22 Feb to On leave with Maz to Brighton – met Goodall (tennis player) on train.
1 March 1918
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
22 Feb to On leave with Maz to Brighton – met Goodall (tennis player) on train.
1 March 1918
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Feb 1918
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
February 2, 1918. Rome. Today we visited the Coliseum and other places in the vicinity.
Feb 1 1918.
We go to Rome, I think, tomorrow. (CP)
Rome Feb 2, 1918.
The Catacombe di Santa Domitilla (CP)
Rome Feb 3, 1918
Il Colosseo Arco di Costantino (CP)
Feb 4, 1918
View from the Cupola of St Peter’s (CP)
Feb 4. 1918
Today we crawled to the top of St. Peters and afterwards visited the Vatican. (CP)
Feb 10 1918
Antico Caffe Greco. Via Condotte founded 1760
(Sent by Field Post Office, and mutilated)
Two others, both stamped 15th Feb, and mutilated. I have returned. Feb 14th 1918.
Sunday February 3, 1918.
Grand Hotel, Rome.
We have been having a great time down here in the south. Amour came with me. The weather has been perfect, and except for travelling conditions delightful.
We left a week ago, and travelled by our horses and motor lorry to Padua, whence we took train to Rome. We secured a luxurious wagon-lit compartment for two which Jock and I shared. We slept comfortably in bed. The train started from Padua leaving about 8.45 p.m. and arriving in Rome at 11.30, the next morning. Changing trains we went straight on to Naples, which we reached at 6.30 p.m. In the evening we sampled an Italian Music Hall; but we did not care for it at all, much too loud and vulgar. Are these the descendants of the ancient Romans, renowned for their “gravitas” and “pietas”? The following day we shopped, visited the National Gardens, via the Via Roma, and the Opera, returning for lunch on the balcony of the Bertolini Hotel, high up on the hill overlooking the Bay of Naples. After desiring so long to visit these famous places, it is strange to be here and in these circumstances. I wonder what an old legionary legate would have said to and of us if we had met him.
But the next day was the DAY. I at last realised my great desire to visit Pompeii. We determined to do as much as we could in the short time at our disposal. Our first step was to obtain a guide, whom we kept for four days. He was quite a pleasant chap, but did not appear to know much except how to get to places, for most of his information was of the nature of fairy stories. I am sure poor old Jock Amour was very bored as I dragged him all over the place to see what I wanted. Certainly I made him and myself very tired; but it was worth it, every bit.
I had been interested in Pompeii for many years, and my Father had sent me a great tome of six hundred pages, al about the excavations, which I just had time to read before I left for the south. So I knew pretty well what I wanted to see, and certainly more than our guide who soon gave up talking in disgust when I kept on referring to my book and notes. However he knew the names of places and how to get there, which was all I wanted. At times he talked the most amazing rubbish, and I could appreciate the sort of stuff tourists were fed on.
A cab took us to the Electric Station from our hotel on the hill, and the train to a place called Torre Annunziata, a filthy picturesque village built on the larva amid orange trees and vineyards. Another vehicle took us to the excavations themselves. First of all we visited the Amphitheatre and other places nearby which had been covered by the eruption of A.D. 79.
Then we had lunch at the Hotel du Suisse. We began our exploration about 1 p.m. and finished about 5 p.m. It was much too short, and rather apt to give me mental indigestion.
There is so much to see. The Forum, the Temples of Venus, Apollo, Jupiter, Mercury, and to me of special interest, of Isis. Then to the Large and Small Theatres, the Barracks of the Gladiators, the Old and New Baths, and the houses known as of Apollo, Citharoedus, Siricus, Marcus Lucretius, Vetii, Labyrinth, Faun, the Tragic Poet, Pansa, and several others, finishing up with the Villa of Diomedes outside the Herculaneum Gate in the Street of Tombs. So we did not waste our short time. I hope I shall be able to revisit the place some day.
We returned very tired and had dinner at Gambrinos on our way up to the hotel.
The next day we spent in Naples, visiting the Royal Palace, the Picture Gallery, the church of Santa Chiara, and the Cathedral, which has a shrine and the blood of the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, who is supposed to have been martyred under Diocletian. This man’s blood boils whenever anything is about to happen. The credulity of some people is amazing. I wonder if it foretold the war. We also visited the delightful little chapel of Sansevero.
In the afternoon the Museum occupied our attention. From some of the things I saw there I can quite believe that the present inhabitants of this district are the descendants of the people who inhabited Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum; but they were not of the race of the old Roman. They are descendants of Greeks, Asiatics and slaves. A cosmopolitan crowd with all the vices. The Pompeian collection is wonderful, and also the Farnese collection of statues and bronzes, containing the Farnese Hercules, and the Bull. Again there was far too much to see. However the gods may perchance favour me with another visit one day.
We climbed Vesuvius to the crater, choked in the sulphur smoke, saw flames and boiling lava, and returned. A whole day’s hard work; but well spent.
On our last day in Naples we visited Bagnoli, Pozzuoli or Puteoli, where St Paul landed, and saw the extinct volcano at Solfatara. Thence we went to the Greek amphitheatre, and the ruins of the so-called Serapeum or Macellum. Then we went on to Lake Avernus, which was regarded by the ancients as the entrance to the infernal regions. And so by Baiae back to our hotel. That night we left by the 11.15 p.m. train, and have just arrived in that city at 8 a.m.
At the Bertolini in Naples one night a bishop came in to dine. When I saw him I recognised my old tutor at Cambridge, Dr. Knight, now Bishop of Gibraltar. He has given me several introductions to people in Rome, one to Archdeacon Sissons, but I do not think we shall use them as we have so little time.
R.P February 15, 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force
It is over a month since I received any letters from home. That was the only pleasure my return from the south gave me, for we have had a delightful time in Rome and Naples. Our leave of two weeks is all over, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It has seen the fulfilment of a long desire, and renewed my interest in those places.
We arrived in Rome on a Sunday morning nearly a fortnight ago, and that day we spent fairly quietly as we were tired after our night journey from Naples.
The following day we started in earnest to see the sights. We visited the Coliseum, the Forum, and took a cab to see the Appian Way. On the way we went into the catacombs and then the church of St. Paul outside the walls, the Thermae of Caracalla; St Peter’s and the Vatican filled the next day, where we saw the collection of antiquities, the Egyptian Museum, and the Borgia apartments. On the day after we completed the Vatican so far as we could, visiting the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Stanza and the Picture Gallery.
The Palatine and Capitoline, together with the Pantheon and many churches were visited the following day. The churches I like best were S. Clemente with the ancient of Mithras recently excavated below ground, and S. Maria in Cosmedin. In S. Maria sopra Minerva I met a priest who was an Oxford man and a lately “verted” C. of E. clergyman, who was most interesting. With him in his seminary there is a man named Poskitt, who was at Corpus Christi when I was up at Cambridge. He is also now a Roman Catholic. I cannot understand how these men can do it, and my amazement is not lessened by my visit to Rome.
The Ghetto, other churches, museums, baths filled up our time on two other days. We managed to get a day’s trip to Tivoli and Hadrian’s Villa, and another to the Alban Mountains and the Largo di Nemi.
I made use of Bishop Knight’s introduction and called on Archdeacon and Mrs. Sissons, who were most kind. He spent an afternoon with me to show me several places, and he gave me a lot of most interesting information about Rome and its inhabitants. Mrs. Sissons took me to the artists’ quarter where we had tea in one of the studios there. I met a sculptor, by name Signore Sciortino, who is the Director of the British Academy of Arts in Rome. He has won fire international competitions, and has recently created a statue of Christ, which has been put up in Malta to commemorate the Eucharistic Council held there some time ago. He was particularly kind to us, and through him I met another sculptor, Toti, and also a painter, Guidi, whose studios I visited. We also met several Italian, Russian and American people. It was Sciortino who arranged the most delightful trip to the Alban Mountains and Lakes.
We left Rome by the night train, and it took us four days to get to our batteries which had in the mean time moved. Now we are back at work again, and instead of spring like weather we have snow, ice, wind and dull days.
When we were at Vesuvius I had hoped to go up on a pony, but the war had done away with them all, so we had to go up by the tram.
The Boche is a great nuisance about here bombing quite a lot. Especially about Padua and to the north of that place.
February 15 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force
Back again! The change from the delightful weather of Naples and Rome with their blue skies and spring warmth to the cold, dull wintry weather of the north is too too horrible. I have hardly enjoyed a trip more. The contrast in conditions of living and circumstances heightened what for me would in any case be one of the great events of my life, seeing Naples and Rome. Now it is all over and we are back in the cold north and war area.
We arrived in the city of Augustus and the pope on a Sunday morning. After a bath, a shave, a change and breakfast, we wandered into the Borghese (Villa) and the Gardens of the Pincio. The following day we visited the Coliseum, the Forum, the Catacombs, the Via Appia, and some churches. St. Peter’s and the Vatican fully occupied our time the next day, spending some of it in the collection of antiquities and the picture gallery.
We revisited the Vatican the next morning to see the Sistine Chapel, and the Raphael Stanza.
All the following day we spent in the Forum and on the Palatine, where we met a very distinguished American Admiral. Then on to the Capitoline, the Pantheon and a large number of churches. The most interesting, for me, were S. Clementi, with its recently excavated ancient temple of Mithras, three stories under the medieval church, and S. MARIA in Cosmedin.
That night we went to the Opera to hear Puccini’s La Boheme, after dinner in the restaurant Ulpia, the walls of which were built by Trajan nearly 2000 years ago.
There followed excursions to Tivoli, and Hadrian’s Villa, to the Alban Hills, the Largo di Nemi. and other places in the vicinity.
After all I used my introduction to Archdeacon Sissons and his wife which Dr Knight had given me. I had lunch with them one day, and spent an afternoon with him visiting a few of the out of the way places. On another afternoon Mrs. Sissons took me to call on an artist in the artists’ quarter the Via Margutta. There I met a number of Italian, French, Russian, American and English people, among them one, Sig. Sciortino, a sculptor and director of the British Academy of Arts in Rome. He was particularly kind and three of us spent many interesting days at his studio and at the Caffe Greco in the Via Condotti. He took us to see several artists, among them Toti, a sculptor, and Guidi, a painter, in their studios. He and his friends also arranged several excursions for us, one of them for a whole day into the Alban Hills. Twelve of us went, and we spent a most enjoyable time. One man was an Irish artist and another an American Captain. We went by electric train most of the way and then walked, and not by car as we did to Tivoli, as no ladies are allowed to travel by car in Rome without special permission. We got back about 7 p.m. and this trip concluded our visit to Rome, for we left that night at 9 p.m.
We spent four days finding our Brigade, which had moved in the meantime in our absence.
The Caffe Greco is a most interesting place. It is the rendez-vous of the artists of Rome. It is the custom for a leading artist to appropriate a corner of the Café and his circle of pupils and admirers, and there to gather together of an evening. In the picture which I sent Sciortino is sitting at the back. It was taken some years ago. He still sits in the same place, and on several occasions we joined him there.
He sculpted a figure of Christ, which was erected in Malta to commemorate the Eucharistic Conference held in that place by the Roman Church some time ago. He has won an international competition five times, and has done a lot of work in Russia.
Altogether it has been a delightful time, and we do not appreciate returning to the line once more.
February 24 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force.
It is a perfect evening, warm and fine, with a lovely sunset. The cold weather has departed at last, not to return, I hope, till next year.
I have just returned after a few day’s absence, not on leave this time, but on duty. I may be away again shortly.
Thank you for the Times Literary Supplement and the Nineteenth Century. I have just read John Masefield’s “The old Front Line”. It gives a good account of the particular part of the line we took in July, 1916. I read the Quest from cover to cover.
Warfare in Italy is very different from warfare in France, but it is still war. The novelty makes it very interesting. I don’t know how long it will last. Not long I am sure.
I am sick to death of reading the English papers now. Cannot the politicians stop squabbling, and get on with the war? I hope you are not starving yet. We are not, and the doctor is very bored as he gets no patients to kill or cure.
Raids over London still continue I see. I hope you are all safe.
The Colonel has again asked me to go to Headquarters as Adjutant. I half promised to do so when I left to go to a battery, and although he recommended me for promotion, he does not want me to go elsewhere and still thinks I am willing to go as his adjutant. I am unwilling to offend the old boy, and to insist on remaining with a battery or going elsewhere on promotion. Last night I had to go to dinner with him, but I managed to keep away from the subject. It is bound to crop up again soon, and I really don’t know what to say to him.
R.P. February 25 1918.
I have been away from the battery for a few days on duty. And I may be away for a few days again soon.
The weather is now beautiful with perfect warm days and light nights with wonderful sunsets. I am thoroughly enjoying this truly Italian weather.
I am in a hole. The Colonel thinks I am willing to go to Headquarters as Adjutant. I half promised to do so when I went to a Battery, and although he recommended me for promotion in this Brigade, he has refused to do so to go elsewhere. I do not want to go to an office again if I can help it, but I do not want to offend the old boy. What am I to do? I had dinner with him last night, but I managed to keep him away from the subject. I see I have got my Captaincy alright. It has been a long time coming through. It went in last September.
My kit is accumulating in a horrible way with books, clothes saddlery and what not. I must have a clearance soon.
5th DIVISIONAL ARTILLERY No HBM/283/15/3. SECRET.
5th DIVISIONAL ARTILLER INSTRUCTIONS No 1.
Teams of 41st Divisional Artillery will be accommodated in 5th Divisional Artillery Wagon Lines.
(Formations involved XL Corps, 5th, 7th, 41st, 48th Divisions)
A/175, Bde. On 28th February, 1918, six guns from Rest TO Wagon Lines 120th Battery near OFF ELECTTRICA O.46.15.
To be taken into action on night 28/1st by teams 5th Divisional Artillery, under orders of Group Commanders.
175th Brigade teams return to their own Wagon Lines.
Headquarters 175th Brigade TO Wagon Lines H.Q. 76th Brigade LA FORNACE. To move to Battle H.Q. under arrangements of Right Group.
175th (Army) Brigade R.F.A S/1301
March to the 5th D.A. Area on the 28th FEBRUARY 1918.
Route and Time of starting:-
A/175, ISTRANA-POSTIOMA-Cse. STRETTE
B/175, ISTRANA-SOVERNIGO-CASTAGNOLE-C. VICENTINI-PONZANO-C.CAUTORTA-CCAMPAGNA.
D/175, route as for C/175
Dear F & M
Just a line or two to say I am jogging along merry and bright and thanks to Par’s quick response I am in a flourishing condition once more. We have been having a very nice time after a rather rough wintry spell and I feel in the pink. Some of George’s lot passed thro our village a few days ago and I found they were only about 2 villages away. So the next day I got leave to visit him and set off over the hills on a cycle full of excitement in the hopes of seeing him. Eventually I arrived at my destination wet with drizzle but as it was just noon I dropped into an estaminet and took of a little liquid refreshment before digging him out. Well I landed at the Orderly Room and found to my dismay the bounder had been admitted to hospital the day before suffering from a cold or chill. So you can tell how I felt after my exertions. It would seem destined that we should not meet out here still I will have another try before long if I get a chance. Anyway I searched round to see if I could find anyone I knew and ultimately spent the day with Charlie Higgins. So I was a little recompensed for my trouble. I spent a nice time with him. He was quite surprised to see me in fact he couldn’t recognise me for some time. As you know I have lost a lot of surplus weight these last 3 years. He looked quite an old sweat and keeps his buttons bright & shiny. Well how are you all going along hope you are keeping well. The spring is showing signs round here and the weather has been delightful. Well I think this is all at present remember me to all enquiring friends. Yes I thanked the Mr Taborites. Well cheerho
Dear old dad,
I am downright sorry to hear you have been seedy. Do take care of yourself. I hope you are all right again now. The first news of it came from Tutbury.
Many thanks for your letter dad & the enclosures. One was a bill & the other was a letter from old “John” Doc in America. It was good to hear from him. He was serving out here for a time then went home to a job.
Apparently when America came into the war he joined the army again. But his father had a stroke of paralysis & left his mother penniless. So Doc was honourably discharged, & has got a berth with a firm of attorneys in Wisconsin. He says he will be in at the death though, & if any one will look after 2 invalids for him he will come now. He was a good fellow. Doc, & I should like to see him again some time.
It was diplomatic of you to get a word in with the Chairman dad. I shall have to rely on now to get me a job somehow & somewhere, but it doesn’t look as though I shall be wanting it yet awhile – worse luck.
I hope you enjoyed your trip up North & that it has set you up again. Where did you get to?
I hope all is well at home.
Very best love to all.
Your loving son
FIELD SERVICE POST CARD
Postmarked FIELD POST OFFICE 25 7 MR 18
To T. Smith, 24 Palmerston Rd, Bowes Park, London N22 England.
I am quite well
Letter follows at first opportunity
I have received no letter from you for a long time.
Signature only. A. Smith. Date Feb 26th 18
103 Downham Road
My dear Ted, Mary & Gladys
I am just writing you a line or two hoping this letter will find you in the best of health. I have had an attack of Bronchitis & have not done any work for over a fortnight. I kept getting fresh cold nearly every week. I kept going on until I could not go any longer. The Air Raid on Jan 28 gave me such a shock that I could not get over it. I got another cold & then Bronc followed. I am glad to say that I did not take any more cold through the raids a week ago. I am hoping to start work tomorrow or Wednesday. I have not been able to get any meat for the last 6 weeks but on Sat I got a bit of leg of beef through writing a P.C to the butchers that I had registered with & telling him I wanted it for beef tea. I wonder how we shall go on. I should not mind if we were could get good bread & butter. Our B is so dry & a ¼ of butter is nothing for a week. I think I got run down through not having sufficient nourishment. Well I hope things will be better soon. We must do our part in trying to win the war. We have not to face terrible things that our dear boys have to face at the front. The Kaiser must think that he is going to win since he can do what he likes with Russia.
Hoping Fred & George are still alright & that you are all well in health with love to all
P.S. I think Frank joins up this week.
Feb 22nd 18
My Dear Father
How are you getting on in good old Blighty? I hope they have not stopped your meat & sugar supply altogether if they do I can imagine you living on bully beef &c. Thank you for the Sunday Pictorial it is the only paper I have seen since I left home.
We are still in the same place, & not having a bad time except for the weather being very cold it wants a bit of facing at 7 A.M. but there is no chance of getting the sack so it has to be done. I notice it takes letters about six days to reach us here as we are much further inland.
I had a letter from Charlie, he told me that Albert came to see you on the Sunday that I went back.
Well I think I must finish now Dad as there is very little news to tell you.
The money you gave me is very useful you bet I have had some good feeds since I have been here also champagne &c I still have about £1 left so I am alright for the present.
I am glad to hear old Fritz has not paid you any night visits lately.
I hope you are in the best of health glad to say I am A1.
With much love from
P.S. How is Mr & Mrs Warman & Lilian I hope quite well remember me to them also Miss Dimond.