56 Division Narrative of Operations 22 May 1917

56 Division Narrative of Operations 22 May 1917

56th Divn. G.3/355.
Narrative of operations from 28th April
to 21st May 1917.
27th April. On 27th April 167th Infantry Brigade relieved the Reserve Brigade of 15th Division,
On the night 28th/29th it relieved the two leading Brigades of the 15th Division, 169th Infantry Brigade taking its place in Support, while 168th Infantry Brigade had moved into ARRAS in Reserve during the day.
29th April. The command of the line was taken over by 56th Division at 10 a.m. on 29th and on the same night, 169th Infantry Brigade took over from 167th Infantry Brigade the right section of the line, the dividing line being the ARRAS – CAMBRAI Road.
30th April. 56th Division Order No. 88 was issued on the 30th for the attack on 3rd May.
2nd May. On the evening of the 2nd May 168th Infantry Brigade was moved up out of ARRAS, two battalions being in or about THE HARP and two in the old German line East of ARRAS. The 169th and 167th Infantry Brigades also concentrated that night for the attack on the next morning, their final dispositions being:-
On the right – – 169th Infantry Brigade.
Right front Battalion – 5th London Regiment.
Left “ “ – 2nd “ “
Support “ – 9th “ “
Reserve “ – 16th “ “

On the left – – 167th Infantry Brigade.
Right front Battalion – 1st London Regiment.
Left “ “ – 7th Middlesex Regt.
Support “ – 3rd London Regiment.
Reserve “ – 8th Middlesex Regt.
A sketch map is attached showing the assembly areas, dividing lines between Brigades and the objectives. [Map not attached]

3rd May. Zero hour was 3.45 a.m., it being then dark, and no reports were received for a considerable time.
169th Infantry Brigade.
At 6.15 a.m. a F.O.O. reported that our men could be seen digging in front of ST. ROHART FACTORY and that 14th Division on the right appeared to have reached its objective.
At 7 a.m. the Brigade reported that the 2nd London Regiment had two platoons and four Machine Guns in the trench S.E. of CAVALRY FARM, but that the enemy appeared to be holding TOOL Trench.
The 2nd London Regiment was also holding a portion of LANYARD Trench, and more of the same Battalion, together with 5th London Regiment were in Trench N.15.a.0.5. to the CAMBRAI Road. The 5th London Regiment was also holding a Trench close to the PIT near ST. ROHART FACTORY.
No further news was received until 10.45 a.m. when 169th Infantry Brigade reported that bombers of the 9th London Regiment had rushed CAVALRY FARM after a bombardment by Stokes Mortars – they had bombed the dug-outs and taken 22 prisoners, and were proceeding to bomb up TOOL Trench, to aid in which 4.5” Howitzers were turned on to the trench in front of them.
At 10.50 a.m. 3rd Division asked for our guns to lift off TOOL Trench as they had troops in it who were going to bomb Southwards and at 11.35 a.m. they reported that they held that trench at the Northern end to East of the COPSE in 0.8 Central.
At 3.50 p.m., however, it was confirmed that the enemy was holding the whole of TOOL Trench, and that the 3rd Division was in touch with 7th Middlesex Regiment in our original line. Meanwhile at 11.50 a.m. the 14th Division on our right reported that both their attacking Brigades were being heavily counter-attacked and had been driven back, and at 12.30 p.m. it reported that it was in its original line. About the same time 169th Infantry Brigade reported that it had no troops North of the ARRAS-CAMBRAI Road, but that it still held the trench immediately West of the PIT in 0.15.c.
The situation, therefore, was that while the troops on the right and left were back on their original line, 169th Brigade held a narrow wedge of ground at the bottom of a valley and projecting about 1,000 yards forward, and very open to attack from the high ground on either flank. This wedge, however, was occupied until after dark when the enemy bombarded the whole front very heavily, and at 11.15 p.m. it was reported that the 2nd and 5th London Regiments had been driven in.
The General Officer Commanding 169th Infantry Brigade was, therefore, ordered to hold our original front line and to re-organise, and he issued the necessary orders to carry this out. Before these orders reached the 2nd and 5th London Regiments, however, they had organised a fresh advance and pushed out and re-occupied all the ground they had won during the day except CAVALRY FARM, where the Germans appeared to be holding the line of the CAMBRAI Road as a T-head to the South end of TOOL Trench.
This prevented all communication with the troops who were forward, except along the bottom of the valley, and the troops were therefore withdrawn an hour before sunrise, in accordance with the previous orders. During this period an officer and 15 Germans came out and surrendered in the neighbourhood of CAVALRY FARM.
167th Infantry Brigade.
At 5.54 a.m. it was reported that the 7th Middlesex Regiment had met with heavy Machine Gun and Rifle fire and failed to reach TOOL Trench.
At 6.40 a.m. a wounded officer of the 1st London Regiment reported that his Battalion had made two attacks but was each time driven back by Machine Gun fire, and that it was back in its original trenches.
The 168th Infantry Brigade was ordered at 7.10 a.m. to move two Battalions up to the WANCOURT LINE and two Battalions to THE HARP in view of the uncertainty as to the situation on the front of the 167th Infantry Brigade and the fact that the casualties were reported to be heavy.
At 8.55 a.m. it was reported that the Reserve Bn. (8th Middlesex Regiment) was prevented from moving up by a heavy hostile barrage.
During the morning it was reported that numbers of Germans could be seen reinforcing TOOL Trench along STIRRUP LANE, and these were dealt with by field and heavy artillery.
At one time (10.25 a.m.) it was thought that the enemy was retiring from the BOIS DU VERT as a large number were seen moving S.E. from there, and with a view to taking advantage of any opportunity, the Reserve Battalion was kept in readiness; but there was no sign of any weakening of the enemy on our immediate front. There was no further incident of note on the front of this Brigade – it was pinned to its original ground by M.G. and Artillery fire and had many of its troops lying out in shell holes about 80 yards from TOOL TRENCH.
Some small parties did undoubtedly pass over TOOL Trench and reached LANYARD Trench, but they were completely cut off and were never able to gain touch with the 169th Infantry Brigade on the right.
General Notes.
(a) There is an unanimous opinion that Zero hour was too early.

In the dark, signals to advance cannot be seen, nor can whistle signals be heard owing to the bombardment. Consequently Officers could only pass the order to advance down the extended line, and, as each man advanced as he received the order, the waves became zig-zag in shape with the officers at the forward points.

(b) In one instance a tape was laid out in front of our front line. This was found a great help in correcting the alignment and in assisting the direction, there being no landmarks visible.

(c) The barrage was very good, but the pace (100 yards in 3 minutes) too slow considering the dry state of the ground.

There is a natural inclination among assaulting troops to reach their objective as quickly as possible, and so the rear waves push on while the leading wave is kept back by the barrage. This tends to dangerous thickening of the line and to premature mixing of units.

For the first part of the advance, at any rate, a pace of 100 yards in 2 minutes would be better on dry soil: the barrage could lessen its rate of advance later as the Infantry get less fresh.

(d) Mopping up is still of great importance. CAVALRY FARM was not properly mopped up, two separate parties of prisoners being captured in the vicinity long after the leading wave had passed beyond it.

It is thought that TOOL Trench also had Machine Guns in it which came up after the leading wave passed, but there is little doubt that the bombardment had made the trench unrecognisable as such, and the darkness was against proper “Mopping Up”.
(e) A good many Germans were found killed by the bombardment and many more were disposed off by the bayonet and rifle fire by 169th Infantry Brigade, of which all ranks were satisfied that they had inflicted heavier losses than that had themselves sustained.

(f) The PIT contained several M.G.s and at least one Light Trench Mortar. Two M.G.s were found blown up by 4.5” Howitzers which had made excellent practice here.

(g) No hostile M.G.s or Infantry were met with along the COJEUL RIVER, along which a flanking platoon had been sent especially to deal with such a situation.

(h) S.E. of CAVALRY FARM the CAMBRAI Road is embanked 7 ft or 8 ft, but it is swept by fire from the direction of ST. ROHART FACTORY, and troops who formed a defensive flank along it suffered severely from enfilade fire.
(i) The enemy was found to be occupying shell-holes in front of his trenches as well as the trenches themselves.
4th – 10th May.
During this period 168th Infantry Brigade took over the line from 167th and 169th Infantry Brigades, the relief being complete on the morning of 5th May.
One Battalion of 167th Infantry Brigade and one from 169th Infantry Brigade remained attached to 168th Infantry Brigade.
The Divisional front was re-adjusted in accordance with orders from VI Corps, the 168th Infantry Brigade taking over from 3rd Division additional frontage as far North as 0.8.a.8.8.; this was completed by 5 a.m. 7th May.
Our patrols endeavoured on several occasions to enter TOOL Trench, but on each occasion found it held by the enemy in some strength.
Much work was done in deepening trenches, improving and constructing communication trenches and wiring.
On 9th May, 56th Division Order No. 92 was issued for an attack to be made on TOOL Trench on the evening of 11th inst.
During the whole of this period the German Artillery was active.
11th May. Operations of 11th May.
The attack by 168th Infantry Brigade on TOOL Trench was carried out at 8.30 p.m.
For two days previously, the trench was systematically kept under steady enfilade fire from 4.5” howitzers in N.23 which had been specially placed there for that purpose.
A steady destructive fire was kept up and great precautions were taken to prevent the enemy suspecting that an attack was intended.
A practice barrage of 18 prs on TOOL Trench on the evening of the 10th drew a heavy hostile barrage rather quickly, and it was, therefore, decided that the steady bombardment of the objective should continue up to the last possible moment, and that there should be nothing in the nature of a barrage opening at Zero hour.
The attack was carried out by the 4th London Regt on the right, and by the 14th London Regt (London Scottish) on the left, the dividing line being an E. and W. line between Squares 0.8 and 0.14.
The exact objectives were:-
(1). Trench S.E. of CAVALRY FARM, O.14.a.7.1. to O.14.a.9.3.
(3) TOOL Trench from the ARRAS-CAMBRAI Road O.14.a.6.5. to about O.8.b.2.2.
Except for CAVALRY FARM, the objectives were practically out of sight behind a spur which ran between the two lines.
The assault was a complete surprise to the enemy.
On the right the 4th London Regt had very little opposition and it appeared that this part of the objective was not held in any strength.
On the left there were some casualties in the Left Company of the London Scottish from machine gun fire from a N.E. direction, but the actual occupants of the trench made little resistance.
Six machine guns were captured (one of these by a gun team of 168th M G. Coy, which at once turned the gun on the enemy).
A party of about 50 Germans broke and fled, but were caught by Lewis gun, machine gun and rifle fire in the open, and practically annihilated.
A considerable number of German dead were found in the trench, and 11 unwounded prisoners taken.
As soon as the trench was captured a block was formed at the North end by filling it in for about 40 yards, and the position was consolidated, while the portion of the trench north of the objective was kept under steady fire by artillery and Stokes Mortars, and a slow sweeping barrage placed in front to prevent counter-attack, either by bombing from the north or over the open ground from the east.
The trench was also thinned out by withdrawing to our original line after dark troops in excess of the numbers required for the garrison.
The principal lessons of this small operation appear to be:-
(a) The efficacy and demoralising effect of a steady observed enfilade bombardment by howitzers.
(b) The advantage to be gained by frequently altering the hour of an attack, the enemy having become accustomed to attacks at dawn.
(c) The advisability of occasionally doing without an 18 pr creeping barrage opening at Zero. In this case the enemy barrage came down on our front line some 3 or 4 minutes after our assaulting troops had left it. Although 6 m.g.s were captured in the trench, some were taken unmounted and none were used effectively.
(d) The limiting of one’s objective when the enemy is plentifully supplied with artillery.
12th -17th May.
During the nights 11th-12th May, three communication trenches were dug connecting our old front line with TOOL Trench and the latter was strengthened.
167th Inf. Brigade (with 1 Bn. 169th Inf Bde attached) relieved 168th Inf. Brigade (with 1 Bn each of 167th and 169th Inf Brigades attached) between the nights 12th-13th and 14th-15th May.
Considerable work was carried out repairing and deepening trenches, and active patrolling was carried out.

18th May
At 9.20 p.m. 18th May, 167th Inf Brigade carried out a bombing attack on the northern portion of TOOL Trench with a view to capturing it as far north as O.8.b.55.50.
This attack was carried out by 8th Middlesex Rgt., who attempted a surprise attack. They started by successfully passing the block (where the trench had been filled in for 40 yards at the northernmost point previously captured), and made good another 30 yards; but they came up against very strong opposition and were unable to progress, and having fought for an hour and suffered some 10 to 15 casualties, they withdrew, bombers covering the party while the wounded were removed.
As the element of surprise had gone, no further attempt was made.
As a reconnaissance on the night 17th/18th showed that the trench appeared to be only held by about 6 posts of 4 men each, and as this attack came up at once against strong resistance and enemy were seen both in front of and behind TOOL Trench, it appears likely that the Germans were also contemplating a surprise attack, which was frustrated by ours.
The Officer in command of the party is satisfied that the enemy had many casualties as the trench was full of Germans and cries were heard when our rifle grenades fell among them
19th May
At 9 p.m. 19th May, an attack was carried out by 167th Infantry Brigade on:-
(1) TOOL Trench from our block about O.8.b.2.2. to its junction with HOOK Trench and LONG Trench about O.8.b.55.45.
(2) HOOK trench from junction with TOOL Trench to about O.8.b.50.95.
(3) LONG Trench from junction with TOOL Trench to O.8.b.99.95.

The 29th Division on our left was to capture the continuation of (2) and (3) on INFANTRY HILL, the BOIS DES AUBEPINES and DEVILS TRENCH. The attack was made under an 18-pdr barrage which, opening at Zero and remaining on TOOL and HOOK Trenches till Zero plus 5 minutes crept forward at the rate of 100 yards in 2 minutes till it reached a line just West of the BOIS DU VERT.

Behind the 18-pdr barrage other batteries swept ground from which Machine Gun fire was likely. The B.G.C. entrusted the carrying out of the attack to the 8th Middlesex Regiment and placed at the disposal of the Officer Commanding that Battalion two Companies of 1st London Regiment for the purpose of holding our original line in the event of the attack being successful.

Owing to the late hour and the dust from the barrage, observation of the attack was not obtained and for a long time no reports were received as there was a failure to establish visual signalling and all telephone lines in advance of Battalion H.Q. were cut.

At 1.25 a.m. Brigadier-General Commanding 167th Infantry Brigade reported that he had received a message timed 1 a.m. from O.C. 8th Middlesex Regiment that the attack had failed and that our troops were back in their own trenches. He also believed from reports received that the attack of 29th Division on our left had also failed.

From reports subsequently received our troops reached the first objective in the centre, but not on the flanks and were subjected to heavy bombing attacks. All the Officers became casualties and our men were finally forced to withdraw after sustaining casualties of about 40% of the attacking force.

At 5.30 a.m. the 29th Division confirmed this and reported that their line was then the same as before the attack.

19th – 20th May
On the 19th May, 112th and 111th Brigades of 37th Divn. Relieved 169th and 168th Infantry Brigades respectively.

On the early morning of 20th and on the night 20th/21st May 112th Brigade relieved 167th Brigade in the line, the 111th moving up to the Support Area.

The command of the line was handed over at 10 a.m. on 21st inst.

During the time the Division was in the line the following casualties were sustained. –
Period Killed Wounded Missing Total
O. O.R. O. O.R. O. O.R. O. O.R.
29th April – 2nd May
3rd May
4th May -10th May
11th May – 12th May
13th May – 18th May
19th May
20th May
21st May –




– 35



6 5



– 130



6 –



– 6




– 5



– 171



TOTALS 25 341 41 1428 13 253 79 2022

C. Hull
Commanding 56th Division.
22nd May 1917

168) Bdes
1 per Battalion
1/5 Cheshires

WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne May 1917

WAR DIARY of AA Laporte Payne May 1917


Extracted from


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





I tried to send a wire home to England today, but there is some new procedure, and “Signals” refused to take it.  I should have to send the form to the censor at a town some way away, and then send it by the French civilian telegraphs.


We are in the line again, and working hard. It is quite like the Somme again.  Firing all day and night.  I spent the morning going round battery positions, and in the afternoon at the O.Ps.  Today has been glorious, the weather is just perfect.  Cigarettes are getting very expensive.


It is a pity that in such glorious weather we have to be out here trying to murder one another. It is quite a July day, and I got very hot and tired tramping round this morning in a tin hat and a box respirator, carrying field glasses, and other impedimenta.  I have given my mare a rest for the last three days as she was very tired after that midnight journey.


Our new headquarters are not bad, and the wagon lines are quite close, only about 15 minutes away, walking.


May 2, 1917.              Belgium

The Boche is making a horrid noise, it is very hot, there is a lot to be done, every one is out, and things are generally annoying. I have been spending a lot of time on platforms, gun-platforms, of a horribly rubbly nature, and made of broken brick.  We have been choosing and making battery positions.  I spent the whole morning at it and the Boche saw our working parties, and was rude enough to send shrapnel over at us.  Happily no one was hurt.  It was hot in the sun.  I had delirium and raved about rivers, punts, ices, flannels, girls in white, bathing, and what not; but saw only dust, railways, guns, oil, shell-holes, khaki, wire, trenches, and smelt many evil smells.  What a life!


But still it is glorious out in the open. I try and rush the office work in order to be out in the sunshine.


We are in a most interesting part of the line, and I am glad we are here. I am getting quite burnt, and my appetite is enormous.  I have never felt so well.  The mare is looking fine.  The Colonel is casting covetous eyes on her, and also on my groom.  I shall never forgive him if he asks for them, for I shall not be able to refuse.  But if it has to be one, I shall let the groom go.


We have a new officer in the mess now. He is the camouflage officer.


I am a member of a Field General Court Martial tomorrow ten miles away, so my whole day will be wasted. Why can’t they get a useless base wallah to do such unpleasant jobs?


May 4, 1917                Belgium.

Last night was a perfect night, from the point of view of the weather. We were called up in the middle of the night to attend to the Boche, who were very noisy.  They were shelling the roads heavily round here.


It is getting extraordinarily hot here. I must sleep outside.  But there is no bathing.


R.P. May 7, 1917.                  Belgium.

The weather is indeed lovely, but it is fairly windy. The sun is hot, too hot at times for comfort when working.


We are frightfully busy. I spent my time mostly in the saddle riding to various places or on foot in the front line.  The Boche has been misbehaving himself badly.  For the last three nights he has shelled our roads and billets all night long and disturbing our slumbers.  We have been compelled to spend our time in the cellar sitting in a very cheerful row, the Colonel, four officers and the signallers.  Then the telephone lines began to get cut, so out my signallers and I had to go to mend them.  So far the Boche has done us no further harm.


We are moving again in a day or two. We are never still.  My horses are a bit weary after constant road work.  The roads are terribly cut up.  In most places they are like a newly made road before the steam roller has been over it.


May 7, 1917.               Belgium.

For the past four nights we have spent most of the time in our cellars. The Colonel, four other officers, signallers, and sometimes a servant or two.  The Boche has been making a horrible nuisance of himself, and has occupied his nights and ours shelling our roads and billets.  The result is that neither side get any rest, and as my telephone wires get badly cut by shell fire it usually means that the linesmen and myself spend the hours of darkness tramping the country side mending them.


The days have been glorious, but the weather has just turned and it has started to rain. It looks very bad tonight.


My days have been spent almost anywhere within a radius of thirty miles. The mare is getting rather weary.  She is a much more comfortable ride than any horse I ever rode, and certainly in this brigade, and so she gets a lot of work, poor old thing.  I hear they are stopping corn for the horses in England.


We are on the move again, and tomorrow will see us out of this place. But every thing is very uncertain at present.  We are experts at packing now.


I was asked to go and play tennis with a French family who have a place behind the lines and a hard court, but I could not get away. Fancy playing tennis within range of the guns.


May 11. 1917.

After a year and a month in the line we are out for a so called rest. I get up for early morning stables at 6 a.m., which with watering and feeding takes an hour and a half.  Exercise at 9 a.m. lasts until midday stables.  But still it is a relief to get away from the line for a bit.  It has taken us three days to get clear and arrive here.  We are billeted in a farm on the outskirts of a delightful forest.  The trees are just coming out and the place is full of spring flowers.  As there are many glades and tracks in the forest there, there are excellent facilities for exercising the horses in pleasant surroundings. The weather is glorious and very hot.  It is all very ominous.  When the Fates are so very kind I always feel that there is something about to happen which is peculiarly evil.  The spring brings a beautiful country side, but also what the men call a “lovely war”.  We are like pigs being fattened up for the next slaughter the staff are staging even now for us.  In the spring the staff’s thoughts fancy lightly turn to thoughts of a push.


We arrived here without a great deal of trouble. I came with the signallers, horses and wagons.  One overloaded G.S. wagon deposited most of our kit in a ditch.  One horse cast a shoe, and one telephonist, who had not been on a horse for about nine months, fell off his horse which promptly bolted and was at large for some time.  Other wise we arrived safe and sound, hot and tired, about 7.30 p.m.  I was alone in the mess.  The Doctor turned up later, and the Adjutant later still.  The Colonel is on leave, so we are having a good time.


My mare is at the moment tied up in a pond to cool her legs. All the horses are looking wonderfully well.


It was just about this time last year that we went up into the line on the Somme.  Then we had three weeks out of the line.  I do not expect we shall get anything like son long this time.


ON May 15, 1917.

Headquarters of the 175th Army Field Artillery Brigade R.F.A. under orders from the II ANZAC CORPS moved from billets at LA COURONNE, VIEUX BERQUIN, via DOULIEU and STEENWERCK to a bivouac on the BAILLEUL – NIEPPE ROAD, where officers were in huts and the men in tents, horses in the open. Battery wagon lines moved from the neighbourhood of DOULIEU to the same place.  The Brigade Ammunition Column remained in original wagon lines already on the spot.  Major Cockcraft, D.S.O. was temporarily in command of the Brigade.  Billets vacated were occupied by the 4th Australian Division, which had arrived from the south of ARRAS.  The guns of the Brigade were still in the line attached to the Right Group of the 57th Division (Territorial) at FLEURBAIX.


The immediate front was then held as follows:-


PLOEGSTEERT.                                                       3rd Australian Division

NEUVE EGLISE                                                      36th Ulster Division.

Behind were the following divisions:-

4th Australian Division.

New Zealand Division.


(The weather was dull and colder, but it did not rain.)


ON MAY 16th 1917 the Second Army consisted of the following CORPS:

VIII, Corps.

  1. ANZAC. General Godley.

General Powell (R.A.)


May 15, 1917.

The weather has changed, and it is now dull and cold and threatening to rain. It turned for the worse quite suddenly, but we have had some glorious weather, so we must not grumble.


They have hauled us back into the line again, as I expected. We marched up here and arrived late last night.  It is always a great business moving.  It is very necessary to see that all the place left is left clean and in good order, or else we shall get a chit telling us all about it.  There are a thousand and one things to see are not left behind.  If there are someone is sure to appropriate them.  My little unit consists of about sixty men, fifty horses, and ten vehicles.


On arrival at a camping place the first thing to do is to find out where the bivouacing place is and then how to get the column in. Then the horse lines have to be put up, with posts dug in and roped, the horses watered and fed and groomed.  Places have to be found for the Harness, cooks, telephonists, forage, food, stores and sleeping places for the men.  After that I can get something to eat and flop into my flea-bag.  This has been the routine for the last few days.


I am sorry to say one of my horses died last night, in great pain, a good horse too. They are very hard to get now.  It was one of the signaller’s horses, and got colic very badly.  I hate having horses ill.


I am writing letters on a bully-beef box, and it is starting to rain. We have no furniture, and live in tents.  The cooking is done in holes in the ground.  It is a contrast to our chateau.  I have found a shed of sorts for my own gees.


We have plenty of work to do here. It is very similar to last year on the Somme.  Conditions are the same.  I hope it will keep fine for a few weeks.


From May 16th 1917, the 175th Brigade R.F.A. was attached to the II ANZAC CORPS, and the 3rd Australian Division.


The Divisions were then as follows;


57th Division, transferred to the First Army, and was not included in the operations.

25th Division.

3rd Australian Division.

4th Australian Division.

New Zealand Division.

36th Division (Ulster)

16th Division.




MAY, 1917.


Headquarters   Lieut Col. W. Furnival.

Lieut. A.G. Modlock. Adjutant.

Lieut A.A. Laporte Payne. Orderly and Signals Officer.

Lieut. F.H. Webb. Assistant Orderly Officer.

Captain W.J. McKeand, R.A.M.C.

Captain   Mitten. A.V.C.


  1. Battery. Major J.W. Muse.

Capt. R.M. Stevens.

Lieut. D. Lowden. (sick in England.)

Lieut. H.E. Pitt.

2/Lieut. J.S. Carroll (Assistant Staff Captain II Anzac Corps)

2/Lieut. A. Twyford.

2/Lieut. T.S. Davis.

2/Lieut. J.G. Cooney.


  1. Battery. Major L.W. laT. Cockcraft, D.S.O.

Capt. G.F.T. Hopkins.

2/Lieut. A.B. Macdonald.

2/Lieut. J. Amour. M.C.

2/Lieut. L.F. Holt.

2/Lieut. F.L. Talley.

2/Lieut. W.A. Macfarlane.

2/Lieut. A.E. Dawes.


  1. Battery. Major H.A. Terry.

Capt. F. Steele Pilcher.

Lieut H.A.R. Gibb.

Lieut. T. Robley.

Lieut. H. Leigh.

2/Lieut. J.L. Allan.

2/Lieut. S. Glover.

2/Lieut. H. Griffiths.


  1. Battery. Capt. R.W. Ardagh, M.C.

Lieut. F.H. Webb.

2/Lieut. A. Roberts.

2/Lieut. E.J. Webber.

2/Lieut. B. Baker.

2/Lieut. W. Morrison.



Capt. V.G. Gilbey.

Lieut. E.L. Warren.

2/Lieut. C.A. Thomson.

2/Lieut. E.W. Hutton.




Officers 40.

Other Ranks 1009.

Horses 928.


On MAY 16th 1917.


Orders were received from the 3rd Australian Divisional Artillery that




Should be constituted as follows:

Commanding Officer. O.C. 175th Brigade R.F.A. with Headquarters at T.16.b.99.31.



I.1        A/175, at T.18.a.00.45.

I.2.       B/175,     T.17.b.14.20.

I.3.       C/175.     T.17.d22.99.

I.4.       45th         T.17.d.36.73.)        Batteries of the

I.5.       46th         T.17.d.52.46)          12th Australian

I.6.       47th         T.17.d.5.2.)             Brigade, 4th Division.


R.P. May 17, 1917.

The weather has been lovely, and we thoroughly enjoyed our week out of the line, but there was more than enough to do, horses to look after, equipment to renovate and overhaul, and men to smarten up in preparation for our work in the line. And now we are back once again in the line with the prospect of a great deal more to do.  But unfortunately the weather has broken badly.  It has rained for two days, and mud is a plague once more.  I do hope it is not going to be a repetition of the Somme all over again.  We are living in tents with the horses in the open.


I am on another court of enquiry tomorrow, which is a great nuisance as it hinders me in my proper work.


Lately our orders have been supplemented, cancelled, and altered until we do not know where we are. The weather for the time of year is abominable.  Yesterday was very cold.  We miss our comfortable chateau.


One of my horses died last night of colic, which annoyed me. It was a good horse, and we can ill afford to loose such now.  The noise of the guns is continuous here now, and has a meaning.


May 19, 1917.

Saturday evening.

There has been no mail for three days. It is extraordinarily hot, and there is much to do.  I have hardly been to bed.  The Colonel returns today, and he is sure to come back in a bad temper to the enormous amount of work he will have to get through.


We are now where I said I should be going back to after my leave. You may remember.


It is a perfect evening. I am in a tent near a main road, and the traffic and the concomitant dust is continuous.


Over head Boche planes are up, and the A.A. guns are hard at it, as usual ineffectively. Quite near is one of our captive balloons of the kite variety, with two officers in it observing.  I am expecting them to come down hanging on to their parachutes.  I should not like their job at all.


The mare is rather tired. She was out until 5.30 a.m. yesterday morning.


And so the war goes on. Suppose it never ends.  But I conclude it will one day.


May 23, 1917.


The Artillery of the 3rd Australian Division consists of

  1. GROUP, 18 pdrs. 5 Batteries       30 guns.
  2. GROUP. 18 pdrs. 6 Batteries       36 guns.
  3. GROUP 18 pdrs .           6 Batteries 36 guns.
  4. GROUP 4.5, Hows. 6 Batteries       24 Hows.
  5. GROUP 1. 4.5 How
  6. 18 pdr. 4 Batteries 24 guns and Hows.


Heavy Trench Mortars (9.45”)   9.




6” Gun                                    500 rounds per gun to be dumped.

9.2” & 8”                     800                      do.

6” How.                      1000

60 pdrs                                    1000

12”                              400

15”                              100

18 pdrs.                      1300

4.5” How                    1100

H.T.M. (9.45”)            130

2”T.M.                         200.


The 3rd Australian Divisional Artillery Groups.


Groups.           Commanding.                         Composed of.

  1. Lt. Col. H.D.K. Macartney             7th A.F.A. Brigade.

38th R.F.A. Bde. (Army).

  1. Lt. Col. W.G. Allsop. 8th A.F.A. Bde.

3rd A.F.A. Bde

  1. Lt. Col. W. Furnival 175th Bde R.F.A. (Army).

12th A.F.A. Bde (Army).

  1. Lt. Col. H.L. Cohen, D.S.O. 6th A.F.A. Bde. (Army).
  2. Lt. Col. W.H.L. Burgess, D.S.O. Howitzers.


Situations.                                           Call.


  1. T.29.d.85.50. G.K.64.
  2. T.22.b.2.1. G.C.39.
  3. T.16.b.99.31. G.C.38.
  4. C.1.b.7.6. G.L.54.
  5. B.12.central. Defensive Brigade        G.K.6.


The I Group Exchange at T.17.d.15.50.                     E.S.

The Group of Group Exchange at Petite Munque

Farm, T.23.d.75.85.                                                    D.A.

The Observation Exchange

Posts U.13.d.25.15.                                                    L.H.

Observation Posts.


May 23, 1917.

A letter from home dated the 17th arrived before one of the 14th.  Our post is very disorganised.  There was no mail for four days, and then we had 41 bags for the Brigade, and I know some more are missing.


It has been wet again the last two days, but it is fine today and very hot. I spend my time constructing Dug-outs, and burying cable.


There is going to be some difficulty in watering horses here soon in spite of the rain recently. Rations have been cut down slightly, but there is still enough to eat.  I hope food problems at home are not worse.


The Colonel has come back, and is in quite a good temper.


May 24, 1917.

I go to another Court-Martial this morning, which is a great nuisance as I have sufficient to do here in getting our telephone system in working order, and there is very little time in which to do the work.


The weather is perfectly lovely here. No day in which to sit indoors listening to evidence about some wretched man who has offended the powers that rule us.


R.P. May 30, 1917.

We are busier than ever, and to make matters worse the Boche has taken it into his head to shell us every night with gas shell. It is amusing to see us all sitting in the cellar of a ruined cottage wearing gas helmets, feeling very hot and bubbling through the mouth-pieces.  The men are now constructing better dug-outs and cutting an emergency trench.  With this and organising communications, laying telephone lines and what not there is more than enough to do.  I hope you will not mind a few Field Post Cards for a time.


However it is lovely weather, I cannot grumble.


Yesterday there was a great fuss. Some most important secret maps could not be found.  We all crawled around looking everywhere for them.  It was more than two hours before they were found rolled up in another bundle.  The Colonel had put them there, and forgotten all about them!!


I do hope everything will go off alright. But it is no use worrying.  We can but do our best, and we have great hopes of pulling it off this time.  Plans are better than they were on the Somme.

(Wireless installation)


May 30, 1917.

We are all in the line and staying at a “farmhouse”. It consists of two fairly good rooms, nearly whole, and a most useful cellar.  The Boche, however does not like the locality, and has taken it into his head to shell us heavily with gas shell, chiefly at night, and we repair to the cellar with gas-masks on, hot uncomfortable and annoyed.  But it is amusing to see (as far as one can through steamed goggles) the others puffing and blowing through their mouth pieces.  The Colonel gets into a furious temper with his, which makes it all the more uncomfortable for himself.


Last night there was great excitement. We lost some very important secret maps.  The colonel cursed everyone for the loss, and said we should all be court-martialed and shot or something equally ridiculous.  After two hours feverish search we found them rolled up in another bundle!  Where the Colonel himself had left them.


I have a large working party here, hurriedly making some sort of dug-out. There is a new system of telephonic communication to get into working order.  It is enormous.  Easily the biggest I have yet to do with.


I should like to give you a lot of news; but I cannot. It is sufficient to say we are working like mad.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 30 May 1917

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 30 May 1917



May 30th 1917



Terrible isn’t it? I have been thinking of you a lot but have only just got a moment to send a line.  Thank you for your letter of May 21.  We have had no mail again for four days.  It is most annoying.  Darling, did I ever thank you for the two delightful cakes which arrived.  I hope I did – but at this time I might forget anything.  How do you like the work?  And how are you keeping?  Fit and well I do hope.  I am sure you felt horribly tired at first.  I hope you have been having as fine weather as we have.


We are in the line – and “staying at a farmhouse”. It consists of two fairly whole rooms and a most useful cellar.  The Boche has taken it into his head to shell us with gas shell at night and we sit down in the cellar with gas masks on, hot and annoyed – but it is very amusing seeing (as far as one can through goggles) the others puffing and blowing through their mouth pieces.  The Colonel gets into a furious temper with his.


Last night there was great excitement. We lost some very important secret maps and the Colonel was cursing everyone for it and said we should all be shot or something.  After two hours feverish search we found them rolled up in another bundle!  Where the Colonel himself had left them!


I have a large working party here hurriedly making some sort of a dug-out. There is a new system of telephonic communication to get into working order.  It is enormous – the biggest I have had yet to do.  And hundreds of other things.  So the time goes very quickly as you can imagine – but through it all I am simply longing to have you alone once again and you could hold me tight again.


I should like to give you a lot of news; but I can’t. It must be sufficient to say we are working like mad.


Give my love to Maude. You must please give her some news of me.  I have no time to write to her at present.


How are Mr & Mrs Cross – all well I hope – and enjoying their holiday. Give Mrs Cross my love when you write.



With all my love dearest

And many kisses

Ever your


F. Smith letter 26 May 1917

May 26th 17


Dear Father


I thought I would just send you a few lines to let you know I am quite well; & having a very good time at present.

We came out of the trenches last Monday & at present we are camping in the open it is very nice this weather.

It was very uncomfortable when we first came here; started to rain during the night & continued nearly all day on Tuesday soaked through but still I am no worse for it.

Did you go to Southend last week it must be very nice there this weather?

How is everybody that I know Darvills, Miss Dimond, also Mr. & Mrs. Warman & Lilian remember me to them all.

I suppose Mr. Fillary & you have not joined up yet, I believe the war would end if you did you ought to go in the guards.

Well I expect you will think this is a very short letter; but there is not very much news to tell you. The war is still on but I expect you know that.

I hope you are still smiling & all in the best of health.


With much love from

Your devoted



G. Hammond letter 26 May 1917



My darling Sis

Cheer oh!  I received your letter last night and was delighted with its length.  Poor old Dad, I feel so sorry for him, but he can rely on my support both physically and what will interest him more financially “I don’t think” which reminds me what became of that 2 quid he is looking after for me.  I hope he hasn’t spent it on oil for the tools.  Bow wow.  Sorry my last letter was a bit late but I am in front this time. You won’t know me when I come home I am getting so brown and my moustache, oh the moustache, it’s a darling you are sure to like it.  I don’t know what Hilda will have to say though.  What’s all this about me ****ing after eating one of Hilda’s cakes.  They are simply splendid.  Do you remember those pies you used to make in a little round tin when ever so much better than that.  I should just think it is time you sent me another parcel.  I don’t know what you are doing, the last was just great but it had got a bit dry on the way so do something to keep the cake moist, a bit of butter and comes in useful too.  Give my kind regards to P. Charley, he seems to be done for poor chap.  I wrote to Burgey the other day so am expecting to hear from him shortly.  No wonder he wanted to get back to France with a soft job like his.  It’s a good thing one of us have a cushee time.  Old Bill seems to be forging ahead, I bet he’s an awful dog now.  I would love to see him with Bessie.  I think I would make myself a bit scarcer than last time.  Now don’t for one moment think this is a tip for you are you wanting any more gloves?  I like the way you rushed me last time.  Really Glad I don’t know how you had the nerve.

I can’t imagine “Stuff” as a tailors model with that kink in his neck. I bet old Burgy has the time of his life kidding Bill & myself.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear he had married some French girl, although from what I have seen they aren’t very attractive.  We would find old James a good job here as gamekeeper looking after the rats unless he was very care his sporting suit would soon be chewed up.  I would love to have seen Dad working on the clock.  He will have quite a lot to play with now, in fact all his spare time will be occupied mending bicycles, taps, clocks and the garden.  I bet Ma was a bit fed up when Dad started on the clock.  I suppose the usual “That’s right smash it” but if Pa only thought he could get his own back by asking the price of photo enlargements that’s where Ma’s absolutely best.  I hope to be back in time for the “Earlies”, I hanged if I know what that means how I can’t for the life of me understand why I never hear anything about the Sewell fiasco.  I expect Pa has made such a mess of it with his detective ****** that he is lying low.  For when the “Lads”- Guss & myself come home.  Well Glad old girl I am quite OK, Hilda has gone to Southport, you want to get it “69” if you can, you would have the time of your life.  There is nothing much to report on the Western Front sorry I can’t find any flowers in our bit of trench to send, but how would a decent Boche shell do.  I found one today, it only weighs about umpteen pounds it fairly put the “wind up” me.  Well I hope Ma will crash into that cake but be careful not to put rice flour in instead of sugar, I am not saying anything but make a note of it.  Fondest love to all, tell Ma to be a little more sedate.  The idea of taking part in a play

Well bye bye Sis


F.W. Springett letter 24 May 1917

6649 Pte F.W. Springett

D Company 1ST Platoon

22nd Training Reserve

St. Albans


May 24th 1917


My Dear Brother Sid,

I received your welcome letter on Tuesday very pleased to hear you were quite well as I am quite well at present.  Yes Dad told me in his letter of today that there had been a strike, but he never said you had been in it.  Fancy you coming out on strike you ought to be ashamed of yourself Ha Ha.  Still I don’t suppose you would have done it, only I expect you were forced too.

Strikes are very serious and no mistake.  Fancy us working for a 1/- a day while others can go and earn £1 every week and then are not satisfied.  “It is not right”.  Yes we did have an awful storm Sunday night.  It was alright under canvas I can tell you.  We were lucky to get a good tent so the water did not come in, but in some it was awful they were washed out.  It did rain and no mistake, and it lasted about three hours.

I am sorry to say I shan’t be home for Whitsun.  What a shame, and I was looking to go home ever so much.  Still I suppose I shall get a leave before I go across the pond.  I am afraid I shall be wanted across there, even if the fighting finishes soon.  It will be a long job I am afraid.

It is a grand day here today. We are still very busy with bayonet fighting and gas helmets and plenty of Company Drill.  I am used to canvas life now, but it is not so nice as billets.  We have to parade at 6.30 in the morning.  The grub we get is a trifle better now, but of course I have to spend all my money I get on cleaning stuff and food.  We are having some sports for Whitsun so perhaps it won’t be so bad a holiday.  I don’t think I have any more to say this time so I will close

From your

Affec Brother


I am writing this in the tent at 9 o’clock, so I post it in the morning.

Excuse writing.

Letter to Muriel 24 May 1917

Letter to Muriel 24 May 1917 with cover to Miss Muriel Cross, C/O Post Office, Eardiston, Tenby Wells Worcester. Army Post Office R.W.3. postmark dated My 24 17.  Passed Field Censor 2232 stamp and signed A.A. Laporte Payne.



May 24th 1917


There are a few minutes spare before I go to another Court-Martial this morning so I am writing to let you know I am still thinking of you and to thank you so much for your letter from Paddington and the box of cigarettes which I am now smoking – one of the cigarettes I mean. You are a very naughty girl you know to send another large box of cigarettes – but it is very nice to have a naughty little girl all to oneself.


This court martial is a horrid nuisance just when I am in the middle of superintending the construction of dug-outs and a telephone system.  It is not pleasant work to do either but they have got to be done.


How do you like your work and surroundings? You are having perfect weather judging by what we are getting here.  To-day is perfectly lovely.


What lots we could do if we were together – we could go to the sea and bathe all day long and eat ices and go for a sail and doze on the beach and all sorts of things. Don’t you think I am ridiculous imagining all these impossibilities.


I know all the places you mention well from Henley days – Maidenhead, Reading, etc.


I should love to see you & Maude all on your own.


Vyvyan Pearse has just written a letter to congratulate me. He says “You are a lucky devil; I must say I admire your choice.”


Give my love to Maude.

Tell her I will write sometime.

Frightfully busy – so please forgive short note.


With all my love dearest & kisses

Ever yours



Letter to Muriel 23 May 1917

Letter to Muriel 23 May 1917



May 23rd 1917


Please forgive a hurried scrawl, darling, as I want to rush a letter off to you this evening. Thank you very much for your two letters.  Our post is very disorganised – your letter of the 17th arrived before one dated the 14th.  There was no mail for 4 days, and then 41 bags of mail arrived here for the Brigade, and I know some more are missing.  I have just received a letter from Maude.


It has been wet again the last two days, but it is fine to-day and very hot indeed. It is hard and warm work making dug-outs and burying telephone cable in this weather – for that is what is now fully occupying my days.


Let me know how you are getting on and how you like your work. And please also send me a photograph of yourself in working clothes and don’t forget the clay pipe and a stick I think it is very good of you to go working in this weather.  Don’t get too brown and strong.  I hope you will like your stable companions.


I have no news to tell you at present. We are all trying to work hard.

There is going to be some difficulty in watering our horses soon in spite of the rain we have had recently, and rations have been cut down slightly, but the men still get enough to eat. I hope food problems at home are not worse.

It will be quite a new experience for you, working away from home won’t it? I should love to come down and see you – but I don’t suppose you would want me to get in the way.


If only there was nothing to do now and no war on wouldn’t it be lovely to go off into the country by ourselves with nothing to worry us. The country is looking just lovely now.  I suppose if it were always May we should not appreciate it.


The month has or rather is going very quickly – only another week to the end of the month – and then June. I wonder where we shall be at the end of summer.  I hope the old Boche will be out of Belgium and France.


The Colonel has come back and is in quite a good temper I am glad to say – and he is now working hard. The horses are very fit and I hope they will fulfil expectations.


Are you still thinking of me and waiting for me to come and kiss you again – you have been rather sparing of your paper kisses recently; the last consignment was only two or three.

Has Mrs Cross returned home yet? She wrote me a letter a few days ago.  It was very good of her as I had neglected to write so long, but I am sure she will forgive me.  Mr Cross is going away again too – how empty Benchfield will be!

I must close now.

Hoping you are quite well and enjoying your work.

With all my love, darling and many kisses

Ever     Yours


A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 19 May 1917.

A.A. Laporte Payne letter to Muriel 19 May 1917.




May 19th 1917.




Guess what that means. Only your last delightful letter of the 12th has kept me from going quite mad.  There has been no mail for 3 days.  I have had no time to write.  It is extraordinarily hot – and there is too much to do – and I have hardly been to bed.  Further the Colonel returns to-day and he is sure to come back in a bad temper to the enormous amount of work he will have to get through – so you can imagine how your last really lovely letter has helped.


Why shouldn’t you call me what you like – are you still shy with me – as you say in you used to be? It is about time you were not, young lady.


We are now where I said I should be going back to after my leave. You may remember it.  Keep your eye on it.


Thank you for drinking my health on Saturday night last. It is Saturday night or rather evening again – and my thoughts are with you darling.


It is a perfect evening – just lovely for you and me alone. Instead of that I am in a tent near a main road – the traffic and the consequent dust is continuous.  Overhead are Boche aeroplanes and the A.A. guns are going all out.  Quite near is one of our captive kite balloons up with two officers in it observing from a great height.  If the Boche send over large long distance shells or an aeroplane to bring it down the unhappy observers have to throw themselves out and hang on to a parachute.  I should not like their job at all.


I wonder where you are now. Have you left to work on the land?  I do hope it will be fine weather for you – it is so awful when it is wet.  At any rate it will be warm and that is something.  Look after Maude if you are with her.


I am glad Mrs Cross is having such a good holiday. Please give her my love and also Mrs Lowe and thank her for the delightful present of ‘heaps’!!


The mare is rather tired. She was out until 5.30 a.m. yesterday morning and has not had much rest poor thing.


Everything is a bit upside down at present so you will forgive scrappier and scrappier letters won’t you darling?


And so the war goes on. Suppose it never ends – But it must one day mustn’t it?


The trees are full out now and the country is looking just lovely, except up in the scarred and torn front line and along the dusty traffic routes.


The officers are in a terrible way. It is getting difficult to get whisky and other drinks now.  I don’t mind at all as I never cared very much for whisky and hardly ever touch it – and the wines the French are selling now are pretty bad – so I drink tonic juice when I can get it.  it is much better don’t you think so?


Your cakes were lovely, darling. We thoroughly enjoyed them.  One fellow came in to tea promptly to have some – and the doctor wants me to send his love & thanks – but I told him certainly not.  They are all married on Headquarters except the Colonel who is still unattached – at least he was before he left – and myself.


Nothing but interruptions – phone going all day long. Please do this, please do that – why wasn’t this done – please explain that &  so on.


Well I must close now.

With all my love my own darling

And many many kisses

Ever your own