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Friday, 31 August 2012

Diary Entry - 1st, 2nd and 3rd September, 1917

Saturday: remained at guns all day while Armytage goes down to W L. Sherman and McKinty wander up to the Fosse for a joyride but fail to see anything as it is rather misty. Sunday: at five a.m. I am awakened by heavy enemy fire coming from South, soon afterwards I hear S O S shouted down the battery and we commenced jumping it in as the S O S light had been sent up.  A hostile raiding party of 150 men, including five officers, got into our trenches and wandered about, apparently losing themselves between the posts and getting round up. Anyway, they went back without taking a man and we had nine casualties from hostile fire. The 46th division infantry had the wind up properly and H Q was receiving marked attention from the Hun guns and Armytage, who was up there, said they would not stir from their burrows. I reached the 400 (name of our OP) soon after six a.m. The sun was right in our eyes and I did not pay much attention to the front until eleven a.m., when I had a good squint over the country and found some Huns strolling about in the open to the rear of Lone Farm. From then until one p.m. I must have seen 20 Huns and kept sniping at them with one round of H E, the only one I got really close to was with the second round, which burst all over him and he turned and ran for his life. It was most amusing to watch. There was very little shooting on either side through the day, due to the gale blowing, I expect. Monday: Sherman and self ride to the W L on bikes but the former is recalled to see the general at the position almost before we had been there 10 minutes. I waited for stables and picked out with the Sergeant major 20 horses to be put on a thin line to see if we could not fatten them. After lunch called the 48th W L and found that Hoyland and Nicholson had just got back off leave. Bellew was also at the WL. Sharman came down again at two thirty p.m. and we rode into the Bank of France to see if they would cash a cheque for 225 francs but the largest sum they cash is five pounds so had to retire. On the way back I had a hot shower at the Ecole des Filles. About five thirty, when I arrived, Admiral, a 6 inch how battery, was pumping gunfire onto some target and the Hun must have sound ranged him as he put a lot of 10 centimetre gun over at them, soon closing them up. One cut a tree in half as I crossed the open field to the guns from the Mess. Battalion that night as liaison officer.

Note: the most amusing feature of the proceeding was that Armytage heard the adjutant tell the Colonel that one post had lost a Lewis gun and he said Ahem! That would be rather hard to explain. This rather tickles us as they call themselves the fighting Sherwoods

Diary Entry - 31st August, 1917

Have a meeting with the owner of a brick stack in our lines, a claims officer, and Cadonnier. After a heated opening by the Frenchman, who pointed out a number of holes in the stack made since 12th August, he maintained, we asked him if he knew where we had put them. So he got his man with a pick and commenced digging up the standings but we showed him where these bricks came from and they were only a small number out of 16,0000 he claimed as having lost. He then cooled down and threw in the sponge, saying he did not want any money but wanted to be treated fairly and not have his bricks stolen. After an hour and a half, he still insisted that we had stolen his bricks and called the Sergeant Major a liar, so I suggsted to the claims officers that we waited till Hewitson came back off his course as he had been warned to take precautions. Rode up to the guns in the afternoon. It was still inclined to be showery. At six forty-five p.m. I went down to battalion as liaison to the 46th Division infantry who at present cover our front. They were quite a decent crowd and did not make life unpleasant as some batallions do. The Hun put a fair quantity of 4.2 on Old Boots and vicinity of HQ during the night.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Diary Entry - 30th August, 1917

Still showery. Go to guns in the afternoon. Come back by Sailly La Bourse so as to call in at RE dump to see about material required at the guns. No difficulty about drawing the material and am told the Hun put several 5.9 gun shells very close to the dump during the afternoon. While away from the lines the Colonel and General wandered round the lines and seemed to be well satisfied as left no grouses. At seven thirty I push off to brigade on a bicycle for dinner and get a puncture just a few yards from the door, a hobnail in the front tyre. Vaisey gets someone to mend it and I spend rather an amusing evening, listening to an argument on the church and bible which the Padre defends well, though some difficult points are brought forward.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Diary Entry - 29th August, 1917

Go to Le Touquet in the morning to get a chit from the REs for material to go on with the wagon lines. My one-eyed horse plays up on the way and steps gently into the gutter on the side of the road, which is usually very boggy. However, we were lucky in coming out all right. He made me bust my cane on him though. The RESM would not give me anything, on calling at the dump, as he had no timber and said iron could only be obtained with a chit signed by CRE. On returning to Mess, find Sherman there and we go into Bethune EFC to get a list of material for the canteen priced. When we get back to the Mess, Vosper is there drying himself, having been caught in a shower. He entices me into the club but at four my conscience pricks me as the Major probably will call in in the afternoon. But, on my way out, I meet John and Young on their way to Gone in a Ford box, so I jump up with them and go out to tea. Am landed back at the Mess, to find the Major and Vosper having tea. However, I smooth things over all right. Find two horses bad with colic, one in great agony and, though the vet tries to relieve it with medicine, it still suffers severe pain so at ten p.m he shoots it. The horse, as is usually the case, is a good black, the best of that team, belonging to F Sub. The other we pull round all right.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Diary Entry - 28th August, 1917

Armytage comes down to the wagon lines at twelve p.m. and takes a tub in the afternoon in town. It still blows a gale. In the afternoon I ride into Bethune with Siggers for exercise and dine at the four eights' Mess in the evening.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Diary Entry - 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th August, 1917

There is one day I can't place. Saturday: Come away from guns at ten thirty a.m. on Ginger and arrive in time for stables. Claudet comes down at one p.m and we lunch at the Officers' Club and afterwards we purchase from Vienne of the glass shop - a huge lady with alluring brown orbs, a perfect saleswoman's smile at the right time - some odd things for the Mess. We vist the EFC for tobacco and, after standing at one counter for twenty minutes to be served, are informed that it is the wrong counter - the speaker escaped with his life barely - and we obtained our purchases at a counter on the other side of the shop. Sunday: Church parade at eleven in Bouverie at the Cinema Hall, the Padre had secured the divisional band and the service went with a good swing, about 120 men being there. Charles Armytage, Siggers and I stayed for Communion and about eight other men of the ranks. McKinty came down to stables and an RE officer rolled up to see what material we required to put on the standings and stables in general. We bled him for a lot of stuff but still require a great deal more. Monday. It rained during the night and continued showery throughout the day. Wright comes down from the guns and, after lunch, we go into the baths on bicycles, I having first ridden down to the RE dump about a box drain. It blew a hurricane all day from the south and quite a number of trees were knocked down on the road to the town. We had a good bath. Wright stayed to dinner

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd August, 1917

The major of the four eights relieved me as Hoyland and Nicholson have gone on leave and the Major has to do his turn of work. As I left met the General of 6th RA and Claudet, the former was up to look at the front. I find Sherman has come up to the guns to stay and that I am to go down to the WL. Wright returns from leave in the evening. There has been good news of the Italian and French attacks, the former having taken 20,000 prisoners, the latter 10,000, at Verdun. At seven thirty p.m. we fired some smoke shells from a trench mortar, supposed to be purole in colour, but they looked like HE, so, as the demonstration was to try it as an SOS, it was a failure.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd August, 1917

I go to the OP at eleven a.m., as Sherman and the Major go up at ten, the latter to point out the front to the former. The front was quiet all day but the Hun shelled Harley Street in the morning and afternoon with five nines, searching back down the Cambrin Road too and along to Cuinchy. At eleven p.m. we project gas from Northampton Trench. The gas frightened me at first, as it seemed to be drifting towards us instead of the Bosche. In return we only received a few minnies along the line.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Diary Entry - 21st August, 1917

Go to the WL at ten thirty a.m. Look round the horses with Sherman. Am not very impressed with my two men in charge. After lunch an RE officer comes round to take a list of improvements to the standings so as we can indent for material. We spent over an hour going round the lines and Sherman, with some smooth-tongued talk, got quite a lot of stuff out of the man. At three p.m. we went into Bethune, had tea there, also saw Grannie Stafford at the officers' club, then, at five p.m,. having walked back to the WL, I set out on horses for Mazingarp and met John on the road in a Ford box just this side of Noyelle so dismounted and went on in the car with him. Stayed to dinner with him and Sam - the latter was just off on leave on the morrow and they ran me back to the battery at ten p.m. At six p.m. there was a straafe on the Hun line and we fired smoke shell in front of his OPs so that he could not see what was going on. He got quite angry and put over a certain amount of stuff in return.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Diary Entry - 20th August, 1917

At the guns all day. Armytage goes to the WL and McGuinty the OP. A beautiful day and do a lot of work  on the cupola in the afternoon.

Diary Entry - 17th, 18th and 19th August, 1917

Go to OP and relieve Cruikshank. The Hun was very inactive on the front till we straafed Auchie with a hurricane bombardment at two thirty p.m. and then again at six thirty p.m., for five minutes intense gun fire. This was retaliation for the Hun shelling Bethune with his five nine gun. I was hoping some of the sixty pounders or six inch would hit one of the OPs in the town but they all escaped unscathed. The late shoot stirred the Hun to anger and he pipsqueaked [illegible - town ending in nchy] and the Cambrin Road, worrying me at the Babe, so I asked Vosper to turn onto his end of the La Bassee Road and that stopped him. He has a tender spot in the Spotted Dog. On Saturday, when I come down from OP, remain at guns. McGinty [? does he mean McKinley?] comes back from D36 in the afternoon. A heavy shower blew up in the evening. Sunday: Claudet, Hoyland and I go down to the HQs, and then on to Old Boots trench, and fire one of our guns on SOS lines, to see that it is all right. We get back to lunch at two p.m. The Major was madder than usual and turned the four eights' Mess upside down, besides behaving like a lunatic in the trenches. In the afternoon, I rode up to [illegible place name ending in nchy] Station via Harley Street, to pay the section out. This is a good section position and the men seem very comfortable. They have even got electric light, having tapped into a cable on the canal bank. Came back via the Canal and call in at the Vosper Mess and have a chat with them, then on to tea at the Mess, as the Major wanted the bicycle to go to the OP on.

Diary Entry - 14th, 15th and 16th August, 1917

Siggers relieved me and I remained at the guns all day. The Hun shelled Admiral and the other 6' how battery with 4.2s and 5.9s for the greater part of the day and searched over the position as far as the Mess, just dropping four up against the wall but doing no damage. Wednesday: at the guns all day. Armytage went to OP, I spent most of the afternoon working on my dug out, moving a lot of earth. The Canadians attacked north of Leny[?], capturing Hill 70, which commands all approaches to the town. They killed a huge number of Germans and captured about 1,000 prisoners. There was a lot of gunning throughout the day in Leny direction and believe our guns caught a huge quantity of Huns massing in a wood for a counter and simply waited till the wood was full then obliterated them, turning on every gun that could reach the spot. Thursday: the Berkshire infanteer was replaced by a man from the KRRs - the former was killed some four days later, being sniped while trying to locate the man who got him. I went to Vermelles anti section in the afternoon after having enquired at the Annequin section as to where John was. Sam was at the guns and saw him shoot on a Hun at 14,000 feet but the Hun rose to 22,000 and was out of range. On returning for tea, I did some work on the dug out, putting a lot more stuff on it. Sherman came in for tea. The major dined at Brigade.

Diary Entry - 12th and 13th August, 1917

Sunday: stayed at the guns. Hewitson had gone off on a five-month course on the previous evening to Boulogne. At midday, we heard on the telephone that Claudet had arrived at Brigade and was not sorry to hear his voice in the Mess at tea as did not like taking command of a battery which I knew very little about. The Royal Berks man left without saying goodbye to a soul and another man of the KRRs arrived in the afternoon. The Padre had a service at the 48th at two p.m. McKinley came off liaison and went to D36, attached for work. Monday: relieve Cruikshank at ten a.m. Claudet, Thorburn and attached Colonel arrive about eleven fifteen a.m., the latter shoot on Les Briques, making a great noise in the OP. After lunch, I register the battery on Railway Cottage. Communication is bad to everyone all day and D36 Tucker tried to shoot 70 rounds on a minnie but it took him over an hour to fire two rounds, on the brigade buried cable. The Hun put 12 dudd[?] 4.2 hows very close to the Babe at four p.m. but think he was firing on the trench junction in front.

Diary Entry - 11th August, 1917

Wright went on leave at one p.m. from Bethune. Hewitson and self went up the trenches, on the way looking at some old gun positions, in order that, if it is necessary, we can move into them. We almost got lost after leaving Railway Alley and, as is usual, you meet the man who 'thinks he knows his way and doesn't' and probably get desperate. Having found Battalion HQ they told us there was nothing doing and that the line was quiet so we came home to lunch at one thirty p.m.

Diary Entry - 10th August, 1917

Hun starts on us at six forty-five, dropping the first half dozen on the crest to get his line, then the next two bracketed the position. When the first near one came, we got all men into the tunnel, the officers in pyjamas. I took care to hurry along with my clothes, so as I could dress. The infanteer looked a picture in a tin hat, British warm and brown silk pyjamas waving in the wind. When coming back from the Mess to the tunnel a 5.9 had a direct hit on a tree and it came crashing to the ground in good style. After breakfast, we moved all the men to the left flank near the 6-inch howitzers and about one p.m. they fired on the battery that was causing the trouble, stopping it. On inspecting the damage after lunch, we found No. 2 gun had received a round right on its wooden platform and what was left of the carriage was buried under cupolas and earth. We set to work and soon had it hauled out, removing the piece first and sending to the WL for wheels to remove the carriage or what was left of it. A shell had pitched on Armytage's dug out and one just in rear of mine, but they both held out. We were working hard filling in the holes when the Colonel and an attached Colonel arrived. He must have thought us very industrious. That night we got a carriage from ordinance, put the piece in and had the gun in action by nine p.m.

Diary Entry - 9th August, 1917

Do duty at the guns. All day the Hun shelled what I thought was an open field on the right of our position and most of his rounds fell in a crop. In the evening I discovered he was shooting at some 60 pdrs but don't think he could have done much damage. Hun aeroplanes were very active all morning and the archies were kept busy. One of our machines flew over very low and brought down a Hun balloon in flames, getting back quite safely. An infanteer officer of the Royal Berks was attached to us in the afternoon. He is an absolute dud and am sure is mad.

Diary Entry - 8th August, 1917

Relieved at ten by Cruikshank, having had a pitched battle with the mosquitoes at the Babe OP in the evening. One could barely see out of the loophole for them, so I gassed them by turning on a smoke barrage produced from a smouldering damp sand bag. In the evening I went over to the AA section and saw Young in charge. He informed me that John was still at Verquin. There were two very heavy thunderstorms after six p.m. and Sherman arrived in the midst of very heavy rain at seven p.m., having come up to see a ugnpit and give his opinion on reconstruction - his job in peacetime in Canada.

Diary Entry - 7th August, 1917

At ten a.m. go up to 400 (an OP) and relieve Siggers who has done the previous 24 hours. The light is bad and only clears up towards evening when the sun gets through the low hanging clouds. Hewitson and Vosper look in at the same time during the afternoon, the latter having been for a stroll round the trenches. About six p.m. the Vosper Bty straafed a sentry with shrapnel and must have either hit him or given him a good fright as they got some good low bursts right on top of him. I fired on zero then registered Lone Farm with No. 4 gun, one of the guns with an air recuperator.

Diary Entry - 6th August, 1917

Having arranged to have my things packed and moved, Vosper and I set off after breakfast for Annequin where we just found Claudet and Hewitson walking towards the guns. The former was just going off to Vimereux to a camouflage course for a week and Hewitson was taking over. I spent the day gaining as much knowledge as possible about zones targets et cetera.

Diary Entry - 5th August, 1917

Did early morning at Braddle Castle, but it was very misty and may as well not have been there. It was a bright sunny day and the KRR had a church service under the trees behind the 9th section and hit up with a good old march for the platoons as they marched onto parade, much to Jones's annoyance. It was rather a rash thing to do as am sure the Hun could hear, the range to his country being 2,500 and it was a very still day and one never knows what he can do with his sound ranging apparatus. Anyway, it was all right and very jolly to hear the band playing the hymns. Our service was at eleven a.m. but was not so jolly as we had no orchestra. The Padre read part of the address issued throughout the world in commemoration of 4th August 1914. The maxim preached not to grow tired of the war sounds all right but is not an easy one to put into practice, especially for anyone who has been out over eighteen months and experienced such slaughter as the Somme, Ancre and Arras Vimy Ridge battles.

Diary Entry - 4th August, 1917

As it was my day off I arranged to go into Bethune for lunch, along with Vosper. We went to the rear of Beuvray and reconnoitred a position in case of retirement - not that we think we shall ever have to use it. From there, we rode into the officers' club and passed the four eights, where we saw a contingent of officers strolling round. It was the Colonel's day for inspecting the lines. The lunch at the club was a change to the Bully that we have been issued with lately, and it was well served, no long waits like there usually are in a crowded officers' club. We bathed in the Ecole des Jeunes Filles after lunch, a place being set apart for soliders. Then we started home, calling for our horses, which we had sent back to the 48th WL. Hoyland made us stay to tea and we had a nice ride home in the evening. On arrival at the Mess, I mounted a bike and went to Annequin to see Claudet and arranged to transfer there on the morrow.

Diary Entry - 1st, 2nd and 3rd August, 1917

Wednesday: got very wet going up to Braddle Castle in the morning as it rained heavily and continued throughout the day. Vosper came up in the afternoon and we shot a few rounds for amusement and had to get Jones out from his tea to check his section's shooting. Thursday: the Hun showed his hate on the seven ones all day with five nines but put most of his rounds either short or over in the marsh. It was again raining but not so heavily as before. The Major, having sprung a surprise on me the previous evening about my being posted to the 15th, I went round to Bde to protest to the Colonel and found him in after three visits but could not get much change out of him. He said that Claudet had no officers with any experience, as he had taken Vaisey away to be Adjutant in Jock Murdoch's place, the latter having gone on a course of I Tock. So there is nothing for it but to put up with it. I had lunch with the seven ones,  where Scott Armytage and Thorburn were in. The conversation seemed to veer round to Small Scott at the guns, who was very frightened, and some rude remarks were made about him. In the afternoon, having called at Bde after lunch, brought Padre back to tea and we ran the gauntlet through the splinter area. But caught the Colonel after tea walking back to Brigade with the Padre. Friday: Braddle Castle at nine a.m., relieved Fleming, who had been at Kings Cleare all night. It rained heavily all day and the light was impossible. Saw a minnie firing from the railway south of Les Briques, put D36 onto it but they plastered away at quite the wrong spot and did not seem to trouble much when I asked what they were firing at.

Diary Entry - 30th and 31st July

Still inclined to rain. At eleven a.m. Vosper and I set out via 15th Battery for the Vermelles section. They seemed to be patching up the damage done by the shells there and we came home via the 48th. The four eights, I forgot to add, had received about five hours' attention from five nines during the afternoon and evening and the Hun made the -lace untenable, so they evacuated for the night. It was surprising to see what little damage had been done and most of the hate had come on the right half battery. Cruikshanks who was accused of causing the trouble - having spent 25 HE on Auchie Church and thus being sound ranged - had his dug out knocked in and beyond this little or no damage was done. We came back by the Tour Burre loop, inspecting a 6' howitzer on the way. I went to Kings Cleare that evening to do night observing, it being our turn. On Tuesday, I went to Braddle Castle when relieved at seven a.m. by Tucker of D36 Battery. In afternoon, rode over to the Vermelles section to give them their new SOS. The Hun was doing some spectacular shooting on Fosse 9 as the Froggies had actually let the chimney smoke at midday whereas they are usually very careful not to stoke up till dark. He fired many five nines into the mill, eventually knocking the chimney down from halfway up. I dined with the AA section in our rear in the evening, meeting John and Sam McCaughey there, the former now being in charge of two 3' guns at Verquin.

Diary Entry - 29th July, 1917

Sunday. It rained during the night and was showery all day. I rode to the wagon lines, getting almost there when Wrate and I had to take cover in a Frenchman's back yard as it simply poured down in buckets. Found Hoyland, Bellew and Nicholson in for lunch, not forgetting Colonel Beech. After lunch Bellew and Nicholson went into town, Hoyland and self following, mainly to get a hair cut and do some odd jobs. But it was Sunday and every shop we wanted was closed so, after a drink at the club, we returned.

Diary Entry - 26th, 27th and 28th July, 1917

At eleven thirty met Thorburn and Claudet at Maison Rouge and went round some OPs with them. That B-fool Thorburn - who is acting Colonel in the Colonel's absence - strolled about in full view and, although I told him about it three times, since we could see Auchie Church plainly, he simply said, 'They can't see us.' Eventually he decided we should take over Braddle Castle, opposite the 400 on the barrier, a good place but impossible for the north of our zone. There are a great crowd registering there in the afternoon, and I get my guns on the brickstacks after a lot of bad shooting by No. 6 gun, who would persist in using the 80 fuze bar for 85 fuzes. In the evening, at twelve thirty, there is another raid by the 15th HLI, just north of the La Bassee Road. This proved another failure. All they found in the Hun front line was wire, but they managed to find and kill one Hun. The casualties were three killed and four wounded. On Friday I was at the OP in the early morning. It was a quiet day. On Saturday, I spent the day at Braddle Castle and nothing of note happened.