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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Diary Entry - 17th April, 1917

Walford: Tuesday, an absolutely rotten morning blowing like hell and raining hard, now and again changing to sleet. I started badly as in the melee of packing kits someone got away with my cap and, though I saw it five minutes before I asked for it, nothing could be found of it. So I sent for my steel hat, but it had fallen off my saddle on the previous night in riding home. So I had to borrow Hoyland's steel hat. We marched at nine fifteen a.m. behind the 15th Battery but before the 15th got onto the road they had to shoot one horse as it got down and nothing would move it. It was a frightful march, though a short distance, and the traffic was very heavy and the roads beyond description. As we massed Marveuil there was a 9.2 naval gun firing from a railway mounting. At twelve thirty we got onto our ground just oustide Arras and went down to the Scarpe to water in a storm of sleet. The servants were very good and got a tent up and we had lunch - a good hot one too - in no time. At three thirty p.m. Bailly, Hoyland, Siggers, I and Sergeant Major set out with two guns, four wagons and a GS wagon and [illegible] for the guns. The road again was packed with lorries and was very bad where the German line crossed it, as the bombardment had pounded it up. However, we got along slowly through the muck and reached the position about five p.m. We were here greeted with a snowstorm and proceeded to dig shelters for the night in a trench some two hundred yards to the left flank of the battery. By dark we had formed a sort of mud hole in the trench, in the middle of which we put a limber pole, throwing a tarpaulin over the top of it. I forgot to mention that, as this was a very open position, we had the limbers beside the guns for cover. By eleven thirty we had about finished food and turned in by number,s a kit being put down and the man crawling inside. I was last man and was very cramped for room, however I was glad to crawl under a blanket anywhere as was very tired.

Bee: Moved this morning. Still as cold and wet as ever. I was orderly officer. I don't think I ever saw the wagon line look more pitiful. The horses were up to their hocks in mud and frozen to the bone. It was blowing a hurricane. When we started to pull out onto the road, horses were falling down in all directions. They seemed to have no feeling in their legs, which I don't wonder at. We were on the move at eight fifteen a.m. and marvellous to relate got all vehicles out onto the road without being bogged. We marched along the main Arras road, which was full of traffic, and our wagon line was not reached until twelve noon, although we only had 7 miles to march. It is on the outskirts of Arras. We had about three hours there and then loaded up and came into our new position. The road up was one mess of traffic, which was blocked the whole way up and this 5 miles took 5 hours to do. The road is pretty badly smashed - the front lines both run across the road. We managed to bag some truck covers and a tent on our way up. The position consists of an open bit of ground without any trenches or shelter, so we all had to set to and dig. By nine thirty p.m. we had a liuttle cover. Put a tarpaulin over the top and turned in. But it started raining again during the night, then turned to snow. About five a.m., the wet began to rise and our blankets got fairly wet. Then about seven a.m. snow began to melt and come through the sheet. So we were not altogether happy. It rained steadily all day. But we set too and dug ourselves another Mess in better ground. It was the best bit of work I have seen for some time, but, of course, nearly everything was damp. But we hope for the best, as the barometer is going up.

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