War Diary of AA Laporte Payne July 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

July 1917

 

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.

 

16-7-17.

To Staff Captain, R.A.

XV, Corps.

Ref. C.471.

(A.M.S. 4th Army 146/35.)

 

Acting Captain ARCHIBALD ALDRIDGE LAPORTE PAYNE is recommended for promotion to Temporary Captain.

 

  1. Furnivall.

Lt. Col., R.A.

Commanding 175th Brigade R.F.A.

16-7-17.

 

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.

31-7-17.

NOMINAL ROLL OF ARTILLERY OFFICERS.

 

HEADQUARTERS.              Lieut. Colonel W. Furnivall                R.

Lieut A.G. Modlock Adjutant            Tp.

2/Lieut W.A. Macfarlane                    Sp.R.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

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A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 26 July 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 26 July 1917

 

B.E.F.

July 26th 1917

 

My dearest,

 

You will be leaving ‘The Farm’, I suppose, in a day or two so this will be my last letter to you there. How quickly the time does go!  I hope you will have a good holiday with Mr & Mrs Cross.  You deserve a long rest now and will probably be glad to be rid of farm life for a bit.

 

I am still at the Wagon Lines but I can’t keep away from the guns and I go up generally every day, mostly at night. Last night I did not get back until 2, a.m. as we had a lot of ammunition to cart.  I had dinner at Headquarters.  The Doctor has gone home to England ill, lucky fellow!  These doctors know how to do it don’t they?

 

I am probably going up to the gun line again for a bit and the Major is coming down here, so I shall have plenty to do.

 

The weather has not been so good the last two days and fairly windy. I hate the wind when living in tents; everything blows about so horribly.

 

A box of Con Amore Cigarettes arrived yesterday. You are the guilty one I expect or Mrs Cross at your instigation – so I am sending my very best thanks to you, dearest.  They are excellent, and I am smoking one now and enjoying it thoroughly so far as the wind will allow me.

 

My horses are looking very well. They were inspected by the D.D.V.S. the other day (in other words the Deputy Director of Veterinary Services) and he was very pleased with them.  The harness is not yet what I want it to be but then I suppose I am very particular.  I am much too fond of looking inside buckles for the men.

 

How are you keeping? Quite alright I hope, and all your people.  Give my love to Maude and thank her for her letter (I think I did this before though)

I must get away now as there is some more ammunition coming in.

With all my love & kisses

Ever your

Arch.

FW Springett letter 25 July 1917

6649 Pte F.W. Springett

D Company 1st Platoon

22nd Training Reserve

New Hall Farm Camp

Upper Dovercourt

Essex

Tuesday

 

My Dear Brother Sid,

I received your kind letter and 10/- note this morning thanks very much.

We are out on the range now.  Firing our last course, and its about five miles from our other camp.  Of course we are camping up here for the week and I shall soon be home now.

It is very lovely right out in the country heavy ink staining enough to keep away from the German Aeroplanes.

It was a nice little raid here on Sunday.  I was just going to have my breakfast when the guns started banging, and I saw about ten of them.  They did fire at them for about 15 minutes, the noise was awful, some of the shrapnel from the guns fell in our camp but no bombs.

It was very funny, because we moved up here on Saturday afternoon, and they dropped some bombs right on the other camp but did not kill anyone.

I must not say too much about it as our letters are liable to be opened. Heavy ink staining quite understand I am like you about the paper.  I have just borrowed a piece, as there is no YMCA up here.

Still we can always get plenty when there’s one about.  I do.  I had another letter from Ted the other day.  I was surprised.  Glad you are still getting on alright and take my tip keep alright, and where you are.

Well Dear Sid, I must now close as it is post time, there is only one post here a day. Still write to the same address they will find me alright then.

It is 19 weeks since I joined up, don’t the time fly.

Well, Dear Sid, I thank you very much for what you do for me, perhaps I shall be able to repay you some day.

At least I hope so. Ha Ha.

I will now close.

With Best Love

From Your

Affec Brother

Frank W.

You will excuse writing won’t you? Write soon.

Hope you are still A1 I am O.K.

 

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

Postmarked HARWICH 5 PM 25 JY 17.

Envelope and cover heavily ink stained.

 

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 24 July 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 24 July 1917

 

B.E.F.

July 24th 1917

 

Darling,

 

You have, I hope, by this time received one or two letters from me. I expect you got very angry with me for being so long.  Thank you so much for yours of the 20th and the photos which have just arrived.

 

Were you successful in getting your wages paid? I am indeed very sorry that you have got so low that you are contemplating a pawnshop.  I hope the financial situation is better now.

 

So you would like to be on the same sort of holiday as the Revd & Mrs.  Don’t you think I should too, dearest?  It is difficult to imagine having such a good time under these circumstances.  I wonder whether you would find the anticipation better than the realisation, or vice versa.  I know which I think the best and it is not the first in this case.  Such things would probably make me silly though and then think how awful it would be to have a lunatic companion.

 

I wonder how Reg likes married life. I hope he won’t repent at leisure.  He certainly married in haste.

 

We are still having a strenuous time. The Boche keeps us very busy.  Leave seems as far off as ever alas!

 

I have actually had a bathe afternoon, and after buying some eggs and fish for the gun line fellows I am now going up the line with the ammunition.

 

It has been cloudy to-day but fine and warm. I suppose you are having it the same.

 

I have had to have one of my horses shot to-day, alas! It got a rope gall which got poisoned and then grew so bad that the hoof was nearly off – so it had to be shot.

 

The teams are just turning out. I hate this night work up the line with horses – you never know when the Boche are going to turn their guns onto the road and with horses it the dark it is horrible.

 

I hope you are keeping well, dearest

With all my love & kisses

Ever your

Arch.

F. Hammond letter 24 July 1917

24 July 1917

BEF

Dear F & M

Glad to receive your letter and know you are all merry and bright.  I am just jogging along quietly taking an occasional walk thro the woods round about.  The fields also are at their best the natives round here work long hours in the fields from sunrise to sunset.  Could just do with a meal off Par’s vegs.  I’ve forgotten what garden peas are like.  Still I hope to enjoy them next summer with a bit of luck.  I see the Huns tried to get to London again.

I suppose Dolly is married by now.  Yes I recd George’s letter OK some time ago and sent him a picture pc in reply.  I have also sent him a few ordinary “I am quite well things”.  So Gladys is going to pay Hilda a visit.  I hope she has a good time.  You might remember me to her.  So Par has been at his games again.  I suppose he will be a mechanic before the war’s over.  I would like to see the lawn mower in its shed I should think it would look like an aeroplane in its hangar.  I suppose my dawg has got quite grown up but don’t think he likes to argue the point with other dogs.  The Russians seem a queer lot but should think Kerensky ought to pull things together.

Well I think this is all this time old dears.

Yours Gussie de Grabit

F . Smith letter 24 July 1917

July 24th 17

 

Dear Father

 

Just a few lines to thank you very much for your parcel received yesterday; also for Jessie’s welcome letter.  The contents as usual are very nice I know I shall enjoy them all; the cake is or rather was very good as it is all gone now.

Well there is not very much in the way of news to tell you, but I will do my best.  Please tell Ethel Wrigley’s is just what I want it is grand stuff when one is on the march we can get it out here but I never think to buy any until I want it then of course it is too late.  I will write to young Winnie the first opportunity have been going to do so for sometime.

I bet Jack is glad to get home again, & that he is keeping well.  He is having a long stay but of course not too long I bet the time goes too soon.  They make a great fuss about taking names for leave in this mob, in the end they only send one or two for about ten days.  I have not been out long enough although time is getting on five months I might stand a chance in another four, but I hope to be home before that.

Where do you all think of going for your summer holidays?  I should like to come with you but Mr. King said he cannot spare me at present I hope you will have a good time.

I received the 10/- note safely it was very welcome I answered it at once so no doubt you have got the letter by now but in case not I thank you very much.

I am at present engaged as officers servant have been on the job just over a week now. It has several advantages as we escape the majority of parades we only turn out on special days but it is a good rush then.  He has been in England for sometime but was with the Battalion before everybody says he looks after his servants well but I cannot say at present as I have had to buy several things for him that is where your 10/- came in handy but I know I can have it when I am in want of it.

There was a parcel waiting for me when we came to this place from Southend which was July 4th nearly three weeks now have not heard anything since have you had any news I hope they are well.

I had a nice parcel from Ciss last week. The air raid was very close to them I hope you have not had any more visits lately.

The weather is very nice at present I expect good old Blighty looks a treat now.

How is Mr. & Mrs. Darvill & family I hope they are all well & all others whom I know.

Well I think I must stop now.  Glad you are all in the best of health pleased to say I am A1.

 

With much love from

Your devoted

Son

 

G. Hammond letter 22 July 1917

Sunday

22-7-17

My dear Father and Mother

Gladys’s letter of the 11th was most amusing I can imagine Ma saying “What have you brought now?” and poor old Pa saying in a very meek voice a lawn mower, then I suppose Ma would say “Well we don’t want any more rubbish” in about a fortnight she would say it cuts the grass very nicely.  Well we are still by the sea and very pleasant too we had rather an unwelcome visitor this morning in the form of a 5.9 shell but he didn’t go off so it doesn’t matter.  Things are quite noisy here but we don’t get very much of it.  It would be rather a novel wedding accompanied by confetti in the form of bombs.  Still such things are very common here and one gets quite used to it.  Glad you received the cheque OK.  I had a letter from Hilda tonight saying Gladys had arrived.  I suppose she will know more about the family than I do for I have never seen Pa. I can imagine Ma **tting off to the plot and then giving Pa such a lot of valuable advice.  The only thing is if ever Ma starts pulling my leg I shall ask her if she has had any enlargements lately.  That is her week spot.  I like Gladys quiet suggestion that she will welcome any tray cloths I would like to send , well the first opportunity I get I will send her some the joke will be she will never finish them.  We are a long way from the place where I brought the last but I may be able to do a bit.  At the present moment I am the proud possessor of a German cap badge don’t for one moment imagine I have been busy killing Boche Oh No just found the helmet you know.  I had a Field Card from Gus tonight it has taken 5 days to come so no doubt he is a very long way off.  I am still waiting for his address and am damned tired of asking for it.  I would love to have seen Pa wrestling with that lawn mower.  It does keep him busy.  I am *** what with the clock and other little details does he find much wrong with the bicycles lately.  How’s the gramophone going now?  I do hope you are buying a lot of records.  I shall want to play it a lot when I come home.

It is a long time since I had a letter from Bill.  I hope you will buck him up.  The Major tells me he has recommended me for promotion today but I am not very confident.  It did not take Dolly long to get married perhaps she wanted to make sure.  Well this is all at present, mind that lad doesn’t get into trouble with that lawn mower.  I suppose he finds the oil very expensive now.  I am as brown as a berry, in fact you won’t recognise me when I come home for my moustache makes a very good disguise.  I have a little puppy now which was borne in the trenches so I am keeping it for a souvenir.

Well Cheer Oh!

Fondest love

George