Monthly Archives: March 2018

31 March 1918

Easter Day – spent I am afraid somewhat unconventionally. The start was good: a Celebration at 6.30 AM in my bed-orderly-Room – the Intelligence Officer – Hewson – and myself forming the Congregation.  Hewson is, I believe, a new name to you – he came to us only a month or two ago. Aged I should imagine about 38 or 39. He calls himself 29, and has the spirit of 25. He first of all enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and was out her for some time in the ranks with them. Then he got his Commission and came to us.  A good sound man, he is one of the most conscientious soldiers I have met – nothing is too much trouble for him.  Incidentally he is imperturbable which is a most tremendous asset. I don’t think as a matter of fact he very much cares what happens to him – his affections were all devoted to one girl and she died quite recently. Next came breakfast and with it the “Times” with the news of Godsall’s death. I am awfully sorry to see this – he was the best soldier we ever had in the Brigade, and there are a thousand and one things which I still do which are relics of my friendship with him.  He was a good sportsman, a brave soldier – and above all – a perfect Gentleman.   I shall always think of him as the Model Regimental Officer.   Although I knew him as a Staff Officer I learnt more of the attitude, ideas and spirit of the Regimental Officer from him than from anyone else I have ever met before or since.  After breakfast I left our present abode, walked a mile or two and then rode to out G.M. Stores and had a bath and a clean change – very necessary as we have been in or about trenches for some time now, and look like continuing to be so for some time to come yet. The weather is typically April – several heavy showers throughout the day, and in the intervals some most excellently bright sunshine. I hope we have no more reversions to frosts or any other of the horrible attributes to winter. The battle seems to be going very well, and the people of Boschland must be getting somewhat terrified at the train loads of wounded which keep pouring into the country.   His effort south of Arras was a most conspicuous failure, and though a small thing in itself there is little doubt in my mind that it was the prelude to a very much larger affair which has consequently had to be postponed. No time for more.

29 March 1918

Some time I am afraid since I last wrote but it could not be helped.   I hope this fact coupled with the mention of the Regiment in the recent fighting did not lead you to believe that I was in the show.  We are not – it is another Btn. I only hope we can do as well if ever our time comes – they seem to have fought absolutely brilliantly.    No – we are not in it.  We have moved a little since I last wrote but are still in territory with which we are all more or less familiar.  There has been a lot of work once the battle started, all the staff and other people of all the formations began to wonder whether a similar sort of thing might not be going to happen on their front. Consequently one has had to be on what is I believe called the “qui vive”.   That is to say the Adjutants’ ear never leaves the telephone, and he gets horribly little sleep.   However I always have thrived on none at all – so that doesn’t worry me much. We came into this place last night with the rain and wind absolutely torrenting down on us.   I have seldom seen a fiercer night.  Most of HQ came in soaked to the skin but with my coats & legs & things I managed to keep dry myself. Wade, the Brigade Major, has gone and got promotion – his place has been taken by one Hill – I don’t know anything about him.  I wonder what he will be like.  His attitude and manners and customs make all the difference to the easiness and smoothness of my work – or the reverse.  No time for more now, in any case I don’t seem to be able to write English today – so will stop. The show down South is going very well.

24 March 1918

The weather is absolutely lovely – real spring at last. Even in this old ditch we are living in at present one can get the warmth of the sun and thoroughly enjoy it.   This stupid country does not keep any thrushes or birds that make a sensible noise, so we cannot get the proper spring effect.  However it is very nice feeling really warm – though it can still be somewhat chilly at night.  We managed to get a Battalion dinner last night and spent quite a good evening together, with a little singing afterwards.  Old Huskisson was over from Bde HQ as a guest and made a very amusing little speech.   He is a good chap and it is a great pity they don’t make him Staff Captain.  Col. Currin has got command of a Battalion of Sherwood Foresters in this Division, so we shall not altogether lose sight of him. They are a lucky Btn and ought to do jolly well.  I am afraid this may be rather a “black week” at home from the news point of view. I do not think there is any need to worry. What has happened is what one would expect to happen when one takes into consideration the enormous number of troops the old Bosch has been able to concentrate.  He is losing terribly heavily and cannot possibly keep up the pressure. I daresay we shall be able to ring a joy bell or two yet before very long.

‘Rather a “black week” at home from the news point of view’ probably refers to First Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March 1918)

20 March 1918

There is only time for a very hurried letter for the light is already far gone.   There is as usual absolutely no news whether important or otherwise.  They smashed all our windows with a couple of shells yesterday which did absolutely no damage except to the glass.  They even drove me once in the direction of the cellar.  But they were using silly little shells that go off almost on touching a blade of grass, and one is quite safe indoors.  The weather has broken and there has been a considerable amount of rain the last day or two – more in fact than I like.  I expect it has produced a certain amount of mud of the pea-soup variety in the trenches.   We will hope it will have dried up by the time we get there.   The G.O.C. is very kindly going to inspect us they day after tomorrow.   I hope it rains hard all day, and that the parade ground gets heavily shelled – then perhaps they will put it off.  I personally would rather be shelled seven times than go through one inspection by the G.O.C. It is a most formidable affair and as a rule everybody gets “strafed” particularly the luckless Adjutant.  He always expects him to gallop about the place; if I ask Lady Mary to gallop she’ll probably have me off – however we’ll hope for the best.   This village possesses a pub with a piano – in a room for officers – a tremendous asset – we all gather for ½ an hour or so before dinner and make a noise.

18 March 1918

Today has been absolutely lovely. Glorious sunshine and very warm all day long.  I went for a lengthy ride with Old Man Currin this afternoon all over the shop, and ended up by doing a bit of shopping.  He was in great form, and is always a most amusing companion.   He has just been to dinner with us.  I nearly lost my assistant Adjutant yesterday – not to mention my old and esteemed friend the Worthy Jim Griffiths. They were sitting in a sort of shelter place when a shell came through the roof – and went out of the wall on the opposite side. Both got scratched a little with bits of roof and Dunlop got a slight “biff” on the side of the head, but the shell failed to explode and no serious damage was done.  John Burnett is going away on a course for six weeks or so and Moore may go to England for a 6 months rest, so if anything were to happen to Jim Griffiths I should have to occupy the exalted but unenviable position of 2nd in Command.  In any case I shall probably have to do so while he is on leave, unless Moore has not gone by that time. We still have an extraordinarily good leave allotment – too good in fact to last. I expect there will be very much fewer going next month and for the following month or so after that.   I shall begin to think about my next leave very soon!  My mare improves daily and is now much less lazy than she was. She is still somewhat out of condition, but my groom returns form leave tomorrow and I expect then to see a big improvement.

16 March 1918

Just a line or two as long as I can keep awake, It is not yet dinner time but I am extraordinarily sleepy – often the case for the first day or two in rest after a longish tour in trenches. There is always so much interesting work to do in the line, that I get little or no sleep some nights and makeup for it when we come out. Our last tour in trenches ended up in great style with two Bosches to our credit. He came nosing around our wire entanglements with a small patrol for some unknown reason, and selected for this escapade the very part of our line held by my old no 14 platoon. “Fourteen” were always a blood-thirsty lot and they lived up to their reputation.  Letting drive with a machine gun they managed to bring one down with a hole in his leg and captured the other unhurt.  The first I heard of it was at about 2.15 AM when I was woken up to hear the news and found myself two seconds later to my great surprise confronted by a beautifully dressed German non-commissioned officer.   I struggled out of bed, lit a candle and forthwith set fire to the newspaper tablecloth.   Blow it out I could not, but a grey-gloved hand descended in a dignified manner and squashed the flame – A most remarkable German.  Everybody is of course very “bucked” about it, and I expect we shall have a “celebratory” dinner.  The “Drums” performed this evening at “Retreat” in great style. The fifes appeared for the first time and were really jolly good; everybody was surprised and pleased – not to say electrified.  If they go on at their present rate of progress, they will be easily the best rums in the Division in a week or two: I am not sure that they are not the best now.   I am going to have dinner with F Coy this evening – I hope I shall not go to sleep in the middle of it all – that would be most impolite and undignified.

12 March 1918

There is not a great deal to say and my thoughts are somewhat disturbed by the noises in my boudoir-orderly-room. There are workmen in the house!   To be absolutely truthful the frightful enemy put a shell this morning on the roof. I am so far down that of course it could not come through, but some of the timbers in the hall ceiling gave way, and a certain quantity of loamy soil was admitted to the foot of the stairs. I was out at the time; if I had been here I feel sure I should have had palpitations. In any case I have got two entrances, so, even if the one had been knocked in, I could always escape by the other.  Although it was of course most extraordinarily ill mannered behaviour on the part of Old Ludwig and his friends.   We were at breakfast at the time and some of us who had finished thought it wise to beat a dignified retreat down our new funk-hole – a tremendous mansion half way or more to Australia. No shell every made could possibly penetrate its dark and damp recesses. I can’t say that I personally like the place – it’s bad for rheumatism. Col. Currin has come back from his leave and goodness only knows what they will do with him now.   He has no job and cannot very well stay with us in a subordinate position. There is I am afraid no doubt about which of the two men of the Battalion would rather have as commanding officer. However it is not good grousing.    Weather still holds good and in spite of a red sky this morning, there is no real sign of rain coming.

11 March 1918

The good weather still continues uninterruptedly and if it were not for the frosts at night one might imagine oneself at least 2 months ahead. Col. Currin should have returned from leave today and as they have not up to the present found any job for him, I expect he will have another two months or so in England.   If the weather lasts he well be a very lucky man.  We are all flourishing here and only wondering when this great and much news-papered German offensive is going to begin. It may rain if he doesn’t start soon, and it is always a poor game trying to do a big attack in bad weather.  I expect there is much speculation at home as to when it will come: everyone over your side seems to take it for granted it will come sometime and somewhere.  I see Charterhouse has had rather a bad show with a top floor burnt – it must have got a very good hold before being discovered or doubtless it would have been got under control fairly easily. The knee is very much more comfortable again and the chilblains have completely departed – thanks to the sun. I am getting very little sleep but that does not seem to worry me very much and I am thriving on it as usual.

10 March 1918

Gorgeous weather for the last three days – a bit cold at nights perhaps with a sharp frost, but a really hot sun making up for everything by day. We are back once more in our old home in the line -not quite the home as we left it.  My dear little Orderly Room has gone, something hit it, and being about as strong as a house of cards it not unnaturally collapsed.  My new office is below ground and therefore comparatively safe. Unfortunately like most underground dwelling places it suffers from a lack of light and air: I loathe having to do all my work by candlelight, but I suppose it cannot be helped. Otherwise our home is much as it always was.  I am in the same bed, the other being occupied by the C.O. instead of old John Burnett who always used to share the room with me. The silly old gentleman over the way makes a good deal of noise, and kicks up the dust a bit and throws things about, but on the whole manages to do remarkably little damage, & causes us little or no anxiety.    The Sportsman turned up yesterday and the chocolate, three days ago, for which I have, I believe, already thanked you. It was very good and I demolished the last piece about 2.30 AM this morning when I came in from my nightly prowl round the line.  I am really very fond of wandering about more or less at random round the line, accompanied by the faithful and imperturbable Sullivan.  The only thing we need now to complete our state of bliss is a crocus or two and a snowdrop, they don’t seem to grow in this horrible ploughed up country – its all potatoes and mangles.

7 March 1918

Very many thanks for another letter, also for the toffee tin of chocolate which fetched up today and will be very acceptable in trenches. The weather today has been really lovely and I got quite hot walking round the line this morning: poor Sullivan perspired freely, he is becoming obese, and I walk rather fast at times. Our A Coy played their final match this afternoon against Bde HQ and managed to beat them – 3-1 thereby winning the “Rowley” cup. The General presented it himself after the match amidst great applause, and it was subsequently filled with cheap champagne and much quaffing took place amongst the team. We all went over to see the game which was not by any means a bad one. It was rather amusing in the dim hours of this morning.   We were all woken by a distant bombardment – nothing very much, probably only someone doing a raid. There were also a few distant gas shells about, and the sentries duly warned us to be alert. The old Soldiers like myself merely turn over and go to sleep again for all these noises – we did so – not so the C.O. – the sentry sent to warn him found him pacing up and down the road. If he is going to turn out every time a few gas guns go off I am afraid he may find himself somewhat short of sleep before many days are out. It is quite probable that Moore will be going for a six months rest very shortly and I should not be surprised if Burnett gets some job or other away from the Battalion. Should that happen Jim Griffiths will be the only officer senior to me except the Colonel. I am getting most horribly old, and shall have to try and raise a little dignity and give up my childish behaviour. Moore deserves a rest, as he has 3 years continuous service in the line and has never been sick.   He is a good fellow.