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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Diary Entry - 29th December, 1917

The Major went down to the wagon line soon after breakfast. Lambkin was at the OP, but it was very misty and he could not see anything to shoot on. The Hn was somewhat quieter and did not strafe our front as much as he has been doing just lately. The aeroplanes were very active, at least the Huns were, and one flew over just as our wagons arrived at the guns.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Diary Entry - 28th December, 1917

A very cold day with east wind blowing and the snow drifting very badly. Before lunch Lambkin, Vosper and I went up to the crest OP. I registered a house on the Cambrai Road for calibration purposes. After lunch, in the teeth of a young gale, Vosper and self walked up in front of the spoil heap to look for a forward gun position and we prospected two good positions, one in a sunken road, and the other on the side of a bank but slightly in view of Bourlon Wood.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Diary Entry - 27th December, 1917

Vosper and I walked to the OP, taking our lunch up and having it there with Nick. As soon as the small meal was over, we registered the house at the corner of Graincourt with all guns. The Hun was very active, bumping our line in enfilade with howitzers and high velocity guns, also firing on a new bit of trench we are building round Flesquiere.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Diary Entry - 26th December, 1917

A cold east wind blowing, Cruikshank and the Padre go off to the wagon line soon after breakfast, the latter on his way for leave. A very quiet day.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Diary Entry - 25th December, 1917

Lambkin and I set out for the OP at seven a.m The light was very good in the early morning but it blew up for snow and there were some very bad intervals. Of course, during the shiny moments the wire went. We managed to register one gun on the corner house of Graincourt and at twelve p.m., Lambkin having a good idea of the front, I came in during a young blizzard, arriving for lunch and in time to go round the dinners with the Major. The men's dinner looked very appetising and they all looked very comfortable in the cupola Mess erected at their end of the mine. Cruikshank and Nicholson who had arrived on the previous day off leave turned up for tea, the padre also joining us a little later. Our dinner was very good. The turkey bought at a fabulous price in Amiens was cooked to the minute by Gnr. Alcock and we were all very comfortable, with a good fire going. We all sat round a blazing fire after dinner and sang lustily till midnight, the Major leaving us early in the evening to go to infantry Bde HQ on a liaison ob.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Diary Entry - 24th December, 1917

A mild misty moring, the commencement of a thaw. We spend the day in getting into our Mess and driving forward from Hermies on a GS wagon for Christmas and eventually had the best fire I have seen out here, in the new Mess.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd December, 1917

A shocking cold night with temperature ten degrees below freezing point. I go to OP at seven a.m and there spend a bitterly cold day. Observation was only just possible to Graincourt and I tried to shoot a gun on the left hand house on the sunken road but the light was very bad. I also checked a few rounds of D36 as they had to strafe a TM emplacement.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd December, 1917

A splendid bright sunny day. It began to thaw a little but froze again in the evening. The Major set on zero during the morning, correcting the line of some of the guns. A gun was brought up from ordinance during the morning and Sergeant Harwood and Gunner Cox were unlucky in being wounded at windy corner in Hermes, being taken straight to the dressing station and then away. The wounds were not very serious in both cases, being in the leg, and caused by a 4.2 high explosive.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Diary Entry - 21st December, 1917

I go to the OP at seven a.m. but it was very misty and at twelve, on enquiring from brigade whether I could come in, got an answer in the affirmative and came in for lunch, but we had to man the crest OP in the afternoon. As we came in, the Hun started to pipsqueak the position and we were lucky in getting to it during an interval as he began again soon after we got back. No material damage was done. We retaliated on the Hun with 12 rounds gunfire, the whole brigade firing, and he did not bother us again. Barrett goes to the wagon line as he is to go on a course of physical training on 24th December so he misses Christmas with the battery.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Diary Entry - 20th December, 1917

A misty, cold day, with a strong, bleak wind blowing from the east. Still freezing hard. We concentrate the work on the Mess end of the mine and get four sections of cupola well-covered in. In the afternoon Vosper and I visited the battalion and then went on from there to the front trenches and machine gun emplacements to see if we could gather any information as to where our bit of front could be seen from. We never learnt any more than we already knew and eventually turned home down the Havrincourt Road after having rather an anxious time with our own machine gun bullets which were just clearing the crest by inches.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Diary Entry - 19th December, 1917

A misty,cold day. Barrett goes to the OP but could not see anything for the fog. The men carried on getting the cupolas covered and had about six feet of chalk on them by the evening.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Diary Entry - 18th December, 1917

A hard frost and very cold morning. We carry on with the work in the position and get six sections of cupola sunk down into the ground at the men's end of the mine. The miners start driving a 9-foot chamber downhill to meet the other shaft and all that comes out goes on top of the cupolas.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Diary Entry - 17th December, 1917

I go up to the OP near Hesquiers at seven fifteen, walking via Havrincourt down the sunken road past what was our old wagonlines then into the trenches. It was snowing and blowing a young blizzard when we set out and continued all day. As a result of this, we saw nothing. The signaler and self half stood and sat in a mine shaft used by the infantry who used it as a cook house, so we were kept warm by the fumes and smoke from it, which at times almost gassed us. We came in at one thirty pm as it was still snowing hard and, as we approached the guns, the Hun shelled the position and vicinity with pipsqueaks. One gun was unfortunately pitching in the right end of the position and the first round got Gunner Watts of E subsection. He was in a very bad state and before he reached the dressing station died. That same evening we located the battery and the whole brigade kept shelling him in turns through the night. He answered the first burst of fire but was completely silenced by crashes of fire in return and I think he must have had a very thick night of it.

Gnr. Watts - killed in action
Gnr. Sharps - wounded in action.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Diary Entry - 16th December, 1917

The officers all arose at six a.m. as the staff expected an attack and we were to be ready sitting on the triggers. It was very hazy all day and so we took a rest at the guns, having done a fair amount of wandering one way and another in the last few days. After lunch it clears a little so Major, Barrett and self go up to the front crest and have a short joy shoot then we go round the old Hun trenches and find a whopping big 10-inch minnie emplacement. We brought back a sniper's suit of armour which we were all rather taken with as on swinging a pick hard at it we could only raise sparks and did not succeed in denting it.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Diary Entry - 15th December, 1917

A sunny day. Major goes up to the OP after breakfast to join Barrett, who had gone up early in the morning. The OP was just north of Flesquiere and meant that we had to maintain about four miles of wire. The Hun seemed to choose the country the line went over to fire on and consequently we were only through for a few minutes during the day - he broke it as soon as we mended it. Major came back about one forty-five p.m. and sent me up to the rear crest to register the guns on zero and calibrate on a house on the Cambrai road, he coming up to join me a few minutes later. It was a perfect light and we just finished No.6 as it grew dusk.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Diary Entry - 14th December, 1917

A very hazy day. Vosper and I arrange to go to battalion with Major Claudet at eleven a.m. Battalion was reached without incident and we found them very crowded there. At their directions we set out for the front line, down the main road, but, just as we were topping the crest, Claudet and I jibbed at going down the road for about a quarter mile in full view of the Hun, so we turned back and up towards a trench running over the crest of the 47th Div's front. We found, as is usually the case, the men very ignorant about their front, so we blundered on till we reached an old Hun 5.9 gun position, now occupied by our Stokes guns and they directed us to Company HQ. While inspecting the Hun gun and shells, Claudet and I lost Vosper, taking the wrong turn in a trench, and eventually reached Company just after Vosper left. We were directed to our division from there and had to proceed over the top, as the trenches were not joined up. Neither of us liked this but we wasted no time over it. We eventually found our own division and spoke through from Company HQ, telling our people to fire on SOS lines, three or four bursts battery fire. When we sallied forth to observe our rounds, the Hun started bombing our post just about 20 yards down the trench and, amidst the bombing on one side and one of our guns – No. 2 - dropping short, life was not extra pleasant. It was almost dusk when this was over and we walked along the front line to the canal and came home along through No. 7 lock. I found on reaching home No. 2 gun had the wrong range on, having put on 3,800 instead of 4,800 s,o as the No. 1 was a young NCO, we let him off with a strafe. On reaching the Mess found Vosper had only just got back, he having seen the shoot from the OP and nearly received the shorts on his own head.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Diary Entry - 13th December, 1917

Have rather a cold night in a small cubbyhole behind the parapet and am roused at five forty-five by a lot of our guns firing and, on getting up to investigate matters, find the Hun is taking it all very quietly. About six thirty a.m. the signaller comes up to tell me we are expecting an attack at Bullecourt, just to the north, a deserter having come over in the night and told us. Everything quietened down by seven fifteen a.m. I did not get away till eight fifteen a.m - the seven o'clock seemed to be very late in reaching the OP, or else the brigade signallers were too lazy and did not let me know when he had arrived. They knew I was putting in a strafe about them and probably were retaliating.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Diary Entry - 12th December, 1917

Start for brigade OP at five thirty a.m. with two signallers and an intelligent infanteer from 99th brigade HQ. We had rather a difficult walk, crossing trenches and wire in the dark. The latter is very difficult to see against the brown soil. The light was fair throughout the day and plenty of movement could be seen on the German side, also a TM firing from Kangaroo redoubt. We fired a few rounds HE bursts of fire on them and they stopped movement and all. Towards dusk a few machine gun bullets began whistling over the crest, very persistently We left after a burst of bullets at four thirty p.m., carrying two stoves. We had not gone very far before we had to fall flat for the machine gun bullets. However we soon got over the crest and away from the bullets. Then the fun commenced. We got into a maze of wire and trenches in the dark and eventually got into the canal by the ramp and walked right back through the cutting to the railway bridge. It took us two and a quarter hours to come back and we were just about beat having crawled over so many trenches and through so much wire.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Diary Entry - 11th December, 1917

Vosper and I again go to the OP where we run into the Colonel and the new orderly officer, Lieutenant Farr a, very bumptious individual. The Colonel asked us to shoot on our SOS but we could scarcely see them for the crest. We come back for lunch and I spend the time in the afternoon building a hole in the ground to sleep in, as our Mess is too congested, being a trench 4 feet by 12 by 6 1/2 in height

Monday, 10 December 2012

Diary Entry - 10th December, 1917

Beautifully clear day. Nice sun shining. I went up to the OP just over the crest with Vosper and had a splendid view. The light was perfect and Cambray/in[?] looked within reach of our guns even. We walked across the canal and got along the sunken road where there was a hung trench mortar still in its emplacement, no one having moved it since its capture. It looked a nice little toy and was the same type as our Stokes. We then turned off the road into a trench and got another good glimpse of the country from there. Not very far on to our right we could see the famous Scottie of TM registering the seven ones. We got back about ten forty-five a.m. and Major Mills and Captain Heebit called, staying till nearly twelve, imbibing much whiskey to keep the cold out. Woolsey, the gas officer, also turned up. In the afternoon Barrett and Siggers turned up – at least they came for lunch. In the afternoon, the Hun shelled a six-inch howitzer battery down near the spoil heap behind Havrincourt and funnily enough was enfilading them with a 10-centimetre gun but never hit them, always dropping over them or just short.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Photographs from France

My grandfather did not make a diary entry on this day in 1917. Instead, I thought it worth including this story from yesterday's Australian newspaper:
HUNDREDS of young Anzacs posing for pictures to send home to loved ones nearly a century ago have helped create an extraordinary window on to life and death on the Western Front.

In 1916, the Diggers were pulled back just a few kilometres from the bloody battles in France in World War I for a rest in the French village of Vignacourt on the Somme.

There they posed for French photographers Louis and Antoinette Thuillier. Their images, extraordinarily clear and detailed and startlingly warm, were captured on glass plates.

With the end of the war, the couple stored the plates in the attic of their farmhouse, where they remained for nearly a century.

Hearing that the treasure trove of antique glass photographic plates had survived, journalist Ross Coulthart began a hunt for them across northern France last year that led to an ancient metal chest.

Nearly 4000 fragile glass plates were discovered and bought by media magnate Kerry Stokes, who presented them to the Australian War Memorial. They are on display in an exhibition entitled Remember Me: The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt.

This image is is one of several from the collection published by The Australian in August but lacking details of what happened to the men it portrayed.

In his new book The Lost Diggers (published by HarperCollins), Coulthart notes that the individual fortunes of the soldiers in the photograph illustrate the extremes of the war and what it brought out in the men who fought in it.

At least four of these young men served in Gallipoli as well as France. Standing on the left is Lieutenant Harold Maurice Griffiths. He joined up in August 1914, soon after the outbreak of war. He'd been a cadet sergeant and was immediately made a sergeant in the 5th Battalion.

Griffiths became ill at Gallipoli and spent considerable time in hospital but he had clearly impressed his superiors and was quickly promoted to lieutenant.

The young officer saw an extraordinary amount of combat. He was promoted to captain and was wounded in the bloody Battle of Pozieres, but was back in action in time to be wounded again during a raid on an enemy trench. This time he remained on duty.

In April 1917 he took part in the Allied attacks on the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt and was awarded the Military Cross for leadership as he moved from post to post under heavy fire, encouraging his men to drive off an enemy counterattack.

In May 1917, at the so-called second Battle of Bullecourt, the Australians endured 48 hours of furious shelling and beat off as many as 13 German counterattacks.

Among the 7000 Australian casualties was Captain Griffiths.

The battalion history describes how "the death of this beloved officer roused the men to such a pitch of cold fury that they took unusual risks in getting at the enemy during the counterattack. When the company left the trenches, tired and spent as they were, they insisted they should carry Griffiths's body away for a decent burial, so, through the night from Bullecourt to Vaulx, they formed a reverent cortege for this man's brave remains."

Griffiths was killed in action six months after the picture was taken. At the time, his younger brother Howard was just 14. Twenty-six years later, Howard was killed in action in New Guinea.

Seated on the left is Captain Thomas Karran Maltby, a self-made man who left school aged 11, after his father died, and worked three jobs to get himself through night school. Maltby worked as a battery boy in a Victorian goldmine while he studied for his mining engineer's certificate, and then as a tramway labourer and as a clerk for a sugar refining company.

He was promoted to captain after service in France in 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross for leadership of his company and for organising daylight raids on enemy positions.

During a stint as an instructor he was injured while experimenting with ways to fire grenades from a cut-down rifle.

Maltby survived the war and returned home a hero in 1919. He was later elected an MP in the Victorian parliament and became a minister, Speaker and deputy premier. In 1949, he was knighted. Sir Thomas Maltby retired in 1961 after 32 years in politics.

Seated next to Maltby is Captain Eric George De Trembley Permezel, another Military Cross holder who survived the war.

Permezel was a 20-year-old insurance clerk when he enlisted as a second lieutenant on November 11, 1914, never dreaming that the war would end exactly four very bloody years later in 1918.

He was hit by shrapnel in his arm, chest, thigh, back and shoulders during a bombardment in June 1916 and was out of action until September.

On August 23, 1918, Permezel was awarded the Military Cross for heroism. The citation said that when his unit was held up by several enemy posts, he worked his way around behind the German positions to capture three machineguns and 12 prisoners. Apart from stints as an instructor and time away while sick with tonsillitis, he remained with his battalion until the end of the war.

Seated on the right is Lieutenant George Leslie Makin, who joined up as a private, aged 20, in August 1914.

He was quickly promoted through the non-commissioned ranks and then, after service at Gallipoli, to second lieutenant. He lamented that it was "rotten" to leave Gallipoli "after all the men we lost there. I suppose it was the best thing to do after all the blunders were made. People don't realise how close we were to getting through."

Later in France, despite lengthy spells in hospital being treated for paratyphoid and trench fever, Makin led his company in several fiercely contested battles until he was badly wounded by an exploding artillery shell in August 1918. He died two months later in a hospital at Rouen just before the war ended.

Standing on the right is Lieutenant John William Dwyer.

Dwyer was sent to hospital from Gallipoli suffering from appendicitis and from there was posted to the Western Front in France. He was eventually "relieved of his post" and sent home. In much harsher times, his papers were stamped: "Services no longer required - inefficient".

Coulthart comments: "Knowing what we know now about post-traumatic stress disorder, there should have been no shame for him or his family in what came to pass."

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Diary Entry - 8th December, 1917

I come up to the guns at ten a.m. to stay, Siggers and Cruickshank going down in the afternoon. We worked hard on the Mess in the morning, getting the trench well covered with both large and small cupolas. It was just as well we had completed the job too, as it began raining steadily about six p.m. There was great activity going on at two mineshafts and they had already made very good progress in the afternoon. It was a rotten light but smoke shell proved excellent stuff to do the job with. Well we did not attack in the afternoon; it was put off, being such a rotten day.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Diary Entry - 7th December, 1917

A cold cloudy windy day and inclined to thaw. I rode out after breakfast with Bombardier Nichol to find RE material, going round to the outskirts of Havrincourt wood, where there have been a lot of 18-pounder gun positions. We find a lot of stuff and not far from a bridge which just crosses the canal below the position. Siggers and Nicholson arrived at the wagon lines for lunch, the latter going on leave in the evening.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Diary Entry - 6th December, 1917

Ride Ethel over to Haplincourt to see Pelham about cupolas and am lucky in being able to get a chit for 28 pieces of the large kind, to be drawn from ammunition refilling point at Ruyaulcourt. We sent up another eight wagons of ammunition to the guns.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Diary Entry - 5th December, 1917

Down tents and March at nine thirty a.m. for Bertincourt. I go on with Hewitson to see the new wagon line site. The road was like glass and one had to be very careful that our horses did not come down. We found ourselves bunched up into a small bit of ground and it was a tight fit for the whole brigade. Water was two miles away

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Diary Entry - 4th December, 1917

We go to the new wagon lines, leaving at one p.m. and getting onto good ground down near the canal just between Ruyaulcourt and Bertincourt. But, unfortunately, we were not stopping there. Pelham came round and told us we were to move on to Bertincourt in the morning. As we marched into the village, I was somewhat surprised at meeting Dixon of the 15th battery taking an officer from each battery and two NCOs to reconnoitre the new gun position to the rear of Hermes near Square Copse. Evidently, we were to come back there and drop into action at a range of 6,500 yards. Siggers luckily arrived at the wagon lines at three thirty, just as we were getting the lines up, and told us all that was happening so we were able to send off limbers and GS wagons straightaway to move the guns that night. I also got McLean of the second section DAC to send up 10 wagons.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Diary Entry - 3rd December, 1917

Very cold morning. Barrett goes to Ruyaulcourt to meet the staff captain and have wagon lines allotted. Shapland goes out to look out a new road back from the new gun position down near the canal. In the middle of sending up gun limbers and ammunition at three p.m. Vaisey, the adjutant, came along and told me that the guns would not be moving, so I sent up the ammunition and cancelled the gun limbers, 10 wagons of ammunition in all went up.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Diary Entry - 2nd December, 1917

Began to rain late on Saturday night and continued heavily all night. We had rather a damp sleep as a bivouac cover we had over the entrance formed itself into a tank and came down with a rush early in the morning. It proved rather nerve wracking to me as I had been expecting the wall of the trench to fall in on us as it was taking a great deal too much weight. We all had to register a spoil heap just this side of the Cambrai road as the infantry allowed the Hun to walk over and collar it at dusk the night before. As is usually the way, our people suddenly realised they wanted to keep it, so we had to register and be prepared to put down a barrage.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Diary Entry - 1st December, 1917

Rise at five forty-five. See the horses watered and fed then hit out for the guns at about six a.m. I was somewhat surprised to find two batteries of 60-pounders down the road all pointing due south and on getting through Havrincourt to find horses and men moving about as usual in full view of Bourlon wood. On reaching the guns found they knew nothing and so I could give them quite a lot of information about the situation in the south. It never seemed to dawn on them how close we were to being cut off and I don't think it dawned on many of us how close we had been to a disaster as, if the Hun had not been stopped where he had, two corps at least would have been captured. As it was a CRA and an RTO were amongst the captured and that is saying a good deal. On getting back to the lines, I find Armytage has collected a motorbike and wants me to set her going. He had got it off the salvage dump. There was not anything very wrong, though it had received very bad treatment, as most of these government machines do.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Diary Entry - 30th November, 1917

This proved to be a more exciting day than it first appeared. On having breakfast soon after eight, noticed a rather heavy barrage going on in Bourlon wood and there seemed to be a lot of smoke coming out of the trees. About eight forty-five, the Huns put down a very heavy barrage north of the wood, mostly composed of five nines. Although this was all unusual, we went about our duties in the usual way. Siggers was coming down at eleven and we also expected the Colonel round the lines during the day, as he had just got back from leave on the previous day. Siggers told us the Hun was attacking and that they should need a lot of ammunition. However, before he left and as we were going up to communicate with the battery by phone, Armytage, who had field glasses on the front, remarked as we passed that he saw about a battalion running back from our front line and they looked very like our men. Almost immediately a mounted military policeman belonging to the 47th division came down the road and shouted that all transport was to move to the other side of the village at once. Well, things were beginning to happen. Barrett was sent out to locate a new spot for a wagon line and batteries higher up the valley were already commencing to move. In the midst of all this, a Hun plane was brought down just close by by a DHS and he landed quite well. Some despicable creature had taken our Mess cart in the night and we located it moving off with a 62nd divisional battery but did not have time to tell the OC what we thought of him as there was only a bombardier in charge. Siggers returned to the guns and a message soon came down ordering all limbers to be sent up to a crossroads quite near D 36 battery, so we got them under way. About twelve thirty p.m. a message came by dispatch rider ordering the 36th brigade wagon lines to the Place de St Hubert, a spot some two miles behind Roclincourt. I went on to reconnoitre the position, Driver Capstick, Barrett's groom, having come back in the meantime. Well, we eventually got into a fairly good position there at about dusk, with nice water troughs quite close by, but as we came up the valley the Hun was putting some big velocity shrapnel at its mouth and it was not too pleasant. There seemed to be a lot of 60-pounders looking for a resting place on this road and they eventually dropped trails on the roadside just below us. As the night grew later we gradually realised what a precarious position we were really in. To get out of our position there was only one road over which we could pass and that was by Metz and thence to Ruylcourt. The Metz Trescault Havrincourt road was already blocked as it was under shellfire. It appears the Huns had broken through the 56th division's front and they had taken Gouzeaucourt and advanced to a wood about one and three-quarter miles east of Metz and taken goodness knows how many prisoners and guns, including two 4.2 inch howitzers. Rumours were flying that he had taken at least 8,000 prisoners and 120 guns. Rumours had it that RA had moved, and the DAC, so no one knew what to do about filling up with ammunition. However, Major Claudet and Captain Hewitson went out scouting for the different two HQs. I eventually got into bed about midnight. The limbers got back soon after dark and both Shapland and Barrett turned up together.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Diary Entry - 29th November, 1917

A good day. The DAC bring up eight wagons of ammunition to the battery position. We spent the day trying to straighten out the lines and clear the mud away from the standings. The 15th and 71st batteries move over a small crest onto the Havrincourt-Cambrin road but in my opinion they do not gain anything, though they seem to think they do. Water troughs are in course of construction up there and are almost completed – four large square tanks built of canvas.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Diary Entry - 28th November, 1917

It turned out fine and the sun put in an appearance. I did not feel very strong and put it down to the deep dugout and the smoke inhaled on the previous night. The men get on building bivouacs in the side of the bank but most of the time is taken up watering horses from four tubs in the village, this performance taking a good part of two hours - and awful dirty water it was too. However, there was no other to be found. In the afternoon, we sent eight wagons to Ruyaulcourt to refill with ammunition, it being a good six miles around by Metz and Trescault. I pay a visit to the guns just about midday and find it can easily be reached on foot in 15 minutes. They all seem very comfortable so I stop to lunch with them.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Diary Entry - 27th November, 1917

Tuesday found us at three o'clock in the morning wet to the skin trying to pull two teams out and we had a devil of a time as the skins did not like turning their heads to the snow but the Sergeant Major persevered and we eventually got them out. Again pulling into the wagon lines there was a rotten, boggy approach to it and we had to double back all the dudd teams to get into the lines. Four o'clock found us just about chilled to the bone, trying to find cover. Luckily we were one of the first lot in and found several mineshafts just started. In one, we found just enough room to get down to it, so we bagged it for the night. The men all got into these shafts somehow and they were covered from the driving rain so we were lucky to get in early as the other people never got anything at all. It was raining when I stirred out at eight a.m. and the cooks were having a hard job to get the fires going. In fact they never got tea made until ten fifteen a.m. The next thing was water for the horses. There was a dirty pond in the village with four tubs to water at and it used to take hours to fight your way near the hole. There were so many horses about. Of course, we had no food, as expected to go to the wagon line first, pull out rations there and send the basket on to the guns. The bulk of the Mess stuff was to come on in the big Mess cart with Shapland and the two M S and a GS wagon starting that morning. Well, I thought I would try and gain some information from 62nd divisional battery so wandered up to their Mess and the captain there offered me breakfast, which, of course, I accepted and it seemed one of the best breakfasts I have had owing to the fact that we had no dinner and very little tea on the previous night. There was very little to learn, but I met another Australian by the name of Westcott there. He's with the 71st battery. I went up to the guns on foot for lunch to see how they had fared and found they were fairly comfortable in a tin shed situated in a trench. However, we were fairly well off in the evening as I found an old Hun machine gun dugout and we had a good shaft at the bottom of it to stretch out in. The rations with Shapland never got in until after eight and we were left in the dark without any candles till they did turn up and nearly succeeded in smoking ourselves out by making a fire in the dugout to give us some light. In the end we turned in and went to bed without any dinner just about falling asleep when our heads hit the pillows.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Diary Entry - 26th November, 1917

We were reasonably comfortable, having a Nissen hut, also huts for the men and stables for the horses. In the afternoon Cruikshank, Nicholson, Shapland and myself took a ride over the open country. We could not resist it as had never seen anything quite so open in France. We were more than annoyed on getting back to the Mess at four thirty p.m. to find an order there saying we were to go into action that night. At five p.m. an order arrived that we were to move off at six thirty p.m. It was a tremendous rush to get away but the whole brigade managed it. We marched via Bertincourt, Ruyaulcourt, Metz, Trescault and came into action just east of Havrincourt. It commenced snowing as we came through and, after two hours of it, down came the rain. The whole brigade trudged up into action and we had guides from 62nd division RA, the positions being pegged out with pieces of wood. The guides had difficulty in finding their way in the snow, but we eventually hit the positions, all in a small valley. Needless to say, it was getting very sloppy and the going was very heavy, especially up a long slope from the road, and two of our wagons stuck

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Diary Entry - 25th November, 1917

The train journey was quite comfortable and when we woke up at Aubigny we found there was only about 12 miles to go. After leaving Arras we passed through what was the old frontline before the retreat from Bapaume to the Hindenburg line. Achiet le Grand was reached about nine thirty a.m. but we stopped there over an hour before proceeding to Bapaume. On reaching Bapaume we disentrained and, after watering and feeding, awaited our orderlies who had proceeded by an early train to find billets and come back and guide us to them. After waiting three hours and finding no one, Siggers sent me on ahead to Haplincourt to see if any of the artillery could be found. Sure enough we found the 15th installed and also dug out our two orderlies who were made to leave their bicycles at Achiet and come on in a motor lorry. Sent Wrate back to guide them on and went back myself when I had seen the lines and billets. We eventually got in about seven p.m. It was a bad entrance and had some trouble pulling in.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Diary Entry - 24th November, 1917

We had taken the precaution of having the vehicles parked on the side of the road so that we would have no trouble about getting bogged but a wretched motor lorry trying to get into 41st brigade HQ in the afternoon bogged right against our No.2 gun. At five p.m. we moved off, but No. 2 wagon team stuck and I led off and halted some miles up the road until they all got through. By the time all vehicles had joined up with the column, we had lost an hour and a half. Siggers came up and said we would wait till supplies caught up, as they were the last to pass through the bad spot and he had ridden on as soon as they were through. Well, as it turned out, they gave more trouble, the two grey horses being inclined to jib, so Siggers took the battery on, while I brought them along in the rear. We called the Hun up about two miles through Steinvoorde, but I made them step it pretty hard. We had a good march and found on arriving to the minute that the RTO would not be ready for us till ten thirty so we parked all the vehicles near the railway siding, watered and fed and waited for our train to pull in. We commenced loading at ten thirty p.m. and had finished and begun dinner at one a.m. The men worked splendidly. Everything went without a hitch. We put on a section of the first section of the DAC as well. The train moved out at two a.m. Each section had one truck to themselves, the officers had a carriage, NCOs two and our servants one. We had brought along some Tommy's cookers and they proved very useful in the train as the servants cooked meals and passed them in through the window.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd November, 1917

Marching drill in the morning and redrilling of NCOs. Six men evacuated, this all being arranged between Todd and Siggers. We were over strength and some very good reinforcements have been posted to us. I find our movement orders have arrived on reaching brigade and that we entrain at Cassel on Saturday night and detrain at Bapaume. In the afternoon Siggers, Connover and self ride to Cassel station to reconnoitre the road. Arrive there about four, have tea in the town, and get back about seven. It seemed a long ride but there was a strong wind blowing and I suppose that made the ride more tedious. We stopped at Steinvoord on the way home and did some shopping.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd November, 1917

After inspection parade at nine a.m. gun drill and marching drill for the gunners while the horses are out on exercise. During this parade I go to brigade and see Todd about some men we believe to be swinging the lead. Mills comes over to look at our guns, four of which are very bad, the carriages being in a shocking state. During the morning we evacuate four horses, one being my poor old Ginger. They had all four gone blind from this opthalmia disease. We draw two in the afternoon. They had just arrived from Calais and we drew out of a hat for them and were lucky in getting to the best – a black and a bay. The horses were supposed to be allotted by Colonel Beach at the fifteenth battery lines but really Thorburn ran the show, managing to put in plenty of dirty work, he and Armytage being a regular pair of spealers[?]. The horses were very late in arriving. Cruickshank and I waited three hours for them

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Diary Entry - 21st November, 1917

We just managed to get through stables with a light misty rain falling and, as soon as we had turned out, down it came. In the morning, Siggers and self visited brigade to glean information, but there was none to be had from Mills, acting Colonel. In the afternoon, Cruickshank rode to Wattou to do some shopping

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Diary Entry - 20th November, 1917

March at eight a.m.via Vlamertinghe. Switch road round Poperinghe to Wattou. We had some trouble in getting out of our wagon line although we had taken the precaution to clear a path through the worst part. We finished up just between St Laurent and Droglandt, the last half mile being an awful boggy bit of road. In fact we were supposed to go another route, some five miles round from Wattou, but somehow the guides went amiss. Anyway we got through the bad bit, only having one vehicle stuck, and the rest of the brigade got through too. The wagon lines were not bad and there were some tents there, the officers being in a farm on the tile or brick floor.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Diary Entry - 19th November, 1917

We spent the day in getting rid of spare kit, each officer sending away a lot of spare stuff as we thought there might be no room for unauthorised transport when we entrained and so we were prepared to put our kits on the wagons. The railhead was at Rigersberg junction so it was no distance to send them. In the afternoon Siggers and I walked to brigade to find out details of the march and also one or two other odd details.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Diary Entry - 18th November, 1917

An awful serum [?] in the morning as the captain arrived. Luckily I stopped in bed but there were five crammed in somehow on the floor round the table. The BC said I could go after breakfast so at ten fifteen a.m. I humped my pack and set out down the railway. Got a lorry above the dressing station went on down till I met my horses. It was very sad to find that poor old Ginger had gone blind, the eye disease having affected his sight, and when I tried to take him over the railway line he fell into the ditch on either side and stumbled across the railway track. There is nothing for it but to evacuate him so I went to brigade in the evening and saw McKenna.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Diary Entry - 17th November, 1917

When getting up at six a.m. an orderly came round with the news that we were to be relieved that day by B battery 161 brigade. We had no barrage that morning but were getting 30 packs led by one man and taking them across country to the position. There was a very thick fog and we had much trouble in leading horses to the position. Of course they did not close on the heels of one another and got lost themselves. Some came up the Tramway, one cutting his leg very badly on a steel sleeper, and three did not get up to the guns at all. Siggers turned up just as we were in the middle of shaving and so I handed him my message from brigade. They had had no information of the relief at all and he was rather surprised. After taking him round the guns and to the OP, he started down but returned a little later with the new major, named Hunt. He turned out to be a Melbourne man. After Siggers had gone through the office work with him he went down to the wagon lines and I showed him the OP guns and everything there was to be known about the front. He had four subalterns up at the guns that night, one at Arbre and the remainder at the pillbox. The fog was awful. Our men got away about four thirty p.m. and all seemed very pleased to get out of it. Soon after going to bed, the Hun sent over gas, but the blanket at the door seemed to keep it out.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Diary Entry - 16th November, 1917

Another good day with the usual half-hour barrage at ten minutes to seven. We had thirty packs up and Br. Brice and Gnr. Mellon who went down to meet them were wounded in the leg slightly. Doonah came round the position during the morning, passing several tactless remarks about the position and work being done. We finished cleaning the OP and could stand up in it when it was finished. The Div went over without a barrage at five p.m. and took Vocation [?] Farm and Virile Goudberg copse and did not meet with any opposition. In fact the SOS did not go up for two hours later.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Diary Entry - 15th November, 1917

Nicholson goes down to the wagon line being relieved by Shapland and incidentally our brigade goes out and Doonah comes in. The railway still remains unmended and makes ammunition very difficult to keep up as have to handle it so many times. Some large cupolas arrive up from the wagon lines so start the wheeler on splinter-proof shelters. In the morning as I went to the guns there were a lot of aeroplanes spiralling overhead as it was a glorious day and one of our DHSs brought down an enemy's scout in flames. A heavy gunner at Arbre ran forward and cut the iron cross off one of the wings, which floated down a long time after the body of the machine had crashed to earth. In the afternoon after lunch I went up with Shapland to Arbre and we registered the guns. It was rather amusing as Thorburn was registering the same pill box as us but his guns had been moved and were shooting all over the place and he turned round and apologised to me for his bad shooting, explaining that he had just moved his guns and was reregistering. Claudet came up just as I had finished and so I invited myself to tea with him, having one or two things to see him about. Went to tea at their pill box behind St Julien. It had a nice round hole in the roof of the passage where a 5.9' had ricocheted off its surface.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Diary Entry - 14th November, 1917

A very misty morning and inclined to rain. We fired the usual early-morning barrage somewhere about six a.m. The Hun scored two direct hits on the railway line by which the ammunition comes up. The men at the OP pillbox remove all sorts of rubbish, including a D3 telephone, a pair of glasses and a German box of bombs. The amount of other debris in the way of old tins was something extraordinary. Colonel came round the guns at nine a.m. and seemed pleased with what the signallers had done on the previous night at the OP. They went out twice on the wire to Kron Pince[?]. Once they found the people there had the wire off the phone and the next time mended a break very near their end and they never turned out at all.

Diary Entry - 13th November, 1917

A nice sunny day, quite a contrast to the two previous days. Siggers goes down about ten a.m. and while I was at the guns during the morning another host of Gothas came over, right over the position, and dropped two bombs, one in front of Arbre and another 75 yards to the rear of the battery. They then went on towards the wagon lines and our planes chivvied round them and the archies made a great fuss so they turned back and eventually offloaded their bombs in the Strombeke Valley in front of Arbre. At dusk there was an SOS. The Huns attacked the Canadians but our battery saved the situation – at least it caught them heavily and they never got as far as our front line. The infantry seemed highly pleased with it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Diary Entry - 12th November, 1917

Corporal Hornsby wounded – he was found on the road, lying in a pool of blood, evidently a bomb fell close to him and his horse threw him off. After lunch go up to the guns to relieve Siggers and got up there quite comfortably from Buffs Road, over the duckboards and there were no shells floating about. Just before I left, a nest of planes came right over the lines – about four Gothas amongst them – and they looked very dangerous as they hung right over the top of us. However, the bombs seemed to be carried away from us with the wind and none came very close. I had an uneventful walk over the boards and up the tram lines to find Nicholson in the pillbox, Siggers not having come in from the guns.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Diary Entry - 11th November, 1917

It rained again very heavily all day. We sent up 60 packs at four a.m. and 20 men to work at the position and also a gun team with the new gun. When everyone was away, we had exactly 5 whole men left in the lines when all parties were away. We had another go at RE material, as Pelham came round just before lunch. He was going on to RAHQ.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Diary Entry - 10th November, 1917

It rained heavily all day. In the morning I went down to the canal bank to see the staff captain of the first division about our RE material, as they were shouting for it from the guns. This way of getting material proved almost as fruitless as putting in through brigade as they simply made a note of the stuff we want and that was all that was done about it. The first division had attacked early in the morning, trying to push obliquely along the ridge towards Rosebeeke and although they were successful in gaining their objectives they eventually had to retire to their old line as the mud was impossible. All their Lewis guns and rifles got jammed with mud and the Hun put down a very heavy barrage too. Our big guns 12' and 9' were blazing away hard as I went down to the canal and making a great noise.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Diary Entry - 9th November, 1917

It rained most of the night but cleared in the morning. We had two teams down in the mud near the railway line. The R E have built an embankment over our already muddy lane. Getting over it the horses sink down to about 18 inches in gluey clay, and there they stick. The railway seems to be gradually being formed into a siding and we shall have to find another way out. In the afternoon Cruickshank and I again go to brigade with the same result as before and only see Connover and Todd. The approach to their HQ on horse is simply awful, about 200 yards of mud 18 inches deep. We made another way out by pulling away some barbed wire entanglements. It is very bad in one spot to but think it will hold out.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Diary Entry - 8th November, 1917

We were severely bombed in the night at three a.m. and some seemed to fall almost in the lines but found in the morning they were about 50 yards from the sergeants' mess. We sent up 60 packs and Nicholson relieved Cruikshank at the guns in the morning. Towards evening Cruickers and I both get a bath at Reigersburg in the men's bathhouse. It was a skimpy affair and consisted of as much water as you could get to flow from one hole of an inch in size – one eighth of an inch bored in a pipe – so you can imagine how it felt on these cold nights but must say the water was hot, (what eventually leaked through the hole).

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Diary Entry - 7th November, 1917

Raining hard in the morning, slackening down to showers about eleven a.m. I went out to see Maclean about ammunition soon after breakfast, riding Ginger. Having fixed his business up, rode on to look for an RE dump, which Siggers had given me the coordinates of but, though I enquired of many people, could not find it and came to the conclusion that the coordinates were wrong, as everything was Canadian and I was trying to find the 23rd Div. dump. I came back to where I knew they used to be and found that the first division had taken over from them. When I got there, my visit was unfruitful as they had no SOS rifle rockets and knew nothing about them. In the afternoon, I tried brigade, to see if they could do anything for me, but the Colonel (41st Brigade) and adjutant were out and I only saw the Padre, Todd and Thorburn. It rained hard while I was there but when it lifted Thorburn and self walked home, calling at Maclean's on the way home. On arriving back, found Barrett had come to join us from the seven ones

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Diary Entry - 6th November, 1917

In the night the adjutant rang up and gave me the correct time, which I knew meant a barrage, so I explained that I knew very little about the front and in general things were very difficult, so he said shoot into the blue. A few minutes later the orders arrived and, after studying the map and orders for about an hour and trying to locate the gun position on the map, the coordinates of which I got from Cruikshank over the telephone, at three a.m. I eventually decided not to fire as it was a Chinese barrage and I only had two guns and besides the howitzer batteries in each brigade were the only other batteries shooting. The Canadians attacked in the morning at six a.m. with success and took Paschendale and got well along the top of the ridge anyway. The abovementioned town is the highest point of the ridge. This seemed to annoy the Hun and he put down a very heavy barrage at seven a.m. which went on until three thirty p.m. Siggers arrived up in the thick of it and had to come across country from Buffs Road as they were putting HY shells down the road. We kept inside while it went on and it went through all the battery papers et cetera. Anyway one would almost have lost a finger if you had put it outside, the shells were falling so thick and fast. The Huns seemed to pay special attention to the pill boxes and, although they did not actually hit us, they were nosing up against the wall most of the time. The brigade were less fortunate - a 5.9' HV shell hit the top of their pill box but luckily ricocheted and burst in the air. However, the weight of the hit knocked a hole in it and Dixon's servant was killed. At four p.m, things having quietened down, I took Br. Bates with me as far as brigade and went on to meet my horses. I hit the road about the dressing station and walking along came across two motor lorries derelict, having been burnt to the ground and, and a little further on was another in the same plight. The road looked very desolate with all kinds of wreckage on it and as a motor lorry laboured past I jumped on and found my horses about half a mile up the road. The H V guns were still shooting and as I passed the forward rail head a shell fell very close to some engines there. I have never experienced such heavy fire, every calibred gun they had must have been on the job. But they did not have it all their own way and when I came down our eight inch nine twos and big railway mounted guns were boosting away.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Diary Entry - 5th November, 1917

I went up to the guns for the day as Cruikshank was at the OP and the Major had a working party of twenty men from the wagon lines. As I got off my horses and went down past the dressing station, they began to shell, so I went into the Brigade pillbox, got onto Claudet's telephone and asked for a guide to take me to the gun position. They said Br Bales (a signaller) would come down and guide me but, knowing what he was like when there were any shells about, I thought I should be left there all day. A little later I rang up and asked who was coming and they said Webb was on his way. By the time Webb arrived, shells were falling thick and fast everywhere and he said it was too hot to go by the railway and that St Julien Road would be better. Just as we left the pillbox, a shell burst at the crossroads leading into St Julien, wounding two mules tied to some ammunition dump there and the boxes began to smoulder. We wasted no time getting past the smouldering ammunition and, as we went, had the earth thrown over us from several shells. The pluck of some drivers is amazing and coming down the road past us was a driver with hat off, blood streaming down his forehead, leading his two packhorses along, quite as if it was an ordinary day affair and several GS wagons jolted past us at the walk, men sitting quite quiet on their horses with shells exploding all round them, never knowing whether the next minute they might be blown to atoms. Well, we had enough to do to get to our pillboxes - they seemed to be paying special attention to these concrete houses which are dotted about the country. There was no sign of the Major there but as they were expecting him back any minute I thought I had better wait and see if he arrived. After being inside for about ten minutes and there being no sign of him I thought he must be waiting at the gun position for us so sallied forth with Sgt. Keegan to the guns. We did not meet him but as Sgt. Keegan knew what work was to be done I told him to get on with it. About half an hour later Cruikshank wandered down from the OP, which was on the crest in front of the guns, and told me the Major had been wounded outside the Mess - in the arm - along with Br. Anderson and Gnr. Birtwhistle, the former in both hands the latter in the leg. The other men arrived up from the pill box, and we went on carting ammunition along from the plank road on a decaville railway which was laid as well as possible under the conditions one has to compete with in so shelled an area. By lunch we had moved all the ammunition so after the midday meal at the pill box I sent them out to scrounge for timber to hold up bivvies with and they carried on till the evening while I sat waiting for Siggers, expecting him or a note of some sort. The note eventually arrived by Br. Bartholomew about eight p.m. and Siggers said that he had seen the Colonel and that he was to take command and would be up in the morning.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Diary Entry - 4th November, 1917

A very misty day, packs went up at four a.m. as usual, but the Major, thinking it would be quiet, owing to the fog, ordered another 30 pack animals to be up there by ten a.m. Nicholson went up with them and, on arriving at the first pill box above the dressing station, was told that it was too bad to go up any further. So he went back to Irish Dump and packed stuff from there to a dump on the side of the road. The Padre had a Communion service in our wagon line Mess in the afternoon at four p.m. About five men turned up and there was just room for the service and that was all.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Diary Entry - 3rd November, 1917

Gunner Smith, Cruikshank's servant, and Gunner Alcock, Nicholson's, come down to the WL with very sore eyes from mustard gas and have to lie quiet in a darkened place to give their eyes a chance of recovering. After lunch Hoyland went away in the Mess cart to a CGS[?] on the Vlamertinghe Poperinghe road - several other blisters had arisen in the night, probably due to the fact that he wore the same suit of pyjamas. Siggers and I went to Vogeltje to draw some money from the field cashier. We went by foot and lorry. We walked into Pop when we had got the money, had tea at the officers' club, did some shopping, then went to the Dudds, a very dud show near the railway station. We then dined at the rest house, a very nice chateau, right opposite the station, walked up to the first point duty man on the main road, asked him to stop something for us and he pulled up an ambulance filled with Australians. This we jumped into and had a hilarious ride to Ypres lunatic asylum, then striking across country. It was a perilous walk home across shell holes and Siggers went up to his knee in one.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Diary Entry - 2nd November, 1917

We were rather surprised to hear late on the evening of the first that Hoyland had got a touch of mustard gas and his horses were to be sent up in the morning. He came down at nine thirty and told us he had fallen down when going out on the night Anderson was killed and, where he touched the ground, huge blisters were rising and they certainly were nasty large-looking reservoirs. The Major goes up after lunch and sends Nicholson back to the horse lines. The Colonel, Todd and Vaisey come round to see Hoyland in the afternoon, the former telling him he must go to a CCS where he will probably be sent down to the base and perhaps to England but that he will have every chance of coming back again. After glancing round the horses, the CO departs, being well impressed with the good condition of the skins. Siggers, after lunch, had gone off with the Padre to Pop to get some money from the Field Cashier. He returned about ten, not having found the 18th Corps headquarters and without the money.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Diary Entry - 1st November 1917

Another bright day. Siggers and I spend our morning until stables in building a fireplace in the Mess and also complete a sandbag wall at the entrance. We got news down with the rations that Gnr Anderson (Capt servant) had been killed in the cookhouse during the night. We sent up a large fatigue party of 30 men in the morning to remove a gun out of a huge shell hole. This gun was one which was taken up on the 31st but it had been left on the plank track while the men went for breakfast and some rotters had pushed it off into this hole. When some of this working party were coming back to lunch they got caught in a burst of fire and Cpl. Bing, Gnr. Alsop, Gnr. Bates, Gnr. Cuthbertson, Gnr. Higgins and Br. Barr were all wounded. During the night, we had a heavy bombardment from the air. The Hun started about ten thirty p.m and kept it up until dawn. He seemed to unload his bombs then rush back to reload. It was a very bright moonlit night and he could probably get a fair idea of the country. One wagon line nearby lost 35 horses in the night. we were again lucky and though some dropped remarkably close none dropped in the lines. One coud hear the earth falling on tin roofs after the burst and these seemed to be near the left section but on inspection in the morning there was no sign of any holes.

Gnr. Anderson - killed
Cpl. Bing - wounded, severely
Gnr. Alsop - wounded, severely
Gnr Bates - wounded, a scratch
Gnr. Cuthbertson - wounded, a scratch
Gnr. Higgins - wounded, a scratch
Br. Barr- wounded, very slightly
(Bates and Barr - left section men)

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Diary Entry - 31st October, 1917

Rise at three fifteen a.m to take up two guns and twenty packhorses. The men take some digging out on these occasions, but the Sgt. Major and the Nos 1 all get up and rowse them out. We get away about four fifteen and the two gun limbers go round to the 9th and 16th Batteries to pick up guns. The 9th are called a depot battery and simply sit down at the wagon lines and draw guns to and from the IOM, as they are knocked out or repaired. I went on with the pack,s picked up ammunition at Irish Farm, a railway dump in the forward area, and went straight on to the guns. The two teams were there before me and the first one had got stuck in a bad spot where a number of sleepers had been removed from the track. The sleeper track was only wide enough to take traffic one way and of course we could not offload the mules till we got past it. We tried taking them round the lips of shell holes, until one donkey fell into a big one and had a swim round for about ten minutes. It looked like a case of shooting him where he lay in the bog, but we got him out with the help of much bad language from the drivers. The gun was eventually moved but, as there were three (one belonging to the Naval Div.) on the track, all trying to get transferred to railway trucks on a decaville[?] railway, which was the final approach to the position, and the packs were all trying to offload near the railway, there was some congestion, This buffeting of men, mules and horses went on till we had moved 1,000 rounds with 20 packhorses, and all the time there was a continual stream of mules carrying up small arm ammunition on the same track for the infantry. We eventually got away about six fifteen and, much to our relief, the Hun never put a shell over. It was a beautiful sunny day and the Hun, while seeming to search through a nest of balloons in front of our lines, put some 5.9' shrapnel into our camp, some very heavy pieces falling about in the afternoon, but no damage was done.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Diary Entry - 30th October, 1917

The Major Cruikshank and self take a walk towards Ypres to get warm and have a look at the gun salvaging tank on our way. I rose at six a.m. to attend stables and had to choke Sgt. Lambing off for his men not turning out in time. Rain set in when we had turned out of midday stables and continued for the rest of the day.

Diary Entry - 29th October, 1917

Some sun in the morning and rather frosty. Hoyland goes up to relieve the Major at ten a.m, Cruikshank having left at four a.m. with pack animals does not get back until half past ten. The Hun puts a few down the road while he is unloading but all manage to get back without casualties. Siggers and I go into Ypres. On the way we looked at a new type of tank used for removing guns out of mud under fire. It is a curious looking beast and has a movable platform which it puts out under the tail of the gun, but first the gun wheels have to be removed. We are pointed out the cathedral ruins and Cloth Hall ruins and take a wander over them. There is very little left of either place but they must have been beautiful old buildings as there are massive heaps of debris everywhere. Siggers would not come away without a souvenir of some kind so we pulled an iron door knob off an old door of the Cloth Hall and he had a bit of glass from the Cathedral. It looked as though it might be a piece of broken bottle. All the town was the same - absolutely flattened - and, as we came away, the Hun put in a few high velocity rounds. On the outskirts of the town we saw the remains of what had been a circus with the old wooden rocking horses lying about. Siggers had to go up to the guns in the afternoon for a liaison stunt as he was the only man who knows the country. The Major lobbed down late in the evening, having spent some time trying to find us, owing to the military police stopping his groom and their not meeting. It was a very bright moonlit night - being known as the Hunter's moon - and the Hun started raining bombs everywhere about ten p.m. The archies and the machine guns were very active and made a colossal racket in the still cold night. Some sort of shell or bomb landed very close to the Sergeants' Mess.

We were all very sorry to hear that Lt Gough, nephew of the Army Commander, had passed away on the previous night, being wounded in the lungs. His family are noted army men, and they all have V.Cs. To keep up the reputation, he must needs try to get one if the opportunity arises. The MC was telephoned through to him, but he passed away before it was received.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Diary Entry - 28th October, 1917

I go over to the 15th Battery in the morning to see Claudet about the cigarettes notebooks (in memory of Bee) but find he is away at the guns. At lunch a Major friend of Hoyland's comes in and takes him off to Poperinghe in a car for the afternoon. In the evening Siggers and I walk over to Claudet's again for tea and find he and Dixon in.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Diary Entry - 27th October, 1917

Raining in the morning. Nicholson goes up to relieve Siggers, who comes down late in the afternoon. After lunch Hoyland and I went over to the 9th Battery to see about some of our guns. We found them up to their eyes in mud there and also found Vaisey there. He had just come off leave.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Diary Entry - 26th October, 1917

We and the French attacked about dawn along the whole ridge, taking almost all objectives and 800 prisoners. The line went forward 1500 yards on an average. Lt Gough of the 71st Bty was doing liaison officer and it was doubtful as to what became of him as his signallers all came back saying they had got scattered under heavy fire and they thought he had been hit. The next day he came back on a stretcher, having lain out for about twelve hours. We had two gunners wounded - Bradbury and Dickson. The rain started about nine and continued throughout the rest of the day.

Gunners Bradbury and Dickson - wounded in legs, not serious

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Diary Entry - 25th October, 1917

A very strong wind sprang up in the night, blowing the tents and bivouacs all roads, and Hoyland and I had a very drafty night in the tube, as we had tarpaulins over each end and they blew away. I rise at three fifteen a.m. to move off with two guns and 66 packhorses. Something was wrong with the men as it was four forty-five before there was any sign of moving and expect they spent most of the night rebuilding their bivouacs. We got onto the road about five and I sent the gun on with Sgt Lamburg, while I took the packhorses to Irish dump to fill up with ammunition. On getting there, find there are only 53 pack animals, so have to put ten rounds on each instead of eight. I will try to put down what I see on going up or my first impressions of the country. The road is quite good and wide when you come up to No. 4 bridge which crosses the Ypres Commune's canal. This bridge has been built with a sunk barge as a foundation. The road goes on, slightly rising and becoming narrower, until you come near the crest onto a small plateau where are dotted 6' mark VII guns 9.2' 8' and 6' hows. The railway also comes along on the right at about 700 yards distance and there is a large dump of ammunition at a siding called Irish [illegible]. A little further up the line, you see several 12' hows and armies of men working on the track, pushing it well forward while several engines push up heavy loads of ballast. You soon  breast the plateau and begin descending a gentle slope, but as you look towards the Hun you look over a small crest and in the distance you see nice green hills which go to form the Paschendale Ridge. Following on down the road, which becomes rapidly narrower and rougher, you come to the first pill box, which has been made into a dressing station. From here onwards guns of various calibres from 8' downwards are dotted alongside the road. All along the road, shells of various calibre are littered about, mostly 18 pdr and 4.5' how. These have all fallen off packs or limbers and remain lying about till they are eventually crunched into the surface or thrown to the side, where they eventually get covered by the mud scraped off the surface. As one goes on to St Julien the litter of dead horses, harness and kit becomes more evident and the surface becomes very rough in places, being pitted with enormous holes which just allow one vehicle to pass on the side. From St Julien crossroads to the spot where the gun position was one wades through a road 6' deep in slush, littered with dead horses, timber, GS wagons, limbers, guns, wheels, shells and every mess and tangle you could think of. The surface is full of holes, and these you can't see in the pea soup. Just to the north of St Julien crossroads is a low line of pill boxes held by the brigade HQ and in fact they are dotted about in various attitudes all round the village. I have forgotten to mention tanks - they lie about, some on the road, others sunk into the mud on either side, the majority suffering from some sort of injury caused by shell fire, a few bogged in the mud. In the middle of the village is what remains of a brick house, reinforced with concrete. About 30 yards past this place on the right you come to a litter of shell holes and ammunition. This used to be the position and there too lie the tanks in which some of the men took cover on the first day and one of which proved a death trap to six men. We go on a little further and come to a plank road leading along the crest and on this we crowd the mules in full sight of the Hun, unloading on a tramway, but the Hun, luckily, takes no notice of us. Imagine this road covered with pack mules, limbers, GS wagons, infantry lorries and a battalion of navvies working at its side, then imagine the Hun putting down a barrage with plenty of attention paid to the roads, as he knows the rest of the country is a bog. If you have that picture in your mind's eye and watch it for half an hour until the Hun slows to an intermittent shell here and there, and then go along that road, you can understand the numbers of dead, both horses and men, that you will see scattered about. Just one example on one crowded road - three shells knocked out seven teams of mules. The trench board tracks are marked by shells just the same as the road and dead lay just as thick there. I have never seen such a hell in the lines of communication in any other part of the line, but what must it be like on the Hun's side under our fire. Well, we are unloading the mules when the Major sends me back to the lines to send up a second gun, as he says he must have two up to register for a barrage on the following morning. In the meantime, Sgt. Lamburg had marched on with his gun, passing the old position and straight on towards Paschendale, and a lot of wagons had followed him, probably being lost themselves and following him on chance. Well, when he had got nicely on the Huns' side of the slope, the Hun opened, the gun team shied and got into a big shell hole. With the Hun shelling, there was nothing to do but unhook and reverse - and each driver with his horses for himself. And so the gun was left in the hole. On getting back, we did a lot of sand-bagging on the Mess, all the officers filling bags. Hun bombed us heartily at night, coming fairly close with several big ones.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Diary Entry - 24th October, 1917

It rained all morning, cleared about two p.m. Hoyland and I, after lunch, walk to brigade and, as we go, noticed on the railway not far from the lines a dump with very useful stuff in it. On reaching brigade, we see the colonel, who was just making preparations to take over from 41st Brigade up the trenches. The General was also there. We sent out a raiding party when we got back, just as it began to rain again, led by Anderson, and, although he and Kemp (my servant) had to crawl under a sentry's nose, they brought back two trestles and a door to put on them as a table.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Diary Entry - 23rd October, 1917

Pouring with rain when we get up and it continues in showers until two o'clock. Hoyland, Nicholson and I walk over towards Ypres to find a pump for the gun lines. We tried several salvage dumps and eventually got into the town and found a Canadian RE dump but could not get anything out of them. We eventually made for the ninth division CRE which we found on a canal running to the north of the town. The Padre and the colonel were there and we fixed it all up on the spot. It was good to hear the French had sunk 4 Zeppelins and that we, it was reported, had sunk 4, but whether ours are official is not yet known. On our way to Ypres, we passed a lot of tanks and one new kind which we were told was used for carrying guns up over the mud. It was a much longer looking thing than a tank. This country is completely different from what I thought it would be like hearing people talk of it. There are a lot of trees and hedges, whereas I thought it would be very flat and bare. The town has been terribly smashed up and an enormous amount of shell must have been expended on it and the surrounding country as there are shell holes a long way back. As far as I could see there seems to be a ridge about a mile in front of the town commanding a view of all this country. They still shell the town with high velocity guns, usually every second day. Today they are trying to knock out a balloon near by with their new clockwork fuze but so far have been unsuccessful with ten rounds of shrapnel 5.9'. The way the railways have been pushed on here is amazing and there is a regular network of new track over frightful country. The same applies to roads and both are in splendid condition. Of course, armies of men are kept going at them.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Football Match - 15th October, 1917

The invaluable fount of knowledge Dne1 has suggested that this photograph may be of the team in the football match mentioned on 15 October, with Siggers possibly sitting in the front row at the right.

Diary Entry - 22nd October, 1917

I get up for stables and send off five men on leave, including Sgt. Higgins and Hogg, Siggers's servant. These two came down from the guns the same night as Hoyland and got chased by shells half the way, just as he did. It rained hard in the morning until nine a.m. then a mist hung around until midday when it cleared and the sun got through. Hoyland and Nicholson went into Pop for a bath after lunch, the former lunching at brigade, sending in the Major's recommendation. Cruikshanks and I ride up to brigade for exercise and the former gets some pills from Todd for his throat. The 18th Div attacked in the morning and the General told us at Brigade that they had gained all objectives. There was very little bombing on our part of the line in the evening, mostly further north.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Diary Entry - 21st October, 1917

Ever since we have been here, each night at dawn there is a continuous blowing of whistles, as the Hun planes seem to crowd over as soon as it is dusk, some going back to Poperinghe, others dropping them on the wagon line area. And he sometimes comes over in day time I believe, although he has not done so since we arrived. He uses his gothas too. Hoyland set out for the guns at ten a.m. It is a good day and in the afternoon I ride Ginger round to try to find some cover for horses and find some stables being put up by the 18th Corps, whom we belong to, quite close by. The men spend the day clearing up and knocking their bivvies into shape. Nicholson goes to 9th division HQ to see a friend of his after lunch. About dusk the Colonel turns up and we show him the stables and ask him if he will try to get them for us. Then he and Vosper go on home. Hoyland's horses came back early, as they were shelled, and so he had to walk back and never got home until six.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Diary Entry - 20th October 1917

More bad news in the morning - Lt Sherman of the 15th Bty was killed by a direct hit from a shell. He was a Canadian and was at Ipswich with us all. Poor chap was to soon get leave to Canada to be married. At two p.m. we start for the 9th Division's old wagon line. The battery we relieved was B50. Well, we had some fun getting our wagons out. One stuck and two others crashed their swingle tree bars but we bound them up and soon got underway again. We went down the road to Ypres through Brielin and crossed the railway at Rickersburg railway junction, going up a muddy lane for two hundred yards, and came into a muddy home. We had more trouble getting the wagons through the mud, but we are well seasoned to the mud now and soon got over our difficulties. Everyone shook down as best they could in bivouac and tents. Hoyland and I managed to get twelve bivouacs from the camp commandant, making all kinds of wild promises. The Hun planes were again very active at dusk, but am glad to say they kept clear of us.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Diary Entry - 19th October, 1917

We march to temporary wagon lines north of Vlamertinghe, Siggers, Cruikshank and gun detachments going on in motor buses about seven thirty a.m. I again went on ahead, this time with Hoyland, the latter to do the billeting and I to reconnoitre a road for the brigade. We had a rotten march as the roads were packed with traffic, as was only to be expected getting so near the push area. We got in about three p.m. in the pouring rain, a thunderstorm breaking over us. The officers shared a Nissan Hut with the brigade and the men slept in tents. A feature which struck one most on first coming into this area was the way splinter proof walls had been put up two foot six inches high round the tents and huts, to keep the bomb splinters out. We turned in early and as I was dozing off to sleep Cruikers strolled in to say that two guns had been put out of action. Cpl. Beech and Gnr Sandalls both of my section had been killed, Br. Francis had his leg blown off and Br. Dempsey badly wounded in the stomach. It seemed they had just taken over and were out of the guns when the Hun started shelling and cut a lot of them off from the pill box (a concrete shelter) on the right so they took shelter in a tank. By this, shells were falling very fast, both five nines and four twos, and one hit the tank, killing four in all, but two belonged to the 9th Division. The Major, on hearing that some wounded men were isolated in a tank, set out with Gnrs. Bullimore, Smith and Sgt Keegan to the rescue. The Major was wonderful and set a magnificent example to the party by going straight through the awful wall of shells, never flinching once and they got all the wounded out of the tank into shelter. Of course, Sandford is being put in for the DSO and, if anyone deserves it, he does for what he did and the brave way he went about it. Poor Br. Francis had his leg blown off at the knee and his only remark was 'No more football for me' with a broad grin. Poor chap, he was being put through for a commission and was a really good fellow. We did not get much sleep that night as there was a lot of activity and the Hun bombed all night but never put any very close.

Corporal Beech DCM and MM - killed - left section
Gunner Sandalls - killed - left section

Br. Dempsey - severely wounded
Br. Francis - severely wounded
Gnr. Campbell - wounded (slight)

2nd Lt Greatwood of D36 also killed by a shell.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Diary Entry - 18th October, 1917

The Majors and the Colonel went on in buses in the early hours, to look over positions which we were to take over. We marched at ten thirty a.m. Siggers and I go on ahead, I to do the billeting and Siggers to reconnoitre a road for the brigade. The Padre, Siggers and self rode on together and had not gone far when we met Colonel Thompson to whom we were attached at Thiepval (11th Div) and Major Griffith, with their units on the march. We hunted for a place to have a meal in Hazelbrook and ran across Brigadier Martin Powell, who used to command the 48th Battery. He was in good form, now commanding an Anzac Corps and he had his little dog Ali Baba with him, which he told us to take note of. We eventually lunched at the Hotel du Nord near the station, then went on to Eecke, to meet the adjutant, who was to be at the main crossroads at three p.m. Siggers had a simple job, as the road was quite all right and he simply had to give a report on it to Vosper, who arrived soon after three p.m. All the battery representatives turned up at two thirty a.m. and we whiled away the time by visting a funny old town Major to whom Gough of 71st Bty put a few questions, greatly agitating the old man. We found our billets were about another two miles further on, quite good though the lines were very slushy. The battery got in about five thirty, in the dark, and we had a great time watering at a stream which we could not take the horse to as the banks were so muddy. It was no fun feeling your way in the dark for water with buckets and mud halfway to the knees. The Brigade and ourselves were in the same farm and messed together.

Diary Entry - 17th October, 1917

We march at seven forty a.m., being called at five. The march was not good. There were too many stops, caused by traffic, especially around Aire. Ginger was very fresh and danced the whole way, getting himself into a regular lather. We reached Tannay at about three p.m. and got our lines up in a grassy field, which was better than most of the other batteries. The billets were the worst part as they were scattered all over the country and some of the men's were about half a mile from the lines. We had a most amusing time at dinner - at least one takes it as all in the day's run. We had hard work in persuading an estaminet to let us have a Mess there but eventually they did and we shared a room with the owners. Well, during dinner one of the females gave her young son - or child, anyway - dinner, much to our captain's disgust. However, he seemed to forget we were no longer in England and that France's customs are somewhat different to ours. To add to the delights of the place, a room close by was full of drinking Tommies and they would insist on playing a french penny in the slot machine, which was all out of gear and it made a noise like two children thumping on a piano at the same time.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Diary Entry - 16th October, 1917

Nicholson and Cruikshank take their sections on driving drill and gun drill at ten thirty, while I take the other horses out on exercise. It was a cold morning and Nelson, the one-eyed horse, was rather keen on pitching me off and he met with success when we got back to the lines, but luckily I landed on my feet on the road. The Colonel met us as we were coming along the main road and walked some of the way with me. The Padre had a concert in the evening at the school but, as no one seemed to know about it, no officers went. Captain Todd also gave a lecture on first aid at the brigade at midday and the unfortunate Corporal Archer was put on the floor for a demonstration of respiration given to a gassed or drowned man.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Diary Entry - 15th October, 1917

Orderly officer driving drill at nine a.m. on spare fields. Nicholson, Siggers and I both have a turn at it with the left and centre sections in skeleton order. It was a nice sharp sunny morning and there had been a frost overnight. In the afternoon the right half battery played the left half at football, it ending in a draw. The Colonel adjutant and a lot more officers were spectators. Siggers and Cruikshank were playing, the latter, getting a kick on the head, was put out for a short time but soon recovered, with a black eye only. It was rather amusing - we had lost one of the cook's carthorses, known as Mrs Fritz and one of the bombardiers in charge of them found an old Frenchman using her in a plough. We sent two lumbers[?] off in the evening to pick up two guns - the carriages at Bethune and pieces at Bruay, it being an all night job.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Diary Entry - 14th October, 1917

Early in the morning, Siggers, Nicholson and self went to Holy Communion held in the school. There was a large church parade at twelve p.m. when the Bishop of Khartoum preached and 50 of our men paraded under Cruikshank as orderly officer. Nicholson and self took a ride at ten a.m. and I nearly came off Ginger when jumping a hedge. Wrate makes my saddle so slippery it is very hard to grip in putties.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Diary Entry - 13th October, 1917

A driving parade at nine a.m. but, as all the fields were too wet, we did not venture off the road. There was a gun drill parade at ten thirty a.m. for both Cruikshank and myself, which I never like taking as I don't know the bookwork off pat. In the afternoon Siggers and I did a little No. 3 director and TOB work, just to take the rust off, and incidentally found we wanted some polishing.

Diary Entry - 12th October, 1917

Rose at three a.m. and found when I got downstairs that there was no time for tea so walked to the station in the pouring rain and after getting settled in one carriage was told that we had to ride further up the train for Bethune. The old train went along at the usual leave train gait until we finally reached Arque about twelve p.m and then steamed into Haryebrook at twelve thirty p.m On reaching Lillers at one p.m. I heard shouts of  '2nd Division get out here', so out I bundled and, on enquiring, heard we were at Ames. After lunch at an estaminet, I found two DAC horses and rode out on them in the pouring rain, which commenced soon after lunch. Reached Ames in time for tea and found everyone in billets with plenty of mud in the lines. This did not look too pleasant as it all pointed to our going north and having another winter like last year.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Diary Entry - 11th October, 1917

Catch the seven fifty train and come straight across without a hitch, landing in Boulogne about twelve thirty p.m. There was a large crowd fighting to get onto the platgform but I found that by following a porter with a barrow it was pretty simple, especially as some wag kept saying, 'Make room for a naval officer.' I spent the afternoon on the sea front watching some sea planes manoeuvring – also an old flying sausage or cigar. Had a great conversation with a South African doctor at dinner in the Louvre. He was a good chap and we discussed the Englishman as he appeared to people who did not know him.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Diary Entry - 29th September to 10th October, 1917

The boat was to sail at eight a.m. But it did not actually sail until two p.m. And, while we whiled away the time on board, a Hun plane came over pretty high, but whether with evil intentions we did not know. As he drifted over us, the archies let him have it and I was more frightened of them than the bombs that might be dropped. He went straight on his course due west and we never saw him again. We eventually lobbed at Victoria at five thirty p.m. or thereabouts and, on going to the Carlyle Club, found Sanger there. We dined together after I had bathed and it seemed extraordinarily quiet in the streets as there was a raid on and all th people were packing into tubes or underground grill rooms. We tried to get into the Regent's Palace Grill, but people were lining the stairs there and it was packed, so we went to the Monaco - or the Anarchists' Retreat as I call it. I experienced three bombing raids my first three nights and was surprised how badly the people took it. The tube stations were disgracefully crammed with people and the majority of the people were men – Russians, Greeks, Italians, et cetera. I really think if the Hun had kept it up there would have been riots in London. They even went so far as to mob an RFC man on one of the tube stations. About the middle of the week I got the lend of Foster's car and drove Mim down to Farnham Common in it, where we stayed at Highlands with the John Manifold family. The car was a 10 hp Swift and gave a certain amount of trouble before I eventually handed it over to Foster at Huntingdon when he had returned from his Cook's tour in France. Anyway it was a novelty to have a car to drive about, especially in such times as these. At Huntingdon, on Tuesday, Foster took me to his Wing HQ and showed me over a squadron and, although I only got a glimpse of it, it was all very interesting. I tried to get back on the 10th, but there was no train from Victoria. It was rather annoying of them not to have let us know at the Grosvenor Hotel, as we got up at six a.m. I saw some good theatres while in town, amongst them, 'Maid of Mountains', 'The Boy', 'Arlette', 'Bubbly', 'Cheap'. On Thursday the train went all right and landed me back in the usual way, without any delay. While on leave, I saw Spud Ritchie and Uncle Bell and Beecher of our lot and Chettie, Johnnie Webster, Bob Giles, Clive Currie and his wife.  

Friday, 28 September 2012

Diary Entry - 28th September, 1917

Armytage relieves me early. The night had been a particularly quiet one and the weather still holds good. Am rather surprised to find some gunners making emplacements on the bank near the entrance to Maison Rouge Trench and prophesy a warm reception for them there if they do much firing. Claudet calls in on his way to the trenches and takes Hoyland with him. Then they go off to shoot at Vermelles in the afternoon. As I am to proceed on leave tomorrow, go to wagon line at five p.m. Hoyland and I have a very jolly ride to the horse lines across country all the way to Beuvey - and at a very smart canter too. Vosper and Nicholson join us at the wagon line and then we all, including Siggers, go into Bethune for dinner, having it at the Lion d'Or just off the Grand Place. Vosper did us very well with very good bubbly and I think we were all pretty merry on our walk home and made a deal of noise, it being a beautiful moonlight night. Hoyland, Vosper and Nicholson then rode on to their respective batteries, Siggers and I remaining at the Chateau.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Diary Entry - 27th September 1917

Go to the OP and relieve Dixon, the immaculate, at ten a.m. The same old routine, quite a quiet day, and Bellew gives me a short spell for dinner in the evening.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Diary Entry - 26th September, 1917

Go to Le Quesnoy chateau at ten a.m. as junior member and, although I have never been on one before, manage to pull through without any difficulty and all the junior member has to do it seems is to keep quiet until he is spoken to by the President. Go to WL afterwards and take Meade in for a referesher. Siggers had booked seats at the Dous[Dons?] for six fifteen p.m. and it turned out a fair show, the entertainment being on the Pierrot principle. The Padre met us there and came out to dinner. Then I rode a bike to the guns at ten p.m.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Diary Entry - 25th September, 1917

Spent the day at the guns. The Major went on leave by car, which goes down to meet Pelham. Vosper and Nicholson come over to lunch on their way to the left section which, incidentally, has moved up about 800 to just below the Mill dugouts near Railway Alley. At three p.m. we fire in a TM strafe for twenty minutes and begin with some smoke in front of the Bosche OPs. Hun never takes any notice of it and all is soon quiet again.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Diary Entry - 24th September, 1917

Am roused at dawn by the noise of bombing and hostile shelling coming from the direction of the brickstacks and canal. The brigade fires on Canal Rt as SOS goes up but everything quietens again after about fifteen minutes. I am relieved at ten twenty a.m. by Capt. Hewitson, but the fifteenth are always late with a relief.

Diary Entry - 23rd September, 1917

Go to the OP at ten a.m. and relieve Armytage. It is very quiet and Bellew gives me an acceptable rest at four fifteen, coming up for three and a half hours.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Diary Entry - 22nd September, 1917

Go to wagon lines. Hoyland away for a FGCM at one p.m. During stables, Barwick's best black mare takes colic after coming in from a fatigue and although we do all possible for it - and in fact when we think it will recover - it is seized with a spasm of pain and dies about five p.m. It is afterwards found to be caused by a number of stomach ruptures. At three thirty p.m. old Saunders and General Freddie Mercer wander into the lines but luckily they don't stay long or ask many questions and GAH got back just before the leave with a colonel whom he brought back for lunch. In the afternoon GAH and I watched the footer match between our chaps and a 46th Div battery across the road. We won 2 - 1. Major Claudet called in after tea and we rode back at six forty five p.m. but I go to dinner with the antis as John has just returned from leave. Sam and he are very fit and are all much amused with Tirpity (Sam's dog) and a kitten with whom he plays as if it were a pup. When I get home at eleven p.m. find everyone is in bed.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Diary Entry - 21st September, 1917

Go over to the four eights after breakfast to arrange about moving. Lunch with 15th and move back to the old firm after lunch where there are greetings from the officers and even Sgt. Higgins. Bellew does the 24 hours but Siggers gives him a few hours' relief during the afternoon.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Diary Entry - 20th September, 1917

At the OP from six a.m. until dawn. The Hun was very active with his Minnies on and about the Hohenzollern, looking for the gas we discharged from cylinders last night, I expect. I marked down one Minnie and left two guns on it all day. Whenever he fired, we went to gunfire with HE. He kept fairly quiet all day but other Minnies took on the work. We fired sixty rounds on him. Nothing of interest happened, except that we retired at eleven a.m. to the cellar for about twenty rounds of what I call the Russian Howitzer, fired at Braddle Keep and houses in vicinity. Hewitson and Sherman called in in the afternoon for a short time.

Diary Entry - 19th September, 1917

After breakfast rode to Cuinchy detached section and paid out. Call at Vosper battery on the way back and look at their large pit, which is finished and looks well. General Alexander was supposed to come round in the afternoon, but he never arrived.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Diary Entry - 18th September, 1917

Ride to horse lines with Sherman, then on to Les Lobes, north of Locon, for pay. It was about a five-mile slog, over hard roads, and I never got back until twelve thirty. Pay out after lunch and come up to guns at three thirty. Do Liaison with the 7th Sherwoods and do no get much sleep, as the Hun kept dropping rounds over every twenty minutes and, as there was only corrugated iron and a sand bag over my head, I did not feel too comfortable. Only one 77 mm landed near enough to throw earth on the roof and that was the last shell fired before daylight. The battery had the Colonel and second-in-command of the 5th Battalion in to dinner, as well as the Major and his orderly officer and Hoyland.

Diary Entry - 17th September, 1917

My day off. Wander up to Humanity Trench with Sherman to fire the guns on the support line. We completed some successful switches and fired a few rounds on Little Willie then came back for lunch and found Hewitson had come up.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Diary Entry - 16th September, 1917

Came down at seven a.m. from the infantry, having spent a quiet night. They had an American doctor there - quite a good chap - and, if the rest are like him, shan't mind them. Settle down for a quiet morning at the guns when the infantry major rolls up for instruction, so I gas to him on gunnery from nine thirty until one p.m. when I was pleased to see Sherman back from his trip round the trenches with Claudet, who is now acting Group Commander, Courage being on leave. As the Hun put a 10 cm shell in close proximity to our Mess in Annequin we decided to move to the place we had been preparing at the guns. Incidentally, the cook - one Gunner Dempsey - having been presented with 50 francs to buy Mess goods, thought it a good time to go on the bust, so left all the moving to be done by one man and cleared off for the day. Sherman is told by Armytage of Hewitson's return off the infantry course and he careers down to see him at five p.m., coming home in a more than pleased condition at twelve on his bicycle and hits a pile of cobble stones on his way, somewhat laming himself. The results of dining with Hoyland and Hewitson at the four eight's wagon line.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Diary Entry - 15th September, 1917

Set out for the wagon line at seven forty five as have to take a parade of three men down to Gore for a fatigue of unloading slag from a barge. Go back on Ginger across country and call in at the four eights where I find Hoyland and Colonel Beech not even down to breakfast. The Colonel and Cruickshanks who lobbed from the guns at ten thirty a.m. go on leave after lunch in a car and seem both highly elated all morning especially the latter. Hoyland and I ride back but I turn off the road to go and see Sam who is just behind Annequin north, he gives me tea and while there Nicholson and Vosper pass by on their way from Bethune. Sam tells me Gyp Currie is engaged to a Capt. Street and Sid and Jess were to be married on Friday - that is, yesterday. He has a shoot at some Albatross D3s while I am there and goes remarkably close to them. The Hun I find on arriving at the battery is crumping the 6' on the railway with five nines and eight inch - incidentally my track leads right up the railway. So the signaller and self cut across to the four eights, pick up Hoyland who came up specially to do Liaison and make a detour round behind the old factory onto the railway line.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Diary Entry - 14th September, 1917

My day at the four hundred. Do not start until six a.m. as it is doing no good getting there an hour before sunrise and, as the Major expressed his opinion that way, I fell in with his view and took the hint. The light was fairly good after ten thirty a.m. and there was a certain amount of activity during the afternoon on both sides. D36 were most amusing about four p.m: they got annoyed with a poor Minnie who fired two rounds on our front and went to gunfire on it, blazing off about sixty rounds and making the sand bags and parapets leap into space. Kemp, my servan,t brought me tea at five thirty, also a packet of Australian mail and a letter from Mum, telling me of Foster's promotion to Colonel, which is jolly good work. Sherman was up during the afternoon and informed me it was settled that I go back to the 48th Bty and the 15th have Dickson.

(I forgot to add that Major General Perrire (GOC Division) went round our wagonlines in the morning and expressed his pleasure at the satisfactory condition of all he had seen.)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Diary Entry - 13th September, 1917

Orderly officer at the guns all day after spending a quiet night doing liaison. Absolutely nothing doing.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Diary Entry - 12th September, 1917

Go down to the wagon line and arrive just in time to see the elephant being painted on the stable roof in white. I called in at the Field cashier's on the way down and ran across Bellew there. After stables, lunch with the four eights and hear all the latest records GAH has brought out from home with him. We all went into Bethune after lunch, to the club, where we ran across Captain Roberts of heavy Trench Mortar fame, with several of his subaltwerns. On the way riding home I meet him again and, as he turned off the Bethune Road, he disappeared in a cloud of dust, cantering hard down the metals but, as he is a Royal Fusilier, evidently knows no better. As my groom and I approached the battery, we noticed some shells falling about, so I walked from the shrine just near the corner of the La Bassee Road and arrived untouched, though passed two very recent shell holes in the field as you cross in front of Annequin church to the position, the old 6' hows had been going at gunfire and think they were after them. Go up to the infantry that night.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Diary Entry - 11th September, 1917

The GOC Division 46th came round the position at ten a.m. but all he seemed to do was measure out the SOS lines in the pits on the map and looked as if he distrusted us. The Colonel came round at eleven a.m. and I went up to the detached section to greet the general there, riding back on a bicycle as soon as he had gone. On the way back, I looked up Vosper and saw his new pit which was a huge erection of slag, well-supported by rails but six solid feet of slag takes some propping up. However, his props were very strong. The TM strafe at twelve thirty p.m. seemed pretty tame and the raid at eleven thirty p.m. was also a severe wash out I believe, though don't know any details as the battalion on our left were doing the job. Sherman and I put some heavy work in on the gun pit in the afternoon.