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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Diary Entry - 4th January, 1917

Walford: The column moved off with the 71s leading and ourselves following at nine a.m in a pelting rain. We had had to start getting ready about seven thirty as all the wagons had to be run out of the ditch and straightened up on the side of the road. When we had got underway, Hoyland and Bailey went on – no Bailey and Hoyland had gone on the day before, when we left Outrebois, but the former came back on Wednesday evening and Hoyland stayed up at the position with the people we were relieving. It was Siggers turn to go on this time and he went on as soon as we got underway, leaving Bailey and myself with the battery. Everything went 'swimmingly', in every sense of the word, till midday when the rain eased off and we steadily got nearer the firing line and onto bad roads. As we approached Louvincourt, someone sprinted up to me and said the mess cart shaft had gone, which completely defeated my reckonings, as I had expected the off wheel to go, it being very wobbly, with two spokes gone. There was nothing for it but to go forward and report to Bailey and then rush back and see what could be done. After doing some quick reckoning, I spied a stretcher in the cart. We got it out, took off one side, borrowed a drag rope, (very thick) from D 36 and lashed it to the butt of the shaft, with a thick rope. Well, this served as a makeshift and saved us from starving, as this vehicle had all the mess kit in it. So I left it at that and told them to get along as best they could. At three thirty p.m. tthe head of the column reached Bougincourt and went out along the road to Aveluy. The wagon line for the whole divisional RA was on a small hill halfway along the road to the above-mentioned village. I forgot to add before that Cruikshank, when he had returned from leave, had been packed right off to this bleak spot on 31st January to erect Nissan huts as billets. Well we were lucky being the first part of the column to step onto this virgin ground, which was thoroughly soaked with rain, and we got into our position very quickly. The 41st Brigade being the last to come in were not so lucky and many vehicles got bogged at the entrance coming off the road so that it was about ten p.m. before some of the batteries got in. In my opinion it was damned lucky some of us got in and the staff should have been choked off for sending us into such a place. However, we got there, and by ten p.m. the place was a mass of mud – like a swamp. We were in a hut, sharing it with the 15th, and turned in as soon as we had had something to eat, with clothes on, ready for an early start in the morning. Only one GS wagon had the misfortune to be bogged coming in, but that, unluckily, had all the stuff on it that was to go up to the guns the next morning, so off it all had to come and be dumped there, with a picquet on it.

Bee: There are only two lieutenants and a captain here. Their OC is on leave. They are a very contented lot and seem to never leave the Mess. A brute of a day – rained like fun this morning. The captain took me to the OP after having breakfast at ten a.m. The way to the OP is right in the open all the way and very terrifying as there are so many tanks and aeroplanes lying about, which are all zero lines. The OP consists of an open trench with a fairly decent dugout but no shelter, even from rain. We arrived there in a perfect sweat, more from fright than anything. Just as we started to shoot, it got very misty and we could only just see zero and barrage lines. The Mess is a very small affair. You have to get into the corner before creating the table. Once the latter is up you can't move. There is very little accommodation for men – only room for 30 and pretty cramped with that number. In the early morning seems the quietest time. The rations come up in the evening and the Hun seems to know. There are any amount of dead horses and bits of wagons on the side of the road. The last quarter mile is the worst, which is through virgin mud and ammunition and rations, brought over on pack horses and one or two generally get bogged. They sprinkle a good many shells about, which fall very close.

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