Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
24 January 1917 Played in “From Ann” at B Coy Hq.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
24 January 1917 Played in “From Ann” at B Coy Hq.
ROYAL FLYING CORPS COMMUNIQUE. – No 123.
During the period under review, 15th to 21st January (inclusive), we have claimed officially nine E.A. brought down and four driven down out of control. Six of our machines are missing.
Approximately 11 tons of bombs were dropped and 34,112 rounds fired at ground targets.
The weather generally throughout the week was adverse to flying.
January 15th. – Heavy rain during the day prevented any flying, except two test and practice flights taking place.
41st Wing. – On the 14th one machine of No 55 Squadron attempted photography, but was forced to return owing to heavy banks of clouds and thick mist. No plates were exposed.
On the night 14th/15th instant, 11 machines of No 100 Squadron left to bomb the steel works at Diedenhofen (Thionville) in Germany. Six 230-lb, 29 25-lb. and two phosphorus bombs were dropped on the objective with good results; two 112-lb. and 12 25-lb. bombs were dropped on the railway junction two miles south-east of Metz, and one 230-lb., two 25-lb. and one phosphorus bombs were dropped on Ebingen Railway Junction, while 1,680 rounds were fired at searchlights and trains in the railway stations. Anti-aircraft fire was heavy, but very inaccurate, and the searchlight barrages were considerable. All machines returned.
January 16th. – High wind and rain all day made flying practically impossible.
2nd-Lieut McLeod and Lieut Hammond, No 2 Squadron (1st Brigade), attempted an artillery patrol. They fired 225 rounds at an anti-aircraft gun and a group of men near La Bassee, and dropped two 20-lb. bombs on La Bassee.
A machine of the 2nd Brigade fired 300 rounds at a party of the enemy.
January 17th. – Low clouds, rain and mist made operations impossible.
41st Wing. – On the night of the 16th/17th, six machines of No 100 Squadron left the ground to attack the railway and factory at Diedhofen. Owing to a thick mist, four machines were forced to return; the remaining two crossed the lines. The weather conditions rapidly deteriorated. One machine dropped one 230-lb. and two 25-lb. bombs on the large railway sidings at Bernsdorf; the other machine dropped one 230-lb. and one 25-lb. bombs on lights at Orny and one 25-lb bomb on a searchlight near Vigny. All results were obscured.
January 18th. – In spite of mist and rain-storms, a certain amount of flying was done. A total number of 13 successful reconnaissances were carried out – nine by the 5th Brigade. Forty-two hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction, and one neutralized: three gun-pits were destroyed, 22 damaged, 35 explosions and 16 fires caused. Fifty-five zone calls were sent down. Out of the total of batteries successfully engaged for destruction 22 were by the 2nd Brigade.
Sixty-nine photographs were taken, 115 bombs dropped and 7,791 rounds fired as follows:-
1st Brigade. – Corps Wing dropped 48 25-lb. bombs; 10th Wing fired 1,370 rounds; No 4a Squadron fired 100 rounds, and No 43 Squadron fired 400 rounds into a procession where many casualties were caused.
2nd Brigade. – Took 40 photographs, dropped 29 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,910 rounds.
3rd Brigade. Took 11 photographs, dropped 26 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,890 rounds.
5th Brigade. Eighteen photographs were taken; No 8 Squadron dropped four 25-lb. bombs and fired 721 rounds; No 35 Squadron dropped eight 25-lb. bombs and fired 900 rounds, and No 52 Squadron fired 500 rounds.
Enemy Aircraft. 2nd-Lieut A.E. Wylie, No 65 Squadron, shot down one E.A. near Westroosebeke.
Major R. Maxwell, No 54 Squadron, fired a burst at 70 yards at an enemy scout, which turned over, the right bottom wing came partly away and the E.A. went down in a steep spiral.
2nd-Lieut G. Clapham, of the same Squadron, attacked an Albatross Scout and fired a burst at point blank range. The E.A. went down in flames.
One E.A. was brought down near Lens by infantry.
Miscellaneous. – Capt. J. Medcalf, No 43 Squadron, whilst on patrol, lost his way in the clouds, and coming down found himself in the vicinity of Douai. He saw a party of infantry 500 strong marching through a village, and fired at them from a low altitude. They all scattered and left several casualties on the road. Capt Medcalf reports that he glided down to 500 feet and intended to land on an aerodrome, because he saw there an R.E.8 and two A.W.’s standing on the ground. Hostile machine-gun fire was opened on him. He noticed that the R.E. 8 and the A.W.’s were camouflaged blue and green and had no national markings of any kind.
Lieut McCall and Lieut Farrington, No 13 Squadron, ranged the 78th Siege Battery on hostile batteries. Seventy-nine observations were given and two direct hits were obtained on gun-pits, in one case a large explosion being caused.
Capt. Solomon and Lieut Morgan, No 15 Squadron, gave 53 observations for the 48th Siege Battery on hostile batteries, and three gun-pits were badly damaged and one set on fire.
January 19th. – The weather was fine all day and the sky was covered with high clouds. The visibility was good.
Nineteen reconnaissances were carried out; 10 of these were by machines of the 5th Brigade, including eight by No 52 Squadron.
Ninety hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction and six were neutralized; 16 gun-pits were destroyed, 44 damaged, 52 explosions and 26 fires caused. One hundred and forty-seven zone calls were sent down.
Eight hundred and seventy photographs were taken, 317 bombs dropped and 14,458 rounds fired at ground targets as follows:-
1st Brigade. – 187 photographs. 1st Wing dropped 69 25-lb. bombs and fired 380 rounds, and 10th Wing fired 2,450 rounds.
2nd Brigade. – 263 photographs. 2nd Wing dropped 61 25-lb. bombs; No 57 Squadron dropped 68 25-lb. bombs on Heule Ammunition Dump, and 3rd Squadron A.F.C. fired 2,400 rounds. 2,110 rounds were fired by other Squadrons.
3rd Brigade. – 221 photographs were taken, 73 25-lb. bombs dropped and 2,826 rounds fired.
5th Brigade. – 195 photographs. No 8 Squadron dropped 22 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,652 rounds; No 35 Squadron dropped 24 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,140 rounds, and No 52 Squadron fired 1,500 rounds.
Enemy Aircraft. – Enemy aircraft were active, especially in the neighbourhood of Lens. Capt. J.L. Trollope, No 43 Squadron, while on offensive patrol over Vitry, shot down one D.F.W., which was seen to crash.
Lieut. G. McElroy, No 40 Squadron, shot down out of control an Albatross Scout, and 2nd-Lieut W. Harrison, of the same Squadron, shot down a D.F.W. out of control.
Flight Commander Price, Naval Squadron No 8, observed three Albatross Scouts near Vitry. He dived and attacked one of these and fired 300 rounds. The E.A. fell over sideways and fell vertically.
In a general engagement between Naval Squadron No 8 and 14 Albatross Scouts, Flight Sub-Lieut Johnstone attacked one E.A. and followed it down to 8,000 feet, firing all the while. The E.A. was observed to fall completely out of control. Flight Sub-Lieut Dennett fired a good burst at another E.A. at very close range, and it went down completely out of control. Flight Lieut. Jordan fired a burst of 50 rounds into an E.A. which turned on its side and spun. Flight Sub-Lieuts Dennett and Johnstone followed this machine down, each firing 250 rounds, and the E.A. went down out of control.
2nd-Lieut. F. Hobson, No 70 Squadron, dived at an E.A. two-seater, which went down out of control and then burst into flames. 2nd-Lieut. G. Howsam, of the same squadron, attacked an enemy two-seater which had been pointed out to him by anti-aircraft fire. He fired a burst and the E.A. went down out of control.
2nd-Lieut. Jones and Lieut Phelps, No 20 Squadron, dived at an Albatross Scout, and after firing 50 rounds brought it down out of control.
Capt. Harrison and Lieut. Noel, No 20 Squadron, saw four E.A. and dived on one and fired 20 rounds after which the E.A. went down out of control.
Sergt E. Clayton and 2nd-Lieut. L. Sloot, No 57 Squadron, when returning from a bomb raid were attacked over Roulers by six Albatross Scouts. The observer fired 200 rounds, and one E.A. went down in a vertical dive for 8,000 feet.
Capt. R. Hilton and Lieut A. Clayton, No 9 Squadron, were attacked by six E.A. two of which dived on the R.E.8. the observer opened fire at 100 yards and the leading E.A. was seen to loose a wing and crash; the other E.A. was driven off after 150 rounds were fired.
A patrol of four machines of No 54 Squadron engaged seven Albatross Scouts, and Capt. K. Shelton dived on two of them and followed them down to 500 feet. One of these fell out of control and was later seen to be crashed on the ground by two other pilots of the same patrol.
January 20th. – Although the sky was covered with clouds, the visibility was good, and a lot of artillery work was carried out.
Seventeen reconnaissances were carried out, 12 of which were by machines of the 5th Brigade.
Seventy-two hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction and 12 neutralized with aeroplane observation; five gun-pits were destroyed, 30 damaged, 18 explosions and 18 fires caused. One hundred and fifty-four zone calls were sent down.
Three hundred and twenty-three photographs were taken, 222 bombs dropped and 10,572 rounds fired at ground targets as follows:-
1st Brigade. –. Fifty-six photographs. 1st Wing dropped 55 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,150 rounds, and 10th Wing fired 2,050 rounds.
2nd Brigade. – Nine photographs were taken, 36 25-lb. bombs dropped and 1,040 rounds fired.
3rd Brigade. – Sixty photographs were taken, 76 25-lb. bombs dropped and 2,682 rounds fired.
5th Brigade. – One hundred and ninety-eight photographs. 15th Wing dropped 55 25-lb. bombs, No 8 Squadron fired 830 rounds, No 35 Squadron 250 rounds, No 52 Squadron 870 rounds and No 84 Squadron 700 rounds.
Enemy aircraft activity was slight all day.
Capt. J.B. McCudden, No 56 Squadron, brought down one enemy machine.
On the 19th, eight targets were registered by balloons of the 2nd Brigade, four of the targets being hostile batteries.
January 21st. – Low clouds and rain prevented much flying being done.
Six reconnaissances were carried out, one by 2nd Brigade, two by the 3rd Brigade, and three by the 5th Brigade.
Twenty-two hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction with aeroplane observation and five neutralized; 15 gun-pits were damaged, 26 explosions and seven fires caused. Seventy-five zone calls sent down.
One hundred and forty bombs were dropped and 9.086 rounds fired at ground targets as follows:-
1st Brigade. – 43 25-lb bombs were dropped;1st Wing fired 3,600 rounds, and No 4a Squadron 100 rounds.
2nd Brigade. – 2nd Wing dropped 39 25-lb. bombs; 2,455 rounds were fired.
3rd Brigade. – Dropped 29 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,150 rounds.
5th Brigade. – No 8 Squadron dropped 16 25-lb bombs and fired 591 rounds; No 35 Squadron dropped four 25-lb. bombs and fired 500 rounds; No 48 Squadron dropped nine 25-lb. bombs; No 52 Squadron fired 500 rounds and No 54 Squadron 100 rounds.
Enemy aircraft activity was slight all day, a few indecisive combats taking place.
2nd-Lieut Churchman and Lieut Lewis, No 10 Squadron, obtained many O.K.s on a hostile battery. During this shoot, a hostile battery was seen firing and a switch was given on to it and the hostile battery was silenced.
Lieut Douglas and Lieut Senior, No 15 Squadron, made many observations and three O.K.s were obtained. Direct hits were obtained on two pits and the whole position badly damaged. During the same flight, seven active hostile batteries were reported by zone calls.
41st Wing. – On the night of the 21st/22nd, 17 machines of No 100 Squadron started to bomb the steel works at Thionville and Bernsdorf railway sidings. Twelve machines crossed the line and dropped bombs as follows:-
Four 230-lb., 12 25-lb. and one phosphorus bombs on Thionville; five 230-lb., 16 25-lb., and two phosphorus bombs on Bernsdorf, and two 230-lb., and eight 25-lb. bombs on various targets. 1,520 rounds were fired at searchlights, trains and factory lights.
One machine of Naval Squadron No 16 dropped 12 112-lb. bombs on the railway junction at Arnaville, south of Metz.
23rd January, 1918
L.A.K. BUTT, Captain,
Printing Section, Depot F.S.C. R.E. G.H.Q. 655x/3,000/1-18
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
12 January 1917 On special dental leave to Colchester.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
9 January 1918 Attended Drive Lodge Woodbridge with Mr BARTON the
Warden at Hollesley College. Lord Shaftesbury present. Replied for Visitors recited Essex ballads.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
4 January 1918 Found large piece of amber.
“Representation of the People Act 1918” (Votes of Women)
Parliament signed the “Representation of the People Act 1918” on the 6th February 1918, giving women partial voting rights. The act gave women of property over the age of 30 the right to vote. The whole of society had changed, and the war had provided the first real opportunity for women to take on traditional male jobs. Partly the years of suffrage before the war, and the sterling work the women had achieved during the war, saw the reformation of the electoral system in Great Britain and Ireland. It was a major start in women being granted the right to vote, but not all women were eligible. When the “Parliament (Qualification for Women) Act 1918” became law, women were allowed to become MP’s for the first time. However, in 1928 the vote was extended to all women over the age 21.
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
January 2 1918
I have just received an enormous and beautifully packed box of delicious eatables. The contents enabled us suitably to celebrate the New Year. They also helped us to escape an embarrassing difficulty in providing for an unexpected guest, who arrived twenty-four hours before he was invited to dinner, due to his mistake, and when our larder was sadly diminished. The timely arrival of the parcel turned the horrible possibility of a dismal failure to provide suitable hospitality into a great success of triumphant courses of tinned chicken and fruits. The relief to the Mess President and Secretary enabled them to enjoy a very merry evening. The excellent cake and cigarettes were also a god-send.
It is very cold here now, and many are sick. And the Colonel is not in a good temper. He has some one worrying him.
There is more news about us in the papers now. It amuses me the way our authorities pretend the Boche does not know all about us.
Our battery organised an officers’ jumping competition the other day open to all comers. It was won by one of our battery’s subalterns on a mare that won at Aldershot, and an Infantry Captain on his own hunter was second. My bay mare knocked her knee against the top bar of one of the jumps and now has a fat leg.
Some one said “If this is war, to hell with peace”. But I, being an Asquithian, replied “Wait and see.” The relief from Flanders inclines some of us to be unduly optimistic. I do not know which is worse to be drowned in mud or to be frozen to an icicle. Fighting is common to both places but here, at present, in a modified degree.
R.P. January 6 1918.
We are at present living in the midst of snow, and it is mighty cold. I had no idea the plains of Italy could be so cold, even in the north.
The Commander-in-Chief was to have inspected us yesterday, but as it snowed so hard he did not turn up. But the whole wretched battery turned out with the rest of the Brigade. The men and horses looked well, and it was a great pity he did not turn up.
I have lost two good horses this week owing to kicks, one with a broken leg and another with a fractured jaw. It is most unfortunate.
Leave from Italy has started, but at the rate it is going I may get my turn on the list within – don’t get excited – the next seven years!
I am glad to say that the Colonel has at last got a well earned and much too long delayed honour, a D.S.O. But unfortunately for him he is never very popular with the staff.
January 9 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force.
I have just been inoculated with a full dose of anti-typhoid, and ordered to bed in two hours time.
At the moment it is snowing hard, and this has ruined an inspection, which was to have taken place by General Plumer, who did not turn up. The battery looked better than I have ever seen it, so you can imagine how hard the limber gunners and drivers had worked. Even the Battery staff, often called the “Comics”, the signallers, director-men, range-takers, and such like turned up quite presentable.
The other day two of our subalterns, one we call Harry Tate and the other his “Idiot Boy”, were asked to dine with the R.A.M.C. Officers of the Italian Hospital here. They had quite a good dinner!! The day before one of our horses got its leg broken by a kick and had to be shot. I immediately received a request from the village butcher, who wanted to buy the carcase. I let him have it, and immediately the village shops were full of meat. He must have made a good profit. It appears that the Italian mess cook bought some of the delicacy, and our two officers had the unexpected pleasure of dining off one of their own battery wheelers! They said it was quite good. Thank goodness I did not go; but probably I have often eaten horse or mule unbeknownst in Italian restaurants. What a tragic end for a war horse, truly an economic one. He more than did his bit, he furnished one.
I may be able to get Italian leave soon. I much want to go to Rome and Naples. English leave has been opened; but at the rate it is going my turn will come in seven year’s time.
There is a good article in this month’s “Blackwood” called “The Brain of the Guns.” I do not know who “Anthony Price” is.
R.P. January 15 1918.
The “Times” is most welcome. Though they arrive in lumps they are none the less interesting to read for that.
The snow has turned to rain today, but it will freeze again tonight, so the roads will be slippery tomorrow.
Thank you for the book on Pompeii. I have already read about 200 pages. The Colonel has obtained special leave to England. Unfortunately I cannot get leave to England, but I hope to be going to Naples and Rome with two others on the 19th or 20th of this month.
We have been out all day in the rain, and have done very little good, so we have returned a little weary and ill tempered.
January 15 1918
We have come to the end of a perfect day. It has turned to a very cold rain now after heavy snow, and we have been out in it all day and have done no good. We are weary wet and not in the best of tempers.
The Colonel has gone away on special leave to England. Unfortunately I cannot get that, not being a colonel; but I hope to be going to Naples and Rome on the 19th or 20th. for a few days. Three of us are going together. I am trying to find time to read up something, and at present am wading through a tome on Pompeii, sent to me by my Father.
It is about time I had a few days off, I am getting a bit stale and off colour.
We have had great difficulty in keeping the horses on their feet in this weather. After today’s rain I suppose it will freeze again tonight and the roads will be horribly slippery tomorrow.
January 22 1918
The parcel of cigarettes, China tea, and cake arrived. The tea was much too good to be duly appreciated except by superior souls of whom our mess contains too few, so I invited Capt. Bell and Amour to tea to partake, and they together with the Doctor and myself thoroughly enjoyed a flavour rare on active service.
Our leave has been stopped for a few days, but we hope to go in three days. At the present moment we are on the trek again but it will not be for long.
The weather had changed and the frost and snow have gone. Today it was quite like spring, and instead of ice we have mud again.
Captain Bell is the man in “B” Battery, who is keen on history. He is extraordinarily ugly, very thin, and irresponsible – But most amusing and a delightful fellow. He wears an eyeglass on occasion, and does his hair in the Magdalen style. The other day I happened to be in a large town near here with Gilbey, O.C., B.A.C., and met him. Upon my enquiries as to what interesting places he had seen, he replied that he had just visited an enormous church, the largest he had ever seen, that it was full of the most beautiful statues of Madonnas, but that he had not the slightest idea where it was. From this information I gathered that, escaping from military restraint, he had lunched well but not wisely.
What do you think of Haig’s despatch? He appears to be annoyed with the Army Council and the French for altering his plans, and with the weather for hindering what he did attempt. The Boche has had all the luck this year. Russia has gone out for good; much good may it bring her! We may be able to do something this year, if only we can get the men. I am glad to see that Geddes has at last quite definitely put the alternative to the country: either the shirkers must be compelled, or else the fathers of families and leave stopped for us.
There is an officer here who irritates me intensely. He is a mannerless north-country liberal non-conformist of hypocritical habits, who worships his tin god, Lloyd George. He harangues us about “Democracy”, whatever that may mean. I asked him one night what he meant by the word, and to define it in an intelligible manner. He was annoyed. Why do such people get annoyed when asked such a question? I suggested that democracy meant running a battery by a commander appointed by a committee of drivers, (you should know what the mentality of the average driver is!) when no doubt he would be appointed, and a vote would be carried for no early morning stables and five bob an hour. Oh! he was angry. He is not liked by the men, and is very sore that he was not made a captain. He now sulks. The loss of his captaincy occurred in this way. I was appointed, and have been major for the last three months until the unexpected return of the original Major, Meuse, a few days ago, when I returned to the rank of captain and he to that of subaltern. He rebelled for a long time, and refused to take his “pips” down. This will explain what will appear in the Gazette shortly, my appointment as Battery Commander; but it will be followed later by a notice terminating it.
January 22 1918
The weather has completely changed, and instead of frost and snow it was quite like spring today.
We are on the move again.
Haig seems to be a bit rattled. From his despatch he seems to be very angry with the Army Council and the French for altering his plans, and certainly the weather was a bit trying.
For the past four months I have been a Battery Commander and acting major, but the original B.C. has unexpectedly returned from England a few days ago. Fearing that I should probably lose the battery I had not told you of my promotion. This will explain to you what you will see in the Gazette in a few days, but this will be followed by a cancellation. “C’est la guerre!
R.P. Post Cards.
January 30, 1918. Naples. We have done Pompeii and Vesuvius.
February 2, 1918. Rome. Today we visited the Coliseum and other places in the vicinity.
Jan 30 1918.
The weather is glorious. We have had a day in Naples, one in Pompeii, and one on Vesuvius. (CP)