Monthly Archives: June 2016

30 June 1916

It is a day or two since I last wrote but as I said in my last letter we are now again at work. Dug-outs form a comfortable if not very imposing chateau, and I personally am sharing a large boarded apartment with the General. I purposely say boarded because that is a sign of great wealth in the dug-out world: most people have to be content with earthy, or at the best canvas-covered sides & roof. Not so we – we have a panelled chamber. Viccars and Godsal share one next door, and on the other side is the office. The other officers and the signallers are in another series less luxurious, but perhaps more shell-proof. This last quality is by no means likely to be tested, as we are somewhat nearer London then the firing line. You have probably read in the “Daily Mail” all about torrents of shells – the “sullen puffs of high explosive projectiles, bursting in battalions”. Do not imagine that we are suffering from earache or anything of that sort – from our present abode we can hardly hear a gun go off – more especially as the wind is in the wrong direction. I have paid one or two visits to the trenches, there perhaps there is more noise than usual, but hardly enough to justify the columns of nonsense in the Daily Mail. The weather has been so appalling until today that the trenches themselves have been most horrible places. So bad are they that yesterday when wandering about up there I simply wore shorts and an old pair of boots and got wet almost up to my waist. Today we have got some summer: there is a good drying wind and the clouds have lifted, so everything promises well for a fine day tomorrow. In the last few days we have had several cases of “trench feet” again – a disease which is practically the same as “frost-bite” – and therefore one that one does not expect to get in the middle of summer. There is just one consolation, and that is that the Bosch must have found it a wet and uncongenial task trying to walk about, let alone repair trenches, that have been dealt with by the sullen puffs here-to fore recorded. I cannot imagine what idea the old Bosch had in his head when he sent out the amazing wireless reports about the capture of Lille etc. by us – it is so obvious that if any such thing had really happened we should very soon have talked about it ourselves. It almost looks as if Von – whoever it is, is going off his chump. Although we sleep and do our work in dug-outs we actually mess in a small farm-house, just across the road. The whole female population of the village have been removed along with all the children. In this farm there is one old man left and a youth of about fourteen. The latter is a really interesting person – unkempt, wild, very strong and athletic – and yet knowing more than any average English youth of 16 with a Public School Education. When war started he was at school at Lille where he was taught English – and so well taught that he talks it now idiomatically and with a first rate pronunciation leaving school at 12 ½ !! He knows quite a lot about maths and trigonometry, anatomy: thinks as quickly in yards and miles as he can in metres and kilometres, knows more geography than I should even learn in twenty years – and has incidentally studied human nature and talks like a man of thirty. All this in an ordinary farmer’s son with no pretensions of being clever, and no ambition beyond that of the ordinary youth who wants to be an “Engineer”. For that is to be his profession I believe – his knowledge of mechanics and machinery, motors and engines etc. to say nothing of aeroplanes, is proportionately vast. I am quite sure he will turn out to be a marvellous inventor someday. His name is Michael – I forget the surname if I ever knew it. The Division are close to us in the most disgracefully luxurious suite of dug-outs that one ever saw. Long subterranean corridors leading from one office to another; electric light in every room and passages – carefully boarded skylights at safe angles, and goodness knows how many feet of earth and stuff above their heads – enough to keep out a whole bombardment of 17” shells. It is quite possible that I may be attached to Divisional H.Q. for a day or two with some liaison work – but of that I shall probably be able to tell you more later. I have no desire to go any further from my battalion than I already am; and have quite come to the conclusion that there is only one job worth doing in this war, and that is commanding a platoon or company, as the case may be. Intelligence work is of course my forte but fate seems against me in this. I never get left alone with it for long and am always having all sorts of odd jobs thrust at me which interfere with the main thing. Now it’s the Divisional Liaison at a time when in my own humble opinion I could be of very much more use if I stayed with my people. I feel that I am always being rather pulled about, and never left alone to do one job well – so after all the regiment is best. That poor wretch Bosworth has been bitten on the arm by a rat, a type of creature very common in the barn which serves him for a bedroom. He is I think rather fortunate not to be poisoned in any way by it – a rat-bite can be very serious I suppose if not dealt with promptly and properly. The General is a quaint person in his bedroom. He spends at least twenty minutes every evening cleaning his teeth – a most solemn performance always. Then in the early morning he does a series of Salome like exercises – most entrancing and amusing to watch – so much so that I invariably have to select that moment for studying the weather, for fear of being able to keep a straight face.

27 June 1916

We are still here in rest but I think that today is probably the last day. Tomorrow, all being well, we shall shift up somewhat nearer the line again. But for the weather this little place would be very nice indeed, but the constant showers, very heavy showers they are too, turn all the roads, fields, and everything else into rivers and lakes of liquid mud. The trenches too have of late become very uncomfortable. Please thank Mary for her letter, I am sorry to hear that the cow has a horrid “corf”. Her handwriting has improved tremendously since the last letter – she must be becoming quite learned now I suppose. Certainly the signature at the end of the letter was very wonderful. Toller has at last got a command – he certainly has had to wait long enough, and thoroughly deserves it. He goes today to take charge of some Highland Territorial Battalion. He will not have to transfer but will simply be attending so we shall not have the pleasure of seeing him in kilts or anything of that sort. We gave him a farewell dinner last night – with a very full mess indeed – everyone was present and we sat down 38. As I probably told you the mess room consists of a large tarpaulin stretched over a light frame-work. At eight o’clock punctually it started to rain – then to pour, and finally to come down in bathfuls. In a few minutes the roof was dripping in almost every place and we had to feed in overcoats. This however was the only misfortune and it was not sufficient to damp the enthusiasm of the mess. The Colonel made a most admirable little speech and Toller replied – he is I think a little sad at having to go. We then sang all the Scotch songs we could think of – by way of honour to the new Colonel – and many others that were not Scotch, and finally ended up by somewhere near midnight with “Auld Lang Syne”. Toller’s going just now is really rather serious because there is no one to take his place as second in command, or rather I should say, that if the C.O. were to be hors de combat, there is no one who could take command of the battalion, and one wants a second in C. who can do that. It is very probable that within a week or so the Brigadier will send me back to Command a Company – it is hardly fair to keep away a Captain from the regiment, when there are so few left of those who originally formed the mess, in the old Luton Days. Personally I should not be at all sorry to return. I spent yesterday afternoon looking for J.D. Fry – my shooting XIII Secretary for one year – who wrote me a note to say that he was somewhere in the neighbourhood. As a matter of fact I failed to find him, and could not even discover where his regiment was: however I daresay I shall run into him and them in a day or two. It is most remarkable how small the army seems to be – one is always running into all sorts and kinds of people that one knows. Last night was far too wet for star-gazing so I had to bring my bed inside and sleep in Hacking’s room again. It was as well that I did because it poured very hard at intervals during the early hours of the morning. It is now going on in just the same way: we get spells of sunshine, and then one after another these heavy black clouds come rolling up – shower tons of water on to us, and then roll on again to do the same , we hope, or worse to the Bosch. Every evening it looks as though it wanted to clear up, and as if we should have a fine spell, but it always comes on again the next day – and we have quite given up hope of any real improvement. Tonight the local padre is coming to dinner as the guest of the Brigadier who is billeted at the vicarage. This is always rather an amusing performance as the padre can never talk English and the General has to air his French – which he is always very willing to do. Whether or no he is understood is another matter, but everybody is always pleased, and the success of the entente cordiale doubly assured by the display of camaraderie between the two nations.

26 June 1916

I had only just sealed up my letter to you yesterday when we had a revelation, a most unusual revelation of the lengths, depths & breadths of audacity and impudence to which the Bosch occasionally aspires. No less than sixteen of his aeroplanes came cruising about overhead and I believe they even got as far as dropping one or two bombs. Of these the majority failed to explode, and those that did were miles from anybody or anything. Our fellows very soon chased them back to their own lines, here they stayed until the afternoon when about half a dozen tried to repeat the performance, and succeeded in putting up a most futile show – not even terrifying the civilian population. In the afternoon I went for what proved to be a fruitless journey since the person I went to see could not be found. However the weather was good and though rather a long way, the ride was most enjoyable. The mare was very lively and very fresh but went very well, and I think enjoyed being ridden quite as much as I enjoyed riding her. She goes very well indeed in a canter on turf or soft sandy tracks, of which there are a fair number in this part of the world. One has to keep more or less clear of the main roads during the summer, because there is always a very large amount of heavy motor traffic and the dust is terrible. There is usually a by-road winding its way in and out of the villages which lie on each side of the main road, and though its’ surface is usually unmentionably bad, one is at least undisturbed there by snorting lorries. This morning I have been taking slightly more energetic exercise. There was no saddle available for my mare so I had to ride a bike. I wanted to watch some small fracas that was going forward, and incidentally discover from the resident Intelligence Officer what exactly was going on in the line since I left. It was weary hot work ploughing through the clouds of dust in some parts, and great chunks of sticky mud in others, on a bicycle that must weigh the best part of two cwts. However I was amply repaid by the excellence of the view at the end of the ride: I saw all that I wanted to see. “San Joy” and “Bric a Brac” came along yesterday, and for them very many thanks, as also for a letter from you which arrived at the same time. Last night we had a beano – probably there will be another tonight. Do not imagine that the General has been indulging in these frivolities, it was with the regiment who have managed to raise a battalion mess. With great difficulty I had succeeded in procuring the necessary phizz to celebrate my Captaincy, and one or two other little things – and we had, as I say, a beano. Far into the night the mess gave forth noises of all descriptions – songs were sung – people were ragged junior subalterns were taught the elements of good behaviour – the less strong-headed slid quietly and slept underneath the table – everyone enjoyed himself immensely and the performance will very probably be repeated tonight. There are still several Captains who have not yet “paid for” their promotion and they will I think avail themselves of this opportunity to do so. The weather was fairly favourable and I again passed a most excellent night under the stars, waking fairly early to what looked like being a most excellent day. It has unfortunately gone to the bad and it now rains at intervals and is sultry in between showers. It is after lunch time so I must hurry along and have a bite or two more especially as my appetite is at present in great form – I am sorry to say that it usually is. There is one great objection to this place and that is the long distance that the mess is from the office and billet. I do not like having to walk the best part of a mile home after dinner on a dirty night, when one is wearing one’s best clothes and thin shoes.

25 June 1916

No more cloud-bursts and as the weather looked fairly respectable last night I decided to risk my open-air couch. My expectations were not entirely justified, for a few drops of rain actually had the impertinence to fall on me in the small hours of the morning, they were not enough to hurt and all I did was to pull my water-proof cover a little higher. Today it is hot: unfortunately not a good sort of heat. There is still thunder about and the sun doesn’t shine properly – it is much too close and sultry. I expect we shall have another big shower or two and then perhaps it will clear for a bit. Yesterday afternoon there was a footer-match on which I went to see – it was of course much too hot to play – and the ground, curiously enough was far too wet and slippery. However we managed to win which is the great thing in these shows. It is rather nice to get something to take one’s mind off the miserable set of trenches at which I have been staring for the last few weeks through a telescope. So clearly is their landscape painted in my head that I see the beastly country all night in my sleep, and cannot get away from it. There is rather a curious thing told about the storm the day before yesterday – I don’t know how true it is, but cannot imagine anyone being able to invent it. One of our “sausage” observation balloons stayed up a little too long, and the storm caught it before it had reached the ground. The cable broke and the wretched thing was immediately whirled away into space at a gigantic speed. There were two occupants. Either struck by lightning or for some other reason, the balloon caught fire and finally came down – fortunately within our lines. The curious part is the difference in injuries sustained by the two occupants. One was slightly burnt by the burning car. The other from being rushed through the hailstorm for only a quarter of an hour, was very badly frost bitten in all his fingers. It must be rather a risky sort of existence in a sausage, one never knows what they will do. One broke away the other day and made straight for Germany. The occupants seeing their unhappy plight burnt all their papers and came down as rapidly as they could – to find that they had escaped capture by a comparatively few yards, and come down just behind our trenches. That was by night. On another occasion one broke away by day, and started to drift towards the Bosch: there was not much wind and it went slowly. The occupant burnt his papers and descended quite safely in his parachute. The lightened balloon went on, rising slowly all the time. After going about ten miles over the enemies lines it struck an upper current of air which was going in exactly the opposite direction. It then proceeded to drift slowly and majestically back to almost exactly the same spot from which it had started – and finally came down well within our territory. Yesterday evening I climbed to the top of a neighbouring hill to watch the distant flashes of guns and things – always rather a pretty sight at night. I had to go through the camp and found our people kicking up a terrible row. The victors of the footer match were making enough noise for a hundred, and all from the C.O. downwards seemed very merry. I think it very probable that I shall dine in mess with them tonight; they have managed to rig up some sort of erection under which it is possible to crowd the enormous number of senior Subalterns that we drag along with us at present. Today being Sunday we are having a Church Parade at 11.30 with a celebration afterwards. I wish these padres would have early morning services, they would be much more generally attended, and there is no difficulty in their arrangement. However I suppose in wartime one must be content with what one can get. The former useless individual has been removed and I believe the new one is an improvement – at all events he cannot be worse than his predecessor. Boosey has just sent me the music of the March Lorranie – I will give it to the Band today and let you know how it goes when they have practised it a bit.

24 June 1916

I spoke too soon yesterday when I said “at least we are not having any rain. Soon after lunch we were favoured with what can only be described as a young cloud-burst. Within a few minutes of the first large drop coming smack on the road, there was a stream six inches deep, and as many feet wide, sweeping everything before it and careering full tilt before our front door. Fortunately I had had the forethought to remove my bedding to a place of shelter, but the bed itself got soaked in the first few seconds. The air was cooler afterwards but we did not get a fine evening which is what we had hoped for. In fact it is still raining at intervals. It should of course be fine at midday since the old saying has it “Rain before eight fine by noon”. It is not only sundials that are put out of gear by the daylight savings Act – rhymes seem to suffer also. I did not of course spend last night under the canopy of Heaven but came and shared a corner of Hacking’s room – quite a cheery little boudoir in the village mill. The Miller is a most tremendously hard-working man. He was still up when we went to bed at eleven last night, and the mill was going again with him in charge at five this morning. I had my mare out last night just for a short ride. I have not ridden her for nearly a month and she was accordingly very fractious, jumping about all over the place, and shying at anything and everything. The new bridle looks very swish – and I think she is much happier in it than in her old one which was rather a tight fit. Now that we have moved the mess to a more congenial and less aromatic spot the General is not quite so awe-inspiring. The only difficulty now is that there is no kitchen and all our cooking has to be done in the open – no very easy performance during a cloud burst. To add to our other troubles, the kitchen range which we have carried about so long – and which has proved so faithful a friend has at lasts fallen to pieces. For some months it has needed constant attention – new rivets – patches little bits here and there, and a daub or two of cement to cover the more obvious fissures. But now I am afraid it is beyond repair. Great holes and gaping chasms have appeared all round the oven; the chimney – the ninth – disappeared in the accident to the mess-cart – and we have decided to abandon the whole concern. It is very sad to part with the old thing – it has accompanied us on all our travels ever since landing in France. It went to Egypt and came back again and has in fact been everywhere. In spite of the rain and most adverse circumstances the band, and the divisional concert party –“The Whizz-bangs” provided a very excellent entertainment in the open air yesterday evening. I cannot say that I was there myself – the crowd was so great that I could not get near them. It was not our own band but that of one of the other Brigades – a military and not merely – as ours is – a brass band. They were very good and gave us all the old favourites with great gusto. Soupe Light Cavalry – and the Mikado, and others that they must have played nearly 365 times in the last year. However though hackneyed they seem to be always popular which is the main thing. We have had two most excellent dishes of strawberries, and managed to find some real good cream to go with them, so we have not done so badly. There are one or two in the Mill garden on which I am contemplating making a raid the next suitably dark night that comes along. Unfortunately they keep a dog here and my pyjamas are sufficiently holey already; they do not need any animals teeth to make pretty patterns on them. I am thinking of having a Turkish bath today – they have an apology of one at the Divisional baths here. That is to say they keep a sort of black hole of Calcutta made of Army blankets into which they turn volumes of steam while one sits there for half an hour or so. At the end of that appalling performance one can get a tepid shower and a cold plunge so really it does not sound at all bad.

23 June 1916

We are having quite good weather though a bit sultry; it’s at least warm and we have not had rain for quite a few days. Your parcel of sweets and peppermints and things arrived here quite safely – many thanks for it. I am afraid the peppermints did not last long. They never do. There was one great consolation about them this time and that was that I had at least 7/8 of the box myself. Knowing what a rush there always is for these things – I just took the box away to a quiet corner and stuffed till I came very near exploding. Truly a most horrible idea – but still very good peppermints. The day before yesterday I was just writing out my Intelligence report which has to be sent daily to Division when the door behind me opened, and a cheery boyish voice said “Hullo. What are you doing?” “Oh” quoth I without looking round “concocting the usual lies for the Division” and then glanced round – to find myself fact to face with Lt Gen Sir — —- commanding the army Corps. Fortunately for me he saw the humour of the situation and enjoyed it immensely. We were for sometime in or near to a village – almost in the front line, and it is very interesting to see how some houses are practically untouched while their neighbours on either side have scarcely one brick standing on another. The church has been hopelessly smashed up – only one wall of the tower standing – and all the roof gone. The nave is full of debris, and yet against one wall – itself all shell marked – between two absolutely shattered windows, stands a twelve foot crucifix absolutely untouched and undamaged. One face of the church clock still remains giving the time until a few days ago as 11.15. A few shells dropped in the neighbourhood, and now for some reason it says 2.45 – I expect in time it will get to 6.30 if the tower has not gone by that time. I had a letter today from Aunt Maggie and wonder of wonders – have answered it. It was written on most gaudy notepaper – bedecked with the flags of innumerable allies, all sorts and kinds of glaring colours, and in fact everything that one could desire except her address – so I have replied to c/o Caer Glow. The night before last I paid another visit to the “Bow Bells” – the show has greatly improved since I was last there and is really very well worth going to see. Their singing is splendid, and acting proportionately good – one laughs long and loudly for two hours. The 5th are in the same village – in huts – rather crowded but full of hopes that in the next day or two they may be able to get a mess together. There are so many of us who have got our Captaincies and not yet provided the customary dozen of “phizz” that if they can get a mess there ought to be one or two quite gay nights.

20 June 1916

The weather has so far not come up to scratch as much as we expected. It is true that the sun is at the moment shining but it is still most unpleasantly cold and about midday it actually rained. I think we shall have fine weather tomorrow but it is absolutely impossible to make any forecast. Yesterday the air was by no means hot but most terribly oppressive. Ashford and I got so tired walking round trenches in the morning that we lay down and went to sleep within a few yards of the public highway – a most undignified proceeding, and one calculated to raise looks of mirth on the part of the private soldier – of sympathy on the part of the fellow officer – and of surprised indignation on the part of the prim and proper staff. None of the latter were fortunately there to see, so we are not likely to be Court Martialled for conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman. The night before last I spent wandering round trenches – seeing what little I could see, and hearing what there was to hear. In fact I looked so long at the inky blackness that in the end all our barbed wire stakes became prowling Germans, and every glittering dew-tipped blade of grass a ’Orrible ‘Un Bayonet. It is really very wonderful that we don’t get more false alarms than we do: towards morning a wretched sentry must see a very large number of things which do not exist. With hearing it is different. If one gets out of the trench and listens – the more one listens the less one hears – and there is a lot to hear as a rule. If the wind is right and the Bosch not too far away one can hear him talk in his trench – hear his transport come up and go away – hear almost anything in fact. I expect he does exactly the same with us and knows to a minute the time of all our movements. I have been shifted from my place – menial has already come to lay dinner so I must continue as best I can with a high chair at the sideboard. We are rather a large party at dinner these days with always an extra Intelligence Officer either coming on or going off duty – and an odd bomb officer or two staying with us – not to mention a few dozen casual specialists who are always careering about the neighbourhood and generally expect to be fed. Have you seen in any of the papers a description in one of the sailor’s letters of a wonderful shell which got entangled in the rigging, and having spun three times round the foremast dropped harmlessly into the sea. I used to have great respect for the veracity of the Sister Service but after that I don’t know what to think. I am sure no one in the army would possibly invent such an atrocious story. The curious part is that the Spectator of all journals seems to believe it – at all events it prints it in all good faith and without any comment as to its’ extraordinary unlikelihood. It is turning out a lovely evening and I shall certainly wander up to the trenches as soon after dinner as I can conveniently get away. If it were not quite so cold it would be very nice indeed up there at nights – one can always drop in for half an hour’s or so’s rest with someone that one knows – and the night has one great advantage – there are never any strafing Corps or Army Staff wandering about by night and one is more or less free to go where one likes.

18 June 1916

Many thanks for your congratulations – your letter and the paper came at the same time. The list looks a tremendously long one, but actually there are very few to each unit, and as you doubtless saw there was no one else in the 5th. This is very hard luck on the poor wretches who have to spend all their time in the trenches and go unrewarded. I get my reward in having an easy time behind the line. The weather has now improved beyond all recognition. It is still cold for June but the sun at least condescends to shine fairly continuously and we have not felt any rain for the last forty eight hours. The trenches have dried up wonderfully well – and we can now get about them dry shod and consequently live there in comparative comfort. Three days ago they were so sticky that I left most of my rubber soles in one of the communication trenches. I had to conduct a Corps Staff Officer round the line, and naturally expected a cleanly dressed person with nice spurs etc. who would like to view things from the main road. What actually turned up was very different. A dirty looking villain in a filthy old overcoat and long waders who asked to see the worst trenches I could possibly show him. Of course I had to comply, and we waded about knee-deep in all sorts of horrible places until it was time for him to go home. Now that I have written all about this gentleman I am not sure that I did not tell you about him in my last letter. If so – please attribute my absent mindedness to pressure of work. This last is not as a matter of fact quite so oppressive as it was, but we still have plenty to do. The office has probably never done so much in all its little life before. Orders keep coming in followed by counter-orders. We hardly have time to comply with one lot before another frantic message comes cancelling them, and telling us to wait for another batch, which in their turn are cancelled by some more and so on ad infinitum. I have seen Lyttleton once or twice of late – his battery is within a very few minutes of where I am writing this. For a time he been battery commander but his C.O. who was away ill has now returned and he goes back to his old position. It is getting very near dinner time so I must bring this to a close as quick as I can and go and change. There are four visitors to dinner – the cook is ill, and the meat ration has gone to where we thought we were going – but didn’t owing to one of the many counter-orders. I thank goodness I am no longer Mess President – I handed over that job to Hacking – and hope he enjoys it more than I did.

16 June 1916

Feverish excitement, hurried whispers, runnings to and fro – officers soiling their slacks in mud and all for what? All for the mysterious word “Spy”. There is a spy in that tree says Pte A – someone threw a lump of mud at me as I was passing and look! There’s a rope starting about 10 ft up and reaching to the top. Out of course we all have to go – to try and find the elusive tree climber – to find a large crowd assembled of many other confederates of Pte A. “Its not the first time neither – there was a fellow the night before last – with a torch – just about 12 o’clock – we chased him too – he disappeared in a hedge ad we lost him” etc. etc. by the yard. By the time we arrive on the scene someone is half way up the tree – a large chestnut – and convinced himself that there is no one hiding up aloft. The original scaremonger however is not to be quietened until someone discovers a small twig with two or three young chestnuts on it – snapped off by the wind and fallen exactly where the “chunk of mud” was said to be. I have just discovered that the Intelligence Officer of one of the other Brigades – who is at present staying with us – and with whom I shall stay next week – is an actor. He is not a great man but I think I have probably seen him at some time or other. – by name Cyril Ashford. Curiously enough he has acted a lot with Leo Stormont and knows him very well. He has also been with Alan Aynesworth and one or two others such as he. He is a really clever man at his present job, and can see in half an hour through a telescope a good deal more than most men would find in half a year. I am sorry to say that G.Ps son has been killed – he seems to have had very rapid promotion and must have been a good man I should think. Personally I cannot recall anything about him – may be I never saw him. The Regiment has just had no less than seven new Subalterns bringing their total up far above their establishment. They are weird specimens as far as one can see at present – but I daresay we shall be able to make something of them in time. One of them is an actor man or rather a dancer – and frequently appears as a partner to Ethel Levey whose pictures – usually particularly hideous –  one sees about all over the place. At last the weather has changed, and today – the first for nearly a fortnight seemed more or less summer-like. That is to say we had no rain and in the sun one could keep warm if one moved about. Tonight’s quite a fine night and I think and hope, that we are due for a good day tomorrow. The new time is all very well but has one great disadvantage to my mind. The sun is no longer due south at noon which is of course very sad. A lesser disadvantage is that is  horribly cold at breakfast time and one is never ready to go to bed while it is almost light enough to see to read without artificial light. The lost hour in our case was 11.0pm to 12 midnight and it was curious to see in the next day’s report that more than one C.O. spoke of something happening at 11.30pm. a time which by a special army order could not possibly exist. All of them however were very careful to head their reports “for the last 23 hours”. So much did I enjoy myself the other night at the “Bow Bells” that I am seriously thinking of paying them another visit at first opportunity. To spend a couple of hours there is the best way that I have so far discovered of taking one’s mind off the war – a relaxation that is desirable – not to say necessary.

14 June 1916

I have just had a little relaxation.  Hacking the new Staff Assistant went with me to see the “Bow Belles” – a most excellent show run by the Divisional concert party of one of the neighbouring Divisions.  All the artistes are gentlemen who in the piping times of peace make their living by amusing the London population.  The result was a very first–rate performance – and a real good laugh for two hours.   Two of them made most excellent ladies, and the rest were all “Stars” in some way or other.   There was one beautiful tenor and another a real musician on the violin.   Four of them sang “The long day closes” in a way which quite reminded me of the old All S Choir – only these four sang it even better.   It was very nice to have one’s mind taken off the war for a bit.  For the first time for some days we have seen the sun.   It has actually not rained since lunchtime and there seems to be a fair hope that we may have a fine day tomorrow.  The wet has done us a most inestimable lot of damage, as our trenches have fallen in in some places and things have been by no  means comfortable for the occupants. However we keep cheerful through it all. Tonight 11.0 pm becomes 12 midnight all of a sudden – it will be a great advantage out here, because as things are we waste a good deal of daylight. “We” means people out of trenches. In the trenches one’s day depends entirely on the sun – or rather the daylight, and everything rearranges itself accordingly to the morning and evening “stand to “. We have just had our first strawberries and cream of the year and very good they were. And yet they were not quite like English ones – they lacked the real good flavour. The French do not know how to grow them any more than they do how to grow asparagus, which they like to eat thick and white and tasteless. The Brigadier has now completely recovered from his fall down the office stairs and talks of going to the trenches tomorrow – so I suppose we shall have the old strenuous life again with plenty of “strafing”. He is never really happy unless he is doing a colossal amount of work – which is no doubt a good thing: sometimes unfortunately he imagines that other people are not doing enough, when in reality they are doing quite as much or even more than any ordinary person could expect of them. I was out the greater part of last night crawling about in the long grass – and got about as wet through as I have ever been. My ride home in the pouring rain on a groggy bicycle with pedals that usually failed to work was as unpleasant an experience as I ever desire to have.