War Diary of AA Laporte Payne May 1916.
MONDAY MAY THE FIRST, 1916.
I took the battery out in drill order. Starting at 8.30, a.m., we came into action twice. The horses went well. We practiced jams and casualties several times. I worked out the battery line of fire by compass and T.O.B.
We got back at 3, p.m., after quite a useful outing. Then I turned the battery on to harness and vehicle cleaning.
The Captain returned from the line and told us all about the new position.
In the evening there were showers, which effectively dirtied the vehicles again.
TUESDAY MAY 2, 1916.
The Captain went away on a Field Day with the Infantry. We continued the usual routine with gun pit digging. Then there was a thunderstorm, and it continued wet for the rest of the day. The Captain inspected the harness, barrack rooms and vehicles, all of which were fairly good, though not as good as they had were owing to the heavy rain.
There was a strafe about iron rations
WEDNESDAY MAY 3, 1916.
I took early morning physical drill, and after breakfast the guns with detachments mounted to Zudausques, some way away, for gun emplacement digging. A lot of work was done. It was very hot and I got burnt. We arrived back about 5, p.m.
The Captain was out to dinner. I received five letters and a parcel of cake.
THURSDAY MAY 4, 1916.
It was a fine day. We went out on Bivouacing practice. Then I took stables, paid the battery, and supervised fatigues in clearing up for we are moving soon,
Cheadle has been sent to a Trench Mortar Battery, and also from our battery Corporal Broadbridge and Beaumont.
FRIDAY MAY 5, 1916.
This was our last day at Bayenghem. It was fine and hot. The rooms were cleared up and the vehicles packed. I had a bath and went to bed early.
May 4, 1916.
The weather continues fine and hot in spite of one or two thunder storms. The foliage here is beautiful. The trees are full out, and the orchards one mass of bloom, rhodendrons too.
My tenure as battery commander has come to an end. It lasted for a week. On Saturday we turned out for the Colonel’s inspection and he complemented us. On Sunday I was out for a field day with the infantry. Monday we had a day out on our own. The whole battery turned out at 8.30, a.m., returning at 3.30, p.m. Yesterday I took the guns and detachments out to practice quick digging of emplacements. We left at 8.30, a.m., got to the scene of our labours at 11, a.m., digged until 2.30, p.m., and arrived back at 5.30, p.m. It was hot and I got quite burnt. My hands too are raw. The whole Brigade were out digging in a long line. It was a sort of competition.
In our seclusion here we occasionally hear a rumble of the guns, when the wind is in the right direction.
It is extraordinary how quickly one can become accustomed to this strange life and all it implies, when one is compelled to live it. One thing is very tiring, and that is being constantly on duty day and night. One has one’s meals and sleeps as it were on duty. But there is a feeling of uncertainty about everything, which is enlivening. One never knows what is going to happen next. We have not the slightest idea what may happen tomorrow or even in a few minutes time. This prevents one becoming really hopelessly bored. Even here we live on the edge of the precipice of the possible.
We have just received yesterday’s papers. I am glad to see Asquith has been forced to make up his mind at last. I think the rebellion in Ireland has been of some use; but I am afraid it will terrify our brave ministers into keeping more troops at home.
Young Stone seems to be one of the lucky ones.
SATURDAY MAY 6, 1916.
I rose at 5, a.m., finished packing and had breakfast at 6, a.m. The battery left billets in column of route for Wizernes arriving at the station forty minutes late on scheduled time. We entrained in just over the hour. Staff Captain Beal was there with the usual R.T.O. A section of the Brigade Ammunition Column accompanied us under a new officer. I loaded the wagons, and though the train was a long one, I only just got the vehicles all on.
Captain Langhorne, Holt and I shared a first class compartment, a good lunch and tea.
The day was showery.
We started at noon, and went by St. Omer, Calais, Boulogne for the Somme area.
SUNDAY MAY 7, 1916.
The Battery detrained at Longeau near Amiens, and later marched to billets at Behencourt.
May 8, 1916
The Brigade marched to Albert.
On the night of the 8/9th one section of A/175th Brigade relieved one section of O Battery R.H.A.
MAY 12, 1916.
The Group consisted of A.B.C. and D. Batteries, 175th Brigade, and C. and D. 176th Brigade.
A/175. Bde. was in a position vacated by “O” Battery R.H.A.
B/175. Bde. occupied empty pits.
D/176 and D/175 Bde. were out of action.
All reliefs were completed by this day.
D/175 Bde. were working on their new position with the guns out of action in the wagon lines.
R.P. Friday May 19 1916.
I arrived safely here after a rather long journey. I thoroughly enjoyed my leave. C.T.P. saw me off. We left Waterloo about 4.30, p.m., and arrived at Southampton after 6, p.m. The boat did not leave until 10, p.m., so we got permission to leave the docks and go into the town for dinner. After sailing we had got some way when we were held up by fog, so we were late. Then we left by train about 2, p.m., and arrived at our destination about 2, a.m.
We are very busy indeed. Our dug-outs are splendid and afford excellent protection. All are working like niggers.
The fine weather seems to have returned, and it is very hot here.
The posts are atrocious. We have just received Monday’s papers!
MAY 22, 1916.
The Howitzer Brigade was split up, one battery being posted to each 18 pdr. Brigade, which sent one 18 pdr battery to form with the remaining Howitzer Battery the 176th Brigade.
This necessitated a change in the denomination of the batteries.
C/175. Bde. becomes C/176 Bde.
D/175. do C/175.
D/176. do D/175.
C/176. do D/152.
MAY 24, 1916.
Return from leave. The journey was worse than I expected. I left home at 2, p.m., and Waterloo at 4.30, p.m., arriving at Southampton about 6.15 p.m. We found that the boat did not sail until 10 p.m. After a lot of bother we managed to get leave to go into the town and get dinner. Four of us went to the South Western Hotel, and had a good feast to cheer us up. The boat started about 11 p.m.; but did not get far as we had to anchor on account of fog. Consequently we did not arrive at Havre until midday. The train made up its mind to move at 2 p.m., which for some unaccountable reason it did. Our destination was reached at 2 a.m. (Greenwich time). After that I had eight miles to drive in the mess cart to our wagon lines. The sea was calm as I have ever seen it so nobody was ill. I enjoyed my leave, at least I think I did. It seems like a pleasant dream now.
The weather has changed. This last week has been beautiful and very hot. Now it appears to be on the change.
The country here is beautiful, but terribly spoilt by large encampments. Under a new arrangement our battery becomes C Battery, not D any longer. The Captain is away on leave.
R.P. May 28. 1916
I have got my section in action on its own, and am for the present permanently in the gun line and not the O.P.
In the battery’s new position, some way away from where I am now, the men have dug enormous dug-outs. The position is delightfully situated on the edge of a wood. The mess is 15 feet down, its walls are hung with canvass. We have our meals in a wood, where it is shady and cool.
Most of our firing is done at night now, which is rather a nuisance, as we are fully busy all day long digging. I have to go to bed with a telephone next to my ear.
The Captain is just now going on leave.
The weather has been bad again, but today is hot and glaring.
We have to be careful of ammunition still. I suppose we shall have to be until the slackers at home can give up their bank holidays and easy hours and supply us with more ammunition and big guns. I cannot understand why those who live in safety at home should have holidays and high pay while the wretched tommy in the trenches has to put up with constant hard labour, little pay, and sudden death and wounds from shells fired by guns we cannot counter for lack of sufficient shells and heavy guns of the right sort. No doubt Lloyd George has his eye on the ballot box instead. He is a crafty creature.