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Monday, 16 April 2012

Diary Entry - 16th April, 1917

Walford: Monday, a sunny day, the Colonel was to start with battery commanders at nine thirty a.m. for Roclincourt to meet the CRA and look at positions. Jack BC[?] took a subaltern with him and went with Bailly. It was quite a cavalry stunt and, as there was some open country, we came to some ditches which gave us good sport. The roads were thick with transport especially pack mules and there was lots of mud about. We found Newcombe who was taking General Saunders's place, the latter having gone to the corps. We set out - the party consisted of two Colonels with their BCs and subalterns - across the old front line, which, after Courcelette, looked clean country and not much strafed. The ground was very heavy and we soon got onto a duckboard track which took us well up over a crest from which we could see the much talked of Mouchy, which had been taken a few days before by the tanks and cavalry. Walking on, the ground sloped away and we came to a slight valley, the ground sloping away very gradually just leaving a small plateau for our guns. Over the next crest one looked down on Bailleul, just over a railway embankment Opp[? I have to go back through the past few weeks and check all place names, when time permits] was right over that and Arleux en Gohelle to the north and Gavrelle to the south. There were also over this crest a lot of old German gun positions. The CRA allotted the areas to the brigade and the Goschen soon gave us our plot of land and we came right on the right of the 15th Battery with a line of duckboards running between the left and right hand guns of each battery. After choosing the platforms from among the shell holes, we ate a sandwich and wended our way back to the horses in Roclincourt. On our way we spotted Kellagher's battery and went over to see him, but he was at the OP, but we saw Major Jones of the 70th Battery. After a drink, we walked on, nosing round a derelict tank on the way. The ride was even more sporting going back as we went overland as much as we could and Bailly and his carriage horses got very blown. Ball of the 15th Battery was riding a remount which was badly broken and he tried to jump it over a trench and the animal simply fell into it, also stumbling over itself on getting out. As we got home at four p.m., it commenced raining, continuing heavily with a high wind through the night. Cruikshank and Siggers had been out filling up with ammunition and Hoyland had been over to have wagon lines allotted by Pelham (Staff Captain RA). He and the other battery officers lunched in Arras and returned about five p.m. in the rain. All preparations were made for an early move in the morning.

Bee: It rained hard all night and the mud in the horse lines is awful. Horses have been getting bogged going to the water troughs and in some cases have had to be shot where they stood. It is bitterly cold. This afternoon we had to fill up with ammunition, and the dump, which was an army dump, took a lot of finding, as the countryside is one mass of dumps. The OB and colonel all went up to reconnoitre the new positiions. The order came in about filling with ammunition and the only officers in the brigade were doctors, so we got the orders through them. It rained all the afternoon again. Really it is most depressing. We are Messing with the 48th and you cannot imagine the crush.

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