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Wednesday 30 May 2012

Diary Entry - 30th May, 1917

Wednesday at seven a.m. we march for Aire. I remain behind to fix up any claims and have to wait till the town mayor gets up about eight thirty a.m. An old Frenchman makes a lot of noise over a small amount of wood the cooks used, for which he wanted five francs. The town mayor sided with him, which was rot, as, if he had got five francs, he would have been doing well. When I find the school at ten thirty a.m. I am surprised to find no battery, as came the direct route. However, they turn up in about ten minutes, having gone off the main road to avoid the cobbles. The school is a great place for eye wash - everything whitewashed and in spick and span condition, with Colonel Lea Warner, DSO and MC, in command, Darcey, his adjutant. The stables and harness rooms are very large and the men sleep in barracks. In fact, it is very like a peace show. The horse of mine which was very lame broke its hind leg during the night, right at the hock, and had to be destroyed. I am wrong - the horse broke its leg the first night we spent at the school.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Diary Entry - 29th May, 1917

Walford: It was inclined to rain when we set out at six a.m and there was thunder in the air. When we reached Divion the rain stopped, having laid the dust nicely. Between Houdain and Divion we passed a large chateau belonging to some army. It was very well kept as was an HQ. Nicholson and the 2MS went on to Ames to do the billeting and they had everything nicely fixed, water nice and close to the lines. One horse of mine went dead lame just as we reached the lines.

Monday 28 May 2012

Diary Entry - 28th May, 1917

Walford: Monday, being orderly officer, rise at four a.m. and see horses watered and fed. Battery move off soon after six a.m. I and Sergeant Higgins go on ahead to Hermin, just beyond Gauchin le Gal, to arrange billets. It was another warm day and it took us two hours fifteen to get there. There was no town mayor in the town, but was informed the one at Gauchin le Gal did the two villages, so went back to see if he could give me any help, but found that he did not control Hernin. As there was some doubt as to who did, we billeted on our own hook and got all we required within 50 yards of the lines. As it was such good weather, we did not expect any of the men to sleep undercover and, as it happened, they preferred to sleep in the open. The battery marched in at eleven fifteen a.m. and we were all comfortably settled down in very short time. We had our Mess in the field by a small stream, a very pleasant spot. Major Sandford and Bellew slept in the open, while Nicholson and I slept in the tent. I forgot to mention that, as we came by Chamblain l'Abbe, we saw dozens of Bosche minnen wurfers by the side of the road, evidently captured by the Canadians. They ranged from huge ones on wheels to small bomb throwers, standing about 6' off the ground.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Diary Entry - 27th May, 1917

Walford: Sunday. The battery had come out of action late the previous night and all arrived at the WL without mishap. We awoke in the morning to the very familiar sound of the 5.9' gun dropping somewhat close. I investigated after the second round and found they were falling not 100 yards away in the 41st Brigade lines. The rest of our Bde were busy packing up for a move to Madagascar corner as the Corps had kicked us out on account of the dump. The shells increased their energy and it was astonishing the way they got packed up. Luckily no-one was touched, two bivouacs were blown up but fortunately no men were in them. Church parade wsa held at 41st Bde at ten thirty a.m. I had to go supplies and see Captain Gard about our rations as 2nd Div were to ration us till the 31st inst. However, as far as we could gather no arrangements had been made by staff so we thought it best to do it for ourselves. It was a very warm morning with a strong wind blowing and plenty of dust. As soon as we had supplies fixed up through Gard, Pellam rang up to say two motor lorries would travel with us from Hermin. Bellew in the evening took our ammunition up to Roclincourt by pack as we were told at the eleventh hour we had to travel empty, he had to make two trips and did not get in till about eleven.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Diary Entry - 26th May, 1917

Walford: Go for an early morning ride, leaving lines at five thirty. This was for the purpose of using the Tooth Brush so as no-one would be about. The light was fairly good and I think everything was successful. I went and awoke the Padre at Brigade and chatted to him until about seven. Towards midday, I had again to ride up to Bde. to arrange about our rations for the march to Aire of 28th inst. After waiting there for an hour, Sandford arrived, as there was a BCs meeting with the Colonel, so I gleaned some information from him on several points.

Friday 25 May 2012

Diary Entry - 25th May, 1917

Walford: Friday. Start at eight thirty a.m. with the Sgt. Major to show him the grazing field and send him on to choose some horses from the grazing camp to come in to the WL. Meanwhile, I go on to Marveuil, to the RE dump, to see if any material can be obtained. During stables, inspected the harness, and the Gun Park, the former was a great improvement to the week before and the Gun Park was very good too. In the afternoon, while writing the diary, in strolls Pelham, (Staff Capt), with a Colonel, who, he informed me, said the 15th and 48th Batteries had to move that afternoon to a spot 500 yards from the Ammunition Dump. There was only one place for us to go and that was in the hollow, so I suggested it, and down we had to go that evening. It did not take us long and it was wonderful how the men got their bivouacs and tents up and the lines all ready. The most amusing site was to see the Sgts' Mess Chalet (like our own) going down on a truck and meeting a light engine halfway down. The house had to be removed in very quick time and the truck thrown off the line, but they managed without an accident. We also heard from Pelham that the battery was proceeding to Aire on the 28th to the 1st Army School for a fortnight. The Bosche disturbed the peaceful hours with bombs, both at night and in the morning.

Diary Entry - 24th May, 1917

Walford: At nine fifteen a.m. go to rest (horse) with Farrier Sgt, to get eight horses that are reported ready to remove from the camp. Find it is run by a Major this time, in a much more simple manner, and there was no trouble in getting them away whatever. Furthermore, the horses showed improvement this time, as they received more attention, there not being so many horses in the camp. From there I went on and had a look at the horses 'far grazing camp and came back with Hewitson, who showed me a new field on the way home. Take it easy in the afternoon.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd May, 1917

The night on the floor with the Scottie was more comfortable than I expected. It was a misty morning and there was no visibility till ten a.m. when I was relieved by McKinty of the One Fives (15th). On the way back I called in at Bde where Connover had the place to himself. We stayed talking and looking at air photos, which he eventually gave me, for about an hour. It was twelve thirty p.m. when I got back and found a large crowd at the Mess as the Colonel had Battery Commanders down to have a look round the lines. We sat down 14 to lunch in the new Mess Chalet, which had just been completed. I have neuralgia which has grown no better, so retire to my tent in the afternoon. Siggers and Cruickshank both very thrilled as they go on leave tomorrow with Todd and Hortayne.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd May, 1917

Walford: Tuesday. It was raining when I got up at seven a.m. and had been for some time before. I had to do a turn of duty at the Bde OP and left the WL at eight forty-five a.m. with two signallers as look out men. It was very heavy going up the mule track and worse still when the police at the crest made us get in a trench. However, as it was very misty, we left the trench very quickly and made for the old gun pits, which had lately been taken over by the infantry. After a hunt through the slush for the OP, we dropped in at Inf. Bde. HQ, where I was very grateful for a drink offered to me. From here we got through to Bde HQ and asked them to direct us to the spot and found it only about 150 yards to our left rear. The mist never cleared till midday nor did the rain, but Bosche was very quiet so there was nothing to worry about. The Colonel and Sandford come up in the afternoon and fire a few rounds with the sniping gun, without much success, as the aiming posts seem to have been planted by someone after they were knocked over by shellfire. The Hun put some very close to the gun after a while, but think he was only dusting up the road between the Sucrerie and Arleux-en-Gohelle. In this same dug out as our Bde were two infantry officers, Divisional intelligence people. They belonged to the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders and were big talkers. One called all his men by their Christian names and they returned the compliment. It was a most weird party - they talked about each other's 'lassies'. Before dusk a wild rumour came round from Corps that the Bosche was retreating, but as their reasons for retreat seemed very weak to me, I did not get very feverish about it.

Monday 21 May 2012

Diary Entry - 21st May, 1917

Walford: The previous evening Hoyland and Scott heard they could collect their warrants and proceed on leave. Hoyland stirred things up as usual, throwing his kit and everyone else's everywhere and leaving two backed cheques on the floor of the Mess. They started to get off at seven, but Hoyland in his more casual way than usual had not got out of bed so Scottie was left running round like a cat on hot bricks. Eventually about nine they set out, Scottie carrying a bag, Hoyland, (not yet 21), having sent his servant ahead with his bag. They were making for St. Pol Road to catch a lorry. Gnr. Gordon also goes on leave, a great nut full of excitement as he is to be married. I went to the salvage dump in the morning about GS fore carriage and wheels, managing to get what is wanted. On coming back to the lines, I find the BSM had gone one better than me, having made a brand new wagon in the night. Siggers appears from his duty about eleven thirty a.m, just in time after his usual 'coiffeur' and 'face massage', to help me pay out, and we form a very fast combination, he signing the books and I paying. It was inclined to be showery in the afternoon. Nicholson, a young fellow from the Shop posted to us.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Diary Entry - 20th May, 1917

Walford: Sunday. Hewitson and I rode out to the horses, more for a ride and exercise than anything else. Lunched at one thirty p.m and church parade formed up soon after two fifteen p.m. The Padre and Colonel turned up about two thirty p.m., the former was very nervous at the beginning and set off at a tremendous speed with the first hymn but he soon got into his stride. F. S. Siggers had left early to do liaison with the infantry, a 24-hour job. The Colonel sees the horses water and seems to think they show improvement. Towards evening Hewitson and I take our horses grazing by the river, it has been a beautiful day and a contrast to the awful weather we had in April.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Diary Entry - 19th May, 1917

Walford: Saturday, Siggers and I went to the rest camp to see the horses and, on arrival there, took our saddles and bridles off, letting our horses go. I had Tommie, my second mount, as Ginger had a bad back, and the brute charged all over the place, breaking through the picquet and getting onto the crops. These two caused much trouble between them, and we thought they would make the other tired old skins stampede. In the afternoon, we started work on a new Mess on the chalet system and had our wheeler at work.

Friday 18 May 2012

Diary Entry - 18th May, 1917

Siggers was to go off to 13th Corps on a three-week course as intelligence officer to a counter battery group, so I rode over to Roclincourt in the morning with him and saw him into his car, then proceeded back to the lines again. During the stable hour, there was a harness inspection, the usual weekly affair, which was a fair show. In the afternoon, I walked into Arras to draw the pay, calling at the DAC on the way out, to see about Gnr. Campbell, who had been wounded at Courcelles and who had been sent up from the Base to the DAC. About tea time, Hoyland, the casual and Tucker roll up from Paris, having overstayed their leave a day - the last 12 hours we had been pursued by messages of enquiry from the Brigade who in turn were being troubled with messages from RA. Towards seven p.m. a Captain Vosper rolled up, saying he was posted to the 15th Bty. so we put him up for the night. In the evening, Siggers returned, as he said when he reached Corps they tried to make out the job was permanent and would not let him go until he got hold of Carrington. He said he was much disturbed when he arrived as they quite expected to keep him, agreement or no agreement.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Diary Entry - 17th May, 1917

As my Corporal shoeing smith could get no satisfaction from the Rest camp as to getting back our horses on the previous evening, I went myself at nine a.m. I was rather heated, as this man had waited four hours on the previous evening with a note from me asking to return 15 horses and had received no reply. On hunting round the camp, I found the OC, in an old dug out, along with three others, picking out our horses - Colonel Seymour, a dark Major and Captain Robinson Scott. The rest camp, as it was termed, was more like an overrun duck yard than anything else, or, as Colonel Beech said, like Rotten Row, the small paddocks wired off with barbed wire were as bare as your hand and beginning to puddle after the rain we had. Well, to get my horses, I had to ride on to Corps HQ and see the Commandant of the rest camp. Then, after telling some lies about having to move our WL, he eventually gave me leave to draw ten of our horses. When the horses went in, they were put there with the understanding that we could get them when we liked. The Colonel was down for lunch and seemed pleased with the Cook House and Harness Rooms, which we had put up. After lunch, he looked at four of our specimens from the rest camp and went on to Bray. Siggers came down that afternoon and Bellew goes up to the guns again.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Diary Entry - 16th May, 1917

Early in the morning we countered at Roeux and regained the chemical works. At nine a.m Colonel Beech, Armytage and self took about 14 horses out from each battery to a field some 5 kilometres away, as Beech had requisitioned a field there for grazing. The field was about 50 acres with a fair amount of good grass in it. Armytage and I came back through Marveuil to see about RE material and then on to DADOS at Bray, where we saw a gun with a new air recuperator on it. It was fitted into the old outer case and, except for the ends, looked much the same as the old buffer. About four p.m. it commenced raining and, as Bellew and I sat down to tea, we were asked to go to the dump and see a Corps General. His grouse was that we were too near to the dump and that we were out of our area, we being 13th Corps and the dump 17th Corps's. He eventually went away saying he would talk to our corps about it, but seemed to speak as if he expected the dump to go up any day. Several large ammunition dumps had already gone up in Arras, causing much damage, and one had a lot of gas shell in it, which caused great alarm and despondency. So we moved the top lines down the hill below the left section and also moved the gun park to the bottom of the hill.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Diary Entry - 15th May, 1917

Walford: Tuesday. I went up to Brigade at nine a.m. to see about an indent for harness as there was some heat about it from the base depot, Murdoch said he remembered the case clearly and said he would fix it for me through Division. Ginger seemed full of beans and gave a couple of pig roots when I mounted him. The troughs were finished today and seem to be a great success. Towards evening, it was a little showery. The Bosche attacked at Roeux in the evening and retook the Chemical works, which we had taken from him on Saturday morning - we had taken it with comparative ease hardly losing a man and taking about 700 prisoners.

Monday 14 May 2012

Diary Entry - 14th May, 1917

Walford: Monday. Our turn to supply Bde orderly officer, so I have to stump out at six a.m. and see everyone water. At four a.m. we had a thunder storm and some lightning. Gunner Bates, my old servant, told me he saw it set a balloon on fire. The Wheeler with a fatigue from each battery was very busy putting up troughs or rather connecting them all so as three pumps would supply them with water and a battery could water with ease. After breakfast, Hoyland went to RA and obtained a leave warrant for two days in Paris. I forgot to mention we all went down to the river for a swim before breakfast but the water was too cold for me and I wasted no time in getting out.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Diary Entry - 13th May, 1917

Walford: Sunday. Hoyland and self attend stables. The colonel had brought in a new scheme the previous day that Hoyland was to run an orderly officer daily to remain at the troughs during the hours of watering and see that the brigade watered properly. We started the routine in the usual way, senior battery taking the duty first. There was a large church parade at two thirty p.m. just outside the Mess and a good gathering of officers, including all the wagon line officers of the brigade.

Friday 11 May 2012

Diary Entry - 11th May, 1917

Walford: Friday. Sandford went to the guns again, to let Hoyland come back to his wagon lines. One gun was put out during the night - a 5.9' hitting the trail about the spade, cutting the latter to piece,s so it meant a new gun. I rode up to the brigade to see about some guns, also intending to call in at the graveyard on the way and try to get a snap, but there were too many men about. The doctor had again attacked the ears that morning. On our arrival back at the lines, we found the colonel there, Bellew had gone up to take Evans's place as he had been wounded by shrapnel in the back. The Colonel stayed for tea, then walked back to the Brigade with Connover.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Diary Entry - 10th May, 1917

Walford: We did not have a very pleasant night as had to sit up until two thirty, when the ration cart returned from the gun. We tried to sleep. I slept in a chair in the Mess, but it was really too cold to be comfortable. However, I slept in until eleven thirty a.m and felt much refreshed. Sandford and I walked into Arras in the afternoon to get some things at the canteen and see the doctor on the way about my ears. I was surprised to find that Arras was such a large place and Cadonnier told me that in days gone by it had a population of 40,000 but it had dwindled to about 29,000. Parts of the town had been severely treated but there were still a great number of houses intact, except for the windows. We had a drink of wine at an hotel which had been running all through the war. Of course, it was rather crude, but it served the purpose of a cafe all right and we had some very cooling wine for 10 francs. It was a very warm evening. On returning, the doctor came to dinner and had a go at my ears with a syringe, without much success. In fact, he made my left ear rather tender and it ached in the night.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Diary Entry - 9th May, 1917

Walford: Wednesday. We had an awful night of it and during the whole of it not one wink of sleep did I get. As soon as we had turned in at ten forty-five and when Bellew had just returned from taking ammunition mules forward with fodder for the sniping gun, the shelling commenced. Four twos and five nines began bursting down the sunken road and they were lachrimatory shells. As I was at the bottom of the stairs in a tank and they were putting right along the road, I thought it wise to move inside. We were dozing away when there was an appalling crash about four thirty. There were shouts for the major. All the candles were out and the place full of dust. As soon as I had rolled out of bed, I followed the major along the passage to our men's two entrances. A heap of wreckage was all I could see at the bottom to our first shaft but I was informed that both Gunnar Saunders (Sandford's servant) and Br.Ddd had been killed. I enquired for Sandford but no one seemed to have seen him and on hearing someone groaning up the shaft saw that he had fainted. Harrison got him down and we pulled him along to the fresh air but it was 30 minutes before we got him round. As soon as he was coming along, I went back and found another man had flopped. We got him away and another man went. This continued till we had seven men down and others slightly affected. I was very puzzled as to what was the cause of it as I knew it was no ordinary gas that was known but anyway I used the ammonia tablets which the medical orderly had freely and this seemed to give them all great relief. As the medical orderly had worked until he dropped, we were left with no one who knew much about the game at all. I tried to get through to brigad, Gannon, the only signal left out of six,trying his hardest on the wires without success. Some of the corps who were between where we slept and our men however managed to get my message through. The next thing to think of was the stand to at three thirty as we had already been warned of an expected attack so as No. 1 gun was out of action, its sights being amongst the debris, we were able to make up the vacancies from them. It was fairly quiet when we went to the guns, though they were still dropping a good many to the rear of us. At five fifty-five we heard some rifle and machine gun fire and, as there was no chance of seeing rockets, owing to thick mist and rain, we opened at intense rate, slowing a bit as the rifle and machine guns eased off. We fired I expect till four forty-five, when all had quietened, and then returned to the dugout. The ground was very greasy and the rain continued to pour down. About nine a.m., Todd arrived and saw everyone and got Hands, who was slightly wounded in the groin, away to a dressing station. We got Gannon onto the brigade line and, after a lot of work on it, got through and arranged for a complete relief of officers and men. At one p.m. Hoyland arrived with Evans. whom he brought from the detached section at the seven ones, and the men arrived shortly afterwards. So Sandford, Bellew and I, with the men, soon made tracks, being hunted up the sunken road from Kellagher's with five nines. We lunched with the seven ones, then picked up our horses at the brigade and rode down to the wagon line, where we found Siggers holding an evening stables. It was a great relief to feel you could walk about in the fresh air without any risk of disturbance or getting a shell on your head. We heard on the following day that the Hun had attacked and taken Fresnoy it without any opposition at all – in fact, think we must have been the only guns to open, as could not hear any others until we had almost finished.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Photographs of Battlefields Mentioned in Diaries

On the weekend, my mother-in-law, Jean Higgie, very kindly showed me a series of publications produced during the First World War for Australians. As they contain lots of pictures of the places mentioned by my grandfather and his brother in their diaries, I thought I would put them in a post. I've also included some of the advertisements in the magazines, as I think they give a good flavour of the time somehow: