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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Diary Entry - 29th September to 10th October, 1917

The boat was to sail at eight a.m. But it did not actually sail until two p.m. And, while we whiled away the time on board, a Hun plane came over pretty high, but whether with evil intentions we did not know. As he drifted over us, the archies let him have it and I was more frightened of them than the bombs that might be dropped. He went straight on his course due west and we never saw him again. We eventually lobbed at Victoria at five thirty p.m. or thereabouts and, on going to the Carlyle Club, found Sanger there. We dined together after I had bathed and it seemed extraordinarily quiet in the streets as there was a raid on and all th people were packing into tubes or underground grill rooms. We tried to get into the Regent's Palace Grill, but people were lining the stairs there and it was packed, so we went to the Monaco - or the Anarchists' Retreat as I call it. I experienced three bombing raids my first three nights and was surprised how badly the people took it. The tube stations were disgracefully crammed with people and the majority of the people were men – Russians, Greeks, Italians, et cetera. I really think if the Hun had kept it up there would have been riots in London. They even went so far as to mob an RFC man on one of the tube stations. About the middle of the week I got the lend of Foster's car and drove Mim down to Farnham Common in it, where we stayed at Highlands with the John Manifold family. The car was a 10 hp Swift and gave a certain amount of trouble before I eventually handed it over to Foster at Huntingdon when he had returned from his Cook's tour in France. Anyway it was a novelty to have a car to drive about, especially in such times as these. At Huntingdon, on Tuesday, Foster took me to his Wing HQ and showed me over a squadron and, although I only got a glimpse of it, it was all very interesting. I tried to get back on the 10th, but there was no train from Victoria. It was rather annoying of them not to have let us know at the Grosvenor Hotel, as we got up at six a.m. I saw some good theatres while in town, amongst them, 'Maid of Mountains', 'The Boy', 'Arlette', 'Bubbly', 'Cheap'. On Thursday the train went all right and landed me back in the usual way, without any delay. While on leave, I saw Spud Ritchie and Uncle Bell and Beecher of our lot and Chettie, Johnnie Webster, Bob Giles, Clive Currie and his wife.  

Friday, 28 September 2012

Diary Entry - 28th September, 1917

Armytage relieves me early. The night had been a particularly quiet one and the weather still holds good. Am rather surprised to find some gunners making emplacements on the bank near the entrance to Maison Rouge Trench and prophesy a warm reception for them there if they do much firing. Claudet calls in on his way to the trenches and takes Hoyland with him. Then they go off to shoot at Vermelles in the afternoon. As I am to proceed on leave tomorrow, go to wagon line at five p.m. Hoyland and I have a very jolly ride to the horse lines across country all the way to Beuvey - and at a very smart canter too. Vosper and Nicholson join us at the wagon line and then we all, including Siggers, go into Bethune for dinner, having it at the Lion d'Or just off the Grand Place. Vosper did us very well with very good bubbly and I think we were all pretty merry on our walk home and made a deal of noise, it being a beautiful moonlight night. Hoyland, Vosper and Nicholson then rode on to their respective batteries, Siggers and I remaining at the Chateau.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Diary Entry - 27th September 1917

Go to the OP and relieve Dixon, the immaculate, at ten a.m. The same old routine, quite a quiet day, and Bellew gives me a short spell for dinner in the evening.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Diary Entry - 26th September, 1917

Go to Le Quesnoy chateau at ten a.m. as junior member and, although I have never been on one before, manage to pull through without any difficulty and all the junior member has to do it seems is to keep quiet until he is spoken to by the President. Go to WL afterwards and take Meade in for a referesher. Siggers had booked seats at the Dous[Dons?] for six fifteen p.m. and it turned out a fair show, the entertainment being on the Pierrot principle. The Padre met us there and came out to dinner. Then I rode a bike to the guns at ten p.m.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Diary Entry - 25th September, 1917

Spent the day at the guns. The Major went on leave by car, which goes down to meet Pelham. Vosper and Nicholson come over to lunch on their way to the left section which, incidentally, has moved up about 800 to just below the Mill dugouts near Railway Alley. At three p.m. we fire in a TM strafe for twenty minutes and begin with some smoke in front of the Bosche OPs. Hun never takes any notice of it and all is soon quiet again.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Diary Entry - 24th September, 1917

Am roused at dawn by the noise of bombing and hostile shelling coming from the direction of the brickstacks and canal. The brigade fires on Canal Rt as SOS goes up but everything quietens again after about fifteen minutes. I am relieved at ten twenty a.m. by Capt. Hewitson, but the fifteenth are always late with a relief.

Diary Entry - 23rd September, 1917

Go to the OP at ten a.m. and relieve Armytage. It is very quiet and Bellew gives me an acceptable rest at four fifteen, coming up for three and a half hours.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd September, 1917

Go to wagon lines. Hoyland away for a FGCM at one p.m. During stables, Barwick's best black mare takes colic after coming in from a fatigue and although we do all possible for it - and in fact when we think it will recover - it is seized with a spasm of pain and dies about five p.m. It is afterwards found to be caused by a number of stomach ruptures. At three thirty p.m. old Saunders and General Freddie Mercer wander into the lines but luckily they don't stay long or ask many questions and GAH got back just before the leave with a colonel whom he brought back for lunch. In the afternoon GAH and I watched the footer match between our chaps and a 46th Div battery across the road. We won 2 - 1. Major Claudet called in after tea and we rode back at six forty five p.m. but I go to dinner with the antis as John has just returned from leave. Sam and he are very fit and are all much amused with Tirpity (Sam's dog) and a kitten with whom he plays as if it were a pup. When I get home at eleven p.m. find everyone is in bed.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Diary Entry - 21st September, 1917

Go over to the four eights after breakfast to arrange about moving. Lunch with 15th and move back to the old firm after lunch where there are greetings from the officers and even Sgt. Higgins. Bellew does the 24 hours but Siggers gives him a few hours' relief during the afternoon.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Diary Entry - 20th September, 1917

At the OP from six a.m. until dawn. The Hun was very active with his Minnies on and about the Hohenzollern, looking for the gas we discharged from cylinders last night, I expect. I marked down one Minnie and left two guns on it all day. Whenever he fired, we went to gunfire with HE. He kept fairly quiet all day but other Minnies took on the work. We fired sixty rounds on him. Nothing of interest happened, except that we retired at eleven a.m. to the cellar for about twenty rounds of what I call the Russian Howitzer, fired at Braddle Keep and houses in vicinity. Hewitson and Sherman called in in the afternoon for a short time.

Diary Entry - 19th September, 1917

After breakfast rode to Cuinchy detached section and paid out. Call at Vosper battery on the way back and look at their large pit, which is finished and looks well. General Alexander was supposed to come round in the afternoon, but he never arrived.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Diary Entry - 18th September, 1917

Ride to horse lines with Sherman, then on to Les Lobes, north of Locon, for pay. It was about a five-mile slog, over hard roads, and I never got back until twelve thirty. Pay out after lunch and come up to guns at three thirty. Do Liaison with the 7th Sherwoods and do no get much sleep, as the Hun kept dropping rounds over every twenty minutes and, as there was only corrugated iron and a sand bag over my head, I did not feel too comfortable. Only one 77 mm landed near enough to throw earth on the roof and that was the last shell fired before daylight. The battery had the Colonel and second-in-command of the 5th Battalion in to dinner, as well as the Major and his orderly officer and Hoyland.

Diary Entry - 17th September, 1917

My day off. Wander up to Humanity Trench with Sherman to fire the guns on the support line. We completed some successful switches and fired a few rounds on Little Willie then came back for lunch and found Hewitson had come up.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Diary Entry - 16th September, 1917

Came down at seven a.m. from the infantry, having spent a quiet night. They had an American doctor there - quite a good chap - and, if the rest are like him, shan't mind them. Settle down for a quiet morning at the guns when the infantry major rolls up for instruction, so I gas to him on gunnery from nine thirty until one p.m. when I was pleased to see Sherman back from his trip round the trenches with Claudet, who is now acting Group Commander, Courage being on leave. As the Hun put a 10 cm shell in close proximity to our Mess in Annequin we decided to move to the place we had been preparing at the guns. Incidentally, the cook - one Gunner Dempsey - having been presented with 50 francs to buy Mess goods, thought it a good time to go on the bust, so left all the moving to be done by one man and cleared off for the day. Sherman is told by Armytage of Hewitson's return off the infantry course and he careers down to see him at five p.m., coming home in a more than pleased condition at twelve on his bicycle and hits a pile of cobble stones on his way, somewhat laming himself. The results of dining with Hoyland and Hewitson at the four eight's wagon line.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Diary Entry - 15th September, 1917

Set out for the wagon line at seven forty five as have to take a parade of three men down to Gore for a fatigue of unloading slag from a barge. Go back on Ginger across country and call in at the four eights where I find Hoyland and Colonel Beech not even down to breakfast. The Colonel and Cruickshanks who lobbed from the guns at ten thirty a.m. go on leave after lunch in a car and seem both highly elated all morning especially the latter. Hoyland and I ride back but I turn off the road to go and see Sam who is just behind Annequin north, he gives me tea and while there Nicholson and Vosper pass by on their way from Bethune. Sam tells me Gyp Currie is engaged to a Capt. Street and Sid and Jess were to be married on Friday - that is, yesterday. He has a shoot at some Albatross D3s while I am there and goes remarkably close to them. The Hun I find on arriving at the battery is crumping the 6' on the railway with five nines and eight inch - incidentally my track leads right up the railway. So the signaller and self cut across to the four eights, pick up Hoyland who came up specially to do Liaison and make a detour round behind the old factory onto the railway line.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Diary Entry - 14th September, 1917

My day at the four hundred. Do not start until six a.m. as it is doing no good getting there an hour before sunrise and, as the Major expressed his opinion that way, I fell in with his view and took the hint. The light was fairly good after ten thirty a.m. and there was a certain amount of activity during the afternoon on both sides. D36 were most amusing about four p.m: they got annoyed with a poor Minnie who fired two rounds on our front and went to gunfire on it, blazing off about sixty rounds and making the sand bags and parapets leap into space. Kemp, my servan,t brought me tea at five thirty, also a packet of Australian mail and a letter from Mum, telling me of Foster's promotion to Colonel, which is jolly good work. Sherman was up during the afternoon and informed me it was settled that I go back to the 48th Bty and the 15th have Dickson.

(I forgot to add that Major General Perrire (GOC Division) went round our wagonlines in the morning and expressed his pleasure at the satisfactory condition of all he had seen.)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Diary Entry - 13th September, 1917

Orderly officer at the guns all day after spending a quiet night doing liaison. Absolutely nothing doing.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Diary Entry - 12th September, 1917

Go down to the wagon line and arrive just in time to see the elephant being painted on the stable roof in white. I called in at the Field cashier's on the way down and ran across Bellew there. After stables, lunch with the four eights and hear all the latest records GAH has brought out from home with him. We all went into Bethune after lunch, to the club, where we ran across Captain Roberts of heavy Trench Mortar fame, with several of his subaltwerns. On the way riding home I meet him again and, as he turned off the Bethune Road, he disappeared in a cloud of dust, cantering hard down the metals but, as he is a Royal Fusilier, evidently knows no better. As my groom and I approached the battery, we noticed some shells falling about, so I walked from the shrine just near the corner of the La Bassee Road and arrived untouched, though passed two very recent shell holes in the field as you cross in front of Annequin church to the position, the old 6' hows had been going at gunfire and think they were after them. Go up to the infantry that night.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Diary Entry - 11th September, 1917

The GOC Division 46th came round the position at ten a.m. but all he seemed to do was measure out the SOS lines in the pits on the map and looked as if he distrusted us. The Colonel came round at eleven a.m. and I went up to the detached section to greet the general there, riding back on a bicycle as soon as he had gone. On the way back, I looked up Vosper and saw his new pit which was a huge erection of slag, well-supported by rails but six solid feet of slag takes some propping up. However, his props were very strong. The TM strafe at twelve thirty p.m. seemed pretty tame and the raid at eleven thirty p.m. was also a severe wash out I believe, though don't know any details as the battalion on our left were doing the job. Sherman and I put some heavy work in on the gun pit in the afternoon.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Diary Entry - 10th September, 1917

At ten a.m. Sherman met Goschen at the WL, as it was his day of inspection. Everything went well and there were no grouses, except that A and B subs horses were not very clean. In the afternoon Sherman registered for the TM straafe on Twenty Two Alley and also for raid. Before dinner, the Mayor/Major [?] of Admiral brought us over a photograph of the position, which showed up badly with tracks and blast marks but think it must have been taken very low. The 8' howitzer subaltern Parker stayed for dinner. We held rather an interesting discussion that night on traces of animals found in different countries but which are now extinct - the Dodo, pterodactyl, et cetera.

Diary Entry 9th September, 1917

Sherman and I go to the wagon line with a call at brigade on the way. We just caught the Colonel as he was crossing the canal on a bicycle. Sherman rode Wright's horse and looked for all the world like a monkey on a stick as he would stick his spurs into Ginger and of course Ginger, being human, wanted to get along and old Sherman could not manage him a bit. We bathed at the usual spot and came back after tea as I had to do liaison. However, I rode Ginger back and had no bother with him at all. The 7th Battalion Sherwood Forresters were in and a real decent crowd, very merry and bright. The Colonel, (Johnson) had just returned off leave.

Diary Entry - 8th September, 1917

Set out at four forty-five a.m. for the four hundred. It was very misty all day, except for two hours in the afternoon when Wingles could be seen with difficulty through the haze. It was very quiet - one could here a pin drop.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Diary Entry - 7th September, 1917

Returned early in the morning, having liaised with the Fighting Sherwoods, as they call themselves (really 5th Battery). It was quiet enough on the front but the Hun put some 3,000 gas shell into the back areas around Vermelle. Gnr Gannon of Vosper's section was wounded and gassed and another man who picked up the base of a shell during the day was badly blistered wherever his hand had touched his skin and as he had answered nature's call he got wounded in an awkward place. This was a sample of the new mustard gas so much spoken of. A gas NCO came up and collected - with rubber gloves on - pieces for examination, putting them in a haversack on his back - the chemical ate right through haversack and clothes onto his skin, so there is no doubt it is to be treated with respect

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Diary Entry - 6th September, 1917

Go to wagon lines during stables. Pelham came round with a Captain, man in charge of Divisional cooking. He messed about the kitchen asking silly sorts of questions about the diet sheet made out for the men. I lunched with Hoyland, then remained at the WL for the afternoon as it was rumoured that GOC Division might pay the lines a visit. However, he did not turn up.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Diary Entry - 5th September, 1917

Go over to Vermelles water tower with Sherman to register a communication trench south of Hohenzollern On the way home, we met John with his antis on the side of the road. They had just finished tea and had emptied the tea pot, which was bad luck for Sherman and I.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Diary Entry - 4th September, 1917

The seventh Battalion Sherwood Foresters were in the line and had a most objectionable and incompetent C O and HQ staff. They called themselves the fighting seventh the first night they were in but after the Hun raid on the first night they have been terribly windy. It was a quiet night but I was awakened by the Colonel at one a.m. He said in a frightened voice get up you are wanted on the telephone so I rushed along and was rather astonished to hear our guns were firing for S OS when not a sound could be heard from the Huns. The infantry said one of their sentries thought he saw the Huns forming up for another raid so he sent up the SOS. I remained at the guns all day - much air activity and three Huns were brought down in pieces towards the Bassée direction. Monty, the major's little petit chien, rather amused me before dinner. He had dug up a bumble bees' nest and was amusing himself by playing with them as they flew around his head, just like a cat toying with a mouse.