War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 7 December 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne




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





7th December 1917.



From Isola della Scala.


  1. ANNA MOROSINA. 7th December, 1917.

Alf Smith letter 7 December 1917

Dec 7th 17


Dear Father


How do you like this cold weather it makes one hop about when you put your head out of the blankets & have to break the ice to wash what do you say?

One good thing we can manage to keep comfortable in camp better than in the line we came out of the trenches last Tuesday night.

I received the two Pictorials together I could not understand not receiving the first one before but it appears it went to the 11th the address is quite plain enough but I had one go there once before so I thought I would mention it; if you make the 0 plainer it will be quite alright.

No doubt you will think I am asking for several things at once, but I should be rather glad of some money as we are supposed to be out for a rest until after Xmas although it looks rather doubtful to me at present but if we are we sure to go back to a town or village & there will be a chance of buying eggs & chips & a few other luxuries & I think they manage to have a good bust up at Xmas considering all things.

Old Fritz is not very thoughtful he is making us waste a lot of matches just write a few lines & the whistle goes for lights out. I hope he has not paid you any visits lately.

How do the shops look in London I suppose they are not making much show this year.

I received a letter from Lilian this week glad they are all well.

Have you seen the Tank in Trafalgar Square I expect it is a bit cleaner than what they are in this country.  Are you going to buy any shares?

Well I think I must finish now; cannot tell you any fresh news.

I hope you are all in the best of health.  Glad to say I am tres bien.

With much love from

Your devoted



F. Springett letter 7 December 1917





Friday Evening 1917

Same Address Deal



My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a few lines in haste hope they will find you in the best of health as it leaves me very well at present.

I have been down here since last Sunday but are going back tomorrow. “Thank Goodness for that”.

It is about 15 miles from Margate so you see it’s a decent little march.

I have just reckoned our marching up this week and by the time we get back to Margate it will be about eighty miles.  “Some boot leather gone.”  Ha Ha.

Yes I have had a fairly decent time down here only of course it’s a jolly quiet place as usual.

Dear Sid just excuse this very such letter but I really haven’t got any more time to spare.

I will write a longer letter next time.


I remain

Your Affec Brother

Frank W


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

Postmarked Deal 8 PM 7 DE 17

Narrative of the Operations from November 30th – December 3rd 1917





  • At 6.0 a.m. the Division was disposed as follows:-

59th Inf. Bde.              Right Front Sector.

61st Inf. Bde.               Left Front Sector.

60th Inf. Bde.              In Reserve about FIFTEEN RAVINE                                                     and VILLERS PLOUICH.


  • The 59th Bde. had relieved the 60th Inf. Bde. on the night of the 29th/30th.
  • At about 7.0 a.m. the enemy opened a bombardment on the 12th and 55th Divisional fronts. Inter-communication between Battn and Coy. Headquarters on the 20th Divisional front conclusively proves that up to 7.30 a.m. no events had taken place on our front, while at 7.15 a.m. an S.O.S. GRAND (37th Bde., 12th Div.) was received.  This clearly shows that the 20th Div. Front was not attacked till at least half an hour after the attack on the 12th Division.  At 7.30 a.m., however, the enemy shelling appeared to spread to our front and soon intensified.  Standing barrages were put down on the posts in the outpost line and another on the main line of resistance.  This barrage (which included smoke) lifted later on to the valley W. of the CAMBRAI Road.  A third barrage which included a proportion of “mustard gas” shells, fell on the Sunken Road leading from LA VACQUERIE to MASNIERES.  The bombardment was followed at about 8 a.m. by an infantry attack on the entire Divisional front.  The attack appeared to be launched in echelon from the left, the 55th Division having been attacked first; a few minutes later the 12th Div., then the 20th Div.  the chief weight of the attack appeared to be thrown on the point of junction of the 12th and 55th Divisions.  The outpost line of the 20th Div. was overwhelmed by a converging attack from RUE DES VIGNES and CREVECOEUR and driven back on the main line of resistance.  This line was then heavily attacked by machine gun fire from low flying aeroplanes which also dropped smoke bombs thus concealing the approach of the hostile infantry who advanced, in what appeared to be Artillery formation, in successive lines (8 to 12 of these lines were counted).  The leading line fired as it advanced.  Partly owing to the weight of the attack, and partly to the fact that the enemy had by this time penetrated the line of the Div. on the right to such a depth that the main line of resistance was entirely out-flanked, the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes. were forced to fall back to a line running approximately as follows:- L.34.a.5.2. – L.34.c.8.9. – L.34.d.5.7. – R.5.a.2.8. – R.4.b.8.2. – R.10.b.2.8. – R.11.c.2.9.


Machine Guns on WELSH RIDGE succeeded in holding up the enemy advancing from the N.W. from the direction of QUENET FARM while the 91st {92} F.A. Bde. in LA VACQUERIE VALLEY, (R.12.a & b) repulsed four attacks, firing at 200 yards range, but the gunners were finally overcome and forced to leave the guns after having removed the breech blocks.

The first indication that the enemy had broken through the front of the 12th Division was noted from Div. H.Q.  Men could be seen retiring over the high ground about GONNELIEU.  A Staff Officer was sent at once to ascertain the position about GONNELIEU and GOUZEAUCOURT and met men of various labour units and Railway Construction Coys. falling back from the direction of LA VACQUERIE, GONNELIEU, and QUINTIN RIDGE to the main GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUCH Road.

Most of these men were unarmed, and as none were acting under definite orders, those who were ordered to hold the bank of the GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUICH Road.

Meanwhile the 60th Inf. Bde. (then in Reserve) was ordered to move as follows:-

1 Battalion to LA VACQUERIE

3 Battalions to reinforce the QUINTEN RIDGE – GONNELIEU line.


When however it was reported that the 20th Div. front had been broken, 2 Battns of this Bde. were ordered to move to the HINDENBURG Line; 1 to LA VACQUERIE; and 1 to GONNELIEU.


The 2 Battns ordered to the HINDENBURG line were however by this time engaged in fighting about GONNELIEU and QUINTEN RIDGE and could not be extricated.   Thus the Divisional Reserve were not available to make a counter attack on the 20th Divisional front, or to recapture the lost guns.


  • At 11.40 a.m. the situation was as follows:-

The Reserve Bde held a line, R.31.d.5.5. – N.W. outskirts of          GONNELIEU – LA VACQUERIE, with elements of the 12th Div.    between it and the right of the 59th Inf. Bde., while the 59th and 61st Inf.   Bdes. held a line approximately the same as described in para.1. (c).

The enemy had by this time penetrated as far as        GOUZEAUCOURT from the direction of GAUCHE WOOD, and the         situation was critical.


  • At 12 noon orders were issued for one Battn of the 60th Bde. to make good the summit of QUENTIN RIDGE about R.31.d. and R.32.a., and if the enemy were found in occupation to counter attack and drive him off. Owing to heavy M.G. fire and also to the fact that the situation on the right flank was so obscure, one Coy. from the Battn. carrying out the attack had to be sent to GOUZEAUCOURT (which was then in the hands of the enemy), and the attack was unable to gain the top of the Ridge.  The Coy. detached towards GOUZEAUCOURT however did good work in mowing down the enemy retiring S. from GOUZEAUCOURT before the counter attack of one Bde. of Guards.  No artillery was available to support this attack.


  • At 4.45 p.m. the situation was as follows:-


The line ran approximately from L.34.central – R.5.a. – R.10.a. – R.17.a. – R.16.d.5.0. – LA VACQUERIE – N.W. outskirts of GONNELIEU – GOUZEAUCOURT with a gap about R.10.b&d.

As no troops were available to fill this gap, the III Corps was asked for reinforcements, and two Battns. were allotted to the Div. from the 6th Div., the C.O’s reporting at Div. H.Q. (This was not done).

One Battn. (the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters) was sent to the 59th Inf. Bde. and located in the HINDENBURG Main Line in R.10.c. and R.16.b. while the other Battn. (1st Buffs) was used by the 60th Inf. Bde. to fill a gap in R.21.


  • The line remained more or less the same as indicated above during the remainder of the day, while the enemy made periodical attacks up the LA VACQUERIE Valley.



  1. (a). At 1 a.m. the 60th Inf. Bde. (less 1 Battn. holding LA VACQUERIE), were ordered to attack from QUINTEN MILL to GONNELIEU inclusive with a view to re-establishing the line of the Ridge. The attack was met by heavy M.G. fire, and although the right pushed forward, the left encountered a hostile attack launched simultaneously with our own and failed to gain ground.


(b). At 2.10 a.m. Div. H.Q. was transferred from VILLERS PLOUICH to Q.29.central (QUEEN’S CROSS).


(c). At 7.0 a.m. the Guards Division carried out an attack and seized the high ground between QUINTEN MILL and GONNELIEU including the latter, but a hostile counter attack about 10.0 a.m. drove them from the village itself.


(d). At about 6.0 p.m. on the evening of December 1st, two Coys. of the 11th D.L.I. (Pioneers), who were then under B.G.C. 61st Inf. Bde. were placed at the disposal of the 59th Inf. Bde., who put them under the command of the O.C. 11th K.R.R.C. in the HINDENBURG Line and R.10.c.


(e). During the night of the 1st/2nd December no further attack was made by the enemy on the Divisional front.  The Guards Division took over the front held by the 60th Inf. Bde. from QUINTIN RIDGE to GONNELIEU, while the 183rd Inf. Bde. 61st Div., relieved the 12th K.R.R.C. in LA VACQUERIE, thus releasing the whole of the 60th Inf. Bde. who were withdrawn to FIFTEEN RAVINE – VILLERS PLOUICH Area.


  1. (a) During December 2nd the enemy confined his attacks to LA VACQUERIE where he was repulsed three times by the 183rd Inf. Bde.


(b). On the night of December 2nd/3rd the 183rd Inf. Bde. relieved the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes., whilst the 184th Inf. Bde. went into Divl Reserve at about R.8., the command passing from G.O.C. 20th Div. to G.O.C.61st Div. at 7 a.m.


(c). At 8.0 a.m. on December 3rd the Div. was disposed as follows:-

59th Inf. Bde.              FIFTEEN RAVINE, VILLERS POULICH area.

60th Inf. Bde.              SOREL

61st Inf. Bde.               FINS


The line as actually handed over to the 61st Div. ran approximately as follows:-

L.35.b – R.5.a. – R.11.c. – R.17.c. – R.22.b. – R.21.b. – R.20.d. –                           R.20.c. –R.26.d.



  1. Div. H.Q. moved from Q.29.central to SOREL, and was established at SOREL at 7 a.m. December 3rd.