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Sunday 29 May 2011

Diary Entry - 29th to 31st May, 1916

There was nothing doing these days. Bosche sent over some 8-inch armour piercing stuff near the 15th one day, but only about 15 rounds, doing no damage. The 15th had bad luck shooting one night - they had a premature which penetrated a dug out and killed Oakleigh's servant, who was preparing his dug out for the night. I must add that the dug out had tin sides to it and only one layer of sand bags halfway up the walls. My turn came for the OP on Wednesday, but it is a dull, uninteresting front and I got very tired of it.

Diary Entry - 28th May, 1916

Suttie, Kellagher and I rode down to the wagon line which had just moved from Gt Servin to Ganchin-Legal. It is about a 6-mile ride from the red house in the wood where we always met our horses and quite a good situation, but I think the watering is not too good. From the wagon line, after having a snack with Dale, the Captain of the 15th, I went off to Barlin with the Mess cart to collect some Mess stores as we were very short. Considering the capabilities of the shops in Barlin. I got most of the stuff that was wanted, getting back to the guns at about six pm. On the 27th we spent most of the day looking round the new position as were rather uncomfortable all in one small tin shed which was very draughty and would not keep out a shot gun. Siggers and I were going to an old dug out but theCaptai and Kellagher moved, saving us the trouble. They went to the cupola at the guns.

Friday 27 May 2011

Letter Home - 27th May, 1916

Dear Father,
I got your letter in London before leaving. I hope there is not going to be another drought - it seems to be a very dry autumn. I had a very nice six days at home, but it always seems like a weekend, though I suppose I am lucky to get anything at all. There seem to be crowds of people in London, lots of whom I know. I saw a good deal of both the John Manifolds and the Rutledges and as you know Forster is a Major now and has command of the Australian squadron. What a splendid chance he had! I hope he won't lose his head. John seems to be working very hard and does not look very stout, but he will worry over the work, which is only natural as it always seems an impossible task at the beginning. Barbara is fairly well and young John in excellent form, but I think Nan looks very thin. Mildred seems very happy with her darling husband, as she calls him, and they are an amusing pair - so much for the family. I also saw Freyda in town. She does not look very bright - very thin, I thought. Aunt May is very well and has got much stouter since I last saw her. Aunt Lil seemed well but had just come out of hospital after getting rid of measles. I met Alec Russell in town and had a good chat with him about his part of the world in the south. I lunched with them and saw poor Joan. She looks very thin and ill, poor thing. She must have had a rotten time of it. Mrs Russell seemed in good form but I did not see Mr. I went to a theatre nearly every night in London but could not get to the very popular ones as they were booked up and I believe you have to get your seats a week or so beforehand. So that explains London in war time.The night before leaving London I met Reggie Brown, who does not look too well but the climate does not seem to suit him. On coming out on Wednesday I met the CO at Folkestone, he had his leave extended as he was not feeling very strong. We travelled out together and spent the day in Folkestone as the boat did not sail until five. I was very unlucky as I was grabbed by the RTO on both sides to look after men and take them to rest camps. At Boulogne we had to take them miles up a very steep hill about an hour's march and one of my poor troop fainted on the hill and died. The whole business was rather a nuisance as had to take them up to the rest camp, come back for the night and be there in the morning about eleven thirty. Well, we left Boulogne at midday and reached our destination where we expected horses to be awaiting us at seven thirty but, alas, there was no one to meet us. We tramped halfway and got a bus and found on arrival at the Mess that the battery had departed, having left on Sunday. Friday, we walked miles, hunting for them, and eventually found them in action on a nasty spot. The poor old second division had been called up with about two hours' notice, when they were supposed to be on four weeks' rest.

Bee will have told you all about it. Our experiences, I believe, were much the same. We had two minor casualties and had one ammunition wagon blown up. However, all was peace and quietness when we eventually found them at about four.

Tell Mum I am on duty at the guns tonight and there is a great wind up about an attack, which is all rot.

With best love


Thursday 26 May 2011

Diary Entry - 26th May, 1916

We breakfasted at eight and soon afterwards walked to Callons Ricourt over the two miles of steep hills to get our baggage as there seemed to be no other means of getting it. When we had collected it and got onto the main road, we awaited a vehicle to put our baggage in. At last a wagon loaded with metal ventured our way so we put our bags on and walked ahead. It eventually reached Devion at about ten forty-five. After some lunch, we set out for Houdain to see if we could catch some of the supply lorries. I humped my bag and, as it was a mile and a half's tramp, had had quite enough when we got there. We enqired of an ASC captain what chances we had and he being an adjutant arranged a car for us which we very quickly accepted. By two we had landed at Chateau Delahaye - divisional headquarters and also RAHQ. We were directed to walk to the brigade from there and after tramping through woods and across fields which seemed to be in full view of Boschie we found some batteries. We were sent backwards and forwards through the wood, eventually finding the brigade in dug outs. After a chat there, we were escorted by Todd to the position, arriving there about four thirty pm. On arriving there it was not long before we heard hair-raising tales about what we had missed earlier in the week.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Letter Home - 22nd May, 1916

211 Piccadilly

22nd May, 1916

Dear Mother,

As you see I am once more on leave, having arrived on Thursday afternoon last at three thirty pm. It was quite a good journey, except for the crowds in the train. The sea was simply glassy and we did not even have an escort - well, not above water anyway. I thought I was going to spring a surprise on everybody but had not been in the club a minute before I ran across Bobbie Russell of Carnygham who said that his mother and Mrs Chirnside were upstairs having tea and that I must join them. Well, when I got there, I found Mrs Russell, Mrs Percy Chirnside and 'my boy Poss', Bill Austin and RS Gilliard. Poss was quite the nut and had come across from Ireland full of the rebellion and of having bayonetted several rebels, which I should think should be taken with a grain of salt. Well, after tea I saw Aunt May, who seemed to be in good form, so you can imagine the news of my arrival circulated like wireless. On Friday I went out to St John's Wood with Gilliard, to see John and meet his OC, Colonely Bailey, who seems a nice sort of man, but, by the way things are run, I should think he was very strict. John eventually appeared at the double and gave us all a very average GS salute and the CO eventually gave him the afternoon off. Well we went back to their hotel in Kensington but Barbara was out so we two and Nan tried to catch her at Hatchet's restaurant without success. I expect someone hill have told you all about it. In the meantime, Foster and Mim had arrived and were hunting me up and I found them on Saturday at the York Hotel in Albermarle Street. Foster had just received his promotion to Major and sailed to take over an Australian squadron in Egypt today. Mildred looks well but is still rather thin.

I don't think John or Barbara lok very fit but no doubt they will pick up. Young John looks well and is full of spirits. Well Mum, there is not time for any more. I go back to France the day after tomorrow - that is the 24th.

Ever your loving son


Saturday 21 May 2011

From Accounts - 21st May, 1916

Battery had marching orders when having dinner at nine pm and the whole brigade was to be under way by ten thirty. They got away in the hour and a half, moving up to Gt Servin, where they bivouacked. On Monday night, they went into action on the southern slopes of Lorette, on the fringe of a wood. When they were coming in to the position, the Bosche started shelling and he kept it up for about 24 hours, with all sizes of guns, including lacramatory shells, which rather startled people at first. During the night, one gun was put out of action - an ammunition wagon blown up amongst the trees. I hear there were showers of 18-pounder ammunition coming down all over the place. Two men were slightly wounded and for the amount of stuff put over and the lack of cover we were more than lucky. On Friday - or Thursday night rather - we moved into a position two valleys further up, where we now are.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Diary Entry - 18th to 25th May, 1916

These days were spent in Blighty. The boat left at eleven and it was a beautifully calm run over, without even a destroyer to shadow us. We landed in London at three fifty pm and I went straight to  the club but as RSG was not there I went straight round to Batts, bathed, changed and returned to the club at five. As I ran into Bob Russell, his mother, Poss Chirnside and Mrs Chirnside, Bill Austin and RSG - having tea in the club, of course I had to join them and then the news spread all over town. Sid Russell was chasing me the next day on the phone but I thought it was Bob until I finally met the latter at midday and found out the real state of affairs. RSG took  me out to St John's Wood to see John and we got him off the afternoon. London seemed packed with people and one would never know there was any trouble such as war. There seemed to be more interest taken in the Irish rebellion than France. I had a day or rather saw quite a lot of Foster, Midler, Barbra, Nan and John, doing theatre with each family. Foster was very busy packing up for Egypt as he is promoted to Major and is taking over the Australian Flying Corps. On Monday, I ran across Knox, an ADC of the 47th Division. They were in just North of Vimy and got a very bad time in the attack which was reported in the paper on Monday. He had to return and he had only been home two days. I left London at seven fifty am on Wednesday and was grabbed by the RTO when enetering the station at Victoria. When coming off the station at Folkestone, I met Suttie who was just returning from leave, having been home for about three weeks as he was not well. When the troops were in the rest camp, we went off to the Metropole for the day, as the ship did not sail until five. There were three ships sailing and each one was packed. There was a large quantity of new kit and men on board. By extraordinary bad luck, I was caught by the RTO again at Boulogne and had to take about 500 men up to a rest camp a good hour's march onto some heights just above the town. One of my men fainted on the big hill and afterwards died, poor chap. Suttie and I stayed at the Louvre and travelled on by the midday train on Thursday, reaching Callons Ricourt about eight pm. To our surprise, there were no horses or Mess cart to convey us to Devion and we were rather taken aback as we had phoned from Boulogne. However, there was nothing for it but to leave our bags and set out for the Mess on foot. When we had breasted a large hill, we got on a passing bus which seemed to be the only vehicle on the road. Devion seemed very deserted on arriving there and, after scaling the iron gates to our Mess, I managed to rouse Madame and the rest of the family and they told us all the news. The Brigade had evidently moved in a great hurry and gone up into action near Souchez and they had left half their kit and mess material behind as they expected to be back in a few days. The people gave us some food and a bed each for the night so we weren't badly off.

Bertie, Diary Entry, Saturday, 20th May
The infantry Brigade here at rest had a demonstration of an attack for the Corps' [illegible] benefit this morning, which the artillery officers were asked to attend for guidance and information. About a mile out of the town they have some demonstrating trenches. This was supposed to be a successful attack on the enemy's front line, with us finally pushing on and holding their third line. You realise what a murderous thing an attack can be when you see this. There are continuous lines upon lines of men at a pace interval, marching up until within about 15 yards of their objective, and then they double. I was surprised at the number of people you had to have to carry ammunition, bombs, machine guns and dozens of other things - and all very awkward to carry. Once you are in the enemy's front line, you are more or less cut off from your own trenches until you get communications trenches cut through. There were dozens of staff people there and four or five Generals. I did not hear their opinion on the subject, but I don't think a quarter of the troops taking part would have been left alive, if there had been any opposition.

Bertie, Diary Entry, Sunday, 21st May and Monday, 22nd May

Took a church party to service at the Divisional cinema which is about 200 yards up the road.  It has been quite hot today. Had a harness inspection at evening stables. When we were halfway through the inspection, Captain Palmer turned up, just back from leave.  He is a wonder at getting a car to go and come on this side of the Channel. He left London at 7.45 a.m and arrived at Devion [Douvrin?]at 4 p.m. If he had come by the normal way, he would not have got here until midday the next day. There has been great preparations for a Divisional horse show, which the Divisional staff asked Palmer to give them a hand with the morning of, before he went on leave. After we had finished dinner, he was discussing their programme of events with us.  Well this was about 9:30pm and an orderly from Brigade came in and said the Colonel wanted to see him at once. Then went home and came back, he announced in his quiet way, "Well, gentlemen, I have some good news. Division is moving tonight. We have to be on the Houdain Road by 11 and at the railway crossing a mile away at 11.15 p.m. Away we went to tell the men, who were scattered all over the place, in bivouacs, some asleep and all quiet. In 10 minutes, the whole place was alive with moving forms in the dark. It was dark too, as the moon did not get up until 12 p.m.. It was wonderful how these fellows all went about their work so cheerfully, and we were on the road at the stroke. We had to leave a lot of our Mess stuff behind - piano and those sorts of things - but we got everything else away bar two lame horses. The people in Devion [Douvrin?] couldn't make out was happening, everybody was rushing about. The Brigade consisted of two batteries - B.A.C the 71st were left at Bully-Grenay to do counter battery when the 23rd Divs relieved us. Anyway, we three units covered about a mile or more of the road, travelling in column of route. It was a beautiful warm night and quite pleasant when the moon got up. We halted once for about an hour. I happened to be on a hill that overlooked the surrounding country, and wherever you looked you could see nothing but head lamps going and coming and the whir of motor lorries, bringing up troops' ammunition.  It rather made me think the great advance was on. It was daylight at two a.m and we marched on, finally arriving at Gouy-Servins at five a.m. It is only a small village and found it very hard to find water for the horses. We watered and fed the horses and ran the horse lines in a field where there were some trees. Our Mess cart had wasted no time in getting ahead and lighting a fire. Dickson, the cook, gave us eggs and bacon at 5.45 a.m., which I think was a pretty good effort. We could not find a house to get into so sat down in an open field. This was Monday 22nd May.

 While at breakfast a message came to say all our wagons had to go out with ammunition to Batteries of the 47th division. It was a bit hard on the men, but after they had breakfast they did not feel so tired. Oakley went in charge. Those who were left just dropped down in the grass and slept. It turned out a scorching day and about 10 a.m. found people waking up and moving to the shade. Palmer went and saw the Colonel about 11, who had come on by car and established Brigade HQ. It seems that the Hun started an attack on Sunday with an intense bombardment against our 47th Division who are on the N[illegible] front which is a ridge in front of Souchey [?].  The Hun evidently took them by surprise and our people could not get enough ammunition. Of course, our people say the Hun put up the heaviest bombardment run in modern times. By barraging our front line which he eventually levelled, he barraged the supports. And also had enough artillery to hold up principal roads behind and take on individual batteries. A pretty big order but, whatever his programme was, he defeated us all right. The infantry must have had tremendous losses, although the papers only say they are small attacks. The Hun drove us out of our positions and got our front line, which is rather important as it is on top of the rise and overlooks our support trenches. Anyway, we seem to have been brought up to do the dirty work. Captain Palmer went up to  see our new position. We are to go in the open. Four guns and eight wagons moved up this evening about dusk. Our position is in the open on the South Hill, a long way back. We are to shoot with a range of 5700 yards and we have a wood on each side of the guns. When it got dark we moved the guns in and made some small holes each side for the mess.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Letter Home - 15th May, 1916

Dear Mother,

This must be just a note, as there is really very little to write about and I have missed the mail - but as long as it gets there it is all right.

We have come out on rest to the same place as we were at when out last month. One section came out on Saturday; the centre section remained in action.They are the detached section I spoke about being in the wood, and I marched my section out yesterday evening at six pm, reaching our destination at nine pm. The division that were in action when we took over took over from us and, of course, they knew all the front et cetera and there was no trouble.

It is rather funny: I got your letters last mail which said I had written from London - well, I am off on leave again tomorrow night and am looking forward to it. Suttie is still on leave and not very well so don't suppose he will return for a week or so. Well Mum, this is a very poor letter but can find nothing else to write about.

Ever your loving son


Diary Entry - 15th to 17th May, 1916

All these days were spent in settling down and getting things squared up in the way of harness and the hundred and one other small things that have to be seen to. Siggers and I visited the mine baths on 16th and were very much appreciated. On 17th in the evening, I left for leave, riding into Béthune, starting at nine thirty pm. On the way in we passed several aerodromes, which were very busy experimenting with night flying and one machine nearly took our heads off as it rose by the side of the road. The train left at the usual time - two am - and it was very full. We had six in our carriage so there was not much sleep to be got.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Diary Entry - 14th May, 1916

A busy day as we - I mean the left section - were to move out in the evening, as Maitland Dougal's battery was relieving us. I went to the OB in the morning, scarcely knowing when I would be relieved. To my surprise, Dougal, a subaltern, and Captain Richardson - another BC - along with Kellagher, arrived at twelve forty-five for a look round and then we all left, leaving the subaltern in charge. We all went back to lunch in our Mess and then at three, when everything in the way of kits and mess material was on the GS wagons, I set out for the wagon line with the relieving battery's senior subaltern. As we were not quite ready, I had tea with him and we eventually got under way about five or soon afterwards. In the meantime, the gunners who had marched over from Bully had been getting some grog in the estaminets and, when we moved off with the gunners and dismounted men marching in front, they made themselves rather objectionable.

Soon after we got through Herchin, an empty motor lorry passed and after pursuing it some little way I caught it on a hill. It was empty and going as far as Bruay, so I bundled the whole 35 in, with Corporal Keegan in charge. After they were gone, we went along quietly, having two stops on the way, finally arriving at about nine pm, when it was just too dark to see. At about ten thirty, all the horses were settled down for the night and, on going to the Mess, I found a very merry party consisting of Bee, Claudet, Todd, Murdoch, Kellagher and Siggers, and the two brigade people made an awful noise, keeping it up until quite late.

Diary Entry - 13th May, 1916

This day was spent with the detached section and, as it rained hard and blew most of the time, I was in the dugout the greater part of it. However, I faced the tree about three times and tried to observe some rounds, but I was too taken up with holding on to do much observing. Major Carrington of the Staff came round in the evening (Major Mowbray's successor), with the DC, Greig, and they had a look at the position.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Diary Entry - 11th and 12th May, 1916

As we had asked for Mead to be spared from the BAC until we go out on rest, he made a fourth man and so we at last get a day off. I spent Thursday resting, going to the wagon line in the morning, where I found the horses all looking very well with their summer coats. In the afternoon, I visited Hoyland at the guns and shortly after getting there the Colonel arrived and we stood talking on the tram way. He asked if there had been any shelling of the Corrons this time and we remarked that there had been little or no shelling since we came in around the battery. Well, no sooner had we said that than bang whiz smack, just short of the road, two very nice bursts and we saw two horsemen emerge unscathed (we did not at the time know it was Kellagher and his groom). They had gone about 20 yards when two more came over, with 75 yards increase. These both burst a few yards short of the road and so covered both riders from view, but they both emerged again. I have never seen anything so close. When they rode through the Corrons the infantry came out and cheered them. Some heavy shelling went on on the northern fringes of Grenay and I hear a battery of 60-pounders was put out of action. Friday is spent at the guns, a quiet day, with nothing to shoot with - I mean no ammunition. I forgot to add that we were supposed to shoot by aeroplane yesterday afternoon, but it was put off as light was too bad.

Monday 9 May 2011

Letter Home - 6th May 1916

Dear Mother,

We were glad to get two mails this week and hear you are all well. There is absolutely nothing to write about. I wish you could see me in my tent now in a wood. One can almost believe one is camping out in the bush with the cuckoos and other birds chanting among the trees, but when the guns start firing it brings you to the realities of life again.

We have a detached section of two guns in a wood about a mile distant from the main battery. The wood has been part of the grounds of a huge white chateau which must have been a beautiful place before the Hun got to work on it with his guns. Unfortunately, the chateau, which was well fitted up with heaters, baths and 'every modern convenience', is on the side of the wood nearest the trenches and consequently in full view of the Hun artillery observing officers, who seem to love seeing the brick dust flying. Our position is on the drive, and we fire down this narrow strip through the timber and over the ruins of the chateau and enfilade Boschie's front line about 2000 yards away. Observation is carried on from a very tall tree - 80 foot - which one climbs by ladders put up by the French, who use it also when the spirit moves them. I was never any good at heights and, when I get up there, spend most of my time trying to hang on. I find there is not much time for glasses so use the naked eye. When perched up there the other day, and trying to get another officer up, our General came along underneath and, though he is usually keen on inspecting your front, he never attempted to come up and look at ours. The tree was too much for him, I expect. We are going to have a rope put up for hurried retirement, in case a sharp-eyed Bosch spies us. The trees are all in leaf now and the wood is full of blue bells, so you can picture what a nice spot it is.

It was rather amusing the last time I was at the main battery OP - there were four Australians observing for four different batteries: Bee 15th; Sanger 56th; Armytage (Charlie) 71st. On Wednesday when at the OP, Bosch brought down one of our aeroplanes near this wood I am in now. The pilot planed down and must have caught a wire on landing as the machine turned over, threw both men out and caught fire. The men were all right and dashed for the wood and got under cover before Fritz turned on his artillery. Of course, the machine quickly burned to ashes.

Bee is back with his battery now and I think is pleased to be back. His OC Palmer is a very nice man and very different from our man Suttie who, though considered bearable by his subalterns, is very unpopular amongst other batteries.

Ever your loving son


PS Suttie is on leave now. He went on Friday night. He has been ill with malarial fever, which seems to stick to all Indian soldiers.

I was afraid the foal would play up when it lost its old master but I am glad it is going well now. It must have been a good season, Dad, with such good oat crops and I don't suppose North Station are feeding the sheep this year.

Mum was talking about the end of the war. I must tell her about theTommie who wrote home and said, 'Never mind, Mother, the first five years of the war are always the worst.'


Sunday 8 May 2011

Diary Entry - 8th May, 1916

Monday was another nasty cold day, spent at the detached section. It rained the greater part of the day and, as I could not get a fire going without being asphyxiated, I had rather a miserable day. The chief event of the day was that the battery had a premature behind us and the side of the shell missed a detachment of ours working on a dugout by inches – needless to remark, it is a K pipsqueak battery. The new officers' dugout behind the shrine is very comfortable after the old tent, and the wire netting bed looks inviting.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Diary Entry - 7th May, 1916

Back again at the guns on Sunday night and spent a cold windy day with no fire in the dugout. General Sanders came round the position in the morning and I think that is the only event worthy of note that happened all day. Oh yes, Kellagher tried to knock down the white house in Lievin with No. 4, firing 33 rounds. The house still remains standing.

Friday 6 May 2011

Diary Entry - 6th May, 1916

At the detached section, in among the bluebells. If I had a billy can and a chop or two, I might really think I was in the bush for a change. It is fairly windy today and the temperature has fallen about 1 points or more. I have tried the observation tree but, as I am not very keen on an 80-foot drop on a calm day, I could not faced it today, with the bough swinging about in mid-air.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Diary Entry - 4th and 5th May, 1916

On Thursday, I went to wagon line and just caught Kellagher off to RA HQ to try to get a car for Suttie, who was going on leave in the evening. After seeing Buxton, Kellagher and I went down to the hospital to try Major Samson for a car, but without success. The latter man showed us all over his hospital, from the engines of the Red Cross cars to the kitchens. It took us nearly two hours to get round. From there, I went into Béthune and got some things, including a haircut, and returned without lunch. It was a very warm day and did not feel much like lunch. When I got back, Suttie had gone to tea at RA HQ and from there they were running him into Béthune in the car. Friday, I was at the guns. We fired about 50 rounds through the day, an increase on usual allowance of ammunition. We have a trolley on the infantry railway now, which comes in very useful. It makes a great pace from the guns down to the Mess.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Letter Home - 1st May, 1916

Dear Father,

Before I forget, I must tell you how splendid your glasses are. They knock spots off anything I have ever seen out here and anybody who uses them remarks on their fine quality.

Things have been what you might call rather restless just north and south of us this week and, as most of the attacks have been made at dawn or in the early morning, there has not been much rest. I think it was on Tuesday night the division on our left started cutting wire to make some raids and, after heavy firing through the day, they kept the ball rolling through the greater part of the night to stop the Bosch from rewiring his front line. Well, Fritz, feeling rather annoyed about it, sent over some gas and I believe got out of his trenches to follow it up, but our fire was too much for him and he thought discretion the better part of valour. More shooting went on on Wednesday night, but I don't think they sent over any gas. On Thursday they did some heavy firing to our south but never heard what it was all about. On Friday night there was a north-east wind blowing but a very slight one and, although the Bosch let off the gas well north of us, it drifted down behind our lines and I think frightened a lot of people. It was my day for observing and on going down the street from my billet to the Mess at five am I tried to pull a man up on a horse who was galloping down on me but he waved a gas helmet in my face and said, 'Gas'. Well, I could not nose any so went to breakfast and while there saw two other Tommies riding along with gas helmets on. Well, I never thought much about it till passing through a valley on the way to the observation station there was a peculiar haze hanging about and a funny sort of sweet smell, which was I thought an ordinary French village odour. Later, when I and my signaller got to the OP, I noticed my buttons were very black, like gun metal, likewise my signaller's and it dawned on me we had had a faint whiff of it in the valley. Some of the batteries in our brigade got a good quantity of it and it made them very ill for the rest of the day. They felt like vomiting and felt pains in their stomachs. The only effect it had on me was to give me a slight pain.

Meade our attached subaltern returned on Friday. He has been on an infantry course, the same show as Bee and I were on, only it is a three-week business now. It is good to have another man as when one is off duty if there is any shooting during the night it worries you and you think you ought to be up having a nose around and the consequence is one does not sleep much. On Thursday we fired sixty rounds with aeroplane obsrvation but the whole to my mind was a farce and a waste of ammunition, as although we started with may[sic] range and line and were fairly close to the target the chap dropped and dropped until he was about 500 yards short.

It was rather amusing last night when going to the Mess for dinner - the streets were full of Tommies and civilians when there was a terrific crump over the town, one of our 8-inch hows had had a premature. It cleared the streets pretty quickly.

I was in the town yesterday and rode about eight miles, mainly to get a haircut and some money to replenish the Mess funds but, as it was Sunday, there was nothing doing.

No more news. I hope to get your mail tonight.

Your affectionate son


PS I hope my next birthday will be spent far away from gas and in quieter times at home once more.

Diary Entry - 1st to 3rd May, 1916

On Monday, I spent an uneventful day at the guns. On Tuesday, I went to a detached section and relieved Hoyland, who went to the OP. This is a new scheme, just begun, by which an officer does guns, detached section, OP on three consecutive days. It was a nice, quiet, lazy day in the woods of Noulette but I must say I got very bored with it before night came on. On Wednesday, I had a quiet morning but in the afternoon we had a mortar strafe on the trenches from Calonne southward for about a quarter of a mile. At four forty-five, the 47th division blew up a mine to the south of us, which caused rather a disturbance for about 40 minutes. The Colonel was up at the OP all day and gave us 30 rounds to blaze away on crossroads, which we duly carried out. During the strafe, the Bosch brought down a British aeroplane, which planed down just north of the wood but, as it landed, turned over and caught fire, the two pilots escaping into the wood.