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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Diary Entry - 31st January, 1917

Walford: On being relieved, I walked straight down towards the Battery, but as we were being shelled I went into the 15th and had lunch. Bosch had been shelling the valley since eleven thirty and continued until three p.m., doing a lot of damage around the position. Two gun pits were blown in, the ammunition set on fire and the guns put out of action. The Mess also had a very narrow escape, one landing on the road just outside but, owing to the fact we were dug down fairly deep, no damage was done inside. It was rather amusing watching the ammunition go up from the 15th Mess door - it was as good a firework display as I've seen. The men were all down the mine dug out, playing the gramophone, and only one man was wounded, getting a piece through the calf of his leg while running to the cook house.

Bee: Find it very comfortable down here. Went looking for a new wagon line but find it very hard to find a spot. There is a little limestone in the ground, but very little. The ground, of course, at present is beautifully hard, but when the thaw does come we shall have more mud than ever.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Diary Entry - 30th January, 1917

Walford: At midday I went up to battalion HQ and relieved Wallace (50th). The Royal Berkshires were in and the Colonel was not a bad man, but the officers only just bearable. There was one little pisqueak called an intelligence officer there who had only been in the country about a month and he knew nothing but would keep giving his opinion on every subject. In the afternoon, I went out with the Major and a Colonel who was attached as thought I should gain some knowledge of the line. We met this damned little fool of an intelligence officer in Drouside[?] and he said, "You must come and see my observation post," and led us out over the top in full view for 400 yards, straight towards the front, and we eventually ended up in an old trench full of snow and ice where we stood waist high and he pointed out with a stick different points. The Major hinted that he could see the front quite well from Drouside where we observe from and I agreed with him and told him it was foolishness to come to a place like this in broad daylight as there was no cover if they turned on the guns. However, it did not subdue the young idiot and I could have kicked him when he started arguing with me as to which was Loupart Wood.

Bee: Left the guns after lunch. Damn cold wind and snowing. Came down with Hortayne, walked to Pozieres with a struggle. My boil was a bit of a nuisance and we then had the luck to get a lorry. Just as we left the Battery there was a Hun plane flying about, only about 500 feet up, having a great time on his own. They went for the wagon line yesterday morning and killed two horses and wounded a man very badly with the 6 in gun.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Letter Home (Bee) - 29th January, 1917

29th January 1917

Dear Mother and Father,

I am afraid my letter writing is going to the dogs, but really there seems to be less time every week and you never know when you will be whisked off to some duty or other. I hoped to get a lot of letters off yesterday, as I was at the Brigade OP, but I must have caught a cold in my stomach somehow and I had to get another man to relieve me when I had only done 12 hours.

The weather has been frightfully cold. Last night the thermometer went down to 16 below zero. It is rather nice to have the ground hard, but for ten days on end it gets rather monotonous. As long as you can handle a pick and shovel and keep warm it is all right but when you are in a place where you can't move about it gets rather tiresome.

I am going to the wagon line tomorrow where we have a house to live in which ought not to be so bad and in a few days Walford and I go on leave together, which will make it ever so much better.

I think I told you I had given up all hope of getting Jack into this division but, after probing round again, I think I have hit the right man to work it, the only trouble being that I can·t get any word of his whereabouts. May chance to meet him on leave. This leave is quite unexpected, though our present colonel is most awfully good to us and does all he can for us.

Please excuse this short scribble, but I hope to give you a better note when I get down to the wagon line and can keep warmer.

With best love to you all
from your loving son


Diary Entry - 29th January, 1917

Walford: Sunday I can't place. Monday, Scott and I both returned to the guns, doing the journey by foot and lorry, arriving for lunch. It seemed as if all eyes in Bosch land were looking at us when we walked down the road to the four trees from Pozieres, as it was so clear. But no-one fired at us and we arrived safely., to find that Bailly had gone down to the WL and I had missed him.

Bee: Stayed in bed until late and loafed about but found it impossible to keep warm so went over to the 48th Mess where they had a fire. I have also got a boil on my left leg which is not much fun. Decided to go to the wagon line tomorrow. Thorburn was round today and said that Walford and I could go on leave and would be the next to go from this Brigade, which sounds very nice.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Diary Entry - 28th January, 1917

Bee: Had to go to the OP this morning. The relief is at a brute of a time - six am. It is a Divisional OP - thank goodness it only comes around to our turn every now and again. The OP is an old German dugout which we cleaned out and is right in the open. But it is a damn cold place as you have to stand in the open. The thermometer went down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit last night. I must have caught a chill in my stomach as about two pm I was doubled up with pain and finally had to get Claudet to come up and relieve me about six pm, as I started shivering. Came back and went to bed. Found the Mess very cold as they had knocked down the wall into the new part.


These two pictures have been pasted in beside today's entries. One is my grandfather plus, I think, Siggers. The other, presumably, is a shot of their surroundings. The quality of both is pretty poor.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Diary Entry - 27th January, 1917

Wal: To give some idea of what the temperature had reached it will be a sufficient example to say that the petrol was freezing in the two gallon tins. Even hair oil, milk, anything like that, was frozen stiff, and we used to have a fire in the hut. in the morning, Scott and I went to Albert to catch a lorry ambulance or something on wheels for Amiens. We waited by the points man for half an hour when we got a lorry going halfway. Well we had to get out and I think we changed into four different machines before we eventually arrived about one p.m. After a good lunch at the Hotel de Rhin we coiffeured and Scott had his photo taken and it was tea time. But no tea was allowed to be sold until five thirty p.m. so we could not do much in that line. we had luckily met a man with an ambulance going to Senlis so we went with him and were dropped about six miles from Albert from whence we walked and rode in some empty GS wagons, walking the last mile to the W L from Albert.

Bee: Have been working hard all day on new Mess but it is a bigger contract than they first thought. There is still about four days work to be done and when Claudet and Bromley started they thought they could do it in a day. The 60 lb (?) Colonel was round and have now decided that his gun is to come in line with ours.There is no doubt that our valley will get it hot and strong when he starts shooting. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Diary Entry - 26th January, 1917

Walford: Scott and I in the morning rode to P dump (RE's) Pozieres, to see about mine casings and material for the guns. We went via Albert, calling in at the canteen, but it was too crowded to be able to get immediate service so left via main Bapaume Road. On the way, we had a look at the large mine crater to the left of the road, which was blown up by us on 1st July and is supposed to be the largest ever exploded. It was some 70 feet deep by 150 feet in diameter. In the afternoon, I walked to Albert to try to get to work with the toothbrush, it being a good sunny day. Coming back, I saw two caterpillars which had come from Trones across country and were hooking onto two nine twos.

Bee: Still hard frost. Went in search of sand bags first thing this morning but had no luck. Spent the rest of the day on the Mess, which is a bigger contract than one would think. Sxity pounder battery has started to prepare a position 100 yards in rear of us, which has caused much heat. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Diary Entry - 25th January, 1917

Walford: Thursday. In the morning I rode to Aveluy wood, passing the General on the way, to get timber for horses' overhead cover. After a long hunt from sawmills to forest control officer and back, I found what I wanted and came back for lunch. In the afternoon, we got two wagon loads of props or supports. Scott and I walked to Bouzincourt in the afternoon, as I had to see DADOS [?] about some new range dial which we had been indenting for and could not get. And still the frost and cold continued, harder than ever. 

Bee: Still frost. Hundreds of planes up today and our anti-aircraft displayed their usual skill at driving them off. They are a hopeless crowd. Spent most of the day helping on the enlargement of the Mess. Just to crowd us out a little more, they have attached an infantry officer to us and the room to move about in the mess is the limit.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Diary Entry -24th January, 1917

Walford: Scott and I walked to Albert in the morning to see Kershaw about our Nissan huts, which he was going to take from us. It was about lunchtime when we found him and, as he had nothing to eat, we went into an officers' chop house in the square in Albert. While lunching, Bosche dropped about eight bombs on the place and splinters were flying all roads but no-one seemed to mind or take any notice of them. In the afternoon, we walked up via RAHQ who were at Usna Hill just this side of La Boiselle and on to the saw mills to see about RE material, where I made a good deal. I thought it was cold at the guns but the cold was impossible in the Nissan huts, perched on the top of a hill and very badly put together with cracks all over the place - really the cold was frightful. And there were the poor old horses standing out on the top of the hill, with no rugs or cover and very short rations (8 or 9 lbs of corn daily, with bad hay sometimes thrown in.)

Bee: Another frost, it seems to be getting harder every night, but one does not feel it as much as we did at first. There are four of us up here at present, which is a bit of a strain in this Mess. I went into Courcelette looking for stoves but had no luck. Another Hun plane brought down today. One of our battery commanders rushed to get the machine gun off it but the Huns set it on fire before he got there. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd January, 1917

Walford: Tuesday. I started for the WL about ten thirty a.m., walking, and had a perilous journey down the duckboards to Pozieres, as a lot of Bosche were crossing our lines and our antis were firing a lot of stuff into the blue.Well, I only had on a soft hat and fids[?] were rattling down all roads. On reaching the wagon line at one, I find Murdoch just off to hospital to have his leg seen to. Hoyland as usual had not censored any letters so I spent all the afternoon on a big pile that was there. The roads were as hard as bricks and I met Hoyland riding in Pozieres, but decided I should keep warmer if I walked and was about all out when I got down there, as gumboots are not the best things to walk in.

Bee: Harder frost than ever last night - about twelve degrees. We were woken early in the morning - about four forty-five - by that damn 5"[?] gun. They were falling fairly close. Two fell within ten yards of the house and two more practically amongst the horses, but no damage done. If they only shot all day, it would cause no end of trouble. Thank goodness they stopped at seven a.m. Walrond and I came back to the guns this morning. Kershaw came down. It was a bitterly cold day. We started riding but it was so cold we got off and walked. The roads are so awfully slippery you cannot stand up. Just before we got to the battery, I saw a Hun aeroplane, which was bright red. I had never seen one like it before but take it that the colour was to frighten our airmen. There was one of our old machines up, spotting for the heavies and an old bus. The Hun machine dived at him and fairly spat out machine-gun bullets but our fellow took it quite calmly and finally red wings rolled over three times in the air and came crashing to the ground with engines full on and in flames. I have never seen anything like it before. It was a splendid effort on our fellow's part as his opponent's was a far superior machine. We heard tonight that we brought down two of their machines. We found that a lot of work had been done in our position and everything is quite dry due to the frost.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd January, 1917

Walford: Still freezing, very little doing, put a little chalk on top of Mess for cover. The mine was going on with great vim and expected to join two shafts up any time. Siggers fooled away the afternoon trying to make a seat for the Mess but failed hopelessly.

Bee: Went off to Meault to Cashier and saw some of the Guards' feet had come in there [?]. Still another frost. Spent most of the afternoon writing out gas helmet roll.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Diary Entry - 21st January, 1917

Walford: Saturday I can't place. Sunday, Siggers returns from duty at Battalion HQ. He was chased down the valley by four twos, both he and Dickson arrive in a panting condition. I spent most of the time putting down trench boards in the Mess. Siggers going to Holy Communion at eight p.m. in D36 Mess just to our rear. Bailley and the infanteer, Cowan by name, were at the OP, shooting Bosche.

Bee: Still freezing. We had a man called Robertson Scott from the Cavalry to lunch. I wondered if he was any relative to the ones who were out with us. After lunch, I went out to try to find a Field Cashier. After a long hunt, found he had gone at midday. Nothing much doing.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Diary Entry - 20th January, 1917

Bee: Still freezing. I started to ride to the Field Cashier at Meault - about four miles - but it was so slippery that I got off and walked. Things are just as bad as they can be in the wagon line. We have only 30 men left out of a hundred. Claudet came down to lunch. Walrond came back about four and Mills and Hughes came to dinner.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Diary Entry - 19th January, 1917

Walford: In the morning, an infantry officer arrived. He was posted to us for five days, just to view life from our point of view.  Bailly goes to the OP and I just show him the guns and tell him anything he wants to know about their working. I had tea with the 71s in the afternoon and am rather amused at Murdoch, who is in bed with a boil on the leg. It still freezes.

Bee: Another cold night. It is cruel for the horses. We have an awful lot of men gone sick. There are always 16 on the parade and seven others have gone to hospital. The ADVS was to come round and see our horses with mange, but I got sick of waiting for him, he was so late. Armytage and I rode over to Marlincourt to try to see one of the Queensland Bells who is OC 9th Squadron Aeroplanes. Had a damn cold ride and when we got there found he had gone back to England two days before, to get a new squadron, which was rather bad luck. But they asked us in to dinner and were very decent to us. Then I went up for a short spin. We only got up to 500 feet and then came down as the machine was not running very well. I enjoyed what little I had immensely. It was a BE. They promised us that if we came over on a clear day they would take us up. Walrond and Mills went off to Amiens. We got back late and as I was coming up to the Mess met an Anzac officer who was going on leave. I brought him up and he had dinner with me and then set off. Train leaves at four a.m. His name was Levy and he hails from Bendigo.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Diary Entry - 18th January, 1917

Walford: Thursday. Bosche shelled the vicinity periodically during the night with four twos and pip squeaks. I must add that I remained at OP on duty for Bde all night. He seemed to be trying to find a machine gun of ours just behind us, but never succeeded in silencing it. I was relieved at seven thirty a.m. by Hortayne. It was snowing and I walked straight back across country. It snowed all day. Bailly went to W.L and Siggers and self worked hard at the Mess and succeeded in getting it almost covered in.

Bee: Still very cold, froze all night and a little more snow. In the afternoon, I went with Walrond to the sawmills to try to get some timber and Nissan Huts at Acily [?] After a lot of riding, we found some. In the evening, Mills and Hughes came round.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Diary Entry - 17th January, 1917

Walford: At six thirty a.m. Bailly and I set out for the Bde OP, being chased over the crest in front of the guns by prematures from the 71s who were unable to clear the crest. There was a small barrage on. It was snowing and very difficult to find one's way and footing over the shell holes. However, we eventually arrived and relieved Hortayne of D36. It snowed till eleven thirty and then lifted, showing up the front very well, especially the wire.

Bee: Had a heavy fall of snow last night and it went on up to midday - about a 6-inch fall. I went round to the Brigade which is in the far end of the town. After lunch, we went and had a bath and feel ripping after it. Kellagher came to lunch and has just arrived back after leave and a course. They are all very pleased with the course and say the 2nd Division will have a great reputation. Three of the head people come from this Brigade. And I believe they make sure that everybody knows it. We went to dinner with the Brigade last night.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Diary Entry - 16th January, 1917

Walford: Tuesday. Worked on Mess till eleven forty-five a.m. then went up to Left Battalion at midday. This is a huge dugout on the West Miraumont sunken road in a small valley just north of Courcelette. It was all built by our mining company and will hold about 2,000 men. I have never seen such huge galleries since I have been in France. About three p.m. an officer from the 41st Brigade arrived to do liaison so, after enquiring whether two of us were required and receiving an answer in the negative, I fled back to the battery, only too pleased to give over the business to someone else. It is still freezing hard.

Bee: A very hard frost last night and has been very cold all day. Waldron and I came down from the guns and Claudet has gone up. We walked as far as Posiere, expecting to meet our horses, but missed them somehow and had to walk most of the way back. We soon found the Mess and wagon line. The Mess is in quite a nice little house all by itself, quite close to the lines. The horse lines themselves are good as they are on a disused road made of cinders and quite dry, but off the road you get bogged. The men all live in bivies. But hope to get some huts very soon.

Diary Entry - 15th January, 1917

Walford: A frosty night and remains about freezing point all day. Siggers and I again worked at Mess all day after he had come back from doing liaison at midday. We took the smashed gun down to the trench railway, first of all dismantling the piece and taking it down, then running down the carriage. The gas shell had made a nasty mess of it, although they usually have just sufficent charge inside to burst the shell, and the buffer was almost carried away and half the shield blown off. We placed the whole gun on two trucks. During the night the 15th Battery had a 4.2 how on their Mess, which cracked one of their main supports. Otherwise no damage was done.

Bee: Another misty day. I took out a party and got some more mine cases. The ground up this end of Courcellette must have been a dump for ammunition as the ground is littered with shells and bombs of all descriptions. I also saw an old How which has had a direct hit. How it was hit I can't imagine as it is in a sunken road under a bank fifteen foot high. The Hun very nearly did for us last night, just as we had finished dinner there was a hell of a crash and plates and things went flying all ways. We were very lucky as it was a pipsqueak whith landed right on top of the Mess. If it had not been a dud, we would have felt more.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Diary Entry - 14th January, 1917

Walford: I arrived at the battery at one a.m., had a bite of supper, then turned in. Siggers went to battalion at midday to do liaison and I continued digging a hole for the Mess. Bailley as usual wandering about looking at the front. A few gas shells came over during the night.

Bee: I was relieved by Armytage and got back here about one p.m. I slept fairly well considering I camped on the floor and had people walking over the top of me all night. The line here is held by a series of outposts and you are in full view of the Hun if you go up in daylight. So, of course, everything has to be done at night. The Colonel went out with the General round his post at eleven p.m. It was a misty day so, of course, made the best of it and went out after timber and found a Hun dump of nine frames, an unlimited quantity.

Letter Home (Bee) - 14th January, 1917

15th Battery, RFA

14th January, 1917

Dear Mother and Father

We have had a mail this week and I was very sorry to hear about Rex Dabbs's death. We are not far from where he was wounded, a few hundred yards ahead of that spot. Dad sent me some pieces of wool. What a wonderful price it is fetching. We are gradually settling down. It is wonderful how soon you adapt yourself to the conditions. Our Mess at present is eight feet by six feet, with two bunks in it, so you can see it is not overly large. I always think of dad in the cottage when the house was being built, saying he liked a small place as you only had to stretch out your hand and you got what you wanted. In our case you hardly have room to even stretch out your hand. There are three of us there and it is a case of when one moves we all move, like a game of drafts. It is very safe, as we have a mineshaft we can pop down.

We have been very lucky as we have had three direct hits on our gun pits and not a soul hurt. Four men were in one pit but, beyond having their hair and faces burned with the burning ammunition, no one was hurt, which was very fortunate. On the other hand, of course, it was only a bit of luck the Huns hit it.

I have been having a great time draining the water off the position and am lucky as nature is in our favour. We are gradually clearing the mud off the road I was talking about last time. I am at present in a huge dugout which holds about 300 men. There are no billets for them round in these quarters so they have to live in these places. It is hard on the men though, as they have very little room to lie down. When in the line, they stand up to their knees in water and really have no means of getting dry when out of the line. The Huns have left us quite a lot of dugouts which, of course, are blocked up with mud and water. I was in a party clearing one of these out the other night. Night is the only time you can work and in the dark is the time you flounder in the shell holes, which are full of water. I soon found that we had to put on our gas helmets, as we kept bringing parties to the surface which fairly talked. We got the main part of the dugout clear and found it very useful.

I must close now. Mother, thanks for "Ginger Mick". I think it is splendid and will write to those girls who sent me the socks as soon as I can. The socks and mittens are grand. I could not do without mittens now. We have had two light falls of snow. Hullo, there is a shell just come to earth about a yard off our Mess. No damage done. A few plates broken and a tin of coffee spilt.

Good night, from your loving son,


Diary Entry - 13th January, 1917

Walford: The dugout was all right when I arrived but that night it rained heavily and the water simply trickled out of the trench down the stairs. There was only one stretcher to sit on and two of us so there was little or no sleep. This was without exception I think the worst 24 hours I have had at the front for discomfort. My relief, Hawtayne, was very late - his guides lost themselves and wandered round in circles and then arrived about twelve a.m. I forgot to add that before that at three a.m. on the 12th I had been sent to relieve Discon as his relief had left Bat. HQ and been lost. However, on arrival at Bat. HQ, was informed that the relief was all right.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Diary Entry - 12th January, 1917

Walford: A wet afternoon and my turn to go to Mase's post. As I left, I met Siggers and Suttie on the tram lines. The former was bringing up some ammunition on the railway, the latter had come over from Englesart to see our position and stop the night. Oh, no, he had just arrived back off leave,and was stopping a night before going as Bde Major to the 63 Division at Beaumont Hamel. I just got to the end of Courcelette when Bosche opened with 4.2" and I thought it was safe enough but, when going over the open, he put an airburst over and I ran for cover and waited till he stopped. It was an awful tramp to the post and the mud was beyond imagination and, of course, it was so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face. We eventually reached there and I relieved Wynne Williams. There was no infantry officer there and the platoon were relieved that night by the 17th Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

Bee: (12th and 13th January): Very cold, still trying to snow. Fooled about trying to drain the position and make a path and do odd things in the Mess. Had early lunch and then went on to Left Battalion HQ as liaison officer. The place is not far from here. It is up what is known as Dyke[?] Valley, a place which is always shelled. The dugout is a huge one and is still being enlarged. At present it holds 250 men, but will hold many more when it is finished. It is being built by the tunnelers as there is no mining in the front line. But they have not made much of a job. The strutting is very poor. The HWI [?] are in at present and only came in the night before last and have lost all their rations, poor things. Tonight they had seventeen officers to feed one way and another.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Diary Entry - 11th January, 1917

Walford: Siggers went to the Bde. O.P. at dawn as it was Z day and we had to switch all our guns onto Miraumont. Nothing very special took place. I worked hard at the Mess all day, moving a lot of stuff. The General came round with Scott (of TMs) and I think he took me for a labourer.

Bee: Got back from O.P. about eight a.m, after a rather cold night. There was a show on our left and he put a lot of stuff round about the O.P. It tried very hard to snow this afternoon. Had Australian mail.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Diary Entry - 10th January, 1917

Walford: As the rations come up in the morning, owing to the likelihood of gas shells at night  (or rations express, as they are called), Siggers accompanied them, coming up take Hoyland's place, the latter going to the WL for a rest. Siggers and I worked on the hole for the cupolas all morning. It was Y day and Bailey went up to cut more wire, firing about another 400 rounds into the blue, as it was impossible to see the wire.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Diary Entry - 9th January, 1917

Walford: It rained all night and, as is usual under such circumstances, we were almost submerged in the morning, as the water simply runs down the stairs - and down the mine shaft when our floor is covered to about one inch in depth. Thalborn made a hurried round in the morning. Bailey attempted to cut wire with 113 rounds. The 15th about midday had an armour piercing pipsqueak blow a hole in the side of their No. 1 gun pit and the detachment inside got off with only one man singed. Every day Bosch shells Courcelet with big and small stuff and occasionally he shortens up onto us.

Bee: Started off soon after breakfast to Zollern Trench where the right OP is. It is the most godforsaken OP I have ever set eyes on. You cannot even sit upright in it and it is miles behind the line. While the signaller was testing the line, I tried to improve it by digging out. The mud and wet up that way is unbearable. Anyway I dug a foot of mould out and unearthed all sorts of smells and came home fed up as have to sit in it all night. Got Walrond to ring up the Colonel and he asked if I could go to our own OP, which is much nearer the line and more comfortable. It is an old Bosch dugout which has been knocked in that we are gradually clearing out and it fairly talks. The ground round about outside is a mass of corpses just covered with earth and that's all. There must have been some heavy fighting to take it. The only trouble is it is in full view of the Hun and he shells you when going there and coming away. We worked on it until midnight and got it fairly presentable inside. But there is still a lot of dirt and stuff to get out. They have issued us with food container things which strap on your back, after the style of a thermos but much bigger. They hold enough for eight men – very good things.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Diary Entry - 8th January, 1917

Walford: Today is X day for another go at Munich Trench to the east of Beaumont Hamel. We are supposed to make a demonstration on our front and fire 1,000 rounds, trying to bluff the Bosch. We got off 400 rounds and very cold work it was too, standing about, shouting the orders, as it was too [word missing] at the OP. Hoyland spent the day at Mase's post, a nasty spot on the right of the right battalion, which was held by a platoon. The only way to get to the place is under cover of darkness.

Bee: It rained like fun last night and blew and rained all day. I spent most of the day tracing leaks and applying remedies in the mess and erecting a new stove. He got another direct hit on one of our gun pits while four men were inside. They had a wonderful escape – not one was hit, but all had their hair singed and faces scorched by the fire. He has been very active today. One very nearly got me today. It landed about 10 yards away but, thank goodness, I never got a scratch.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Diary Entry - 7th January, 1917

Walford: Our brigade were at rest in Albert and Colonel Parrie was commanding the group. At seven a.m., I was awakened to the now familiar sound of shells and found that one of our dugoust had been blown in and Corporal Bing was just emerging from under the ground when I arrived. However, no one was hurt, but the men seemed a little shaken, and one could not wonder at it. It was a rather hazy day but Bailey and Hoyland managed to shoot the battery in the afternoon.

Bee: A foggy morning. Kershaw and I started out at seven thirty a.m. to see what we could find in Courcelette in the way of stoves and coal. It was very peaceful and we spent two hours wandering into cellars and dugouts before we found what we wanted. There have been lots of others on the same game I should think, by the looks of things. There is very little left – just piles of broken bricks and hundreds of rounds of ammunition (German). They still shell it a lot. Just before starting out, they got a direct hit on one of our gun pits and set it on fire. It blew the ammunition all away, but none went off. Luckily, all the men were away from the gun. We spent the rest of the day [illegible] the floor of our Mess and I can now stand upright in it, which is much more comfortable.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Diary Entry - 6th January, 1917

Walford: They shelled us again in the early morning but no damage was done and the gas blew away down the valley. Getting up in the morning was rather a difficult proceeding and we had breakfast served on a small table which was hinged to the wall and then got up by numbers, the one nearest the door starting. I was not in the best of form when I got up and almost flopped when digging a place for a new Mess. The Bosch planes seemed as bad a pest as at Maillet Mailly. It rained towards evening.

Bee: A foul day, cold wind and rain. We set to work on the hidden road and found quite a respectable metal road underneath a foot of earth. The 48th had a bad time last night and had a gun crippled and two men badly gassed. We had a bad time getting the gun back into position as the pit was full of gas. Walrond registered them all this morning, which took a long time as the ground is so soft that they jump about all over the place. The mud here is enough to drive one crazy, and our Mess is pretty well the limit, but suppose we shall soon settle down.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Diary Entry - 5th January, 1917

Walford: A frightfully cold night and I was not sorry, when we were called at three a.m, to get up and try to get warm. We managed to get a little tea and grub then push off about four fifteen, with the 15th close on our heels. After passing the site of our position for Thiepval , it was all new country to me and looked very bleak and ploughed up. Someone said we were passing through Pozieres, but one could not see a stone or stick in the dull light of dawn to mark the place. The order was passed back to put out all cigarettes and that no matches were to be struck and we went on down the slope, with shell-ploughed country on either side, until we got to the end of the road, where there were four trees standing (this spot was named The Four Trees). Things were unloaded here and a guide led the men with their kit across what looked like a swamp to the battery position some 400 yards away.

Bee: They gave me the fright of my life last night as I was walking up to my dugout to bed. A pipsqueak came to earth within 50 yards of me. My dugout is actually only a shelter really and would not stop a stone thrown on the roof, which is not very encouraging, and you have to walk through six inches of liquid mud to get to it. Our people arrived here at seven a.m., which was a good effort as they did not get in until late last night. It was a perfect morning to relieve as it was misty and the Hun let us come in in peace. The other people did not wait long. I had a brand-new pair of top boots stolen, which was bad luck as this is just the place you want them. The men had the day to themselves to settle down. I had to go off at four p.m. to do liaison officer. My guide lost his way but after wandering about for an hour found the place. The OP we were intended to use was awful but thank goodness we could not get into communication. There was a huge German dugout about 50 yards away. A wonderful construction, about 40-foot underground. It would hold easily 100 men and was full of infantry working parties and the conversation one heard there was an education. I spent three hours trying to find our wire after ringing up corps and many other people came home and reported what had happened. The walk back was no easy job in the dark and the Hun was also on heat, shelling the whole countryside. We once had to take shelter in an old trench. We finally got back to the battery and found things rather disorganised. The Hun had evidently got wind that we were relieving tonight. Thank God we did it in the morning or else our casualties would have been very big. They fairly peppered the valley and tracks with gas shells. We had one infanteer in the Mess with a broken leg and wrist – a direct hit on a gun pit – and the sergeant slightly gassed. Then, to cap things, Bomb. York got jammed in between the trigger and buffer of the gun. The poor fellow would have been drowned, as he was thrown into a shell hole with five foot of water in it. All was quiet at eleven thirty p.m. and we went to bed

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Diary Entry - 4th January, 1917

Walford: The column moved off with the 71s leading and ourselves following at nine a.m in a pelting rain. We had had to start getting ready about seven thirty as all the wagons had to be run out of the ditch and straightened up on the side of the road. When we had got underway, Hoyland and Bailey went on – no Bailey and Hoyland had gone on the day before, when we left Outrebois, but the former came back on Wednesday evening and Hoyland stayed up at the position with the people we were relieving. It was Siggers turn to go on this time and he went on as soon as we got underway, leaving Bailey and myself with the battery. Everything went 'swimmingly', in every sense of the word, till midday when the rain eased off and we steadily got nearer the firing line and onto bad roads. As we approached Louvincourt, someone sprinted up to me and said the mess cart shaft had gone, which completely defeated my reckonings, as I had expected the off wheel to go, it being very wobbly, with two spokes gone. There was nothing for it but to go forward and report to Bailey and then rush back and see what could be done. After doing some quick reckoning, I spied a stretcher in the cart. We got it out, took off one side, borrowed a drag rope, (very thick) from D 36 and lashed it to the butt of the shaft, with a thick rope. Well, this served as a makeshift and saved us from starving, as this vehicle had all the mess kit in it. So I left it at that and told them to get along as best they could. At three thirty p.m. tthe head of the column reached Bougincourt and went out along the road to Aveluy. The wagon line for the whole divisional RA was on a small hill halfway along the road to the above-mentioned village. I forgot to add before that Cruikshank, when he had returned from leave, had been packed right off to this bleak spot on 31st January to erect Nissan huts as billets. Well we were lucky being the first part of the column to step onto this virgin ground, which was thoroughly soaked with rain, and we got into our position very quickly. The 41st Brigade being the last to come in were not so lucky and many vehicles got bogged at the entrance coming off the road so that it was about ten p.m. before some of the batteries got in. In my opinion it was damned lucky some of us got in and the staff should have been choked off for sending us into such a place. However, we got there, and by ten p.m. the place was a mass of mud – like a swamp. We were in a hut, sharing it with the 15th, and turned in as soon as we had had something to eat, with clothes on, ready for an early start in the morning. Only one GS wagon had the misfortune to be bogged coming in, but that, unluckily, had all the stuff on it that was to go up to the guns the next morning, so off it all had to come and be dumped there, with a picquet on it.

Bee: There are only two lieutenants and a captain here. Their OC is on leave. They are a very contented lot and seem to never leave the Mess. A brute of a day – rained like fun this morning. The captain took me to the OP after having breakfast at ten a.m. The way to the OP is right in the open all the way and very terrifying as there are so many tanks and aeroplanes lying about, which are all zero lines. The OP consists of an open trench with a fairly decent dugout but no shelter, even from rain. We arrived there in a perfect sweat, more from fright than anything. Just as we started to shoot, it got very misty and we could only just see zero and barrage lines. The Mess is a very small affair. You have to get into the corner before creating the table. Once the latter is up you can't move. There is very little accommodation for men – only room for 30 and pretty cramped with that number. In the early morning seems the quietest time. The rations come up in the evening and the Hun seems to know. There are any amount of dead horses and bits of wagons on the side of the road. The last quarter mile is the worst, which is through virgin mud and ammunition and rations, brought over on pack horses and one or two generally get bogged. They sprinkle a good many shells about, which fall very close.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Diary Entry - 3rd January, 1917

Walford: At ten a.m. we marched thgrough Doullens to Amplai[?]s and I went on ahead with Thorburn to do the billeting. To our horror, on asking the town mayor for a plan of the lines, he said there are no lines, you simply picquet your horses in the main street and also park your guns there. We got the worst end of the town, as the head of the column approached from the wrong side for our point of view. It took us a good two hours to get our lines up as we had to run the wagons into the hedge with their poles sticking through it and simply crowd the horses like sardines. The men's billets were miles away from the horses and all the harness had to lie about anywhere on the side of the road. To put it mildly the whole business was as sanguine as it could be. We had a fair Mess but were all very tired and a long trek had to be made on the morrow with a very early start. Such is life fighting the Hun.

Bee: An early rising this morning, breakfast at six. At Battery, commanders and one subaltern from each battery were picked up by motor lorry and taken to Pozieres. It was a three-hour run and we had a very fast lorry. It was the roughest ride I have had for a long time. The roads are very bad. We passed some hundreds of Huns walking on the roads but they don't do over much. We arrived at Pozieres at eleven a.m. We waited here some time for the colonel as they were coming by RA car, but finally went on to the positions. Pozieres has been cleaned up a lot since we were there. The road from Albert to Pozieres was in wonderful condition, just like a main English road. Also the number of heavies there are there is enormous. Saw a new 8-iunch which is a very neat looking How compared to the old type. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the main Bapaume road metalled. When last we were here there was no trace even of where it went. From Pozieres down to within a quarter of a mile from our new position you can be seen by the enemy from some distance back. We are about 100 yards NW of Bourcellette[?], in a valley (of mud). The path running up to the battery is made of faggots; if you get off this, it is halfway up to our knees. All the brigade batteries are within a 100-yard radius. We are lucky as there was once a road running behind our position but at present it is feet deep in mud. These people are Territorials [?] of the 51st division and have been here six weeks. Came in here straight after the Beaumont-Hamel show, so have had a pretty thick time. After lunch and a look around, Walrond went back and left me here. It rained most of the day and was miserable.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Diary Entry - 2nd January 1917

Walford: At nine forty-five a.m. the battery marched for Outrebois and, as the Sergeant Major was away on leave and Sergeant Sherlock was running the show, it took us some hustling to get things moving. I stopped behind to see the billets cleaned up, and a filthy mess they were in, so it was an hour or more before I got away. Hoyland had ridden on with Thorburn to billet and, when I got in about twelve, we were just unhooking and going to water. On the way, I passed Carrington and Saunders.

Bee: We started on our way for the line this morning. We marched as a division. We were travelling last battery and started at eight forty-five a.m. The battery were at their worst today and are having to pay for it from now on. Nearly every man was late and in fact there was a general chaos. We came along very slowly as the gunners who were marching in front came the same way as we came out by. Our lines are at Outrebois, a small village. We are billeted at a big farm. I think it is about the same size as Moquet was before it was smashed. There is a huge courtyard about 100 yards by 50. The usual cesspool is like a miniature lake. The buildings are principally made up of pigsties and hay sheds. Pigs seem to be very popular around this part of the world. We have only got one room for Mess [illegible] in, but as we are only staying the night it does not matter much. The battery have to supply 30 men a night from now on for piquet, no advance in pay and no leave for NCO for a fortnight. It is the best thing that could happen.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Diary Entry - 1st January, 1917

Bee: A miserable New Year's Day, drizzling rain, a great bustle round, getting ready to move tomorrow. This afternoon we had great hopes of having the Battery photographed, but the French man did not turn up. Major Swanston came round the lines, as usual in the army for the first time, and found we had mange. We have fallen out with our old Madame in the Mess billet, over her stove, and have all to go out to dinner. The centre section are having their Christmas dinner tonight and have a splendid spread. They have been neglected rather, but I have not had a chance of helping them. Got Australian mail today.