NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 8. 28 April 1918

K.J. Bunting Capt.
Issued down to Brigades.
T.9.
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 8.
(Issued by the General Staff)
Signal communication.
1. Trench warfare has unduly emphasised the use of telephonic communication, which cannot be extensively maintained in warfare of movement. It will very rarely be possible to provide any communication by wire in front of Infantry Brigade H.Q., and it is impossible to count upon the telephone forward of Divisional H.Q. Commanders of Infantry Brigades and units must accustom themselves to rely entirely upon other methods of communications. Greater attention must therefore be paid to the organization of such means of communication, especially visual and wireless.
2. In each divisional area, efforts should, if possible, be concentrated on one main artery of communication from front to rear, which should consist of cable, wireless, visual signalling and despatch riders, as circumstances permit. H.Q. of Divisions, and of Infantry and Artillery Brigades, should be placed in as close proximity as is practicable to this artery, on which signal offices should be established to serve several H.Q. It is for Corps to select the location of these arteries and to assist in their formation, so that Divisions may be enabled, if necessary, to move to points at which they will find both forward and rearward communication already provided.
3. It is essential that the move of H.Q. of a formation or unit should be notified as early as possible to higher, lower and adjacent formations or units. The difficulty of maintaining communication has sometimes been much increased by failure to indicate the position at which new H.Q. were to be opened, or to inform all concerned of alterations of plans in regard to movements arranged.
4. It would seem that there has sometimes been a lack of discretion in regard to the use of the signal cable wagon. Cases are reported in which all available cable was laid out while the situation was still obscure, so that the cable could not be recovered on withdrawal; and in other cases it seems that no use was made of the cable wagons, which were sent back when they might usefully have been retained.
5. In a withdrawal it is inadvisable to trust entirely to permanent overhead routes; when cut they take a long time to repair, and a cable line can be restored much more quickly.
April 28th 1918.
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NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 7. 24 April 1918

Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
T.9.
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 7.
GERMAN ATTACK NEAR GIVENCHY, APRIL 9th, 1918.
From captured German orders and the attached map which shows the dispositions and plans of the 4th Ersatz Division, it appears that the following method of attack was adopted by the enemy:-
1. A very careful study was made of our defences in this locality. It is noteworthy that three days before the attack the enemy issued to platoon commanders detailed information gathered from air reconnaissance carried out at low elevation on that day, together with a note indicating not only the force expected to oppose the attack but also the estimated quality of the opposition anticipated. As a result of his reconnaissance, the enemy seems to have based his plan on avoiding the strong locality at Givenchy itself, penetrating our line on either flank, and turning inwards so as to take Givenchy from the right rear (south-west and south). The attacking force was divided into two portions, a northern and a southern. The northern attack was undertaken by four battalions, of which two were in front line, one in support and one in reserve. The southern attack consisted of two battalions, one being in the front line and one in support. In these attacks, the leading battalions were ordered to push straight forward, while the supporting battalion of the southern attack was to turn north and to take Givenchy in flank and rear from the south-west and south, and the supporting battalion of the northern attack was to deal similarly with Festubert from the south. This method of dealing from the flank and rear with strong points which are not attacked frontally has been conspicuous in the German operations since the 21st of March 1918.
2. Our defences consisted of defended localities each of which was held by a complete unit of not less than a platoon; other platoons especially detailed for counter-attack were kept in support. The garrisons of the defended localities had received orders to hold on at all costs – orders which were carried out in every case – and the platoons in support had been instructed to counter-attack as soon as the occasion arose without waiting for further orders. Each defended locality was prepared and wired for all round defence. Many of the communication trenches were wired, and lines of wire running perpendicularly and obliquely to the front had been erected to check any lateral advance in the event of local penetration. These obstacles proved of great assistance in preventing the enemy from extending his flanks after he has forced his way into portions of our front defences.
3. The attack was launched in a heavy mist, which greatly assisted the enemy. The parties of Germans, however, which succeeded in penetrating our positions were held up by the garrisons of the defended localities. As soon as the enemy’s advance was thus checked, the platoons in support counter-attacked and worked round the flanks of the parties which had pressed forward into our line. The enemy was engaged, therefore, by fire and bayonet from all sides. Several hundred prisoners and a large number of machine guns were captured, and our line was maintained intact. There was very little bombing.
4. The failure of the enemy’s attack upon these defences was due to the stubbornness of the defence maintained by the garrisons of the defended localities, and to the promptitude and skill with which the supporting platoons made their counter-attacks. We employed the same tactics against the enemy as he was endeavouring to employ against us. No frontal counter-attack was delivered, but the enemy was defeated by a succession of immediate counter-attacks delivered from the flanks.

Full advantage was taken of counter-attacking platoons of their knowledge of the ground, with the result that the enemy was outmanoeuvred as well as outfought.

From a study of this engagement the fact emerges clearly that an enemy penetrating into gaps in our positions is very much at a disadvantage until he can widen the flanks of the gaps; if the defending troops strengthen the flanks of these gaps and hold on to their positions tenaciously, he is bound to be caught between two fires, and forced to surrender what he has gained.

April 24th 1918.

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NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 6. 19 April 1918

K.J. Bunting Capt.
Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
T.9
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 6.
MACHINE GUNS.
(Issued by the General Staff)
1. The following translation of a German document (I/a48580) indicates good dispositions and handling of our machine gun units, during the fighting in March. It emphasises again the value of the disposition of machine guns in depth – both in attack and defence. In the attack, security against counter-attack is thereby given to the flanks; in defence, provision is thereby made for resistance to the enemy’s attempt to widen any gap into which he may penetrate.
2. Fire effect is the essential. Therefore, an extensive field of fire (1,000 yards or more) is required for machine guns; direct fire must be a primary consideration; and the employment of guns singly should be avoided. Generally, forward guns should be employed in pairs, and guns in rear should be in pairs or groups of four, so as to facilitate control of a considerable volume of fire.
3. In defence, the disposition of machine guns in depth must be based on definite plans for restricting the area into which an attacker might penetrate. The enemy generally attempts to effect penetration at the weaker portions of the line and to take our more strongly prepared positions in flank and reverse. This should be anticipated and should not necessitate bringing our machine guns into action in unforeseen directions as has sometime occurred.
4. Single guns with hostile infantry may be dealt with in previously prepared defences by single 18-pdrs in advanced positions, and on all occasions by the fire of rifles and Lewis guns used boldly in front of the main position.
Ia/48580
TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN DOCUMENT.
C.G.S. of the Field Army
Ia/II Nr. 82373 op. 30-3-18.
1. During the course of our offensive, the principal resistance was offered by the machine gun nests distributed in depth. Their total destruction by the artillery bombardment prior to the assault, even when this was of considerable duration, was not achieved and cannot be expected. We must be satisfied with the neutralization of as large a number as possible of these nests by means of heavy artillery fire and bombardment with blue cross gas shell.
The engagement of those machine gun nests which remain in action will then be carried out by single guns (of light Minenwerfer), which are under the orders of the most advanced infantry, follow this infantry as close as possible and fire over open sights at close range (1,1000 yards). It is advisable that batteries allotted to individual battalions should always be the same. Under the protection of the fire of these guns (or Minenwerfer), the infantry will advance by bounds with quite weak groups, the light machine guns forming part of these groups.

The heavy machine guns should generally be employed to keep down the occupants of the objective of the attack during the infantry attack, and to follow the latter up by large bounds. They also afford security against the enemy’s counter-thrusts.

The method outlined above has apparently not been employed universally, but where it has, it has been successful and casualties have been light. I request that steps be taken to ensure that this method is brought to the knowledge of all units as early as possible. The idea of compelling success by the employment of masses of troops must be absolutely eradicated. This merely leads to unnecessary losses. It is fire effect which is decisive, and not numbers.

2. The extraordinary moral and explosive effect of the medium and heavy Minenwerfer has been once more proved during the attack on the 21st March. The selection of the position of the Minenwerfer companies during the advance must be based on the consideration that they must be able to bring their medium Minenwerfer into action as soon as the attack comes to a standstill, especially against defended villages, farm buildings etc. There is no question of employing heavy Minenwerfer and Flugelminenwerfer in open warfare; there is therefore all the more reason to make use of them in trench warfare. Apart from the preparatory bombardment prior to the actual attack, their principal task will always be to annihilate the enemy’s infantry. Villages which lie within range form, on account of their strong garrisons, particularly suitable targets.

(Signed) LUDENDORFF.
GENERAL STAFF,
GENERSAL HEADQUARTERS,
19th April, 1918.

Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services. PRESS A-4/18.

42 Infantry Brigade Signals note 3 April 1918

SECRET

********

42nd Inf Bde.

S 6/113 B.M.

5th Oxf & Bucks L.I.

5th Shrops L.I.

9th K.R.Rif.C.

9th Rif Brig.

42nd Machine Gun Company.

42nd Trench Mortar Battery.

8th Inf Bde.

9th Inf Bde.

41st Inf Bde.

43rd Inf Bde.

76th Inf Bde.

14th Division

14th Div’l Signals.

B.T.O.

No 3 Section Signals (3 Copies).

No 8 Squadron R.F.C. (2 Copies).

14th Divl Artillery (5 Copies)

 

*********************************************************************

  1. Herewith copy (or copies) of Instructions for Communications in the 42nd Inf Bde during forthcoming Operations.
  2. Where more than one copy has been sent the additional copies are for distribution as considered suitable.
  3. O.C. Battalions of 42nd Inf Bde will ensure that their Signalling Officers are fully acquainted with these instructions. If doubt exists regarding any points, their Signalling Officer should arrange to see the Brigade Signalling Officer with regard to them.
  4. Please acknowledge.

 

B Jagel

Capt.

Bde Major

42nd Inf Bde.

3rd April 1918.

 

 

 

COMMUNICATIONS

********************

  1. TELEPHONES AND TELEGRAPH.
  • From W Day until ZERO Battalions will be in communication with Advanced Brigade H.Q. at G.34.b.95.70 (Position Call J.P. 50) through which office communication with Covering Artillery Advanced Dressing Station and Advanced Transport Lines can be obtained.
  • At ZERO telephone lines will be switched over to Brigade Command Post at M.5.b.60.90 (Station call Z.D.B.)
  • The B.T.O. will detail orderlies for duty at the Signal Office in Advanced Transport Lines.
  • The following are positions where telephone offices will be situated from W to Z Day inclusive:-

————————————————————————————-

Position of                   Position           Locality           Map Reference

Telephone Office        Call

————————————————————————————-

Advanced Bde HQ     J.P.50              ——-               G.34.b.95.70.

Adv Dressing Stn.      J.P.63              HUNTER        G.35.d.10.85.

STREET

Battalion H.Q.                        H.L.                 HUN L            G.35.d.50.05.

Battalion H.Q.                        J.P.3                HUNTER        G.35.d.15.90.

STREET

Battalion H.Q.                        B.A.                MIDDLESEX            M.5.b.65.60.

TRENCH

Battalion H.Q.                        B.B.                 HOG LINE     M.5.b.83.95.

Bde Command Post    B.C.P.             HOG LINE     M.5.b.60.90.

————————————————————————————-

 

  • As soon as the situation allows, a line will be extended and an advanced Signal Office established in the Old Battery Position at M.6.d.40.30 (Call B.P.)
  • Battalions will send messages, for transmission from that Office, by runner.

NOTE.  Reference para (a) Fullerphone with telephone in series will be installed in each Battalion H.Q. but the former must be used in preference to the latter whenever possible owing to their being no possibility of its being overheard by the enemy.

 

  1. VISUAL.

(a). Brigade Receiving Station (Call Z.D.B.) will be established at M.5.b.60.90 equipped with Lucas Lamp, Helio, and Dietz Disc.

 

(b). Z.D.B. will receive from Station established in Old Battery position at M.6.d.40.30 (Call B.P.). B.P. will be manned by Signallers of the 5th Oxf & Bucks L.I., one N.C.O. and 3 men, and will be equipped with Lucas Lamp, Helio, and Dietz Disc.  The Lucas Lamp will be employed in preference to the other instruments.  The Station will be regarded as a transmitting centre for messages from all Battalions.  Messages must be short and concise and will be sent from Battalion H.Q. by Runner to the Visual Station (B.P.)

 

(c). Personnel for B.P. will proceed to take up position about 15 minutes in rear of Battalion.  A series of dashed will be sent until O.K. is given by Z.D.B.

 

(d). The method of sending from B.P. will be as follows:-

 

The prefix will be sent repeatedly until answered by “G” when the prefix will be sent once more followed by code time, number of words, “address to”, text, “address from” and V.E.; Office of origin and service instructions will not be sent; after V.E. the whole message will be repeated immediately and the second V.E. given; if the message has been correctly received the answer R.D. will be sent; should R.D. not be given the message will be repeated until acknowledged by the Receiving Station. R.D. will be answered by ”T”.

 

  1. PIGEONS.

(a). Pigeon men with birds should be detailed to accompany definite Officers. It is hoped to be able to supply two pairs of birds to each of the following:-

5th Oxf & Bucks L.I.

5th Shrops L.I.

9th K.R.Rif.C.

(b). A forward dump of birds will be formed in Advanced Brigade H.Q. G.34.b.95.70.

(c). Immediately any birds have been released, a pigeon man should be sent back to the dump with the empty basket to fetch more pigeons.

(d). Battalions must ensure that they are in possession of message book, refill and spare clips.

(e). On release the birds fly to the Loft near Div’l H.Q. Average time taken is 9 minutes.  From the Loft the message is telegraphed to the addressee and diatelegrams delivered direct by Special D.R.

(f). Code names should be used in the messages: remainder may be sent in clear. Care should be taken to enter on the message the time at which it is written.  Diagrams whenever possible should accompany report.  They must however be made on the special message form.

(g). A copy of every pigeon message should be sent by the next Runner endorsed ”COPY ORIGINAL SENT BY PIGEON AT (Time)”.  Runners should not be sent specially.

 

  1. POWER BUZZER.

(a). One Power Buzzer is allotted to this Brigade (Call – C.S.)

(b). The Amplifier will be installed in LEWEN SCHANZE (M.5.d.70.40.) and manned by Signal Service personnel. The call for this Station will be Z.D.C.  It will receive also from Power Buzzer on the 43rd Inf Bde Front (Call C.Q.).  The  notes of the two Buzzers will be so adjusted that they can be distinguished and the adjustment will be made before the instruments are sent forward.  Base lines of all instruments will be North and South.

(c). The Power Buzzer will move forward with the 9th K.R.Rif.C. H.Q.  For this purpose the 9th K.R.Rif.C. will detail 4 men instructed in the use of the Power Buzzer.

(d). The 5th Shrops L.I. will detail 4 Signallers, similarly instructed, to follow 10 minutes in rear of their Battalion H.Q. and take over the Power Buzzer from the 9th K.R.Rif.C. and proceed to re-instal it in Battalion H.Q. at Second Objective.

(e). They in turn will hand the instrument over to personnel detailed by the relieving unit.

(f). Messages, which must be as short and concise as possible, may be sent in clear except names of units. For these, Code Names must be used.  Messages will be sent slowly three times in succession with short interval.  The whole message, less ’Office of Origin’ and ’Service Instructions’ will be sent.

(g). A copy of every message sent by Power Buzzer should be sent by next Runner endorsed ”COPY ORIGINAL SENT BY POWER BUZZER AT (Time)”.

(h). It must be remembered that the Power Buzzer can be overheard by the enemy.

 

  1. WIRELESS.
  • One Trench Wireless Set is allotted to this Brigade.
  • One Officer and Carrying Party of 4 men trained in the erection of the set will be detailed by the 9th Rif Brig to take charge of the Station. The operating will be done by Signal Service personnel.  The Officer in charge will keep the set packed up and in readiness in a dugout near Brigade Command Post, to go forward as soon as the Second Objective has been gained and consolidated.  The Officer will then take his party forward with the set and report to O.C. 5th Shrops L.I.  It will be the duty of the Officer in charge of the set to keep in touch with the Brigade Staff and to find out directly the captured position is sufficiently consolidated to make it feasible to bring the Wireless Station into to
  • C. 5th Shrops L.I. will if possible, select a suitable dugout or shelter in the captured position, preferably in a Battalion H.Q. He will if necessary provide a guide to the site selected.
  • The call of the Station will be Y.M.M/. and it will work to Y.U. (..–) situated at ACHICOURT which is in telephone communication with VII Corps.

The station will subsequently be handed over to personnel detailed by        the relieving Brigade.

  • It must be remembered that wireless messages can be overheard by the enemy. It is necessary to send wireless messages in Playfair cipher whenever possible.  Key-word will be notified later.
  • The responsibility for enciphering, encoding, deciphering and decoding of all wireless messages rests with the Commander of the unit to whom the wireless station is allotted.
  • The Wireless personnel are trained to encipher, encode, decipher and decode messages and under the authority of the Commander of the unit or his representative but the entire responsibility rests with the Commander.
  • No message in cipher of code is to be transmitted until it has been endorsed by the Commander or his representative that the message is to be sent ”By wireless as written”.
  • For the purpose of para (g) and (h) the Officer in charge of set may be regarded as the Commander’s representative.
  • Messages will be confirmed as given in para 4 Sub-pars (g).

 

  1. RUNNERS.
  • Runners will wear a RED band sewn on left sleeve below the elbow. They will carry despatches in the right left **** breast pocket, and this pocket will be kept empty of all other papers while the runner is carrying a despatch.  All ranks should be told that despatches are carried in this pocket and that if any man sees a runner killed or wounded it is his duty to search the pocket and himself to deliver the despatch found therein.  Runners should be distributed as follows:-

TWO with each Platoon Commander.

FOUR at each Company H.Q.

EIGHT at each Battalion H.Q.

FOUR from each Battalion, ONE from 42nd Machine Gun Company, and ONE from 42nd Trench Mortar Battery at Advanced Brigade H.Q. at G.34.b.95.70 to report at Signal Office at 3 pm. On ’Y’ Day each with one days rations.

Runners form a branch of the Signals of a unit.  Trained Signallers should not be employed as runners.

  • Brigade Runners will be worked on the relay system and posts of 4 men each will be established at:-
    1. Brigade Command Post M.5.d.60.90.
    2. junction of TELEGRAPH LANE and CORDITE TRENCH.

The Battery Position at M.6.d.40.30. will be Runner Post No 3.  Runners will proceed to take up position there about 2 hours and 30 minutes after ZERO.  At this Post 8 men will be stationed, 4 working to Right Battalion H.Q. and 4 to Left Battalion H.Q.  This Post will be responsible also for delivering to the 5th Shrops L.I. at the second objective.

 

  1. AEROPLANE LIAISON.
  • Contact Aeroplanes working with the 14th Division will have a special marking, a broad black band under the lower starboard (right) plane, with streamer.
  • Flares will be lit by the most advanced troops when the Contact Aeroplane calls for them. Flares can be seen if lit at the bottom of trenches or shell holes.  The Signal for ”LIGHT FLARES” is a series of ”A”s on a Klaxon Horn or the firing of a white light.
  • Messages will be signalled to the aeroplane by means of a French Lamp or ground signal panel which should be at least 15 yards away from the ground signal sheet (the semi-circular sheet indicating the position of Battalion H.Q.) and the ground signal strips (indicating code letter of Battalion H.Q.). Messages will be signalled to aeroplanes only when all other means of communication fail.
  • Q. will indicate that they have a message for the aeroplane by calling up in the usual way.

When the aeroplane is ready to receive the message it will send the Battalion call letters and ”G” by Klaxon or Lamp.

Each word or code letter of a message from the ground will be answered by the aeroplane by the general answer ”T” and the receipt of the message will be acknowledged after V.E. by the code call of the sender followed by ”R.D.” This will be answered from the ground by ”T”.

  • Should ground signal strips not be available the Battalion code call will be sent continually until the aeroplane replies by sending code call followed by ”G”.
  • Messages sent on the panel must be confined to code given below and co-ordinates.
  • When the observer has obtained information either from the flares, ground sheet or panel, he goes to the “dropping station” at BERNEVILLE, drops the message and at once return to the Battalion for further work. The message is telegraphed from the “dropping station” to the addressee.
  • Code letters allotted are as follows:-

Brigade H.Q.              Z.D.B.

5th Oxf & Bucks L.I.   O.L.I.

5th Shrops L.I.             K.L.I.

9th K.R.Rif.C.             K.R.I.

9th Rif Bde                  R.B.I.

  • Signals between aeroplanes and Infantry are as follows:-

The rest of the paper is missing.

 

Private Diary of J.K. Dick Cunyngham Br Gen April 1918

Private Diary of J.K. Dick Cunyngham Br Gen

PoW

MAINZ Germany

 

 

April 12th Cornet Malo woke about 5 a.m. by Poobah saying a lot of MG fire on our left.  B.M. was then talking to Scott on the phone who said his front was all right.  Went out & saw transport coming back along road, saw Northall who said everyone was coming back & he was going up to see what was up.  Immediately after our Hd Qrs came under Rifle & MG fire at close range:  we all then started to get away on going out of farm.  B.M. & Col. Fleming were wounded by a bomb.  Others were running back.  I had one last look at Farm, collected my bag & waterproof & joined the remainder.  Bosche was all round us in waves, the first 2 waves having passed Hd Qrs; attempted to get men round  Farm Building & open fire, but seeing it was useless made off again for another cottage – which I entered with Drummond, Cummings & Simpson.  On going in rifle bullet grazed me on head & knocked me over.  Finally Simpson surrendered & we were captured.  Remainder of Bde Hd Qrs were also taken at various places & we commenced to march back.  Bosche M.G. & Artillery fire still continuing in vicinity of our farm.  On way linked up Fleming & Meakin & B.M.

 

Boche evidently broke through someway N of us near Merville as I spoke to a Corpl D.C.L.I. (under 153) later on & he said they had come in behind their line. Party captured was practically all Bde Hd Qrs, self. B.M., Drummond, Cummings, Simpson, McLean, Hutchings, Fleming Meakin.  The latter riding back, & Poobah servant badly wounded, carried back.  Passed through Paradis where we collected a French cart & put wounded in & dragged it along to 1st Dressing Station where wounded were left.  Then marched through Fosse to Pont du Hem.  Rested & had excellent cup Barley Broth.  Stayed 1 hour here then on via La Bassee road, our old front.  Corpl Alfhousen, marching ahead, not knowing where he was going.  So we with aid of B.M.’s map, guided ourselves across old trenches to Bois-de-Biez & there to Illies & on to Marquillies. (19 miles).  Behind B de Biez Alfhouse shopped & we all had drink of Soda Water from a Field Factory.  Arrived Marquillies about 7.30 p.m.  Spent night in cages.  Officer in charge most kind, gave self, Berney-Ficklin & Drummond a shake down in his quarters & food & noisy night, some 700 Portuguese prisoners chattering all night.  Bombs dropped throughout night.

 

April 13th. Marched Lille (10 miles) starting 9 a.m. only officers & servants.  French inhabitants gave us coffee in Haubourdin: tiring dusty march, much traffic on roads: arrived about 1 p.m.  Self B.M. & D sent to officers quarters in a room holding 5. 3 turned out for us Lt. Col Martin Lan Fus.  Major Jackson E Yorks, our 2 other companions couldn’t face the consisting of stew.  Comdt a Lieut, quite an intelligent little fellow, & doing his best for us.  6 p.m. evening meal.  Coffee &brown bread & jam.  Lights out 9.30.  Slept well on a hard bed but 2 blankets.

 

April 14 Sunday. Breakfast 8.30 a.m. coffee & remains of bread, read & slept till our half hours exercises about midday – round the Arsenal Square.  Orderly bought us cigars 50 for 25 Mk., soap one cake 7 Mark! Toothbrush 3 Mks, & toothpaste in tube 2/80.  Changed all French & English money in Marks.

Dinner same stew, which I cannot eat, so picked out some potatoes. ½ hour walk again in afternoon: orderly produced 5 bottles lemonade cheap. Jackson left after breakfast and Somerville (S.W.B.) came in his place – Bed by 9 p.m.

 

Monday 15th.  Orderly made good fire at 8 a.m. & we were able to toast the brown bread which improved it greatly – coffee at breakfast had same taste as stew, so drank lemonade.  Orderly brought 5 slices of white bread at 2 marks a slice!  Couldn’t produce biscuits from Red Cross – towels, soft soap, & handkerchiefs.  Informed that self Berney-Ficklin & Drummond are going this afternoon with escort of an officer by 2 p.m. train.  Remainder evidently go together 30 British & 20 Portuguese officers.  Martin left about 12.30 p.m.  Barber came & shaved us all.  Feel more like gentleman today.  Left Lille at 2.10 p.m. passed Orchies, St. Amand – Valenciennes (4.15 p.m.) Aulnoye (6.25 p.m.) where we halted till 10.30 p.m.  All huddled up in a waiting room which luckily had a fire and we were able to get a glass of beer!

At 10.30 p.m. started again in a 2nd class carriage & had a cold dark journey to Charleville (3.40 a.m.)

 

Tuesday 16th another wait in a cold waiting room (no fire) till 7.20 a.m. Had some German coffee at 4.30 a.m. &the kantine provided us with tea bread & cheese for breakfast at 6.30 a.m. & a luncheon for the journey (5 marks).  Left Charleville 7.21 a.m. in a good corridor train 2nd class.  Country hilly plenty of men working in railways.  Montmeldy 10.15 a.m.  Longuyon (11.10) excellent lunch in Dining Car (soup meat, potatoes &vegs & soda 3.40) at midday – crossed frontier into Germany at 1.25 p.m.  Fentsch (Lorraine) Metz (3-10) change at Beningen 6.25 p.m. into another train.  Saargemund 7.30 p.m. had tea, bread & cheese.  8.15 into another train arrived Strasburg 10.45 p.m. supper, coffee & sandwich bought at Charleville & spent night in 1st Class Restaurant.  Very fine station Strasberg.

 

Wednesday 17th.  Woke 4.30 a.m. room full of soldiers.  Had coffee & sandwich.  5 a.m. & a wash.  Left by train 5.36 a.m. crossed Rhine at Fehl 5.45 a.m. passed Kehl where Rly crosses Rhine.

Appenweier 6 a.m. junction for Basle. Baden oos 6.30 (Zeppelin Shed).  Black Forest on right – arrived Karlsruhe 7 a.m. walked to European Hotel where it looks as if we are to stay – put into bare small room with 2 beds. With breakfast a tin of sardines brought for sale (3M) – also man to change cheques.  Got 200 M (10£). Man brought articles for sale at fair prices so brought hairbrush & comb, nail scissors, soap, boot-brush & polish & a dictionary.  About 11.45 a.m. taken down to intelligence officer for examination – came back to find lunch, consisting of quite good soup potato & nut stew & brown bread – really quite a palatable meal & plenty of it.  Left Hotel at 2.45 p.m. & came on to Camp about 700 yds away.  Settled down in a room with B.M. &. D.  Evening meal 6 p.m. & then had dinner with Troughton & Baldwin & Dawson.  Bed 9 p.m.

 

Thursday 18th.  Hot shower bath 8.30 a.m. breakfast in room.  Roll call 10 a.m. finished letters etc.  Midday meal 12 noon.  Sat out in camp, quite warm – from 1 – 3 p.m.  Some 40 officers left & new ones came about 3 p.m. including 2 Lt. Cols in 60th one Birch – other –

Supper consisted of 3 tiny bits of meat in stew – Bed 9 p.m. slept well.

 

Friday 19th.  Heavy rain during night.  Slept fairly well.  Issue Bully Beef & biscuits at 1 p.m.  About 40 French officers went away and about same number English arrived at 2.30 p.m.  Much colder & not able to sit out.  Bed 9 p.m.

Saturday 20th.  Warned at 8.30 we were to leave today for Mainz.  Midday meal at 9.45 a.m. handed in money & got chit stating amount.  About 70 officers going after meal.  They were sent to Recreation Room.  We were allowed back to our Hut till 11.15 a.m.  Left Camp 11.30 a.m. marched to station, left 12.25 p.m. in special carriages.  Passed Durlach, Burschal, Heidelburg 2 p.m. Darmstadt 4.25 p.m. Mainz 6.35 p.m. marched to Fort 200 yds from station.  Have been given excellent rooms, bedroom & sitting room well furnished, both with stoves.  Moore & Birch (60th) also come to Field Officers’ Qrs, & we three had dinner together in my sitting room.  Good meal soused fish & potatoes, pudding & red syrup & some tea & bread.  Lights turned on at 9 & out 11 p.m.  Have an excellent view from my room over town & Rhine.  Spring bed with sheets & a comfortable pillow, quite different from straw palliase & straw pillow at K.  Am most agreeably surprised with my quarters which they say are to be permanent.

 

Sunday 21st.  Slept well bed quite comfortable &for a change did not dream of battle fighting.  Coffee at 8.30. Russian Barber came about 9.15 a.m. have ordered him daily.  German officers showed us round & we shall soon arrange everything for comfort of all.  Excellent meal at 12 noon, soup, roast beef potato & spinach.  Had church in chapel at 2 p.m.  Coffee at 3 p.m.  Committee Meeting at 4 p.m.  Supper 6 p.m. & at 7 p.m. I addressed all officers & read out rules of Camp, arranged for Various Committees for Parcels, Libraries, Recreation, Canteen, Entertainment etc; Berney-Ficklin & Drummond came into Field Officers’ building & the 3 of us are now together in my sitting room.  A bright sunny day but a cold N.E. wind.  Wrote postcard notifying change of address.

 

Monday 22nd.  More officers arrived very late last night about 11.50 p.m. amongst them 3 Lt. Cols Finch, Ogilvy and Williams, all came into this block.  Afternoon 2 p.m. hot shower bath and all our clothes fumigated & we were sent into a room with a fire & blanket round us.  Was nearly 5 p.m. before our clothes came back much crumpled.  Cold day with some rain.

 

Tuesday 23rd.  This note book taken away for General to read.  Returned 28th.  it is taking some time to find out what are the regulations of this camp, so temporarily have made our own.

 

Wednesday 24th.  Ogilvy seems keen & most competent to help organise, have put him on Entertainment & Education Committee.  Find we have some talent.  2 officers connected with stage, some glee singers from North Country.  Signed Contract for Billiard Tables & have taken them over.

 

Thursday 25th.  The General inspections on parade, just walked along line.  Very wet day.  Am not sleeping very well.  Very patchy – unusually awake 2 a.m., 5 a.m. & coffee comes at 7.40 a.m.

 

Friday 26th.  Must do something to prevent long ‘queues’.  Yesterday some officers spent 3 hours in a ‘queue’ trying to sign a cheque for money & failed.  Great lack of organization on part of those responsible.  Only 1 cheque book, & all the counterfoils might easily be filled in before.  German Minister came & offered to help for Communion Service but informed us we were not allowed to hold Communion without his being present – wrote in complaint to comdt.  Have 4 C of E, 1 Wesleyan and 1 R.C. in Camp.  Washed vest!

 

Saturday 27th.  Some of us got money for our cheques.  I got 5£.  We get remainder of pay & money handed in at Karlsruhe on May 2nd.  Nice warm day.

 

Sunday 28th.  Sanction for Church Service given & then cancelled.  Appears Comdt must get sanction from Frankfurt.  Most annoying this indecision.  Am still trying to get Recreation Room opened and orders out.  1.30 p.m. addressed all officers on certain points in Discipline which cropped up during the week & notified progress in Sub Committees.  Have now got special officer for each block, & a room Commander, & give out orders twice daily.  Am starting room inspections tomorrow.  Also controlling “Queues” at Canteen.  Wrote letter D.D. after lunch.

 

Monday 29th.  Inspected No 3 at 11 a.m. & asked officers if they had anything to bring forward.  Hope to get most points settled on the spot with German officers in charge of Blocks; mostly trivial but hitherto nothing could be done without order of Commandant.  Midday meal 35 minutes late, one cauldron cracked & food had to be cooked again.  Nice fine warm day.

 

Tuesday 30th.  Was granted interview with German General Commandant, & brought up various questions – think we shall now be able to get things done on the spot, with exception of points which have to be sent to Frankfurt for decision.  Paid a visit with B.F. to Belgian General and fixed up about the stage which he bought from Russian Officers.  He has been prisoner since 1914, & is now going to Switzerland shortly.  His rooms seem quite comfortable & he had boxes of clothes etc; in his room also pots of flowers.  22 English prisoners (Orderlies) arrived about 4.30 p.m.  Pte Worthington Roy Fus reported to me as servant.  He had been a prisoner 6 weeks.  Is small and magnificent looking.  Cold day.

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Apr 1918

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Apr 1918

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

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

Correspondence

—————–

 

P.P.C. 1 APRIL 1918. France

Hope you got my note. Please forgive these P. cards.  Times are quite exciting.

 

R.P.                                         EASTER SUNDAY   1918

B.E.F. FRANCE.

 

Just a line to let you know that I am fit and well, but back in this land again and busy.

 

We left at an hour’s notice, and it was quick work.

 

We seem to be holding the Boche alright now, and it is really nothing more than suicide for him to go on now. There is no cause to worry.  Everyone is confident out here.  Whatever Foch is or may do, it is better by far to have a single supreme commander.  I cannot understand why we have not had one before this fiasco.

 

The weather is nothing like what we left behind, and we miss it. But I am not sorry to have returned for this, if only we can finish it for good.

 

EASTER SUNDAY 1918

B.E.F. FRANCE.

 

We left at half an hour’s notice, and it was pretty quick work.

 

The Boche seem to be held alright now, and everyone here seems confident. We are glad Foch has taken over supreme command.  In war one commander is a necessity.  Foch may not be a genius but one general is better than a dozen.  As one or our sergeants said hitherto we have been slaughtered to no purpose, perhaps in the future we may be slaughtered to some purpose.

 

We miss the beautiful weather we have left behind, but still there are tasks to be done here, and we should have got very slack in Italy.

 

The journey seemed and was long but uneventful. Now we are fully busy.  It has been an extraordinary week.

 

April 5 1918.

B.E.F. FRANCE.

 

It is horrible to be cut off from all news of home, and for that matter of what is going on out here. No one knows where our mail bags have gone to; probably they are wondering round Italy seeking us.

 

Ages and ages it seems since we left Italy, where the sun was shining.  Here all is mud and rain and confusion and uncertainty.

 

The Boche seems to have halted for a bit, no doubt to reorganise, and bring up food, stores and big guns. He has out-run his communications.  No doubt he will have another go to try and cut his way right through.  We must see how many more we can slaughter in the process.  Everyone is fairly confident, which is THE great thing.  It is no good worrying.

 

It is strange to be back where we were two years ago at this time. Our old wagon lines are in Boche hands, though, I am sorry to say.  We shall have to do a Somme push all over again, but this time I hope we shall be more successful.

 

The Gothas are leaving you in peace, I hope, and that no long range gun is firing on London as on Paris!

 

News I may not give, so all letters are thin. The censor would cut out what I should like to say.

 

Once the guns are in the line now, there we stop, at least until this little show is over and safely settled one way or another. It will probably take some time, but it has got to be done.

 

The weather is cold and wet, typical French and fighting conditions.

 

Horses and men are fit, I am glad to say. The men are keen to help the poor devils who had such an awful time of it last week.

 

R.P.                                         April 13 1918.

 

I am fit and well, and going strong. But I have never been so busy in my life.  We have moved so often in the last few days, nearly every day, that I hardly know where we are.  One day the only food I got was a tin plate of thin stew from the sergeants’ dixie or stock pot.  One night I had only an hour’s sleep on the ground with a blanket over me.  I lost my kit for a time, but it turned up again.  I have told my servant that if he saves my books in another quick move I will forgive him all, and let him off.  I still have them all.

 

It is extraordinary with what a little sleep and food one can get along. Yet I feel quite fit and well as ever.  I am sure at home we eat and sleep too much.  All the clothes one needs are the ones worn, and for the rest a tooth brush and soap.  But I need my library, and I get laughed at about my books.

 

To add to the discomfort of continual moves the weather has been truly awful, wind, rain and mud which invades everything and reduces everything to the same colour.

 

Under these conditions you soon find out what men are like. Little things, not perceived under normal conditions, shew what men really are.  If a man can do his job quietly, unostentatiously, in these circumstances without obvious fear or losing his temper he has something in him.  There are several men like that in the battery, and it is curious how one turns to them to get things done.  They may not shine under normal conditions, but here and now they are to be relied on for what the rest are not capable of doing.  I wish there were more of such men.  They are too few.

 

A scene here. Imagine a black, windy, wet night, and a thickly muddy road, full of troops and traffic.  Each side of the road is a bare waste and wilderness.  We were coming away from the gun line, returning with empty ammunition wagons, a bit weary but keenly awake, as it was as well to keep your wits about you when at any moment the Boche might shell the crowded road.  On the right of the road a long line of transport vehicles of all kinds grinding their noisy way along the uneven track, and another column on the other side of the road going the other way.  At times movement is held up, and men and horses impatiently wait for the tide to flow again.  Then a break in the line of wagons, and a platoon of men marching, great big men, moving with a slow dignified swing.  The Guards going into action!  In the rare gleam of an occasional shielded lamp, or the innumerable flashes of the guns round about their silhouette stood out sharply, and you could see them moving along quietly and calmly in all that noise and confusion.  It gave me a thrill to watch as I passed by.  I was glad we had the Guards in front of our guns.  Just the thought soothed my jangled nerves.  Somewhat elated, I thanked God I was an Englishman.  No doubt the Boche can give an equally good show of discipline, but there is something in the way an Englishman does these things which is somehow different.  There is no bravado or ostentation posturing as a patriot, but rather a quiet dignified matter-of-factness, which is so attractive.  At times there is even a hint of boredom or superciliousness, which may or may not cover a quiver of fearfulness.  It is something to be proud of that our country is still able to produce such men with such spirit.  Then I thought of the numbers of such men who had paid the penalty for being of such a kind, and I wondered whether our country could stand the loss without fearful injury, perhaps irreparable.  Still as long as such last we cannot lose.  Does it take a war to produce such men, tried in the fire?  If so war cannot be such a great evil as some make it out.  Most people look at the horrors, the deaths, the wounds, the wreckage, the mud and what not, and declare war to be wholly evil.  Yet there are other things worth looking for in this mess.

 

You at home, please do not worry about this seeming reverse, serious though it is. Our politicians have failed us, others, whom I may not here mention, have failed us; but that is no reason why the average fighting man leavened by great spirits should not win through in the end.  They have done it before, and will do so again.  As long as any such remain we shall not ultimately fail.  In our history it is usually left to the rank and file to put the mess straight.  It will be so again.  So it is a waste of energy to lose heart.  There are some good men left out here, and there is no need, when things look a bit black, to worry and be downhearted.  There is far more defeatism at home than out here.

 

I met Frank Okell yesterday. He is quite near here.  I am so sorry to hear that Trevor has been wounded again.

 

April 13 1918.

 

Field post cards are horrid things, but they will have told you that I am well and that we are going strong.

 

I have never have had such a rush. One whole day I only got one “meal”, and that was a tin dish of thin stew from the sergeants’ stock pot.  It was weak and nasty.  One night I slept on the ground under a horse rug with the horses.  This will serve to explain the omission to write letters.  To add to my petty annoyances my kit managed to get lost.  But it is extraordinary how little one really wants beyond the clothes one is actually wearing, and how little sleep and food is really necessary to keep one going, and yet be fit and well.  Usually, I think we eat too much.

 

The weather is very trying. Rain and mud has reduced everything to the same wetness and colour.

 

But the great thing is that the Boche has made no more progress on this particular front, and most here seem cheery and confident.

 

I met Frank Okell here today. I hope to see some more of him.  Life is a sequence of crowded moments.

 

R.P. April 17 1918.

 

In spite of the weather all is well. Italy must have stolen all the sun and left us the wind and rain.

 

I am still with the battery I am glad to say. No Headquarters for me, if I can help it.

 

The Boche has been lying low here for a bit. Perhaps he had a little too much of it the other day.  We are quite prepared for him.  Once he gets in the open we can account for masses of them.  We may lose a bit of ground now and them, but he cannot go on losing men at this rate.

 

Poor old Armentieres has gone and with it many familiar places such as Bailleul, Steenwerk, Neuf Berquin, Neuf Eglise, and others.  Occupying those places will do the enemy little good if he cannot get further.

 

You ask me if I have a billet. No thank you!  I am better off in an open field.  We are hardened soldiers now.  Ask Trevor what he thinks of billets.  Besides there aint any.

 

April 17, 1918.

 

The mail has at last delivered up all the letters addressed to Italy, which is one bright spot in the wilderness.

 

Our men grumbled when in Italy at being so far away from home; now I ask them how they like it now they are back here again. Italy at least had more sun and fewer shells.

 

The Boche have taken many familiar places, where we spent many days, Armentieres, Steenwerk, Bailleul, Vieux Berquin, Laventie, Fleur Baix, and are now pushing north and west towards Neuve Eglise and Hazebrouck. Well!  I suppose we must expect to lose a bit of ground when they put in so many troops against us.  It can’t be helped.  However they seem to have suffered severe casualties.

 

We are now awaiting his next onslaught in the south. I bet the German fighting man hates it like hell.  We do not like it much situated as we are between two fires, the Boche and the staff.

 

The poor old gees are done in; but so far I have only lost two, so I must not complain.

 

R.P. April 24, 1918,

 

The best tonic we can have are cheery letters from home. Thank you very much for them.

 

We are still where we were. The Boche has taken no ground from us since the first rush, and than very little indeed at this particular place.  We are waiting for him quietly but confidently: here at any rate.  I do not know what is happening on other parts of the line.  It is quite an experience being attacked in this way.  Having regard to the shocking shortage in troops it is not to be wondered at that we were pushed back.  What is astonishing is that the troops we had were able to hold up the hordes of insects in field grey.  They are like a plague of locusts that eat up everything, even our Expeditionary Force Canteens!

 

In spite of the weather we are not idle. There is a lot to do.  I should like to give you an account of our activities, but my letter would no doubt be heavily censored, and I should get into trouble.

 

I am glad to hear Reggie is getting on well in spite of the horrors of life at the Base.

 

I see by the papers that both my old Divisions have distinguished themselves, the 18th and the 34th Divisions.  The latter in Armentieres.  We never get mentioned as we are unfortunately an Army Field Artillery Brigade with no Friends.  But still we are in most things.

 

Hunkin has done very well out here, and has become popular with the men he works amongst. You would not think a Cambridge History Don would go down with the men, but Freddy Head has.  He was at Emmanuel before the war.

 

April 24 1918

France.

 

I am at the wagon lines at present, so am by myself. I am inundated with messages marked urgent, and some secret, needless to say none of them were important.

 

But I have other duties. I have just come away from the cemetery, and now have those letters to write which I hate.  Tonight I am a bundle of contradictions.  Now I am gloomy, and now flippant.  Little things annoy, but serious do not for the moment.  My blankets are a sopping mess, and I am furiously angry.  The ammunition is delayed, and I do not care.  My mare would not trot or walk coming back to the lines, but jigged about on her toes until I could have shot her.  The guns frighten her, but I had no pity.  She pulled and so did I until my hands were sore.  But if material for the gun-line is tipped into a ditch in the middle of the night I laugh.  My temper is atrocious.  In spite of all this, everything is really all right.  I am quite fit and well.

 

We are waiting another Boche attack in confidence. Let them come, the insects.  Like locusts, let them come and eat up the land, even the Expeditionary Force Canteens, the brutes; but we will do them down in the end.  Needless to say we are busy preparing for his destruction.  I hope we are destroying them now.  Our guns are hardly ever silent, and we gas him, plenty of it.  He must be having a rotten time, even as we.  He is held up here, I think.  So far and no further.  So all goes well on the western front, and there is no need to worry.  All we want is a few more men of the better sort, but such are very scarce these days.  As such cannot in such times be any where else they cannot exist.  I suppose they are all dead.

 

April 26, 1918

France.

 

At the present moment I am up in the gun line, having taken over from the Major, who is at the wagon line. The Colonel has just been here.

 

And so we wait the next move. But in the meanwhile neither side is particularly quiet. gas in hospital.

F. Springett letter April 1918

Somewhere in France

 

April 1918

 

 

My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a few lines at last hope they will find you in the best of health as it leaves me A1.

So sorry to hear that you have packed up at Gravesend still you know best about it.

I thought Helen a very decent girl, but I’m afraid they are all alike Sid. Ha Ha.

Hope you are still busy in the works. We are awfully busy as usual.  This is some war.

I hope you had a nice time at Easter “did you go home?”

What do the people in England think about this new German offensive, got the wind up a bit have they?

Yes that stuff Dad sent is very good for the little devils when I get on the job sometimes I think of a cartoon I saw once. “Is the battle over Mother?”  Ha Ha.

Dear Sid, don’t forget to write my address properly next time.  You left the Company out on the last envelope.

Well I haven’t got much to say as usual so I shall have to pack up, hope this short letter finds you A1.  “Cheerio.”

Best Love

Your Loving Brother

Frank

What about that photo, send one on please, if you have one.

 

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

Postmarked Field Post Office 5X + 20 AP 18. Passed by Censor 3 rest unreadable.