Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 1917.

Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 1917.

1917
15 Decr Played football for O.T.s v Ipswich School. We won 8.0. I scored 2.
Spent day with Bernard Pretty & wound up with tea and a bath at his
house.
17 “ Col B**ter notified that he would very soon be returned.
25 “ Found three pieces of amber. (I played football for the Bn every Sat
throughout the season. We only lost one match).

Narrative of the operations from November 30th – December 3rd 1917

APPENDIX “B”

NARRATIVE OF THE OPERATIONS FROM NOVEMBER 30TH – DECEMBER 3RD 1917

1. NOVEMBER 30TH.
(a) Dispositions. At 6.0 a.m. the Division was disposed as follows:-
59th Inf. Bde. Right Front Sector.
61st Inf. Bde. Left Front Sector.
60th Inf. Bde. In Reserve about FIFTEEN RAVINE and VILLERS PLOUICH.

(b) The 59th Inf. Bde. had relieved the 60th Inf. Bde. on the night of the 29th/30th.
(c) At about 7.0 a.m. the enemy opened a bombardment on the 12th and 55th Divisional fronts. Inter-communication between Battn and Coy. Headquarters on the 20th Divisional front conclusively proves that up to 7.30 a.m. no events had taken place on our front, while at 7.15 a.m. an S.O.S. GRAND (37th Inf. Bde., 12th Div.) was received. This clearly shows that the 20th Div. Front was not attacked till at least half an hour after the attack on the 12th Division. At 7.30 a.m., however, the enemy shelling appeared to spread to our front and soon intensified. Standing barrages were put down on the posts in the outpost line and another on the main line of resistance. This barrage (which included smoke) lifted later on to the valley W. of the CAMBRAI Road. A third barrage which included a proportion of “mustard gas” shells, fell on the Sunken Road leading from LA VACQUERIE to MASNIERES. The bombardment was followed at about 8 a.m. by an infantry attack on the entire Divisional front. The attack appeared to be launched in echelon from the left, the 55th Division having been attacked first; a few minutes later the 12th Div., then the 20th Div. the chief weight of the attack appeared to be thrown on the point of junction of the 12th and 55th Divisions. The outpost line of the 20th Div. was overwhelmed by a converging attack from RUE DES VIGNES and CREVECOEUR and driven back on the main line of resistance. This line was then heavily attacked by machine gun fire from low flying aeroplanes which also dropped smoke bombs thus concealing the approach of the hostile infantry who advanced, in what appeared to be Artillery formation, in successive lines (8 to 12 of these lines were counted). The leading line fired as it advanced. Partly owing to the weight of the attack, and partly to the fact that the enemy had by this time penetrated the line of the Div. on the right to such a depth that the main line of resistance was entirely out-flanked, the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes. were forced to fall back to a line running approximately as follows:- L.34.a.5.2. – L.34.c.8.9. – L.34.d.5.7. – R.5.a.2.8. – R.4.b.8.2. – R.10.b.2.8. – R.11.c.2.9.

Machine Guns on WELSH RIDGE succeeded in holding up the enemy advancing from the N.W. from the direction of QUENET FARM while the 91st {92} F.A. Bde. in LA VACQUERIE VALLEY, (R.12.a & b) repulsed four attacks, firing at 200 yards range, but the gunners were finally overcome and forced to leave the guns after having removed the breech blocks.
The first indication that the enemy had broken through the front of the 12th Division was noted from Div. H.Q. Men could be seen retiring over the high ground about GONNELIEU. A Staff Officer was sent at once to ascertain the position about GONNELIEU and GOUZEAUCOURT and met men of various labour units and Railway Construction Coys. falling back from the direction of LA VACQUERIE, GONNELIEU, and QUINTIN RIDGE to the main GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUCH Road.
Most of these men were unarmed, and as none were acting under definite orders, those who were ordered to hold the bank of the GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUICH Road.
Meanwhile the 60th Inf. Bde. (then in Reserve) was ordered to move as follows:-
1 Battalion to LA VACQUERIE
3 Battalions to reinforce the QUINTEN RIDGE – GONNELIEU line.

When however it was reported that the 20th Div. front had been broken, 2 Battns of this Bde. were ordered to move to the HINDENBURG Line; 1 to LA VACQUERIE; and 1 to GONNELIEU.

The 2 Battns ordered to the HINDENBURG line were however by this time engaged in fighting about GONNELIEU and QUINTEN RIDGE and could not be extricated. Thus the Divisional Reserve were not available to make a counter attack on the 20th Divisional front, or to recapture the lost guns.

(d) At 11.40 a.m. the situation was as follows:-
The Reserve Bde held a line, R.31.d.5.5. – N.W. outskirts of GONNELIEU – LA VACQUERIE, with elements of the 12th Div. between it and the right of the 59th Inf. Bde., while the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes. held a line approximately the same as described in para.1. (c).
The enemy had by this time penetrated as far as GOUZEAUCOURT from the direction of GAUCHE WOOD, and the situation was critical.

(e) At 12 noon orders were issued for one Battn of the 60th Inf. Bde. to make good the summit of QUENTIN RIDGE about R.31.d. and R.32.a., and if the enemy were found in occupation to counter attack and drive him off. Owing to heavy M.G. fire and also to the fact that the situation on the right flank was so obscure, one Coy. from the Battn. carrying out the attack had to be sent to GOUZEAUCOURT (which was then in the hands of the enemy), and the attack was unable to gain the top of the Ridge. The Coy. detached towards GOUZEAUCOURT however did good work in mowing down the enemy retiring S. from GOUZEAUCOURT before the counter attack of one Bde. of Guards. No artillery was available to support this attack.

(f) At 4.45 p.m. the situation was as follows:-

The line ran approximately from L.34.central – R.5.a. – R.10.a. – R.17.a. – R.16.d.5.0. – LA VACQUERIE – N.W. outskirts of GONNELIEU – GOUZEAUCOURT with a gap about R.10.b&d.
As no troops were available to fill this gap, the III Corps was asked for reinforcements, and two Battns. were allotted to the Div. from the 6th Div., the C.O’s reporting at Div. H.Q. (This was not done).
One Battn. (the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters) was sent to the 59th Inf. Bde. and located in the HINDENBURG Main Line in R.10.c. and R.16.b. while the other Battn. (1st Buffs) was used by the 60th Inf. Bde. to fill a gap in R.21.

(g) The line remained more or less the same as indicated above during the remainder of the day, while the enemy made periodical attacks up the LA VACQUERIE Valley.

DECEMBER 1st.
2. (a). At 1 a.m. the 60th Inf. Bde. (less 1 Battn. holding LA VACQUERIE), were ordered to attack from QUINTEN MILL to GONNELIEU inclusive with a view to re-establishing the line of the Ridge. The attack was met by heavy M.G. fire, and although the right pushed forward, the left encountered a hostile attack launched simultaneously with our own and failed to gain ground.

(b). At 2.10 a.m. Div. H.Q. was transferred from VILLERS PLOUICH to Q.29.central (QUEEN’S CROSS).

(c). At 7.0 a.m. the Guards Division carried out an attack and seized the high ground between QUINTEN MILL and GONNELIEU including the latter, but a hostile counter attack about 10.0 a.m. drove them from the village itself.

(d). At about 6.0 p.m. on the evening of December 1st, two Coys. of the 11th D.L.I. (Pioneers), who were then under B.G.C. 61st Inf. Bde. were placed at the disposal of the 59th Inf. Bde., who put them under the command of the O.C. 11th K.R.R.C. in the HINDENBURG Line and R.10.c.

(e). During the night of the 1st/2nd December no further attack was made by the enemy on the Divisional front. The Guards Division took over the front held by the 60th Inf. Bde. from QUINTIN RIDGE to GONNELIEU, while the 183rd Inf. Bde. 61st Div., relieved the 12th K.R.R.C. in LA VACQUERIE, thus releasing the whole of the 60th Inf. Bde. who were withdrawn to FIFTEEN RAVINE – VILLERS PLOUICH Area.

3. (a) During December 2nd the enemy confined his attacks to LA VACQUERIE where he was repulsed three times by the 183rd Inf. Bde.

(b). On the night of December 2nd/3rd the 183rd Inf. Bde. relieved the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes., whilst the 184th Inf. Bde. went into Divl Reserve at about R.8., the command passing from G.O.C. 20th Div. to G.O.C.61st Div. at 7 a.m.

(c). At 8.0 a.m. on December 3rd the Div. was disposed as follows:-
59th Inf. Bde. FIFTEEN RAVINE, VILLERS POULICH area.
60th Inf. Bde. SOREL
61st Inf. Bde. FINS

The line as actually handed over to the 61st Div. ran approximately as follows:-
L.35.b – R.5.a. – R.11.c. – R.17.c. – R.22.b. – R.21.b. – R.20.d. – R.20.c. –R.26.d.

DECEMBER 3rd.
4. Div. H.Q. moved from Q.29.central to SOREL, and was established at SOREL at 7 a.m. December 3rd.

20th Division. 8 December 1917

A.D.C.
20th Div. No. G.179.
SPECIAL ORDER.
The Division has now between withdrawn from the line to re-organize and re-equip. This is the first time since the active participation in the heavy fighting in Flanders in August that the Division has been billeted in the Back Area. From August up to the present time the Division has had practically no rest, and has been engaged in active operations during the whole period except for about 6 weeks when it was holding trenches with three Brigades in the line on the Third Army front.
On the 16th August the 60th and 61st Inf. Bdes. captured LANGEMARCK and ground to the North and East of it; the forcing of the STEENBEEK preparatory to this operation being undertaken by the 59th Inf. Bde. The Division on this occasion took all its objectives, with the exception of a small portion of EAGLE TRENCH, and many prisoners and machine guns. The Division received the thanks and praise of the Army and Corps Commanders, and added fresh honours to its name.
On the 20th September the Division again took the field and captured strong German positions on the XIV Corps front. EAGLE TRENCH at the conclusion of the days’ operations still held out, but two days later it was in our hands after a stiff fight, and nearly 200 prisoners were captured; again the Army and Corps Commanders were loud in praise of the gallantry and tenacity displayed by all ranks of the Division. The captured ground was handed over to another Division.
The 20th Division was on 30th September sent off to the South to join the Third Army and take over a portion of that line.
On the 20th November the great offensive in front of CAMBRAI began, and the 20th Division gained all its objectives, displaying all its well-known courage and fighting qualities. Although the Division had been holding the line previous to this operation, and had no opportunity of training or rest such as other Divisions in the back area enjoyed, it carried out its task without a hitch and added another victory to its long roll.
In the subsequent operations during the German counter-attack the units lost heavily, but the enemy’s advance was checked for the time being in the HINDENBURG LINE, and at LA VACQUERIE.
I wish all ranks, and especially the reinforcements of the Division, to realise the important part their units have played in the hard fighting which has driven the Germans over and over again out of their strongly prepared positions, and especially the HINDENBURG LINE which the enemy looked upon as impregnable.
The Division has a grand record behind it, second to none, and I feel confident that when called upon again to take the field, everyone will strive to live up to its reputation of which all, are rightly, so proud. Our rest may be a short one, and every day must be utilised to get the Division into fighting trim.

W. Douglas Smith Major General,
Commanding 20th Division.
8th December, 1917.
Copies to all Units.

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne December 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

 

December 1917.

MARCH.

 

From Isola della Scala.

 

ASIGLIANO                         2nd December, 1917.

COLEREDO              3rd       do

Sossano.

PONTI DI BARBARANO    4th December, 1917

Longare

  1. MARIA near CAMISANO 5th December 1917. (Visited Vicenza, 6th Dec.)
  2. Giorgio in Bosco.
  3. ANNA MOROSINA. 7th December, 1917.

 

(XI Corps at Camposampiero 8th December)

 

R.P. December 2, 1917.

B.E.F. Italy.

 

The best thing for me to do is to write you a letter and carry it about with me until I get a chance of posting it.

 

We are without any mail from England.  I shall be glad to get news of you all.

 

This is very different to France.  It is an extraordinary country with a population poor and dull living in large farmhouses like enormous barns.  As the rooms have no fire places and the weather in bitterly cold it is not very pleasing.  However we are moving about a lot, and seeing the country, which is most interesting.

 

But we do not appreciate our privileges. Here we are caravanning over this land than which there is no better way of getting to know a country, with two horses for each officer, and wagons for our kit.  No tourist has such a chance and such facilities except at a great expense.  We are doing it at the Government’s cost.

 

I have just visited a delightful medieval fortified town quite out of the way of the usual run of tourists. It possesses an old castle sympathetically restored and furnished.

 

Captain Bell of B Battery is also interested in medieval history so we are having a jolly time together.

 

Tonight we are billeted in a large cold house, and we have just had dinner. It consisted of soup, and two large guinea fowl, which we purchased for the price of two shillings each.  Or to be more exact four lire a piece.  This with potatoes, cabbage, stewed apples, sardines on toast and cheese.

 

I am still in command of the Battery and am likely to be as there is no sign of the Major returning.  I have had the Battery now since July with a short interval.

 

The horses have improved on the march, and are looking very well. It freezes every night. I did not know it could be so cold in Italy.

 

The Italians keep their houses much cleaner than the Belgians. I hope to visit Rome and Naples later on, but before then I must swat up some history books.  Will you send me the book on Pompeii which is some where about.

 

December 2, 1917.

B.E.F. Italy.

 

No mail has arrived here for us yet, so we are without any news. I have not seen an English paper since we left France, and the only information we glean is laboriously from Italian newspapers.  It will be a great day when the mail arrives.

 

This is my first visit to Italy.  It is an extraordinary country, quite unlike France.  the people strike me as poor, dull and rather frightened.  Houses are large but clean.  As they do not possess fireplaces in most of the rooms we find it very chilly, and not very comfortable.  Interiors are barren, and what pictures they have are distinctly bad, except in a few cases in the chief churches, where they are all of a religious character.  The countryside is still medieval, with sudden and unexpected appearances of modern inventions and improvements.  Such as electric lighting in the most unlikely villages.

 

We are having a great opportunity of seeing the countryside, as we have been on the trek for sometime. Here we are touring Italy like a great caravan than which there is no better way of seeing the country, and all at the government’s expense.  No tourist has such facilities except at great cost and trouble.  I have just visited a delightful medieval fortified town, quite out of the way of the usual route of tourists.  It possessed an old castle which has been sympathetically restored, and is full of all the old furniture and decorations.

 

Captain Bell of “B” Battery is like me interested in medieval history, and we are having a jolly time together.

 

Tonight we are billeted in a large cold house. We have just had dinner, our first meal here.  We had two large guinea fowl, which we purchased for the large price of two shillings each, or to be more exact eight lire the two.

 

Unfortunately the men have not yet got accustomed to the wine of the country, “vino rossa”.

 

Will you send me out Sabatini’s “Cesare Borgia”.

 

R.P. December 9, 1917.

 

Still no mail, so I cannot answer your letters, which I know are somewhere on the way here.

 

It is extraordinarily cold here, frost most of the day, and every night. We are still moving.  There is some sickness among the officers and men, but nothing much or serious.  It is due chiefly I think to the change in weather and living.  I am keeping very fit.

 

The Major is still away so I have the battery in charge. Everything goes well, the horses have never looked batter, and the men seem to be contented.

 

We are at present in a country village not too far away from a large town which we can on occasion visit to buy goods and spend a few moments. But the prices are going up against us now.

 

The houses we inhabit are rather cold and draughty at present, but no doubt they will be very pleasant in the summer. However we are seeing quite a good slice of this country at the Government’s expense, and at present are not in the line, so we must not grumble.

 

December the ninth 1917.

B.E.F. ITALY.

 

Still we have received no mail. I have never felt so cut off before.  I know some letters are on the way, for they have been seen, but they get hung in a most extraordinary way.  I shall be glad when proper postal arrangements are made.  It is miserable having no news of home.

 

I am well; but several of the officers and men are ill owing no doubt to the extreme cold, unaccustomed way of living and strange food and wine.

 

We are still on the move, and have seen a good deal of the country. It is a strenuous time for the men and horses.  The horses are fine.  The further they have to go the better they look.  Since we left France I have only lost two.  All the other batteries have lost at least a dozen or more, and they have mange, which we have escaped so far.  I tell others it is owing to good management but really it is due to good luck.

 

I am enjoying myself very much. My only regret is that I have not more time to get away and visit interesting places, which we are near, and to do some reading about them and the history of Italy.

 

We have been buying some excellent turkeys and ducks, but the prices are already going up rapidly. The inhabitants soon find that mess secretaries and the troops will pay almost anything for food.

 

It has been severely cold, frost day and night.

 

I have paid the men in lire this afternoon. I hope they won’t spend it all in vino, and cause trouble.

 

December 11, 1917.

 

Visited Padua.

 

R.P. December 15, 1917.

The mail has arrived at last, bringing about forty letters for me and many parcels. It was good to hear news of you all.

 

It is intensely cold here. I have purchased a large goat’s skin fur coat, grey in colour with the fur outside.  The horses do not like it at all.  They think I am a bear from the hills.  But it is very warm.  We get a good deal of sunshine, and it generally thaws in the middle of the day.

 

We are some way north of Verona, and still on the move.  It has been a most interesting trek.  But I shall be glad to settle down now.  I hope we get a decent billet with a mess and a fire place in it.

 

Tomorrow we move again. We shall start early.  All the horses are fit with the exception of one that got some glass in its foot.  I shall have to leave it behind with a driver to look after it until it is well enough to travel.

 

Orders have just come in (midnight). We move late, about 11 a.m.  That will give us time to pack at leisure.

 

December 15, 1917.

B.E.F. Italy.

 

Hurrah. The mail has at last arrived, and I have received between thirty five and forty letters, and some parcels.  I have not counted them all properly yet.  They were all most welcome, letters, chocolate, fruit and magazines.

 

I have not known whether to read letters just as they came to hand, or sort them in order of date. I began the first way, and then, finding it so difficult to grasp some references, turned to the other and slower way.

 

We left Belgium on the 18th of Nov (Sunday), just a month ago.  We pulled out of action that night.  I left England on Nov 14th.

 

We move again tomorrow. I have never had such a trek.  Letters have taken twenty-six days to reach us.

 

We have already partaken of spaghetti, macaroni, polenta, vegetable soup, and powdered cheese; for wine vino rossa, vino nero, chianti, which is very good, and a filthy liqueur well named grappa.

 

I have a wonderful fur coat made of goat skins, hair outside and grey in colour. I look like a teddy bear, and the horses do not like me at all.  But I shall need it in the snows.  Oh! and Oh!

 

The arrival of the mail bags was a great event. There were more than forty.

 

We are in a small mess. We crowd in there because it is warmer.  There are five subalterns and a doctor in it at present, and they are all jumping about, which is rather distracting for one who wants to write.  The Doctor has quarrelled with the Colonel and has asked if he can live with us.  He paid us that compliment, but I don’t know how the Colonel will take it.  he is such a strange man, and so easily takes offence.

 

We are still on the move but we must stop soon as we cannot get much further. The mountains look very fine from below.  I hope my view will not be any closer.  It looks very cold up there.

 

The horses are fit with plenty of work and plenty of oats.

 

R.P. December 18, 1917.

We have ceased our wanderings for the time being, and are fairly comfortably billeted in a village of no great size (Tezze). Instead for moving the battery about the Colonel and the Battery Commanders including myself are engaged in reconnaissance for battery positions and generally scouring the countryside some distance from the billets.  It has taken us up into the mountains.  It is rather trying at times as we have to go on our flat feet up bridle paths, and when we ride the roads are rather slippery.  However it has been good exercise and I am very fit.

 

For the men’s Christmas dinner we have purchased seven small pigs all alive. For the Officers’ mess turkeys.  There are eight officers in the mess now, so we are quite a large party.

 

The cold frosty weather has turned to a cold rain, which is very unpleasant.

 

December 18, 1917.

We have come to a halt for a bit, and I am spending my time riding all over the country with the Colonel and other Battery Commanders on reconnaissance. It is sometimes tiring when we have to get up at 6 a.m. to get to the rendez-vous and only get back at 7 p.m. after riding thirty or forty miles on horseback and walking for as much as seven hours on our flat feet.  This morning being fine I went without an overcoat for the first time, and a cold rain began before we started home for our lines miles away (at Tezze).

 

There are eight officers in our mess now, too many. At present we need a good billet, for we are living in the Kitchen of a rather poor class of house in a village.  It was all we could find when we arrived owing to the large number of troops who were here before us.

 

R.P. CHRISTMAS DAY, DECEMBER 25th 1917.

 

Our Christmas day under the conditions of war time and absence from home, could not have been better. I have done no work except to attend stables.  At midday I visited the men’s billets to see that the dinner of five pigs and Christmas puddings was as it should be, and the sergeants’ mess to drink their healths.

 

At our mess we had suckling pig and plum pudding for lunch, and soup, fish, turkey, plum pudding, savoury, fruit for dinner. To make the day complete we had a good mail from England.  The letters, parcels and the “Times” were all most welcome.  The eight in our mess had a jolly time.

 

Our reconnaissance is over, and I am now engaged in drawing maps and plans.

 

The other day we had a strenuous time. I was ordered to take the officers and N.C.Os of the battery, four of the former and six of the latter, with one or two others to view the positions we had already reconnoitered.  We rode about thirty miles on our horses, climbed on our feet and sometimes hands as well, one hill of over 1000 feet, and another of 4000 feet, to where the snow lay thick and hard.  It was frightfully cold.  Only four of us got to the top of the second hill.  As it was then very late and getting dark we came down in an empty Italian lorry by one of those great military roads recently constructed.  Straight up the mountainside it is only about two miles.  coming down by the winding military road it was twenty-two miles, and took one hour and ten minutes to do.  The road was very narrow, had many hair-pin bends, and was devoid of wall or parapet on the edge below which was sheer drop in to ravines.  It was quite exciting, as at times we dropped down the slope so fast.  We were like tennis balls in a tub, flung about from side to side.  However we escaped with our lives.

 

I really do not know how the Italian soldiery stand the intense cold in the mountains. I spoke to some of them so far as I could.  I also managed to get a piece of edelweiss.

 

Now we are training hard, and we need it badly. I like the life as a change, but hope to get some war soon.  The Colonel has been pleasant, and leaves me alone to run the battery as I think fit without interfering.  The horses are looking well in spite of the snow and cold.

 

With ten other ranks I represented the Brigade at a show the other day. It was for the benefit of the Italians, a sort of “see here we are” sort of thing.  It was bitterly cold on parade after a long drive in lorries, and we had no lunch.  We stood to attention on the square while all the national anthems of the allies were played.  Several men fainted.  I should we could have flattered our gallant Italian allies with less discomfort to the  troops.

 

I have an excellent billet with a bedroom to myself. There is a good deal of sickness about, but I am keeping very fit.  I hear that some of our mail was involved in the railway smash in France the other day.  Our mails at the best of times are very uncertain.  We are a long way from our base, and transport is by road.

 

It does not look as if we shall get much time for wandering about Italy now, but I hope to get to Rome and Naples later.

 

December 25, 1917.

B.E.F. ITALY.

CHRISTMAS DAY

 

We are having as good a Christmas as is possible away from England.  It is cold but bearable.  Two days holiday has been proclaimed, except for the necessary work in connection with the horses.

 

Today I rose moderately late, and went to stables. At midday I visited billets, and saw dinner served out to the men.  It consisted of seven little pigs, two vegetables, plum puddings, oranges, apples and nuts.  The suckling pigs, provided by the officers, had been purchased sometime previously, well fattened up, and slaughtered by the battery cook.  Roasting took place on the premises of the village baker.

 

The officers also duly celebrated by feasting. Breakfast: porridge, bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade; lunch: soup, roast pork, three vegetables, plum pudding, fruit with quite good white wine which I discovered, and liqueurs; then dinner: soup, fish cakes, two large turkeys with sausages and chestnuts, three vegetables, plum pudding, very excellent, pate de foie gras, fruit, and for drink: Italian champagne, liqueurs, coffee and whisky.  The cook excelled himself.

 

To crown the celebration a large Christmas mail arrived. With many welcome letters from home I also received others.  They were from anxious or angry mothers, wives, sisters and other relatives of the men, asking what had become of their sons, husbands, brothers, boys and what not, Tom, Dick, Bert, as they had not heard from them for a month or more.  On such lamentable occasions they would all write to the wretched battery commander.  One woman was quite cross with me, and demanded why I had not replied to her earlier letter.

 

I hope you are getting some of my letters now. I believe a train smash in France destroyed some of our mail.

 

We have bought two live pigs which we are feeding on the men’s leavings.

 

Jock Amour expresses himself as “fed up”, in spite of the fare. The Doctor is at present as there is a lot of sickness in the Brigade.  After this festival he is likely to be still busier.

 

Snow has arrived. It is not pleasant for the horses.  Neither do we want it.

 

So you have been helping at the Food Control Office. How on earth do you control food?  I know nothing about these new institutions.  I have only seen about three English papers in two months.

 

One of our batteries is in a sad way. It needs pulling together.  It is commanded by an elderly ranker major.  The horses have mange, and the men are dirty and slovenly.  Perhaps the latter is the cause of the former.  At present our battery has escaped mange.

 

Most of my nights lately have been spent drawing maps and making and considering plans and schemes, for all eventualities, after the day’s reconnaissance. It has been hard work but interesting.

 

One day lately we had a strenuous time. I took the Battery staff, four officers, six sergeants and others to see some possible battery positions, ways of approach, and the characteristics of the country up in the mountains.  We started at 7 a.m. on a cold and frosty morning.  We arrived back at about 8 p.m. very tired and stiff.  Altogether we rode 25 miles on horseback, walked 6 miles, climbed one hillock of 1000 feet, and a hill of 4000 feet into real hard and deep snow.  The climb up on the latter took two hours, straight up the side by a mule track.  From the top we had a wonderful view of the mountains and of the Austrian lines.

 

We considered it too tiring and perhaps rather risky to return the way we had come, so we went back in an empty Italian service lorry by one of the fine new military roads, which winds with many spirals and hair-pin turns down to the valley below. It was by this way twenty-two miles down, and took one hour and ten minutes including waits at places for vehicles to pass.

 

On top the cold was intense. The Italian soldiery up there have a very miserable time, and suffer much from frost bite.  I send you some edelweiss from there.

 

The poorer inhabitants are extraordinarily kind to the troops, the women especially so, in allowing them to use the fire in their only living room and in lending them utensils.

 

Cannot you come out here with Lady Plumer? Ask her if she would bring you.

Letter from F. Springett 28 December 1917

FOR GOD, FOR KING & FOR COUNTRY

Y.M.C.A.

H.M. FORCES ON ACTIVE SERVICE

 

Margate

 

My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a line to let you know I arrived back safe at 10 o’clock.

They made us draw all our stuff. It was about 1 o’clock when I crawled into bed.

“And some bed at that too”. Ha Ha.  I hope you got back alright.

Well Dear Sid, I must thank you once again for all your kindness I’m sure it was a grand time for me, it couldn’t have been better.

Now I’m back once again at this job, talk about enough to make one fed up.

Still I shan’t always be in it I hope.

Well Dear Sid, I haven’t much to talk about. ” What I have written doesn’t sound too good “does it?”

Still, that’s how I feel tonight. Ha Ha.

Well Goodbye

I remain

Your Affec Brother

Frank

 

With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent

Postmarked Margate 9.45 PM 28 DE 17

A. Smith letter & Post Card 21 December 1917

FIELD SERVICE POST CARD

 

Postmarked FIELD POST OFFICE 20 22 DE 17

To T. Smith, 24 Palmerston Rd, Bowes Park, London N22 England.

 

I am quite well

I have received your letter dated Dec 17th 17 & parcel dated Dec 17th

Letter follows at first opportunity

 

Signature only. A. Smith  Date Dec 21st 17

 

Dec 21st 17

 

My Dear Father

 

Thank you very much for sending another parcel so soon they are always very welcome.  The biscuits are fine, also the cake, cigarettes & sweets; the marmalade will be a very nice change have not had any for sometime.  You can bet we are always anxious to see the mail, & there are plenty of parcels rolling up now I have been very lucky had a grand one from Ciss, also one from Albert & Mrs Pat have not quite finished the last so yours coming will just keep me going fine have not had to buy any fags for a long time.

Did Ethel receive my letter, as I mentioned that I have changed my address I will put it in this one to make sure:- Pte. A.A. Smith No 27521 53rd M.G.C. No 2 Section B.E.F. France.  I think I shall like it much better than the infantry.

Well what sort of weather are you getting? Oh golly it is jolly cold out here have had to break the ice to wash the last few mornings it takes some getting out of the blankets.

I am very glad you are spending your Xmas with Ciss as I know you will be at home there I should like to be with you all but I don’t think it will be long now.

We are in a nice little village, came here last Monday & I think we shall have a farely good Xmas there is a concert, whist drives &c arranged & I expect the dinner will be good will write & tell you all about it.

Am sorry I cannot send you any cards or anything but it is difficult to get them out here they are sold out as soon as they come in.

I had a long letter from Mr. Darvill the other week, have not had time to answer it yet. I guess you had a good time at the wedding that’s the stuff to give them enjoy yourself as much as you can.

Well I must say bon soir now. I hope you will all have a jolly good time write soon.

With much love to Ciss, Charlie & yourself & best wishes to Peter.

Hoping you are all in the best of health.

From

Your devoted

Son

 

F. Springett letter 20 December 1917

FOR GOD, FOR KING & FOR COUNTRY

Y.M.C.A.

H.M. FORCES ON ACTIVE SERVICE

 

Thursday

 

 

My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a line to let you know that I shall be home on Saturday if all is well.

Hope you are still quite well. I am very well at present.

It’s awfully cold down here now.

We had the Huns over the other night again. They did a bit of damage this time too.

Hope to see you on Saturday.

Goodbye

I remain

Your Affec Brother

Frank

 

With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent

Postmarked Margate 9.45 PM 20 DE 17