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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Diary Entry and letter Home - 9th January, 1916

Diary Entry

A very quiet day was spent at the guns, with quite a nice sunny day and no shells, not even a whizbang. No. 6 gun pit is finished. It looks really fine and would take a lot of penetrating.

Letter Home 

Dear Mother,

It has come round to mail day once more. It is jolly hard to remember what day it is out here, as one is the same as another.

Boschey has been treating us rather badly lately with shells. I think I told you last week that he knocked out our two brigade headquarters. On Tuesday he started with a very good line for our battery with 5.9s and crept right over the crest, until he pulled one right against No. 48 aiming post, which is about 50 yards in front of the gun pit, and then for some unknown reason he stopped. One of our aeroplanes appeared on the scene and I think it must have frightened Boschey, as a plane can always see the flashes of the guns and, if they once do that and we get a bearing on their battery, we get our heavies onto them and try to lay them out. That same afternoon, Boschey got a 10 cm gun to work on a hows battery behind us and gave it to them hot. Again, they made wonderful shooting. There were a few casualties – two killed and seven wounded.

It was very interesting to watch it all from our telephone dugout. They got two direct hits on a house there, and you could see the poor men hurrying out like rabbits.

On Friday, the 10 cm gun came a little closer to us and was playing over our No. 1 gun and the new Horse Artillery battery, who only took up positions the night before. One shell luckily just shaved the roof of No. 1 gun pit. It went through a wall three yards in the rear and exploded, wounding two men. One poor chap was very badly hit and looked pathetic going past. We were lucky, as we had a lot of men working on No. 1 pit when they burst a shell over them but the bullets all went over their heads. Three more men were in the garden at the time, and the shrapnel fell all round them but did not touch one of them. On Saturday - that is, yesterday - Bee and I were up in the O.B. and spent two and a half hours in the cellar, as Boschey was combing our hair with 5.9 inch hows – and he even got one into the sandbags at the base of the building, but it did not explode. The 5.9 is a dear old thing. You hear it wobbling through the air for about 10 seconds before it arrives. It bursts on percussion, making a regular noise like K-r-r-r-upp (the maker) and a tremendous lot of black smoke is made when the shell explodes. That is why they were named coal boxes, I think. The splinters from these shells fly in a radius of about 350 yards, so that if you are 100 yards away and lie flat you are safe enough. Today, I have had a quiet day at the guns for a change. Tomorrow, I go to B├ęthune on an Infantry course, the same kind of show as Bee was on, so I'm not expecting to enjoy my fortnight much, although it will be a change from the firing line. One soon realises how the men's nerves go under shellfire, although my experience is only slight.

Well, there is nothing but shelling in this - but there is nothing else to write about much.

Walford

5 comments:

  1. 'The 5.9 is a dear old thing' brought a smile to my face. However, other than that, this is a quite subdued, even depressed, letter home.

    The fact that he is getting an insight into the reactions to shell-shock is interesting, in itself. Last night, I came across a site of colour photos from France during WW1. They were interesting to look over, but I could not find any relevant to EWM's situation/location.

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  2. Just thinking of receiving this letter from a mother's point of view with two sons in the danger zone. How terrified for them she must have been.

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  3. Yes, that is in the back of my mind all the time. However, I would prefer the letter and for it to be accurate than 'for a mother's eyes'.

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  4. Hello Blip, I hope you had a good time in Argentina. I mentioned to Julie a while back that I asked mum what she thought her grandmother felt when she got these letters and she said, 'I'm fairly certain she didn't think any of those three boys were going to come back alive.'

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  5. My impression, re the mention of shell shock, Julie, is that most of the time my grandfather tries to keep it all pretty factual and maintains a fairly chipper mood in the diary and letters, but just occasionally a little glimpse of his mostly well hidden darker fears comes through - as when he said something about this Christmas being one he'll remember for years - provided he gets through all right. Most of the time he doesn't allow such a possibility and all its implications to get too near the surface of his mind, I suspect.

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