WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne March 1917

WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne March 1917

 

Extracted from

 

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

Correspondence

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R.P. March 1, 1917.

We are having another move. The day before yesterday I was working in the office doing Adjutant’s work from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. the next morning without a break.

I see that there is an account of our raid in the “Times” of 28th February.  It was quite a good raid, and I spent many hours working our part of the scheme out for the batteries.

 

We are now billeted in a huge empty house, but it is dry at any rate. I do not suppose we shall be long here.

 

March 5 1917.

I hear Reg is coming out to France.  I wish he were not.  I am afraid it will make my people worry, although a parson can look after himself if he likes; but I do not think Reg will be content with that sort of think.  We are snowed up again.  Nothing can be done in weather like this, and it is wretched for the men in the front line trenches.

 

We are living in a large empty chateau, and it is very cold. No fire will warm any room.  The Colonel does not like it at all.  He gets so angry about things that can’t be helped.

 

March 7, 1917.

It is just as cold. We are just as busy but less inclined to work owing to the cold.  I am writing letters on my knees in front of a wood fire in a large draughty room in the chateau.  The servants are pasting up the windows and erecting a screen of canvas, but the place is not much warmer.  The Colonel has a liver attack caused by the east wind.  And we are all blue in mind and body.

 

R.P. March 8, 1917.

It is as cold as it ever has been, and is snowung again now.  I am glad of an office to sit in.  I am still doing the Adjutant’s work, but I do not know for how long.

I hope you are not finding any dificulty in getting food. We fortunately can rely on our rations, which do not vary much, but we have difficulty in getting fuel, which is very short in this cold weather.

 

The Colonel and I are alone at Headquarters at present, and as he spends the day out I have to remain here and look after things and deal with any urgent messages.

 

R.P. March 14, 1917.

I hear that Reg is in Feance, but does not know where he is going yet. You will miss him I know, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that both your sons are out here doing what they can.  We hope the war will soon be over, perhaps this year, and then we shall come back all the better for the experience.

 

All leave has been stopped for us, and I am aftaid that means for sometime. It is very annoying, but I hope we shall all be back home again this summer.

 

It is fine here now, but a little colder. I was away for two days, and have just returned.  I went into Belgium. The country is very flat and muddy.

 

I do not suppose we shall be very long in this place. There will be no more settling down this year.  I shall be very glad as long as we get a move on at last.

 

The Boche still seems to be going back on the Somme.  I wonder how far he will go.  We seem to have been caught napping rather badly.

 

I do not want to move into dug-outs until the weather gets warmer, but we cannot be much longer here.

 

March 14, 1917.

It is a glorious day to day. At the moment the Boche is shelling rather heavily for this part.  A shell has just dropped close to the office door, and as there are  bits falling from the skies owing to the enthusiasm of our antiaircraft batteries it is not very pleasant out walking.  No prospect of leave yet.  I shall do something desparate.  Reg is out here now I heard from him the other day.

 

I have been away for two days on an expedition into Belgium for two days and have just reuurned.  The country is so flat and muddy.

 

March 22, 1917.

It snowed hard yesterday and froze last night. What do you think of the news?  The  Boche are retreating not far away.  We are anticipating a move forward in a few days.  We have had another move.  We never seem to be in one place more than a few days.  There has been great excitement.  Two houses on either side of us have been burnt down.  It is our turn next.  The Colonel is in a very bad temper because he is not in the advance.  But I expect we shall have our fill of such things soon.  Leave is as far off as ever.  It is over five months since I had any.

 

I have also managed to get an excellent groom. He was a whip before the war.

I have had a photo taken of my horse.

 

March 28, 1917.

For three whole days now I have been away with the Colonel riding all over the place looking for battery positions further north. Tomorrow I hope to be free.  The weather as usual is cold and wet.  Spring seems a long time coming.  We are in summer time here now.  It changed last Saturday night.  It is light here at 7.30 p.m.

 

We are employing ourselves holding a bit of the line. We live in a large chateau, not far from the front line.  There is a lodge and a drive, and the house is entered by a flight of stone steps.  The hall is covered with three layers of sand-bags as a further protection to the cellars below, in which we take refuge when the shelling starts.  The telephone exchange is also down there.  On the right of the hall is the Wireless room, for I have an installation here, and two operators.  Opposite the door way is the clerk’s office, and an inner room for the Colonel.  There is a sitting room and a mess room, complete with piano in working order.  And quite a good kitchen.  Upstairs there are four officers’ bedrooms, but as most of the windows are out I have a room at the top of the house, which has been nicely furnished by my servant.  He found a quantity of white linen, and has made table cloths & curtains tied up with purple ribbon.  From my window I can see the Boche front line, so I have to be very careful about lights at night, and not to hang out of the window.  We have good stabling for eight horses and a large garden with a wide path right round it, which we use as a jumping track.  We have put up three jumps there, and the horses get plenty of exercise and we enjoy ourselves.  My two horses jump beautifully, the bay mare especially.  She takes anything within reason.  One jump is made of sand-bags and iron piping,  another of hurdles.

Reg seems to have good into the thick of it. Lucky fellow!  But I hope he will keep clear of places as Bapaume Town Hall.

 

My servant has found a delightful pair of old brass candlesticks. Before he let me know he gave one to another officer’s servant for his room.  I want the pair but the other fellow refuses to give his up.

 

Quite a good short war story appears in the April Strand. It is called “Panzerkraftwagen” by F. Britten Austin.  I am also reading “The Reminiscences of Lady Dorothy Nevill”.

 

R.P. March 30, 1917.

I have had another note from Reg. He seems to be right in the advance, lucky fellow, and liking his work.  We are very angry at being out of the advance on the Somme, but we are looking forward to the time when we get our chance here, which I hope will not be long now.  The weather is still cold and wet.  We shall have to wait until it dries up somewhat.  It has rained most of the day.

 

We are living in a big chateau not far from the front line. Most of the windows have gone, and it is rather draughty.  The sitting room at the back however boasts of stained glass nearly intact.  There is a lodge and a drive up to the house.  The entrance hall is approached by a flight of large stone steps.  The ground floor is covered with three layers of sand-bags, as a further protection to the cellars below, where our telephone exchange is installed.  On the right of the hall is the wireless room, which is under my charge.  On the left is the clerk’s room and the Adjutant’s inner office.  There is also a mess room with a piano in it, and a sitting room adjoining.  Upstairs the landing also has three layers of sand-bags filled with bricks.  There are four officers’ bedrooms, and a bathroom besides rooms for the servants and orderlies.  So you see we live in luxury.  My bedroom is at the top of the house, where I found quite a decent room, small and quite fairly clean, and the windows were not smashed.  But I have to be careful about lights, as I can see the Boche front line from the window.

 

My servant, an excellent and amusing fellow, has covered tables and chest of drawers with white calico tied up with purple ribbon which he scrounged from somewhere. There is excellent stabling for ten horses, but it is rather risky keeping them so far up, and a large garden where we have put up some jumps under the trees.  So I take a ride each morning and do a bit of jumping to shake my liver up.  I have an excellent groom.  He was a whip in a hunt before the war.

 

We have had summer time for a week now, so we are ahead of you in England by an hour.  It is quite light up to 8, p.m.

 

I have a delightful little mare to ride.  She was left behind by the late Adjutant, and as no one has appropriated her, I did.  She jumps well, but is inclined to bolt at times and throw the rider.  No doubt that is the reason why she has not been taken by the Colonel, although he will not admit it.  But now my groom, Scarrat, has taken her in hand, and by using a snaffle she is much quieter, and a perfect mount.  She is the best horse in the Brigade.  We have six horses up here and I ride them all in turn.

 

All this sounds very attractive, but unfortunately it is not the whole story. The rest is as usual.

Letter to Alf Smith 30 March 1917

24 Palmerston Road

Bowes Park

N 22

March 30 1917

 

Dear Alf,

 

I was very pleased to get your letter and to know you are well this trying weather pleased to say we are all fairly well I had a letter from Southend they said the same I am sending on the last letter I received from Albert Taylor. Since having his letter he had leave in Feb and I saw him then and he looked jolly.  I shall be pleased when this war is over and all things brighter you said in your last letter you will be pleased to have a parcel I shall be pleased to send on one when I know I can hoping this will find you well.

From your

Loving Father

 

 

Addressed to 1st Essex and returned undelivered ‘Present location unknown’ to Mr. Smith

F Smith letter 29 March 1917

March 29th 17

 

Dear Father

 

Here we are again still somewhere in France; came here yesterday it is raining fast at present so of course it’s wet but I need not tell you that. We have had a very good time since we have been over here & no doubt the weather will be getting better now.

This will be my permanent address now :- Pte. A.A. Smith No 27521. 10th Essex Regt. ‘C’ Company No 10 Platoon B.E.F. France.

I shall be glad to have a parcel now will tell you a few things I should like if you can get them. Bourbon creams or Custard cream biscuits, small pot jelly & paste, box chocolates & a cake.  You might as well make the parcel up to weight for postage but do not send anything too large as there is not much room to carry anything if we happen to be moving having so much extra kit being winter time; about the same as you used to send when I was out here before will do a treat.

I am hoping to get more correspondence now I only received one letter & a paper from you & that was over a fortnight ago I think there must have been several lost.

How is everything going at Wood Green I hope you are all sailing along merry & bright; is the show good at the picture palace?

Glad to say I am feeling A.1.

Hoping you are all in the best of health.

With much love from

Your devoted

Son

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 March 1917.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 March 1917.

 

B.E.F.

France.

Wednesday March 28th 1917

 

My own dearest,

 

Many thanks for all your letters. I am very lucky indeed for I have received two to day, and also a delightful cake from Mrs. Cross.  Thank you so much for it.  After  the long days we have been having the cake is most acceptable when we get in late as to day.  For three whole days now I have been away with the Colonel riding all over the country and getting back late.  I hope tomorrow I shall get a freer day.

 

The weather as usual is beastly – cold and wet. Spring weather seems a long time coming.  I should be very miserable but for your letters.  The one dated the 18th I enjoyed very much.  You have probably forgotten it so I won’t tell you why.

 

It must be very amusing to see everybody doing market gardening in England now.  I suppose Sunday is the favourite day for working as they can frivol all the week and on Sunday when there is nothing doing they can pretend to be doing some work.

 

I am sorry you are getting all these shocks thinking I am at home. You flatter me too much.  Unfortunately I can’t expect to get away yet.  Do you remember that picture of Bairnsfather of a man in a dugout and his leave cancelled?  That is how I feel at present.

 

It is perfectly awful the way I get interrupted when I try and write to you. I have already been called off three times.  I suppose I notice it more when I am writing to you because it is so important and you will say, I suppose, quite an event!  Thank you so much for enquiring after my health.  “Hoping this will find you quite well as it leaves me at present in the pink.”  That is the formula all the men use.  I am sure that must have been in a copy book when they were at the village school.  They all use it.  I always forget to say I am well, I suppose, because I am fairly fit and because someone else’s health is much more important.  I must adopt the formula.

 

What was it that I did that made you redden in the face that Wednesday morning? You are quite right I have forgotten.  Disgraceful isn’t it?  But I thought you had got past the stage of blushing.  At any rate please do tell me.  I badly want to know.  You are always exciting my curiosity you wicked little darling.  So you are reading Hankey’s “Lord of all Good Life”.  No I have not seen it.  You surprise me though.  I did not think you liked his other book.

 

We are in Summer time here now. It changed last Saturday night.  So we are living ahead of you for a bit.  It is light here now at 7.30 p.m.

 

We are employing ourselves holding a bit of the line. We live in a large chateau not far from the front line.  There is a lodge and a drive and the house is entered up a large flight of stone steps.  The hall is covered with 3 layers of sandbags of bricks as a further protection to the cellars below in which we take refuge if ‘they’ start to shell us.  Down there the telephone exchange is worked by our signallers.  On the right of the hall is the ‘Wireless’ room for the operator for we have an installation here under my care.

 

Opposite the doorway is the clerk’s office and an inner room for the Colonel. There is a sitting room and a Mess Room with a piano in working order, and a good kitchen.  Upstairs there are four officers’ bedrooms but as most of the windows are out I have a room at the top of the house which has been nicely furnished by my servant.  He got a lot of white linen and has made table cloths & curtains tied up with purple ribbon.  From my window I can see the Boche front line so I have to be very careful about lights.

 

We have good stabling for eight horses and a large garden with a track round it. We have put up three jumps there and the horses are quite enjoying themselves.  My two horses jump beautifully – the bay mare especially.  I am sure she would take a five barred gate but I should probably flunk it.

 

Reg seems to have good into the thick of it. Lucky fellow.  I hope he will keep clear of places like Bapaume town hall though.

 

My servant has found a delightful pair of old brass candlesticks but like a fool before he let me know about it, he gave one to another officer’s servant for his room. I want the pair badly but the officer in question refuses to give it up and I certainly won’t give up mine.  On my table I have got no less than 5 photographs of you.

 

The best war story (short) I have read I think is in the April Strand. It is called “Panzerkraftwagen” by F. Britten Austin (pronounce that if you can).  A book I have got hold of is “The Reminiscences of Lady Dorothy Nevill”.  Can’t you imagine me reading that?!

 

Have you read any of Stephen Leacock’s books? I enjoyed some of them very much.  There is no time for much reading now.

 

How are you all keeping? I hope Mrs. Cross is better.  Please give her my kindest regards and thank her very much indeed for the cake.

 

With all my love & kisses to you darling.

 

Ever yours

Archie.

F Smith letter 27 March 1917

March 27th 17

 

Dear Albert & Affie,

 

There is not very much news to tell you, but thought I would write a few lines to let you know I am still merry & bright & feeling A.1.  I shall be glad when the summer comes it has been very cold here.  What is it like at Southend?

Have you heard from Father lately?  I have only had one letter & a paper from him since I have been here which is nearly a month now.

We are going to the 10th Batt: this time expected to leave to-day but it will be very soon now.

How does your new mechanic suit you I hope you are having an easier time now.

The daylight saving bill started last Sunday up as usual 5.30 which would be 4.30 in Blighty have to rise by candle light.

I shall be pleased to hear from you; address letters the same as usual they will be sent on if I have left here.

Well I think I must finish now.

Hoping you are all in the best of health.

With much love to you both & kisses for Joy

Your devoted

Brother

Alf Smith letter 25 March 1917

March 25th 17

 

Dear Father

 

I hope you are quite well.

Have you received many letters from me I have written several.  I have only had one letter & a paper from you since I have been here, I should think some of them must have gone astray.

We are going to join the 10th Battalion probably to-morrow I shall be glad of a parcel then will let you know as soon as we get there.

I shall be pleased to have a letter from you, address it as usual 15th I.B.D. &c as it will be sent on if we have left here.

No more news at present. Glad to say I am A.1.

With much love from

Your devoted

Son

 

Alf Smith letter 25 March 1917

France

Mar 25 1917

My Dear Nell,

Just a few lines to let you know I am quite alright & well. I have received your letter & parcel & must thank you for them.

We are now out of the trenches and in billets for training.  We have a pretty decent billet about half an hour’s walk from town.  It is quite a change to get away from trenches and to get into a town where we can enjoy ourselves a little.

Pleased to know you enjoyed your weekend at 20B.  You seemed to have been having a “Gay Time” rolling home at 12 P.M.  It is a wonder that the door was opened for you. Next sentence Blue Pencilled.

Have you received any of the letters that must have gone astray.  Have made a few enquiries but have not heard anything yet.

Well Dear you have all the news etc so must close.  Please remember me to your Mother & Father & to Bert when you write.  With Fondest Love & Kisses from

Your loving

Alf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without Envelope