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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Diary Entry - 22nd March to 8th April, 1916

These 17 days or so were spent on a course run by the 1st Army at Liettre, the instructor being Major B B Crozier, with Captain Turner of '1' Battery RHA to help him. Liettre is a small village just south of Aire, which is distant 4 miles. The day's work started at eight thirty and continued with several breaks till six. It was divided up with battery drill, lectures, buzzing gun drill, marching drill and several other little items. On Sunday, the school had leisure to do as they pleased and, on the second Sunday, I walked into Aire with four other men. It was a warm, sunny day and we had raised quite a thirst by the time Aire was reached. During our time there, I saw a number of Australians who looked very healthy and strong and their physique seemed to catch the eye of my companions – and in fact they surprised me. We remained in the town for lunch and tea, returning slowly in the evening. The chateau and its grounds at Liettre were very pretty and the building was dated 1704 but, as it had not been inhabited by the Baron for 15 years, things were going to pieces inside. The building consisted of two big towers connected by a two-storey building. The rooms were very large and had large French doors and windows, which made the place very draughty, mainly from the fact that half the windows had been broken by one course having a snowball fight. In the front there was a moat with a bridge which had been one of the draw type, I think. There were large grounds to the place, with huge trees in them. I was luckily billeted in the chateau, in a small room adjoining another bedroom. It was quite comfortable, though at times very draughty, owing to the fact that a door without a latch on it persisted in blowing open. The weather was kind to us there, although for the first week it was inclined to snow and the wind was very strong and cold. On the 8th the IV corps people got into the bus and were taken to their respective headquarters. On coming through division, I enquired of my battery and found that our mess was only a few yards from the bus, so unloaded all kit.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Diary Entry - 21st March, 1916

A very uninteresting day spent at Lorette. It was very misty all day and inclined to rain. I fired about nine rounds at the Bureau de l'Octroi, with little success, and then gave it up. It is a long day as, to get to Lorette by five, you have to get up soon after three thirty am and you can't get away until nearly six thirty pm.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Diary Entry - 20th March, 1916

I hear Bee goes on leave in the evening so go across to the 15th Mess to see him but have to make two trips and finally catch him in the afternoon. After having tea at the 15th, we walk north to look up Sam McCaughey in the 1st Division next on our left. We find his battery, but he is away with a detached section and we had to go about another mile and were just giving him up when we saw him waving on the horizon. He looks very fit, and we yarn with him for about half an hour then hit out for home, as it is getting dark. I have had quite enough when I get back about seven.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Diary Entry - 19th March, 1916

Been at the guns all day and worked hard at the Morse code most of the time as I'm going on Crozier's gunnery course next week.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Diary Entry - 18th March, 1916

Up at Lorette all day. It was a fair day and I managed to spot the heavy battery, which I proved to be the one shelling our battery. You could see the gun pits plainly (of the left section). The right were behind the buildings of the electric works. It had been reported that the battery was receiving a few shells and so I sent down two or four times, each time the guns fired, and they reported the shells having arrived a few seconds later. We only fired about eight shells all day. Mead was with me and we shot them for his benefit.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Diary Entry - 17th March, 1916

In the morning, Siggers and I went up to the battery and, on returning via the Corrons behind 18th London battery, ran across some very well insulated wire, with three strands in it, lying in the open, with one end buried in a trench. We reported our find to Kellagher and captain. After lunch, the former said, 'That is just the stuff we want – we will get it tonight.' At two thirty, Siggers and I went to the wagon line and then on to Noens-les-Mines for a ride, picking up Hoyland at the WL. That evening, after dinner, Siggers went to the wagon line and changed places with Hoyland. Kellagher, Hoyland and self at seven captured 200 yards of wire and returned unmolested with it over our shoulders to the Mess. It will be excellent for the bells and light at the next position.

Diary Entry - 16th March, 1916

At eight a.m. I was aroused by a large crump which seemed to have burst just outside my billet. Three or four more came over before I discovered that they were bursting right up at the battery. They looked about 20 or 30 yards over and I did not worry much more about them. Splinters about five pounds in weight were falling very heavily around the billet. At breakfast, I mentioned the fact that shells had been bursting in the vicinity of the battery and so, after breakfast, the Major strolled up, as he usually does. After breakfast, I saw Bates, who told me that the battery had had a warm time, but I thought it was exaggeration when he said they all fell within a 30 yard radius of the battery. About ten thirty, I strolled up and, on approaching the position, one could see nothing but chalk smothered over everything. Suttie and Kellagher had all hands on, filling in shell holes. Some of the hits scored were one plumb on the officers' dugout, which bulged the passage in a bit, one on an ammunition dugout to the right of 4 and about seven other hits on the position from No. 2 onwards. The wires were blown to pieces, especially the new electric ones, which had just been put up, and the place was a mass of big 5.9 shell holes. No one was hurt, luckily, but I think a few were shaken. It was simply providence that they never hit a dugout full of men or a gun pit with ammunition in it.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Diary Entry - 13th, 14th and 15th March, 1916

Monday there was nothing to report. Tuesday, I was at the guns and the Bosch expended about 350 rounds of 4.2 and 5.9 hows on the field behind us, a lot of rounds were used on trying to find the 60-pounders. They eventually found them and gave them a lot of pills but, beyond shattering a house in their vicinity, they did no damage. In the afternoon, they were at the 18th London, directly behind us, and gave them a very bad time but only knocked out one man and had many close shaves to pits but did not actually get a direct hit. Wednesday was spent at the O.B. It was a splendid day and I could see for about 20 miles but, as we had gone over our ammunition allowance on Tuesday, I could not fire. I must add that for some reason of GHQ's we are cut down to 5 rounds per gun per day .

Friday, 11 March 2011

Diary Entry - 11th and 12th March, 1916

Nothing of interest happened on the 11th. On Sunday, we gave a large dinner party. The guests were Colonel Kerwin, Major Powell, Waldren, Barham, Luiller. All day it was expected that Kellagher had to go to the 9th as captain – in fact, he had reported — but at dinner Luiller announced that he was to be captain of the 48th, which cheered him up immensely. The evening ended about one am.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Diary Entry - 9th and 10th March, 1916

Siggers and I went to Béthune at three-thirty pm to get a haircut and do a little shopping. We left for the guns again at six thirty, having got everything we wanted, but got lost in the dark and, although we weren't far out of our way, we had some trouble to get on the right track again and finally got home at about nine. I sleep at the guns that night, and it snows again in the night. Nothing unusual happens during the day.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Diary Entry - 8th March, 1916

In the afternoon, Suttie, Cottew and I went up to the trenches to follow the infantry wire, mark it and staple it into the walls of the trench. We went right up to the front line and out into the saps and had a look over the top but, to my mind, you could not see much. In one we went to, we were only 25 yards from Boschie, and it was supposed to be a listening post, but Suttie made a devil of a noise out there, not knowing at the time. On our return, we had two rifle grenades fall unpleasantly close to us, and I was covered with mud from the burst each time. We were going along once and there was a noise like a shell coming and I ducked, but someone said, 'There she goes,' and, on looking up into the air, I saw one of our trench mortar shells floating on in the blue. It made a splendid bang on coming down.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Diary Entries - 6th March and 7th March, 1916

6th March, 1916

My day at the guns, and am very comfortable in the dugout, with a nice warm charcoal fire. The only thing doing  is lighting up the pits in the afternoon with electricity supplied from a 12-volt accumulator, which proves a great success.

7th March, 1916

A cold day on Lorette, with a bad light all day. During the fog, I go out on the Notre Dame de Lorette battlefield, to see what is to be seen. The power of shellfire opened my eyes. The top of the hill is ploughed up completely in a series of large holes. There were also lots of relics of the fight in evidence, such as dead Bosch and Frenchmen lying about.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Diary Entry - 5th March, 1916

Another cold, bleak day, it having snowed during the night. I stay at the Mess, while Hoyland and Siggers wander off nine miles to Béthune to buy food and supplies for the Mess.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Diary Entry - 4th March, 1916

Rise again at five to five, this time an hour late. Dress hurriedly and rush off with Hoyland, without breakfast. It is snowing and beginning to get light, so we trot the three miles without a stop and ride right up to the trench. On hurriedly climbing the hill through the snow, Hoyland loses his way and we wander about the hillside in the open for about 15 minutes, and finally see some people laying a wire on our right and make for them. It is Lee Warner and his telephonists, and Hoyland at last finds the OB, and we spent a very cold day in the damp dugout, as it snows most of the day. When it finally clears at four, there is a splendid view, but it is too cold to admire it for long.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Diary Entry - 3rd March, 1916

I rise at three to meet the centre section. I asked to be called at four but have no watch. It is very dark and have wretched walk up to the guns, stumbling into shell holes and over wires, and find the French getting everything ready to move. Having no idea of the time, I rush back to the crossroads and meet the guns as they are coming down the road and take them straight up to the position. After an hour's chaos, the ammunition is unloaded and everything gets away and we run the guns in, as soon as the French get away, which is just before daylight.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Diary Entry - 2nd March, 1916

Kellagher rises at four to meet Maasdorp at the crossroads, with the right and left sections and, as the French are late in getting out, it is daybreak before the two guns are in the pits - but luckily very misty. In registering the left section, I got a taste of the Bosch's shelling, as he drops 5.9s and pipsqueaks very close to number six gun pit.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Diary Entry - 1st March, 1916

Maasdorp returns from leave and we meet him on the way down to the wagon line. Suttie and Siggers leave their bed at four thirty in the morning to go to the OB, which is exactly five kilometres in a southerly direction. After breakfast, Kellagher, Hoyland, Cottew and self wander up to see our position which is today occupied with the French 75. The gun is a ramshackle looking affair to the casual observer, but when you see the gun firing you can understand why it is called the wonderful 75 mm gun. These guns all looked dirty looking weapons but all working parts seemed to be kept well oiled and their breech blocks look neat bits of mechanism and are very easily opened. I think what strikes one most is the lack of hand wheels et cetera, which we have on our gun, and also the way the gun traverses, sliding on a hollow shaft across the axle, the whole piece moving across in a parallel line. The position is simply outlined with shell holes, and one gunner showed us the shield of his gun, which had a direct pip squeak hit on it. The one redeeming feature of the position is that there are some good deep dugouts, but the pits are very flimsy. There are hundreds of fuses lying about and, coming back, we picked up one or two. One only has to live here a day to see that the Bosche must have a lot of artillery on this bit of front, as he shells all day.

Diary Entry - 29th February, 1916

The night was rather uncomfortable as, at about four, the Bosch put over simply coveys of pip squeaks in the vicinity of our billet, but never came dangerously close. However, when one has been on rest, it takes some time to get used to it again. Everything was packed ready to move in the morning, but at twelve Suttie came back from the wagon line, having seen General Sanders, and told us we were going into action here, in a position further up the crest. In the afternoon, I had to take charge of the funeral party, as Bombardier Balmer, was one of my section, and at two thirty we met a padre from the Eighth Infantry Brigade and put the man under the turf. We expected to be shelled during the proceedings, as the cemetery is surrounded with shell holes — as are all the fields in this vicinity.