War Diary of AA Laporte Payne
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
12th August 1917
August 12, 1917.
Time does not hang heavily on our hands at present. But noise, rain and mud and the other usual concomitants of war in Belgium get a bit wearisome at times. Though I must say I have never been so fit and well or eager to enjoy life as I am at present. Just as the minor discomforts often become disproportionately momentous so with avidity we snatch at the trifling pleasures which this unnatural life sometimes offers us. From a low view point the unevenness of existence appear unduly exalted. Perhaps we do not things sub specie aeternitatis as we should. The only true philosophy for the soldier is the Stoic. I still carry Marcus Aurelius about with me. It is curious to recollect that he wrote while on active service and at a time when the Roman Empire was just beginning to fall into decay. I wonder whether our so-called civilization will go the same way.
We have been sending a lot of our men away on leave, those who have had none since they came out, poor fellows! So I am up early every morning to see that they go away properly dressed and that they leave behind their dangerous souvenirs. Many are the precautions taken to see that the folk at home come to no harm.
I have just paid the battery three thousand francs, and now is tea time. After tea I am off to the gun-line. It is delightful there now. You cannot see the smoke or hear for the noise. With luck I shall be back at midnight and without rain. It will be a still greater relief if there is no traffic block on the road, and if the Boche does not take it into his head to start shelling.
The men are having a wretched time. I have not had the heart to damn them for not cleaning the vehicles and harness lately. But there will come a day of reckoning. The harness is filthy and red with rust, and there are four sheds of it, quite full. And we are very short handed. I am expecting a visit from the General soon, and he is a brute, who expects everything to be kept as if in barracks in peace time. He has no experience of the conditions except for a fleeting glimpse occasionally, and no imagination sufficient for sympathetic consideration. How a creature has the audacity to curse the infantry for being dirty or straggling after days in the line, let alone the heart to do it, beats me. However I do not suppose he will get nearer the lines than the gate to the field, which has at least two foot of mud in the “fairway”. He will certainly get his boots dirty if he negotiates it, and will make such a mess in his car.
I am enjoying myself with the horses. I have found a broken down cottage, and in it I have stabled my own two horses, one of them the bay mare known in the Brigade as “that hot little devil”. Room has also been found for the Major’s two horses, one of which won jumping at Aldershot, two belonging to a “wart” (subaltern), one a very good jumper, and another charger also a subaltern’s. In all seven. All these I ride in turn, sometimes as many as four a day. Now they are all fit, and their coats looking fine. They are better housed than their masters. It is comical to see them tied up in the kitchen and best parlour, but they look all the better for being under cover and free from mud.