18-pdr batteries are again cutting wire. The infantry are proposing to take REGINA Trench tonight.


  • The attack last night was a great success. The 10th and 11th Infy. Bdes. Took the trench from FARMER ROAD to our previous stop at M.13.b.7.3. Artillery barrage reported splendid.  Hostile retaliation weak.


  • Hostile shelling has been heavy today, and we retaliated on sensitive points in enemy’s lines.


  • Last night was very quiet. Visibility today has been impossible owing to fog. Some hostile shelling to which we retaliated.


  • Brigade area was heavily shelled last night, several hundred rounds, mostly 77 m.m. shrapnel being directed at us. Day foggy and quiet.


  • There was the usual intermittent shelling during last night. The day has again been so foggy as to make observation impossible. Clear in the evening, when a large number of hostile gun flashes were picked up.


  • A clear day with good visibility and a great deal of aeroplane activity. Our guns successfully engaged a number of aeroplane targets.


  • Another clear day, with consequent increased artillery activity on both sides. The brigade area was heavily shelled at intervals, especially between 4 and 5 p.m. when between 75 and 80 5.9s were dropped in the vicinity of our brigade headquarters.


  • In conjunction with the advance by V Corps on the left, our Infantry in this zone attempted to take DESIRE SUPPORT Trench this morning, but with only partial success. The Germans still have a number of blocks which we have not been able to get, and we have been keeping up a barrage on PRACTICE ROAD all day to prevent them bringing up reinforcements.


  • The barrage on PRACTICE ROAD was kept up throughout last night and all day today except for a short time in the afternoon when visibility was good and the area could be kept under observation.


  • A clear day with good observation; a number of aeroplane targets were engaged, as well as a number of opportunity targets in the form of working parties.


  • Today has been foggy and quiet, except from 4.45 to 5.45 p.m. when there was a heavy hostile bombardment on the left spreading to our zone. Our batteries placed the zone under a slow rate of fire.


  • Visibility has again been very poor, with consequent little activity. Information has been received that we are to be withdrawn shortly.


  • 3rdD.A. O.O. No 39 received at midnight last night giving instructions for withdrawal of our batteries by sections tonight and tomorrow night. We are not being relieved by any other unit.  The first sections were reported clear at 7.45 p.m.


  • The batteries all reported clear of their positions at 5 p.m. and Bde Hdqrs was then withdrawn to wagon lines.



  • The day was spent at wagon lines making preparations for the route march tomorrow.


26th to 28th       Route march ALBERT to ACQ  the first day’s march was very heavy with steady rain all day.  The weather was fine for the remainder of the trip.



  • The 9th Brigade is to relieve the 282nd Brigade R.F.A. in a position just north of ARRAS. The first section were reported in position at 6 p.m.




30-11-16                   The remaining sections completed the relief at 6 p.m. tonight. This brigade, with the addition of one howitzer battery (35th) from the 8th Bde is now the ”Right Group”.



Lieut. Col.

Comdg. 9th Brigade C.F.A.



December 1916

December 1916


On the 15th December 1916, the French began the Second Offensive for the Battle of the Verdun after a six-day artillery bombardment, advancing 3km beyond Fort Douaumont. Four divisions of the French Army were up against five divisions of the under-strength German Army. The German defence collapsed and 13,500 of the 21,000 of their infantry were lost, 11,500 having been taken prisoner. The offensive ended on the 17th December 1916 with the Germans finally accepting defeat at the Battle of Verdun on the 18th December 1916, and the French retrieving the territory they had lost in February 1916. When German officers complained to the French commanders about their lack of comfort in captivity, the reply was “We do regret it gentlemen, but then we did not expect so many of you”.

Having captured and destroyed 115 guns and 9,000 prisoners the French had pushed the Germans back to their original start line. The battle had lasted from February to December 1916 and was the longest single battle of the Great War. The French suffered 550,000 casualties and the Germans 434.000, with each side having approximately 60,000 killed. Tactical values of strategical advantage had not been gained by either side. For the French the Battle of Verdun was an iconic battle as they fought the Germans without Allied assistance. However, the Battle of the Somme and the Brusilov Offensive proved to be a great asset as they both drew German forces away from the Verdun battlefield thereby relieving the pressure on the French army.


The Balkans

During the Romanian Campaign, the Central Powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary had pushed the Romanian army toward their capital Bucharest. On the 1st December 1916, the Romanians halted their retreat east of the Arges River. They counter-attacked along the 20km wide gap between the two advancing armies and captured thousands of prisoners and large quantities of military equipment. The Central Powers were almost encircled by the Romanians but last minute intervention by Turkish Infantry on 2nd December 1916 was sufficient to stop the encirclement. When a Romanian Staff car accidently drove into a German position the Romanians suffered a massive set-back. The Staff car and the personnel carrying the Romanian attack plans were captured, and the Germans were able to push back the Romanian forces and progress on to Bucharest, which was eventually occupied on the 6th December 1916. To prevent the advancing Central Powers from gaining access to the oil wells and wheat fields the retreating Romanian forces destroyed them by setting light to them. In the meantime, the Romanian Government had relocated to Jasssy on the 1st December 1916. Despite all their efforts the Central Powers had not achieved their aim of defeating Romania and forcing them out of the war. With the occupation of Bucharest the Romanian army was still a force of considerable power and was of great assistance to the Allies. During the campaign Romania had lost approximately 250,000 men, almost a third of the manpower mobilized in August 1916.

On the 11th December 1916, Commander- in-Chief General Joseph Joffre called off the Monastir Offensive during the Salonika Campaign owing to the onset of winter and the front line stabilized along its entire length. After the British had captured Monastir on the 19th November 1916 the Bulgarians and their German Allies retreated north. The British attacked the new defensive line a few kilometres north of Monastir but the line held firm. Having reached the limits of their supply lines the British failed to continue the attack as their troops were exhausted. Although Monastir had been abandoned the new positions provided excellent conditions for defence and the Bulgarian artillery was assured dominance for bombarding the town. The Bulgarian and German casualties totalled approximately 61,000 men during the campaign, whilst the British and Serbian battle casualties were approximately 50,000. Another 80,000 casualties of sickness, disease or the resulting death brought the British and Serbian casualties up to approximately 130,000 men. The Serbian army was provided with the satisfaction of knowing they were able to return to the border of their own country, which was the one positive of the whole offensive.


Eastern Front

The assassination of Grigori Rasputin was carried out by five Russian Noblemen in Petrograd on the 30th December 1916.  At the beginning of the twentieth century Rasputin had left his wife and children and spent some time in a monastery before embarking on a life of religious wandering. He was introduced to Tsar Nicolas and his wife Alexandra and eventually was asked by the Tsarina to try to cure their son by prayer. Alexei was suffering from haemophilia and Rasputin had the ability to calm Alexei and this helped to stop the haemophilic bleeding once it had started. The Tsarina was convinced Rasputin was a holy man and he became more influential in the Royal Court which alarmed the Russian aristocracy. He was invited to the Palace of Prince Yusupov, in Petrograd and was offered poisoned cakes and wine for refreshment. He ate and drank but the poison seemed not to have not affected him. A Nobleman shot him but he survived this wound and managed to crawl to an outside door. When he managed to disappear in the dark, two more shots were fired into his retreating body. To be certain he was dead the Noblemen threw his body into river Neva and was retrieved some days later.


The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign

On the night of the 13th/14th December 1916, British troops began to advance toward Kut–al–Amara in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). The garrison of Kut had been besieged and in April 1916 Sir Charles Townsend had surrendered to the attacking Turkish forces. This surrender had prompted the British Government to re-think its Middle East policy as they were aware British prestige had been severely damaged. In July 1916 Sir Frederick Maude was appointed commander of the Tigris Corps., and he immediately set about re-supplying and re-organising British and Indian forces. An influx of troops from India had re-enforced the British army bringing the total number of troops to approximately 150,000 under the command of Maude. With the improvements to the British system of medical supplies and transport facilities, Maude requested permission from London to advance toward Baghdad before the arrival of the winter floods. After a short delay the request was granted and 55,000 men began the advance on both sides of the Tigris River toward Kut–al-Amara.

Britain recognised Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca as king of the Arabs on the 15th December 1916 following discussions between the Arab nations and the Triple Entente of France, Britain and Russia. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed on the 16th May 1916 giving the French control over southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The United Kingdom controlling the Mediterranean and all of Jordon, southern Iraq and a small area to include the ports of Haifa and Acre. These ports allowed access to the Mediterranean from the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal. The Russians controlling Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia. Hussein was recognised by the British as King of the Arabs provided the Allies defeated the Ottoman Empire with the assistance of the Arabs. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was and is seen as a turning point in Western and Arab relationship.

The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division (Anzac Mounted Division) of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (E.E.F.) seized the town of El Arish on the 21st December 1916. El Arish is on the coast of the Mediterranean in Sinai. The Ottoman and German Empires had abandoned El Arish and re-located at Magdhaba, 18-30 miles (29-48 km) inland and south-east of El Arish. Magdhaba was well defended by the Ottoman army, and taken by surprise when confronted by the Anzac Mounted Division, so soon after they had set-up their defences. Having seized El Arish and after a night march the Anzac Mounted Division attacked Magdhaba. By modifying tactics the Anzacs rode as close to the front line as possible, dismounted and continued the attack with the bayonet. Camouflaged redoubts had been located by assisting aircraft and the artillery, together with machine-gun fire had enabled these redoubts to be captured. Late afternoon of the 23rd December 1916 The Battle of Magdhaba collapsed after the Ottoman defenders surrendered.


Other Fronts

David Lloyd George was Liberal Party Chancellor of the Exchequer at the outbreak of war who was appointed Prime Minister on the 7th December 1916. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George was a vigorous campaigner for the increased production of munitions but came into conflict with Lord Kitchener in the early months of 1915. After the death of Kitchener and the resignation of Admiral Sir John Fisher- First Sea Lord in 1915 the then Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith was forced to reconstruct the Government into a coalition with the Conservative Party. Lloyd George received the position as Minister of Munitions. Through the leadership of Lloyd George sufficient munitions were available for the Battle of the Somme. Disagreements at Cabinet level over Asquith’s running of Governmental affairs led Asquith into a position where he was forced to resign as Prime Minister on the 5th December 1916. Two days later, on the 7th December 1916 Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister. One of the first things he organised was the immediate transformation of the British war effort. He had a strong hand in the managing of every affair, both military and domestic. Lloyd George was absolutely clear about how important it was for the support of women. He encouraged women to assist in the war effort by working on the land, the transport industry and the munition factories. It was Lloyd George who provided the driving energy and organisation skills that helped the Allies win the war. On the 9th December 1916, a five man War Cabinet was formed with Lloyd George as it’s’ leader to replace the three men War Committee chaired by David Lloyd George.

On the 12nd December 1916, General Robert Georges Nivelle was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, to replace Joseph Joffre who had been dismissed in mid-December 1916. Nivelle was a capable Commander of the French Second army who spoke English well, and an organiser at regimental and divisional levels.  His now-famous line: “Ills ne passeront pas” (they shall not pass) was acknowledged as being a major reason for his success at Verdun. Alongside his success at Verdun was his ability to persuade French and British leaders he knew how to win the war, and was an important factor behind the decision to appoint him the position of Commander-in-Chief.

On the 12th December 1916, The German Government stated its willingness to consider the question of peace with the Allies. The request was submitted to America and on the 18th December 1916 President Woodrow Wilson sent a communication asking both sides for the outline of their proposals. Germany proposed Belgium and Alsace-Lorraine would remain under German control. In return the Allies stated their own conditions upon which they would consider peace. David Lloyd George, Britain’s new Prime Minister, reaffirmed that any peace could only come with the outright defeat of Germany. By the 26th December 1916 the peace proposals had been discussed and on the 30th December 1916 Lloyd George rejected the peace plans.

On the 26th December 1916, Joseph Joffre was promoted to the position of Marshall of France. He had been dismissed as Commander-in-Chief in mid-December 1916 by the French Government. His leadership had been gradually eroded owing to the continued deadlock of the opposing armies, coupled with the huge casualties sustained. As Marshall of France his role was reduced to ceremonial for the rest of the war and he was made strategic adviser although in reality his power was at an end.

The French built Charlemagne-class pre-dreadnaught battleship “Gaulois” was sunk on the 27th December 1916. “Gaulois” was off the southern coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea when she was hit by a torpedo fired by German submarine UB-47. The single torpedo exploded amidships killing two crewmen. Twenty-two minutes after being hit the “Gaulois” capsized, allowing all but two of the crew to abandon ship before sinking fourteen minutes later. The crew were rescued by the escorting single destroyer and two armed trawlers. When the Great War began the “Gaulois” escorted troop convoy ships across the Mediterranean Sea from French North Africa to France. She joined the allied fleet in early 1915 attacking Turkish forts at the entrance to the Dardanelles. Having steamed too close to the forts the “Gaulois” was hit and damaged below the water-line. After making temporary repairs she managed to cross the Mediterranean and enter dry-dock at Toulon for complete repairs at Brest in August 1916 and upon completion she was ordered back to the Dardanelles on the 25th November 1916.

On the 27th December 1916, Togoland was separated into French and British administrations, during the period of the “scramble for Arica”. Togoland had been a German Protectorate in West Africa nestled between Ghana and Nigeria and had been one of Germanys’ two self-supporting colonies. On the 6th August 1914, Germany was asked by the French and British to surrender and the request was rejected. Two days later they were over-run by the French and British forces. Togoland was governed by a joint administration until the separation on the 27th December 1916, Geographically, Togoland’s coast-line was ideally placed, during the war, for spotting the movement of both Allied and enemy shipping along the west coast of Africa.






15th Dec                                    French began the Second Offensive Battle of Verdun

17th Dec                                    Battle of Verdun ends

18th Dec                                     Germany accepted defeat at the Battle of Verdun


The Balkans

1st Dec                                      Romanian government relocates to Jassy

1-6th Dec                                  Romania defeated at Battle of Arges River

6th Dec                                       Bucharest falls to Germany

11th Dec                                    Joffre calls off the Monastir Offensive

19th Dec                                    Bulgarian and German armies retreat from Monastir


Eastern Front

30th Dec                                    Rasputin assassinated


The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign

13/14th Dec                               British troops advance to Kut-al-Amara

15th Dec                                    Britain recognises King Hussein of the Arabs

21st Dec                                   Anzac forces seize El Arish

23rd Dec                                   Battle of Magdhabaj


Other Fronts

7th Dec                                      Lloyd George appointed Prime Minister

7th Dec                                      Britain organised for total war

9th Dec                                      War Cabinet replaces War Committee

12th Dec                                    Nivelle takes over Commander of French army

12th Dec                                    Germany willing to negotiate peace terms

18th Dec                                   Wilson requests outlines for peace terms

26th Dec                                    “Peace Terms” discussed

30th Dec                                    Allies reject peace terms

26th Dec                                     Joffre created Marshall of France

27th Dec                                    French Battleship Gaulois sunk by submarine

27th Dec                                    Togoland administration separated