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Saturday, 25 December 2010

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.


  1. I am unable to read the word 'somnolent' without hearing the tones of Stanley Holloway.

    "Provided that things go alright' is a nice understatement.

    I wonder what happened last Christmas. Maybe that was the ceasefire where combatants met in the middle of NML and shared a fag.

    I think it understandable that they party hard.

  2. That 'provided, that is, that things go all right' is a rare moment when the mask of calm slips for a tiny instant.