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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Diary Entry - 28th February 1917

Walford: In the morning I woke - or rather I was awake most of the night and waddled out about six a.m to find a thick mist hanging over the earth. Considering the circumstances, I was feeling very fit and, except for the smell of human excreta that seemed to follow me about, I was quite happy. About ten a.m. I was just going up to Grundy Trench (our support line) and met Durand on the same errand, so strolled over the crest with him. The infanteer officer who was to have guided us seemed to know very little about the track, so we hit out in the direction we thought it was. We arrived all right and found an infanteer OP and asked him what he had seen of interest. His information about the wire which could be seen in places through the haze was of little use. So we wandered round looking for a position to run a wire to. During the course of the morning, I wandered back to see our new position and found the men busily digging and building platforms, the position was in No Man's Land, in a valley which ran off the Dyke Valley, I think. The whole brigade were here and it looked bad for us if the Bosche shelled us, as there was no cover. Dean relieved me about five thirty p.m, being late, and, as it was almost dusk, I and my signallers set out across country to try to race the light. We soon lost our way and never knew where we were until I hit the wire on the north of Bapaume road and discovered we had gone some one and a half miles out of our way. I knew it was hard to find one's way over the waste of shell holes, but I thought I knew the country well enough to hit a track I knew but was deceived and realise now what a time the infantry had in finding their posts at night. We eventually got in about seven thirty p.m.

Bee: Still very misty. Woke up with a stiff neck and feeling rotten. We have all hands on deck building a new position about a mile further ahead. Everything has to be carried there on pack horses. Have a miniature wagon line here at the battery now. I got the fore carriage of an old GS wagon, which I think ought to come in very handy for transporting material. A 60 lb came in here last night and has made a nasty mess of our position. Hear the Huns are blowing up the crossroads, wells and mining dug outs, also building traps for the dug outs.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Diary Entry - 27th February, 1917

Walford: In the morning, Siggers went to the OP and registered zero and wire cutting lines on Grevillers. We were also engaged in salving ammunition from an Anzac position with pack horses. At three, I went out as liaison, proceeding along the East Miraumont Road across the old Bosch front line to Coulee trench, where I relieved Bee. I forgot to mention that lI posted two signallers in a shaft along the road to be responsible for the war to SN2. Coming over No Man's Land, there were a lot of our dead about from the last attack and I suppose the deserters (2) gave the whole show away and the Bosch were ready. I followed the wire up from here, having left an NCO and signaller where Bee had been. The wire ran along Coulee Trench to the south and thence across the shelled ground to the acqueduct road. On arriving at the dugout in the sunken road and descending to the depths, I found the place crammed with platoon commanders and orderlies. However, I saw a small hole under the cook's legs and dived into a filthy kind of mess of tins and old clothing but it was the only place for the gunner officer. The 2nd HLI were in when I arrived but were relieved by the 2nd Ox and Bucks that night, and I must say they were a much more pleasant crowd. The night was spent in trying to sleep amongst the rubbish with no coat to keep me warm and the result was that I almost froze.

Bee: This is a very small dug out - no room to lie down. I sat up all night. The more I see of the feet, the more respect I have for them, but they are an ignorant lot. The Hun was rather active all through the night and put some very close to us. But he has taken his guns some way back. It was much clearer in the morning than it has been but saw very few Hun. Our people were walking about the open in shawls[?]. Which of course annoyed the Hun no end and made him shoot more than usual. The Hun has made himself as objectionable as possible by relieving himself in dug outs and all over the place. I went up the E Miraumont road where you can see right down int Irels[?] and Miss. Irels has quite a number of houses which have roofs still left on them. I did not stay there long as there was a Hun machine gunner dropping bullets onto the road as neatly as you like. Was relieved at three p.m. by Walford and got back here about five p.m. feeling dead to the world. Thought I would have a lie down for two hours before dinner but knew no more until nine a.m. the next morning.

Diary Entry - 26th February 1917

Walford: Go up to the guns, arriving about twelve. Find us shooting on Grevillers trench, a trench some 300 yards the other side of the Pys valley and 5,000 yards range and everyone seemed very worried as to where we should move to. I found that Suttie was at RA taking Carrington's place, as he had gone on leave. In the evening, Kellagher came round and looked us up and I walked over to his position with him, some 400 yards behind our valley, and a very nice spot too, with a splendid mine shaft he had dug. Sloane, Major of 17th Battery, reported missing - he was running a wire out with the infantry and it was very foggy. He was never seen after a certain time and is supposed to have been captured by an enemy patrol.

Bee: The situation is most strange. The Hun has evacuated Serre and we have taken it without any casualties, which is wonderful. And rumour says the Hun is returning to a shorter line and stronger position. From facts one heard, it will take him back about 30 miles in places. That means he goes back from Arras. From information, he is retiring to what is known as his cement line, where he has three of these. The third one is supposed to be in construction by Russian prisoners. He ought to be due to give us a good time, as he knows exactly where we can put guns and where his machine guns are at their best advantage. If he goes back fast, our infantry will have an awful time constructing a new front line without any cover. Anyway, it remains to be seen. I had to go to battalion head quarters, 17th Fusiliers, on the East Maraumont road, in an old German dugout. The country between here and there is desperate, far worse than Trones. How any human lived through that cold weather in shell holes is beyond me. The sights one sees are awful. Every now and again you come across heaps of our men who have evidently all been hit by the same shell. There are very few Huns in comparison. But I think they must have taken great care to bury them. The Hun must be very short of footwear as he has stripped of boots all our dead who are near him.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Diary Entry - 25th February, 1917

Walford: Attended stables in the morning and rode to Senlis in the afternoon to draw from the Field Cashier. On the way in, I rode along with an RE Major, who informed that the Bosch has evacuated his front line before Pys and our infantry were following him up and trying to get in touch with him. There was also a rumour that he intended evacuating Bapaume and going back as far as Cambrie, to a cement line, which he has made very strong. The idea seemed to be for him to shorten his front so as he could draw more men, probably for a big offensive against us on some other front. Serre, Pys, Miraumont all reported evacuated. Barrett, a trench mortar officer was posted to the battery to assist as there were only three officers in the battery.

Bee: Things are fairly buzzing this morning, orders and counter orders. The battalion are moving up, Brigade HQ have come in here. Our line is now the other side of Miraumont and Pys. On the left they meet very little opposition but we were held up by machine gun fire. The 41st Brigade are moving up their guns today - took the piece out and put the carriage on a truck brought on the railway. The fog lifted about two pm and the sun came out. The plane were all up very eager for information. It has been very quiet all day as we were not allowed to shoot as no-one knew how far we had got forward. Oakley was up forward all day with Scott, trying to get information. Captain S[illegible] 17th Battery was also out and had a party of six signallers with him, who were all captured. He must have been awfully careless as he pushed up in front of the infantry and we know the Hun only had patrols out as connecting files. We hear that we have taken Serre without any opposition. It seems strange, as I always thought it would be a strong point and even worse than Beaumont Hamel.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Letter Home (Bertie) - 24 to 25 February 1917

15th Battery RFA

24th February 1917

Dear Mother

Well, it is getting near mail time and I have a bit of time, as I am liaison officer with the infantry again. I did not get very far yesterday as a rather exciting incident happened, which I can't put down here.

It has started to thaw, which is a blessing in many ways, although it does mean more mud. It has dried up a good deal since we came in. I have spent most of my spare moments supervising the draining of the position and am glad to say our efforts have made quite a difference.

We have had quite a lot of shelling around the position this week. The softness of the ground has saved us quite a lot, most of the shells going into the ground without exploding. It is quite a cheerful noise, they just go dump. Our officer, who was wounded at the Thiepval show, came back to us this week, which is rather lucky as it is very hard to get back to your old unit these days. We have our major and second lieutenant on leave at the present moment. Walford got back yesterday, but I have not seen him yet.

I had a long letter from Jack yesterday. He seems to be in good form and likes his new unit job, which is a good thing.

Today is the first day our planes have been up for over a fortnight so you can imagine what the weather has been like.

Today I think will be remembered in the days to come as one of the most important days in the history of the war and appears to me to be the actual turning point. I can't say any more. One is never surprised at what happens these times. Last night and tonight are the quietest nights we have had for months. Don't be surprised if you only get a field post card from me, as we are sure to be very busy from now on and letter writing will become nearly impossible.

Good night and love
from your loving son


Diary Entry - 24th February, 1917

Walford: Saturday. At lunch time Cruickshanks came down from the guns to draw some pay. After looking around the lines, I walked over to the 15th Battery Mess but found no-one at home.

Bee: Very foggy today. Nothing much doing, just wandering round. This afternoon, I had to do Liaison with the infantry left batallion. The 17th Fusiliers were in. I had not been there long before news came in that the 15th Division had reported that their patrols had been out and had met no opposition as far out as Miraumont. It was rather a startling bit of information as nothing had been suspected. Of course, the thick mist we have had the last few days has obscured all observation. Anyway, this fairly stirred up the camp. The Colonel had gone up to the line before the news came in. It was not long before the Brigade Major was round and wanted to know what steps had been taken. But the Fusilier Major was frightened to take the responsibility - or seemed to be. The 18th Division were pushing ahead like wildfire and left our feet standing. The Colonel got back about seven p.m. He had got news of the situation before he got there and had walked overland to all his posts without being shot at. The enemy are evidently retiring to a stronger line on a rise where they can look down on us. There was very little news from the company commanders, who all had patrols out in the dark, which is an awful game. At midnight our brigade rang up to say I had to go over to right battalin=on, which is about half a mile away, and see if I could get any imformation. It took me three-quarters of an hour to get there, solid walking and falling into shell holes very often. And, as usual, they knew no more than we.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd February, 1917

Walford: Well, Bee and I had a good time and we made the most of our time and put every evening in at a theatre. I saw Sid again and had a Sunday morning in his car and we also dined with the Fairbarins on Sunday night. I forgot to mention the great event of our leave - Sam McCaughey's wedding to Una Mc Kellar. It took place on our first morning in London and, of course, we went and met everyone we ever knew. On the 12th, I went down with a bad throat and a temperature and Mildred came round to look after me and also got Dr Blake in to see me. It was nothing much but just enough to stop my going back with Bee on the 13th. Well, on the 19th , I was fit enough to wend my way to Victoria for the leave train but, on arriving, was told there was none running, so I had my warrant stamped and came back to Batt's. The same thing happened the following day, only I had my warrant stamped the night before. On Wednesday, we left but sat on the boat for five hours and were then bundled off and had a free fight to get our warrants stamped as they only had one stamp and there were some 2,000 officers needing warrants and fighting for one little doorway of a waiting room on the station. Stopped the night at the Metropole Hotel. The main event there was that I collected some 12 shillings at snooker in the evening. The boat went at eleven the next morning and had to stay the night in Boulogne as the train did not leave till ten a.m the next morning. Stayed at the Louvre and fell in with a man of the Welsh Fusiliers for a companion. The trian eventually left about twelve thirty p.m. and we reached Acheux at midnight. I found the major of 16th Battery (Messervey) at Candas [?] and we stuck together and stayed  the night in the rest camp at Acheux, the most comfortable one I've been in - it is run by the YMCA. The next morning we got breakfast in the village and walked towards Boozencourt until we picked up an RFC Tender which took us along the rest of the way. I arrived to find none of my battery down at the wagon line and Bailley away on the home course for BCs.

Bee: Very misty and a little colder today. It has got very muddy the last two days. Got quite a lot done to our drainage scheme today and got all the rails off the road. Two guns came up this morning and we had an awful time getting them through the mud. Thaw precautions [illegible] and only two horses are allowed to each vehicle, which is such rot, especially when they only get nine lbs of corn - they are so mean.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd February, 1917

Bee: A brute of a morning – thick mist and heavy fog. I left here at nine a.m. for the wagon line. I had not got far before that damn 6-inch gun started shooting into this valley and when I got back I found some of them had fallen fairly close to the battery, a matter of a few feet, and someone should have been killed. The wagonline is in a filthy mess, with mud. Had a gas helmet inspection and was kept fairly busy with other things. Left there at two thirty p.m. and got back after being frightened with the 6-inch gun again.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Diary Entry - 21st February, 1917

Bee: A very mild day and the mist cleared up for about two hours this afternoon. The 6-inch gun was dropping some very close here today. I had a go at trying to drain the water off the position but it is so thick – like pea soup – that it is hard to do much with it. Oakley went to the OP this afternoon.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Diary Entry - 20th February, 1917

Bertie: Very little more known about the front. It rained hard this morning. I got a lot of useful information for our brigade. Oakley returned today, which was a great surprise. Last night they got a direct hit on the B Subs billet, where six men were sleeping. A shell – four point two – came in one side, knocked one man – Corporal Fisher - to bits and went into the ground on the other side, without exploding. A wonderful escape that the whole lot were not killed. One man is very bad with shell shock – James Hunt.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Diary Entry - 19th February, 1917

Bee: The thaw has set in properly and mud is coming fast. Had a great tidy up as the Corps General was reported to be coming round. Eventually came round and, when he saw that most of our gun pits were more or less knocked about and a good many shells going over, he asked, 'Do they shell you much?' Bromley, the captain, said, 'Yes they do - we have had six guns knocked out and two billets hit direct.' With this, he went straight on, not troubling much about the battery. Had a great time this morning trying to drain the position. I had to go to the infantry battalion as liaison officer this afternoon. The Middlesex are in and are having a hell of a time tonight. At twelve o'clock they were not [illegible] where our point line ran. They have had an awful time. The battery padre and doctor came in tonight about eleven p.m. after being lost for 24 hours. The casualties have been pretty heavy. The Germans spotted them when they were relieving and knocked them to blazes. They told me that one of our people who is supposed to have been a spy deserted two hours before the attack and told the Huns. They, of course, were ready waiting and half a minute before zero opened on the South Stafford. The latter lost all except two officers and 40 men.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Letter home (Bertie) - 18th February, 1917

Dear Mother and Father

I am back again at the guns after a very good leave but was very sorry I had to leave Fatts behind with a very bad cold. It is a rotten trip these days, both going and coming on leave, but I suppose it is a privilege and I should not growl. The day I left, I bustled down to the station, only having four minutes to spare, but when I got there I found that the R S M (Regimental Station Master) had altered the time of starting to an hour later, so we of course cooled our heels on the station. Then, when we got across the channel, they kept us there a day. The next morning we were supposed to start at ten a.m. but did not start till twelve noon. The journey by car takes about three hours but in the leave train or troopship anything from seven hours. Meals of course you can never get but I am cunning now and always leave London with a parcel of food. I was glad to find the thaw had started, and it is turning to mud very rapidly.

I stayed at the wagon line one night and came up to the guns next day. The horses have improved - the overhead cover has made a wonderful difference. I could see a great difference in their appearance. It is wonderful how frightened you are after a few days of leave. I used to duck every time I saw a shell ,but one soon gets accustomed to it again. They had been strafed very badly while I had been away but very little damage done considering. I landed back in the thick of the show. It came off next day. Poor old feet, they don't get much peace, and don't suppose they will from now on. We did good work and captured 27 prisoners, a thing which very rarely happens. These fellows appeared over the crest right in front of the guns, and as they did so each of the other batteries let off a salvo of six guns each, which fairly put the wind up the Huns. They put up their hands and fairly ran into our positions, most of them crying with fright. The first thing I looked for was a revolver but, of course, my servant had left it at the wagon line. They could have scuppered us with bombs when they got behind the guns, but they were really much too frightened. It is not often the battery has a chance of taking prisoners. There was an officer with them but he was killed by one of their own guns just in front of us. You could see by their expressions that they quite expected to be killed or knocked about and were quite surprised when they were not.  

I have tried for some time to write to those people who have sent me socks but it is very hard to find time and as time goes on it will be worse. So, if you see any of them, I wish you would explain – Ethel Green, Estelle, Mrs Thornton and Mr Jim McKinnon. The latter is Mister McKinnon's Cook, to whom I owe letters, but really it is hard to write these days, even one letter a week.

Mum, I got another pair of socks yesterday, with a fly veil, and a note asking me to write.

With best love to all,
from your loving son,

Diary Entry - 18th February 1917

Bee: It has been very quiet all day, owing to heavy fog principally. We had a gun pit hit direct last night and gun spring badly dished. Now have two guns in action. I had a long walk this afternoon, trying to find a dump where I could send empty cases to, which I finally found. I saw on my walk a motor engine which they can use on the light railway. It is wonderful the pace the thing goes. Has been thawing hard all day.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Diary Entry - 17th February, 1917

Bee: A very foggy day and thawing hard. The attack started at four forty-five a.m. There were a goodly number of guns firing too. A three-hour hard shoot and only had three out of six guns in action. Half an hour after the show started, a crowd of prisoners came rushing for the battery. As soon as they appeared on the crest, the 48th and 71st gave a salvo and these fellows with one accord put up their hands and shouted, "Camarade". We took 27 prisoners in all, which was a great effort. These men were terrified and ran into the battery crying and half-dazed. We heard that the attack was hardly a success although some of our men got in to Miramont. I understand our people did well but on our right they were repulsed.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Diary Entry - 16th February, 1917

It seems to have at last started thawing in earnest and a bright day and lots of planes about. I left the W.L about nine am and did not have to walk far before I caught a lorry as far as [illegible] Well, and was glad to walk the rest to get warm. The road was very slippery and the Huns had a balloon up very high which looked right into Pozieres, but the the slight ground mist stopped him from seeing over much. Claudet and Gough were the only two here when I arrived but Walrond and Bromley came back for lunch. I found when I got here that I was wanted to stay here as Walrond and Claudet are to go on leave on Sunday. Claudet went back to the wagon line and I stayed up. Heard great talk about an attack which is to take place tomorrow. They have been fairly badly strafed here while I was away. A Sub billet was hit direct and one man killed - and plenty of shell holes about.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Diary Entry - 15th February, 1917

Bee:  Had breakfast at eight am and then went to the casualties clearing station to see if I could get a lift in an ambulance but had no luck. So went and stood at the cross roads and waited my chance. I had not been there very long when a lorry for Albert came along, which was rather lucky as I never expected to get one right through. It was awfully cold but was more than pleased to get back for lunch. The driver told me he was bringing over huts for hospitals and said they were building accommodation for 1,000,000 Tommies and 50,000 officers just behind Albert. But of course expect he had exaggerated things a bit. Even so there must be comething doing. I found Kershaw at the wagonline just preparing to go to the 2 Army (?) School. Everything seemed in an awful whirl to me. (Illegible) Thorlburn came in, also Murdoch. The Sergeant Major is on leave. I stayed in all day and tried to write. Bill Litt (?) has suffered rather much while away. The snow has thawed out quite a lot since I have been away but the ground is still very hard. The overhead cover for the horses is nearly finished, and I thought the horses look splendid and are profiting from it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Diary Entry - 14th February, 1917

Bee:  Had a beautiful sleep last night. The train was timed to start at ten a.m and I got to the station about nine forty five a.m. The place was packed with new troops coming out and quite a crowd of special trains moved out before we got going and they were a very merry crowd. But I am afraid it will wear off. They are the second line Territorials who have been in England two years. We finally started off at eleven thirty a.m. We plodded along until Abbeville at a fair pace, reaching there at two thirty p.m. It was fairly cold but managed to get into a carriage which had all its windows complete. From Abbeville on we simply crawled. I missed Candas [?] and finished up at Doullens at seven p.m. There must have been a lot of railway smashes along the line as there was no end of wreckage at different parts. I found a fairly decent hotel and picked up another fellow who I had never seen in my life before and we got a room together. I slept on the floor and was quite comfortable. The Hun had put four rounds of big stuff very close to Doullens that afternoon and made people talk a bit.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Diary Entry - 13th February, 1917

Bee: The train was supposed to leave at six fifty a.m. Got to Victoria four minutes before time and found that it had been put off until eight a.m. Too cold for the RTO at that hour; he did not turn up until seven fifty a.m. I got a seat in the Pullman, which I always think is very comfortable, and had a good breakfast. Boat left on time. There were very few leave people but hundreds of new people coming out. In fact, a new division. Had a good crossing, arriving Boulogne at twelve am. Went and saw RTO who said there would be no train until ten a.m. tomorrow. Had a look around for a car, but had no luck. So cooled my heels on the beach this afternoon. A beautiful bright day with cold wind. Everthing seems to be thawing well. I left poor old Walford feeling very sorry for himself. Am staying at the Officers' Club tonight.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Diary Entry - 12th February, 1917

Bertie: Have had a splendid leave. Poor old Wal got a horrible cold the last four days and spent today in bed, and I am going back on my own, as Dr Blakie says it is impossible for Walford to go for a few days. We have done a theatre every night and very often a matinee in the afternoon. The best leave I have ever had. Have seen quite a lot of people. Johnnie, Bill, who told us a lot about Egypt, (there is more going on there than we ever dreamt of), Ritchie, Bill Hunter, Bob Simpson. Went down and saw Barbara [Bertie's sister-in-law]. She has a very nice house at Farnham [?] Common and has Nan living with her. Jack [Bertie's oldest brother] has gone to anti-aircraft - same lot as Sam McCaughey. The first time I have seen the boy [John Manifold, Bertie's nephew, future poet] since left home. He is a jolly soul. Go back tomorrow and hope it is as warm out there as here.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Diary Entry - 3rd February, 1917

Bee: Rang up Boo and found the Kid was out of town, but she came up for lunch. Heard the startling news that Sam McCaughey and Una McKellar were being married at one p.m. today. Dashed off to the wedding and met hundreds of people there. Had lunch with the Kid, Barbara, Bill Hunter, Chettie and Nan. Then went to the Hupla in the evening, which was quite good. I went and saw Dr Blakie this evening about my boil and got overhauled. He did not remember me but looked up his records and then found he had had me before.

There are no further entries from either Walford or Bertie until 12th February, 1917

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Diary Entry - 2nd February, 1917

Walford: We had a very cold trip over and had to stop a night at Kandas where we were bundled out of the train and had to walk about a mile through the village to another station. There we waited for a train that should have come in at one a.m. but which did not arrive until nine a.m. the next morning. There was no rest camp for the men, an apology for one for officers, and the only way to keep warm was to keep on the move. It was little wonder that one heard reports of men freezing to death here but it is not very difficult to believe when one experiences what we did. We got to Boulogne about three p.m., thence on the boat and straight across, reaching London about nine p.m., and oh what bliss to get a really hot bath and white sheets to sleep between.

Bee: Had qite a night, not a wink of sleep. The train got in about eight thirty a.m., more broken windows. The usual thing: the train just crawled along, stopping every few minutes, while we quitely froze by inches, finally arriving at Boulogne at three p.m. We went straight aboard the boat and sailed about four thirty p.m. Had a very calm crossing and managed to get a seat in the Pullman and had a very good meal, arriving in town at eight p.m. Came straight to the pub and had a bath and went to bed.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Diary Entry - 1st February, 1917

 Walford: Thursday. During the next morning it being a sunny morning and still freezing, we had lots of visitors to see the damage. At eleven thirty a.m. someone rang up and said I could go on leave the same evening, if I went down to RA picked up Bee's and my own warrant and caught the train from Acheux at ten p.m. It did not take me long to decide and at one p.m., having had lunch, I set off via the Rentre[?] way on a duck board track, thence along the road to Usna Hill, managing a lift on a lorry from La Boisselle. Having got the warrants from RA and walking back to the road, I met Buxton and Crozier, the former pretending to be very pleased to see me and shaking me by the hand. Thence on through Albert to the 15th Battery wagon lines. Buxton and Crozier again passed me in a car and waved to me, but did not think of giving me a lift. Well, Bee was fairly sore with a boil on his leg, and we arranged that he would come over to our Nissan Hut and dine there and then we would go on in the Mess cart. The drive in the Mess cart to Acheux proved to be very amusing - at least very tiring, as our old horse would not or could not trot and we beat him along with my walking stick. Eventually we got so tired of walking and rather thought we should miss the train so we walked the last quarter mile.

Bee: I have got a rotten boil on my thigh, which has been giving me a bad time. It is so hard to keep a bandage on. I went walking with the Sergeant Major, scouring the country for a new line. I personally want to stay where we are and risk the shells, as we have such a good standing – an old road and water very close by, which has been a great factor to our horses. We have also got most of our stables up and, if we moved, it would mean pulling down everything. This frost is killing an awful lot of horses. We have had two horses frozen to death, a thing I never heard of before -when a horse [illegible] at night his [illegible] gets frozen and that is the end of it. The canal which runs close by has frozen over and the water has to go somewhere and is running over the top of the bank. The lake close by has risen 10 feet and flooded out the 16th battery wagon line. At present, there are tents and huts sticking up out of the ice. Walford came down from the guns about three p.m. and said we were both going on leave tonight, which was a pleasant surprise. It was a case of bustling round to get ready. A damn cold night. We left the 48th wagon line at eight p.m. in their Mess cart for Acheux - about nine miles. The old horse did not believe in trotting and we had to work hard with a stick to get him to move at all in fact we broke a walking stick over him and finished up by walking the last mile. Got a seat in the train which moved out at ten thirty p.m. It was worse than awfully cold as the carriage was minus two windows. They told us that leave trains had stopped running lately as they could not [illegible] out the [illegible] on the engines. Even tonight they have braziers alight on top of them. We got out of this train at Canas and walked a mile to another station, which got the circulation going, but when we got there they told us that the train had not started from St Pool and it would be eight a.m. before it got here. So we went in search of a fire, it now being only midnight. Found an ASC book house and crowded round a small brazier -  even there we found it hard to keep warm. Found an estaminet which gave us coffee and an omelette at seven a.m. - better than nothing. It is hard to believe that last week three men were frozen to death while waiting for the trains. There being no place for the men to go, they have started building a rest camp, which is badly needed.