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Tuesday 28 June 2011

Diary Entry - 28th June, 1916

Wednesday it was raining when I got in for breakfast and it continued steadily until twelve thirty am. After lunch, I rode over to Noeux les Mines, where I caught a bus or lorry and went into Bethune. Siggers was returning from leave and, when I enquired at the station what time the train arrived, found the timetable had been altered and the train did not get in until one thirty am. I thought there was a mistake and so waited until six pm, filling in time with a cup of tea and visiting my old billet at Rue de Poterne. At six pm I went back to the station and enquired of the RTO when the train got in and he confirmed the other report I had received, So there was nothing for it but to leave horses for Siggers in Bethune and send the Mess cart in as well, while I returned to Lorette.

Monday 27 June 2011

Diary Entry - 27th June, 1916

Tuesday, I stayed with the guns all day. Hoyland made an early start for Bethune with Claudie and purchased a lot of stuff for the Mess. As I write this, No. 4 gun of the 56th Battery (a howitzer) keeps banging off and brings down showers of dirt and filth, as well as nearly deafening you - it is only 15 yards away.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Diary Entry - 26th June, 1916

At Lorette all day. It was very quiet except for a certain amount of activity shown on both sides by trench mortars. Left batallion HQ got two very large rum jars, which must have nearly blotted them out.

Letter Home - 25th June, 1916

Dear Mother,
Many thanks for the photographs. They are splendid - and the books will be nice to have out here, to look up home now and again. We have had it very quiet as far as Boschie's shelling is concerned since we came in here and there is nothing much to write about. We had about five good warm days since I last wrote but there was a heavy thunderstorm on Thursday afternoon and the rain simply rattled down for about twelve or fourteen hours. The soil is clay here and you can imagine what it is like with even one point of rain. The 15th Battery suddenly had Palmer taken away from them and the captain of the 71st Battery made OC. That is the other battery. They gave him a send-off dinner on Thursday night and he went to take over K Battery RHA on Friday morning. I was not at the dinner but think it must have been a merry show as our OC and Kellagher were suffering from the effects in the morning.

Yesterday and today (Sunday) during each afternoon, we boosted off 800 rounds, cutting Bosch wire. It seems rather a waste as we are not going to do anything here.

The last two days and nights there has been heavy firing down south, but I don't know whether it has been the real thing. It looks as if we shall be here another winter - that is, unless something unforeseen happens and Bosche gives in, which is, in my opinion, highly improbable. There can't be many able-bodied men left in Australia now, the number of recruiting meetings they have - I see in today's paper (really two days old) that four conscientious objectors were sentenced to death for refusing to obey orders but that the sentence was remitted to 10 months' hard labour - that ought to knock all objections out of them.

Siggers, one of our subalterns, is on leave at present. I don't know when Bee will get his.

Your affectionate son


PS I hope you have had plenty of rain by this.

Saturday 25 June 2011

Diary Entry - 25th June, 1916

There was the same programme in the morning. The front of No. 2 gunpit had to be strengthened as the blast of the gun on the previous day had pushed the front forward, some of the girders supporting the roof had also broken away from their supports. Suttie and Kellagher did the shooting, observing ech day from the 71's OP, as the wire we cut was on the left of our sector. I went up to the OP in the evening and just saw the last of the rounds. There was a lot of shooting the second day. Everyone seemed to be loosing off, especially in the evening. Just as it was getting dusk, I took a signaler out and we looted a water pump on wheels from beside an old observing station, which did not seem to be inhabited by anyone. We eventually hauled it to our trench and then two signallers hauled it down to the battery in the evening. All day long and in fact for the last four days a continual rumble has been coming from the south and today has grown into a roar but could not get any news as to what it was all about. I think it must be our offensive on the Somme.

Diary Entry - 24th June, 1916

The men went on with their pits in the morning, just finishing off and making everything secure. At 5 pm, Hoyland and I were on the control top (the cupola containing telephone, tubes and bells to all the gun pits) and the ball opened soon after that hour. As soon as Suttie had the guns warm and the corrector, there were not many alterations, and we got off the first 400 rounds by four forty-five. We had a half an hour interval to enable the men to have tea, then began on the second 400, finishing off about six forty-five. Bosche was quite tame and hardly put a shell over and never even tried to find us.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Diary Entry - 23rd June, 1916

At the guns, getting gun pits finished off, especially Nos 2 and 3, in case the German should retaliate for our shooting on the Saturday and Sunday to come. The guns were also tested. That is, all their sights were examined by the fitter.

Diary Entry - 22nd June, 1916

In the morning, I went down to the East Anglian dump to get some paint and staples, the latter were obtained all right, but not the paint. It was extremely hot and muggy when I got back and was not surprised in the afternoon when at four thirty we had a very heavy thunderstorm with sheets of rain. Titler of D36 battery was in for tea, he and Suttie going on to the infantry after the storm was over. Suttie was looking very green all morning and was disturbed at ten thirty by the Colonel when he was trying to sleep the night's effects off.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Diary Entry - 21st June, 1916

At Lorrette all day and was relieved by Houland, as Palmer had been called away hurriedly to take over K Battery RHA and the Mess were giving him a farewell dinner. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and Bosche about midday sent over 15 aeroplanes on a raiding exhibition and it was quite good fun to see them coming back with our old buses following them up with machine guns, but they seemed to all reach home. In the evening, it was so warm that we dined outside on the slope just above the Mess. The 15th had their piano out as were giving the men a concert and when our supplies came up they had a barrel of beer from our canteen, which made them sing lustily far into the night. Suttie and Kellagher went down after dinner and I believe they got home much the worse for wear, about two am

Monday 20 June 2011

Diary Entry - 19th to 20th June, 1916

Tuesday with the battery all day. A very quiet sunny day. Wednesday I went to Chamblain Abbe to get the pay, then rode on to the wagon line, calling at the engineers on the way down. Paud out at the wagon line after stables, then changed my horses and came back to the battery. Ginger was out of action as had galled his near hind with a rope just above the hoof. In the evening, I went to the OP.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Letter Home - 19th June, 1916

Dear Mother
I got two nice long mails from you all this week, with lots of news. Thank Estelle for the scarf and letter she sent about the boat race. It was jolly hard lines being beaten, but I am glad MGS won and not Wesley. Beyond work going on at our position, there has been little or nothing doing in the way of shells lately. As Mess secretary, I am very interested in a new steel cupola Mess we are building but it is taking ages to put up as there was such an amount of earth to move out of the side of the hill. If one could only use a camera out here, I would be able to show you photographs of the position at different periods, showing you how different it looks from when we first took it over. I was at the OP yesterday and Bee relieved me. We take it turn about with the 15th, as our fronts are next to each othere and there is so little to be seen that there is only one man needed. Bee showed me those cuttings. Mr Allan Currie's was rather far fetched, I thought. Machine gun positions are what we are often called on to knock out by infantry and, although we fire on them and please the infantry, we never claim to knock them out.

Mr Currie may have struck one in construction, but any we have tackled you could fire on all day and would have no effect. It takes a 6-inch or  9.2 howitzer to silence them properly. I don't want to crab his letter but he seemed to make out a gunner leads a dog's life but can assure you that though we get a doing now and again we have a comfortable time compared with the poor infanteers who are bombed, mortared, rifle-grenaded and shelled throughout nearly ever day and night of their lives. Of course, we will have our share when we get on the move. No mum, we are nowhere near Verdun - a long way north - but we originally took over from the French to let them go down and assist their comrades to hold the line.

The Russians are doing good work, but I believe their real offensive only begins today against the Germans and that their other attack was just what they call a holiday attack.

No more now.

Your loving son


Thursday 16 June 2011

Diary Entry - 17th and 18th June, 1916

At guns during the day and went to the OP in the evening, relieving Claudie. All was quiet as usual. In the afternoon, Hoyland, after getting correct map reference from the Brigade, set out for the pipes at Chamblain Abbe and this time found them, but there were people joining them up and they would have been awkward things to rip up without being seen. We only wanted a few for the gun position as speaking tubes. In the evening we went to Lorrette and relieved the usual man at 15th. Sunday was a quiet day at Lorette and we never fired a round. It was a summer day, but a wind from the west was very sharp for anyone standing about.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Diary Entry - 14th, 15th and 16th June

A quiet day at the OP. We fired a fair number of rounds as sent over three for Boschie's every pipsqueak. I think Boschie was rather amazed as had been doing what he liked before. On Thursday, Siggers went off in the morning as was to go on leave that evening. It was a quiet day and I spent it at the battery. On Friday, there was nothing doing, but, thank goodness, the rain had stopped and it was finer. At six pm, I started out for Chablain Abbe, to look for some piping which was reported to be lying along the side of the road there. As the place mentioned in the chit was not on my map, I asked the Signals about it and they said that the place I was after was in front of Souchey, so was pretty sure there was a mistake in the map reference and, after searching about, returned home, getting back about eight.

Bertie, diary entries

Wednesday, 14th June, 1916

 Still showery. Oaklet and I went out this morning to have a look at our alternativr position. We walked miles - about 10, I should think - through Boveney Wood, mud up to our ankles.  Our other two guns came in last night. They and the 48th battery section form a unit detached. We heard today our Colonel has been made a Lieutenant General. I'm afraid we shall miss him very much in this brigade. Thorburn  is going with him as adjutant to the 25th division, which are expected to take part in a show very shortly. There are a great rumours of peace being declared, which are growing stronger every day, but somehow cannot believe them.

 Thursday, 15th June, 1916

 Nothing much doing. In fact it has been very quiet. The work on the  gun pits is going on steadily. They have painted the cupolas white inside, which makes a wonderful difference to the light. At last it looks as if it would fine up. I went up to the 48th and had a look around the positions. They have also done wonders.  Their position reminds me of being on the bridge of a ship.  The guns are all dug into the side of the hill. The trench connecting them is on a higher level, with trap doors to each gun it. Then there is one splinter-proof room at one end with a speaking tube and electric bell to each pit, besides having electric light at each gun. Then the Captain's dugout  is a specialty. It is a complete cupola, painted white, with a wooden floor and a trap door in the floor, which you can get into – an absolutely safe dugout.

Friday, 16th June, 1916

The first time we have seen the sun four weeks. There was guns, but still very below normal in the way of noise. We worked on the pits, played cricket and hit a golf ball about.

Monday 13 June 2011

Letter Home - 13th June, 1916

Dear Family,
I am sorry that this letter has missed the mail, but really, beyond letting you know I am still kicking, there will be no news. The weather has been very unseasonable these last seven days or so. It has rained every day - not much, you know, but just enough to keep this clay soil like pea soup.

Since I last wrote it has been extraordinarily quiet on the front and we have barely fired any rounds at all. Our position is beginning to look as if the 2nd Division were here now and we have planted all the top of the gunpits with gooseberry and currant bushes which we got from the remains of a village near by. The pits are all painted white, with different coloured linings and with bells, electrc light and speaking tubes - we might be in a private house. Besides all this, a steel cupola has been put up for the Captain and one is now being erected for the Mess.

We were also hard at work building two pits, for my section is going into another position with a section of the 15th. We have stopped work on them. A wretched howitzer battery 4.5 inch has planted itself just outside our Mess and, as No. 4 pit is barely 10 yards to a flank and to the rear of the Mess, they nearly shake the place down every time they fire. I was in the old town yesterday collecting Mess material and had a long day of it, as it is about a 14-mile ride from here. The wagon line is a beastly long way from here too - six miles - and, as we can't keep our horses up here, it is rather a long way for them to do four trips instead of two. It is time for the Australian mail to come and I hope it arrives today.

Bee has been up with what is called the suicide brigade, but I saw him yesterday. He spends three days in the trenches with the trench mortars and three days out.

The fleet did well. I think the Ruskies are doing better, if they can keep it up, but it was very sad losing Kitchener of Khartoum.

Ever your loving son


Diary Entry - 13th June, 1916

At the guns all day and relieved Claudie in the evening. Nothing exciting happened.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Diary Entry - 12th June, 1916

At ten, I rode to the wagon line and gave a few messages to BSM, then set out for Bethune at twelve pm. The ground was very heavy as it was still raining and it took me two hours and thirty minutes to reach town. On landing there, I went straight to the barber's and had a clip and met several 33rd division men there - Wadman. The shopping kept me at it until three forty five and I had to get several interpreters to help me through. After tea at a nice shop near the Hotel de France, I walked towards Noeux les Mines as had sent my horses on there. It was not long befor a lorry/bus hove in sight and I found a RAMC man up beside the driver but managed to squeeze in beside him. The lorry stopped half way so we walked it as no other lorries or ambulances came our way. Found the horses waiting for me and rode on through Hersin and Bouvigny. On going along a disused road on Lorette, I noticed two dead Frenchmen, evidently left there since the great battle. They seem to be fairly casual about burying their dead.

Diary Entry - 11th June, 1916

I went to the wagon line and paid out Siggers, having collected the money the day before. There was one of two subs horses very bad with colic. He had got at a bag of oats during the night and was found very bad at four. He was a good as dead when I saw him and they had done all possible for him, but the poor wretch was suffering terrible agony. All the other horses seemed to have fallen away a little on account of the cold wet weather, it having rained for four days.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Diary Entry - 10th June, 1916

Having gone up to the OP the previous night, I remained up there until seven fifteen. Sergeant Hedge came up with the signallers in the morning and was shown all the front. He did the observing all day but, as there were numerous thunder showers with occasional lightning and thunder, there was not much to be seen. Hoyland had returned from leave on Friday night, reaching the battery at eleven thirty. Siggers was also away all Friday in Bethune getting material for the gun pits.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Diary Entry - 8th June 1916

At nine, I set out for my horses, which were to be waiting for me in the wood near the brigade at nine fifteen. There was no sign of them when I got there at nine thirty am and, on searching the surroundings, I could not find them. On calling up on Murdoch, he gave me a chit to th Brigade Sergeant Major - commonly known as the 'pork butcher'. He was very obliging and gave me his own horse, which, he informed me, was a good mount. It was then ten fifteen and I had to be at the wagon line some six miles away by ten thirty, as the DVS was to be there to see the horses. Luckily I picked up my horse before going far and got down there in under the half hour, finding that the old boy had not arrived. He rolled up in his car at eleven and, after having all the horses filed past, evacuated nine for suspected skin disease, five of which were perfectly all right. Beyond promulgating a court martial, there was nothing else to do down there, so I returned, getting back by twelve pm.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Sunday 5 June 2011

Diary Entry - 5th to 6th June, 1916

At the guns throughout the day and, as Siggers was liaison officer to the infantry, I had to go to the OP again. I relieved Bee from the 15th and saw a nice new hole (10-cm gun) about ten yards short, which Bee told me nearly blinded him soon after I left on the previous night. All was quiet throughout the day, but Bosche seemed to be moving a lot of stuff per rail. His rail head seemed to be Bois St Bernard, right across the big plain. On coming back, I was pleased to see Kellagher, with a Military Cross - it had just been awarded him.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Letter Home - 4th June 1916

Dear Mother,
It was nice to get your letters this week, giving us all the news, and I am glad that there has been some rain. We are rather cut off from the world in this position as never get a paper. Bosche has his trenches nicely placed on the top of a high crest and he looks down on all our country from a very high knoll called 'The Pimple', which commands a splendid view of our valley. This, of course, makes movement difficult and all supplies have to come at night. Great excitement! News of the North Sea battle has just been telephoned through to us at the OP. Personally, I think when the Bosche fleet comes out it is the beginning of the end - anyway, I hope it is. There seem to have been big losses on both sides, but, although it is called a draw, I think we had the best of it as we only lost one modern boat and no dreadnoughts but Boche lost two of the latter.

Well, so much for that. I don't suppose we shall get another chance like that for some time. We have had a small shoot since last I wrote. On Thursday at four the bombardment started and evey gun in our sector started to loose off. We kept it up until  one am, firing about 120 rounds an hour in bursts of fire about every four minutes. Bosche seemed to be ready for us and put over just as heavy fire and for some reason or other our infantry did not go over the parapet and the whole show gradually fizzled out to peace and quietness again. I am up at the OB now and, although it must have been tons of explosives that were hurled at the hill, its appearance does not seem to be altered in the slightest. Well, Ma, this is the only news I have this week. Many thanks for the stockings. I shall write a joint letter of thanks.

Ever your loving son


PS I forgot to add, Mum, that there are two younger subalterns in the battery who are my seniors, so they ought to have more responsibilities than I have. It has turned beastly cold and wet today - heavy thunder showers pouring down every few hours

Thursday 2 June 2011

Diary Entry - 2nd to 4th June, 1916

On Friday, I was on duty at the guns and spent a quiet day. On Saturday, Siggers and I went to Gauchin-Legal to see the old skins. We were down there until two and lunched at a small estaminet on fried eggs. The only excitement there was that one man had helped himself to about 27 litres of wine out of a barrel where he kept his harness and we had to settle it up. The engineers had put up some new troughs with a small engine to fill two 400-gallon tanks as a supply. The whole thing has been put in very neatly. That night, on returning, I went to the OP and remained there all Sunday, being relieved by Bee in the evening. The Bosche twice put over some six 10-cm shells but they were on the crest below us some 30 yards. Some infantry men surprised me in the afternoon by walking straight up the hill in front of the OP. They were new people and had lost their way.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Diary Entry - 1st June, 1916

The morning was very quiet. It was a beautiful day and quite warm as French summer days go. At two thirty, the Captain told us there was to be a strafe on the German front line which was to begin at four five pm and the order was that we were to fire 120 rounds per hour. Everyone started at zero time and we all carried on until about one am. We fired bursts of gun fire about every four minutes. A few pip squeaks came over into our valley during the first hour but nowhere near the battery and they had enough to do with their own trenches. The whole show was a wash out and the infantry never left the trenches. All they seemed to do was grouse at their own guns for dropping short on our front. But, as our Captain observed all the shooting and also Captain Palmer (that of the 15th), it was absoulute rot. They declare there was German 77-mm battery enfilading our front line from Lievin or in that direction. I got to bed at one thirty am and most of the guns had stopped by then.