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Wednesday 30 November 2011

Diary Entry - 30th November, 1916

Bee: Hard frost last night and kept on freezing all day. Up at the guns. After having orders and cancelling them once or twice, we finally heard that we are to start on our way to rest tomorrow. Let's trust it is true. Our rest officially starts tomorrow, whether we go, or whether we don't.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Diary Entry - 29th November, 1916

Bee: Was relieved on time by Kershaw and got back to Mailley Maillet quite early. Hard frost last night and very cold this morming. The Hun paid a lot of attention to Mailley today. He was shelling it just before I got down and also had straffs later in the day - and put some unhealthily close to our Mess. Two direct hits in the next door house to us. The street was full of infantry and GS wagons, but he did no damage. I spent most of my day tidying up papers and writing. It was horribly foggy all day. It gets dark now at four p.m. Walrond was very excited as he and Thorlburn go on leave tonight. They expected to go by car with Carrington, the Brigade Major, but the Corps are so tired that they have gone out to rest and left our RA staff in sole charge, which stops Carrington from going on leave. The Mess is very small in numbers. Bromley and I were the only two for dinner. Had a letter from Mim. Rumour says we are to now be kept in here until after Christmas, which is rather hard.

Monday 28 November 2011

Diary Entry - 28th November, 1916

Bee: Another very cold night, hard frost. I must get an eiderdown, I think. Came up to the guns with Bromley, a very thick fog. He went to the OP but came back soon after lunch as could not even see our support line. We are not responsible for any front these days, the 37th Division are holding and we merely fire in barrages. But, out of six guns, only have two in action. We put up a barrage this morning, on Munich Trench, merely a fake, what they call drilling the Hun, making him go to his dug outs. Then, when the time does come, we hope he will do the same thing. Has been a very quiet day on the whole. This evening about five p.m., the Hun has a small organised show on our trenches, but he got just as much back. Wilman went to hospital today.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Diary Entry - 27th November, 1916

Bee: It was a quite decent day, hard frost last night. I spent most of my time tidying up the stationery box and sorting papers. Also discarded a few things out of my kit. After lunch, I rode over to Acheux and visited the Field Cashier and drew money for all officers in the battery. The roads were in a frightful mess. They are just a sea of mud and full of holes. The main street in Acheux was being completely redone. There were 1,000 men and five steamrollers working on half a mile of road. I went across country and round about the ammunition dumps the mud was simply frightful. I came back in time for tea as it was starting to rain. Wilman does not look very well this evening. It is touch and go whether he goes to hospital or not. If he does go he will probably never get back to the division as we are out of area at present. Orders came tonight that all previous orders re going out to rest are cancelled.

Letter Home (Bee) - 26th November, 1916

15th Battery, RFA

Dear Mother and Father,

Well, I am back with my Battery again, after a rather rotten trip but not nearly as bad as going over. MIldred made me up a parcel of food, which came in very handy. The leave is going better now than when I went over. They have made more preparation and are making it more of a business and are giving ten days instead of eight, which is rather unlucky from my point of view. I must say I enjoyed my leave very much and mapped my doings out according to my time. I spent the best part of one day at the Base, at the Officers' Club, and met Ronald Cumming, who had just come out. In fact, the division he is with had not arrived. He is on the staff and had only come over to make preparations. I also met Jack Russell who looks very well but has had a bad time. He has had an abscess in his mouth. The poor boy had been sitting there four days, waiting for his boat to sail.

What great rains you have had. The spring must have been wonderful. We are still having a lot of rain and, in recent shows, men have been taken prisoners through merely getting bogged in the mud. It reminds me very much of a fly-paper. You get bogged at night and the Hun comes out and bags you. Of course, we get prisoners the same way.

I missed the last show. It took place while I was on leave. There is no doubt it gave the Hun a great surprise and caught him unawares. Our people got no end of loot out of his dugouts. He was evidently convinced that nobody could possibly move during such weather. We find the Hun telephones wonderful things and are proud to say we are the possessors of one or two taken at Beaumont Hamel. We have great hopes of going out to rest shortly, which I hope happens. A rest and leave for the men will work wonders.

Walford got away for his 3rd leave the night before last. I heard from Jack last night. He, poor soul, has been sent to another school. He must be getting sick of schools as he has been to so many. He also tells me he has no chance of getting leave for six months. There is a new order out that no-one can go on leave until they have been in the country for six months.

We have been very unlucky in our mails lately. Have only had one in the last month but, when they do come, they ought to come in large numbers.

Very best love from your loving son


Saturday 26 November 2011

Diary Entry - 26th November, 1916

Bee: It rained very hard all last night and everybody was flooded but Walrond came up fairly early and I got away after lunch. Bromley and Kershaw went to the front line to witness a practice of a barrage as the infantry said we had been shooting short, which proved incorrect. They said everybody was walking about on top as the trenches were up to your waist in water. In places there were only about 100 yards between our fellows and the Huns.

Friday 25 November 2011

Diary Entry - 25th November, 1916

Bee: I went up to the guns this morning. It rained hard most of the day. Had a very quiet time on the whole. Major Suttie was up there most of  the day, but went down in the evening. The Mess was rather uncomfortable as it leaked in a good many places. The gun pits were about two feet in water and most of the dugouts were full of water. We had a great rag with the Brigade as they always ring up the batteries when they have a dinner. So we had an organised straff on our own. Each battery rang up in turn and asked them some absurd question. The fellow asked if they would take the batteries' time and said the enemy were shelling our trucks heavily with varey lights.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Diary Entry - 24th November, 1916

Walford ends his first war diary on 23rd November and does not start a new one until 10th December.

Bee: I was not relieved until seven thirty p.m.owing to some mistake on the Brigade's part, which was rather rotten as it was so cold and had had no breakfast. Came down to the Maillet Mess and went and had tea with the 48th. Walford goes on leave tonight.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Story Behind Bee's Diary Entry

The story of the 100 men Bee refers to in today's diary entry can be found here. Many thanks to dne1 for the link. It contains a fascinating tale.

Diary Entry - 23rd November, 1916

Walford: Siggers and I walked up to the guns together, he going up to remain the day and myself to see Br Beach about a Bosch telephone, for which I paid him 80 francs. It was a good sunny day, and I wandered back to the Mess for lunch.

Bee: Went to the OP this morning. It is rumoured that we are going out to rest for six weeks at Abbeville, which sounds all right. There was quite good light today, for this time of year. We had quite a lot of fun sniping, but the climax came when I hit a man. I felt very sorry but, of course, the same would have been done to me if I had been going overland. I hardly knew the country, it had changed so much from the shelling. There was a very hearty barrage put up by our people this evening. They were trying to relieve 100 men who are isolated and have been fighting for their existence for three days. Two of their party came in the night before and explained the situation.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Diary Entry - 22nd November, 1916

Walford: Siggers and I walked to the wagon line, it being a beautiful morning, after the sun had broken through the fog. We had gone down as the Colonel was having a walk round the wagon lines to look at the horses. He arrived soon after we got there and walked round the horses and seemed fairly satisfied, although he did not like the kind of lumps rising on them, which take a lot of work to get off. Suttie joined us soon after he had gone and told us they were trying to get him off to England to be an instructor at Brigadier Kerwin's school, but I am glad to say he refused to go. We walked back to Maillet together across the fields. In the afternoon, Suttie went to the guns and we stayed at the Mess. Murdoch came round in the afternoon, to arrange about going on leave together. We have to fight our way to Havre. He stopped to tea. It is exactly a year since I joined the battery and, looking back on it, it seems at least three or four years since Bee and I arrived in France.

Bee: A very foggy morning. I came up to the guns and relieved Kershaw. Everything is much the same but still plenty of mud about. One of my Corporals has been badly wounded. Corporal Cundall has gone Sergeant.

Monday 21 November 2011

Diary Entry - 21st November, 1916

Walford: a damp, foggy day. In the morning, I rode over to Acheux, to draw 500 francs for the men going on leave. Called in at the wagon line on the way back and found the sergeant major in bed with a bad neck, his blood being out of order. In the afternoon, Walrond brought Bee round to the Mess and they stopped for tea. Bee had just returned from leave and related to us what a rough journey he had received in trying to get home. There seemed to be no proper leave train running.

Bee: We were in the train all yesterday and finally got out at Acheux at eleven a.m. I made my way up into the town and found a place where I got a cup of coffee and an omelette. Then I waited about until I got a lorry, which was going towards Maillet. The roads were simply blocked with traffic and very cut up. The second man in the lorry had to walk in front of his lorry going through the town. We passed the RHA coming out of action. I saw Palmer walking in front of his battery, which only went a few yards and then stopped. I got back to the Mess about one p.m. and found them in the same place, Claudet having started on leave the night before, Kershaw at the guns, Willman in bed with boils, Bromley and Walrond at lunch. The latter has a crown up and all captains in command of six-gun batteries have become majors. They all wanted to know why I came back so soon and seemed to be in great spirits. I had to tell them all about my doings and I in turn heard all about the show. The Hun must have got a great surprise at losing Beaumont-Hamel, as they seem to have found it as if he intended to be there for the winter. Kershaw got three Bosch telephones and a mortar dial sight. The telephones are wonderful things and are in use. I went round and saw Walford.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Diary Entry - 20th November, 1916

Walford: Monday, as Siggers and Hoyland had to go and see Carrington and report to him about things up in frontline while they were F O Os, the former did not reach the guns till midday. So I lunched at the position and came on down to the Mess about two. Suttie who, by the way, has been promoted to Major, was presiding at a court martial. It was a cold, windy day and I found Cruikshank and Hoyland in the Mess having their everyday sparring match.

 Bee: In the train all day. Finally got out at Acheux.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Letter Home (Bee) - 19th November, 1916

British Officers' Club
APO No. 1

Dear Mother and Father

Leave has now come to an end, and I am on my way back to the battery after having had a very good time.

The weather was very cold, and it snowed yesterday. I saw a lot of Australians at the Carlisle Club. It is a regular meeting place. I saw Alan Bell and Adrian Ritchie. They are looking splendid and I expect will be going out again shortly. Bill Hunter is in hospital. He had a small operation but looks well. I spent a little time every day with the dentist and was fixed up by a man called Morris in Park Street, a New Zealander whose patients seemed to be mostly Australians. I needed a lot of things and thought I would get them all under the same roof and save time, so I went to Harrods. It took me three hours. I told one man it was harder to find your way about than in the trenches. His reply was, “I hope we treat you better than they do there”. My goodness, they are slow. I had lunch with Mr Brett one day in the city – he, poor man, has just had his house robbed. The burglars took everything that was silver and most things had been given him before he left Australia. I saw Claudia Brown, whoever she might be now I don't know, and she told me about Reggie who as usual has fallen on his feet again and has a staff job in Salonika I think. Alec Mackintosh has at last got over on leave, after 18 months. He looks well but did not have much time as Ella had a few days off and I hear the fat is in the fire as they are not allowed to get married. Poor Mim Knox, I saw her the day Bill had departed for the front, and she was rather sad. Had lunch with Barbara, who came up from the Streeters. She looks splendid. She was quite excited when I told her where Jack was. I did not see John Streeter but hear he is a great boy. Oh, I have had my photo taken and have asked Mim to fix them up for me. I saw a lot of her and she's working hard in a canteen. I went down and saw it – a splendid place, most wonderfully comfortable, and the colonial troops are awfully lucky to have such a place.

Well mum and dad I intended to send you something but could not think of anything that might be of use, but nevertheless I thought of you. I sent Aplin a pipe, Mr Gray some cigars, addressed to dad, which I hope he will clear through the Customs.

Love and a Merry Christmas to you all,


Diary Entry - 19th November, 1916

Walford: Sunday. Relieved Cruikshank at the guns, receiving a lift up to the Sucrerie in an ambulance. We fired on a brigade barrage line during the day. Otherwise everything was quiet. Major Carrington looked us up towards evening and told us all sorts of rumours about going out to rest. From about six thirty p.m. at three intervals of a half hour Bosch searched the tra way on the left of the Mess with his 5.9-inch gun, simply showering our dugout with mud and, although he had several within 10 yards of us, he did not drive us into the cellar. Later on, towards evening, he put about 12 over in front of the battery, three of them being only a few yards short, beautiful big holes they make too, almost as big as an 8-inch.

Bee: We went alongside the pier about eight a.m. and fought our way to the R T O's office where I found our train did not sail until ten p.m. So I then set off for the Officers' Club, which is a long walk from the wharf but a very homely comfortable little place. Had breakfast and a clean up and hung about inside all day. The place was crowded with officers as no leave boat had gone out for five days. I met Ronald Cumming, who had just come over with the staff of the Australian 3rd division. He looks very flourishing. I also saw Jack Russell who has been waiting five days to get across. We had a good dinner and got down to the railway station in good time, to find the RTO did not want to see us until eleven thirty p.m. It was frightfully cold hanging about there and we finally stayed there until two a.m. And some others were then taken back to the middle of the town by motor lorry as our train was starting from there. We got back there, to find there were only a few third class carriages and the rest trucks. I and another man managed to find a third carriage, with some cushions which we shook the worst of the dust off and made fairly respectable. I had a blanket with me, which I found very useful, as it was so cold. We paddled along at about 12 miles an hour, stopping for hours at a time in some places. Finally finished up at Acheux at eleven a.m. I was very glad of Mildred's parcel of food, which she supplied me with before starting, but I could not get a drink for love or money, which was rather depressing.

Friday 18 November 2011

Diary Entry - 18th November, 1916

Walford: At six there was a strafe on Munich Trench and we were trying to take it. I had to sit up at the window and look for green flares, which would mean we had gained our objectives. It was too misty to see anything but showers of red lights and golden rockets from the Bosch, the former calling for artillery support, the latter a signal for their gunners to increase the range, probably owing to their shooting short. The attack was a failure, which was not to be wondered at when we heard Hoyland's report, on his returning from doing F O O with the infantry. The snow gradually turned into rain and a fast thaw set it.

Bee: It was snowing in London today and very cold. The train was reported to leave Waterloo at four p.m. Had lunch with RSG and left the Carlyle Club about three p.m. Arrived at Waterloo to find that the train had not even come into the platform and crowds were waiting to get onto the platform. The train now is not due to start until four thirty p.m., although they say four p.m. I met an Australian officer in the carriage – a South Australian machine gunner. We got straight off the tram onto the boat, which was a paddle steamer. The boat was simply packed, not a spare inch of space. But it was bigger than the one we came over on. And they did give us a meal, which was very acceptable. We sailed about eight p.m. By tipping the steward, I managed to get a shakedown and got a little sleep, but the atmosphere was very thick. There was a tremendous bump about four a.m. but I never discovered what we hit.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Diary Entry - 17th November, 1916

Walford: Friday. It is a cold frosty morning and I start out for the O.P. with Siggers and Suttie who were both going to the guns. There was a bitter east wind blowing straight in the loop hole and observing was one of the worst games to be at. However, about lunch time, a few Bosche strolled about in the open and I sniped at them with HE, the result proving successful as there were no more seen after we gad fired 30 rounds. At night the signallers and I got a good fire going in the dug out and managed to keep ourselves from freezing. There was a little snow during the night, beginning at about midnight.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Diary Entry - 16th November, 1916

Walford: A glorious sunny morning as a result of the frosty night, so Siggers and I walked to the wagon line. When we crossed the railway at Beausart we found a Nieuport Scout in the field. It had evidently had to land through engine trouble and crashed on the rough ground through landing. It was a neat little thing, just like a miniature plane, with a very powerful engine in it and only room for one. We lunched with the 34th Brigade WL officers, then rode back on my horses across country' we stretched the horses' legs a little. The Bosche lost an aeroplane over Couin, he being brought down by ten of our,s who surrounded him. In the evening our spirits were well in the air owing to the fact that leave had opened and Bailey had his name sent in.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Diary Entry - 15th November, 1916

Walford: Wednesday, Hoyland relieved me about ten and was very envious when I got down to the Mess and saw all Siggers' loot - 4 good Bosch telephones, complete, 1 Minnen Werfer dial sight, 1 Mauser pistol, about .33 calibre. Siggers related his experiences which were all very thrilling and as for Gr. Beach, a signaller, who had a bullet glance off his eyelid and go through his tin helmet, it seems miracles will never cease to happen. Bosche pitched his nasty 6-inch gun shells about the town during the day and one fell about 15 yards in front of the brigade, which rather put the wind up them. Siggers had an exciting time coming back as some Bosche had come up out of their dug outs, which had been missed in the advance, and held part of their old front line and were sniping our people who had gone forward. He naturally had to make a detour to get back home.

Monday 14 November 2011

Diary Entry - 14th November, 1916

Walford: There was another attack, just to clear up the line, at six a.m., but how it came off I never heard. Bosche took a dislike to the O.P for about 20 minutes and put a few 4.2 hows very close. Captain Bromley was with me at the time and we took refuge in the dug out. About ten, the battery told me I could come in, so I went straight down to the battery and found that Cruikshank had gone, so I had to stay at the guns. We fired a lot of different barrages and continued through the night. Bromley, Walrond, Suttie and self had quite an amusing evening, all crowded round the fire. I was pulled out by the orderly sergeant before midnight to tell the No. 2 gun what I had already told them once, and my blood was a little bit heated. A Bosche aeroplane flew very low over the position about midday - you could see the pilots quite plainly, and a lot of people in other positions were loosing off rifles at it, but it looked about for nearly half an hour.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Diary Entry - 13th November, 1916

Walford:  Monday, at six fifteen a.m. we attacked in a dense mist. It was rather a pity that the tanks were recalled, but they could not possibly have got through no-man's land as believe it was as much as the infantry could do to get across it, it was so boggy. Cruikshank and I were at the Mess, Siggers had gone over the top as liaison officer fith Flinn of the 50th, Hoyland and Suttie and Bailey were at the guns, the captain being in the trenches trying to observe. At ten, prisoners came rolling in, all looking very pleased with themselves, some smoking cigars and looking quite at home. About 1,500 to 2,000 must have come through during the day. Of course, there was very little information but things seemed to be going fairly successfully, except for the 3rd Division on our left who had failed to get into the Bosche frontline, owing, they said, to the mud. At midday we were shelled by 4.2 experimental shells and, as they were aiming at the crossroads near our Mess, we retreated to the Brigade chateau cellar and were nicely bracked but they eventually swept back to the crossroads again. Late in the afternoon, I was told that I had to be at the OP not later than six p.m. so went up to find Cannover of the brigade awaiting me. I had three signallers there, one to look out for SOS rockets, and we were to be there till morning.

Flinn wounded seriously and it is thought that he will not recover.

Major Goschen took over the brigade from Major Bridges, who went to the 33rd Division.

Bee: Spent the morning at Harrods. Bought most things I wanted there. Had my photograph taken and then went to lunch with Coo and had a great old talk. Afternoon tea with Aunt Lill and then to the dentist. Expected to go to the theatre with Gilliard but he evidently had to go away for the day so went on my own to Theadore and [illegible], a splendid thing. I fairly cried with laughter. Frank Finney is wonderful and I liked Madge Saunders. There was a frightful fog and it took a lot of finding your way about as very few taxis were running. People were walking in front of taxis with hand lamps and then they kept bumping into the curbstone. I met Moorman coming out of the show and we came back together.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Diary Entry - 12th November, 1916

Walford: Y day. I relived Cruikshank at the guns and on going up saw tank tracks all over the place and three tanks behind the Sucrerie, eight in front of the battery behind a hedge. Suttie and Bailey went up and registered the battery for the barrages of the attack and we shot well into the afternoon. Hoyland relieved me at five and on going back I heard the tanks were all retiring home as the ground was too heavy for them. I saw one down near Maillet just moving off. It had two 6-pounder guns, one each side, and was lit by electricity, even having headlights.

Bertie: Spent the day with Mim, Aunt Lil and Coo.  Mrs Norman Armytage heard I was over and so got me to go to dinner in the evening and answer all questions. I was fairly stormed, Mrs and Edna talking at the top of their voices. There was a colonel there who seemed very amused I excused myself directly after the meal.

Letter Home (Bee) - 12 November, 1916

Batts Hotel,
Dover Street,

Dear Mother and Father,

Well, I am on leave, which is the chief thing, and I am very lucky to have it as it has been stopped for some time. Only specials given. My O.C. and Brigade have been trying to get me leave for months, but the heads would not give it. I think they must have got tired of having my name sent in every few days and let me go for their own peace. I am in great form and very fit. The weather has taken up a bit too, which is good.

Had an Australian mail yesterday. From all accounts the rain must have done a lot of damage, but the after effects will be good. I last wrote two days before I left France. We have been waiting for fine weather the last five or six weeks to pull off the biggest show yet known, but the weather has been so bad they have been putting it off from day to day, which was rather trying as you never knew when the heads would start. There was great excitement just before I left. The show was off. One battery will go out for a week's rest, per brigade. We won the toss in our brigade and duly got under way, all feeling very happy. Of course, we knew we could not get away from the mud, but the noise and duty would not worry us. We got nearly to our appointed rest camp (merely an open field) about 10 miles from the battery position when a motor-bike orderly caught us and gave us a chit saying, 'You will be in action tonight about six p.m. Poor men, when they heard the news their faces did drop. It was very hard luck as it meant no rations, wet clothes and we would not get the guns in till late. But there it was. By this same orderly my leave warrant arrived. I was never so surprised in all my life. The O.C. made me buzz off right away, in case they tried to stop me, which was rather decent.

I had a rotten trip over, but you can put up with a lot with leave in front of you. It took three days travelling. Of course, you have to take your chance with trains as therer is no special leave train. Meals were the hardest things to get. All my meals consisted of omelettes comprised of six eggs, but I will know better going back and take a supply of food with me. These old goods trains go a bit faster than you can run and are continually held up. The channel did for me. It was rather rough and the boat we came on was rather small. No sleeping accommodation. We came by Havre and Southampton. We used our life-belts as mattresses, which took a little of the hardness out of the deck. We were put onboard at six p.m., expecting to sail at any minute, but did not get away until six a.m. next morning. I was very so-so next morning, a rough sea and an empty stomach did not help very much and I lay on the deck not caring much whether submarines or mines hit us. I made up for lost meals on arrival here. I have seen Mim, Aunt Lu and Coo and I am going to them for the day, then on to Mrs Norman Armytage to tell her how Charlie is. Mim is looking better than when I last saw her but seems to be working hard. There is great excitement about Walford and his Military Cross out here.

I saw Mrs Philip Russell and she told me she is going out to Australia so she will be able to tell you how we are.

I am going to try to give you a scheme so as to be able to tell you in which part of the line we are, without getting into trouble from the censor, We are now in what is known as the Serrie front. In my letter, I will put a capital on the first page and a dot over letters in other words which make it up. For example, if I write, 'S, Tell Estelle I got a letter from her this week and was very pleased' and put a dot over E, r, r, i and e, you will be able to read, 'Serrie'. I hope you will be able to follow the scheme. It will always be the name of some town or village.

I shall stop now and try to write again.

With love from your loving son


Friday 11 November 2011

Diary Entry - 11th November, 1916

Walford: I forgot to mention that yesterday was W day, the day before XY and Z, the two days of bombarment and eventual Z, the day of attack. So, Saturday, X day, a thick misty morning, looking as if it had not made up its mind whether to rain or not. Hoyland and I took it easy and in the evening I had a bath at baths for infantry, just over the road from our Mess.

Bee: Started out early, tried all sorts of ways to find oalnley [?] but failed but in the afternoon Gilliard traced him through the hospital to his house. Went to the dentist. In the afternoon, went to Hampstead and saw Bill Hunter who is in hospital. He was [illegible] at St John's Wood and has had rather a nasty time. In the evening, Mim, Nan, Gyp and I went to Drury Lane. It was a wonderfully staged show but absolute rot. And, to cap things, we could not get a taxi after the show.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Diary Entry - 10th November, 1916

Walford: Friday, I went to the WL with Bailey who was on his way to Doullens. We took a cut across the fields and had quite a good gallop in the warm sun, which had dried the surface up wonderfully in two days. The horses were not at their best after the work and bad weather they have been through and one horse in my section had pneumonia so the vet destroyed it as it was suffering so. After lunching with the 34th Brigade officers, I returned about four, having taken a circuit towards Acheux, with Murdoch. When I got back, I found that someone had to go up with the ammunition on the train and, as Siggers had gone out for some exercise, I strolled over to Collincam's siding to report to the station master, who I found in a dug out. The train was before time, and the engine unhooked as soon as she arrived and the petrol engine, which was in the middle of the train, started up. I climbed up inside the armoured cab and away we went, making what seemed to me inside a deuce of a row. After leaving the points from the siding, there is a small grade downhill and we fairly accelerated down there. I was beginning to wonder whether anyone had inspected the line to see if any shells had fallen on it. As soon as we stopped, I got out as imagined that by this time all the Bosche guns were concentrated on us. It was a lovely moon light night and very pleasant to be out in. We got all ammunition unloaded without a mishap.

Bee: Went out early, rushing round to Moss's and then to the Carlyle. Met Sam and Gilliard and yarned away. Found Uncle and Ritchie were doing light duty out of town. Ritchie came up in the evening and looks much better than I expected him to be. Heard Unc was taking a draught to Havre tomorrow. Went to the dentist and saw Mrs Philip Russell. Alec and Joan were out. The Russell family are going out to Australia. In the evening we went to the Hippodrome - With Flying Colours!' - and had a good laugh. Little Titch was most amusing and there was one of Bayn's father's sketches, which was very amusing. The characters were true to life.

Diary Entry - 9th November, 1916

Walford: Thursday, I came down from the guns with Hoyland who had been up at the OP as liaison officer. It was a beautiful summer day and Siggers came up to the guns. In the afternoon I found my revolver was rather rusty so had a few rounds at bottles against the garden wall of the chateau with some success but did not get the pit mark out of the barrel.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Diary Entry - 8th November, 1916

Walford: Wednesday. Went to the guns relieved Cruikshank. As I passed behind the Sucrerie they were dropping 8-inch into it. The weather was showery with a cold wind blowing. Most of the morning I spent bailing out the Mess, lacking corrugated iron on the roof to catch the water. As a result of the deluge, the deep trench we had dug at the back of the guns had fallen in.

Monday 7 November 2011

Diary Entry - 7th November, 1916

Walford: Tuesday. Went to the RE dump at Beausart and also saw the Staff Captain of the 99th Brigade about baths for our men. It rained continually through the day, increasing to a deluge towards the evening and going on all through the night.

Bee: I borrowed Armytage's horse, as mine was knocked out, and started off at seven p.m., after having had a meal. It was a glorious night, bright moonlight. On my way, I met a fellow called Cane, Australian who was at Ipswich and is in the 11th Division, Tank Mortar, attached to us. Got to Louvincourt about nine p.m and found the railway station after a great hunt and found that it was only a narrow guage line train, not sailing until five forty-five a.m. After inquiries, we found an RE shanty who sheltered us for the night. Thank goodness I brought a blanket. We managed to get a little sleep and got out of the wind. We were the only two there up until eleven p.m., but men kept coming in all night and, by the time the train started, there were 20 there. The train duly arrived and it was horribly cold, not a seat to be had, so stood on the footboard for an hour and a half. Stopped at some place and got into another bigger guage. Went in this to some other place, arriving at eleven thirty a.m. Pushed out of this and were told would not go on until one thirty. Found an estaminet and had an omelette and coffee and then came back to the station and were pushed in trucks on a goods train and arrived at Abbefield at five p.m. It has rained hard all day. Here the RTO said that we could not get another train until eight p.m. Went up the town - quite a decent sized place. Had an omelette and coffee and shave, then got back to the RTO, who was not quite certain what time the train would start. He stopped us going by Boulogne. The train started at nine thirty p.m. We had a carriage to ourselves and got some sleep. Went along at a crawl and arrived at Le Havre at five p.m. without getting a thing to eat, which made us feel rather miserable. On reporting at Havre were told the boat would leave at six p.m. and were put into a motor lorry and were taken to the wharf. Here we found a lot more officers and men. The RTO did not condescend to see our passes until six p.m. but kept us standing in the wind and rain. After an awful pushing and shoving, we finally got onboard, where we learnt that the boat would not sail until six a.m. There were no bunks or food; you camped wherever you could find a space on the deck. Very hard. We did manage to scramble a little food - cold ham and dishwater. It was blowing a hurricane. She started to move at daylight and fairly bumped about. No breakfast, which, of course, did me in. People were sick all over the place, and I was as close as I could get to being sick, curled up on a very small position of the deck. I did not care what happened, shivering with the cold. We arrived at Southampton at four p.m. after loitering about and got to London at six p.m after a very miserable trip and losing a day of our leave. Went and got into mufti straight away, as was filthy and had not shaved for two days and only had GS boots on. Had dinner at Batts and then went and saw Mim.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Diary Entry - 6th November, 1916

Walford: Monday, Hoyland relieved me at ten a.m. and Cruikshank and I came down to Maillet, to the Mess. I did not get much sleep as Kershaw was to unload 1,600 rounds from the train and only had 12 men to do the job with - consequently he was up till day break. The 15th were all off for Thievre for a week's rest and left 5 men at the position to look after things and we were to ration them. It had rained most of Sunday night but was quite a good day now.

All the men except four left the guns last night and took two guns with them, for the purpose of training layers. It was a brute of a night. Of course, we got our full allotment of ammunition - four hundred boxes and we only had 12 men to shift them. They had a very thin time as it took from eight p.m. until five a.m. to do the job.  We were all packed up by eight a.m. and moved off to wagon line by eight thirty. Picked them up at eleven thirty and got underway for [illegible]. Took everything from the wagon line in the way of shelters, as there is nothing at our new place. Walrond and Claudet and Bailey rode on to the new lines and I brought the battery along. We were well over halfway there when they came back and told us that all was cancelled and we had to be in action tonight. It was very disheartening, as all the rations had gone on, which meant that the men would not get a meal until late tonight. As we got the news and were discussing the situation on the side of the road, my leave warrant came so I did not mind so much and went back with Walrond to RA to find out the cause of the quick return. All we found out was that the army had made up their mind to push on 9th, unless an exceptional amount of rain fell. But I would still go on leave. Had lunch at RA and then went back to Maillet. My warrant said Boulougne, and I wanted to know what chances I had, as it is supposed to be closed, but I got very little information. The train leaves from Louvrincourt.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Diary Entry - 5th November, 1916

Walford: I relieved Siggers at the guns, a very heavy wind blew all day. Bailley came up and cut wire for two hours before lunch. We only fired about 270 rounds with the only two guns that remained, the others being all away at the IOM. Cruikshank came up in the evening on his way to D36 to do Liaison Officer.

Bee: Had a peaceful night last night. It rained very heavily and has been blowing hard all day. Heard this afternoon that we - 15th Battery - are going out to rest for a week, which is rather exciting but sounds too good to be true.

Letter Home (Bee) - 4th November, 1916

Dear Mother and Father

We have not had a mail for over a week now and think that there must have been something doing in the Channel. Leaves are all at a standstill. My Brigade put in for special leave for me but had no luck. It got as far as the GOC of the army, and he returned it with a polite note at the bottom. It is the men I feel sorry for as they really do want leave now.

The weather is shocking. Tommy only has one set of clothing and boots and is out in the wet all day and night. I feel awfully sorry for them, but it can't be helped, the work has to be done and there's an end of it. But we, of course, can generally get a change somehow.

We have been expecting to take part in a show here for the last few weeks and fancy the weather has put it off. It takes you all your time to walk in an ordinary way so there's not much chance of an infantry attack. When I was in the observing station last doing duty I saw a good example of what it must be like on the Hun's side. It was just after daylight and they were walking over the top very nearly to the front line, taking for granted that all the British gunners were still asleep, which is generally the case, taking them on the whole. The trenches must be very bad when a man does this, as a machine gun is a very nasty thing to run up against. These fellows had sticks to help them along and even then they made very slow progress. I had some rather good fun, from my point of view and most of them when shot at dropped their load and got back into the trench very hurriedly. He has made things very nasty for us at the Battery position this week, hit our Mess twice and knocked in two gunpits. We had one poor fellow killed. The wall of the pit was knocked in two days ago but no-one was hurt, then he had the bad luck to be hit just over the heart by the splinter, like the finder of a nail from a shell that burst 30 yards away, which killed him. We also lost a very good chap, a signaller, two days ago. It always seems to be the best men who are killed, but a signaller is always more or less under shell fire and runs far more risks than the ordinary gunner. I had a letter from Jack the other day. He tells me he is OC of a section in the DAC. We are in hopes of being taken out and sent down somewhere about where he is. Our gunners are about worn out and due to have a spell on the line where it is quiet.

Same old cry, no news. With very best love to you all.

From your loving son,


Friday 4 November 2011

Diary Entry - 4th November, 1916

Walford: Saturday I again drew RE material on the way to Achieux for pay. This time I found quite a queue waiting and it was some time before I got inside. Reached the wagon line - what is left of it, as 110 horses have moved to Thievres owing to shortage of water - about twelve and paid out about twelve thirty p.m.A good sprint across country brought me back to the Mess about one forty-five. In the evening Hoyland and I dined with Kellagher where we had a good dinner and felt as if we had had a tonic when leaving as K is always so wonderfully cheerful. It was raining before we left.

Bee: We have not had any mail this week - the subs must have been very busy in the Channel. Kept fairly fine today but did not dry up much. They got another direct hit on our Mess at the guns but did not do much damage except chuck the sand bags about. Up at the guns today. We fired 1,000 rounds on front line wire and had to pull the gun out of the pits. There was Hun plane flying very low in front, which made a great nuisance of itself. The anti-aircraft were evidently having a game of football as they only fired 10 rounds at it. The Heavies had half an hour's bombardment this afternoon, and the 18-pounds chimed in during the last five minutes and the old Bosch fairly shooting SOS rockets.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Diary Entry - 3rd November, 1916

Walford: Friday. In the afternoon I went to the Field Cashier to draw pay but when I got there found he was closed owing to the heavy demand for money and had to go away to collect more from the bank. In the morning I drew some RE material from Beausart.

Bee: A little finer today. Suttie and Bailey from the 48th were round to dinner last night. This afternoon Claudet and I went out to look for Palmer and eventually found his battery, after an hour's walking - and an eventually found that his right hand gun was alongside the battery where we first asked if they knew where they were. He has a most uncomfortable place to live, mud all around, no billets and no corrugated iron to live under. Their job in the attack is an hour after zero they are to limber up and go into action in the second line no matter what happens. Siggers went up in a plane today to have a look at the country. He is to be liaison officer and goes with the [illegible].

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Diary Entry - 2nd November, 1916

Walford: Returned from guns, it rained most of the day, nothing else worthy of note.

Bee: Heard at twelve last night that the infantry had picked up an RFA Bomb., killed, and had brought him to Battalion HQ. This proved to be poor Woods. He with four others had been killed by one shell and an officer had his leg broken. Our luck is out all right, and it seems to be always the best men who are killed. The gun position is in a filthy condition, hard to walk.

Diary Entry - 1st November, 1916

Walford: Wednesday went to the guns in the morning at last a fine day Bosch threw a lot of shells, from 8-inch downwards, about, but not much damage was done. The 15th lost a signaller during the day up the trenches in Legend Trench. He was found dead with an officer wounded and another signaler - evidently a 5.9 had hit him.

Bee: Guns today. Was stopped going along the Succerie road. The heads at last have declared it dangerous as you can be seen from Grandcourt, so no-one is allowed along it until dark. Fairly fine today, but rained in the evening. The Hun is beginning to throw a lot of stuff about Euston dump now and kills people in Southern trench every day. He has got it registered to a tee. I wish they would put this damn show off; the casualties in the trenches must be very heavy. The train was not much of a success tonight. About four p.m. the Hun gave the line and avenue blazes and broke the line in three places. Bomb. Woods has been missing since twelve today, he was along the F.O.O line, I am afraid he must have been killed but trust not.