War Diary of AA Laporte Payne
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
July 4 1917.
To day it is pouring with rain, a very bad day for the King who is visiting the line here.
We are still out of the line, but quite close enough for long range guns and aeroplane bombs to remind us that the war is still going on. Leave is precarious even with the warrant in one’s fist. I shall try and get away at the end of August. Even when you start you may be called back again. The doctor got his leave warrant the other day and wired for his wife to get rooms at the sea-side, and then it was cancelled. He had got away now though, lucky fellow. But he deserves it, for he has not had leave since January and had a bad time in the show at Messines.
The Corps Horse Show went off very well. There were two or three large marquees put up, the field roped off, and a great display of flags made the place look very gay. There was a stand of some size for the judges, and we had a band. Personally I thought it was mad. What would have happened if the Boche aeroplanes had come over and bombed us when in mass?
The tea was good. We had strawberries and cream, cherries, peaches, sandwiches, cakes, teas, whiskeys and sodas, and beer. My team of blacks was in the show representing our Brigade, but we did not win a prize. One Brigade got everything. It was an old regular brigade, which had been out here since the start of the war. It had some lovely horses.
We expect to be moving shortly now, and that is all the news I can give you.
The Colonel has nothing to occupy his time now, and consequently he is in a very bad temper. He sleeps and eats and wanders about in a miserable condition.
At present I am in command of “A” Battery, as the Major is away sick. He may return at any time. They have actually made me a captain.
I have had a jolly good time at Headquarters, and I am sorry to leave; but I don’t want to refuse promotion again. I was posted to “C” Battery sometime ago, but I did not want to go there and asked the Colonel to cancel the posting which he did. If I do not like “A” Battery I shall ask the Colonel if I can return to H.Q. again. The only thing is that if I stay at “A” Battery as Captain I shall be at the Wagon Lines for the next push, and not in the line. I cannot possibly miss another show.
The Colonel has been good enough to send my name in for something, but they have only given me a “mention in despatches”.
R.P. July 9 1917.
I am fit and well. We are on the move again. At present we are living in tents, and may be under canvas for the next week.
The weather is shocking again. It has been pouring with rain all last night and today, so the ground is mud again.
July 9 1917.
It is our last night in this area, I hope for ever. To this part of the line we came first from England, and here we have been the whole time with the exception of five months on the Somme.
Now tomorrow morning I leave at 7.30, a.m. in charge of the advance billeting party. I am not sorry, except that I do not suppose we shall ever be so comfortable as we have been the last week or so after a battle which was enhartening.
You may be able to guess where we are going.
I think we are getting just a little tired of this war, of spending the best years of our lives in the way we do. War is not quite like a cinema show at the Scala with tea at Fullers afterwards.
The weather has been horrid the last few days. Thunderstorms with torrential rain has turned the place into a bog. I hope it will be fine tomorrow for our trek.
The French countryside is quite unlike England. There are few hedges, the trees are tall and skinny. The roads, often made of pave, are straight and very uninteresting. The inhabitants never look clean except on Sundays. The women generally are ugly, but the town girl often dresses extremely well. Houses we think ugly too, and the decorations appalling. For the rest we only see khaki everywhere with lorries, and lorries and still more lorries, mixed up in inextricable confusion with horses, which overflow into the fields. Behind the lines there are many beings absent further forward, immaculate staff officers in gorgeous uniforms and perfect breeches, with their associates the A.S.C. All these live in the greatest comfort on the fat of the land. Receive higher pay and allowances, and obtain more leave than the soldier. I wonder why it is? Their air of superiority too, is most marked, no doubt due to the greater allowance of ration decorations. Of such are the dwellers in chateaux.
Occasionally you see an English girl in white and blue, with red capes. Such are nurses, and they look competent and pleasant in their uniforms. But there are other extraordinary get-ups, and apparently they thought they were soldier for they took to saluting officers. But when the Scottish started to return their salutes by curtseying, they gave it up in disgust.
Such are my impressions of being behind the line. Fortunately we do not get much of it. they could not bear our disagreeable presences for very long.
I hear that London has been bombed again. It will do them a lot of good. As long as you at home are not bombed I don’t mind. There will be, no doubt, a great out-cry again about retaliation and so forth. Just because the shouters live in England they think they are under the special care of heaven, and that no one should dare to intrude let alone bomb them. And like the Israelites of old they will murmur against the authorities for allowing such things to happen. They being generally immune from such outrages forget what the French have to put up with daily. The “Daily Wail” and suchlike papers would be quite amusing if their frightened squeals were not so pitiable.
That’s off my chest. Forgive it. as you observe I am in a very bad temper.
R.P. July 16,1917.
Since I last wrote we have moved to quite a new place. We were five days on the road, and travelled mostly at night, arriving at our destination usually at about 11 a.m. Then we had to make our camp, water and feed the horses and what not. So we get very little sleep. As the Major is still away I am in command of the Battery.
The day we arrived behind the line here we got into camp at 9 a.m. Then I had to accompany the Colonel to reconnoitre battery positions. We moved into action that night, which meant spending the whole [day] making gun pits. In the morning I had to go to the O.P. to register the guns.
Since we moved into the line we have been living in the open in a cornfield with no shelters at all for anybody for two days. To add to the discomfort it has poured with rain the whole time, and the mosquitoes and sand flies have added to our misery. The men are very tired; but we are still going strong.
Today is a perfect day. I should like a bathe.
To Staff Captain, R.A.
(A.M.S. 4th Army 146/35.)
Acting Captain ARCHIBALD ALDRIDGE LAPORTE PAYNE is recommended for promotion to Temporary Captain.
Lt. Col., R.A.
Commanding 175th Brigade R.F.A.
July 16, 1917.
We have completed our move. For five days or rather nights we travelled along the roads of France going steadily north. Usually we started at 1 a.m., arriving at our destination each day at 11 a.m. Then we made our camp, watered and fed and groomed the horses. Our next business was to ascertain and allot billets before the Brigade arrived. After dinner we packed in readiness for our next stage on the journey that night.
We arrived at this place at 9 a.m., and I was immediately ordered to accompany the Colonel to reconnoitre battery positions, which took us all day. That night we moved into action. Building rough gun-pits occupied the whole night. The positions were and are in open fields. The next day I spent in the Observation Post registering the guns. Two following days were spent in a similar fashion. The Major is still away, so I had to take the Battery into action.
For the first two nights in our new position we lived and had our being in a soft corn field run to seed, with no cover at all, either from the enemy or the weather. To add to our miseries it poured with rain during the night time. I slept in a “two-men” shelter with one of the subalterns. The thing is like an inverted V, so low that your nose stuck into the canvas top, so short that if your head was underneath feet stuck out at the other end. The Boche, sand-flies, and mosquitoes complete our tale of woe. Eating our meals and compiling daily returns for H.Q., importing ammunition, stores and what not, and urging the gunners to fresh efforts nightly to construct some sort of gun platforms in pitch darkness, all these things are enough to try the tempers of more saintly creatures than we are.
July 19, 1917.
The Major has returned, so that responsibility has been shifted from my shoulders, but I am sorry in a way. Running a six-gun battery is generally interesting, often exciting, and is assuredly the best command in the field without exception. So I have come down to the wagon-lines for a bit of a rest. But I have plenty to do looking after the horses, carting ammunition every night up to the gun-line, which is a long and tedious business, when the Boche shells the road a nasty business. From our first wagon-lines we have been forcibly ejected by the Boche. So we have had to erect other horse lines, water troughs and harness sheds elsewhere.
Have you guessed where we are?
I have a bell tent now, and a camp bed of sorts, which is better than a soaking corn field.
Hitherto the weather has been bad, but today it is gloriously fine. I might get some bathing if there was less to do.
July 24. 1917.
This afternoon I actually had a bathe, and after buying some eggs and fish for the gun-line mess, I am now going up the line with ammunition, rations and water. You might think there was enough water about. There is but not drinkable.
Today it has been cloudy and warm.
I had to shoot one of my horses today, poor brute! He got a rope gall, which became poisoned and festered until the hoof was nearly off. I don’t like losing horses like this.
The teams are just turning out. I hate this night work up the line with horses. One never knows when the Boche are going to turn their guns on to the only road we have and with horses on this congested road in the dark it is sometimes horrible.
July 26, 1917.
I am still at the wagon-line, but I can’t keep away from the guns. I go up generally every day, mostly at night. I can if I choose send the Q.M.S., but I prefer going myself. Last night I did not get back until 2, a.m., as we had a great deal of ammunition to take up.
I had dinner at Headquarters. The Doctor has gone home to England sick, lucky fellow! These Doctors know how to wangle it.
In a day or so I am probably going up to the Gun-line again for a bit, and the Major is taking my place here. He probably thinks that there is nothing to do here, but he will soon be disillusioned.
The weather has not been so kind the last two days. The wind has been high, which makes it rather uncomfortable living un unstable tents.
My horses, in spite of the unclement weather and open lines are looking very well. They were inspected by the D.D.V.S. the other day, and he expressed himself as pleased with them. The harness is not yet as I want it to be. The chief trouble is dirty buckles.
E.A.L.P. July 27, 1917.
Today it has been glorious. I have been for a long gallop, and then had a bathe. My mare swims quite well.
175th (Army) BRIGADE, R.F.A.
NOMINAL ROLL OF ARTILLERY OFFICERS.
HEADQUARTERS. Lieut. Colonel W. Furnivall R.
Lieut A.G. Modlock Adjutant Tp.
2/Lieut W.A. Macfarlane Sp.R.
- Battery. Major J.W. Muse Tp.
Captain A.A. Laporte Payne. Tp.
Lieut. D. Lowden. Tp.
“ H.E. Pitt. M.C. Tp.
2/Lieut. A. Twyford, M.C. R.
“ J.S. Davis. Sp.R.
“ J.G. Cooney. R.
“ C.J. Sharp Sp R.
B Battery. Major H.W. Huggins D.S.O., M.C. R.
Captain G.P. Hepworth. Ter.
2/Lieut. A.B. Macdonald. R.
“ J. Amour, M.C. Tp.
” L.F. Holt, M.C. Tp.
” F.L. Talley. Ter.
” A.E. Dawes. Ter.
- Battery. Major H.A. Terry Ter.
Captain K.M. Macdonald Ter.
Lieut H. Leigh Ter.
” H.A.K. Gibb Ter.
2/Lieut S. Clover. Ter.
” H. Griffiths. R
” B.E.H. Whiteford Sp. R.
- Battery. Captain J.L. Gow. Ter.
Lieut J.W. Henderson Ter.
” F.H. Webb, M.C. Tp.
2/Lieut A. Roberts. R.
” B. Baker. Sp. R.
” W. Morrison Sp. R.
BRIGADE AMMUNITION COLUMN.
Captain V.G. Gilbey. Ter.
Lieut. E.L. Warren. Ter.
2/Lieut. G.A. Thomson. Ter.
” E.W. Hutton. Sp. R.
31st July 1917.