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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Diary Entry - 19th January to 4th February, 1918

The battery went up into action, relieving a section first then four guns on the 20th. I set out at six thirty for Bapaume on Ethel, arrived the club soon after seven, had breakfast and wandered down to the train. The train never appeared till ten a.m. and, although it was two hours late, it did not take long to get down to Amiens once it got underway and it was interesting going down the valley through Miraumont and Hammel country, which this time last year we had only seen from the OPs. It was all very much knocked about and one mess of shellholes, the former town must have been quite a large place, but it was merely a shambles, although the outlines of large chateaux could be picked out. Stayed at the club in Boulogne, a new institution run by the EFC and full of WAAC girls who do all the waiting. The place was packed with officers both going and coming and it was some fight for dinner. I stuck to a KRR man called Stevenson whom I found had been in Australia and knew one or two Melbourne people I knew. He was left on the wharf the next morning as was on duty and only leave men were allowed aboard. London reached at four p.m. I realised it was not Monday but Sunday so went in search of a room at Brown's Hotel Dover Street but failing to get a room went to the York Albemarle. I ran into crowds of people on Monday at the Carlyle, mostly Australian, and filled in a good deal of shopping, spending the evening at Herne Hill with Gilliard. Tuesday night I stayed at Herne Hill, then motored up to town in a Bianchi which Tom was taking to Highlands and we drove down for lunch at Highlands in very fast time. Staying a night with Barbara who, with John and Nan, all looked well. I pushed off to London on Thursday after lunch, intending to go straight up to Ely but I found Forster was in town and stopping the night so stayed in town with him, intending to go up on Friday with him. However Vosper turned up on Friday night and I stopped till Sunday morning, doing a couple of theatres with him, the best of which was Chu Chin Chow. Having left Vosper at Hammonds Court, I caught the nine fifteen for Ely, driving from Picadilly in a hansom cab. Forster met me in the Gin Palace (25 Crossley Landon) and we drove up to his wing HQ where Mim was waiting. They had a very nice house on the Ely Road and I spent a very comfortable week there, making short tours in their small car to Cambridge. Mim was looking well though as usual thin but Forster was not too bright having to retire to bed one day owing to something disagreeing with him. I was very interested in the two stations Whitton and Thetford, the latter being a beautiful ground and really model aerodrome. Capt something took me up for a flip at Whitton but it was very misty and when a Hun (new pilot) almost got us coming out of the mist suddenly we went to ground and I can't say I was sorry as it did not impress me at all except just the sensation of leaving the ground. Cambridge was very empty, though some of the colleges were packed with cadets, especially Trinity, and I don't think they would improve the inside of the colleges. I paid a visit to our old motorbike place and saw Mrs Lawrence and Lilly. They told me of Sid Bo and others who had visited them since the war and the latter said she would send me out some butter, though told her to do nothing of the sort as expect they find it fairly hard to get along with food at such a price. Left for London on Saturday evening, got a bed at Belgrave Mansions and went down to Herne Hill for an hour or two, getting to bed about one. Had quite a good trip out, meeting a New Zealander named Gilkinson on the boat, having previously met him in the club. We were going the same route so stopped at the club, our train not leaving until ten fifty in the morning. We had a topping dinner at the Criterion Restaurant on the Sunday evening. Reached Bapaume on Monday night at eight p.m., not being able to obtain a bed at the club, I set out on foot for Haplincourt and luckily got a lorry which took me all the way. Here I found Siggers and the Padre counting out oodles of money amounting to four hundred pounds, this the latter had made in eleven days with his YMCA canteen.

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