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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Diary Entry - 30th and 31st December, 1915

There is one day missing I can't account for.

I spent a day at the guns. It was quite quiet, mainly on account of a gentleman of the high order, who said the division was firing ammunition quicker than it could be brought into the country. We have orders to only fire three rounds now, where we would have fired four. Our average up to now has been about 150 rounds a day. After lunch, the Colonel came round and asked about the pits – when we were going to start on them – and I showed him the timber we had just pinched from some old gun pits this side of Vermelles. The timber is really good stuff, and it is a wonder it has been allowed to remain there so long. Martin Powell seemed quite pleased with it. I forgot to mention that before lunch we got a lot of attachés onto No. 6 pit and took the sandbags off the roof and also the ones at the back of the pit off, so as to be ready to run the gun out at six. There was nothing doing in the afternoon and, at dusk, we ran No. 6 gun into the billet yard and put it half under a small roof. At four, the vet from the wagon line turned up. He had been invited to New Year's Eve dinner and to stay the night. Griffith also came along after tea. He was a guest for the night too. At six thirty, everyone got busy preparing for the meal, and I went to the billet and had a hot bath. Todd turned up at eight, and then we set to. A very fine dinner was prepared, with a good assortment of wine, and it took us nearly two hours to get the better of it. At eleven, we had arranged with the Infantry to have a combined strafe, as by Bosch time it was twelve, so we all sallied forth and some of the guests went into the pits and fired the guns. We gave them four rounds g.f. of the best. At twelve, again we all issued forth for our own strafe, ordered by the brigade, into Haines, and that went off with a good swing. We then came back in and drank to the New Year and sang 'Auld Anxion' [?] very lustily. At twelve thirty, after a few good songs, I went to bed, and I think the party broke up shortly afterwards.

(On Friday afternoon, Siggers was taken from us by the brigade to take Murdock's place as orderly officer. The latter was wounded on the day of the shelling.)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Someone has just given me this map of the Battle of Loos, September 1915. It seems to cover many of the places mentioned in the diary. Unfortunately, I do not have a link to the site it comes from:

Diary Entry - 29th December, 1915

I spent a quiet but interesting day at the O.B. I could not do much shooting, as we have had a large total – oh no, I am mistaken it is the first day that I have not had to restrain from firing. In the early hours, a fire could be seen behind Les Brique, so we loosed off a few, just to show the Bosch there was someone in the O.B., early as it was, but I tried two targets at this fire and seemed to get well over it and was astonished it was not put out. I left it alone at that and afterwards found it was the remains of a haystack set on fire the night before. At eleven, I could hear the Major passing orders down the telephone and saw him shooting at a machine gun emplacement with H.E. He gave them a few to stir the sandbags up. Suttie came up for lunch, and we enfiladed some of the trenches in front of the dump with the 71s and roused the Bosch. During the morning, some bullets whistled past the front of the O.B. from our left flank and I think there were too many adjacent ones for them to be accidents. Me thinks a Bosch sniper is lurking behind the parapet on our right. Just before three, I discovered that smoke was issuing from a green dugout on the fringe of Auchy, a target which had many rounds of H.E. spent on it. I got No. 4 onto it and put two plumb into it, but, as it only made it smoke more, I left it alone. Just before packing up, on looking round with the glasses, I see the shovels working very hard in the Bosch trenches at Mine Point, so No. 6 is made to bark and the work ceases. However, after quarter of an hour, they begin again, so we keep them busy with shrapnel about every 10 minutes until it gets dark. On the way down from the O.B., just after passing Harley Street, a veritable cannonade is set up by Bosch somewhere near the Hohenzollern Redoubt, and it continues very strongly for an hour. On enquiring the cause, find Bosch has blown up two mines on that front. On arriving at the Mess, I find Pipsqueak has arrived to take Ormonde's place.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Diary Entry - 28th December, 1915

A busy day in Cambrin, as the Bosch must have put as many as 200 shells along the La Bassée road, the majority of them being 5.9s and 4.2s and just an odd pipsqueak in the evening. At eleven thirty, Hoyland and I set out for the wagon line and, as we left, we heard some heavies dropping near Harley Street, and we went on to Beuvry by the backwater from the La Bassée canal. It was quite nice going along the canal bank and a good change after the cobbles. We found the horses watering at the trough, which is right on the railway beside the backwater, and Griffith was down there superintending. After following the horses back to stables, we stayed to see them feed and then went up to Griffith's billet. We were yarning there when Reeves came up and joined us and, after a drink, we all set off for Cambrin, it being one o'clock. When we got to the end of the straight two miles, we came across a wounded horse, and Reeves seemed to sense danger and said, "I'm sure they have been giving us a doing." A little further on, the road seemed very empty and everyone was standing outside their houses gazing towards Brigade offices. We enquired what was doing and were told our adjutant, Rodd, was wounded and an orderly officer, Murdoch, but they were only slight wounds. On turning down the Tourbieres loop, we saw that the Mess had had a narrow escape: the houses on its left showed the marks of the splinters and were minus a lot of tiles. We met Suttie, smiling as usual, and he told us one of our attached men was wounded and a sergeant at the brigade - as well as a motorcyclist, who was badly hit in the back. On entering the Mess, we found it in a state of chaos. The soot had fallen down the chimney and choked it up, and the rooms were full of smoke. There were about six of our precious glass windows gone too. On inspecting the shell holes, I found that there were two just short, one 10 yards short and the other 20. Another one went over and landed in some soft ground, making a hole five feet deep by 12 to 15 in diameter. Later in the afternoon, I got a shovel and, with the assistance of Bombardier Taylor, dug about three feet down and got the ring and then got Taylor to go a few more inches and got the fuse. It is a splendid specimen, if I can only keep it. These holes in front of the mess are in stiff clay and are four feet deep by 12 in diameter. At about three thirty, they dropped a few more woollies (4.2), just to the rear of the 41st Brigade but, after one or two rounds, they shortened up and burst them over the crest. At four fifteen, they put over about five 8 inch behind the slag heap and made a tremendous noise. I am glad to say none came over in the night. This shelling is all put down to the new 6 inch naval gun, which was brought up to shoot at the Bosch sausages [?]. It fired its first shells yesterday, and I should think you could see it for miles, as it makes such huge amounts of smoke. It is the gun they wanted to put in our archway.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Diary Entry - 27th December, 1915

My day with the battery. We fired practically nothing in the morning, but a little excitement was caused by a major who came poking his nose into the gun pits. Bombardier Taylor came into the dugout at eleven fifteen and said, "There is a suspicious looking man wandering through the battery, and I saw him just going into the 17th London lines," so I telephoned the Mess and the Major and Hoyland turned out. I pointed out the man to them, and they pursued him as far as the 60 pounders, where they demanded his name and some identification mark. He turned out to be an over inquisitive Major of the Sportsman's Battalion, who are in rest, and he is billeted just to the rear of the battery and was taking his constitutional. At lunch, one or two whizbangs were in evidence and, on returning to the dugout after lunch, I was told they were bursting about 50 yards to the rear of No. 1. I had not been there long when another one came over. It burst 20 yards in front of No. 3 and drove some signallers working on the lines to cover. After that they dropped some on the crest and stopped shooting. Again, practically no shooting was done in the afternoon. Shortly after dinner had begun, the Infantry called for support, and we got the battery going in very good time, which seemed to satisfy the Infantry. I suppose we fired about 40 rounds.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Diary Entry - 26th December, 1915

Bates called me at five ten and at six, after a cup of tea, I went out to see that everything was in order. We had a programme, with about six different targets to be fired on at intervals in the hour and, when I had got those off, I went up to the O.B. for the day. Bee was up at the O.B. from the 15th, and we discussed things in general. There was not much to do and, as we had already fired 230 rounds the night before, I kept fairly quiet. At eleven, the Bosch puts some 4.2s near the little house to the south of the La Bassée road, which is about 200 yards to the east of the O.B. The Major came up in the afternoon and had a look round as, for about an hour, the light was excellent, and I saw things that I have never seen before. While he was there, the Colonel came along with some old fossil of a major who he had brought up to show the front to and the former, with a wink, said "Suttie will point you out everything of interest," and so there was no escape for him. About four, the Bosch pitched some five nines onto the crest in front of the battery, but they were a good 300 yards short. On returning to tea, I found the two attachés had gone and one Ormonde had come back to us again. He is a bumptious little devil and is cordially disliked in the Mess.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Letter Home - 25th December, 1915

25 December 1915

Dear Mother

Here we are with Christmas round again. It seems very different to the usual one , and I would like to be placed at home with you all for the day. I do not think anything very special has taken place since I last wrote. On Wednesday, there being a favourable wind, the gas attack was held - at least the gas was let off. I was up at the O.B. for the evening, with the Major and an attached man. The ball was opened at eight pm and, as soon as the gas was let go, the rifles and machine guns commenced to spit lead. Bullets were buzzing past our house in thousands, and a machine gun seemed to be searching about on our left. It was weird to hear them singing past. Of course, as soon as the show began, the Bosch sent up 100 flares – they are like rockets and made of magnesium wire, I think. They light the surroundings up wonderfully. The rifle and machine gun fire died down at eight thirty, and the only things to be heard were the guns barking away to our rear. The whole show was like a fireworks display, with the flashes of the shells bursting all over the place. The Bosch sent up red berry lights calling for artillery support, and soon the shells were singing about our communication trenches, but the whole show was over within the hour, and no one seems to know what result the gas had, as our Infantry never got over the parapet, which I think was just as well for them. However the Bosch seemed to be very angry about it as all the night he kept firing. He landed some uncomfortably close to our billet, but they were only "pipsqueaks". Needless to say no one got much sleep, as our batteries were barking all through the night and one was rather inclined to listen for the sing of the next shell. I was up at the O.B. next morning and, on going round the battery, was told that a shell had gone plumb through a house about 200 yards to the rear of our position. The old Frenchman who lived in the house seemed highly amused and showed us where it had gone through the bricks and knocked a panel out of his front door. Luckily for him, it was what is called a “dudd” and did not burst. I also noticed, on going up to the O.B., a very nice little hole outside the 36th brigade office, but it had not done any damage.

On Saturday afternoon, four attached officers arrived. We had hard work to find room for them to sleep and they simply crowded the Mess out. One man describes them as being like "locusts, which swoop down and devour all your food and then, at the end of the week, go away". This explains them exactly. They were an objectionable lot of people, except for one of them, a Canadian, and we were all very pleased when they left on Wednesday. Another two men took their place in the afternoon, but they are quite good chaps.

Yesterday, Hoyland and I, having a day off, went into Béthune to get some Christmas luxuries from the field canteen. Most of the things had been got the day before, but there were two cases of port and a case of whiskey to be collected. We lunched in there and spent most of the time fighting for this stuff at the canteen, as the place was packed. We also had the good luck to get a haircut.

Everyone expected to have a Bosch 15 inch drop in town at any moment, as we were dropping a few as Christmas boxes into the towns behind their lines. There have been strict orders issued about the two armies fraternising and, in consequence, we are doing quite a lot of shooting tonight, which means I will be out of bed pretty often, as I am on duty.

Well, I am afraid this is a bad letter, but my head won't think this morning, so you must excuse,

Diary Entry - 25th December, 1915

A Christmas Day that will stand out in my memory for life, provided, that is, that things go all right. It was my day off duty. On the previous evening, a chit was sent round from the brigade to say that "artillery observers were to keep a special look-out and any movement that was seen was to be dealt with in the usual way; anyone not carrying out these orders will be court-martialled". This order, needless to say, was issued with a view to stopping what occurred last year. The brigade programme was also prepared for Christmas Eve and went on all through the night. The guns sounded very noisy, and I think we all spent a very restless night. I lay in bed, expecting the Bosch to retaliate every minute, but he left us alone and kept his fire for Christmas night. We breakfasted at nine thirty and spent the morning quietly in the Mess, as there was a cold bleak wind blowing and it was showery. In the afternoon, Peerless and I walked down to the wagon line (Beuvry), took a glimpse at the horses and then went up to the church and peeped in at a service which was in full swing. We did not go into the Chateau, as there were songs being sung and altogether most of the men were very merry. In walking back along the cobbles, we were lucky to stop a car, which an infantry officer was driving, and we had a ride back to Cambrin. We had a very nice dinner, with Todd as a guest. He had come round from the 36th Brigade, as the others were all dining out. At nine, when dinner was in full swing, the Bosch commenced dropping 4.2 inch hows on the vicinity of the battery. At nine thirty, the Infantry called up for support, and I was on duty. I had to go and wake up the battery, who were very dull in the head, as they had celebrated the day very well. After a lot of shouting and cursing, we got a few rounds off and then put four rounds of gunfire off. This seemed to please the Infantry. I had not been in the battery long before I had to go out again to carry out some shooting, which the brigade had ordered. On going out the Mess door, a Bosch Woollie greeted me. It burst very nicely on the crest. The wretches continued to fire and, what is more, added about 200 yards, which made them burst over our No. 1 gun pit, and they kept it up at intervals until one a.m. At twelve, I came out to the telephone dugout to see that everything was okay and found the signaller trying to take a message. He gave the wire to me, and it turned out to be the Infantry again. The battery were very hard to stir this time, but Kellagher came out and assisted me and, in about five minutes, we managed to get them going. We gave them about 40 rounds, and then thought we had wasted enough and rang up the trenches. They seemed satisfied, luckily for them, as I don't think they would have got much more. It was a very amusing evening all round, as before we fired on our brigade targets, I had to go round and look at the range drums and sightlines of each gun, to see that everything was all right. The layer of No. 5, Forvag, was very fogged, and I asked him whether the bubble was very jumpy tonight, and he answered in the negative, assuring me that it was quite all right, but there was a titter from the rest of the detachment. Another time, I was walking down the battery and met a bunch of our signallers who were singing lustily. One of them, Gunner Kates, shook me warmly by the hand and wished me a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The servants too were all fogged, and it was funny to see them bringing in the food. They looked so serious and had to feel their way along the wall. My servant, Bates, was very somnolent and dense. It seemed to make him deaf, and you had to shout at him about three times to get him to do anything. Well, I got to bed at twelve and had to rise in the morning at five fifteen. The turkey (14 fr.) which we had for dinner with the jolly old Colonel, I forgot to mention.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Diary Entry - 24th December, 1915

Soon after breakfast, the horses having been ordered for ten thirty, Hoyland and I set out for Béthune, to get some port and other foodstuffs from the field force canteen. On arrival in the square, we went straight to the field cashier's office, 1st Army Corps, and collected about 1500 francs. We then made for the barber's and found it full up, as I am told it usually is. Before leaving the cashier's office, I ran across Sanger, who hardly recognised me with my moustache. He is in the 56th, a How battery and, as far as I could gather, their position is somewhere in Harley Street. Shipley is also in the same battery. At twelve, we thought it wise to have lunch, as the Hotel de France is usually well patronised, and the barber could be ambushed when everyone was at lunch. The lunch was pretty poor and, after tiddlywinking about with small dishes, we thought it would be wise to move on, as the lunch seemed to be an endless proceeding. We charged the barber's shop and found that there were six waiting and only two barbers, as the other two were at lunch, so we prepared for a good wait. It was about an hour and a half before we left 'le coiffeur', and we luckily ran into Griffith in the street – this was lucky as we had some chits to give him. At two, we fought our way to the canteen and were lucky in getting what we wanted, after a patient twenty minutes or so. Having seen the goods safely aboard the Mess trap, we went into the square to find the groom and the horses, but they had vanished, so we retired to a café for some refreshment. Our second look around proved successful, as we met Potter, who said he had put the horses undercover at a pub, so we went thither and got underway. We arrived for tea but not without running into a cold squall of rain at Beuvry, which drove us to shelter. Siggers reported, on coming down from the O.B., that the 10 cm gun was again knocking at the front door, but it did not manage to get right inside.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Diary Entry - 23rd December, 1915

After breakfast, there was the usual inspection of men, but there were also some rifles and bandoliers to be inspected. The rifles were all in good order, but there was one short in C subsection, and also two men with five rounds of ammunition short. As usual, the attached men were a very disreputable, unshaven crowd, and I dressed them down and told Nott to give them plenty of work in fatigues. Peerless, the attached subaltern, was out with me all day, and we got on well together, and I showed him all I could. There was not much shooting in the morning, but in the afternoon we were kept busy, as Suttie and Captain Freeman were down in the trenches. The latter was being shown round. In the evening I partook of that delightful luxury, a bath, and the water was beautifully hot. After dinner, I was disturbed from my book by a call of the telephone saying that the left section were in action, having been called upon for support by the Infantry. I was not on duty but was called upon to go out and superintend the shooting.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Diary Entry - 23rd December, 1915

I spent an uneventful day at the O.B. The light was very bad, there being a thick fog (ground) about Les Brique. At two, it commenced to rain and continued till about four. The Major and Griffith came up at two thirty but only stayed about ten minutes and then went on to follow some telephone wire. I only fired ten rounds all day, and most of those were fired in finding the corrector. In the evening, Siggers and I went for a walk along the usual pavé track and, as we went along, we came across a very lame horse being led by a gunner. We questioned the man as to what was the matter with it, and he told us that it had been wounded with a pipsqueak while standing outside the Infantry brigade headquarters. The poor wretch had a lump of the shell on the inside of the near hind leg. It was burned into the flesh, and we could not remove it, and it seemed to be losing a lot of blood. Before we had gone much further, it began to rain, so we retraced our steps to the Mess. Two more attachés arrived for tea, the other four having left in a bus before breakfast.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Diary Entry - 21st December, 1915

We paid for the two fine days we had, as it rained solidly all day today. In the morning, having written a letter or two, I thought I would try to learn the Morse code. An hour was sufficient to tire me of it, and I don't think I knew much of the alphabet at the end of it. After lunch, Kellagher and self went along to the corner to catch a wagon - or bus, as we call them - to Beuvry, but there seemed to be none running our way. Kellagher then remembered that they come that way and go back by Annequin, so we walked up the road to where the Annequin road joins the main road. On the way, we called in at the engineers, to get our matériel - or see if it had come. We found a very decent old Sergeant Major there, who looked after our interests very well. Then we went on and caught our bus at the corner and had a nice ride to Beuvry. Our object in going to Beuvry was to get some soda water siphons but, after speaking very nice French, we found that they were unobtainable, and so we caught another bus home.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Diary Entry - 20th December, 1915

A very slow, tiring day, as there was nothing to do and no place to sit, owing to the attachés, who everyone in the Mess is absolutely bored with. A very appropriate speech was made about them by one of our subs: "They are like locusts, they swoop down on the mess and eat everything there is and, at the end of the week, when everything is devoured, they depart", which is very true. This lot have been especially objectionable, as they will keep asking stupid questions and making silly remarks. They are going to take this position over when we go out to rest, and they seem to think they know all about it, without having the front pointed out to them. Talking about going out of action, we shall not get away now until the 13th of January or later. In the evening, after tea, being fed up with the crowd and life in general, Siggers and I strolled off to Beuvry along the road and covered about five miles before dinner. The gas attack was once again postponed, but everyone went to their posts at nine, and they went as far as turning on the gas tap by mistake for about fifteen seconds. Suttie returned from the O.B. at eleven and told us we might go to bed, and we did not lose much time about it.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Diary Entry - 19th December, 1915

A fairly quiet day as regards shooting. It was spent at the guns, but one Ormonde was put under my wing – I was to show and instruct (?) him what the routine of work is at the guns. By twelve - or really lunchtime – I had told him everything I could, and he had poked his nose into every corner of the gun pits, and so he left me in peace during the afternoon. There was great activity in the air all day, and I saw several petty duels during the morning, but no damage was done. At midday, the O.C., who was at the O.B., started shooting No. 4 gun on some new target, (a supposed machine gun emplacement behind Les Bruque), and he fired at it solemnly until he had finished off 50 H.E. and a few odd shrapnel, with what results I know not. After tea, in the evening, being crowded out of house and home, Siggers and I took a long walk to a village about half a mile to the rear of Fosse 9. I spent most of my time trying to teach him to crack a crop, without much success and, although it was bright moonlight, I had one or two narrow escapes from the lash. Again, the gas show was postponed, on account of the wind.

Diary Entry - 18th December, 1915

A very foggy day – in fact, on reaching the O.B. I found it impossible to see the ground from upstairs. The morning passed very slowly, and I whiled away the time by trying to read and keep warm beside a small brazier. At twelve thirty, the fog lifted and the trees of Les Bruque could just be seen through the fog, but it only remained clear until two. We had to have a signaller out at the trenches all the morning, in case of an attack and, as soon as I told him he could come in, it thickened over again. However, I made the night telephonists start early for the trenches and, as soon as they got there, at three forty-five, I came down, as observation was impossible. On reaching the Mess, I found it full of attachés from a Ks battery, four all told, with Hoyland entertaining. As soon as I had paid my respects, I retired and had a shave and brush up and found them hard at tea when I came back. These people are a dame nuisance, as they crowd us out of our Mess. It was not designed for seating nine persons, and we had a lot of trouble in finding billets for them. After dinner, Siggers walks in, having returned from leave. He did not get to Béthune till eight, and it only took him an hour to get out here on his horse. It was rather amusing: one of the attachés, a Canadian, arrived without any blankets or bedding at all, and he was going to lay himself down on a waterproof sheet on the bricks, but we managed to raise a blanket for him. The gas attack was again postponed, the wind being unfavourable.

Letter Home - 17th December, 1915

17th December, 1915

15th battery,
48th Brigade,
2nd Division

Dear Mother,

There is not really much news. The weather has been keeping up its reputation, but I must say we had some days this week.

The General came round last week to have a look at the guns, as it was suddenly discovered by the Brigade that, if the Bosch advanced and took our trenches, we would not be able to fire on him, on account of the crest in front of us. There was a lot of talk about changing our position, but Kellagher reckoned he could raise the guns so that we would be able to shoot 100 yards short of our first line trench. Saunders, after making rapid calculations, pooh-poohed the idea, but said we could try it. This scheme proved successful, and the old man had to acknowledge that he must have been badly out in his working on Sunday.

I was at the O.B. and had an interesting day, as Suttie did some shooting on a Bosch O.B. and a dugout, with high explosive, which made the sandbags fly and left a nice ventilator in it, but we were not very successful with the house, as it was amongst a lot of other houses in the town and a very hard target. One could not observe the shots at all well. I also had some rabbit shooting, as they call it, (that means Bosch in the open), but was not successful, as I'm not good enough at judging the range. However, I laid them to ground.

Tuesday being my day off, I went into Béthune on the nag, calling at the wagon line on the way, to give the Captain some messages. It was rather funny. I was hunting for the field cashier's office in the town and finally I ran across a man called Kingston from Ipswich, just at the door of the place I wanted. Kingston was a man who I do not suppose I said twenty words to at Ipswich, but I was so glad to see a face I knew that we had a long talk and I finally had lunch with him. He was supposed to come out with us but never left at all until three days after us, as he wanted to be married, so was given three days grace. He is attached to the 44th Brigade, Ammunition Column, and they are billeted in the town. He lives like a duke and has a beautifully furnished sitting room and bedroom with polished floors. It is really a private house and must be very comfortable. After a good lunch, I tried to hunt Bee up but could not find his Mess, so I gave it up and came home.

We had a dinner on Tuesday night. It was to have been the next day, Suttie's birthday, but, owing to work that had to be done on Wednesday, we had it on Tuesday instead. It was a great success, and the party did not break up until twelve-forty-five am. I was very sleepy the next morning when called at six fifteen am and had some work to rouse myself. Suttie had to cut wire, and so I just looked on from the O.B. until he had finished. He began at eleven thirty. He was observing from the spot called Boyang in the trenches and polished off his 350 rounds by one thirty. At a quarter to twelve, the Bosch was roused to anger at the continual hammering at his front line trench and began to drop five point nine inch and pipsqueaks very close to Boyang. I could see them shooting clouds of mud into the air very close to Suttie but knew he was all right, as our guns were spitting away every 10 seconds very regularly. He finished up with a lovely salvo of H.E., which made the wire fairly fly. This was all preparation made for an experimental attack with gas at twelve midnight but, luckily for the Infantry I think, the wind was blowing the wrong way and the whole show had to be abandoned.

That same afternoon I had a rabbit shoot and I really think I killed two birds, my first in this war. Sight was too bad to say for certain, but anyway I tickled them properly. There is a trench that runs out from behind some houses for about 200 yards and then joins with some other trenches. Well, this trench must be bad, as the Bosch prefers to walk in the open when he thinks the light too bad for us to see him. I fired one round at two but only frightened them. The next one that came I let go, to entice more. After waiting patiently for about three minutes, out they came – three of them. Well, I just waited until they got to a marked spot and shouted down to the telephonist, "Fire No. 2." It seemed ages until the gun was reported fired, but they let it go just at the right time, and I saw two of them drop and the other jump into the trench. It is jolly exciting work. You lay your guns on where you think the Bosch will appear and glue your eyes on the glasses. After a time, you imagine you see any number of them. It gets so dark that you can imagine anything with tired eyes. Tell old Mr Gray: it is better than waiting on the bank of the dam for duck or geese late in the evening – much more exciting.

Yesterday afternoon, I was at the guns and Kellagher at the O.B. At one thirty, he reported that they were shelling him and he had to retire to the cellar, but after they had dropped a few very near, he gave us gunfire, and we fairly rattled them in. When he came back in the evening, he seemed rather quiet, and I asked him if they'd done any damage, expecting a negative answer. He said they had had four direct hits with a 35 lb shell and had dropped about 70 all round in the vicinity of the house. He was just leaving one room when one came through the wall and a fragment of brick hit him on the head but did not break the skin.

The old Allemand must be trying to get his own back. Luckily no one was hit, but there were some very narrow squeaks, such as sentry boxes being carried away when the man was on his beat.

Well, there is no more news.


Friday, 17 December 2010

Diary Entry - 17th December, 1915

It was rather inclined to rain at eleven in the morning when I set out for the wagon line, but it kept off till the afternoon. My old black nag was full of buck when we started, so we had a nice little canter along the footpath. On arriving at the line, the horses were all filing off to water, and I just caught a glimpse of Griffith making for the troughs along the canal bank. I pursued him, and we went on and watched the horses watering and then returned to see them feed, inspecting a billet on the way back. Griffith was brave enough to go into the billet, which was a loft above a Frenchwoman's house, but I was driven out by the odour. Really, you never got a smell on "Stink Flat" to compete with it. And, to top the whole thing, the old woman and a child came up to the top of the steps and blocked my passage, and it was a case of 'your child is no violet'. At one, I rode back to the Mess for lunch, and it just commenced to rain as I got in. It was wet all the afternoon, and I wrote letters and wrote the diary up. In the evening, we were pleased to hear that the gas show had been put off for a second time, and so we did not have to stay up all night. After firing a salvo of H.E. into Auchy, I retired to bed.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Diary Entry - 16th December, 1915

My day at the guns. Absolutely nothing doing in the morning, as there is a slight fog hanging over the front. The brigade unfortunately relieve us of their two switchboards, one of which proved itself to be very useful. On running across the wheeler commonly known as Spoke, I ask him to knock me together a bed; it might be as well to add that the bed consists of a wood framework with sandbags stretched across it. All is silent in the morning in the dugout and, on coming to lunch at one, I find the Captain and Hoyland have had theirs and gone up to the trenches to register wire. At two, Kellagher reports that the O.B. is being shelled and that they have all retired to the cellar. However, they venture forth again in about ten minutes. At about two thirty, we are told to be ready for the Major, who ought to be at his O.B. by now but, on trying to get through to the Infantry, we find that there is no reply and we hear Kellagher trying to get the 47th, whose wire we are using. At three, battery action on Auchy comes down - three rounds H.E. guns fire, then about six more rounds on odd targets - and we presume the O.B. is getting it again. After sitting about till four, I finally decide that it is no good waiting, as it will be too dark to see, and I retire. At four thirty, Kellagher comes in and seems to be very quiet, so I ask him, in a joking manner, whether they hit the O.B., and he says they got five direct hits in with a 10 cm (4 inch, 35 pound) shell and made a big hole in the Mess room below the observatory. The ruin was also hit, and the 47th had a hole plugged through, a few feet below the observing officer. Sixty shells were dropped in all and luckily no-one was touched, although one man on guard behind the barrier just ducked in time as one came clean through the parapet just above his head. The sentry just in front of the ruin had his box carried away while he was standing behind the wall. The Bosch is only trying to get some of his own back, and we must expect it, although it is truly uncomfortable for the man in the O.B. We reckon the shells are coming from guns behind the Dump.

 I forgot to add that the reason for having a new bed is because Todd, the medical officer, is using mine in Suttie's room, while I use Siggers's.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Diary Entry - 15th December, 1915

I was very tempted to stay in bed when Bates called me at six thirty, especially after going to bed so late. The day broke rather cloudy, with a strong wind blowing from the south-east and a slight mist or haze behind Lone Farm. As the haze cleared, odd Germans could be seen walking about between Mad Alley, Pekin Alley and the special trench which runs across to the Corrons de Marron. I loosed off a gun at them now and again but, as I was not sure of my ground, did not do much damage. They seemed to take no notice of the guns and kept running about like rabbits from trench to trench, but as the light grew better they thought that the trenches were safer. At eleven thirty the Major called in on his way to the trenches. Our battery had to cut some wire in front of the Railway trench, and Suttie observed from Boyau 9, which is a high bit of ground in the trenches about the Vermelles road. He started to work at eleven fifteen, having 300 rounds or more, if wanted, to finish the job with. The Bosch got a wee bit angry at the continual shooting on his front and started, at eleven forty-five, to shell the communication trenches behind Mine trench and south of the Vermelles road, with pipsqueaks, five nines and four twos, but he also put a few pipsqueaks near our O.B. At about twelve, I could see that Suttie was having a fairly warm time, as 5.9s were coming thick and fast in his vicinity, but I knew he was all right as we were still banging away at 10 seconds. At one thirty, we finished the shoot with a beautiful salvo of H.E., fair into the wire - or what was left of us. Towards evening, after having studied the trenches well, I lay my guns on the rabbit runs and waited events. I forgot to mention that a certain Captain had been with me all day and making a general nuisance of himself, and he and self kept our eyes glued on the run, but I am glad to say he got tired of it when it got dusk. At ten to four, he saw two men, and we fired the right section, but they took too long and the corrector was also too short, and at four he left. A few minutes after he left, a Bosch strolled in a leisurely manner across the run, but I let him go to attract some more. My patience was rewarded in about five more minutes, as a bunch of three or four Bosch started from the Corrons de Marrons. When they got to a given spot, I shouted down the tube, "Fire No. 2 gun." It seemed hours till they fired, but finally the signaller reported two fired and, with my eyes glued to the telescope, I saw the flash and two of them seemed to drop and the other one I saw jump into the trench. The burst was a beauty, and I reckon that I bagged my first two birds in this war, or, if not, tickled them up – the light was too bad to swear by one's observation, but I am sure that I hit them. After that bit of work, I got my corrector for the night lines and made for the Mess. It was five before I got under way, as the signallers were late in getting to the trenches. As soon as it was dark, we had to get our guns onto the wire and fire one about every ten minutes, to keep the Bosch from putting out more. At twelve midnight, we were to make a gas attack on the Bosch first line trench and follow up with the bayonet. It was not really to be an attack but a kind of experimental scouting movement, to see the results of the gas and the state of the Bosch first line trench. However, the wind, which had been unfavourable all day, would not change, and the attack had to be abandoned. At ten we got orders to that effect from the brigade. I did not waste any time in getting to bed after the message arrived. After I had gone to bed, the First corps thought the wind had changed and tried to cancel the last order, but the gas experts had already evacuated the trenches and were not to be found, so there was nothing for it but to put it off until Friday 17th.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Diary Entry - 14th December, 1915

A good fine morning with a frost, but still a bit sloppy. My day off duty and a really nice day to go into Béthune. At eleven, on going to the guns to see Kellagher, I run into General Sanders, the Colonel (Powell) and the Major and usual attendants in the rear. They have come round to see No. 4 gun with the raised platform. The General is very surprised that we have taken so much off the range by not changing our gun position, as when he made some rapid calculations he made it out that we would only be able to take off 150 yards by raising the gun a foot. However, after looking at the gun pit, he has to acknowledge that his workings must have been faulty and congratulates Kellagher on the job, which is really a fine effort. Today Nos 1, 3 and 4 guns have been raised and so we are safe as regards changing our position. At eleven twenty, as the Major tells me he will be unable to come to the wagon line and gives me some instructions to hand Griffith, I move off for Beuvry, with the groom in the rear. Arrive at wagon line and find Griffith wandering around the horses and rather ruffled - or appears to be. I deliver the messages and proceed to Béthune. I enquire in Béthune the way to the field cashier's office and finally ask an officer who is good enough to take me right to the door of the place. Just as we arrive there a man named Kingston who was at Ipswich appears on the scene and, being so glad to see someone I know, I shake him warmly by the hand as if I was a bosom friend of his. As a matter of fact I don't suppose I spoke more than twenty words to him before but one is so glad to see anyone one knows that they rush the person at once. He shows me the way to the 1st Corps cashier's office after we have partaken of something at a café. Then I asked myself to lunch with him. He takes me round to his billet, which is quite near. On entering the place, I am at once struck with the luxurious apartments consisting of a sitting-room with polished floor very nicely polished and most beautiful bedroom also completely furnished. The luxuries one receives in being posted to an ammunition column! We have a very nice lunch and at two I set out to hunt for 27 Rue St Louis Blanis, where Bee's Mess is, but, after asking some numbers of people, give it up as a bad job and return to the square, where I have arranged to meet the groom. It is about two fifteen by the clock as we ride out of the square. My first impressions of Béthune are much higher than I thought they would be when I journeyed through there in the fog. It looks a quite nice little town and the shops seem to be extraordinarily good. The streets are very windy and narrow – occasionally they open onto squares. The journey home is covered in about an hour and I should reckon the distance is little more than four miles. On arriving at the Mess, I am told that the O.C.'s birthday dinner is to be held tonight instead of tomorrow as there is to be a bit of a show on the 15th -Wednesday. The dinner goes off well and eight sit down at the table (Major Martin Powell,  Todd, Quiller Couch and Waldron of the 71s [in the margin in brackets at this point is a word, written in very small letters, that may possibly be 'pills']. The dinner was much the same as the one before and it was 12.45 am before we got to bed.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Diary Entry -13th December, 1915

On duty at the guns today and have nothing of any interest to relate. It was a fine day for once and there was a touch of frost in the air, so much so that at eleven I had to retire to the Mess as there was no coke to be obtained. The O.C. was up at the O.B. for lunch and did a certain amount of shooting in the afternoon. And so the day ended quietly in the usual way.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Diary Entry - 12th December

After getting a cup of tea in the kitchen, the time being six fifty-five, I proceed to carry out Suttie's orders at the guns. It is so dark that the lamp has to be turned on in order that the guns can get their line. The guns fixed, the O.B. is headed for and, before settling down, the notice outside 'the Ruin' is moved inside and placed at the bottom of the staircase. A keen lookout is kept between the lights and, about eight am, two Bosches are seen to come out of the houses below Auchy clocktower and walk along the top of Dook Alley. I have a go at them, but, as I am not used to judging range at a distance, I only frighten them under cover - but it adds some excitement to the day to think that you might be able to catch a bird on the wing. At eleven, Suttie comes up and does some shooting, registering Pekin Alley and several other targets. By twelve, the light is very good, and the Colonel and Adjutant arrive. They evidently have been in the trenches, from the mud that they carry on them. They stop for an hour. Then, on their departure, Suttie and I lunch downstairs. For an hour after dinner, I watched some interesting shooting, done by the Major on a dugout near 'Les Briques', on which we obtain several direct hits with H.E. and make some nice holes in it – and also on what we presume to be a Bosch O.B. in Auchy, about 800 yards inside the fringe of houses, (but we don't meet with much success here, as it is very difficult to observe where your shells are bursting.) At two, Suttie takes Bombardier Charles (chief telephonist) down to the trenches with him, to do some registering. At three, the Bosch gets a spasm and plugs about 300 shells into our line south of Vermelles road, but they are well out of our zone. However, our batteries reply with interest. About half an hour before dusk, I see two more Bosch sprinting from one trench to another behind Lone Farm (from Mad Alley into Pekin Alley). I lay No.1 onto the latter alley, just in case any more show themselves, but have no luck. I keep a very keen lookout for the wily Bosch at dusk, but I think he is a bit nervous now, as the last two nights he has been driven to shelter rather hastily. Thus another day of strife is ended, and at four thirty I retire to the Mess for tea.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Glued into the diary, on the facing page from the entries, are these lists, which I think must be of targets and ranges and which guns cover which areas:

Diary Entry - 11th December, 1915

A day off duty and nothing much doing. In the morning, the Colonel and General Sanders came along to look at the gun pits, as it is discovered that the guns in their present position can only just fire onto our front-line trenches at their lowest range, as the crest of the hill won't allow any shorter range. There is some talk of moving one section to the rear, in order to be able to cover our trench, in case of a retirement. But Kellagher tries what he can do with his section in raising the platform and, after putting down two layers of pavé, finds he can clear the crest at 1900. However, he is not satisfied with that and finally takes off another 35 yards, thus saving the situation. In the afternoon, I take my new charger, named Peggy, for a detour to Béthune. She proved herself to be a spoiled animal and very lazy – once, I should methinks, she may have been quite good, but the drivers at the wagon line have spoiled her. Before going to bed, Suttie makes out some shoot, so at ten thirty I go to and sallie forth and fire Nos 2,3,5 ad 6 guns on the respective targets on the programme. After that is over, I prepare for the early morning rise.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Diary Entry - 10th December, 1915

On duty at the guns today and a lot of rounds were fired, as the light was better. It rained again all morning – not heavily, but just enough to keep things wet. Nothing worthy of note happened in the morning, except that K's made a devil of a noise, firing salvos and gunfire for more than an hour and wasting ammunition. In the afternoon, about 3.30, Suttie appears from the O.B. and reports that No. 6 gun is dangerous and that the fitter is to overhaul it. The fitter is produced, and we set to work. I may mention that I make it appear that I know all about testing the line sights, et cetera, but really I am learning everything from other gentlemen. After testing the bubble and a few other things, I happen to grab the range drum, to see if there is any play in it, and it revolves on the shaft, hence the mystery of the bad shooting is solved. Evidently, when Siggers was showing me how to test the ranging gear earlier in the week, he had forgotten to tighten the lock nut. Kellagher on returning from the O.B. reports that he saw a number of Germans walking out in the open early this morning in the vicinity of Lone Farm and he promptly popped gunfire into them and they dispersed into the trenches. Again, this evening, he caught a lot more near Dook Alley and Les Trois Cabarets, with more gunfire, but was unable to observe the results of his fire. This authenticates the news received from Bosch prisoners that their trenches are in a bad condition. The O.C. tells us at dinner that a 60-pounder put three or four rounds of lyddite into the Infantry's headquarters, a large chateau on the La Bassée road, and killed four men and a horse. On enquiries being made, it is found they are using a new sight. It is reported though that the officer observing says - or telephoned back to the gun - that he observed each of the four rounds fired.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Diary Entry - 9th December, 1915

Rose with the lark this morning, which I should think was about drowned by now, as it has rained hard all day. After a cup of tea, I trudged up to the O.B. and nearly got submerged in a trench that leads up to the back door. Oh, to think of the poor Infantry today. At seven, the battery do a half hour strafe on the enemy's communicaton trenches, firing fifteen rounds H.E. Everything is quiet till one, when a mad K's division/15 starts firing into the blue and carries on for about an hour, wasting ammunition. The Germans make a very feeble reply and we fire a few rounds on Mine PPoint, and I find No. 6 gun ballooning for some unknown reason, but I can gain no information from the Battery as to the reason why. The afternoon passes quietly and is spent beside a coke brazier reading a magazine and trying to catch mice which occasionally come round looking for scraps from lunch. The evening passes quietly and I retire to bed early.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Diary Entry and Letter Home - 8th December, 1915

Diary Entry

Another uneventful day off duty, and I spend most of the day writing letters and studying animal management, which is very dry and uninteresting. After lunch, Siggers and I stroll along the tourbières loop to see a 60-pounder (5-inch gun). It looks a tremendous size after our pop guns and weighs five tons. It makes one realise what the 15-inch gun must be like, let alone the 21-inch. At ten o'clock, the subs all went out to the Béthune road to see Siggers off on leave. We waited about, in hopes that he would get a car and, while standing there, met a certain Captain Sam Atkinson, who was looking for Rodd, our adjutant; they were going to raid the coffee bar. It seems a man had come up from Béthune that morning and taken a position behind the counter, to get experience. They were suspicious of him, as he had no identification badges on his tunic. Siggers, after about ten minutes' wait, mounted his horse, which was rather impatient, and he and his unfortunate servant, who was loaded up with luggage, which consisted chiefly of fuzes and other war relics, set off for the town.

Letter Home

Dear Mother,

I am writing this today as I am off duty and have nothing much to do. There has been very little doing lately, and the weather has been beastly wet. It generally manages to rain about two hours daily and sometimes manages to get an hour in at night as well. The trenches are simply awful, even with the precautions they have taken of putting boards and bricks on the floor. I heard of some of the infantrymen being bogged the other day and, after two hours standing up to their waists, someone came along and dug them out. One can't conceive what they are like unless one sees them. I believe the German trenches are the same, and we bagged a lot of them the other night, when the relief were coming up, as they were walking along in the open and would not face the communication trenches.

Bee has been shifted off to Béthune on a course of some sort. I heard from him, and he does not seem very pleased about it. However, I suppose I shall be the next to go.

On Sunday, I was up in the O.B. when the Bosch started to loose off quite a lot of shell during the morning. However, we replied very strongly and silenced him in about an hour. I believe he caught a lot of our infantrymen coming up the road to the trenches. He kept dropping shells - 77 (ins) – over about every five minutes. I think our battery got a bit of their own back, as we invariably have three rounds of gunfire some time after dinner into one of the towns behind the Bosch lines.

Siggers and I had quite an uncomfortable five minutes coming down the road from the O.B. The Bosch sent a few "whizbangs" over, searching the road. Well, the first ones came over when we got to what we call Harley Street, where there are a lot of motor vans and infantrymen on the move. You should have seen that street clear. We used to duck and crouch every time they came whistling over, and I did not feel at all brave about them, but my mind was relieved when I saw the infantrymen stretched out in the mud alongside the road, behind the trees. However, they all whistled well over us, and I do not think they got anyone.

I do not think I told you in what sort of place we are billeted. Well, the Mess is in part of an old farmhouse. One approaches it through the kitchen, and a pretty dirty one too, as you can imagine, with everyone tramping through with mud on their boots to the ankle. We are very lucky in having another sort of "estaminet" to sleep in, with nice tile, (or rather brick floors) and a leaky roof. However, we consider ourselves lucky not to be sleeping in dugouts. There are thousands of rats about, and last night we had an organised hunt. One man had a revolver, but we prevailed on him to put it away after he had had three shots, as he was not too safe. We saw plenty of rats but found it very hard to hit them with sticks, and we had only a small torch for a light.

On Monday night, we had two guests in to dinner (I forgot to mention that our attached Terrier officers left on Sunday). In the afternoon, Suttie, Hoyland and Kellagher sallied into Béthune and came out burdened with champagne and other dainties. They were all very wet when they arrived but seemed in high spirits for all that. After tea, Hoyland and Kellagher returned and assisted the cook in preparing the dinner, by aid of a cooking book. The guests arrived at eight pm and dinner was served. A very good meal it was too. I will put the contents of the menu on the back of the third sheet of this letter:
Hors d'oeuvre
Faisan Roti

48th Batt: R.A.

I would like to send you a menu card to show you how we did things, but there were only two, and they are gone.

It was most amusing: we arranged with the battery in the evening that there were to be laid on certain lines at ten pm and to be ready for three rounds of gunfire. About ten pm, the subject of strafing cropped up and it was suggested that we fire on something and see how long it took the battery to get into action. Well, the orders were telephoned to the battery and, 12 seconds after Suttie hung up the receiver, the guns fired. The visitors, needless to say, were very much impressed with the efficiency of our battery, and one of them was our adjutant.

We will probably go out to rest on the 28th. It seems a jolly nuisance, as you have to take all your equipment with you and, of course, you never know what part of the Front you will be sent to after rest.

I was down at the wagon line yesterday. The horses look wonderfully well, under the circumstances. Of course, it is mud to the knees there. They have a better place to stand on now, as a lot of bricks have been laid down, but they crumble very quickly and it is still far from comfortable.

I have a groom and two animals called horses, but they are not very wonderful creatures. It always amuses me when I go riding to think of having a groom following you to hold your carver and be general flunkey. There is a servant to look after one in the billet also.


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Diary Entry - 7th December, 1915

My day off duty and nothing very much to do. Hoyland and I ride down to the wagon line at eleven to see stables and return at one for lunch. This is the first time I have tried my horse, which arrived yesterday. It is not a very wonderful animal, and I see a nice bay in Hoyland's section, which looks a better animal. The other horse, which I visit after lunch, is a heavy looking thing with a very puffed up near hind leg, which Potter reports has “always been like that”. It is rather inclined to rain again in the afternoon. We have a rat drive after dinner, about nine thirty. The inevitable Siggers brings out a pop gun and fires three very dangerous rounds at rats, then is persuaded to put it away. The hunt proves unsuccessful, although we scare a few hundred rats. Thus the day ends. I forgot to mention rather an important matter – my long expected boots arrive, and so I can paddle about in the mud and keep the water out.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Diary Entry - 6th December, 1915

My day for duty at the guns. There was very little doing in the morning and only loosed off about 20 rounds. After breakfast at nine, having inspected the men and seen that they were all fairly respectable, Siggers takes me round the guns to test the range drums, a simple proceeding, which I'm not quite clear about. The only gun wrong is No. 6, and it is firing about 50 yards too far. The rest of the morning is spent in the telephone dugout, reading an army book on horses (very dry rot). The afternoon is spent in much the same way, but the weather becomes bad and it rains very hard for about two hours. Suttie, Siggers and Hoyland spend the afternoon in Béthune, returning for tea, loaded up with fig and other luxuries for the evening dinner. Great preparations are made for dinner after that, and the guests finally arrive at eight; they are Rodd (adjutant of the 41st Brigade) and Reeves (the orderly officer of same brigade). A doctor was to have been present but failed us at the last moment. The dinner was a great success with even hors d'oeuvre and tinned pheasant on the programme. At ten, when the port was on, it was suggested (as prearranged) that we should strafe Auchie, so the required orders were given. The visitors were greatly impressed with the efficiency of the battery, as gunfire began about 15 seconds after the order was given. Gramophone, and Siggers on the piano, finished up the evening, the latter supported by five or more very throaty voices, and so we went on till twelve, when everyone retired to bed.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Diary Entry - 5th December, 1915

Rise at six fifteen and have a cup of tea at the Mess. Then make for the O.B. A fairly clear morning, with a slight ground fog, which gets slightly worse as the morning goes on. Nothing doing before breakfast, which arrives at eight thirty. The 15th battery man, Shalborne, arrives, and we yarn till eleven, finding that we know people that neither of us thought were known to each other. At eleven fifteen the Bosch start firing on Mine Point and Wilson's Way, and we retaliate with bursts of gunfire until the O.C. arrives at eleven thirty. He takes over and fires for an hour on Hindenburg Trench, Mad Alley, Lone Farm and Railway Trench. In fact, he tickles up the main targets on our front. The Bosch is subdued by this time and everybody seems to settle down for lunch. The light gradually improves during the morning, until it is really bright and sunny by one p.m. Lunch upstairs at one, and Grant Suttie and Griffith go down to the trenches for the afternoon to fire from there. At two thirty, the Bosch begins to fire quite astray and sends shells buzzing about Wilson's Way and over the O.B. towards Cambrin. This continues for an hour, the Allies' guns replying freely. I am unable to retaliate as Suttie holds the line from the trenches. Everything quietens down towards four o'clock, when the light fades. At three, it is reported that the Bosch shelled 15th battery and have wounded a Sergeant. I retired down the La Bassée road at four twenty, unmolested, and thus on to the Mess. We have a fierce argument at dinner, mainly due to some sparkling Mosel that had been opened. The argument is still raging between the O.C., Kellagher and Siggers, when Hoyland and self retire to bed at ten pm.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


I am very grateful to Julie, who has made a map available, showing exactly where the events of this diary are taking place. Huge thanks. Julie also runs the excellent Sydney Eye  and Whispering She-Oak blogs

This is the link to the map.

Diary Entry - 4th December, 1915

The captain sent me down to the wagon line on one of his horses, with his groom. Kellagher, who is going to Béthune, accompanies me and shows me the way. The wagon line lies in the little village called Beuvry about two miles from Cambrin. We found Captain Griffith in his billet and he showed me round the lines. The things that strike one are the muck and the filth of the place, which have been counteracted as well as possible with bricks, and the fitness of the horses. The wagons look to be in a dilapidated condition, as they are exposed to all the weather. In the course of the morning, I met the Sergeant Major and asked him to pick me out two horses and a groom and send them along, which he said he would do in the afternoon. I am told the Bosch shelled the place on the afternoon of the third with 4.2s and 77 mms and I saw a couple of holes behind the sick horses' lines. I returned to the mess for lunch and joined Siggers at the guns in the afternoon. About three, the Bosch put six pipsqueaks in the vicinity of the tourbières loop and La Bassée road, but they burst too high to do much damage. Thus ends the day.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Diary Entry and Letter Home - 3rd December, 1915

Diary entry

Proceed to the O.B at 6.45 with Siggers. When we wake up, find a foggy morning awaiting us and we have a welcome cup of hot coffee in the kitchen before setting out. Arrive at the O.B. and retire to the Mess room, as it is impossible to see beyond the road. At 8.00, we wander down to the trenches to have a look around and, after getting mud to the ankles, return to await breakfast. At 8.30 Loadie of the 15th arrives, and with him arrives our breakfast, which is very welcome. At 10.00, a terrier officer from the 15th joins us, and we unearth our primus stove and get it going with what little oil we have. At 12.00 we sally forth to explore a mine laid in an adjoining house by the infantry but are stopped by an Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders sentry before we reach the sap head. On parlaying outside the O.B., our Colonel Powell pops round the corner and disturbs us. He asks me a few questions as to who I am and whether I am related to the Manifold of the artillery, to which I add that I am a distant relation, and he mentions to his friend that I am not unlike the aforesaid John. At 2.15 the mist clears and we have some shooting for an hour, the Bosch also dropping a few whizbangs behind our lines. However, the light fails again and there is very little done. On returning for tea, Siggers and I have an exciting five minutes near Harley Street as they search the La Bassée road with pipsqueaks. Each time the shells came over, Siggers and self crouched in the middle of the road, feeling far from pleased. It was also rather amusing to notice the infantry stretched at full length in the mud behind trees on the side of the road. However, the shells went well over us, even though they sounded uncomfortably near at the time.

Letter Home

3rd December.


December 3rd, 1915

Dear Mother,

I hope you were not very surprised to get the cable to say we had gone to France. It has been a bit sudden, but must expect these things in wartime.

Well, things are sliding along here much the same as usual. We always let off about 150 rounds at the Bosch, and he seldom retaliates. I have been taking things easy this week as must have caught a chill last week some time and was not feeling too good for three days. On Monday, I saw the doctor, who said I was to stay inside and eat some of his pills, so I finally retired to bed on Monday evening, stopped there on Tuesday, and remained in the mess on Wednesday. I am glad to say that I am fit again now.

On Saturday and Sunday, it froze very hard, and was bitterly cold, but the last three days have been very mild. We gave the Germans a small bombardment on Sunday, and Monday we did not do much, but the big guns loosed off about 600 rounds each. Our O.C. was at the observing station in the morning, and the 8 inch hows started dropping their shells very short – in fact they dropped two just to the left of the O.B. and frightened all our men very much. They say the frosty weather made a difference of 1000 yards in their range and they took some time to get onto the enemy's trenches, but when they did I believe they moved sandbags, earth and parapet for yards around.

On Tuesday, the Bosch tried to get some of his own back, and he dropped about 100 5.9 inch hows about 200 yards in front of our battery. They made some nice little holes about 4 foot deep by 6 foot. It was not very pleasant, lying in bed, listening to these things whistle down, then explode with a loud crash. They seemed much closer than they were, as the wind was blowing from that direction. However, no damage was done, except that a splinter carried away about four tiles from the Sergeants' Mess, which is on the right of our Mess.

On Wednesday, the Bosch banged a few pipsqueaks (77 min) at the battery. He was evidently searching about down the La Bassée road at the back of us and the shortest was a good 100 yards over us. The aeroplanes have been very active this week, especially the Bosch. He has been trying to find our guns' position - in fact, a plane observed for the 5.9 in on Tuesday.

Last afternoon, 20 British machines flew over us on a raid. They looked like so many birds, and you should have seen the Bosch plaster the sky with shrapnel and high explosives. It was simply covered with bursts, but I don't think any of them were hit.

Today I am at the O.B. I think it will be very quiet, as it is misty and there is very little shooting done when you can't observe your shots. It was grand getting some letters dated October 16th. Bee sent them on to me. They are very acceptable out here. Goodness knows what life in the trenches must be like. I am told they spend all the day preparing meals. I had my first bath last night and feel very clean today. The bath consists of a camp tub with about a bucket of warm water in the bottom of it. I was down a piece of the communication trench this morning. They are wonderfully made and zigzag all over the place. The floor is either brick or covered with wood.

It was most amusing here just now: we have a primus stove to keep us warm - it is a brand-new one - and one of our men plus another man of the 15th battery have been trying to get it going. Neither of them know a thing about it, but one finally got it going feebly, and I suggested pricking the jet. They both got outside when, in pricking it, the flame went out and the vapour flew in the air.


P.S. By the way, you might tell Jack that we have a man attached to us from the Terriers called Alhewson. He says he was a sergeant in a section of O.T.C., with Jack a corporal. He does an awful lot of talking and seems to like his own voice, much to the O.C.'s annoyance.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bertie(Bee) Manifold - Early Diary Extracts

My cousin, Elizabeth Landy, has been to the State Library of Victoria and had a look at the diaries of Walford's brother Bertie, which are there in safekeeping, but the property of George Manifold, who has kindly agreed to let them be included here. These two entries give some background to the brothers' arrival in Britain and subsequent training et cetera:

They are both extracted from a diary headed: Diary of War Experience Sept 1915. This is the first entry:

Enlisted Bell.A, S.McCaughey, Walford, Sanger & Self. Left Australia July 26th by the P&O Malwa. Came overland from Marseilles landed in London at the beginning of Sept. Mildred met us at Victoria. Next morning were introduced to R.S.Gilliard who did all the dirty work connected with getting our Commissions. We were all Gazetted in the R.F.A. on Sept 23rd & posted to the Baby Camp at Ipswich. (Our) quarters at the latter place were at the Horse Artillery Barracks. Then we did six weeks of training."

Some time later, the words, "Ordered to the front 15th September" are written in a sideline of the diary and this entry follows:

"At 1 pm on 15thNov, we were ordered to proceed to Southhampton by the 2 pm train from Waterloo the following day. There were ten of us from this camp who recd. marching orders. We applied for leave straight away. Bell was left out of this. This is quite a new thing for Officers to go straight to the front without first going on a course. We had only been in training for six weeks. Most of us packed up right away and went to London that evening. It was a tremendous risk but it did not take us long to get on the move."

Diary Entry - 2nd December, 1915

This day was spent with the battery. Nothing happened that was worthy of note.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


There is no diary entry today, probably because my grandfather was still not feeling well. However, on the following page, there is this anecdote, with accompanying diagram. It isn't attached to any particular date:

The OC told us rather an amusing story at dinner, about a captain who wanted to find a position for a 6-inch gun to fire at a Bosch sausage balloon, as the authorities think that they observe the pipsqueaking on the Béthune - La Bassée road from it. Well, he thought a very good position would be in the door or gateway to the farm that is just outside the Mess window and he requested leave of the Orderly officer to bring his smallgun along. Just at this moment, the Colonel arrived and told him quietly that the position was impossible, and he was last seen one and a half miles away, working south to try to find a position for the man.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Diary Entry - 30th November, 1915

I spent a better night and feel much better, with my temperature back at normal. The doc visits before breakfast and seems satisfied, but he says the day must be spent in doors. I spent most of the morning writing letters. After lunch, the Bosch seek about the La Bassée road, behind us, with pip squeaks – in fact, pip squeaks are becoming a habit, but they are not taken much notice of when cover of any sort is handy. Retire to bed soon after dinner.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Diary Entry - 29th November, 1915

I had a very bad night. I felt as if I had a temperature and spent half the night shivering. The doctor comes round after breakfast and says I have a chill and must remain inside all day, giving me quinine and aspirin pills to eat in quantities. The doc calls again in the afternoon and drives the O.C. and Captain Griffith out of the Mess. He is a very deep-thinking, quiet Irishman, who never utters a word, but sits and gazes at his patients, and my impression is that he tries to hypnotise you. However, after sitting here for about 20 minutes, he takes my temperature et cetera and says I must go to bed soon after tea, and with those commands he bids farewell.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Diary Entry - 28th November, 1915

Sunday morning at 10 am, a bombardment of our position of the trenches began. All guns were included, from 18 prs to 9 inch, in retaliation to German Sap blown up under our first line trench about a week ago. It was a very cold morning with a hard frost and the sun shining. We (our battery) took very little part in the proceedings. It was more the heavy guns, which fired 300 rounds each for the day.

I had another indifferent night and felt the cold very much through the day, as I had the shivers. The Bosch aeroplanes were continually flying over, trying to locate our gun positions, and it seemed to me that they met with very little opposition either from our anti-aircraft guns or our own aeroplanes. It was reported early in the morning that our [illegible ] were dropping their shells very short – in fact only 100 yards or so to the left flank of our O.B. It was due to the frosty weather, which affected the range, so it is said. However, effective shooting was done in the afternoon.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Diary Entry - 27th November, 1915

CO remains indoors. I had a very bad night. I suffered from stomach pains. Several  other men suffer also. It is put down to the water, and orders are given that all water must be boiled in future. A very heavy frost during the night, and I spent a miserable day, going to bed before dinner. I tried the afternoon with the O.B., and met Bee there, but a charcoal fire there knocked me out. A great movement of British aeroplanes, I am told, towards German lines – 40 in all.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Diary Entry and Letter Home - 26th November 1915

Diary Entry:

C.O. stays in bed with slight attack of flu. My day again spent at guns, with ordered lectures from Siggers, who was unable to lecture, owing to him being too busy.


26 November 1915

Dear Father,

You will have to take letters as they arrive now, as ink and paper, and time, are rather valuable articles out here, so this is going to be a semi-letter, written in the Mess, and diary written in the dugout with the guns.

We are right in the thick of it up here, as you will gather from the rest of the letter, if it reaches you. I rather doubt the Censor, if he opens this, will let it through, but he may be a good chap.

I last wrote from the base at Havre, I think. On the Saturday, after lunch, we got orders that we were to embark on the train at 10.30 that night. We went into the town that afternoon and had a good kind of high tea to carry us on our journey and returned to camp at 6 p.m.. At 8.30, we (49 RFA) men bundled into a motor lorry - or rather three lorries - and set off for the train. Our senior sub had to take charge of a draft of 60 men, and there were also a lot of other men on the train. Rouen was reached early in the morning, but we were not allowed to de-train until 7 am.
Everything had to be bundled out and stacked in the goods shed, and, when the men had received their rations, we went up the town for breakfast. We had to return to the station after brekker as had to report to the transfer officer. However, we were informed by him the train did not leave until 8.30 p.m., so we had the whole day to kick our heels in.

Most of the morning was spent in a hot bath at some public baths we found in the city. Well, we seemed to do nothing but eat the rest of the day, (we were going by Mr McKinnon's motto on the way to Wyangerie: "Eat all you can when you get a chance; you never know when the next stop will be").

The train was late leaving the siding at night. We had a tremendous big train on and no one had the foggiest notion where we were bound for. The next morning we were still going. We stopped once or twice, but hunted in vain for coffee etc. At 11.15 or thereabouts, we pulled up at Bethune, where one could hear the guns quite plainly. In fact, you could see the effect of the big shells in passing through the streets.

22nd November, 1915
Arrived at Béthune, and reported at headquarters about 11.45 and were sent from there by the staff captain to the ammunition column on the bank of a small canal. We lunched there and from there proceeded to 36th Brigade headquarters on horses, after the meal.

This was a very foggy day, and after passing through Béthune again we made along the main La Bassée road, which runs due east, working gradually nearer to the guns' reports. It took us two hours walking on the hard part to reach the small Cambrin village, and it was some little time before we found the headquarters, as they had just moved into a new house in the morning and things were rather unsettled.

We found a subaltern in charge, as both the adjutant and colonel were out in the trenches, having a look at the new ground they had taken over from another battery. However, they eventually came in and were very nice, giving us a good meal and making us feel quite at home.

After tea, they packed us off to our allotted batteries – Bee to the 15th battery and I to the 45th battery, which is quite close to headquarters. On arriving at our Mess, I found the the O.C., who is a young captain, in bed with a cold, but the subaltern fixed me, and we paid a visit to the O.C., Grant Suttie, who said he would fix me up in the morning.

One man took me along to the battery, which is a six-gun battery, and we gave the Huns what they call a strafing, which consisted of four rounds of gunfire into a a town. Well, as I'd never heard a gun fired before, you can imagine my head used to go back with a click each time, and I think I jumped a bit too, but it is amazing how quickly one gets used to it.

23rd November

It was foggy again on getting up at eight am next morning, and the captain sent me along to the battery dugout with a man named (I can't remember) He is the senior subaltern, and he, after letting a few off, said, “You take charge. I will be back in a minute.” The minute passed into a day. I spent all of it in the dugout, trying to keep warm. Occasionally, the man at the O.B. would telephone us and tell us to fire, but we did very little shooting on account of the fog, which hung over the country all day. My day ended at 5 pm, and I was very glad to return to the Mess for tea.

I should have slept with a battery in the D.O. for the night and proceeded at 6 am to the observing front, but that is a pleasure to come. Needless to say, I slept all that night and never awoke to hear the guns being fired. It is rather amusing to think that the O.C. sits here at dinner sometimes and calls up the battery and orders, for instance, four rounds of gunfire, and you sit here not knowing what you have hit. That is the only thing I do not like about it: you can't tell whether you have killed any Germans or not. It would give satisfaction if you knew you had.

24th November

Today was a clear bright day with sun at intervals, and a lot of firing went on. Even the Bosches, who are usually very quiet, let off a few rounds. I was up in the O.B. during the morning, with another man. This spot consists of a ruined house, strengthened with beams and sandbags, and this particular one is at the end of the village and gives a clear view to the trenches. Our lookout was at the top, in a small room, with just enough tiles knocked off the roof to allow two men to observe. It was very interesting to me to see the whole landscape in front, with shells bursting all over the place, shrapnel and high explosives.  One would wonder how the men could live in the trenches but believe they are perfectly safe. However, before very long, shell called “whizz bangs” began to burst somewhat adjacent to our house (within 50 yards). It was a nasty sensation hearing the shells approaching and passing over and then waiting for them to explode. Well, there was no damage done to us, but I have to be broken in to that sort of work. I came back at midday from the O.B., as another man out for experience had to take my place.

In the afternoon, I went to the battery and spent my time with the junior sub. I mean the one next myself, whose name is Siggers. We had a quiet time, as the O.C. was in the trenches making a register for two guns in our new position, which is just in front of our mess. At about 3.30 the Bosch began dropping some 5 inch shells in a wood on our right and they made some noise, but I think they did very little damage. Our 60 pounders to our rear got on the job then and made a thundering noise. I always think of Mr Gray’s last words, “Drop us a line when the big guns start dropping shells near you” – well, you can tell him from me that I always feel I would sooner be driving the engine at home or doing something like that when they start flying around. Tell him too, that on the day of the big show at Loos on 25 October, our battery 48th consisting of six 18-pounders fired 5000 rounds in four days – otherwise, 52 tons weight of ammunition. Goodness knows what the other battery did.

I will try and give you an idea of the guns here for the front. I can see there are guns at intervals of 20 yards for 2 miles – 18 pounders! There are other batteries with same size guns in front of these, and behind there are five howitzers – 60 pounders and 9.2 inch, and six miles back 15-inch guns, so that may give you a slight idea of what it is like, or what it would be like when they start to work. All our guns are moved to their new position tonight, and, if it is a fine day tomorrow, the O.C. will register all our targets, which are numerous, from our new emplacement. There were a lot of British machines up this afternoon, but none of the Bosch was having any. I wanted to see a scrap.

It was rather funny this morning: a man stopped me on the way to the O.B. and said "How are you?" and I could not recognise him. He turned out to be a Jesus man called Granny Stafford. He said he had just met a man of my year called Gould, a good chap. I hope I run across him. My commanding officer is a young captain - about 28 or 30 years old. I am rather frightened of him. He looks to have a bad temper. I would sooner have an older man in charge. It will be very difficult for the first month, but it will be easier when I get the run of the ropes - but there is a lot to pick up.

26 November 1915

I will be thinking of you at Purrumbete for Christmas. It is hard to realise that it is summer there now. It's fairly cold today, with rain, sleet and about an inch of thawing snow, and the roads have been more soupy than ever.

Our colonel has just been tonight, and he tells us we're going to do a bit of strafing on Sunday and Monday. He pointed out the portion of the trench to plough up. All the guns behind us will be in it to – 60 pounders, 5.9 and 8 inch howitzers, 9.2 and 6 inch guns – so there will be a screeching noise overhead. Well, I find life out here very interesting at present, but I think the novelty should wear off very soon.

You should see the Bosch letting off at the aeroplanes. They fire away merrily, where they think the machine will go. Sometimes you see shrapnel bursting about a mile away from the machine. They seem to waste no end of ammunition on them, but do very little shooting with their other guns, and I should think we give them five rounds for every one.
Goodbye – a Happy New Year to you all,


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Diary Entry - 25th November, 1915

Another day spent with the guns. The C.O. had another day in the trenches, registering his guns in the new position. I forgot to add that the remaining two guns were moved to their new position in the early morning by Siggers, who was on duty at the O.B.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Diary Entry - 24th November, 1915

The morning was spent up at the O.B. with the C.O. – at least he took me up there and left me with Kellagher, while he went to the trenches with Captain Griffiths of the wagon line and also a terrier officer. The two hours I spent there were quite thrilling for one not used to the O.B., as the Bosches dropped about four wibangs (77 mm gun) uncomfortably close to the house and one blew some earth onto our roof. The front, which our guns cover, was pointed out to me, and I tried to memorise all the prominent positions of the enemy. After returning to the mess for lunch, I went along to the battery and spent the afternoon with Siggers, who was on duty. That evening two guns were moved into their new position near the mess.