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Saturday 31 December 2011

Letter Home (Bee) - 31st December, 1916

15th Battery, RFA

31st December, 1916

Dear Mother and Father,

This is New Year's Eve and tomorrow our rest ends. We start on the Wallaby again and have about a three-day trek.

Christmas Day passed off rather quietly, but the men did themselves very well, a little too well in some cases, but the officers want to be a little more blind on these occasions. It is not much of a day, from the officers' point of view, as, after you have visited the whole of the subsection dinner and drunk all the usual healths, you begin to find a little goes a long way. The Sergeants' Mess was most amusing. The Wheeler, whose trade is a wheelwright - commonly known to the Tommies as Spoky - was really on his best form. It was rather a sad day in our billet. The old lady who owned it died - of heart failure, I think. She was about 60 odd and used to work night and day and had asthma. We had a communion service here on Sunday and I thought of you all at home. On the same morning, we took a lot of battery horses and NCOs out for a run over the point-to-point course, to try them, but found the going so heavy it was practically impossible. On Tuesday, we ran a lot of our brigade events off. We drew the same battery in everything - Walford's lot - and they beat us at everything that morning. In the afternoon, we played them at football. Soccer is the game they play. The feeling between the two batteries was very high. These two teams had played each other before and tied, after playing another hour. Well, this day we won, and the excitement was intense. There is still another match to play. Our time is pretty well taken up. In the evening, we had a lecture on horse management by a veterinary major. He was very careful and did not commit himself. Wednesday, we had our brigade sports. It was simply a perfect day. Walford had bad luck as he was sent off on a course beforehand. The officers' jumping was our chief excitement, which I am glad to say I managed to win. In fact our battery did rather well, as at the time there were only three officers here and we all got a place. Our men's team won the section jumping hands down . The star turn was the best turned out gun team and drivers. It was a wonderful show of what can be done. I never thought they could make such a splendid show under the conditions. After a very severe test the 48th turnout won. It was a very good show and we came an easy second and don't think we did so badly as a battery.

Thursday, the RA sports were on. There was such a heavy frost last night that most of the events had to be postponed. The most amusing turn was the mules race, bareback. They all started away like racehorses, but 30 yards was all most of the mules intended going. Six of them stopped dead and turned round, which, naturally, stopped all argument. The first two did the course without a hitch and galloped like horses all the way. There were lots of events like tug-of-war, wrestling on horseback, boat race, consisting of eight men walking a bar straddle leg and walking backwards, VC race, relay and foot races. The divisional ammunition however came off best in most of these events. Tonight I heard from our brigade major that it was impossible to get Jack into this division.

Friday, the Corps and divisional general came round and inspected us. Saturday, we were beaten in the final football match by the 48th. They beat us rather badly. Today, Sunday, we had the rest of the events of the RA sports. The ground was very heavy. There were 12 starters, with very good horses, and there were 13 fences. My horse got away from himself after the first three fences and knocked himself out. Anyway, at the sixth fence, horse and I came to grief. Up till then we were running fourth. When I got mounted again, they were all three fences ahead of me. At the finish, I came in fourth so, on the whole, I had a good ride. There was an ex-jockey riding who came in second.

Had no mail this week. With very much love,
from your loving son,

Diary Entry - 31st December, 1916

Bee:  I have been going hard all day with the new box respirator. It takes a long time as you first of all have to explain how to put it on, then fit each one and finally finish up by putting them through a lacrimatory room of tear shell. Got through over half the Battery, which was not bad, as also had to take [illegible] of each one. This morning the rest of the events of the Brigade sports were run off. I was very late and nearly missed the bus. The scurry was first event and, instead of being 4 furlongs, it was nearer a mile and the going was very heavy. I rode a pony and he was outclassed, but we finished up fifth. The Point to Point was next. There were twelve of us who started a 2-mile run of 12 jumps and very heavy going over stubble. I had a good mount but he wanted more training. The pace was very hot to start with and my mount got away at the first and was running fourth when he hit and fell at the seventh fence. When we picked ourselves up, they had got well away. But in the end we finished up fourth - but must add only jumped two fences on the home run. Scott, the Trench Mortar Captain, won; a DAC man, Wystan, ex-jockey, came second. I would have had a good chance, if I had not had a fall.

Friday 30 December 2011

Diary Entry - 30th December, 1916

Bee: Sat up until twelve last night, to fix canteen accounts, and delivered them by hand this morning. But, even with all my care, got very few receipts back. This afternoon, we played the final football match, Brigade against the 45th. There was a very strong wind blowing. They had a great tussle but the 45th won, outran our fellows - their back line was very strong. The feeling ran very high, but we had no fights. [Illegible] lectured this evening on Scientific Gunnery and gave us a very interesting hour. I forgot - the Colonel presented me with a very nice silver cigarette case for winning the Brigade jumping, which was very decent of him.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Diary Entry - 29th December, 1916

Bee: A wet day, everybody on heat as the Corps General, Jacobs, and our new Division General, Brara, came round to inspect us. As it was wet, he did not take us out but just went into our billets and horse lines. He asked all of us Subts a few prepared questions as to length of service and where we came from. Colonel Goschen came back tonight. I immediately pounced on him about settling up canteen accounts.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Diary Entry - 28th December, 1916

Bee: Had a very heavy frost last night, the ground was white. Today was the day for the RA sports, the Point to Point was to be held but had to be put off owing to the state of the ground - also the scurry. The mules' race was most amusing - all bareback. The nine starters all went well for the first 20 yards, then three got rid of their riders - just stopped dead and turned sharply. There were only three who completed the course. The winner never swerved and galloped well. The DAC ran away with most events. [Illegible] this the whistling on horseback, VC and tug of war. We won the relay race and foot race. I rode along the Point to Point course and it is very stiff - have two roads to cross and 12 jumps, with going very heavy. This afternoon, I borrowed a despatch rider's motorcycle and went to Aix-le-Chateau for a bath. I heard from Major Carrington tonight that it was impossible to get Jack transferred to this division.

Monday 26 December 2011

Diary Entry - 27th December, 1916

Bee: It has been a most wonderful day - perfect, in fact, although it rained hard last night. We had our Brigade sports, which were a great success. The officers' jumping was the first event. There were seven of us in for it. The jumps were four bush jumps, a 5-foot and a timber jump to finish up with. I managed to win. D36 had two good horses in, but they weren't too cunning. Walrond and Claudie fought for second and in the run off Claudie won, so the 15th did not do badly. In the secion jumping, we won hands down. There were also: a boat race; VC; hundred yards; tug of war; and wrestling on horseback. The star turn was the best turned out gun and team. Really this was a wonderful exhibition, the harness was wonderfully got up. Major Carrington judged and did it most thoroughly. The 48th came first and we second. The winner really had a wonderful show with the gun - they even varnished their paintwork and burnished up every bit of metalwork. I must say, I never expected to see such a show on active service. The feeling in the different batteries is running very high, but I must say we as a battery have done wonderfully well today.

Diary Entry - 26th December, 1916

Bee: It was quite a decent morning - fine nearly - and rained in the afternoon. I went to Aix-le-Chateau, to try to get a bath, but had no luck - the same old cry, no fuel. This morning we competed against the 48th at 100 yards, wrestling on horseback and tug of war - and were beaten in everything. This afternoon, we played off with them in football. They tied last time, after playing an hour overtime, but today we had the upper hand and won 6 to nothing. The score makes it look very uneven, but it was not. This evening we had a lecture on horse management by Major Swanston, Veterinary Officer. But he did not commit himself and did not tell us very much.

Diary Entry - 26th December, 1916 to 1st January, 1917

Walford: On the Tuesday, as Suttie was going down to Boulogne in place of the Colonel, who had not returned from leave, to see some camouflage factory, I went with him, my course being on his way. We ran down to the port in an open Sunbeam, and on along the coast towards Calais, to a small village where, after following several other staff cars, we eventually found the place. I waited outside until the Corps commander had finished his tour of inspection then, as Suttie was supposed to lunch with the Corps commander, I retired gracefully to the Louvre hotel, where I was joined a few minutes later by Suttie, who had lost the General. Boulogne was very empty as leave had stopped, owing to a boat having sunk in the mouth of the harbour - the port was closed. After lunch, we visited the fish market, but there was nothing left, so set out for Cressey. It was soon raining and we had to raise the hood. I was dropped at Cressey at about five p.m. I found several other men hunting for billets in the pouring rain. The show was damned badly run – no billets were arranged for and we had to fight for our own. I got a filthy place on top of the Army Post Office. The course was a farce from beginning to end. The lecturers were bad and and we learned little or nothing at all. There were only lectures in the morning so, when we could, in the afternoon we used to try to get into Abbeville by lorry. On Monday at midday my horses arrived and I rode back in the rain, arriving at the battery to find Suttie on leave, Bailey back again and the battery moving on the following morning. There were also awaiting me many letters of congratulations from home.

Bee's Christmas Card

In his last letter home, Bee mentioned his Christmas card. Here it is:

 I wonder if the printers are still there in Manchester:

Sunday 25 December 2011

Diary Entry - 25th December, 1916

Walford: Christmas, Suttie and I attended Holy Communion on morning stables - nine thirty to ten forty-five. After seeing men's lunch, Hoyland and I lunched and walked to Aix le Chateau. We also visited D36, finding them in a very exhausted condition as a result of lunch. Sanger beat to the wide, playing footer on a heavy lunch.

Bee: I went to Communion this morning. We first of all went out and tried some horses over the RA point to point hurdle race course. There were ten altogether. The going was very heavy. I rode Thorlburn's, which went very well but is not in much condition for that sort of work, although was much ahead of anything else that was there. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year, it is most upsetting. Two estaminets were opened today, of course the men made the most of it. We went round most of the subsection dinners, the sergeants' Mess was the funniest. The Wheeler Sergeant Hall and Viller being absolutely blotto. It is too much of a strain drinking their healths at every dinner.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Diary Entry - 24 December, 1916

Walford: A bright sunny day and we had a good stables managing to get most of the surface mud off the horses. The centre section played the fifteenth centre and our right played the fifteenth right at football in the afternoon. The result was a win and a very exciting draw, an extra half hour having been played but giving no score.

Bee: I was feeling very rotten this morning and did not get up until twelve midday. The old lady in my house - who was about 60, fell over the door step two days ago and has been very ill ever since - died. It is rather sad - the poor old girl had very bad asthma.

Diary Entry - 23rd December, 1916

Walford: During the morning Suttie went into Abbeville in the RA car, but before he left, being OC brigade, in Goschen's absence, he had mounted a picket in the town and put all estaminets out of bounds, to stop an occurrence of the previous days' drunken orgy. The picket bagged about 5 drunks. It rained in the afternoon and Cruikshank and I took a ride over the open country for exercise. The horse lines were like a bog as a result of the rain.

Bee: Blew a hurricane all day. I took the exercise this morning. The Tommies in the Brigade have been kicking over the traces, so Major Grant Suttie, who is acting Colonel, has put on a town picket and closed all estaminets, which has brought both them and the Mayor to their senses. The cinema was knocked over last night and damaged, which my section are blamed for, and so it has been stopped. We had our Christmas dinner party last night. Major, Carrington, Grant Suttie, Walrond, Captain Buxton, Todd, Thorlburn, Walford, Claudie and self. It went off very well but nothing like last year. I being Mess secretary did not have much time to fit things up. Having no flowers on the table rather spoilt things. It was very orderly, owing to restrictions on the men. We hear we leave here on the 1st and go into action at Courcerlay, a joyful spot - they say the Hun snipes the dial sights with a rifle and all ammunition has to be carried by hand.

Friday 23 December 2011

Letter Home (Bee) - 23rd December, 1916

15th Battery, RFA

23rd December 1916

Dear Mother and Father

First I must excuse myself for not writing for so long. I see I have not written since the 26th of last month. Well, I must try to tell you what has happened since then. I might tell you I have not done any battery work for over three weeks, although it is only 300 yards away. To tell you the reason, in a few words, I was detailed by the OC to run a brigade canteen and had to start from behind scratch. We started out to rest on the second inst, and were short of officers, our Major and several officers on leave. Our Captain had only just joined us and knew very little about the workings of the battery. The only other officer has not been with us long, so I had quite a lot to do. The captain is a very nice man and let me carry on. It is just like any other walk of life. One battery does certain things that another battery would not think of. Just merely a matter of opinion. These little things all help to make things run smoothly. I forgot, we also have two officers in hospital. We marched as a division. The first day was very cold with a hard frost. It froze all day which was a great benefit in some ways, as there was no mud. We had a very good march and were inspected by our 
General and Colonel en route. Got to our destination at three p.m. that night and stayed the night in a small village. I might add we were leading battery in the division the first day.

The next day our orders were changed, as so often happens, and we heard when we were on the road that we would reach our final destination. Our previous order said that we would go nearly double the distance back so of course when we heard this it aroused suspicion as we were not far enough behind the lines and knew at a pinch they could rush us in in a day. Anyway, to date they have left us in peace.

This village we are in had very few British troops in before but I thought it would not last as I know what Tommy is like and how I would feel if I had a lot of French troops billeted on me, but it is only human nature. At the present, then the Mayor is very much against us. In the first place, the village is so small it will hardly hold us. The heads who sent us here merely looked at the map and said, 'Here is a village, let us put these fellows in there and let them look after themselves.' Billets for the men were hard enough to find, let alone officers. We are settled right now. One of the batteries found an unoccupied chateau about a mile away and got permission to go into it. They are most awfully comfortable and have all the horses undercover, which is a great thing. The officers have a big room each to sleep in. I was out there one day and one of our fast aeroplanes came down in the grounds, owing to engine trouble. I had a look at it; what wonderfully compact machines they are. I'm convinced that we shall use them in the near future, especially in the back country. To people like the McKinnon's they would be of great use, also to stock agents. The cost is small, but the keeping of the engines would be a big problem.

Three days after we got here the Colonel had a meeting of OCs to draw up a programme of amusements for the men. The whole problem was there was no room or hall or barn where you could put more than 30 men at a time. The office bearers were selected for football, boxing, amusement and canteen. I was chosen to run a canteen and recreation room. It does not sound much, but it entailed more work even than I anticipated. There are over 800 men in the brigade and hungry ones at that. Stores were very hard to get and long distances to go for them, to find what you wanted. The whole thing started from behind scratch. The money first of all had to be borrowed from the officers – a matter of 2500 francs. Then I had to run about the country on horseback looking for supplies. For instance, I would go to one place with an order for 1000 francs worth and I would be lucky if I got 400 francs worth. Even that would take us a day to get back to my canteen so I agitated until I got a motor lorry. I must say Colonel Goschen was very good and gave me all the assistance he could but the job was really too much for one man. After worrying the division for the loan of 2000 francs, they finally decided to start a canteen themselves. By the time they decided this I was just about filled up and then of course they would not take over the which I had on hand. Anyway I'm glad to say I have got it all off my shoulders and the division canteen is installed and I hope I never have to do grocer to the brigade again. Of course, one has not much of a say, if you are ordered to do these things. Anyway, the Colonel has seen for himself that it is a pretty big problem. I must say the men appreciated my efforts. Funnily, the head man in the divisional canteen is a Tasmanian and comes from Launceston. It is rather bad luck I was picked on for the job as I have not been near the battery and it is the only chance an officer has of getting to know the men in his section.

Well, everybody is talking about the divisional sports, which take place at the end of the month. There is a point-to-point hurdle race, which I have a mount in – not a bad little horse either, but I'm afraid if the weather does not fine up a bit the going will be very heavy, though my mount ought to do better under these conditions than others as he is very heavily built and his usual rider weighs 13 stone. We know when we are going into the line again and are afraid we will find it very wet and cold after billets as know there are very few dugouts even. But we can't complain after having a rest.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. We had our dinner party last night, which went off very well, although not quite as good as last year. I did hope to hear from Jack while out here, as did hope to be able to run over and see him, but of course he has not written since he shifted. Dad, your samples of wool have aroused great interest in people. So few of them have ever seen natural wool. Our Colonel is very much interested in stock, although he has not much to do with them. I believe he's very well off. Tell Sister Murphy that I got the Sentimental Bloke and love it. I used to read it on my way shopping but I have not had time to write to her yet. Mother, your photo arrived last week. I like it very much.

You will see by the divisional Christmas card I sent you that this division has done a bit of fighting in the war. Those are only official battles.

I'm very much pleased to hear you are so much better but do go on slow speed.

With very much love to all,
from your loving son,

Thursday 22 December 2011

Diary Entry - 22 December, 1916

Walford: Bailly is taken away in an ambulance after breakfast, with piles or something similar to that. Hoyland returned from the gas course in the afternoon. It had rained all morning but in the afternoon my section were beaten by the 15th Battery. The audience were very merry as I think the majority had drunk too much vin rouge in the estaminets.

Bee: I tried to get a motor bicycle out of Gillingham who is the aide de camp to the General, but had no luck. But in the evening saw Major Carrington, Brigade Major, who paid me up.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Diary Entry - 21st December 1916

Walford: During the afternoon, our centre section won a good match against the 15th Battery, with a strong wind blowing. The band played an odd tune or two during the game. After dinner, we invited all the other battery officers to come round for cofee and we had the divisional band playing in a barn opposite the Mess in the main street.

Bee: Owing to the lorry trouble, the Colonel has been trying to borrow 2000 francs from the Division as before we came out to rest they were rather advertising the fact that they had more money than they knew what to do with in their funds. But, when it came to the point, they made out they had none. Anyway, after a lot of correspondence between the Colonel and HQ, the latter finally decided they would equip a canteen and send it along and rake in the profits themselves. I only heard this this morning. It is rather bad luck as I have only just stocked up, after a lot of trouble. I rang up HQ during the afternoon and asked if their canteen would take over my stock and they said no. So I had to arrange about placing it.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Diary Entry - 20th December, 1916

Walford: Section gun drill from nine thirty a.m for an hour, a very frosty morning. One of my horses died of colic during the night - he was a bad windsucker.

Bee: Walrond and Claudie went to Abbeville. The lorry went to Goschen-le-Gal [?]to pick up our piano, which we left there before we went to the Somme. I jumped my horses today and found they are both quite handy.

Diary Entry - 19th December 1916

Walford: Hoyland was pushed off on a gas course as he was the only officer present who had not been on one. I got back in time to take my section at gun drill - rather, I did a little director work with the NCOs.

Bee: This transport for canteen is getting to to the limit. One minute you are told you can have the lorry, then you are told it is cancelled, which is an awful humbug. Went to Holy Communion this morning.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Diary Entry - 18th December, 1916

Walford: Siggers at six a.m started off with the General in his box car for Boulogne. The Colonel also went. About four p.m. Hoyland arrived at the Mess, having returned off leave. I went over to a small village in the evening to dine and stop with Kellagher for the night and had a very pleasant evening.

Bee: Motor lorry still not allowed to run. Other transport is very hard to get. Got the Colonle to detail someone else to take the canteen on after Christmas day, which is a great thing.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Diary Entry - 17th December, 1916

Walford: After a heavy lunch, Suttie, Bailley, Siggers and I took a long walk in the fog, making across country and trying to lose ourselves. This we nearly did do and never got back until five thirty p.m.

Bee: The canteen job is never ending and takes up all one's time. I had a rather bad day. To start with, someone pinched my bicycle. Then heard, 10 minutes before the actual time, that the Colonel was coming round to see us take our sections at gun drill. It was a bit nerve wracking as I had no time to open a book I floundered away, my No. 1s helping me all they could. But my knowledge of sequence of orders was very crude. He dealt very leniently with me and said he advised me to look at the book. We were the first to be inspected and he was in good temper but believe he let go on some of the others. One sub in the 48th carried out a series with the muzzle cover on, which did improve things.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Diary Entry - 15 and 16 December, 1916

Walford: There was nothing doing on Friday. On Saturday afternoon, Siggers and I rode to a national church mission held at a village some 10 miles away. There was a good gathering, including Saunders, Walker and several other generals and the meeting lasted about two and a half hours. When we rode home, it was very dark. In the morning, the Colonel had taken us at section gun drill. Siggers was first and in a fit of nervousness tried to bring the guns into action before preparing for action and then Sergeant Higgins let him down by leaving his muzzle cover on, Siggers going on with a series did not notice it. I was needless to say very nervous and muddled through pretty badly, but the Colonel did not grouse.

No entry from Bee

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Diary Entry - 14 December, 1916

Walford: A fine sunny day, so we moved the lines onto new ground. Siggers carried on with his gun drill each morning for the rest of the week. Left section beat the brigade in the afternoon. Kellagher came round for a few minutes in the evening and Walrond arrived back off leave.

Bee: The men always told me that they would buy me out once they got paid and they kept their word. The only failure is the beer - they can get it in the town. I went out to D 36's new quarters. They have got a big chateau about a mile out of this village and live like fighting cocks. All the horses are under cover, each officer has a room to himself. There was a brand-new aeroplane in the garden, which came down owing to engine trouble. It was on its way to Ypres, a Sopwith - a fast machine and I never knew what a compact thing they are.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Diary Entry -13th December, 1916

Walford:  In the morning Bailey went to do some Christmas shopping – mostly food for the canteen and men's Christmas dinners. It was showery in the morning but in the afternoon the left section played the brigade but three minutes before time the ball burst, luckily for them, as we had five goals to their one

Bee: The whole brigade paid their men today and they fairly knocked me kite high. The only thing that stopped them buying me out was that I could not get any small change. I begged and borrowed 50 francs of small change, which only lasted half an hour. Of course, to complete the thing, the lorry was stopped from running, owing to the state of the roads.

Monday 12 December 2011

Diary Entry - 12th December, 1916

Walford: When I arose it was snowing and continued throughout the day. The lines were a mass of liquid mud.

Bee: The 41st brigade had the lorry but I made arrangements with them that I would go with it. It was snowing hard when we left here and very cold. We first of all called at Frevent and found a huge canteen with the best stock we have found yet but even they did not have all we wanted so we left our orders and proceeded on to St Poll, 35 kilometres from here. We passed the 23rd division on the march, poor things – they looked half frozen. The poor old lorry broke down once or twice but got it going again. Another tiring day. Got back at nine p.m. but it was a more satisfactory day. I have a rather good stock in now, considering.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Diary Entry - 11th December, 1916

Walford: The usual run of duty went on, with a few odd parades thrown in. Siggers took his section at gun drill for an hour before stables. During stables, the major had all the horses out in a field and reteamed them.

Bee: The divisional band turned up today, without any warning. The trouble is we have no big room or barn where we can put them to play, and it is raining hard. Of course, Todd, the man running the concert, made no arrangement for them to play. I happened to be in the brigade office at seven p.m. and heard them talking and said I would fix them up if only they would give me some kerosene to light my lamp. Inside 20 minutes they were playing – otherwise they would have gone without playing a note. The men had to stand in the rain, but nevertheless they enjoyed the music.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Diary Entry - 10th December, 1916

Walford: After three days hard travelling via Southampton and Havre, reached Amiens with Murdoch about two a.m. and tried to get a bed in a hotel, but no one would have us. So we had to spend the time in a YMCA hut full of officers and caught a five a.m. train for Abbeville, where we found a very nice officers' club, after dragging our kit half round the town. It was Sunday and inclined to rain so, after enquiring about the trains to St Riquier and finding no convenient ones, we accosted several motor drivers and found a lorry going our way. At St Riquier, as luck had it, we just hit a leave lorry passing through the town, so jumped up, otherwise we should have had to camp at a dirty little estaminet. At seven, having ridden standing up on the tailboard all the way, we were glad to hear we were at our destination, Maizicourt, a small village, and we were dropped at the gates of RAHQ. Brigade HQ were just on the other side of the road and there we found the Colonel, Todd, Suttie, Thorburn, McKinna (Vet. Off.) and, after having some tea, Suttie showed me the way to the Mess. It had rained steadily all the afternoon.

Bee: I opened the canteen and sold nearly everything I had. Coffee seems to be the chief thing they want, but cannot get a copper or fuel. I got some beer after a struggle, but when I had got it they would not drink it. Today our divisional mail, which had been lost for over six weeks, turned up. I have no spare time these days and find I have not written home for ages. I am still borrowing money for the canteen and now have over 2,000 francs on loan.

Friday 9 December 2011

Diary Entry - 9th December, 1916

Bee: A little more hope today - heard late last night that RA had a lorry at their service. We started off at eight a.m. for Rancheval, 20 kilometres from here, through Doullens. It is a huge canteen, but the same cry - very little stock on hand, owing to railway. Arrived at canteen at eleven a.m. but could not get served until two p.m., owing to the crowd and even then we only got 800 francs worth. Arrived back here at nine p.m., very tired and weary.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Diary Entry - 8th December, 1916

Bee: Spent most of the day begging for the canteen - first money and then conveyances to bring stuff here, without much success. I find it a far bigger problem than even I had thought it would be. I have no time for Battery work at all. We finished up today by buying stores from a canteen in Aux-le-Chateau [?] but it is on the same game as we are and can't make any profit out of what we buy.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Diary Entry - 7th December, 1916

Bee: I saw the Colonel and he told me that our men were moving out of half of their billet, which would make a recreation room and our OMS stores were to be the canteen. I started to work to get things going. All I had to start with was a Bombardier and gunner and two rooms. I went around borrowing money from the various batteries and at eleven a.m. riding to St Riquier with my first order. It is about 10 miles. I placed a 1,000 franc order on the counter and all they could give me was 400-worth. A bit of a blow after riding all that way, but I soon saw how hard it was going to be to get the stuff - from Doullens to the sea, every town is full of soldiers out of the line and the demand is greater than the supply. The stuff I did get, I had to fight for, as I had no conveyance to take it away and even while I was there they could have sold it three times over. I got back about four p.m and told the Colonel how hard it was to get stuff and he had great hopes of getting a lorry

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Diary Entry - 6th December, 1916

Bee: We did not move into our new Mess until after lunch. The woman who owned the one we were leaving was very sorry we were going. D 36 Sergeants go into it. Our new Mess is a very spacious place and the old priest made himself very agreeable, but looks a silly old creature. We have two bedrooms and a sitting room and full use of the kitchen, which has a stove or range. It is frightfully hard to get coal here. The inhabitants' coal comes from Bruay and is portioned out to them and, of course, they won't sell any.

Monday 5 December 2011

Diary Entry - 5th December, 1916

Bee: The Colonel was round this afternoon and told us we were to move into the Curais[?] House, intsead of Mills. This place is right at the opposite end of the town but is much larger and will take us easily. The Colonel had a meeting of OC to arrange about pastimes for the men while at rest. Our fellows have been kicking over the traces a bit and I have to do all the dirty work and had them all up this morning and dressed them down, telling them they would not have much fun if they did not pull themselves together. This meeting decided to have a concert, boxing, football and Canton Comte [?] I nearly fell over when Bromley came back and told me I was chosen to run the Canton [?] and recreation. I went and tried to protest against the Colonel, but he said it was no use, I would have to find time. Very easily said, but there is only Kershaw and Bromley in the Battery at present.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Diary Entry - 4th December, 1916

Bee: Quite a decent day - saw the sun for a few hours. Hard frost last night. We had a sort of feeling that we were not going to stay here, as everyone is so cramped. The Colonel was in this afternoon and said as far as he knew we would be here until 1st January, but of course subject to alterations. The watering of horses and men will be a big question.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Diary Entry - 3rd December, 1916

Bee:  We were the last battery in the Division to move today and started at nine a.m. It was a good day but very cold, freezing all the time, but the roads were in good condition. We marched very slowly, came by Doullens, Frohen-le-Grand, Bealcourt, and finished up at Maiseon [?]. We expected to go back as far as Atheuille[?], but our Colonel told us while on the march that we would reach our final destination today. The billeting was done very badly. The party left at eight a.m. and came straight across bu,t as they had not fixed up the Coops [?], evidently put us into this village on second thoughts. Evidently looked on the map and said, 'Oh, there's a village, put them in there', regardless of whether there were enough billets or house lines. As it turns out, there are not enough billets. And, of course, no horse lines or water. We got in here about three p.m., all feeling more or less hungry. We came off best with the horse lines, as have got roofed shelters for about 30 horse, but we are going to use them for harness rooms and blacksmiths. The 64 division passed through here before us, and we found things in a disgraceful condition. In our lines we had one dead horse unburied and no end of garbage left about. The Brigade HQ found one dead horse and two lame in their billet. And trust we never leave our billets in the same condition. We had hard work to find a Mess, but the woman in the house we finished up in is a most obliging woman; she can't do enough for us. Her husband has been a prisoner of war for over a year, and she has four children to look after. It is only a small house and she has to give up two rooms solely for our use and also let's the servants have the use of another room and fire, which she uses herself. These people, of course, have not had many troops billetted on them so haven't learnt the trial of the British Tommie.

Friday 2 December 2011

Diary Entry - 2nd December 1916

Bee: On our way to rest. A very frosty night and just as hard as ever. We had an early start, breakfast at six thirty am. Which was very rushed as, instead of the servants calling us at five fifty, they did not do so until six twenty. This always happens, and always will ,I suppose. Of course, they could not get any water, as all taps and pipes were frozen, but as it was we got away on time, although we did not have Dickson, the cook, or Byard. I rode Walrond's horses and set sail from the Mess at 8 am. The mare I was riding is a very hot-headed thing and she shied and we hit a gunner broadside who was on a heavy draught, which frightened the life out of him, but he managed to stick on. We marched as a division and set sail, we leading our Brigade, at ten a.m. The genereal and our colonel - who, by the way, was changed while I was on leave, and we now have Col Groschen, who seems a very good fellow - well, they had a look at us as we passed. The general did not pass any opinion but the colonel had one or two small worries, such as packing kits tidily on the wagons and such things. We came along without a hitch. The roads were in fine condition as were frozen enough to keep the mud solid. We came via Louvencourt, Sarton, and finished up at Authieule at two pm. Watering was about half a mile from the lines, in buckets, and took some time, as the horses were very thirsty, not having had water since four p.m. the day before. The men have billets, just roofs, but the ground is dry. We have a billet but not a very cheery room, as it has no fire place and the night has every prospect of being damn cold.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Diary Entry - 1 December, 1916

Bee: Still another frost, which was just as hard. Heard for certain that we are going to move tomorrow with empty ammunition wagons, which is a great godsend as had not to worry about shifting it. An officer just waliked into the Battery and gave me a receipt for what we had and that ended it. On my way down, I went to the cemetery and saw Bomb. Woods' and Ellis' graves. They lie side by side. The men went down to the wagon line this afternoon. Orders came in late this afternoon and we shall have to start pretty early.